Friday, November 13, 2015

My Teacher, the Laptop

Once again be proven right is something I take great satisfaction in. I found this article about what I am sure is an all white suburban high school with high academic achievers being self managed and self taught.

I have long said that both Teachers and Administrators loathe Substitutes for varying reasons.  Add to this  the ongoing debate about online learning be it as the secondary or post secondary level raises its ugly Hydra with regards to education.  The idea of ed reform is largely centered around teaching to the test, teaching using as much technology as possible and eliminating the need for Teachers where unions are representing them and the idea that tenure is some type of cover up for bad teachers and bad teaching.

 The mythology that also continues is the idea that in most states Substitutes are babysitters. I have been a babysitter and no this is not that at all. But I have had gigs that were tantamount to them and the reality is that is about Teachers. I have and will continue to say that the problem is often the adult or lack thereof in the room. So having spent a day yesterday at a school that is the worst performing in the district, that the Principal is leaving in a month, that the expensive and much touted International Baccalaureate program is saving the school and turning it around is just another illustration of how many schools used band aids to cover seeping wounds.

 I spoke at length with a teacher and an aide about the problems in the school and that I used to teach there in the 90s and while the population has changed the problems have not. And that at one point when do you realize they go beyond academics and that no Teacher is qualified nor capable to doing all what needs to be done to get kids to stay in school, take tests and pass them at the rate that is demanded. And in turn meet the constant push of demands by districts to be all and end all while earning less than the those in the private sector make with the same credentials.

And then the issue of substitutes.  Why any state does not used retired Teachers or others who are willing to get some kind of educational credential, be in a para pro, instructional assistant or even student teachers as a part of their actual training, way superior than any internship, are not acting as substitutes is bizarre.  No one being sent by Kelly Temporary Services should be doing more than non-credentialed work, such as administrative, attendance, even PE, art or music which would be a great way to expose the children to professionals who are willing to supplement their work and expose their professions to children would be fine.  In the case of languages there are no better instructors than native speakers but any substitute worth their while can teach history, art or other informative subjects connected to the country of origin is all part of education.  I have subbed twice in Japanese and found that teaching origami or bringing a Japanese artist to speak to the children about his/her work and in turn the role of their heritage in learning about a culture whose language you are learning to speak

So to this Principal who seems so proud of this rote learning - GFY.  He is sadly like many Principals I have come to know and loathe.  He was vilified by many of the comments but basically he simply re-iterated his bullshit thought on subs.  Note I say thought as in singular, not thoughts. As if he believed that having substitutes was not serving his students look to why - and that is because they are not required to be credentialed and the pay along with the gig itself sucks.  And all of it sucks for the kids who could meet an interesting new Teacher who could offer alternative methods and impressions that are all part of learning and growing.

And as for the Teachers, well those who think this is a good idea I know the kind of Teacher they are - lazy.  This way they don't have to print up a lesson plan, provide seating charts, be organized, efficient and give a shit. I don't know how many times I have been in rooms with none of the above.  Subs see it all and when I walk into a room with no seating charts, a video as a lesson and no accountability I realize that they are lazy fucks whose kids are not performing and have minimal to low expectations. When I planned a unit it was down to the day, including any type of assessments and alternatives to ensure that as I went along the unit if lessons were duds, I could dump them, reteach or find something better.  And that was all kept in files and notebooks so if I died someone could walk in and see where I was in the unit plan and pick up accordingly. And if the lesson is too complex or simply one that needs the regular Teacher, this issue could be resolved by having two Teachers or an IA and a Teacher who knows the kids making this need for a Sub superfluous.  Substitutes could be reduced if in fact there were two Teachers or a ParaPro/IA with a Teacher in every classroom, then the Sub would simply be that - the extra hands when one is missing.

But in reality any Teacher who thinks a laptop is sufficient to compensate for them needs to realize that it could be them that laptop could be replacing as well. But then thinking of that would well require thinking and any Teacher who doesn't think that maybe should be replaced.

 Some Minn. high schools try going without subs
 Chanhassen, Farmington say “flexible learning” teaches responsibility and saves money. 

 By Erin Adler
Star Tribune
November 9, 2015

Will Kaeding’s teacher was absent, so the Chanhassen sophomore went to one of his school’s common spaces, cracked open his laptop and started working on his online assignment — no substitute teacher in sight.

 Chanhassen High, along with Farmington High, are among the first schools in the state to try letting students learn on their own rather than hiring substitutes to fill in for teachers. Administrators tout the change as “flexible learning,” an educational approach that teaches students responsibility — and saves districts tens of thousands of dollars a year.

 “Arbitrarily getting a babysitter just because that’s what we have always done makes no sense whatsoever,” said Tim Dorway, Chanhassen High School principal. On average, he said six to seven of the school’s 100 teachers are absent on a given day.

 Going without substitutes works, administrators say, if students have access to technology that allows them to work independently and a common space where other staff can keep tabs on them. But some parents aren’t convinced that flexible learning provides adequate supervision to work for all students.

And some teachers prefer to have substitutes in class when they’re gone. “I think when families send their kids to public schools, the reason they’re doing that vs. online schools is they want their children to have that face-to-face interaction with licensed teachers,” said Katie Anderson, a substitute teacher at Orono High School. School officials say the concept could spread, given increasing emphasis on technology in schools. Plus, the statewide substitute teacher shortage makes it difficult to find someone with subject-specific knowledge on short notice.

Cort Watschke checked in with Chanhassen teacher Brad Bienkowski during an English teacher’s absence. Teachers can request subs, as needed, or arrange extra supervision for students.

Cort Watschke checked in with Chanhassen teacher Brad Bienkowski during an English teacher’s absence. Teachers can request subs, as needed, or arrange extra supervision for students.

 “I would think that a lot of schools are probably keeping their eye on Chanhassen and Farmington,” said Cassie Scharber, a University of Minnesota professor of curriculum and instruction. “This is really creative.”

 Relying on students Farmington still is figuring out how often substitutes are necessary, increasingly going without. But Chanhassen almost completely has done away with them, leaving students on their own 90 percent of the time when a teacher is absent. Both districts said skipping substitutes is a natural extension of increased technology use.

They’ve already been using online lessons in the classroom, and, in Farmington’s case, asking students to work on them from home on snow days. Why not try it when the teacher’s absent? And it saves money.

 The Farmington district expects to cut at least $31,000 from its substitute teaching budget this year. Chanhassen predicts $70,000 in savings.

 “We’re in a situation where budgets are extremely tight, and we’re looking for innovative ways to save money,” said Laura Beem, a Farmington school board member. In Farmington, students without teachers report to the commons — next to the administrative offices — or the library.

All students have a district-provided iPad they use to work on assignments. Chanhassen created an app that requires students to “check in” for class in one of the school’s new open spaces set up for independent work. There’s always a teacher or counselor nearby, but students are on their own to get assignments done.

 Dorway said the no-substitute routine teaches time management and instills a sense of trust and accountability. “They need to be ready for this in college,” he said. “Quite frankly, one of the ways we’ve failed students before is by not preparing them.”

 Students seem to think the arrangement works well. “[Substitutes] are nice people, but they’re kind of just making sure we don’t do anything dumb,” said Cassy Hoeft, a Chanhassen senior.

 Teachers have been positive about it, too, although they say it can take a while for kids to get the hang of it. Both schools still hire substitutes when teachers request them.

 At Chanhassen, American Sign Language teacher Damon Johnson has skipped a substitute five times, in part because it’s not easy to find a one who knows sign language. The first time he left instructions for kids to work independently, he said, most didn’t understand what to do. The second time, about half completed the assignment. But the third time was a success. “I don’t see the benefit of having a sub in the room when students can go where they’re comfortable and do the work themselves,” Johnson said.

Supervision needed? The Farmington Education Association was initially skeptical of the plan, said Lynda Ihlan, union president. “One of the concerns that we had is the safety of our students … and making sure that they’re accounted for,” she said. But teachers have reported that they like the system, and administrators assured the union students would be supervised.

 A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education said substitutes are required for special education classes. Otherwise, he said, the only requirement for student supervision is that a licensed staff member be in the room or nearby. Still, some educators have doubts. Kim Howard, CEO of Teachers on Call, a company that provides 58 Minnesota districts with substitutes, said flexible learning doesn’t work for everyone.

Some students may not be ready developmentally to take charge of their own learning, educators said. “I still think that [students] need supervision,” she said. “What if a kid needs help, what if a kid acts out?” Farmington social studies teacher Todd Karich said students benefit from having substitutes share their stories and knowledge.

 “If I get a choice in the matter, I’m always going to go with the sub,” he said. Solvei Wilmot, whose son Luther is a Chanhassen sophomore, said she’s “cautiously reserved” about the change. “It’s kind of dependent on the kid making it successful,” she said, noting she hasn’t heard its not working.

 Teachers can arrange extra supervision for individual students — maybe time in a study hall or the administrator’s office — if necessary, said Farmington Principal Jason Berg. “Knowing that they’re 15- 16- and 17-year-olds, they’re going to do dumb things,” he said. “It’s how you react to that.”

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