Friday, September 19, 2008

To scoop or not to scoop?

I've noticed in recent days a number of people walking their dogs with no pooper scooper or bag in sight. I've actually seen some people walk away after their canine has pooped and left the treat in someones grass or on the sidewalk. Now, I had a pooch and we had to put him down a few years ago. I always carried a bag and a piece of newspaper for when he would poop. After a while, I had gotten so good where as I would set the paper down and he would poop on the paper. All I had to do was roll it up and put it in the bag.

I don't understand why people want to leave their dog's feces lying around. I think this is rude and inconsiderate on all who do this. I don't know if this occurs in all neighborhoods, but I know I am tired of seeing it in mine. I wish I was able to give people a ticket for leaving these things behind. Maybe I should pick up their dogs poop and put it on their doorstep. I don't know what the answer is and maybe you can help me out. What should/could be done to make others more mindful of leaving their dogs "treats" for others to step in and take home with them?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dream Big.

I've been back to work for two weeks now and so far it's been pretty good. I have one section of freshmen and 4 sections of sophomores. I really like the sophomore curriculum because everything we do is related to the American Dream and is it attainable for all. Last year when I taught this unit, I really had a good time with the students. many of them got into what they desire and how their parents and other family members are the ones who might prevent them for accomplishing them. When it comes to my students, I am brutally honest with them. I let them know that no one owes them anything and they need to learn how to work hard for what they want. If they desire to attend college, they need to start investigating things about the school they want to attend. They should know what the required ACT score is for admissions.

This past week, my students were to read an article in their workbooks and answer some opinion based questions about the article. What I have come to realize is many elementary school teachers focus so much on what the book says instead of teaching students to become independent thinkers. I am having a difficult time with getting them to think for themselves. Many of them did not answer any of the questions because they were concerned with getting the question wrong. I keep stressing to them that there is no way they can get something wrong when it asks what do you think.

I also gave an assignment that required the students to write down their goals for this school year (personal and/or academic) and their expectations for the class. Many of them had the same goals: come to school/class on time, pass all of their classes and stay out of trouble. Now, I know you are probably thinking like me, they should already be doing these things, right, wrong! You'd be surprised to know that many students miss so much school and no one is checking up on them. I have students in my class that have missed a week and we've been in for two weeks.

Throughout this school year, we are going to work on a dream book. All students are required to have a scrapbook or binder to hold all of their contents. It is my desire that my students learn to dream big. Many of them have been in classes and schools where the expectations have been lowered. A lot of my students complained when I posted the grading scale for them. I modified it a little from the Chicago Public School (CPS) suggested scale. For the CPS scale I think 75 and below is an "F". I changed mine to be 70 and below. I had to explain to them that when/if they go to college and they have had a grading scale where 90-100 is an "A", they are not going to be able to compete with other students where their grading scale was 95-100 is an "A". If my students earned all 90's, they truly earned a "B". I also told them to expect more from themselves. They can earn these grades if they do the work. Many of them refuse to do the work because they have had low expectations their entire lives. Some of their teachers truly don't expect them to make it and their parents definitely don't believe it. When they encounter a teacher who does expect them to do more, they think that teacher is being hard on them.

I am trying to get them to Dream Big! I want them to have higher expectations for their lives. I also want them to be realistic in their goals. I think the biggest challenge is many of these students come from low income/poverty stricken families and in those type of communities, progress is often shunned. When you want to do better, the community looks down on you because "you think you are better than them", but as soon as you make it, they will have their hands out looking for you to save them. Many of my students want to be professional athletes and rap artists, but they are not doing anything now to get there. They don't realize that they should be on the school sports team (no matter how lame they think the team is) in order to get noticed. A lot of them want to be in the limelight because they watch television and it appears like the people in the limelight have it all. I keep trying to tell them that these people need managers, attorneys, and producers. Those people get paid and oftentimes it's before the artist gets paid. All they see is the person who they believe is "getting paid". It is sad, but so true.

This brings me to another issue. This past Thursday in the Chicago Tribune, there was an article about paying students for getting good grades. An 'A' is $50, 'B' is $35 and 'C' is $20. The students will get 1/2 of the money upfront and the rest when they graduate. They are eligible to get this every quarter, but if they receive an 'F' they can't get any money. I have an issue with this because I think it undermines everything I am trying to teach my students. I want them to know that their reward comes when they don't have to work a minimum wage job. How can I get them to understand this when people want to pay them for earning good grades? In my opinion it is similar to giving teachers money for "merit" pay. I think when money is involved, it can cause some to do some unscrupulous things.

It baffles me to think that education has gotten to this point. I know when I was in school, I got good grades because my parents expected me to do so, not because I thought I would get some money for it. I know what it is like to grow up without having. We wore hand-me-downs and received commodities (government food). We didn't buy name brand foods all the time. I know what it is like to be without. I don't know if my parents didn't qualify for food stamps, but I know we didn't get them. I qualified for free lunch. I know exactly what my students are experiencing, however I think the biggest difference is my parents worked jobs. They expected us to get a job when we were old enough and maintain decent grades. My sisters and I did it and I think we are better people for doing so.

Our experiences taught us how to get an education to better ourselves. It is nothing against our parents because they did a wonderful job in rearing us. They also did what they felt necessary for us. What they did do is instill in us a good work ethic and the desire to go to college. I am still in the process of dreaming big. When I look at my current situation, I often say "this can't be as good as it gets." I am always trying to figure out a way to set higher goals and accomplish them. I think this dream book activity is going to be a great thing for all. I hope my students really take the time to put their all into it. I really want them to Dream Big.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bright lights and plenty of food! Cha-ching.

This past Friday, I took a trip (my first one) to a local casino across the border. I had to drop something off at my friends house and we went to the dinner buffet at the casino. Now for those of you who don't know me, I am not a gambler. I prefer to spend my money on constant things like shoes, clothes, dinner, etc. Well, I must admit, the food is good. I am now a believer when the "saints" say they go for the food. I know some of them eat and play the slots, but the food is worth the trip.

When we arrived at the casino, it was around 5p. As we walked through the casino, I looked around and saw many people who looked like they had just gotten off work. It didn't seem like these people were leaving corporate jobs. I also saw many seniors. Some of these seniors were in wheel chairs, had oxygen tanks and other debilitating conditions. Now, I got to thinking, you are sick and in a wheel chair and you are at the casino playing the slot machines.

This visit got me to wondering, how many people in this casino have lost their homes due to foreclosure or are in the process of losing their homes? I know many of these people probably have past due bills. It really saddens me to see these poor people (and I mean poor) throwing money away. I know a lot of these individuals probably just got paid and took their entire paychecks to the boat. It looked like some of these people were/are living paycheck to poor check. I am confident many of them probably took the shuttle bus there. You do know that a lot of these casino's send buses to nursing homes and designated bus stops to pick up patrons. I know they used to charge a fee (maybe $5) but I'm sure if you don't have it they'll let you go through.

My friend won a few dollars and after that occurred, there was a lady who sitting at the machine to the left and she got right on that same machine trying to win some money. I guess these people don't know that these machines are designed for the house to win. I remember watching one of the news shows some years ago (20/20 or Dateline) and there was a man suing a particular casino for his gambling addiction. When it came down to it, it was discovered that the agency that was supposed to monitor the makers of the slot machines was working together to rig the machines. If a machine was supposed to pay out 1:10,000, they might fix it where it was 1:100,000. Towards the end of the segment, the host made a comment about this flawed system and posed the following question: If this is taking place in the gaming industry, what other industries are affected by this? I guess one will never know.

My hope and prayer it that these people wake up and smell the cocoa beans before it's too late and they are sitting on the curbside.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chicago's School Boycott

There have been a lot of discussions about the plan to boycott school today. It was started by Rev. Senator James Meeks. This boycott is to draw attention to the inadequacies in school funding in Illinois and other areas. I understand the purpose of the boycott, but I have to question the timing/motives. For those of you who don't know, Chicago teachers and other city employess must live in the city. I don't have a problem with that at all, but there are many educators who live in the city, work for the school system but they send their children to private schools. Now, I know it is probably a bit much to ask people to send their children to a public school, but my question is this: How can you expect others to buy into a school system when the educators who have been hired to educate our children don't send their children to these schools? Now should I no longer have faith in this system? If the 'teachers' don't send their children to these schools, why should others? It makes me question the teachers heart. Maybe this system is good enough to pay your bills, but not good enough to educate thier children. Isn't that like an oxymoron?

Another issue raised is how many of the legislators don't send their children to public schools. Once again, I ask, how can you ask others to support a system when the lawmakers, the same ones you have elected don't support public education? A few years ago, I was watching a news program with a legislator(I think he's was from Georgia)who had moved into a different district and there was a stipulation that stated all students must attend the neighborhood school. This neighborhood school was a poor perfoming school. Well, the local school board decided to make an exception for this man and his family and allow his children to attend a "better" school. This legislator said no. If the school board says his children has to attend the local school, then that's where they will go. I could not believe it. Someone with a position of power and chose not to abuse it.

The final thought I have on this issue it this, Rev. Senator James Meeks children are not in public school and have never been in public school. One of the representatives (Mary Flowers) who supports this boycott, sent her daughter to school. Now, I ask again, how can we ask others to buy into a system when the people organizing this boycott don't?

Critics believe children should not be involved/used for political gain. Nonetheless, how can you invoke a change if children are not involved? The last time I checked my history books, the Little Rock Nine were teens when they integrated Central High. Now, I also ask this question, how do we prepare our children to fight for a cause if they are never shown what to do or given an opportunity to do so? If I am not mistaken, when those students had a sit in at the Woolworth counter, they were college students.

Many of the school officials and legislators were pushing for the students to go to school, well let me tell you, I had a good number to show up, unprepared! When I asked them, they said "they didn't know they were going to need pen and paper to do work." Excuse me, but what is the point in coming to school if you are not prepared to do any work? So, all of this hoopla about going to school was a bunch of hogwash if you ask me, but who's asking.

Overall, there were students and their parents who did participate in this boycott. I applaud them for it, but my question is this: What happens after the boycott?