Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nights over Egypt

It's pretty breathtaking. To see thousands of people crowd an area in continuing opposition, just hours after they fired, not a President, -but a dictator. Clearly the people's issues with President Hosni Mubarek were not deeply philosophical or abstract, -but concrete. It's hard to stay in power if there's no bread on the table, but Mr. Mubarek somehow got by for 3 decades.

So it was a bloodless revolution that ended a dictator's turn. The Kalashnikovs, Uzis, M-16s and bayonets were left home next to umbrellas, or perhaps brought along ceremoniously and kept holstered for the most part, awaiting a storm that never materialized among the crowds, clouds and thunder.

Only time will tell if this is the way the rest of it will go in a region that the world culture owes so much to.

Let's remember Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman who stepped out on to the pavement to exercise the same right that Egyptians exuberantly applied for 18 days, only to meet with a different end on a street in Iran. Let's remember a young woman who died bleeding on the pavement, her life taken by a short-sighted coward with a gun.

Let's think of Neda today, before all the worry of what happens next and how, overtakes us.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Teacher, Teacher

I'm not sure if anyone has ever noticed that we actually have three contributors to this blog. I know you've only ever seen  posts from SJ and me, but we do in fact have a third. Our silent partner is a school teacher who is definitely not shy about sharing opinions (except on this site, apparently). Anyway, I've gotten permission to post this piece about the problems of teacher evaluations. Enjoy and please let us know your thoughts. 
Image via WikipediaLast in, First out. In a time of such budget cuts and many failing schools, which teachers are the most valuable to retain in schools? Many keep hollering, "Evaluation!" But what does that mean?

Very controversial. Fraught with problems. A tremendous quantity of questions arise.

How does one genuinely evaluate a teacher?

Test scores? That leaves a great deal out including issues the student might experience, such as constantly moving in and out of homeless shelters or becoming pregnant. What is or is not the teachers' responsibility when it comes to low test scores? What are the parents' and students' responsibilities and how will they be held accountable?

Lack of good teacher training? Do we lose people who could be an excellent teacher with continued help? Will there be backing to help them or will they be summarily dumped?

By their bulletin boards? How much should a principal who does not get along with something, say the teaching style of a pedagogue, have to say with about retaining and/or rating the teacher?

The budget? What of a school who can afford two new teachers for the price of one more experienced one? What of someone who has loyally worked for the Board/Department of Education for 30+ years? Have we "priced" them out of being worthwhile due to continued budget cuts and hard choices the schools have to make?

Truly, no one in a school wants a lazy or poor teacher. It makes it more difficult on the teachers, students, administration. The one predicament that frightens me most is the budgetary issues schools face. I knew an excellent teacher who taught middle school children for 36 years. The principal, though she was good friends with that teacher, outright told her when she retired that she was happy to be able to have the money from her salary since she could now hire several teachers and an aide for the price of all that experience and education. How does one offer security for such years of genuinely good service when, for a school, it becomes a matter of budgeting (and don't think that there are tons of administrators are so altruistic toward student and teacher that they ignore their budgets, especially when their administrative careers often depend on being able to lessen class size to up test scores, by hiring more inexperienced teachers versus fewer experienced teachers)?

We need to stop thinking that the issue of sorting out "good" teachers in the nation's largest public school system, is a problem, which suggests a simple solution, and begin to understand that it is a dilemma, laden with controversy.
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