Wow. Long time, no see!

Oh boy. I guess I meant what I said when I said I wasn’t making any promises about blogging every day. I didn’t even post once in 2012. Bad blogger! Bad blogger!

What is it about sticks? (aka “You Like What You Like”)

There’s a big tree outside my apartment building.  I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but when a mighty wind blows – it drops lots of naked sticks and twigs on the ground.  I always stop to take a look at the sticks.  Some of them are too big, so I skip right over them.  Some of them are too small – but they’re still interesting, so I take some time appreciating them.  Now, the sticks that are just right have to be picked up and examined individually.  What makes them just right?

I have no idea.

Honestly.

There’s an element of size, of course.  About 4 feet long seems to be the best length.  There can’t be any leaves on it at all.  There must be at several branchlets (?) off the main branch, but just a few (and widely spaced).  The bark has to be really smooth (they’re all like that, because it’s that kind of tree).  I like them to be slender, even at the base where they broke off.

The only reason I can even come up with some of the criteria for just right is because I’m looking at two of the sticks right now.  They’re over by the fake fireplace, leaning against the wall where I put the Christmas tree in December.  Right next to my favorite reading chair.  (It’s one of those big ones that you can curl up in.)  They’re making shadows against the wall.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with them.  Maybe nothing.  I just know that I like them there, making shadows.  When I’m curled up in my chair, sometimes I put down my book and just look at the sticks.  I think about getting out my sketch book and drawing them, but I don’t.  I wonder why I brought them in; why I selected them.  I think of things to do with them, when I get enough.  (Another question I haven’t pondered much yet.  What’s enough? I don’t know the answer to that, either.)  I might get an interesting pot and put rocks in it and stand them up in it.  Since I don’t have enough right now, though, they just lean against the wall, making shadows.  And the shadows change as the light changes, which is probably the best part of all.

You like what you like.  I don’t know why I like the color green, but I do.  You like what you like.

Sometimes it’s unexplainable.  I think that’s okay.

What’s my job? What’s your job? What’s the difference who does what?

This might be a kettle of fish.  Or whatever phrase you like to use for a controversial issue …

Today, my friend sanded and painted the closet doors in her classroom because they were scratched and stapled up and she wanted a nice looking surface to attach some cork strips to hang student work.  (She doesn’t have enough bulletin boards in her classroom.)  A while ago she unplugged the drain in her classroom sink.

I am getting ready to paint the trays under the whiteboards in a computer lab I am setting up.  I will sand them first.  I took down a whiteboard from my office and plan to move it to the computer lab and attach it to cover a painted-over chalkboard.  I will patch up the holes in my office from the board I am moving and all the other holes left by the previous “tenants” and repaint (hopefully).

Now, we have a terrific plant manager, who has had his daytime staff reduced from 6 to 2 over the last several months.  (Back in February, when the cuts first started, we got a memo that our rooms would no longer be swept and that if we wanted them to be swept, we could request a broom and a dustpan.)  I go to him when it’s something I can’t do myself.  I spend a lot of time at work and I like my environment to be pleasant … and I’m willing to throw money at it, probably more than I should.  But it’s my money, so I can do what I want, right?  :)  I can’t fix a leaky roof or a broken floor tile – so I fill out work orders for that stuff.

My brother is a plumber in another school district and the president of their union.  He yelled at me after I told him what I’d been doing with my summer.  I can’t remember the whole conversation – but basically he said that I’m letting the district know that it’s okay to lay off all the B&G workers, because teachers can do their jobs.  He made me feel bad.  I genuinely like most of our B&G staff.  I don’t want to be responsible for them losing their jobs.  :(

Then I got mad.  There have never been enough workers to repair our 100+ year-old school.  And even when there were more than there are now, they had silly rules like a plaster painter can’t paint wood; and a locksmith sent to repair one lock can’t repair the one right next to it because it wasn’t on the work order.  (Ok – I understand that last one, even if it does suck.)  And no matter what month it started to get hot – they won’t come to change the air-conditioning/heating systems from blowing hot air to blowing cold air until May.  I could go on.

I’m not stupid.  I get what he is saying.  But I hate the idea of filling out a work order for something I can do myself and then waiting forever for someone to do it for me.

Is this what they mean by being between “a rock and a hard place”?  Well, I don’t LIKE it.

P.S.  Don’t tell my brother what I’m up to.  And I’m sure glad he doesn’t work in my district, because then I’d really be up a creek!

What are we doing here, anyway? Teaching.

I was having lunch with a bunch of teacher friends today and I was talking to a recently retired friend about the upcoming California League of Middle Schools/California League of High Schools (CLMS/CLHS) summer conference I am attending this weekend.  Particularly, I was telling her that I was looking forward to hearing more about Professional Learning Communities from the DuFours (Richard and Rebecca, I think).  I only just this moment realized, as I started writing this post, that I don’t think they’re speaking this time … it’s Ruby Payne on poverty.  But that’s not the point – the conversation was about PLCs.

Several years ago the CLMS/CLHS summer conference spotlighted the DuFours and PLCs – and I attended on the recommendation of an administrator at a high school in Bakersfield that I had WASC’d as a visiting team member.   They were pioneering the groups in their area and felt it was working for them, both as a way strengthen their department teams and infuse some rigor into their courses.  I liked what I heard from them about examining student work, common assessments and deep discussions on effective instructional strategies.  I thought this might be something we could use at my school.

The conference sessions were fabulous and terrible.  I learned that PLCs that work can be a powerful way to improve student achievement.  I also learned that we need a strong leader to back the development of the PLCs and to make active participation in them non-negotiable for our more reticent teachers.  At the time, I didn’t think we had that administrator.  Still – I thought enough of what I’d heard to hope that we could implement it at some level.  I presented it to an administrative planning team and the idea was tabled because they felt that we already had too much on our plates, going from year-round to traditional, losing nearly 1,000 students and attempting to implement the International Baccalaureate MYP (Middle Years Programme) the coming year.  I thought it was something we could still attempt, because it could begin with a simple restructuring of the standing department meeting agendas.  Nope.  I admit that I let myself be overruled.  But I wander (as I tend to do … sorry).

Our conversation today evolved into my continued confusion regarding many of our teachers’ problem in seeing any connection between how they present lessons and the results they get.  “I taught the hell out of that lesson.  I did my job.”  Ok. That’s an exaggeration.  I just made that up.  But I’ve seen the philosophy in action, so I know it’s real.  How can a teacher be blind to the direct connection between the two?  When our students don’t learn what we attempt to teach – why do we not immediately go to the student work to try to figure out why?  Developing common assessments and examining student work seem to be what we SHOULD be doing here.

So what are we doing here, anyway?

Right now, many of us are doing what we perceive to be our jobs.  Teaching.  Only some of us are making the connection between teaching and … learning.  I don’t know if I know how to convince someone who thinks it ends with the teaching.  So even if the DuFours aren’t speaking at this conference … I’m going in to it with a goal.  Figure out how to talk to my colleagues about teaching and learning.  Try to come up with a better answer to the question.

Welcome!

So this is my second attempt at starting a blog.  My first didn’t exactly crash and burn … it just sort of faded away.  I think I realized that I just didn’t have as much to say about technology integration and professional development as I thought I did when I started.  Let’s be honest here – I was bored to tears and so many others do it so much better.  So I stopped.  Well.  That’s a page turned (or burned).

I’m back – and this time I’m not committing to anything.  Not to sticking to one topic (thus the “Stuff and Nonsense” theme).  My stuff may very well be your nonsense.  And vice versa, if that’s possible. Not to posting every day, either.  (I hear that’s a big no-no in blog-o-sphere.)  I’ll post when I have something to say, share, show or rant about … and not before.  Heck – and least *I* should be interested in what I have to say.  That’s about it.  Oh – and I also wanted to do less lurking and more contributing.

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