Courses, of course

I hope to hit Masters + 60 next year — which is the highest achievable salary lane for me.  It is also preparation for retirement. As of today in Massachusetts, my retirement will be calculated on the last 3 years salary averaged together. I “plan” to work 4 after this year, and with no new contract — and thereby no cost of living or other raise possible — whatever the amount +60 gets me will be it.

So a couple of weeks ago I signed on to take one of Patty Nichols’ courses, Museums Across the Curriculum. Last spring Patty led a course using museums and historical sites in the Concord and Lexington area — perfectly suited for Grade 3 History and Social Studies in Massachusetts.  This new course will take us to several museums in Lowell — the Boott Mill programs are part of our curriculum here in Lowell — and to the MFA in Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, also in Boston.

What makes these courses a pleasure is the opportunity to explore local resources and a chance to be a tourist right in my own back yard. And a chance to develop some curriculum using these wonderful resources. As we make our visits and build our classroom activities, I’ll post on this blog.


We all have them, those puzzling dreams that we can remember in the morning. Well, I just woke up to a nasty alarm after spending pillow time with a rather puzzling one. My mind can be a scary place.

I’m not sure what I was doing, but it seemed to be some kind of math lesson – naturally. I love teaching math! I have the vague impression that people weew watching it for some strange reason….. whatever.

And in that lesson a teacher’s greatest fear started to come to life. The group got so out of control that teaching was next to impossible. I’m not sure what was going on anymore – I hate when the details of a dream get lost to awake time! – but I do recall having to take the activity away from one cooperative group. A group that included Charo (what????) and Queen Elizabeth II (double what????). For the record the Queen was very gracious and totally understood why the teacher was stopping her participation. Charo, however, pouted.

Just as I was about to resume the activity, the alarm broke in. So many unanswered questions; did the rest of the lesson go okay? Most of all I hope I never experience one of those deja vu moments starring this dream. Analyze this one if you want Dr. Freud, but I’m guessing I made need a vacation.

Let the testing games begin

I have a new definition for “March Madness” and it has nothing to do with playing a sport.

This March, we have the following on our docket: MELA-O (ELL assessment), MEPA (ELL written assessment), District Math Benchmark, MCAS Reading, and report cards. And of course there are always assessments for RTI/TAT tracking and reading progress conferences/running records.

My poor ELLs — they are going to have to endure two rounds of high-stress standardized testing as devised by the state over the next two weeks. I really question the wisdom of testing kids on a whole year of learning in March — for goodness sake it is only 7 months (6 1/2 really) into the school year. I guess those other two months count for nothing? And let’s not mention that all of the procedures and disrupted teaching time to administer a test will take — 4 days out of the month of March alone.

I do believe that data helps us to drive instruction, to move our students forward. But for goodness sake do we need to gather it all in one month?

Homeless children and faces of poverty

In case you missed it, here is a link to Scott Pelley’s outstanding and heartbreaking story about the effects of homelessness on our children. As a teacher in a high poverty urban public school, I know what he is reporting is true. At least two of my students began the year in hotels; in previous years one of my students lived in the U Haul carrying all their worldly possessions after they were evicted. Some children have infrequently shared that they did not have electricity as the service had been shut off. Still others come to school and scuffle for food, for breakfast items that were not consumed by their peers. Clearly they do not have enough to eat.

The most jaw-dropping piece of information Mr. Pelley shared was that the United States – the land of plenty – considers a family to be living below the poverty level if they are a family of four with $22,000 per year. Who can do that; who can do that with 4 people?

For me, this fact points to the fallacy of statistical information as applied by our government. If the poverty level is defined as 4 people living on $22,000 each year; there are many more families in actual poverty than our government track with this skewed classification. $22,000 is not a living income for a single person – at least here in the Northeast – that amount applied to 4 is beyond the pale.

Recently I read an article stating that the income gap between rich and poor is the widest it has been in 80 years. The “recovery” has not trickled down to those living on the margins. Social services are facing cuts in budgets and services that will only make this worse.

I do not hold out much hope for our government to provide a safety net for children of poverty. These children sadly seem to know better than I, that the situation is not hopeful. That, in this land of plenty, they are faceless and nameless, and sadly, powerless.