Tag Archives: teachers

THE WPS SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS – PARENTS, GET INVOLVED!

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Future music major! pic:R.T.

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

As summer vacation comes to a close, I hope that our students have engaged in learning activities throughout the summer, especially reading on a daily basis. As school begins, many parents have huge smiles on their face – others become very apprehensive.

As a former school principal (Belmont Community), let me remind everyone that not all teachers are parents, but all parents are teachers. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers, and all school systems must do more to involve parents in the learning process. Research has clearly shown that there is a critical link between parent involvement and student achievement.

Schools need to give more than “lip service” to involve parents in the learning process. Parents need to approach their child’s school and let staff know that they are interested in being involved! Parents, STAY INVOLVED!!

Let’s see what I can do to take away some of the stress of going back to school! First, it’s important that parents right now set up a bedtime schedule, for sleep is at the center of a healthy child and enables them to do well in school. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Research suggests an hour before bedtime – put away all electronic devises to help kids wind down. Use that time for reading to them, or give them the opportunity to read for 30 minutes in bed.

Parents need to develop good management practices at home for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them at the outside door. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out … sign permission slips and add school appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast. What you need to do is be organized – doing so takes the stress out of the day.

Let your child know that school is a number one priority for him. Do it by word of mouth and be setting up realistic schedules, such as for homework. Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.

Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.

Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Most important – don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

Reading time at home…make reading for 20 minutes a day – a part of your child’s routine.

Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read, too. Parents, your child was born to be a reader and a writer. Someone has to show them the way and that person is YOU! It is your job to help your child enjoy reading or to be motivated to read.

Every day is a learning moment. Here are some fun activities to do with your child:

Many children’s movies and television shows are based upon stories and books. Encourage your child to read books based on the story or television show. This is a good way to get adolescents and reluctant readers involved in reading books.

There are many wonderful children’s magazines available. Get a magazine subscription as gift, and this could stimulate your child’s interest in reading.

Encourage your child to write letters to friends, relatives – or even to Worcester School Committee members! (We love hearing from students!) Your child could also send a letter via e-mail to a friend or relative.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year.

Teachers are always very excited about meeting their new students and new parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child’s learning. Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the school principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help him/her. These are especially good ideas to use if your child has special needs or if the family is going through difficult times, such as divorce, an illness, death of a family member, or a recent or pending move.

Other ideas for parents/guardians:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the school district’s web site

· Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

Worth mentioning: participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s Parent Organization.

Best wishes for a great school year!

Should you need any advice, please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

Great learning opportunities! From Mass Farm to School Project

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From Mass Farm to School:

Greenfield Community College Offers Summer Courses in Sustainable Agriculture for Students and Teachers 

Greenfield Community College is offering summer courses for high school students and teachers in Organic Gardening, Intro. to Sustainable Farming Skills, and Developing Curriculum in Sustainable Food Production.

To learn more about the program for teachers, CLICK HERE! 

Raised Bed Workshop at Gore Place

May 21

In this workshop, long-time farmer Scott Clarke will demonstrate techniques for planting flowers and vegetables in a raised bed.

Learn how to lay out a square-foot garden, choose plants that are good companions, make use of vertical space, and plant directly into a bale of hay.

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Explore ways to develop the soil without the use of synthetic fertilizers so that your soil can feed the plants and vice versa.

Attendees will receive a coupon for the annual Spring Plant Sale on May 27-29.  $25 per person, $20 for Members.

CLICK HERE to buy tickets!

volunteers

Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds: A Stakeholder’s Conference for School Food

June 1

Harvard University, Cambridge

In this second stakeholders annual conference, join parents, providers, policy makers and advocates as we work together to understand the current climate of school food and develop collaborative ways to to champion and support change.

CLICK HERE for registration & Full Conference Agenda.

What’s fair pay?

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Worcester’s Grafton Street Elementary School. For years elementary school teachers all over America – mostly women at the time – were grossly under-paid. pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

We are at last at the place where there is some hope that women will be paid the same as men for equal work. That has taken a while. As a former teacher, I can remember the days when women teachers were paid less for the same or greater effort, did not get regular raises for experience, could not teach if married, then could not teach if pregnant, etc. I recall being told that only men could get a raise, as they were heads of household, and I as a woman could not be a “head of household” – despite the fact that I, like many women, was the main wage earner in my family, as my husband was in school and received only a meager stipend.

It was really high school teachers who spearheaded the move to organizing for more fair pay. Too many of us who were elementary school teachers were female, and we were accustomed to serving but not expecting proper pay. We taught children; high school teachers said they taught subjects. But now, after decades of battling, all teachers are on a multi-step schedule, based on educational level and years of service, not on the sex of the teacher.

It has been a tough battle to get fair pay for female-dominated professions – and the battle is by no means over.

This society still gives lip service to the vital role of raising and educating children, said to be our future. But we still pay near-starvation wages to those to whom we entrust our allegedly most precious possessions: our children. Early childhood programs of top quality are few and far between, very expensive, and overfilled. I went to a public preschool at three years of age, in France, in 1933 – that is how far behind we are here in America. My parents, who never even entrusted us to a babysitter, entrusted us to that French public school program. They could not have afforded a private program, as we came to France with nothing. Of course, there, teachers were honored and looked up to, and I do not remember my parents ever saying a bad word against teachers. If we children complained, they said we should learn all we could from this year’s teacher(s), and next year we might get one we liked better.

I recall coming home one day and announcing to my parents that henceforth I would have nothing to do with money, as the teacher had told us that “money is the root of all evil.” As a testament to the power of teachers’ influence, it was years before I really felt comfortable having anything to do with what was popularly called “filthy lucre.” My parents, loath to contradict the teacher, explained gently to me that the real saying was: ”THE LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil.”

Our system of compensation for work, our reward system, seems to reward those who do the least, with the most. Hedge fund managers, who move money from here to there and catch billions in between, are fabulously rich; CEOs who barely know what goes on in their businesses get millions and bonuses; speculators of all sorts are rewarded outrageously, while those who die for us have to battle to get treated for the horrendous diseases they pick up in battle. The list is endless! Suffice it to say: We reward the most vital jobs the least, and the least vital the most.

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published …

By Edith Morgan

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published, and once again the public is treated to a bunch of truly meaningless, worthless numbers, designed, not to enlighten or help improve our public schools, but to denigrate the performance of those most abused by this money-mad society and to hold them down longer and most surely.

Many years ago our public schools undertook the unique task of educating EVERY child – no matter what that child brought to school.

This was a most remarkable goal, and well beyond what most nations did: they selected the cream of the crop, and funneled them through their systems, tested them, and supported and encouraged them to go as high as they could (Thus were created the Olympic stars, etc of many nations.) But America chose another path, at least on paper. (Things tend to get watered down or even perverted when left to the states). For several decades, with impetus from the Federal Government, we tried very hard to give every child in America an even chance – regardless of poverty, minority status, mental or physical handicaps, or abusive home environment, – to become a full-fledged citizen, neighbor,  family member and worker.

I was teaching at the time, and it was demanding work, but very fulfilling.

But then, gradually, almost unperceived, there was a change: several things occurred (not in this order, but equally important):

We elected a President who convinced too many people that “Greed is Good”, with the obvious deadly results.

We started to believe in the “wisdom of the Market”, and despite all the data to the contrary, began to import the philosophy and methods of industry into our schools, making them more like factories (of late we have also imported the business model into medicine with disastrous results)

In a well-funded and orchestrated campaign, we were told: that our schools were mediocre, our teachers overpaid, and our goals of creating lifelong learners and good citizens should subverted  and instead we should produce workers for business.

In a real slap in the face to parents and citizens, a major move to “privatize” (i.e. take over the public schools from the public) was instituted, under the thinly disguised excuse that these “model” schools would try new and better things, from which the local public schools could then learn and adapt their methods and  curricula. (I was at that time involved with several years of Federal programs funding experiments in the public schools, designing better ways to teach reading, literature, etc.. and these programs, since they were federally funded, were available to all. Imagine my surprise when one major supplier of charter programs turned out to be using these ideas, not creating their own, new ones.)

We were told that we needed these alternatives, because the public schools lacked innovation and creativity and flexibility. So, instead of giving our public schools the flexibility they needed, we created this spurious alternative, siphoned funds away from the neediest, and enthroned the profit motive in one more place where it has no business being.

Not everything in a decent society can turn a profit: I strongly believe that education and health care should not be privately held by for-profit, enterprises (and maybe we should add public transportation and parkland to the list).
 

Go, Gordon Davis, go!!!!!!!!

STOP Arresting Kids at School! … and THE REAL RACE DIALOGUES

By Gordon Davis

In September 2015 there were reports of two fights between kids at North High School in Worcester. The details of the fights are sketchy, but it appears that the first fight was between two female students. That fight was broken up and the students taken to the office where while still upset they refused to comply with instructions given to them. Instead of being sent home and having them return with their parents, the two girls were arrested. Something similar happened with two male students.

When I went to high school I got into fights, but the police were never called and the disputes were handled administratively.

In both cases at North High School there were charges that nine staffers were assaulted but not injured or harmed when they tried to break up the respective fights. How the staffers were assaulted was not described in the news story. An assault is defined as a threat or an attempt to injury without actually injury. Battery is the charge for injury or harm intentionally inflicted.

It might have been better for all concerned for the students not to have been arrested at school. Arresting kids in the heat of the moment when there is no immediate clear and present danger will, more likely than not, lead to bad decisions by the staff and the police, as well as be harmful to the kids. The schools know who the kids are and where they live; there is no chance that they will flee the state. There is no need for arrests.

Should there be a need for legal actions then this should be decided after the emotions of the event have passed. The child and parent could be summoned to court. The whole concept of putting children in handcuffs and having them booked  at the police is not good pedagogy.

On September 19, 2015, a new group called Men of Color Think Tank organized what it called “Real Race Dialogues.” The Men of Color Think Tank seems to be an outgrowth of the BlackLives Matter new civil rights movement.  Its membership is multi-racial, but some people are called “white allies” instead of members.

Michael Jerry one of the organizers of the event and apparent spokes person for Men of Color Think Tank gave an inspirational introduction to the Real Race Dialogues.

Although enthusiastic, many of the things he spoke about have a history in Worcester. For example, Mr. Jerry thought the best way to get a person of color elected was to have a slate of candidates. It is generally accepted that bullet voting is the better way to get a candidate elected. It is bullet voting that is thought to allow the top vote getters to get the most votes. Mr. Jerry’s enthusiasm and seeming ability to look at new ideas will go a long way to help the organization and its goals.

At the so called Real Race dialogues there was a table at which the participants discussed education. My impression is that there was honest and creative talk about racial issues in Worcester. Our table included parents, teachers, students, and other people sincere in their desire to end racial disparities in schools.  

Several issues came to be discussed: the development of a school to job pipeline, the coordinating of organizations working with children to ensure that each child at risk has a mentor, alternative curriculum and after school programs, and the ways of reversing the false perception of North High Schools as “bad” kids.

The issue of North High School took up most of the discussion time and some concrete plans were made including changing school policies such that no kids are arrested at school. Although this no arresting kids at school policy makes good pedagogy and common sense,  expelling the  criminal justice system out of the  schools will be a difficult task as many people still fear Black and Latino and poor kids . These misguided people, some of whom are racists, want to use the power of the state to “control” the dark skin people they fear.

A Great School Year for All!

By Edith Morgan

September is here! That means shorter days in the sun, leaves starting to turn, tomatoes ripening, and all the preparations for fall that nature and man engage in around here. And many parents welcome September with a sigh of relief as their offspring head back to school.

So this is a good time to examine some of our favorite assumptions about education:

1. For many years we have been assuming that you need “self-esteem” to achieve or succeed. In my time, we had to achieve first, then we would acquire “self esteem,” as a result of having done something or achieved something worthy of recognition. It has been my experience that those who strive the hardest often feel they are NOT doing well enough and feel they are not meeting their own high goals.  It has also been my experience that when asked how they had done on a test, the lower achievers were smugly confident, while those who achieved near-perfect scores felt they should have done better. Too often, gang leaders exhibit enormous self-satisfaction, while real achievers (inventors, artists, writers, and other successful and hardworking persons) are beset with doubts, continually work to reach higher goals. So, there is an inverse relationship between self- esteem and real achievement.

2. Paper and pencil tests created by commercial concerns are believed to give us legitimate information about the level of skill or the amount of knowledge our children have.  But by their very nature, they are extremely limited in what they can test, and in HOW they test it.

The ubiquitous SAT, originally designed to predict success in the first year of college,  never did it as well as each student’s high school transcript. Which source of information do YOU think would be most reliable in finding out what a given student will do: a one-shot, multiple choice set of questions of esoteric vocabulary, or the cumulative record of student’s life day to day, as recorded by attendance (being there to learn), classes taken and passed, teacher comments and recommendations, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Why are we so taken with a spurious number, and why do we ignore the testimony  of professionals and the exact numbers represented by school records?

3. I went to elementary school for six years in France: even at the height of the Nazi invasion, there was no real interruption in my education. From Paris to LePuy in south-central France, there was continuity in my basic learning because, as in all modern Western nations (except the U.S.), there is a set of national curriculum standards, and from the poorest to the richest child are exposed to those basic learnings. Each teacher and each section  of the country adds whatever is needed (for example, in LePuy we also learned lace-making in school, as that was a major skill handed down there).

In America, we have to reinvent the wheel not only in 50 states, but often also in hundreds of cities and towns  – leading to a very uneven and hard to share result.

4.  The overwhelming majority of our students live in urban environments; so why are we still following the old farming calendar, making sure our kids are home to help bring in the crops?

We waste great amounts of time reviewing what they have forgotten in the long summer, giving us  so much less time to learn this year’s stuff. Surely there is a better, more efficient, less boring way to  do this?

5.  The power structure is upside down: those who must assume the most responsibility for the education of our children, the teachers, are nearly powerless.

Does that make any sense?

Clearly, we have much to think about, as we elect another school committee, and begin the school year again.

The 4 R’s: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and … RESPONSIBILITY

By Edith Morgan

We’re “Worcester – the City that Reads,” and we test our students constantly for some kind of alleged proficiency in what used to be known as “The 3 R’s” – “Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick,” as the tune went when I was growing up.

A few decades later,  there was a lot of talk about  adding a fourth “R” – Responsibility.

It enjoyed an all too brief emphasis. In today’s test-driven learning environment, the idea cannot really survive, as there is no way to build a multiple-choice, machine-scored test that will give us numbers and rank schools and children. And so, like much of what goes into making a good, total human being, a life-long learner and an adult able to live a full life as a fully contributing member of his/her family, neighborhood, state and country, the effort has been de-emphasized , defunded and devalued. It is still, of course, being given lip service, but as we all know: What is honored and valued is what is PAID for.

Responsibility is not inborn. It must be modeled, taught daily and continually updated, as we assume more responsibility .

But we have turned the old model on its head, and now even the unborn have rights without responsibility. So we have empowered those who have not demonstrated the ability to assume responsibility  for their decisions and actions, and taken the power away from those who must take responsibility for what happens.

When I first began teaching in the schools, in the mid-1950’s, I had a pretty clear idea what my class should be able to do by the end of the school year. It was up to me to develop materials that would be appropriate for the individual students before me, create any extra materials needed to get the ideas across, and then administer whatever kinds of tests were needed to see if my students had mastered what had been taught, and to reteach what they still could not  show me they knew and understood.

By and large, students understood that their responsibility was to learn what was being taught, practice what was still weak, and move on to the next grade, building on what had been mastered the previous year, or risk having to do it over. Once I closed the door to my classroom, I was in charge. As a “liberal arts retread.” I had to learn a lot at first about keeping a group under control, working together, individually or in groups, and achieving the school’s stated goals.

I grew up an environment where teachers were revered and respected – and God help any of us. students had  the school complained about us, our behavior or our achievement. Our job (“responsibility”) was to learn everything we could, regardless of whether we loved our teacher,  liked the subject,  or had a lot of self-esteem, etc. In my day, “self-esteem” was earned and grew from a recognition that we had assumed responsibility.

But the system has been turned upside down, and trust and power are bestowed on those who do  not assume the needed responsibility.

Kindergarteners have more freedom than high schoolers, yet in normal development, the older the students, the more they should have learned to assume responsibility.

For every right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. Without that balance, you have the tyranny of the ignorant, the greedy, the evil and the power-hungry.

City of Worcester employee salaries are out …

By Rosalie Tirella

… And the latest figures show what InCity Times, the paper, has been running in each issue for years: scores and scores and scores of regular old folks, people who were never top in their class or showed any signs of intellectual prowess, making $100,000 a year and often much much more, courtesy of the taxpayer.

What chumps we are! A Worcester Public Schools grammar school principal pulling down $100,000? Teachers making $90,000 a year? With summers off, not to mention Christmas, winter and spring vacation weeks? Have we gone mad???!

Years and years ago working for the city was like working for the post office. You realized you were not the most brilliant bulb in the tree, but you landed yourself a city job, usually through connected relatives or politicians, that got you into the middle class. You became a public servant. Not great wages, but great health benefits, a pension, vacations with pay and a job for LIFE. You were grateful and stayed the course. You lived in a cute little house in the city and drove a station wagon. Maybe you spent a week at the Cape during summer vacation.

I had such an uncle. A doll of a person who was a public school principal in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Unlike today’s public school teachers or city cops, my uncle and his family did not own two SUVs. They did not live in the best Worcester neighborhood street. They did not build themselves a big, roomy McMansion. In fact, they lived in the same cute, little Worcester home until my aunt died a few years ago. My uncle lived education, was a good principal and a loving, no-nonsense dad. The old Worcester. The old way. Salt of the earth. Before our municipal employees and their unions got greedy.

Before a bunch of ordinary men and women decided to grab the City of Worcester by the nuts and make us pay them doctors’ salaries. Or the kind of dough a lawyer makes.

I am all for unions and the working person, but a ton of our cops making $150,000 or $100,000? Insanity! And then leaving the job at 58 years old to collect 80% of their city pay check FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?! People live to 85, 90 these days! This is why the City of Worcester closed its branch libraries, closed its neighborhood swimming pools, closed many of its elementary school libraries, CHARGES POOR PEOPLE $$$ to skate on our city common ice oval.

Hiring freezes anyone? An overhaul of City of Worcester pensions anyone? We need to act NOW!

Stand for Children MA, MA Teachers Association back legislation to put teacher performance first

New proposal ensures teachers performance comes before seniority when staffing decisions are made

BOSTON – Stand for Children Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Teachers Association this week announced legislation that would put teacher effectiveness before seniority when teacher staffing decisions are made. The legislation is a potential alternative to the ballot question Stand for Children has offered, which they have vowed to continue with should this new proposal fail to be signed into law before the state’s July 3 deadline for removing ballot questions.

“We are pleased to have the support of the Massachusetts Teachers Association on a piece of legislation that is critical for recognizing the work teachers do, guaranteeing a great teacher in every classroom, and closing our state’s wide achievement gap,” said Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts.

“Stand for Children Massachusetts and the parents, teachers and citizens who support us have long sought a system that places teachers in front of our children based on the quality of their work – not simply how long they’ve been in the classroom. A ballot question will no longer be necessary if this law is enacted, but if it is not, then we are committed to going to the ballot. The impact that teachers are having on their students should count; their performance in the classroom should be considered first. That’s something that 85 percent of voters support.”

Like the ballot question, the proposed legislation ensures every public school in Massachusetts gives priority to a teacher’s effectiveness rather than seniority when deciding who to place and keep in the classroom.

Additionally, the legislation empowers school leaders to build the best, most qualified teams by guaranteeing they have a role in decisions about who is teaching in their school building; it establishes a robust and comprehensive data reporting system to ensure accountability and transparency as this new evaluation system is implemented; and it seeks to provide an additional $13 million to school districts to ensure administrators and teachers are properly trained on the new evaluation system in order to provide timely, fair and comprehensive feedback on a teacher’s effectiveness.

“Teachers are one of the greatest indicators of how successful a child will be in the future,” said Williams. “This proposal will ensure that every child in our state, no matter their ZIP code, has access to a bright and successful future.”