August 21, 2008

Well, It's a Beginning

Our first day back was a little...uh...weird.

The campus is still under construction, so we were confined to one wing, and within that wing we had access to the auditorium, half a classroom, where a few tables and chairs were set up for breakfast, and the restrooms. The auditorium is what I call a small theater, and it seats about 100 people. It's actually a nice meeting place.

After a continental breakfast where we had a chance catch up with each other, we settled into the auditorium for orientation. It started with an inspirational video, 212: The Extra Degree. If it's true that teachers act like the students they teach, don't show this movie on the first day of school to a bunch of wound-up middle schoolers. We fell all apart, and when the movie was over we were reprimanded for our behavior. I didn't talk. I'm a good kid, but I couldn't see the words on the television screen from where I was sitting, so I took the time to look for some friends I hadn't talked to yet and count the number of people who had new hairstyles. Perhaps there were other people who were acting out because they couldn't read it, too. It's pretty common, right?

Oh, but that's nothing against the video. I think most of you will like it. Link to watch it!

After we had our attitudes in check, are fearless principal outlined all the great things we've done. Our scores were up last year, and we are ranked high in the district in exiting students out of ELL services. Or however they put it. The high schools that we feed into are also ranked well on this list, and she believes that is also evidence of what's happening in our school. She also talked about some of the ideas that administrators at the district level are pushing, and many of these things are already in place in our school.

She recited this:

We the unwilling
Led by the unknowing
Are doing the impossible
for the ungrateful.
We have done so much
for so long with so little
that we are now fully
qualified to do anything
with nothing!
That's the truth! Oh, and by the way, there is no money. The special grant two-year grant we secured last year that funded teacher trainings and field trips opportunities for all students had to be given back to the state to fund teachers' raises. Ouch. When you put it that way. I still don't know why we're getting our raises when education budgets have been slashed because of our state's financial woes. If I'm not mistaken, it was negotiated before these anyone knew that our state leaders can't balance a budget--I believe maybe even a year or more ago. Maybe it was a legality issue? Maybe they wanted to play nice with the teachers whose classrooms were going to be overloaded because we can't hire anymore teachers. I don't know. I DO know that the public will bash us every time the topic comes up. Sure there's no money to put textbooks into classrooms, but the teachers got their 4% raises. We get blamed for everything.

Thank you for listening to that rant, but now back to the regularly scheduled rant:

The rest of the morning was a quick overview of important things to know.

What's new at our school:
  • advisory period
  • bathrooms in every hallway (you have no idea the issues we had...)
  • PTSA and Dads of Good Students (D.O.G.S.)
  • a student health program called Project HOPE
What's no longer at our school:
  • one-way hallways
  • Gear-Up anything (goodbye after school programs and a lot of in-class tutors--and more money!)
  • Friday faculty meetings (YES!)
  • nearly unlimited paper supplies
Non-negotiable expectations:
  • teaching to the curriculum (no-brainer!)
  • submitting lesson plans each week (Some people didn't!?!?!)
  • professional dress and grooming (they really don't like denim at all)
  • no cell phone usage during class (another no-brainer!)
  • no gum zone for everyone (have to be careful what I eat for lunch...)
  • upload grades each week
  • take daily attendance (Warning that we might be audited this year!)
  • conserve energy
It's pretty typical stuff, right? The last thing we talked about before lunch was homework detention procedures and our stricter dress code. These are also new things, so people were getting restless and having side conversations while others asked clarifying questions. It was horrible. Again with acting like unruly teenagers. I couldn't wait to escape for lunch.

And even lunch was weird. Of all the places to eat, about 30 of us ended up at the same sandwich shop. And it looked like a a cafeteria with each clique sitting in separate areas. Some people at my table even made snide comments about people at other tables.

The afternoon was TORTURE with giant Vegas flashing lights. The district requires that we watch of all these informative videos and sign off that we've seen them. In the past we might watch one or two, and then at various time of the year we'd watch a few more. Our administrators crammed them all into one afternoon. All seven (7) of them! I do not begrudge our admin. Rather than spread them out over the course of three days, they wanted us to get everything at once, so when we are finally released to get into our rooms we can do so.

By far the most horrifying video, which was about 4 X 4 when projected onto the wall, was about aversive interventions. I know for sure now that when dealing with children of special needs, I cannot
  • call them names like idiot or retard.
  • lock them in a room alone.
  • hit them or pull their hair.
  • administer electric shock.
My question: "What about the regular ed. students?"


Why was the video horrifying? There's a reason we have to watch these warning videos. Someone, somewhere has done it.

Throughout the video portion of our day, the fire alarm kept going off.

And when we departed for the day. The fire alarm was going off. We escaped quickly.

For the rest of the week, we are working remotely, unless we have a specific meeting on campus. "Stay out of the way of the workers so they can finish our school."

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