Archive for the ‘Georgia’ Category

Do I Seem Stupid to You?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I’m not stupid. I know I am fairly intelligent, because as a young student, they give you tests in school, and I scored in the very highest percentiles on those tests. I was “gifted.” They put me in gifted classes, called TAG. I think I went for an hour a day, five days a week, from fourth grade through seventh grade. The rest of the time, I was in regular classes, with regular kids. We all learned the same stuff. Most of it came easily to me. Until we got to fifth grade math.

In fifth grade math, I spent a lot of time doing exercises, over and over, with no apparent reason for doing any of them. I wasn’t figuring anything out. I was just given a formula or an example of some sort, and then I was supposed to learn how to plug things in to make the “problem” and the answer look the way the teacher wanted it to look so that she could mark it correct. Except that there really was no problem; I wasn’t expected to figure out how to do anything. I was just expected to learn how to solve a problem that they were already telling me how to solve. So, i remember spending every spare moment I could find at school reading books.

I probably didn’t explain this very well. You are probably thinking, aren’t those math problems you were doing? What I’m saying probably doesn’t make much sense to you. It will if you read the article I read this morning, which explains it pretty damn well. I felt like i was reading an article written about me. I actually almost cried a couple of times while reading it.

The article was given to me by a friend. She and I both have kids in first grade. Kids who are, to be honest, kind of bored with the school curriculum in general. Take the following example. For homework, my son was supposed to use his weekly spelling words to create five sentences. Each sentence had to have a spelling word in it. (He has not received a spelling word yet that he couldn’t spell. He does not have to study his spelling words. He already knows all of them. They also get “robust vocabulary” words which are supposed to be difficult, and he has also been able to spell every one of those. He has not had a challenging spelling word yet, and he is receiving the “advanced” homework packet.)

Rollie can read the instructions for his homework on his own, meaning i don’t sit with him and do his homework with him, but rather tell him to do his homework, he does it, then I check it and discuss anything amiss. (Which is usually a problem of a) legibility or b) not reading the instructions closely and missing a step in them. I attribute both of these to rushing through the work, because he finds nothing particularly challenging to slow him down.)

So, on this particular day, he produces the following:
sentences

This was a crappy scan job, and I am too impatient to fix it, but it basically is as follows:

? ? ? ? Rollie
Who is she?
Is he nice?
Isn’t school supposed
to be fun?
Why do we have to do
homework?
Why is it not fun
at school?

Below that, it reads,

Look back here, mom. ————>
Outside on Scooter.

Do i think my kid doesn’t read instructions well? Well, i think he read it. I think he just thought it was fucking stupid, and so he did something different. I think he was trying to tell me that he thinks it’s stupid. I think he would rather be outside riding his scooter.

I also think he needs to work on his penmanship.

And then there’s the math. School started up in early August. It is almost October. They are still doing simple addition with single digits. One of his homework sheets is a page of five columns of addition exercises. Each column has 25 very simple addition problems. It is supposed to be completed as a drill. Meaning that the kid is supposed to do the column as fast as he can, see how many he gets correct and how quickly. (There is a total for x/25 at the bottom, and for the minutes and seconds it takes to complete.) They do it five times, once for each column. I time him, he rushes through, he misses none of them, he tries to beat his time.

What is he learning? As far as I can tell, not a damn thing.

He learns nothing new. No creative juices flow. He doesn’t have to struggle for anything. No light bulb goes off in his head when he figures something out.

Do you like Math? I never did. I hated Math. Turns out maybe no one ever taught me anything about Mathematics. Turns out I just learned some sad shell of math, and that all along, I detected the senselessness in it all, and I checked out. That “smart kid” (according to their tests) that I was should have been able to do this stuff easily. But I didn’t do it, because I had no motivation to do it.

I ended up in remedial Math in 9th grade. Remedial Math. And I truly believe that it was because I was bored, uninspired, and totally saw through the curriculum to the pointlessness of learning that way. There was no learning going on.

Do I seem stupid to you? I’m not stupid. But I was failed, in a way, by the very same state that I am entrusting to educate my kids.

I don’t want my kids to check out. I want them to get excited about learning. Is that too much to ask? I hope not. Because I am going to fucking ask it, and I am going to ask it a lot.

Here is a page with an introduction to the article, A Mathematician’s Lament, and a little information about the author of the article, a Mathematician and teacher, named Paul Lockhart. It is long (a 25 page PDF), and I think that if you have a kid and you don’t take the hour to read it, you are doing your kid a serious disservice, if only in refusing to take a fresh look at the way we teach math in our country. Please read it. Please.

I included a few quotations from the article below. . .

Sadly . . . if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education. Everyone knows that something is wrong. The politicians say, “we need higher standards.” The schools say, “we need more money and equipment.” Educators say one thing, and teachers say another. They are all wrong. The only people who understand what is going on are the ones most often blamed and least often heard: the students. They say, “math class is stupid and boring,” and they are right.

And when I read that, I thought of the boredom and frustration that ten-year-old Anne felt sitting at a desk in elementary school. And I got weepy.

And this, echoing the senselessness of what i was learning. I remember thinking, but why am i doing with this?

By concentrating on what, and leaving out why, mathematics is reduced to an empty shell. The art is not in the “truth” but in the explanation, the argument. It is the argument itself which gives the truth its context, and determines what is really being said and meant. Mathematics is the art of explanation. If you deny students the opportunity to engage in this activity— to pose their own problems, make their own conjectures and discoveries, to be wrong, to be creatively frustrated, to have an inspiration, and to cobble together their own explanations and proofs— you deny them mathematics itself.

And these interesting dialogues are interspersed through the article. They are too lengthy to put them all here.

SIMPLICIO: Are you really trying to claim that mathematics offers no useful or
practical applications to society?

SALVIATI: Of course not. I’m merely suggesting that just because something
happens to have practical consequences, doesn’t mean that’s what it is
about. Music can lead armies into battle, but that’s not why people
write symphonies. Michelangelo decorated a ceiling, but I’m sure he
had loftier things on his mind.

SIMPLICIO: But don’t we need people to learn those useful consequences of math?
Don’t we need accountants and carpenters and such?

SALVIATI: How many people actually use any of this “practical math” they
supposedly learn in school? Do you think carpenters are out there
using trigonometry? How many adults remember how to divide
fractions, or solve a quadratic equation? Obviously the current
practical training program isn’t working, and for good reason: it is
excruciatingly boring, and nobody ever uses it anyway. So why do
people think it’s so important? I don’t see how it’s doing society any
good to have its members walking around with vague memories of
algebraic formulas and geometric diagrams, and clear memories of
hating them. It might do some good, though, to show them
something beautiful and give them an opportunity to enjoy being
creative, flexible, open-minded thinkers— the kind of thing a real
mathematical education might provide.

SIMPLICIO: But people need to be able to balance their checkbooks, don’t they?

SALVIATI: I’m sure most people use a calculator for everyday arithmetic. And
why not? It’s certainly easier and more reliable. But my point is not
just that the current system is so terribly bad, it’s that what it’s missing
is so wonderfully good! Mathematics should be taught as art for art’s
sake. These mundane “useful” aspects would follow naturally as a
trivial by-product. Beethoven could easily write an advertising jingle,
but his motivation for learning music was to create something
beautiful.

SIMPLICIO: But not everyone is cut out to be an artist. What about the kids who
aren’t “math people?” How would they fit into your scheme?

SALVIATI: If everyone were exposed to mathematics in its natural state, with all
the challenging fun and surprises that that entails, I think we would
see a dramatic change both in the attitude of students toward
mathematics, and in our conception of what it means to be “good at
math.” We are losing so many potentially gifted mathematicians—
creative, intelligent people who rightly reject what appears to be a
meaningless and sterile subject. They are simply too smart to waste
their time on such piffle.

SIMPLICIO: But don’t you think that if math class were made more like art class
that a lot of kids just wouldn’t learn anything?

SALVIATI: They’re not learning anything now! Better to not have math classes at
all than to do what is currently being done. At least some people
might have a chance to discover something beautiful on their own.

SIMPLICIO: So you would remove mathematics from the school curriculum?
SALVIATI: The mathematics has already been removed! The only question is
what to do with the vapid, hollow shell that remains. Of course I
would prefer to replace it with an active and joyful engagement with
mathematical ideas.

SIMPLICIO: But how many math teachers know enough about their subject to
teach it that way?

SALVIATI: Very few. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

And I am struck by the memory of a discussion with my child’s teacher, wherein she admitted feeling “overwhelmed” by the curriculum. Where, in the past, she could rely on her teacher’s workbook to tell her how to challenge the more advanced students, now, she was completely overwhelmed by the technology, and the websites, and she couldn’t find time to learn how to use them to differentiate instruction for the more advanced kids. And I thought, what if the person who was teaching my child had a love of math, and just started, i don’t know, getting my kid excited with thoughts that challenged him, rather than looking for the next level in the math ladder that the website tells her my son should be doing?

It is far easier to be a passive conduit of some publisher’s “materials” and to follow the shampoo-bottle instruction “lecture, test, repeat” than to think deeply and thoughtfully about the meaning of one’s subject and how best to convey that meaning directly and honestly to one’s students. We are encouraged to forego the difficult task of making decisions based on our individual wisdom and conscience, and to “get with the program.” It is simply the path of least resistance:

TEXTBOOK PUBLISHERS : TEACHERS ::

A) pharmaceutical companies : doctors
B) record companies : disk jockeys
C) corporations : congressmen
D) all of the above

I don’t want to pick D. But i pick D. I cannot deny that it is all of the above.

If teaching is reduced to mere data transmission, if there is no sharing of excitement and wonder, if teachers themselves are passive recipients of information and not creators of new ideas, what hope is there for their students? If adding fractions is to the teacher an arbitrary set of rules, and not the outcome of a creative process and the result of aesthetic choices and desires, then of course it will feel that way to the poor students.

I also must admit that there is more than one issue here: Commingled with this fear of faulty math curriculum is also the fact that I fear my special needs child (and very intelligent children do have special needs, too) is being or will be failed by the system, simply because he is too far on one end of the spectrum.

One last thing. I am not criticizing teachers here. I know they work hard. I know they are overworked and that they have limitations in what they can do based on the curriculum, testing, standards-based crap, student/teacher ratios, and class sizes. I know this.

But it does not change that I fear for my child’s education, and ultimately for his imagination and love of learning.

Did you love Math in school? Hate it? Feel failed by the math curriculum in your school system? Were you in a gifted program? What was your experience? Are you a teacher, with a different take on this? Are you a parent struggling with these issues? And if you read the article, I would love to know your thoughts on it. I am really curious.

Oh, The Anticipation

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Not ashamed to say I got a little choked up watching this.

I cannot WAIT.

If You Live in Dekalb, You Should Read This Daily

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The great blog Dekalb County School Watch published a Shayna Steinfeld post yesterday imploring the Board of Education to re-examine their business processes.

Time to re-examine how business is conducted in DeKalb County Schools is really worth a read. I think she makes some great points.

Most importantly, if you are not paying attention to the elections this Fall of Board of Education members (even if there is no seat up this year for your district), then you are doing the children of the county a disservice and you are jeopardizing your own community and property values. Dekalb County schools are well on their way to looking as bad as Clayton County. Think many people are itching to move into Clayton? Nope.

I highly recommend you follow the Dekalb County School Watch and educate yourself about those running for BoE.

What I Learned About Public Education

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I already knew these things, but my experience dealing with Dekalb County yesterday cemented it: You really, really have to take responsibility for your own child’s education. The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease. If you complain enough, and put people’s jobs on the line, they will cave, and they will waste taxpayer money (tens of thousands of dollars, in this instance) to save their own asses. This caving might possibly benefit you, in the end, but it is a waste of taxpayer money, just the same. And if you are not watching these folks with an eagle eye, and guiding your child’s every move within the system with the utmost care, you are getting screwed by the county. I guarantee it.

If you are leaving it up to the system alone to educate your child, you are doing your child a disservice. There are great teachers and administrators, but there are plenty of rotten apples in this barrel. You actually have to be there like a watchdog, holding your hand’s child every step of the way, if you want to make sure they are getting what they need.

And it is just heartbreaking how many kids don’t have savvy, outspoken parents, (or parents who have the time to miss 2+ hours of work on a Monday to attend a meeting,) and who are getting lost in the system, or screwed over and they never even know it is happening to them.

Love,
A very cynical Dogwood Girl.

I Don’t Understand How Dekalb is Even Running

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Also, I would just like to say, on behalf of Dekalb citizens and taxpayers, parents, students, and teachers, WHAT THE FUCK?

You can’t even get it together and make a decision? What a waste of everyone’s time!

Dekalb Board of Ed Budget Meeting Summary

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I attended the Dekalb County schools budget meeting with Tonna, the parent of one of Rollie’s classmates. We got there and were amazed at the number of police and news crews. Parents, dressed in red to show their support for their kids’ educational programs, were everywhere. Most of the teachers were wearing black to protest the budget cuts. We went in and sat down, started talking to other parents. It was sad to hear how far-reaching these cuts would be, how it would affect Montessori programs, magnet programs, pre-k programs, special Ed, the Arts, music, and P.E., and it was heartening to see how many parents actually care.

We sat with some other parents from our own school. Before the meeting, people were allowed to sign up for a chance to speak for two minutes, with 30 people getting slots for a total of one hour. The hour went by quickly, though, with parents, teachers, and citizens concerned over their property values carefully and respectfully laying out their arguments against cutting schoolhouse programs. There were some tears, and there were some sharp points made concerning the size and cost of the central office, but i was amazed at everyone’s civility. (Needless to say, I did not speak.)

Some Arguments for not cutting educational programs:

  • Detrimental to children currently using these programs.
  • Makes little sense to scrap programs, such as Montessori, that Dekalb has so recently spent funds on improving. Would be throwing away those investments in the programs.
  • Treatment of teachers will drive away good educators, and fail to bring new ones into the county schools.
  • Right now, these programs are a draw for people to move into Dekalb County. (a point that hits home for Todd and I since we specifically moved to our current location less than two years ago to take advantage of the wonderful elementary my son attends). Scrapping these programs would mean that families would no longer be drawn by the programs, and in fact, many families will consider leaving the area for better educational opportunities. This exodus would likewise impact property values and the viability of our county schools for years to come.

This last point seemed to me the most salient: We should not throw away the future of our county to make stopgap budget cuts; there are other ways to make budgetary cuts that will not negatively impact education and property values in Dekalb County for so many years in the future.

Across the board, parents and teachers alike seemed to agree that the Board needs to look to the central office for their budget cuts. I have been looking for specific numbers on what the central office administration costs are and have had trouble finding those numbers. I have been told by word of mouth, though, that there are hundreds of administrators at this level making over $100,000. It seems ludicrous to be paying salaries like this when we have a budget shortfall.

I know one area they can certainly make cuts with little effect to our childrens’ education: The Magnet Office. I have had the opportunity to interact with them on an issue with getting my son into the Magnet program, along with following up with the director of that program on improving the processes and procedures for Magnet lottery in the future. Please believe me when I say that one Magnet official cannot screw up the lottery process any more significantly than two have managed to do already. These folks are inept and are not earning whatever salary it is they make already. I am sure that this ineptitude is spread throughout the central office in many different scenarios.

One final note: After the meeting last night, a group of four Evansdale parents (myself included) went up to Paul Womack, our Board of Education representative. We wanted to introduce ourselves, and let him know that Evansdale parents are concerned about our programs being cut. Mr. Womack was polite and took the time to speak with us. Other parents voiced their concerns. He listened. I asked him to please, “just do the right thing for our kids.”

His reply? “No, I will not do ‘the right thing.’ I will do what is right. There’s a difference, you know. You think about it.”

Are you kidding me? That is the most bullsh*t politician-speak i have ever heard!

He then proceeded to tell me and the three other women i was with that we were coming at this from “an emotional standpoint.” Sir, why don’t you just come out and call us hysterical women? Really? Really, Mr. Womack? I am sorry if I am getting a little emotional about threats to my child’s educational opportunities, and my property values. I am sorry if I get a little emotional when I think of folks making over a $100,000/year, while I see the programs in my child’s school possibly being cut.

I told him that we wanted to see the top-heavy central office experience cuts before they cut out our kids’ programs. I told him that we understood that in hard times, hard decisions had to be made, but that cuts they make to our school programs would be much more palatable if we also saw that central office was giving up plenty too. He assured me that we would see large central office cuts. I will be watching for those. And if I don’t see them, Mr. Womack? Don’t worry. I will do my darnedest to stay unemotional when I go to the polls in 2012.

Videos from last night’s meeting:

When was the last time you got a $15,000 Raise?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

When was the last time you got a $15,000 raise?

Dekalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis is getting a pay increase, while Dekalb County is proposing cuts across the system: teachers are taking furloughs, pay cuts are happening all over for those who work in the schools, programs are going to be cut, and millage rates possibly increased. Just last night, President Obama was speaking out against education cuts, but I don’t think he meant pay raises for fat cat administrators and their cronies in the big county nepotism office.

Sure, Dekalb is a huge school system, and the job can’t be very easy, but this man makes almost A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR. Most of the administration in Dekalb Co. (a top-heavy organization, at that) make over $100,000. And yet, custodians and bus drivers and the like have not even gotten a step up in two years. Music and art programs might be cut. Lottery-funded pre-kindergarten programs might be cut. Magnet programs might be cut. We waste money on new textbooks that aren’t even needed, while we don’t get the ones that are needed. But thank god, Crawford Lewis is getting that extra $15,000. Premiere Dekalb, my ass. Lewis hasn’t earned the first $240,000, much less the $15,000 raise!

Want to learn more?


What Lies Behind Dekalb’s Ire Over Schools

Dekalb Parent

Dekalb School Watch

Do you have a child in the Dekalb County school system? Do you live in Dekalb County? This affects you. Make your voice heard. The Board of Education is holding a Public Budget Input meeting this evening at 6:00pm at the William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology:

William Bradley Bryant Center of Technology
2652 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30033

Can’t make the meeting? You can send letters to the following Board Members:

H. Paul Womack, Jr. h_paul_womack@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Dr. Pamela Speaks pam_speaks@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Thomas E. Bowen thomas_bowen@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Zepora Roberts zepora_w_roberts@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Jim Redovian jim_redovian@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Don McChesney don_mcchesney@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Sarah Copelin-Wood sarah_copelin-wood@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Jesse “Jay” Cunningham, Jr. jay_cunningham@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Eugene P. Walker eugene_p_walker@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

And/Or DCSS Officials:
Terry M. Segovis Terry_M_Segovis@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
Robert G. Moseley Robert_Moseley@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Either Todd or I will be attending the meeting, and if I go, I might Twitter updates. Those show up in the sidebar of my blog, or you can follow me on Twitter.

Stuff I Like

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I am currently loving this guy Bryan Brown’s photographs. They totally strike that exhilarating intersection for me where “pretty picture” meets “cool history.” He calls himself Dirt Road Cowboy, and he traverses the back roads of S. Georgia, taking pictures of old structures, signs, and homes. Doesn’t hurt that I keep hoping that he will unearth some amazing nugget associated with my family history, much of which, on my dad’s side, is in this area. I can’t wait to find out what he comes up with next.

He has a website called Vanishing South Georgia, where he posts his photos, often with a story or historical description accompanying them. Photos that he doesn’t post there are in his Flickr stream.

If you don’t like history, rural decay, architecture, or old advertising, you will probably not be into this.

If that’s the case, you might be more into Kingston Lounge. This guy is into “Guerilla Preservation and Urban Archaeology” – He goes around and takes photographs of some cool and creepy stuff. I found it when looking for photos of the old Central State hospital in Milledgeville, GA. Most of his stuff is in NYC, primarily Brooklyn, i think.

Enjoy!

The Bigass Bulldog Birdhouse Birthday

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Why, yes . . . yes, I did get a $100 dollar Georgia Bulldog birdhouse for my birthday. Funny story behind that, which I will get to in a moment. But first, I have to say that I had a lovely morning, getting to sleep late, which for people with kids means eight a.m. (Screw you, childless folk.)

I woke up to Todd and Tiller climbing in bed with me (Rollie had already caught the bus), and Todd doing a darn good version of The Beatles’ “Birthday,” with Tiller grinning like a cheshire cat and a cup of coffee materializing on my bedside table.

Coffee. In. Bed.

Then I was informed that I should finish my coffee get dressed and go downstairs. I did, and I found this:

Hundred dollar Georgia Bulldog birdhouse with hydrangea and cards.

Hundred dollar Georgia Bulldog birdhouse with hydrangea and cards.

I was a little caught off guard. That is one big ass bulldog birdhouse. Did the Tiger husband really buy me a bulldog birdhouse? Is this a joke? (Also, let’s be honest. While I am a bulldog fan, I don’t want to be those people. You know, the ones who have UGA everything. That being said, if those folks at the lake ever die, I am so going to try to buy their huge Bulldog statue they have in front of their cabin, right on the lake.)

We opened the very sweet cards from the kids and Todd, and I oohed and aahhed over the birdhouse and the hydrangea. I asked Todd, “Am i really allowed to put the birdhouse in the yard?” It seemed to pain him as he replied, “yes, baby, you just tell me where.”

“Where on earth did you get it?” I asked.

“Echo’s garage!” Tiller replied with glee. “Echo” is what Tiller calls Mr. Echols, the old man who lives next door to us. Some things you just don’t correct, because they are too cute.

I stared at Todd and then the truth came out.

Mr. Echols likes to show us stuff in his yard. He has a friend, who made him a couple of birdhouses, huge wooden deals, kind of more on the side of what Todd and I call, “Country Christian” or “Ducks in Bonnets” style than cool and funky folk art Finster-style birdhouses. Meaning, not exactly what I would choose, but neat enough.

So, Echo was showing Todd the birdhouses and telling him about the friend who makes them, and all the different styles he makes. “He also makes Georgia Bulldog birdhouses,” he said.

Todd replied, “Oh, Anne would love that!” Being polite, you know.

So, a few days before Christmas, Mr. Echols pulled Todd aside to show him my new birdhouse. That’s right. He just went ahead and had the guy make me the birdhouse. FOR A HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Todd had already bought me Christmas gifts, and he didn’t want to hurt Echo’s feelings, so he decided the birdhouse would be my birthday gift.

And what a gift it is. . . I will never look at that birdhouse without thinking that my husband, the Auburn Tiger, is sweet enough to just cough up the hundred bucks so as not to hurt Echo’s feelings, and that he loves me enough to put up a bigass Bulldog backyard birdhouse for me.

Already this birthday is pretty bitchin.’ Thanks, Toddler!

Snow Day

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Lots of fun in the snow today!

All bundled up and ready for the snow.

All bundled up and ready for the snow.

Frolicking

Frolicking

Are we done yet?

Are we done yet?

Taking a rest from the frolic.

Taking a rest from the frolic.

Possibly getting a little too action shot for me and my camera.

Possibly getting a little too action shot for me and my camera.

It's so cold i can't feel my face. Hahahahaha.

It's so cold i can't feel my face. Hahahahaha.

Serious. And Goofy

Serious. And Goofy

More frolic.

More frolic.

Alright, Malex, now you pissed me off.

Alright, Malex, now you pissed me off.