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Noblesse oblige, teacher

Heck, even Ichabod Crane took free meals from the farmers’ wives. I wonder what his version of “What Teachers Make” would sound like?!

Well, nice! “President Obama to Finalize Overhaul of Overtime Rule, Boosting Pay for 4.2M Workers.”

As much as I see the $15/hour minimum wage being hugely beneficial, it does concern me: the priority of being paid for (overtime) work proves the better deal. Getting paid for your work? Ingenious!

“The middle class is getting clobbered, although I think we’re making some real progress here,” Vice President Joe Biden said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime.”

The final rule, which takes effect on Dec. 1, 2016, doubles the salary threshold — from $23,660 to $47,476 per year — under which most salaried workers are guaranteed overtime (hourly workers are generally guaranteed overtime pay regardless of their earnings level).

But ah, yes: here come the comments about teachers. Teachers are in a ‘noble’ profession, and don’t do it for the money, are there to sacrifice time, personal money, and yes, mental health. Now I don’t know if this is going to help teachers at all. It’s clear we have no room for complaining. Heck, even Taylor Mali set the stage, creating a legendary mythos of teachers being amazing at dinner parties with snappy retorts to rude guests! I mean, he’s lucky — at least he has friends who have dinner parties so he can get some decent grub once in awhile. A modern Ichabod, sans losing head thing.

It seems, however, if teachers speak up, we’re shouted back down. Talk to teachers in Chicago, Detroit, and Colorado. We need students to stick up for us because until parents (aka taxpayers) sign in and their children, we’re ancillary. Read this story about Grace Davis who made a difference. And while I can’t take anything from her ‘stubborn protest’ –why is it we teachers need outside forces to save us? Last time I check the credit card company doesn’t take payment in ‘noble’ dollars, and they don’t give a toot if I can teach them to spell D E F I N I T E L Y.

What do teachers want? They want to know they can support themselves and their families on their salary. They want to know their healthcare is there. They would like to travel a little bit. They would like opportunities to be compensated for their time, talent, and leadership. I heard a question the other day from the grapevine of someone questioning my motivation in staying at a  high-poverty school and getting a Board’s stipend that is larger than if I were to teach at a low-impact school. Oh, and the question of my race came into the discussion, too. So we have other teachers who tear us down, too and undermine each others’ abilities to grow. I say check yourself before you wreck yourself. We all do what we can to do the jobs we love and make sure we can live commiserate with our degrees.

Yes, did I know what I was getting into when I started? Yes, as much as anyone can. I liken it to having children: you think you know, but you don’t know. I did not anticipate job loss, how expensive college would be, my own student loans, health/medical bills, etc. Many Americans are in the same predicament.

And as sweeping as Obama’s changes will be, some simple things need to happen outside and inside the educational financial system:

  1. No crediting reporting for medical bills–we’ve had some that were inaccurate and it’s gone on our credit report. And once something wrong is on a credit report, backing it out of the steel treadles is damn near impossible.
  2. Teacher student loans are covered. I know there is a program I need to fill out paperwork for, but it’s not advertised or transparent. It should be simple. I write Sallie Mae, er, Navient, because it’s in private hands now, and prove I’m a teacher and it’s done.
  3. Overtime work is paid for.
  4. Matching retirement program: for every 5% we put in, the district/state/feds match it, up to a cap if need be.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, I told the milkman I would be paying in pencil shavings and paperclips. He said that’d be fine.




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Make a note of it.

This is a portrait of me done by a student: I added the glasses. All the better to see you with, my dear.

Two Thoughts:

*Annotating the world

Here is a follow-up list for my Duly Noted post:

More annotating on-line tools: (some of these aren’t available)





All this stuff is great, but turns out writing annotations by hand is best. Meh. I still say this is pretty cool stuff. But all these annotation tools don’t help me with my real problem, and that’s how to capture all my ideas that pop in my head?

*Annotate my brain

Well, I guess I have this blog. I am getting quite a rep as an idea person. Ideas are great, but I also possess a skill for follow-through, too.

Here are just some ideas I need to remember to see through for next year–most are done, but I don’t want to lose them:

  1. Grading calendar with mid-quarter progress report dates
  2. Staff training on brief writes across content areas
  3. Digital citizenship
  4. Room clean up and design
  5. Planning new units
  6. Planning books, short films, etc.
  7. Planning writing projects
  8. Planning project based learning
  9. Technology integration
  10. Reading skills that are engaging
  11. Cleaning out my digital hoarding
  12. Field trips?!
  13. Book/author talks?
  14. Pacing?

Okay, that’s enough for now.

How do you keep track of ideas and design for teaching?





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My baby, she wrote me a letter.

Thank goodness Principal Brooks has tackled this touchy subject: emails. For months now I’ve been thinking that some of the most urgently needed PD are business communication skills: I realize we educators like to think of ourselves as being superlative communicators, but alas, this is simply not the case, present company included.

Not a Superman changing room. Not a Dr. Who tardis. Just a phone.

Remember, I’m old. I’ve been in other careers before teaching, and in such was a digital pioneer with faxing, e-mails, Windows, Macs, etc. We still used Voice Mail then, and instead of cell phones, and now the beep-beep-boop Smartphones, we utilized pagers! And we ran to payphones to check in! AND–true story–had phone cards so we could make long distance calls from said payphones. I mean, the word ‘payphones’ is coming up as incorrect in Grammarly!! NO GRAMMARLY I AM NOT SPELLING PAYPHONES WRONG.

Yes, it was stressful.

Speaking of all caps: that was one of the first things we learned when using e-mail. The handling, or mishandling, of typography, stood in proxy of our voices. All caps means yelling. Everyone’s worked with someone who uses all caps, and they can change. I’ve seen it.

But aside from the obvious faux pas of all caps, there are much more subtle ways e-mails are awkward. Here are some do’s, don’ts, and some ideas in between:

Pro tips:

  1. Just like Principal Brooks says, if it’s truly for the good of the group, send all staff/reply all. (Note to self: don’t overdo this.)
  2. If you need to send an all-staff email, make sure to preface which group you’re intending the information for, and that others may like it, too.
    • It’s okay to send a personal event to the whole staff: you don’t know who might want to see your dressage event (I think that’s pretty cool!) or if there’s a new baby or grandbaby in the house (yes, please).
    • It’s okay to hit the delete key and not get panties in a wad over an all-staff, too.
  3. Keep them short. You’re not being rude, you’re being efficient.
  4. Don’t keep them so short you don’t answer the questions, though. I’ve gotten a few emails that only half-answer my question.
  5. Exclamation marks aren’t necessary: I’ve noticed a trend that unless you use an exclamation mark you’re not showing the appropriate level of enthusiasm. This is actually a thing. (It’s a hard habit to break, though.)

Don’t feed the trolls.

If an email is used for any other purpose than (clear) communication, then maybe think before hitting send. And this is difficult to admit, but there are staff trolls, just like they’re trolls hiding under Internet bridges and gutters. They’re difficult to detect, and I believe very rare, but in this day and age, it seems that tone/voice trumps good manners, meaning one’s charisma or saying “it’s just the way I am” is an excuse for being rude. If email communication is used to make another colleague seem incompetent that’s not just bad manners, but possibly a human resource issue of creating a hostile work environment.

Please edit, or don’t send at all, if:

  1. The email names or outs another colleague that may be incorrect, untruthful, or damaging.
  2. The email includes asks for advice or help, make sure to thank everyone who weighs in: do not single out one response that is “wrong.” That’s trolling.
  3. The sage advice: don’t hit send when angry. Draft it. Let it sit.
  4. Finally: would this be better in person? If a colleague has trolled to the point of creating tears, document it, and take it up the chain.

Keep your sense of humor, though

Some misfired emails are funny, and unless you’re Secretary of State and a Russian hacker finds purchase in your email mountain, you probably don’t have much to worry about. Delete at will. Set up rules so that your admins’ emails go straight to the top. And always click on the baby picture links.

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Slithering summer

The fantasy…(someone please Photoshop that kid out of there…)
The reality. The real really real reality.

Ah, those last few weeks in U.S. public schools before students and staff leave for summer break. When teachers all over the nation are worried about ‘summer slide’ and for their students, and perhaps themselves: thinking about what professional development may boost spirits and lighten the soul, or thinking about how much they’ve put off to those magical summer months of repair and rejuvenation. Personally, I’m finding it difficult to soldier on through the rest of the year, namely because of content: my fanaticism for history and big, bold, brash units feels like my gate valve to flow froze. Nah, wait, it’s not that bad, is it!? I mean, who wouldn’t want to talk about the bloody mess that was the Civil War and how our current political climate parallels and is analogous to the mythically dangerous Lost Cause? I just KNOW I’ve got one more Prezi or Screen-Cast-O-Matic presentation in me SOMEWHERE…I JUST KNOW IT!  As Dewey as my witness, I swear I shall never fail the end of the year again!

Personally, I’m finding it difficult to soldier on through the rest of the year, namely because of content: my fanaticism for history and big, bold, brash units feels like my gate valve of flow froze.

Nah, wait, it’s not that bad, is it!? I mean, who wouldn’t want to talk about the bloody mess that was the Civil War and how our current political climate parallels and is analogous to the mythically dangerous Lost Cause? I just KNOW I’ve got one more Prezi or Screen-Cast-O-Matic presentation in me SOMEWHERE…I JUST KNOW IT!  As Dewey as my witness, I swear I shall never fail the end of the year again!

Goodness. *Sneezes from allergies: resumes typing: notices left eye is twitching a bit.*

All right: time to scribe the power of three ideas.

1. Please stop.

summer programsI am not, repeat not, criticizing any teacher. This is my personal reaction to the word “accountability.’ Accountability stole all the oxygen out of my teaching lungs for a time. I would walk two miles out of my way to avoid the bully ‘accountability.’ Accountability steals milk money, and posts smack on social media. Now, however, its cousin, ‘engagement’ and wiser auntie ‘choice’ have much better success. Right now I’m not sure how I feel about summer slide, or if it even matters. Yes, would I love it if students found those secret, delicious books that seem to speak only to them and they voraciously read all summer? Heck yes. But this notion of summer reading, once it gets the taint of accountability on it, it’s destroyed. If I have any influence on the continuity between the 7th-grade students and the incoming 8th, I plan on having our local librarian and ‘She Who Has Been Hugged Personally By Neil Gaiman’ Rebecca H. She’s coming to our school again, luring children to her library lair of fantastic books, electronic prizes, and air conditioning. Power mojo indeed.

True story. She was hugged by Neil Gaiman.

2. Bits and the Declutter Movement

If you search “end of year projects/teachers” you’ll come up with a slew of them. I’m trying to think of things to do that aren’t too brain-heavy but still engaging enough. It’s warmer than usual, too (Thanks, climate change!), and it’s still testing season. I wasn’t joking when I said it would be challenging to finish the year with someone as depressing and unrelenting as the Civil War. However, I did read a great article that put so much into perspective. I suggest you read it, too. We did a quick close-read today, with focus on the word “hauling” in the title (why not, ‘taking down’ or ‘removing?’ Because ‘hauling’ is a burden, a heavy weight.)

But one of my summer projects I’ve set in stone is cleaning out multiple drives and years of old lessons. There is no reason to keep 3,000 Smartboards and duplicate Power Points. Time to clean digital house.

3. May-June Ideas

Dang, am I here again? What can I do right now for these last few weeks? My younger son is graduating, and planning for our families coming into town, etc. is taking up mental space. Our house is falling apart and financially there is nothing we can do about it.

Help, is about all I can say. Does anyone have THE cracker-jack, most amazing lesson idea ever?


Maybe ‘come clean Mrs. Love’s trashy backyard pool and see how mosquitos are born’ would be a good one.

PS I’m also going to take my own advice. And, start deleting some grades that won’t help in student growth or reflection.