Category Archives: I've got this kid….

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten things my students chose to write about for their position papers:

1.  Puppy mills.  This student went ahead with this despite my recommendations that she choose another topic.  The standard for a topic was that reasonable people could disagree about the issue, and she admitted that reasonable people could not defend the heinous practices of puppy mills and yet, there it was, a paper arguing against the heinous practices of puppy mills.  Sigh.

2.  Electric Vehicles.  This one wasn’t so bad, though it was boring to read.

3.  Abortion.  Natch.  This paper was horrendous; it was all I could do to figure out what the student was trying to say.

4.  Electroshock therapy.  While this student started off strong, the paper fell apart about a quarter of the way in; he focused more on the history of the practice than on arguing that the way it’s currently being applied should be reconsidered.

5.  Animal testing.  This paper was completely incomprehensible.  Observe, a cut-and-pasted paragraph from the essay:

Martasian (student’s beliefs about animal research) found that students have more negative attitudes towards animals testing than undergraduates involved in animal research. The study also shows pervious work by examining feeling towards two nations. Some previous studies of this kind were characterized by a single nation. The same study that involves the two nations, those nations were among the British and Americans. Newkirk (wrote the book Free the animals: the story of the Animal Liberation Front) found animal welfare is more highly developed in North American than in Britain. Two groups were recruited from Britain and the United States.

Really; I have no idea what to do with that.

6.  Gay rights.  This one appeared in a couple of my classes.  One student did okay with it; the other tried to argue that gay marriage should be banned because it does not provide a good environment for children.  Needless to say, I eviscerated that paper, pointed the kid in another direction (reasonable people can argue for the separation of civil and religious marriage, so I encouraged him to take that angle) and sent the paper back for revision.

7.  Obamacare.  I told the students that they were welcomed to write about what they thought was an important issue and that, even if I staunchly disagreed with their position, they’d get the grade if they did good work with it.  This kid got all of his information from well known right-wing propaganda machines and forwarded claims that I could debunk on Google.  I sent the paper back and told him to try again.

8.  Whaling.  This was another paper that started out with a good premise but fell apart before we got to page two.

9.  NASA funding.  I haven’t read this paper yet, but the kid who wrote it wrote a surprisingly effective (and entertaining) analysis about calcium, so I have high hopes.

10.  Funding for the arts in schools.  This paper is another I haven’t read yet and, to be honest, I’m kind of dreading it; the student who’s writing it hasn’t produced anything of any kind of quality all semester (AND he admitted that he started the paper the night before it was due, despite my trying to get them to run through a drafting and revision process for weeks).  Oy.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under bad grammar, composition, concerns, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I've got this kid...., Logical Fallacies, really?!, Teaching, writing, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Teachable Moment

So, I’ve got this student in one of my classes; let’s call him Joe.  Joe is brash and abrasive.  He’s spent his life doing hard work in harsh conditions.  He’s a smoker (and probably a drinker).  My impression is that he’s not exactly amenable to doing the kind of thinking that will get him over what I see as the roadblocks he sets up for himself.  I think he thinks of himself as an “old dog,” and I present a particular challenge to him not only because of the class I teach (he’s not in community college to become a better writer; he’s made that perfectly clear), but also because of the energy I present.

Every class starts with a writing warm-up in the form of a quote that I ask the students to think and write about.  Today’s quote was from Jonathan Swift:  There are none so blind as those who will not see.  Here’s Joe’s response to that prompt:

To see is the ability to acknowledge what is happening around and in front of you.  When you can not see because you think you already have the answers, then you are destined to stumble around blind without a clue.

Those who simply will not see are entwined in an ignorant bliss, unaware of what is happening around them or the impact (or the negative impact) that there (sic) decision will make.  A prime example of this i that pinhead sitting in the white house. He refuse to see what a negative impact the ACA will have on the economy.  He refuses to negotiate to solve problems or simply ignores the problem either through ignorance or simply failure to see what is happening around the country.

When I went around the room asking what everyone wrote, Joe read his paper.  As I do with most of the kids’ responses, I challenged him about it.   I asked him to give me an example of the ACA having a negative impact on the economy, and he responded that employers are limiting employee hours and that it’s just bad.  I told him that, if this was something he was really invested in, he should do some research about it because I wasn’t sure that he could find evidence to support that claim.  Then I moved on to the next student.

When I got Joe’s paper this morning, he’d included an addendum, scrawled in larger letters and clearly showing some frustration at my resistance to his ideas:

IF THE ACA IS NOT HAVING A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON BUSINESSES, THEN HOW COME ALL BUSINESSES HAVE RECEIVED A WAIVER?  OPEN YOUR EYES and see that businesses are going to part-timers and dropping health care to employees.  If the ACA is really good, how come Congress refuses to give up there health care plans for the new one?  How many Dr.s have retired in the last year?

Since I very often write notes on the students’ responses (and because I KNOW that Joe reads every word I write on his papers), I composed this for him:

A couple of things here, Joe;

First, while I appreciate your passion for the topic, I want to warn you against name calling in your professional writing.  It’s perfectly acceptable – desired, even – to disagree with someone; disagreement gives us an opportunity to investigate other points of view and to shore up our own understanding of our positions.  It is not acceptable, however, to be disrespectful to people who disagree with you.  Even if you believe someone to be despicable, calling them names isn’t going to do anything to bolster your credibility.  Remember the Booker T. Washington quote we worked on last week; “you can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”  Calling the President (or anyone else) a “pinhead” (or any other name) is going to diminish your credibility in the eyes of someone who might want to genuinely hear what you have to say.

In terms of addressing your complaints, I want to encourage you to do some research about the ACA and see if you can clarify and support some of the claims you’re making.  For starters, your assertion that “businesses are going to part-timers and dropping health care to employees” isn’t supported by the figures.  In fact, the recent trend in part-time employment is that it’s been going down, not up (see here for a chart: http://www.epi.org/blog/obamacare-isnt-causing-increase-part-time/).  While there is some anecdotal evidence to support that claim – folks like the man who owns Papa John’s and says that he “can’t afford” to provide health care to his employees are behind a lot of that noise – there’s no reputable, statistical evidence to support that the ACA is causing employers to cut back worker hours.  What’s more, the cry that the ACA is imposing a hardship on employers rings entirely false because the provision that would require employers with more than 50 employees to provide health care coverage doesn’t even kick in until 2015 (see here: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/09/charges_obamacare_is_causing_e.html)

Your assertion that “all businesses have received a waiver” is untrue, and is being spread as an issue by some less-than-reputable organizations and media outlets.  There are waivers, but they’re specific to both particular provisions of the health care law and to certain companies and organizations.

For example; the ACA eliminates the ability of insurance companies to cap the total amount of medical bills they would pay for each policy holder.  Those so-called “mini-med” plans charge customers very low premiums, but offer few benefits and require that the insured pay out of pocket for anything that exceeds a very low annual cap.  That provision was due to kick in next year, but the Department of Health and Human Services recognized that some insurance companies weren’t going to be ready to phase out those policies in that time, so HHS gave them more time to keep workers from losing coverage altogether while their employers searched for alternative plans.  (see here for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report on this exemption: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Files/approved_applications_for_waiver.html)

Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service announced an even broader exemption, delaying the requirement that companies with 50 or more full-time workers offer health benefits that met a minimum standard for coverage until 2015 (this is what I referenced in my “part time workers” explanation above). The agency did so, it said, because a lot of employers complained that they wouldn’t be able to comply with reporting requirements (see here for the IRS information: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Questions-and-Answers-on-the-Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision).  Notice that the businesses’ complaints were about reporting on coverage, not in providing it.  In fact, most small businesses already provide health care coverage to their full-time employees, so the ACA doesn’t affect them at all (see here for a full report: http://kff.org/private-insurance/report/2013-employer-health-benefits/).

Your complaint that “Congress refuses to give up their health plans for the new one” isn’t quite accurate, either.  Congress is not required to give up their health care plans, and neither is anyone else who already has coverage.  All the ACA does (as regards insurance coverage) is require that people actually have health insurance.  The exchanges are designed for those who can’t get adequate or affordable coverage through their employer.  The ACA makes it so that individuals who have to buy their own insurance (and some small firms) would be eligible to participate in state-based exchanges, which would offer a range of health insurance plans for purchase (unlike pre-ACA insurance shopping; it was difficult – and SUPER expensive – for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance as single entities.  Don’t forget, too, that these exchanges are made up of private insurance companies; that’s important to remember when someone’s telling you that the ACA is “socialized medicine”).

Those who already get insurance through their employers, Medicare, Medicaid, the military’s Tricare insurance program, or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program wouldn’t be required – or even eligible – to participate in the health care exchanges. All federal employees, including members of Congress (and the President), fall under the FEHBP. Those who have coverage from a large employer wouldn’t be eligible, either, unless their coverage didn’t meet minimum benefits criteria or was deemed to be unaffordable.

Finally, I couldn’t find any reputable source that confirms that doctors are going to retire over the implementation of the ACA.  Neither could I find accurate numbers about the rate of physician retirement (this was as close as I could come: http://www.lewin.com/~/media/Lewin/Site_Sections/Publications/3027.pdf).  I did find, though, that one out of three practicing physicians in the United States is over the age of 55, and many of them are expected to retire in the next 10 or 15 years.  If you can point me to evidence that doctors are retiring rather than participate in the health care changes (something that wasn’t published by World Net Daily, Liberty News or Fox), then please do and I’ll review my position on this.

We should also consider that the ACA is going to expand access to medical care for millions of people who don’t currently have such access.  That means that the demand for doctors is going to increase.  Expanded coverage is predicted to increase the number of annual primary care visits between 15.07 million and 24.26 million by 2019. Assuming stable levels of physicians’ productivity, between 4,307 and 6,940 additional primary care physicians would be needed to accommodate this increase (see here for the citation for those figures:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-0009.2011.00620.x/full).

I want to encourage you to put your energy and passion to good use on this issue, but remember that it’s sometimes difficult to argue about something when we are too wrapped up in our feelings about it.  A good argument comes from a place of respect, inquiry, logic, and evidence.  Try taking a step back and a deep breath, then go looking for evidence to support your position.  Work from a position of facts, and keep the name-calling under your hat.

9 Comments

Filed under analysis, Civics and Citizenship, critical thinking, debate and persuasion, doing my own homework, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Learning, out in the real world, politics, really?!, student chutzpah, Teaching, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Unhappy Anniversary

It was a year ago today that events set into motion the crash of my professional life.

I didn’t think that today was going to be a big deal, really; it’s just another day, nothing has happened that changes my thinking or feelings about the whole mess, and, if anything, I’m more and more glad that I’m out of that deeply broken culture every time I talk to those who are still struggling to stay sane and ethical in it.

I’m finding, though, that I’m wrestling to put down the last of my bitter feelings toward the people who, for whatever reasons, let things happen the way they did.  I’m trying to come to some sort of peace with the fact that people looked me in the eye and outright lied to me.  I’m trying to find ways to forgive people for their callous disregard for the obvious needs of the students and the staff.  I’m trying to let go of the rage against the perfect storm of incompetence and utter failure of ethics that nearly led to the loss of a precious life.  I’m working on releasing the anger and disappointment I feel for someone who participated in all of it despite the fact that I just know he wanted no part of it, but did it, anyway.  I’m practicing detachment from some people who said that they cared about me – loved me, even – but whose actions were anything but caring and loving.

I am cautiously hopeful that my professional plane is about to taxi down a new runway and this crash was not fatal.  Once I’m proverbially ‘wheels-up,’ I think I’ll finally be able to put this experience well and truly behind me.  In the meantime, I’m working on focusing on the good that came out of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience; my chosen daughter is healthy and whole and has done nothing to harm herself since that day, and I’m as adamant today as I was a year ago that, even had I known the hell that was to follow, I wouldn’t do a single thing any differently.

3 Comments

Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, critical thinking, ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Mrs. Chili as Student, really?!, self-analysis, Teaching

I am SO Confused

Help me suss this out, You Guys.

A month or so ago – I forget when, exactly – a former student contacted me about the possibility of my being her advisor for an independent study in English.  She was interested in a class I taught the last year I was at CHS, and asked if I would be willing to offer her that class as an IS.

I can never say no to a student who wants to learn, but my response to this baby was something along the lines of, “I’ll absolutely do it, but there’s no way in hell you’re getting it past administrative approval.”

She sent me a text message today saying that she’s all set to go; she just needs to fill out the paperwork.

To say that I’m stunned is an understatement.

I have no idea what this arrangement entails.  I’m making the assumption that I’ll just be a mentor for her as she works the program herself (though I will give her the course I designed for another student who took the class as an independent study last year, and I’m sure I’ll be providing her with most of the films and reading materials, as well).  I can pretty much guarantee you that I won’t be paid for the work that I’ll do, but I don’t care about that; a kid asked me for my help and it’s within my power to give it to her, so she gets it whether I get paid or not.

Here are my questions to you; given that I was shown the door (though I have still yet to be told precisely why I was so unacceptable as to be dismissed), is there anything ethical about the school’s decision to okay my being a mentor for this student?  Should I be confused about being fired in June, then being approved as a mentor in January?  How should I approach this?

6 Comments

Filed under concerns, critical thinking, ethics, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., lesson planning, really?!, self-analysis, Teaching, winging it, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Quick Hit: Do NOT Start with Me

This afternoon, I came to the high school at 2:35 to pick Punk up for an appointment that she’d be late for if she took the bus home.  A group of students was waiting for their bus on the sidewalk on the far end of the driveway that loops to the front door, and a few kids were across the driveway so they could all throw snowballs at each other.  No problem; I expect that (especially considering there was a doozy of a snowball fight happening in the senior parking lot as I drove by).

I slowed and stopped so they could see me, and made eye contact with the two kids still on the driveway.  One of them crossed back to the sidewalk, so I slowly proceeded toward the door.  As I made my way by him, one of the students threw the snowball he was holding at my car, hitting the drivers’ side rear window.  He crossed the street behind me and rejoined his peers on the sidewalk.

In a dark red coat.  He was easy to pick out of the crowd.

I stopped the car, backed up, and called the young man to my passenger window where I calmly but sternly scolded him (I’m the mother of two teenage daughters and a high school teacher myself; I have some experience with this sort of thing).

Me:  You.  Over here….  What was that?

Kid:  It was a snowball.

Me:  I know it was a snowball.  Why did it make contact with my car?

Kid:  Uh…

Me:  NOT okay, do you understand?  Do not ever do that again.

Kid:  Okay.  Sorry.

To his credit, the boy apologized to me, and I heard him being soundly ribbed by the kids watching from the sidewalk as I drove away.

My intent was to embarrass him – which I did – and to make him think twice before he does something like that again.  I think he was genuinely shocked that I backed up to reprimand him, and I know that many (probably all) of the kids looking on were surprised; I’m sure they’re not used to being called to task by total strangers.

Punk-ass kid.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under dumbassery, failure, I've got this kid...., out in the real world, really?!, student chutzpah, Teaching, winging it, You're kidding...right?

Sad

When I came home this afternoon, this was in my inbox:

I miss you at school so much, Mrs. Chili. Ms. Danielli is apparently our English substitute this week and I’m about to pull my hair out. She screamed at Elizabeth this morning during class, and the sad part is that though Liz said some bold things; it was what everyone was thinking. The gist of it was that Ms. Danielli was being very unfair and micro-managing our class when Mr. Lannen specifically said we could handle making decisions for ourselves, and Liz spoke out saying something along the lines of, “I thought this school was supposed to be about freedom.”  Liz makes me nervous when she says things like this, but instead of just her feeling this way, this year she’s the only one not afraid to speak about the elephant in the room.

There’s a different mood to the school this year. It’s quieter between classes, cliques are really tightly-knit, there are noticeably less positive shares in the morning, no one has very much enthusiasm about anything, and for the most part, people are absolutely miserable. I can’t speak for all of the teachers, but Mr. Wayne took our sophomore advisory aside and talked about it as a group with the door closed last week and everyone agrees, including him. It’s just a really sad place to be, and it’s been made clear that it’s not just the students who have noticed this.

I don’t want to be another Sarah (ed. note; Sarah was a girl who attended the school last year.  She was generally miserable and felt that her misery deserved everyone else’s company; as a consequence, most of her energy was spent spreading malcontent) and I don’t want to cause trouble, but I’m upset, nervous, conflicted, and angry. I’ve wanted to talk to you about things for a while, not because it could possibly fix things, but because it might make me feel a little bit better. I don’t want to ever give up fighting for this school, because CHS has always picked me up when I was down, and I want to do the same for it. But I feel like power has been taken away from the students, and this hurts me most because you said you’d always be my advocate for these things last year when I felt powerless. I know you were an advocate to a lot of students this way. I think a lot of kids have lost hope this year.

I don’t know how much more I can say, because I’m sitting in advisory and I’m close to tears. Sometimes when I get really upset, I try to read and hear your voice in my head like I used to when we read The Book Thief. Maybe I’m just hormonal and having a hard time, but I’m really upset and I guess I just really needed to let it all out. Consider this a morning write

I love you and I miss you so much, Mrs. Chili.
- Amayah

Oh, Lord.  WHAT do I do with THAT?!  I wrote Amayah back and told her that, while there really isn’t anything I can do to change the conditions at CHS, I AM available to meet with her (and anyone else who wants to see me).  I can be a sounding board, I can help them think critically about the situation and work through possible solutions, and I will do everything I can to empower their voices.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen after I left.  I knew that leaving the way I was forced to did would result in at least some of the kids feeling abandoned and that, more than anything else, kills me.

I hate this.

1 Comment

Filed under compassion and cooperation, concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Student Activism, the good ones, winging it, Yikes!

Things I Don’t Regret

The dust has settled, more or less, on the whole fiasco that has been my professional life these last two months.  I am coming – slowly, painfully, but certainly surely – to the conclusion that while I wouldn’t have chosen to leave CHS, it’s probably best that I did.

The information that I’m getting – piecemeal and from varied sources and almost never straight-up, but rather given in roundabout, listen-to-what-I’m-NOT-saying ways – is that I lost my job because of my relationship with Sweet Pea.  I’ve been thinking about all the things that people have said and reviewing all the things that happened, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, even knowing what the consequences were, I wouldn’t have done a single thing differently.

I was there for a kid who needed me – a kid who really, life-and-death needed me.  No one else was able, or willing, to take that kind of responsibility.  The “guidance counselor” stated at the beginning of the year, out loud and in front of witnesses, that he “doesn’t do crying kids.”  The administration put a 15 minute limit on how long we could care for distraught students; I was told that if we couldn’t get a kid back on his or her feet in 15 minutes, we were to send them home.  I’m so sorry, but I can’t be a part of an organization that claims to be focused on community – on caring for the individual and on fostering close and familial relationships – but then turns around and puts a stopwatch on a kid’s stress or anxiety.

The truth of the matter is that we didn’t have a support system in place for the kids who needed it (and Sweet Pea wasn’t the only one who needed it; not by a long shot).  Mr. Chili and I were talking the other day about how my behavior toward students might have to change in a different setting, and without even really thinking about it, I told him that as long as I trusted the people whose job it is to care for students in that way, I won’t feel like I need to do it.  I will still love my kids – I always do, whether they’re in high school or college – but I won’t feel the need to worry about them if I know someone else – someone competent – is taking care of their out-of-class needs.  I reminded Mr. Chili that I didn’t “adopt” any kids last year the way I did this year because I trusted the counselor we had then; I only started picking up kids when she left and the new guy showed up and gave the kids the very clear message that he wasn’t interested in listening to their troubles.

The truth of the matter is that I saved Sweet Pea’s life.  Literally.  The fact is that she needed me, and I was there.  If I had to lose my position because of that relationship, then so be it.  Given the choice, I’d pick the kid over the job every time.

3 Comments

Filed under analysis, compassion and cooperation, critical thinking, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Learning, out in the real world, self-analysis, success!