Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Survivor" goes to school

Have you heard about the next planned "Survivor" show?

Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped in elementary school classrooms for one school year.  


  • Each business person will be provided with a copy of his/her school district's curriculum and a class of 20-25 students.
  • Each class will have a minimum of five learning-disabled children, three with A.D.H.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three students will be labeled with severe behavior problems.


  • Each business person must complete lesson plans at least three days in advance, with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create their materials accordingly. 
  • They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences. 
  • They must stand in their doorway between class changes to monitor the hallways.
  • In addition, each month they will complete fire drills, tornado drills, and [Code Red] drills for shooting attacks.
  • They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, PTA meetings, and curriculum development meetings.
  • They must also tutor students who are behind and strive to get their two non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the SOLS tests.
  • If they are sick or having a bad day, they must not let it show.
  • Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program.
  • They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment to motivate students at all times.
  • If all students do not wish to cooperate, work, or learn, the teacher will be held responsible.


  • The business people will only have access to the public golf course on the weekends, but with their new salary, they will not be able to afford it.
  • There will be no access to vendors who want to take them to lunch, and lunch in the school cafeteria will be limited to thirty minutes, which is not counted as part of their work day.
  • The business people will be permitted to use a student restroom, as long as another survival candidate can supervise their class.
  • If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials before, or after, school. However, they cannot surpass their monthly limit of copies.
  • The business people must continually advance their education, at their expense, and on their own time.

Reward for the winner

  • The winner of this Season of Survivor will be allowed to return to his/her job.

(I didn't write this! It's from an email to a teacher list I participate in.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Coming Up For Air

The past five weeks have been very hard, but I think I have had some small successes, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel!

I have had to figure out what to teach in these last few weeks before the State tests so that the students would do as well as possible under the difficult circumstances.

Evolution was one of the topics I had to cover, so I got a lot of help from a science list-serve I joined and jumped right in. They took tests for the unit on Friday, and I was pleased to see far more passing grades than "incompletes" (D or F) which has not been the case for earlier tests on subjects where I had to assume that they had learned at least something in the 6 months before I came. But now there are only 3 weeks to go, with spring break in between. For Biology we have Ecology, which I would have love to spend lots of time on, and we're going to end up pretty much going through the book. The last topic on the human nervous and endocrine system we may have to leave out entirely, or else give it just 3 days. Sorry, students. Next year will go better!

The students in Integrated Science yesterday were so hyper about it's being Friday that we didn't have time for the lab on the thermodynamics of changing state (ice melting.) I've moved it to tomorrow, when my adviser is coming for the next-to-last time. However they're getting better at converting between Fand C temperatures, and have a vague understanding of Kelvin, so there has been some progress. If only we had more time! I don't think we'll be able to get to the endo- and exothermic reactions I had planned, because we have so much to review in the next 3 weeks.

The other challenge has been getting students back to wanting to learn science after so many months of inadequate teaching. The grade-book shows A+ after A+ for all students, as they got grades for completing simple tasks rather than for learning. It has been a shock for them that (some of) their grades are so bad. So far only one student has asked what she can do to get grades up. Certainly not with extra credit. I told her to restudy everything, and then she'd be allowed to retake the tests.

When I started at the school I was surprise about the "redirects" and "detentions" given out. We can send students to the "annex" when they disturb the class too much. There they are kept busy by an excellently supportive aide. Some students just can't sit still or keep their mouths closed while I'm talking. Not that they want to be disruptive (for most, anyway) but I can't teach and the others can't learn, so I learning to take more advantage of the aide's help. I was used to having to solve all classroom management problems in my own classroom before. But then the students at this school, for a large part, are those who could not thrive in regular public school, so the conditions are different. I am really pleased about how supportive the staff is for the students with many problems. There are many options to help them succeed.

My colleagues are very understanding of the situation I have been placed in, and even given me a slightly lighter load, since I don't have any electives until after the State tests. They tell me again and again that they aren't expecting fantastic scores from my students because of the previous teaching.