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They Can Slow Me Down, But They Can’t Stop Me..or Why I Have Decided To Fight From The Outside 4 comments
I have spent the past month recuperating from two round-trip drives home (Indiana, 12 hours each way but I managed to shave off an hour coming home the last time…no snitching!), a minor illness, and a 7 Day Mental Cleanse (upon the advice of my Life (saving) Coach @MyLifeKeys and @StephanieAlva). I will be honest, I thought I would go crazy without my social media vices (mostly Twitter but I missed Facebook a little too). After the first 2 days, I was actually getting used to and making the most of the free time by reading, thinking (without thousands of other people’s thoughts coming at me), and planning to launch my own business(es). I was amazed by the amount of work I accomplished by unplugging from the extra noise.
Being away, however, did not change this drive I have to fulfill what I believe is my purpose in life: Use my knowledge, education, and passion to provide equal education and access to the arts for minority and/or low-income kids. I am human and I will admit that whenever I hit a roadblock, I get frustrated. I question why the path to ‘doing good’ is always fraught with politics, red tape, and
malarky b.s. Why is it that when someone (Read: A black, female, outspoken, liberal, and educated Yankee -that’s what they call me in the South, as if it hurts my feelings) identifies a need within his/her community, the powers-that-be old White boys’ network works so hard to make people believe there is no such need? But then I check myself because any time we (minorities) start shouting about our realities and how we perceive know things operate, we’re labeled as sensitive. Or even worse, we get accused of playing the ‘race card.’ First of all, I don’t view this thing called life as a game. So what in thee hell is a ‘race card?’ And unfortunately, the majority of us with melanin-infused skin and obviously non-European features cannot pick and choose the days that we are something other than what the mirror reflects. My point, and I do have one, is that someone (whom I respect a great deal, even though we don’t agree on everything), validated the feelings I’ve held for the past 4 years: There is no place for (all of) us at the table. And by ‘us’ I mean those who are not willing to placate, secret handshake, shuck-n-jive, skin-n-grin, or throw kids, single moms, or teachers under the bus to make others comfortable enough listen to us, let alone hear and consider us. Or give us our own segment on some Cable News Network.
As I read two of Jose’s (@TheJLV) posts, I thought: I can either spend my time, talents, and energy trying to get on the ‘inside’ so that I can fight them on their turf, or I can fight from the outside by continuing to encourage parents to speak-up and be the advocate their kids need. I can also fight by doing my own thing; providing opportunities for our kids, where the local board of education’s approval is not needed. Yeah, I think that would be a much better use of my time.
Whatever they throw at me, I will always win as long as I remember: They can slow me down, but they can’t stop me.
Yes, I’ve read the book. And
hell yeah maybe there was some truth to the manner in which I handle change, but at least I don’t blame other folks when their late and/or half-arsed last-minute and ill-planned changes affect thousands of people. Or send them to the wrong department simply because I don’t feel like being bothered. The past 2 weeks at work have been the closest thing to hell-on-earth that I have ever experienced. With the transition to a semester system, advising and registering hundreds of new students (on a 19-hour work week), and a bunch of other stuff that does not fall anywhere within my job description, most nights I have been in bed and asleep/comatose by 9 P.M. And anyone who really knows me knows that I don’t sleep before 1 A.M.
With all the things that have been going on at work and my personal life, I have been forced to step back and reassess myself and who I really am, as well as why I am the way I am. (Hope that all made sense) I have been working with my life coach @StephanieAlva of @MyLifeKeys for several months now. I will admit that I have made some noticeable growth and positive changes, but I also recognize that I have a very long way to go…..but I am human and some SHAT still bothers me.
The people in my family were raised with a very strong work ethic (now that doesn’t mean all of us still have it, but it was taught). I always take what I do seriously. I guess you could say I subscribe to the ‘Play hard or go home’ theory because you are either all in, or all out. I believe that any issue/problem with an organization is a reflection on me, as I am a part of that organization. Sure, I am a lowly part-time employee, but I still walk around with my I.D. badge that clearly identifies me as an employee. And as long as I do, I expect the organization to make a positive impression with our ‘customers’, i.e., students. BTW: I do not refer to them as customers….that’s org speak. I cannot tolerate people passing the buck or simply telling students ‘I don’t know’ simply because they are not in the mood to deal with an issue created by their department. Or worse, sending students to an office to ask about things NOT related to the duties/responsibilities of that office. When the hell did it become acceptable for people to do as little work as possible, while still giving the illusion that they are actually ‘earning their keep?’ Did they not get the memo about our country being in a recession? Or that there are thousands of more qualified and better-educated unemployed people waiting for an opportunity to actually do some work?
For almost 4 years I wanted nothing more than to find a job. I have one now but I am working and reading anything I can find on becoming a successful (key word) entrepreneur. Yes, I love working with students and helping them as they get started with the high education journey but I’ll be damned if most days it seems as though 80% of what I do has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose for which I was hired. I am starting to feel like ‘Peggy’ from those Capital one commercials. I am literally running out of excuses to give people!!!!! And when I have to say, ‘I am sorry, but I do not have the answer to that question. I do not know why they sent you to this office because we do not handle fill-in-the-blank issues,’ I just feel like I am yet another person giving them the runaround. But I digress because I have to catch-up on 3 weeks work of data entry, which I could not get done because I refuse to have students wait while I enter crap into the computer.
The more I think about it, the more I wish our ‘customers’ would start demanding better service. Or at the least, take their ‘business’ elsewhere. As the tried-and-true saying goes: ‘Money walks, and b.s. walks.’ A school cannot pay its bills if there are no students.
For those who have never used the phrase or understood what ‘A Day Late and A Dollar Short’ means, click here because I am trying to keep this post short so that my ire doesn’t increase as I write. Let’s see how I do….
My adventures with the local district last year were….let’s say ‘interesting.’ I wrote about my experiences with the elementary PTA, the lack of services provided to Title I students by the high school, the non-school choice options, etc., etc., etc. Two weeks ago, before I attended the Open House at the elementary school, I promised myself to leave the house with a positive and open attitude. And I did! I don’t usually have issues with the elementary level bureaucracy, as I learned a long time ago to just bypass the principal and go straight to the county office. I even decided to let them slide on the photo mix-up for my two girls last year: One was a 1st grader and the other one was a 4th grader. Their pictures got switched in the yearbook. Granted, they are sisters and they do resemble each other. Oh yeah, the youngest is slightly taller than the oldest. But damn, if a kid tells you that she is the youngest/oldest, why wouldn’t you believe them? *grabs drink* Anywho…
So tonight I attended ‘Curriculum Night’ at the elementary school. This is the opportunity for teachers to review the county’s Academic, Knowledge, and Skills (AKS) curriculum. Yes, Gwinnett County is so special that it has its own curriculum. After all, they did
bamboozle win $1 million bucks from the Eli Broad Foundation. As I am listening to the teacher review new policies and procedures for the school year, imagine my dismay when she said that this year the district is doing something ‘new.’ That new thing goes a little something like this: Any student has the opportunity to re-take five assessments that he or she failed during each quarter/nine week period. Using my old-school math skills, that calculates to twenty assessment re-takes during the school year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not upset about the opportunity to get a better grade on a test. I am, however, kinda pissed that this new policy is the prime definition of ‘A Day Late and A Dollar Short.’ If you read any of the blogs I wrote about how much my son struggled with Integrated Geometry last year, you may slightly understand my level of pissed-offness. The teacher’s words began to sound like those of the teacher on Charlie Brown: wah wah wah wah wah……
I couldn’t help but wonder (even though I already knew the answer): ‘Why did they wait until now to implement this new policy?’ Yep, I already know the answer. In a nutshell:
A bunch of non-Title I, non-minority, non-disabled, non-ESL students flunked either MATH I, MATH II, or MATH III last year. Some probably made-up the credit through Credit recovery; a bunch others probably did not. Of those who did not recover the Math credit, they likely will not be classified in their correct grade this year because you must earn a Math credit each year to progress to the next grade. Sooooooo, a bunch of kids may/may not graduate with their intended class due to the ‘new Math,’ the district’s reluctance to use the flexibility granted by the Georgia Department of Education, and the stubbornness of the powers-that-be in holding onto some facade of being a ‘world-class’ school district. I can only imagine the outrage of the parents who had plans for their kids to get the HOPE Scholarship to offset the costs of college tuition because they must maintain a 3.0 GPA in their core classes, e.g., Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. A kid who has failed one or more of the Integrated Math classes can pretty much kiss their hopes for HOPE goodbye now. Silly me; I was only worried about my son graduating from high school before he turned 21. Where are my priorities?
Stay tuned because I do plan to acquire the numbers, broken down by AYP subgroup, of students in Gwinnett who failed the EOCTs for MATH I, II, and III before and after summer school.
DISCLAIMER: I tried to avoid writing this because I knew I could go on and on. I suggest you only read this if you have time to read from start to finish! You’ve been warned!
Well, aside from the childhood favorite: ‘I told you so.’ I am no longer a child, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t think that exact thought in my head when
what I and anyone else with common sense already knew the final report regarding the cheating allegations within the Atlanta Public School System was released. There was, in fact, cheating going on during the previous years’ CRCT administrations. And by ‘cheating’ I do not mean students looking on other students’ test sheets. I mean teachers and administrators erased answers in an effort to boost the schools’ and district’s test scores and ensure that both made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
Quite honestly, I do not know where to begin with this tomfoolery. On the one hand, you have the students who thought they passed the test on their own merit; I am sure some of them did. But on the other hand, you have teachers and administrators who violated testing protocol to ensure that their school made AYP. (READ: They cheated to make sure they got bonuses and kept their jobs.) Some staff members even resorted to ‘cheating parties,’ where they took answer sheets to the home of an administrator during the weekend to change answers. So now we have not one, but two testing violations: (1) Changing answers on a testing sheet; and (2) removing test documents from the school building without the authority to do so.
I decided against blogging about it (see how long that lasted?) and opted to tweet a few thoughts instead:
possible very likely that everyone involved (meaning teachers and administrators) will lose their licenses and/or face stricter penalties. (The state education officials need a scapegoat.) Kathy Augustine has been placed on leave as the new superintendent of the DeSoto Independent School District and local media sources are in Maui trying to locate Beverly Hall….and no, this is not a soap opera – I am still in the process of writing my blog. The truly sad part in this entire matter is that no one will address the issues and instances of bullying and intimidation suffered at the hands of administrators, area superintendents and the like. I am sure state officials will find other ways to tighten test security; however, the damage, not completely irreparable, has already been done. Someone needs to do the right, ethical, and difficult thing by addressing school culture and leadership. In this case, lack thereof ethical and moral leadership. But I know that people in authority roles are more interested in making friends/political allies and forging mutually beneficial (monetary) partnerships. As I stated earlier: Officials need a sacrificial lamb. In this case, they got 178 of them.
Now what? Grade inflation scandal? Those of us who have ever served time (pun intended) in a classroom already know that pressure exists to inflate grades to boost passing rates and G.P.A.s. I guess we need to wait another 5-10 years before ‘officials’ catch-on to that one. But I digress….
Parting thought: I dodged a bullet.
Earlier this week, the Georgia Department of Education released the overall results for the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT), which will become a thing of the past for the Freshman class of 2011 (READ: Performance for the state and districts as a whole, not the results for AYP subgroups. Those results will not be made public until mid to late-July) . I won’t go into my P.O.V. on phasing out the test here, instead I will save that for another day when I find myself
putting off struggling to write. Today we got a glimpse of the overall performance on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), which is administered to kids in grades 3-8; those in grades 3, 5, and 8 are required to pass the Math and Reading tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. As I read the article in the AJC and Maureen Downey’s AJCGetSchooled blog, I didn’t even bother to dissect the scores or pop a bottle of champagne in celebration of the what they want you to think is good news. Instead, I pulled a few snip-its from the article, tweeted them, and added my own .02, which all follow below:
With all the
faux pas major screw-ups this school year, I naively thought the last 3 days would be peaceful and incident free. Just when I thought the Universe was conspiring for my greater good, I have yet another fire to extinguish with this school run by bumbling idiots. No more than twenty minutes after I enter the house, Boy Wonder asks me if he can have money to eat lunch tomorrow. Hmmm, that’s odd because the last time I checked, he was supposed to receive free breakfast and lunch at school. So, as mothers do, I unloaded a barrage of questions:
Me: Why didn’t you eat lunch today?
Boy Wonder: Because they didn’t serve lunch today?
Me: Why not? Did you eat breakfast at school today?
Boy Wonder: Yes.
Me: Well, what time do you normally eat lunch?
Boy Wonder: 11:30.
Me: What time was school dismissed today?
Boy Wonder: 12.
Me: So let me get this straight: The school didn’t serve lunch yesterday, today, and they won’t serve it tomorrow?
Boy Wonder: No. The other kids bought Chik-Fil-A sandwiches.
Me: <Audible sigh, thinking: WTF? Didn’t we already deal with this at the end of first semester?> Are you sure because I need to know before I contact the school. (READ: I need the facts before I raise hell and read the Town Idiots the Riot Act.)
Boy Wonder: Yes.
Now, let me ‘splain something: If this were the first time, I wouldn’t be as upset. But as I mentioned, we had and discussed this exact same issue first semester. I don’t know where you all are from or how you were raised, but the people I know had this saying: ‘A hard head makes a soft a$$.’ It took me a very, very long time to understand the true meaning of this saying (because I rarely got in trouble), but I knew it was not good. I need to know: How many verbal a$$whoopings will it take for Gwinnett County Schools to get their act together? Better yet, do they even care? Or do I need to punch, kick, and scream harder and louder? Probably.
So here I am, mentally spent from dealing with this one school in particular but honestly, I am tired of the district. Sure, there are some excellent teachers here. And there are certainly some bright students who pass through the schools, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t seem like their
Stepford-esque district sponsored leadership program is simply cranking out a bunch of desensitized, clueless, and less-than impressive overseers leaders for the schools. Correct me if I am wrong, but if there is a problem within an organization, don’t most true leaders put measures in place to ensure that the same problem does not arise a few months later? Or is that something only us city-slickers do?
This year has been filled with ups, downs, and countless emails written in perfectly clear English, but yet no one seems to know anything much less how to do any damn thing. After dealing with a Math curriculum few can teach and many do not understand, paying $100 for a Credit Recovery class that caused more anxiety and stress than necessary, reminding personnel that my kids attend Title I schools and, therefore, are entitled to enrichment programs, whether they are struggling or not; and what happens bureaucracy and incompetent people hinder the education process.
That’s a lot of SHAT for one person to handle. Now can you imagine how overwhelmed I would be if I didn’t know how to
navigate send tersely written letters with fancy $50 words, casually mention my knowledge of federally funded programs, and Cc: state and federal education officials?
So I will end this post with this:
Dear Gwinnett County School System,
I may be a little grayer due to your shenanigans. My approach may make you uncomfortable. You have dealt my child some blows to his self-confidence this year, but guess what? I Ain’t Through. I have 2+ months to recharge my battery, make some new alliances, and ask important people the kinds of questions that make them uncomfortable so they, in turn, can make you uncomfortable. Enjoy your summer because I sure will!