Once again, I've had a wild one this week already!


I'm the President of the School Site Council this year at my campus, and we actually are charged with some real monies and duties right now, so I've tended to get a sub for my classes on those days and meet with various parties to make sure things go smoothly. The Council's start time also conflicts with 7th (last) period, and I'm a 7th-period instructor. My district has essentially decided to add a 7th period of instruction to accomodate remedial or repeat courses for students who are behind in credits and/or who have failed one or more sections of the CAHSEE.

In other words, it's punitive. The classes are filled with kids with 'two strikes' against them, and they are more challenging to teach as a result. Trying to find a fellow teacher who is willing to cover an additional period under those circumstances is one of those tasks that is best filed under 'Rotsa Ruck.'

So, as a result, I took the teaching day off. After meeting with many of my colleagues in the morning, I spent the mid-day grading tests off-campus, came back to the campus after lunch and then ran the Site Council. I got done with that around 5:00 (keep in mind I was at my school site at 8:30 to personally give my sub instructions). Immediately after that, I drove to Clovis for the third installment of Valley Cafe Scientifique. I'm a member of the steering committee. I glad-handed patrons at the door, introduced a local functionary (a Clovis city councilman) there to show some support for our effort and in general served as MC for the event. The actual presentation, by teaching award-winning plant scientist James Farrar, was excellent, amusing and timely and we had a substantial turnout (60-70 by my count). Time well spent, but by the time I got home, I was so fried I nearly dozed off during Heroes. And of course, as usual, I still had some tests to grade, so....


Caught up with my classes, and returned their tests, which had a strongly bimodal score distribution. Rather grim-facedly explained to my three sections of Chemistry that if they were still unable to balance equations after the 14th week of instruction, much less do stoichiometry, then maybe they should reconsider taking Chemistry the second semester, because they are unlikely to pass. This was not exactly a shock, as I had made a point at both the 3rd and 6th week to emphasize that Chemistry, while a standards-based course, was not required for graduation, and was probably best delayed until after successfully completing a full year of Algebra, etc. Still, it was probably my most unpleasant moment in Chem so far, because I would like these kids to succeed and I know that some of them never had a chance to succeed. My school site has gotten in the habit of aggressively placing students in Chemistry as sophomores (and similarly unprepared freshmen in Biology). When I've challenged this practice, it's been explained to me that this increases the possible pool of students who can take AP courses, and that high numbers of students in AP courses leads our school to be highly-rated in some measurements of school achievement.

I take a grim view of that particular tail, wagging this particular dog.

Anyway, did my best to soften the blow and even offered to substitute a higher percentage on the final for this test score, but I made it clear that it was time to either fly or bail out.

(Just to show you that no good deed goes unpunished, I received email the following day from counselors concerned about where these kids who want to bail are going to go?!?! Whatever will we do, Mr. Hatfield, gasp! The obvious suggestion, which is follow the district policy and not place kids who can't do Algebra in Chemistry, will probably not win me any fans.)

During my prep I spent time preparing some data to support my concern that proposed modernization plans for my school site (many of our classrooms are in excess of 40 years old) were scrimping on essential equipment for the classroom. Its' my position that all science classrooms should have all of the essential safety equipment: safety showers, eye washes, hoods. It appears, however, that in an effort to save money the district is attempting to designate some science classrooms as 'chemistry' and others as 'non-chemistry.' This is not only short-sighted, it may well expose them to litigation. So far I've been a bit of a lone wolf on this one: we'll see if I can get some satisfaction with the Committee on-site, but I kind of doubt it. Are they aware that I and other science instructors within the district have been quietly documenting the various ways the district is failing to follow OSHA guidelines? They should pay attention to us, that's for sure, because we are not going away.

Lunch time, spent hosting the DEEP Student Club, which is working on a brief questionairre to draw attention to the club's activities. Discussed and voted on possible questions. Inhaled a Mountain Dew. Truly the lunch of champions, if you call 37 minutes in your own room with a dozen kids a 'lunch break.' Don't mind too much: these kids in DEEP validate my conviction that we can ask high school students the 'big question' without either shredding the Constitution or neutering their impact.

Afternoon, started a new unit on DNA in my above-mentioned Bio classes. Suggested that the students in my 7th period class who aren't working might plan on spending part of the summer making up my class, and that I might very well accept the contract to be THE Biology instructor for summer school. Haven't decided if I'm going to yet, but my goodness, kids, thanks for wanting to spend even MORE time with me, etc.

School ended, I popped into modernization, touched base with the principal, ran off site, had a grilled cheese and a Coke, then back to the library at 5:30 where I tutored kids. It's now 8:30 and I'm locking up, and kicking out this quick little sketch of my last two days. I'm not sure why I think all of this is newsworthy (it isn't), but people often have a dim picture of what a teacher's day is like. So far, between all my commitments, I've worked 30 hours the last two days. If I didn't know teachers, even academics, who are similarly obsessed by work I'd complain. As it is, the bosom of my family calls. Perhaps tomorrow my day will be shorter.

Naah. Tomorrow night (Thursday) I have choir rehearsal until 9:00, which means I'll have to be sure that day not to talk too much. I guess it's all about pacing yourself.

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