Friday, December 2, 2011

Atlanta Public Schools Teaching Scandal

By now everyone around the world has heard of the Atlanta teaching scandal concerning teachers and administrators changing answers on tests to improve their school’s overall rating. First I will say that it was wrong of these trusted individuals to commit this lack in judgment and should be held accountable. Just as I feel the Atlanta School Board should be held accountable for their actions which almost cost the school system its accreditation. However, none of us should have been surprised of the test scandal, as I will bet other school districts around the United States have engaged in the same. It was just Atlanta’s unfortunate luck to get caught in this brazen act.
But can you blame these individuals without blaming the system that created the circumstances? What I find amusing about the situation is that school systems are still adopting guidelines that create this very predicament. Many people in leadership cannot fathom the idea that the public school system does not and will not operate like private schools. Let me explain what I mean. Private schools can be selective in the children accepted for enrollment. Their funding is not tied to government and state mandates in the same manner as public schools. Private schools receive extremely more parent involvement; students actually do homework; and parents influence their children to participate in activities and achieve academically. Students in private schools (although they have their problems, compared to the public school system) are better behaved and come prepared to learn. In such circumstances, it is less stressful to teach and requires little to discipline students in the classroom.
In public schools, principals cannot select the students they allow to enroll; and in some school systems, a poison of indifference toward education is the rule of the day. Teachers have very few means of providing discipline. While I believe in positive reinforcement, I also believe there should be penalties for those students who are consistently selective of when they will benefit from positive reinforcement. Let us examine discipline used in the past outlawed in many school systems: standing a child facing the wall; copying pages from the dictionary; staying in for recess; detention during lunch for elementary students, before and after school for middle school students; etc. You get the picture. Now teachers do contracts with kids to behave, complete class and homework assignments, and wear uniforms properly, contracts kids honor when it pleases them. Principals cannot suspend students as in the past because funding is determined by the number of days kids are actually in school and the fact that principals are reprimand if they have a high rate of suspensions. In addition, most public schools do not get the parental involvement necessary to make them competitive to their private counterpart.
The comparison between private and public schools can continue but I believe you get the gist. The differences in public schools and the guidelines established to overcome them creates an environment with emphasis on test scores set the stage for cheating. When jobs, pay increases, bonuses and school funding are determined by standardized test scores, it establishes a recipe for disaster. Let’s face it, even the worse teacher can teach bright students who come to school ready to learn. Parents of bright students actively involved in the education of their children will employ tutors if necessary to ensure academic success. On the other side of the coin are the teachers assigned students ill prepared, possibly with behavior problems (excluding the Special Education students in the class). These teachers must be extremely flexible, more creative, extremely patient, and work more off the clock hours to teach their students. The affected teachers could be amongst the best teachers in the school, but do not engage in the politics that take place within the facility, yet their jobs are in jeopardy with the present guidelines. If the school system itself is overrun with students who place low value to an education, it affects the overall funding for the individual schools and the school system; henceforth, the recipe for disaster.
Were the teachers and administrators wrong for their involvement in the cheating scandal? Yes, I agree they were and should face the consequences of their actions. But this should be a wake-up call to government, school boards, administrators, teachers and parents across the nation. Until students and parents are held responsible for their part in the education of their children, discipline (excluding corporal punishment) is allowed back in the classroom and misbehaved students are removed from classes, the public school system will continue to be the merry-go-round that does not prepare students for life beyond the twelfth grade.
My suggestion: Public schools should invest in a distance education program which allows students to home school when they cannot behave in the classroom, but test within the classroom when appropriate. This will allow students who want to learn the opportunity to do so without the constant interruptions which demand teachers’ attention. End of chapter/unit tests within the classroom will ensure the students are completing the online classes and allow them to interact with other students from time to time. When the child and parents understand the importance of proper classroom behavior, the child can rejoin the students in the classroom. The distance education classes can serve in lieu of suspension and counted for presence in the school, if the child participates in the online classes daily for a specified period of time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Recently I went to the county clerk’s office to file for a business application. The office was on the first floor and as usual, nothing happens in one place. I needed an approval signature from planning and zoning on the second floor. As I approached the stairs, a man rushed to open the door for me. I thought he was going the same direction but he had stepped out of his way to open the door for me before continuing in a different direction. I could not allow this to pass without comment. That simple act of kindness reminded me that I had not written about misconceptions beforehand while in Berlin.

As an African American, I expected to encounter racism while in Germany; therefore, it was a pleasant surprise when I found the people to be friendly, accepting and at worse indifferent. I will not say that everyone is tolerant of people with differences; I can only speak of my circumstances. The majority of outward racist acts I encountered were with White Americans. When it comes to racism, the Germans are compatible with our northern counterparts in the U.S.; you may not see it coming, but you will know when it is there. It probably was not color related but people related instead such as certain foreigner in Berlin, East Germans versus West Germans for example. I digress! Let me get back on track.

While in Germany, the men were very polite, open doors for you, stepped back to allow a lady to enter the room, gave up their seats on buses and trains, etc. After experiencing American White men racing in doors and practically pulling them close to keep from opening it for you or slowing down to allow you to get to the door first, you tend to notice when the opposite happens. Currently, I am in a small town in Georgia and I swear it seems the German men transplanted themselves to my area. The men, all races inclusive, are very polite, well mannered gentlemen; it gives me hope that one day we will become colorblind and see one another as one nationality, American.

Stages of Unemployment

When you first become unemployed, you believe it will be short lived, especially if you are an educated professional. I am a certified teacher in Special Education. Confident that unemployment for me would be short lived. Never in my life had I filled out more than one application before being offered a job in education. Henceforth, I thought I would have a position within a month of arrival. But July passed, then August and September. I had applications completed in various counties with no success. That’s when anger sets in toward all the people who laughed and made fun of teachers when the economy was prosperous. Teachers were the blunt of everyone’s jokes; I even had a parent once tell me we were no more than glorified babysitters. Now that the economy is on the decline, teaching is a respectable profession once again and everyone with a college degree, who got laid off, suddenly wanted to become a teacher. With the foreign teachers imported for science and math, and many new converts to education, there are so many teachers in the profession that after fifteen months and seven areas of endorsements, I still do not have a job.

After the anger subsides, you began to take an inventory of yourself and began reassessing of your age, appearance, years of experience, and self-improvement potentials. Then you began to expand your outreach area for employment. For me, I had over a hundred applications in five counties and the Atlanta Public School System but only mustered two interviews. My new home was more of a prison than anything else. For the first time, I was involuntarily unemployed, had spent all my savings, knew very few people, and could not even volunteer to get out of the house. It was a very dire time in my life. Over the next few months, I had signed up to do volunteer work at a school but was never called; joined the substitute teachers’ role in four different school systems but on average only worked one day a week.

Finally you accept the fact that your profession no longer wants you and it is time to seek a different profession or become an entrepreneur. You thank God for the blessing you do have and stop second guessing and feeling sorry for yourself. This is the stage I have reached; I don’t know what is next in my life but I know where I will not be, in the classroom doing what I love most, teaching.

Back on Task

It has been a very long time since I have posted in my blog. Since my last blog, I have worked in the embassy, been reassigned to the United States, set-up housing, and spent more than a year seeking employment in five different Georgia counties. Being a certified teacher, I never thought it would be difficult landing a position in a school system; but I could never have been more mislead in my thought process. Here I am going in my second school year in Atlanta and still unemployed.

At first, I was upset that so many people became teachers when the economy declined. Upset because people who demeaned and snub their noses at teachers while the economy boomed, decided teaching is now an honorable, worthwhile position for everyone. No longer are teachers classified as glorified babysitters, now they are actually considered professionals, at least until the economy is thriving once again. Truth be told, I don’t blame anyone for becoming a teacher if they meet the requirements. I probably would have done the same thing if my job was being terminated or downsized. We all do what we must to survive difficult times. I’ll just keep searching and know that eventually I will find employment.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tropical Island

Last winter, I sought refuge from the cold, snowy weather by going to Germany’s magnificent Tropical Island. Tropical Island is an indoor beach that was created in an old hangar on the outskirts of Berlin. It has lush green gardens, restaurants, entertainment, overnight camping, large sauna area, sand, and a nice, blue skyline beach. Everyone must admit it is a great get-a-way to forget about the snow unless you are not comfortable with your body. Paradise island is not a nudist beach, but it is enjoyable to nudist, as I discovered.
On the way to the beach, I told my son that we could actually spend time in the sauna. It had been several months since we had sat in one and was looking forward to relaxing in the heat. When we arrived, the admissions clerk asked if we wanted tickets to the beach area only or the beach area and sauna. Being excited about the sauna, I declared we wanted both. We paid for our tickets and headed straight for the sauna.
As we walked around the sauna area, my son and I commented on how nice everything looked. There were plush, green plants everywhere. You could tell a great deal of attention had been given to the design of the area. Everything was very clean and the walkways were decoratively arranged; which gives credence to the saying, “You see what you want to see.”
My husband asked, “Did you see that old man?” My mistake was to ask where. He nodded in the direction he wanted us to look. It was at that moment that all the naked bodies came into view. How did we walk so far into the sauna area without noticing? Naked bodies were everywhere, kids, adults, young, old, smooth, wrinkled, firm, flabby; any type of body you wanted to see suddenly could be found. We were the only ones with suits on. But I had a simple solution we would just turn around and go back the way we came.
We reversed our tracks and started down the sidewalk. Unfortunate for us, the farther we walked the deeper into the sauna area we were, or so I thought. It seemed as if it took us forever to find our way out of the area. After that experience, I was finished, enjoying the remainder of the facility was out of the question. You could have taken me home that very moment. So, as much as I hate the snow, I haven’t found enough hatred, this winter, to take me back to Tropical Island YET.

The New 40

This morning as I slugged through the snow getting to work; it occurred to me that although I feel great and am trying to look good, I really am looking forward to retirement. Then, just as suddenly, it occurred to me, the new 40 may not be to my advantage. What if your congressional representatives decide since we feel great, we look great, we need to work an extra ten years. In other words, everyone will have to work until their plastic surgery needs plastic surgery. And here I was thinking my teeth whitening, varicose vein removal, tummy tuck, Botox injections, face, butt and breast lift meant I could prance around on the beach in my new spanx bathing suit and pretend to be 40 again. I never thought I would need them to work another ten years. Dang looking young and vibrant!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vanity Fair and the Future of America

Many people are in an uproar over the photo in the latest edition of Vanity Fair presenting the future faces of Hollywood. Instead of being angry with Vanity Fair and missing the important, invisible message included in the photo itself, everyone should redirect their anger. Vanity Fair did what Kennedy stated in the sixties. The difference in the two is Kennedy used war as the indicator for racism. He stated that war was for poor whites and Black people. Vanity Fair is telling America that if you don’t wake up, this is the direction in which America will revert. Let us replace the word Hollywood with decent jobs, decent education, decent housing, decent schools, etc., and the message is telling you that if you don’t get your education and economic house in order, you will be left on the sideline as one of the invisible people. There will be two categories of people, the haves and the have- not, much like in third world countries. For those of you who have had the privilege of visiting a third world country, you have recognized much of the decline in American standards for many years, even during the economic boom. As for Vanity Fair, don’t be mad at the message, be mad at the messenger and do your part to effect forward, progressive change in America.
For those of you who do not understand what I stated in the paragraph above, let me make it a little clearer. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are constantly pressured to close their doors or unite into one larger university. These universities have educated many students who could not otherwise afford an education; the majority (60 – 80%) of which are on financial aid. Without the HBCUs, approximately 30% of their entire population will attend college; the 20% whose parents pay their tuition and the 10% other universities might accept on scholarships. No education, no training (most U.S. companies do not have the on-the-job training programs anymore) equals what type of job? Desperate times will force you back into maid, nanny, cook, gardener, etc. type positions. When I list these positions, I am referring to people as employees, not as business owners. In a desperate situation, you will do these jobs for minimum and/or below minimum wages. The truest way to equality is through economic and educational affluence.
Wake-up people!!! The Republicans and conservative Democrats’ new slogan is, No hand up, just an empty hand out.