Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Update, sadly still not starring Tina Fey

Sometimes instead of not blogging because I'm busy or lazy, I'm not blogging because I'm having too much fun to stop and tell you how much fun I'm having. This weekend was one of those times.

For starters, BD had a real, actual, two-day weekend! He has worked Saturdays for the past eight years or so, but that's all over now. His excitement over the prospect of having a real weekend was almost as adorable as watching him walk around the house in my robe.

Saturday was the much anticipated Rock-n-Romp starring (as far as I'm concerned, anyway) Garrison Starr. After years of whining about why didn't I have a Garrison Starr CD, I got to buy one directly from her. A CD always sounds better when it was put in your hand by the artist herself, don't you think? See pictures of us having a fabulous time here.
Yesterday I went to the Midsouth Fair with my kids, minus the youngest, and my parents. I rode a lot of rides, ate food on a stick, and got so tired from walking around in the hot sun for five hours that I am back to being too lazy to tell you much more about it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hello, I Must Be Going

Beeep: Sassy can't come to the blog right now because she is touring the seventh circle of grading hell. In fact it's possible that she's only recording this message as a means to avoid reading month-old essays. If you really, really miss her, you can visit her here. (She thinks she looks like Petunia in the last picture, but she doesn't want Chip to go back to being afraid to post her picture.) Otherwise, please leave a message.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rabble Rouser

My school district is in budget crisis. There are a multitude of reasons for that, but the main two are declining enrollment and an ignorant city council that recently forced huge cuts which they justified by saving the average property owner approximately $8 in property taxes (really, I'm not just being snarky. Eight. Dollars. A year.) because, you know, what does a crime-ridden, floundering city need with educated children? Makes 'em uppity, all that book learnin'.

As a result of the declining enrollment, about 70 teachers are being laid off. Normally these "surplussed" teachers would just get moved from a school with lower enrollment to one with too many students for the current staffing level. Apparently, this year we're not so much with the latter. At my school, we lost a single science teacher because our numbers are down for the first time in several years. At this time last year, we got eight additional teachers who had been surplussed from other schools.

As a result of the budget cuts, over 100 non-teaching positions, both filled and vacant, are being eliminated. 40 of those are within the school board and are held by licensed teachers. Those 40 people now have the option, under our MEA-negotiated contract, to "bump" teachers with lesser seniority from their positions.

As a teacher, I'm not that worried about being bumped because I have ten years in the system, and within my department there are probably five teachers less senior than I. (Of course I don't want to see any of them go, though.) But as a parent, this really gets my hackles up. I have three children in a single elementary school in this district. All three of them love their teachers. Calvin, the fifth grader, is especially enamored of his main teacher this year. What if he got bumped by some bitter old hag who left the classroom because she grew to hate the sight of children after thirty years of teaching them? I find myself hoping that this teacher's disability (he is legally blind and active in organizations that lobby for the rights of the visually impaired) will secure his place. Joshua's main teacher is experienced and has won prestigious awards, so she's probably safe. But both of Somerset's teachers are young and have only been teaching for a few years. Will they be bumped? Or, to put it another way, will I have to organize a protest and go raise hell at the board?

I have refused to join the teachers' union every year that I have taught. I'm not opposed to unions in general--I think that workers should have the right to organize and that they should be protected from the arbitrary whims of management. I don't believe that loyal employees with solid histories in their jobs should be systematically replaced by younger, cheaper versions of themselves. I do not, however, believe in closed shops because no one should ever be forced to join any organization, ever, under any circumstances. And I have a specific problem with the MEA: they act as though the school system exists to employ teachers, and I believe that it exists to educate children. It's as simple as that.

It is not in the best interest of children to disrupt their education once the school year is in progress. Teachers and students have spent six weeks establishing procedures and good work habits, getting to know each other, and building the trust that is essential for real learning to take place. Yanking that security out from under them is wrong and could be disasterous in the lives of individual children.

I said as much to a colleague in the library earlier, and she looked at me as if I had three heads. I like this person and we chat each day in the library while in mutual exile from our rooms (we all have floating teachers in our rooms during our planning periods), but the fact that she used to be an MEA area rep somehow never came up before. Oops. I told her why I'd never joined the union and she said "That's fine unless people are trying to plan their lives. You have ten years; if you got surplussed, you wouldn't bump someone else?" And honestly, that's a tough question. I teach high school and those kids are used to being shuffled around and having their schedules changed multiple times, and I might be better at my job than less experienced teachers, and I need my paycheck, so yes, I see that. My students would already be affected by my having been surplussed, because their schedules would change and they'd be crammed into classes already in progress. I think that's different from people who chose to leave the classroom to take a cushy board job. And ultimately, if I had to I'd just find another job. That's life, right? No other business guarantees perpetual employment. Teachers enjoy more job security than most professionals would ever dream of, but sometimes even we will have to suck it up.

Monday, September 08, 2008

1.5 seconds of fame

My little family was on the news! We're about 1 minute 47 seconds in. Aren't we cute? We all look annoyed because the people who redid the shell would not stop talking for 45 minutes, in spite of impending rain that did in fact begin the minute the first musician hit the stage. Oh well.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I am all over this

Among the daily Facebook notifications, MoveOn updates, and MOMS board minutiae, I find each day in my inbox a daily sale email from Newport News. I'm not sure how they have a sale every single day, but trust me, they do.

If you're not familiar with Newport News, you should check them out. I would describe what they sell as trampy secretary clothes, or five-years-out-of-fashionista, or stylish-for-New Mexico. I receive these emails because I have bought bathing suits there. They sell the cheapest bathing suits anywhere, and they have a huge selection. Occasionally I'll see a dress or sweater that I like, but I don't think I've ever ordered any of those things. Based on my bathing suit experience with them, objects around cleavage may be farther than they appear. I'm not exactly built like their models, you know?

So today, I noticed a little box at the bottom of the email about the Secret Daily Deal, and out of curiosity I clicked. Bust out your credit card, because you are definitely going to want in on this.

Who doesn't need a metallic silver one-pece high-cut bathing suit with a long wrap-around belt?