Friday, April 16, 2021

Showing Responsibility

I've mentioned before our screwy "hybrid schedule"--this morning I taught 4th-6th periods in-person, and this afternoon I taught 4th-6th periods online to the remaining students.  Today was a chapter test, delivered in a format such that in-person students could fill in a bubble sheet and at-home students could take the test online.  I don't usually (read:  I almost never) give multiple choice tests, but this one and its answers were written in such a way that I should be able to get good information from the test results.  Unfortunately, the information I got was that a lot of students cheated, and I have screenshots to back up my assertions, but that isn't the point of this post, so I move on.

Yesterday a couple athletes who would be in my afternoon class emailed me to say that they're scheduled to leave "school" early to participate in a competition.  They asked if they could take the test during "morning 6th period", and I thought it great that they were being proactive.  Right before the afternoon test I found out that a third athlete was scheduled to miss class, so I emailed that student and asked what the plan was, as that student hadn't made any arrangements with me to make up the test.  The response was that that student told the coach that he/she was going to take the test and, when finished, head immediately to the competition, as this student takes his/her education seriously.

I thought it a great show of responsibility for these students to make arrangements in advance, rather than just missing the test and showing up next week asking when/how they could make up the test.  At my school, such conscientiousness is, unfortunately, quite uncommon.

Putting Teachers In The Hot Seat

What are teachers to do when compelled to attend "hate whitey" training--or worse, when their students undergo "hate whitey" training?

I am a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan. Ten years ago, I changed careers when I discovered how rewarding it is to help young people explore the truth and beauty of mathematics. I love my work.

As a teacher, my first obligation is to my students. But right now, my school is asking me to embrace “antiracism” training and pedagogy that I believe is deeply harmful to them and to any person who seeks to nurture the virtues of curiosity, empathy and understanding.   

“Antiracist” training sounds righteous, but it is the opposite of truth in advertising. It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race. Furthermore, in order to maintain a united front for our students, teachers at Grace are directed to confine our doubts about this pedagogical framework to conversations with an in-house “Office of Community Engagement” for whom every significant objection leads to a foregone conclusion. Any doubting students are likewise “challenged” to reframe their views to conform to this orthodoxy. 

I know that by attaching my name to this I’m risking not only my current job but my career as an educator, since most schools, both public and private, are now captive to this backward ideology. But witnessing the harmful impact it has on children, I can’t stay silent.  

When (not if) it comes to my school, I've decided how I will react--and you know I'll have some fun!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

'Rona in the Great White North

My last post was about 'rona restrictions in Britain, here's an anecdote from Canada:

Michelle Dionne was excited about her new job, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by doing extra cleaning in an elementary school in Darwell, Alta. — about 85 kilometres west of Edmonton.

But last October, after being on the job for about six weeks, her boss at the cleaning company sent out a companywide message — telling employees to download an app on their personal phones that would check their location and ensure they were working their scheduled hours.

Dionne found the request offensive and refused.

"I was at the school working so that I could provide for my son," she told Go Public. "We're not thieves. We don't need an ankle monitor."

Less than two months later, the single mom was fired — her refusal to download the app was mentioned in her letter of termination.

Does it seem right to you that your employer can require you to use your own belongings to help them surveil you???  If you want to track me, use your own darned equipment! 

Other Canadians have been asked to download software that helps employers remotely monitor their productivity — such as phone apps that register an employee's location via GPS, and software that monitors the activity of their computer mouse. Others have tracking devices in their vehicles. 

It's prompting some employment lawyers Go Public consulted to sound the alarm.

Is personal privacy even a thing in Canada? 

The first time I visited Canada was with a friend from my high school days.  As soon as the landing gear touched down in Vancouver, my friend said to me half-joking half-serious, "Darren, we no longer have our constitutional rights."  Consider the implications of that.

'Rona in the Mother Country

Yes, many of our rules and restrictions are insane--but the British are even worse:

Lord Sumption is an author, historian and former Supreme Court judge. He joined spiked editor Brendan O’Neill for the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show. What follows is an edited extract from their conversation. Listen to the full episode here...

Lord Sumption: It’s certainly ironic that the vaccine has encouraged them to restrict freedom for longer, because they can say the end is in sight and we must hold on until we get there. They could never get away with saying the end is not in sight and we must therefore hold on indefinitely. What we have got at the moment is a desire to instil (sic) fear in people, notwithstanding the fact that the vaccine should be one of the greatest antidotes to fear. Sensible people should make their own judgments about the matter rather than listening to government representatives.

It's so bad that Mick Jagger performed a song about it:


Mick Jagger 

80.3K subscribers 

I wanted to share this song that I wrote about eventually coming out of lockdown, with some much needed optimism - thank you to Dave Grohl for jumping on drums, bass and guitar, it was a lot of fun working with you on this - hope you all enjoy Eazy Sleazy !

Monday, April 12, 2021

Talent

I saw on Instagram that a former student of mine, with whom I've stayed in periodic contact, has dropped a new single:


He's made many "amateur" videos on YouTube, here are two songs that I recognized--and especially enjoyed his interpretation of them:



Before I got old and lost my voice, I used to be able to carry a tune pretty well--but not like Adam!  I wish you continued good fortune, my friend.

Sleep

I've long thought that always getting plenty of sleep is what allowed me to be as academically successful as I have been.  Here's an excellent and brief article about what helped, and didn't help, one author get better sleep:

Over a week later, I’m happy to report my sleep schedule is back on track, and I’m logging 7 to 8 hours per night. I think it’s a combination of all of the strategies above, but I believe that following a relaxing bedtime routine and keeping my phone away from my bed delivered the most benefits. Plus, they’re totally doable and don’t require any big purchases. There have been a couple times when I woke up during the night, but overall, I feel way more rested today than I did one week ago—and I only had one cup of coffee. 

Hey students:  well rested, well tested.

Do Students "Earn" Diplomas, Or Do School Districts "Award" Them?

We teachers think students should earn grades and earn their diplomas, too many students and parents think that grades and diplomas are entitlements.

Too many students aren't doing well in online instruction, so the Dallas ISD asked all seniors to return to school for the final 9-weeks of the year, today being the first day.  It didn't go over so well:

Monday was the start of the final nine-week grading period of the school year, a day Dallas ISD asked that all 8,800 seniors return to in-person instruction.

Prior to the request, only 44% of DISD high schoolers were attending class face-to-face, and that was only happening twice a week as classes took place on a hybrid, part-virtual schedule. DISD administrators said last week they are still working to determine how many seniors are on track to graduate on-time districtwide.

Not every student heeded the district’s call. Of Lincoln’s 144-person senior class, 107 students returned. Districtwide, 43% of seniors came to campus on Monday, with the largest turnout at Madison (95%).

43%.  What are the other 57% thinking?

Hat tip to long-time reader Ellen K.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Let There Be Light

Last night the bulb in one of my lamps burned out.  When I removed it, I found it was an old fluorescent bulb.  I didn't have any LED bulbs in the closet but I did find another fluorescent with which to replace it, but my visit to the closet informed me that I needed to get a couple new LED bulbs as spares.

So off to the store I went today, and LED bulbs were on my list.  A package of 4 wasn't ridiculously expensive, so that's what I bought.

I replaced the fluorescent bulb with an LED bulb, and then decided to check all the other lights in the house.  I know most of them already have LED bulbs, but it couldn't hurt to check.  I found a couple fluorescents and even an incandescent (over the stove), and by the time I got done I'd used up all 4 of the new bulbs and put a small fluorescent over the stove.  And now I have a few fluorescent bulbs in the closet in case I ever need one.  I even have a few incandescents in there!

I should retire in, at most, 7 years, and I'll move someplace less insane than California.  I guess I can take all those LED bulbs out of the fixtures when I leave and replace them with the fluorescents and incandescents in the closet.  Otherwise, what good are they?

Why Communism Appeals To The Weak-Minded


 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Exhaustion

I've stated before that my school district is now operating on a hybrid model:

Monday morning, 1st-3rd periods in person.  Monday afternoon, 1st-3rd periods online.

Tuesday morning, 4th-6th periods in person.  Tuesday afternoon, 4th-6th periods online.

Wednesday, "office hours", or sometimes I'll have students take a quiz online.

Thursday and Friday are repeats of Monday and Tuesday, but with different students in-person.


One thing I've realized with this is just how much harder teaching is when it's online.  Not only is it exhausting (and often demoralizing) for the teacher, it's significantly less effective for all but the most motivated of students, perhaps the top 5% or so.

This is wearing me out.

Combine this with some family stresses, and I got home from work yesterday just sapped of energy.  I decided to lie down around 5:00, but not too much later I got an entirely unexpected drop-in visit from my mother and aunt.  They were here perhaps an hour, and when they left, well...I don't remember getting back into bed.  When I woke up it was 5:00 this morning.  I don't feel entirely rested, but I'm better than I've been in several days, so that's something.

Here's to a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Making Stupid Hurt

We need more legislators to take principles stands like this:

The Idaho House has overwhelmingly rejected the state’s proposed higher education budget because of concerns about the promotion by the state’s colleges and universities of a “social justice” agenda and the teaching of critical race theory. The vote was 13-57.

The appropriations bill rejected by the House had cut $409,000 from Boise State University’s bottom line, shifting that funding to Lewis-Clark State College. The reason for the shift was that Boise State is seen as promoting “social justice ideology” and activities…

Generally speaking, it’s not a good look when politicians hold education budgets hostage to demands about curriculum. However, legislators shouldn’t stand by while schools use public money to teach students that they are racists, that their country is evil, and other noxious tenets of woke identity politics. States shouldn’t subsidize efforts to create self-hating students and to erode belief in America.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Giving Math Tests In A Hybrid Model

Each morning I see anywhere from 1/8 to 1/3 of my students per class in person, while the rest continue taking the course via Zoom in the afternoon.  If I choose to give a test, how do I ensure that the at-home students don't get advantages (except, of course, for easier cheating) that the in-class students don't get?  If I had to defend my test-giving against charges of a lack of equity, how would I do so?

Tomorrow I'm giving a stats test, and next Thursday I'm giving a pre-calculus test.  Here's how I'm handling each of them.

Tomorrow's statistics class must be done during class time.  In-class students will get one version, on paper, and will do the test during our 50-minute class.  At-home students will get a different version, and it will show up on their Google Classroom page 5 minutes before class starts.  They have until 5 minutes after class to submit it.  This gives them plenty of time to print the test out (for those who do that), to scan their tests when done, and submit them through Google Classroom.  As I cannot prevent the at-home students from looking at notes, the book, etc., I will allow the in-class students to do that as well.

That isn't very creative, though.  With next week's pre-calculus class, though, another teacher and I are working together to get a bit more creative.

This test will be multiple choice, which is something I never do.  In-class students will get a paper copy and an answer sheet, which I can scan by document camera as soon as they turn it in and immediately give them their scores.  At-home students will take the test on their computers, and thus will need no extra time to submit their tests, but I am going to require them to submit their work so that I can give credit only for correct answers that are supported by work they did (an anti-cheating measure).  The online test administration can be set so that the students can take the test only during the test window I designate.  Also, the multiple choice answers will be written so as to prevent "process-of-elimination guessing" and other such issues.  And of course, there will be different versions of this test.

My tests were designed during pre-'rona "real school", where classes were 50-55 minutes each.  Thus, they're designed to be completed in 50 minutes.  However, due to the 'rona, I've been much more lax about time constraints--that might have been a mistake on my part, and not just because of cheating.  Now that I've had students back in class, I see that they've learned even less than I'd thought.  Too many haven't "engaged" in their learning, they have at most listened to what I've said and watched what I've done, and then during tests, they try to follow examples in the book or their notes.  Too many of them don't "own" the knowledge they're trying to demonstrate.  I shall endeavor to correct that.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Spare Me Your Sob Stories

Talk on the left is of "forgiving" student loan debt.  The problem with such terminology is that the debt wouldn't be forgiven, it would just be paid by other people--you and me, instead of the people who incurred the debt.  

Isn't it funny that, according to the left, people who are 18 (or older!) cannot know enough to make decisions about getting into debt and should be relieved of such burdens, but simultaneously we must listen to teenagers about global warming and perhaps even lower the voting age to 16?  We should let children decide they want to cut off body parts to change sex/gender?  The hypocrisy is stunning.

I have no interest in reading sob stories from people who willingly and voluntarily entered into debt.  If some were actually swindled or defrauded, that would be a different story; but absent that presumably small proportion, the rest have no excuse.  Adults live up to their responsibilities, they don't expect free rides from the taxpayers.  They pay their debts.

And the politicians who talk of "forgiving" these student loans are guilty of nothing more than trying to buy votes with the public's money.

Monday, April 05, 2021

I've Always Thought "Medical Marijuana" Was A Cop-Out

We wouldn't vote for recreational marijuana here in California.  No, it had to be sold as "medical marijuana" to ease the suffering of cancer patients.  That's how marijuana is sold in stores across California, as "medicine" for which you need a prescription.  The land of the hippie and surfer dude wasn't brave enough to flout federal law directly, we had to try, as Oppa says on Kim's Convenience, a sneak attack.

And maybe it's all crap anyway:

Researchers from the University of Bath's Centre for Pain Research have contributed to a major international review into the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids when used to treat pain, including chronic pain in children and adults.

Conducted for the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and recently published across 13 linked in the journal Pain, leading experts from around the world including Dr. Fisher and Professor Eccleston from Bath reviewed existing data into cannabinoids, including for so-called '' and 'medicinal cannabis extracts."

Their findings suggest that although there is preclinical data supporting the hypothesis of cannabinoid analgesia, uncertainties especially in , imply the for efficacy and safety does not reach the threshold required for the IASP to endorse their general use for pain control. The studies and the statement from the IASP are limited to the use of cannabinoids to treat pain, and not for other conditions for which cannabinoids are used.

Dr. Emma Fisher who led the review of the clinical evidence said: "Cannabis, cannabinoids, and cannabis-based medicines are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to manage pain. However, our review shows that there is limited evidence to support or refute their use for the management of any pain condition. The studies we found were (high risk of bias) and the evidence was of very low-certainty, meaning that we are very uncertain of the findings and more research is needed."

I don't care if the feds legalize marijuana or not, but I have a hard time with states' flouting federal law and the feds' not doing anything about it. There be dragons.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Jamaicans and Kenyans Must Think We've Lost Our Collective Minds

What kind of hatred must someone have in their heart in order to promulgate something so stupid?  Jamaican and Kenyan math teachers are shaking their heads at us, and the Chinese and Russians are yucking it up at our expense:

An Oregon Department of Education newsletter from February promoted an online course designed to “dismantle” instances of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom.”  One example of “white supremacy” highlighted by the course was “the concept of mathematics being purely objective,” an idea which the resource stated is “is unequivocally false." 

That statement is unequivocally false.  Math can be put to different uses, but the math itself is objective as a hammer or a pencil.

“White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions,” the guide states. “Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics"...

Examples of “white supremacy culture” cited by the document include a focus on "getting the ‘right’ answer" and requiring students to show their work. 

As normal people see this for the tripe that it is, and will ensure their own children are not harmed by it, programs like this will only exacerbate the educational gaps between different (racial) groups.  This does the most harm to those it supposedly claims to help.  One wonders if that isn't the true goal, to ensure there are always grievances and an army to fight with.

Not Where I Want To Work

Letting the inmates run the asylum is not a good idea.  Neither is letting children run schools or criminals run government--or letting criminals roam the halls of schools:

Legalize crime in schools? It’s on track to become a reality if Colorado’s SB-182 passes and is signed into law by Governor Jared Polis.

What are the intentions of this legislation?

“A school resource officer or other law enforcement officer shall not arrest a student of the school, or issue a summons, ticket, or other notice requiring the appearance of a student of the school in court or at a police station for investigation, for conduct that constitutes any of the following offenses allegedly committed on the school’s grounds, in a school vehicle, or at a school activity or sanctioned event.”


What are those offenses that a student cannot be disciplined or even arrested for as found in Section 6 of the bill?

Physically attacking staff or students

Disorderly conduct

Theft

Trespass or criminal trespass

Criminal mischief including vandalism 

Harassment 

Drugs and drug possession

Causing bodily injury that isn’t serious


Read the above again, out loud. Yes, it says exactly what you think it says. According to Leslie Herod, one of the supposed authors of the bill, this effort will end the school-to-prison pipeline and will ensure all disproportionate discrimination against blacks or hispanics will magically stop. 

“We introduced Senate Bill 182 in the Colorado General Assembly this year because school discipline does not have to only result in a punitive outcome like tickets and arrests. We believe schools need strong mental health services, trauma-informed approaches, and discipline codes that reflect age-appropriate discipline. Evidence-based inclusionary approaches to discipline like restorative justice programs can help students process disciplinary incidents and develop the tools they need to help ensure that infractions don’t happen again as they did for us. Kids need to be kids, they need to make mistakes and have the room to learn from those mistakes without jeopardizing their entire future.”


Gosh. That sounds wonderful doesn’t it?? Discrimination will stop, as will any violence in schools. Teen gangs will keep all mischief and violence off school grounds, and once a student has had counseling, no more bullying or drugs! This will stop the epidemic!!

You can't be merely stupid to believe in legislation like this.  You have to be willfully stupid at a minimum, perhaps even malicious.

Innumeracy

No one brags about being illiterate, but some wear lack of math knowledge like a badge of honor--and this is what it gets us:

But people wildly overestimate the actual risks posed by COVID-19, according to several new polls that show the stunning extent to which the public has internalized alarmist misinformation.

A YouGov survey out this week reveals that young people aged 18 to 24 are the subgroup most anxious about resuming normal social life — despite being by far the least at risk from COVID-19. Indeed, the death rate for members of this age group is approximately 0.006% — a tiny fraction of a percentage. Meanwhile, folks over age 55 are the least worried about resuming social life, even though, statistically speaking, they have the most to fear from the coronavirus.

The level of comfort is inversely correlated to the level of risk.

I'm not shocked by this:

How did the public wind up so woefully misinformed? Well, the inescapable conclusion is that alarmist media coverage and irresponsible doomsday rhetoric from government officials are at least partially to blame.