Test your knowledge of America’s public school teachers!

1.  What percentage of public school teachers are white?

A)  50%

B)  84%

C)  72%

 

2.  What percentage of public school teachers are women?

A)  55%

B)  84%

C)  62%

 

3.  What percentage are 29 years old or younger?

A)  18%

B)  21%

C)  52%

 

4)  What percentage has five years teaching experience or less?

A) 19%

B)  26%

C)  42%

 

5.  What percentage has earned a master’s degree? 

A)  28%

B)  43%

C)  32%

 

6.  What percentage teach in the city?

A)  49%

B)  31%

C)  22%

 

7.  What percentage teach in the suburbs?

A)  51%

B)  26%

C)  12%

 

8.  What percentage teach general elementary?

A)  35%

B)  48%

C)  2%

 

9.  What percentage entered the classroom from an alternative teacher preparation program?

A)  33%

B)  16%

C)  92%

 

10.  What percentage are “very or somewhat satisfied” with their overall job as a teacher?

A)  10%

B)  89%

C)  51%

 

ANSWERS:

1.  The answer is B.  84% of teachers are white.

2.  The answer is B.  84% of teachers are women.

3.  The answer is B.  21% are 29 years old or younger.

4.  The answer is B.  26% have five years experience or less.

5.  The answer is B.  43% have master’s degrees.

6.  The answer is B.  31% teach in the city.

7.  The answer is B.  26% teach in the suburbs.

8.  The answer is B.  48% teach general elementary.

9.  The answer is B.  16% entered the classroom via an alternative route.

10.  The answer is B.  89% are satisfied with their overall job as a teacher.

(Data from “Profiles of Teachers in the U.S. 2011”)

Milton Street Named Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools

City of Brotherly Love officials shock the education community and announce Milton Street as Philadelphia’s new chief of schools.     

by Bartleby Baumgartner

PHILADELPHIA, PA  In a shocking early morning decision from their headquarters beneath Billy Penn, City of Brotherly Love officials announced that former state legislator and federal prisoner Milton Street will be the new chief of public schools.

“His prison record really shouldn’t be an issue here,” a City of Brotherly Love spokesperson said.  “I don’t see why people always focus on the negatives.”  The City insisted he was only in jail for a few misdemeanor counts of tax evasion, and that that shouldn’t keep him from serving as superintendent.

“Who pays their taxes anymore, anyway?” a City spokesperson said.  “Queen Arlene never paid her taxes.  Didn’t she owe backed taxes in like three states?”

Several parents on hand for the announcement questioned the City’s decision, citing Milton Street’s age—he is now 72 years old—as a factor.

“This guy is pretty old,” Beatrice Bixby, mother of a Philadelphia middle-schooler, said.  “Ain’t he like seventy-something now?  I don’t know if I want some old guy running our schools.  Old people forget stuff, and they have trouble seeing things.  Like when they back their car up out of their garage.  You ever see an old person do that?  Just throw their car in reverse and start backing up, not caring who is behind them?  Man, that is no joke.”

The City stood behind its decision to bring Milton on.  They said he has the passion, the experience, and the nifty black wool hat to lead Philadelphia’s school children into the 21st century.

“Sure he was in prison, but have you seen his wool hat?” a City official said.  “You got a guy like that wearing a hat like that, who knows?  The sky’s the limit.  Great things are possible.”

“He looks like an elf!” said Brandi Brown, a sixth grader from the Far Northeast.

The tide may indeed be turning for Philadelphia’s public schools.  Of course, only time will tell if the City’s April 1st decision to hire Milton Street will reap the kind of benefits the education community has long been hoping for.

As Pennsylvania Schools Scrambled for Cash, Tom Corbett Gave Jerry Sandusky’s Foundation $3 Million

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Christopher Paslay

Last July, as PA’s education budget was getting slashed by over $1 billion, Tom Corbett personally approved a $3 million state grant to Jerry Sandusky’s Second Mile Foundation.

When you hear the names Tom and Jerry, most people think of a cartoon cat and mouse—not a gray-haired Republican governor who cut education spending in Pennsylvania by over $1 billion, and a retired football coach who is charged with 40 criminal counts of child sex abuse. 

According to Brad Bumsted’s story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday defended personally approving a $3 million state grant to The Second Mile Foundation, which prosecutors contend provided sexual assault victims for its founder, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.”

“The Second Mile had good purposes,” Corbett said. “I’d like to see it go forward. I don’t know whether it will be able to continue to go forward, and I hope there is a successor to the organization.”

Corbett has since given directions to pull back the $3 million grant. 

The Second Mile may have had good purposes, but Corbett’s timing is suspect.  He approved the $3 million state grant in July, despite the fact that at the time, Sandusky, the founder of Second Mile, was being investigated for child sex crimes. 

Corbett insists otherwise.  According to the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Corbett said that denying the grant would have posed the potential to ‘compromise the investigation.’”  But Corbett’s explanation for approving the grant still doesn’t pass the smell test, considering the fact that he was the one who began the investigation as attorney general before becoming governor, and should have blocked the Second Mile grant long before July. 

State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Penn Hills) said that Corbett’s explanation “doesn’t make sense to me,” because of the fact that Corbett had known about the investigation for so long.

Corbett’s approval of the Second Mile grant is indeed debatable.  Not just because he was putting money into a foundation started by a possible pedophile, but because he was cutting funding to hundreds of needy public school districts across the state while doing so.

Philadelphia Schoolteacher Hangs Self in Classroom

by Christopher Paslay

Last week in English class I decided to hang myself in front of my students.  I did so by taking a picture of yours truly and hanging it up on the wall behind my desk.    

“Look everyone,” I said to the class, “I’ve just hung myself.”

The class let out a chuckle.

Why would I do such a thing?  As a grammar lesson to teach the difference between hang, hung, and hanged, of course.  The lesson was a perfect “Do Now” activity for The Crucible, the Arthur Miller play we’ve been studying for the past month about the Salem Witch Trials. 

The play, which serves as an allegory for McCarthyism, details the hanging of 19 Puritans who were believed to be in cahoots with Lucifer himself.  The frequent use of the noose inevitably caused my students to ask: What is the difference between hang, hung, and hanged?

Here it is (from Daily Writing Tips):  

Hang derives from Old English and means to be attached from above without support below. This is one of the core meanings, as shown in the sentence: The picture hangs on the wall.

However, there are several other related uses, for example:

  • To let droop or fall – hang your head in shame.
  • To fall in a certain way – this costume hangs well.
  • To pay attention to – I hang on your every word.
  • To hold on tightly – My daughter is hanging onto my skirt.
  • A way of doing something – She couldn’t get the hang of it.
  • To be oppressive – a cloud of gloom hangs over him.

The regular past tense of hang is hung, which would be used in all the examples listed above. However, there is one difference when it comes to hanging someone by the neck. In this case the past tense is hanged which means killed by hanging.

In other words, the Puritans in Salem were hanged, not hung.

Calling All Literary Agents and Publishers!

I’m currently seeking a publisher/literary representation for a 70,000 word non-fiction book titled The Village Proposal: Why Education is a Shared Responsibility.  The book is based on the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.  Part education commentary, part memoir, The Village Proposal analyzes the theme of “shared responsibility” in education, and examines the various entities that have an impact on America’s schools, such as parents and community, politics, private business, technology, and multiculturalism. Although some elements are more influential than others, all of these impact how and what children learn. 

 

Because teachers are the centerpiece of education, the story of my teaching career is told in alternating chapters opposite my commentary on shared responsibility.  I believe it’s necessary to put my own teaching under the microscope and lead by example.  Specifically, I highlight my transformation from a first-year English teacher struggling with classroom management to a veteran educator who develops within his students a passion for writing.

 

I’m a frequent contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where my articles on education and school reform regularly appear.  My commentaries on public schools have also been published in the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia City Paper.  I’ve also had work featured in Education Week and Philadelphia Magazine. 

 

Although books on education reform cover a wide variety of topics, The Village Proposal is one of the first to carry the “shared responsibility” message.  It is also the first to combine commentary and memoir in a way that bridges the gap between theory and practice.     

 

Any parties interested in seeing a proposal of the book please contact me at phillystyle71@yahoo.com.

 

No “vanity” or print-on-demand self-publishers, please!

 

Thank You.

 

–Christopher Paslay

 

Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make

From Amazon.com:

“Finding Mrs. Warnecke tells the inspiring story of Cindi Rigsbee, a three-time Teacher of the Year, and Barbara Warnecke, the first-grade teacher who had a profound and lasting impact on Cindi’s life. Cindi, an insecure child who craved positive attention, started her first-grade year with a teacher who was emotionally abusive and played favorites in the classroom. Two months into the school year, her principal came into the classroom and announced that half the students were being moved to another classroom–a dank, windowless basement room, with a young and inexperienced teacher.  This change turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Cindi.  Her new teacher, Mrs. Warnecke, made learning come alive for her students.  She went overboard caring for each child, made her classroom “magical,” and encouraged students to pursue their dreams.  Although Cindi was reluctant to explore her creativity as a student, Mrs. Warnecke encouraged her to read and write poetry, which became a lifelong passion.  The two kept in touch for several years but lost track of each other when Mrs. Warnecke moved out of state. Cindi spent many years trying to reconnect so she could thank Mrs. Warnecke for making such a difference in her life, but to no avail.  Eventually Cindi became a teacher herself, and thirty years later she has taught more than 2,000 children and been named Teacher of the Year for her home state.  She later came to realize that all those years she wasn’t really trying to track down Barbara Warnecke, but rather, she was trying to “find Mrs. Warnecke” within herself. 

 

In Fall 2008 Cindi and Barbara were reunited on Good Morning America; the show’s producers had tracked Barbara down and brought both women on-set for a tearful reunion.  Barbara was floored at this attention–she had no idea she could have made such an impact on a former student’s life.  As Cindi travels around talking with new and veteran educators, she is always approached by audience members who are moved to tears and want to share the story of the “Mrs. Warnecke” in their own lives.  Finding Mrs. Warnecke not only tells the story of this teacher who made a lifelong impact on her students, it illustrates the importance of the teacher/student relationship in the classroom, and offers principles for other teachers to follow to make a positive impact in their own classrooms.”

 

 

Imagine 2014

 

 

by Christopher Paslay

(Re: Imagine 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine there’s no insults
It’s easy if you try
No blaming just the teachers
No waving 30 schools goodbye
Imagine the SRC
Giving us what we need

 

Imagine no outside managers

It isn’t hard to do

No wasting millions of dollars

And no consultants too

Imagine all the parents

Pulling their own weight

 

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday the SRC will join us

And every child will be someone   

 

Imagine no betrayal

I wonder if you can

No inside agenda

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the politicians

Doing what they say

 

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday the SRC will join us

And every child will be someone

 

Is cursive writing worth teaching?

by Christopher Paslay

 

“Are the flowing curves and fancy loops of cursive writing disappearing from elementary school classrooms?” asks writer Megan Downs in a recent USA Today article, “Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?”

 

Call me old-school, but I think penmanship is an important skill and should continue to be taught in all schools across America.  Technology is great, but there is a down side to it.  Computers and cell phones are having a negative impact on students’ handwriting and the writing process in general.  There’s too much copy-and-pasting going on during research assignments, and the penmanship of America’s youth is getting weaker.       

 

According to a report titled Handwriting development, competency, and intervention by  Katya P. Feder and Annette Majnemer, therapists with the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University, “Failure to attain handwriting competency during the school-age years often has far-reaching negative effects on both academic success and self-esteem.”

 

What do you think about the issue?  Take the poll below.

 

 

McCain and Obama on Education

The presidential election is nearly two weeks away.  With the U.S. economy and the war in Iraq taking center stage, education has slipped to the back burner. 

 

For those teachers who want to know specifically where McCain and Obama stand on education, there is a great article in USA Today by Greg Toppo headlined, “Where they stand: McCain, Obama split on education”. 

 

The article gives a side-by-side comparison of how McCain and Obama will handle teacher recruitment, federal funding and NCLB, charter schools and school choice, early childhood education and college affordability. 

 

To read the article, click here.

 

 

Objectivity in Journalism is a Fallacy

by Christopher Paslay

Sean Hannity recently stated on his radio program that “journalism is dead in America.” He made this comment in response to the attacks the media is waging against republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Although I agree with Hannity that Palin’s private life has been tastelessly scrutinized, I find it interesting that Hannity buys into the myth that there’s such a thing as a “fair and balanced” news media.

Total objectivity in journalism is a fallacy. Hunter S. Thompson knew this well, which is why he turned to gonzo journalism to get across the truths of the stories he was reporting. There isn’t a newspaper big enough, or a television broadcast long enough, to include every single point of view of every single story.

Based on the limits of time and space, editors must discriminate—decide what to include and what to ignore. Journalism textbooks suggest editors should make their choices based on the “elements of news,” things like prominence, proximity, timeliness and human interest. According to The Elements of Journalism, the award winning book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, “journalism’s first obligation is to truth,” and “its first loyalty is to citizens.”

But truth and loyalty can be very subjective.

I’ve been teaching high school journalism for ten years. Over the past decade I’ve learned that achieving total objectivity in journalism is like traveling at the speed of light: it exists only in theory. Viewing society through the looking-glass of any single newspaper, television or radio station can be dangerous. It’s not that these news sources intentionally distort the facts—most preserve the five W’s and the H very accurately. It’s the way they cover and report their stories—the way their own perception of reality influences WHAT to report and HOW to report it—that results in a limited and sometimes unreliable portrayal of events.

However, poor perception is not the only cause of biased reporting. In my opinion, every news organization has its own unwritten (and sometimes unconscious) political agenda. Political neutrality—a news broadcast that is truly fair and balanced—doesn’t exist. For a news entity to survive, there has to be an edge, a shtick, a way to provoke conflict and spark interest. Otherwise, no one will care.

To create this conflict, news stations often use politics to force their audience to take a side, creating an “us against them” mentality. Once a person chooses a side and is properly indoctrinated, their mind tends to close to all outside points of view. Soon the person’s ready to attack anyone who disagrees with the values and ideas being purported by that particular news station. As a result, the station builds an audience.

In the 21st century, news is more about entertainment than it is about providing information. Many Americans simply watch the news to kill time before American Idol, or tune in to talk radio to make their drive to work more bearable. And what’s the biggest way to stimulate us listless Americans? By fanning the flames of our personal politics.

It’s time to end the charade of “objective journalism” in America. Every news station has a political bias. Turn on channel A and Barack Obama has the potential to become the greatest president since JFK. Turn on channel B and he doesn’t have the experience to lead the Cub Scouts. How is this possible? Our nation’s news organizations need to come out of the closet—admit the fact that the stories they report are more about agenda than they are about “truth”.

So how do we stay informed in the 21st century? How do we cut through all the political bias lurking within the American media? One way is to strive for a well-rounded diet of news. In other words, we need to balance our intake of CNN with a healthy helping of FOX. We must temper our portions of NPR with a nice dose of Glenn Beck.

As Lewis H. Lapham, former editor of Harper’s Magazine, once said, “People may expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true.”

I couldn’t agree more.