Friday, June 1, 2012

Good Will Hunting This Summer

I plan on furthering my education this summer.  But I don't think I will attend voluntary training sponsored all summer long by the district.  I seriously doubt I will get out the pages upon pages of new  "common core" standards and seek to align them with a new curriculum map.   And I know I will not be racking up  "in service points" by watching some professional development on how to successfully implement "Common Core" through webinars on the PD360 network.

When I think of these options, I am reminded of this quote from Good Will Hunting:
"You wasted a hundred fifty grand on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library."   
Although there is no financial cost to any of the educational development in which I will not participate this summer, the quote is accurate in principle:  The activities above would be an expensive waste of my most precious resource: time.

Want an education about education this summer?  Join a group of educators from across the state or nation who can help share the bigger picture of what is truly happening to the  profession.  I'm not typically a fan of social networks like Facebook because they can be trivial distractions. However, they also host groups such as Education Forum of Indiana, Children are More than Test Scores, Dump Duncan, Save our Schools, or Parents Across America where those interested in saving public education may speak freely.  Here are two solid reasons why educators need to get involved with online state and national groups on a social network.

1.  In Steven Johnson's four minute video entitled, "Where Good Ideas Come From", Johnson concludes with this: "That's the real lesson of where good ideas come from: Chance favors the connected mind."   Limited environments like "common core" or PD360, where content is controlled and manipulated by the producers is not the space where one can truly connect. Much of what is found on sites like PD360  is based on imaginary facts and bogus research designed to sell product.   Educators limited to this environment will have blinders on to real issues, such as the newly proposed legislation, REPA II, in Indiana, which will greatly deskill the profession of teaching.

2.  Educators must find outlets to voice their knowledge and opinions.  Public education, teachers especially, have been made scapegoats for the political economic crisis.  Instead of addressing the poverty issue, the Federal DOE answer has been non-solutions; charter schools, accountability scams, and high stakes testing, that have furthered the crisis.  According to Richard Rothstein
"To be good educators, you must step up your activity not only in the classroom, but as citizens. You must speak up in the public arena, challenging those policymakers who will accuse you only of making excuses when you speak the truth that children who are hungry, mobile, and stressed, cannot learn as easily as those who are comfortable. 
As educators, you simply cannot remain uninformed and silent about the social and economic context of your work. 
Nobody knows better than you what the consequences of economic hardship are for children’s ability and opportunity to learn."

On social networks, educators are sharing constantly about changes taking place.  For example, as our district looks to move to a digital 1:1 curriculum,  those in North Carolina shared this PR announcement  from a district about our size, the Mooresville school district. What they also shared that the Pearson/Mooresville  PR announcement neglected to tell was that later, Mooresville also eliminated about 40 teaching positions and cut 65 positions over all.  

Which brings me back around to another good quote from Good Will Hunting:

Will:  Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a crap. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure screw it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president. 


  1. Thanks! And come to Washington D.C. August 3rdto 5th to join with others in developing an education platform at a Peoples Platform convention sponsored by SOS--Save Our Schools.

    We have to e long distance runners by acting like tomorrow is the most critical day!

    Deb Meier

  2. Provocative. Truly. But I must say that I don't agree with you altogether about PD 360. The PD 360 Community is an educators-only place--much better than edutopia or any of the other online forums where morons like to come and spew the latest rhetoric from DC. Or people who talk about merit-based pay without knowing what the heck they're saying. The PD 360 Community isn't policed, and we're free to talk about whatever we want. And those private groups sure are nice. I've got one private group where a few of my colleagues and I just vent. And then we get to work.

    Hey, if you're serious about collaborating with teachers from across the country, maybe PD 360 isn't such a bad idea after all.

    1. Jared,

      The difference might be how you *subscribe* to PD 360. Did you buy your own subscription independently, or did your administration purchase it for your district?

      If it's the former, I can see how PD 360 can provide you a place to vent with other teachers without the morons spouting off about merit pay.

      If it's the later, then BIG BROTHER is watching you. Our admin can see every comment we make and track everything we do. Now that the new evaluation tools and loss of seniority have been locked in place, PD 360 will be another mechanism to which administration can control academic freedom.

      Another Huntington Teacher

    2. Thank you Jared for the comments. Also, I was glad to see a response to this before I had a chance.

      There's another prong to the attack of PD 360: Besides "Big Brother" watching us on 360 (That's what the 360 stands for - 360 degrees of control) PD 360's system to keep track of how much one does on their site as a measure of accountability is manipulative.

      If you would click the link on "in service points" above, it takes you to a PD360 "case study: which suggests:

      "PD 360 Usage Contest: The purpose of the contest is to recognize a school and teacher with the most monthly PD 360 use. The winning school is awarded a monetary gift and the winning teacher is awarded a gift for classroom use."

      The in-service point system is contrived and downright insulting, often leading to such banal comments as "Me, too!" or "I agree." as teachers compete in a controlled environment to gather points. There's not much difference between the suggestion to rack up points for a contest and cigarette having additives to addict smokers: "You need one more. Just one more. Have one more."


      "CONCLUSION: Polk County Public Schools quickly and successfully introduced PD 360 as an integral part of its PD program. Consequently, teachers are responding positively, rewards are coming in, and students are winning.

      Proficiency Scores (over past four years)

      READING 52 54 55 57
      MATH 56 59 60 62

      'PD 360 has proven to be a great return on our investment!'"

      I have zero credibility for a corporation that tries to link the causality of "raised test scores" to PD 360. This is far from a scientific study, and to suggest so shows a severe lack of professionalism and integrity.

      Whatever it is this company is selling, I'm not buying.

    3. You guys got me really curious, so I did some digging. But first, a personal clarification:

      Sorry about the "morons spewing DC rhetoric" comment. That was probably out of line, especially since I could easily be counted as just such a moron.

      Now that I got that out of the way, I called School Improvement Network, and quite honestly, you guys are probably giving them WAY too much credit. I got through to a project manager (NOT just some customer service rep), and he explained quite frankly that PD 360 just doesn't have the capacity to report all of our activity to our superiors (good thing, too; I'm not so sure that private group of mine would look so hot at next week's interview...). "A private group is private," I-don't-remember-his-name said. "The group creator and the people invited/allowed to the group are the only people who see in it. If an administrator isn't part of the group, then he/she is out of the loop."

      Second, I really couldn't convince you guys (or anyone) of the very un-corporate-ness of a lot of companies, but maybe it's just that I'm not one who thinks the sky is falling. Of course the credit doesn't go to PD 360 for better test scores, just as the credit doesn't go to a tutor when a student does well. The goal of PD of any kind is to help teachers, not replace them. And if they've got some gimmicks to get teachers to do their "homework," then so be it.

      But that's just me. I guess I'm glad to finally see someone trying to actually help teachers instead of someone in Washington dictating how to run a school (and boy to I have some anti-Capitol Hill things for you!).

      It has been fun, ladies and gents! I'm interested in your opinions, so I'll keep checking up here to see what's going on.

    4. Jared,

      Sorry if I wasn't clear. By administrator, I meant our district administration, not someone at school-improvement-network. Our local administration can oversee all of us because they own all our district accounts.

      Do I believe they monitor everything we say? No. But do I believe one day they decide they want to get rid of you, so they go back through all your files to find somewhere you "vented" and use that against you? Yes.

      Civil liberties do not disappear one day. They evaporate. Give up your liberties a little here, a little there, one day they'll be entirely gone. (Your liberty: Use it or Lose it.)

      If you can get on to PD 360 and chat with other educators freely without being monitored by your local administration, then I see how you find it a good thing. Do understand though, PD 360 is also set up so school districts can monitor everything their teachers do. That's BIG BROTHER mentality. It may not be enforced today, but the capability is now in place for tomorrow.

      Another Huntington Teacher

    5. That's what I'm saying--school leaders aren't able to see your private groups, no matter how badly they may want retribution against one of our colleagues. But I do understand your point. Thanks for the discussion!

  3. PD 360, like any powerful technology, has the potential for great good, or great harm.

    If Jared can have private meetings with teachers only, where they choose the discussion topic and can vent, that is much like impromptu edcamps, or unmeetings (See: )

    What teacher has not sat through committee meetings and thought, "Let me out of here. I have so many other important things I could be doing!"? Now, with PD 360, a district can impose those types of meetings on teachers all the time. Our district demanded a value of points per month, and yes, it led to quick, dim, comments and letting a video run while grading papers.