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Saturday
Sep242016

Should we be looking at gift horses in the mouth?

Earlier this school year, a resident called one of our school board members about a request for a piece of technology made by a teacher via a crowd funding site. "Why," asked the community member, "after recently passing a sizable technology funding referendum are teachers still begging for money for technology?"

Interesting question.

Despite our referendum being quite sizable and having a clear, transparent, and public plan for its use, some technology wants still go unmet. I cannot imagine the amount of money that would satisfy the requests for educational resources of every staff member in our district.

Yet is asking for donations a good way to fund classroom technology? Gary Stager, per usual, doesn't hold back in his blog post NO! I Will Not Buy Your Damn School Supplies! August 21, 2016. He writes:

I will not help teachers commit suicide by supporting these feel good attempts to turn basic public school funding into an act of charity. Each time educators normalize deprivation and substitute charity as social justice withheld, they will find themselves with fewer classroom resources. Such actions also spurn greater public school privatization and devaluing of teachers.

Q:      You know who should pay for school supplies?

A:      Tax payers!

While Gary has a strong moral position on school funding by donation, there are some pragmatic downsides as well. I have long argued that any resource that relies on fundraising or donations will always be viewed as an extra, not as a critical need in an educational system. (The warning was primarily given to school librarians who relied on book fairs and PTOs for book budgets.) Society must fund schools in an equitable and adequate manner to create a strong workforce and educated electorate.  Donations can cause inequity within a district (or building), especially in districts where some schools are located in wealthier neighborhoods than others.

Yet I also have to applaud the efforts of dedicated parent organizations who have raised tons of money for technology (when the district could not or would not fund it), playgrounds, school signage, etc. We take great pride in providing backpacks full of school supplies each fall for students in need via community donations and in packing food for children in poverty to eat over the weekend all year long. (The last helping develop empathy and compassion among our high school students who participate in the volunteer activity.) Whether it be schools, parks, museums, or sports facilities, there are few institutions that do not accept - or indeed don't solicit - donations. Even our tax code encourages such giving by making charitable donations tax deductible.

This is a question of course that calls for balance and a bit of wisdom. It is not a matter of accepting donations, but have smart rule about who and how the funds can be requested and especially about how they can be used. And it calls for district-wide guidelines. Jennifer Fink in  Crowdfunding the Classroom.  (District Administration, September 2016) writes:

The ease with which anyone can create a crowdfunding request—for just about anything—is exactly why districts need policies. Otherwise, administrators may need to turn down a crowdfunded kiln because the school doesn’t have an appropriate ventilation system—or send back computers that aren’t compatible with the district’s equipment.

Furthermore, without polices in place, administrators have no control over inappropriate requests, and no established procedures for guaranteeing donor expectations are met.

Policies ensure accountability, transparency and coordination.

Were I setting school policy, I might first work to determine what should be considered foundational, basic resources that should be available to every student and then require that donations only are used to acquire materials that are truly supplemental or even experimental.

Of course making those determinations will be tricky. That iPad or Smartboard in the kindergarten room - basic or supplemental?

Image source

Faithful Blue Skunk readers may have noticed a gap in my postings. Between school start up and a vacation, I've neglected my shared ruminations. I hope to be back on track starting now!

Wednesday
Aug312016

Tough love and logical consequences

This came across my Facebook feed a week ago and I shared it on Twitter. On first blush, I was wholly sympathetic to this boys' school's policy that stressed personal responsibility, logical consequences, and real-world problem-solving.

Then I read this interesting response to the sign:

 

Hmmmmm. So on whom is tough love, tough? Ian seems to think that it's as tough on the teachers as it is on the kids.

Is there any way to make a school culture work for both the students and the teaching staff when it comes to personal responsibility? How rigid should such a policy actually be? Is the school being cruel to be kind - or just being cruel?

Theoretically at least, asking students to be responsible for their lunches, books, homework, etc. is in their best interest. To avoid the logical consequence of hunger when forgetting one's lunch may cause the child to be less forgetful the next day. This assumes that the adolescent brain is capable of making the connection between yesterday's hunger and today's lunch bag - which is a big assumption.

Yet, if we follow the logic of the Mr. Hecht in his Tweet, the boy's teachers will also suffer from a hungry kid in class.  According to the American Diabetes Association, the symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion, including delirium
  • Rapid/fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hunger and nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Headaches
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

And their onset is rapid. Not exactly the reactions of a child ready to learn. Of course, skipping lunch will not result in hypoglycemia for all students, but there will be negative effects from any student who has not eaten lunch.

And quite honestly, I, as an adult, have on occasion have had to ask someone to help me when I have been forgetful. The real world has kindness in it as well.

Interested in reader reactions.

Monday
Aug292016

Being stategic in tech support

When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s easy to forget you came to drain the swamp.
Today is the first day of school - for our staff. About 900 are coming back, many, many to new buildings or classrooms or offices. We have a lot of newly constructed classrooms and offices, some not yet networked. We have a lot of new programs to get to place nicely with our legacy systems. We just distributed about 2400 Chromebooks to high school kids. We have professional development - a lot.



We have a building tech support staff of 10.

The math is pretty easy and a little frightening - you may well in number 89 in line for tech support this week if you need help. This is the tech support equivilant of Friday afternoon rush hour. Before a holiday. When there is construction. During a downpour.

Our tech staff has the reputation of being very efficient and effective. We would like to retain that aura.

So this means that over the next couple weeks we will need to also be strategic in how we prioritize our work.

Here is the message I sent out our techs this morning

Looking forward to an exciting school year. I think we all know, however, over the next couple weeks a lot people will be wanting a lot of service from our department. I am probably telling you stuff you already know, but to make the most of our time let's...

  1. Minimize travel between buildings. I would let my principals know a schedule of when you will be at their building this week - and then stick to it - regardless of sad stories. Give people an hour to solve their own problems and it's amazing to find what they can do. Require a helpdesk ticket.
  2. Get the easy stuff done first. Please make your priority just getting as many teachers' phones and computers working as possible. Any issue that looks like it will take a long time or need special trips for equipment or materials or will not impact classroom instruction, postpone until all teachers are good to go online. Don't worry about printers or Smartboards at this time.
  3. Please refer people to me if they are upset or unreasonable. I will be happy to visit with them.
  4. If you can work longer hours this week, keep track, and you will be comped. We can do some adjusting so comped hours can be taken later in the year if you'd like.

Good luck out there. I have never worked with a better, more skilled, or more professional group. I am very proud of our service and dedication!

All the best,


Doug


What am I missing? What have you, my readers discovered about dealing with technology rush hour?