California Teachers Association

October 2012

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LETTERS AND COMMENTS Your letters are welcome! There is a 250-word limit. Signed letters with the writer's name, address and daytime telephone number will be considered for publication. All letters will be edited. Write to THIS IS WHAT YOU PUT ON THE COVER? Dressing for success on a budget? Get grants? With everything that is going on in education, this is what you put on the [September] cover? Sure you're on a budget because you'll never get a pay raise. And by the way, supplement the lack of funding in your classroom by writing a grant? Time to take a more aggressive attitude toward saving education instead of 26 PAGE 28 PAGE DRESSING FOR ON A BUDGET SUCCESS September 2012 Volume 17 Issue 1 17 PAGE PARENTSIN THE LOOP 9 PAGE KEEPING placing Band-Aids on everything, starting with school funding. Ray Andrzejewski Redlands Teachers Association RHEE RETROGRADE INFLUENCE In the [March] magazine you asked us, "Who is Michelle Rhee?" Judging from the inarticulate vulgarity with which she speaks ("I'm like, 'You know what? I don't give a crap.' Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever"), she is a retrograde influence on education. Anyone who takes her seriously is conspiring with her to take our students (whom I spend hours dissuading from talking in this uneducated manner) back to the gutter. Michael Duffett San Joaquin Delta College Teachers Association CURSIVE REVISITED While reading the letters about cursive writing [June/July], I noticed that no one mentioned that most students now use pencils instead of pen. When I was in school, we were required to use pen after elementary school except in math classes. As I age (I'm 62), I find that pencil reflects off the paper and is challenging to read. For tests and writing as- signments I require my students to use pen. EXTRA CREDIT Should students still be cursive? learning Story by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman Cursive connects us to our past and our future By Eldra Avery WE CREATE OUR OWN CULTURE. If we deem a skill irrelevant, than we eliminate that skill. If we believe that a skill is worthy, then we will work to reinforce that skill. Legible penmanship is a worthy skill, not only as a communication tool, but as a portion of our individual identity. As opposed to keyboarding, handwriting is a reflection of our humanity and connects us to our past and to our future. If students can't write cursive, they can't read cursive. And if they can't read cursive, how can they read historical documents, like the Declaration of Independence? We dream of a future with technology and less labor as our savior, but truthfully, if technology prevents us from honing skills that are intrinsically human, I wonder if that can be called "progress." I failed a handwriting assignment in eighth grade, and my teacher told me that I was way too smart to have that type of penmanship. So I improved my handwriting and now have beautiful handwriting. I teach AP English, and at times I have forced all of my students 44 California Educator June/July 2012 to do assignments in cursive. Since students will be taking timed writing exams throughout their educational career, it is imperative that they practice writing at a speed that will enable them to finish their task. When you have three letters connected in a word, it flows, and when you lift the pen only at the end of a word, it is faster than printing, which lifts the pen at the completion of each letter. Legible penmanship is not a skill that can be purchased; therefore, it is one more way to create equity in the classroom. Through practice comes improvement, and with improvement comes self-esteem and pride in a task successfully accomplished. In a society that equates status with wealth, it is refreshing to see status awarded for practice and accomplishment. Penmanship develops fine motor skills, and most students find that when they practice, they can radically improve their handwriting. With Internet plagiarism a concern, many teachers have increased in-class writing assignments, and these essays must be legible. Copying text is a process that promotes "internalizing language." Because students are continually distracted by technology, they spend fewer hours reading, which translates to inadequate "internalizing of language." Copying by hand can help many students. My students complete a poetry explication paper each year. Many of them tell me that they couldn't begin to understand their poem until they copied it by hand. Penmanship is an art form, and in truth, if you want to get someone's attention, handwrite your note. An e-mail can get deleted in a millisecond; not so with a handwritten communication. Communication through handwriting will always be a necessity. To imagine that the entire world will communicate via keyboard access is a rather narrow view. Eldra Avery is an English teacher at San Luis Obispo High School and a San Luis Coastal Teachers Association member. If they don't comply (or "forget"), I hand their papers back to them and ask them to redo it. 8 California Educator October 2012 There is a fair amount of grumbling at first, but they also need to learn to write with pen — whether it's printing or cursive. Susan Wexler Irvine Teachers Association, Huntington Beach ONLINE LEARNING AND FEE The Educator has published great articles on online learning [in February]. One point to em- phasize, however: Foundation for Excellence in Education, headed by Jeb Bush ( is an acronym for FEE, as in for-profit. It's both a sick joke as well as a well-known fact that Republicans have been trying to privatize, and profitize, every function of gov- ernment for over 30 years (since the Reagan "Revolution"). Beginning with the air traffic controllers union bust, the Right has continued its relentless campaign. Education is one of its biggest goals. Please speak out against this. Please protect the few halfway-decent union jobs which are left. Please do not be fooled by the words which make up the acronym FEE, but, rather, the meaning of the acronym itself: FEE. As in every- one pays more, yet gets a poorer result, if edu- cation is allowed to become bastardized from a public institution into a private institution. Please heed this warning, as not enough people are sounding this alarm. You should be among the leaders who are, in fact, doing so. So, please do so. Robert D. Krikourian Spouse of Folsom-Cordova Education Association member, Debra Krikourian. OPPOSED TO DRESS CODE STEREOTYPES I generally agree with Bill McConnell's op- position to dress codes [in the September Educator]. Teachers are professionals and, as such, are perfectly capable of making decisions about how to dress appropri- ately. Different teachers have different ap- proaches to how they present themselves in the classroom. For some, like Aimee POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should there be a dress code for teachers? Having an enforced dress code made our environment more profes- sional. In my view, teachers were treated professionally and respected more because we looked professional. I have a master's degree and I want to be taken seriously. If I don't dress like the professional that I am and dress casually, my tone, in turn, becomes more casual, and this can affect the classroom. However, if there are "casual days," it's important to participate, but within reason. I find the discipline in California schools is not as tight as where I came from. I have to wonder if the more casual approach to dress code for teachers — and students — might account for this somewhat. You shouldn't arrive at school dressed like you are going to the grocery store on the weekend or out on a hot date. Common sense should rule the day, but sometimes it doesn't. In our district there was a teacher who habitually showed her thong and another who regularly wore flip-flops and shorts to work. I think teachers are models for young men and women, and we have to set a good example. Downer, dressing pro- fessionally might be a significant component of how she constructs the role she plays in the classroom. For McConnell, a more laid-back and casual approach fits his classroom persona better. This may have a lot to do with gender; women have to work harder for others to consider AIMEE DOWNER is an English teacher at Raymond Cree Middle School and a member of the Palm Springs Teachers Association. She is an advocate of dress codes for teachers. I taught in a suburban area of Atlanta, Georgia, and there was a strict dress code for teachers at my high school. I actually got sent home to change on two occasions. Once, I was wearing a blouse that didn't have a collar. On the second occasion, I was wearing a school shirt, but it wasn't a collared golf shirt. I lived 40 miles away, so it was a long drive. I guess you could say it was an extreme dress code. Women had to wear pantyhose, and men had to wear a tie and were not allowed to have facial hair or wear an earring. It was very conservative compared to what we have in Southern California. A collared shirt might be a bit ridiculous, but there needs to be some standards. For example, we should demonstrate modesty by avoiding clothing that is too tight, too short or too low-cut. 16 California Educator September 2012 BILL McCONNELL is an English teacher at Ontario High School and a member of Associated Chaffey Teach- ers. He does not believe in dress codes for teachers. We are professionals, and we don't need somebody telling us what we need to wear to work. We understand that we shouldn't show up for work in sweat pants. We are adults and can make our own decisions. It works, for the most part. I dress in clothes that are practical for my job. I don't need to wear a pair of $100 slacks to teach. It's more practical and ef- ficient to teach in blue jeans with a button-down shirt or a polo shirt. In many of the facilities where we teach, our rooms remain dirty despite the best efforts of our janitors. Why should I wear a shirt and tie to go into a room covered with dust and cobwebs? Most of us have white boards. The dust from the dry erase markers can stain our clothes, because once the dust settles into the tray it can get on everything. Teachers stand on their feet about six hours a day. Dress shoes don't have the support provided by athletic shoes. From a comfort perspec- tive, I'd rather wear a pair of tennis shoes. I'm less likely to sit behind my desk and more likely to move around the classroom if I have comfortable shoes on. We live in an era where teachers are under attack about how much money we make. If we are expected to spend a portion of our income on fancy clothes that might otherwise go to rent or food or basic needs, it would be ridiculous. Most teachers spend $400 to $600 out of their own pocket for classroom supplies that the school doesn't pay for. I think administrators might pick on certain people if a dress code was in place, because it's easy to pick on someone based on how they look. It hasn't happened at my school, but I could see it happening. Students know who the teacher is, and I'm always dressed appropri- ately. I hope my actions and words to students are what make me a role model, rather than whether I happen to be wearing a polo shirt instead of a shirt and a tie. them authority figures, while men are much more easily afforded this status. Wardrobe choices may be part of how some women cope with this discrimination — choices being the operative word. My opposition to dress codes is also due to the fact that they tend to be very gendered, presenting different standards for women and men, which buys into and reinforces the gender stereotypes that we work so hard to challenge in the classroom and that feed dis- crimination against women. To me, as a queer woman with a non- normative gender identity, the idea that my employer might have a dress code requiring me to wear pantyhose is as laughable as it is oppressive. If there are people who come to work in a thong, then it might be appropriate for an administrator to talk to them about it, but it seems a stretch to develop a dress code in response to the poor choices a very few people might make. Beth Peterson Mira Costa College ONLINE BULLYING: WHOM TO TRUST? Regarding the online bullying article in March: Our school has a website that I was unaware of, until some intrepid students decided that my profile needed some "updating." A new assistant principal, not knowing me, read the profile, full of vulgarities (misspelled) and other indiscretions. I was called out of class, with her ready to write me up. She was hard-pressed to believe that I (1) didn't know about the website, and (2) don't talk that way. School police were of little help. They "convinced" the Web host to take down the offending post, but nothing was done to the students, or the staffer who taught the students how to bypass the firewall. In fact, even though I was the victim, I was treated more like it was my fault for not knowing about the webpage and making my page more "secure." I learned a valuable lesson about whom to FEATURE 16 California Educator / March 2012 trust, as well as how effective the school po- lice are in situations that call for real policing. William Cinnamon North Hollywood Grants! Get No! Yes! PREPPING FOR PROPOSITIONS 30 AND 32 BULLYING ONLINE have radically changed bullying. Cyberspace is the new "bathroom wall" where cruel and untrue ARE THE TARGET Social media and technology words are posted for the world to see. While cyberbullying among students has received a great deal of media attention, little has been said about teachers and other school staff who become the targets. There may be consequences for those who bully students online, but those who torment teachers may be protected under the First Amendment. In the following feature, educators and experts discuss the impact of cyberbullying on school employees, what can be done to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you. Stories by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman Is cyberbullying of YES

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