Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Using YouTube in lessons

YouTube can be used to great effect in a class room. The videos can be used as illustrations that underline key points and keep students' attention. Here are a couple examples: 

The Way the Brain Works
This child knows what he wants to happen but the communication from his memory to his motor control is not as developed as he would like. As he struggles to visualize and then realize the movements, anxiety occurs. It's something most students can relate to.

The Power of Conformity
I can always remember asking how on Earth people just followed along with the Nazi movement. Well, I think this helps shows the power of group think.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Due Process for Teachers

My interviewee asked that her name not be mentioned. She is a principal at a San Francisco school. She regularly assists in the hiring and firing of teachers. Her insight was very helpful in assessing the complicated and shifting nature of the right of due process that is sharply protected for teachers.

It is difficult to first imagine employment to be considered as property and thus protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments, but as was elegantly explained in Board of Regents v. Roth, “liberty and property are broad and majestic terms … purposely left to gather meaning from experience,” (Lee, p. 71). And after a series of court decisions, the connection between employment and the concept of property was well articulated.

The Principal I spoke with agreed with the idea that employment needs to be protected, though she noted that the employers are in growing need of empowerment. A tenured teacher has an abundance of protections around their life-time contract with the district. There is a lengthy, expensive, and nearly insurmountable process to remove a tenured teacher. The steps involve many reviews with the teacher, outside observers, and union representatives. Unless criminal conduct or severe negligence can be proven, a teacher must be offered assistance before even considering removal.

This assistance step in this due process is called a Teacher Support Plan. This is a non-punitive step used to offer aid and direction to a struggling teacher. Often times an Instructional Reform Facilitator (IRF) is assigned to the teacher to offer guidance. Throughout the process the teacher meets with observers and listens to their reviews.  During this observation and assistance period, if incompetence can be demonstrated and the union representative convinced of this, then the legal process of terminating the contract as a result the teacher’s failure to comply can be started.
Typically this never occurs. It is too difficult. Often what takes place is known informally as a “golden handshake.” Bonuses are added to the teacher’s retirement package and the teacher decides to retire early. This is a method that is very expensive and not available during the current budget crisis.

Despite the extreme protections given to teachers and the extreme difficulty the Principal has in removing low-performing teachers, she feels that it is still a necessary thing. She explained that teachers have a great responsibility and a high pressure position and should not have to play politics to keep their job. Tenure insures the protection of a teacher’s right.
The middle ground is a concept called a “privileged right.” She felt that if a teacher demonstrates strong performance during a probationary period then they earn the right to tenure. If the teacher does not meet expectations, feedback is given (in private) and they are a “non-reelect” for a contract. No tenure is offered. This is not termination, the probationary period is simply over and nothing else is offered. It is completely within the employer’s right so long as the manner of doing so does not impair employment elsewhere (Lee, p. 74).

The Principal would like to see a longer probationary period. Presently, teachers that demonstrate adequate skill are offered life-time contracts after just two years. I agree with this assessment, two years isn’t enough time to fully evaluate a person’s long-term performance.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

General Observation

It seems like more and more people are in crisis mode. In my classes, at work, and everywhere else people are stretched thinner and thinner as we rush to head off one calamity or another. Layoffs at my museum (and a bunch of places nearby) and we're closing in on another round of downsizing if we can't pull our numbers up... somehow. Personal finances are a mess for me and most others in my life.
As a result of the situation: People at work are trying to raise the tempo and pull extra weight for the ones that are gone. My studies and second job are increasing their importance and demand. In order to manage the resulting stress I need to prioritize my visits to the gym and some sort of relaxation. My little in the Big Brothers program is in greater need as his family (or lack thereof) is suffering far worse than mine. So I make time for him. And all the while I have to be on the hunt for a new job as my now reduced pay will cease functioning as a financial stop-gap measure in exactly 7 months.
Okay, that is the end of my gripe. I don't mean to be whining, I am quite happy with all the wonderful things in my life. And I'm fortunate to have the means to weather this climate. But wow, it really is bad out here. Cleveland is on its knees. And it seems, from the gravity of all our conversations about due dates in my classes, that others are just as stretched.

Well, best of luck to everyone and here's hoping we can get things going again!

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Want to Help

To Whom It May Concern:

You won’t believe the things I’ve seen. My ‘little’ in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has parents that left him because of jail or drugs and a grandmother that has abandoned him. He gets suspended and sent home (to his wonderful 80-year-old great-grandmother) if so much as his peer next to him curses. Strength, resolve and hope have never been better displayed in a person—and he’s now repeating the 6th grade. Students from the wrong areas that visit the museum I work at walk in with holes in their shoes and are teased by their fellow students that are really no better off. Again and again, there are the grim signs of hardship breeding apathy among the most needing students. I need your help.

It’s been my only vocational ambition to close the educational gap. I’ll give anything and everything I have to do it right. Here’s how I have failed thus far. I have yet to secure an inner-city teaching post as I refuse to subject myself to the process of substitute teaching to earn my spot as a full-time teacher. I have also made the mistake of becoming a History teacher with no paid, in-school experience. I would teach Science or Math if I had greater enthusiasm for the subjects or could afford to go back to earn either of those undergraduate degrees. Now my license is expiring because I haven’t found a teaching post and then taken the PRAXIS III test to earn my 5 year license. I have fought this, but I’m now willing to accept that I’m being pushed out of this part of the system. But I can’t sit on the sidelines and watch these students’ potential decay. I want to get back in the game.

As well as a Social Studies teacher, I’ve taken on loans to move forward as a graduate student of Public Administration. I can teach, assist in governmental delivery of educational services, or both. Do you know of anywhere that could use me? I’ve only found closed doors so far. I’m willing to put everything on the line and start my own non-profit to tutor failing students one-on-one and organize others to do the same—but I don’t know if there’s state of federal funding for such a small-scale endeavor.  Is there a place for me to find an engaging career in education reform? 

Sincerely,

Dan Adiletta

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Burns and Stalker

It is important to remember that the spectrum of organizations from mechanistic to organic organizations is one model of structuralist thought. Burns and Stalker's analysis doesn't work for everything.

The appropriate model depends on the environment. If, however, these examples do fit within the context, then they provide some practical concepts. For example, the mechanistic system thrives with a division of labor. Jobs should be well understood and protocol in place to run a smooth process. This means role ambiguity and role conflict need to be minimized. 
With organic organizations, the fluidity in the organization's process is enabled through the staff's "commitment to the concern's task," (Shafritz, 199). This means that employees' perception of the organization's cause must be understood lest the lateral nature of the structure blind administrators from seeing a weak spot. Accountability seems harder to maintain without specified job responsibilities. Steps must be therefore taken to insure consistency in a constantly shifting structure. 
Burns and Stalker's models offer such principles that, when applicable to the situation, serve has a guide. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old and Modern Structuralists

I think the central divide between the "old" and the "modern" structural theories is World War II. The time that they wrote is the primary difference. Both generations of theories involve building a structure that best fits the enviornment. And though over time the enviornment has changed, the central theme has remained the same: "organizational efficiency is the essence of organizational rationality, and the goal of rationality is to increase the production of wealth in terms of real goods and services," (Shafritz, 193).

But to make sure I've hit all the key points, some of the enviornmental changes that have led to new theory is the rapid evolution of technology. With such a fluid enviornment, organic structures have proven capible of facilitating the necessary rapid adaptions. I would also add that a post-WWII emphasis on social equality has added a new layer of oversight into the basic structure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama Era Begins

As I am determined to keep the content of this blog focused on the study of Public Administration, I will react only to the 2008 election's implications on motivation. The drive to serve is overwhelming. The enthusiasm I have for my studies has doubled. I'm counting the days until I graduate and can totally commit my humble talents to bettering this country through civic service.
I hope there is place in the public sector that can use me.