Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- haunts May 1, 2015

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:38 pm
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Haunted

Full days.

Wishing

Spinning

Devouring.

Turned inside out.

There was a rainbow.

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This was a poetry exercise I created for my class today-

The prompts by line were

I am…

I have…

3 -ing verbs

I feel…

I wish…

 

I got some really interesting pieces!  First we did this as a class activity, rolling the paper over and trading with someone new for each line.  Then we shared the results.  Finally, they created their own from stratch.

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poem-bone bling March 30, 2015

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:51 pm
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“So what happened exactly?”

the students asked,

and I told them about the fall,

casts, surgery, plate, and screws.

“Ha!” one laughed, “That’s perfect for you!”

“Why?” I asked

“Because now

even your skeleton

has bling!”

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True story.

I love my students.

🙂

 

micropoem-taxes March 29, 2015

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:48 pm
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Doing the taxes hurts my synapses.

All the receipts for exemptions

I will greet (sweet redemption!)

as brilliant sun, shining to my refund!

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POETRY LESSON:

Playing with rhyme today.

Internal rhyme occurs two ways, either inside one line (taxes/synapses, greet/sweet) or inside two consecutive lines (receipts/greet).  

End rhyme: exemption/redemption.

Imperfect rhyme: taxes/synapses, receipts/greet, sun/refund.  

Feminine rhyme: exemption/redemption.  (Rhyme over 2+ syllables, ’cause women are more complex, of course) 🙂

Masculine rhyme: greet/sweet.  (Rhyme on a single syllable).

 

poem- shapes September 28, 2014

Filed under: Poetry,Pondering,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:29 am
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Everyone

hangs his opinions on the

frame of his philosophy and world view.

It is important to recognize the frame,

because it explains the shape

of the opinions.

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A metaphor on assumptions, derived from reading Brookfield.

 

commentary- Dear Parents of BC September 18, 2014

Filed under: Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:40 am
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The following is my own opinion.  After discussions with many friends and colleagues, I feel secure in using a collective ‘we’ rather than the singular ‘I’.  We’re voting to ratify a negotiated contract, and the vote is in no way guaranteed.  However it goes, here’s what many of us are feeling.

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Dear Parents of BC:

Every year at the end of the school year, teachers with continuing contracts wave off the students, worn out from a long year and a longer month (June is always that way), bid farewell to the growing ranks of our colleagues on temporary contracts, and lock up our class rooms.

We leave the building pondering the challenges of the year.  We analyze our successes and failures.  Which lessons or units worked well?  Which students had unimagined gains?  Which strategies will we try again?  How will we modify them?  Perhaps we record our thoughts.  Perhaps we let it go.  We breathe.

We walk through our front doors, and introduce ourselves to our spouses and children.  For about three weeks we focus on them.  We relax.  We recharge.

Somewhere around BC Day, we start thinking about the next year.  We consider units.  We research.  We file ideas.   By the middle of the month we may be back in our rooms, hanging borders, photo copying, making posters, preparing for a new year.  We are enthused by our plans, by the potential of the year to come.  We are invigorated and enthused to face the kids, the challenges, the meetings, the classes that get switched up at the last moment.

By Labour Day, we’re ready.    We are energized and ready for the year.

Not this year.

This year we face our class rooms with a weariness that weighs down our bones.  We have been vilified, lied to, and lied about by our employer, the Provincial Government.  We, who have sacrificed our time to other people’s kids, who have shored up years of under-funding with our own money purchasing supplies for our class rooms, have been fined 10% of our wages because we were no longer volunteering our time, and called greedy, to boot.  We have stood up for our rights, and faced jeers.  We have explained about our Charter Rights and Supreme Court decisions.  We have argued with strangers, friends, and loved ones about different definitions of ‘benefits.’  We have discussed massages and propaganda.  We have educated with a passion and effort that rivals our most challenging classes.  We have learned that ignorance is a special need, requiring a skilled approach.  We have given up thousands of dollars of salary to stand up for public education in BC.

We have been embattled.

We have been besieged.

We have been drained.

We have sacrificed our emotional, mental, financial, and physical health in this fight.

We don’t have anything more to give.

We need you.

We need you to continue to fight for public education.

We need you to keep pressure on this government.

We may have a contract, but it is not the contract that will provide the best services for your kids.  It may be the best we could have gotten from this government, but it is not good enough for BC’s kids.

So we are passing the baton.

We will teach.  We will give our very best.  But this year, our best is not going to be our all.  We don’t have anything left in us.

When your child is not going to receive the testing he should have, we’ll tell you.  You can phone our MLA, Mr. Fassbender, and Ms. Clark and demand to know why your child isn’t getting the support she needs.  When we don’t have tissue paper during flu season, or enough textbooks, or are using the same textbook you wrote your name in twenty years ago, please write the Ministry of Education and demand that they fund schools properly.

When no one is available to coach the basketball team, please step up.  When a dance needs supervision, please volunteer.  You’ll see why we love doing these things.  You’ll understand why after a work day, they are an exhausting add on!

The government can dismiss teachers as greedy whiners, but it can’t dismiss an army of enraged, engaged parents.

Your kids deserve better than what they’ve been getting for the last twelve years.

We can’t fight alone any longer.

We’re weary.

We need you.

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(c) Shawn L. Bird.

http://www.shawnbird.com/commentary-dear-parents

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(Feel free to reprint and redistribute this as you like, but please respect my copyright, and leave my name and the link on it).

Proper citation: Bird, Shawn L.  “Commentary-Dear Parents of BC” http://www.shawnbird.com/commentary-dear-parents-of-BC collected (insert date).

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Sept 19/2014

NB-  This is my blog.  

I am a teacher.  I am declaring how I feel after a bitter fight against an unreasonable government with its own agenda.  This is MY reality, and the reality of 40,000 of my colleagues.  We’re entitled to our feelings. 

If you think that  I don’t work hard enough, I don’t care enough about my job, or I am whining, feel free to leave your opinions inside your own head.  I will not reprint them.  We’ve been fighting against such ignorance all summer. I have no patience with it now.

The Supreme Court said twice that this government bargained in bad faith, and they used all the same tactics this time.  If they had been willing to negotiate last June, this would have been settled last June.  They have lied to you, and  they’re laughing at how easily you are manipulated.  

I am thankful for the parents (and perhaps the Chinese ambassador) who put pressure on this government to finally come to the table.  I don’t think the government anticipated your fury being turned on them; their expensive spin doctors are likely losing their jobs.

Be thankful for those who are willing to stand up for public education.  If you’re a parent, please keep up the fight, because this government is not done yet.  We’ll be beside you once we’ve recovered.

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poem-warrior weary September 16, 2014

Filed under: Poetry,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:54 pm
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(I was just called a “Warrior Teacher Knitting Goddess”
I think that might be my favourite compliment ever).
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I am weary
Warring with words
is exhausting work
Protect democracy
Fight one battle at a time
under emotional
and financial strain
Ready to go the distance,
and now they announce
a truce, a treaty, an agreement.
The evil despot smiles
and claims a mutual victory
With narrowed eyes
I doubt.
I have seen lies
pour like water from those lips
and I will never trust that truth
comes from her tongue.
The generals say
it is over, if we weary warriors
say it is over.
I am setting down my
metaphorical sword
cautiously
with looks over my shoulder
ready to pick up the picket
and battle again
if the conditions of surrender
prove unpalatable.
Democracy is worth
personal devastation,
but it is exhausting work
being a warrior.
 

commentary- working for free September 11, 2014

Filed under: Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:05 pm
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One of the interesting things that happens on a picket line, is that people talk to one another.  In a school, most teachers are so over-worked, they rarely get out of their corner of the world to interact with their colleagues.

This week, we were discussing an interesting situation that we’ve seen increasing over the years.  I work in a VERY small high school with grade 8-12.  There are generally only 25 students in the whole grade, so class size isn’t a huge issue for us, though composition definitely applies.  In our staff of 10 teachers there are only 5 who work full-time.  Of those 5, four of them have non-enrolling blocks (library, counselling, distance ed- that is, blocks used for data entry or dealing with one or two kids at a time, rather than a class)  The fifth teacher is single (and exhausted!)

The other five teachers on staff, could be full-time, but they have all chosen to take part-time leaves.   That means they have chosen to take a cut in pay to buy some mental health.  Aside from occasionally coming in a bit later, those teachers are in their class rooms working when they’re on leave.

Working.

For free.

Most of the population has been to school, and you’re used to seeing teachers in the class room, presenting lessons, coaching, directing plays, etc.  When student teachers arrive to do a practicum, they are prepared for their brilliant and innovative lessons, planned with care.  They are astonished to see the rest of the job.  Teaching is a lot like an iceberg.  What you saw as a student is only a small fraction of what we do.

When I present workshops at writing conferences to adults, I will spend about ten to twelve hours planning, creating a power point for one hour lesson.   Participants crowd around to ask additional questions, and shower me with praise.  I think when I started teaching, I imagined that was how teaching was.  It’s not.

If I have 4 blocks in a day, I will have spent hours reading materials, planning lessons, learning innovative ways to present the material to meet the four learning styles, laying out a long term schedule to cover all the learning outcomes of the course, developing unit plans, structuring group and individual instruction, creating projects, arranging speakers, finding resources, etc.  Because I’ve been teaching a long time, I have a lot of resources and experience to draw on, but even so, it seems that planning time is at least equal to the time the lesson takes, so 5 hours of class time probably equals 5 hours of planning time.  For a new teacher, it will be longer.

A full-time high school teacher teaches 7 of 8 blocks.  In a regular large, semestered school, that means 3 classes and a prep block one semester, 4 classes and no prep the other. I am predominantly an English teacher.  Throughout my teaching career, I have aimed to work .857 FTE so that I have a planning/prep block each semester.  I make it a goal never to bring work home, but  I work in school until five or six o’clock to do marking, make phone calls, manage my school webpage, enter data into my electronic grade book, and photo copy.  At home in the evenings and on the weekends I’ll make hand-outs or plan units, read, and research.  That is in addition to the assigned prep time in my schedule (usually 75 minutes a day).

A high school class generally has 30 students in it.  At 7 classes that’s 210 students to keep track of.  210 interesting young people with unique problems, fears, joys, and concerns.  That’s 210 parents to inform, 210 paragraphs to mark each day (at 5 mins each that’s 18 hours of marking), 210 essays to mark three or four times a semester (if each takes 15 minutes, that’s 53 hours of marking).

There are not enough hours to actually do the job.  Employment Insurance says a teacher’s workday is 9 hours, and I think they’re probably under-estimating, because a part-time teacher will work 9 hours to manage two or three high school classes.  A full-time teacher?  Let’s just say, they’re not sleeping.

So if a teacher wants to spend time with her husband and children, she will give up a block, which is between$5-10,000 of pay.  She will drop to 180 students,  (180 essays will only take 45 hours to mark).

The teachers on part-time leave are still in school for the same amount of time, working to get enough completed at school that they can have a life in the evenings and on the weekends.  I have a friend in Alberta.  She is paid $15,000 more than I am, but her classes are 40 students.  I don’t think the extra pay is worth it, if you can’t do the job well.  That’s why class size and composition becomes important.

If you have a CEA supporting a student, you need to brief the work, provide different materials, and meet to discuss the student’s progress.  If you have a student with an IEP you have IEP meetings with student, parent, and the Learning Resource teacher who manages the caseload.  If that student has a CEA, you’re lucky.  Most of the time you will be trying to give specialized attention to several children without a support worker.  In my school 25% of the student body has a designation identifying them as having a special need (these include things like gifted, mental health concern, violence concern, autism spectrum, Fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum, hearing or vision impaired, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, English as a Second Language, etc).  In practice, generally 25% of every class has a special need and requires specialized individual attention.  In Physics 12, you probably won’t see more than one, if any.  In Drama or Art, we’re going to see more of them.   Kids with designated needs require extra time, and there simply isn’t any.

I bring this issue up as a talking point.  I’m interested to know whether subsidizing public education by taking a part-time leave is a common phenomenon throughout the province.  Does the public know how many of us are taking part-time leaves and subsidizing the Ministry of Education by working for free in those class-free blocks, just to be able to do the job and maintain our mental health?

What would happen if we stopped doing it?

What would happen if we only used our assigned ‘preparation block’ to do marking, planning, etc?

How would it impact our schools?

Could they function?

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I brainstormed all the meetings that happen throughout a school year just out of curiosity.  Some are optional, but most are not.  If you’re a member of the public, did you know about these?  If you’re a teacher, are there any I’ve missed?

Meetings:

*Informal staff meetings weekly to high light the week’s events, check on kids, disseminate information like a police incident involving a student or family, suicides, family traumas, etc.

*Formal staff meetings monthly

*Committee meetings- montly Pro D, Safety, Sunshine, Staff, Literacy, Numeracy, Athletic, etc

*Department meetings- monthly for teachers in multiple departments (a regular thing) this can be several a month  Math dept, Science, dept, English dept, Socials dept, Phys Ed, Applied Skills, Fine Arts, Business

*Student Services- weekly Students that draw concern for any reason are brought up to put a plan in place to see to their safety and success, this inevitably leads to more meetings

*Student meetings- as needed with individuals for extra help, tutoring, planning, concerns

*Parent meetings- as needed either by phone or in person.  These are rarely short

*IEP meetings- 2-3X year to go over students’ individual learning plans

*Support Service meetings- as needed with community health workers, mental health workers, aboriginal support workers, band counselors

*Staff committee- monthly meetings about school organization

*ad hoc planning meetings for things like dances, assemblies, and other events

 

 
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