Saturday, March 10, 2018

"New Oklahoma Teacher Vows"

I often say I have the smartest friends, and I am sharing another piece by another smart teacher. Amber McMath lets the world in on the super secret vows all new teachers in #oklaed must swear before they can teach. But, you know what? We're writing new vows. Now.

Dear Fellow Oklahomans,

I think it’s time we come clean. You deserve to know. With heated conversations spreading and uncertainty looming, we teachers can put an end to this with the truth. Here goes.

Prior to your first day in the classroom as an Oklahoma teacher or school employee, you undergo a special ceremony. You dress in your finest teacher jumper, apple embroidery required. Cake and punch is served.

But most importantly, veteran teachers administer the New Oklahoma Teacher Vows. They read as follows:

The Vow of Poverty

Do you, new Oklahoma teacher, vow to live a life of poverty, not receiving a raise for over a decade? You will purchase your clothes secondhand or deeply clearanced and your food in generic brands and drive a beat-up clunker of a car. You will observe teachers in surrounding states making considerably more than you. You will decide at some point that you want money to do things like see movies or travel or pay for your son’s baseball team fees or daughter’s Girl Scout troop dues. So you will pick up a side hustle gig. Perhaps you will sell nutritional supplements or beauty products. You might dedicate your summers to a retail job or your evenings to private tutoring. Whatever it is, it will fill every last minute that you’re not working for your students or being with your family. However, that cost is worth it to compensate for the discrepancy in your pay and your desire to maintain a middle-class life.  

I do.

Do you, new Oklahoma teacher, vow to spend a large portion of your paycheck on your family’s health insurance? If you insure your spouse and two children, you will pay from $821 (least expensive plan offered) to $2,003 (most expensive plan offered) for health insurance each month--just for your spouse and children. (Dental/vision not included.) If your family is on your spouse’s health insurance and he/she unexpectedly passes away, you will make so little that your only option will be the state’s subsidized health insurance SoonerCare, which you most easily qualify for.

I do.

Do you, new Oklahoma teacher, vow to use your own money to provide for the optimal functioning of your classroom? You will provide every instructional or motivational item that covers your walls. You will purchase books to fill your shelves to supplement the already underfunded library. You will buy basic supplies like markers and glue sticks along with extras that will make the day run more smoothly like candy and cardstock. You will pay your own registration and travel expenses to attend professional developments, conferences, and workshops that will make you a better teacher. When possible, you will use your time to write highly competitive grants and beg local businesses for handouts. (Not to mention buy cookie dough from the band kid and candy bars from the choir kid because those programs are so deeply underfunded you do whatever you can to help your colleagues and their students.)

I do.

The Vow of Priority

Do you, new Oklahoma teacher, vow to do more with less? When given a mandate from the state legislature or school board that does not come with funding, you will execute said directive without question. You will have less desks, less books, less paper but more students, more standards, and more assessments. You will come in early and stay late. You will sponsor the club, do the extra unpaid lunch duty, mentor the first year teacher, serve on the committee, and attend the summer workshops. You will do more with less because you know the students deserve the best education possible.  Your students will be your first priority at all cost.

I do.

The Vow of Placating the Politicians

Do you, new Oklahoma teacher, vow to not ruffle any feathers with politicians? You will do your job and your job alone. You serve at the pleasure of the public. You will not throw glorified temper tantrums about your pay. You will not be so tacky as to leave for another state, thus abandoning the good people of Oklahoma. You will not bother legislators with plans and proposals about fixing education. They are busy. You will accept that the state legislature, as they say, is doing everything they can to fight for education in our state. You will definitely not make ignorant suggestions of how to manage the state’s revenue or where to find new revenue sources.  That’s above your pay grade. You may politely call and write to your legislators encouraging them to support public education. You will most definitely not “walk out” on those sweet innocent children in the name of protesting, raising awareness, or advocating for better funding.

I do.

There you have it.

“We knew what we were getting into,” you said.

“You knew what you signed up for,” you said.

You’re right. We did.

Fortunately, some of us have landed in affluent districts whose successful bond measures and generous community donations have shielded us from the extremes of this oath. Meanwhile some of us are serving in districts so poorly funded that this oath barely scrapes the surface of how dire it is.

But no matter the size of the district, the salary, or the tax base. No matter the grade level or taught or degrees earned. No matter the state representative or political affiliation. Oklahoma teachers are united today having written our own vows.  And we’re adding one powerful word: NOT:

We do not accept these terms. We do not vow to live and work like this.

We do not promise to uphold our end of the deal until the state upholds its.  

We  do not walk out on our students: we walk for them, we walk beside them, we walk until they are regain their rightful place as the first priority of Oklahomans.

We do not stop until something is done, until those tasked with managing the revenue of this great state start managing the revenue of this great state.

We do not.

Amber McMath has taught in Oklahoma for 9 years. She works at the absolute best school in the state, the Owasso Seventh Grade Center, where she has the honor of serving reading students. Her husband teaches Algebra in Owasso, and her son, who is the light of their lives and quite advanced for his age of two, will hopefully one day serve in a profession where he doesn’t have to write a letter like this. McMath also shares free lesson plans and resources for middle grades ELA teachers at

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Stop Equating Teachers with Martyrs"

 I have been relatively quiet over the talk of a teacher walk-out. I have rallied, marched (including in 1990 for HB 1017). I have visited the Capitol and talked to legislators. I've attended committee meetings and floor debates. I've made my position clear: I'm an education voter. Despite our visits and calls, teachers (and support personnel and all state workers) continue to be ignored as ideologues stick to their 'trickle down' theories. Our state MUST have new, recurring revenue. Our state must take care of our people, and especially our children.

I read Beth Wallis's post last night on Face Book, and felt she expressed the collective frustration of our teachers...not only for themselves, but for their students. Our students deserve better than this status quo. I support Beth and her colleagues. I support my Grands' teachers and schools.

More school districts are coming forward, ready to support some kind of action. 

We will need parents and students and communities to join us. Teachers want to teach, not strike But teachers want to pay their bills too. And they want their students to thrive.

I give you the passion and eloquence of Beth Wallis:

With the imminent threat of a statewide teacher walk-out on the way in Oklahoma, let me take the time to let everyone know what today was like for me, the average Oklahoma teacher.

I woke up this morning to a bank account in the red because a gas bill had accidentally deducted twice-over this month. My gas bill isn't extravagant, but 2x means that my once-a-month public school paycheck can't budget for any sort of emergency. I can always wait more tables, right? Maybe sell some plasma? At least I don't have massive student loan payments like most teachers who are working their whole lives literally to pay off the training it took to get them the job in the first place. I file this all away, compartmentalize it, and tell myself that somehow I'll work it out.

Over the weekend, I was informed that one of my kindergartners died and her twin sister is in critical condition. I teach their classes every week. This is the third student of mine in four years that has passed and it never gets easier. We love these children, we care for them,  we will protect them with our bodies from bullets and tornados. We watch every school shooting go by, wondering if our district will be next; wondering if we'd be able to save them all before inevitably getting shot ourselves. We wipe their noses and dry their tears. We hold their hands and do everything we can to make sure they grow up to be strong, successful adults. We stay after school for hours listening to middle and high-schoolers crying over their parents' divorces or identity struggles, taking on the roles as therapist and advocate. We truly, genuinely, and deeply care for their happiness and wellbeing. I file this all away; compartmentalize it; and tell myself that somehow it'll all work out.

I'm a band director and our biggest contest of the season to date is tomorrow. The kids are stressed; the directors are stressed. If we don't make the scores we need, we won't be advancing to State contest. The energy in the band room is high, the tension is even higher. Our seniors want so badly to go to State contest; I can't imagine letting them down. I'm dealing with having to reassign parts last minute because of eligibility, hoping things will finally come together tomorrow... but I don't know if it will. I file this all away, compartmentalize it, and tell myself that somehow it'll all work out.

After school, our district held a meeting on potential action. Emotions ran high. Teachers are torn between doing what needs to be done for the schools and kids, and in turn putting a major burden on the community in the process. How will those kids eat? What about parents who work all day? Our first instinct as teachers is to do anything to protect the kids. But it's gotten to the point now, we can no longer keep filing it all away, compartmentalizing it, and hoping it'll all work out in the end. Because every year we do, and every year our State Legislature absolutely and totally fails all of us. And every year, we file it all away, compartmentalize it, and we're told that somehow it'll all work out.
Full stop.

Let me tell y'all right now, *we have waited, and waited, and waited*, and this is never going to work itself out.

Oklahoma has set a NATIONAL record for the highest cuts to education ever seen, period. We're nearly last in per-pupil spending, and we're DEAD LAST in teacher salary. If you think this is about greedy Oklahoma teachers who drive Mercedes-Benzes and just put a down payment on a summer home, you're dead wrong. Our students don't have BOOKS, guys. Our classrooms are sitting 30 deep and my district has it MADE compared to any of the major public schools in the state (40-50 students per class).

We had over 1,800 emergency certifications this last year in the state. You think your kids are being taught by the most qualified, experienced teachers? They're gone. The few of us who've stayed behind do it ONLY for the kids. Oklahoma kids DESERVE quality, compassionate education and I will provide that as long as I am able... but that's not going to be forever. What if I were ever to want kids of my own? I can't even afford an extra gas bill, much less provide for a child. I'm nearly 30 with a Masters degree and still live in a rent house with a roommate in a state with one of the lowest cost-of-livings in the country and I will never be able to afford an actual mortgage if I stay here.


We are professionals. We are trained, educated, hardworking professionals who deserve to be paid for the work we do. We're expected to work before and after our contracted hours every single day to get our grades in and plan for quality instruction, but most of us pray that our car can run off fumes just one more day?

We're expected to take bullets for students but most of us can barely make rent?

Yes, we work with children. Yes, we care deeply about those children and will without hesitation put our lives and our own time on the line so that they stay safe and cared-for. I just don't understand why we're expected to do this all for pennies. No, none of us got into this profession "for the money".  But we still have to feed our families, and a government-salaried, full-time job that requires college education and certification should at bare minimum provide for a middle-class life, and *it just doesn't*.  And if you can't see how that has created a massive vacuum of teachers in this state, and how your children are being majorly affected by the enormous exodus of educators to the surrounding states (starting around $15k more for nearly or exactly the same cost of living), you've got to be walking around with your fingers in your ears.

It's not just educators who are suffering. It's YOUR children, Oklahoma. YOUR children's art programs are being cut. YOUR children don't have music anymore. YOUR children are splitting a math book between three other students. YOUR children's track coach left for Texas and your district can't afford to replace him, so your program no longer exists. YOUR children are playing on equipment that is twenty-years old and riding on buses that are older than you are. YOUR children are being taught by emergency-certified teachers hired by districts that STILL have job openings (Oklahoma, in MARCH, still has over 500 certified teaching positions that have not been filled), who are desperate to fill those spots with any applicant. YOUR children are drowning in classrooms 30, 40, or 50 students deep while teachers exhaustively try to teach every student at every level.

Enough is enough.

We are taking action because Oklahoma will die without it. 

We are taking action because the students of Oklahoma deserve it. 

We are taking action because our legislature has proven to us that it's never just going to "work itself out", because they've had damn well over a decade to figure this out.

Oklahoma: your educators, your children, and your communities are desperate for your immediate attention. And if you don't give it to us...

We'll demand it.

Beth is a full-time Assistant Band Director at Morris Public Schools. This is her fourth year teaching after graduating with her Bachelors of Music Education, and Masters of Music in Conducting Performance from Oklahoma State University. She makes music by day and hangs out with her dog, or runs the nearby trail in her free time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"A Glooming Peace..."

"A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorry, will not show his head:"

I passed an #oklaed school this morning.

Every teacher parking spot was filled. Teachers walked into their schools today, knowing the OK Legislature couldn't compromise to find a budget that included a raise for teachers.

Teachers walked into their schools today, knowing another school had suffered devastating losses...lives, dreams, innocence.

As teachers we know and can empathize with how other educators feel. I'm not in the classroom, but here's what I know happened today in classrooms all over Oklahoma, and all over our countries.

Teachers walked into their classrooms and sat down, praying for some composure before they saw their students.

Teachers looked around their rooms, trying to decide where the safest spots would be to shelter students in an attack.

Teachers tried to plan lessons that would engage their students and distract them all from the impact of yesterday's shootings.

Teachers greeted every student a little more warmly today. They looked into the eyes and the souls of their students and understood how vulnerable they all are in what should be the safest place in our society.

Teachers hugged students a little more closely today. They watched the swarm of students with more gratitude today, and with deep mourning for #Parkland, for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students were lost: Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jamie Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang.

Teachers fought back tears...some were not successful.

Teachers worked hard to erase the images from yesterday of classrooms just like theirs, and the carnage. Aidan could have been my student...this classroom could have been mine. In truth, Aidan IS mine. He is every teacher's student. He is every adult's son.

Teachers reflected on the teacher who gave his life:Aaron Feis. A teacher like them. A teacher at school doing his job. A teacher, who, like his students, did not come home last night. And then we learned two other educators died in this massacre: Chris Hixon and Scott Beigel. Teachers like them. Teachers who tried.

The Romeo and Juliet quote always comes to my mind when sad things happen to schools, since the play is so closely connected to high schools. These are among the last lines in the play. But there are more:

"Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things:
Some shall be pardon'd and some punished..."

The time for talking must come...and it must come soon. But that's not what this piece is about. It's about the teachers and students and parents who face today with fear, loss, resolve. And with love.

Teachers took a deep breath...

Teachers reached out and began their lessons.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

OK Legislature Has Filed New Bills

Ok, boys and girls. I've spend nearly a week searching the OK Legislative website for new education bills. I feel like I went down Alice's rabbit hole...My shoulders (and other body parts) are tired. My eyes hurt. I'm sure I've missed something important.

I DID NOT read any of the bills...I scanned some to try to understand, but I know I missed things, and I hope you, Constant Reader, will correct, add, me out.

DISCLAIMER: My organization into negative and positive is my own. Please feel free to question or disagree. And, as always, I expect you to do your own reading and researching.

Here are the education bills I'll be watching.

House –

163 Education-related bills
96 Shell bills with titles, but no language yet
Funding, reform, retirement, clarification of codes, charters, LNH scholarships, salary,OHLAP

Negative bills to watch:
                3689 – Off the Top Revenues Act 2018 – Calvey (shell)
                3586 – Higher Ed. Forming Open and Robust University Minds Act – McCall (shell)
                3543 – Prohibiting school to start until after 1st Mon in Sept -- Caldwell
                3539 – Removes minimum salary schedule – Caldwell
                3486 – Allows placement agencies to refuse placement on faith issues – Jordan
                3311 – Requires Ss to take US Citizenship test to graduate – Baker
                3291 – District Supts can’t earn more than OSDE Superintendent – Eans
                2725 – Higher Ed. Prohibits co-ed dorms -- Russ
                2723 – Barriers to teachers’ organizations representation -- Russ
                2612 – Prohibits OSDE from creating unfunded mandates – Tadlock

Non-education bills of concern
                2680 – Bathroom Guideline Act (shell) – Strohm
                2623 – Legislative approval of immunization list – West, K
                2624 – Immunization and Parental Rights Act --Strohm
                2684 – Prohibiting infant immunization without consent -- Strohm
                2685 -- Vaccination Informed Consent – Strohm

Hopeful bills to watch
                2571 – Charters not sponsored by OSDE after local board rejected – Casey
                2572 – RSA Modifies assessment levels for promotion, retention (Unsat) – Casey
2732 – Private schools taking vouchers must file Sped report – Rosecrants
2733 – Restores NBCT stipends – Rosecrants
3130 – Prohibits OSDE sponsoring charters after local board rejected – Murdock
3446 – Charters OSDE cannot override local board denial – Gann

Non-education bill that could be positive
               2927-- Medicaid Reform Act – Nichols (shell)

Personal favorite:
                3149 – House of Rep Sexual Harassment Training – Dunnington

Senate –

88 Education Bills
No shells that I can find
2-year colleges, virtual school regulations, private vocational schools, OHLAP, consolidation

Negative bills to watch
                887 – Schools can use ad valorem funds for teacher salaries – Brecheen
                1055 – Adds two US History exams to graduate – Bergstrom
                1115 – Fines schools for exceeding class size – Sharp
                1159 – Certain licenses to carry firearms on school property – Scott
    1223 – OK Privacy Accommodation Bathroom – Brecheen

Non-education bills of concern
                957 – Guns in churches “expectation of safety” – Bergstrom
                1215 – 2nd Amendment Preservation Act -- Dahm
                                10thAmendment Center
                1250 – Freedom of Conscience – Brecheen
                                Family Policy Alliance
                1345 – Oklahoma State Terrorist Registry Act – Brecheen

Bills I need more information about
                958 – Students can participate in certain extracurricular activities – Rader
                1056 – Removes tax-sheltered annuities – Pugh
                1190 – RSA criteria, terms – Stanislawski
                1197 – Modifies state performance levels – Stanislawski (OSDE ask?)
                1200 – Higher Education Freedom of Speech – Stanislawski

Hopeful Bills to watch
                879 – Charters—OSDE cannot sponsor school if local board rejects -- Sharp
                936 – Teacher pay – credit for Peace Corps, overseas teaching – Bice
                980 – Criteria for teacher licenses with levels of expertise – Griffin
                985 – Studying virtual charters’ graduation rates – Sharp
                1104 – Meal Application – protects kids with debt in cafeteria – Griffin
                1387 – One-time stipend for retirees – Pederson
                1408 – Restores NBCT stipends – Dossett
                1409 – School counselors must document direct services to students – Dossett
                1413 – Organizes classes, tests…encourages ‘complete works in ELA, requires US Govt – Dossett
                1436 – Virtual Charters – removes certain appeals

Oklahoma Watch has a good list of bills to watch also. If you're not already subscribing to their emails, you should be!!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My Top Ten Books...and Ten More

Recently I asked my friends on FaceBook to share their favorite read from 2017 – together we created a wonderful list. Judging by the number of the books I haven’t read, it’s obvious I already have a great reading list ready for 2018.

I participate in Goodreads reading challenge, and had set a goal of 150 books for 2017. The first year I retired, I was surprised and disappointed by the fact I actually read LESS in retirement than I did when I was able to teach Reading for Pleasure and read with my students. 150 seemed like a goal I could reach. I did, just barely…finishing the year with 158 books.
My 2017 books by 'shelf' 

I listen to books as I walk, and as I drive back and forth to the Capitol and my new teaching gig in Stillwater (1-1/2 hours one way), so I continue to read with my ears and my eyes.

Each year I struggle with my Top Ten…because I have trouble with following directions, even my own self-imposed directions: choose your top ten reads. And because I view my books like I do my own children and my students…they’re all my favorites.

I have compromised with myself this year by having a Top Ten, a second Five, and a third Five. Yes. That’s 20 books. In my Top Ten.

Top Ten, in alphabetical order:

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – you’ll see her again. Yes, I knew nothing about this until the publicity about the television miniseries. Told mostly in Grace’s voice, this is Atwood’s take on the  lengthy imprisonment of a young woman who may or may not have committed a double murder. The narrative’s theme is quilts and piecing them together…and Atwood has Grace piece her story together, one patch at a time, until we see the whole. But what is it we really see?

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. What if you were literally a crime? Noah was. His mother was Black and his father was White. And he was a crime. He had to be hidden if the authorities came. When he was with his mother, people assumed she was his nanny. This is the background of the clever host of The Daily Show. His mother, in an attempt to protect her son, taught him the lasting value of words and language as weapons.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Alexander Rostov, the epitome of cultured elegance was put under house arrest as a young man, and told if he ever left the hotel he lived in, he would be shot dead on the spot by the ruling Bolshevicks…and he didn’t step foot out of the hotel for nearly half his life…living, dining, visiting with friends…all done in the luxury hotel that was his prison. I listened to this one, and was a bit intimidated by its length. But I fell in love with Rostov and followed him through every corner of his home. This is a study in making the best of terrible situations.

Handmaid’s Tale also by Margaret Atwood. This was a reread—another book I listened to, only because Claire Danes was narrating. After the election of 2016, I felt the need to revisit Offred, to compare this world with the one we were entering. How did Atwood so closely predict so many wrong turns in our world? This continues to be a horrifying cautionary tale.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The Hate U Give: THUG. This is the story of another code-switching young person…living in two worlds, and not safe in either. Starr witnesses her friend’s murder at the hands of a police officer who loses control of a bad situation. She tries to navigate between her father’s deep gang involved life and the walls of her exclusive private school…attempting to keep herself safe.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. I’ve lived in Oklahoma since 1979, and had never heard of the Osage Reign of Terror until I read this book. The truth of what some Whites were willing to do, to acquire wealth that they had not earned curdled my stomach at times. I was horrified by the truths Grann pursued, and the truth of the cover-ups of these crimes. All for oil. After reading this book, I also read Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit, a novel (see below); The Deaths of Sybil Bolton, by Dennis McAuliffe, a strange combination of  memoir and nonfiction narrative; and Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, a YAL contemporary/historical fiction. I spent the summer living and reliving this shameful story of greed and murder.

So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan. This book is Exhibit 1 to the truth of my being a nerdy English teacher. Maureen Corrigan has the pleasure of teaching The Great Gatsby every year to college students. Every year. That would be almost as good as all the years I got to teach To Kill a Mockingbird. I soaked up all her enthusiasms for Fitzgerald and Gatsby and wanted so much to return to the classroom. This was classic English teacher sharing her passion for a book.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This was my ‘classic I should have read years ago’ summer read with my walking buddy. It nearly destroyed my reading challenge of 150 books – when I finished I allowed as how it should have counted for five books! I’m a character reader, and that is how I attacked this book…the characters. And Tolstoy did not disappoint me. I watched my characters grow, and lose, and love, and learn…The book at times bored me, but mostly, because I could hold onto Natasha and Pierre and Andrei, I powered through the boredom. I discovered the Broadway show, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, and was amazing that anyone could take one tiny slice of this story and transform it.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I read books that have been nominated for our state’s children’s book award, the Sequoyah. This book is in the list this year. It’s a fantastic historical fiction about a young girl living in WWII London, who along with her brother, is sent to live in the English countryside. To keep them safe. But while they are ‘safe’ in Kent, they learn there’s no place safe from this war…I’m hoping young readers loved it as much as I did…I cared so much for Ada and her brother, and the people who tried to keep them safe.

You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. When pushed to name ONE book that is my favorite, this is it. Alexie’s courageous memoir about his volatile relationship with his mother broke my heart. Another book I listened to, hearing Alexie’s voice break in tears as I felt my own tears drop from my face, brought the book so close. This book is an act of supreme personal bravery…Alexie does not, as many memorists do, paint himself as more perfect than he is. He spares himself…and his mother nothing to tell the story of their love and their struggles. I am overwhelmed still by this one.

My Second Five, in alphabetical order:

Ananzi Boys by Neil Gaiman. You had me at ‘Neil Gaiman.’

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. I truly think I might read Karr if all she wrote were restaurant menus. Lucky for me she writes books.

Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan. A fictionalized version of the Osage Reign of Terror. Hogan took some fierce criticism by some Native academics for the license she took with the truth.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier. Another re-read, with the added benefit of an online book club discussion that was inspiring and insightful.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Coczy. No, I’d never read this before (another ‘classic I should have…’), but I thoroughly enjoyed this suspenseful romp through the French Revolution…romp-revolution. Probably an unfortunate combination of words

My Third Five

Finnished Leadership by Pasi Sahlberg. I keep returning to Sahlberg like you keep returning to a barely-healed wound…just to make myself suffer again. What if the US had used its own research in re-forming our schools? What if we listened to these lessons of leadership?

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton. Another children’s book. Another historical fiction. But this time the date is 1969, and I was there. So many issues. A great book for girls who want MORE.

In the Best Interest of Students by Kelly Gallagher. Another re-read. Once an English teacher….

Successful Strategies for Pursuing National Board Certification by Bobbi Faulkner. (2 books. One for C 1 and 2; another for C3 and 4). I may have fan-girled when I found these two books. Faulkner has taken the new process and analyzed each Component for candidates and facilitators. Just what I needed.

Waltzing with the Ghost of Tom Joad by Robert Lee Maril. A study of poverty in Oklahoma…years after the Dust Bowl. Tom still haunts our state.

Are you on Goodreads? Are you my friend? Why not? Have you made YOUR 2018 Reading Challenge? Do you have a book to recommend? Let me know!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolve to Read!

I'm a shock there. But I have surrounded myself with friends who are also readers. When I taught, my goal was to contribute to expanding my students' reading life. An English teacher/Reading Specialist/School Librarian married to an Academic Librarian...our home is packed with books.

I asked my friends to share with my their favorite book from 2017 -- not the best book...their favorite. My friends came through! We had a lively conversation about books. Several of my former students visited and shared their favorites

A Pew survey from late 2016 shows a quarter of American adults did not read ONE BOOK in the previous year. As one who was raised by readers, who married a reader, who spent 40 years with students and books, that makes me sad.

So I resolve to read! I resolve to share books and to work to inspire others to read. Please join me!

What follows is two lists. One is the list of books my FB friends have identified as their favorite in 2017. I've asterick-ed the books I've read. And a double asterick means that book is on my top ten list for the year, too. You see I have a lot to work on.

The second list is the countdown list from my friend Amanda Kordeliski, School Media Specialist extraordinaire. She does a countdown of the top 25 Young Adult books she's read...and she's read a bunch!!

SO, check out these lists, read a couple, and let me know what you think!

13 Reasons Why*
13 Soldiers
A Dog’s Purpose
A Girl of the Limberlost
A Man Called Ove*
A Monster Calls*
Accidental Saints
Alice and the Zombie Queens
All the Light We Cannot See*
America’s Women
American Town
As Always, Julia
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Beautiful Miscellaneous
Behold the Dreamers
Being Mortal
Beneath the Scarlet Sky
Bite Me
Born a Crime**
Boys in the Boat
Britt-Marie Was Here*
Brothers Karamazov*
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
Creatures of a Day
Dark Lover
Does Santa Exist
Dreamland Burning*
East of Eden*
Einstein: His Life and Universe
From Sand and Ash
Full Cicada Moon*
Game of Thrones*
Girls and Dangerous Pie
Glass Houses
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Handle with Care*
Handmaid’s Tale**
Haunting the Deep
Hawthorn & Child
Hidden Figures*
Hissing Cousins
House of Spies*
In the Country We Love
Invisible Man*
Jude the Obscure*
Killers of the Flower Moon**
Kitchen Table Talk
Lies my Teacher Told Me*
Lilac Girls
Little Fires Everywhere
Magic Tree House
Make your Bed
Manhattan Beach
Mirror Mirror
Mitch Rapp
Most American
Mr. Mercedes
My Absolute Darling
My Family Divided
News of the World
Northern Borders
Not-quite States of America
Orbiting Jupiter
Origin of the Female
Patrick Moore on Mars
Post Graduate
Princess X
Purple Hibiscus
Real Thoughts for Real Teachers
Sing Unburied Sing
Small Great Things*
Snow Crash
Still Life with Tornado
Summers at Castle Auburn
Team of Rivals
Tell the Wolves I’m Home*
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian*
The Alice Network
The Bronze Horseman
The Circle
The Dry
The Expendables
The Gentleman from Moscow**
The Girl with Seven Names
The Glass Castle*
The Hate U Give**
The Husband’s Secret
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
The Leavers
The Long and Far Away
The Marriage Lie
The Mountain Between Us
The Name of the Wind
The Nazi Officer’s Wife
The Power
The Professor and the Madman*
The Shack
The Six of Crows
The Smell of Other People’s Houses
The Sympathizer
The Trial
The War that Saved my Live**
There But for The
Total Cat Mojo
Truly Madly Guilty
Turtles All the Way Down*
Undisputed Truth
We are Completely Beside Ourselves
We Need to Talk About Kevin*
We Were the Lucky Ones
Wheel of Time
Where the Night Falls
Words in Deep Blue
Wrinkle in Time*
Y is for Yesterday
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me**
Zookeeper’s Wife

Amanda's top 25 -- she has supplied authors. I was too lazy to do that with my list.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
The Pain Eater by Beth Goobie
(2.5) A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
(3.5) Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham*
Bang by Barry Lyga
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Juan Pablo and the Butterflies by JJ Flowers
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas**
How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah*
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid
The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Devils Within by S.F. Henson
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance*

Here in Oklahoma, it's really cold...time to curl up with a good book. 

Don't see YOUR favorite book of 2017? Add it in the comments!

Monday, December 11, 2017

The "Dirtiest" Word in #oklaed School Libraries

Cherity Pennington is continuing her series of guest blogs here with a discussion of the dastardly secret of why school libraries are facing such troubles in Oklahoma. Surprise! It’s funding.

There used to be school requirements about staffing school libraries, and supplying books for the libraries. But, after 2008, when the legislature began cutting funding to schools, they gave schools a ‘Sophie’s Choice’: you can use that money for library aides, and for books...or you can spend it in other ways. Like to make up for the cuts from the legislature. Some school districts felt they had to do that, even though they knew it wasn’t right.

A couple of years ago I ‘testified’ at a school funding House Interim Study. The big boys talked about the big picture. I tried to make funding cuts in the schools real. I talked about the cuts to funding school libraries and how short-sighted such cuts are. This deregulation of requirements is not a new problem, but as cuts continue, more and more schools are faced with the realization they are running out of options for keeping their schools afloat.

Please read Cherity’s piece here, her first one, and the ones to follow.

School libraries are under attack. Schools are under attack.

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has been making headlines for years now. This year, we have seen a record number of emergency certified teachers filling open teaching positions. These emergency certified teachers come to the profession with a variety of skill and experience levels, but what they all have in common is a bachelor’s degree. Yes, all emergency certified teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to fill a teaching position in our schools.

We would be outraged if our schools were allowing people without a college degree to fill a certified teaching position, wouldn’t we?

Prepare to be outraged.

The use of uncertified personnel to fill certified positions is precisely what is happening to many of Oklahoma’s school librarians. Many school districts are replacing school librarians -  certified teaching positions that require master’s degrees -  with paraprofessionals who are not required to have a bachelor’s degree. As I pointed out to a friend recently, communities would be livid if a school filled a science teaching position with a person without a bachelor’s degree. Why do we not have the same outrage when we are replacing school librarian positions with people without the required education?

In my previous guest blog, I explained why it is important for Oklahoma students to have access to a certified school librarian. School librarians not only teach their students necessary technology and information literacy skills, they also help their students achieve more in all other subject areas. The State of Oklahoma has known for a long time this positive impact of school librarians. In fact, Oklahoma even requires its schools to have a certified school librarian on staff.

When I tell people that schools are required to have a school librarian, I am often met with confused looks. It is true, though. Our schools are required to have school librarians. According to Standard VII of the Standards for Accreditation of Oklahoma Schools, each public school in our state should have library staffing appropriate for the size of the school. A small school with fewer than 300 students, for example, must have either a half-time school librarian or a fifth-time school librarian with a full-time library assistant. I teach in a much larger school, so my school is required to have a full-time school librarian and at least a half-time assistant.

So why do so many Oklahoma schools no longer have a school librarian? One word: deregulation.

It has been widely reported that since the recession began in 2008, Oklahoma has made deep cuts to education funding. Many schools, facing this severe lack of funding, are reducing or eliminating school library services. In order to change library services, districts must ask permission from the Oklahoma State School Board to deregulate their school library services. What that deregulation looks like is different for each school. Sometimes, districts deregulate to eliminate the library assistant requirement but still keep the certified school librarian. Other times, a certified librarian will oversee the library programs of multiple schools with assistance from paraprofessionals. Too often, districts eliminate the school librarian position completely and replace with library assistants.

I cannot say with accuracy how many schools in Oklahoma no longer have a certified school librarian, but I know it is many. Almost 50 districts requested school library program deregulation for this school year in the month of November alone. Not all of those districts eliminated their school librarian position completely, but many did. Deregulation of school library programs is a part of almost every Oklahoma State School Board meeting and has been for at least the last two years. One can only imagine how many schools still have certified school librarians.

Please let this fact sink in. Many of these deregulations mean that teaching positions are being filled not through an emergency certification process but through no certification process at all. These accreditation standards are supposed to ensure that Oklahoma’s students all have access to a quality education. The schools that deregulate their school library programs may have official permission to do so, but they are not meeting these accreditation standards, and our students are not receiving the level of education that they deserve.

What can we do to ensure our Oklahoma students are receiving the teaching services of a certified school librarian?

First, I encourage school administrators to examine all other cost-saving measures prior to considering library deregulation. A certified school librarian’s expertise in technology, professional development, and teaching can be a low-cost investment for schools.

Then, I urge our state education leaders to work with school districts to protect the position of school librarians. Help our schools find ways to fund this important teaching position. I also encourage our state-level leaders to require schools that deregulate to have a plan to return to full library staffing in a short amount of time.

Finally, I urge the school librarians in Oklahoma who still have their jobs to tell everyone about the important work they are doing. Our communities will not understand why school librarians are important unless our school librarians teach them. OKSL invites schools and school librarians who have been affected by library deregulation to share your stories with us.