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September 2013

More Evidence of Apollo Incompetence: Section 2

Almost everyone in the academic world is familiar with the "fact/opinion" thesis statement. Please note the question mark on my principal's evaluation of me pasted below. This is evidence that she knows nothing about this basic staple of essay writing. For details on this method of construction, let me suggest the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. On the left hand tab you will find a section for grades 7-12.

Furthermore, the "fact/opinion" thesis statement is perfect for any beginning writer, and is suitable for an essay of almost any length.

Allow me to supply you with a simple example:

Kashmere High School students are not allowed to use cell phones or personal digital devices during classtime (FACT), but with proper training and administrative support, they can easily acquire digital literacy and cell phone etiquette skills (OPINION).

This is the argument/thesis statement I modeled as an example for my English I students. It is, clearly, a fact/opinion thesis statement. It is appropriate for an essay of any moderate length. It is, in reality, much too broad. But it is a beginning thesis for an argumentative paper. As my students and I write together, we will improve on our thesis, and check our paper for logical fallacies (IWC).

This example was displayed on the classroom document camera. The students and I were using a foldable as an outline. My foldable demonstrated not only the thesis statement, but also, on each flap, a topic sentence with a transitional device.

They were not expected to create anything too intricate on that day. We could build upon their thesis and argument during our individual writing conferences (IWC). The IWC's were happening spontaneously around the classroom during the time Wilson/Williams was present. Students were also commenting on each other's topic choices, and helping with each other's thesis statements.

They were learning one step of the writing process, and beginning to weave random thought into written clarification. I was "teaching writing" not simply "assigning a task."

Not only that, my students were creating a community of writers and thinkers. Was it perfect? No. But it was a strong showing for that class. They were weighed down by the late hour, the long day, and their imperfect lives, but they were writing.

Obviously, my principal was confused by the assignment, and possesses limited content knowledge. Remember, she is certified by the State of Texas to teach language arts. I find this extremely disturbing.

Finally, I would like to address the statement in her evaluation, "2 reasons why I want cellphones in the class."

I don't know where she got that. It is not stated anywhere in the room or on the lesson plan. I think she included that to insinuate I want to break campus rules by allowing my students to have phones in the classroom. Sorry, but that is simply ridiculous.

We were working from page 712 of our English I textbook. It provides 4 IDEA STARTERS:

  • the link between fast food and obesity
  • social problems, such as stereotyping
  • cell phone use in schools
  • mandatory recycling in a community

I simply borrowed the cell phone argument to get the students talking and sharing ideas. When the topic is something dear to them, they are more engaged.

My students were free to choose any topic they wished as long as it was appropriate for their audience.

The writing process is my area of expertise. Kashmere had the lowest writing scores in the district. I would have been a valuable asset to the English department had I been under the supervision of a qualified principal and administrator.

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Teacher Evaluation, Apollo Style

Lest you all forget, my principal was a 28 year old youngster with a face as smooth as a babies butt. She has very little worldly wisdom, and scant teaching experience. She willfully damaged my career, and manipulated my students to do so. 

 It is my firm belief that Terry Grier (superintendent) scraped her up out of the bowels of the charter school world as a kind of experiment. He damaged my colleagues, and my students, and subjected all of us to an unsafe and hostile work environment where the battle came first and the student's were used as pawns, and playthings, by three insecure women with no professional ethics whatsoever.

Even though I had built strong relationships with my students, explained misunderstandings crafted by my inexperienced and unprofessional administration, and documented steady academic and behavioral growth, my principal still insisted on placing me on a Prescriptive Plan for Assistance (PPA or Growth Plan) that only spanned a period of two weeks.

Because her motives had nothing to do with student achievement, and everything to do with checking off a "to do" list of items that would facilitate my termination, nothing was gained. The end result of my so-called "growth plan" was this poorly written document that clearly illustrates my principal's lack of professionalism, and abscence of content knowledge.

For the next series of blog posts, I will take you, my valuable reader, through this observation form one section at a time explaining the circumstances, and providing the true facts.

This observation of my teaching style took place during my 8th period class. My principal intentionally stacked my 8th period class with an array of very challenging students who were always very sick of school by 3:15 in the afternoon. They still needed to maintain discipline and energy until my class dismissed at 4:15 in the afternoon.

Manipulating students, in any form, in order to diminish student achievement, and damage classroom management because you are after the teacher is an unethical act beyond description. Any administrator, or counselor, that engages in this type of hateful behavior should be subjected to a full TEA investigation. If anyone is willing to investigate my principal and her administration, I would be happy to assist them.

I am willing to do anything lawful and reasonable to end the egregious and irresponsible practices I witnessed at my Apollo High School. What my fellow teachers, and students, endured was inexcusable and ridiculous. Even, just as a parent, I could scarcely stomach the nonsense at Kashmere. To this day, I worry about the students that are left behind in that negative, punitive, and unprofessional environment.

Teacher Evaluation Section One

According to Houston ISD policy, special education co-teachers are required to actually "co-teach." This means they preview the lesson plan, and take part in all aspects of the teaching process. The special ed co-teach is in front of the class just as much as the teacher of record.

In most districts, the special ed co-teach modifies student assignments and gives individual attention to specific students, addressing their particular needs.

Since substitutes regularly walk off of the job at Kashmere High School, and the special ed co-teach was shared among several departments, she was rarely available. She was forced to fill in for absent teachers. Even though we addressed this problem with an HISD official, nothing was done to stop this practice. As most of you know, I had a special education population of at least 28 percent. This means that most of my students were underserved.

My principal underscores the fact that my co-teach was leading the class during that 8th period because she wanted to imply that I am lazy. She was counting on board members, or other similarly uninformed persons, to not know that by giving my co-teach the opportunity to lead my class, I was actually following HISD protocol. She knows that to get another job, other principals will require that I hand them my last evaluation. She wanted to make sure my last evaluation was as damaging as possible. She wanted to end my career in teaching because I dared to write a letter to my superintendent and chief of high schools.

I really didn't like giving my co-teach my students. I would have preferred my co-teach to be more limited in her responsibilities. She had very little content knowledge, and sometimes she just wasn't prepared, or didn't have adequate background information. This was not her fault. I enjoyed learning from her, and we were a very balanced team. She was an expert at breaking down concepts, and I encouraged independence, and a love for writing and reading.

Amber (the principal) then goes on to write that I am "walking around the room, but not checking for understanding." That is such a stupid statement that I refuse to address it in any depth. If I am walking around the room, then I am looking at my student's work...if I am looking at my student's work, then I am "checking for understanding."

More to come!!!

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