Archive for May, 2013

Religion and Prayer in Schools

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

“The role of religion and prayer in schools has always been controversial, and teachers are advised to neither encourage nor discourage religious observances.  As a teacher, what religious celebrations or practices might you encounter in your classroom?  How would you respond to these issues while maintaining your neutrality?”

This topic is such a controversial one, and something that I have thought about a lot. It is even a topic that I have attended a conference on since I think it is something that every teacher needs to explore for themselves. Once again with this topic I find myself in an interesting position for two reasons 1) I taught in a country where religion is more or less illegal and 2) I am religious and have very strong beliefs(and since this is my blog I think it is ok that I share that).

We live in a period of time where there is a clash of so many different religious practices. Not only do we live in a period of time, but geographically with Washington, DC, not far away there is a very strong chance that our classrooms will be extremely diverse. As a social studies teacher, part of my job is to create citizens of the United States. I want my students to be aware of current issues, including issues of religion. Now by making them aware, I will not be shoving my beliefs down their throats but I want them to know what beliefs are out there and that it is important for them to find purpose in life.

While I was in China, at times we found ourselves walking a fine line between what was ok to share in our classrooms and what was not ok for us to share with our students. The policy that we most often held to was that as long as we were not asking our students to believe what we believe that it was ok to share about various religious practices, etc. Something that made it a little easier to share about certain religious things in China was the fact that many Chinese see religion as a Cultural custom that Americans all participate in.

An example of how I introduced Christmas in China and how I would also introduce it in my class in America, was not only telling “The Christmas Story,” but sharing about the origins of Santa Claus, etc. In an American Classroom I would also discuss the other holidays that take place around that period since so many students observe other holidays. I want my students to know that they can feel free to express themselves in my classroom and I think that part of that will be having open and honest communication about different beliefs and ideas(including religion). As a social studies teacher, I want to prepare my students to be able to express, defend(civilly), and discuss their’s and others’ beliefs and the reasons behind them.

 

Budget Blog

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

To Whom it May Concern:

Due to economic conditions the following budget cuts will be made in our district during the coming year. As the superintendent I felt it necessary to keep the same number of staff but I have made cuts in various areas. I have decided to keep all of our staff due to the fact that with the high student to teacher ratio decreasing teachers would place more of a burden on the remaining teachers. The only direct budget cut that teachers will experience is a slight cut in the budget for professional development, but there will still be tuition reimbursement for teachers so there is opportunity for more professional development through graduate courses.

The first area that will see budget cuts is the library. With the influx of technology I feel that it is not necessary to subscribe to many periodicals and journals. Students can research through the internet and with our technology budget staying the same this cut will be adequately covered. There will also be a cut in the number of books that we buy yearly since many of them can be found at the public library and with ebooks eliminating paper there is not as much of a push to have actual books in the library.

Building maintenance and custodial staff are crucial for the upkeep and cleanliness of our schools, so there will not be any cuts in that area. If we do not keep our schools in good shape it will require more money in the future to repair them.

The next area that will see budget cuts is learning resources. The adoption of new textbooks every year will no longer be a top priority, but a partial replacement of textbooks will be allowed. Textbook companies change their editions far too often and not much changes in many of our textbooks. Now I do not think that our students should be using textbooks that are 15 or 20 years old but a few years old is ok. Sadly the budget for field trips must be cut as well. Once again with the technology initiative, students are able to experience many hands-on experiences right in their classroom.

Finally, the area that will see the most cuts as well as the elimination of two services is Student Services. The programs to cut completely are the Activity Bus as well as the Parent Resource Center. The activity bus only offered limited drop off points and we did not think that it would be beneficial to keep it running. The Parent Resource Center is a great idea in theory but I feel through teacher maintained websites and PowerSchool that parents should be able to access the same information. There will also be cuts to after school programs and summer school. I feel that since we are keeping so many staff that instruction just be maximized upon during the school year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It has been hard to make these decisions and I hope that you can be understanding of them.

Sincerely,

Ms. Carlson


Points

20% cut

Protect instructional staff
Avoid layoffs of core content teachers*

10

10
Avoid layoffs of special subject teachers**

10

10
Avoid cuts to health benefits

6

6
Protect Staff
Teacher instructional aides

5

5
Full-time office staff

5

5
Part-time employees

3

3
Limit reductions to the library
Staff

3

3
Books

5

2
Periodicals/Journals

4

2
Protect Building Services
Custodial staff

3

3
Building repair and maintenance

4

4
Protect Learning Resources
Academic technology

5

5
Textbook adoption

5

2
Teacher Instructional Budget***

5

5
Field trips

5

2
Protect Faculty Services
Employee tuition reimbursement

4

4
Staff development for teachers

5

3
Protect Student Services
Athletic/recreation programs

5

5
Student activity bus

2

0
Parent Resource Center

2

0
Positive behavior support

2

2
Preschool special education

3

2
Summer school

4

2
After-school programs

5

3

TOTAL

110

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