Friday, March 4, 2011

You spoke, we listened!

Yesterday while taking my car in to get fixed, I overheard 2 employees (right there in the front room with me, and knew I was there) talking to each other about another car:

Employee 1: So we need to give this guy a discount or something so he feels like he's getting a good deal and will come back.
Employee 2: So what do you want to do?
Employee 1: How much do we normally charge for this?
Employee 2: About $360. So how low do you want to go then?
Employee 1: I don't know.  We can't do much lower.  Lets just raise the price in the computer to $400 and give him 10% off to make it $360 so he feels like he's getting a deal.
Employee 2: You can do that?
Employee 1: Yeah, it's easy, here I'll show you...

I'm not surprised at all that this happened.  I actually don't really care either.  That's business.  That's exactly what "sales" are.  It's called the anchoring effect. I was just surprised that they just talked about it right there with me listening to every word.

To their credit, we're actually repeat customers to this place now because there's another guy there who seems very trustworthy, who's worked on our car both times.  And in contrast to the story I just told you, he actually told me there would be no charge for what he did yesterday, when I was fully expecting to pay him something.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teaching kids these days... bah...

It's been an incredibly long week. Student led conferences (glorified parent/teacher conferences) are finally over. I wrote a pretty lengthy journal entry on some of my feelings about parenting and education, but I thought I'd try to summarize what I've been thinking about here.

  1. Teachers are human - we do not have an extrasensory ability to know when or why a student is not doing well. We are not computers that can track 200+ kids grades at any moment.
  2. Most teachers have several students that are doing worse than yours - try to remember that when you're freaking out about your student having a C.
  3. Talk to the teacher before the crisis happens - knowing what you expect can help teachers know how to best help your child. It's also good to talk to the teacher first instead of going straight to the principal for some petty problem - I'm an adult... I can fix things without needing to be told by my boss.
  4. It's harder to succeed in public schools than some alternatives for a variety of reasons. We have limited funds, huge class sizes (about 1:32 in my case), and large enrollments (~1500 kids at my school). 
  5. Teachers' biggest problem is finding time - it's impossible for me to get everything graded, future lessons planned, presentations made, worksheets and tests written, and notes prepared all within a 45 min. preparation time (it takes me 5 of those minutes just to take a breath and go to the restroom). I spend hours after school trying to get the necessities done. I wish I had time to check everyone's grade and make a plan for helping individual students - but I don't. I pick the ones that are hurting the most and that's the best I can do.
  6. If it comes between believing your 14 year-old and 10 adult educators... please believe the educators - are you really going to believe that every teacher in the school has it out for your kid instead of thinking, maybe my child has (or is) a problem?
  7. It seems like students these days are academically irresponsible. A surprising number of them won't do homework and don't study - they'll happily admit it, and then wonder why they're failing. I have had several students ask me why their grade is low and when I say it's because of homework and tests they look shocked.
  8. While I think they're academically lazy, it's not because they aren't busily doing something. A lot of them are so overloaded with "EXTRA-curricular" activities that they "don't have time" to study - and if they really are doing karate, lacrosse, music lessons, church, and a part-time job, then I don't blame them. Are parents not stressing that school should be their focus?
  9. Teenagers cannot be expected to be adults - they need supervision and external motivation sometimes.  
  10. Just to make it a nice round number.
Most of this rant stems from a discussion I had with a parent yesterday about her son who I only have in my TA (homeroom) class. In TA they read and I check their grades once a week (I don't necessarily have them for science class). This parent had some major issues with why I didn't do anything about her son who had transient Ds and an F earlier this quarter, but who now has 4 As and 3 Cs. I explained that our policy is only to refer those students with 2 or more Fs to discuss on Friday's. Unfortunately, we usually have a full schedule of these multi-failing kids, and don't have time to discuss the others that are close, but not quite. She felt like the "system" had failed her son, and that his teachers were not paying close enough attention to him - so she's going to pull him out to do online school. She did not seem to grasp that the reason why grades are not updated at optimal speed is because we each have about 200 kids, and if we do something every day (which I certainly try to do), then that means grading 1000 worksheets a week... um not going to happen. She also did not grasp that while it's not great that her kid has Cs, my first concern is for the 2 kids that I have in my TA class that are failing all 7 classes. When I say this, she replies, "Well that tells me something about this school then, doesn't it..." Huh? Two freshmen in high school choosing to fail all of their classes is the school's fault? BARGGGGGG!!!!

I could go on, and probably offend some more people, but I'll stop there. I know I'm no expert... I don't have kids (well... not quite). But I've interacted with over 400 kids at school (and I'm only in my 2nd year), and have seen a lot of patterns. The main thing I've learned is...

I'm staying HOME while my kids are in school (if at all possible) - I'm pretty sure that would solve 95% of the problems I see in students these days.