Thursday, January 29, 2009

Looking Up Through Clouds: A Frank Update

Back in October, I told you about Frank.
Here is a brief update.
Just before Christmas break, while keeping the peace at afternoon bus duty, I watched as a girl teased Frank about taking his books home. He had a pair of heavy textbooks under his arm as he jumped up into the bus and she had noticed this strange anomaly.
He shrugged, smiled sheepishly, and disappeared into the bus.
I was smiling too.
A few days later, Frank caught me in the hall and told me he had made the A/B honor roll for that 9 week grading period.
I slapped him on the back with a big "Congratulations!" and you could tell he was proud.
Now, if this were fiction, our story might continue along this vein, happy progress by a needy kid and a concerned adult.
Life is nonfiction however.
Over the Christmas break, a schedule change occurred... one directly linked to the global economic crisis.
The chain of events ... massive global economic slowdown ...national economic crisis ... state economic crisis ... state budget cuts in education ... school districts suddenly forced to cut costs ... all the way down to Frank.
Here's how...
For years, our county offered a stipend (supplemental pay) to teachers who forgo a planning period and take on an extra class.
Due to the budget crunch, this stipend was cancelled for the second half of the year, even though the county had a good faith agreement to pay this for the length of the course. A science teacher at our school had his supplement revoked and exercised his right to say, "Well, if you are going back on the agreement, I am too" ... and he refused to keep teaching the extra class.
The day before Christmas break, I was told, " We're taking your 4th period 7th grade class and shipping them out to other classes to absorb. You will be getting Mr. C's Environmental Science class during that time, as he is refusing to keep 6 classes without the supplement."
Are you following this? Due to a global economic shutdown, my small 4th period class of needy 7th grade students, who I had spent 4 months building a good rapport with, were taken from me.
Frank was one of those.
Frank went to a different science teacher.
The schedule change had really overloaded this teacher's classroom as he absorbed my students, so when Frank approached me about coming back to a different 7th grade class (I still had 2 on my schedule) I knew the other teacher would be agreeable to a move.
To make a long story short, Frank is back in one of my classes, but it is the advanced class and he landed in there near the end of a unit on genetics ... so I can sense he's feeling kind of lost.
He also got into a little trouble last week and I pulled him aside for an explanation and he told me his version. He essentially lost his cool with an adult and was out of line.
We talked about self control and smart decisions.
I guess the point of this update is that the ripples of the economic downturn reach deep and move lives around in ways unexpected ... and that Frank is still trying despite the obstacles tossed his way by adults on Wall Street and in school administration.
It's not over either ... there are more cuts to come.
Here in the smallest cove of the big pond, we go about our business, anxiously awaiting the next ripple.


cndymkr / jean said...

It seems that the problems need to work in the reverse. Instead of cutting out class/teachers, we need to add more, get to more students. This would then put more, better educated people out into the work force and in the end it would boost the economy. Or am I crazy?

Florida Beach Basics said...

Frank is lucky to have you as a mentor, friend, and teacher. marge

Dani said...

I'm glad Frank was able to get back into your classroom. Like Marge said, Frank is lucky to have you.

Florida Beach Basics said...

apropos (and if you know what that means, thank a teacher!)


threecollie said...

Glad you got Frank back at least....

robin andrea said...

Oh, FC, it's these kinds of stories that have to be told over and over. We forget about the details while lamenting the big picture. We just got an email from a friend who was laid off this week. His wife's job is a bit shaky as well. Those ripples have faces and lives. I wish Frank the very best of luck. With you in his life, he really still has a chance. So, good luck to you too.

Cathy S. said...

Tell Frank that there are more people than he can ever know who are pulling for him.

Pablo said...

The high school where my son teaches out in very rural Kansas is experiencing the same financial issues. I'm sure they're real issues, but I can't help but think its a bit of posturing for some of the money dedicated to schools in the recovery package. If so, I'd say they're making the right noises to get better funding.

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Frank knows you care.Our youngest son teaches HS,here in Tampa,and he says the exact same things you wrote about.Bless the teachers who do care.

Anonymous said...

Even more annoying: if the school system ran like a bank, all the teachers would have gotten bonuses despite the budget cuts.

Where the heck are our priorities?

NativeMom said...

I'm sorry that it has taken these kind of drastic measures to get people in Florida to wake up to the woefully inadequate funding for education in our state. Our school district here in North/Central Florida closed 3 schools last year, laid off 200 teachers, cut back to a 6-period day, and just recently had to get private funding in order to keep JV sports afloat for the spring. Wake up folks - write your legislators. This is their problem to solve!!!!

kathy a. said...

oh, man. that is just horrible, FC. why why why are schools *always* the easiest places to cut? and to have this happen mid-year????

i'm so glad frank is back in class with you, although the disruption of being transferred to another class before being shuffled to you in another class period is a mess.

i don't know where the economic mess is going. my state is threatening to start issuing IOU's instead of checks next week -- no idea how many people that will affect.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

It's a good point: behind all the front page headlines we read in the news paper are the untold millions of untold stories on main street of people getting unexpectedly derailed and short changed, ...

tsiya said...

Lord Have Mercy, don't get this old man started! It has been so damn long since we had leaders who actually put the welfare of THIS NATION ahead of their OWN AGENDAS, including the bunch just sworn in, that I can't remember when it was!
We get danced to the right, then we get danced to the left, same old same old after every dance, best you believe it!!
I was certified to teach small engine mechanics, I planned class periods where I addressed the physics involved in making an ICE run, almost immediately I got called on the carpet for making the class too hard! My students were "adults", I reckon! Most of them believed that an ICE ran on some sort of voodoo, and they weren't about to let me rock the boat!

caroline said...

Thank you...on behalf of the Franks of the world.
You truly exemplify the finest of your profession, the rest of us in the education game are inspired and honored to work with teachers like you.
Caroline in South Dakota, who works with a whole school full of Franks.

Alan said...

And in the meantime individual big whigs on Wall Street and CEOs are making enough money in year end bonuses to fund millions of little Frank's for years to come.

Shame on them all.

Good for you.

edifice rex said...

Hey, but it seems that he himself is really trying and that is a great accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Simply sickening, this economic disturbance is. Feel the Dark Side in it, I do.

But good work, Mr. FC!

- Jonathan

Jen said...

I'm so happy there are people like you out there. Sadly, far too few of them. We really need a way to change priorities. Sigh.

Rurality said...

Poor Frank. I'm curious, how many students are in one of your classes, typically?

Lynn said...

Stuff like this just kills me. It makes me sick when I hear the president (pick any of them, they all say it) say they want to increase spending on education, and yet the state of florida legislature agrees to a budget cut of almost 1 BILLION dollars. Who suffers the most? Our children.

I give you a lot of credit for being a teacher. I don't know how you do it.

Floridacracker said...

You are not crazy. We actually had a class size reduction mandate that now is at risk.

I thank my teachers often.

There are SO many Franks!

Me too.

Thanks, Tough times for everyone except the fatcats with the sick bonuses. I hope your friends fare well.

Cathy S,
Thanks for that! It means a lot.

We don't posture here in the trenches. We teach with limited resources that are being slashed.

Good luck to him. I hope he weathers the storm well.

You used bonus and teacher in the same sentence! Such a comedian.

Native Mom,
Similar situation here. Certainly there is fat in the educational field, but it's not down here in the classrooms ... it's in the state and fed bureacracies.

Kathy A,
How many groceries can you get for an IOU? Do they think about that?

It is a time of belt tightning for all, just harder when the belt was cinched tight to start with.

You did the right thing. They need to know that.

Ditto. There are so many good ones out there, I get furious when I listen to dunderheads talk of incompetent guvmint teachers and schools. If they could walk a mile ...

The idea of bailing them out while Franks and Frances's suffer is stomach turning.

Yes! Good point. He is taking initiative.

Yes and I know you see it from the desk side of the force.

My school is full of people who care ... like me. They just aren't telling their stories. Thankyou on their behalf!

Things have improved due to a class size reduction act that has gradually reduced most classes. Mine range from 30 to 20. Those are very good numbers and I am not complaining. It used to be much worse.

I don't either some days! Kids don't vote so they get the shaft.

Freste said...

Already they're closing a couple dozen schools in the bay area here with more to go in the next few years. There are Franks here who will never be as lucky as yours.

Miz S said...

I'm late as usual. Awesome post. Way to make it all REAL.

The part about Frank finding his way back to your classroom? Made me choke up a little bit. Which is hard to do because, dude, I am HEAVILY MEDICATED.

But I know those Franks. My Franks are much younger, but they already instinctively seek out adults who will be in their corner.

I'll be here, whimpering about the Franks, if you need me.

Ericka said...

30 is better? omg. that is absurd.

good luck, you. good luck, frank.

*sigh* and once again, i'm thanking my stars that i'm employed, and okay (i think) for at least a year. scary times!

too bad they can't link tax cuts or bailouts to equity dollars, spent in volunteering - like in schools.

Floridacracker said...

Too many Franks ... not enough mentors!

Miz S,
Thank you for being there and for doing what you do.
You poor thing ... I hope the meds are at least fun.

Very tough times. We will bore young children with tales of these times some day!
I hope your job is safe.