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[Solved] If you are thinking of moving to the Virgin Islands, read this.

(@tree-cat)
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Teaching in STX8

In February, after HOVENSA announced their closing and the end of our program in June, everything fell apart. This was both good and bad. The bad part is obvious. However, Dan and us instructors could stop fretting about which twelfth graders we were going to nominate to go to University of Texas at Waco. When the program was first announced, the rules stated that students that wanted to enroll needed to take the ASVAB test, which is a standardized test, typically used for entrance into the military, that shows areas of ability in science, math, and language. I forget the minimum score that we required but it wasn’t really high. Dan had to lower that score in subsequent years due to a lack of kids passing.

The first class in the program worked out quite well. Sixty students passed the test and were enrolled. Then after their four years of high school in our program, the twenty best of those were chosen who went to Waco. Unfortunately, there were some worthy candidates who didn’t get selected. A few of those actually paid their own way. By the second year, twenty worthy students were chosen just barely. There were no worthy candidates left over.

My first and only year teaching in the program was the third class. As you read in a previous message, in the instrumentation group, we had a boy and a girl, who were not dumb and seemed to care; the rest were riffraff. The not dumb boy didn’t want to go to Waco. He wanted to go into the military. That left us with one worthy student. The millwright and electrical groups weren’t much better. We weren’t even close to twenty worthy student. Dan planned to hold his nose and pick the twenty best of which a large percentage would probably flunk out of Waco. HOVENSA would not look kindly on us for sending this crowd. With the program ending, this problem was solved. It seemed our program simply turned out to be another case of “Good intentions – Bad results”.

 

There are posts on vimovingcenter that discuss public versus private schools. Folks are debating whether public schools are good enough or is it necessary to opt for the more expensive private schools. This debate makes a huge assumption that could prove devastating. What if the private school you end up choosing is worse than the public school your child would have attended?

 
Posted : June 5, 2024 7:27 am
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Teaching in STX9

After my job at Complex ended in June, I thought about teaching in a private school. After all, I figured, it has to be better than being in a public school. I saw an ad for a math teacher at a school that wasn’t far from my home.

 

This is probably the same ad. It is looking for my replacement after my one year teaching at Manor School.

 

Manor School

Location: St. Croix, Virgin Islands (US)
Company Description:

In continuous operation since 1962, Manor School is the oldest private non-parochial school on the island of St. Croix. We have the privilege of serving a diverse group of students from across the island, the Caribbean and around the world.

Our Mission Statement

The Manor School strives to promote personal and academic growth and confidence in an extended family environment that will help prepare each student for life's challenges, while also promoting individuality and creativity within a societal structure. We advocate community involvement and citizenship, a sense of responsibility, and the ability to make positive decisions. We endeavor to ensure that our graduates are prepared to achieve success.

 

Job Title

Company

Location

Posted

 

Math Teacher

Manor School

St. Croix

Aug 29, 2013

 

 

I interviewed with Mrs. Gadd, the headmistress and owner of the school. She desperately wanted me to take the job. She was aware that the salary she was offering was less than half what I had been making. If you read my blog you will have read multiple time that my wife and I were trying to make the island a better place. I accepted the job.

 

A NOTE – Mrs. Gadd passed away on January 18, 2014. She became ill toward the end of the schoolyear that I taught at Manor School. We butted heads over most things that we discussed. However, it is my firm belief that she was a good person.

 

Now, after you have read the job posting describing the school, does it seem like the sort of school where you would want to send your child? Need more information? I pulled this article off the internet. It describes some scholarships that were being offered by Manor School for the year just prior to my one year of teaching there. Read this and try to decide if this is the sort of school where you would want to send your child.

 

The Manor School Holds Scholarship Auditions

August 15, 2011

The Manor School will hold interviews for their Visual and Performing Arts and Chess Scholarships from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the school. There will be eight $1,000 scholarships awarded to be applied to tuition for the 2011-2012 year. The Manor School is offering St. Croix students a newly developed Integrated Arts strand within their strong academic program. The school is a Middle States Accredited K-12 school known for a strong academic program with a whole person approach.

The integrated arts program began two years ago with the assistance of The Virgin Islands Council for the Arts, the V.I. Lottery and Innovative Communications Corporation. These three entities helped the school hire a performing arts/music instructor and fund the purchase of musical instruments. This year, under the direction of Linda Garvin, Manor students continued studying improvisational theatre and began performing poetry recitations, as well as musical and choral performances on and off campus. The program builds much more than confidence and skills in performance. Garvin coordinates with art teacher Cindy Male to utilize the arts as learning and evaluative tools for all other academic areas of education.

For example, this past school year, ninth grade students studied Diaspora in history, geography, language arts, mathematics and literature. Local filmmaker and Manor alumna Johanna Bermudez showed the opening section of her film on the migration from Vieques to St. Croix. Afterwards, students wrote and performed stories, poems, and essays about their own family’s journey to St. Croix. Then each student developed a visual using symbols and related images to represent their understanding of the concept of diaspora. This type of synthesis and applied learning allows a student the opportunity to deliver knowledge at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The Manor School’s goal for the 2011-2012 school year is to develop two more grade-level-appropriate, integrated curricula for various concepts and knowledge-based academic units. They have also set as goals the building of a stage in the music room and the renovation of an outdoor exhibition area.

All Manor students have the opportunity to become engaged with the arts as completely integrated into their academic learning experience so that literacy will be developed from both left and right brain approaches. Being a participant in this program means that students will become familiar with their own personal learning style be it visual/motor, auditory/vocal, or kinesthetic. The Chess Club at Manor helps develop strong skills in logic and has a strong competitive team that travels to several tournaments each year.

Students will be interviewed for the scholarships. If applying for a visual arts emphasis, please bring examples of art completed if available. For more information about the school, go to www.manorschoolstx.com or call 718-1448 to schedule a visit. If unable to audition at times given, call Linda Garvin at 690-3002. The school is located at 4236 La Grande Princesse in Christiansted.

https://stthomassource.com/content/2011/08/15/manor-school-holds-scholarship-auditions-949/

 

You have to admit, this school sounds mighty impressive. How could you not want to send your child there?

 

 
Posted : June 6, 2024 9:07 am
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Teaching in STX10

I got to meet the math teacher whose job I was replacing on his last day at the school. He had taught math to all the students in the school for grades seven through twelve, as I would be. He had just finished teaching summer school. And now, he and his family were heading back to the states the next day. I didn’t really have an opportunity to talk with him about the students I would be inheriting. Instead Mrs. Gadd wanted him to explain the classroom to me; where the textbooks were, how to run the smartboard, stuff like that. I got the feeling that there was bad blood between them, so the room was tense.

There was a strange conversation that occurred between them that at the time I didn’t fully grasp. Mrs. Gadd said that she wanted to go over the summer school grades with him. He took out his rank book and as she read names from a list, he gave a grade. A couple of names drew a number in the eighties or high seventies. But the majority of the names drew a pained expression on his face and the number seventy-five. And for a couple of seventy-fives he downright grimaced.

OK! Heads up! Welcome to the Virgin Islands. Let’s suppose you ran a school and you wanted to demonstrate to the world that your students were smarter than others and you didn’t want to put in a lot of effort like actually teaching the students. What would you do? EASY – mandate that a failing grade is no longer anything below sixty percent; it is now seventy percent. Teachers are forced to cram all passing grades into thirty percentage points (70 – 100) rather than the usual forty percentage points (60 – 100). I recall this is what happened at Complex.

When a group of people take a test there will typically be a normal probability distribution; otherwise known as a bell curve. You get a few high scores, a lot of middle scores, and a few low scores; the classic bell shape. If there is a stipulation that this bell has to be at the top of the scale and fit into a smaller percent of all possible grades, the only way to do this is to make the test easier.  You will then get a lot of high scores, a few middle scores, and no low scores. It won’t be raining cats and dogs, it will be raining A’s and B’s.

Manor School in an effort to show that their students were even “smarter” set a failing grade of below seventy-five percent. Do you understand? Instead of a grading system that goes A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, F, we had A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, F. If a student took a test at Manor School with ten questions and got three wrong, since there’s no C-, my option was to give them an F or grimace and give them a C. AREN’T THESE STUDENTS BRILLIANT? NOONE GOT LESS THAN A C.

If you look into a private school for your child, find out what is the lowest grade above failing. Schools know parents don’t want to see a D on a report card with all the money they’re spending. So some simply don’t allow it. Unfortunately, students quickly learn they can put in marginal effort and still get good grades. WHO LOSES? THE STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS!

 
Posted : June 7, 2024 8:42 am
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Teaching in STX11

SHOW ME THE MONEY. If a private school is rolling in money, their finances can be kept under wraps. However, if a private school is hurting for money then their finances are quite apparent to the staff. Manor School was hurting for money. Obviously my salary clued me in to this right away. But it got worse.

For a while at the beginning of the year, the staff got paid in a normal fashion – A PAYCHECK. This didn’t last for long. Obviously, you don’t write checks for the full amount owed if they might bounce. So, instead you pay out only what you got. On payday the staff was paid in cash a portion of what they were owed with however much money was available. A running tab was kept of how much was still owed.

It got so bad by the end of the year that whenever a tuition payment was made, that scant amount of money was divvied up among the staff. I would be handed during the day an envelope with maybe something like twenty-seven dollars and thirty-six cents. Literally, that was my share of that one payment.

By the end of the year, I was two months of pay in arrears for my paltry salary. Even though they said I would eventually be paid, I’m asking myself, “paid with what?” Assuming that I was going to be stiffed, I decided to call their bluff. When the year was over, I was asked for my students’ grades for the last quarter and their final exams. So, I offered to trade those grades for my back pay. They demanded the grades and I demanded my pay. No trade was made and I left. They didn’t view this as a big problem. They always thought my grades were too low, so they just made them all up. And I’m quite certain that those grades were higher than what they would have received from me.

 
Posted : June 8, 2024 9:03 am
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Teaching in STX12

Within the first few weeks at Manor School, I realized something was very wrong. I had distributed each class their textbooks and started on page one. The going was tough. I would explain a concept in class with lots of examples. I would ask if there were any questions. There rarely were. Then I would assign homework for that night. The next day I would verify whether each student’s homework was completed or hopefully even attempted. I noted it in my rank book. A few students would produce enough work to get a check in my book. Mostly, I had a lot of blank space.  I would then go to the board and show how the problems were solved. Sometimes, I would choose a student to go to the board and coach them through a problem. The going was dreadfully slow. And like the shampoo bottle says, “Lather, rinse, repeat.” I would explain, from the next section in the textbook, the next  incremental steps from what we had supposedly just learned to new slightly harder concepts and problems.

I had the following classes:

Grade 7 – Pre-Algebra   12 student

Grade 8 – Algebra I           5 students

Grade 9 – Geometry         3 students

Grade 10 – Algebra II       10 students

Grade 11&12 -SAT Math Review, Chemistry     8 students

Learning math is progressive. Students build new knowledge on previous knowledge. You can’t just jump into a class if you don’t have the knowhow from the previous class. You can spend ten years trying to teach calculus to a kindergartener; after ten years, you will have a sixteen year old who knows a tiny bit of calculus. But he or she really doesn’t understand what they’re doing, they’re just mimicking a bunch of stuff from memory. It seemed that my larger classes were missing most of their previous knowledge. The smaller eighth and nineth grade classes were better but barely able to keep up.

We all remember algebra, right? Equations like x+5=10, 3x-2=13, with the directions – Solve for x. You know…. good stuff like that. Well, one day I had given the grade 7, pre-algebra kids a quiz. This was probably the first quiz that I had given in any of my classes. The questions were still on the board when the grade 10, algebra II, kids walked in. There were ten questions like the examples above. One tenth grade girl pointed to the board and said, “How can you have equations with letters in them?” All the other students voiced the same question. I was stunned. I just stood there. Was it possible that an entire group of students who had gone through pre-algebra and algebra 1 couldn’t understand simple, basic algebra equations? Maybe this would explain why no one could do the homework. They didn’t have a clue. Their supposed previous knowledge was just a vast wasteland.

I had to completely reassess and make major changes. We had to back up to where the students could start learning from where their knowledge left off. I collected the textbooks from grades seven and ten. They weren’t going to do any good. I purchased with my own money math workbooks from a school supply store in Frederiksted. The seventh grade got fourth grade workbooks and the tenth grade got sixth grade workbooks. This is how we finished out the year. And it was still brutally hard. I remember one tenth grader yelling at me after receiving back a failed test on some elementary math problems like converting fractions to decimals. She yelled, “HOW CAN YOU FAIL ME ON A TEST LIKE THIS, I GOT AN A IN MATH LAST YEAR.”

Somewhere in a cardboard box, I have a test paper that one of my tenth graders did. I had to keep it. Trying to gain some sympathy, she wrote over a group of questions dealing with adding fractions that she had left blank, “You never splained me dis!” I suppose her English skills were on par with her mathematical ability.

How did this happen? Norman was one of my grade 9 geometry kids who had transferred into Manor the year before with a decent background from a parochial school. Rather than having wasted years at this school, he had only been there for a year. He was easily my smartest student. By that I mean he had more mathematical talent than any of the tenth, eleventh, or twelfth graders. We got along well and I could actually talk to him. I asked him what went on in his math class the previous year. He said that when he and his other two classmates entered the class, the math teacher would give them a Sudoku puzzle. They were allowed to sit in the back of the classroom. They were allowed to talk amongst themselves as long as they were quiet. The teacher sat at his desk and played with his computer. When the class was over the kids would throw away the undone puzzle.

Just so that you’re clear on this. A Sudoku puzzle has nothing to do with math. You fill in patterns of numbers to complete the puzzle but you could use the letters A through I instead of numbers 1 through 9. It would make no difference. Anyone who convinces themselves that it has anything to do with math is just looking for an excuse. It would seem that my predecessor had done the same thing as the teacher back at Complex that I previously mentioned who played videos for his students very, very loudly with no actual concern for learning. Manor School’s math teacher had thrown in the towel. And in doing so, he lowered the chances of success for three dozen kids.

 
Posted : June 9, 2024 9:33 am
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Teaching in STX13

My eleventh and twelfth  graders were a different story. In theory they had already completed their mathematical education and were now just preparing to take the SATs in order to get into a prestigious college. Supposedly, they were only in my class to “review” all of their previous knowledge.

Valmy is a really good kid and an awesome bowler (I’ll explain this some other day). He was in eleventh grade. In chatting with the class, I had previously asked my students what they intended to do after high school. Valmy had told me he wanted to get degrees in both Mechanical AND Electrical Engineering. I was impressed but I gave him the advice that he might be better off sticking with just one degree.

We used the Barron’s SAT prep book as a textbook. I had covered the first topic in the math section and assigned homework. The next day, we went over the homework. I’ll remember this conversation until the day I die:

Me – Valmy, what answer did you get for question number two?

Valmy – I got B.

Me – (knowing that was the wrong answer but wanting to follow his thought process, I asked) OK. Can you explain what equation you used to come up with that answer?

Valmy – Oh. Oh no, I don’t do it that way.

Me – (very curious) OK. Can you explain exactly how you do… do it?

Valmy – Sure. The first thing I do is read the question v… e… r… y   c… a… r… e… f… u… l… l… y.

Me – (more curious) O… K…

Valmy – Then, next thing I do is read   e.. v… e… r… y      a… n… s… w… e… r    v… e… r… y    c… a… r… e… f… u… l… l… y.

Me – (now dying with curiosity) O… K…     t… h… e… n?

Valmy – ThenIpicktheanswerthatlooksbest.

I don’t say a word. I just sit there and wonder, “Now what?”

 
Posted : June 10, 2024 8:45 am
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Teaching in STX14

The Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT has been vilified in recent years. Some colleges have dropped it and then added it back. What’s going on? Head to the internet for information, opinions, and definitions.  ****************************************************************************

What is the SAT?

Many colleges require scores from the SAT or ACT tests as a part of the admissions process.  Your SAT score is a key component of your college applications.

SAT Basics

SAT Length

2 hours 14 minutes

SAT Sections

  • Math
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 

SAT Cost

$60

Highest SAT Score

1600

Average SAT Score

1060

About the SAT

The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The SAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based test created and administered by the College Board. 

The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student's readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. College admissions officers will review standardized test scores alongside your high school GPA, the classes you took in high school, letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, admissions interviews, and personal essays. How important SAT scores are in the college application process varies from school to school.

 

Do colleges still require the SAT?

While many colleges are still test-optional or test-free, others now consider the SAT/ACT an important part of the application process. Notably, prestigious institutions like MIT, Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown have returned to requiring the SAT/ACT.

 

Do SATs predict college success?

The latest research shows that not only are test scores as predictive or even more predictive than high school grades of college performance, they are also strong predictors of post-college outcomes.

****************************************************************************

Wow! So much controversy over something so basic. The SAT is just a measurement of your math and English skills on the day you take it. Yah, some kids get “Test Anxiety” when they take it. That’s just an overused excuse, take it a few times if necessary. If you still score low then you really don’t know the material. CASE CLOSED.

I took the SAT a couple of times in high school. The second time around my scores went up a bit. My second scores were: English 630, math 780; big deal. The internet response above says that this should predict my college success and my post college outcome. Wrong! I WAS A TERRIBLE COLLEGE STUDENT AND I’M NO ELON MUSK TODAY.

So, how do I view the SATs? I think the SATs deal more with the past than the future. They’re a check on you and your school. If you did poorly in school but well on the SATs, you’re lazy and or unmotivated. Sounds like me. If you did well in school and poorly on the SATs, your school suffers from grade inflation, a condition sweeping the country and most definitely, Manor School.

I was curious to see how my Manor School SAT Math review kids would do on the Math SAT. Valmy, my answer guesser, got a 280. The highest score was had by a student who told me he planned on going to Howard University. He got a 380.

SAT scores range from 200 to 800 on each test. Back then there was a penalty for wrong answers; if you just signed your name and passed it in, you got a 300. This explains Valmy’s 280; he’s a lousy guesser. A 500 or so is an average score on each test; frequently the two scores are shown added together like above for the 1060. Your college options for scores below 400 per test, as well as all the kids in Manor School can best be summed up by Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight) in the 1980 movie Caddyshack, who says, when his caddy tells him he won’t be able to attend college, “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”

 
Posted : June 12, 2024 9:26 am
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Teaching in STX15

One day, Mrs. Gadd said something to me that filled in a lot of blanks. She and I were arguing about my students’ grades as was a regular occurrence. Bear in mind, there is an old saying, “The best teachers give the worst grades.” Back in Massachusetts, my boss, the department chairman was thrilled with my low grades that I gave out. Grade inflation is a concern in most schools. I was doing a service to the department by bringing the average down.

At Manor School, like lots of other schools, they sent home midterm notices for any student that was doing poorly. I had given Mrs. Gadd a list of my students who needed to have notices sent home. She looked at the list and said to me, “You need to get these grades up.” I said, “You say it like it’s my fault. What am I supposed to do?” Then she said the thing that froze me in place. She said, “Give them a Sudoku puzzle.”

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. She walked away. All I could think of was, YOU KNEW WHAT WENT ON IN THAT MATH CLASSROOM AND WERE OK WITH IT. I had thought the previous math teacher had thrown in the towel. But then I knew, THE ENTIRE SCHOOL HAD THROWN IN THE TOWEL. How was this possible?

The entire staff of the school was:

Mrs. Gadd – Headmistress who taught English

Ms. Lashley – Mrs. Gadd’s chief lieutenant and science teacher

Mrs. Rodriguez – history and social studies

Mrs. P……… - I forget name, taught Spanish

Me – math and chemistry

Ms. Prescott – new teacher like me, taught kindergarten through sixth grade

Volunteer in main office – she had three boys in the school

Ms. Prescott and I were outliers; we were new and not trusted. Everyone else had been there for years. Of those long timers, the only one who talked to me non-suspiciously was Mrs. Rodriguez. So, one day I asked her, “Why is this place like it is?” She explained that the school used to be a quality school with a good reputation. The school was looking to bulk up with more students. An island philanthropist made the school an offer to pay full tuition for some new students. This guy wanted to help a bunch of kids from the public schools who needed a “second chance”. Enough “second chancers” were brought in to double the student body. And then instead of the existing student body raising the quality of the new students, the new students trashed the quality of the whole school, never to recuperate.  Just another example of GOOD INTENTIONS – BAD RESULTS           

 
Posted : June 14, 2024 11:14 am
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Teaching in STX16

I remember a funny saying that goes: "None of us is totally worthless, even the worst of us can serve as a bad example." For those of you who are thinking of enrolling a child in a private school, I hope my descriptions of Manor School will help you learn what to try to avoid.

An important piece of a private school is something that I had never thought about until I was at Manor School. That piece is accreditation. We had a staff meeting at the beginning of my year there. The school was up for reaccreditation. Our accreditation came from the Middle States Commission On Higher Education. It’s mentioned in that scholarship audition article I included a couple of messages ago.

“The Manor School is offering St. Croix students a newly developed Integrated Arts strand within their strong academic program. The school is a Middle States Accredited K-12 school known for a strong academic program with a whole person approach.”

 

*****************************************************************************

Here’s a little info from the internet:

 

What does it mean to be Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredited?

Middle States accreditation is an expression of confidence in an institution's mission and goals, its performance, and its resources. An institution is accredited when the educational community has verified that its goals are achieved through self-regulation and peer review.

 

What are the Middle States Association standards for accreditation?

The Middle States Standards for Accreditation are qualitative statements that reflect research-based best practices for schools. These Standards complement content area standards, which designate what students are expected to learn in various curriculum areas.

 

Is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education legitimate?

The commission is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It accredits nearly 600 institutions, primarily in Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

*****************************************************************************

I sat in our staff meeting and didn’t say a word. Only the staff that had been there the last time that the school came up for reaccreditation talked. They were trying to figure out how to word their new application based off the previous application. I listened in horror as statements from the previous application were read aloud that described ours school’s missions, goals, performance, and resources. Those are the topics listed in the answer to the first question just above.

The quantity of double talk, educational technobabble, and outright lies was appalling. It was glaringly obvious to me, load in a massive amount of bs and get accredited. The topic that I most remember dealt with resources. In the previous application, they had stated that they planned on building a performing arts center in a building across the street from the school. This could have been a valid promise if it was even remotely possible. Unfortunately, the school did not own the parcel across the street. And the building on the parcel was a decrepit crumbling structure that would have cost millions to turn into anything usable.

I never heard whether Manor School got reaccredited. However, I think this was a case of, “No news is bad news.” Our school’s expiring accreditation was based off of the previous garbage filled application. Seeing that our new application had to explain away all the old garbage by replacing it with even larger quantities of new and different garbage leads me to believe that graduates my year and any subsequent graduates of the school might have been handed a worthless piece of paper for a diploma.

 
Posted : June 15, 2024 9:20 am
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Teaching in STX17

So, what did parents get for their money when they sent their children to us? I think the most important things for parents was their desire to keep their children safe. Academics is nice but safety is more important. Public schools on the islands are not known for their safety. Some of my students at Complex were bussed over from Central. Occasionally they wouldn’t be in class and I would ask if anyone knew where so and so was. Frequently the answer would be that Central was on lockdown.

Back in Massachusetts, private school kids wore uniforms and public school kids didn’t. On STX it’s the other way around. On the islands, the public school administrators are concerned that if kids were allowed to wear whatever they wanted, gang colors would proliferate. So, they have to wear uniforms with several of the pockets sewn shut so they can’t carry contraband.

I can say with conviction, “Our kids were safe.” Any time that a couple of the little ones got into a scrap, we had a couple of easygoing big kids to pull them apart. The place operated like a big family. You could view the place as a cross between playschool and daycare.  The highlight of every day was lunch. In their advertising Manor School said that we offered, “Restaurant style food.” If you translate that it turns into, “We order out lunch every day.” A list would go around every day with that day’s chosen restaurant/sandwich shop/deli along with a menu and an envelope. Students and teachers would write down their choice and put the necessary amount of money in the envelope. I have always been a dedicated “brown bagger.” Both because I’m cheap and I don’t need the calories. Several students also brought in a lunch. The entire school ate together on picnic tables under some large shade trees. After lunch was recess. The teachers and any older students who didn’t want to participate would watch over events and make sure everyone played nicely.

Since academics were not stressed, any way to kill a day was acceptable. Every year the school would do a beach cleanup. We all walked to a nearby beach and picked up trash. A couple of parents showed up with pickup trucks to haul away all the trash. I have no idea if this was a worthy school day.

As the only male teacher in the school. I got the chance to kill a day at the yearly MAN UP. I loaded up my car with the older boys and headed off.

https://wp.viconsortium.com/?p=17567

“…the University of the Virgin Islands’ (UVI) annual ‘Man Up’ conference, held Wednesday on St. Croix for young men attending junior and senior high schools, has always been a source of light when reality seems disheartening…. the event was all about the young men gathered underneath the large tent on UVI St. Croix’s campus, where speakers imparted knowledge, hope and the importance of holding on to their dreams.”

I have neither a positive nor negative opinion of this event. We killed a day and hopefully something sunk in. I just don’t know.

Gym day was the highlight of the month. We didn’t have a gym teacher or a place to conduct gym classes. So, once a month we had, “Gym Day.” Students’ options were: bowling, archery, or golf; K through 6th grade not included.

Bowling: This was the biggie. Eighty percent of our students opted for bowling. I was informed that I was doing bowling on the first gym day of the new school year. Two taxi vans arrived at the school early in the day. Mrs. Gadd, Ms. Lashley and I plus about two dozen kids piled in. We were driven to Tropical Ten Pins in Castle Coakley.        

……..My brain has tried to forget everything I saw while I was there. All that I am unable to forget consists of mountains of fried food, freezing cold air conditioning, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, kids wandering around like stray kittens, and Valmy is an AWESOME BOWLER. If you watch professional bowlers, they make the ball do this weird spinning thing like the ball is going in the wrong direction. It curves just before the pins and comes in at an angle, wow. I had seen this on TV, never in real life. He was amazing. Mrs. Gadd and Ms. Lashley are stuffing their faces and I feel that it is up to me to make sure that we drive back to school with the same number of kids that we arrived with. We get back to school just about when the day was supposed to end. I AM FRIED TO A CRACKLY CRUNCH.

Golf: Mrs. Rodriguez took half a dozen kids to The Reef Golf Course. When I hear about this I am determined to get out of bowling and onto a golf course.

Archery: I never figured this one out. Mrs. P… took four or five kids in her car to a field nearby the school. They had archery stuff. All three groups were expected to spend the day with either bowling, golf, or archery. We were expected to get the kids back to school just before the end of the school day so that they could be picked up by their parents. I NEVER SAW MS. P… AND HER KIDS THERE WHEN WE GOT BACK. THEY WERE LONG GONE. Don’t know. Don’t care.

I think I did the bowling thing three or four times. My brain has flushed most memories. I remember demanding that I get a chance at the golf thing. I eventually won out and Mrs. Rodriguez got shuffled to bowling, HA. Golf was fun. I’m a lousy golfer but I don’t care. We all had a good time. The “Golf kids” and I drove to the course in my car and one of the student’s car. The school got this for free for which we were supposed to buy our lunch at the course restaurant. A day at the golf course, THIS IS WHAT TEACHING IS ALL ABOUT!

 
Posted : June 16, 2024 9:37 am
(@tree-cat)
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Teaching in STX18

Anything to kill a day. This wasted day could go under government corruption but since I was supposed to be teaching, I’ll put it here. I was informed that on a certain day the students would get the day off and the teachers of Manor School were going to be attending a lecture on tsunami safety. I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in the Caribbean. Sometimes they cause tsunamis. If you live in the Caribbean in a place like the US Virgin Islands, there is a very slight chance that this knowledge might save your life someday.

*****************************************************************************

This is from Wikipedia:

The 1867 Virgin Islands earthquake and tsunami occurred on November 18, at 14.45 in the Anegada Passage about 20 km southwest of Saint ThomasDanish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands). The Ms  7.5 earthquake came just 20 days after the devastating San Narciso Hurricane in the same region. Tsunamis from this earthquake were some of the highest ever recorded in the Lesser Antilles. Wave heights exceeded 10 m (33 ft) in some islands in the Lesser Antilles. The earthquake and tsunami resulted in no more than 50 fatalities, although hundreds of casualties were reported.

At ChristianstedSaint Croix, the 7–9 m (23–30 ft) waves drowned five people and inundated the island up to 90 m (300 ft) inland. The tsunami destroyed 20 houses and stranded numerous boats inland. In some parts of the island, the waves reached a run-up height of 14.6 m (48 ft). Frederiksted on the same island was hit by waves up to 7.6 m (25 ft). The surging seawater beached many vessels including a US Navy ship, USS Monongahela along the beaches of Frederiksted. The tsunami measured 12 m (39 ft) on Water Island.

********************************************************************************

The lecture took place at a government building in Christiansted. I think it was the VITEMA building. It was given by two women, a scientist from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Hawaii, and a professor from UVI. The invitation had been given to all schools and daycares on the island. There were about a dozen people attending of which Manor School made up half of that total. They did a PowerPoint presentation filled with horrifying images and statistics. Their lack of pertinent scientific information replaced by a plethora of sensationalism made me sick. They were trying to get everybody worked up into a panic with talk of running as soon as you felt an earthquake and how we were supposed to organize our running masses of students. There was one young woman there who operated her own daycare; she was very upset. She was asking bunches of questions about how she could carry five or six babies at the same time.

Lunch break couldn’t come soon enough. I headed for the Luncheria, my favorite restaurant. I was enjoying my tacos by myself when who should appear but the two lecture presenters. They asked if they could join me. I wasn’t going to be rude, so I agreed. I tried to stick with small talk but they kept pressing me for my opinion of their presentation. Finally, I had had enough and I unloaded on them.

Me – “What you’re doing is cruel. That poor young woman with the daycare is all worked up for absolutely nothing.”

Professor – “What do you mean?”

Me – “The highest tsunami that we are ever going to experience here is thirty or forty feet.”

Professor – “It could be seventy feet.”

Me – “Highly unlikely. And if you took the time to ask you’d find out that her daycare is at an elevation much higher than that. Rather than scaring everybody and telling them to run uphill when an earthquake hits, you could have brought a US Geological Survey topographical map. We could have located the school buildings of the people attending the meeting, found their elevation and determined if ANYBODY HAS TO RUN.”

They were quiet for a moment. Then the scientist made a request.

Scientist – “ …When we get back, …would you mind just playing along?”

 

I was nauseated. Fortunately the afternoon portion was mercifully short. When we were getting ready to leave, Mrs. P… asked me if I was worried that our school could be hit by a tsunami.

Me – “Not in the least bit.”

Mrs P… - “Why?”

Me – “A tsunami isn’t going to be higher than forty feet. If you stand at the school and look out to sea, find a telephone pole down near the water. If you can see the horizon above that pole that means we are higher than that pole which is about forty feet. So, we have nothing to worry about.”

Mrs. P… - “When did you do that?”

Me – “On my first day at the school.”

Mrs P… - “You’re a very strange person.”

 
Posted : June 18, 2024 5:33 am
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Teaching in STX19

After an uncomfortable year at Manor School, I applied for and received a job at AZ Academy where somehow I got roped into bringing a bunch of older boys to MAN UP. While I was there I ran into a few of my former students from Manor School. They told me that Mrs. Gadd hadn’t taught that year because she was off island for health reasons. They had no math teacher and were told, “to teach themselves math.” Ms. Lashley, Mrs. Rodriguez, and Mrs. P… ran the school. I think Ms. Prescott had switched to another school. I remember her explaining to me that she had to teach fulltime for a certain number of years and then her student loans would be forgiven. She couldn’t risk having the school go belly up and being unemployed.

While the MAN UP speakers droned on, Valmy told me he was going to be attending UTI (Universal Technical Institute) for auto mechanics the next year. I told him I thought that was a good choice. The boy who told me he was going to be attending Howard University told me he got in. I had known that his dad had gone there and therefore his son was a legacy but I was still amazed that they could lower their standards that far as to accept him. When I questioned him further, he explained that he wasn’t really going to Howard University, he was going to Howard Community College. It turns out, lots of prestigious schools have their own community college so exactly as occurred here, they can “sort of” accept a student. I wished him the best of luck.

I had already known that my best math student, Norman would not be going back after my year. He and I had talked about his need to get out of Manor. I think he went to another parochial school.

Talking to my old students made me realize Manor School was not long for this world; sure enough, it ceased to exist at the end of the year. My last memory of anything to do with Manor School occurred one day, a couple of years after Manor closed. My wife and I were grocery shopping and we ran into Martin and his mom. Martin had graduated at the end of the year that I was at Manor. Martin was an easy going gentle giant; a really good kid but not a rocket scientist. He was in my math SAT review class.

Martin had only one dream, that of going into the military. He wasn’t looking for any high-level position. He only wanted to be a private in the army. I knew Martin would have to pass the ASVAB and I pushed him in school. Standing there in the grocery store, Martin told me, with a sad look on his face, he had failed the ASVAB multiple times and now he had no plans; a fitting final memory for me of Manor School.

 
Posted : June 19, 2024 9:48 am
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Teaching in STX20

After a year at Complex and one at Manor School, AZ Academy was like a breath of fresh air. The owners of the school, Paula and Mauree Heller, were great people to work for. I felt respected and appreciated. Unfortunately, I had a bad feeling that they were trying to fight the tide. And when you do that, “You’re gonna lose.”

Good school. Mostly good kids. Mostly good staff. So, what was the tide that they were going to lose to?

Merriam-Webster

critical mass

noun

a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result

 

And what was the particular result that they needed?    SURVIVAL.

 

So, what was AZ? …In their own words:

“AZ Academy is a dynamic pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade private school that meets the needs of a wide variety of students in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Filling a distinctive niche in our beautiful Caribbean community, AZ Academy seeks unique individuals and enrolls a broad range of skill levels, from students with learning disabilities and attention disorders (who need unique learning experiences) to advanced students (who need accelerated learning opportunities) all within the framework of differentiated small group instruction.”

 

If you’re thinking of enrolling your child in a particular private school and you notice that the class sizes are really small, don’t say, “Wow, my kid will get a lot of individual attention.” Instead say, “What are the odds that this school will be around long enough for my child to graduate?”

I taught at AZ in 2013 to 2014. I had the fifth grade math class and the senior class in math with eight students.

Three years later, this was June 2017 – Graduation class size 4

https://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/news/unity-defines-st-croix-az-academy-s-graduates/article_f502d195-66fc-5b46-b776-b8710ae51eb8.html

 

This was June 2018 – Graduating class size 3   LAST GRADUATING CLASS

https://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/news/az-academy-graduates-final-class/article_d04b3022-e9ee-5891-8e1c-33373a88dece.html

 

Choosing a private school for your child is not easy. And now I’m adding one more concern. Small classes can be good but, “How small is too small?”

 
Posted : June 20, 2024 3:49 pm
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Teaching in STX21

If you read those last two articles in my previous message about the last two graduations at AZ Academy, you might have noticed something peculiar. They mention the valedictorian and salutatorian and the school they will be attending after AZ. Where are most of them going? UVI. Why would the number one and number two students go to UVI? Why not a more prestigious school?

Paula and Mauree had a son, Jordan, in AZ. He was a senior the year that I taught there. He was very bright and a pleasant kid to teach. He was likely to be number one or number two in his small class. Paula and Mauree wanted to send him to a good college but the cost was prohibitive. I told them about two good deals that are provided by UVI.

I forget why I met Patricia Towal, the UVI Director of Counseling and Career Services but we had had some chats about great opportunities that were available for students of UVI.

What I am  about to tell you was true ten years ago, verify for yourself if it’s still true today.

First, valedictorians and salutatorians get free tuition at UVI. SWEET. If your child is in a very small graduating class at a small private school, how hard is it to be number one or two?

Second, and this is the biggie. Even if your child doesn’t graduate number one or number two, UVI tuition is still dirt cheap. And then, UVI has an exchange program with several prestigious colleges and universities on the mainland. A UVI student attends classes for two years at UVI then transfers to a stateside school to finish his or her degree. Classes at UVI may not be of the same caliber as say Columbia University in New York city. No big deal. Your child takes all their humanity courses at UVI and then finishes up with all their difficult courses in their chosen major at Columbia. And here’s the kicker, YOUR CHILD DOESN’T PAY COLUMBIA TUITION PRICES. THEY ONLY PAY UVI TUITION PRICES ALL THE WAY THROUGH!

Jordan graduated as valedictorian. Following my suggestion, he enrolled in UVI where he paid no tuition. He then transferred to Columbia University to finish his degree in Mechanical Engineering where he paid NO TUITION.

 
Posted : June 22, 2024 8:19 am
(@stjohnjulie)
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The UVI gives free tuition to any graduate of a public or private school in the USVI as long as they have attended for 3 years, have a 2.5 gpa, and live in the USVI.  I am not sure what their exchange program is currently like.  I have an 11th grader at Kean and currently have him dual enrolled at Acellus (online accredited school) to fill in the gaps the public school is leaving.  

 
Posted : June 23, 2024 2:11 am
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Stjohnjulie – Thanks for the info on UVI tuition. Hopefully lots of kids will take advantage of a wonderful opportunity. Also kudos to you for supplementing your child’s education beyond just public school.

 
Posted : June 23, 2024 2:37 pm
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Teaching in STX22

One of the words that got used at Manor School was also a word that could be applied to AZ Academy. That word is, “Family.” When most people think of the word family, they start off with pleasant thoughts but then perhaps you might remember fights you had with your siblings or a horrible situation that developed between all the relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner. The same is true with a school. An ugly stain can be left behind.

I think it’s a good thing for teachers to have a bit of anonymity from their students. In a big school, students shuffle into your classroom. You conduct your class and they shuffle out. In a small school the family attitude kicks in. I had students in my class whose parents were well known to me. They were neighbors, friends, or individuals that I had an awkward relationship with and I didn’t want that to extend to their children. Heck, I had Stacey Plaskett’s son, or I believe he was her husband’s son. On multiple occasions, Mauree scheduled parent teacher meetings with them to discuss their child. They never showed up. Families – you gotta love ‘em.

And it gets worse. One of the girls in my senior class did something stupid at home. She was questioned as to why she did it. She singled out how one of the boys in the senior class talked to her. The parents contacted the school and unloaded on Paula. Afterall, it’s not like a teenage girl might just do something stupid; it has to be someone else’s fault. What went on between Paula and the parents, I don’t know but Paula decided to punish the boy. Mind you, these two kids were in my class. I never witnessed anything that could possibly constitute something for which he was being punished. The word, “scapegoat” comes to mind because I never got a feeling that any amount of jurisprudence was applied. The boy was not kicked out of school but he was forbidden to be at school. He could be spoken to on the phone by teachers and his mother picked up and dropped off schoolwork.

The whole school piled on, administration, faculty, and students. All except me. I’m not a fan of mob mentality. I prefer to follow my conscience. And since we were a family, I guess this made me the black sheep of the family. The boy was ostracized, and to a lesser extent, I was too. He and his mom were inconsolable over the accusations that they felt had never happened. I sided with them. Because sometimes families suck.

It was rough at first. The boy thought of dropping out. I think this was the school’s hope. But I took it upon myself to try and heal them. I spent a lot of time on the phone listening and encouraging. Eventually his morale came back. We managed to finish out the year. His grades actually improved over what they had been before he was kicked out. Afterall, he went from having a teacher to having a tutor. His mom just gushed with thanks.

After graduation, to which he was not allowed to attend, he enrolled in UVI. His mom asked me to provide some tutoring for his tougher courses, chemistry and statistics. This was hard on me. It’s not like I can just “turn on” college level chemistry and statistics knowledge with a snap of my fingers. I had to borrow his books to get myself back up to speed.

Back in Massachusetts, after my one year of teaching high school chemistry, I saw an ad for a high school advanced placement physics tutor. It was through the nationwide tutoring agency, Kaplan. They had been approached by a parent who was just trying to get her daughter, Sarah, through her senior year advanced placement physics course. Not surprisingly, this branch of Kaplan didn’t have a tutor for this, so they advertised. I got the job instantly. The hourly pay was great. We did an hour and a half lesson every week. Essentially, I would help her with her homework which is where you really learn if you understand the material. To do this, I needed to spend eight to twelve hours preparing every week. I had been given a copy of her textbook. I would reteach myself that week’s topic and then do EVERY problem at the end of the section so that I would be prepared to explain to her how to do any or every problem. I suppose my pay dropped to under minimum wage if you counted all my time put in but I enjoyed making my brain work. At the end of the year, I asked HER for a recommendation. She wrote a heartfelt recommendation/thank-you for helping her pass her class and then being accepted to Bates University.

My AZ kid decided to switch majors at UVI at the end of his first year to something easier. THANK GOODNESS, I wasn’t prepared to help him graduate from another school. I kept my tab for tutoring as small as was reasonable and then since his mom operated a food cart next to the refinery, I decided to take my pay in trade. She’s a good cook.

 
Posted : June 23, 2024 2:38 pm
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Teaching in STX23

Three strikes and you’re out; Complex, Manor, and AZ. I had had enough with teaching full time; too much disappointment, drama, and disillusionment. I moved on to construction. Although I did agree to a request from Mauree. I agreed to be available as a substitute teacher.

He called me on the second day of school the following year. He actually made it through the first day without me. My brain fogs over with all the subbing I did. Only a few images remain. I remember agreeing to sub for the gym teacher for a day. What was I thinking? For one of the periods, I had the first grade playing dodgeball. I had explained the rules, divided the class, and started the game. I felt pretty smart …… for a short time. One little boy gets hit with the ball. I explain to him that he’s, “Out” and needs to stand off the court. He plops himself down on the ground and starts bawling that he doesn’t want to be out. The game went into timeout. And as I stood there next to the crying kid, I’m thinking to myself, “This is definitely not worth the pittance that I’m being paid.”

My work at Rooftops paid me only a tad more than a pittance and fortunately, I could usually set my own hours. Regardless, subbing got old. One of my more telling remembrances that points to the fate of AZ was subbing for the fifth grade math teacher.

For those of you who have been reading my diatribe, I will remind you of something you read way back when.

 

“Dan clued me in to the cause of a large VI problem. The problem that we were both aware of was that the kids aren’t very bright. The cause is that the teachers aren’t very bright either. He explained, there’s a revolving door provided by UVI that takes not bright kids and graduates them as not bright teachers that then go on to produce more not bright kids.”

 

Well, AZ’s fifth grade math teacher was my replacement. She had just graduated from UVI, majoring in English. Granted, she’s only an English major but how hard can it be to teach fifth grade math? The kids were excited to see me. They hadn’t been my students the previous year but AZ is a big family and they all remembered me. Most of the little kids couldn’t remember my name, so they used to call me, Mr. Math. During class they express a grave concern that they all wanted to talk to me about.

 

There used to be a show called, “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”      OK readers,    HOW DO YOU FIND THE AREA OF A SQUARE?????????          Simple, the sides are equal. So, just take this number and multiply it by itself. Or in other words, you square the side. Pretty neat, the area of a square is the side squared. EASY.

 

Unfortunately, the previous day when their new teacher was there, she tried to teach them that to get the area of a square you add up the four sides. These poor little tykes were smart enough to know that that was the perimeter of the square not the area and tried to tell their new teacher. She became very angry and loudly ordered them to respect adults. The poor kids didn’t know what to do. I consoled them that they were correct as far as their math was concerned but added that sometimes adults make mistakes and don’t like to be corrected.

After school I went to Mauree’s office and told him that he had a problem; his fifth grade math teacher couldn’t teach fifth grade math. I told him exactly what the fifth grade class told me. He was silent for a while and then said he’d look into it. The next day he called me and asked if I would be willing to tutor their fifth grade math teacher in fifth grade math. I declined. Soon after, AZ swapped her with the fourth grade math teacher hoping she could handle that. I got this info from Doug and Chelsea. They were both teachers when I was there. A year or two later they got married. A year or two later they moved to Egypt to teach at the American School. AZ’s good teachers were leaving and were replaced by teachers that didn’t know the area of a square.

 
Posted : June 25, 2024 11:23 am
(@stjohnjulie)
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currently, our public schools are nearly 60% staffed with uncertified teachers and administrators.  My son was taught two entire years by a paraprofessional (grade school).  That in combination with the COVID ‘distance’ learning joke I decided to pull him from the public school.  

 
Posted : June 26, 2024 2:23 am
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stjohnjulie - I knew the certification problem was bad but I didn't know how bad until I read this the other day -

https://viconsortium.com/vi-education/virgin-islands-dept--of-education-has-541-non-certified-educators--sparking-debate-on-educational-standards

I am going to write a bit about my time doing teacher certification review training.

 

 

 
Posted : June 26, 2024 8:31 am
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Teaching in STX24

Angel Swindell ran UVI CELL on St. Croix. For those of you who have never heard of UVI CELL - from the internet –

A Division of the University of the Virgin Islands

The Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning (CELL) was established to meet the workforce and professional development training needs critical to the economic prosperity of the Virgin Islands and surrounding Caribbean islands. UVI CELL focuses on providing quality training opportunities designed to contribute to organizational and individual achievement.

 

Our Mission

UVI CELL serves as the premier institute for professional development and transformation, personal enrichment and consultancy, locally and globally through innovative leadership and collaborative partnerships.

 

Our Vision 

To be the premier institute for leadership, learning, and continuous improvement to advance individuals and organizations.

 

Angel needed a math SAT review instructor and I got the job. Me and Angel got along great while working together for five years. Back in 2013, a philanthropist put up a sum of money to help public school kids do better on their SATs. And not just any kids. He further stipulated a range of G.P.A.s that the kids needed to have. He assumed that kids who get all A’s don’t need the help and kids with really low GPAs wouldn’t make much use of the help. So, if I recall correctly, he chose the G.P.A. range of 3.2 to 3.5, sort of the B+ to A- range. Sounds logical to me.

There were about sixty kids enrolled. We met on Saturdays for three hours for a dozen weeks or so; I forget the exact number. I taught math and another instructor did English. We had thirty kids for an hour and a half, then the kids switched rooms for another hour and a half with the other instructor.

On the first day of class, both instructors gave an SAT “pretest”. A “posttest” would be given on the last day of class to measure each student’s improvement.

The last time I took a standardized test for real was when I was applying to grad school which was one of the requirements to be a certified teacher in Massachusetts. The test was called the Miller Analogies Test.

 

From Wikipedia -

The Miller Analogies Test (MAT) is a standardized test used both for graduate school admissions in the United States and entrance to high I.Q. societies.

The test aims to measure an individual's logical and analytical reasoning through the use of partial analogies. A sample test question might be

Bach : Composing :: Monet :

  • painting
  • composing
  • writing
  • orating

This should be read as "Bach is to (:) Composing as (::) Monet is to (:) _______." The answer would be a. painting because just as Bach is most known for composing music, Monet is most known for his painting. The open slot may appear in any of the four positions.

Unlike analogies found on past editions of the GRE and the SAT, the MAT's analogies demand a broad knowledge of Western culture, testing subjects such as science, music, literature, philosophy, mathematics, art, and history. Thus, exemplary success on the MAT requires more than a nuanced and cultivated vocabulary.

 

I was very concerned, so I got a review book and did THE WHOLE THING. I started with the pretest and got a 79%. I then spent maybe a hundred hours over many weeks doing absolutely everything in the book. After all this time spent I took the posttest and got ….. drumroll ………..an 80%.

Dave’s law of reviewing – YOU CAN’T REVIEW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

When I took the real test I got an 83%. Maybe it was the adrenaline or maybe I guessed a bit better than normal. What I was really interested in was my percentile. That was 99th percentile. I was in the top one percent in the country. COOL.

Back to UVI CELL. I wanted to see the kids’ math scores on their pretests. The scores were all in a fairly tight range averaging around a 490. NOT GOOD. And this is from a 3.2 to 3.5 GPA range. My work is cut out. These kids were voluntarily giving up their Saturday mornings for several months. They were serious. They wanted to do better. We all worked hard. I assigned homework to further add to their number of hours of review. In class, I would explain a concept and then we drilled and drilled and drilled.

On the last class they did the posttest; the average for which was a 500. YOU CAN’T REVIEW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. And unfortunately, I’m good but I CAN’T TEACH TWELVE YEARS OF MATH IN JUST TWELVE CLASSES.

 
Posted : June 27, 2024 2:19 pm
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I’ve felt that one of the biggest failures of most grade and high schools is teaching for testing.  It doesn’t encourage ‘thinking’ or problem solving.   And the lack of arts,  industrial arts, and family studies since vocational classes were dropped decades ago in favor for more academics has left our younger generations without a lot of basic skills. College is not the right move for many.  Especially if you have to accumulate mountains of debt to achieve it.  

 
Posted : June 28, 2024 2:09 am
Ca. Dreamers reacted
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Teaching in STX25

There was a lot of arguing between the VI government and the teachers’ union regarding teacher certification back in the early 2010’s. Obviously, the unions opposed requiring certification tests because most teachers opposed certification tests because lots of VI teachers can’t pass a certification test. The government insisted and the union reluctantly agreed, sort of. Angel said that UVI CELL would be teaching review classes for either assistant teachers and/or regular teachers whenever the squabbling died down. There were several false starts but finally the union said that assistant teachers would go first. I think they were called, “paraprofessionals.” The test they needed to pass was called the Praxis I, or Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST) which consisted of three exams: reading, writing, and mathematics.

I got the math prep. The class consisted of maybe a dozen older black women. Why this demographic? I don’t know. Maybe the union considered them expendable. With all the review classes that I had taught on STX, I learned that reviewing unknown material is a waste of time. YOU CAN’T REVIEW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. So, I decided to start were their knowledge left off and just progress as far as we could with the time available. Just for the heck of it, I wrote a calculus formula on the board and asked if anyone recognized it. No hands. Then I tried trigonometry, no takers. Then Algebra, nothing. How about geometry, a couple of maybes but not absolutely sure. I was working my way backward through math classes that should have been learned in middle school and high school. It wasn’t until I got to sixth grade that they all said the stuff looked kind of familiar. So, that’s where we started.

I still had a sixth grade workbook that I had used at Manor School for the tenth grade class. We spent long Saturdays going over ratios, fractions, inequalities, decimals, and integers etc., etc. But before you snicker, how many of you can add one half and one third??????     Answer – five sixths. And now that you know the answer, do you know how to get it? Could you explain to a child how to get this answer?

I forget how many weeks we did this for, but it was a whole bunch. We never did a pretest or a posttest or any test because they are online and if you fail there’s no denying it. I was never sure if the union had actually given in or not. So, I have no idea how they would have done on an actual test but I’m sure the results would have been abysmal. Afterall, I was reviewing sixth grade math – nothing more.

My feelings of this entire affair was one of complete satisfaction. Because on the last day of class, the entire class expressed their heartfelt appreciation to me for not looking down on them but rather for accepting them for what they were and then trying my hardest to help them move forward. We all made each other feel better.

 
Posted : June 29, 2024 8:44 am
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Teaching in STX26

My experience with the assistant teachers was pleasant. Doing a review with regular teachers for the teachers’ certification test was not pleasant. For starters the demographics were quite different. The assistant teachers were all pleasant older black women. For the regular teachers I got two unpleasant groups. One on STX I did in person while I also had a group on St. Thomas that I did at the same time on videoconference. I sort of treated the camera as one more student in my class. I would make eye contact and talk directly toward the camera occasionally. The STT group sat far away from the camera such that I could barely make any of them out on the TV; all while their voices were all mixed together and came at me out of the TV speaker. Whoever thought this would be a good idea was sadly mistaken.

The STX group were all women. However, only a few were black; there was one white woman and FOUR FILIPINOS. This was obviously the union playing games. They were all of a like mind in the fact that none of them wanted to be there and didn’t know why they had been chosen.

The teachers’ test was going to be aimed at an eight grade level. We had a book to use that I followed. The black women ranged from competent to not competent. The white women had moved to STX after teaching for a couple of decades in Tennessee, if I recall correctly. Her ability was completely sufficient to ace the test. The four Filipino women were absolutely lost. Nothing I was going to do would help them. I kept asking myself, “Why would you send dumb people halfway around the world to be teachers?”

The course came with a computer based posttest. I have no idea what they did on STT, not my problem. On STX, my assumptions were correct. The white woman and one black woman passed . The rest failed; the Filipinos failed badly. My feelings of this entire affair was one of complete dissatisfaction.

We never did another assistant teacher or regular teacher certification test review. I’m not sure but I think the whole plan for certification tests got shelved.

 
Posted : July 4, 2024 9:35 am
(@stjohnjulie)
Posts: 1061
Noble Member
 

What are your ideas on how successfully recruit and then retain qualified teachers?  We have many teachers from Indonesia teaching in the public schools here so I’m guessing they actively recruit in that area.  

 
Posted : July 5, 2024 3:06 am
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