December 13
At my best, I try to be a voice for children. At my very best, I help them find their own voice. ************************************ We don't accomplish anything in this world alone...and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something. - Sandra Day O'Connor * ************************************


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Editor’s Pick
MARCH 25, 2010 10:36AM

The Ripple Effect

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  trajectory competition at science olympiad



 I’m sitting in the gym at a local community college.  It’s dark outside, early on a Saturday morning when most kids are still asleep.  A late winter snow made the 6AM drive through the cornfields of Michigan’s Amish country pretty treacherous, but we all made it and are now safely warming ourselves with bad cafeteria coffee.


I’m watching hundreds of middle and high school students bouncing off the walls with uncontained nervous energy and excitement.  They’re double checking their handmade machines, finely tuned to catapult a tennis ball into the center of a target.  They’re donning their lab coats and safety glasses and cleaning their test tubes.  They’re checking their massive research notebooks one last time. 


This, my friends, is the Science Olympiad.


My 11-year-old son and his middle school teammates have been meeting twice a week for the last five months, preparing for this moment.  I’ve watched him grow from a kid who joined because his teachers said he should, into a real life science enthusiast.  Today means as much to him as any championship soccer game he has ever played.


It’s a long day, each student on our team participating in multiple challenges, but when it’s finally time for the awards ceremony, things go well.  In challenge after challenge, our school hears its name called.  There are several private schools that seem to win most of the gold medals, but we are consistently hauling in seconds and thirds with an occasional first.  Every time a medal winner is announced, the gym erupts in screams and high fives.  It’s their Olympics, after all. These are science geeks of the purest kind.


Finally, it’s the moment when the team medals are announced.  High stakes. Regardless of how you place individually, only the top two teams get to move on to the state tournament. The kids are whispering about our odds, trying to calculate whether all of their medals will add up to be enough.  Miraculously, they are.  Second place.  State tournament here we come.  The team is overjoyed as they run down onto the gym floor.   My son is beaming.  He has four medals hanging around his neck. He keeps saying, “I can’t believe we made it to state.”  



                    second place trophy science olympiad


 After the awards ceremony, I’m glancing over at his coaches and noticing they’re looking a little ragged.  A little less than enthusiastic. Oh well, probably just the result of a long day.  The head coach tells the students they will all get together on Monday for a “meeting”, as she says the word with air quotes around it.  What does that mean?  A celebration?  A plan of action?  Anticipation abounds.


When I pick up my son after the Monday “meeting”, he hasn’t even gotten his trombone and backpack all the way into the car before he looks down at his feet and quietly says, “We aren’t going to state.”


It was heart breaking to listen to him recount what had happened.  How his teachers had laid out their reasons for not wanting to go:  Our school never does well at state because we have to compete against all of these private schools and rich communities that get Science Olympiad as an elective;  It’s a really long day with a lot of running around to all the buildings and all of the parents would be required to come to make it work and all of our parents never show up;  Maybe we can go next year.  After they had stated their case, they asked the kids to vote - after they had made it very clear that they didn’t want to go.  So, of course most of the kids voted not to go.  My son had raised his hand to go. 


As we drove home, he tried to make it sound okay.  He said he knew he would get another chance.  His voice betrayed his words and reflected his disappointment.  I was mad.  Like the best mama bear, I was ready to call up his teacher and tell her she most certainly would be taking them to state.  They earned the right and they were going.  That’s part of the deal.


But, there’s another side of the story and that’s what stopped me from making the call.


The head coach is also my son’s science teacher.  She came to our school straight out of college and has been teaching there four years, which makes her around 27.  She is an amazing teacher.  I have volunteered in her classroom and watched her in action.  She is motivated, caring, creative, committed.  She is working with her students to plan and build a rain garden.  She brought in members of the community to help make it happen.  I worked with a group of my son's classmates to write grants to help buy the plants, and soil, and signs.  She thinks outside the classroom box.  I love her.


And she just found out she is on the list to be laid off after this school year ends.  Low seniority means first to go – regardless of performance. 


Can I really blame her for feeling less than motivated to dedicate two more months of her time to getting these kids ready for the state tournament?  No.  But, do I think she made the right decision? No.  Of course I don’t.


It’s all about the ripple effect.


Michigan’s economy is going to take a long time to recover.  My 6th grade son will probably be a high school graduate before things stabilize.  I keep hearing stories about reinventing ourselves.  Taking all of this infrastructure, the empty factories and the skilled machinists, and creating a green energy manufacturing economy.   Politicians, researchers, think-tankers, and business people will tell you that the investment we make in our kids today will reflect a lot of what our future as a state will be.  Counter to that logic, our schools are facing enormous budget cuts.  Which means good-bye Ms. Science Teacher.  Good-bye accelerated learning program.  Good-bye Science Olympiad where the engineers, inventors, and out-of-the-box thinkers that could move our state forward are being nurtured.


Every action we take, no matter how small it seems in the big picture of the future, has a ripple effect. 


Did Governor Granholm picture my son’s disappointed face when she signed the budget that would cause the lay-offs which would cause the teacher to lose motivation and cancel their trip to the state tournament?  I doubt it.  When Ms. Science Teacher basically told the kids that it’s not worth competing unless you know you will have a shot at winning, did she think about how that might effect future choices they make?  I doubt it.  When she implied that our blue collar community of rag-tag kids wasn’t of the same caliber as those other teams, did she think about how that makes our kids feel about where they live and go to school?  I doubt it.


I’ve been stewing on this for almost a week now.  What to do.  What to say or not to say.  I believe the teacher was wrong to cancel the trip.  But I also believe the school system is wrong in how they chose which teachers get pink slips.  And I believe our state government was wrong in how it chose to prioritize expenses and where it chose to cut the budget.  And let’s not even get started on the federal government spending money on war vs. education.


It’s a ripple effect.  And this time its ripples reached all the way out to my son and his teammates.  To the future scientists. The ones who are going to reinvent our world.  It’s time to figure out how to change the ripples of exhaustion and resignation back into ripples of hope.  And I guess I’ll start by figuring out how to have a compassionate conversation with a gifted young science teacher.



Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others...
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope,
and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

-Robert F. Kennedy




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This needs to be an EP. This needs to be sent to the White House, the State House, and the teacher's unions. Jesus, mamoore. This brought tears to my eyes. The ripple effect . . . absolutely.
I will certainly make this brilliant post an Editor's Pick on the brand-new alternative OS Editor's Picks

I also linked it to my facebook account and will share it with my family email list.

Owl, when you find something that needs to be an EP but isn't please PM me, email, or comment on the new blog. I am pleased; a total of 15 OSers have requested invitations to be co-bloggers. I hope this will have a positive ripple effect.
Teachers need to be evaluated just like workers in any other field. If you are not doing the job, you get fired no matter how long you've been with the company. Tenure is outdated. It's a safety net used by teachers who have lost their motivation and creativity. Do I understand how this can happen in a system that does not hold a teaching certificate in as high esteem as a $25,000 garbage pail. You bet I do. But if someone chooses to be a teacher, then they should hold onto that ideal despite the lowering of standards that constantly threatens them. If not, our children suffer. Just look at our recent graduates and tell me that isn't the case. You don't need fancy tools to teach reading/writing/arithmetic. A pencil, a paper bag and ingenuity will do it.
One of the greatest tragedies of my time is the loss of Robert Kennedy. Things like this have fed a growing doubt I have about whether we are going to make it as a country. 'Absolutely never' would be my answer if asked whether I support a last hired, first fired policy. Senority has n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do with competence, giftedness, talent, love for the work, or any of the things we need to be looking at when making hire/fire decisions like this one. How will we ever get where we say we want to go if we are kicking the brightest and best off the back of the truck while we're hurtling down the road, heading the wrong way at 95 miles an hour? Maybe you'd consider being a school board member Melissa ... I don't know. It seems like a hill we can't take alone - you need to be a ripple. Me too.
I forgot to say I could just {{{{hug}}} that bright little man of yours - that face says so much and it breaks my heart to see the excitement of achievement taken away from our children, yet it's happening every single day.

I second Owl.
I agree this should be an EP. It is sad how the ripples reach us in so many lasting and different ways. The ripple then transforms to a tidal wave and makes a lasting impact on many. Tell your son to keep perservering, however discouraged he is now. He will remember more of your reaction to what happened than of the actual event. Thank you for sharing this!
Owl- I am thinking about where I can send it w/o hurting the teacher involved. My hope is that she will hang around our community until a new teaching position opens up for her through someone's retirement. And believe me, I shed a few quiet tears for my son, too. Watching your kids work so hard to earn something and then have it taken away is tough.

Red- Thank you. I know there are a lot of young teachers out there in the same position as this one.

Donna - Most certainly. I have a lot of respect for teachers, it's a tough and under-appreciated job. But there are those who are good at it and those who aren't and there needs to be a system that rewards skilled, committed people like our science teacher instead of penalizing her because of her age.

Gabby- Funny you mention the school board. We currently have two open seats in our district and my husband was approached to run by some school staff. We tossed back and forth the idea of one of us running but, in the end, decided we couldn't do it because there is a conflict of interest between the work our camp does with our community schools and our desire to build on that relationship. That said, we are both as involved and as vocal as possible in what happens in our schools.
Well - it's Kleenex time. I feel as devastated as you ... I really don't know what to say. Sometimes ripples turn into tidal waves and just wipe everything out. I am so sorry for your son and his teammates. I feel awful for his teacher. My heart aches for you and the other parents who are probably feeling the same way.

And now you've shared the story and the ripples will spread ... I hope that they spread to all the right places and someone, somewhere reads this and realizes just how all of this works. I think you may have drawn the clearest map of our economic situation that has been shown.

Love you. Love him. Wish I could do something other than say that. xoxo
Absolutely, mamoore, absolutely. What a great post.
YES! JUDY! EP! Now I want it on the BIG S and I want it in The New York Times and I want it on EVERY governor's desk and read aloud on the Senate Floor. Let's move it, people. NOW!
mamoore, thank you for posting this. I wish I were in Michigan because I would volunteer to go with the students and parents to the state tournament.

Where there is a will there is a way. Find a way for the children to compete at state. Have you tried writing an article or editorial for your local newspaper and enlisting the aid of the other team parents yet?

Situations like these are the reason that I am looking forward to teaching at a Chicago Public School on the South Side for the next academic year. I can't wait to teach kindergarten here and help the children get the right message from the start that they can succeed no matter how humble their beginnings are.

Good! I sent a note to Judy, Joan W., Kerry, and Thomas awhile ago . . . maybe if we bombard their inboxes?
I got confused. I thought you were gonna be talkin' about drinkin' ripple.
Oh - I am bombarding some inboxes ... LOTS of 'em ... all over the place.
Absolutely wonderful post and hits one right between the eyes and straight to the heart of the matter. Beautifully written. Strikingly direct. Packed with meaning for all of us to take to heart and soul. Truly, you have also started your own "ripple effect," so wisely, forcefully and meaningfully projected out to the universe. Well done!
this makes me so angry Melissa, and it's a scenario I'm all too familiar with. In all my years in volunteering the one thing that I learned is that to effect change you need to have most of the parents demanding the same thing. If it's one or a few voices in the wilderness there is the fall back strategy by local, district and state officials that parents and kids will outgrow the problems and move on.

The trip should have been made to State regardless of the expected outcome. That decision, and the way it was presented to the kids was unconscionable, the worst of lessons for the kids to receive.

I hope you can use this experience, this very blog, as a means to wake some people up.
A well deserved choice by the editors! I am completely in agreement on the importance of the kids competing, regardless of their chances at winning. The teacher has to separate the kid's interests from her impending hard as it is. The kids need to see someone struggle through the demoralizing effect of institutional decisions, which are for the most part impersonal, and beyond our control. I hope there is time to talk to her. A great difference in the kid's lives can still be made!
Ripples of hope. I want that effect most of all.
I loved reading your piece and seeing the picture of your son wearing his ribbon and his award. I loved the fact that this Olympiad was for science! I love ribbons and awards for budding scientists and writers and artists.

As I read of the meeting and the group of ragged teachers, I knew it wasn't going to be good. If they had had energy enough to bring the kids this far, couldn't someone have found a way to help them take the next step?

I see Owl's comment just below mine as I type and I agree with her.

Too many words come to mind about the priorities made by powers that be.

Having said that, I offer a suggestion though I don't know if it will help at all. I taught at a very small school for a while. One of our kids fell in love with science in the 7th grade. When he was in the ninth grade, he learned about a competition sponsored by ??? Not coming back, but it was a name I knew. I expect that he found it on the internet. He was also a computer genius.
He competed and he won recognition of some kind. He would hate it that I don't remember exactly, but HE found the competition, HE competed and He won something.

I taught him again in 10th grade. While he was researching for a paper I had assigned, he found information about a college intern program offered to high school students. It was a science program. He applied. He was one of four kids in the country chosen. His story goes on and on and he has done very well.

I wonder if there is something here that you and/or your son can play with? If working on this project has lit a fire within him for science, maybe there are other ways than the Olympiad to help him keep it burning?

I would not be surprised if something like this has not already occurred to you. I do not know exactly where to look, but kids sometimes do. Someone else reading your piece may know of something. I really just want to help keep his newly found fire burning. Possibly if you have your compassionate talk with your gifted science teacher, she may have some guidance herself. I send you all the support I have.
It's coming our way, too. My son's young, enthusiastic math teacher who has set his imagination on fire is on the pink-slip list, as is the adorable young thing who has made our world a better place with her Dispute Resolution program. Jennifer Granholm's son is in my son's class, and has the locker next to his. I often wonder what she's thinking. I am so sorry that this happened, and that those eager, inspired kids have been taught such a brutal civics lesson.
How sad. I'm so sorry. What a mess.
Aw, what a sad thing for your son--to lose a great teacher and to have a shot at competing in the next level.
The whole "lay-off by seniority" thing pisses me off. How about letting people keep their jobs based on a thing called performance?
Sorry to hear this, Melissa, but I'll keep sending out ripples of hope whenever & wherever I can.
This is fantastic! Um, it gave me goosebumps...xxa
Excellent, valuable stuff, Ma. Our local school system has been spared the deep cuts that have hit some metro Atlanta counties, but the quality of my son's education is going to be affected to some degree by the absence of any staff member. Pretty soon, your "ripple effect" is going to become a "snowball effect," it seems to me, and the whole thing is likely to spiral out of control then. Class sizes will grow, fewer people will choose careers in education (already a stressful occupation made even more unappealing by hostile and underfunded work environments), and our struggling education system itself will be left behind.
Oh, Ma, I hope that somehow those kids make it to State. What a terrible terrible lesson to teach these hardworking kids. I feel your pain, I too live in Michigan and have my daughter starting kindergarten in the fall. I am scared to death to see what the class will be like. I am already concerned a this note on the school districts website to "prep" for school "students will receive music, art OR physical education UP TO 3 days per week. Seems to me a full day classroom of 5 year olds needs a recess break, no?
Thanks to all of you for your rallying cry! I have to run out to help in my daughter's classroom so don't have a lot of time to comment right now. I did want to say that soon after I posted this I got an ironic email from our school's accelerated learning coordinator asking if I would help them look for some private funding to keep the program alive until the school district can afford to fund it again. Of course I said yes. One more little ripple in the water...
Wow. I agree with all the above comments. This is such an important topic. I feel terrible for your son, his teacher, his team mates, the entire state of Michigan. I'm not kidding.
One of my sons competed in the Odessey of the Mind program all through grade school and middle school. It was a fantastic program that required untold hours of dedication from his teachers and the adult volunteers. His life is much richer because of their dedication. At 21 he still talks about the experience.
The first, and most effective, way to keep a nation's people down is to keep them under-educated. What are we doing? It's insane.
One thing many parents and teachers have to be careful of is the "Youth=great teacher" distinction. In all fairness to teachers everywhere, there is rampant "ageism" in the system, especially in the area of job searches. I see it in my profession, and while our culture celebrates youth, I see many tenured older professionals who are vital and innovative in their teaching. I think it is fair to say there are those who milk the system, once tenure is awarded, but there is the majority of teachers in middle age and older who deserve tenure, and continue teaching with great vigor and skill, guiding students excel as they enter the market.
There's nothing I can add to what's already bee said, so I'm *rating* in support.
No child left behind, does that really mean all children left behind? What's for dinner our children's future, bon appetit
Very sad that Michigan cannot afford to continue valuing public education as an important public good. Perhaps encouraging people to support the school system, with their donations of time, experience, money, would help more in the long run?

I find it discouraging that teachers are blamed and that the seniority system is blamed, when it is not clear to me that these are the most critical aspects. (I hasten to add that I don't think Mamoore was laying the blame at the feet of her son's science teachers.) I find it encouraging that this blog generated so much interest, and hope that the ripples are directed more positively towards respecting the work that the teachers have done and continue to do, the work students do everyday, and the ways adults nurture young people to explore and try, try again.
Owl has the power - I noted right off this has an EP AND a cover spot. Well-deserved too.

I happen to agree with you, those kids should be going. They EARNED it no matter how the teacher feels, no matter how many parents show up. They earned that trip.

There is a huge shortage today of teachers that are willing and capable of motivating the kids - why do we have to keep losing the good ones?

This is so well told that I actually got teary-eyed. Terrible situation for the kids, for the teacher being let go, for the other teachers having to watch their colleagues lose their jobs. I wonder if they could re-direct some funds from the football team/ coach to fund the Science Olympiad instead? Nah - that'd never happen...
Now that it has been awarded an Editor's Pick, the new blog doesn't need to call attention to it. Congratulations.
Unfortunately, it is always the kids who end up being hurt by cuts in education.

As Gary and Greta said, however, seniority isn't necessarily the "bad guy" here. In the overwhelming majority of situations, seniority equals expertise, knowledge, and the ability to keep doing the job in spite of low pay and lack of respect. (If it also equals burnout, then that should be addressed by helping the person experiencing it, not by summarily firing that person for being human.)

I wonder if any of us here, who have years and years of experience at our jobs, would willingly give up our job to someone lower on the totem pole just because someone else (who may not even be objective) said the newer person was performing better. Seniority, when it comes to decisions about who to let go, is an "artificial" construct. But then, very often, so is what constitutes "performance".

I hope you can have that conversation with your son's teacher, mamoore. And I hope that your son doesn't let this situation discourage him.

Your heart is most definitely in the right place here, and you can obviously see all of the forces at play.
being from a small town in michigan myself, and witnessing the devestating effects of the economy as it hits the forgotten, tiny, less than blue collar rural towns of the midwest, your post tugged the heartstrings in many ways. rated.
I'm so with you, Melissa. My son goes to the best magnet junior high in Florida. They are closing it next year. Yet, we have city money to plant thousands of palm trees to beautify the city because it comes from a fund developers pay into. Of course, that money is "not related" to school funding.

Maybe my kid will have palm tree shade to dig ditches under.

(thumbified and thrilled this is getting attention. Hug that kid for me.)
I so agree with this. How sad they didn't get the chance to learn and grow. It is not just your state California is in the same boat. We must pay the polititians wages and benefits first and then they will worry how to spend the little left. Great to see this get an EP!
Nicely written. So many issues here. I think a lot of "gray" too.

Thinking macro-ly (is that a word?) on a district budget level, if some school programs have to take "a hit" in order for others to survive, there's some who would argue that it's most important to preserve the high school programs.

And in cold, bean-counter-type terms, how many children are in this program versus another academic program? I think school systems have to think in terms of getting the most bang-for-the-buck during lean times.

RE: teacher layoffs, wow, a complicated issue. Cindy Ross (I think) gave several convincing arguments in her blog for tenure. Also, would we choose a teacher who is getting her advanced degree at night to assist with teaching all of her students, or the teacher using her afterhours to lead an extra-curricular activity with a small subset of students? Certainly, the latter might be more fun, creative, etc. for short-term, but ultimately the better-educated teacher will benefit the greater number of students.

Difficult subject and difficult times. We're all tightening our belts, including the school systems. There's bound to be disappointments when programs get cut.

@Bill - LOL - I've got no power . . . just wanna see this get its due (bump).
Sharing this with everyone I know. Why is it that we don't have bailout money for this, the best investment of all? Somebody remind me. Please.
This is so heartbreaking! Smiling kids, dashed hopes, laid off teachers -- solutions? I don't know. But eloquently & passionately drawing attention to the problem is the likeliest first step. Good work.
Thank you all for your thoughtful and passionate additions to my post!

I do have to say that I have no proof that the layoff was the reason she chose not to go to the state tournament but it makes sense to me that it would have been her tipping point- and I do know that it is the reason I didn't immediately go knocking down her door in anger.

I also wanted to comment directly to those who wrote in support of teacher tenure. I am, in no way, advocating that experienced teachers should be dumped in favor of the younger ones or that tenure systems should be done away with all together. We have been blessed to have some amazing, very experienced teachers as a part of our kids lives and I wouldn't trade the experience that they bring to classroom for anything. That said, isn't there a balance somewhere that allows for the really good young teachers to be considered alongside the tenured teachers when it comes to layoffs? Doesn't it make sense, in the interest of providing our kids with the very best education? It's a crazy-making cycle because it starts me thinking about how we judge who is a "really good teacher" and I would fear a system based solely on student test scores. Obviously, I don't have the answer!
I'm so sorry for your son and the other kids. This just sucks. And you're right, nobody is thinking about the future consequences of their words and actions, which is why this country is such a mess right now. Education gets hit over and over, and it's just not right. Yes, lets take a look at what we've spent on wars in the last decade and how much we have (or haven't) spend on education. It's just disgusting.
I think I'm with the teacher on this one. Rather than spending energy preparing students for another science competition, my guess is that she's going to be spending energy on other things -- like finding a new job, worrying about going broke if she can't find a new job in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and so on.

Perhaps the better approach would have been simply to tell the kids that: "Sorry kids, I just found out that I'm going to be laid off. So I have to look for a new job. And because of that, I don't feel up to doing the state competition." It would have given the students a lesson in economics and education.

On the other hand, I also disagree with some of the comments that have been made about tenure and seniority. It would be very stressful to know that you'd have to compete for your job every year, and that you could be given the boot any time a more energetic and charismatic teacher came along.

Now being well into my 50s I have a different view of such things. While we certainly don't want incompetent teachers, it is a simple fact that many people don't have the same energy when they're older that they had when they were younger. With public pension plans becoming less generous, and Social Security retirement ages increasing, it is reasonable to think that we're going to end up with teachers in their mid-60s still in the classroom, many of whom will have chronic health problems such as diabetes and arthritis. Not to mention that they will probably be tired of teaching the same thing for 40 or more years. It would be a sad state of affairs if these folks could be disposed of at any time because they couldn't compete with the energetic new graduates. If we want to have energetic and fresh teachers, that's great, but then there has to be some provision made for the older teachers.
If this had been the football team does anyone think they would not have gone to "state" if they had made the cut? Our priorities are all out of whack.

The expression on your son's face is nothing short of beaming and I hate hate hate that this experience might have dimmed his excitement for science.

I feel badly for the young teacher who is getting laid off BUT I think she is taking out her career disappointment on these kids. It is not THEIR fault that she is out of a job. She will forever remembered by them as the teacher who didn't think they had a chance in the big leagues. Kids didn't even get a chance to try.
I have so many thoughts on this as a teacher. But I have about a 5 minute break so this is going to be short:

1. The teacher should have told the students her real reason for not wanting to go. Telling them they couldn't go because they probably wouldn't win is just wrong. However, who knows the kind of heartbreak she was going through when she said those words. In some ways and in some places, teaching is just a truly thankless job with no one recognizing the many unpaid hours a teacher can spend arranging field trips, scheduling buses, grading papers, creating lessons..etc. This person sounds like a wonderful teacher who got royally screwed and people react in all kinds of ways to that.

2. This isn't the time but someone should really do a piece on teacher tenure. In most places teacher (PK-12) tenure is a myth. I've been teaching for eight years and I still only have a year to year contract. The only truly tenured teachers are those who got grandfathered in back in the early eighties. Everyone else is on a contract.

3. Parents are more powerful than they think. Why elect politicians based on their stances on abortion or gay marriage. Why not elect politicians that promise to fund education? Hopefully I will get some time to write a longer reaction piece later.

I feel very sorry for your son and his teammates and I feel bad that this kind of thing is happening all over the country to both experienced and inexperienced teachers.

3. B
Distribute widely. We have money for war, money for hate. We have no money for kids, they always must wait. Rated.
As fellow OS blogger, Stellaa, pointed out so well recently, overworked and underpaid teachers have always had their political uses in terms of blame targets. But hey! At least the Wall Street bankers who enriched themselves at the expense of the entire planet are getting their bonuses!

And no matter what the evidence to the contrary, that this country was founded by a slave-owning wealthy elite whose noble words about freedom referred only to them and their kind, many brainwashed-from-birth Americans will continue to wave the flag even as they live and die in tent cities. Corporate America's brand of distorted capitalism is bringing down the entire world economy!
Mishima - I have to say that, as a parent of one of the kids on that team, I totally disagree with you. Only the teacher knows her real reasons for why she chose to say and do what she did. I have compassion for her situation. She is till employed by the school, her position is not terminated until the end of this school year and I hope she is rehired someday. BUT, for her to dump her financial and job worries on kids as you suggested, kids that come from homes where parents are losing their jobs or have moved to another state for work and left their kids behind? What purpose would that serve except to increase their anxiety about the future? To me, this isn't aboutchosing sides, it's about how our actions never stand alone, they always live beyond the moment.
This is so sad. Was there never a possibility that a parent could step in and prepare the kids . . . or a volunteer? It would seem like there would be many laid off engineers etc. in Michigan who could work with the team. I am sorry.
Terrible, mamoore. Glad to see this on the cover. xox
Dorinda- I don't think we could have gone without the teacher's support. The state meet isn't until mid- May and the kids need access to the school to prepare - they use the labs, equipment, etc. At this point, the invitation to compete has been passed on to the team that placed third and I don't think we can take it back.
This makes me sad and angry at the same time. Although I understand the teacher's reaction and subsequent decision only too well, she had a moral obligation (in my opinion) to proceed. As for her telling the children that they weren't as "good" as the students from other richer schools, that was not only unnecessary, but cruel.

The ripple effect is real. It's not like the world doesn't need more scientists, or even people who know the basics of science.
Coaching a Science Olympiad team is a ton of work - I have had many students participate on them, and coached similar groups myself, and it IS hard(but not impossible) to compete with the smaller private schools. However, I do feel it was unprofessional for the teacher to back out when they won. She should have had the parents at that meeting, and asked for help from them to continue coaching. Parents can help with this...even if it is just to help out in other ways in the classroom - grade a set of papers while she coaches, etc. Blame the system, blame the private schools, blame the parents, blame everyone but yourself - this is an especially negative and subtle message for kids. I would have had sympathy for her dilemma, but still have been very angry at her choices. (Coaching a group like that at the state level also looks great on your resume when you are looking for another job...)

Teaching is an exhausting profession, and what makes a good teacher ultimately is being able to hang in there until you have learned to manage it all without getting burned out. I loved what I saw many young teachers doing with their students, but so many of them gave up after three or four years - it was just too much work to be a teacher for not enough money, they would say. Tenure gives you enough time to learn those essential time-management skills so you can keep being creative and energetic. I am not in favor of keeping burned out teachers who are unwilling to take help, but I also know that the lack of support and respect is a major cause of burnout. I had the luxury of being able to stop teaching and retire when I started to feel that it was all just getting to be too much - the paperwork and grading, not the time with the kids. And yes, doing field trips and special projects are the joy of teaching, but they also take a tremendous amount of extra time. I did a great deal of that when I taught, but the reason I could keep up with it all is that I team-taught for most of those years, and had small (gifted) classes. I can't remember how I did the same things for my big classes - oh, yes - I had no children to worry about then, and very little life outside of school...
How terribly disappointing for your son. And how truly unfortunate it is to lose a great teacher. I'm sorry for it all. _r
Your last bit of news is the hardest to hear. Their place has been given to the next team. Is someone helping the kids deal with their feelings of not being allowed to take their rightful place? Is anyone helping them? I made a suggestion of sorts for the kids earlier. It may not be ideal but it might give them a way to follow their own talents and their own strengths no matter what others dictate for them for whatever reasons. These are the kinds of things that make our kids shut down. I so hope that your son and perhaps the other kids on the team will be able to hold onto their fire no matter what nonsense surrounds them. That has nothing to do with them. At least it shouldn't have. I can't help the state and their nonsense, but I can hope for your son. I do hope.
' And let's not even get started on the federal government spending money on war vs. education. '

My feeling is that's just exactly where you should start.

This is a heartbreaking post, mamoore. Congratulations to your son and his teammates, and that inspirational, soon-to-be-out-of-work young teacher. They know they were contenders, and how much that matters ( cue Marlon ).

Our government, after years of degradation, is in the process of implementing reforms to education which include ( the first time ever ) a national curriculum ( and we - australians - only have eight states ! ), as well as healthcare reforms.
But then, we never ran up a debt like yours.
Nor did we need to bail out the banks.

It may not be in our lifetime, but people like your son and his friends, with moms dads like you, and the spirit if CSNY, will prevail on this earth.

How could we possibly think otherwise ?
We love you ( most of you, anyway ).
This is so sad and unfortunate. Especially because there is so little science taught anymore and I know how hard it can be to get kids, especially boys, motivated for school stuff as is.

We fight our own battle for funding for arts/science magnets here. They were initially funded with NCLB grants, but every year there are cuts. Next year, they're likely to get rid of transportation, which will make it difficult, if not impossible, for a lot of kids.

And yet, we still fund our wars.
As a teacher, I say thank you for having compassion for the teacher. As a parent, I'd be pretty ticked off at her decision. Teachers everywhere are continuing to do things that we used to get paid for doing, because we know it's good for kids, and we love our work. We are also not doing many things because we are so fed up.

My daughter is participating in her first science Olympiad this year. She's not nearly as excited as I am, but I hope that will change. :)
Oh, how I feel for your son and my son and all the other kids in Michigan just like them. N0 one knows how frustratingly awful things are in this state unless they're living here.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention; I hope it gets widely disseminated. I am sorry for this disappointment for your son; he deserves better. It's just a sorry situation all around.
This is so sad. It's just another example of innocent people being hurt by situations that they didn't cause. I think our nation has lost its collective mind if good teachers are dismissed and children's hearts and dreams are broken while we continue to fund wars without limit. Something is very wrong indeed.
Tax cuts today, tax cut tomorrow and tax cuts forever! After all why should Paris Hilton have to pay taxes?
I wish those "in power" could read your post and the other posts here -- how so many of them relate to teachers (good or bad) and the long-term effect they had on career choices, self-esteem, and an overall trajectory or worldview of life. It seems so counterproductive to shortcut the people and institutions that turn out the people who will determine the future of our nation.
So sad for so many reasons. On the micro level, I'm sorry your son and his teammates suffered this disappointment, and of course for a parent it's heartbreaking to see your child bear the brunt of any unfairness. And it's unfortunate that this teacher is losing her job. On a more macro level, what this says about our values and priorities based on what we're willing to pay for is extremely disturbing.
"Low seniority means first to go – regardless of performance."

Can't understand it - the same in my state. It really, really, really irks me as a parent and a human being who always had to keep my performance at par to stay employed. I wish a movement was created to change this. Our school system won a lawsuit that our government was not providing its "constitutional obligation" to fund education properly, relying on inconsistent funding from levies and property tax. Yet, our state, still cuts and cuts. I can't wait to see the final wash of what this 'first win' will bring in the long line of lawsuits to follow. Hopefully, the kids will win at the supreme court level.
" I believe the teacher was wrong to cancel the trip."

She put it to a vote and acted on the majority decision. Maybe her pre-ballot presentation was a little skewed but, it is really tough to continue to sacrifice for a bunch of kids when the parents are not supportive.
If you reached out to the parents and your son reached out to his classmates, maybe a vote to reconsider would be entertained.
Stellaa - I agree that Reiche's proposal has a lot of merit. At the very least, the idea that we need to find a stable funding source for education. It just seems like such a long shot that it his idea will ever get anywhere -though I did pass on your post about it to anyone I thought might be willing to really read it.
Our very small CT public school has many of the same problems. We have lost teachers to layoffs, early retirement plans and poaching by more affluent towns. To your science team in particular, I can not speak to Michigan but here in CT teachers are paid a stipend to coach or advise teams clubs ect., so your son's teacher great or not may not be holding up her end of her contract.

I have come to believe that the older, over paid incompetent teacher is an urban myth. Over the 12 years I have had children in the public schools the new inexperienced teachers are the ones that have been the weakest. Of course there is an exception to any rule.
It's that look of pride in the photo, and how he wore those medals the whole rest of the day, that make this so disappointing.

They had a final party yesterday - mostly cleaning up and packing away the science equipment until next year. Then they spent a few minutes eating subs and went on their way. When my son got in the car, again, he didn't have the energy of kid who felt like he had accomplished something. The beaming face of the boy who was wearing those medals was not evident at all and that's what's hardest for me to accept. Even if he had gone to state and come in dead last, he would have had a laugh about it, been exposed to some amazing science and young scientists, and set his sights on doing better next year.
Glad this is an EP. I don't have kids, but I try to empathise with parents through this awful time of losing resources to help create a next generation. Well done, mamoore.
Wow Mamoore, I am so disappointed that I missed this. My husband is the third most recent hire in the Social Studies department at his school. The bottom two have been non-renewed. It is a scary atmosphere out there with two kids and he is 90% if our income... and there is no way we could live with my mom...

That being said, a good teacher would have had a "meeting" with the parents and let them step up, (or tell their own children the bad news) NOT lay that heavy burden of guilt on the kids. That was pretty poor judgement in my opinion.

awesome post with such a great sense of balance...
I've talked to several other teachers in our district about what happened and they all agree it was badly handled, lay-off or not. To top it off, Science Olympiad funding was also cut which means their chance to go to state next year is non-existent unless we find other funding for it.

Good luck to you guys- let's hope the cuts don't go any deeper.