Saturday, January 29, 2011

If Schools Were Hospitals

If Schools Were Hospitals
by Kymberlee Ricke
written July 12, 2010

So, "merit pay" is one of those words being bandied about in education more and more lately as districts look for a way to eliminate tenure and find ways to fire teachers on the higher end of the salary scale.

Now, I'm not saying bad teachers should be retained. That would just be stupid. But there's such a huge difference between a 'bad teacher' and a teacher in a difficult teaching situation.

So let's think of it like this: Medical Professionals, you are now on merit pay. If your patient gets 100% better, gets to perfect health, you will get a bonus.

But if your patient dies, you will get docked and you will be put on probation. Now, sure, there's always one who spoils the numbers, so we'll track your patients for a year and take an average. If 70% or more of your patients are as healthy or healthier than they were before they got whatever it was they came in to see you for, you'll get a bonus. If you're under 50%, expect to be fired. And it doesn't matter *why* they're less healthy at the end of the year, just that they are. If they came to you for asthma treatments and got so healthy that they went running and got hit by a car [lost a parent or had another trauma]? Hey, they were your patient and all we care about is the test results we can get from them at the end of the year.

Geriatrics [economically depressed area schools - especially high schools], we know you're screwed, sorry about that. We get that you're getting people who are reaching the end of the line and you really don't have a lot of time to deal with the possible mistakes made in the past and really if your patient dies [drops out] there isn't much you could do, but we're still figuring your numbers the same way as everyone else. So if you're really talented, you may want to think about taking your talents to another area. Yeah, that leaves the 'less than the best' trying to do that really difficult job, but if you're that good, why would you want to jeopardize your career in such a risky area?

On the other hand, Obstetrics [gifted programs], you're in great shape! You get people coming in who have, for the most part, been getting great medical care for 9 months and have taken pains to improve bad health habits. And if you do everything right, you'll have *two* healthy patients on your service a year from now. And if things go really badly, you can hand off at least one of them to neonatal [regular ed.] Which means that person is off your service and no longer part of your statistical group.

Cosmetic Surgery? [Transfer Students] You need to be really careful because when they come in, there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, but when they leave the hospital they'll have bruises and stitches and staples [spend at least two weeks trying to adjust and catch up to the different curriculum], so be damn sure that your perfect patient is even more perfect a year later or you'll hear, for the rest of your life, "This is all your fault, this was fine before you cut into me. [at the last school]."

ICU [Special Ed], we'll cut you some slack. We understand that by the time they've come to you that things are pretty bad for reasons outside your control. But they should get *better*. They may never get to 'perfectly healthy', but dying is not acceptable and will be held against you regardless of the condition they came to you in.

And just in case there was a question, we're going to hold all hospitals to the same standard. It doesn't matter if you're at Cook County General (public hospital that must take all patients, regardless of ability to pay) or the Mayo Clinic/Johns Hopkins/UCLA. It doesn't matter if your facility has the money to give full body scans [individualized testing/programs] to every person who comes through the doors or if you're hoping you don't run out of band-aids [pencils] before Friday. It doesn't matter if you have the kind of program people apply for and fight to get into and therefor follow the protocol to the letter [parents that give a damn] or one where we throw you eight or twelve critical patients at a time, half of whom won't get the meds/do the follow-up care if they do make it out the door [parents who don't care].

So at the end of the year we're going to round up every patient you've seen - possibly including those you only 'saw' as you passed them in the waiting room [students who transfer in and out again, but happen to be with you for state testing] - and give them all the same battery of tests. The first test will be to see if they can walk into the exam room [read]. If they can't walk in, they can't even have the rest of the tests. Wait, what about that person who uses a wheel chair and didn't come to you about walking-related issues in the first place? Yeah, that's rough for you but everyone should be able to walk, shouldn't they? You should have done something about that. Nevermind that no one did anything about it for the first 10/20/30 years of his life, or even that there was nothing *to* be done. And just because you did a great job making sure his swine flu was cured [he could do math], if he can't walk into the exam we'll never get to the part where we check to see if his heart is beating or his skin is clear or if in fact, he made it through the swine flu with flying colors.

So yeah... let's put the whole world on 'merit pay'. This will certainly make sure everyone can walk, have clear skin and survive the swine flu. There's no reason at all to take into account individuals, economic situations or political climate.

A minor political detour...

Okay, like I said in the header of this blog, I will occasionally have non-photography related posts here.  Today I'm going to make one of them.

It's an essay I wrote last summer to explain why I find merit pay for teachers a bad idea.  I need to have it up where I can point a few people at it.  It seems silly to start a whole 'nother blog just for that.  If you aren't interested in that sort of thing, move right along.  I have no problem with that. 

If you'd like to start a discussion with me about it, great!  But let's stay respectful and mature. If not, I'll have to delete comments and I hate doing that.

I'll be back with more photography soon. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Magic Hedge - 1.11.11, Post 4

Back in July (post: The Magic Hedge - 7.20.10 (1/2)) I posted this picture of one of the very few conifers at the Hedge.  Even then the needles were a bit yellow.

Conifer in Winter
This is that same tree in winter.  The pinecones are hanging on, the needles are becoming the frame for nests of snow.  The needles are more yellow in the face of the much colder weather and lack of circulation in them.
Parallel Pinecones

When there's not much color at all, you spend a good amount of time examining the bit of color you can find.  In this case the needles of the tree.  One thing I noticed since I was spending so much time studying these trees was the fantastic texture of the bough.  It's scaled like the pedals of the pinecones before they unfold.
Pinecone Protrusions

This cluster caught my eye because even thought I'm looking at the same kind of pinecone, they look pretty different depending on if you're looking 'up' or 'down' each one.

Snow Cap
Here you can see the way the snowflakes fall.  (Macro lenses are awesome!)  You can also see how the snow settled into petals of the pinecone where it could, but that it's facing down too much on an angle for the snow to stick on all sides.
Snow in the Needles

It looks almost alien.

Snow as Fashion Statement

I showed you the shots of the geese taking off in the last post or two.  Here's a couple before they left (obviously.)  Let me tell you something.  Chicago geese are completely confident that they could take you out.  They don't fly off when humans approach and are as likely to come at you and yell and honk because you're in *their* space as they are to walk away (casually, like they're just out for a stroll.  They don't *flee* humans.)  So you can just walk up to them and get some nice close shots.  Like I mentioned before, the bait shop keeper was out there feeding them bread before I got over there, so apparently this one went snow-diving to get at his.  And the snow won. ;)  But apparently geese don't feel cold - at least at the levels were were getting.  This guy had no interest in wiping the snow off his beak or his feet.  Others were sitting in the snow, very comfortably preening their feathers.

Camouflage Critter
 I posted a rabbit in the first post.  As I went down the line it was stems, stems, stems, rabbit, stems, stems, rabbit, stems... you get the idea.  3 rabbits in a row.  Bunnies get big and fat over the fall.  In the summer and all the bunnies were much more svelt.

Clearly the Airline Made a Mistake
 I have no idea why this sparrow thought it was a good idea for him to hang out in Chicago for the winter.  I know most of the Southern U.S. states are below average for them, but it has to be better than what we have here in Chicago.

Watch for Falling Ice Squirrels

I don't know what's eating the bark off the trees, especially this high up.  (This squirrel was above my not-quite-five-foot-high head.)  I can't imagine a squirrel doing that much damage, but I don't know what else would get up there and do it.  Anyway, he's kind of adorable up there, no?

Flakes Falling on Wall
One last shot for tonight.  This is a wall between the path you're allowed on and the prairie flower protection area between the Hedge and the Lake.  Blow this one up to full size if you get a chance.  It's very cool how you can see the snowflakes falling onto the accumulated snow on the wall.  I also like how you can see how the snowcap was creeping down the wall a flake at a time.

And now a word from your sponsor... who is, you know, also your photographer. Now that I know how this works, I'm going to be closing out at least one post each day I blog with my Etsy link.  Etsy, for those who don't know, is an on-line art and handcraft shop.  I not only sell my photography there but ceramic work, crochet pieces, fabric-crafts and other things.  Please take a look if you have a chance.

Giving this a try... then back to your regularly scheduled programming

I just wanted to see how this works.  For those who don't know and are interested, my photography is for sale.  I have certain shots up at my Etsy, but if you see something here on the blog that you like that isn't on my Etsy, just contact me and I'll make it available. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Magic Hedge - 1.11.11, Post 3

Here we go again... :)  I'm finding that I have to do a lot of lightening of my shots in post-production.  Given that it was really light (I mean, it was cloudy and snowing, but it wasn't, by any means, dark) out and I was shooting snow, I have to figure my camera was somehow overcompensating.

Airborne Squirrel
 Like I said yesterday, there were squirrels-o-plenty.  This guy was chasing another one.
Chilly Squirrel

This squirrel managed to look cold.  Most of them didn't. They were fat and energetic and having at the seed someone tossed down.  This guy... I don't know... he just looks chilly.
Standing Guard Over Seeds
I think this guy was afraid I'd take his seeds or chase him off.  He kept popping up like this and then going back to eat and popping back up to look at me.  I love how he's all chubby in the belly, but he has this kind of ratty tail thing happening.

And They're Off...
A geese-launch shot I forgot yesterday.  I didn't color correct this one.   I left it a little gray because it seemed to add to the scene for me.  Also because it gives you an idea of how my camera was perceiving the *really, really* white snow.
Your Insane Photographer

Here's a rare portrait of the (insane) photographer.  I ran into someone else out there taking shots with his S.O. so I offered to take a picture of the two of them together, so he said he'd return the favor.  I couldn't find my purple and gray hat, so I had the earband on.  I had really, really wet hair by the time I got home.
The Bird the South Forgot

Then there was this guy.  It's not a good shot or anything, but it's an American Robin.  What the *heck* is he doing here in this snowstorm?  As a kid I was always taught that the robins returning was one of the first signs of spring.  This robin?  One for the first signs of SNOW MY GOODNESS, SNOW!

Looking for Mr. Tumnis
 There's shrubbery arch in the Hedge.  I have no idea if this was crafted at some point or if it somehow naturally formed when branches tangled together overhead.  Anyway, add a little snow and you have the entrance to Narnia, I swear.

Snow on the Weeds

 The weeds of the summer and fall are clearly dormant now, but the stems still remain and have been picking up snow on any surface that's horizontal or close enough for jazz.
You Can't Spin This Cotton

It makes it look like we're growing cotton... in Chicago.  In January.  I love that in this shot, even at this size, you can see the snow falling.
Snow (on) Cone(flowers)
 Here's more of the little snow caps.  I'm pretty sure these were either coneflowers or sunflowers in the summer.  Now They're snowcone flowers. :)

This needs to be made into a card or something at some point.  It just strikes me as ridiculously iconic "Winter".

There's more.  (There's always more with me, isn't there? :)  But that's enough for tonight. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Magic Hedge - 1.11.11, Post 2

So like I said at the end of the last post, there were a lot of animals out and about for this kind of weather.  Of course, it's easier to see them when there's no brush or leaves in the way.

Bunny Bundles Up
 The first critter I saw was a bunny.  So was the second and third.  It was Bunny, ten steps, Bunny, ten steps, Bunny for a while.  All of them hidden in this thicket of the remains of the tall grasses and flowers of the spring and summer.
Literal Crow's Feet
 I know crows freak a lot of people out, but I find them kind of cool.  I love the texture of the feathers at his shoulder.  Also there's something inherently interesting to me about a completely monochromatic animal, down to his eyes and feet.
 And then he decided to head for the next tree and I got this cool shot of his wing.  I also used this shot to be sure it was an American Crow and not a Raven - a Crow's tail is that seashell/scallop shape and a Raven's tail is triangular. 
I Seed What You Did There

There were some seriously pudgy squirrels out there today. A woman I was talking to said she was the one putting out the seeds.  She wants to try to attract cardinals.  Now, to be fair, I spent an hour and a half today hoping to get that iconic picture of a male cardinal in a snowy evergreen, but I'm not sure it's a good idea to start tossing down seed in a wild sanctuary.  You could easily end up introducing a plant that doesn't go there when you do that.  Not to mention you influence the way the wild animals behave and then what will they do when you don't come back with more?

M-Y Geese
 Then there were the geese.  Again, there was a big crowd of them because there was someone out feeding them bread.  But when the bread-man left there was just this big flock of geese on the lawn.  There had to have been 75 - 100 of them easily.  And at some point they all decided to leave.  But not at once, like something scared them.  About fifteen of them lined up, facing the lake then all at once they took off.  Then fifteen or twenty more spread out in a line like the first set had and after a minute that group took off.  They kept going in batches like that.  Which, as a photographer was great.  I was able to start predicting their behavior and I knew where to aim the camera. :)

The Second Heat Takes Off
 So here was the second set.  I love that my camera caught them all with virtually no blur on any of them.  It does, however, make it look like a slightly weird photoshop job where the birds were just pasted in haphazardly.
The 3rd Heat

The shapes of the wings in this one are so very cool.  There's the "M" guy in the extreme foreground, the "V" guy above him.  There's the "U" guy on the left and the "Y" on the right.  Too bad they couldn't spell anything. :)
Last Group Gets Off the Ground
 The guy in the middle of this shot looks like someone just lobbed a bird into my picture.  Don't you wonder how anything that big, with that much mass gets off the ground without jet engines?  I love the white "V"s on their tails and that you can see the "V" on all 5 geese in the shot.
I Know I Buried Food Here Somewhere

There will be many, many squirrel pictures, later.  But for now, one guy who must be looking for *something* he buried.  He kept shoving his face in the snow and then coming up and looking... annoyed. :)

Okay, that's the first half of the shots I took today.  More later.

The Magic Hedge - 1.11.11, Post 1

Okay, I'll probably never put that many "1"s in a subject line again. Unless I post on the eleventh of November this year.

Anyway!  It's snowing here in Chicago.  Not 'it snowed'.  It is currently snowing.  It has been all day.  We've got about six inches and it's still coming down with serious intent.

So what do I do?  Stay home and bury myself in my blankets and play with the ferrets?  No.  I unbury the car and drive out the Magic Hedge to do some winter shooting.

You know what?  Shooting in the snow is *hard*.  Shooting the snow is *hard*.  You're talking blinding white snow on everything, which means it's really, really easy to get purple fringing in almost every shot.  But wow, it sure is pretty.

When I went out, I had this grand plan to make a weather-proofing for my camera.  I took a large freezer bag, put the camera in it, sealed the zipper thing around the lens and then put a rubber band around it to make sure it stayed secure to the lens.  I had to rip a small hole in the back so I could see through the viewfinder, since everything was fuzzy when I tried to look through the plastic.

This actually worked pretty well until I saw some squirrels playing in the snow and I decided that I wanted to be able to switch between auto-focus and manual and macro and er... not... faster than I could do through both my gloves and the bag.  So the bag lost.  By that point though the camera had been outside long enough that the housing was close to the air temperature and the snow wasn't melting on contact, it was more or less just falling off. 

The flip-side to that was that it is true that cold weather really does sap the life out of your battery pretty quick.

Anyway, it was gorgeous out there and I took a few hundred shots.

Winter Postcard
 Okay, so here's one of those quintessential winter shots.  Evergreens in the snow.
Winter's Top Coat

This shot is crazy busy, but I just love the play of white and dark with the snow on top of the dark branches.
Snowfall in Progress

This one is worth blowing up to full size.  (Unfortunately I can't upload the 4MB *full* size picture.)  I actually captured the falling snow.  It looks really, really cool.
Stripped in the Snow
 I'm not sure what's eating bark, but something had a serious go at these trees.  This is another one where you can see the falling snow when you blow it up to full size.

Who Was Out Here?

I only saw two other people in the hour and a half I was out there and neither of them were in this part of the sanctuary.  So the question is, who was there leaving a question mark of footprints before me?

There were critters afoot!  Many more than I expected to see on a 25 degree day in January, in Chicago, while it was snowing at roughly one inch an hour.  They'll be in the next post.  In the meantime, anyone have tips for camera-care or getting great shots in the cold and the snow?