Friday, December 17, 2010
But lingering on the side lines, I see the other students, those for whom this 2 week vacation means something different. At their house, there is no Christmas tree, no shiny wrapped gifts, no suitcases packed for vacation. For them, 2 weeks without breakfast and lunch at school means an empty stomach and hunger pangs. There might be a basket delivered with some donated food items, and maybe even some wrapped gifts chosen by people who don't know them, things they appreciate, but not really what they would have wanted or chosen for themselves.
We blame the parents for poor choices. We blame them for wasting their money on booze and smokes. We blame them for having too many kids and milking the welfare system we all work so hard to support.
All that may be true.... but still, these are just kids.... just like any other kids... and Christmas for them is sad, just another day in a life filled with little hope or promise.
Monday, December 13, 2010
- short people, tall people
- artistic types, can't draw a stick figure
- jocks, clutzies
- rich, poor
- musical, can't carry a note in a bucket
- dark skinned, fair skinned
- look good in a bikini, look more like a beached whale
- leaders, followers
- mechanically inclined, can't open the hood of the car
- math savvy, can't make change from a 5 dollar bill at McDonald's
School tends to sort people as well, socially, academically, and athletically; the difference is, with the new Michigan Merit Curriculum, and similar educational 'plans' across the country, schools are now forced to squeeze all students into the same pile.
On the one hand, students all deserve the same opportunities. As adolescents, most students are not prepared to chart their own course for their futures, making sound decisions about their own course of study. Many would choose the path of least resistance, regardless of the future implications. Parents and educators need to be the guiding force for them, helping them carve a path with as many options as possible.
On the other hand, expecting every single student to graduate from high school with a diploma which prepares them for college is unrealistic and unnecessary. There need to options for all students, regardless of their academic abilities, options which prepare them for life beyond high school, with the basic skills they will need to be contributing members of society.
I don't care what we call these 'options' - Plan A and Plan B? Is that any worse than the current options of diploma and Certificate of Attendance? Plan A can be the college prep path, the more challenging classes, much like the current plan for all students. It will delve deeply into topics, including advanced sciences, math classes, literature, history. It will encourage students to think independently, write and respond to a variety of ideas and topics. These future college students will explore advanced math through algebra 2 and beyond. They will analyze historical events and their relevance.
Plan B will be less rigorous for certain, but still, preparing students for life beyond the high school experience. These students would learn to read and write, balance a checkbook, as well as life skills, like parenting, how to get and keep a job, and even perhaps vocational skills. They could learn a trade such as welding, woodworking, computer skills, or auto mechanics. But when they left school with that Plan B diploma, employers would be assured that students had met certain criteria and were indeed literate and competent in those skills.
Now, with the current plan, many students are forced to drop out of school, unable to meet the stringent requirements. They struggle to make it through Algebra 1, much less 3 more years of even more advanced math classes. They either give up completely, opt for a degree from an alternative program, or work for their GED. Whichever option they choose, it still takes them out of the public school, high school diploma pool.
Some argue against sorting students at such an early age, but as a long time middle school teacher, I can promise you that some students have already been 'sorted'. Their peers have sorted them in the classroom, on the basketball court, and at their social events, in and out of school.
If those against sorting are concerned we are limiting the future options of students with this plan, I ask them this: "Aren't we limiting their options even further by refusing to offer them appropriate options for their abilities?" Every time we hit that square peg a little harder and a little harder, trying to shove it through that round hole we are calling the curriculum, we beat that student down a little bit more and a little bit more, reminding them they will never measure up to our predetermined criteria that has been set for them.
If we are concerned some students with potential might choose the lesser challenging option, then let parents have some control over the decision. Let students choose to take the path of least resistance. It won't keep them from being able to go to college someday, it just might make that task a bit more challenging. In esscence, making their early on 'easy' choice come back to haunt them, so to speak.
We need all kinds of people in this world. We need lawyers and doctors, welders and mechanics, teachers and sales clerks, butchers and construction workers, truck drivers and secretaries, computer programmers and fast food cooks. Everyone contributes to our collective society. Everyone has a place. Shouldn't schools acknowledge the differences of students, and work to adequately prepare them for their roles, instead of trying to force them all into the college bound path?
Thursday, December 09, 2010
When detention was an option, it was one I rarely used. I hate the idea of sending a student somewhere else, to someone else, for punishment for something they did in my room. To me, that process takes me out of the punishment part of the offense, and gives the power to someone else. If one of my kids is ‘bad’ enough to serve detention, I want it done in my presence, where I can ensure the misery matches the crime.
That isn’t to say I’ve never sent a student to the office, or assigned detention, but those occasions are rare, and in severe circumstances where all other options have been completely exhausted.
When the job posting for teachers to man the after school detention room was posted, the pay was good and I thought, hmmm… I really want to build my granddaughter an awesome wooden swing set next summer. Here’s a way to easily bank some extra bucks fairly easily.
I split the assignment with another teacher – he does Tuesday afternoons, I take Thursday’s. Today was my first Thursday with ‘customers’. I was supposed to have 4 customers, but one was suspended until next week, another skipped detention, and there I was with two young men, both of whom I had ‘experienced’ in 7th grade a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I was not surprised to see their names on my list. One was there for extensive tardies, the other, for skipping a class.
Once we got the pleasantries out of the way, the boys settled in. I had to keep reminding them to sit up, no sleeping allowed in detention. Finally, they seemed to settle in and I started working on a project on my laptop. My teacher sensor noticed the one young man intently interested in his desk behind his folded coat. I kept working, watching, averting my eyes when he looked up, trying to make sure my suspicions were accurate. Standing, I walked to him, as he tried to nonchalantly hide his cell phone under the jacket. I snagged it, with him sighing, and halfheartedly trying to argue, but knowing there was no use.
The reminders were few, but enough to keep me focused on them more than the work in
front of me.
Finally, the clock ticked louder and louder as four o’clock came closer and closer.
The bell sounded and they left, the one begging his phone back as he left. Both said, “See you next week!” laughing, knowing this would become a regular date between us.
So, now, I am left questioning the purpose and worth of the detention room. These are frequent flyers, even with the program new, just a few weeks in. They were disruptions in middle school, are still disruptions now, and have no apparent plan to change on the horizon.
I wonder if the money paid to the two of us manning the detention room would be better served paying us to mentor these young men, maybe grabbing a burger and fries, and talking about their lives, in and out of school.
Detentions don’t work. They don’t change behaviors. Sending a student to some magical room may make the teacher feel better, at least temporarily, but it doesn’t FIX the problem. Until we find ways to effectively touch these troubled students, find ways to encourage them to change those behaviors and channel their frustrations in more positive ways, we are just throwing money out the window.
The same kids get sent to detention, day after day, year after year. It is pointless. Just one more indicator of the many ineffective educational practices we continue to embrace.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Update your grades every week. (No excuses or exceptions.)
Notify your respective office when you assign a lunch detention, and
make sure the student is clear about whether or not s/he has lunch detention.
Take roll in the first ten minutes of every class.
If you're going to make an issue out of tardies with a student, be
sure to track them properly and follow the tardy policy that is
posted throughout the school.
Keep your students in class from bell to bell unless it's a bathroom
emergency. If you send a student to the bathroom, give them a pass
and be sure to track how long they're gone. If a student asks over
and over again every day to go to the bathroom, tell him/her no.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Today was my first gift this year, from a sweet young lady. She embarassedly handed me a small package tapped to a card in an envelope. The card said "To my favorite teacher, Mrs. George. I hope you like your bracelet."
Opening the box, I found a red and green friendship bracelet this young lady had made for me. I oohed and ahhed and then asked her to tie it on my wrist. She seemed surprised. Her tying job didn't last long so I found her again to tie it tighter, asking her to knot it 3 times this time. I told her I didn't want to lose it. She again seemed surprised and said, "You mean you aren't gonna take it off?"
Looking into her sparkling eyes, how could I tell her that this twisted, knotted, some places braided, some places twisted, this green and red jumble of thread is the most beautiful possesion I have? I know every day she will be looking to see if it still adorns my wrist. And I can assure you it will....
It isn't about the money. It isn't about what the gift is. It is about the love and thought that goes into the gift. A heartfelt note scrawled in a card, and a nickle's worth of thread tangled into a bracelet means more to me than anything that can be bought in a store.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
We all teach lessons that go well. We all teach lessons that bomb. It's a fact of life in the classroom. Somedays we are on our game. Some days, at best, we coast through.
Maybe that is the next great craze for professional development - forced reflection for teachers. A once a week, minimum, journaling activity where teachers critically dissect their lessons....
Would it really change anything? Would the less successful teachers be able to look honestly at their shortcomings and find the missing parts?
As a teacher, I am always looking at what I did, and often, focusing on what went wrong. When my students blow a test I thought they were prepared for, I point the finger at me and my teachings methods. When behavior gets out of control in my classroom, I rethink my own reactions to the situation. I try to rationalize how I could have changed the situations before these digressions happened, and strive to make it different tomorrow, next week, next year.
I don't think of myself as perfect. I don't think I am the 'greatest' teacher ever. But I know that every day, every time I teach, I think about my role in the success or failures of my students. I try to take that reflection of my role in their learning journey and use it to improve.
Can that be taught to struggling teachers? Sometimes, I think yes, and other times, when I hear a struggling teacher boast they "use TOO many best teaching practices" in their classroom, I wonder.
I think it all comes down to humble-ness, of being the kind of person who never feels you measure up to your own standards, of always looking for ways to improve.
I remember one of the teachers who taught here when I was first hired. Her room was always immaculate. Students in her classes were ALWAYS on task, perfectly behaved. Yet, SHE asked the principal to attend a classroom management trainings. This teacher who had such perfect control over the same children who would set fire to buildings in their spare time! SHE wanted more classroom management training!
We all need that humbleness, that ability to find ultimate fault with ourselves and our teaching, and the ability to seek improvement along the way. THAT is the difference in being a GREAT teacher and a mediocre one.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Sitting in my classroom this Sunday afternoon, at one of the crossroads/turning points of the school year, I am heartened and disenchanted, both at the same time.
We have reached the end of the first marking period and I feel I have seen such great progress in most of my students this year. My special ed PreAlgebra class has managed to stay with/or even just ahead of, the regular ed PreAlgebra class. Granted, we are not plowing through grade level material yet, but doing what, for an average 8th grader, would be all review from 6th and 7th grades. But plod ahead we are, with most of my students doing extremely well. As we head into more abstract material, more algebraic concepts, I anticipate our progress to slow. I am excited by the enthusiasm and efforts of most of my kids though, so I am confident they will rise to meet the challenge and my expectations.
Other parts of my new role are frustrating - the kids who don't care, who refuse to let me care, who fight the system at every turn and corner, who are determined to take a one-way street away from school. One minute they acknowledge my efforts, smiling, saying the right things, fessing up to their discretions, plotting their course ahead with care. Then, the very next moment, they again are in the middle of the fire, in the office for swearing, making inappropriate gestures in a class, or screaming obscenities in the hall, sleeping through yet another class, frustrating another adult in their life to the ends of their rope.
I've always prided myself on the ability to connect with kids, even the hard-core ones. Even these guys, somedays, I think, I am making it!! There is hope, a little tiny glimmer of faint light at the end of the tunnel, and... it is enough to get me here another day. Other days, it seems no matter how many times or way I try to light that fire again, a huge wave of despair washes over them and me, not only putting out the fire, but leaving the kindling so wet their is no chance of relighting it.
Other parts of my job frustrate me. The being spread between so many classrooms, so many teachers, some of whom work with me, some of whom seem to work against me, themselves, and logic itself is the worst part. I struggle with the ineffectiveness that prohibits learning from occurring easily with even the best student, when this ineffectiveness makes learning nearly impossible for struggling students. But I am learning to breathe in, breathe out.... breathe in, breathe out.
I repeat daily:
God, grant us the...
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
#1 - sleeps through class every hour, every day. Today, in prealgebra, I made him stand. I figured at least he was awake. But the next hour, in science, I could not even get him to wake up enough to stand.
#2 refuses to do anything but torture his sister. He even went so far as to throw her books in the hall garbage can today.
*sigh* I feel like a failure with these two young men. I have exhausted every thing I can think of, and then some.... and nothing changes their behavior.
These are the kinds of kids I wish I had a magic wand for, some carrot I could dangle to get them to at least be occasionally cooperative. But alas, no...
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Teaching is one of the few jobs where adults work in isolation, with no accountability to anyone else for their daily tasks. Our students are left at our mercy, behind closed doors. They have little idea if they are being taught what should be taught, if it is truly preparing them for the next step in their lives or not.
It seems to me that teachers should open their doors to each other, to their adminstrators as well as parents. If we are doing our job, we have nothing to hide. By opening our doors, by welcoming honest feedback on our 'performance', wouldn't we simply be encouraging ourselves to look critically at our own practice and how it can best be improved?
Maybe that's part of the problem? Some teachers are so entrenched in their own mediocrity they are afraid of having to improve?
There are many great teachers out there with much to share - content, pedagogical methods and styles, organizational tips and tricks - with their colleagues. Walk-throughs of each other's classes could share the wealth of knowledge, creating a more effective place of learning for students. We just have to get past that initial cringe of fear of having others in our rooms.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
My favorite poem...Today as the first snow flies, the flurries swirling and piling.... I am reminded of this Taylor Mali piece. It seemed fitting to share it here today.
By Taylor Mali
A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.
It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street.
Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.
Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.
Let me teach like the first snow, falling.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Now you tell me how to make them take it seriously. Sitting watching the class take their tests, I see some of these students, taking it very seriously, trying their best to get every question correct. Next to those serious students though, are the ones who know the score on this doesn't count for them for anything. They play it like a game, trying to see how quickly they can bubble in answers.
I will admit in that in theory, testing students should be a fair indicator of teacher effectiveness. However, like many theories, when put into actual practice, the end result is far from the theoretical assumption.
Michigan tests students in the fall, with that test covering the material that should have been taught the year before. Once those students leave my class, I have lost control of them and their abilities. I am not the one giving them the test, I am not the person who had the opportunity to review them for the test, and I am not the face they say telling them to take the test seriously and try their hardest.
I have no control over much of what the students sitting in front of me are doing on their test either. The one young man just wants to be done so he can finish eating the bag of potato chips he brought in from the cafeteria with him. Another girl just hurried through so she can finish her science homework instead of taking it home tonight. Young man #2 has missed the last 2 weeks of school and looks as if he is about to fall asleep now. Girl #2 keeps trying to distract everyone around her by drawing faces on her test booklet. Young man #2 just farted several loud stinky ones to see who would giggle.
Granted, these students in front of me are special needs kids, with a variety of disabilities and are not expected to score well on the test regardless, for the most part. However, their scores are supposedly a reflection on the teacher who had them in class last year, despite their wide range of disabilities and abilities.
For some students, a little accountability for their own scores, a little more push and expectations from home... those might help their scores be more true indicators of what they were taught and learned last year.
For other students, many of whom sit in this classroom now taking this test, the test is an outrageous attempt to make each child fit an absurd mold of what someone somewhere decided each child could learn. I would like those people to come sit and talk one on one with a couple of these kids, and maybe once they realize that realistically, these kids cannot even carry on a logical conversation with an adult, they might consent that these kids probably don't need to be able to distinquish between a linear and inversely proportion function.
But now.. I must collect answer keys and test booklets, and audio versions of tests, knowing that in reality, maybe 1 of the 10 might have a shot at having guessed well enough to score a proficient on the test.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
correlation is obvious and indisputable. How to determine
effectiveness, however, is an entirely different issue.
Test scores seem to be the natural go-to for determining
effectiveness. I agree that test scores can provide some information
about the process. However, test scores are dependent on many other
factors outside the teacher’s control. Test scores also are only one
tiny snapshot into a student’s performance. Unless there is some
accountability for the student on those tests, as well as the teacher,
the student’s performance may not be an accurate indicator of his true
abilities, or learning.
If test scores are to be used to determine teacher effectiveness,
there needs to be a parent and student accountability factor in focus
as well. I have had students who miss 60+ days of school in a year.
Teaching that child, preparing them for the ‘test’ is impossible. I
cannot possibly prepare that child, in one-third of the school year,
for scoring high enough on the next fall’s test to keep ME from
missing out on my merit pay. However, that child’s low score was
through no fault of my own.
Students in my classes come with a huge variety of skill sets, from 5
years below grade level, to well above grade level. Yet, I am expected
to meet each and every child’s individual needs, as each hour a bell
sends them on their way, and another group of skill sets come in the
door. During the course of the school day, teachers may see hundreds
of students, just for a glimpse of their life. We are expected to work
with each child and bring them along to the predetermined level of
achievement, regardless of what their incoming skill set was. These
children have other issues beyond academic problems as well. Many come
from home situations where school is not valued.
I have long believed that truly good teachers are born, not created.
Some people are naturally able to lead and teach. Others simply do not
have that ability.
There are several groups of teachers that I see in schools:
~The teacher who is great with kids, understands them, relates well to
them, but struggles to convey content. This type of teacher can often
be mentored to become a more effective teacher by giving them
strategies to improve their pedagogical methods. Through deliberate
attempts to improve their teaching, these teachers can improve and
become great teachers.
~The teacher who is very efficient at the art of teaching, but rarely
makes a personal connection with their students. This teacher will be
effective in the delivery of content, but will rarely inspire students
to excel beyond what is expected, or to become teachers themselves.
These teachers are acceptable to have on staff but should not make up
the majority of staff. Students do not feel comfortable or confident
in their classrooms.
~The teacher who struggles in all aspects of teaching. This teacher
does not have the natural ability to connect with their students on a
personal level and their pedagogical talents are absent as well. This
teacher, in my opinion, is hopeless. Nothing about their job comes
naturally. It is virtually impossible to create an effective teacher
in these cases.
~The naturally great teacher. This teacher relates well to students,
and in addition, has the natural knack for conveying expectations and
content, as well as inspiring students to reach beyond the
expectations to learn and create on their own. These are the teachers
students remember for years. These are the teachers who inspire future
generations of teachers.
The question then becomes, what do administrators do about teachers
who struggle in all aspects of teaching? At what cost do we mentor and
‘fix’ teachers with potential? How do we cultivate a culture that
encourages the best and brightest to become teachers? How do
universities determine who among their applicants are the best suited
to become teachers? Do we allow anyone who wants to teach a chance to
try? Do we ‘steer’ individuals with traits we as a educational
community deem desirable into teaching?
Would money fix the problem? No, but it could help. Many natural
teachers choose other career paths for financial reasons. If financial
incentives were in place to encourage teachers entering the
profession, as well as keeping them there once they are in the
classroom, perhaps classrooms would be filled with more effective
If part of the equation of determining the effectiveness of a teacher
is built upon their ability to build relationships with their
students, would financial incentives steer individuals who do not have
the intrinsic desire to teach to enter the profession?
It seems to me the place to begin the transition to filling every
classroom with a truly effective teacher rests on the idea of what an
effective teacher looks like. We, as an educational community, need to
clearly define what we need, what we expect and what is acceptable in
The second part of the transition needs to empower school
administrators with the ability to remove ineffective teachers from
the classroom easily. The process needs to be standardized and
simplified. Teachers deserve job security, yes, but not when that job
security is so entrenched it prevents administrators from being able
to openly observe, critique, and require struggling teachers to
Schools need to evolve into a new paradigm of what teaching and
learning look like. We need to provide an educational process that
meets each child where he comes to us, and takes them as far as they
can go. Built into that needs to be an acceptance of differences, and
allowances for exceptionalities must be in place. The current process
of expecting everyone to meet the same standards in the same time
frame is unreasonable and impossible. It eliminates the individuality
of the process and sets unrealistic expectations on struggling
students and overworked teachers.
Friday, October 08, 2010
I have long been an advocate of inclusion. In "Inclusion Teaches Kids Who Struggle How to Succeed" , I closed with the line "Life does not sort people into those who struggle and those who find certain tasks easy; why do we in school then?"
I've been thinking a lot lately though about the sorting process. At what cost do we not sort? It seems to me in some situations, the inclusion of ALL students, lends itself to a watering down of the curriculum for ALL students. In an effort to make the learning accessible by even the lowest of students, we often find ourselves giving such an abbreviated version that we actually do a disservice to the majority of our students.
I still stand by my original argument that often, "When students are pulled out for a subject, special ed teachers tend to "dummy-down" the curriculum; they want students to work at a level at which they can experience total success."
If we can eliminate THAT from happening, perhaps we can solve some of the problem of pull-out versus inclusion. Special needs students come in all shapes and sizes, all different abilities. But each child should be pushed to meet their maximum potential, even if that means at times they will struggle, at times they may fail. Always experiencing total success is not realistic in school just as it is not realistic in life.
I don't know what the perfect education setting would look like. I just struggle with the current model of pushing all students through the same program at the same pace. It lessens the experience for even average students, and at the same time, often is still at such an advanced pace we are leaving behind the struggling students. In essence, we are leaving them ALL behind.
Education must be about more than test scores, more than getting through x amount of curriculum in y amount of time. It has to be about kids and their needs, and how we can best meet them all. Education without flexibility is not education, but cattle herding.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
It is up to us as trained professionals to keep in mind who our clients truly are: our students. Our job is to meet their needs, no one else's. A little common sense goes a long way when we really think through what we should be doing in our classrooms. If students aren't ready for tomorrow's test, why push to give it? Why not take one more day to review those concepts? Time is relative when learning is being measured. Everyone does not learn the same way or at the same rate. Taking the time to truly TEACH before assessing ensures all students have a fair opportunity to experience success.
Monday, October 04, 2010
Is this a learned behavior? Is helplessness trained into students? Is it they simply have no interest/desire to actually complete the assignment so whining is their automatic defense mechanism?
It doesn't matter what the assignment is. It can be a simple worksheet, two political cartoons to analyze and compare, taking notes from a science section, or any other given assignment. The first line of defense for the majority of students is "Help me, I don't get it." Before they read the directions, before they look in their textbook or other reference materials, before they notice that the problems in front of them parallel those done together in class moments, before...."Help me, I don't get it" ripples across the room.
Would changing the assignments help? Would more challenging, student-driven projects eliminate some of this reluctance to attack assignments? If students had more say in designing their own learning, could they become more independent learners?
I don't know the answers. I just know, "Help me, I don't get it" is an excuse to not try on their own. How can we overcome this helplessness and encourage independence?
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Parts of my new job I am enjoying tremendously. I love working with kids who NEED me. I like the feeling that I am pushing them further and faster than they have ever been pushed before. Finding ways to teach them grade level material is a challenge but I am impressed at how hard they are working to meet my expectations. Today was our 3rd prealgebra quiz. ALL of them (except the one who slept and refused to take the quiz) ACED it!!! They were so proud of themselves. I was so proud of them. It is honest to goodness 8th grade prealgebra content. AND THEY DID IT!!!
I know my students are overwhelmed in their regular ed classes, and for that part, I feel badly. The one little girl was working on studying for her history test today in guided study. She was frustrated that I wouldn't/couldn't sit with her and study one on one. Finally, at one point, she mumbled, "I miss being in special ed." I bet she does. I can only imagine how difficult this transition has been for some of these students, going from a self-contained environment, to the big bad real world, in the blink of an eye.
I do miss my own classroom and that feeling of my own domain, my own little kingdom, doing things MY way. Being in with other teachers, watching them teach, can be exciting and interesting, but just as often, it can be frustrating. I know when the content confuses me, it must confuse my students. I know when I am bored and near nodding off, so must the students be.
But I am getting to the point in the year it is truly becoming about the kids. The dust is settling on things that matter not as much and the routine of me and my expectations, them and their personalities, are all begining to find their happy medium. It won't be long and it will be June.... and they will be moving up and on.... Can we make it to the finish line by then??? I don't know for sure, but the momentum sure feels like it is picking up!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I admit to being as guilty as the next of tossing on a paper of not-too-wrinkly khakis and a polo on many too many mornings. Corduroys tend to be my pant of choice on cooler days. I much prefer to toss on something snuggly and comfy, to high heels and a skirt.
The discussion continued with different people citing their reasons for their own frequent casual dress being everything to health reasons, to comfort levels, to not insulting parents. No one ventured to comment advocating we SHOULD dress more professionally as a group.
When I was in college, one of my education professors lectured us on our professionalism - everything from our dress (NO DENIM EVER) to not hanging out in the teachers' lounge bashing parents and adminstrators to the appearance of our desk/classroom. To this day, her words echo in my head when I pull on my jeans on Jeans Friday. On days I slip into a blazer and a skirt, I see her smile at me.
Do our students CARE what we wear? Do they learn better just because we dress up or down? The latter, I am not so sure... but the first question? I think they do notice. A young lady once complimented me, saying, "You always look nice, like being here at school is important."
When I was a teenager, it was the rage to wear your casual clothes, jeans especially, to church. My mother was appalled. She admitted God didn't likely care what I wore, but pointed out if I wasn't going to value church enough to wear my very best clothes there, when was more important than church to wear them.
To me, school, my job, my professional appearance, reflects how I think about myself and my job. If I dress the part, I feel the part, and I tend to more walk the walk that day.
I do teach in an impoversished area, where parents tend to dress casually, often in what most teachers would toss in the dumpster, stained, worn, ripped. But, that is all they have. I don't think they are offended by their child's teachers wearing respectable, PROFESSIONAL clothing. When they go to their doctor, their lawyer, the bank, the insurance office, etc... they see professionals wearing professional attire. I think they expect us to also dress the part. Parents view teachers in this community as well paid (and compared to Average Joe, we are), educated and a notch 'above'. Wearing clothes that make us look that part would not be insulting, but rather expected.
I don't think teachers need a tie, high heels, or fancy duds, to be effective. We need to be comfortable, able to move, walk, stand, bend, move. We need to be active among our students, and wear clothing that does not hamper our abilities to do that.
But on the other hand, would it be so terrible to show up looking as if SCHOOL IS IMPORTANT TO US? Perception IS reality, and I want students and parents to look at me, my actions as well as my attire, and think, "Mrs. George looks and acts the part of a teacher."
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
When I became a teacher, I didn't expect to get rich doing it. I knowingly took this career path, despite the fact, compared to other similarly educated people, my paycheck pales. I knew that I would be expected to continue my education, at the high cost of graduate credits. I knew that my employer would never cover all the incidentals I would need for my classroom.
But as time goes by, I see the costs of everything else increasing, and now my paycheck decreasing, and it is depressing.
Pay is relative of course. According to Average Teacher Salary by State, teaching in Michigan pays pretty darned good relative to the state median income, at approximately $8000 over that figure. That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I would like to know the education level compared to those salaries those. How many people in the state have a bachelor's degree? a master's degree? are required to pay to continue their own education? My gut tells me our median income in Michigan is inflated due to auto workers' wages. Working in an auto factory is an honorable profession. However, to work on the line, you do not need a college degree. You certainly don't need a master's degree, nor do you pay to continue your education to keep your certification (which you pay for as well) to keep your job.
According to the graph comparing teacher salary to median house prices, also makes my pay look pretty reasonable. Granted, other places have much higher prices than where I live. My 2000+ square foot house, sitting on 4 acres, about 4 miles from town, would sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 if put on the market today. Well, it would list for that price, but would it sell? With the high number of foreclosures on the market, the declining job market, I doubt it would sell at all. Other places where home values are greater, have more perks as well. Where I live, the nearest traffic light is 65 miles away - ok, maybe that is a perk :) But when you are enjoying the lack of traffic, remember that means the nearest shopping is 65 miles away as well. The nearest REAL mall is 200 miles away. That translates into a lot of miles on a vehicle! My truck is will be 1 year old in December and just turned over 18,000 miles. Everywhere is a major trip.
Different states have different rates of pay no doubt. If you'd like to see how each state measures up, you can view state summary pages at the links below:
Average teacher salary Alabama
Average teacher salary Alaska
Average teacher salary Arizona
Average teacher salary Arkansas
Average teacher salary California
Average teacher salary Colorado
Average teacher salary Connecticut
Average teacher salary Delaware
Average teacher salary District of Columbia
Average teacher salary Florida
Average teacher salary Georgia
Average teacher salary Hawaii
Average teacher salary Idaho
Average teacher salary Illinois
Average teacher salary Indiana
Average teacher salary Iowa
Average teacher salary Kansas
Average teacher salary Kentucky
Average teacher salary Louisiana
Average teacher salary Maine
Average teacher salary Maryland
Average teacher salary Massachusetts
Average teacher salary Michigan
Average teacher salary Minnesota
Average teacher salary Mississippi
Average teacher salary Missouri
Average teacher salary Montana
Average teacher salary Nebraska
Average teacher salary Nevada
Average teacher salary New Hampshire
Average teacher salary New Jersey
Average teacher salary New Mexico
Average teacher salary New York
Average teacher salary North Carolina
Average teacher salary North Dakota
Average teacher salary Ohio
Average teacher salary Oklahoma
Average teacher salary Oregon
Average teacher salary Pennsylvania
Average teacher salary Rhode Island
Average teacher salary South Carolina
Average teacher salary South Dakota
Average teacher salary Tennessee
Average teacher salary Texas
Average teacher salary Utah
Average teacher salary Vermont
Average teacher salary Virginia
Average teacher salary Washington
Average teacher salary West Virginia
Average teacher salary Wisconsin
Average teacher salary Wyoming
I don't begrudge my doctor his paycheck. He went through many years of education to get where he is today. I don't begrudge my attorney her paycheck. Again, she earned it. In turn, I think people who bash teacher paychecks should stop and think for a minute about our jobs, their importance, and what it took to get here and what it takes to stay. Maybe instead of bashing my pay, think about how much that big shot tossing the football is getting paid, or how much that crooner on the radio made last year, and the importance of their job in the spectrum of life. In the meantime, I am looking at my smaller paycheck thinking... hmmm... OK, hope those retirees are enjoying their time off!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So here I sit in last hour advanced Spanish. Most students are working on their assignment, while visiting with friends, flirting with the opposite sex, and/or listening to iPods.
As I watch them I have to laugh at the difference in your average middle schooler, and these junior/seniors. Granted, advanced Spanish does not attract many lower level students, esepcially those who struggle with their own language. The bodies in this room are among the best and brightest of the school.
I am struck by their non-dependence on me to help them, guide them, or even keep them on task. Despite the side-tracks in their behaviors, they are all going to complete the assignment before they leave here today.
With middle schoolers, assignment completion is tentative at best. Even work completed in a large group often doesn't get completed. The maturity level escalates dramatically between middle school and here.
I remember this crew as 7th graders. Some of them remain in their same role with their peers, the class clown, the quiet studious student with no friends, the flirty jock, the over-the-top loud girl. But others have changed. The once quiet now sits commanding his groups of friends, leading the discussion. The once short, timid 7th grader who used to hide under my desk and jump out to scare me has grown into a young man, tall and changed, mature, but still quite a character. I guess in my mind, they'd all stayed the same, just moved on to high school, and maybe a bit taller. Now I see them, growing into their grown up selves.
And I see the them's they used to be... and miss them.