Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: June 2016

How do we inspire the best and the brightest to become educators?

We have to make the profession a respectable position. Right now, American teachers are scapegoats for everything wrong with our society. This is not true in other countries. How do we bring respect to the profession? This multiple step process must happen simultaneously or at least in rapid succession:

  1. The first step needs to be getting rid of the ridiculous evaluation system based on standardized tests and tied to teacher pay. Master teachers know that their true effectiveness cannot be measured by a test. Recently, a former student teacher of mine wrote 130 letters—one for each of her students—in response to a suicide attempt from one of her students. That kind of passion and dedication to her students cannot be measured by a test. She was the best and brightest in her high school and college, and she was taught by amazing master teachers who did not need standardized tests to prove their worthiness.
  2. Teacher preparation programs must only accept the best and brightest students into their programs. Right now, anyone can become a teacher. Elevating the requirements for teacher candidates will elevate the respect for the profession. The courses in these programs must also be more rigorous and involve more hands-on experiences. If becoming a teacher were more difficult, people who were drawn to the profession would make sure they were the right kind of candidates right out of high school, just like those who want to be doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Also, the programs that offer quick training for such an important profession must be dissolved.
  3. In conjunction with the improvement to teacher prep programs, teachers must get a competitive salary based on the education requirements for the profession. Teachers need to have a master’s degree and are required to continue their education through professional development courses every year. How many other professionals, requiring that kind of educational commitment, cannot afford to live a comfortable life on their income alone? It should not matter in which community a teacher works: A viable salary commensurate with the education and workload must accompany the profession. Also, in this capitalistic society, money equals respect. When the current response to our profession changes from “I guess you couldn’t make it in any other profession” to “Wow! You were bright enough and dedicated enough to become a teacher!” we will know that our profession finally has the respect it deserves.
  4. There must be a mentoring program for new teachers that pairs them with master teachers so that they can have a solid network to maneuver through the difficulties intrinsic within the profession. Many teachers leave the profession within the first five years because they do not have that support system. They will never become master teachers; they will never know the beauty that blossoms from the struggle. Watching students become successful adults, helping other teachers embrace the profession, growing into a master teacher—these are the rewards that accompany longevity in a profession that builds a community, improves a society, and changes the world for the better.

 

Melissa Bowers: 7 Reasons You Might Not Want to Teach Anymore

This is the post I wish I wrote. Melissa Bowers captures the plight of a teacher perfectly. There are many reasons to leave the profession, which many teachers, including me, have done. The only reason to stay is for our students. Remember that when you want to be overly critical of the public school teachers still fighting in the trenches–they stayed for your children.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-bowers/7-reasons-you-might-not-want_b_9832490.html

Friday Writing Challenge: I Miss High School

Prompt: Something you miss

Capping two of my students at their Senior Breakfast in 2014
Capping two of my students at their Senior Breakfast in 2014

I miss high school—not my teenage years but the years I spent teaching high school English.

A few weeks ago, I went to the local high school with my son to see his friends play a 10-minute exhibition game as the half-time entertainment for the boys’ basketball game. As soon as I walked into the building, I felt the energy that only exists in a school: An energy fueled by youthful hope and ambition.

We were a little early, so we sat in the bleachers by Ian’s friends. As I looked at the faces on the court, I was disappointed that I didn’t know anyone. Then I immediately chastised myself. How could I know anyone in this building? I don’t teach here. I don’t teach at any high school anymore. My heart began to ache.

Ridiculously, I fought back tears. Why did I leave a place I loved so much? How could I resign from a position that defined my purpose in life? How could I leave the students who needed me?

I looked at the parents, siblings, students, and teachers sitting in the stands. In Colorado I would have had at least one if not five people approach me while I was sitting there—a student just to say hi or a parent thanking me for working with his or her child or an older sibling back from college telling me I made a difference. But here, in this high school, no one knows me: None know that I used to change lives for the better; none know that I would lose sleep worrying about students just like them; none know how much it meant to my students to see me sitting in bleachers just like these.

While Ian watched his friends play, I evaluated what to do with this surprising surge of emotion. Did this mean I should start applying for secondary teaching jobs? Would anyone even hire me after my public resignation letter? If so, could I really work fulltime in a public school again? That thought brought a new surge of pain and questions. How could I go back to a public school, no matter how much I loved it, when the reason I left still exists? How could I be part of a system that aims to replace hope and ambition with standards and test scores? How could I go back to a profession that is being exploited by corporate greed and destroyed by bureaucrats with little concern for our children?

As my mind and heart raced, I thought about my college students. I am still changing lives and losing sleep over them, but I’m not immersed in the community the way I was in high school. As an adjunct, I just show up for class. If a student has questions, I stay on campus a little longer, but I’m free to leave when I’m done. I know I am still making a difference with my college students, but at a community college, I have many nontraditional students who are no longer teenagers in their formative years. Nevertheless, they respond positively to my encouragement, tough love, and passion. Most of my students leave at the end of a semester better prepared for their futures. Some students, however, don’t make it to the end of the semester. They didn’t start this process with the necessary work ethic or resilience to battle through entitlement issues, to embrace the demands of a college class and grow stronger mentally and emotionally because of it—skills I made sure I taught in high school.

I also thought about my financial situation. I’m barely making it right now. I chose to work as an adjunct so that I would have time to write. But a part-time adjunct position has just as much work as a fulltime high school position with a quarter of the pay. So I have less money and still have limited time for writing. If I taught fulltime again, I would at least have money, but I wouldn’t have as much time with my son.

So where does this leave me? How do I get all of my son’s and my needs met without sacrificing my convictions? How can I still be part of a system that encourages and builds up students when they are at their most vulnerable?

This semester, I put a few things in place: I started tutoring a high school student, which has been great. I also am on the subbing list for the middle and high schools in the area. My son will be moving up next year, so I hope to have more jobs in the middle school—that would be the best of both worlds.

Last week, I had my first subbing assignment in the middle school—8th grade English. I felt the energy again as soon as I walked into the building. Being a substitute is definitely different from being the main classroom teacher: Some students tested my teaching abilities immediately. They brought their phones out, walked around the room, sat next to friends, talked while I talked, but they quickly found out I was in charge, but not with an iron fist. I smiled, laughed, and quietly controlled the room. Some students were sweet and wanted to talk to me. I loved it all! I felt like I was home. This was a viable solution for my heartache. Maybe, if I were there enough, students would remember and recognize me. I could be part of this system, encourage teenagers, and make some extra money.

Ironically, while Ian was jumping at Blitz and I was writing this post, a student from the 8th grade class I taught walked past me and stopped: “Hey! You’re the sub from the other day, aren’t you?”

I think this is going to work just fine.

This writing challenge was painful and cathartic. I cried while writing it, which helped me heal, but it also renewed my passion for true educational reformation.  After I published this post, I realized I had more to say about education and the teachers leaving the profession, like me, with broken hearts. I turned this challenge into a post that is now on Huffington Post. You can get to that post here.

Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: February

What are the top ten ways that administrators can help new teachers avoid burning out?

  1. Mentors: New teachers need to pair up with master teachers so that they have mentors they can turn to for help. There are so many problems and issues new teachers face their first years of teaching that it is difficult to navigate all of them on their own. The most effective way to make sure it’s a working relationship is by having a new teacher share a room with his/her mentor.
  2. A Network: Every new teacher should have a network of other new and seasoned teachers–not just one mentor. Once they feel like they belong and have a team of people they can turn to for help, they will begin to grow roots.
  3. Two Preps: Even though I have met some amazing first year teachers, I think it’s critical that new teachers have no more than two preps (different courses the teacher has to prepare lesson plans for) for the first years. Learning the curriculum, reading required material, and creating lesson plans is overwhelming, let alone having to do that for more than two courses.
  4. Electives: Even though teachers who have been around for a while like to claim the “fun” classes (the electives rather than the core classes), new teachers should be encouraged and allowed to teach at least one elective to lessen the workload as well as to have a different type of engagement from students. Students choose electives, so they are usually excited about being in class. If it’s not possible for new teachers to teach an elective, administrators should encourage new teachers to co-sponsor a club they are passionate about, so they can work with like-minded students.
  5. Relationships: The best advice I received from my principal my first year teaching was to concentrate more on building relationships with students rather than on producing flawless curriculum. I’m not sure if he would give the same advice today with the overemphasis on curriculum, but the advice is still solid. Students today are more aware of being treated like numbers than ever before. They will destroy new teachers who treat them as such; however, they will respond positively to a teacher who sees them and cares about them as individuals. I always operated on the mantra: Students won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.
  6. No Judgment: With the emphasis on evaluations and test scores, this advice might be hard for administrators to follow, but they need to be supportive of new teachers, not judgmental of their missteps. They quickly learn that the administrators are not their friends and any questions or complaints should never be discussed with an administrator. If administrators want a healthy, successful school climate, this one change would improve that environment for new and master teachers alike.
  7. Support: I know it’s scary for administrators when an angry parent comes in, but it is vital that administrators support new teachers with angry parents. Nothing will send a teacher packing quicker than being thrown to the wolves by a spineless principal.
  8. Authority: The same must be said about difficult students. If a new teacher sends a disruptive student out of class, there needs to be proper support protocol for those instances. Nothing will undermine the authority of a new teacher more than an administrator believing a student over a faculty member.
  9. Professional Development: Administrators need to make sure they are bringing in appropriate professional development into the building. New teachers might be a good source for that as well, since many of them are fresh out of their college classes. Trusting their abilities is another way to say, “We like that you’re here, and we want you to stay.”
  10. Communication: Administrators can learn a lot about their schools by talking to new teachers. They have fresh eyes in an old building. If a principal is listening, he or she can learn so much about the school, students, and the new teacher.

More educational discussions…

Huffington Post

CMRubin World

The Global Search for Education: Our Top Global Teacher Blogs – What are the top ten ways that administrators can help new teachers avoid burning out?

Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: September

What was your most challenging classroom and how did you turn it around? 

Early in my teaching career, I had a class of freshman English with 27 students–22 boys and 5 girls. If having 22 freshman boys in one class wasn’t challenging enough, this class met after lunch in the last 90-minute block of the day. The boys started treating that class, not as a learning environment, but as the pre-party to the afterschool plans they all had.

At first, I became the type of teacher I hated: I yelled at them every day; I punished them for their inability to sit still and listen. I dreaded teaching this class. One weekend, while watching my young son play, I noticed how different he was from my daughters when they were that age. Ian had a hard time sitting still; if he wasn’t running, climbing, or playing, he wasn’t happy. I then started picturing my students–not as boys opposed to me and my teaching style–but as sons of parents like me who wanted their boys to love learning. This connection changed how I looked at everything I taught in that class.

I first changed all of my lesson plans so that each activity only lasted a maximum of 15-20 minutes. I then switched activities around so that deskwork was followed by a group activity so students could get out of their chairs. When time permitted, I rewarded the students for their hard work with a game of mum-ball or heads-up seven-up at the end of the block. They always completed their work so they could play.

If weather permitted, I frequently gave them a five-minute break outside, and those who wanted to could run around the soccer field to burn off energy. I also played classical or enjoyable instrumental music for them during deskwork. I told them to get up and stretch their legs whenever they wanted–that they could self-monitor their attention spans and get up to get a drink of water or move to the back of the room if they needed help refocusing. Rarely did any of the students abuse this trust.

Changing my classroom opened up other ideas for me to explore. Because the game reward worked so well, I decided to create a game out of their class work. Before grammar tests, students formed groups and answered questions that were similar to each unit test. Students could discuss answers with the group, look in their notes or workbook to help them answer the questions, and then decide on the correct answer together. If the group answered correctly, they earned points. Then one member of the group would shoot a ball made from old newspapers and tape into the garbage can. If they made the basket, they added more points to their score. This is how “Trash-ball” was born.

Trash-ball was so successful I used it in all my classes from then on. In fact, all the new strategies worked so well, I used them in every class and level I taught. I discovered that girls were happier moving around as well.

Uncommon Core Book Reading: Chapter 19

On August 24, 2015, I read Chapter 19: Teach Them How to Be Happy from Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, NH.

To purchase Uncommon Core, go to WordCrafts Press or Amazon.

To schedule a book reading, speaking engagement, or interview contact me at pdhawk1010@msn.com or Bethany Ring, Publicist, WordCrafts Press pr@wordcrafts.net

Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: August

What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?

Communication and honesty are keys to building a positive, healthy relationship between parents and teachers. This relationship is the main reason I wrote Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System. I wanted to encourage parents to become collaborators with teachers and vice versa “by giving parents a glimpse into the classroom. It is eye opening for people to see how a seemingly harmless behavior becomes detrimental to a child’s educational success. When parents see the characteristics in the context of the classroom, they may better understand how to collaborate with teachers through their parenting at home.”

We have to understand, from both sides of the desk, the goals, difficulties, and emotions involved in each role and communicate those things honestly and effectively in order for our children to have the tools necessary to achieve educational success. “As I navigated through my parenting experiences, I struggled with many of the things I talk about in [my] book. I struggled as a mother on the other side of the desk with how my children were treated by teachers and students in the classroom. However, my experiences as a teacher have given me insight into my collaboration with my children’s teachers, and I hope to do the same for my readers. If we all have the same information, we can effectively help our children become happy, successful adults.” It’s important that parents and teachers find that common ground and respect each other’s positions in students’ lives.

Also, if we are being honest, we have to see how we have become pawns in this crazy educational reform movement that is not doing teachers, students, or parents any good:

Over the years, I noticed many things change about education. I watched teacher autonomy slowly dissipate with the arrival of state standardized testing. Instead of allowing teachers to use their natural skills and strengths in the classroom, administrators encouraged teachers to be more like other successful teachers. Administrators started judging teachers on their abilities to prepare students for standardized tests rather than their connections with students and their unique teaching style.

I also heard many students blame teachers for their inability to engage with the material. I am a huge proponent for teaching students where they are and meeting their needs; however, this complaint was something different. Students have a responsibility in the learning environment – they need to want to learn. Even with the best lessons, some students refused to participate in their own education.

The most discouraging change to education was the dwindling partnership between teachers and parents. I started to notice that somewhere along the line, parents stopped looking at teachers as collaborators in their child’s education; instead, parents expected teachers to be responsible for every element of a child’s success and failure in the classroom.

Parents and teachers can work together to help transform the learning experience for our children so they want to learn again.

To read the rest of the discussion go to Huffington post or CM RubinWorld.

The New York Times Ponders An Emerging Teacher Shortage

There is an emerging teacher shortage; I’m not surprised by that at all. When I resigned from the profession I loved, when I made a plea for my incredible colleagues and disheartened students, I knew that this would happen if the reform movement didn’t change directions quickly. Teachers cannot and will not function under this supposed “educational reform.” The students who should be applying to college as education majors have lived the consequences of this deeply flawed system. Why would they want to get involved with a profession that is disrespected so thoroughly? Why would they sign up to be scapegoats and test proctors? Teaching is a calling, not a job. Those of us who feel that way become teachers because we want to improve our students’ lives. Until the profession allows teachers to do that again, I doubt this shortage will be resolved.

Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

Motoko Rich of The New York Times wrote a feature article for today’s print edition on the looming teacher shortage, and that nationwide scramble to fill available teaching positions.  Predictions of a future teacher shortage are hardly new.  Consider this Senate hearing where the then frequently made prediction that we would need “2 million new teachers over the next 10 years” was repeated by Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts:

This chart is a good summation as to what the current conditions are. This year, K-12 enrollment reached an all-time high and will continue to rise over the next 7 years. 6,000 new public schools will be needed by the year 2006 just to maintain current class sizes. We will also need to hire 2 million teachers over the next decade to accommodate rising student enrollments and massive teacher requirements. And because of the overcrowding, schools are using trailers for classrooms…

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To Be or Not To Be…A Teacher: The Architecture of the Classroom

Education Reformation Illustration by Kwang Choi
Education Reformation Illustration by Kwang Choi

In my last Education Reformation post about Teachers’ Roles, I defined teachers as guides or facilitators to students’ acquisition of knowledge. Truly, what else can we be? Teachers don’t have all the knowledge anymore. Back before the internet age, teachers were expected to be the experts of their content. In conjunction with the textbooks, teachers dispersed all their wisdom to their students, which was obviously limited, but that’s all they had available. But now, for teachers to pretend that they know everything there is to know about their content area would be ludicrous. I know some incredibly intelligent people who have a wealth of information stored in their brains, yet there are things they don’t know. Continue reading “To Be or Not To Be…A Teacher: The Architecture of the Classroom”

To Be, or not To Be…a Teacher: Teachers’ Roles

I truly hate the present trend of teacher bashing: The belief that all the problems in our country are because teachers have failed us. I hope my past posts on education show that teachers are teaching in a broken system; the system needs to be fixed so that teachers can provide their students what they need to be successful. However, I am not naive enough to think that all teachers are doing the right thing for the right reasons. There are many teachers who need to change dramatically or move on. I hope to encourage that change or make room for the teachers who are truly in education for the right reasons. Continue reading “To Be, or not To Be…a Teacher: Teachers’ Roles”