Saturday, December 10, 2011

political gobbleygook...

In light of all the things that are going on in Iowa today with the GOP and the press descending into my neighborhood coffee shop and the fact that I spent an hour listening to the governor this morning, I decided I needed to blog...something more thought provoking than the past two blogs which was pretty much a complaining session.

So this morning I went down to listen to the governor and Deputy governor at a townhall meeting to discuss the governor's new Blueprint to "fix" education in the state of Iowa. The first 15 minutes was spent listening to introductions, some words from both the governor and our deputy and then came the "feel good" video. Branstad spoke about the Educational Summit this summer, his job in his first term, his job as president of DMU, and how his daughter was a teacher and how he knew exactly where teachers were coming from...then questions were asked from the public.

All the while I listened to this, I wanted to hear something that would make me feel alright...something that would make me think, "maybe this isn't so bad". I found one....the blueprint will do one thing that is a really great idea. It will give education majors more hands-on time in classrooms. It will give them time with a master teacher to really see what it's like to teach and the type of students they will be teaching. I love this idea. I'm totally on board. I think this will truly weed out those people that maybe just shouldn't go into the profession. I'm hoping that it won't discourage those that are...but I believe it will make these people better teachers.

The rest of the it....ugh. Other countries were spoken about and how they are doing much better than we are...I wonder if people understand that students in many of these countries are tracked. Students take a test as they get older to figure out if they should even go into university or not. We don't do that here...I mean formally. We don't walk up and crush the idea of college to anyone - but educators do understand that everyone isn't headed to higher education.

When questioned about what the blueprint will do for URBAN families...his response was that there were programs...United Way, in fact, that were in place. Yeah, United Way is fact I give part of my check to continue these services...but it's there for people that actually use them. Many families don't....again, what do we do about these families? Most of what he's proposing sounds really good....but not for urban families.

I was not surprised to hear that he had planned several of these townhall meetings....but NOT in Des Moines. He had to be almost petitioned to have one in our state capitol with those teachers who understand that this blueprint doesn't fully help the neediest of our state's students. In fact today when families were brought up...his response was that they were meeting with parents....IN WAUKEE. What does that for our low income families...? They're NOT in Waukee!!!

Another thought, is in reference to what I wanted to do...which was to invite our governor and deputy and anyone else to come into my room...especially was offered by someone in the crowd. The response...we've been in classrooms... For me...I mean go into an urban classroom and not one in the suburbs. Go to schools that are struggling...with behavior, test scores, and have populations that we're talking about. Go to talk with urban families and find out what low economics means for them...because I'll bet you it means something COMPLETELY different to them than a rural or suburban community.

Finally - it was requested that teachers need to start being respected. Real respect. If we're talking about other countries, if you say that you're a teacher, you garner respect. The teacher asked for this blueprint, in public, by the governor, by the Legislators....just in general. I agree. I'm not sure when educators became the dumping ground for the problems of education, but I'm done with that. Education should be everyone's responsibility, not just those that are associated with the field.

As 2012 rolls around and we are inundated with the political junk, I'll be interested how they refer to those in education field and education in general. I hope, in the end, I'll have someone to put my vote towards because I'm not very hopeful right now....

Friday, December 9, 2011

more complaining...

Ok...I can't help it. This has been a really crappy week. It's like the planets were just at the right alignment for things to be bad.

Most of this year I have been arguing with kids about everything. Directions, the rules, homework, their behavior....etc. I have never felt so worn out when it comes to the end of the day or sometimes week. Today was just another day of arguing with middle school kids that they come back into the building once they leave. I haven't been sworn at more than this year or been so disrespected. I've been called names and had the f-bomb used in reference to me. I have been working with my adminstrator to fix the behavior, but we can only do so much. You can only write so many referrals, talk to them individually, talk to them with other adults, etc. before you are mentally and physically done.

Again, I don't say anything on here that I haven't spoken to my adminstrator about. We've had conversations....many! We've agreed to disagree, but it's not getting better. It's still the same thing. This is again, the opportunity where I want to invite our legislatures and our governor into our middle school buildings....I want them to answer questions like, "how do we maintain high test scores when we have to deal with behavior instead of teaching"?

This weekend we have a "townhall meeting" on Saturday. Our governor will be there....I may issue a challenge to him. I want him to turn it down because he's too busy. I want him to dare to do that.

This brings me to my second complaining thing.....TESTING! Today we completed a post assessment to see if the students got anything we did the last 7 weeks. I'm so frustrated. Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if I should be in this profession. Whatever I did the last 7 weeks....our scores don't reflect any of it. Our team worked on certain skills...did mid-testing to check skills...did rotations with all 4 of us teaching a different skill....did exit slips....did spot checking............and I still feel like they didn't get it! What are we doing wrong?! I'm starting to despair that we will never get our students to understand what we're asking them...that they will never understand what we trying to put into their brains....

I'm just so tired this year. I don't know what more I can do. I felt like we were so on...the kids seemed to like how we were delivering the material...we were all on the same page and positively working with each other and the kids.......and now I feel so defeated. What more can I do?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Alright...I've tried to make this blog as positive as talk about things that make me more sad and not mad about my job. Today is not one of those was a day that was made for complaining.

First of all - I don't like interruptions. I don't mean the occassional phone call or teacher that has an important question - but the things that I think we could totally do some other time. Today it was Vision Screening. We took the whole of the 7th grade class into a room and did their vision testing. It would've been ok had we not already decided to adjust our schedule by doing "pull outs" for a skills check. It took 2 full blocks to get this all done.

Secondly - I'm flexible, but not that flexible....and yes, I do mean that. Today it was like a bunch of things collided to make the day unfortunate. Unfortunately, my collab teacher was sick. We really missed her today. She's great! Unfortunately, our behavior interventionist was gone....which was bad because he had no sub! Next, we had Vision Screening and plus we were already planning on pulling was just one thing after another.

Finally - and I will write more on this....I really HATE the disrespect in the hallways. Middle School kids who use profanity towards me and towards others. I believe we have let this generation get away with this FAR too much...especially in our building. Don't get me wrong. I have voiced this opinion of mine to my adminstrators so I don't feel bad about putting this out there. In fact, I've had MANY discussions with them this year.

Today was a day....and definitely not a great one. I will now be going home to enjoy some alone time with a beverage of my choice....

Friday, November 4, 2011


I have a child sitting in my room right now that I feel so bad for that I don't even know what to do. This child was kicked out of a room a block earlier because his shoes smell so bad that kids couldn't breath around him. He was able to get socks on...which helped, but he really needs new shoes. He's a bit autistic - but DEFINITELY not stupid. He's so worried that people will make fun of him because of what happened, he can't sit still...I have promised him that it will not happen in my class, but he has put his head down and is trembling....

Curriculum is thrown completely out the window when I have a situation like this. This is a kid that just needs someone to let him know it's ok. Thankfully, I do have a pretty nice class right now, who know my expectations of not bullying others or making fun of others in my room. They know if I hear or see them in the hallway what will happen to them if they are the ones perpetrating this act.

This is the definitive situation where people that say that teachers don't do anything for kids should be punched right between the eyes. This is the situation where people who think that we can just take little "pegs" and put them in the correct spot need to be hung upside down by their toenails.

These are the kids I teach everyday....I just wish people would understand that testing and curriculum aren't here right now and may not be until things are right in his student's world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

one of my favorite things....

I love working with people....I love how creative people in my profession can be. Today I received things from two different people. One was a creative way to teach my students author's purpose. It was interactive, had really funny and cool youtube videos, and a great way to remember the purpose....PIE (Persuade, Inform, Entertain).

The second was a cool graphic organizer/model to help them start to think about ways to write persuasive papers in a 5 paragraph form. It was a kind of fill in the blank/recall method of doing it - but I was able to figure out if the kids really knew the story AND it was a model to show them what we would be looking for in their persuasive papers.

Again, later in the day I was able to meet with my Literacy team of teachers. We sat down and tried to figure out when to teach and how to teach 4 skills....we were able to come up with some really cool ideas and work together. I like those days when things work out and everything just clicks. I love the idea that we can sit together and commisserate, bounce ideas off each other and be creative.

Now, I know that was a lot of "teachery" talk - but it's just an example of what we do. It's another example of how teachers keep changing things up, reinventing the way we teach the kids and how we are trying to differentiate for different learners. It's what all the testing IS NOT doing.

As positive as I am about my day today...last week was something different. I wanted to blog about it, but it was still too close and fresh in my mind. It was still too painful and frustrating. Last week was disasterous in my opinion. We ended up our unit by assessing them...yes, they made gains, but it wasn't great. Then we had to pre-assess them for the next unit AND do a pre-writing assessment on top of this. There was no time for instruction, no time for them to learn new skills, no time for us to differentiate how we were teaching them.

In this new world of assessment driven teaching - there's no time for teachers to really sit down and collab with each look at how our students learn and come with ways to tap into their really make it interesting for them to acquire the information we need to teach them. I know that our testing is bad...our scores, while still above the national average for our state are dipping, but the way in which we did things has also changed. This year we will be assessing our students with a new "ITBS"'s revamped and, I'm hoping, will be more updated for them to take.

I hope that this year keeps having more positives than negatives....

Monday, September 26, 2011

gee?! ya think?

I just read something on MSNBC that headlined..."The most experience is one to two years". They were talking about teachers. Hmmm....let me think about or two years. I wonder why?

This year I have felt more pressure to get kids' testing scores up than any other year. With the threat that that teacher based or merit based pay is on the horizon - that pressure increases about ten-fold. So why would we have more teachers with one or two years? Perhaps because the rest of the veteran teachers are....oh let me see if I can get this right?.....SICK AND TIRED OF TESTING?!?!?!?!

As a veteran teacher, I am tired of being told that how a student does on a test will determine whether or not I am doing a good job in my room. COME SEE MY ROOM!!!!!!!! This is my challenge again to those doubters that we have it easy, that all the children are behaving and that we can get stuff done every single day the way it needs to go. Seriously, I am inviting you in. I want people to come in and watch what I do everyday. I want you to see how much time I get during the day to plan, to collaborate with my colleages, to see how many speed bumps there are along the way, to deal with students that aren't always behaving....EVERYTHING. I want people to come in and watch and then to consider how unimportant that test is to me at times.

When I tell people that I'm a middle school teacher, inevitably, their response is...."better you than me....I could not do that job." Well, you know what? Perhaps they're right....perhaps they can't, but I like what I do. Not everyday....but overall in the grand scheme, I do.

What I don't like is being told by people who HAVE NEVER been in the profession, how to do my job and what makes a good teacher. I don't like people making educational policy that don't know a lick about urban or public education. I don't like it when people try to tell me how easy my job is when they've never done it before.

People aren't blocks that can be pounded in a space just to fit and especially children. Each person learns differently. Paper and pencil tests just don't cut it anymore....they can't check for everything....they just can't.

So, when I see that most of the teaching population only has one or two years under them...I'm not surprised. Oh, and by the way....most of those teachers are coming out with things that they can teach us don't think their lack of experience is always a negative thing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

each class...

Each class is so different from the other...just as each student is. I'm finding this year that this class is somewhat less mature than my kids last year - but oddly, I like it. They still have a childlike innocence and manner that I'm ok with. It can be annoying at times...especially when you wish they would follow directions the first or second time and not the 15th...but the childlike manner is still attractive.

Right now I have a group in my boy asked if he could dust...he is...everything that he can find to dust. I have kids working together to construct a "building" with Jenga blocks and yet another watching a student create a poster for drama class. It's a different mix of personalities, maturity, and genders.

What I've learned about myself recently is that I'm somewhat unhappy in what I do. I still love teaching but I'm also looking for something else....something that will help make me feel a little more complete. I've found that it's music...and that I am going to have to do something with it or "perhaps perish!"

But even now as I watch the kids running, shouting, pushing and shoving in the hall to get to lunch....I'm still content here as well. They have ups and downs just like adults and I can safely say that there will be times that I wonder why I'm doing this - but I'm still ever in awe of these kids at times....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

new year...

It's been a while I know...while everyone thought I was doing fun stuff - which I was, I was also working.

So far this year, I've been pleasantly surprised. I came into the year not really wanting to be here. It wasn't the kids or staff or was just a feeling of extreme tiredness. Once things got going though...I was good.

This summer Ron Clark came out with a new book, "The End of Molasses Classes". I was very excited to read it and it hit home. He has a way of saying things that you want to say and in a nicer way than sometimes teachers want to say it. I enjoyed the book a lot! GO AND GET A COPY!!!

I have some pretty interesting students this year. Skill wise - it's like they clustered my classes, but I can work with that and am also so very lucky to have a collaborative teacher in my room for an entire block! Last was kind of crazy. Our special education teachers could only be there for a certain amount of was harder to truly collaborate. The woman I work with this year is hard working and knows how to teach differently than I do...which I really need. I've worked with other collaborative teachers in the past and each one has taught me something. I appreciate ANYONE who works in special education...all the paperwork and extra little things they keep throwing at these guys is crazy!

I'm also starting to feel better about my new team. Last year, I returned to 7th grade after about 8 years in the 8th grade. I wasn't sure about where my place was on this new team...this year, I feel better. Our literacy department is working a little more fluidly as is our grade level team. I'm excited about what we could do this year. We're starting to create units and lessons that go along with our new IB program. I like the way it's heading and I hope that it goes well.

I'm starting to see myself as hopeful this year as we start. I'm trying to be positive....I'm trying to be hopeful and I'm trying to see the bigger picture right now.

I will say that I'm still feeling a little beat up from last year...and I can't say that it isn't still coming looking at today's paper and seeing what our state would like to move to...but I'm hoping that we can whether the storm. I guess we'll see how positive I can remain as well.... :-)

Friday, April 15, 2011


This week I learned two things...first - I really enjoy sharing ideas with other teachers and secondly - that I am headed to the dark side and have truly started teaching to the assessment. On Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to leave the building. This was really cool for me. I haven't been gone but a half day all year. The other part, is that I am in a group of teachers that is rewriting the curriculum for the entire 7th grade Literacy. I felt very good to be asked to participate with this group of teachers. Without getting into all the details, it was a productive meeting AND it was interesting to hear all the things that are going on around in the district. It was nice to connect and reconnect to other teachers in the district. I really did enjoy the day. And we got A LOT done! :-) The second thing - which has slowly been a depressing insight to me, is that we have truly started teaching to the assessments. Last Friday and this Thursday we had the kids take assessments to see if what we covered they were able to learn and understand. The results were very telling. I found myself sitting down last night and trying to figure out how to get the kids to pass the next assessment by teaching almost, with the same terminology, the test we will have during the next term. Today I sat and talked with the students. I told them how they did on both assessments and then I laid it on the line. I said that we had to figure out a way to do better on the next assessments. I told them that we'd sit down after the pretest, go over the answers and talk through ways to get them to the answers that they needed for the post I did this - I cringed inside. While I understand the benefit of assessing students, I don't agree with how we're are being asked to do this. I wish people would understand that these assessments are not how we show what our kids know. These assessments only show how they did THAT day. It's only a score on a piece of paper. Unfortunately, what people should be looking at, is not what the nation wants to look's the other assessments we do, the observations we make, the mental notes we take - it's just so hard sometimes. I guess I'm just tired. It's getting to be the end of the year...the kids are tired and done. It's going to be an every day conversation to keep them as on task as they can be for a while...I'm hoping that they can do it....I'm hoping that I can do it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's the little things....

I've been discovering that it's the little things we do that make a big impact. Last year was hard for me personally. I could feel it in October and about the time of Winter Break - I actually was thinking of quiting and finding something else to do. I was really unhappy...I didn't feel like anything was going right or that anything I was doing was going right. It finally culminated last spring. I was asked to come down to talk with my principal....and got reamed. I mean I was flabergasted...I had no idea that I was doing so poorly - or that she felt I was doing so poorly. I left that meeting in tears and feeling like I was terrible at what I did. I felt like I had wasted a college degree. I went to another teacher in the building...we talked. I asked her what she thought and I thought about what she had said. I also went to my Literacy leader. Our conversation was helpful as well. We got to know each other a bit...I learned that sometimes she wasn't sure if she could be direct with me and she learned that she needed to be direct with me. I waited for two days and processed my situation...then I went back to my principal with the teacher I had originally spoken with. I went in, told her what I had heard, asked her some questions and we talked. It was productive. Today, my principal came to me again. This time she stopped me in the hall, she looked me in the eye and told me that I was doing a great job. She told to be happy with all that I had been doing this year and that I should be proud of my accomplishments. Today was the day that I felt appreciated and justified in my profession. I've learned that sometimes you need to take things - even the bad ones, and find something you can learn from the experience. And hopefully, you might even get a nice compliment in the end.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More bad press....

Why? That's what I've been wondering lately...why I'm teaching, why do I have to justify my job to others, why do I feel demonized?

Every time I read the paper I get extremely frustrated. Yesterday in the opinion section of the paper, I again saw teachers and teaching relegated to statements like "free health care" and "summers off for break". I wish people would get things straight...they latch onto the statements and use them as facts.

Firstly, I don't get free health care. I pay for it through my benefits. Education gets an allotted pot of money. The school district and union then sit down and figure out how they are going to allocate it. The teachers for the past few years have decided to use part of it to offset our health care. We have given up money that we could be using in our salaries to help pay our health care. How much LESS interesting is it to know the facts versus what everyone thinks is going on there?

Secondly, I don't have summers off. In fact the last time I had a "summer off" was to work on my master’s paper. I have worked or coached EVERY summer since I began teaching. Every five years, teachers are required to be recertified to teach. With the ever changing requirements from NCLB, sometimes our certifications change. Last summer I had to go back to UNI to take two classes. These two classes now make it possible for me to teach reading and Language Arts to Kindergarteners through 12th graders. I don't get paid to take these classes, I PAY!

If I'm not taking classes to get recertified, I'm teaching or working a second job. Usually, it does have something to do with my career though. I don't get paid to not work in the summers either contrary to popular opinion. We, in the Des Moines school district have decided to spread out our pay throughout the year.

Thirdly....and this is something to really pay attention to. Governor Branstad and part of the House of Representatives have decided for 0% allowable growth for the next two years. I wonder if people understand what this means? This means that we are only allowing funding for the amount of students we have in our district now. If we get any more students in the district - we SOMEHOW have to fund them. Where are we getting this money? Hmmmm? I wonder.....that's right our school districts will have to eat the cost!!! If Iowa schools weren't strapped enough, now we would have to take up the slack. When the article blames schools and school boards for raising property taxes and outsourcing to other's not us! We have to figure out where to get the funding to pay for ANY student that would potentially come into the district based upon what the LEGISLATURE and the Governor allot us. So blaming us for the inevitable raise in property is specious, at best.

Fourthly, the part of the article that I would like to address was the quote of the "average salary". I loved it. It was around the $50,000 range. That's nice. But do you realize that ALL teachers were in that average number? Teachers that have been teaching for 25 + years to first year teachers? If you want to talk apples to apples, break it down. What was the average by age, sex, and race? Then compare it to the private sector. Make sure they all the same education though - ALL teachers have a four year degree and some have masters. Those figures would actually show an appropriate comparison and breakdown of the material.

Again - lastly, if you don't know a teacher and have never been in the profession - I challenge you, come sit in a classroom. Come watch us do our jobs. If you want your children educated by people that are trained in the curriculum, management and care that it takes for us to do our jobs, then we need to know that we are appreciated in what we do. Teaching is a challenging profession, but I love what I do. I love making those connections to my students and watching them make connections to what I'm teaching. I love the seeing how excited they can get and then being able to show what they know. I love seeing that light and excitement as they learn something new for the first time. Going into this profession, I knew that it wasn't for the money or fame or glory - it was the love of the subject I was teaching and the love of the subjects I would teach.

Please remember this when you read things and hear things about teachers. Please make sure you get all the facts and not just latch on to what is being repeated over and over. Please remember who taught you - the good and the bad and what they brought to your life. We are your neighbors, friends and citizens of Des Moines too. Please don't forget that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thank you Obama...finally, you are speaking up.

Obama: Don't Vilify Public Employees
President Defends Public Workers In Face Of Budget Cuts
PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
POSTED: 2:57 am CST February 28, 2011UPDATED: 11:08 am CST February 28, 2011

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says public employees should not have their rights infringed upon as states look for ways to cut spending.
Speaking to the nation's governors, Obama says he understands the fiscal challenges facing cash-strapped states and says everyone should be prepared "to give something up". But he says that shouldn't mean public employees are "vilified" during budget debates.
Obama's comments come as Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio back bills that would end collective bargaining agreements for public employees.
The governors are in town for meeting of the National Governors Association.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Des Moines, Iowa is the New Wisconsin....

It's been a while, I know, and it's not that I don't have anything to fact with all that has been going on in the news in the state of Iowa and nationally...I've had an opinion - I'm just sure that in the heat of my thinking - it would've not been put the way I wanted. Even now, I'm not sure that it will get said that way I want.

Ok, let talk about Wisconsin...I hope that everything turns out for them...and I don't just mean the teachers. I also mean the state workers that are being put on the line. I am so baffled by what the governor there is trying to do. I'm also very concerned because I can see that our governor will probably be the next one to try this.

Thanks to those legislators who acted the way they did because they were listening to their constituents. And shame on the governor who believes that this is just a stunt and does not see how this will affect their state. I hope that their legislature starts to actually listen to the people that live and work in Wisconsin.

I am concerned that our governor is looking at what happens in that state very closely. I am very concerned that he will be trying to do this as well. I don't understand why people don't want state workers and teachers not to have the power to fight for benefits. In the last few years, in Des Moines, the only thing the teachers have asked for is a competitive wage and good health benefits. These are the things we are worried about and the things that keep us teaching in Des Moines.

There are good teachers here...there are teachers who take there job seriously, who believe what they do is important, who want to make sure that your child is learning. We are not greedy, we don't make enough to be greedy. Anyone in education knows that we will never become millionaires doing our job. When people use the dreaded line, "those who can't...teach" know that it doesn't "pay" to be a teacher. Why people think that we are all just money grubbers...obviously still don't know why we teach.

I'm hoping that this situation turns out in the best way possible. I'm hoping this because I'm afraid for the state and city I live in. I seriously don't want to move...but if our state doesn't start to figure out what is best for us - I will be looking outside of this state for another job.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

our new governor...

As I read the paper and watch the news, I've become more and more anxious about what is going to happen with education in my state. Already our governor is introducing cuts to our preschool program...a program that, according to the paper, "hasn't shown any real growth". I was so surprised when I read this that I wasn't sure I had read it correctly. Hasn't shown growth? I'm baffled by this statement. When I talk to friends of mine that are preschool teachers and see my own nieces going through preschool programs and have looked at the standards that these early childhood teachers are trying to achieve??? The words just can't get out of my head fast enough!!!

While I understand that things can always be revamped and refreshed...I don't see how our legislators still believe that we're not making headway....that we're not trying to get young children more prepared to go on to kindergarten?!

I've become so frustrated with people that believe that it is the teacher's fault for everything lately. We've become the scapegoat...the ones who are supposed to fix the problems and issues of our students....the ones that are supposed to continue our education without some type of financial support occassionally....the ones that are supposed to "entertain" the students in our rooms while plying them with rigor and relevance....

I decided to blog about my teaching experience and speak for things that I see are hindering my profession because of this line...."Those who can do...those who can't teach...." I hate this line.....I loathe it with my entire being. People believe this to be true have NEVER once been in a classroom other than the time they were sitting in it. They have no idea what it takes every day to do what we do, to see what we see and to deal with the issues we do.

I love being a teacher. Simple statement. Are there times I don't - well, duh! But I like what I do. I love seeing the expression students get on their face when they understand something...and I mean REALLY understand it. I love the tenacity in which they attack a concept they like and want to know more about. I love the ones that come back and visit so they can tell you how well they're doing and they do this because you believed that they could. I love working with colleages that can surprise me with their creativity, flexibility and endless energy.

Teaching isn't about sitting and lecturing. It isn't about a "3 month break in the summer". It's about hard work and being able to think on your feet. It's about being flexible and really getting to know a group of kids. It's about trying like made every day to get them to learn something, get excited about knowing it and then trying to get them to retain it - not just for a test, but for life.

My frustration with our new governor is that he doesn't seem to understand this. He doesn't seem to get that this job is a constant battle. He's never had a middle schooler tell him to "f-off" in the middle of a class. This job has lately been a thankless, tiring struggle....a struggle to defend what we do. To defend our importance....

When that line..."Those who can't - teach" is heard.....remember SOMEONE taught you how to do it before you knew it.

Friday, January 7, 2011


It's hard to look at what happened in Omaha and not wonder about what could happen here. Yesterday, a former student was caught with a weapon at the high school. The high school is attached to the middle school I teach at. I've been thinking about this since we found out what was going on over there...

I know the student. I always remembering thinking that he was a goofball. He has a goofy grin on his face most of the time and was always messing around in the hallways. I know of another incident that wasn't so goofy...he and a friend of his in a high speed car chase that ended with them wrapping the vehicle around a pole. All of the things I know about this student and I'm still surprised that he brought a weapon to school....full loaded and in a pocket of a coat.

I can honestly say that I'm not afraid for my safety at this school. I've never thought that I would ever be afraid seeing a student in the public or having them know where I live.

It's disheartening to know that he will probably do some jail time, perhaps as an adult, and that it may lead to other levels of badness for him. I'm hoping not...I'm hoping that something clicks and he decides on a different path.

What I can say about this situation - it makes me sad. When the emphasis is still being put on testing and is not just about's about the whole student - helping them make good choices is as important as any test. May the powers that be remember that as they talk about how poorly our students are doing on a test.

Monday, January 3, 2011

a plea to listen....

Anxiety...this is what I feel when I listen to our state's new Secretary of Education. The man that is coming in says that he's "helped" Colorado by making testing scores a contingency on teacher salary.

I know those of you in education don't understand why this is a bad thing, let's break this down a bit. I know that in business a lot of you have standards that you must accomplish or you could get don't show up on time, you don't get your work done, you don't get along with others. In education - we do too. We have certain standards that we have to meet, some of us have a portfolio of work that we have to show to our administrators. We also have to go back to school or get further training - enough that we have 6 credits to renew our teaching license. We don't get paid to do this...we pay.

We already have a lot of the things that people in business careers have to do as well. Now what they want teachers to do is to take children and make them achieve on a test. Now let's think about this a bit. In an urban district, we have a lot of different students. Some of these students come from homes where their parents value education. They believe that education will help their children accomplish goals, become better people and live a decent life. We also have students that come from families that don't value education. They don't see what the point is...they get by with what they have, why isn't that good enough?

I eat with two of my colleages...every day. We talk about our little victories and defeats. One day the math teacher said that she was so proud of one of her students...he was really working hard! He was understanding the lessons, scoring well on the assessments and passing the quizzes! Then she said that she told him that he should be proud of his accomplishments...his response, "I know you're proud of me, that I get this and all, but I just don't care about school or any of this." She struggled to get him to try to realize what education can do for him. He still says that he doesn't care.

How do we get these students to pass an assessment? How do we get them to see the value of one test? How do we test them over and over and over and still ask them to take yet another test? This test is out of date. This test uses words that these kids don't use...that adults don't use as time has changed.

Districts, states, the nation...we are being asked to teach the test. We are being asked to make sure we teach everything that might possibly be on the assessment, whether we've gotten to that information or not and then we're being judged on this. Teachers aren't able to go back and reteach, we aren't able to show our own assessments as we check for understanding, we aren't able to have students that don't take tests well - because of time or a bad day or lack of skills - to show what they know THEIR way.

Every one learns you know this? Not everyone can sit through 90 minutes of class or a meeting or anything and listen to someone talk at you. I've been working with middle schoolers for 10 years now. I CAN'T SIT FOR 90 MINUTES....I let them get up, I'm ok with some of them putting their heads down, because I know they are still listening....I'm ok with them getting up occassionally and leaning against the wall.....anything to keep them keep them learning.

The more I listen to these "so-called" experts about what teachers are supposed to do, the more upset and sick I get. Seriously sick to my makes me again want to go onto the Senate and House floors and issue a challenge. A challenge for lawmakers to come into a classroom in an URBAN district and watch what we do. Watch what the kids are like....see what a special education teacher has to deal with - testing kids at a level they aren't at and ask them to be proficient.

When will we stop blaming teachers and start looking at homes, communities and society in general. I'm hoping that we can create a floodtide of education professionals that can come together and protest our treatment and help those not in the field to understand what we are being asked to do.