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.