Wednesday, June 20, 2007

EDCI 602: Personal Reflection

Because we have only been teaching summer school for a week and a half, we have a limited number of samples to draw on for this exercise.

My students have been most successful at my lessons involving rote memorization. We had a fantastic first day with rules and consequences and, once these had been explained and implemented day two, learning the 8 parts of speech, went quite smoothly as well. My first theory to explain the success of these first days is the nature of the material, which required only that the students write down or memorize and then regurgitate specific pieces of information. The students also had some prior knowledge of parts of speech so I suspect that they felt fairly confident giving examples in front of their peers even though they were not always right. Additionally, modeling for these goals was easy and effective. A noun is a tree. I want you to sit in your seat LIKE THIS. Having a clear correct answer makes the students feel more comfortable, and at this point all the answers were at the first DOK level, "right there."

My students were least successful at the lesson in which I attempted to combine identifying and labeling ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS. This unfortunately seemed simple to me at the outset, but my students had a much harder time than I expected. After going through separate examples of adjectives, and then adverbs, and identifying the word being modified in each case and that word’s part of speech and subsequently applying the definition of “adjective” or “adverb” to confirm our assessment, I tried to combine the two. The students, I believe, struggled with this for a number of reasons. First, they are unaccustomed to having to think in order to get a correct answer. The answer was not “right there” for them; rather, they had to go through many steps to arrive at a correct answer. Furthermore, I feel that I could have been more explicit in my instructions about how to label the modifiers and WHY we were labeling the part of speech of the modifiers as well. After 50 minutes on adjectives and adverbs there is no reason other than simple failure to convey information that a student should have “big” as his “describer,” “tree” as his “word being modified,” “noun” as the part of speech of the word being modified, and yet have labeled the “describer” in this sentence and ADVERB. If he got all the pieces in place that I was trying to teach him except for the final step to success, I should have been more diligent in checking for understanding of the instructions of and the purpose for the activity under discussion.

Overall I think that my instructional procedures are effective for certain types of learners (visual and auditory) but that I could improve on including different learning styles. For example, if student X is a kinesthetic learner I could be sure to bring in some type of manipulative each day such as index cards labeled with adj’s or adv’s to be sorted into different columns or sticky notes on the board that would need to be physically arranged by a student into the appropriate column. This would undoubtedly help the entire class by providing a different way to look at the same problem, and would effectively differentiate for the kinesthetic learners. Also, based on my analysis above, I should probably plan more explicit transitions clearly explaining the connection between two ideas before I ask the students to embark upon drawing connections in a rather uncharted way, which is often intimidating to students as well as less likely to produce the same desired end result.

With much to learn …

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Failures: AY 2006-2007

Failure Story

Rather than a single unsuccessful venture, I am going to focus on the way in which I most profoundly failed each of three critical components: my students, my parents, and myself.

Part I : Students

At the end of the year, my most egregious offense against my students seems to have been a lack of planning. I do not owe my students a complete, typed, by-the-book lesson plan every day; they will never know the difference. I do not think that my occasional failure to return student work in a timely manner for the first overwhelming term drastically affected the climate of my classroom or the success of my students. I stayed after school, I attended their functions, I showed that I cared. What I never did for them was show them where we were going, where we had been, and how the two were related. I rarely knew what I was teaching more than a day or two ahead of time, and that resulted in a classroom that felt just slightly off-balance most days.

Oftentimes, it seems, you don’t know what you’ve been missing till you try it. Finally in the fourth term, and for only one of my three preps, I made a tentative schedule for the last month of school and it made a world of difference to my students. They came in to class knowing what to expect. They were mentally prepared for upcoming assignments, their parents called me with questions, and the students themselves demonstrated a greater sense of responsibility for the work they knew they had to do. Being perfectly honest, I did that one schedule a lot more for myself than for them, because we had an assignment to complete, because I needed to figure out how many classes we had left, because I realized belatedly that it would make things a lot clearer not only for them but for me, too. But when I told them in class about the long-term schedule they clamored for a copy to the point that I interrupted class and ran off a set of my own hand-written notes of “what to expect for the next five weeks.”

Not every student kept up with it, not every student read it, not every student listened in class when I explained it to them but it made enough of a difference to enough of my students that I realized I really should have been doing it all year.

It is easier for them to care about something if they think it matters, and it is easier for them to believe that it matters if it is tied in to topics that then tie in, in some way, to their lives. Looking back, I wound up with a few pretty decent units that were, in fact, related. Had I merely discovered this before teaching the material, taken the time to write up a schedule and a brief explanation, and passed this information along to my students, perhaps we all would have been a little bit more successful.

Next year …

Part II : Parents

In essence, I failed to communicate with my parents. The only parents I saw were the ones who came to see me, and in most situations those are the ones you need to see the least. I rarely informed parents of what we had going on in class, I never provided them with an opportunity to actively participate, and I failed even to let them know when their children were failing.

Again, slight improvements in the fourth term: I created a website for one of my classes that informed parents of upcoming assignments as well as my contact information. The website also linked to an online grade book, so parents did not have to wait for bi-weekly progress reports that may or may not have gotten home to see what their student had failed to turn in. This helped, and more parents contacted me. Again, next year will be better.

Part III: Myself

The way in which I most profoundly failed myself was a daily denial of all the work that had to be done. To some extent, this is healthy and necessary, but when it carries on for weeks or even months it becomes detrimental not only to the students and the instruction but to one’s own psyche as well. As I let things spiral farther out of control, as I took less and less responsibility for things that I knew had to be done, I became variably despondent, desperate, or sometimes both. For the third term that I taught, I graded almost nothing until two days before midterms. I took two personal days, spent the entire time grading papers, and managed to submit something to the administration. The build-up to Christmas break was worse. I graded nothing from midterms to exams while assigning massive projects with painfully specific rubrics, projects that were eventually graded on a cold night in January based, yes, on completion.

I drove away from my school on a December afternoon with the announcement still ringing in my ears that all grades must be in before we left for break. I received for Christmas, from my mother, a corkboard with a painting of schoolbooks and the words “Ms. Smith – Teachers Shape the Future.” It stayed in my car for four months because I was unable to muster the courage to acknowledge that someone, anyone, even my own mother two hundred miles away, actually believed in me.

I graded nothing over break. I cried for three days before I came back, and spent the first three days of the first week of third term teaching very little, sleeping less, and feverishly grading anything I thought someone might call me on if I didn’t. Grades were submitted Wednesday of that week (even mine) and third term was a near-miraculous reversal in which I vowed, Scarlett O’Hara style, to never put myself through that again.

Papers were graded almost instantaneously, grades were recorded, papers were redistributed, and term’s end hasn’t bothered me since.

But that was a hellish 9 weeks.

EDCI 602: Learning Goals

The overarching goal we set for our students for the first week of school was: TSW define and identify each of the 8 parts of speech in sentences. Along with this we included subject/verb agreement, identification and correction of sentence fragments, and a discussion of the difference between the parts of a sentence (subject, verb, etc) versus the parts of speech. For the remainder of summer school we plan to continue working on basic grammar skills (subject vs object, subj/verb agreement, etc), mechanics (mainly punctuation), effective writing skills, and reading comprehension (identifying main idea, summarizing, etc).

We selected these skills based on four broad categories: the mississippi state frameworks, the MCT test, the EBS objectives passed to us from the school district, and our assessment of the likely problem areas for these students based on a year of teaching similar students elsewhere. The skills that we plan to teach are generally basic and necessary skills that every student needs, and because of the situation and the grade level we have designed lessons that allow space for prior knowledge in the form of contributions in class, but that do not rely on this prior knowledge in order to acquire the desired skills.

The inductive strategy we included in our planning was an activity in which students organized various words written on index cards into different groups based on the 8 parts of speech (all cards fit into one of the 8 categories = concept formation). This activity helped us assess students' understanding of the different functions of each of the 8 parts of speech (a sort of pre-assessment) and gave us a brief opportunity to individually help students who were struggling. Additionally, through words that can serve as more than one part of speech we were able to discuss the idea that there is not always just one right answer and that it is important to pay attention to all the parts of a question rather than assuming that your first guess is the right one.

For the next two weeks we have organized each day into four "subject" blocks (grammar, punctuation, writing skills, and reading comprehension) in the hope that this structure will help our students organize the information that they receive as well as providing some consistency in the midst of changing teachers in order to effect our ultimate goal of student learning.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and THE ADMINISTRATION: cont'd

I have spent the last three weeks of my life saying again and again and again to various groups of students: It's not you.

Every one of my peers who is leaving my school cites the administration as the reason, but when the ninth grade MYP kids come into my room listing off the horrifying 80% of teachers they had this year who will be gone next year how do I make them understand ... it's REALLY NOT YOU.

In the midst of one of my many priceless conversations with Mr. Roth during our planning block ... 4th period ... which had for no apparent reason been shifted to the 3rd period spot ... which was doubly confusing because then suddenly you're taking the wrong kids to lunch ... right. In the middle of our conversation, in which we're wondering what we'll do with our third block kids when we DO get them anyway, because technically this is exam week and they've already tested so they have nothing to do, the third(/[fourth]) block bell rings ... TWENTY MINUTES EARLY. I rush back to my room to get my stuff together, he continues tearing his hair out in his own inimitable way, and the students move from their fourth period to their third period classes. Next. Three minutes AFTER the early bell, which would leave us with our third block classes with nothing to do for OVER TWO HOURS, an announcement comes on the loudspeaker: "Teachers please ignore the bell, it was sounded early, students should REMAIN in their fourth period classes, repeat please remain in your fourth period classes" So we tell all our third-block students who are streaming in to go BACK to their fourth block classes (which, naturally, comes BEFORE third block anyway), soon after which the loudspeaker comes on AGAIN announcing this time that students are to report to their third-period classes at this time. Send the five fourth-block kids who have actually returned to class back on their way, and report to hall duty to direct the understandably confused flow of traffic. hm.

MYP ninth graders take:
English: me / Mr. C
English double-dip: Mr R
Chemistry: Mr. D // Mr. T
Computer Elective: Ms. P
Math: Mr. B
Spanish / French: me / Ms. R / Mr. B
History ... ? whatever

Mr. R., Mr. D., Mr. T., Ms. P., Mr. B., Ms. R. .... they're leaving. six out of the nine possible teachers they've had, most of whom are first or second-year teachers are running out of this school like it's catching and how are these kids not going to internalize that ... just a little. How do you come through a system in which a ninth grade student has been passed for three straight years due to "problems in the district" (meaning their teacher ran out and the sub never got his stuff together so they passed the whole class) and not notice ... just a little ... that nobody really seems to care.

And it's NOT THEM. but actions speak louder than words, my friends, and I will be joining the fleeing crowd next year, running out and leaving someone else to tell them ... it's not them.

because I can't live in a world where I am ignored and disrespected and lied to by my superiors. because I refuse to reside in a community that kills my brain cells merely by the mundane tasks it requires of me on a daily basis. because this isn't a career for a sane person.

But it's NOT THEM.

the good, the bad, and the administration : AY 2006-2007

Went down to Mr. Roth's room roundabout the second-to-last week of school to ask him what he was doing with a particular student we shared. Impressed that I already had my grades together, he was prompted to comment, "You've had a good year."
I think the look I gave him must have been similar to the jewel Ben got when he asked me ... in DECEMBER ... why I thought someone should join teacher corps: Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?!
In Jake's case, I followed up the incredulity with the comment "I wanted to shoot myself in the FACE for the majority of the year."
His immediate response: "Hey, I STILL want to shoot myself in the face most of the time. But you've done well, people have learned things. You've had a good year."

And so it goes.

"The Good" : Amber C.
In my "regular" English class, she always had something to say but, unlike most of my other students, what she said was usually related to what I was trying to talk about. One of my brightest students overall, she kept class discussions lively and kept me from tearing my hair out some days.
Favorite story: I grade daily work for completion, mostly. As in, if you DO it all, you get a big fat happy one hundred, Amber's usually embellished with a "great job!" because her work is ALWAYS a cut above the rest. Amber worked with Sasha in a partner activity near the end of the year. Sasha typically makes 50-70 percent on daily work and less than that on tests, but since she worked with Amber on this one THEY, of course, got a hundred. Whoever passed out the work handed the paper back to Sasha rather than Amber and Sasha yelled out across the room to Amber "WE GOT A ONE HUNDRED!!" Amber immediately lets out a high-pitched squeal, runs over, and gives Sasha a great big hug.
This is a DAILY work grade, Amber has gotten hundreds on everything she's turned in all year, and yet ...
what a beautiful child.

"The Good," cont'd: 7th Block B-days and C.M.
my 7th block class was one of the first to notice that I was a real person (not just a "teacher") and start asking me questions about myself. They were the first to figure out how old I really am, that this was my first year teaching, and to start asking questions about the tawdry connections between me and the mysteriously handsome teacher across the hall. Once it became OBVIOUS (from various 1-3 minute long between-class conversations in the hall) that we were in love, I had C.M. in my room taking a test after school. True to form, he was carrying on a enthusiastic conversation with me in the midst of carelessly marking multiple choice answers on a test he'd failed to make up two months earlier when I gave it in class, but when Mr. S appeared in my door from across the hall C.M. became unusally silent. When Mr. S at last withdrew C.M. immediately informed me that he couldn't be caught talking to me in front of my boyfriend like that. I threw him one of my now-infamous looks of complete and utter skepticism to which he flippantly responded, "It's okay Ms. S. It's aright to date a black guy."

Clearly, that was the only thing standing in my way. :)

[To be continued...]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mental-Health Timeline of A First-Year Teacher

The Practical Side: How it Happens (Or, where’s that light again?)

I promised you a light, now, can we get overnight shipping on that?
(in all seriousness, consider investing in some kind of light therapy. My roommate came home with a lamp one of the many Sunday evenings on which I was feeling too overwhelmed to do anything at all. I immediately hijacked the lamp, took off the shade, and left it blazing in the middle of my floor -- along with my own desk lamp, the overhead light, and a halogen lamp – for the remainder of the evening and the larger part of the next two weeks)

So how, in six or eight months’ time, do you get through the “hardest year of your professional life” and manage to come out clean, and why can’t we just tell you all our secrets so you don’t have to be painfully, heartbreakingly miserable for a good number of those months?

No idea.
RJ told me that by the Spring I wouldn’t want to take days off. I thought he was crazy. (he is). But the week before state testing, there was a tournament in Huntsville I wanted to compete in. I would have to take Friday off school to make it there in time, and I thought “well, I really need that time at school … I’d rather be with my kids.”

Here’s how it happened for me:

First Nine Weeks:
Running on adrenaline; still think the hardest thing I’m going to have to do is plan stimulating lessons for various evaluations

Labor Day is the last time I remember caring and/or having the energy to effectively influence a) what I was wearing OR b) my physical surroundings (apartment, classroom, car, etc)

The phrase: “we are living in squalor” became a convenient expression of our communal state of mind

Second Nine Weeks:
Surprisingly healthy and happy for the first half, I fell fast towards the middle of that deep dark pool around November. Check-mark grading became a must (hats off to RJ). Days off were necessary not for relaxation but in order to get the absolutely critically necessary work done. Managed to grade NOTHING for each half of the term until reports were due.

Deeply felt the inarguable truth of MD’s crushing statement: The hardest thing you will have to do is get out of bed every morning.

Christmas break:
Ignored school, ignored my grades, cried for two days before I had to come back. Spent the first week of third nine weeks grading and avoiding the office until I finally got it together. Vowed to be more organized/on top of my stuff third nine weeks.

Third Nine Weeks:
WORLDS BETTER. Tons of stress, but somehow manageable.
Fly in the ointment: Oxford five out of eight weekends

Fourth Nine Weeks:
Worlds better again.

I don’t know what these magical changes are that happen. It’s not easy, I’m not on top of my game, but I’m not out of my mind anymore either.

Things do change.

Pandora’s Box (advice to first-years / first year reflection)

According to Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, Pandora lifted the lid of her infamous box “and out flew plagues innumerable, sorrow and mischief for mankind … One good thing, however, was there – Hope”

Be that as it may, I doubt hope was the first thing early man noticed as he was engulfed by the plagues, sorrows, and, perhaps more aptly in this case, plain old mischief released from the box. So it goes with teaching.

Later, talking about Norse mythology, Hamilton allows that “even these sternly hopeless Norsemen, whose daily life in their icy land through the black winters was a perpetual challenge, saw a far-away light break through the darkness”

Wherever the light is your first semester of teaching, it’s almost too far away to matter. And although we’re not in the blackest of black winters, I’ve heard descriptions equally disheartening and hardly less poetic of the first term teaching. A second-year’s droll prediction of how life would look roundabout the middle of my first semester:
“It’s like being in the middle of a deep, dark pool when you are too far away to reach either shore and too tired to swim”

Sad but true.

The only thing that any of us can tell you (and we will …) is that it does get better.

HJ told us at the Christmas dinner that his first year teaching was the longest year of his life … but that the second year flew by.

RJ insisted that I take days off the first term, while insisting equally that by 4th quarter I wouldn’t even want them anymore.

Ben will tell you a hundred times that no one has ever found the second year to be harder than the first.

And my entire “team” this summer was convinced that by the third year, you’ll really have the hang of it.

So sometime next October (don’t believe everything Ben tells you, by the way, I made it through October with my sanity and managed to stave off the breakdown until mid-December, which when it came was no less traumatizing for the wait) … or December, or February, in the long haul when some person apparently even less competent than yourself decides to have you drive to Oxford for five CONSECUTIVE weekends … remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that somehow, inexplicably, it WILL and DOES get better. Timing of this post could have been much more appropriate, no doubt, but I’m at the point where I am beginning to see the light break, and not just because it’s May.

Andy Dufraine, according to the Shawshank Redemption, crawled through a river of sh*t came out clean on the other side.

It happens.

You can, and you will.

ENJOY whatever you’re doing until you get here, take as much as you can from this summer (and DON’T let it stress you out!!), and remember sometime in the fall that along with the mischief of all mankind you will inevitably find hope. Far away, there is a light.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What you need to know before you arrive: Part II

We are your best resource -- USE IT

This program works because of the participants. You will quickly find that, with few exceptions, your classes are designed to allow MTC to award us all degrees a few years from now. Not to teach you anything you don't know. MTC is a competitive program, which means that you are smart and capable. You don't need professional development, you don't need to sit in class for six hours most saturdays. But you do (probably) need MTC to get certified and help you find a spot, so since you'll be driving to Oxford anyway, make the most of it.

You will be living, working, eating, and breathing with each other for the first two months. You will get to know each other. To a lesser extent, you will get to know us.

Come June 29th, the second years will leave Oxford. Come August, you will be teaching your own class. The first few months of school will be some of the longest of your life, but the summer will fly by, so have fun, live it up, but don't waste an opportunity to learn. The cross country assistant coach at my school was recruited at Parish's. The tutoring club that I sponsor got its start at Ajax Diner. Don't wait for the opportune moment to ask a question or address an issue you are having -- ask. Ask ten people, ask your mentors and your roommates and ben and ms monroe, let everybody give you the best they've got and you figure out what you want to do with it.

You WILL receive a ton of conflicting advice. We like to talk a lot, you like to talk a lot, and most of us have ideas worth sharing. Listen, talk, don't let it stress you out, and always take what you want and leave the rest. You will have your own style, that's why you will be effective. The worst piece of advice for you might be the best for the girl sitting next to you. No worries on that count.

What I learned from my classes this summer:
How to write a lesson plan

What I learned from other people in the program:
-how to manage a classroom (E.S.)
-that I do some things right (A.M.)
-How to project confidence
-How to play it off (C.C.)
-How my school works (this is a biggie -- Dake and Jave, and all the beautiful brave souls who started the year with me as first-years)
-That we really DO all have different styles and that's REALLY OKAY (the sooner you're okay with this, the better you will be) (J.K., W.S., and the rest of my TEAM)
-That having a year of experience doesn't fix all your problems ... and that's okay, too
-How to survive 9-wks grades and massive posterboard projects (thanks, jake)
ETC ...

Basically... you'll get to know each other, you won't all like each other, but the beautiful thing about MTC is that nobody comes to the mississippi delta to make money and if you think you're here to do charity work you'll change your mind or leave, so we're ALL HERE FOR BASICALLY THE SAME REASONS. we all want to do a good job, we basically all want to help each other, and believe it or not you will be a heck of a lot busier in the fall than you are over the summer so make the most of it, kids. Nobody's as intimidating or as big of a jerk as you think they are ... and if you're sure you don't need any help at all, let me know how that's going roundabout october. Pay attention, think about things, ask questions, try, and it'll all fall into place sooner or later.

If it worked, we wouldn't be here: What you need to know before you arrive

If it worked, we wouldn't be here.

So said a second-year MTC-er when I stormed into his classroom irate that the district had given me a nine-weeks exam to replace the one I had been promising to my students on the novel we had actually been WORKING ON ALL TERM. According to the syllabus I received from the other English I teacher there were actually supposed to be two novels, so I set a breakneck pace for the first and had it complete by parent-teacher conferences, during which I also handed out a reading/presentation schedule for the remainder of the term (second novel). The next day during professional development I was told that the first novel was coming along slower than the other teacher had anticipated so we would postpone novel number two to the fourth nine weeks. So I had four weeks to kill with a novel we'd finished reading. Surprisingly it worked out well and we spent the time productively, but parents were confused, students were annoyed, and by the time we took the exam at the end of the nine weeks (testing has to be uniform across a prep) my students had read the book a good 4 weeks earlier. Add in to the mix a district exam that I got the morning I was to give my nine weeks exam (25 pages long, handed to you the morning of with five minutes till the bell and a line six people long for the copier and you are expected to run thirty copies for your class ...) and the exam on the novel had to be postponed until AFTER spring break. make that a six-week gap between reading and testing.
And I'm the one who will take the heat if the scores are low, in our weekly data inquiry meetings in which we talk about who and how we are all failing.

If it worked, we wouldn't be here.

The sooner you are able to INTERNALIZE this, the easier your life will be. Because it really sucks when the schools does things that screw you over. Lack of notification for required documents. EEF supplies that arrive in April (I still don't have all of mine, got the first bit a week before spring break). Lack of support/communication/consistency in general. But where it's really going to get frustrating is when THEY do things that screw over YOUR kids and YOU have no control over it. none. That's when you have be furious, think how awful the system is, take a breath, and remember ... if it worked, we wouldn't be here.

The fact that it doesn't work is why most of us won't be here two years from now. The fact that it doesn't work is why they need us so badly, why it's so frustrating, and probably the single most important thing to know before you get here. You will learn all summer long how to teach, what types of problems you will be facing, and how to deal with them. What they can't prepare you for is going through it every day.

The very second year who provided me with such an apt and oddly comforting explanation was ready to tear his own hair out yesterday due to a completely different but similarly idiotic situation. That part doesn't go away, that part doesn't get better. That part is why we're here, in schools with no support, in crazy no-name towns in the mississippi delta, in dysfunctional environments.

If it worked ... we wouldn't be here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

If Soujourner Truth was alive today ...

My Letter for Woman's Rights
by M. W.

I think if Sojourner Truth was still alive today. She would be dispointed at the young black woman today, because in our generation today, black woman are having babies. Black woman are not teaching the children right. I also think Sojourner Truth say that she tryed so hard to stand up for woman rights, and now they have abruse them. So I think Sojourner Truth would be very dispointed at the young "Black Womans" today.

A Man Over There

by M.B.

A man over there say
A woman can't work like a man,
She needs his help, she needs his helping hand

A man over there say
We need to be house wives,
We need to make food with forks and knives

The man over there
He need to look again,
We can do the same, or even more than a man

A man over there say
We can't leave our homes
He say when we talk to him it has to be in a low tone

But the man over there,
That is saying all this stuff
Don't realize my life been bad and really really rough

I'm here to say that the man over there,
Needs to shut up, he's wrong
That's why I'm here today reciting my poem

A man over there,
That is listenting to my speech
Now knows that we have our own minds and we not scared to speak

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Almost a Second-Year ( and kids who feel entitled)

** all ideas and opinions expressed in this article are held by the author, who does not claim to represent the wider view of the program's many illustrious members **

First and second nine weeks were about getting by, third nine weeks was about learning how to do a little more than that, and fourth nine weeks, it would appear, is about making some tough decisions.

We know the schools need us now. We see the incompetence all around and realize that probably, no matter how bad we were to start off with, we're doing better than the average Joe by improving and possibly even more important simply by TRYING. Not a single last one of us hasn't made an effort, say what you will.

And now that we know, we have power. And now that we've run the gauntlet, some of us want to get out. Most of us have seen a few things that worked and a multitude of things that didn't, most have realized by now how sad the system is and that the newest teachers get the worst deals and the least support, that once you're in you get smaller classes, fewer preps, better pay, and more support, that once you know the people who have the same preps as you your job gets a little easier, that once you've made allies you get a little less flack for not having all your ducks in a row ...
This is sad because we do have a teacher shortage, because you're worsening the conditions for your most at-risk teacher population (1-5 years), and because most teachers quit because conditions are already bad enough. You shouldn't be tested with fire your first year, the hardest classes shouldn't be DUMPED on first-year teachers, and you shouldn't have a hundred percent yearly turnover for your state-tested, high-stakes courses.

A lot of things shouldn't happen, in fact, and it's a lot easier to see that now and it's a lot easier to see ways out.

We saw white bratty high school students at wendy's this weekend and we were kind of disgusted, we see clinton kids with their long hair and their parents' credit cards and we hate them a little bit, but their schools have enough toilet paper in the bathroom and their schools don't run out of lunch food before the last block and their schools probably start class on time.

And, just guessing, we kind of assume that at their schools if you cuss a teacher out you get some consequences for it.

And we think these things and we kind of want to be at their schools.

But if we're at our schools next year, if we stay and decide to fight the good fight one last time, things are changing, because now we know. We're entitled too, now, and we're not new and we're not getting screwed a second time. WE are not teaching four preps next year, we are not having class sizes over the legal limit, we are going to be subject to ridiculous expectations and mounds of paperwork and incompetent administrators and inconsistent enforcement of school policies but we AREN'T coming in without a say.

We're not great yet, but we're trying. We will work hard, we have improved, and if our school districts want the best for their students they will make minimal accommodations and keep us where we're needed most. But none of us are going through that again.

Johnnie Franklin

And what we think about that.

For those of you who aren't members of the illustrious class of 2008, Johnnie Franklin, the governor's advisor on education, told us this weekend that we needed to get over the "poor teacher" mentality because the attitude is the majority of the problem, and, really, if you look at it, we don't get paid that badly after all. And besides, he continued ... NOTHING is as meaningful as the student who came up to him two weeks ago and said "thank you, mr. franklin. You made a difference."


His point: Teachers actually get very good pay and good benefits for the job that we do, so we should get over the poor teacher mentality and that would make everything better.

My point: That's a load of crap.

Few comments on that theory...

Nobody gets into teaching for the money. Opportunities for advancement AREN'T all that great, the salary isn't outstanding for the man hours worked, and the entry-level stress is off the charts. This is common knowledge, and I don't think even Johnnie Franklin would argue with that (although, after forty years in education he's never had a bad day, so ... whatever).

So the problem ISN'T the pay or benefits, we all come into it ALREADY BELIEVIEVING that the most meaningful part of the job is changing lives. NOT feeling sorry for ourselves. Most teachers are here for a reason.

Very few people LEAVE teaching because they aren't getting ENOUGH money. He told us HIMSELF that the top three reasons teachers cite for leaving their jobs are, in order of importance, lack of support from the administration, lack of support from the community, and a sense that the community does not value education.

So the problem STILL isn't the money. We came into for the right reasons, believing that we could change lives, and we got BURNED OUT by a lack of administrative support and probably an overwhelming work load, feeling like all the odds were stacked against us.

The teacher shortage is at least as much about retaining teachers as about getting new ones to come in. If the problem is retaining teachers, you're certainly taking the wrong angle to say the problem is the mentality and if everyone wasn't so unreasonably down on teaching that there would be a lot more teachers. Yes, I'll agree that public opinion is that you don't go into teaching to make the big bucks, but he already told us (the data, in fact, told us) that money's not the big issue here. And, sidenote, let's be honest, guys ... you DON'T go into teaching to make the big bucks!
So, if the problem is about retention, and if teachers don't quit their jobs because of money and if (also according to surveys) paying them more would not be the best way to incite them to stay, then it seems a bit ridiculous to drive this whole point on how much we make versus how much we work. Yes, we work a lot, and yes, plenty of us would be happy to argue that point too because I think few people realize how many man hours do go into doing a decent job at this gig, but THAT'S NOT THE PROBLEM. We don't quit because we're underpaid, we don't even quit because we're overworked, WE QUIT BECAUSE WE GET NO SUPPORT. So to turn around and say that you could solve the teacher shortage by advertising what a sweet deal we get financially when THE DATA is right there telling you that the problem IS NOT IS NOT IS NOT ABOUT THE MONEY ... just doesn't make sense.

Good work, Mr. Franklin. And better luck convincing your next crowd.