Friday, April 6, 2018

Sorry,I am No Longer Accepting New Students! #ClassSizeMatters

Posted on Twitter by Krissy Brynn Jackson @KBJblog 
Ron Clark posted the following tweet.

To which I responded:

I think we can do both. If we can suddenly find money to arm teachers, I think we can raise teacher salaries AND reduce class sizes. I would also like to know where that $30 billion is being spent.

Define "bad teacher." Is it a teacher having a hard time with classroom management with 30 kids? "Great" teachers can "handle" 30 students. But what "great" teacher wants to? What "great" teacher wouldn't want a smaller class size? One year I had 20 kids and I felt like I was in Teacher heaven!

Classroom teachers see things so much differently. I mean actual teachers who work with children in a classroom.

Here are some reasons why class size matter:

  • Physical space: You know those classrooms you see in magazines? They are huge and have corners, spaces, nooks, and lots and lots of room. My classroom is a rectangular box with 27 5th grade bodies. Someone came in my room one day and said it was an obstacle course. I can't imagine what it is like for middle and high school teachers.
  • Behavior Problems: Those kids who should never,ever, be in the same class under any circumstances? Well, guess what? They are in the same class because there are 30 kids in them, and there is nowhere else to put them.
  • Differentiated Instruction: Our students learn at different paces and places. You have advanced, average, and struggling. As an educator, I try to meet all their needs so that they feel successful. Which class size would make it more viable for me to meet them? 20 or 30? 10 less students that I would have to give my attention to.
  • Personalized Learning: This kind of goes along with differentiated instruction. I do not believe personalized learning is sitting a student in front of a computer with an adaptive program all day. Therefore, it is my job to personalize learning for my students. Again, would I rather do this with 20 students or 30?
  • An educator's time: This applies to any and everything I have to do in my classroom that involves my students. Have you ever tried to have productive Writing Conferences with 30 students? Set up Student-led conferences for 30 students? Report cards for 30 students? Should I go on? Grade papers for 30 students?
  • Parents: If a parent were able to choose where their child could attend school, which school do you think they would choose? The school where the student:teacher ratio is 15:1 or 30:1? Now think about why they made that choice. Unfortunately, the majority of public school parents aren't given that option.
Fortunately, I am an educator who can educate 20, 27, or 30 students. And maybe that's the problem. It can be done, and therefore it is. And if you can't, you are labeled.

Class size matters. The problem is that, sadly, it matters most to the educator in the classroom.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"The Power of a Caring Educator" : My TEDxWilmingtonED Talk (Video):An Idea Worth Spreading!

Ever since I saw Rita Pierson's TED talk, I have wanted to do a TED talk.
So, when I received an email saying that TEDxWilmington was looking for speakers, I jumped at it.
I have to be honest, I started filling out the app, and got discouraged. It was due the next day, and I had to submit a video, arrrgh!
But I persevered, met deadlines, revised my speech a million times, practiced, practiced, and practiced, and before I knew it, it was February 9!
I am sharing the results and I truly hope my idea is one worth spreading! Please feel free to share!:)

Monday, February 26, 2018

The "Good" Kid Is In Jail.

I have to be honest.
For a number of years I was that teacher. The one who prophesied the negative places kids would end up.
"Yeah, he'll be in jail in about two years."
"She'll be pregnant in middle school."
Sometimes my prophecy would come true, and fortunately, sometimes it wouldn't.

And even though I avoid saying those words out loud, I sometimes think them. The good part is, I work hard on trying not to make it a reality. I talk to those students I harbor those fears for instead of waiting to see if my fears play out. You see, as I grew as a teacher, my prophesies became fears. I feared that the student would go to jail. Feared that that student would be a teenage mom. And while I am no miracle worker, I hoped my actions, while they were in my class, would somehow help to change my perceived outcome for that child.

All that is to say,there are children you fear this might happen to. So, I was totally unprepared when this particular child's mug shot stared back at me from my screen. I cried.Hard.

And it's not that he was better than any of the others. But my perception of him made me think he was not one I had to worry about. As a 5th grader he was polite, respectful, and so bright. I envisioned a great future for him. His mom was so supportive. I remember when they moved she sent me pictures and a letter thanking me. I still have it.

As a matter of fact, I saw him as a young man, working diligently in BJ's. It's always a great experience when you run into former students, grown. He told me how he was doing, his plans for school, etc... We would see each other often because the store was near the school. I hadn't seen him in the last few months, so I assumed he had changed shifts.

In December, I ran into him at the city courthouse. We had taken the students to see the reenactment of "Miracle on 34th St." As we stood in the lobby, I noticed this young man at the same time he noticed me. His head went down. He had to walk past me. Couldn't avoid me. Felt the need to explain it was a traffic violation, and it wouldn't happen again. I hugged him, told him it was ok, and sent him off with a motherly, "Just don't let me see you back in here!"

And now. A mug shot. Charges. Way more than a traffic violation. Jail. The "good" kid.

What happened between 5th grade and 26 years old? What choices led to this?I keep asking myself these questions and I can't answer them.

This is my wake up call. The "good" kid is in jail. I will no longer harbor preconceived notions, I will pray for the best for all of my students.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I Am a Teacher And You Want to Arm Me?

I will NEVER carry a weapon, concealed or otherwise, in my classroom.
I will NEVER keep it locked in a safe.
I say this with the utmost certainty.

There is a huge debate going on about whether teachers should be armed in order to protect their students. We would even get bonuses!
As usual, teachers' voices are muted by the roar of non-educators who believe they know better.

There are teachers who say they would quit or retire.
I wouldn't.
I wouldn't give up my passion because someone says I must do something I am vehemently opposed to. I would fight. I hope enough of us would do the same.

Everyone knows a teacher would give their life for a student.It happened again in Florida. But arming me? Having to be trained to use a weapon? Not going to happen. There are way too many things that could go wrong with this scenario.

I will continue to fight for my students as long as I am teaching. But a gun will not be my weapon of choice. I will not be armed.

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Students, Dr.King, and the Civil Rights Movement.

They don't understand.

When they discuss Rosa and the bus boycott, see the photographs, and videos, their voices echo, "But that's not fair!"

 As we study Dr.King, they question, "Why?"

I explain to them that it was the law. Segregation and Jim Crow laws. I explain to them that not everyone was like that. That people of different races came together to defeat this awful thing that made one group think they were better than another.

It is so hard for them to wrap their minds around it.

I am fortunate enough to work with a diverse group of kids. In all the years I have taught, very rarely have I had to deal with racist attitudes from my 4th and 5th graders.

I believe hate is learned.

Which is why, right now, my students have such a hard time understanding why people would do that to one another, treat each other that way.

I hope when they grow up.

Grow up?

I hope when they get to middle school, they still find it hard to fathom why this happened. I hope that as they are bombarded with opinions  from the media, the Internet, family, and friends, they are able to make up their own minds.I hope that they remain friends, despite their differences. I hope that they fight against the ignorance, always.

I hope that the only thing that separates them is distance and time, and never race. And most of all, I hope that they never stop asking, "Why?"