Sunday, January 26, 2014

Are Teachers Too Tame?The Hijacking of Public Education!

Public education  has been hijacked!

It has been taken hostage by "ed reformers", standardized test creators, and "teacher accountability".

How did this happen to a profession full of intelligent, passionate, outspoken people?

Are we uninformed?

 Are we choosing bliss via ignorance?

Why is this happening?

I have some thoughts...

  • Teachers love their students and their jobs.Those of us who do not just see this as a job, are the worst offenders. We love our students. And because we love our students, we put them first. Because we love them and our job, we come in early, and leave late. We grade papers anywhere and everywhere we go. We make ourselves available as much as possible. We spend money we don't have buying supplies. We write grants and enter contests trying to get things our students should rightfully have.  I remember when our union rep asked us to fill out forms depicting all the hours we work outside of school. There were so many hours, I just stopped doing it.

  • We don't follow through. Perfect example of not following through in the above bullet. If all the teachers in my district had filled out those forms, can you imagine what the impact could have been? But like me, many teachers probably started, and never followed through. Thus making something that would have made a statement, worthless.

  • We don't trust our unions. I don't fit in this category, but there are many teachers that do. I am not saying the union is perfect and always has our best interests in mind. But, there are times when they do. If we fight with them, instead of against them, we might stand a chance.

  • We take the blame. We allow others to label us as the problem and we accept it. How many posters are out there ask the same question in different forms? "Would someone blame a doctor if his patients stayed sick because they did not follow his/her advice?" What happened to the parents in this equation? And why is there something wrong with teachers who stand up and say, "What about the parents?" I remember some of the backlash I got from teachers when I wrote a post asking for parent accountability. We can't do it all, and if learning doesn't begin at home, if we have no parental support, and we bend over backwards trying to get it, why should we blame ourselves?

  • We don't want to be "that" teacher. I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car, "Testing to Despair." A colleague told me I was brave. Not really. Brave is telling administration you refuse to give a standardized test. But I fight the fight the best I can. I blog, march, sign petitions, and spread the word. I don't mind being "that" teacher. And yes, we all fear the repercussions, or ending up on the "list" (because we know what payback is, don't we?) But we can't continue to hide behind fantastic lessons, edtech, and passion for our students, and pretend we aren't being held hostage.

  • We don't speak up. I have found myself guilty of this on more than one occasion. We sit at a meeting and listen to the next "ANT" (another new thing) burden that is unloaded on us, and we don't say.a. word. Until we get outside the meeting, to our friends' classroom, the Teacher's Lounge, or our spouse's ear. My hubby always tells me, "I am not the one you should be complaining to". But again, with speaking up comes the fear, will I lose my job today? Will there be repercussions? But if enough of us speak up, or shout, they can't knock us all down, right? Just signed a petition our union sent out, and it was great to see a good number of signatures!

  • United we stand, divided we fall...right on our faces. I remember when BATS  (Badass Teachers Association- 39,000 strong!) started. I joined. What bothered me were teachers/educators who publicly criticized and/or  mocked them .Yes, I am sure there is friction within the organization, people who just aren't right, but I am sure many of them  are getting things done. Maybe not the way some would like, but they are getting it done. I remember when Jose Vilson wrote a post about people calling him out about something he posted  because he did not attend the march on DOE. When we attack each other, we leave ourselves open to attack.

  • It's not happening to me. 
Are teachers too tame? Should we take some of the blame for the destruction of public education by our silence?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

For Data's Sake!:Teaching Interruptus!

It's the middle of the year, and that means only one thing. It's data collection time! We have to STAR, ORF or DORF, WTW, universally screen, and commonly assess our kids all by the data collection deadline! My poor babies.:(

The other day we were told we would have to DORF (Dibels Oral Reading Fluency) our students. This is comprised of giving them 3 stories to read. Each story is read for a minute. We then find the median of the three stories read,and use the resulting data to...

I'm sorry. I am just a teacher who does not believe in testing fluency. I don't care what the research states. (Just my opinion) If you can read 200 words a minute and you don't know what you just read, what good is assessing fluency. Fluency good. Testing it, bad.

But the point of all this is not to go off on a rant about ORFs or DORFs, but to point out how it is messing with my purpose. My reason for being in the classroom.

I was told, no sorry, it was suggested that I DORF my students while they work on their Natural Disaster projects. Let's see, 20 kids, 3 minutes each, add in any interruptions that could possibly take place in a class of 20 5th graders, and that adds up to "too much time wasted giving a DORF test. "

When my students are work, the majority of the time, I am involved. I am a facilitator, guide, sounding board, suggestion maker, I am there for the taking. So I figure if I am spending 3 minutes per child, assessing DORF, and yelling things like, "Don't bother me for 3 minutes, NO interruptions!", I am not doing my job..

If every 3 minutes I say things like, "Ok, now you can talk to me  until I start the next student",  I am not being effective. I assessed 3 students and I couldn't do it anymore, I just couldn't. So yesterday, and today, I helped them with their projects. I read the work they had done so far, I showed them how to insert videos in their presentations, I introduced Thinglink, I praised the work they were doing, and I didn't assess.

Of course, I am going to have to "get with it", and give those dang fluency tests, but at least I enjoyed the last two days giving  my kids what they should have, my full attention!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Removing Recess: Test Scores Trump Play!

Let me begin by being  completely honest. I hate recess. I hate being out in the cold. I hate being out when it's hot.  I am not fortunate enough to work in a school where teachers have aides that monitor recess. I , and my teammates take the kids out for 15 minutes a day, unless of course it's too hot or too cold.
I read an article, "Losing Recess", written by a parent who noticed changes in her child.  She attributed these changes to the fact that her kindergartner was not going out for recess.  The teacher told her that they had too much work to do. Kindergartners? 
As much as I despise recess, I have to agree with the points she made in her article. We have to give our kids a break. At some point, they have to be able to go outside,  run around,and breathe.  In the last few years, my former principal had toyed with the idea of getting rid of recess entirely, but we teachers did protest too much! That idea was canned, instead it was shortened by 10 minutes. 
Another point made in the article was that recess isn't  just recess. There's more to it than, "Go outside and play." It teaches socialization skills, leadership skills, gives the new kids a chance to make friends,  gives our video-saturated kids a chance to run around, and the part I enjoy, it gives me a chance to participate in  informal conversations with my students.
My colleague would miss being the quarterback for our 5th graders, and I would miss showing my kids that I can still jump double dutch, even if I do pant heavily afterwards. And if we're to follow the First Lady's initiative, how do we take away the one part of the day where some of our kids actually get off their tush?
I know state " test score anxiety"  (TSA) has pushed us into situations that are completely unfavorable for our students. But recess? Come on,  I think we should leave it alone, and/or bring it back, even if I do have to go outside. :)
"The Crucial Role of Recess in School" American Academy of Pediatrics