Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Questions for a Standardized Test: Maybe Your Creators Can Answer!

  • See the picture above, that's my first question.
  • Why am I told to make anchor charts that my students use throughout the year, and then told to take them down during testing? Do you really believe that any of my anchor charts have answers on them?
  • Why are we told to use technology to enhance instruction, become paperless, etc.., and then told our kids cannot use the computers once they are finished the test? What are they going to be able to do, give another student answers?
  • Why must I force my students to sit for hours taking a test that proves...?
  • Why do my students' show growth on these tests, but are still made to feel like failures because they did not meet the "target"?
  • Who created these "targets"? What are they based on? Made a call to DOE 2 years ago, still waiting for an answer.
  • Why am I giving a Science test based on the K-5 curriculum? Seriously? Have you ever heard of the Summer Slide? Now, consider 4 years!Oh wait, I forgot, I can just review when I am not teaching the current curriculum.
  • Why is my effectiveness as an educator tied to a single test score? And now, a "target" test score!
  • Why are we forced to focus on the "maybe they might pass it" kids and give them intensive test prep, ignoring the rest?
  • Why do we hold Pep rallies in your honor?
  • Why do my kids become a statistic based on gender, race, special education, etc... because of the scores they receive?
  • How does a test score prove that my students are not learning from me?
  • Why do I let you make me feel as if I am a failure because my kids don't pass? (At times)
  • Why are you important? What do you tell me about each child, each individual, in our classroom? 
Why don't you just go away and let me teach?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seniority Has No Privileges:Eliminating Teacher Tenure!

I've always equated age with wisdom, thus, leading me to believe that a veteran teacher has a lot to offer.

Of course, there are older teachers who refuse to change. They are teaching the way they used to be taught, and see the changes in education as
just another phase.  But there are a number of older teachers, myself included, who have changed, and shouldn't be thought of as someone who should be put out to pasture.

In the past few years, tenure has been under attack. When tenure is attacked, many veteran teachers fall victim. This article about tenure explains what tenure really is. Tenure is not a way to keep "bad" teachers in the classroom. That is a myth. Tenure is a way to make sure teachers receive due process. Unfortunately, this process is being taken away from teachers.

Two instances stand out for me. North Carolina is being battered.  They are a right-to-work state, they are suffering from pay cuts, and tenure has been removed. "Teacher tenure has been replaced by a merit-based system that rewards long-term contracts to the top 25 percent of teachers, and shorter contracts to everyone else."  When I asked the question regarding the criteria for the top 25%, one of my Facebook followers said that there is no criteria. Are you as scared as I am? I'm thinking of two ways off the top of my head that a teacher can be placed in the top 25%.  Test scores or your daddy is a good friend of an administrator. Can you say cheating scandal and/or nepotism? Cases like these, those who are really the top 25% wouldn't benefit.

In California, there is a lawsuit against tenure by students, and a Silicon valley mogul. This mogul set up a nonprofit group called StudentsMatter. The students say it is too easy to keep "bad" teachers because of tenure. Of course there are "bad" teachers. But does this mean you should strip away a process that benefits "good" teachers? They are also worried about seniority rules which allows the newest teachers to be fired, even if their performance is adequate. Of course, how teachers should be evaluated, is not part of this lawsuit.

There are many groups that have been formed to "get" teachers. It's unbelievable that a profession where the majority of its employees work hard, and go above and beyond for their students, are so reviled. StudentsMatter and other groups are already talking to people in other states about lawsuits to eliminate tenure. Think about it, if you were trying to destroy public education, and replace them with money-making charter schools,would you want unionized employees?

 If they win the lawsuit in California, watch out! No tenure and/or seniority may be coming to a district near you!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Watch Your Tongue! Our Kids Hear Every Word!

Sometimes I get frustrated with my class when it seems as if they are not listening to me.

You know. When 6 of them ask a question which had already been answered. Or when they ask you for directions after you have just given them.

I have my methods for dealing with those situations, but, it is frustrating, nonetheless.

The other day we were watching a video.

Let me backtrack. This year I started this "thing" that whenever we watched a video or read a story, when applicable, I would say, "This is a career!" I know they're 5th graders. I know they're 10-12 years old. I know some of them don't have a clue what they want to do when they grow up. But I want them to know that any number of careers is open to them. Therefore, I follow up with, "This is a career!"

Back to the video. So, we're watching this video on Wonderopolis. I can't remember what it was about. The video finished and my kids yelled out, "This is a career!"

"Yes, yes, it is!"  You know I was beaming.

They listen. Not only were they listening to me, but they were applying what I said to their lives.

Which made me think.

We need to be careful what we say about, and to, our children. They are listening.  And just as they listen to the positive, they hear the negative as well. And the negative probably digs in a lot deeper than the positive.

If you tell them they're stupid, (words and/or actions), they hear you.
If you tell them they can't succeed, they hear you.
If you tell them they're losers, they hear you.
If you tell them they will never be anything, can't do any better, they hear you.

If you make a habit of telling them what they aren't, instead of what they can be, they will own it.

Tell them the good. And if you have nothing good to say, don't say anything. Our kids are listening.

My kids are listening, and I am watching what I say!

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Those Teachers Just Want a Day Off!": Are Teachers Ever "Off"?

"Those teachers just want a day off!"

She didn't know that I was a teacher.She laughed it off when my husband and I told her. "Well, I guess I better 
watch what I say about teachers then, huh?"

Too late.

My hubby and I found ourselves in the emergency room before school closings were announced. (He's good now). The nurse did not know whether schools were closed. The above was her response after I informed her that her son's school was closed.

Of course, I had to school her. :)

1. It's not the teachers who decide to close schools due to the weather.

2. The schools are closed for the safety of your child.

3.  Multiple snow days become unbearable for us because our students are missing work, we start thinking about all the days we have to make up.

Her response was so typical of the perception of teachers. How could she possibly think that teachers have the power to say whether schools are open or closed? Why did she naturally jump to the conclusion that this is what teachers wanted, another day out of school?

And you know what? I bet there were many teachers doing what I was doing. I mean besides sleeping late. :) 

I planned lessons, posted assignments online, prepared my Digital Learning Day, reached out to my tweecher peeps, set up Mystery Skype dates, posted a project on Donors Choose, found videos and resources that correlate with Common Core. (Thank you Power My Learning, Share My Lesson, and WatchKnowLearn,

And while you may not have been doing exactly what I was doing, most teachers were probably doing something related to school, at some part of the day. 

I'm not going to lie, I love a Snow Day or two. But whether I'm here or there, I'm rarely ever "off.".