Posts Tagged ‘
teacher appreciation ’
Mandy Zatynski writes for Education Sector’s blog, The Quick and the Ed.
Education Sector is an independent think tank that challenges conventional thinking in education policy. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to achieving measurable impact in education policy, both by improving existing reform initiatives and by developing new, innovative solutions to our nation’s most pressing education problems.
There’s a lot of talking that goes on here in Washington. Policymakers, state leaders, nonprofits, and think tanks (like us) all have an opinion about education, its current state, and how to make it better. But there’s often an essential voice missing from this conversation, the point-of-view from the front of the class, next to the students, in front of textbooks, and inside the person that matters most: teachers.
As a former ESL educator, this baffles me. I am surprised by the amount of conversation and decision-making that takes place regarding the role of a teacher without a single, working educator present or weighing in at any point of the process.
Washingtonians can talk about the realities that a teacher faces daily, but an educator knows them, lives them, battles them every day. Washingtonians can break down budget cuts and how they will increase class size; but a teacher can show us what the cuts look like, from students two-teaming a single desk to cramped, overheated spaces that lead to uncomfortable, disruptive students.
In Washington, we like to talk about reform. We need to better train our teachers. We need to better assess our teachers. We need to better track our teachers from graduate programs to first jobs.
How about: We need to better listen to our teachers?
Because the fact is, we cannot talk about improving training for our teachers without first asking current educators how they could have been better prepared for Day One. And we shouldn’t talk about budget cuts or make assumptions on the effect of larger class sizes without consulting the folks who are actually affected.
We talk about teachers like they’re the big elephant in the room, and they’re not. There’s 7.2 million of them, in fact. They’re in metropolitan cities and country towns; affluent areas and poverty-stricken neighborhoods; from the snow skis of the Appalachian Mountains to the surf boards of the Pacific coast. And with today’s technological wonders – from live webcasts to video conferences, from Twitter feeds to blog posts – there’s absolutely no reason why teachers shouldn’t be included in the conversation.
That’s why my organization, Education Sector, has launched a Facebook group for just that. Called Teacher Sector, this page is for educators only. Here, you can weigh in on one of our poll questions or respond to the day’s top news in the education world. Or maybe we’re missing the big issue altogether, so post your own thoughts. Tell us how those new teacher evaluations are going. Are they fair? Are they useful? Or just come and network with other teachers. We designed this space to get a pulse, if you will, on the teaching industry; to make sure our work is improving your work; and to collect feedback along the way. The bottom line is: Your voice is missing, and it’s desperately needed.
As we’re just beginning our outreach efforts with Teacher Sector, we’ve added a limited time incentive for participants: like us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/TeacherSector, and answer a quick poll question to enter a drawing for a year’s worth of school supplies ($450, to be exact). Only the first 500 teachers to do so will be included in the drawing, so hurry!
After completing an MAT at Pacific University in 2008, Melissa Cantwell is now certified to teach Middle and High School English. She has been a substitute teacher for two years in Oregon City, Reynolds, David Douglas and Gresham Barlow School Districts and plans to continue substitute teaching until she finds a full time teaching position.
As a relatively new teacher, I’m well aware that the changes that result from education reform efforts going on now will have a huge impact on the future of my teaching career. I want to have a voice in the discussion about the future of public education.
And yet, I am continually amazed by the negativity of so much of what I hear. A 2010 Time article about the movie Waiting for Superman really piqued my interest in education reform. It discussed the overall negative state of public education in America, the negative effects of bad teachers in the classroom, and the desire of those in education reform to recruit the best and the brightest to the education profession.
I wanted to try and figure out what a “bad teacher” looks like in the classroom. How could I spot a bad teacher, and more importantly, how could I make sure that I didn’t become one? So I started reading more about education reform and realized the characteristics of “bad teachers” are never explicitly defined.
At the Chalkboard Project, this is one of our favorite times of the year: National Teacher Appreciation Week! Of course, we believe the hard work and dedication of our educators deserves recognition all year long, but it’s been great to have a chance to pause in our busy schedules and really take the time to show our gratitude.
If you’re a teacher, let those who inspired you to this career know about the impact they had on you. If you’re a parent, remember to thank the teachers who are partners with you in your children’s learning. And if you’re a student, well, just be extra nice!
In that same spirit, we’d like to share a big THANK YOU to the memorable teachers who made a difference in our lives. And to all the teachers doing the most important work in Oregon, thank you!
What teacher did you most appreciate? Share your memories with us in the comments.
Jennifer Singleton is an elementary school music teacher with seven years of teaching experience in Portland metro area schools. She was born, raised, and educated in Oregon, and loves nothing more than connecting with kids through music. We’re excited to have her joining the conversation about teaching and education reform as the newest member of the ChalkBlogger team.
My seven-year teaching career has taken me to five different schools in the Portland metro area. Most of them, including my current school, have had low socio-economic status (SES), which refers to the income, education and occupation of the students’ parents. While there were definitely some advantages to teaching in a high SES school, I choose to teach in a difficult school because for me, the rewards outweigh the challenges.
Obviously, there were a lot of great things about working in a high SES school. For the most part our students were well cared for physically and emotionally. Classroom management mostly meant controlling chatty kids. My program was adequately funded, and our school had a supportive community with plenty of volunteers for classrooms and school events. In many ways, teaching in a high SES school was a breeze.
The learning environment I’ve just described sounds ideal, but there were also some frustrating problems. I have a few colleagues who, like me, have taught in both kinds of schools. And like me, they prefer to teach in a low SES school. When asked about it, one of my colleagues even exclaimed, “You couldn’t pay me to go back!” The question is: Why? With all of the advantages, why choose a school with so many struggles? The answer for us boils down to a lack of appreciation.
A great school has at its core, I believe, a strong leader. Great schools, like winning teams, have leaders with coordinated plans of action, intimate knowledge of the skills of players and a determined, focused eye on outcome. I’ve been in a few schools and have seen the styles of quite a few principals. All principals want their school to churn out successful students. Like the fans of teams who second-guess a coaching decision, I have wondered about the decisions of some of my principals. It’s an easy thing to do, to coach from the stands, but the reality of the game is much more complicated. A principal’s job is a lonely one that demands a leader who is Teflon coated, personable, tactful and caring. It’s a tough recipe to find.
My current principal seems to fit the bill pretty well. He exudes enthusiasm even in the face of last year’s lackluster test score data. He understands that the work of teachers is more complicated than seen from the stands. Some qualities that make him stand out:
- He has been a teacher so he has credibility and a deep understanding of the challenges we face in the classroom.
- He not only encourages collaboration but has also put in place measures that demand it. As grade level teams we look at the state standards every month and align our monthly curricular plan to meet those standards. There is no set allegiance to a textbook. Whatever lessons that get our kids to meet the standards will do. That respects our professionalism, and allows for creativity.
- He demands evidence that our students have met the standards set forth from the previous month. What assessments have we given and what percentage of kids have met those challenges?
- He is a frequent visitor to the classroom. He is often talking to kids about their learning and will even take on a group and teach them.
- Above all, his positive nature permeates the school.
He’s only in his second year as a principal and I’m hoping that his work reflects on our school “Report Card”. He already has an “Outstanding” rating from his staff, but is that enough for a quality leader to stay in the profession?
What can be done to measure the progress of principals that goes beyond looking at only their school’s test scores? The stress of making adequate yearly progress sits squarely on the shoulders of school principals. I would like to see evaluations by teachers and parent input put in place to ensure that our principals are recognized and retained for qualities that go beyond mere numbers.
Happy holidays to our readers and bloggers – we hope for a peaceful and joyful time for all of you.
Speaking of joyful, I had a wonderful day as a student in the Salem-Keizer School District earlier this month and want to share some highlights with you. First of all, let me thank the students, teachers, instructional coaches, principals, and other colleagues in the school district who let me listen in, watch, and learn about a day as a learner in this impressive district. I was impressed by the commitment to learning that I saw at all levels.
I began in a kindergarten classroom at Washington Elementary School where we worked on letters and holiday stories. The enthusiasm of these young learners was infectious – while they welcomed me into their circle, they were much more interested in what they were learning and I saw full engagement with a masterful teacher, Mrs. Ivins, who kept them learning while also making sure they were respecting each other and mastering their personal space! Instructional coach Jessica Brenden helped me understand the intense team-based professional development that goes on at Washington and her role in helping the teachers monitor their impact and adjust their teaching to the learning styles of the children. Principal Linda St. Pierre joined us right after PE class (which was a challenge for me) and I could actually feel her leadership presence in the few minutes I had with her – I also had a wonderful experience in second grade, Mrs. Ediger-Collins’ class, being read to by a young lady who had her big and small words down pat!
My favorite part of the day took place at Houck Middle School. Principal Sue Rieke-Smith took time out of her day to tour with me and share the different teaching approaches in the building – from a classroom of computer-based learning being led on that day by a student teacher to science and social studies classes, I pondered how engaged the students were and how difficult the content was (meaning I think I’ve forgotten a lot of what I once used to know from my K-12 studies…). (more…)
Names have been changed to protect the innocent, the delinquent, and the negligent.
My friend, who is a first-year teacher in an Oregon public school, is beginning to get an inkling of the demanding and sometimes absurd dynamics of the classroom. He offers the following insights, and asks you to laugh instead of cry.
1. Assigned seating in rows is the norm for a very good reason. The pedagogy course book suggested arranging students’ desks in groups, to foster the exchange of ideas, and encourage collaborative learning. So why did all the veteran teachers gather and snigger the morning my friend set up this arrangement? It took only five minutes of the first class that day for him to get owned. For a rookie teacher, there’s nothing more dangerous than allowing chatty middle-school girls and surly underachievers to man up in learning-proof pods.
2. Translated, “teacher prep time” means weekends and evenings. My friend’s school can afford to allocate teachers one paid hour a week for team meetings, teacher collaboration and lesson planning. For a new instructor with no lesson plans in pocket, this has meant cancelling the gym membership, staying up late and neglecting all home maintenance except personal hygiene.
3. School lunches have not improved since you were in school.
4. Parents are not always grownups. A fellow teacher was interrupted mid-class by a brusque mom who was delivering a stack of late homework. A quick glance revealed it was not the student who had completed it.
Mom: Here’s Timmy’s late homework.
Teacher: This is not Timmy’s handwriting.
Mom, annoyed, speaking to Timmy: I TOLD you to change the writing.
Mom to teacher: What are you going to do? How are you going to grade him?
Teacher: Well, I can’t grade you because you’re not the student.
Mom: leaves in a huff.
In another incident, the school counselor called home to report to parents that Chad had not turned in school work and was failing multiple classes. This spurred them to action. That afternoon they called those teachers they had numbers for and berated them loudly for their son’s failing grades.
5. Teaching is a lot like parenting in this way: you have to show up, day after day, no matter how blah your mood, what the weather is like outside, or how little sleep you got. You’ll be expected to be prepared and to perform your best for a very demanding audience. Few, if anyone, will thank you. You’ll do it all gladly, for not enough pay, for those moments when you see the light bulbs spark up in young minds.
There are probably a million different ways we could thank our educators for the work they do to teach and inspire the next generation of Oregonians.
Recently, a New York Times article highlighted the use of Facebook as one of the new ways to offer praise for teachers.
Root, a community wellness center in Portland, is offering a special discount to teachers. They write in their newsletter, “Besides the fact that we’re located in education-rich Irvington, we’re supporting our future generation by supporting the teachers of the world. Don’t get us started on why the country pays more to a garbage supervisor than a teacher, but we want to introduce a program to keep teachers balanced, grounded and healthy.”
Who else is praising and supporting Oregon’s teachers? Are you a local business that offers discounts? Are you an organization that provides resources and tools? Leave the details in the comments!