Friday, July 24, 2009

Gratitude and Admiration

One must remember that we cannot walk in another persons shoes. It is important to know that each and every job that anyone of us has, is important. It is important to the community that we live in, important to the individual and important to ones own family. There are many jobs that are difficult to do for many different reasons. We have specialized and got training in order to do the jobs that we have. The challenges that face us in our jobs are as varied as the jobs themselves.

I am not going to explain or make excuses for the problems that teachers have with students, parents, administration, changing curriculum, planning, scheduling, absences, support, funding, testing , technology, or anything else. There are challenges that have to be overcome in every job. Instead, I would like to let others know what a privilege and honor it is to be a teacher.

I cannot imagine what our society would be like without teachers. I want to express my gratitude and admiration to the patient, hard working, dedicated, creative, always learning and problem solving teachers that are every where. Your job is not easy. Fifteen to thirty students come to you with home environments that you have no control over, wide ranging abilities, physical, emotional and social problems, and your responsibility is to make sure that they all learn to think and master skills and standards. You care about making a difference in the lives of your students. You have minds to mold. You hold the future in your hands. The attitude that you share and model with your students is critical in their development. Each and every one of these dedicated individuals feel it is a more than a job- it is a career of the highest calling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A new beginning

The summer is not over yet but it is winding down and thoughts of the new school year are showing up in my brain. I have, like most people, the need for a new beginning. A fresh start with new ideas and students that are excited to learn, is a wonderful opportunity for teachers.

I read Dan Meyer's blog this morning and fourteen words stuck with me. "It's basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them." I am going to keep this as my focus this year. It seems outwardly a simple concept but for me I know it will be a challenge. I am a people pleaser. I want to be liked, thought of as intelligent, innovative, caring, a leader in technology... If I am honest with myself, this philosophy of "loving others rather than having others love me" is not what I do. This is important because my actions are not necessarily "for the students and in their best interests" even though most times I think they are. I do have ulterior motives.

This fall our school district is jumping in with both feet to RTI (Response to Intervention) which will bring about changes in how we deal with students that are struggling with learning. Our schedules will change, the way we group children and teach in small groups will change, the way that we document what we have tried will change. We will need to show patience, be flexible, and be willing to try new things. I am a part of the school district and as such, a part of this new RTI action. So I will need to change too. In past summers, I took the opportunity to get my lessons and school year planned to some degree. This summer, I am taking a wait and see approach. Fortunately, I have much more experience to draw upon now that I have been in my computer teaching position for 6 years. I am going to keep in my mind loving others instead of the other way around :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Poverty - an educational experience

These are challenging times when people want to work but cannot get a job. People want a higher education but financially they cannot afford it. There are not easy answers for how to get the economy moving again. Others have said that the best things in life are free. While I agree mostly, being poor is stressful and difficult for families.

There are many people that will tell you that you have to understand your students in order to make an impact on them. School districts that do this well have to have an understanding of the population that they serve. We have many families that are poor and struggling to make it where I teach.

A few years ago, our school district did an all staff training on poverty. It was just a small taste of what life is like for this group. I commend the non profit organization (sorry I have forgotten which one it was) that did this for us. 200 district employees were put in small groups in the middle of the gym. All different tables were set around the perimeter. At each of the tables were volunteers from the community to help with the simulation. They were given roles like unemployment office worker, doctors office, banker, car repair business, bus stop station, utility company, school... - just like in a real community. Just like in real life, the volunteers made things difficult for us. At one point a member of another group got extremely upset because they could not find a place to live because they did not have 2 months rent to give to the landlord.

A folder with information on our family situation was on a chair. Essentially each person was given a role in a family (sex, age and job). Each family unit was unique just like real life. You might be the high school dropout who reads at a 4th grade level, a single mother of 2 who works for $7/hr on the night shift and watches kids during the day, the father of 4 who just lost his job, the 6 year old who has asthma and a ADHD or the grandmother raising the grandkids. Our job was to make it through a month with the money that we had (wages, government assistance, help, ingenuity...)

Every 15 minutes in this simulation was a week. We had to do many real life things that all adults need to do in order to live in this world. Things like getting the car fixed, taking the child to the doctor, finding a place to live, shopping for food and clothes, finding a job...the list of things was very realistic and yet very stressful since money and time was limited. If you had children you needed to have them properly supervised- meaning you could not leave a young child home alone or sleep while it was daytime. You might go days without food or without transportation to get to work. Not one of the "families" was able to make it successfully having a dollar left at the end of the month.

A person that has things pretty good cannot imagine the stresses that are involved in living in poverty. We were all frustrated with the situations that we were given and they were just imagined and temporary. There was never enough money. The red tape involved in getting help was eye opening. At every turn it seemed like circumstances were working against us.

A pre-simulation talk was given by a community leader about understanding the poor. I am sure that many in the audience listened with intensity but could not really put themselves into the scenario. After the simulation, it was much easier to have empathy for what it might be like and to hopefully help a student and family in our schools. This professional development day was one of the best ever for the reason that it opened my eyes to what it might be like to live without.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What do you think of school?

I am happy that I am a teacher. I can say that for the most part - administration, teachers and support professionals are doing a good job at helping prepare the students for life beyond graduation. They are creative, caring, and knowledgeable. They are hard working, continuous learners themselves and strive to bring out the best in the students.

I know that schools and the education system is not perfect. I have blogged myself about things that I would like to see improved. I think that more personalized learning would be ideal. I think technology integration at every level would be awesome. All children everywhere need to have a safe, stimulating environment in which to learn.

As I read and participate in discussions about education I am a bit dismayed at how many people think that schools (education) are not doing their job (educating our students). Do you feel this way? Do others you know think this? I ask this question because I truly believe "we" in education really are trying our best to do a job that is challenging and important. Perhaps we are not doing it well enough.
I am interested in hearing from you- young and old, students, education professionals and others. You can be anonymous and express your true feelings. I will not be offended.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ramblings about the Middle, Moderation & Compromise

I have not blogged in quite some time. I am going to indulge a bit. Since I can remember I have been opinionated and passionate about things in life not being black or white- about allowing other people to have an opinion different than mine and trying to reach a middle ground. It is about listening to others, valuing their opinion and reaching compromise. I am not someone that takes a lot of risks. I like to think that I am open minded about things and not very judgmental. Moderation for me is the key. I take what might be considered a wait and see attitude, thinking that this too shall pass. In the educational realm, I think that there are things that can always be improved upon just like in business or government and society in general.

One of the reasons that I like President Obama is because he speaks to me and others in a way that gives each of us our dignity. He is not always going to be right on everything. I respect a person that respects others and lives by that. We can agree to disagree.

As I listen this summer to the news of the world, I am sad. There are so many injustices happening. There are so many people that are suffering needlessly. I wish that others in positions of power could remember that there are basic human dignities and that our time here is short and decisions need to be made to make our modern society a place of peace and happiness for all.

I truly believe that there are some things that are basic to a good society and that ultimately we could live together on this planet if only we could reach compromise with each other. Basic needs such as an affordable place to live, healthy food for sustenance, affordable health care (both preventative and for illness), education for all and a job that allows you to pay the bills are reasonable things to expect from a modern society. The question of how can we afford this certainly needs to be addressed. My question is how can we NOT afford this? I do not want my child or yours, my family or yours, my neighbors or yours to be hungry, uneducated, sick or suffering. This gets me back to the middle ground. We live in a world of stark contrasts and startling excesses. If we could begin to speak with each other about what is really important in life then perhaps we could reach a middle ground and afford what really matters.

What we value says a lot about us. We need to get rid of the "red tape" and the hoops that people have to jump through in order to get their needs met. Starting with pregnant mothers I would want them to have ready access to prenatal health care, emotional support and healthy food. Once the child has been born, the family needs to be given the means to nurture and develop a positive relationship. All children need safe and decent schools that educate them to become caring and productive members of our society no matter their talents. Our older citizens need to be respected and taken care of and not be forgotten. The earth, the air, the water, the other inhabitants of the planet need to be taken care of with the same passion as our families. We have been doing some of this for a long time. Some places and people are doing a better job of this than others. I hope that we can work together, compromise, reach a middle ground... :) and do what is right for the world.