Friday, September 25, 2009


(warning! a serious post)

What I want to say is, "Yikes!"

I am a teacher in the northwestern hemisphere where school usually begins in late August or early September and ends in late May or early June. I have been reading with great interest many educators blogs from all over the world. I often feel a connection to these other teachers although we are many miles or even continents apart. We have many of the same successes and struggles. Not so long ago, back before the advent of technology communication, personal/professional learning networks and blogs, our education communication and support was limited. We could speak with our coworkers before and after school, in meetings, during education classes, at education conventions or during an inservice day.

Because the technology communication is relatively recent, I do not have any real historic data to be able to compare. These observations are just that- recent observations. Many of the posts that I am reading concern me. Really caring, dedicated individuals are stressed out- disturbed by how things are being handled in their schools and possibly thinking of leaving education. It is important to understand why this is happening. Is this a new phenomenon? If it has happened in the past, how do we get past it? Is society and education changing for the better? Are students today different than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Is the school environment set up to handle all of the needs that our students have? Has the school taken on the role of parenting (feeding, clothing, babysitting, providing emotional, financial & physical support) of our children? Is education the same in other countries? Can we learn some lessons on how to do this better? Are test scores for our students all that matter? Should a teacher be held accountable for how well or how poorly their students perform on tests. Personally I think a test score for students is just one measure of how a student is doing. No one anywhere on the planet thinks that bad teachers should be in the classroom or be protected by their union. How to solve the accountability question...I hope that we come to some quick solutions.

Part of the reason why educators might be feeling the ways they do may be related to economic stresses, downsizing of staff, the extreme needs of the students that they serve, high stakes testing of students... Society has gone through tough times before with economic woes, wars, societal upheaval and political unrest. There seems to be something more going on now. Something serious is happening. Something that I cannot quite put my finger on. What or who is to blame? Is it social media, reality television, instant gratification, lack of family stability or something else? What do you think?

Most everyone aged 5-18 goes to school in the United States. Has this devalued education? Is the public school system in need of an overhaul? How can we keep talented, knowledgeable, innovative, exuberant, dedicated teachers in education when so many of them are feeling beaten down by the lack of support and respect? I wish I had some answers.

I cannot end this post on a negative note. I'm too much of an optimist for that :) Teachers will continue to do their very best to meet the needs of our students. Carry on we must.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I listened last night to the radio program "All Things Considered" and heard the story How a Professor Taught Me to Consult My Stomach. The author paid tribute to a professor that she feels made a life changing impact in her life. This story is relevant to all of us. Each of us have gone to school. Within the confines of the walls (virtual or physical) we spend countless hours of our lives. We leave school at some point and make our way into a different space. How we feel about ourselves, about learning and what we do with our lives when "school" is finished is greatly influenced by our teachers.

What can I do today that will make a positive and long lasting (possibly life changing) impact on my students? Every dedicated teacher would like to answer this question every day. The answers are easy in many regards but complex as well. As teachers we show kindness, respect and attention to our students. We keep our students safe, become their advocates and give them an opportunity to unlock their potential.

Our actions just by their nature affect quite strongly on our students lives. More actions however are needing to be shown. When we model fairness, problem solving, how to overcome challenges and adversity, we give our students lessons that they can use in their lives outside of the classroom. Additionally, our enthusiasm and passion for what we do and teach, needs to show and be felt by our students.

I know that in real life we have all had teachers that have effected us negatively for whatever reasons. I am not naive enough to suggest that education, schools and teachers are perfect. However, I hope that you have had a teacher that you can remember in a positive way. Perhaps this individual has made a life changing impact on your life. It is most every teachers dream to do just that :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Change-it happens

I have been teaching computer technology classes with 450 or so kindergarten -2nd grade students for 6 years. I had been meeting with each class for 45 minutes per week. We did integrated technology projects and were introduced to websites that related to the lessons from our curriculum. I did professional development and was a supporter of technology in the classroom in whatever ways I could be. When I first began I taught in 3 schools, 2 had mobile laptop carts that I moved from class to class and the other had a stationary lab. The two small schools closed and students moved to one of the other two elementary schools in the district. I have been teaching in both of these schools now for 3 years.
Change never stops. As long as you are breathing on this planet you cannot escape change. Our school district like many across the United States has begun to adopt RTI- Response to Intervention. It is necessary to rethink the schedule so that the students and classroom teacher can have more face to face time to work on reading skills. Math will be added next year. In our district we have a common grade level reading block time of 90 minutes and a "specials" block of 45 minutes each day. Specials in elementary school are music, art and physical education. When lunch and recess were added to the mix, there was not a lot of time to schedule computer classes.
I have figured out a schedule that will work for now. I have 7 classes each day except Fridays when I only have 6. The students have a shortened time of between 30-40 minutes depending on where they could fit computers into the schedule. I wanted to add 2 classes in the 90 minute block that no one can interrupt class reading instruction. I will now teach the morning 4 yr old kindergarten class and a CD (cognitive disorder) class.
So this past week was the first back with students. I have a strong desire to be supportive in whatever ways I can be of the classroom teachers. I will do whatever is necessary to continue to make my lessons relevant and fun for the students in the time that I have with them. I need to shorten instruction and lesson time. I hope that it does not effect too much the outcome that I want the students to have from our classes. If we have to rush through some things or skip some things we have done in the past- so be it. Life is like that sometimes. There is much value in RTI in regard to helping the students learn to read. I am going to keep that in the forefront of my mind this year. Flexibility, prioritizing and reevaluating lessons is on the list for me.