Vol.#68: Teachers Pay Teachers

At the beginning of the calendar year, I created a list of ten tech tools I planned to keep using, one I would not use again, and three I wanted to explore in 2014. One of those New Year’s goals was to open my own TeachersPayTeachers store. Both my PLT colleagues and some colleagues who are already TpT sellers have been continuously encouraging me to do so.

Also, as a buyer I am a huge fan. I have found that searching on TpT nine times out of ten yields more results for what I need for my classroom than googling. Many items are free, and any paid items have been worth much more than what I paid simply in the time that I saved.

So after much contemplation and effort, I have opened a small TeachersPayTeachers Store. I have a goal of adding an item weekly, and I have linked the store to my Teaching Speaks Volumes menu.

Revising your own materials for others’ use requires a level of reflection that is really different. I know what is useful to me…but how do I know it would be useful to someone else? Would other teachers be willing to pay their very hard-earned, very limited money for it? If so, how much?

Here are just a few of the items I posted thus far:

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“All About Me” poster for the Middle Grades
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Full Sized Spring Paisley Grade Scale
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Full-sized Bright Chevron Grade Scale
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Literature Circle Jigsaw Unit
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Literature Circle Jigsaw Unit

 

I am only in the first baby-steps of this endeavor of teacherpreneurship. I’d appreciate any feedback from visitors and insight into what types of additional teaching materials for which you see a need in the comments.

Vol.#67: Two Tech Tools To Start Your Year

Flickr User: St Boniface's Catholic College, Plymouth
Image Credit: Flickr User St Boniface’s Catholic College, Plymouth

As I start week four with my students, I am reminded that traditional calendar schools are beginning to start all over the country.  I have posted before about technology tools that simplify a teacher’s life. However, if I were to recommend just two from that video to check out as one starts a school year, they would be:

  • Class Charts: Digital Seating Charts, manage the behavioral data of my students, has a free Edmodo App
  • Common Curriculum:  Digital Lesson Plan Book, plan lessons, units and share that information with others; link material easily for students and parents

I have found them to be total game-changers.

What tools help you manage the learning in your classroom?

Vol.#66: Disrespect & Open Contempt

When Teaching Speaks Volumes gets more traffic than usual, it also typically means I’ve ruffled quite a few feathers. Last week’s post was no exception.

  • “Why don’t you just quit if you don’t like it? “
  • “At least no teacher level will be making *less* money then last year.”
  • “The Democrats/Beth Perdue/previous administrations didn’t do any better. “

Once-again-teachers-areI’m so weary of those who say teachers should just give up the fight (as if many haven’t already) or suggest we have to compromise, as if that’s not what we’ve already been doing all along. And yes: the teacher status in North Carolina has repeatedly fluctuated between mediocre to abysmal to mediocre to abysmal for a long time. As I’ve told those who want to fight “team politics” before,  I don’t see the point in rehashing who did exactly what when in our history. Now… right this moment…the teaching profession is under assault by the current NC policy makers.

Maybe not all teachers are under attack, but teaching as a profession certainly is.

  • Offering raises to the younger teachers, but at the top most  veteran level offering one-third of 1%.
  • Removing longevity pay for those that continue to bring their expertise to NC classrooms
  • No longer advancing salaries for advanced degrees.
  • Attacking tenure which puts teachers under threat of being unfairly fired

Teaching is clearly not respected as a noble profession, or even a profession at all: It’s a “starter job”. You know, like a starter house? They seem to believe it’s what you do when you’re too young or inexperienced to get a “real” job. If you’ve been teaching longer that 20 years, it’s an expensive liability, not a strength.

A-NC-teacher-would-haveAnd honestly, teachers would probably not give two cents what legislators thought, since we don’t think very much of them, except they get to be in charge.

Knowing and understanding nothing about us and what we do, they get to be in charge.

And they are not only ignorant about what we do… but have open contempt for those who do it.

For example, there’s the teacher who was called an idiot on the phone for her transgression of trying to talk about her concerns with State Representative Tim Moore.

And then there’s my own experience with Representative Bob Steinburg this week:Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.32.18 PM

He says the national average of teacher pay doesn’t matter except we’re ranked number 32 now, however if that is true, why would he be so angry in the next sentence that we’re “talking national averages’?  I asked several times for a source backing up this new 32% ranking, but he failed to provide any.

He did, however, post part of our conversation on his own facebook wall and make fun of teachers and how greedy we are with his followers, as I predicted would happen in the very post he’s calling garbage. I’m not a bit surprised that he and Representative Owens talked about teachers in the way I predicted, but I am a little surprised Mr. Steinburg put their contempt for teachers in writing. After all, he won by less than 5,000 votes.

We need to make it very clear that, while they hold teachers’ jobs in their hands as law makers, we all hold their jobs in ours as voters.

Vol.#65: Hocus Pocus Headline

Any NC teacher, parent, or voter who has not read : “The Pay Scale No Politician Wants You to See: How the “largest pay raise in state history” amounts to an average of $270.” by James D. Hogan needs to do so. Now.

Image Credit: Flickr User Xtream_i

Clearly aimed at generating a headline and talking point during re-election this November, the NC GOP has pulled a “please just re-elect us” rabbit out of their hat. They’ve done some “smoke and mirrors” math, such as removing our earned longevity pay (which the other state employees get to keep by the way) and not including that subtraction in the figures as a loss when declaring they gave teachers a 7% raise.

In fact, some teachers will make the same or less.

And as teachers point this out, we’re set up to look greedy and unable to be pleased, since all many voters will hear is the “7% raise” party-line. Even the state paper now has a headline that sets up teachers for blame. (We paid for your raises by cutting all these things – are you happy now?) As seen in the comments section, for some voters the teacher-blame is already in full-swing:

  • “Unbelievable. The GA does more to increase teacher pay than since Jim Hunt was our Governor and you still whine about it.”
  • “Amazing… teachers get the largest salary increase in State history and that is still not enough for some.”

And this misinformed mentality is just what those up for re-election are counting on this November. “We tried to give teachers a raise, but they just can’t be pleased.” *shrug*

Presto-chango: Is this your victim card?

I couldn’t resist making an infographic using some actual facts from Mr. Hogan’s piece above and this News & Observer Editorial:

 NC GOP Budget (2)

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Educators and parents of school-aged children can only hope the NC public is smarter than the NC GOP thinks. Otherwise, they will see what’s left of our dedicated North Carolina teaching force…disappear.

Abraca-flippin-dabra!

Vol.#64: Performing the Mirage

Before I begin this week’s post, my sincerest gratitude to you. Yes, you reading this right now. “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has made Teach.com‘s ranking of education blogs. This is because of you, the reader. (And some other additional factors in their mysterious formula.) Anyway, thanks so much for reading!

So…tomorrow is the first day of school.  After twelve years, I am teaching a new grade level (6th grade) at a school across town. I am very eager for the new experiences and perspectives that accompany change.

collageI left my new classroom today ready to greet my new students at 7 am tomorrow morning. I have been out of school for six weeks now – an almost unheard of rarity in the year-round school schedule created by my switch from track 1 to track 4. I’m not accustomed to being off on break for more than three or maybe four weeks, and for me that’s plenty. I’ve written before about my love of year round schools, and I did not consider a move to a school with a “traditional calendar”.

With all the time off and the impending huge changes, the setting up of my new classroom became a huge focal point. I recently read “What You See in Today’s Public School Classroom Is A Mirage” by Carla Friesen a few weeks ago, and it really resonated with me.  In her article, she shows the “before” and “after” of public school classrooms: what is given to the teacher vs. what teachers added to create the final learning spaces.

Using the Time Shutter App, I captured the transformation of my new  classroom.  I took the first picture of the room as it was – the teacher’s before me moving out before I moved in – but in the second frame you can see my mountain of materials that appear. The rest of the gif is it slowly finding its new homes…

Exported TimeShutter GIF

Exported TimeShutter GIF (1)

 

How do you perform and transform your classroom into the “mirage”?

Vol.#63: Simplifying a Teacher’s Life: Free Technology Tools for Assessment

Last week, I posted my presentation   “Every Teacher a Literacy Teacher Using Technology Tools” from what I shared with the 2015 Kenan Fellows at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in June.  As promised, though a little late, I am adding the other presentation: “Simplifying a Teacher’s Life:  Free Technology Tools for Assessment” this week.

The video is long (30 minutes), but as with any flipped lesson, it provides the benefit of being able to pause, skip, or come back to it as needed. Plus, the focus is free technology tools to collect student data so you spend less time grading, so in the end you will get your 30 minutes back, I promise! :)

  • Care to share your experience or planned use for any of these tools?
  • Have another tool to add?

Please share in the comments!

Vol.#62: Every Teacher a Literacy Teacher Via Technology

This past week, I had the opportunity to give a couple presentations to the new year of 2015 Kenan Fellows at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT). One of these presentations, “Every Teacher a Literacy Teacher Using Technology Tools“,  introduced seven free technology tools that enable teachers of all content areas to embed the literacy skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening into their instruction and facilitate the use of higher level thinking skills with their students.

screencasted this presentation and have shared it below. The original 50-minute presentation has been boiled the down to just over 20 minutes, but as with any flipped lesson, it provides the benefit of being able to pause, re-watch, or rewind. I hope others find it useful. I plan to share the other presentation, “Simplifying a Teacher’s Life:  Free Technology Tools for Assessment” soon.

 

  • Care to share your experience or planned use for any of these tools?
  • Have a favorite?
  • Know a great tool I missed?

Hit me up in the comments!

Vol. #60: Save Your Wallet Fiscal Conservatives! Invest in Education!

The current misguided philosophy is that tax payers are paying for “results” (ie: standardized testing scores) out of their teachers. Besides the simple fact that standardized tests don’t measure educational quality, it’s approaching the funding of education completely wrong. You are not buying a result, you are investing in one.

Fiscal conservatives, please listen up: Funding education is an investment that will pay you back in spades. And I don’t mean that hippie-dippy, “the world will just be a better place” crap you may not believe in…you will be better off financially.

Consider a few points from this CBS article titled, “High School Dropouts Costly for American Economy””

  • Dropouts cost taxpayers more than $8 billion annually in public assistance programs.
  • Dropouts earn about $10 thousand less a year than workers with diplomas. That’s $300 billion in lost earnings every year.
  • They’re more likely to be unemployed: 15 percent are out of work versus a national average of 9.4 percent.
  • They also are more likely to be incarcerated. Almost 60 percent of federal inmates are high school drop-outs.

I have often heard that for every dollar that is spent in education, we will save ten dollars down the line in the prison system. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, considering this Forbes article titled, “A $5 Children’s Book vs. a $47,000 Jail Cell — Choose One”:

  • “Texas uses fourth grade reading scores to project the number of prison cells they’re going to need 10 years later.”
  • 60% of America’s prison inmates are illiterate
  • 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.
  • It costs approximately $47,000 per inmate per year to keep a young (and relatively healthy) inmate locked up.

 “Can’t Read? Let’s Build You A Prison Cell” says while reading scores to project the numbers of prisons is an urban myth:

“In 2011 the Annie E. Casey Foundation report “Early Warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters” showed definitively that low-income children who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grades are six times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers are. And low-income children of color who are not at grade level by 3rd grade? Eight times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Meanwhile, my state is cutting teachers’ assistants at those grades to “help” the bottom line. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

What does the difference in cost look like to you, the tax payer, in your state?

studentvsprisoner
easel.ly

And just in case you thought it was “different money”…

“Analysis by the National Association of State Budget Officers shows that elementary and high schools receive 73 percent of their state funding from this discretionary fund; colleges and universities count on the fund for half of their budgets. However, $9 out of every $10 that support imprisonment come from the same pot of money.”

Beside the cost of prison, there’s the fact that citizens will be gainfully employed, paying their share of taxes on their higher income, happier and more fulfilled… no, I forgot, we aren’t factoring in that last part.

So, the question is, do you want to spend money to educate a citizen, or what in my state is over three times as much to imprison one?

Which one makes fiscal sense?

Vol.#59: Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Grades Online

old report cardSchools have been communicating with parents about their child’s success in school since the days of the one-room school house. I remember getting “progress reports” or “interims” for the first time as a student in the late eighties. In an effort to update the parents and students with progress before the end of each quarter, we received written notes or computer printouts mid-quarter. These had all the assignments listed, where report cards simply had an average or letter grade.

However, in the information age, parents and students can now check on a computer or smart phone around the clock and see the status of grades in each class. This is a powerful and relatively new reality in education. Were I able to log on and see all my grades as a student, or were my parents able to, I know many things would have been different.

However, after a teaching students with families who have this capability for several years now, I have found the “resolution” to which some parents wish to have their child’s grades focused at all times a pragmatic impossibility for the teacher.

Here are four things I wish every parent knew:

1. Grading is not immediate. 

Look, I get it. I type in my phone number at Yogurt Mountain for the rewards program (I may have a “sea salt caramel” problem, but I digress) and before I grab a napkin the rewards email comes in and my phone chimes in my pocket. We are in an age of expecting immediate feedback, from our banks to our froyo.

However, a middle school teacher with four classes of thirty students teaches 120 students. If the teacher looks at your child’s assignment for only three minutes, she has six hours of grading to do. Just because the posting is immediate doesn’t mean the process to assess the work is, and it will go a long way with your child’s teachers if you keep that in mind.

2. Ask your child about the grade first. Always.

I have entered a grade at 9 am planning and had an email asking about it within ten minutes. In class, was handing out the test and went reviewing the information, retest procedures, and so on. Were the parent to wait until their child got home, the child would should be able to answer the questions.

This is more than just the “you have one of them and I have 120″ mentioned above. By asking, the parent reinforces the student is the one in the driver’s seat of his/her education. By explaining what they learned at school, a student will reinforce those concepts. And absolutely, if your child can’t explain something after you’ve talked with him or her, feel free to follow up with a call or email to the teacher. You’ll know more than you would have and have a great starting place.

3. Understand the way in which your child’s grade is calculated.

I have a “formative” category that is weighted zero. These might be pretests, standardized benchmarks, and other grades which provide information of progress that to not factor into the actual average. I say this at Open House. I say this at “Meet the Teacher” night. I say this a Student Led Conferences. It’s printed on the interims, in comments next to the assignments, and is posted on my webpage. This doesn’t stop me from getting emails. Actually, I don’t even mind the confused emails as much as I do the angry ones who accuse me of incorrectly calculating the grade because the parent has added and divided by the number of grades, ignoring the fact that major summative assignments are weighted more heavily than minor ones. So, maybe this tip should just read, “Seek to understand before you attack.”

4. Keep in mind that it is just a snapshot in time.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.35.28 PMIf you check grades online or the teacher prints them for you to review, keep in mind that like your bank account, it’s just what’s there at that very moment. Your child’s average is obsolete as soon as another assignment has been collected. Do not panic about that grade that is lower than you’d like,  nor “relax” if it’s fine. It’s just that day’s reality, and will change soon. Your efforts are better spent looking at with what types of assignments your child struggles, if there are retake or make up opportunities listed, and if your child is turning work in on time.

Teachers, what tips for parents would you add?

Parents, what things could a teacher do to help communicate your child’s successes and struggles in online grade reporting?

Writing Volumes About Teaching Whist Learning Volumes About Teaching

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