Category Archives: musings

Vol.#45: Why Doesn’t George Clooney Have to Deal With This Crap?

It was September 2000. My first year teaching. Greenville County, South Carolina.

A math teacher on my hall, whose name escapes me now, left on maternity leave. The woman they got to sub for her was a parent of one of the seventh-graders at the school. She had been a fairly prominent and successful businesswoman, running a major division of IBM up until she’d had her son. After staying home with him for the first 12 years of his life, she thought substitute teaching would be a great slow start back into the workforce.

Exactly. I hear you all laughing right now and I share in your chuckle.

What I remember so clearly about this woman was her way of explaining how overwhelmingly demanding teaching is as compared to a job in the business world:

When I worked for IBM, my job was to make phone calls, process paperwork, make contacts, and have meetings. Now as a teacher, I still have to do all of these things. I need to plan lessons. I need to call parents. I need to process paperwork. I need to grade stacks of papers. I need to meet with other teachers, with parents, and with administrators. However, very little time during my day is available for me to actually do any of the that large part of my job. Teachers have a 9-to-5 job’s worth of work to do, and they can’t get any of it done from 7:30 to 3:00.

Coming from the business world, this seemed to really shock her. If you’re a teacher reading this, you’re nodding and smiling (or rolling your eyes) as you already know what she was just learning: Teachers are almost always “on” for their audience. They rarely sit at a desk and work. They are constantly meeting students’ needs: moving and teaching and coaching and intervening and quite often forgoing sitting for lunch or taking restroom breaks. Their own tasks and goals must wait.

However, this concept of a teacher’s time during the day seems to elude the public at large, with common comments like: “It must be so nice to be done by 3 o’clock.” and “I emailed you this morning, but I haven’t gotten a response from you yet.”

I can’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t George Clooney have to deal with this crap? Is anyone under the impression that he spent the exact 116 minutes it takes to view Ocean’s Eleven to actually make it? No. The American public understands that a movie takes months or even years to make those two hours. However, they fail to understand that the teacher – who’s paid dirt compared to Hollywood – is also working under a misleading ratio of time-in and quality product-out.

Teachers are not compensated for most if not all of the time they put in preparing innovative lessons. Sure, a teacher could just “phone it in” and not spend as much extra time on lesson planning. A teacher that just gives textbook work and worksheets? That’s what that looks like. Few educators, however, want to be a C-list or D-list teacher. Many educators strive to be A-list, putting their hearts into a quality product well after the school bell has rung.

And while I am sure teachers put in time outside the scheduled day the world over, the United States compensates its teachers particularly poorly for our time demands compared to other countries:

Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg
Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg

So our society either needs to:

  • recognize innovation, collaboration, and all things that make professional education great by valuing how much time and effort outside the classroom is required,

– or –

  • acknowledge that we have set up a system that is okay with exhausting teachers to the point of mediocrity.

With the current climate, I may be asking too much just with verbs like ‘recognize’ and ‘acknowledge’, but I intend to aim high…

Vol.#39: Dedication is not Delusion

I’ve taken the last few weeks off from blogging to reflect on teaching, the state of education, and my role in it. I wish I’d reflected more “publicly” in the way of more posts, but I doubt it to have made for good reading. I’ve been feeling all muddled up with the departure of colleagues and things feeling so grim.

My reflection came down to this simple question: Why do I teach?

I’ve decided to stop being so lost in my own thoughts and let this reflection be a public one as the subject of today’s post. It’s time.

That, and the band director at my school has vowed to not read any more of my posts until I have something positive to report…but I digress.

Five years ago, our staff completed Six-Word Memoirs on our experience as teachers. They were complied by the incomparable Paul Cancellieri who pens Scripted Spontaneity.  I couldn’t think of a more succinct yet powerful way to remember and summarize why we teach. Why we stay dedicated in the face of increasing adversity. Therefore, I revisited it recently and share it here in hopes it also resonates with you:

One of them (a colleague’s, not my own) inspired me to write the following, another window into my five-year-ago teacher-self:

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 11.14.10 AM

And then I realized something: one of the reasons I am so hurt is that it’s this dedication on which they are counting. Using. These people in power, whether simply clueless as to the damage they are doing or with insidious intentions, who are undermining our profession at every turn. Defunding it. Devaluing it. The ones forever saying “do more with less.” Who are essentially challenging: “What’ya gonna do…leave? Well, then you weren’t a dedicated teacher to start with, were you?”

The dedication is what they counted on to get away with it.

Let me be clear: They are unequivocally wrong. Yes, they will chase some amazingly talented educators out of the classroom. They already have. However, please don’t let them mistake our kindness for weakness, nor our dedication to teaching as acceptance of their poor treatment.

We must be as dedicated to teaching as a profession as we are to teaching as an act.

My Six-Word Memoir nowadays?

Fighting for students…outside classrooms, too.

What is YOUR Six-Word Memoir?

Vol.#33: A Fresh Year, A Fresh Perspective

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Image Credit: Pixabay user JamesDeMers

A new school year is budding: I teach in a multi-track year round school, and our students’ first day of school is tomorrow.  We both have wonderful staff members returning and are welcoming a large number of new staff members to our building. The faculty kick-off last week was truly exciting.

We have a very large staff, and we learned from a clicker session by our media specialist that we are almost exactly divided into thirds between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

We viewed some funny & informative clips from speakers on generations in the workplace like Jason Dorsey and Cam Marlston like this and this, as well as looked at other information. Teachers were asked to reflect and discuss which parts pertained to them and which did not.  It all led to a really rich discussion of our staff, the strengths of each generation, and led to what it means in terms of technology and instruction.

We then shifted focus from who we are …to who we teach. 

Continue reading Vol.#33: A Fresh Year, A Fresh Perspective

Vol.#27: Something Old, Something New…

Saturday May 4th, I both celebrated the end of an amazing experience and attempted a new one. On Saturday night, I attended the Kenan Fellows “Catalysts for Change” reception and dinner that both celebrated the end of our 2013 class and welcomed the 2014 Fellows. It was not that long ago that I was just embarking on the amazing experience that those 49 educators are eagerly anticipating. Many asked what to expect. While every Kenan Fellow has an experience that is highly personal, as mentors and placements vary widely, there are certainly themes and common trends that evolve of you talk to Fellows that have completed the process. They have a different, more global perspective for their role in the classroom. They have new knowledge to bring back to their students. They have new confidence to emerge (or continue to evolve) as a teacher leader, and they have an eagerness for the next adventure. Continue reading Vol.#27: Something Old, Something New…

Vol.#23: What’s at YOUR Teaching Core? [Cross-Post]

pixlrI was afforded the opportunity to have “blogging training wheels” in the way of writing a few Guest Posts for Scripted Spontaneity throughout the year before I started Teaching Speaks Volumes this past June. One of these posts from about a year-and-a-half ago still remains one of my own personal favorites that I’ve written on education.
So, I hope my readers don’t mind a cross-post as I include on my own blog, and will perhaps even provide some fresh perspectives in the comments.

“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” ~Darren L. Johnson

image credit: Wikimedia Commons user unununium272
image credit: Wikimedia Commons user unununium272

Our school is currently developing Core Belief Statements. First, each of our interdisciplinary teams and elective departments generated their own and submitted them to administration. Now these statements have been compiled and shared with the staff. They’ll be used to create Core Belief Statements for our school.

It’s wonderful that this process has opened dialogue, but it begs the question: Does something so personal coincide with asking for a standardized consensus? Perhaps I am borrowing trouble and these statements will be vague enough where everyone can agree, but some people have very passionate beliefs when it comes to teaching and education.

Scripted Spontaneity followers know there’s been recent discussion here about standardization of teachers’ practices. But what about standardization of Core Beliefs? Even if teachers can all agree on a statement like, “We value what is in the best interest of the students,” . . . what if we don’t agree on what that should be? What happens when caring, brilliant teachers who work daily with purpose and precision … don’t agree on what these practices are?

Case in point.

Continue reading Vol.#23: What’s at YOUR Teaching Core? [Cross-Post]

Vol.#22: The Dark Side of Choosing School Choice

Freedom-of-choice-a22077920During the time I was visiting these four schools and writing these posts, this article was released about Wake County dropping the choice plan. However, when I entered my address in the Student Assignment page today, I still got a total of 16 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, and 9 high schools in varying Base, Calendar, and Magnet options for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year. This still looks far from resolved, however.

So…what does all this mean? After visiting an array of options as both a teacher and a parent, what is my final analysis? I have two responses to these two questions, one for each of my two roles.

As a parent… Continue reading Vol.#22: The Dark Side of Choosing School Choice

Vol.#20: Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy


In Volume #17 I discussed my County’s various options for parents, such as magnet and application schools. This is the third school in a series of four that I’ve visited and am discussing in the context of school choice in my County.

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In the eleven years I’ve known Paul Cancellieri, three of which we were on the same interdisciplinary team, I’ve never known another educator with such universal appeal. “Mr. C” is the teacher every student wants to have and the colleague from whom every teacher has much to learn. If a teacher were a doctor, Paul is the world-renowned surgeon teaching the top Attendings (tech-saavy teachers) and Chiefs of Surgery (administration) the best practices to pass along to the resident physicians. Or at least he should be, whenever his time permits it.

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Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy is a public school application option for Wake County parents. Currently in its inaugural school year,  Continue reading Vol.#20: Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy

Vol.#17: A Choice Education

“My neighbor’s kid has been in Wake County schools for six years, and his school has changed six times. He has no childhood friends. Why does the county do that?”

I have no answer for this stranger who, upon learning I am a public school teacher for WCPSS, demands it. His tone is curious with only a hint of accusing. He knows I personally did not set any policies, but he’s grappling for a logical reason. Some counter argument which I cannot provide. This county is infamous known for the sometimes contentious board meetings and how it repeatedly rearranges student reassignment. Though the news has explained they are touting choice and address-based models and assuring students will be “grandfathered in”, it does not always seem to coincide with the stories from some parents like this one speaking to me now.

Actually, as a parent I know little about it as well. I am fortunate that the county accommodated my request to have my son at the year-round elementary school that is adjacent to and feeds into the middle school where I teach. There’s even a bus that runs to and from the school to bring him from and deliver him to my school. Therefore, I missed much of the agonizing analysis many parents experience.

Image Credit:http://artschools.com/resources/how-to-choose-an-art-school
Image Credit:
http://artschools.com/resources/how-to-choose-an-art-school

This past week, letters went home to parents about the 2013-14 school year assignment and their choices. I sent them home to my homeroom, as well as received one from my son’s teacher. I decided to go to the Wake County Student Enrollment & Assignment page myself. There’s lots of information on choices and many, many magnet programs. Curious, I entered my own address into the page provided to look up base schools we’re assigned. Continue reading Vol.#17: A Choice Education

Vol.#15: The Edmodo Education

I started using Edmodo over the past couple of months. Specifically, I offered it as one option to complete a reading project. I’d thought having a smaller group of students to start would help me ease into it, however over 75% of my 109 students opted for the Edmodo choice instead of the more traditional alternative.

 
I used the Edmodo quizzes as part of the assessment for the project. Now having used them, I see the quiz feature as having a likely future in my classroom as formative assessments, such as homework, as opposed to actual “quizzes”. Edmodo does not allow retakes easily and both the timed feature and occasional glitches in the system make quizzes that “count” stressful. However, the instant feedback it provides would be very vaulable in the formative stage and would reduce class-time reviewing answers on completed assignments, allowing for more time on new, engaging tasks and collaboration.

While pondering the future of this possibility, I had my students complete the following Consens-o-gram. Continue reading Vol.#15: The Edmodo Education

Vol.#13: Metamorphosis

met·a·mor·pho·sis

a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism

This past week marked the third and final Professional Development Institute for myself and the other 2013 Kenan Fellows. It will likely be the last time we see each other until the celebratory events planned at the end of the year when the Fellowship is completed. It was wonderful to see everyone, though it was far too brief. As always, I learned so much more from them than it feels I must ever give back. (I’m looking at you Karen and Vance.)

I don’t know if other Fellows have been experiencing some of the same seismic shifts at their schools that Continue reading Vol.#13: Metamorphosis