Tag Archives: teacher

Vol.#54: The Pupil Paradox

A search on the web shows a teacher has for many reasons to teach despite it all.

mantraI have always tried to operate under this theory: The harder a child is on you as the teacher, the more s/he needs you to be good at your job.

Like little Julie*? Who you could throw the textbook into the room and leave, and 180 days later, she’d have completed all the work? Yeah. She doesn’t need you. I mean, you love her in spite of this fact. After all, she’s wonderful! And hopefully, she will learn more with your guidance that she would have without it. But, still… You are not a crucial adult in the journey to success in her life.

dandelion-16656_640
Image Credit: Pixabay User beeki

That one (ten? thirty?) who drives you crazy? Who doesn’t know social cues? Who doesn’t appropriately respond to authority figures? Who won’t pick up a pencil, let alone complete assignments, without your constant prodding?

He needs you.  In fact, he has little chance without you.

And there lies an interesting paradox: The harder they make your job, the more important your job is for them. The more crucial you are as the teacher.

The harder a child is to teach, the more he or she needs you.

I sometimes chant this little mantra when I am so frustrated with those most difficult students.

What core beliefs to you remind yourself of as you teach that help you?

 
 
 
 
*Julie is used here as the name of that sweet little (usually female) student whom teaching is an effortless joy. This is not based on any specific, actual Julie.
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Vol.#46: The Teachers’ Time Off Myth

UPDATE  Comments have had me look more closely at the data in the table. For example, I realized I should have divided by 5 instead of 7, since weekends were already removed from both sides. The infographic has been updated several times to reflect the new numbers. Many thanks to commenters and their efforts to keep this an active, living document!

In my post “Vol.#35: Do NC teachers really deserve more money?”, I’d included an infographic I’d created showing the breakdown of what a teacher is paid. I’d received this emailed response:

“Thank you for your time and energy to bring the plight of NC Teachers to the forefront of America’s awareness! Your graphic shows the breakdown for pay only for days directly teaching students.  I’m a math teacher, so I want to show the numbers just a bit more specifically.  We are paid for 210 days.  At this point, most people get agitated about how “little” we work.  So let’s compare to any other profession.  Most careers, with college educated professionals work Monday through Friday.  With 52 weeks a year, that is 104 days off for weekends.  The US has eleven recognized paid holidays. Taking the 365 days in a year, and subtracting the 104 weekend days and 11 holidays, that leaves 250 work days.  Most career professionals get two weeks of vacation, or more, but let’s use two weeks as a beginning point. That is 236 days working in a year.  Teachers only work 26 days less than the average beginning career professional. I would venture to say the typical career adds weeks of vacations as a perquisite the longer one holds the job. Teaching days remain constant through the life of our career.”

Using her math as well as this study which found that teachers work 53 hours a week on average, I sought to mathematically prove my thesis of last week’s post “Vol.#45: Why Doesn’t George Clooney Have to Deal With This Crap?”: that though they comprehend it in other professions, the public at large severely misunderstands the demands of time placed on teaching professionals.


easel.ly

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.#41: The White Flag [Guest Post]

Image credit: Pixabay user Goemedien

This week, four more teachers on my school’s staff announced that they are leaving the classroom for greener pastures. These losses are in addition to the language arts department chair’s letter to Governor McCrory, a colleague from another school, and my PLT-mate of almost a decade who has already left.

These opportunities are well-deserved and no one who remains in the classroom could fault anyone for taking them. However, each one is the loss of an educator who daily and directly touched the lives of students. Those of us left in the pragmatic and emotional wake of their departure feel stretched and strained. They each will be missed dearly.

One of these fallen fellow classroom warriors, Trishia Joy Lowe, wrote the following of her classroom departure and has graciously allowed me to share it here with you.

~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~

Today, I leave what I have loved doing for nearly twenty years – teaching, NOT education, TEACHING. I put in my papers and am moving forward to a career in business as a Director in Growth and Public Relations.

It is bitter-sweet.

I loved the classroom when it was just My students, THEIR love of learning, and ME. That’s REAL, that’s AUTHENTIC, THAT IS ALIVE. I had an obligation to impart a passion for learning, not just grades. I took seriously my responsibility to build skills, ignite curiosity, and grow my students intellectually – to hold my students as accountable to their progress as I held myself – not merely to answer A-B-C-D or None of the Above.

However, too many outside factors have faded that beautiful reality, that “life all its own”, that love of learning in my students and in me. (Yes, I learned so much from those beautiful, honest little people).

Too many influences have robbed us of our ability to share freely, teach openly, assess each other honestly, and grow. Too many factors stand between me and my students as I teach – they have polluted what was once a pure process.

So, I’m waving the “White Flag”.
I surrender.
I leave.

white flag

As I tendered my own resignation, I learned two more outstanding North Carolina teachers are leaving the classroom in my building. How many more teachers need to leave NC schools before parents understand there are highly trained, highly educated, highly intelligent, highly committed professionals who stand before their children each day, pouring everything THEY’VE got into THEIR children?

How many more skilled teachers need to leave before administrators “get it” and allow the truly “best and brightest” the autonomy to teach passionately without fear? To assess honestly for the sake of a child’s REAL growth without questioning from administrators as to our “judgement”?

How many more NC teachers need to leave before legislators just leave the professionals alone to do what they do best—TEACH?

(And by the way: a pay raise commensurate with that professionalism might be nice.)

Teachers have and continue to “fight the good fight” despite legislators, who, in many instances, are less educated, and less committed to people than their own pockets. Teachers’ pockets were emptied long ago, but they continue to teach passionately and courageously while digging deeper into their emptying pockets to buy supplies for their students and their classrooms.

However, the camel’s back is breaking.
What happens when the camel finally wanders off for a better oasis?

I wonder, what our children will be left with?

Vol.#38: The Horizon is Arriving

There’s been lots of discussion, here and elsewhere, about what the Education Budget will really mean for my state. However, I’ve recently learned some news that has made all of the politics which we have been discussing less a matter of an abstract ideal and more of a pragmatic reality. It has really provoked contemplation: a colleague and good friend is leaving the classroom.

Once our School Improvement Chair, she is leaving the field of education all together. My PLT teammate of almost a decade is going to become a corporate trainer and her last day is in two short weeks.

And she’s not the only one.

It seems everywhere I turn, educators with whom I teach or have taught are making the decision to leave the classroom for a rosier horizon elsewhere.

Apparently, this isn’t just localized to my school or county, either. Elsewhere in the state, I was flagged in the following facebook post by a NC high school science teacher discussing the frustrations of staffing her department:

fb post

Incidentally, I don’t know one personally, but can you imagine being a North Carolina principal or superintendent trying to staff a school in a county along the Virginia border right now?

Anyway, the conversation that followed this status update included teachers – amazing educators – stating how they are in a market for a new job, or how they are one of the few at their school not in the market for a new job, but only due to pragmatic details like how close they are to retirement, etc.

Educators whom I respect – some I had even hoped my own children would have in the classroom one day – are leaving. And not that I have any immediate prospects, but even if I were to get a job paying $100,000 tomorrow, it would not solve all of my own personal concerns. I don’t want my two children in a system where people are only there because they have no other options.

And, despite what’s being said in the media, that’s what’s really being created.

And while I can’t fault anyone looking for better horizons in the grim landscape that is becoming the classroom educator’s profession, I can tell you it is leaving a feeling of desperation behind. This is not the feeling you want amongst those educating your children. Or grandchildren. Or workforce you’ll need to hire for your business.

cloudsunsetThese politicians simply can’t keep saying they are putting your children first if they continue to put the state’s teachers last. The bottom line is that as more and more teachers set sail for that horizon, it will be the students upon whom the sun sets.

Vol.#37: The NC News Target

The North Carolina legislation’s actions are quite the target for national attention.

In an article titled, “NC Lawmakers Reckon With The Three Rs: Reading, Writing & (Tax) Reform“, Forbes discussed the recently approved NC tax plan:

“The sheer magnitude of the cuts will wipe nearly $700 million in tax revenue from the budget.”

The article goes on to explain how even those who are conservative and favor low taxes have grave concerns about how this tax plan will negatively impact schools. It’s a must-read.

Let’s see. What else? McCrory defended giving a pair of 24-year-old republicans on his campaign staff $45,500 more a year, meaning the pair is compensated to the tune of $172,500 annually. (This would buy 3.75 teachers a year at the $45,947 average salary in our state, which is $10,000 less than the national average.)  He states, “…that’s the pay rate for that job.”  Golly. *shrug*  What’s a governor to do?

WRAL wrote about how the Red for Ed movement is now extending into the classrooms. The website features a letter by Angie Panel Scioli, a Leesville Road High School Teacher, and a WRAL video about the Red for Ed movement, which asks that everyone wear red on Wednesdays in support of public education.

And if you don’t mind the salty language, Bill Maher also weighed in on what’s been going on in NC.

…as did The Daily Show.

And so, as I expect many experienced teachers may soon do, I recently priced my house on Zillow. Unfortunately, I learned it is worth only about $4,000 more than what we bought it for…over a decade ago.

*sigh*

So, I then channeled my frustration, anger, and disgust with the current state of affairs in my home state into yet another easel.ly project.

Enjoy.

TargetsTeachers
easel.ly

Vol.#36: My Letter to Pat McCrory [Guest Post]

Monday, our State Superintendent June Atkinson released this statement with this opening line:

“For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care.”

Image Credit: Garry KnightWednesday, the NC House and Senate approved the budget and sent it to Governor McCrory.

NCAE has a list of Top 10 Things Every Educator Should Know About the Budget and created and released this video about tomorrow’s final Moral Monday rally. Important stuff.

However, since the big picture data and powers-that-be have not seemed to slow our legislature, I thought this week’s post needed a different tactic. My department chair and colleague, Emily Blake, has written a brilliant letter to the Governor and is allowing me to share it here as a guest post on TSVI’d hoped hearing from one teacher and constituent who voted for him twice would at least give the Governor pause. However, he already signed the budget into law Friday.

Governor McCrory,

Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher, and I have dedicated my entire life to realize that dream. I graduated top of my class in high school and summa cum laude at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am a fourth year teacher, a NC Teaching Fellow, and a technology contact and the language arts department chair for my school. I love the students I teach, have high growth in my EOG test scores, and work with some of the most dedicated and intelligent people in our state.

When I was first hired and was told my salary, I made grandiose plans to save $500 a month. After the first month of teaching, I had less than $20 in my bank account, and needless to say, nothing in my savings account. After purchasing supplies for my classroom, paying my student loan bills, and paying rent, I realized how little I actually made. Not to mention, my first year of teaching I did not leave school until the janitor set the alarm at 8:30 at night (which means that I was working 12 hour days). I justified putting my personal life and savings plan on hold because I felt like I was making a difference in my students’ lives.

While I still believe that I positively impact our future generation on a daily basis, I refuse to remain in a profession that is demonized by lawmakers. Two years ago we began using an evaluation system that logs in with our paystub numbers. On the evaluation, there are absurd standards that require me to care about my students and teach my curriculum. I would not have gone into the profession if I did not have students’ best interest in mind; I want my students to succeed and learn everything I can possibly teach them in 180 days. The budget that is likely to be passed eradicates my chance of tenure at the end of this school year which means I would have to prove every year that I care about my students and adequately teach them. I also have no hope of a raise, despite the rate of inflation. As a “professional”, that is a slap in the face.

I have watched my colleagues who are close to retirement break down and cry about how they cannot afford to retire with how little they make due to the lack of raises in the past several years. I can no longer rationalize the sacrifices I have made as a teacher in the state of North Carolina. I do not want to end up like my older colleagues who are burnt out, overworked, and vastly underpaid. At the end of this school year, I plan on leaving the profession in order to avoid that fate. Access to effective public education starts with qualified teachers, which will be difficult to find if these legislative trends continue.

In both the 2008 and 2012 elections, I voted for you as a result of your record and success as Charlotte’s mayor. I urge you to veto the budget and any other legislation that would once again make us the “Rip Van Winkle State”.

Sincerely,

Emily Blake

Vol.#35: Do NC teachers really deserve more money?

Click to go to video. Apologies that WordPress would not embed.
Click to go to the video. Apologies that WordPress would not embed.

Last week’s post got an insane amount of attention and was even featured in the news:

It surprised me, to say the least. I spent the week mediating, reading, and responding to more comments than “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has received in its entire year.

The 176 comments thus far mostly fall into three categories:

1. Passion and Experience    Passionate, dedicated educators (and some in college studying to be one) shared their experiences and articulated their frustrations. Also, those that understand our plight voiced support. It was clear that this post resonated with educators of all political walks, as I’d noted at the beginning of the post was holding true in the other discussions I was having. It’s worth the read – these comments were quite moving.

2. Political finger-pointing    “Gov McCrory has only been in office for less than 7 months. It’s not his fault”.

Ironically, I’d be willing to bet it was the same people who get angry when President Obama’s camp brings up George W who made sure to point out how short McCrory has been in office thus far.

*sigh*

Both “sides” can make claims about how the other “side” did such-and-so “before they got here”. As I tried to articulate in the post: I don’t care to argue who created what portion of what mess; I care about cleaning it up. Can we all get on the same “side” please? The one with the American citizens’ best interests? Politics right now is so into being on sides with “winners” that it is our society’s future and the children who are the “losers”. The blame game is not helpful. We are where we are. And where we are sucks. Let’s just fix it.

Gov. McCrory and the current legislation are the ones tasked with the care of our state now. We address them not because they are where it all started, but because they are where we need it to begin to end. It is my fervent hope that a better understanding of teachers’ current frustrations, both from the data in the infographic and from the experiences witnessed in comments by educators, could help them make better decisions than we have experienced thus far.

3. Accusations of Greed    “If you’re only doing it for the money, then go find the money. If you’re doing it because you like your job and you want to help kids, what are belly-aching for? They haven’t fired you, have they?” ~Actual commenter quote

Some comments provided excellent examples of the opinion pervasive in the public that makes this such an uphill battle for teachers: “If you really loved the kids, you wouldn’t be griping about money.”

It is this line of thinking that, while I can’t speak for all teachers, I personally find the most insulting and infuriating. It is as condescending as it is out-of-touch with the reality of our situation.

Wanting to serve the best interests of students doesn’t shouldn’t mean we have no right to be able to provide for our own families. We are not expecting to get rich from what we do. We are wanting a living wage. It is increasingly impossible to be a teacher and afford life’s basics. Some can’t afford basic care for their own kids. We are college graduates – this should not be a poverty-stricken job.

Just how rich are we not getting?

I close with my latest easel.ly infographic where I explored that very question:


easel.ly

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.#1: Saying Goodbye

This blog has been a long time in the making.

Granted, mostly in my head. Like most educators and moms of young children, I have plenty of important priorities to point to and say, “I’m too busy”. Despite this, ideas like the concept, the title, and images had been chiseling away at the back of my conscientiousness for months, even before creating a WordPress site in which they could be housed.

Hello. My name is Erica Speaks, and I am a perfectionist.

I think you should know that about me right off the bat. In fact, my husband looks at this blog endeavor dubiously. Not because he thinks I’m not a great writer, but that he knows I absolutely agonize over details, especially when I’m writing.

So, it looked like this blog was going to be an idea that I toyed with but never came to fruition. You know, like building a roadster from scratch or backpacking across Europe.

However, I came across the following quote:

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”

~ Ivan Turgenev

and decided to jump in with both feet and hit “Publish”.

As with all new beginnings, I am saying, “Goodbye,” to several things.

Like all educators this time of year, I said, “Goodbye,” to a group of students. I try to take what I’ve learned each time and get ready to begin anew with fresh challenges and perspective. My year-round school’s calendar starts in July, and hopefully some of it will be blog-worthy.

Also, I have worked diligently over the past ten years “perfecting” lessons from my state’s Standard Course of Study that I will say, “Goodbye,” to in favor of the Common Core alignment coming this school year. I am very fortunate to have been granted a Kenan Fellowship with which I can start this new process. I am certain some of that will be blog-worthy.

The start of this blog also marks one other, “Goodbye.”  I had become very comfortable with my arrangement of having a colleague use some of my writings as guest posts on his own professional blog. Changes have me saying, “Goodbye,” to that safety net, as well.

So, as I anticipate the drive out of my comfort zone on many fronts, I take a long look in the rear view mirror at where I’ve been. I ponder a moment at how I’ve arrived here. It has not been perfect, and I recognize a difficult new stretch of road lies ahead in my journey.

But I’m ready to begin driving forward.