Tag Archives: teaching

Vol.#55: Is the NC Goal “First in Teacher Flight”?

It may be only be six weeks after New Year’s, but already both the state of North Carolina and Wake County have grave concerns about filling the needed teaching positions for next school year.

And so they should.

North Carolina often fills positions from teachers in states like Ohio and New York where turnover is low and teachers can’t find positions. However, with no more pay for advanced degrees in NC, most of those candidates will likely no longer be coming here anymore.

Besides needing to attract teachers, there’s the issue of teacher turnover. NCDPI was concerned enough about this very issue to send a report to the General Assembly. You can read the whole report here, but I’ve compiled a few highlights:


easel.ly

You’ll notice it’s not just that more teachers are leaving, but that more and more tenured, experienced teachers are leaving. The mentors of the beginning teachers. The department chairs. The leadership team members. The teachers any principal needs upon which to build a school.

The concerns the data raise are only the tip of the iceberg for what I feel is impending, based on my front-row view from the classroom trenches.

TeacherXing

For example, of significant note but not yet reflected in this report is the fact that in Wake County alone, the number of teachers who have left specifically to teach in another state have already doubled so far this year from this data last year.

And…it’s still only February.

Also consider this year so far this blog has included:

None of these facts are reflected in the reported data. Yet.

And then, this week a teacher raise for only new teachers was proposed. This conversation, which I’ve been given permission to share with you, should give you some insight into the morale and mindset of North Carolina’s teacher leaders:

facebook quit FINAL

These are some of the best educators in North Carolina classrooms from all over the state. And although I can personally vouch for their exceptionalism as educators, I am certain these sentiments are not exceptional. Conversations like this one are happening on every facebook wall and in every teacher lounge in the state.

Yes, indeed…they should be gravely concerned about the mass exodus coming North Carolina’s way.

first in flight

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Vol.#53: Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo Not Doctors OR Surgeons

So, a colleague wrote this really insightful piece last week about whether educators are more like:

  • Doctors: trying to cure things that have societal causes of which most are out of their control

~or~

  • Surgeons: acting with precision and purpose to achieve an end and required to review outcome data to better inform future practices.

I can’t recap it and do it justice, so please read it.

Go on. I’ll wait.

 

Good stuff, right?

Anyway, usually I’d eat this kind of comparative metaphorical analysis up with a spoon. As some who follow this blog may know, I’ve discussed similar concepts myself.

However, I surprised myself by reacting in an entirely different, non-serious way. Perhaps it’s due to the current state of education, particularly in my own state of North Carolina, where we have to laugh or we’d cry, but my husband and I just kept riffing (and laughing) on all the ways teachers are soooo not either of these professions.

I thought others may also get a chuckle from what we came up with…and maybe add a few more in the comments.

So, I present to you:

Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo NOT Doctors or Surgeons

  • Our. Paychecks.

You knew it was coming. Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? I made an infographic on easel.ly to see what the difference was in my own city.

I was curious.

  • Credibility. Even in the face of death of a loved one, “I did everything I could.” actually means something coming from a surgeon.
  • Concrete data. A heart attack presents like a heart attack and cancer is treated like cancer, regardless of a patient’s ability, motivation, or intelligence. This makes quite a difference if you are expected to act on the information with the certainty and confidence demanded of all three professions.
  • Help. Doctors and surgeons have nurses. Physician’s assistants.  EMTs. Those people that check you in and out. Orderlies…etc.  A very small, ever-shrinking percentage of teachers have teachers’ assistants. (And anyone who thinks they don’t desperately need them should come teach a class of 24 kindergarteners solo.)
  • Teachers can’t excise a tumor of laziness or ignorance…though a girl can dream, can’t she?
  • Doctors don’t have to write plans for a substitute doctor to try to see all the patients in their care in a day. They can simply reschedule their appointments for the day if they’re out. (Actually, someone else probably does that for them.)
  • Please show me the surgeon who has 35 people on operating tables…at once.
  • Rarely is a patient unconscious on the table and still able to hurl obscenities at the surgeon or threaten them with bodily harm. (Of course, I’m just guessing.)
  • I’m pretty sure there are very few doctors  buying their own tongue depressors out-of-pocket.
  • No one ever criticizes a doctor or surgeon for the appointment not being engaging or entertaining enough.

What’d I miss?

Volume #44: Literacy Data, Part Deux

In my last post, I argued against the use of the current practices for gathering data for measuring growth and proficiency in literacy.

I suggested that for math, formative standardized test data is a biopsy. For literacy, it’s more like an autopsy.

And while the data indicates strong versus sickly readers, this information is usually no surprise to the professional educator, and more importantly it offers no treatment plan: advice on which medicine to administer.

With the release of my state’s scores re-renormed to the Common Core, there’s lots of focus on all the new data. What it all means. Why the scores are lower. How it will be improved.

And while the politics rage on, I have to explain to parents that their child simply went from twelve centimeters to five inches, and yes the number may actually be smaller, but I believe it to show growth in his/her reading ability.

And I need to take this new information and figure out how it should inform my instruction. I need the data to indicate a treatment plan for the literacy health of my students.

During my participation in VoiceThread titled “Formative Assessment and Grading” in October 2011, Dylan Wiliam said something that has always really stuck with me:

“One of the problems we have with formative assessment is a paradigm that is often called, “data-driven decision making”. This leads to a focus on the data, rather than on the decisions. So, people collect data, hoping it might come in useful, and then figure out sometime later what kinds of decisions they might use the data to inform.  I’m thinking that we ought to perhaps reverse the ideas in data-driven decision-making and instead focus on decision-driven data collection. Let’s first figure out the decisions we need to make, and then figure out the data that would help us make that decision in a smarter way.”

~Dylan Wiliam   “Formative Assessment and Grading”,  Slide 5   [My emphasis]

I’ve pondered this at great length. If my goal is decision-driven data collection, what would I want out of a standardized literacy assessment? What do I want the data to tell me?

What else? What other information (as a teacher or as a parent) do you believe the data should provide about students’ literacy abilities?

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

bud
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.#32: Help Navigating the Road to ELA Common Core

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Image Credit: Pixabay User “PublicDomainPictures”

It was about a year ago this very week when I started my journey with four other Kenan Fellows at DPI. My Kenan Fellowship last year was an amazing opportunity; one of tremendous growth in my teaching practice.

The culmination of our work together and our intensive study of the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards [ELA CCSS] is a library of resources which has been created and compiled in order to help other ELA educators to transition their own instruction to the demands of the newly adopted ELA CCSS. Continue reading Vol.#32: Help Navigating the Road to ELA Common Core