Flowers and Failures/ Roses and Graffiti… This is Teaching

From three years ago, when I returned from sick leave at the end of the year. Please excuse the typos– I had hand surgery.

And today was a day of grace in teaching; we dared to say, we missed each other, the students and I. I said it first…but…heads popped in, SHE’S BACK~! I am doing SO WELL I almost felt like a fraud…being gone 2 1/2 weeks and coming back WITHOUT the brace I’ve been wearing all year and without the stitches.

I’m under no illusion that peers are paramount to sophomores; however, I am under no illusion that truly this was a day of love.

We missed you. I missed you guys. Whose birthdays did I miss? How was the test you just took?

And these flowers and the balloon. NO NOTE.. Just sitting on my desk, from two young ladies…not the best students. In fact, one very BELLIGERENT young lady who cost me “check marks” on my evaluation. My boss asked, do you now who those are from? No, I said. And then she told me and we both wondered, since this young lady had a dean in all her classes last year. She has lots of zeros and is currently failing the class, but usually manages to JUST PASS. I support her Latina leadership activities–the car washes, the dances, the study groups. Keep the ticket, I always tell her. I cannot make it. Go ahead and sell it again. And she does. I see her do it.

A few of the truly rowdiest kids from last year’s CRAZY 8’S stopped by. They thought I had retired without saying good bye. They asked if they were the reason I was retiring and I told them… I wrote a blog about you all. Remember the day _____ was crying and you all helped him? You all made sure no one made fun of him, you protected him, you were kind and funny and good? Yes, they said, we remember. Well, I told these two lads, I wrote a blog and I borrowed the quote I STAND UP FOR YOU.

Can we see it, they asked? No, I said. My creative writing is personal, but I want you to know that I got it. I knew that last period of the day was not a good time for 30+ boys in a hot classroom reading LOTF or Les MIs or… Macbeth.

And then I am under no illusion that they are part kids. A young lady pointed out that the sub didn’t notice THERE IS A BOOK OR A PART OF THE BOOK ON THE PROJECTOR FOR THE SMART BOARD AND THERE IS A FUNNY BANANA BACK THERE! BACK THERE!!!

Indeed. Some sophomore had ripped Les Miserable in quarter and tagged it up with..um..um… um… male… parts…. in pencil…. showing his / her utter contempt for the novel. I have a feeling I know who did this, but I simply took it down and said I’d be dusting for fingerprints. After one class a young man asked if he would be is super trouble???? Whoever did it?

I don’t know what you are talking about, I said. I don’t see any book up there, do you? Besides, I heard whoever owned that book was going to read most of the parts of Macbeth this week, right? It’s not me, he said, but I’ll read anyway. The girls in the class just winked at me and pointed at the boy….

Roses and graffiti. Flowers and failures.

And most of all, it’s about us, about being a human being during this time of high stakes testing and pressure and CCSS and…yes, dare I use that word?

It’s about loving your students enough to miss them, teach them, honor them, and…dust for fingerprints. 🙂

Day 1 Adult Literacy Training Completed

Fantastic job by Literacy DuPage, part of Pro Literacy America. Professional. Cordial. Encouraging.

One interesting fact that came out is that several of the future tutors wish to tutor to WELCOME immigrants to America. To combat the negativeness of the tone toward immigrants. To let them know we welcome them.

We get matched with a student next week. Then two more training sessions until we are official literacy tutors.

We even get an official tote bag and card to identify ourselves at libraries where we will tutor.

Oh. These are all volunteers.

Well done. Well done. Seeing a positive side of this beloved America. I know there’s greatness there in her people.

More to follow. I’m exhausted!

Thanks for reading.

Back to School, Educators?

Wishing all educators returning to school this week all the best! 👍🍀❤️.

For those not returning? 👍🍀❤️.

For adjuncts not knowing if we will have a paycheck or not but still need to prep? 😱

🙂

I love y’all !

When Did the U.S. Stop Seeing Teachers as Professionals? (mini review from HBR)

 

professionals       The Harvard Business Review asks: “When Did the U.S. Stop Seeing Teachers as Professionals?” in an article written 6-20-18 by Robert Bruno and found here: When Did the U.S.  Stop Viewing Teachers as Professionals?

Bruno writes, and I concur, that: “Teachers are seeing their own experience be devalued by policymakers and other officials with little experience in the education field, and it’s not improving the education of their students. In other words, and as others have noted, teachers are balking at the erosion of their status as professionals.”

Bruno goes on to write that today, (and I agree) that “Creativity is squeezed out for conformity and teacher autonomy suppressed…”

As a results of external stressors, Bruno notes that studies are revealing that teachers report feeling highly stressed twice as much as the average American worker, but worse, that

…nearly a quarter of respondents said work was “always” stressful. (emphasis added)

This stress and these outside stressors will lead to “constant battles” and struggles, Bruno contends, with our very democracy at stake.

As he notes, “The outcome of that struggle will assuredly determine the quality of the nation’s schools and, subsequently, the strength of our country’s democracy.”

Because teachers care so much, Bruno writes, teachers will continue to protect their students even while knowing, “To them, nothing less than the education profession is at risk.”

#  #  #

What do I think about this article? If I were not still so burned out from the stress that comes with the deprofessionalization of teaching, with as Bruno calls it, a corporate-styled version of professionalism , I’d tell you.

Wait. I can tell you.

It’s like Bruno has been in the minds of many teachers I know.

It was never about the kids; Bruno does not mention even one time teachers’ concerns about students.  We love the kids.  We love to teach. We are teachers. We are well-educated and passionate professionals.

We deserve to have our well-informed voices heard.  We deserve to have time to use the bathroom during the work day. We deserve time to meet with our colleagues to plan, for we have great ideas and even greater ones when we can collaborate.  We deserve to plan our lessons with our specific students in mind.  We deserve to have fewer non teaching duties, including a duty-free lunch and planning period, less hall and bathroom and lunch room duties.  We deserve the pensions we have paid for diligently and not to be blamed for an entire state’s broken promises.  We deserve to have the public pay for the public part of education and teachers not to have to pay for toilet paper or basic student supplies.  We deserve to be treated like the licensed, educated professionals we are, and not to be evaluated or have our work evaluated by non-educators or those who have spent little time in the classroom.

We deserve to be treated as professionals; since we often are not, many are leaving, and many who remain are stressed, burned out, sad, angry, and profoundly disheartened.

Many veteran teachers are “retiring” early, such as myself.

And I wonder if this wasn’t part of the plan all along–to drive out the veteran teachers who would speak up, to drive out any creativity that might challenge the corporate non-educator reformers.

Could be.  Should I be that suspicious?

I believe so.

Teachers are fighting for the very life of their profession.

 

 

 

 

On running into former students

flowers-vase-decor-interior-870512

I don’t want to make more out of this than I should, but in this case, meeting a student outside of school reminded me of one of the reasons I “retired” early–a badly designed one size fits (none but the elite few???) evaluation system.

No, not because of this student, named D (not real name, of course).  D was a sweet, emotional, moody, respectful, goofy, and very needy student when she was in my class my last year of teaching full time.

Fine.  I like a challenge, and I like kids.  I chose to be a literacy teacher/ specialist at the secondary level, and that means working with kids who have struggled a lot with school.  They get me instead of a fun class or instead of an elective.  This means they often acted out, since they didn’t have the maturity to realize acting out did not get them out of class.  It took much art, much patience, much creativity, and much compassion for me to develop good working relationships so they would try to “do school” and not act out in class (so much) or disengage in class.

And I was used to getting a lot of challenging students all in one class.  Some years, if I had a particularly challenging group, I would often go home exhausted to the point of bone weary.

But for many years, that was fine and we who chose this path were thanked.  Admin understood our classes might not be quiet like the AP or Honors classes.  Admin understood part of our job was to work the magic of relationships and understanding and compassion. Admin understood that many of our students were not intrinsically motivated in classes they didn’t want to be in or actively hated being in.

(Side note: One year, during my evaluation for tenure I had a student go wild, explode after he received some devastating news.   My great admin understood this can happen, especially with adolescents challenged with many outside problems.  I got tenure and I was praised for handling this very difficult situation in a professional and compassionate manner.  The admin was able to use his/ her discretion, assess the situation, and became involved in helping the student and his family after he/ she learned about the issues.)

But that is another story.)

D had been labeled as a handful, a trouble maker, but I found her quick to anger, quick to forgive, quick to cry, but always a young person who would go out of her way to say hello, even shouting across campus.  That’s not always true with teens, and I took it as a good sign.

But during one evaluation  on Day 2 of 2, D was having a hard time, crying in class, whispering, etc.  I dealt with it, I thought, in a manner that let me continue to teach without anyone losing face, without shaming anyone.  It was an active class and we were doing a lot of moving and talking in the room anyway, and come on. They were 14, 15 years old… sophomores in high school. I felt I dealt with it very well, and expected to hear that.  The day before, D had been on task completely and helping out in class by passing back papers, etc.  But this day 2? She was having a hard time.

But using the Danielson framework, it was an awful class allegedly.  D and the other 14 years old did not self correct.  I needed to gently guide them.  Gently guiding did not result in D miraculously gaining self control and becoming a self-actualized student at that moment.  I was dinged on this eval.

Whatever.  Just another reason to retire under this ridiculous one-size-fits-all system.  Admin had to use the system, and the system was wrong, in my opinion, for it tried to standardize what good teaching should always look like.  Kids are not standardized.  Teachers are not standardized.  Yet admin had to use this tool, this evaluation “model” where one size would perhaps fit college instructors or instructors of highly motivated students.  I don’t blame admin.  They had no leeway.

#  #  #

Later that month, I had to miss two weeks of class, the first time ever in my long teaching career.  I had minor surgery and the recovery was longer than expected.

When I returned, there was a vase with some lovely simple carnations in them, no note.

Oh, my boss said to me, they are from D.  She’s been here every day looking for you.

D? D, the one who cost me a ding in my evaluation, which–if I had been staying–could have cost me a rating and could have been very serious.  No matter that the year before D had to be escorted sometimes by admin because of her behaviors in class.  No matter what, the rubric had to be followed. No exceptions.

D, the student who the year before had to have someone from the Dean’s office sit with her often so she would “behave” in class. D made so much progress behavior wise, academically, and personally in just the school year I’d know her.

I will never forget her smiling face as she yelled across the hall, “She’s back!”  I won’t forget you, D, but I had to leave.

D brought me flowers.

#  #  #

I met a former colleague for a late lunch the other day, and there working at the restaurant, seating guests, supervising other staff members, was D.  Her braces were gone.  Her hair was pulled back in a sleek style and she was confident, smiling, and efficient.

She had grown up.

It was great to see her and reconnect for a few moments.

Oh, did I ever tell D she hurt me on my evaluation?

Absolutely not. I believe it would not only have been unprofessional to do so, but it would have also shamed a young lady for no reason. I knew the class well, knew the students, knew how to run the class.  I would not have changed what I did.

It this case, it was a ridiculous system imposed on me, an individual, with my own style and with unique kids in each class, kids who sometimes seemed to change from day to day as they navigated issues.

So no, I would not hurt a young person because a system was unfair and inappropriate to impose on all educators.

But it sure made me remember why I left early.

Not the kids.  Never the kids.

And even after all this time, I am not over it, for teaching is so difficult, so time consuming, and so personal that it’s not okay, in my opinion, to do this to teachers. It is not okay to simply fill out a rubric, and the details be damned.

And I am a good teacher, very hard working, dedicated, educated well, and compassionate and respectful with students.

So a blog post that should have been about D becomes about me and how sad, angry, and burned out I still am.  All those 60-90 hour work weeks truly exhausted me.

But I would still be there full time, working until I could no longer do so, if we didn’t develop this blame the teacher and one size fits all and not being appreciated for the tough job we do very well at times.

It’s just not okay to do this, but it is how it was.