Literacy Tutor Training Tomorrow

book      “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” –Frederick Douglass.

Since I believe so strongly in the power of literacy to improve lives, I am going back to my teaching beginning, with adult literacy tutoring.  Although I am a licensed reading specialist, English teacher, and reading teacher, tutoring adults is different and requires specialized training.  I am going to https://literacydupage.org/ tomorrow, and may do the tutor training where I teach in the fall as well.  Then I will decide which program I want to actually tutor with.

I feel my life has been enriched because I can read and write rather easily, and I would like to help others grow in skills.   I’ve had a wonderful career in teaching (and still teach college part time), and I respect and truly like people.  I hope I have a lot to offer those needing help.

Back in the 70s and 80s, I was a volunteer adult literacy tutor, while I worked in business and before I entered teaching. Now that I am “sort of”retired, it’s come full circle and I return to my first teaching experience. It’s interesting how that works!  I also remember my students could not believe people were not being paid to be tutors, since in their countries they didn’t find free tutoring. I don’t know about that, as I’ve not been to another country looking for free tutoring.

I think it’s important to give back to causes that one believes in, and I believe in the power of literacy.

Thanks for reading.

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.

 

 

This teacher would like to know: would anyone like periodic tips for using this crazy language, English?

crazy english         Hello, readers.   This educator, me, misses teaching.  I am wondering if any readers here would like some little English tips I’ve picked up through my many years of teaching English, ELL, and reading?  If so, reply here or send me a message! 

I believe it’s important to give back, and this is one way I can do that.  I’ve volunteered in literacy settings by tutoring or other ways since the 1980s, and I miss it.

So this is a personal post: I am wondering if any readers here would like some little English tips I’ve picked up through my many years of teaching English, ELL, and reading?  If so, reply here or send me a message! 

Thanks for reading in this CRAZY ENGLISH language!

Laura Lee

Some (not so?) random thoughts

thinking    A kinder atmosphere in my world with the teachers out for summer.  It’s just nice to know good people are out there. And I know such good teacher colleagues and friends.

*~*~*~

I would have returned the email, even between terms.  Yes, I judge her for not replying.  Yes, I know she wasn’t being paid to check emails between terms.

But I would have. And I always did.

Because of being like that, so hyper-vigilant, I will never relax.  I have never relaxed.  Always on.  Retirement would kill me.

*~*~*~

Some people are multi-talented in music and art and writing.  It’s amazing.  It’s great to see.

 

*~*~*~

I wish I’d thanked my parents for moving us from a middle-class existence in a high-crime area to a poor existence in a much safer one.  I never thanked them, but rather blamed them for making us poor by moving.  I am ashamed I didn’t appreciate how much better a safe life would be for all of us, and especially for someone as sensitive as I am.  I am decades too late for they have died, but I wish I could tell them: “Thank you for this sacrifice.”

*~*~*~

One of the joys of being a highly sensitive person is that I can find great joy in simple beauties, actions, sounds, smells, sights. To me, nothing is simple, and I am grateful for all beauty of person or nature.

Because I am off-the-chart highly sensitive, I also find life to be greatly complicated and difficult at times, exhausting often.

A gift and a curse, but I don’t know how to be otherwise.

Someone laughed at me chuckling over ducks recently, but that’s all right.  It was delightful to hear them quacking and see them flying overhead on an otherwise cool and quiet spring afternoon.

That’s me, sometimes flying, often quacking. Never graceful, but often feeling grace.

*~*~*~

This aging is a hoot.  I remember things so clearly that turn out to be decades ago.

 

*~*~*~

Kindness matters.  I would advise against ambition over compassion.  In the long run, if we are human, we need each other more than another thing.  Yes, that’s a privileged point of view, for many struggle to survive, and I’ve been there.  When I was struggling so hard just to keep a roof over my head, I was all ambition.

But after survival, and during survival, I do believe compassion is paramount.

 

*~*~*~

What’s with so few people reading poetry? Language is so magical and poetry the most possessed!

*~*~*

I like the free photo/ image I found from pexels.com more than anything I have created.  Talk about evocative!

*~*~*~

In my dreams, I can paint.  And sing.  And dance.  Also in my dreams, I awaken and realize I cannot do any of those.

*~*~*~

Just some random (or not) thoughts on a lovely quiet and cool late spring evening before the riot of summer heat sets in.

Laura Lee