Although she teaches elementary school, and she is in another state, Lisa Parisi sounds like me. Her last post is very insightful and I encourage you to go over and read about what she is going through and to realize this is happening all over the country. Veteran teachers, who really do know how to teach well, are being ignored for all the “programs” that are being sold to districts.
Although no money for teachers and classrooms, there is plenty of money for “training,” and so the districts are buying these canned programs with high hopes of increasing test scores. Good teaching is losing out because the teachers are told they MUST adhere to the program, lock-step, or else.
Next year there will be another new program, with all the bells and whistles, that will increase test scores. That much you can count on.
Remember, dear Reader, my post about the Bay area teacher who could no longer keep doing the crushing hard work of teaching in an inner city school?
Miss Bennett has resurfaced in a new position, working at Stanford University, of which I am seriously jealous. She sounds very happy and more relaxed than when she was living, breathing, sleeping teaching. Miss Bennett (who isn’t Miss Bennett any more in real life, but will always be in my mind) now has a job to which she goes to do the work of the job. She doesn’t have to prepare her work at home on weekends, do her work all day, then take her work home at night and assess it as she plans for the next day’s work. How many of you, other than teachers, have to do all that to accomplish your job, and then get criticized in the media for not being good enough?
I wish her well in this new endeavor. It sounds wonderful to me.
I attended a green symposium this week, working as a volunteer for Urban Solutions, an organization which works hard to remake certain San Francisco neighborhoods, and the sponsor of this sustainability conference. Another volunteer was a delightful young man, fairly new to the city, who had been a Teach for America fellow a few years back. We had an interesting conversation about teaching, especially in an inner city school.
“Teaching is grueling, especially if you do it in an inner city school. You can’t just dial it in if you expect to get results.” He had done it for two years. I concurred with him; I had done it for 21 years.
Just read about another teacher, this time from New York City, who decided, after six years, that it was time to go. Don’t know all the details as to what made her finally say, “enough.” She lamented the lack of interest shown by her principal in her classroom. Maybe, just maybe, she was doing so well that the principal never felt the need to check in on her. Sometimes, you have to grab the principal and tell them to come by and see something amazing. Even then, they don’t always come.
Just read this paragraph from here:
As Professor of Anthropology James Lett pointed out twenty years ago in an excellent article titled “A Field Guide to Critical Thinking,” people are taught in our schools what to think, not how to think. Why? Probably because it’s easier. Robert Frost once wrote that he took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference. For us teachers to make a difference, we must stop taking the easy way out.
Reminds me of some of my non-Academy students who want me to tell them exactly what they should be doing, writing, saying, thinking, whatever, and I won’t do it. My Academy students learned not to ask me for specifics because I would always say, “Use what you have learned to make your own assumptions and do your own work. I know how I would do the (exercise, speech, project, etc), but I want to see how YOU would do it.” This was always, though, at the end of a unit where I had guided their learning so they would have a basket of ideas and skills from which to pull. Maybe other teachers don’t provide a big enough basket.
By the time my students were seniors, they didn’t ask me what I wanted, they did what they wanted, and it was usually very good.
Another young teacher is leaving the profession. I have been following Miss Bennett in the Bay for a couple of years now. She’s young, smart, energetic, and cares about her students. She works so hard, and now that has become the problem. Her life outside of the classroom has disappeared and she can no longer handle it. She wants to enjoy her job; she wants to have some fun; she wants more than the classroom can offer. ”I can’t do this anymore.” So she is changing careers.
I am sad to see her leave. We need young people like her to educate our children. Where are we going to find the next generation of teachers that will do the hard work that is necessary to raise test scores and inspire children to learn more? I keep hearing that new teachers last five years and then decide they want to do something else with their life. How do we change this?
You know one of the things I really like about this blogging is the fact that my life is archived, right over there on the right side of the blog. I can easily check to see what I was doing or thinking a month ago, a year ago, or even two years ago.
This is what I found from Janaury 2008 after I had spent a week of training for teaching entrepreneurship at a local college:
At the end of the four days, I realized how relaxed and recharged I felt. Although we did a lot of learning and we also worked on projects, it was different to work solely with adults again. Also, these were very intelligent, focused adults who all had pleasant personalities and enjoyed being there. I didn’t miss the tyranny of the moment, the rush to get everything done before the bell rings. I didn’t miss dealing with 20 different sets of problems every hour as I juggle the lives of my students and their various needs. I went home in the evening and told my husband pleasant stories of the day, not horror stories. He was pleased too.
It is only after an experience like the one last week that I realize the toll I pay to do the work I do. It is hard work, necessary work for society, but I wonder how much longer I can keep doing it. I try to encourage younger teachers so they will stay in an inner city school and do the hard work. Two of last week’s attendees were from an inner city school in Los Angeles, and in talking to them, they both said they didn’t see themselves doing this for more than four years. It’s too hard. The young man, who I could tell is a fantastic role model for students as well as a good teacher, said he was being priced out of the LA lifestyle that he sees his friends enjoying and in which he wants to take part. He was born and raised in LA and does not want to leave to work in a less costly part of the state. The young lady is a math genius and after she finishes her master’s degree will probably leave to work elsewhere or continue to get a doctorate and eventually work in a university setting. Teaching ninth graders about algebra is draining her soul.
What would I do if I didn’t drive to the inner city school each day? With whom would I like to work and what would the work look like? Where do I want to live? Can I make the money to afford the lifestyle I would like? For although it is hard work that I do, I get paid pretty well to do it, especially since I have been doing it for 19 years and I have the top amount of education for the payscale. All questions I am contemplating.
I continue to contemplate, but I am also taking action. I’m going to be brave this year and see if I can do this work thing somewhere else and live in a city I’ve always dreamed of. And, maybe in 2 years, I can look back on this entry and smile.
When I started teaching, 20 years ago, I got 12 weeks vacation that first summer. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. While working in industry, I was thrilled to have made it to the 4 week vacation mark, so 12 weeks was wonderful.
The next year we got 11 weeks, then for a few years we got 10 weeks. The past two years we got 9 weeks. This year, 8. Ok, so it’s still more than that 4 weeks I got when I worked out there in the real world, but I don’t see that we are getting any more bang for the more time we spend in school.
When I started teaching we got an hour for lunch, or 55 minutes, and it was plenty of time to get lunch, go to the restroom, hold club meetings, work with students, hold detention, kibbitz with other teachers. Now we get 35 minutes, and that is bell to bell. And we wonder why clubs have trouble getting anything done. When are they supposed to meet? Oh, and we start school at 7:50 and run until 3:30. Students nor teachers have time to just breath and think.
I am thankful for these 8 weeks away from school (although I have been back twice now to work on computers and projects) and we get three weeks at Christmas, just about the time I’m ready to go under.
My husband reminds me that when I go back into the private sector that I will not be getting all those days off, and I know he’s right. But, I don’t seem to remember being so harried and overwhelmed when I worked in industry. My weekends were my own; I wasn’t planning and grading the work I had just done the previous week. I also remember being able to sit at my desk and think about the work I was doing. I don’t have that luxury any more. It seems as though the district office is afraid to give us a minute to think on our own.
It was again time for the NFTE awards dinner, and just like last year, my student took third place in the competition. This is the competition where the students present their business plans, first in the classroom, and then if they place first there, at this banquet. The top three students from each school win money, and if the student places in the top three at the dinner, they take home additional money.
With the big check
My first place student got $450, the other two girls got smaller amounts. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to show what we know and what we can do.
In another one of my Sunday wanderings out in blogland, I found Elaine Plybon and her post on what she believes about students. She challenged readers to come up with three beliefs and so I did:
What I believe about students:
I believe students want to have fun while they learn. They want teachers who bring a sense of fun into the classroom. They are willing to do the hard work if they know they can have some fun along the way or celebrate at the end.
I believe students want to have friends and work with people they like. They are young and learning about relationships and school is one of those places where they meet many different people and can try out their ideas. They want cooperative classmates and teachers.
I believe students want to be successful at what they do. They don’t like failure any more than their teachers do, but sometimes they can’t figure out how to succeed and need our help to get them through the tangled web of learning.
Why these beliefs? Because that’s what I want for myself in a work place, and after working in an inner city school for 20 years, I have seen how students behave when they have these qualities in their day. School is better for them, and they enjoy coming to class, which for me is half the work.
Check out Ms Plybon’s post; then I challenge you, dear Reader, to come up with your three beliefs and link back here to let me know about your post.