0205: #Teachers accountable to teachers: busting #bureaucracy organically
#education @coopcatalyst #occupyedu
Suppose we looked at teacher accountability in a new way? I propose we trust teachers—a little laissez-faire education if you will. This might require higher pay and a serious look at teacher education and quality, but it’ll balance itself out. With less money thrown at testing and corporate remediation materials plus the slew of highway robbers and scripted consultants there would be billions leftover for real improvement.
Let’s start by looking at real professional learning communities like tumblr education or Cooperative Catalyst (http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/). These are communities of educators who engage in constant self-assessment and community growth. They are teachers who challenge each other to be better teachers. There is constant debate and discourse. The collective knowledge and understanding of the teaching practice is ever growing and changing—it’s a lovely organism.
Teachers can be professionals. We are. Put it in our laps. We’ll make the changes. Hell, give us a politician to answer to, just see to it that we’re making the decisions. Many of us do anyway. The education revolution begins with us. It’s our ability to engage and organize—not politically, but intellectually, dialectically, and professionally?— that enables us to make tremendous changes with or without the support of our beloved bureaucrats.
Change occurs in our classrooms. It is spawned from our learning communities. Let’s keep pulling others in. You have made all the difference in my career.
0188: Lesson Preparation vs. #Surveillance Lesson Plans
#education #SOSchat #follow @symphily #rebel
I am a big fan of planning for my classes. If I’m prepared, then I teach better— there’s no question about it. Having a plan keeps me on track; it also allows me to deviate from MY plan whenever I find it necessary. Essentially there’s a freedom in planning. However, my lesson plan is not a script to follow. I function more as an extemporaneous improv-er, than a heavily scripted actor (who is fined for deviating from the script).
It should be evident that I have some problem with the expectation of lesson plans. And, the problem is not with giving them to an administrator to know what I’m teaching. While I would like to be trusted as a teacher to do my job, I understand that there may be a need to monitor a bit. I also know that there are stacks of paperwork to be collected for documentation that goes up the ladder. I get it.
While fighting the part of me that I’ve been taught is a lunatic, I can’t help but believe there is an insidious intend behind the heavy monitoring and regulation of lesson planning. There’s the constant recommendation, in teacher education programs and in faculty meetings, that we stick to the plan, and the requirement that we match each plan to a state provided objective. And then, each plan must provide enough detail that someone else could come in and teach my lesson (a script is preferred at some schools— not all). I’ve been in places where lessons are expected to be timed. And if there’s something not provided in the curriculum, even if you find it necessary to teach, you can’t teach it—or at least include it in your plan. If your caught deviating from the approved plan you might get a note in your box, or a reprimand, or worse.
It’s good to plan your lessons. It’s a problem when lesson plans become a tool of surveillance and panoptic disciplinary reinforcement.
Fight the insidious power. Deviate from your plan. Deviate from their plan. Teach to enrich lives. Teach a human curriculum. Get your “job” done so you can do your job.
0185: Sneaky Evaluators: Who Sent You, and Why are You Disrupting My Class?
#education #SOSchat #teacher #evaluation
There is a constant stream of evaluators and academic “coaches” streaming through the classrooms at my school. They come in driving unreasonably nice cars, and always look like they just came from a designer boutique and then a full service salon. They look like blooming movie star hopefuls or just well kept wives of the wealthy, noses pointed to the heavens and all. They’re interactions with us lowly teachers come in the form of a note in our box or a message through the principal that we need more of this or that or to put our objectives on a certain part of our boards. These evaluators float through our classrooms on Jimmy Choo heels with iPads in hand. I’ve spoken before, to be polite, when one stepped into my room. She did not look up. She just made a note—perhaps that I’m a distracted teacher.
It’s uncomfortable to have a complete stranger walk in to your classroom and start taking notes with no introduction. Further, it’s disruptive. Kids don’t take strangers lightly always. They’re encroaching on our established safe space. And, I understand what they’re doing and why, many of my colleagues do not. The way they carry themselves is less than desirable, and the fact that I hear they’re “coaches” but they make no attempt to help us know who they are and why they’re with us is problematic. I don’t teach in a rich or even middle class school. We’re humble people of humble means. We have problems, many of which are caused by the segregation of students and allocation of finances in the district. Knowing the district is paying for these celestial snobs to walk through our crumbling building is bothersome and disturbing.
Just let us know why you’re here and who you are. What are you looking for? Are you here to help or screw us? Don’t be sneaky.
It’s bothersome that this is not a rare occurrence in our nations schools. We teachers are under the gun, but we will never know the gunner, nor the reason why they shot us.
0184: Punitive Silence: Baiting Students for Trouble
#education #punishment #strange #SOSchat
I’ve written a bit in the past, long past, about a disciplinary practice my school implements called “Silence”. Basically, students are deemed to be too loud or “unruly” in the halls, or tardy, or whatever, and administration implements a sort of punitive silence. And, while I don’t like it, and notice that it causes more problems in the classroom, I can understand the logic of it—usually. An undesired behavior occurs, so a consequence is given. Makes sense.
Today’s “silence” is a bit unusual. An announcement was made that we would be “going on ‘silence’ to teach our new seventh graders about how things work here…and if [they] don’t obey, they will be placed in Saturday School…”. This seems a little out of line to me. It’s kind of like a playground bully punching you in the nose for the Hell of it just so you’ll know what it feels like—a preventative ass whooping if you will.
I may be out of touch, or out of line, but this seems innocently dystopian (whatever that means).
0040: Experienced Teachers, Used or Abused? Share your story
#edchat #teaching #SOSchat
I spend as much time as I can talking to teachers about there experiences. I’m a firm believer in the power of discourse for transformation. Sometimes the transformation is personal and sometimes it leads to systemic change. Either way, teachers must tell their stories, even if it’s to a journal or a friend.
I’ve grown increasingly concerned by my conversations with experienced teachers over the years. These teachers are full of excellent experience. They know the schools where the teach. They know the communities. Some of them have taught several generations within the community. These teachers have seen principals and policies come and go. Many of them started teaching when teachers pulled around $6000 a year. These are the tried and the true, the gluttons for punishment. They come back year after year. But, I’m not seeing them treated as the master teachers they are. I’m actually starting to see many of them really start to question why they are coming back. These experienced teachers in many places are being abused. I don’t have a statistic, but I’m running into more highly qualified, 25+ years experienced teachers being slapped with impossible improvement plans, and having excessive classroom observations that result in non-constructive criticism of their practice. For many teachers, classrooms are overcrowded and support doesn’t come when needed. Don’t get me wrong, some teachers are tired and burnt out and should retire. And, there are some teachers who don’t do there jobs. Some of them. But, there are so many who are truly professional teachers with advanced degrees, sticking it out in poor schools because they believe every child has a right to a quality education.
My practice has been made better by these “burnt out and beat up” teachers. So why are they being abused? Are they just ineffective old people? Not at all. It seems, and I may be wrong, that these teachers cost too much to employ. It’s an economic decision. I’ve heard it from the mouth a superintendent that you could hire 2 new teachers for the price of an old one. And this is true. But, is it worth throwing the experience away? Is it worth destroying a quality teacher? Money is tight in districts, but don’t abuse your greatest resources. If you’re an abused and disenfranchised teacher, young, old, or in between please share your story.
Anonymity is important. And confidence is priceless. But, silence is deadly. Please share your story with me— here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don’t be silent. Teachers should be valued.
0176: On the necessity of summer for #teachers
#education #teaching #summer #SOSchat
I’ve never, in my time as a teacher, reflected on the necessity of summer beyond my typical “I’m taking a break!” Summer has always been an important time for me to disappear from the stresses of testing and somewhat forget that I’m a stressed out teacher at the end of the year who needs to hibernate for a few months before returning refreshed and ready to work peacefully until the post-X-mas testing rush. Save for the summers I worked on my masters degree I’ve not thought too deeply about why I was veg-ing out.
I have certainly spent my fair share of time in mindless lounging and pleasure reading this summer, but I’ve not been fully able to escape the feeling of urgency in getting back to the crisis at hand. Students need equitable education. They don’t have it. I work with an advocacy group in the south that works to ensure this. I have done so for the past few years alongside my teaching career. States have seen budget cuts that have done untold damage to the educational institutions in my vicinity. The school where I work, though in a different state has not gone unscathed either. Of course, we know the problem runs far deeper than money. Quality, equity, access, bureaucracy, testing, and so forth deeply affect all of our schools. I’ve grown more deeply aware of these problems this year, and finally have done a decent job of matching my action with my understanding (perhaps a self-righteous pat on the back). I digress, I think. I was commenting that I’ve not been able to fully escape the weight of what I should be doing, or the guilt that accompanies thoughts that begin with “I should”.
I have realized this summer the necessity for rest. Some revolutionaries I read often mention the necessity to disappear into the mountains, proverbial or not, in order to function in the world, and further the cause. And, as a note, I mention revolutionaries because I view teaching as a revolutionary act—glean from that what you wish. Anyone working to such an end as the advancement of the ability of one to better function end the world as a thoughtful individual, but dealing with the stresses and burdens of obstructions to this goal such as standardized testing, fear of measuring up to VAMs, and the general politically painful atmosphere that accompanies much of education, etc., etc. needs a blooming break (apologies for the unending nature of the above sentence). Said more succinctly, we’re tired and need a break. I’ve not met a teacher who didn’t need a break. It always seems the first month of summer, for the teachers I know, need the first month just to recover from and process the general craziness of the year that has passed. I certainly need it. The teachers with whom I share my space, physical and beyond, certainly deserve it.
Here’s to some much needed R & R, that we may give it our all when the time comes. Cheers.
0173: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Saying ‘No’ for #Teachers
#education #firstyear #SOSchat
People face many challenges throughout their career. Saying ‘no’ is one of them. While it’s a mere two letter word, it can be one of the most difficult things to say. Many people never learn because they’re afraid (for a variety of reasons) or they never knew they could. Here’s your permission. It becomes harder to say it if you don’t learn to do it early on. It’s a skill that prevents burnout, administrative abuse, feelings of powerless, and so forth. I, of course, am not advocating that anyone shirk their responsibilities; rather, I am hopefully offering you a skill that will give you an element of control, and more important prevent you from being taken complete advantage of. As always, use discretion.
How to say ‘No’
While it should be as easy as saying the word, if you’ve ever tried it’s seldom that easy. You might finding yourself running through numerous scenarios of what might happen if you do say it. Perhaps you’ll be fired, reprimanded, or forgotten. Maybe you’ll lose favor with whoever’s asking. Maybe they won’t ask again. These are all things to take into consideration. Which brings us, I believe, to the crux of the matter: saying ‘no’ without alienating the inquirer or seeming defiant. So how do you do it? A friend offered me something similar to these steps, I’ve found them useful, so I’ll pass them along.
1. Decide if you want to do what they’re asking. Ask for time to think about it.
This is the part where you weigh your options. Is what I’m being asked something I need to do, want to do, have to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, etc. My struggle is often wanting to do more than I have time to do. So when asked, if you need time to think if over, ask. Ask if you can think about it over night. If they press you for an answer, reiterate that you really need some time to think it over. More often than not, the time for consideration will be granted. Of course, there are somethings that the answer is yes before you’re asked. That’s a situation that requires your own judgment, and probably can’t be handled in this limited space.
2. Delivering your answer
You’ve made up your mind. Your answer is no.
Show that you understand their predicament, if there is a predicament. This could also equate with you understanding the weight of the situation, or the need to solve the problem. The main thing is to understand.
b) Express a desire to help them, but not right now.
This is where you’re actually saying ‘no’ without saying it. “I am really interesting in helping you with _________ , but _________.” You want to help or participate, but you’re unable at this time due to whatever. Maybe you have too much on your plate. Maybe something else.
c) Share your desire to do more in the future. Reschedule if you can.
You want to help them. You’re just unable at the moment, but you want to keep the opportunity, better, future opportunities intact. Ask if the task can be rescheduled, if it’s that type of task. Ask to be considered if another opportunity arises.
All together it might sound something like this:
“I understand where your coming from, I see this is very important. I’d really like to help you, but I really have too much on my plate to give it my all. Is there anyway we could reschedule?”
Something like that. Mold it to your situation.
It’s important to remember you’re saying no because you value your time, not because you’re being defiant. It’s your mental health and relationships at stake. You won’t always get your way, but it’s worth a shot. Use your best judgment when saying ‘no’. Every situation is unique. Be wise. Be creative. Be happy.
0127: Can We Build a Grassroots Movement with enough Power to Really Change #Education?
Something drastic needs to be done to alter the course of public education. It has become a testocracy. Curriculums have been molded to dictate that instruction revolves around test prep, rather than best practices in education. The culture of education, teaching, and learning have changed drastically as a result of the testing industry. Regardless of the industries intentions, money is being wasted on testing. Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars have been and are being poured into this industry and related products and services. Many are being crushed under the weight. Ultimately, a generation has received an inappropriate and lacking education. How can we fix this?
I’d like to propose a grassroots movement and organization designed to educate and empower teachers, administrators, and the public about the disastrous effects of the propagation of this education debacle. Perhaps the organization could be called the Center for Teacher Empowerment, or maybe the National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE). The group/movement will work to empower education professionals to create and implement change in classrooms, schools, districts and in state and national politics. The goal will be to empower educator-activists and support them as they enable education communities to create sustainable change from within. Simultaneously, the group/movement will need to acquire and develop a powerful political voice that can influence and dictate policy change. Additionally, attention needs to be granted to changing public opinion about educators and education. The public needs to be educated. Propaganda needs to be countered.
National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE)
1. Empower and educate education-activists to implement and organize sustainable change within their immediate area (classroom, building, district).
2. Build a diverse and powerful grassroots network of educators, parents, communities dedicated to proper educational change.
3. Develop an influential political voice on local, state, and national level.
4. Correct public opinion of educators. Counter negative, show positive, and progressive.
5. Build support
It is important that we talk about making reflective and powerful change. Inaction and silence are not an option. We must carefully build support and take great care not to alienate supporters. I’d like this to be an open conversation. Is something of this magnitude doable? Help me define some goals, tactics, and options. Let’s look at what exists. Let’s join forces. Let’s continue working.
0125: Dear #Students, Take Back Your #Education
#SOSchat @DianeRavitch #occupyedu #revolution
What will it take for learners to take matters of testing into their own hands? Can it be done? Students subconsciously resist abusive testing practices through ‘means’ that have created the classroom management focus we have today. Resistance, conscious or subconscious, is not an option. The human spirit requires rebellion to counter oppression— always. But, what will it take to move this rebellion to the front of the mind? What will be the catalyst for a truly organized kids liberation? Voices from teachers and parents ring loudly against the constant onslaught of corporate reforms and ridiculous education practices. We talk and talk. We continue to teach, when and how we can. Students continue to struggle. The learners are beneath the heel of this entire debacle.
What would happen if, come test day, students didn’t show up at all? What if they all showed up with, say, a stomach bug and soiled all the testing materials with vomit? What if they broke their no. 2 pencils and walked out? What if learners all stood up and demanded to be taught? What if they halted all education until it became their education?
Children are being treated as pawns in this education nightmare. No one should be a victim of his/her education. No one.
Until some mass resistance by students PK-12 begins to end this crisis, there will be minimal change, a lot of rhetoric, and wasted education. We will stand beside you as you continue resisting in your souls and actions. But, we are adults, we grow more and more powerless, we divide into camps and fear for our jobs. We do not have the answer here. The time has come for the children’s liberation once again. Perhaps there is a Mother Jones among you, us, or they? Learners unite, and demand your education. It’s time to flip this pyramid on its point.
Please pass this along. Give it to students, teachers, parents. Education can no longer be denied and deformed.
0123: Teachers as Disruptors of State Sponsored Suppression of the Masses
#occupyedu #revolution #SOSchat
Education functions either as a means of liberation or suppression. It’s difficult to tease the two apart. All that public or formal education claims to be is chock full of contradictions. Less is being done to hide these contradictions, but the rhetoric remains the same. Reformers such as Michelle Rhee claim to be “working tirelessly to build educational environments that foster learning”, while working with entities that function to suppress thought and learning through extreme testing measures. The testing is in the name of good, but has horrific affects. The fallout of all this “good” that has been done is comparable to a Chernobyl disaster of the mind. Minds have been left deformed and incapable of critical thought or participation through rigorous testing practice that leaves no time to develop basic skills. Achievement gaps continue to widen as does The chasm between rich and poor. The language of reform is confusing and misleading. We’re told and tell ourselves, as we’re told, that we are working for good.
But, we see no signs of improvement. Reformers provide us with new slogans to keep morale high.
Is all hopeless? No, but we are certainly seeing the moment nearing it’s crisis. People grow restless as conditions worsen in every area. Slogans only work for so long. What role do educators have in all of this? We function ‘in loco parentis’. We serve in place of the parent in the schools. 8+ hours of the day, 186+ days of the year. We have that much time to aide in the liberation of minds, or suppress them. There are measures taken against us if we work on the behalf of liberation. We will be labeled ineffective enemies of by those who work “tirelessly” to “foster learning”. If we do not work to civically engage our students; that is, to engage them and help them engage in critical dialogue and deepen their understanding of their own world, then we help our nations and fellow people slip deeper into apathy and passivity. ‘In loco parentis’ puts us in a place to disrupt suppression of minds. We must take that opportunity.
Teachers can no longer afford to just be teachers. We cannot be passive. The People pass through our classrooms; they stay there for 13 + years. We have to unite as teachers and ensure the best possible education for those in our care, even of its an underground curriculum, and it will be. We cannot afford to let “Education” destroy generations and minds and souls. We must enable critical learning. We must disrupt this travesty.