Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5 Things We Should Stop Pretending....4 Student's Point of View...and my own

I decided that because we were hearing from a plethora of teachers, that I would involve some my high school students here today. There are four of them and we needed 5 reasons, so the 5th is my own. So to answer the call out by Mr Wesley Fryer who was answering the calling by Mr Scott McLeod

...here they go in no particular order. They are written by the kids, proofread by me, and cleaned up by the kids after consulting with me. 

1.  Schools need to stop pretending that we all intend on going to college. I have no plans to go to school after I graduate high school. Why are you making me take algebra 2? Why must I take a foreign language? Now you are going to require I take CPR too? My parents can't even tell me what they use algebra 2 for and they went to college. In Oklahoma there are now two different paths to take, college bound and "the dumb kids" route. I feel like schools put labels on us. Sometimes you make us different when there was no difference before.  - Chanceton W. 

2. Teachers need to stop pretending students are all on the same page. My best friend Austin and I are in the same classes, but couldn't be farther apart. He always gets it the first time it's taught. He gets his homework in on time. He is the poster child of the perfect student. I am a B or C student. I often have trouble turning in work and even now staying on pace. I moved to my new school to move at my speed not Austin's or any other person in the class. I am happier here. I an in a class of one and I don't feel stupid. Do you have any clue the pressure a teen feels to raise his hand and so I don't get it when you ask your judging question, "does everyone get it?" No! not everyone gets it, but if the girl I like sees that I don;t get it maybe she won't go out with me if her friends think I am not smart. PS, I am over making decisions based on whether girls will like me. That was in my old school. - Troy V.

3. You want respect? Give it. I totally get that you have a degree and you are the teacher. That awards you a little more respect. But you patronize us. You act as if you need to put us in our place when we bring up a new fact. Guess what, I have a smartphone. I have caught you being wrong. If I treated you like you treat me sometimes (even with my "teenage hormones" taking it harder than I probably should) then you would be in detention for talking under your breath too. You are not always smarter than us and you're not always right. I am obviously speaking of one teacher. -Kylie C. 

4. Just because someone in the class does something, doesn't mean you have to get on to all of us. When I was at my old school, there were kids that would get into trouble and then when the teachers sent the kids to the principals office he would always start lecturing us on why it irritates him when WE all act like that. The problem was gone and you still want to talk about it so you are going to get onto us? We are not the same as that kid. Not even all of us laugh at that kid. Don't make me pay for the sins of another. -Carson L.

5. We need to stop pretending as if teachers have any power of outcomes in their classroom. Really! I mean, the ones we are graded upon. I know we really produce outcomes but "they" don't know that. Teachers are not awarded the simple luxury of being able to govern themselves. Because the system works like an upside down birthday cake, we cannot pretend any longer that the results of the students in our great state belong to us. Look at the cake below and think of it as a large body of lawmakers, mandating what the districts (the middle layer) can and cannot do, down to the teachers who must please the district so the district can then turn around to the lawmakers and get what? Graded by results? And let get real, a single test? That is how you want to find out if we are working hard? Gosh, nobody gets graded that harshly in real life...wait, right, the kids do! Well I say "Nope!".

Take 'em back legislators. Those results are yours. We are not professionals. We are only carrying out the droll assignment you hand down to us. 

Doctors are professionals, they govern themselves and set their own standards. Lawyers too are professionals. They to can govern themselves and set their own standards. We must beg for a piece legislature to help us. We must beg for legislators to stop putting us down. We must beg on our knees like dogs to sway our Senators and Representatives to vote our way to make any sort of difference. I say we all lay down our rocks at once and pick up swords swinging at the shared vision that we be seen as professionals. Let us get higher degrees and govern our own standards. Every legislative session we ask the same question. Why are a bunch of people who have never been teachers making decisions about how we do our job? The answer, BECAUSE WE LET THEM! - Erin Barnes

Saturday, April 4, 2015

If I Were King...for whatever reason

I was asked where I work this week. It went something like this... "I work for Epic Charter School!"

And then I get the..."oh, hm.!

And then I am all - you dismissive cuss! I could teach you a few things too. Except I don't really say that, but I am forced to word vomit all over the guy telling him about my school and how it really is closer to his than he thinks. And damnit I am feeling on the defensive and I am good at what I do.
I was asked to write an essay this week in one of my Grad classes. The topic was along the lines of Jason James prompting March 23rd, so I will share. Better late than never? If I were King of #Oklaed. Sorry it’s 667 words...
I have a beef with public schooling. It is not something housed in your school building. It is housed in your heart and mind. I dislike greatly the competition between schools and districts. I am not talking about the Jenks v Union rivalries.  I abhor that there has to be a huge fight between types of schools. I WORK FOR A CHARTER. I said it. I do.
In the consultant and educational leader circles, which I often associate with, there is a huge line drawn in the sand about how the teacher in the traditional public school has to be better because they have far more dire circumstances to overcome. I saw 4 articles in #oklaed this week dealing with charters and school choice.
This argument infuriates me because in the very next conversation “they” wish for a more direct route to teaching; they want less barriers and more pay.
In my school, I have less barriers and if I do my job well, I get more pay.

Sidebar - we are an open charter with nearly 5000 students in all 77 counties of this great state. We take them all.

I have the things teachers long for and now I am scrutinized for it.  I work for a charter, therefore my ideas now have far less weight behind them. I have fewer obstacles standing in my way so I get to REALLY teach. The kind of teaching that teachers sometimes see in the movies and think doesn’t exist.
I want my school to perform among one of the highest in the state. It’s not there yet, not close. I don’t think there should be an asterisk next to my name or qualifications just because my school operates in a building or without one. My credentials should be no less equitable to another teacher because my curriculum is textbook and lecture based or virtually delivered. When it comes down to it, we know...there is science backed research that says children do not learn the same content the same way across the board. We now teach to multiple intelligences and develop individualized approaches to the child. We have been breaking lessons into small groups for years to reach children at their abilities. Why does the location of this learning make me or the next person any less of a teacher?
If I had the power to fix this it would come from mandatory visits each year to the different schools across the state. We need to share ideas and learn the approaches that are working with the successful schools and their students. We need to bring SOME of those ideas back into our building or district. We should welcome opportunities for this kind of growth.  A great economy is held together by applying a little bit of each theory in moderation. I think that schooling our youth can be done in much the same manner. It will take leaders who are ready to risk being open and vulnerable. It will take district leaders who are ready to break a mold.

That is all, let the wrecking balls demolish and the torches be thrown.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Success Equals...

I was challenged late last week by Scott Haselwood. https://haselwoodmath.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/teaching-from-here/

I was challenged to define Success.

It only took a week and I still am not sure I have my thoughts completely straight. Well, here goes something...

Dictionary.com defines success as:

I never set out to be a teacher. I really did get into it for the summer's off. I got the gig, does that equal success? Turns out that I am pretty decent at the gig. Does that equal success? I have never earned an award, and I do not see a future when this country will ever decide that a teacher should be wealthy due to their hard work. I  do however, want to be a part of the change. I want to contribute. I want to help. Does that equal success

I grew up in three different types of homes. My moms, her boyfriends' (yes, that is the right form of plural) and my dad's house over the summer. Each had their own version of rules. I would say the coming of age years were spent on the wrong side of the tracks or at least the wrong side of decision making. But I am now providing a stable home for my kids and modeling real love with my husband of 11 years for my kids. Success.

I was a high school dropout. Yes, a statistic. But I went back to school, became a teacher, and am now in Grad School working toward a Masters in Ed. Leadership. Success.

I made a million horrible choices as a teenager, maybe even a million and one. But now I help teenagers with their decisions. I walk them through how to talk to their parents...now that I have a parent's perspective. Success

I do not always know what I want to do. Even at the age of 35, I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. And it seems as if I am not as simple with my definition as Merriam Webster. After looking over and over my words, I in my opinion, I am the definition of success. I am flawed, but I think you have to be on the way to success.

I do not anticipate this post will get many hits, but at the end of it, turns out I didn't write it for you.