Reality Teaching

March 28, 2011

I had one of those teaching days where everything clicked. My 3rd period even had one of those rare TV/movie moments where I made my final, poignant point, said we would pick up there tomorrow and the bell rang. Teaching bell to bell. Fantastic stuff. My lessons used technology and had high degrees of student engagement. One student even complimented the class and said, “This was a good day.”

How did this day happen this way and why is it a rarity? The amount of time I spent preparing for the week over the weekend was a factor. I devoted hours to grading, researching, editing, prepping and today it paid off. I think it is the first time in a long time I had everything graded that needed to be graded (except for the 80 1600 word essays sitting in my email folder. I’ll get to them…)! And every activity in class was focused and strategized.

Public expectations regarding a school day fascinates me. Most people have nostalgic memory of their schooling experiences and tend to remember the social aspects more than the academics. Good and bad teachers stand out in their minds, but the day to day stuff has been erased by years gone by. And so the public feeds its perception through the media view of schools and schooling. They read the news stories about the errant teachers who abuse their positions and cross lines with students who trusted them. They watch movies and TV shows that show teachers who abuse their positions and cross lines with students who are really adults acting like kids. And while some TV and movies show the amazing possibilities of teaching (Stand and Deliver; Freedom Writers; Dangerous Minds) the stories are sensationalized to leave viewers with belief that with a teacher who goes above and beyond and deeply cares for students success for all is possible.

There is an image perpetuated by modern media of a super-teacher who pulls off the perfect lessons everyday. Rapt students, fully engaged, learning super-curriculum in the most interesting way. The Super Teacher ends every lesson with the important point delivered right before the bell rings. Students walk away from the lesson with great knowledge and great motivation that they will retain for the rest of their life… or at least hopefully until tomorrow when the lesson continues.

I am the reality. There are good teaching days and there are bad teaching days. There are good lessons and some that fall flat. And, there are good students and not so good students. Sometimes, it does not matter what I do… results stay the same. I love the days I am a super teacher…effective, committed, organized, caring, prepared… and I figure out the days when things did not work so well. What will my students remember in their future?


Waiting for legislation

March 24, 2011

Budget creation is an ugly process.

In the state of California, the budget battle impacts education funding dramatically and school districts are currently working on Plan A (cut some millions) and Plan B (cut a lot more millions).   As my district administrators contemplate how much deeper cuts go and  how many more programs will be lost, we sit and wait for news from Sacramento that determines which plan is put into place.

The new Governor (Democrat)  has a solution: continue collecting revenue from the temporary tax extensions instituted by the previous Governor (Republican). It is not the perfect cure, but is staves off Plan B. It is also not a decree, but a vote from the people that determines the outcome….IF the measure reaches a  ballot in a special election. The problem is that a core group of State Senators (Republicans) are pressuring their caucus members not to vote.  The current report is that the measure is shy two votes in each state house, the Assembly and the Senate.  The state is being held hostage.

There is no guarantee that the proposal would get voters approval, but at least the voters weigh in and own the decision. At least some decision would allow school districts to develop realistic operating plans for next year. The budget reality shapes teaching and learning now and for the future.

We need advocates to take this conversation out of the back halls of Sacramento buildings and into the voting booths. Too often we watch and wonder what will happen next. We wait for someone to tell us our fate. We plan with possibilities and fear the results.

I am sick of waiting.

What I know for sure

March 21, 2011

I have always wanted to be a teacher.

In second grade, I was a precocious 7 year old who decided I could do a better job managing a class than my teacher.  The grade I wanted to teach changed as I grew up.  I always wanted to teach the grade I was in! An inspirational teacher in high school, Mr. French, really showed me the power of effective teaching and the whole world opened up.

I settled in as a social science teacher at the secondary level. That is the general description of what I do and as stated on my teaching credential I can teach any social science class for 7-12th grade. And actually, I have taught EVERY class under the umbrella of social science.  However, my experience, expertise, and passion lies with teaching 11th and 12th  graders government and economics.

Whether I say that I chose the teaching profession or it chose me, I truly see it as my calling. Teaching is what I do. Teaching embeds itself into my life and is a part of who I am. I identify as a teacher.

I read a post on the Daily Kos by thallir (read it here) that relates a story similar to mine.  I want to teach. I want to continue to do what I believe I have done well for 23 years. I am confused and frustrated by the current attack on me and my profession.

I take it personally.  I feel like conversations about education are running in circles.  People have so much to complain about but no feasible solutions. I’m scared for my profession and I contemplate what else I can do.

What I know for sure is the power of education. I know I play a role in bringing education to others and I believe I have a role to play in this age of reform and policy questions. Invite me into the conversation. Listen to my thoughts and let me be one voice.

One voice

March 19, 2011

Teachers!  We need to talk.

Our profession is under fire. Big questions about teaching and learning are being discussed by people who do not understand classroom realities. It is time for those in the classroom to speak up! 

The intent of this forum is to be a voice. I am one voice representing many.  I am willing to defend my chosen profession.  I invite you to join me.