Round and around

August 25, 2011

“We have yielded to the arrogance of “big businessmen,” consented to measure results of educational efforts in terms of price and product. Education deals with human organisms…it’s not analogous to a standardizable manufacturing process. It must measure its efficiency not in terms of promotions per dollar of expenditure, nor student-hours per dollar of salary, but rather increased humanism, … increased capacity to appreciate”. -The American Teacher 1912


What Americans think about public schools

August 19, 2011

I am a fan of the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll.  I enjoy looking at the survey data and reading about themes emerging from the public perception of schools.  In addition, the report contains sidebars from education researchers, teachers, and politicians about public schools today.  I frequently use this poll in my graduate policy classes to stimulate discussion about the reality of teaching and schools and the public perception.  Below is the highlights page from PDK. This is not my summary, but the actual 1st page of the document from PDK.  The entire Poll and results are linked below and can be accessed at   http://www.pdkintl.org/poll/index.htm .

Highlights of the 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll

TEACHING AS A CAREER

We think it would be great if our children became teachers, and we think having more science teachers is just as important as having more scientists.

UNIONS

About half of us believe teacher unions are hurting public education. However, governors should tread cautiously because we’re more likely to support teacher union leaders than governors in disputes over teacher collective bargaining.

SALARIES

When calculating a teacher’s salary, consider multiple factors including the principal’s evaluation, advanced degrees, and experience.

LAYOFFS

When making decisions about layoffs, listen to what the principal says about a teacher. Weigh that evaluation more heavily than the rule of last hired-first fired.

QUALITY TEACHING

We’ll take larger classes with more effective teachers over smaller classes with less effective teachers and access to higher-quality instruction over the Internet over learning in a classroom with a less effective teacher. The message: Quality counts.

CHOICE

We increasingly like charter schools, but we remain unconvinced that vouchers are a good idea.

E-READERS

We think e-readers are a better idea for older students than younger students.

FINANCES

Lack of money is the biggest problem facing public schools; we don’t worry as much about poor student discipline and drugs as we used to.

PERCEPTIONS OF QUALITY

We’re proud of the schools we know and think less of the schools we don’t know — it’s a matter of local pride.

The 2011 PDK/Gallup poll results are available at http://www.pdkpoll.org. An app containing the entire poll is also available for a free download at the iTunes store. Search for Phi Delta Kappan.


The empty room

August 15, 2011

Many schools started the new academic year today.  My school does not officially begin until after Labor Day with teachers returning the week before.  Today, two weeks prior, I am sitting in my empty classroom.   Desks are stacked from the carpet cleaning, it is hot and stuffy, my computer had to be re-assembled but I am sitting at my desk looking around at the the visuals I left on the walls when I left in June and enjoying the whirr of the air conditioner.

The empty room is one of possibilities.  I can re-arrange my desks. I can put up new posters to catch student interest. I can design stimulating presentations for my SmartBoard with interactivity to keep everyone engaged. The empty room is the calm before the storm. I am allowed to think about the upcoming year, the students I do not know yet, the changes I want to make to be better each year.  I can change everything or nothing at all.

When I came to campus today I went straight to my room.  I am avoiding the front office so far because it is a reminder of all the things that go along with the start of a school year. Administrative things. Test scores. My department members who dread another year. The extra duties. The loss of family time. The political realities that have dictated less pay, more hours, less resources, more challenges.  But this room. Room 622 is mine. My cave…for the moment.

There are moments like this quiet time in my empty room when I am reminded how fortunate I am to teach. This is what I am supposed to do. The room will not be empty for long.  In two weeks, I will have 150 students pouring through the door throughout the day, seeking information and knowledge, solace and excitement, hoping for friendship and success.  Filled with bodies and voices and brains, the room changes it character. A small cave to be defined by its inhabitants.

Every year there is change. Every period is different. Every student unique. I set out to define the academic year based on my goals and those mandated to me, but it is the evolution of students and the school year that force adaptability and flexibility. I accept the challenge.

This room has potential. I can begin to fill the space, but no matter what I do now, the room requires more. Until each desk is filled, and bells ring, and books and minds open, this is nothing but an empty room.


The power of one voice

August 6, 2011

I would like to thank Diane Ravitch for a shout out to this little blog.

Diane Ravitch has a voice that resonates with teachers and education reformers.  She has a audience of people who applaud her and those that criticize her.  She is a powerful voice. So powerful that some fear her.  But she continues to talk. She continues to ask questions. She is a strong supporter of public education and teachers.  For these reasons, I admire her.

Ravitch’s mention of this blog (voicefromtheclassroom) and several other blogs written by teachers demonstrates the power of her voice. If only for a glance, more people clicked on this site.  That is exciting.  For a moment,  I don’t feel like I am yelling into my pillow.  There is a compassionate and curious audience that is interested in dialogue. Maybe there will even be a few that are interested in what I have to say. That is exciting.

Thank you again, Ms. Ravitch, for calling on me. I look forward to more contributions, more writing, more thinking, on behalf of teachers in the classroom.

 


Teachers and policy making

August 3, 2011

Governor Brown announced six new appointments to the CTC.

I interviewed for a seat, but I am not on this list.  I was told “The Governor has decided to go in a different direction.”  That makes me ponder… what direction was I?  

I fancy myself an expert on the State of California educational policy making (you know… dissertation, research, participation on COA).  I wanted to serve on the Commission, but from what I can tell from short bios, the new appointments are quality educators and I look forward to watching their actions on the Commission. 

One appointment I am thrilled with is Linda Darling-Hammond.  She will serve on the CTC (pending Senate approval) and she is a true educator advocate.  Her policy knowledge, philosophy and body of work will help to inform teacher preparation and oversight.  Read current commentary by Darling-Hammond:  The mess we are in

There are many opportunities for teachers to be involved in policy making.  I hope teachers will accept leadership roles and their school administrators will support them.  There is important work to do and we need to be involved.

Get to work.