TEACHING IS WHAT I DO – NOT WHO I AM

THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

Part of teaching is how we spend our “down time”.  What do we do when we are not in the classroom or at home correcting papers, preparing paperwork or planning for next week is just as important.  That is what makes us a complete person, teaching is what I do as my profession, it is not who I am.  That is something that many people forget – that they are not what they do for a living, there is so much more to a person than what they do for work.

I plan to show you the reader other parts of the whole person that I am, not only the teacher part.  I hope that you will enjoy this small change to this blog, because it will be a regular feature in My Thoughts in the future.

It was a relatively pleasant day here in Maine, so my wife and I took advantage of it and went for a couple hour walk this afternoon. Here are a few of the photos that I took this afternoon.

This was definitely the saddest part of our walk, last year they came in cut this part.  This was an old beaver pond, if you look below this picture, I have added a picture of how it looked before the cutting.

I call all of the smokey areas “spirits of the forest” who no longer have a home, because they are not in the other photos I took today — only of the areas that were clear cut.

Same picture from almost the same angle a year earlier.

I understand the financial reasons behind going in and cutting an area, but at the same time…it just bothers me to know what was there vs what is there now.  The natural beauty that has been lost, for someone to have a few dollars more.

Overall, it was a great walk, just a little brisk at first, but still enjoyable.  This is one of the major things that I love to do when I am not a teacher, being outside: hiking, fishing, kayaking, hunting and taking pictures whenever I can.  I guess I am just a very visual person and enjoy the beauty in ordinary things that I look at.

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THE LITTLE VICTORIES ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT

THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

Alfond Middle SchoolImage by hshawjr via Flickr

I was out sick on Tuesday and when I came back on Wednesday (still about 60% sick) there were the usual stack of papers on my desk (actually a few less than usual thanks to Google Docs) and a note from the substitute teacher, that explained how the studentsbehaved during the day.

Some did really well, but some of the others didn’t have good days. The sub gave me the names of the naughty and nice list.  On it were the names of some of the usual suspects (the coal burner brigade), but there were some others too, that surprised me.  The “others” are students who were pretty “interesting” when I first arrived, but have done really well and made a lot of progress since then.

This note made me stop and reflect on the progress that many students in my classes have made since October 5th.

  • The kiddo that didn’t do school – who now shows up almost every day and tries in class
  • The student who doesn’t care about others – showing a spark of humanity by asking how someone is doing and actually meaning it.
  • A tough kid using “super squirrel” to show good things and a great imagination.
  • A different tough kid calming down and smiling during classes, without being overwhelmed and attempting to be bad, instead of stupid.
  • 3-4 kids who were picking on a certain kid when I first arrived and last week they advocated to me to do something in class where his expertise could be used by the rest of the class.
  • the students that fought me tooth and nail to not read, who now beg to keep reading a few more minutes to the end of the page, the end of the chapter, etc.

There are a multitude of these kind of small victories in my classes and it makes me smile to think about the progress that many of my students have made.  These may seem inconsequential to those outside of the school, but to the students, their families and me these seemingly insignificant student victories are so very important.

The thing is that these are the battles that we teachers are winning everyday, it is not easy work, it is not even be noticeable on many days, but the changes are there and it is noticed by those who are living it.  Have you looked at the positive differences in many of your students since the start of the school year? Multiply these little victories by the number of classrooms we have in our Country, the number suddenly becomes pretty significant…but there is no standardized test to measure these positive changes in a student’s education or their life.

This note also reminded me of the many students that I met at Good-Will Hinckley over the years.  How many of them were on someone’s “coal burner” list at some time or many times, but now that they are adults, many of them are turning out pretty well.  They needed that stable environment to give themselves a chance to be more than they thought they could.  Is it sometimes the job of the school to simply provide a stable environment for students, to have a chance to get through those tough teen-age years.

I think that many of the policy makers have gotten so involved in the macro-education world, that one where students have become part of a number, that they have forgotten to look at students as individuals who have a wide variety of strengths, weakness, dreams and desires.   What the policy makers statistics and rhetoric show as a failing system, is actually a fairly effective system, that needed tweaking, not a major overhaul.  But we have gotten major overhauls any way as NCLB, RTTP and the Common Core Standards have shown.

We as educators need to continue to remind policy-makers and others, that school is not about being a number or part of a number, it is about the individual student and the progress that that those individual students make over the course of a hour, day, week, month, year or lifetime, not a snapshot that is permanently recorded into a standard score.

That is what we need to make schools be – a place where success is possible and where impossible successes are a reality.

Have you made a difference today? How?

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ALL THE NEGATIVITY IS UNDERMINING EDUCATION/EDUCATORS

THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

The re-drawn chart comparing the various gradi...Image via Wikipedia

The power of being positive in educationcan not be underestimated.  How powerful is it and what affect does it have on people?  Unfortunately, in today’s world the focus towards education is on the negatives.
Every day I read the headlines in my feeds and the local newspaper(yes I still look at the paper).  Much of what I see is so negative:

budget shortfalls are closing many of the smaller local schools

school systems are laying off employees

that we need a national curriculum or national common core standards

politicians spouting rhetoric and about how they are going to change education for the better

that increasing standardized tests are the answer to education’s problems

student standardized test scores are down or not improving, therefore we must be failing as a nation educationally

how teacher performance evaluations need to be tied to student standardized test scores

bad and lazy teachers are the problem

statistics showing how Charter schools are out-performing public education

and the host of other “stuff” that is in the news and the constant parade of statistics that shows how bad schools and teachers are.

Based on everything I read from politicians and hear in the news I have to wonder –“am I a member of a profession that is generally considered to be incompetent by many in leadership positions?”
My personal experience with several school systems (having been in military I saw more than my share) and since I have become an education insider (a teacher) is:

I absolutely do not believe that that vast majority of my chosen profession is incompetent or unable/unwilling to professionally teach students.  

In fact I strongly believe the opposite is true, I find that most educators want to teach students effectively and are willing to do what is necessary to ensure that they do.

How many other professions routinely give of their own time to their company (not charging for overtime) by routinely working 60-70 hours a week, using their own money to see that a child eats or has clothes?   How many teachers do you know that bring in extra food for lunch or have a food stash in their desk for the student that comes in and says I am hungry?  In most schools this happens every day.

The news and our political leadership doesn’t highlight the positive things that we do over the course of a school year, yet why do they continue to choose to accentuate the negative?

What would happen if they focused on what we in education do right and expanded on those things, instead of proposing or making mandates that have little value in the real world classroom in our schools.  I just wonder if suddenly our schools would once again regain much of their lost luster?

I believe that they would!  

As my Statistics teacher once told me “You can make statistics say whatever you want them to, so it is important to know what you are talking about when you use statistics to analyze anything.”  Those words stuck with me throughout my military career and seems even more important now that I am an educator.  I tend look at any statistical analysis with a “jaded” eye and attempt to find out the bias of the author or user of those statistics before I embrace the “facts” they may or may not bring out.

I believe it is past time for educators and schools to really push to our political leadership and the media (local and national) what we in education do correctly.  That we do a great job with the resources and support that we have.  Yes there are some problem areas, but let’s work to address those small areas instead using a shotgun approach to overhaul the entire system and throwing out what is actually working.  We don’t have to use rhetoric or vitriol to tell our story, but we have to get our stories told and heard about the progress we are making in the education of our students.

The constant bombardment of negativity is undermining the public’s view of schools and teachers.  It is affecting teacher morale and performance in the classroom.  Ultimately, all this negativity is starting to affect student performance in the classroom, which is to me is the biggest problem.   The undermining of “respect” that many students have for teachers, is becoming very noticeable. I believe it is directly attributable to the negativity and lack of respect that is being shown by our leadership at the local, state and national levels for teachers.

I guess it comes down to whether our leadership is looking to have the American Educational System remain a publicly financed system or should education be taken over and become privatized (Free Enterprise) with the owner’s profit as the over-riding goal?

What do you think?  Are my thoughts that I have expressed above accurate or are they not?

If they are not please provide me with the reasons why they are not.

Have you made a difference today? How?

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