"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Teachers Would Like to Say

Yes...this explains a lot!

ruralteacher, a blogger who
was born in small town. Went to school in that same small town. Now I teach in that same small town.
The number one thing that ruralteacher would like to say out loud, but feels like s/he cannot is...
My name. In my small town, if I ever attached my name to this blog, I’m not sure what would happen. Perhaps I would be praised, and perhaps I would be called to the Principal or Superintendent’s Office and politely asked to stop. The stories I tell are MY stories, but there are others that could be impacted if my identity were known. This is the FEAR that teachers live with – fear of speaking up and out because we, quite honestly, have mouths to feed, kids to put through college, and mortgages and taxes to pay. It’s gotten so bad that many of us don’t speak up at Faculty Meetings or Union Meetings – we just put our heads down, dance faster, work harder and wonder how long til we can retire because teaching has become WORK...
ruralteacher has 9 additional things that s/he would like to be able to say out loud...

You can read the complete list (with nothing edited out and without my interrupting comments) at Top 10 Things I Wish I Could Say Out Loud by rural teacher
10. The State Tests, SATs, ACTs and any other High Stakes Test that you take will NOT predict your future success in life. If anyone tells you that your success in life – as a productive citizen who is well-adjusted- depends on a TEST score, they are LYING TO YOU! Your life, your child’s life will be measured in many ways, but I can guarantee you that NO ONE is going to care what score you or your child got on a 3rd grade State Assessment...
9. I did NOT become a teacher to have my summers off! ...My summers are spent cleaning up last year and preparing for next year....I am in my classroom unpacking supplies, rearranging the room, organizing materials, throwing out what didn’t work, washing the cupboards, dusting the shelves, and planning the ‘big picture’ for my new students. Sometimes, I’m at endless training sessions by choice or at the demand of my school district...
In addition, the amount of time which teachers spent working during the school year makes up for some of the time off. The average teacher works about 50 hours a week which more than makes up for the time "off" during the summer.
8. I only get paid for 10 months of work. As my school district continually points out to me: I am a 10 month employee. I get a salary for 10 months’ work that I must spread over 12 months of living.
Twenty years ago (or more) I was in the post office in our small town. I was talking to the postmaster (who has long since retired) about my job as a teacher. He said something about vacation days. I said that we get no paid vacation. When I was teaching I was paid for 185 days of work. That was all. Summer, Spring and Christmas "vacations" were just days off...no pay. He refused to believe me.
7. Having tenure does not mean I have my job “for life” no matter what I do. All that being “tenured” guarantees me is due process and some representation in the event that I am accused of something that would warrant my dismissal as a teacher. Actually, with a contract, there are very easy ways for an administration to terminate me whether I have tenure or not: consistently being late, not completing report cards, any failure to complete my “job duties”, and now in NY two years of an “ineffective” student test score rating...
6. Going to school sick is better than writing plans for a substitute. I actually have LOTS of accumulated sick time simply because it’s MUCH easier to go to school and get through the day with a pounding headache or a cough than it is to try to write plans for a sub....my plans have to actually include so much step by step detail that it’s just easier to go to school...
There were days when I was so sick that I would get in my car, drive the 45 minutes to Monroeville Elementary, add step by step details to my plans, drive the 45 minutes back home, and fall back into bed.

I started my teaching career as a substitute. That experience taught me that being a substitute teacher is one of the hardest jobs in public education. Classroom teachers are child-watchers. They learn about their students through interaction and conversation as well as instruction and assessment. Much of that knowledge about their students is not written down...indeed, writing it down would be impossibly tedious especially in this age of large class sizes. This is what makes classroom teachers so valuable when it comes to analyzing student achievement (and, I might add, this is what more "reformers" don't understand). A good substitute doesn't have this knowledge. The step by step instructions which classroom teachers leave for substitutes includes more than just a daily schedule and a list of assignments. It includes details about students...who needs extra help, who has behavior issues, who needs an extra pat on the back, who is having trouble at home, who is helpful...all those things that can't be measured by standardized tests. A sub has to be able to take in all that information as well as the actual lesson plans during the 30 minutes between the time she arrives and the time the students arrive.

Yes, it's often easier to go to work when you're sick...
5. The Principal’s Office and the Superintendent’s Office are STILL scary places to be! When I get the phone call or the email or the written note that the Principal or Superintendent wants to see me – I tremble a little. I start to wonder if a parent has a concern that he or she didn’t address with me...Worst are the ‘direct, explicit instructions’ to do or not do something that I know would be good for kids. If I don’t follow those instructions – I am insubordinate and could be fired.
The last comment in this item is the most important. Every day, teachers are asked to do things which they know are not in the best interest of their students. If they don't do them they can get fired (yes, they can get fired. Mr. Statistician, I'm talking to you!). If they do them they are betraying their professional responsibility.
4. The Board of Education, the Governor, the President are taking advice and making decisions about your child’s education from people who have never taught a day in their lives! All the talk about EDUCATION REFORM in the US is being framed and led by people who have little to no experience as classroom teachers in any capacity. The ideas that are gaining momentum – more testing, using test data to rate teachers, privatizing schools, creating MORE charter schools – are NOT based on anything that educators know about child development, developmentally appropriate practices, or what we have learned about LEARNING.
The Secretary of Education of the United States has never taught in a public school (or anywhere else, for that matter). He attended private schools as a child. He is responsible for the current administration's education policy. President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and the other candidates for US President, have never taught in the public schools of the US. Neither has Joel Klein, former chancellor of NYC schools or NYC Mayor Michael Bloomburg.

Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Oprah Winfrey, billionaires who throw money at "reformers", have never stood in front of a classroom (except perhaps as a "guest") and been responsible for the education of children.

Michelle Rhee taught for three years...
3. The “experts” you see on TV during things like NBC’s “Education Nation” or in the movie “Waiting for Superman” do NOT have children’s best interests at heart. Sadly, many of the ‘experts’ are simply folks who have a whole heck of a lot of money and have decided to use it to shape education policy so that they can get richer. It’s interesting when you start to follow the money – from the approved test vendors to the pockets of the politicians. These ‘experts’ are looking to grab a piece of the pie in the form of MORE MONEY FOR THEM on the backs and lives of your children. They are shaping policies that have no basis in what may actually be good for students, but instead in what is good to add to their piles of money.

2. Even though, as a teacher I am vilified in the press, I still LOVE teaching! Teaching and being a teacher is MY LIFE. The smiles, the hugs, the drawings, the ‘aha moments’ that I get to see MAKE MY DAY! I am so lucky to have a career that I truly love- when I am left to do what I do best – TEACH!! I never imagined doing anything else with my life. I haven’t gone on to be an administrator because I honestly love being with my students every day. I would miss it terribly if I couldn’t do it.
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