Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Present Wrapped in Poop

Respect. Teachers deserve it. Most folks think so. But it seems to be lip service a lot of the time, even by our employers.

As teachers, we are often told by the public what an important job we do - that we are valued and loved. But the reality is that for the amount of education we have, and the hours we spend - when you look at professions with equal demands on their time and education levels, teaching is not valued at all.

But that is not the point here. That is all well documented in many other places. My point is the disrespect we receive from within our own profession. From those in the district office. From those who make wonderful speeches at meetings and professional development trainings. From those who say one thing, but whose actions communicate something else entirely.

There are so many examples....... where should I begin? How about claiming to value questions and pushing back, but being reprimanded when doing so? To be told it's not about test scores, to teach and value the whole child, while in the meantime your principal is ripped a new one when those scores are not high enough. To be asked to be an honored member of a "special committee," only to find out it is nothing but a thankless job requiring many grueling hours of your time. Grunt work so someone at the district office doesn't have to do it.

Then of course there are those "presents wrapped in poop." Gifts that seem amazing, but disrespect you in so many ways. For example, being allowed to attend a conference - all expenses paid. Sounds amazing, right? Excepts for the parts where you don't arrive until 1:00 in the morning and have to be up at the crack of dawn, have to share a bed with a total stranger because the district didn't bother to get rooms with two beds, and schedule your flight home so that you do not even have a little bit of time to enjoy the location where you are staying. And let's not forget flying in and out of the most inconvenient airport possible. Now, this isn't true for everyone who attends. District and other select folks received earlier flights in and later flights out at more local airports, rooms where each person had their own bed, and time to enjoy themselves a bit in the location.

My teacher friends who have worked in other professions are always shocked by how crappy we are treated. They always tell me how this wouldn't stand in other professions. But we teachers just suck it up. We are just grateful for what we get I suppose. Grateful for those presents wrapped in poop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Case for the Teacher's Desk

I love the whole "Flexible Seating" movement. Seriously. It is the best thing for kids. Get rid of traditional seating. Get rid of traditional kids' desks. Grab your bean bags, grab your fun chairs, grab your yoga balls, grab your pillows, grab your wheeled tables that can go up, down, sideways, and every which way. Have at it.

But get your hands off my desk.

Who spends the most time in OUR classroom? Me. I say OUR because it is OUR classroom. Yes, we are all there for our students. But I am there the most. I am there before school, after school, during recess, during lunch, and on weekends sometimes. I come in early during summer, and I am there long after I need to be once school is out for summer.

I deserve one spot to call my own. One spot that is adult size, adult height, with a comfortable adult chair, and an adult desk. I need a space to plan and work. I need a space to reflect, decompress, laugh, and cry. I need a space to store my pens, pencils, thank you cards, and feminine hygiene products. (Yeah, I said it.) I need a place to keep my slippers and comfy socks for those days when my feet are killing me. I need a place to store the candy stash when I NEED A PIECE OF FREAKIN' CANDY. I need a place to keep my color printer that I bought with my own money so I can print the amazing products my students create. I need a place to store my stash of crackers and granola bars for when a student comes to school hungry. I need a place to store my worry rock that I rub when I am stressed.

I spend more time in our classroom than anyone else. Don't I deserve one spot that belongs to me?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Leadership 101

I have worked for many principals. I also have an administrative credential, and have been in many teacher leadership positions. There are a few things I know for sure about being a principal and a leader:

1. I would never want to be a principal.  I know it is a tough job. But if you make the choice, then own it and do it right.
2. You must never forget what it is like to be a teacher and a student.
3. Talk, talk, talk to people before you make decisions. Always.
4. You must see yourself as an equal; you are no better than anyone else. Everyone is a part of the puzzle. Everyone does an important job. You, as a leader, must recognize that and lift everyone up.
5. Yes, there are tough parts of the job. But that is why the principal makes more money.
6. People will want to work for with you if you create an atmosphere of harmony and caring. No one wants to work for someone who lays down mandates and rules with an iron first, reminding others, "I am the boss," whether it be by actions, words, or both.
7. Be a good listener.
8. Be a good listener.
9. Be a good listener.
10. Don't ever hide the fact that you don't know all the answers. Everyone knows you don't. You gain much more respect when you admit that fact.
11. Admit when you make mistakes.
12. Lead with love.

This list, for the most part, works just as well for teachers. And I know I will think of more. But we all need to remember this when we step into a leadership role: How do I want to be led?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not Next Year, NOW!

As teachers, it's easy to get overwhelmed. It's easy to blow it off and say "next year." It's easy when it's other people's kids. But your perspective changes when you are a parent. I am not saying you have to be a parent to be a good teacher, but your perspective changes. What you do matters RIGHT NOW for the kids in your class. Your students are depending on you RIGHT NOW. So, don't put off trying that new strategy. Or that new technology. Or that new project. Or getting rid of the sacred cows that don't work. Because that kid in your class could be mine. And one day, that kid in my class could be yours.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's 2016 for Crying Out Loud!

I keep hearing the song from Frozen in my head...... "Let it go..... Let it go!" Please, for your students, LET IT GO! Let go of homework. Why? Well, because research shows it doesn't help, and can often hurt kids. Stop keeping students in at recess. Why? Well, because research shows it doesn't help, and can often hurt kids. Give kids brain breaks (REAL ONES). Why? Because research shows it really helps, and if you don't, you are just making life harder on yourself. (And hurting kids.) Seriously.

Stop blaming the victim. Start looking in the mirror. If things aren't working well in class, take a good hard look at what YOU can do. There's nothing wrong with the kids. There's nothing wrong with their parents. It's you. It's ALL you, because YOU are driving the bus.

Let it go. Let go of all the tired practices that don't work anymore. (Did they ever?) Embrace change. If you don't, you will be left behind. Heck, there are many teachers that already are. And who are they hurting? Kids. My kids. Your kids. Our kids.

Let it go.