In my teaching career I can think of numerous times I needed a redo. One instance demonstrates the craziness of testing. I had a student who was a guaranteed top scorer on the state assessment. This student was my Michael Jordan and I was ready to watch him roll. A few days before the test, tragedy struck his family. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I actually worried about how this would impact his score. My selfishness made me so angry with myself. How could I possibly think, even for a quick moment, about a test more than I was thinking about this child? I imagine there are millions of teachers out there who have some lingering thoughts this spring they wish they did not have.
I am struggling as I have always supported accountability and high standards. I have spent four years researching expert teachers, in order to write a dissertation. I believe highly effective teachers create highly effective classrooms and therefore highly effective students. However, I am not sure testing students is the single best way to measure effectiveness. Some countries, like Finland, have completely turned around their education systems in a decade to be the best in the world by recruiting, developing, and supporting strong teachers with little to no standardized testing. Unfortunately, testing seems to be the only avenue our country is willing to embrace even with all of the international models pointing to a variety of other avenues.
If this is the best way to turn our schools around, maybe this system could turn around the rest of our country. I propose a rigorous accountability system for our government. The assessments will come at the end of each fiscal year. The first step is to set long range goals as we have in education. Due to this process being highly rigorous, two goals should suffice for the initial four-year phase.
Goal 1: The United States will be out of debt by the year 2016.
Goal 2: All citizens will be employed by the year 2016.
The “tests” for each year will be the measurement of movement towards eliminating the debt and the percentage of people employed. Private testing companies will be responsible for the measure and analysis towards the goal, as the government should not be trusted to report their own efforts. Of course, we would want to phase in these four-year goals in with short-term Average Yearly Progress goals.
AYP 2013 Goal 1: The United States will reduce the national debt by 25% by June 30, 2014.
AYP 2013 Goal 2: Unemployment will be reduced by 25% by June 30, 2014.
Congress and the President will write a version of what educators in Louisiana call our yearly Student Learning Targets. These could be called United States Goal Targets. Each congressman will write a goal based upon his or her congressional district. For example, a congressman with 60% unemployment will write a target to reduce his or her district’s unemployment rate by 25%. Each congressman will write another target to cut the budget in his or her area of influence. For example, if a congressman is on the committee for healthcare, he or she must find a way to cut 10% of the budget by the end of the year. The cuts must be voted on and put into place by July 1, 2014 to count. Simply proposing a bill is not sufficient. Inability to work with the other side is no excuse not to meet your target. Things out of your control, including the viewpoints of fellow members or your constituents’ abilities, resources, mental state, or educational level, matter not. This is your job, you must be held accountable.
The hard part will be the accountability. No tenure should be allowed for committee positions. Any Congressman not achieving his or her goals the first year will be subject to a renewal vote by his or her district. The vote must occur by August 2014. If a Congressman is returned to Congress the second year, he or she must reach the goals by the end of the next year. If the goals are not met, the member is relieved of his or her duty immediately. Achieving goals one year does not impact the lack of achievement of the goals the next year even if there are extenuating circumstances. The runner-up in the more recent election could fill the void or maybe someone lacking any sort of credentials could just fill in. Rumors suggest this is working in education.
For the position of the President, goals will again be simple in the initiation of this process. The President will cut 10% of his administrative budget by the end of the year through the reduction of agencies and staff. This may not help unemployment numbers, but logic seldom seems to go hand in hand with goal writing. The President will apply diplomatic skills to reduce foreign aid by 10% by the end of the year without involving us in major conflict.
The President will have yearly goals also, but voting on the President each year, would simply be ridiculous. Rather a President’s failure to achieve the yearly goals two out of four years would eliminate his or her ability to run for reelection for first term presidents and for second term presidents, the party of the President would not be allowed to offer a candidate in the next election.
This is only an initial proposal. As the system develops, more goals could be added to include peace efforts. I would expect to see a goal around peace in the Middle East. Much like teachers who work is high poverty areas are expected to meet goals regardless of the economical, social, cultural, or leadership issues, the inability of our government leaders to garner peace is certainly not about century old issues, but rather about the effectiveness of the politicians.
Imagine if this system had been in play for the past 40 years. Our political landscape would look extremely different. There is little incentive for either of the major parties to work together. Their power actually benefits from making the other look inept. This could open the door for other parties or divide the two major parties into smaller parties. Imagine if the system expanded to our state governments. We may actually have to tell the truth about certain restructuring efforts.
In the past 21 years I have worked with amazing teachers and I have worked with teachers who are deplorable. I really don’t support tenure, but I also don’t support a system based on a calculation formula with numerous statistical issues as we have in Louisiana. I am not pretending ineffective teachers are not teaching in our classrooms. Unfortunately they are in abundance in many areas. Our system is unacceptable and accountability should exist. However there are so many circumstances a single test score does not even begin to explain. I am not proposing testing should be eliminated rather testing should be a much smaller piece of the model.
Accountability should begin with creating a highly rigorous and effective model for recruiting, developing, and supporting teachers. Rather than wasting billions on various programs, the testing cycles, and the magic bullet materials, pay for high-quality people to enter the profession. Change the profession and accountability takes care of itself. Instead of spending 40 more years trying to find an effective system, simply look around the world to find what is working. The answer will be effective, intelligent, and problem-solving teachers.
Likewise, our government is not working at maximum capacity, because for the most part we have elected intelligent people who are brilliant in the art of self-promotion, worrying more about their party’s power than the citizens, and who understand enslaving people through entitlements and ignorance keeps them in power.
If we want a free nation, education is the most critical foundation. Creating a world-class system is not accomplished by testing children to death. Creating a world-class system is accomplished through single classrooms filled with amazing, gifted, intelligent, and highly motivated people who can think, inspire, and transform lives. The second piece of a free nation is a government of the people, by the people and FOR the people.
In the past two weeks I have had several discussions with teachers who have left or will be leaving the profession to work in the private sector. All were rated effective or above on their evaluations and had high student achievement scores. Then I read a great blog at http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/09/the-exhaustion-of-the-american-teacher/
All this has me thinking about the job of being a teacher. I am a reformer and I have been since the third month of my first teaching job. I appreciate the information standardize testing gives me. I have been in enough schools and in enough places to know there are some really terrible teachers out there. There are some average, solid teachers who care, but not enough to go the extra mile. There are some really amazing teachers, who do things for which they receive little compensation. These teachers are the ones who are taking tickets at the door of the game or calling on local businesses to buy advertisement in the football program. School is much more than only reading, writing, and arithmetic. Unfortunately, for years school was only about the fun things. I remember back in the day when I took the CAT test, my scores were sent home in an envelope and few people even bothered to look at them. Now the scores are all that matters.
There has to be a happy medium. There has to be a place where scholastic success is valued along with the social and emotional elements. (Finland!)
The conversations I have had over the last few month have made me sad for a profession I love and for people I value. For the sake of children, we must find a middle ground.
One teacher explained her day to me. She arrived at school after four hours of sleep, because she had an exam to score the previous evening, which took thirteen hours. The essay questions were several paragraphs long and she has 95 students. Her planning time was taken up with a needed meeting as it had been for the past four out of six days. She taught her classes, had before and afterschool duty, had a meeting at lunch with a club, and then had another club meeting after school. She finally went to the restroom at 4:30, ate her sandwich, and went to the gym to work voluntarily in the concessions at the ballgame. She finally arrived home to her family at 9 that night, but had more papers to grade and some paperwork to do for the district. She said her $45000 a year job does not equate to the 18-hour days she is working most days. Her biggest issue is she has gone two and three days without seeing her toddler awake. The weekends are packed with lesson planning, creating materials, and grading papers. Her summers include summer school and tutoring to make ends meet. Her husband is fed up and her home life is suffering.
Another friend, a high school teacher, shared she estimated she had put in over 75 hours planning, organizing, setting up, monitoring, and cleaning up for the prom and the various prom fundraisers. None of these hours were paid hours. She also endured the nasty parents who did not like the dress code. She had a run in with a student who tried to enter without a ticket. In addition she has been given the cheer squad and the other sponsor had resigned, so now she will work three nights a week going to games and then practice the other nights. The squad enters competitions on the weekends, so she is trying to arrange childcare. All of this is non-paying work. She laughed when I ask her even at minimum wage how much she would have made for all of the extras. She instead tutors on the side and also works summers at a local retail business.
Finally, an elementary friend told me she still loves the kids, but her district has created yet another piece of paper for her to fill out. She told me she recorded the same data on five different documents per child for everyone from the parent to the principal to the supervisor. The time she spends recording numbers, which are seldom seen could be spent working on activities to help with the data she is recording. Teaching all subjects requires a tremendous amount of time to create materials and activities. The data requirements are beneficial, but nothing is streamlined and every week there seems to be another form to fill out to “cover all the bases”. She is frustrated as it all seems about “covering the bases”, not teaching the child.
So! What about the prom? Homecoming? Selling tickets at the football game? Chaperoning a weekend trip to a convention? Completing the endless forms and paperwork someone dreamed up “to cover the bases”? In the age of accountability where the only thing that counts is a teacher’s evaluation scores and the students’ value added scores, what benefits a teacher to do the extras for free? The extras actually take away from their time to focus on the actual teaching, what they are held accountable to do. One friend explained the teacher everyone brags about at her school has one responsibility....teaching. Could it be this teacher is amazing, because all she does is plan her one class and focus solely on the teaching? Possibly, however, what gets cut?
What do schools look like with no clubs, no extra curricular activities, and no social events? Is there value in these things? If so, how do we convince an English III teacher who has 125 students with four page essays weekly to grade, to also chair the homecoming committee? The homecoming committee matters not in her evaluation score. Are we missing some pieces of the whole child?
Maybe this is the future. There are those in state and national discussions who have shared a vision of no brick and mortar high schools., but rather a system where all children take virtual courses or simply test out of a course and move on early. In this vision there is little need for a traditional high school, so no “extras” such as football on Friday night, prom, homecoming, and the drama club. Is school simply an exercise in gaining credits and moving on to adulthood as quickly as possible? How will our culture change?
I pray my child will be finished with high school before these types of things become the norm, because she has been blessed to attend a great school. She has learned as much from the social activities and the clubs as she has in the classroom. Her courses are extremely rigorous and well-taught. Her teachers are human and they demonstrate wonderful compassion for her. They stay after school and encourage her. They hold her to high expectations and their presence is priceless. They give of their time, their hearts, and their wisdom. I am so thankful. I would hate to know any of them had a poor evaluation one day, because they had stayed up late at an event for my child the previous night.
Pay attention to what is happening. Read between the lines in the discourse about schools and teachers. Consider your community if teachers simply teach and quit all of the extras. Consider your children, if the only interactions they have is through a computer. What are we willing to give up? What will our children miss? What parts of our culture are embedded in the social aspects of school? What about the prom?
In December of 1991 I was finishing up my finals and preparing to student teach in the spring. I was so excited! All I could imagine was how fun being with students was going to be. For the most part I was right. I have had very few days in my career when a child has not deeply touched my heart and given me a chance to thank God for the opportunity to interact with sweet souls.
However, this walk has not been all smiles and sunshine. I estimate I have taught about 1500 kids in the past 21 years. There are twelve I can list who I knew had and eventually did cause harm to others, but with me they were always kind and very well-behaved. These children weren't mentally ill, but rather lived in violence and continued what they knew. Yet, somehow or another they respected me and did most things I requested. Several still drop me a note on occasion or when I see them out and about will give me a big hug and tell me all of their positives. We skip over the arrest reports and just continue as if life is simpler. I still see so much potential. My ability to see their potential and ignore what is often reality has been a gift I have prayed for my whole career. I ask God every night to help me see children with His eyes instead of mine. I fail more than I succeed, but when I do catch a glimpse of all of the gifts and talents even the "naughtiest" child has, I am awed I am allowed to simply be a little part of the grand scheme.
Then there have been the children who have a mental illness. I have taught numerous children with behavior and emotional disorders. There have been cutters who cut themselves in class and sit silently with tears falling. There was the licker who would lick the floor or a peer's leg if I wasn't paying very close attention. There was one who was not allowed any sharp objects including a pencil. The work was done in crayon. There was the one who ate anything in sight from pencils to rulers to hair. There was the one who stayed perched upon the desktop like a frog, but scored higher than anyone in the class. The list could go on further. The children could usually be managed if I simply worked with them and encouraged them. I taught the other children to love them and to accept their issues without ridiculing or teasing. Eventually most would melt into our community. We had cues when they were having a bad day and needed to isolate themselves. Life was not perfect, but we all moved through the year. They learned. The other children learned tolerance and I was blessed to learn to love another soul with a tremendous need.
However of all of the children, I can list three who truly frightened me. I would not wish to be alone with these children as they were unpredictable and had a tendency towards violence. There was a look no amount of soothing could change. One moment everything would be fine and the next I was wondering if I could handle the erratic behavior. I have cleared my classroom twice in my career to ensure other students were safe. Both cases were early on when I did not know how to catch the signs. We would have a run of good weeks and then all of a sudden something would happen to set them off. Each of these three children had one thing in common I will never forget, a tired mother. One shared she locked her other children in their rooms and locked her own door at night. One cried hysterically because no one could help her child. The other blamed the school and tried consistently to make every issue our fault. When her child was arrested for murder, the school was at fault somehow or another in her mind.
Of 1500 children, 3 have frightened me. This is a very small percentage, but it only takes one. We have a serious issue in our country. We can blame gun laws. We can blame violence on television. We can blame the lack of security. We can create more things for schools and teachers to manage. The list goes on and on.
The real issue is we have a small percentage of mentally ill children and adults in this country who have little to no chance of being secured. Our schools and our teachers are ill-equipped to manage this type of mental illness and with such a small percentage training and dealing with these issues could be considered a financially poor choice. Our school counselors are used for every type of paperwork imaginable. Schools have no ability to force parents to ensure their mentally ill children consistently take their medication. The children are often extremely bright and use their abilities to manipulate the system. The intricate web of details creates an extremely complicated picture.
For every maniac who creates havoc, there are others with the same issues who did not create disaster. Why? Who helped these people make the right choices and find some peace? Can we clearly define mentally ill from other environmentally created behavior issues? Does environment matter more than genetics? How do we help mothers and fathers raise and manage their mentally ill children? How do we support teachers who are worn out by one child in a class of 25? How do we protect the 24 without infringing on the one child's rights and vice-versa?
One of my favorite songs is by musician Brandon Heath called "Give Me Your Eyes". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY
We all need to see people through the eyes of God rather than our own eyes. We tend to color the world to make our lives easier. We must see what is missing. We must listen to the people who could actually help prevent these incidents...the people who spend time with these children every day...their teachers and their parents....and work to find real solutions, not more paperwork and bureaucracy. We must work on our communities and our school cultures to create safe places where people are valued and loved.
Sixteen years ago Joey and I married on the 23rd day of December. The date fell on a Monday night. We choose it because our siblings and parents were off work. We did not really want to make it a big deal. I think my dress was about $30, which we bought on the 22nd at Dillards. Our church friends gave me a darling little shower the week before the wedding. One of the gifts was from Mrs. Gaye Odom, who was around 75 at the time. She bought me a very racy little number, which she attached to a wreath and along with it was a little ornament from Hallmark making our first Christmas. I have no idea where the racy little number is, but tonight I unwrapped the little ornament for the 16th time. I smiled and thanked God for women like Mrs. Gaye in my life.
Our tree is not fancy. I actually bought some matching ornaments a few years ago to give the tree an overall cohesive look, but honestly our tree is a hodgepodge of love. We have ornaments the girls made in school. Most have pictures on them and I can see the metamorphosis of those precious faces I love so very much. I am thankful for teachers who took the time to capture memories for my family.
We have several traditions attached to our tree. Each time we travel on vacation we buy an ornament or two. Decorating our tree is a little memory walk through our travels from Disney to Washington, D.C. to Colorado. I chuckle at the precious ornaments I bought with my sweet friends, Monique and Kathryn, in Ruidoso, New Mexico. I remember Jacy and Kate crying over our sweet dog Marley dying on a vacation in Arkansas. I love the Pike's Peak ornament and the memories of a great trip with Stephanie Purdy. Each ornament allows me to remember how truly blessed we have been in our ability to travel.
Another tradition we have is we buy the girls at least one ornament each year to mark a special occurrence from the year. Of course we have the baby first Christmas ornaments, but we also have other fun ones. Jacy has one marking when she learned to read in Eve Frederick's first grade class. By second grade her teacher Jane Culivan had helped her learn to love to read the comics, so she has Charlie Brown ornament with Sally and Charlie reading the comics. Her middle school ornament is also Sally and Charlie with the teacher blah blah blahing in the background. Having taught middle school, I know they all hear us this way. Last year she finally fell in love with the best movie ever, A Christmas Story, so she received Ralphie in the Pink Bunny Suit and the Lamp ornament. She began high school this fall. I haven't bought her ornament yet, but I think I will be a little sad when I do.
Kaitlyn has a darling little labrador ornament marking the Christmas of 2004 when we bought Mayeaux's Cajun Noel or Ellie at our house. Ellie-girl moved into the place of our darling Marley, who left us on that vacation. Ellie loves Kaitlyn and waits for her each day to come home from work. Kate has two Cinderella ornaments, because she pretended half of her life to be a Disney character. She has a cute Sleeping Beauty ornament marking her first date. I haven't bought hers yet either, because I am not sure how to capture all of the changes she has had this year. She is a grown up and such a blessing. What do I buy to mark a beautiful soul?
My plan is to give each of the girls these ornaments as a wedding gift with the story of each ornament written down. However, I think I will be very sad not to have these treasures to place on our tree each year. I guess they will have to let me come help them with their trees.
I love Christmas even with all of the hustle and bustle, the season is always of time to reflect. The tree and all of the little pieces are like the stones in a labyrinth. I walk around and around the tree, placing each memory on the perfect branch. We laugh with each other remembering. Sometimes there is laughter and sometimes a few tears fall, but regardless we are so blessed. I am not sure where you are in your life this year, but know the child born in Bethlehem has precious memories of you and also great plans for your tomorrows. Mark your blessings. May God bless us everyone.
If someone was keeping a tally chart of my successes and failures in life, I know the failure column would exceed the success column ten to one. I loathe failure, but failure is vital to success.
When I fail, I find myself in the depths of despair over the failure, I fret, I think, I whine, and then I figure out how to fix it. The fix fails sometimes too. I fret, I think, I whine, you get the picture. However, every once in a while, success happens! Success then encourages me to go after another problem. The cycle repeats until I find a little success again. Failure is constant. Success is rare, but this little rare bit keeps me going.
Failure! Failure! Failure! SUCCESS! This is my teaching career! After six years of working with teachers, I believe reflective thinking makes a difference. Every teacher experiences failures. Students are tardy. Students aren't passing the assessments. Students aren't bringing work to class. Yada...Yada...Yada.... My response is, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?"
Your next step may or may not make a difference, but the teachers who find success are the ones who keep looking for a solution regardless of the previous failures. Often the previous failures lead to success. For example, for two years I tried to help my students increase their basic math skills. Nothing changed! Finally, I asked the students what we could do. One child had a solution and the solution worked year after year after year. I could have given up, but I did not. The failures gave me conversation points for the discussion.
Students need teachers who don't make excuses like "These kids don't read", "These kids don't come to class", "These kids won't do homework", or "These kids just don't care." "These kids" need teachers who are willing to look for solutions regardless of how many times failure occurs. "These kids" need people who believe they can learn, read, communicate, invent, innovate, and lead.
Teaching, real teaching, is HARD WORK. Failure will occur more than success. BUT!!!! When success occurs the impact is tremendous. A child's life changes! If you are failing and are tired, find a group of innovative teachers and surround yourself with believers! Reflect and success will come. If you are succeeding, share and mentor a struggling teacher! If you are making excuses and don't want to change, do the children and the rest of our profession a favor and quit.
Teachers are very powerful people in the lives of children. I have always taken this responsibility very seriously. I realized very early in my career I had the ability to influence what students thought and believed. However, my place is not to indoctrinate my students to believe what I believe, rather I believe my job is to teach children to form their own decisions by teaching students to find the information for themselves.
In 2000 I enjoyed teaching students an interesting lesson about bias. I printed the presidential platforms of four political parties. I covered up the names of the parties and had students read each issue and choose which choice best described their beliefs. After the students totaled their choices, I revealed the party labels. Students were very surprised to find based solely on the issues where their support was.
Tomorrow we have an opportunity to vote. I take this opportunity sacredly. On my 18th birthday my mother allowed me to skip school and do anything I wished to do. I asked to register to vote and go to lunch with her. My mom was surprised when I registered as a Republican since my family was registered as Democrats at the time. I explained what I believed and why. I explained I was not registering as a Republican because it was cool or because I was told by a friend to do so. I had done my research and felt this platform was most like what I believed. I certainly did not support everything, but about 75% of the platform at the time.
Over the years I have voted for a variety of people and several different parties. I am a voter who leans right, but really makes my choices based on the candidate. I do my own research and do not believe the majority of what the media shares. I read through the “ObamaCare” legislation. I have browsed through every budget this administration has submitted. I have also browsed through the summaries of the budgets offered up by the legislature. I research laws and I read bills. I do not depend on the media to tell me their truths, but rather go read the public documents myself. I believe we have to be smart voters not blinded groupies.
Voting is an honor, which has been secured by blood. I believe we should teach children to find the facts for themselves. There is the possibility they will disagree with what we may believe, but if their opinion can be supported by sound reasons, then we have created an aware citizen.
Tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., I am going to the polls. I will vote for Mr. Romney. I am not voting for him because I think he will create this magical nation where everyone goes to work. I am not voting against Mr. Obama because I think he is missing a birth certificate. All of these things are noise to me; rather I am making my choice based on the following things I personally believe.
1) I believe people are hurting. I believe the deficit is at a breaking point and if we remain on the same path, we will cease to be. I am appalled at the level of income lost to taxes by the middle class, the loss of income by women and minorities, and the future tax bill, which is coming due in a few months from the legislation of the past four years. The government does not create jobs. Free enterprise creates jobs.
2) I don’t believe any government can legislate morality. I am a Christian, but when I look at the life of Jesus, he ministered to the hearts of people through love as a way to change society. He did not run for office or try to convince lawmakers to pass laws. He simply changed the status quo with love. On the other hand, what I believe comes from His teachings, so I have to support a more conservative platform. The difference is I am not radical. I love and judge not people as the one I call Savior requires be to do. My friends are a wide range of people and each enriches my life and my thoughts.
3) As posted in a previous post, I support a very limited welfare system. I believe we change the lives of people through a strong education system, not through welfare. Motivation and self-worth are decreased when people are given something for nothing. If every child in the United States had an effective teacher and left school with an international level education, our country would look differently. I believe there are those who speak one thing, but do another. These people come from both sides of the aisle. Their desires are to say the right thing, but to ensure those in poverty remain in poverty through poor education so the political powers do not shift.
4) I believe in medical reform, but I believe people who give 12 to 14 years of their lives to become doctors deserve high salaries. Instead of being jealous, go to medical school. I also believe a major element of reform comes from tort reform, preventative medicine, and holding people accountable for their health choices. I also believe health care is best supported not by government but by people and St. Jude’s is my best and personal example.
5) I believe in a very limited government. I have yet to find a socialist/communist/Marxist society where the poor became wealthy. History demonstrates the poor become poorer, the rich become concentrated in the ruling powers, and the middle class disappears. The responsibility of the federal government is to protect citizens from powers both foreign and domestic to collect taxes, provide basic services such as roads, and enforce the rights afforded me in the Constitution. Government should be strictly limited.
6) I believe everyone should pay some sort of taxes. I don’t believe anyone should be exempt. I don’t believe the “rich” should pay half their earnings in taxes. I don’t believe my tax rate should have increased as much as it has in the past four years. I would like a flat tax with no exemptions. There should be no loopholes. If this does not cover the expenses, then eliminate the expenses.
7) I support Israel. I support Israel because I have read the book of Revelation and I take it to heart. I don’t support everything Israel does. I had a friend to comment the countries in the Middle East hate us because of how we treat them. Here is the issue. We don’t decide how their governments decide to manage the money earned from oil revenue. We don’t decide how their governments restrict the citizens. I have to say I can’t imagine any woman who believes in equal rights for women ever supporting any Middle East country. They have the power to have freedom, free enterprise, and equal rights. I am not changing how I live, because it offends them.
8) I believe in a very strong military. I believe from the school playground to the world stage, people are always looking to take and to conquer. Our nature is to not be satisfied. Rather then look at the USA and see our freedom, our initiative, our work ethic, and our free market as the reasons for our blessings, others would rather make us play their games and be less successful rather then them playing our game and winning. We aren’t perfect and we have issues, but it works pretty well considering it is a human system.
9) I believe people should be free to make their own choices, protect what is theirs, and to speak without punishment, even when the speech is offensive. I don’t believe anyone has the right to cause physical harm to another person except in the protection of property and life. You can disagree with me, but I have the right to say it, as do you.
10) I believe the government for the most part is corrupt, selfish, and arrogant. I doubt 15% of the politicians in this country from local boards to the national government actually care about the people, our Constitution, and the future. Most are just looking for their own power, their own pocketbooks, and their own agendas. This makes me sad. I have seldom seen anyone with the spirit of Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, or Henry.
These are my reasons. The majority of people reading this will disagree with at least one position in the list, but I can articulate what I believe. I have reasons and I am not just blindly following a candidate. I vote with thought and often with hesitation. I don’t like the direction of our country. I have not liked the direction of our country for about 20 years. Freedom is not free. Freedom requires hard work, dedication, and intelligence. Freedom requires people to hold intelligent conversations and have the ability to respect those with whom they may disagree. Freedom requires a government to believe the people can make their own decisions and their welfare is their own to define. Before you vote, go read the Constitution. If you disagree, decide what you think our country should be. If you agree, decide what we have to do to return to this model.
Whatever you do, don’t call candidates who don’t agree with you silly names like a kid on the playground. This is moronicDon’t listen to the media as a basis for your opinion. Go find your own facts. Finally, learn to respect people, even those who believe differently. Hate has seldom changed the world in a positive manner. God bless America.
If my father transported himself forward in time to be a student in public schools today, he would be placed in the red section of the school’s data wall as an at-risk student. He is the son of a single mother, raised by his grandmother. His grades were not exceptional. He blew up the chemistry lab several times. He worked after school and I assume this limited the time he spent on his studies. However, he was a smart kid who loved to learn building engines early in his life and building a car in his early teens. School was just not the vehicle for his brain.
My father had big dreams and a strong motivation to achieve more and go farther. By 40 he had lived in four foreign countries and headed major oil operations while towing his family along with him. My dad was and is a very determined human being. He benefited from being married to my amazing mother who dedicated every waking minute to ensuring her children reveled from their combine sacrifices.
In fourth grade I was struggling with fractions. My dad did not even give an ear to my whining, but rather taught me fractions every night he was home until I mastered it. There were no excuses.
In sixth grade we moved to a fairly affluent area in Texas. We lived on my dad’s single salary. I have no idea how my parents afforded my really nice clothes, my participation in multiple activities, and my trips with school groups to lovely events. My mom worked hard to maintain a budget as my parents loathe debt.
When I was 14 I had my first job babysitting a young girl down the street. I made $75 every two weeks. When school clothes shopping came around, my mom told me what she was buying and if I wanted something nicer I could pay the difference. The purple Nikes were not quite as sweet as I thought they would be after I realized I had spent five days of salary to buy the pair. These types of lessons continued through high school. Basically, if I want something, I have to work for it.
When I decided to become a teacher, my dad was really disappointed. I spent years feeling hurt by this fact, but now I have my own kids and I understand. My dad wanted me to have financial security and a job that really challenged my skills. During my first three years of teaching I lived below the poverty line. I remember asking my pastor for a $5 loan so I could buy gas to get to work. I was so ashamed, so I began tutoring to make gas money.
The idea to get any type of assistance never crossed my mind, because I had made the choice to be a teacher. I knew going in I would never be rich. The government nor my family are responsible for my decisions. I had the opportunity to be anything from a doctor to a chemist. Many jobs would have paid me a tremendously greater salary, but I love what I do and God has blessed my family and I. My choices are my choices. The results are solely mine also.
There is this scary thought moving through our country right now, which gives the idea everyone should have an equal share regardless of the work or effort or choices they have put forth. For example, doctors who spent 12 to 15 years of their lives studying are being told to give up their salaries to serve those who did not spend years and thousands of dollars to become doctors. Small business owners who risk their reputations and savings somehow owe to those who took no risks.
In other words, those who have worked and made certain choices must now give and equalize the lives of those who did not. My parents have made more money in their lives than I could probably make in five lifetimes. They owe me nothing ever as their sacrificed has allowed me to be a well-rounded and productive citizen. In fact, if I spent every minute of the rest of my life serving them, I would not make up for what they have done for me.
My choices are my choices and the results are also mine. If you don’t like your life choices, make a change. Do something differently. Work harder. Sacrifice. Your issues are not the fault of a more successful person who made different choices. Envy is the root of much of our woes.
Most of my friends would tell you I am a bleeding heart. I love kids. The worse the behavior, the more difficult the problems, and the crazier the situation, the more I am motivated to assist. The reason I became a teacher is so I could help children, who have been born into less opportunity, find greater opportunity through education. I believe we eliminate poverty, not through welfare, but through teaching people skills, helping them develop work ethic, which increases motivation and self worth, and helping students to transition into productive members of society. Poverty may be a reason for struggles, but it can never be an excuse.
Our country must do a better job educating young people especially by eliminating barriers poverty inflicts on students. The barriers include ineffective teachers who see “these children” as limited and unable. The barriers include dysfunctional programs, which grease a politician’s hand, but do not increase the academic success of students. The barriers include low standards for students who will one day compete in a global market. The barriers include using students as weapons in political wars of race and economics.
If all students in our country were afforded a high-quality education, high-quality job training, and good hard lessons on work ethic and motivation, we would not need to continue to add $1 trillion dollars in debt for welfare as we did in 2011, which is a 32% jump in the past 4 years. A good friend and peer told me once I should never give children something for nothing including pencils because this teaches them work and effort are unrelated to reward. We have created an entire society on the idea that if you don’t work, someone will provide for you. The underlying message the current welfare system has to offer is a person is not worth the time to teach, their contributions to society are not valuable, and they are better off allowing a provider to make choices for them. I simply believe people are worth more than this. I believe people are born to change their worlds. Some change the world in simpler ways and some make magnanimous changes, but all have something to offer.
I adore the children I work with each day. I see bright minds who are inflicted by the low expectations of the adults in their lives. I see children who have tremendous dreams but few people willing to help them find the roadmap to those dreams. I have wonderful conversations with children, who some label as unmotivated, about topics they have been exploring on their own time. How differently would our world work if we spent the time during the first 20 years of life instilling the idea that hard work and good choices lead to a greater chance of success? How differently would our world look if instead of placing kids in the red section of a data wall and using this as an excuse to allow them to fail, we work harder to make a difference in the lives of children? How differently would our world look if we accepted their future is our responsibility?
All children are not given equal opportunity from their home lives to their educational paths. I am a conservative leaning person because I believe enabling people to be dependent limits their freedom to make choices. I believe my civic duty is to support my fellow man, adult or child, in achieving their dreams. I believe all people should be treated as equal members of society regardless of race, religion, creed, or gender. I believe education is the key to equality not welfare. My father demonstrates one can overcome tremendous barriers when one accepts responsibility for choices and stops making excuses for failure. I have dreams for the youth of this country and living on welfare is not one.
I have been enjoying tutoring a few high school students for friends this past spring and summer. The students and I have been preparing for their ACT and/or SAT exams. The pleasant part of the experience is hanging out with some really interesting kids and as always I learn more than I teach. The first thing I noticed was all of the students had an iPhone and I did not need to make copies of anything as they simple take pictures of whatever problems I have for them to practice at home. When presented with problems such as having enough reading material to practice per my instruction, they first use technology to solve their problems. After a few weeks I decided there had to be "an app for this." HA! I have found a few apps I have recommended for my students and thought I would share these with you. I love exploring new technology, so I will add reviews as the year goes by if you, the readers enjoy the information. FUN!
IntelliVocabulary by Faqden Labs was developed by MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT Web Semantics Labs. The app allows students to practice various SAT vocabulary words, take tests, and creates reports on mastery and needs. The words are arranged in alphabetical order, which allows the student, who makes deeper connections, to find patterns in the use of prefixes and suffixes. While the app is great for SAT practice, students can also just increase vocabulary while hanging out. I personally am using this to increase my Words with Friends power! Price: Free
Math and Science:
Formul8 is a formula app with formulas for algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics and mechanics. This app is not a fancy-schmancy application, but is a great reference tool. I love having the formulas right in my hand and read to go. Price: Free
Mathemagics is a FUN (in a math nerd sort of way) app. The app teaches students to do math magically or simply quick tricks for computation. This app is great for increasing speed in computation and honestly is just fun. Younger children would love it and I could see it being really useful in a technology center with a "Magic" theme and a few iPads. Amaze your friends and wow your teachers become a mathemagician! Price: $0.99 (Currently on sale.)
YourTeacher.com Math for Pre-Algebra, Algebra, or Geometry is a tutor in your palm. The app allows you to choose a topic such as Factoring Trinomials. The app then offers several video clips of a teacher teaching how to perform the skill, a set of practice problems, a challenge problem, a self-test, and then a set of printable documents with problems and detailed solutions. SUPER APP! Price: Free (The extended versions for individual subjects are $9.99 each. I have not purchased one yet, but I plan to add at least one just to see what is available. This seems expensive for an app, but if you were to buy a math tutoring book at Barnes and Noble, you would pay at least $20.00. The book has no video.)
Learning in General:
iTunes U is the iTunes University app. So, you are bored with Netflix (another favorite app) and you just want to learn Calculus or how about taking The Hebrew SCriptures in Judaism and Christianity from Harvard? YOU CAN FOR FREE! Download this app and take the course. The courses vary in length and support materials. Some of the courses have only the lectures and some have lectures and support materials. You will not receive credit, but you will have learned something new. Price: FREE!
If this blog was helpful, please let me know and I will add more information about apps. Technology is enhancing learning and opening the world for those who have long been limited by miles or by culture. The world is changing rapidly. Be informed!
Today is my grandmother’s birthday. Memaw is cheering me on from her heavenly home as she cheered me on my entire life. I have these little notes from her I like to read sometimes. Her words are precious to me. She gave me good advice and great words of encouragement often by asking me questions rather than telling me what to do.
I remember when I was considering graduate school, I verbally pondered about the time requirement.
She asked me, “Well, at the end of two years what will you have if you go to school?”
I said, “A degree.”
She said, “And what will you have if you don’t go to school?”
“No degree,” I replied.
“Seems pretty clear to me, the two years will pass regardless, you just need to decide what you want at the end of the two years.”
I think about that conversation often, because it is a foundational conversation in my life. The time will pass. When making choices I have must decide what I want at the end of it.
Each school year I began with the same thought in my mind. The year will pass. I can either serve these children with all of my talents and all of my heart or I can do a half-hearted job. Regardless, the time will pass.
Our daughter, Jacy, is entering high school this year. We have four years, which will pass whether we are there cheering her on or not. Whether we spend time hosting her friends or helping her through opportunities, the time will pass. What kind of relationship do we want at the end of this time? Where do we want her to be in her life as she leaves high school and most likely home?
Kaitlyn, the nineteen year old, is finding her way into adulthood. We are trying to navigate the waters of parenting a young adult, which is hard. Our decisions are always about where will she wishes be at the end of the next five years or ten years. The time will pass, but how do we all best invest it?
My grandmother also told me to make my choices based on the people who would be those listed in my obituary as my survivors. I have fallen short on that advice plenty of times, but as our children grow up, the advice has become a grounding thought for me.
At the end, my bosses, my colleagues, my students, my church peers, and most of my friends will most likely not be listed as survivors. While all of these people have brought valuable things to my life and I am thankful, ultimately few will end the race with me. My finish line will be with those few who are my precious cheerleaders and God. My choices are made with this thought in mind.
School is beginning and teachers and principals are setting the wheels into motion. In honor of my sweet Memaw, my thoughts are simple for all of us.
First, great teachers always begin with the end in mind. Where will these students be on the last day of the year? The time will pass, so make the most of it and teach or lead with your whole heart. Students should not only grow academically, but also emotionally, mentally, and socially. How will you assist in these efforts? How can you spend the limited time you have each day with each child helping them to see a greater vision for their lives? How can you use your words to help them develop a greater sense of purpose for their lives? How can you use the academic lessons to teach great life lessons about what it means to serve others? The time will pass, how will you most effectively use it to make the world a better place?
The second lesson is in the midst of planning and grading papers, remember those you will be survived by in the end and sow into them as much as you can possibly sow. The time will pass regardless, but how you invest it now will directly impact the relationships you have in the future. I have worked so hard to find balance in my life in the past ten years. I have failed so often, but slowly I am learning to balance life. The difference is rather than making my “survived by” group one of the pans on the balance, they are the central pillar upon which the pans are balanced.
I am thankful for all of the comments and for those of you who have sent me messages asking when I would begin blogging again. I am back. I have spent the summer enjoying my family, reading for fun, and refreshing my heart. In a world that seldom appreciates rest, I can say the rest was much needed and precious. Now I am ready to blog, to work, to parent, and to serve God in all He calls me to be. The time will pass, I choose to be at peace and of service.
Obviously May is a bit of a crazy month and therefore I have not blogged. However, I have been writing. I am honored to share my thoughts via the Milken Family Foundations Connections online magazine. When Whitney Friedlander, the editor, asked me to send some pictures to accompany the story, I shared we were having Superhero Day at school to promote our book fair. The graphics guy ran with the idea and I am now a cartoon! Check that off of the bucket list.
While I wish I could rock a superhero outfit as well as my caricature does, I do believe teachers have super powers and I am so thankful for all of the superheros who have passed my way and the way of my daughters. I hope you enjoy the article and spend your summer recharging your powers. The enemies of ignorance and illiteracy are awaiting our return to the battleground.