Guest Co-Author: Jesse Cameron Unkel, M.Ed.
Today is UNESCO's World Teachers' Day. https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldteachersday
The theme, “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession,” opens a discussion about the future of education and how the needs of a new generation of teachers. As oldest members of Generation Z begin to fill the seats across college campuses and enter the workforce, understanding their characteristics, desires, and needs is critical to recruiting these digital natives to careers in education. Generation Z, often called the Post-Millennials, are those children born between approximately 1995 to 2010 (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). These are the children of No Child Left Behind. Their school life has been guided by data tracking their progress on the mastery continuum, the charter movement, and a revolving door of teachers.
Similar to the children of the Great Depression, Generation Z have been deeply shaped by the Great Recession and desire to avoid debt after having witnessed their parents struggle through the economic downturns of the past decades. From the moment of birth, these digital natives have had the world literally at their fingertips. Cell phones have essentially become an extension of them as this generation spends more time on their smartphones than any other device. Unlike their grandparents and parents, television does not entertain them, rather these young people follow YouTubers for everything from entertainment to hobbies. Yet, Gen Z has also be shaped by 9/11 and worry about security, both personal and professional (Seemiller & Grace, 2016).
Seemiller & Grace (2016), describe Gen Z members as loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, responsible, determined, and open-minded. These up and coming adults are competitive, motivated by clear rewards, and multi-task very well. They have an entrepreneurial spirit far greater than the previous generation. Interestingly enough, these digital natives, who typically solicit answers from Google, also seek out face-to-face discussions more than Millenials. Generation Z desires opportunities to grow and advance, due to their competitive needs. This Generation is also more cautious and more adverse to taking risks as demonstrated through lower levels of risky behaviors. Finally, they desire to be engaged and purposeful. Before we scoff at changing a profession to suit the workforce, we must remember this generation has more opportunity and choices than any other generation before them. Making teaching attractive will require changes in the way educators work and interact.
Teacher Quality and Critical Shortages
We know teacher quality in each classroom is key, thus the pathway to becoming a certified teacher has become more rigorous since the installation of No Child Left Behind in 2001, as have requirements to remain on the job including value-added measures and the elimination of tenure in many states. Accountability has raised the level of expectations. However, these more rigorous requirements and higher classroom expectations have not come with additional pay increases or better working conditions. Teacher shortages in many areas, particularly in high needs schools, are moving towards the extreme. Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond (2017) stated nationally, teachers, who start their careers in Title 1 schools, will leave the profession at 50% higher rates. Teachers teaching in schools with high concentrations of student of color have a 70% high turnover rate.
Redesigning a Profession for the Long-term
We have already increased the rigor required in the profession, but we must also reconsider the working conditions as a whole. Reasons for leaving the profession include factors such as lack of administrative support, working in districts with lower salaries, dissatisfactions with testing and accountability pressures, lack of opportunities for advancement, and dissatisfaction with working conditions as given as reasons for leaving (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017). These run obviously counter to the desires of Generation Z and we will have difficult time recruiting and retaining these people if teaching does not change. If we desire to recruit, retain, and support future teachers from Generation Z, we must reconsider the profession as a whole to create on more enticing and Gen Z-friendly.
When exiting high school, Gen Z is focused on limited debt. One way to encourage these students to enter the teaching profession is to offer scholarships in critical shortage areas. The scholarships would be offered to top-level students and hold rigorous requirements, thus making these prestigious and coveted. The scholarships would be for degrees in core content with a double major in education. The student would be required to teach in a state school for four years post-graduation. During the internship year and first year of teaching, place the scholarship recipients with strong mentors in strong schools. During the teacher’s second to fourth years, place them in critical areas. Throwing young teachers into difficult schools with little support only increases the chances of them leaving the profession.
Stratify and Negotiate Salaries
Generation Z wants to be able to be rewarded for their work and not treated as a group. Blanket salary schedules with no consideration of job tasks, dedication, or effectiveness do not appeal to these individuals. When the rigorous requirements to become a teacher are considered, young people may wonder why would they work to pass rigorous coursework to earn $45000 (or less) a year in a field requiring many hours of unpaid overtime, when they could work in other fields making double the salary with time free for family and friends.
All teaching positions are not equal. Currently, most districts have standard pay schedule where all teachers, regardless of level or responsibility, are paid according to years in the classroom. If core content is critical and worth the millions we spend on standard assessments, then surely teachers teaching those courses should be compensated for the required expertise and added stress. Paying for such expertise and effort would be one way to stratify salaries. Teachers teaching courses with more responsibilities and greater stakes should be paid more than teachers who have limited after-school work such as grading and extensive lesson planning. The after-hours workload varies tremendously and offers little to no compensation from subject to subject. The life outside of school is grueling for core content teachers. An AP English teacher, with 125 students a day, will need over 6+ hours outside of school to grade a single 5 page essay assignment, in addition to lesson planning, grading of exams, pre-reading, material prep-work, and parental contacts. The out of school time jumps quickly to 20+ hours for little compensation. Conversely, some teaching positions require little outside work, but the pay is the same.
Allow teachers to negotiate work loads, including course load, extracurriculars, additional duties, and professional development. Rather than trying to treat everyone the same, understand different teaching jobs require different skills and different levels of time and work.
A recent study found Generation Z places high value on job security (Forbes, 2017). This is a plus as security in teaching is a fairly easy sell. While salaries will need to increase to attract these students, benefits, such as healthcare and job security, are positive in the profession and are important to this group. Stressing these elements to potential candidates is a positive.
Generation Z also desires strong work relationships and prefers to work with mentors. A positive step towards meeting this need is to move towards full year residency programs for undergraduate degrees, rather than the more traditional single semester of student teaching. Allowing first year teachers to remain under a mentor for an additional year would be an effective way to scaffold support and build expertise in the young teachers. The mentor should then continued to work with the novice teacher for three more years, thus helping the novice transition through the critical fourth year.
Gen Z also highly values autonomy and innovation (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). The current trends towards scripted lessons delivered to teachers via email, which they read verbatim, or top-down driven decisions is extremely undesirable to this generation. These individuals are primed to flourish in schools of innovation and redesign. Unfortunately, innovation does not match the current hyper-accountability movement. However, this does not mean the two are incompatible; it is in fact the very opposite. The very essence of accountability is to have individuals take ownership in their independent contributions. Accountability is necessary to promote professional growth, recognize the distinctive quality of high-caliber work, and identify the level of impact an individual is making in their profession: all characteristics Generation Z employees are eagerly searching for in their professional career. In fact, true accountability requires autonomy and innovation in order to develop effective feedback that can be used to continuously grow schools, teachers, and students.
Generation Z is also highly competitive and desire recognition for their efforts (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). Unfortunately, teaching is currently a profession where everyone is treated equally with little to no individual recognition. The restrictive nature inherent to scripted instructional plans can lead to a lack of teacher identity, where each teacher is indistinguishable from the next. This creates a professional environment that runs counter to the generational attributes of this dynamic young workforce as the merits of a curriculum are recognized over the merits of the professional teacher.
Generation Z’s competitiveness can be valued as an asset and used in conjunction with accountability as their desire to be the best leads to the hard work ethic it takes to achieve the best. Using this trait to create autonomous, problem-solving, effective teachers will be critical in staffing classrooms. If young teachers can meet the rigor of becoming a teacher, work with strong mentors during the first two to three years, and meet accountability requirements, they should be trusted to make decisions in the classroom. In the revolution of the teaching profession, developing systematic methods for innovation and development like those found in Finland and Japan is critical to engaging these potential teachers.
We have to release our traditional notions of what teaching is. For forty years we have sought one reform movement after another with little impact. We will continue to fail unless we redefine and reinvent the job of teaching in the United States of America into a highly-respected, highly favored, and highly effective profession. Generation Z has the potential to revolutionize our education system, effectually transforming it into one of the highest-performing in the world, if we will unleash their strengths. All of their characteristics support their need to find a purpose and fulfill it for the betterment of their world. Teaching is such a profession. If we leveraged all of the potential of this amazing generation to create something new and powerful grounded in the foundations of what we know is effective teaching, we may create a reform movement that is successful and ultimately purposeful.
Carver-Thomas, D. & Darling-Hammond, L., (2017, August). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we can do about it. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Teacher_Turnover_REPORT.pdf
Forbes Coaches Council. (2017, March 3). Generation Z: 12 Important things companies need to understand. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/03/03/generation-z-12-important-things-companies-need-to-understand/#776323271fe3
Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.
Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016, September). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/A_Coming_Crisis_in_Teaching_REPORT.pdf
Tomorrow is my Memaw's birthday. While she is no longer with us, her lessons about life are often in the front of my mind. She loved to travel and we took many wonderful excursions together. My Memaw had this huge red hardsided suitcase with a smaller matching suitcase and an even smaller cube makeup case. I remember lugging these into the hotel on one of our famous summer excursions. At each place, she would unpack the various outfits, shoes, and accessories.
I asked her, “Do you really need all of this stuff?”
She simply said, “Yes.”
Most things Memaw said are gospel to me (“Pretty is as pretty does” or “At the end of these two years, what do you want show for it? Just go to grad school.”), but her packing advice I gloriously ignore. She really taught me what NOT to pack!
I have learned to travel on extended trips with only a carry-on bag and a personal bag. My reasons are about money and comfort. Carry-on luggage saves money when booking airfare. When traveling via train, the smaller the luggage, the better. Rental cars around the world are much smaller and have less trunk space. Finally, you don’t need all that stuff. Really, you do not.
There are several sites concerning what to pack and what not to pack. I used a few of these to get started. I have created a basic list to help me keep my packing under control. I roll everything tightly. My carry-on is a 22” rolling backpack. I am in the market for a new one, but my old one has been great.
I wear another pair of pants (sometimes comfy jeans), another t-shirt, and whatever cardigan I am taking on the plane. I have a great cold weather cardigan and a lovely warm weather one. I can dress things up with a cardigan and a scarf. I also wear compression socks on the plane with my tennis shoes.
5 bottoms X 5 tops X 2 accessories = 50 combinations
I have one similar to this
I use this:
There are other items depending on where we are going. Do not take hardback travel books, you can download those or buy them there.
What we do not take: shampoo, large toothpaste, soap, etc… Unless you are going to a barren wasteland, you can pick those things up. Why lug around a few extra pounds for soap? Also, by renting AirBnBs throughout the trip, we can wash. Hotels often have laundry, also. My brother-in-law brought travel detergent sheets last year and it was easy. However, you can get detergent there if needed. Check with your host concerning these things.
I wish I could model my packing for my Memaw. I suspect we could have made many more miles, if we would not have had the crimson suitcase trio to haul behind us. She would have really enjoyed all of our adventures. Happy birthday, miss you much!
My first airplane ride was in 1971. I was 13 months old and my parents decided to move to Algeria for my dad's work. I don't remember this particular plane ride, but I do know this was the beginning of my life-long obsession with travel. I jokingly say that I work to travel, but there is a little bit of truth there. Mostly I work, because I love what I do, but my work also affords me the ability to travel and travel often.
My most recent trip was Rome to Florence to Venice to Lausanne to Paris to Normandy to the Loire Valley to Paris. Twenty-two days of travel through three countries with my friend, Stephanie, and then my husband. During the trip I posted often on FaceBook various pictures of things we had seen or done. Often the comments would be "I wish I could do something like that!" This post is about that quote. Basically, you can! You just have to decide to do it, plan it, and then GO!
There a few barriers people have against traveling. One is fear and the other is cost. I will not say I am never nervous about traveling. This past fall I sat through a 17 hour plane ride for a trip to South Africa. This was not the easiest experience of my life, however, if I would have given into this fear, I would have missed so many blessings and the opportunity to bless others. Worrying about the what-ifs will limit your experiences, opportunities, and blessings faster than anything else. Stop worrying! Do not be afraid!
Cost is also a realistic concern. However, traveling does not require saving for a lifetime or going into crazy debt. You have to decide what kind of traveling you wish to do and budget for it. If you do not require 5 star hotels and three fancy meals a day, you can travel realistically anywhere in the world at a decent rate. Our first overseas trip was to England for our daughter's high school graduation. We saved for three years by putting aside any extra income/overtime. We spent about $6000 for 15 days. We could have gone for less and have, after learning a few tricks. I will share these with you.
First and foremost, save for your travel outside of your budget. We cut out quite a few extras (coffees, eating out, subscriptions, etc...) and put the money into a special account to travel. We work overtime and save it. We have always had a policy that our kids have to supply their own spending money during travel.
Airfare is the greatest expense. Play the game. I use Google Flights, Kayak, Expedia, and other sites to watch for flights. Fortunately, we live close to New Orleans, so we can often find decent priced flights. However, we will often use a cheap airline to get to New York, Boston, Atlanta, then take a direct flight from there to Europe. The cheapest we have flown round trip to Europe is $550 and the most expensive was $950. Everything effects the cost of flights from the day to the time to the connections. There are often great sales if you watch and if you are flexible. We have also used low-fare international carriers like Aer Lingus and Norwegian and found both to be great. Another expenses related to flying is parking for your car. Either have someone drop you off or find a hotel that allows you to leave your car there for a few weeks free of charge, if you rent a room one night. Luggage is another airfare expense. We travel with strictly one carry-on and one personal item. There will be a post about packing at a later date, but trust me, you can do it.
The next big cost is lodging. We do use hotels usually at an airport before an early morning flight. I joined Hilton Honors and try to stick with this brand in order to accumulate free nights. Pick a hotel and stick with it. However, hotels are not our long-term stay solutions. We just completed our 25th AirBnB stay. We have stayed in AirBnBs in eight countries and six states. We love this very affordable and homey solution. We only choose 5 star places and usually only book homes managed by Superhosts. These types of lodging solutions have many positives, but cost is at the top of the list. My favorite AirBnB cost just under $70 per night in Florence. We had a one-bedroom apartment with a gorgeous terrace in a lovely neighborhood. We have stayed in a great neighborhood in London, on a bay in Nova Scotia, a lodge built in the 1400's in England, and a beautiful magical home in Wales. Authentic experiences are very valuable.
Travel within the area is another expense. In Europe, I highly recommend using the public transportation from rail to metro, as much as possible. This will be your cheapest mode if you book earlier enough. Renting a car is sometimes required, but pay attention to information concerning renting a car. For example, the toll roads in France were really expensive. If you do decided to rent a car, learn the road rules before going on your trip. Parking and traffic citations can add unfortunate costs. Fuel prices in Europe are more than $6 per gallon and prices are by liter, which can be deceptive. However, their cars get much better gas mileage.
Food is another expense. Basically, avoid the tourist traps and eat local with locals. Most of us do not eat three large meals a day, so why do this on vacation? If you have an AirBnB, you can knock out breakfast in your rental. Then find local eats for the other meals. We also love to stop by a shop and buy things for a quick picnic. When we were in Prince Edward Island a few years ago, we stopped at a local farm stand and bought the most delicious produce. We went home and ate fresh, yummy vegetables for supper. The potatoes were still warm from the ground!
Finally, don't buy gifts for everyone at home. Seriously. We may buy a few small items, like a piece of art or local spices. Memories are the best things to bring home and your carry-on luggage will not allow for much else. Be selective and resist the urge to blow your money on trinkets.
Start dreaming! Joey and I have a 30 year travel plan. Dream big! Then, JUMP!
My passion is studying outliers in education. Through the years of watching amazing teachers and leaders, I have noticed the best of the best educators are willing to allow people to struggle with problems, wrestle to find answers, and even argue through issues to find unique solutions. Process and thinking are critical goals rather than only a right or wrong answer.
This week as I was teaching my undergraduate class, my initial desire was to make the road smooth for them, but then I remembered the power of struggle. It was one of those days when the content was rich, but difficult. The weekly class is three hours long. They all completed the first element smoothly and effectively. Then came the second part and the struggle began immediately. After four semesters of teaching this course and reflecting, I have come to realize this element offers a great opportunity to struggle. The element is applied to their individual projects, thus requiring students make critical individual choices. The choices require sound reasoning as to why certain pieces fit in certain places. Each one is different and each person's justification is unique.
What I noticed is most students want a right or wrong answer. They want me to confirm "yes" or "no" to each element. What I am more interested in is why they made the choices they made and what was their thinking behind the choices. I want them to think. I want them to reflect and decided if they need to make changes, because when we send them out into their classrooms, they, and they alone, will have to make instant decisions about children's learning. If they have never struggled to make choices and justify those choices, how can it become second nature as required to be an effective teacher?
In our schools and in our classrooms across this country, more and more children sit through daily lessons focused on passing standardized tests. I am not advocating the elimination of accountability, but I am advocating for opportunities where students are pushed to think beyond the application level. Students need daily opportunities to struggle and wrestle with content. Struggling teaches students to think.
We also must allow teachers to struggle to solve problems and teach them the reflective process. Many professional learning programs offer rote steps in data analysis, finding and applying strategies, and adjusting, but few allow teachers to struggle through the messy process of reflective teaching. The struggle combined with powerful questions and discussions can lead to teachers who are powerful and highly effective.
This should process occur in every lesson throughout every unit. There are small daily pieces where an expert teacher will quickly see where and for whom the lesson is breaking down. The teacher may adjust by adding a strategy individual students or facilitate through questioning. This type of teaching will never fit a scripted model or specific linear process, because the process is messy and unpredictable.
Similarly, improving schools/districts is a similar process. There are no quick-fix answers. The real answer is recruiting, developing, and retaining quality talent at every level.
My family was a family of movers, maybe not shakers, but we were certainly movers. When we moved back to our home town, I thought we were done. Needless to say, I was not pleased when at the end of sixth grade, my parents told me we were moving AGAIN! I followed them to Bryan, Texas dragging my feet. The last six weeks of sixth grade were spent in a new school, not making friends, and being fairly miserable. I took a test to move into the highest math group and missed it by one point. This one test confirmed to me I was terrible in math. The summer was long, but I did make one new friend in our neighborhood.
Seventh grade started at a whole new school, Anson Jones. Again, I was not excited. My bus assignment placed me in front of the most annoying boy on the planet. His main goal in life was to make me miserable. This was a huge school with students divided into four teams. I was a Comanche, which meant we had the white t-shirts with red writing. No one as fair as I am wants to wear white. I did not wear make-up, so I looked like a two year old compared to all the other girls. My Laura Ingalls braids made it worse. My only friend was an Apache, so we did not have lunch together. I figured the year could only go downhill from there. I just wanted to go back to Louisiana.
My math teacher was Mrs. Donahue. She was a by the book, straight-forward, and very strict teacher. She completely freaked me out. I dreaded going to her class and tried to hide in the back of the room. However, she read to us every Friday and O. Henry was her favorite. She laughed through The Ransom of Red Chief and so did we. One day she asked me to stay after class, which made me break out into hives. I was so nervous she was going to ask how someone so dumb in math could possibly be in the second-tiered class.
Instead, she asked me how someone so smart was in the second-tiered class. I told her I had missed the first-tier by a point and I really hated math. She said, “How can you hate math when you are so good at it?” I was confused and quickly told her how I had always struggled in math. Apparently my struggle was I transposed numbers when I copied problems, but I could do the math itself. She said my explanations were some of the best she has ever seen. She said I made connections and really understood the big picture. I thought she was a little nuts, but I smiled. One did not contradict Mrs. Donahue. She told me she wanted to give me some extra work like the top class did. At this point I would have done triple the work, because her praise was like water to a very parched traveler.
The rest of that year I worked very hard in Mrs. Donahue’s class and she turned my mind around about mathematics. She allowed me to help other students, which was the beginning of me becoming a math teacher.
Each year I write a letter to a former teacher during Teacher’s Appreciate Week. I have tried to find Mrs. Donahue, but have been unsuccessful. This is my thank you note this year. Thank you Mrs. Donahue for not only believing in a very shy and insecure red-headed girl, but also for sharing your great passion of teaching with me. Your confidence in me inspired me to teach others to find their own confidence. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all the Mrs. Donahues in the world. Change a life this week and change the future.
For Bethany, a joyful leader!
In 2011, I wrote a blog about educators being free thinkers. I was struggling at the time against conforming and doing what I thought was right. I went my own way, as I usually do. The results were splendid, thankfully.
I deeply value the freedom to think and make my own choices. I love our country, because I spent much of my childhood in countries where free thought was not allowed. My goal as a teacher and leader was to help my students and teachers become thinkers rather than zombie-like followers. We should be a people who question and push. New ideas and methods appeal to this part of me.
2017 finds me teaching at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, which is an amazing experience. I wondered if I could love my undergrads and grad students as much as I love my middle school and high school students. The answer is "YES!" These future teachers and leaders push me to think deeply about my practice, my beliefs, and my experiences.
This step outside of K-12 has allowed me to look inward and see things I did not see while in the midst of school. Teachers and leaders need outside connections to grow and flourish. We can become so isolated within our classrooms, schools, districts, and states. Even in schools with the strongest collaboration models, we can become stagnant.
When I began in this profession, the only way to communicate with peers outside of my school was by mail or phone. Now we have tons of options! I joined Twitter this past summer as part of a communications course I was teaching. I do not believe in teaching something I do not practice. I used it a little bit and thought it was fun, but really did not invest myself. Then I found Escaping the School Leaders' Dunk Tank by Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter. I read it twice in a week. (Read it). God works in mysterious ways and Rick's life ran straight into mine. He and Rebecca invited me to a chat on Twitter. I found all of these amazing educators, who talk to each other daily! They share ideas, offer solutions, and most of all give a different perspective. Some of the cool authors I have read over the years follow me! WHAT! (Yes, I did a few little gleeful dances. I am a nerd.)
Being a free thinker is a difficult thing if you only ever look at the immediate. By expanding our horizons and seeking the ideas of others, we strengthen our minds and our own practice. The chats over the past few months have inspired me to ask new research questions and to consider new possibilities.
If you are an educator, step outside of your realm. Push yourself to grow. Be a free thinker! Join a TwitterChat. You will meet people from places thousands of miles away. You can ask questions, push back, consider alternatives, and shun the status quo!
As I've said before, if we all rock our little boats together, the ocean will move.
If you want to be part of our school/district leader research, please take our survey:
Learning to think is an important skill for citizens in a free society. In our world of instant news and instant retorts, we seldom take the time to examine the facts and think through issues. Years ago I gave the political platforms from three parties to my students without the political party labels attached. Students went issue by issue and decided what they believed without my input. Then they tallied their choices and I revealed the parties. Most were shocked. Instead of labels, I offered ideas. We are a country in the midst of labeling everything quickly, which adds to the chaos.
Today's headlines are filled with the Orlando shooting travesty. This is what I know...I don't know enough about the situation to make any type of comment except how saddened I am for the families of these victims. I am also saddened by how quickly this tragedy has become a source of ugliness through comments. The hate speech comes from every direction in this country. Where is our civil discourse?
One issue we have is the media who is so quick to put out the story, they often misreport. There is no way anyone can know the facts of a situation within minutes/hours of the situation happening. I wish someone in the media would say something like "There has been a tragedy in Orlando. Honestly, anything we could report at this time would be speculation." What a thought! Imagine how much less chaos we would have if the media would stop speculating. Our society can be described as one constantly looking to hate someone else for a difference of opinion. Social media is a hotbed for words spewed in hate and ignorance. (I am constantly shocked by those I know who claim to be followers of Christ name calling and hating people.)
Religious people want laws to match their specific beliefs. Non-believers often want laws opposite of religious beliefs. Each ideology has a desire for laws to help their cause. We, all of us, have placed too much value on laws over relationships with people. As a Christian I have often considered the fact Christ did not come to this earth and run for office to legislate his commands. Nope! He worked within a very confining government controlled society, developed relationships, and loved people. When people disagreed, He did not hop upon a rock and start screaming hateful things and calling them names. Often He shook the dust off of His feet and kept walking. He had much discourse, which people attended and either accepted or did not. None of this forced His message to change or treat people in an ugly manner.
Civil discourse begins when we do the following:
1. Get to know people, all sorts of people. Understand their perspectives. Understand various ideologies and be able to clearly articulate your own.
2. Be kind, even in disagreement, be kind. Name calling is a sign of ignorance.
3. STOP reposting stories on social media without checking the sources and the validity of the story. Seriously!
4. Instead of listening to the soundbites, go read the transcripts, the laws, the political platforms, the counter accounts, and know the media is all about the money.
5. Let your voice be heard by the politicians representing you. Track their voting records.
6. Most importantly, decide what you believe at your core rather than what you have been told you believe. When things do not align, question yourself. For example, since I am a self-confessed believer in Christ, how does this align with my beliefs about life, criminal punishment, and civic responsibility?
We must take back our country from the media and all sides of the political monster we have allowed to grow. We must begin to have civil discourse. We start one person at a time. Go have dinner with someone this week who is completely opposite of you in beliefs and listen, really listen. Then share your heart in love. Go seek out facts before jumping to conclusions. Create relationships with the unlovely. Read. Ask questions. THINK! We are so blessed to live in this country where civil discourse is at the core of our very foundation. Let's use it!
I had decided to stop blogging, but in the last few months I have found my voice again. There are things to be discussed and points to be made. Our current educational landscape is a war-torn battleground with various armies fighting for control of a multi-billion dollar prize. To control education is to control the minds of the future. The arguing and under the tables deals are deplorable. The issues are many, but we are a free people with creativity and passion.
Has anyone pondered the fact both parties are in agreement with each other about Common Core? John White is a Teach for America alumni, mentored by Arne Duncan, who just stepped down from serving his dear friend, President Obama, as Secretary of Education. Does anyone wonder how our Republican conservative governor, Bobby Jindal, befriended White? Anyone?
National standards are not new. We have had national standards for years. The only difference is these standards were created by organizations like the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, instead of the government. The standards were then used by the states to create state standards. The testing companies created tests to match these state standards. Here is the interesting part, when I was teaching; I would pull released test items from various states. Guess what? These were often the same released test items I found on the Louisiana Department of Education site. There are only a few testing companies and they had been selling the same questions to all the states, because the state standards were based upon national standards.
Common Core enters the picture. Why? Imagine how much money testing companies make from making all those new tests! Textbook companies created all new textbooks. Money! Interestingly enough, some of the "test prep" material I have seen is the same as the old stuff with a new cover and a new structure. Dig into the shareholders of these companies. I wonder where their political donations are going?
I am for standards, but I am for local control and states' rights. Trust the federal government? Seriously?
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a national assessment used to check our educational progress. The first test was given in 1969! You can learn more here: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/naephistory.aspx
Again, why do we need another set of tests? We already have a national assessment data we can use from the past 47 years!
Why are outside interests such as Bill Gates and the Walton family donating so much money to certain BESE candidates? Do you think these very wealth business people are really concerned with children or could there possibly be other reasons?
The whole idea about teachers being held accountable using value-added measures is quickly finding to be statistically unsound. I will humbly admit I thought this was a great idea about ten years ago. Of course, I was clueless about the statistics and the idea sounded great. I know amazing teachers and I know some who need to be kicked out in the chair they constantly are found sitting. The reason I supported this concept is because of the terrible teachers I found in the profession. Why can't we work together as a profession to police ourselves? There are terrible teachers out there. If you are one, quit. If you know one, help them quit.
Linda Darling-Hammond, who should have been the Secretary of Education for the United States, outlines the issues with VAM-models. You can read the facts file://localhost/here/ https/::edpolicy.stanford.edu:publications:pubs:1340
Many things impact student achievement. Hattie (2003) offers a quick summary of the research. What students bring to the table predicts 50 % of their success. Home life is 5-10%, schools are 5-10%, principals show little impact outside of the school factors already counted, peers impact between 5-10%, and TEACHERS account for 30% variance. Other studies show even lower impacts of the various educational factors, but the teacher impact is always the highest of these factors. You can read Hattie's report at http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Pedagogy-and-assessment/Building-effective-learning-environments/Teachers-Make-a-Difference-What-is-the-Research-Evidence
Why would we focus all of our efforts on content and assessment, when we know highly effective teachers make the greatest impact? What if instead of spending all of the billions of dollars we have spent on creating assessments, curricula, textbooks, computer programs, etc... we would have spent the last 20 years focused on recruiting, retaining, and promoting the very best teachers in the world? Do you think this could have made a huge difference in our country? Look around the world....this has worked for the high performing countries. Teachers are valued and appreciated, not demonized and blamed.
Highly effective teachers work hard and I don't mean the ones labeled by some crazy system dreamed up over cocktails. I am referring to those teachers I have seen in action. They arrive at school before sunrise. Their classrooms are places of wonder and excitement. The children are engaged every minute of the day. They push their children to think, read, discuss, argue, invent, create, and love each other. They do not yield to scripted lessons with robot-like workbooks. These teachers, you see, have a brain and should be allowed to think, problem-solve, and teach! If scripted robots worked, we could save tons of money and buy a parrot for each classroom!
(Of course imagine how much money textbook companies would see float away. There would be no fancy dinners for personnel on the textbook committees.)
What will we do when we don't have enough teachers?
School leadership is tired! I challenge you to shadow a principal in this day and age. Whether you are a teacher or a non-educator, when done well, this is a tough job. I know some amazing leaders. I love them and I appreciate the work they do. Support your school leaders. They need you! For a glimpse into their world read this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/10/why-a-great-principal-burned-out-and-what-might-have-prevented-it/
Buzzwords are the enemy of education. “College and career ready”, “rigor”, “diversity”, “differientiation”, blah, blah, blah… Every year there is a new trend. Effective teachers and leaders have always been using various strategies and producing results for years. We act like these ideas are something new once assigned a label.
Drop the double talk and fancy buzzwords. We need to speak so the public understands us. Our goal is to use our training as experts in child development, pedagogy, soft skills, and content to help children meet their potential. This will look amazingly different for each child if done well. We need to communicate with the public. I have met very few parents and community members who will not work with the school when they understand the issues.
Stop listening to all of the rhetoric. Talk to teachers and to children. Read what other countries are doing. Be informed about your candidates’ platforms and inquire about the sources of their funding. Ask to see exams. Go read the practice tests at www.louisianabelieves.com. Go read the Compass data, which will be another blog soon. Don’t trust what you read…even this blog. Go find out for yourself.
Question! Read! Think! Discuss! We are a free people. Make up your own mind!
Joey’s grandmother, MawMaw Mayeaux, could grow a magnificent rose garden in the middle of the Sahara given half a chance. Her garden and yard were a sight to behold and everything she touched seemed to bloom larger and brighter than anyone else’s garden. When Joey and I built our house, she gave us two roses from her yard. These roses were old stock and bloomed beautifully the first year, then one died. The second one limped along for a few years before finally succumbing and withering away around 2007. We were really sad as MawMaw was gone and the rose bush was a little reminder of her.
This winter has been so absolutely horrid. We, the people of south Louisiana, do not like freezing weather, ice, snow, and general yuckiness. Spring has finally sprung and our plants are blooming, the spring air calls us for long walks. My legs are happy to feel the sun.
A few weekends ago I was out front in our yard clearing out winter’s marks of death, when suddenly I saw the strangest thing. I ran across the ground cover and fell down on my knees to examine this crazy and very unexpected thing. There in the midst of the daylilies and groundcover was MawMaw’s rosebush pushing up through the dirt! This plant has been dead for 7 years!
Seven years dead and the longest, coldest winter I can remember has awoken a beautiful inheritance. Often we feel like we are in the midst of winter in our lives. We only see the death of things. There is no sunlight. Everything seems cold and lifeless. We are angry as we have planted and nurtured to find death.
I find this a wonderful Easter message this year. Imagine the disciples and their hearts as they realized the cross was death to their dreams. Things are not always what they seem. What is dead resurrects to a glorious new beginning.
Have hope! We will never know how the seeds we plant and nurture may blossom years after we are no longer involved. I challenge each of us to love the most difficult child, to plant with great expectations, and to have faith that even when we do not see, our efforts are not in vain.
MawMaw cultivated a strong stock of roses, but also a strong stock of family. We reap the benefits years after she has left us. Let us be educators with the same mindsets and hearts. Do not dwell on our crosses, instead believe in miracles and have faith!
This past week a former student was charged in the armed robbery of a local bank. Within a few miles were several schools. The middle school where I taught this young man is across the intersection and the high school where my child is a student is down the street. The news coverage was extensive and many of his former teachers made comments demonstrating our collective sadness. I am sad this young man, along with two others, has devastated their families and their futures, however, on this very same day, my Facebook page was full of other wonderful stories the media had no interest in covering.
I love Facebook, because it is the “news media” owned by us. We report our own stories. This past week there was a great pictorial of one former student and her new baby girl. The baby is so beautiful. Then there was a great little story of another former student’s daughter hating to leave pre-school. The picture was priceless. One former student is in a very intense military language school and when she posts how hard she is working, I pray for her and her classmates to learn what they need to learn in order to best serve our country. Another is a Marine and his adventures make me smile. Some former students are studying to be teachers. YEAH! One is finishing her OBGYN residency. I remember her over the top sense of humor in 7th grade and know her bedside manner will be second to none. Another is a tech genius and sends me great stories about new inventions and discoveries. I love them all.
Facebook allows me to see the stories of students as they live their lives. My few months with them may or may not have always made a difference, but their lives bring me great joy. I am so proud of them and the people they are. As for the ones who make bad choices, I remember them each night in my prayers and pray they find the grace, which I, a sinner, have found. May their poor choices be a turning point to mercy and love for others.
I am a teacher, which in a single word, sums up my passions and my belief in the future.