Teachers change the school environment

The very thing that upsets teachers about the classroom is something they created by turning a blind eye and saying “It’s not my problem.” When a building is so full of people, it is hard to even know faces much less names; it becomes easier for a teacher to say, “That’s not my problem!” The “personal touch” is no longer effective. Without personal touch – student learning is difficult.

To make an experience personal is the only way to make a caring atmosphere. When rules are sensitively enforced, people feel loved and safe. Without safety, no learning can occur.

The only way to ensure student learning is to make it “my” problem. The heart of the school means: we all care, we all work hard for student success. We are all responsible. Students feel loved and safe – how do they many of them even get to school with the odds so against them? They come back because they are well-liked and cared for by all of the school’s family. Not just a few, not just a couple – we all have to work for the benefit of the student. I BELIEVE and that makes students trust that I have their learning and welfare in my heart. Because where I work – It’s Just Better!

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Education on the skids

Amazing that our world evolves so quickly now, and yet education plods along in too large shoes making it cumbersome and unwieldy – and certainly obsolete. I think that education is a reflection of our world. The more Washington gets involved in our lives – MIRRORS – The more education becomes bureaucratic, and how is learning assessed? Why testing, you silly rabbit! Because testing is a priority in education. I don’t know about you, but I learn best by doing, not by being tested! In fact, standardized tests make me become anxious and vomit. (Sorry for that picture.)

The days of student learning and educational classroom-time that is stolen from our students is a travesty! Why aren’t parents SCREAMING at the top of their lungs at the State/Nat’l Board of Education? Not only that – our tax dollars are going out of our state(s) to another state to grade the damned tests.

We only have about 182 days with students and take out 50+ (not exact but extremely conservative number) for testing and what do you have? A student who can take tests really well! Where the hell is that job? How much does a test taking job pay?

Side note if you please: If computers are the actual future, then why can’t we use them? Ever student could have a laptop or Ipad with their textbooks loaded – oh no! That’s a whole different story…

Things your teacher said

I’ll venture to say what some teacher along the way in your education has said something that has shaped your life and/or career choice.

We all remember something that a teacher told us. I have had students come up to me years after they were in my class and say, “I remember you wouldn’t let me write junk in your class. I’m a good writer now because you wouldn’t accept junk. When I write something at work, I ask myself what you would think about it and rewrite if necessary.” It is kind of scary how many students remembered something that I said to them on a personal level.

A few years ago a former student said, “Hi, do you remember me? You saved my life.” OMG! That is a bit much, but evidently it was true. I called CPS and she was able to get out of an abusive situation. This was many years before teachers were required to call and I remember she didn’t want me to. I told her that I had to protect her and had no choice. Wow. She is doing alright in life now all because she was removed from her home.

We forget that something we might think isn’t very important might resonate with a student for life. That is pretty heavy stuff. A teacher or school employee has to be careful with words to students. Those words can shape a life and change a person forever. And we thought that we were just going about our regular day. I make sure that each day I say something to make a student’s day. Sometimes the only smile a student might get is mine.

The other night I was privileged to hear a former student speak in front of a large group. He was so easy and relaxed; nothing like he had been in my classroom! I spoke with him afterward and complimented him on his speech, and he said, “You did that. I am a good speaker today because of you.” Gee, the things students remember.

What about those days that are just regular days for you as a teacher? Your words impact even then. I remember my fourth grade teacher who really hated what she did who said, “You and numbers just don’t mix, do they?” Of course I remembered that my whole life. One day in high school another teacher told me, “See, you can get this math!” Somewhat balanced out what the other had said…

I remember a principal saying, “Remember you put your hand in the river and you touch what floats by, you change lives, and you don’t even know it, so be careful.” That’s what this is about. Be careful someone may forever remember something you said to them and it may just shape who they are. Stay positive, and if you aren’t happy around students, then look for a new job because what you say does matter.

Why AR?

From elementary to high schools, Accelerated Reader is still in our schools! How many book lovers have been murdered and left bleeding by the book stacks because of AR? For those who don’t know AR, it is a program that has students reading books and taking tests over them. BUT the fact is, they usually don’t read the book. They Google the book and take the test from that information. Or in the case of my friend’s son, they share the info – two students read two different books and tell each other about theirs, and they each take the test and they get two books out of the way. My nephew is now a BIG HATER of books because of A.R. My niece will only read manga… HOW MANY STUDENTS HAVE TO DIE OF BOREDOM BEFORE AR GETS THROWN OUT?

So much money has been invested in public education for the AR system! We talk about a new millennium, so maybe this is when we should drop it! Many students hate it and end up “living” through it in elementary, intermediate and junior high. In high school, the students are book haters because of it.

AR is touted as helpful for teachers to get students to read or “Reading Management Program.” The books are chosen from various award winners and tests are created to see if the student read the book. One enticing thing is that students get to choose their own books from the list and read above grade level. Librarians are off the hook for book recommendations because there is a list to look at. Librarians become paper pushers instead of reading specialists. What hooey!

I don’t think that “one size fits all” applies to reading. Limiting is the least of the problems with AR. AR doesn’t take away a parent’s responsibility for monitoring what their child is reading. It seems like it might even lull a parent into giving someone else the responsibility. Using rewards is a whole other posting… You want to run a race with others then do so, but don’t use books to create competitiveness among readers. AR is one giant punishment for those who really like to read and it makes non-readers hate reading! It makes cheaters out of honest students who split reading or share answers or do lots of other shady things.

What might have been a good idea in the past has turned into a mess. It would be great if we all read or learned in the same way, but we don’t. Cookie cutter ideas rarely work in our world. I want students to tell me what they loved about a book. How they want to read more by that author. What THRILLED them about a book. Taking a test to punish a child for reading is like killing a mockingbird.

Censorship offends me

Okay, I know this will surely date me to prehistoric times, but do you remember the BOOKMOBILE? The bookmobile day was such an exciting day! We could check out two books for a whole week. Wow! Exciting times. Well, reading has changed. Or maybe that should read – Young Adult books have changed since the bookmobile days! I believe that students should have access to literature and that the student and parent should decide together what is appropriate for the student. That being said, I know that sometimes the books I wanted to read, I didn’t want to discuss with my momma. She tells how she became a reader when she got ahold of the book Peyton Place. She was in high school and the book was passed around her crowd until it was a wreck that no one could read. The more I read – the more “stuff” I would read about. That was much better than hearing false information from friends or no information from home.
When I first became a librarian, the other librarians would talk about how their principal would remove books from their shelves without going through the correct procedures on reconsideration of material policy. I believe that is censorship in its vilest form. It is the job of the librarian to remind principals/parents/people about the district policy that has been adopted about reconsideration of materials. Censorship should not be tolerated. Yes, books have changed, but it isn’t your call what I should read.
Talk about changes – I remember when Judy Blume’s books were all the rage because of content! I couldn’t wait to read them. I don’t think that I became warped because of a book!
My mom thought being informed was better than not.
This quote from Joseph Henry Jackson certainly hits a high note with me: “Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'”
So yes, books have changed due to content and language, but does that make them bad books? It makes them “real” books. I think that librarians today would be hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t contain the F-word. Do words on paper really make us better or worse people? Isn’t it better to make your own decisions about what you read? In the words of Bob Dylan – “Times – they are a-changin’.”
In high school we teach Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where books are banned and burned. I hope people today understand the awful implication of this and will stand against censorship.

Still loving it

I knew in the 4th grade that I was placed on earth to be a teacher.  At the end of the school year, I would carry a box around to all of the elementary teachers and ask for their leftover mimeograph (yeah, the purple stuff) worksheets.  I would tote the box home 2 blocks and have a plethora of worksheets for every grade, every level and every discipline.  I was differentiating back then!  When my mom made us take a nap everyday in the summer, I would open my window, push out the screen and teach all of the children in the neighborhood!  This went on for a long time.  I even taught non-school age children.  One day, my mom caught me and school had to have a new time schedule.

I started getting paid to teach 32 years ago and still love what I do!  My first year in teaching, I was with some really mean, jealous, veteran teachers who made fun of me for smiling all day… “You get a few years in this business and you won’t be smiling like that anymore.”  I told them, “If I’m not smiling, then I will go get a job I love.”  They also made fun of my wearing heels to school, so you can imagine all the other things they said to me.  They were mean bullies and I cried all the way home everyday, but I lived through the first year of teaching with no mentor and no help.  Yes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…” plus “I remember that and help newbies as much as possible!”

 

It’s important to not only help the students become readers, but to keep teachers in the loop with new literature. My teachers are really good about taking advice about what they should read next. It’s great that the students see the teachers with “outside” reading material on their desks. That goes back to modeling the positive outcomes that you are trying to reinforce with students.
I also ask teachers what they are teaching next and find new material to help them or take their notes and put them into PowerPoint or Prezi. Things they don’t have time to do.
Ipads are a new teaching tool that our school just received and the teachers are exploring the Apps, so I tell them about ones that will help them with their classes. Whatever I can do to make their teaching world easier, I do it.
Today I am going to leave you with; “If you are not making a positive impact in your school with students and peers, it might be time to retire.”