Why I didn’t make your meeting …

meeting

Do I really need to explain myself? No! but I need you to know I feel guilt every time I miss a scheduled meeting. I feel I need to explain myself. Yes, I made a conscientious decision to miss your meeting, that obviously was important. I feel that my time can be better utilized. So let me explain.

I wake up early to make sure I am ready for my day with students. I arrive before 7 AM even though my report time isn’t till 8. I need to make sure my copies are made, room is set up for the students, my website is updated and lesson plans in place. I often check in with co-workers about students and if time permits take care of correspondence. Twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays) I have students arrive at 7:30 AM because I voluntarily have a video production news cast. I enjoy working with these students who have a passion for what they are doing. It takes up an hour per week in the morning and lunch time (30 more minutes) on Wednesdays to make it happen.  My works days are busy with instruction any free time is used to reflect and collaborate.

When the last school bell rings (3:10), my attention shifts to my children. I am the father of 3. Twin eleven year olds in fifth grade and a fifteen year old in tenth grade. My twins school ends at 3:50, They walk home but I try to get home as soon as I can to help them get going on homework. These two are active. Many days they have after school activities  like scouts, dance, sports and science olympiad starting between 4:30 and 5:00. My Fifteen year old is a three sport athlete and active in boy scouts. This means after school hours require a chauffeur because they are filled with meetings, practices and games. My wife and I are busy making sure that there are no conflicts on the calendar.

I want to be involved and attend your meeting. I don’t shy away from work and appreciate the opportunity to share my voice. If I can’t make a meeting it is because something is conflicting on my calendar. You might not deem my conflict as more important or might ask that my spouse cover if possible. Sorry but my schedule is managed by me, something more important is on the calendar.

Thank you for including me. E-mail me the minutes. Keep inviting me. I will attend when I can. I will contribute when I can. Just think about your schedule and if I randomly tried to fit a meeting in it? The question comes up when talking with my wife: “Why can’t teachers meet during their work day like other profession?” Great question. It seems to make ALL the meetings, to be FULLY involved, one can’t have children or extra activities. It is hard on all educators. We are all busy with family, spouses and outside activities. We can’t make them all.

The ugly side of sports

sports

I have loved sports my entire life. As a child, I loved playing soccer on the banks of the Mississippi River in the Quinsippi Soccer League. Playing basketball at the YMCA. Learning golf and tennis by playing with my brothers and father. Growing up in a rural area, high school sports were king. While in grade school, my father purchased season tickets to watch the Quincy High School Blue Devils Basketball team. I enjoyed cheering on the team with the community as they annually competed for a state championship in the 1980s.

Now as an adult. I love watching my children compete in the fields and on the courts. Watching them grow as players and develop news skills fills my heart with pride while bring back fond memories of my childhood. I have even had the pleasure of coaching my kids in basketball.

Gavin basketball team 2nd grade
Me coaching some Gavin’s team (tall one) 

Lately I have noticed that there is an ugly side to sports. It has always been there but I had chosen to focus my efforts and attention to all the positives sports bring to the table. I can’t stop ignoring this negative side, I see it impacting so many youth today.

From fans to parents to coaches to players negativity is shown. Fans are rabid promoting fierce rivalries. Some act like a high games outcome is vital for their existence.  Parents scream and shout wanting more playing time for THEIR kid that can do no wrong.  Coaches push kids to their to the limits running up scores often leaving some players discouraged due to little or no playing time. How will they get better if they get no game action? Players mimic the professionals, flexing muscles and taunting the other team on every good play even when loosing a game.

Two recent local high school stories keep sticking in my head. First was has football upset where Dakota HS out played Chippewa Valley HS. It was a game that Dakota could be proud of defeating a team that had dominated them recently. In celebration a father decided to burn his varsity Chippewa jacket upon the return to their home school. Once it hit social media, well it wasn’t pretty. Here is the media coverage. Second happened last week when Almont played Denby in the state semi-finals. After the game was called, racial slurs flew and the police were called. We can’t have this in sports at any level!! It is causing a shortage on referees.  Who would want to be a referee if many don’t respect their calls?

It needs to start at the professional level. Sportsmanship needs to be modeled and expected. Players have to stop arguing with the referees, Coaches too. I tell my players that they aren’t allowed to talk to the referee, that is the coaches job. The leagues need to reclaim their games before it gets out of control.

I loved a recent presentation from my son’s school Athletic Director. He shared that student athletes shared that their grandparents are their favorite fans. Why? Because they love how they played NO matter WHAT. Time to refocus game days. Make them for KIDS again! #gamedaysareforkids

I am JUST a teacher

Just a teacher

It is heard all the time: “You aren’t just a teacher” or “Don’t say you are just a teacher.” The intention is that teachers have many jobs and are more than the title, but do we say this about other careers?

Just a firefighter? Just a doctor?  Just a police officer? “Just a” any other career?

This linguistic choice is devaluing our profession. We allow others to shift the focus from our profession to how we act with in our profession. It allows society to separate teachers from the individuals who do the job. Justifying treating teachers poorly in society because they stop viewing us as teacher. It needs to stop.

I am JUST a teacher and PROUD of being a TEACHER. Teaching is a difficult job it requires many skills where we make hundreds of decisions in the blink of an eye. Teaching requires unique training in pedagogy and into understanding how our students adolescent minds work. Being a teacher is a honorable profession. We are working hard to help mold the youth into positive contributors in our society.

Many neglect to see teachers value by using the “Just” a teacher language. As teachers we need to stand up and claim our profession by being proud of the title!

Schools need a state budget!

budget

On March 5, 2019 Michigan Governor Whitmer proposed a state budget. Today is August 26, 2019 and the budget has yet to be adopted. Our “Great” state is gearing up to shut down October 1.  Our legislators have been on sumer recess despite the governor asking for them to work until a budget is approved.
Our students deserve a state budget! It will provide stability and funding for their classrooms. Most school districts had to set budgets for the 2019-2020 school year in July. Not knowing funding levels for this school year, means districts have made conservative budgets, not funding extra supplies or staffing to create smaller classes. When a budget passes districts might change staffing (if they can find teachers) and order supplies but this impact the students, shifting their schedules. I urge any Michigan Citizen to write their legislators NOW so our students can receive a well funded education! Below is the letter I wrote to my legislators if you need a template for your letter.  If you need to find your legislators the MEA can help you here.
Dear Legislator;
As the 2019-2020 school year begins most school districts are under a cloud of uncertainty. This is the first time in a decade that there is not a state budget before the school year starts. Most School’s financial year starts July 1. School have to adopt budgets and plan staffing for the year. Without a budget this creates uncertainty. Schools plan conservatively so cuts don’t have to happen once school starts. This means schools are understaffed and students might have to change classrooms and teachers once a state budget offers some stability. Michigan students need our state budget NOW!
Please get back to work, working with all parties to adopt a fair budget that provides the stability and opportunity for ALL students seeking a public education in this state.
Thank you for your time and efforts.
Sincerely
Todd Bloch
7th grade science teacher
Parent of 3

5 Ideas To Recruit and Retain Educators

Best

As the 2019-2020 school year commences, media outlets are reporting about the shortage of certified teachers while classrooms are filled with long term substitutes. Districts and Politicians are looking for solutions. Problems like this don’t have quick and easy fixes, too many components to the shortage: Pay, Workload, Flexibility, Respect and Job Growth to name a few. A person with the right skill set to be an educator can easily find a high paying, more flexible and respected job in the current market.

To be a successful teacher one has to have many skills: presentation, technology use, communication, organization, personnel management, data analysis and reporting all come to mind. Having a skill set that includes all of these would make an individual very marketable for careers in most fields. Most fields can offer quicker job satisfaction than education.

A friend recently left the education field to find more career satisfaction. He is becoming a truck driver. When I asked why he shared this information:

Student truck drivers earn $41,000 a year on average. CDL truck drivers can expect to earn $66,000 a year on average. OTR CDL truck drivers earn the most, with salaries averaging $82,000 a year. Team truck drivers earn an average of $71,000 each per year. https://www.truckdriverssalary.com/how-much-can-you-earn-your-1st-year-as-a-trucker/

He went on to share: “I will work less hours and won’t have my work life mixing with my home life. I want less stress and more time for my family” It made sense for him not to teach.  How can we fix this?

Why teach?

Most people who go into education do it for the love of learning and youth. I previously blogged my WHY.

Society needs to make the profession attractive again.

How?

First stop all the myths about it being a part-time job for full time pay. Do we say this about actors, athletes or any other profession that doesn’t work 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year, nope so why do we do it to teachers?

Second: Remember that it is a profession, not a job. Treat teacher like the professionals they are. Professions are respected not treated like babysitters. Ever since the saying “Those that can do, those that can’t teach” surfaced teachers have been under attack. Time rephrase it to “Those that can do so due to teachers.”

Third: Flexibility needs to built in to profession. Right now summers is the only flexible time for teachers. But on every school day teachers have to show up, this makes it hard for people who love their own kids. Many teachers use up sick days to go on field trips and spend time with their own kids or even go for doctor’s visits and the dentist office. With the rise of flex time in every other career but education no wonder many are flocking towards the door.

Fourth: Refocus education away from test scores towards quality of life and growth. Test score focus is forcing many educators to leave. Student scores focus on students  individual mindset and social-economic backgrounds. Rating teachers on student scores changes the role of teachers, teachers now feel they are motivators in chief versus educators.

Fifth: Pay! A respected profession is paid well. We pay for what we value. Sadly Instagram promoters and Fortnite players can quickly make more than educators. The pay has to be competitive for educational level. Teachers currently make 17% less than those with similar educational levels. We need people in all careers but the most important one is education, but is society showing that educators are valuable with current pay and school funding?

I love being an educator. There is no greater joy that helping students have Ah-Ha moments or seeing them grow from beginners to experts in a skill.

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” Desmond Tutu

Hopefully the profession can be built back up so more can discover the joys of being an educator!

Teach Like A …..

Teach Like A

 

When asked by a new teacher about how to teach, the first thing that comes to mind are the teaching similes: Teach like a …Pirate, Champion, Boss etc. They are catchy and have been used by authors to hook people into reading their books. These books are good reads full of reminders of what great teachers do. Each author takes a different angle highlighting what they found to be meaningful to them as a teacher. I have enjoyed reading many of these books learning many new ideas. These similes help catch the essence of teaching, but what happened to teaching like a TEACHER? (maybe it doesn’t sell books)

Sure the quick comparisons are great but lets really think about them:

Pirates sail around to their own tune with no loyalties, robbing others for their own good. Teachers have to be loyal to their students and districts.

Champions are the best, better than the rest. Accomplished for self/team winning metals by defeating others. Teachers have to work as a part of a large team and collaborate with those on all other teams for the good of all students not just theirs.

Bosses are in charge of every aspect of their company ordering employees to  do their will. Teachers know that many aspects of their job is out of their control and work hard to guide students to where they want to go in their learning.

I could go on to all the other “Teach like a” smiles I have found as book or blog titles. (Even teach like a cat?) Teaching is a very diverse and complex job. Teachers need to explore the many ways/ styles of teaching, finding what works for THEM and their STUDENTS. While books are full of incredible ideas it is important to find methods that work for you.

In my experience I have just kept evolving. As I watch and talk to more teachers, I pick up tips and tricks of the trades. Occasionally I am reminded of methods I used to use but moved away from due to my students population but might work for the new students in my class this year. Educators have to remember that judging others from what we hear or passively observe in their teaching style is dangerous. I have observed many teachers instructing in ways I would not teach but it was working for them. I wouldn’t expect teachers to copy my methods. Good teachers have their own unique style.

Teach like a teacher owning your methods. 

#Clearthelist – equity comes to question

I noticed a conversation today on twitter around #Clearthelist.  Apparently Courtney Jones started a movement about a month ago on social media to help support teachers called Support A Teacher , where teachers can share their Amazon (or other) wish lists in hopes of having them filled by generous donors. Sounds cool!! Until you really think about it. Why do teachers need to post wish lists? Don’t taxes fund schools? Yes taxes fund schools but right not it is hard for schools to keep up with the ever growing needs of their student bodies. With the costs of salaries, building maintenance, transportation and curriculum needs, classroom supplies often get short changed. Teachers often dig into their own pockets to make sure classes have all the supplies needed. On average teachers spend over $500 out of their own salary to equip their classrooms.  Teachers that want to try more hands or engaging activities often spend more or end up asking their students for supplies.

Crowd funding for classrooms is nothing new, Donors Choose has been around for awhile. Crowd funding seems to be popular thing in the internet era. From medical costs to new product development to films crowd funding is happening. Now it is building steam in education. For me it brings to question Equity! Teachers that are more connected to resources will ultimately have more donors. Think about it, a teacher in a poorer community will not have parents who can afford to reach into their pockets for more, since they are struggling just to get by. Teachers in wealthier districts will have parents that are eager to donate, many of them already are via class supply lists. Social media will help equalize a bit allowing teachers to reach out of their local community but is this really equitable? How many items are needs vs wants or wishes? Then I worry about teachers who create list but nothing is purchased, who will they feel? Is this just luck of the draw?

I want to thank everyone for wanting to help teachers. Here is my wish list. The basic needs are on my listed, I added a few reach desires as I plan on teaching coding with drones  and could always use more tools to reach more students. But after helping a teacher by sending supplies, it is time to help schools get funding for these supplies by voting.

Teachers shouldn’t have to beg for pencils, folders, or books for their students. It is time to fund school adequately.