In it for the Outcome!

outcome

This weekend as I was watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 Celtics/ Lakers Best of Enemies a line about the late 70’s Celtic players attitude from narrator Donnie Walhberg resonated with me. “The paychecks come if we win our lose, so just cash your check.” It was referencing the lack of passion from players who just seemed to be going through the motions.  It is seen in every profession, when passion gives way for a need of income to just live. This attitude often come from a lack of voice and choice in career or when employees feel their outcomes are beyond their control. Outcome focus is lost and income focus only remains.

Anytime educators raise their voice about income, the common comeback quickly shifts to outcomes. “Teachers are in it for outcomes not incomes.” Yes, every teachers know that they will not get rich teaching, but they expect to support their families and live a decent life. Why is this saying only about teachers? Shouldn’t it be about ALL careers? From doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, and politicians to janitors, bus drivers and service careers? Society is contempt paying ever increasing prices for everything but their public services like education. Individuals in most careers are seen as successful by their income. Corporations can turn what ever profit they see fit. Our politicians feel that tax cuts will enhance the business world because they will have more money to create jobs. BUT in education more money is seen as a waste? Society needs to focus on outcomes! If we desire well educated students, we would spend more on schools than sporting events, concerts, movie tickets and prisons.

Right now schools don’t seem to be performing well. Should we blame teachers? or Society? Parents treat their school systems like day care, anxious for the first day of kindergarten so they no longer have to “pay” for someone to watch their children. Constantly pulling students out of school for vacations and to be their day care providers when one can be found. Most doctors and dentists offices only have hours during the school day because their services are more important than school. Our music and mass media often works against most school’s teaching. Modeling poor behaviors, bad grammar and lack of respect for others. Why do some students hate school? Because their world is entirely different than anything they see in schools.

We need to all work together to focus on OUTCOMES! Collaboration will lead to a increase academic gains. It is time educational values are reflected in out society! Start by listening to educators and valuing their opinions. Teachers are role models! Their average income is less than $50,000. So feel athletes or other professions are role models here is a look at their salaries:  On average, NBA players make $5.15 million, MLB players make $3.2 million, NHL players make $2.4 million, and NFL players make $1.9 million per year, according to Forbes doctor’s average $189,000. dentists $146,000, lawyers $136,000. Pay reflects what we value in our society. Are we all focused on outcomes? Sports teams have millions spent on players who don’t even play. The United States is not ranked even ranked in the top 10 for health care!

It is time for our society to show it values education! Spend money here and we will all be supporting positive outcomes!

Feeling Unvalued

unvalued

The media constantly buzzes with the news of how teachers and our schools are failing our students. Politicians bemoan the failings of schools offering up new legislative initiatives to “solve” our educational whoas. Society feels teachers suck!  Many who used to dream of going into the profession are choosing different career paths. Current teachers are all extremely dedicated, care deeply about students and their learning, but even some of them are looking for alternatives to staying in the classroom.

value

Teachers are valuable to our society. They make every other profession possible. In today’s society many tout their success forgetting how their school experiences molded them. Praising God, mom, dad, their hard work or luck for their success. Just listen to any athlete talk after winning a sporting event. Teachers take a back seat and are frequently forgotten at the end of a long journey to success.

When teacher advocate in efforts of elevating their profession, they are beaten down by society and government. Comments like “Teachers only work 9 months!” or “Those that can do and those that can’t teach” demean our profession. Legislative bodies meet when teachers teach allowing no time for them to give input of policies that regulate their profession. Teachers are constantly reminded that they have to be in teaching for outcomes not incomes. What about other service professions? Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists and Insurance companies? These profession seem to focus more on income than outcome these days! Nobody belittles their career choices constantly.

Teachers need to be valued! As concerned teachers raise their voices listen to them, show you care and hear them. This is how we will attract the best and brightest to the career that needs them!

 

Testing Season

test

It is testing Season in Michigan. The M-Step started for 8th grade two weeks back as most students returned from spring break. School schedules are morphing regularly to fit the test in around continuing instruction. Students have mixed reactions to tests. Some want to see where they stand. Are they ahead or behind. Most who care, just want to be “better” than their friends. Others just see the tests as another rite of passage. They endure theses like enduring visits to the dentist. Still others just dread they testing days and the changes of schedule. Often getting physically ill just with the though of having to sit in front of the computer for an hour.

 

I hope every parent gives a similar message to their children as this principal! Tests are just a snapshot, a moment in time. Some students will succeed. Others will fail. The standardized tests schools give don’t focus on all the skills our students learn. Their focus is on rating students in a subject area against all the other students who take the test and a standard. Is everyone good at every subject? NO.

All students learn, but they learn differently and at different rates. Master of one subject or skill doesn’t mean a student will master them all. School need to focus on celebrating the diversity of learning. Our test outcomes focus on all students doing the same work. Students will master what they are passionate about! This passion leads to hard work. Some will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, painters, artists, actors or musicians. Do all these careers need to master the same skills?

Education is about learning how to learn and being exposed to a wide range of ideas. When this happens in time students will find their passions and blossom. Society can’t let test dampen students passions for learning. Let’s endure the testing season trying our best but remembering it is just a snapshot from the day it was taken. I wonder what all the CEO’s snapshots looked like when they were in school?

Life in the Middle: #ProudMIeducator

proudmi

Anytime someone finds out I teach in a middle school, the responses are: “I couldn’t do that!” “You must be a saint!” or “God Bless You and thank you for what you do!”  Being a middle school teacher is a calling that many teachers fall into by chance rather than by choice. Once a teacher spends a year in the middle, they often never want to leave. Middle school students are no longer kids but not quite adults. They are eager sponges with attitudes, never afraid to ask a question in class but too timid to say hi at the grocery store. Teaching in the middle means no two days are the same. We learn to expect the unexpected.

During the past 16 years of teaching middle school, I have worked with the most giving, passionate staff. Teachers arrive early to tutor students in need. As the first bell rings teachers walk the hallways greeting students with smiles and high fives. Most middle school classrooms have wide ranges of student ability levels. Teachers tirelessly prepare to meet their students’ many needs. During lunch, students find refuge from the cafeteria in classrooms where tutoring and camaraderie are offered. When the final bell rings, the teacher’s day is not done, coaching or advising a club is on many teacher’s schedules. Then off to home to grade papers and plan for the next adventurous day in the middle. Middle school days are always full. Full of energy. Full of excitement. Full of Drama. Full of problems. Full of answers. It can be easy to get swallowed up by the middle school schedule. To be successful, a good supply of coffee and a positive support network is needed. I am a proud middle school educator.

IMG_1035

My students are growing physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. They don’t all grow at the same time or at the same rate. It is a daily challenge to motive a classroom of 32 students growing in 32 different ways. A lesson that works second hour often won’t work third hour. Changing plans on the fly is necessary to meet the many needs in my classroom. Last week I found myself pulling supplies out of a cabinet to do a hands-on activity after students got confused reading about diffraction. Students ended up using a metal cooking tin to make waves bend around a rock.

March is Middle Level Education Month, all middle school teachers should be proud for making a difference in students’ lives daily. It may look different in each classroom but in the end we make students smile, laugh and feel good about learning. Be a Proud Michigan Educator like me. Proud for working hard everyday for our students.

IMG_1027
Image from AMLE.org

#proudMIeducator is a Michigan Department of Education initiative that aims to acknowledge, elevate, and celebrate the work of great educators in the State of Michigan. This is a collaborative venture including any supporters in Michigan who want to celebrate our educators.

Celebrate Proud Michigan Educators – use #proudMIeducator to share your own stories!

Interested in writing a #proudMIeducator blog post or learning more about the campaign? Visit www.michigan.gov/proudMIeducator or contact Alaina Dague at daguea1@michigan.gov.

Legislators hear our voices!

teacher-voice

Education is a hot topic in politics. Legislators run on platforms that promise improving schools and educational outcomes. Often these platforms go against the experts in the fields opinions. The teacher’s unions have long been the voice of teachers, but lately unions have lost the ability to be seen as non-partisan.  Legislators feel unions work solely for their own benefit not for the best interests of students. This is an attack on teacher’s voices. Classroom teachers’ voices need to be heard by legislative bodies.

Does the legislature make changes to insurance programs without testimony from insurance providers? Do they consider changes to medical laws without consulting doctors? Highway funding proposals without listening to engineers? The answers is a resounding NO to these questions. WHY then does our legislative body act on educational policy without hearing teachers’ voices?

It is almost structurally impossible for teachers to testify on educational policy let alone be heard. The legislature bodies are in session only during the school year. Meeting Tuesday to Thursday while school is in session. All school holidays seem to match up with legislative recesses. State boards of education typically only meet during the day while schools are in session too. SO, if a teacher was to take a day off to possibly share their expertise by testifying on legislation about their chosen profession, the first concern from most legislators is “Why aren’t you in your classroom?”

Instead of listening to teachers, the ones who are on the front line of education everyday, the bulk of testimony on education legislation is from “Think Tanks”. Think Tanks might have great ideas in theory but educators can testify how they might see theory put into practice. No wonder teachers feel disgruntled with their profession. A first step might be treating teachers like professionals, listening to their voices and showing them their value.

All states need legislation that mandates classroom teacher testimony on all legislation that impacts the classrooms. The teacher’s voice should be equal to if not greater than that from those not in the classrooms. All educational policies need to have hearings where classroom educators can attend without taking their day off from work. This would make the education committees meet during nights, weekends and summers. I hope to see draft legislation soon in Michigan that allows teachers equal voice.

#proudMIeducator

proud-miched
#michED Team presenting at MACUL 2014 
Michigan Department of Education is launching #proudMIeducator initiative this week  “that aims to acknowledge, elevate, and celebrate the work of great educators in the State of Michigan.” This is a great idea, we need to celebrate the great work of all educators. Don’t many educators already do this on social media? Well as a matter of fact they do. In 2012 a group of educators started a community call #michED , I became a part of this grassroots group pretty soon after it started. Educators have been sharing positive stories and celebrating our success on social media for years. Michigan Department of Education is just catching up. Is this a sign of how long it takes change and innovations to enter the main stream?

Michigan has been a  great state for teachers. Home to Michigan State University, University of Michigan and many other great teaching colleges. Our schools have been top notch but in decline of late, mainly due to funding issues and failing infrastructures. Teachers do need to be elevated and celebrated more. Is a social media campaign going to improve education while drawing the best and brightest into the field? The jury is out on this one.

Michigan Educators are proud. Proud of our jobs. Proud of our schools. Proud to be innovators. Proud to inspire youth everyday. Proud to be helping educate the future of our state, but we are also tired. Tired of over crowded rooms. Tired of crumbing school infrastructure. Tired of being blamed for the societies flaws. Tired of no substitute teachers when we are sick. Just plain tired.

To elevate the teaching profession in Michigan it is going to take great efforts by all involved. Using the #proudMIeducator or #michED hashtags is a start. Where do we need to go from here? First and foremost we need a legislature that listens to the educators, treating them like experts. Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is heading down the right road, hopefully they will join up with the already established #michED community. MDE should attend all of the state’s educational conferences talking about how they are working to elevate teachers. MDE should encourage all legislators to get into teachers classrooms and see the greatness that occurs. What if we promoted education and educators like we do tourism? Can you say Education Week?  I can’t wait to see what the future holds, we can’t go anywhere but up!

 

Honoring Time

time

“It must be nice having summer off!” Rick exclaimed as he climbed into the passenger seat of my car. “Sure” was my quick response as I put the car in drive as we headed downtown to the 1 pm start of a Thursday Detroit Tigers game. “Hold it a minute, Rick, aren’t you working right now? Must be nice to work from anywhere with flex time.” Rick along with 4 others in my car were technically working on this afternoon. I was the only one with the summer “off”. All jobs are different and honor time differently. Many of my friends work in the corporate world having the flexibility to go to sporting events or other outings as long as their jobs get done. Often these outings are done in conjunction with work. As they are jealous of my “free” summer, I envy their working conditions that honor their time. A teacher’s day is very different than any other professions. My previous blogs: “A Teacher’s Day” and “7 Hour work day and summer free must be the life” talk about how a teachers work is different than other careers.

How can the educational system honor teachers’ time? It is critical for us in education to answer this question. As other careers create flexible conditions that honor employees time, the education field appears less and less desirable. Millennials desire a work-life balance. Does our current system allow for this balance?

During the school year, teachers teach during normal school hours. Then they are often expected to attend meetings and other school functions outside of the school day. While still creating lesson plans and grading student work during their evenings. Many teachers end up putting in 50 to 60 hours a week and sometimes more. Teaching pay is not growing at the same rate as other college graduates, but pay alone won’t keep them from quitting. Our educational system needs to change so it honors teachers time! How?

Some suggestions:

  1. Remove mandated number of school days and hours. Focus instead on student learning.
  2. Build time into the school day for lesson planning, feedback and meetings. Many educational systems around the world have figured this out. The US is lagging behind here.
  3. Allow more flexibility in the scheduling of school hours. Why do schools start so early? Couldn’t teachers design their schedules in conjunction with schools?

Education is an inflexible profession because society views the education system as daycare. Schools are used as babysitters for kids while adults work. We need to end this notion and fix our educational system.