Inflexible Profession?

teaching

Schools are seeing teachers leave the profession in record numbers. When teachers are sick districts struggle to find guest teachers to cover all of the classes. Many states feel that they way to address the shortage of teachers in the classroom is to hire non-certified teachers. This will not solve the problem, it will only continue to devalue our trained educators and destroy our education system.

To address the shortages the issue needs to be examined by comparing teaching to other jobs that require similar educational backgrounds and skills. The once rigid corporate structures in the business world have transformed to  more relaxed corporate culture. Perspective teachers notice that schools have not kept pace with the transformations that have occurred in the business world around them.

Here are a few items that teachers notice which others might take for granted.

  • It is a 9-4 world: Most appointments for doctors, dentists, banks, or anything really occur during the regular school day. Teachers have to take time off work to make any of them. Other professionals flex their schedule to go to these important meetings. In most cases it requires 1/2 day off for teachers to attend.
  • GO at Lunch is not an option: Teachers usually have around 30 minutes for lunch. Not time to do much but for teachers it is packed with phone calls, helping students and trying to get a bite. Other professions just take an extended lunch.
  • Bathroom Breaks: Teachers have to schedule bathroom visits to fit their class schedule, many times going 3 hours holding it. Lunch and prep time are greatly valued just to get to the bathroom.
  • Meetings: Most employees expect meetings during their work day. In educations most staff and committee meeting are help before or after work. Teachers aren’t typically paid extra to attend. In other professions these meeting ONLY occur during the work day. Many of these professions also celebrate their successes during their work hours as well, going on corporate outings etc. Again in education this doesn’t happen.
  • Being accountable for time off: It takes teachers up to an hour to get ready for a day off. Creating lesson plans and getting supplies ready. Most jobs, a day off is a causal phone call and no more thought. Teachers usually come to work sick because the plan for the day requires them.
  • Changing on the fly: Most jobs have a regular pattern and plan. If something is changing plenty of notice is given. In schools the days plan can change in a moments notice. On the day you have a technology infuse lesson the internet goes down. In other jobs this is frustrating but employees often go home to wait for the system to get back online. Teachers still have their class to lead in a lesson.
  • Constant scrutiny:  Beside politicians, what other profession is under more scrutiny? Teachers here the constant bashing our profession takes in the media and by the water cooler. Who wants all this blame?
  • Attend children’s school functions: Teachers value education but so often they miss their own child’s milestones. Most celebrations overlap and occur at beginning and end of year when teachers are limited in ability to be absence for personal business. Other professions flex their work schedule to make it fit.

Educators are asked to be flexible to make learning happen for their students. Their work environment needs to catch up and be just as flexible. Can education become a more desired career if it can be more flexible?

To some these observations may seem petty or part of the JOB! But when the Profession is finding it hard to attract the brightest and best it might be time to look at how it compares to other fields.

Teachers teach because it is their calling! Many are being called but not picking up the phone! It is time to raise our profession!

 

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Time To UNITE Educators

unite

 

Dear Michigan Educators-

It is time for all of us to unite in Michigan. From Superintendents to paraprofessionals, teachers to bus drivers, we need to stand together. Our profession is under attack from legislators in Lansing. Last night the House worked till dawn to pass punitive legislation to address the financial woes of Detroit Public Schools. The ramifications of this legislation will negatively impact us all. Nick Krieger of Fix the Mitten compares these bills to setting off a nuclear bomb.

We need to stand together to have our voices heard in Lansing. DPS teachers have tried with sick outs, Michigan Association of School Boards, MEA, AFT and even Mayor Duggan have lobbied against these bills to no avail. Together our voices will be stronger.

What happens in Detroit will be a model for the rest of our school districts when times are tough in Lansing. We can’t have non-certified Educators in front of our students full time. It devalues all of us, minimizing our profession. Teacher certification should not be a legislative tool thrown around to save money. Constitutionally certification is handled by the Michigan Department of Education. Removing ALL Detroit Public Schools Employees from the state retirement system. It places all of our retirements jeopardy. Do we want our pensions to head down the path of the Teamsters?  Adding to a list of broken promises by the state!

Nothing in the DPS “rescue” bills helps education. They leave the district still under state control with less resources, less QUALIFIED teachers and on a path towards failure. These bill have been paid for by for profit charter school advocates that are selling choice at the price of future generations of students.

Every district in the state will be adversely impacted by these bills. It is time ALL School Boards and Superintendents stand together to rise up and help Lansing hear our voices. Brian Whiston it is your defining moment, lead the charge. There should be a state wide, “Snow/act of GOD” in protest to the House of Representatives actions. Superintendents you have to have the courage to lead and do what is right for ALL student in the GREAT STATE of MICHIGAN. All parents, students and educators will stand behind you, our voices will be heard!

IF NOT NOW WHEN? IF NOT YOU WHO?

BE THE LEADERS OUR STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND COMMUNITIES DESERVE!

Teacher Certification Matters

certification

Would you go to an non-certified doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Probably not, those are all professionals that have a high degree of schooling. How about have an non-certified nurse or mechanic? No again. We value our health and our cars. Here is Michigan our legislators are considering allowing Non-certified teachers with HB 5384. Is this something we should be even considering? Do we value our students learning as much as our health and our cars? Teachers are professionals with a high degree of much needed education.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher! Legislators say they want the best and brightest teaching our youth, this bill shows that is just lip service to the voting masses. Teacher certification matters, just like licensing and  certifications in all other fields. Teachers need to have skills to work in the classroom. In fact Michigan recently changed the teachers certification test making it harder for candidates to pass. Now they just want to put anyone with a pulse in front of our students? Certified teachers aren’t what created the mismanagement in Detroit which has lead to its financial problems. It has been corruption by management.

Why is having certified teachers so important? Teaching is an art that requires certain skills. Without these skills teachers will fail and quickly leave the classroom, creating a steady flow of teachers out of the classroom. Teachers need to be masters of content while also understand how to manage a classroom. The teaching channel presents a great list of 8 essential skills for new teachers. These skills are keys to ALL teacher certification programs .

Certified teachers know:

How to teach

What to teach.

How to differentiate.

How to motivate.

How to integrate technology.

How to address every students needs.

How to manage a classroom.

How to connect to parents and community.

That relationships are key to success.

That flexibility and adaptability are needed.

Their students are more than a test score.

It takes training to learn these skills. Even our most skill profession, medicine, makes error. Currently the 3rd leading cause of death in the US is medical error!  Does this mean we should start allowing non-certified people practice medicine? NO, time to fine tune training to help reduce errors.

It is time to TELL Lansing to stop devaluing the education profession and OUR KIDS EDUCATION. We need certified teachers in EVERY classroom. HB 5384 is a step backwards in time. It is not good for our students, our schools or our communities! Don’t we value today’s youth enough to know this is a bad move!

Leadership Teachers Need

leadership

Education is at a crossroads. There are more teaching jobs than qualified teachers to fill them. The districts with the most teaching needs are become revolving doors for teachers as many are leaving the profession. This issues are due to the decade long attack on public education in America. Education reform advocates have have attacked teachers, unions and public school in general. Charter school have become an answer because corporations see them as an avenue toward profits. (Please note there are many great charter school, mostly run by non-profit entities) Teachers are looking to their leadership to help return public schools to their glory.  It is time for bold leadership to emerge, our TEACHERS, STUDENTS and PUBLIC SCHOOL need it to survive.

This leadership comes from the top. Many teachers are exhibiting signs of bold leadership but few district leaders are showing it. Maybe it is due to the politics of top level positions that the needed leaderships isn’t emerging in enough places. So what is needed in this leadership?

  •  Voice in educational reform: States have been allowed to get advice in educational reform from just about every sector but education. Educational leaders need to step up denounce reforms that are not based on educational research. Most of the reforms of the past 10 years make many teachers feel they are performing malpractice in their classrooms. Focus has been on test score and yearly growth not the STUDENTS. Politicians are so worried about media reports of state ranking to really examine WHY our numbers are where we expect them. So often district leaders will talk out of both sides of their mouths on these issues. Locally agree with teachers on the problems with testing but then  “We must follow the law”. What if the law is wrong? What if the law hurts our students? Educational leaders need to denounce reforms that hurt our schools. Speak up and tell representative that our teachers are the educational experts, listen to them.
  • Culture of Collaboration: Districts need to work together and collaborate. We can have districts cannibalizing each other. Advertisements for school of choice should not be posted in neighboring districts. In fact districts should collaborate on programing so they can offer true choices instead of same education in a different location. PD should be coordinated so the experts from each district can share with their neighbors. Competition needs to cease if school want to address their true purpose of providing a quality education for all. Funding mainly comes from the same source, lets collaborate to make the most of it. Many teacher evaluation systems have killed collaboration by pitting teacher against teacher to protect their jobs. How is this best for students?
  • Stability: Education is a constantly changing profession. Leadership needs to create stability for as many variables as possible. Make 10 year curriculum commitments, hire principals, district leaders and teachers with long term non-compete clauses we don’t see leaders jumping from district to district every summer. Life cycles of principals average out to 4 years in a building, that is not long enough for all the students to pass through! Should building level leadership be undergoing this constant change? Is it best for students and their learning? Many curriculum targets change every 3-5 years, again while most students are still sitting in the classrooms learning. Can schools keep up with the ever changing goals?
  • Be a relationship based leader: Know those that work under you. Know how their schedule. Know what drives them. Know why they work in education. Know the challenges they face daily in doing their job. Know your students. This knowledge will help you lead. It will help you raise your voice on their behalf. It will create a culture of respect in your district. While you are building relationships you will notice small things that need to be celebrated. Other issues will arise that need to be addressed. This awareness will impact the learning going on in your district.

The best way to lead is by example. These four traits are stress for classroom teachers.

Our schools need this bold leadership, be a positive deviant and add these traits to your leadership style and be the leader our teachers, students and schools NEED!

 

Singular Education Focus

Iphone upload Oct 2015 1892-ANIMATION
Photo by: T Bloch 2015 advisory

 

Where should schools focus their efforts? This seems to be a frequent topic of conversation from political pundits. Here in Michigan our governor has just released a plan to reinvent our educational system to prepare students for a global economy. Are there some needed changes? YES, our system has pretty much remained the same for our 100 years. Changes need to be systematic. It starts at the TOP with a singular focus on our students. Four major steps need to occur for our state to shift our education system to focus on STUDENTS.

Step 1:

Seek educator input: The state department of education and our legislative body currently hold meetings and often make major decisions regarding education with NO classroom educators at the table. Schedules need to change so that education committees meet during the summer or travel the state to receive educator input. Regular school visits need to be held by any key decision makers. Teachers should be the largest voice heard. We are the experts. When legal reforms are made: Lawyers are listened to, medical reforms listen to doctors, construction reforms the contractors are heard, but when it comes to education it seems that teachers are the last one heard. WHY? All current road blocks to hear classroom educators need to be stripped away. Without this happening our reforms are like asking a lawyer for advice on how to repair our roads: just not going to work well.

Sadly every education commission focuses on having business professionals input. WHY? They seem to only focus on how the education system can benefit their industry, no build an educational system that benefits all students.

Step 2: 

Meet students at their level: Students arrive in classrooms at all ability levels. Some come ahead, some behind and many at grade level. How students arrive in schools is a function of our society not teaching. Many factors impact how students arrive, school have to accept them where they are, show the benefits of growth and help them grow. We can’t expect one-size fits all standards and growth. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Our system needs to promote a growth mindset for students by eliminating the rank and sort system. Sure all students CAN go to college, our system need to reflect ALL career fields and most careers don’t require a 4 year degree. Trade skills are being lost in our country due to our college focused educational system.

Step 3: 

Collaboration: In Michigan our schools compete not only on the sports fields but for students to fill seats in the classroom. With open school of choice and uncapped charter schools collaboration between districts and charters does not exist. Since businesses compete out legislative body (influenced by lobbyists) decided our schools should compete for students. The impact of this decision has drastically widened the gap between the haves and the have not schools. School spend money on advertising and marketing that should have been spent on students. Parent choice decisions are made based on cool school names, flashy advertising, infrastructure appearance, or technology. One school’s gains in another’s loss. With this constant battle for students, districts struggle with long term planning, causes staffing uncertainty hindering district growth.

This model of education system would be similar to ask General Motors to have each of its business units to compete against each other. A companies business units collaborate helping each other with weaknesses so they all can succeed together. Schools need to collaborate in this way, not compete, leave that to the sports fields.

Step 4: 

Equity: From community to community schools vary greatly. This is okay when the variation reflect the community. A school near a GM plant has an engineering focus, school by a fishery has natural resources strand or a school by resorts has hospitality program. Many times these variations are due to funding. One school has 1:1 technology program and the next is functioning on old computer lab model. The state needs to remember that equity does not equal equality.

Equity is often used in the argument for choice, but it isn’t working well. If schools are treated with equity, the choice is easy most would go to their local, closest community school. Sure their would be some specialized charter school but not the plethora of choices that are all the same.

 

EqualityEquity

Let’s build a better educational system! Just remember where our focuses should start, in the classroom, listening to teachers talk about THEIR STUDENTS. This is the shift that needs to happen NOW. End the rhetoric that persists that our schools are failing and it is the teachers fault. Society has been failing our schools, now it is a time for them to be a focus!

Failure to Represent…

fair representation

Our country was found on the principal of representative government. The Boston Tea Party was a result of colonists anger over taxes of goods without having an representation in the governing body the levied these taxes. Our we heading down a similar path today with our government? Will it lead to a revolution. Well here in Michigan it might seem that way.

Our legislative body seems to do its bidding without the consensus of the citizens it is supposed to represent. Public act 4 of 2011 allowed our governor to place Emergency Managers in cities and school districts experiencing financial crisis. In November of 2012 the citizens passed a referendum on the act, eliminating financial managers. The majority of our legislative body decided that the citizens were not right in their vote. In December they redrafted the Emergency Manager act signed by our governor December 27, 2012. This act has led to much turmoil in the state. Flint and Detroit Public Schools have seen disastrous out comes under Emergency Managers. The People of Michigan are not being represented  by the majority in Lansing.

In the last few years educators have felt that their voices fall on predominantly defeat ears in Lansing. From budget cuts to evaluation laws teachers feel out of the sphere of influence. The education committee that hears testimony and input for legal changes regarding schools, only meets during school hours/days. That is odd? Shouldn’t the ones most effected by legal changes be able to give input? Teachers can’t even attend the state board of education meetings which are also held during school hours/days. So who testifies? Lobbyist and others with political motives, not classroom educators.

The latest from Lansing  is a series of bills to prevent the sick-outs by the Detroit teachers.

SB 713-715: Provide for changes in provisions concerning designating what is a strike by teachers, and require suspension of teaching certificate for teachers engaging in strikes and deduct 5% in school aid payments from schools who don’t dock pay of striking teachers. Sponsors: Sens. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair; David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, and Joe Hune, R-Whitmore Lake.

First, If these bills were sponsored by Detroit legislators I would understand. All three legislators live in areas, distant from Detroit.  Are they representing their district? or a donor’s political agenda?  Second, The reasoning behind the sick outs was due to the horrible learning conditions for the students, does firing teachers and fining the district solve the conditions in Detroit? Third, Teachers are speaking out for their students. They were not striking. They are raise voices for the voiceless.

We need representation in Lansing. One that looks to solve problems and make the world better, not look to blame others and punish those that speak out on behalf of those without a voice.

I stand with Detroit Educators!

Stand with D

Over the past two days national media has taken notice of Detroit Public Schools. Why? The teachers have being protesting conditions by staging a “sick-out”.  Some of our legislative leaders have questioned the legality of these actions and are proposing new laws to prevent it from happening in the future.  Stating:

“I couldn’t be any more disappointed,” said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp., who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

Well Sen. Pavlov, the teachers in Detroit share your disappointment. Their schools are falling down, are cold, full of mold and mice as reported by Mayor Duggan after his tours yesterday. Disappointment in the system that is failing their students, disappointment in the legislature for inaction, disappointment in the lack of a voice.

Why did teachers take action of a sick out? NOBODY in LANSING was listening to their concerns. NOW you are at least noticing the issue. A sick out is an extreme measure to take. Teacher loose a valuable day of instruction an their earned sick time. The sick-out costs the teachers. There must be something wrong for them to take this action. The teachers in Detroit want solutions NOW. They have heard Lansing talk about all their issues. They have taken pay cuts and work in crowded classrooms. A emergency manager has been running the district, things continue to get worse with not solution in sight. When teachers voice their concerns they are pushed aside. Lansing has not taken action.

Where I work, a sick out will never occur. (Like most of the 550 districts in Michigan) WHY? Our administration is run by our local elected school board. They are concerned about our students learning conditions and understand that teacher working conditions impact learning. When issues arise they respond. Leaders have relationships with the staff and community. None of this is happening in Detroit. Legislation to prevent sick-out won’t fix the problem.

Lansing needs to visit Detroit schools and ask the teachers for solutions for the solution lies with in them.

I Stand with Detroit Teachers, I feel their pain and sacrifice for their students. THEY are not the enemy. THEY are standing up to help fix the schools in DETROIT.  If the teachers did not take a stand their communities’ voices would not be heard. We live in a democracy where every voice is valued. Lets value the teachers voices in Detroit and make real change.

Fellow educated citizens please stand with the teachers in Detroit and help them fight for solutions for their students.