Where do we go from here?

As a veteran teacher I have been thinking non-stop about the next step in education lately. I pursed a career in teaching because I love working with young minds and molding the future. I enjoy the challenges of working with a new crop of minds to motivate each year. I now feel pressures like no other. I feel disrespect daily from the media, community and students. When I talk to colleagues I hear overwhelming concerns about where our profession is heading. Stress levels seem to mimic the ones I saw in my father, a cardiologist, when I was a child. I chose the teaching profession over being a doctor because I wanted to have time to spend with my family. My father never had that time. However now I feel like I am losing my family time to my other kids. The 125 or so students who I have at school. I need to plan more than ever before to make sure I reach all of them. It seems society forgets that teachers are parents too.

As I read about different “Ed Reforms” I grow concerned. Most ideas come from people who have not spent much time in the classroom working with students. The ideas come from business, think tanks, and short-term teachers who climbed up a ladder and never looked back at classrooms. These ideas do not have research or proven methods behind them. Teachers will have to burden the costs of implementing them. Whether it be a financial cost, time cost or professional cost. Race to the top has created ranking systems that have no merit in a work place where there are too many variables for student achievement. A teacher could be ranked highly effective in one school but if they were moved to a different school they would be ranked ineffective.

The United States education system needs to change for sure but not the way we are doing it now. Right now we seem to be looking for a silver bullet that fixes everything at once. We want to blame “bad” teachers and “praise” great school programs. (Read blame union teachers/praise charter schools if you will). If we continue down this road, the winners will be businesses that profit off of the change, the losers will be the rest of American Society.

There is a model that seems to work. Look no further than the medical professions for assistance. Doctors train as interns for 2,4 and sometimes 6 years. Studying under the TOP leaders in their profession. Their teachers actually show, hands on how to perform in the field. Medical students start by watching the best work , assist and then have a hand at showing what they learned with the best watching on. This is completely different from how we train out teachers. We throw them in a student teacher placement with who ever will take them, and then tell them we will come see them teacher every few weeks. No wonder some teachers are bad, they received bad training, blame the school of education they attended.

If a professor is teaching college students how to teach, they need to be active in a school teaching. Not all day but a class or two. If someone is going to be recognized as an expert in the field of education, they need to be actively teaching in the field. We can’t have experts observe and report out, they need to do, so students can see them practice what they are preaching. I know teachers work hard to become the best in their field so they can consult. Is it best for students to have the best teachers sitting on the sidelines? Would we want a surgeon who heard an expert speak one day? or the surgeon who watched, assisted and was critiqued by the best?

Let’s fix education!! But let’s make sure we do it right by listening to the teachers and giving them what they need.


Archive of #mschat from 9-13-12

Chat tonight focused on classroom interventions. The conversation flowed from academic to behavior interventions. Ultimately the discussion lead to PLCs and how they help in the intervention process. Good group of people to follow.



Is teaching a job? or a career? or ….

As a teacher I often talk to my middle school students about preparing for their careers. Many times I have students ask What is the difference between a “Job” and a “Career”. My simple answer is that a “job” is a way to earn money (temporary, hourly pay), where as a career is a job where you advance your roll into leadership or require higher degree of learning (longer term, salary). I give examples of jobs as waiting tables or working cutting grass. Career examples I give are retail jobs where one can move up to management or police, firefighter, doctor. My students often respond to the retail example stating it is a job that could be a career if nothing else pans out. I have to point out that starting low in retail and working up is a time-honored tradition, giving the example of a friend of mine from college who worked in a Jockey Retail store and has worked his way up to a district manager position.

My view is a similar view of what Trent wrote in a blog “The Simple Dollar“. I have used this blog in the past help explain the difference in a career planning unit I have taught during middle school advisory lessons. Up until recently I have always thought of teaching as a career and not a job.

I have a masters degree that is in the field of educations. Check one-off in the career column. I have been teaching for 13 year. Check. I have a salary. Check. I work hard and want my boss to notice my work. Check. Sure does look like a career. But I think there is more to teaching than calling it a career.

After re-reading Trent’s blog, a few ideas stuck in my head. A career is “connected employment” leading to “higher pay and higher prestige.” That really does not happen in teaching. If I want higher pay and prestige I have to leave the teaching gig and head into management and consulting. I guess you can call those teaching jobs, I don’t really see it that way. I teach because of the students. Sure someday I might leave them for a different kind of student but I don’t want to go into management. I am like most teachers very dedicated to my students. We all work hard. Spend time outside of our normal working hours, working to better us at our craft. So I don’t see teaching as a career I see it as a LIFESTYLE. Sure we might know some who see it as a job, They leave the job after the first 5 years. Some see it as a career, the move up the ladder quickly forgetting how it was to be in a classroom daily. But there are some who live teaching 24/7/365 and to us it is truly a LIFESTYLE choice.

My Dilemma as Chat host

As I sit here at my desk tonight, mulling over topics for this week’s #mschat, I am confronted with a dilemma. I have a family, 3 children (8,3&3) a wife and a dog. It appears I picked the worst night to have a chat for my family. My oldest son, Griffin, just started playing football. They have practice Thursday nights, same night as his cub scout meetings too. My work doesn’t seem to help to much either with Thursday night Open house and conferences. My 3 year old twins don’t help much either with the 8 pm bed time on a busy night.

I love what #mschat has become, a place for middle level educators to come together and talk about current ideas to helps us reflect on our teaching practices. I don’t want to lose the momentum we have gained over the last month of chats. Easy answer is to move the chat either back to later in the evening or to another night. Moving the chat will mean I might lose some members of the audience. It also means I will be bumping into other chats. Since I started #mschat, I have become involved in #atplc chat that follows in the 9 pm time slot. I have also found value in other chats during other nights.

Since I am going to continue #mschat please comment on this post as to a suggested time/night for the chat to take place. It seems right now that Monday-Wednesday are pretty free for me but 2 months ago Thursday looked good. We will have a Thursday night chat this week worked in around my son’s football practice and open house but look for a move soon. I value my PLN’s input so please give it.




#mschat Guest Host for Sept. 6, 2012

I am a “live in the moment” type of person. I don’t wear a watch and rarely look at a calendar. So when I planned on starting up #mschat in July I did not have the foresight to notice that the 4th chat would coincide with School Open House. Can’t miss the opportunity to meet with parents and work on that all important connections. I also don’t want to abandon #mschat group that is growing and creating a great PLN. A friend has volunteered his expertise to our chat for Sept 6th. Ben Curran of Engaging Educators will moderate this week, leading the discussion on the topic of Common Core State Standards and how it impacts us in the middle school. I will be joining in from my cell as soon as the open house is over.