I am That teacher!

I am that teacher who cares if you come in tired.

I will let you lay your head down for a bit.

I am that teacher who cares if you come in hungry.

I will help you find food and allow you to eat in my classroom

I am that teacher who care that you learn.

I will ask you about your work, extend deadline, while offering help.

I am that teacher who wants you to feel safe.

I try to make my classroom to excepting to all my deverse students

I am that teacher that is concerned when I see you in the hallway when you should be in class.

I will ask if you need help and why you are there.

I am that teacher that recognizes your need to go to the bathroom

I have an open bathroom policy that gives you permission to go as needed.

I am that teacher that wants to best out of you,

I spend time to talk to you about what I see instead of handing out discipline.

I am that teacher who worries about your choices

I encourage you to think them out carefully and reflect on them after.

I am that teacher that wants you to have a life outside of school

I don’t give homework and try to attend extra curricular activities at the school.

I am that teacher that wants to reward the awesome my students achieve

I buy rewards to hand out in the classroom.

Because I am this teacher,

I add extra duties to my day, working beyond the contract

my hair is slowly graying. My wallet is lighter

I am a teacher who loves the profession and my students

I seek support from our community, our society, our world.

All I see is blame, accountablity and ridicule.

I am that teacher that is tired,

the one who asks is it sustainable?

Tests, are they just a school thing?

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As I sit in front of my computer mulling over recent student test data, I am finding myself surprised by some of the data. A few students who always seem to have the answers when we work in the classroom struggled. Some of those that never seem to be paying attention or have their work completed scored better than expected. Are my classroom observations off? Were my formative assessments not checking for the right understanding?

Examining students’ work does show if understanding is happening, but this is different than a test. When students work in my class they can talk to each other. I have taught them how to help each other become better students by asking the right questions: How did you reach your answer? What process did you follow? Where did you find your information? Our class motto is: Working together to achieve higher. Collaboration is a key element in all students success, in life and in school. BUT when it comes to tests students sit alone. NO help, NO collaboration, NO resources just them by themselves. All alone. Many students worry about their grades. Saying “If I don’t get a good grade I will be grounded!” etc.

Is an educational setting the only place where tests exists this way? YES, High Schools, Colleges, MCATs, LSATs, GRE, Medical and Legal Board exams all look this way. But where else. If I am a doctor do I face my patients alone, or can I call other medical experts for advice. When building a house do I work alone or part of a team? Obviously in most jobs tests occur but allow us to use the resources and our colleagues are available to find solutions.

In education we need to find a balance between the current high stakes testing world and the collaborative world that surrounds us. Our students are so much more than a multiple guess test score. Our students are unique makers striving to exist in a world that is not defined yet.

Its time to state our beliefs

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It is time for ALL in education to state their beliefs. Education is saturated with interest groups; ranging from teacher unions, administrative associations, to non-profit think tanks, parent groups and for profit companies. ALL of us know we can do better. Most of these organizations have similar belief systems, but we are running parallel paths attempting to arrive at the same location. Our message often gets blurred in the public eyes. When we disagree, rhetoric takes over our focus and progress is stifled. Stakeholders need to start to work together for our students or our PUBLIC education system we know, value and cherish in American will crumble.

A few recent events have greatly impacted my thinking. First I saw the documentary Most Likely To Succeed, A must for ALL who care about education. It tells the story of what education SHOULD be instead of what it has turned into due to the unintended consequences of poor legislative policies.

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

If the trailer peaks your interest find a viewing near you. Next viewing in Michigan is at Fraser HS Oct. 29 6:30 PM where I will be to discuss a plan for the next steps in education. Second I attended the Association Of Middle Level Education Conference in Columbus Ohio. AMLE base all of their work on their core beliefs which are clearly written down in their position paper: This We Believe. The belief statement guide every session at the conference and all that their organization focuses their work. In a conversation with a friend while reflecting that Michigan and the USA lack a clear belief statement, a friend pointed me toward Alfie Kohn’s recent post: To Change What We Do, Consider What We Believe.

What do we collectively believe in education? 

What if all the stakeholder groups could come together and clearly state OUR collective beliefs in education. Our beliefs for students, educations, and community and their roles in education. We might not all agree int he same path to the belief, but I am sure we COULD create a common, collaborative, extensive belief statement. Sure some of my readers are saying this is a mission statement that districts have. Our beliefs have more depth. This collective belief statement would guide our policies. ANY educational policy introduced would have to address a CORE COLLECTIVE belief, not just be on someones agenda.

HOW TO START: Write down our beliefs 

We believe all students can learn. We believe they learn in different ways and at different rates. How do our policies reflect theses beliefs?

We believe that teachers should be highly skilled practitioners, the top of their class. Skilled and passionate about their profession. How do our funding policies make this happen?

We believe that community involvement in our schools will make them successful. In what ways is this encouraged by policy?

What are your beliefs? Please use form to add them so we can make a belief statement for education!

Dancing out our Fridays

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Photo by W. Janda

How does your school celebrate a successful completion of the week? At ours we have started a dancing tradition! Students work hard in classes to reach learning targets, their hard work needs to be celebrated as a community. Grades are individual accomplishments that show learning. Some families celebrate these grades by going out to dinner or reward grades by giving money for the number of A’s on a report card. These celebrations don’t happen at a high frequency, 4 time per year at most.

Our new principal decided we needed more visible celebrations IN SCHOOL. After a hard weeks work we dance out the last 10 minutes of our Fridays.  On Wednesday a survey is posted and shared with students and staff to ask for a song to inspire our dance moves. At 3:00 PM announcements are made to remind students of coming events. Then the music comes on the PA, students and staff get up out of their seats and GROVE to the music. The hallways fill up with smiles and movement. Their is no better way for a student to end the day than dancing with a smile out the door.

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This small celebration has breathed new life and spirit into our building. Office referrals are down and smiles are up! Maybe one of these days we will have live music or be on the Ellen Show, but for now we love moving to the tunes and having fun as a community!

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Photo by D. Sikora

Sign for change

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, I never thought I would agree with an article written by Capital Confidential. They found a nut. Michigan’s Teacher evaluation system is broken! During the 2013-2014 school year Detroit Public Schools rated 79% of their teachers Highly Effective. There are many great teachers in Detroit Public Schools, but no quality teacher evaluation system of any district would rate 79% of their teachers at the highest level. These results are a symptom of a problem. Teacher evaluations are being used to rank and sort teachers. Administrators, scared of losing teachers who are effective are inflating teachers evaluations.

When Michigan State legislature decided to change teacher evaluation laws to qualify for race to the top in 2011, they rushed to make changes failing to see the full consequences. Districts have implemented poor teacher evaluation programs due to lack of funding and training. Administrators lack the time to observe all of their teachers. It appears that in Detroit Public Schools Administrators have taken the stance that teacher that do their jobs are Highly Effective. Our students deserve better.

It is time for Lansing to revisit the Michigan Council Educator Effectiveness report from 2013. Create a model evaluation plan for the state of Michigan. Without a model evaluation plan situations like DPS will continue to arise. With this plan administrators and teachers will know what to expect. Our students will then have the education experience they deserve.