7 Educational What ifs ….

 Educators need to start thinking outside the box; focusing on WHAT IF questions. Here are some society needs to tackle.

  1. What if we funded education like we do sports? We spend billions on sports annually, do they add as much value to the world as our educational system?
  2. What if we stopped bashing teachers and supported them? Teachers have been slammed everywhere they go lately. Just think if teachers felt valued and were treated like professionals.
  3. What if all businesses had vested interests in their community schools? Businesses seem so disconnected with today’s school system, shouldn’t they be more involved.
  4. What if there was more collaboration in education? Currently most educational models have schools competing for students, shouldn’t they be collaborating for students’ learning instead?
  5. What if education was about sharing ideas instead of making capitalist profits? Many business models are set up to profiteer off of our public schools, should it be more about the common good!
  6. What if teacher voice was valued more than special interest think tanks and politicians? Teachers are the experts, shouldn’t they be listened to more than all the so-called educational reformers with no classroom experience.
  7. What if university schools of education worked with in school districts? Many schools of education are so disconnected with real schools. Need to make teaching schools, just like teaching hospitals for doctors.

I am sure their are many more What if questions we need to be asking, be sure to add yours to the comments.

7 hour work day and summer free must be the life ….

Photo by Todd Bloch
Photo by Todd Bloch

Tuesday morning I was taking out the trash, my neighbor waived then said “7 hour work day and summer free must be the life” jokingly as he placed the cans at the curb. Teachers hear these sentiments from non-educators all the time. Trolls fill the internet with animosity towards the teacher workday. Comments like “Teachers get full time pay but only work part-time” perpetuate the myth that teaching is a well paid, easy, part-time job. The common teacher comeback is “just work a day in my shoes”, ending the exchange. Ironically, when talking to others about teaching middle school the most common response is “you can’t pay me enough to teach teenagers.”

Why do comments like these feel like daggers in the heart of teachers? Teachers work hard and are passionate about what they do. Our career choice is unlike most other professions for many reasons:

  • Teacher preparation hour is like most other jobs. If teachers are lucky they get 30 minutes of preparation time per day. Most elementary teachers have roughly 200 minutes per week. This is when teachers can grade paper, design lessons, organize room, tutor students, communicate with parents, read and reply to staff communications and go to the bathroom.
  • Going to the bathroom has to be scheduled. Teachers spend most of their day in front of students, going to the bathroom can be a challenge. Elementary teachers especially have a struggle since they don’t have passing time between classes.
  • All meetings and collaboration happens after the bells. Most jobs have all their meetings during the scheduled day. For teachers this never happens because teachers need to be in front of students. Teachers spend countless hours before and after school in meetings or collaborating with co-workers to make the school days go freely. Think about all the afternoon and evening activities you see your children’s teachers attending. This is on own the teachers time. Many teachers have to miss events for their own children to be there for their students.
  • No going in late, cutting out early or extending lunch like most jobs for appointments. If a teacher has a doctor’s appointment it has to be after school hours or in the summer. Otherwise the teacher has to take the time off. Juggling these appointment can be a major struggle for educators that need to going to regular appointments. Just ask a teacher who has been pregnant during the school year.
  • Homework. Teachers have the most. What doesn’t get accomplished during their prep time still has to be completed at home for instruction to continue the next day.
  • During summer teacher do get a break but also attend professional development and hone their skills for the next year.

Teaching is a tough job. It is getting tougher with the lack of public support for our profession. If you are jealous of a teacher’s life then become a teacher don’t bash one. Nobody is bashing professional athletes for only playing at most 162 games in a season, so why bash teachers who make far less? Let’s stop bashing others and start understand what we each do to make this world a better place.

Teachers do one of the most important jobs in the world: EDUCATING the next generation. Shouldn’t their jobs be respected and supported rather than bashed?

Need for Teacher Code of conduct ….

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Last night as I was reading my twitter feed, I noticed a tweet about House Bill 4791, that would require districts to adopt a social media policy for teacher and student interactions. This bill is being introduced by State Representative Adam Zemke from Ann Arbor, with the best intentions of making districts have a policy where many have none.  I quickly tweeted my hopes of having connected educators input on the bill, Rep. Zemke quickly replied that he would love to have input including his office phone number.

 

Having a Social Media policy sounds great in theory. This bill allows local control for districts to come up with their own policy. This is where I get scared for many educators. A simple policy that many districts could take is prohibition of teacher/student contract via social media. Teachers would lose a valuable tool for connecting with their students where they are spending most of their time. Connected teachers in these districts would feel like they are losing a huge part of their practice. Other districts will spend money on this mandate by having their legal team research a policy draining a part of already limited resources. Some district might even feel that a policy gives them licences to monitor teachers social media accounts. (This would be costly and invokes visions of George Orwell’s book 1984.) Leaving teachers feeling paranoid of any social media use. Is there a better path than having to pass legislation every time new tools come about for teachers to connect with students?

What if Michigan Department of Education in collaboration with ALL stakeholders created a “Teacher Code of Conduct”? This code could be updated by MDE when needed. It would be similar to Hippocratic Oath that Physicians take. This code would be published on all teachers certificates, reminding teachers regularly. The Teaching Code of Ethics would address all the concerns with those few questionable teachers. A simple line like:

I will have only professional interactions with my students (and former students until they are adults).

This covers social media, letters, notes, phones and verbal conversations in one line, without adding burdens to the 500+ districts to create new policies. Laws already exist to cover the underlying concerns with inappropriate social media contact.

Will district policy (proposed by this bill) or a teacher code  of ethics stop the few perverted minds that the bill intends to stop? History says, probably not. A teacher code covers the societal concerns with teachers and social media without mandating districts coming up with their own policy.

Next we will be discussing bills requiring districts to have auto use policies, physical contact policies (covering hi-fives and handshakes) to bill covering every aspect of teachers day. The teacher code offers a more sensible path to the same solution for all teachers in Michigan.

Thanks for reading.

Dear Press Balanced Coverage Please

Dear Michigan Press:

Could you please cover education like you cover all other news sectors? Please have a more balanced focus. The stories that always make the news seem to be negative. “A teacher … ” “Bomb threat at ….” “Students behaved ….” The headlines sensationalize rare events in our educational world. Sure negative events happen in all sectors of our lives: Government, Business, Education and Entertainment. It seems these other areas get more well rounded coverage. For every negative story about GM’s recall there is a positive about their fund raising or the car show. The Entertainment sector seems to be loaded with positive stories to offset the occasional blunder by a star. Why is it that a single educator blunder makes the top of the news cycle while all the thousands of positive stories garner little or no coverage?

I always see live coverage of the great positive stories around metro Detroit: Auto Show, Woodward Dream Cruise, Winter Blast, Boat Show, Autorama, etc. Did you know there are two great event coming up about education? MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) will bring over 5,000 educators to COBO center in Detroit March 18-20. This would be an ideal time to do a live broadcast. The news teams could talk to educators from all over the state to hear about the latest and greatest practices going on in the classrooms. Ideas from Flipped learning, I-Books for education, to Twitter Chats for connecting teachers all will be discussed. The public needs to hear about what educators do to grow professionally. It might be more entertaining than the standard live remotes to cover March Madness that occur around this time of year.

If an educational convention is not deemed news worthy enough, check out ShiftMich Idea Slam March 19 7:30-11:00 pm at the Detroit Beer Company.  The Idea Slam is a fast paced “pitch fest” and networking event for educators. Selected projects will be presented and attendees will vote on their favorite ideas. Winning projects will receive up to $1,000 towards their innovative educational idea. The rest of the evening is an informal meet-up with fun conversations and delicious offerings from the Detroit Beer Company. The concept of the Idea Slam was inspired by the Detroit Soup and TED Conference formats.

Be balanced in your coverage! Hope to see your coverage of these up coming events!

1098 Hours of Instruction

The state of Michigan requires that schools offer students 1098 hours of instruction each school year. These hours equate to around 180 days of school. I am sure most states have a mandated minimum amount of time for instruction. WHY? How are these hours calculated? Why are we concerned with how many hours are offered? NOT what was learned or how many hours the students was actually in class? Do all students learn at the same rate?

Rushing to Disney..

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Over this holiday break, our family traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. Being a budget minded teacher, having a family of five the most efficient mode of transportation was in a car, driving 1,200+ miles from Michigan. We loaded into the car filled with excitement, ready to enjoy our vacation in the sunshine state on our first trip to Disney World. We departed Christmas afternoon heading south on I-75 with great excitement. As I piloted our Chevrolet Traverse  down the interstate, I noticed numerous brown signs flying by the window. Signs for historic sites and national and state parks. The famed horse parks of Kentucky, Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and Civil War battle fields of Georgia. Were we missing something?

Disney World is a wonderful place, Walt Disney created it to educate and entertain. Should it be the sole focus of the millions that flock there every year? I began to question my planning of the trip. Should I have planned stops along the way to help my children understand all the wonderful places in the United States? To help them understand our country and its history? Maybe I need to schedule another trip to visit the marvelous sites we missed.

I began to notice a parallel in education. Teachers seem to focus on the end destination of standardized test scores instead of the journey of education. Tests like Disney World will always be there and are constantly changing. I see to many teachers abandoning great teaching activities to focus on test scores. It is sad to hear about students who are being rushed to tests, having fun engaging learning experiences lost to test preparation.  How we travel to Disney or the Standardized test is our choice. Teachers need to make the trip a journey that students will remember, full of adventure and excitement, because unlike Disney World students don’t want to return to the standardized tests. A Teachers  job is to make them to want to return to YOUR Classroom.

 

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