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.

Teachers aren’t the enemy

From Chris Christie wanting to punch the teachers union in the face to John Kasich‘s desire to get rid of teachers unions the teaching profession is under attack by bullies. It isn’t just the politicians that want to use the teaching profession as a whipping post, non-profits like The 74 and The Mackinac Center regularly take jabs at teachers under the premise of educational reform. Teachers are becoming afraid to share their voice due to the constant attacks. Fewer teachers are now drawn to the profession. Teachers are afraid to share their voice due to abuse. Where will it end?

Teachers are not the enemy to educational reform, we are the solution. Without high quality dedicated teachers, schools would not exist. Think tanks like to spend piles of money to break up teachers unions and belittle the profession. WHY? Wouldn’t their money be better spent in building up the teaching profession? How about opening a model school and see how their policies would make education better? It doesn’t happen because their solutions are short term, focused on saving money on teacher pay not creating a better system. The best educational systems exist where teachers feel valued and have a role in decision making.

The Mackinac Center under the pseudonym Capitol Confidential likes to constantly badger teachers sharing their voice. In a recent post “Teachers Making Over $80,000 need second job to pay bill” the center just wants to focus on pay of teachers. The article is quick to point out that teachers work 184.5 days and 7 hours per day. Lets start with the hours: NO teacher works bell to bell it is impossible to do so, most effective teachers work 3 to 4 hours beyond the bells. Next, no teacher only works the district calendar. Just stop by a school in the weeks before or after the school year and see who is there, most teachers. Sure, eighty thousand should like a good amount of money but few teachers make this salary. The state average is $57,000 and that number has been going down. Starting teachers make less, Average starting teachers salary statewide is $35,000. Remember these teachers have students loans to pay off, taxes, pensions, health care, homes and families to pay for. Yes, teachers are struggling just like many in our country.

If the Mackinac Center were a student in our schools they would be written up for bulling behavior under state bullying laws. It has been repeated and constant. Educators share their story, Mackinac Center attacks, in the name of school reform. Stop the bullying. Focus on being a positive voice not an attacking one. Focus on helping teachers not beating use up.

We are not the enemy you are looking for. Your public bullying behavior makes our job harder. If a public group like Mackinac Center can bully, why can’t our students?

Teachers aren’t the enemy, they are doing the best we can in the world we live in. Schools are a reflection of our society. Education reform should be about making our society better, so our schools reflect it.

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 ….


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!