Archive for the ‘teachers’ Tag

WRAL’s Coverage on North Carolina’s Treatment of Teachers

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Link to WRAL video

Teachers say they feel state officials don’t respect them

 

This past Monday our local media outlet WRAL afforded me the opportunity to share my motivations on leaving the teaching profession. During our conversation, Laura Leslie displayed an honest concern for the plight of educators.  The story highlights the disparaging treatment of teachers by the current Governor Pat McCrory. With edits aside, I know all the individuals interviewed for this piece had a lot to share in their discontent of current treatment by the GOP led North Carolina government.  The following are some further thoughts on this topic:

All Educators deserve the right to fair compensation and a livable wage as professionals. And by fully recognizing the power of education, policy makers could better address the diverse societal challenges in North Carolina.

I believe that:

1. A Well funded Education system brings significant benefits to society: skilled workforce, greater employment opportunities, income tax contribution, and an improved social status.

2. Education is a profession of lifelong learning. Highly qualified and trained teachers will generate successful student outcomes. Attainment of additional degrees and certifications should be compensated

3. Its not just about “doing more with less.” Teachers are amazing problem solvers so thats not the issue. Teachers are asked to do more and more with less and less and teachers have reached the breaking point

My Background:

– both parents teachers/admin with 30 and 35 years of experience in Education

– 13 years in the teaching profession with 4 years of teaching experience in Canada

– Master’s Educational Admin

– designed and facilitated 2 magnet elective courses in Physics – Skateboard Science the Physics of Motion and Cosmology

– School based Technology Coordinator

– Presented at NCSTA this past November on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as well as Integrating Technology into the classroom inservice training at the school level

– secured Donors Choose grant for new laptops

– Last teacher evaluation I scored a majority of “Distinguished” level attributes/indicators highlighting a high level of my effectiveness as an educator

Working conditions:

– Mon Wed Fri – 14 work hour days at Brain Balance Achievement Centers

– Tue Thurs – stay at school to keep up to date on grading, parent communication, lesson prep, discipline reports etc..

**The second job for many teachers is not a choice, its survival**

– class sizes grew each year, money for classroom supplies fell each year.  30+ is not an environment conducive to providing students the attention they deserve as being a part of a learning community.

Morale

– altruism (coaching, arts performances, academic clubs, and all donated time activities) is a part of teaching accepted by all those who teach.

– the reality of being able to provide for ones family carries significant weight when planning for the future. When both time and money are monopolized it leaves very little quality time with ones family.

My position with respect to the NC governments view of education…

A budget that does not include a pay raise, eliminates extra pay for advanced degrees, phases out teacher tenure and cuts funding for teacher assistant positions is not placing the future of North Carolina as a priority. Teachers are; venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and are the ultimate job creators. Teachers deserve to be shown our appreciation with a respectable wage.  

 

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Resignation Hesitation

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

In the beginning I was a teacher, I grew to be an educator and now find myself seeking to be respected as a professional. The following represents the motivating factors that influenced my decision to resign my role as a public servant and begin the transition into the private sector.

Oh Education, how I have loved being intertwined with your pedagogy, respected by your admirers, growing with each swing of the initiative paradigms, and experiencing the numerous, exuberant characters that entered my classroom each and every period of each and every single day. Education has provided for me the opportunity to coach sports teams to championships, guide Science Fair participants to record breaking gold medals and placements,  mentor youth at risk and aid in their finding a focus and purpose in life.

Parallel to serving the needs of students, Education as a career presented an opportunity to assist fellow educators become more efficient in their respective disciplines through various Professional Development sessions I was able to facilitate; Science Ideas that Motivate, Social Media in the Classroom, Web 2.0 Services for Educators, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). To top this all off lets go ahead and add in a Masters in Educational Administration degree and that my teacher evaluation holds me as a “Distinguished Educator” as measured by the diagnostic tool for my State.

I share all of this with you not to brag, but rather set the context for the remainder of this post so you may know that what is shared from this point forward is not from a jaded, do nothing, leech on the system individual just biding my time until tenure. I am not a teacher who was only in education for the “summers-off”.

Where to begin…?

Wages – I make less now then I did 6 years ago and have not received a raise in that same amount of time. Sorry, one caveat to that as there was a 1% raise that was accompanied by a 2% increase in Social Security deductions.  This reflects the statistic that being ranked 46th in teacher pay with the average NC teacher making $10,000 less then their cohorts in other states.

But wait, “teaching is not about the money!” and you’re right IT’S NOT!

Parents – Yes, parents can be stressful at times but when one takes into consideration that a parent’s most important job is to ensure the success of their child, one can appreciate the vigorous approach parents take towards education.

Students – No complaints here about the students. Yes, a few tend to annoy a person, but to complain about this a person would have to be a total jerk. They’re kids; get over yourself. I have had amazing students who provided constant checks and balances of ego, kept me up to date on the lingo/music/movies/dress etc… I will miss our daily interactions and professional dynamic the most.

Colleagues – Those with whom I work on a day to day basis have been some of the most innovative, respectful, caring, dedicated individuals I have ever met and tears will be shed for this loss. If you have a moment give the Lunch Crew a read and you’ll know what I mean.

What, then? What can be left…?

Leadership – Well, we have finally arrived to the heart of this post.

Bossvsleader

http://www.lolwall.co/lol/264722

During the past four years the leadership that governed my day to day existence was one of a Leader, not that of a Boss (see above image for clarification). Now, we all have issues or disagreements in one area or another with coworkers and Leaders; there are people few and far between that may agree 100% with our thoughts and pedagogy, and that’s okay; we all should not think the same. I had freedom to create, innovate, expand, and push the limits of creativity in the classroom.  Because of this freedom and trust, I was willing to accept those things I didn’t agree with, and any discontent was marginalized through this filter of reciprocity.

If trust in the teachers is removed, innovation will be stifled. If the creative freedoms of educators are actively suppressed, the climate of engagement at a school will drastically change. The preceding examples correspond with a Boss mentality:

 Do as I say not as I do. Do it because I said so. I don’t have to explain my actions. Loyalty that is to rise but seldom does it trickle down and pleasantries are feigned only when a specialized skill set service is required and arbitrary decisions of restructuring are implemented.

All of the above qualifications are symptoms rather than the sickness. That which is lacking, the true sickness, is that of a mission, vision, purpose, focus; what is lacking, to bring it all under one concise term, is a Philosophy.

In a profession like education there are two distinct sides to the profession: instructional and administrative. Although in the past I may have vehemently disagreed with my next comment, I have come to see some truth in it. An Administrator is better off having classroom experience. The obvious caveat to this is in respect to those duties that tend to focus solely on the business side of education, those duties being strictly administrative in scope. However; when instruction and the overall vision of the school is at stake having a background in the classroom is essential. It is always quite apparent when a Boss lacks an Educational Philosophy because lacking, too, are viable explanations for decisions perpetrated on their staff.

It is really easy to create an environment where teachers feel undervalued, under-appreciated, underpaid, and under the bus: when teachers are met with over-zealous, over-reaching,  overt retributive actions by a Boss. I know; I’ve lived it and seen others around me drown in it as well. A Boss can count for only so long on the philanthropic nature of the classroom teacher until the stark malevolent reality must be addressed.

So what do teachers do in this situation? THEY LEAVE. A teacher may choose to transfer to a new school or they may even leave education altogether. Teachers with any years of experience know that, at heart, there is little deviation between school aged children of similar socio-economic status regardless of City, State, and yes even Country and having taught in another country I know this to be true.

I know what you’re all wondering, and the answer is YES, I too have now left Education after defining myself as an Educator for thirteen years. For me, it is about Leadership. It is about seeing the same traits in administrative Bosses time and time again and realizing that no matter how I could try to shoe horn myself into a Boss role, my philosophy will never match the foot print. Boundaries are self imposed limits to which one can choose to duck under the orange safety ribbon and abound in the pleasantry of freedom and innovation afforded by such an act. Or one could choose not to transcend into an unknown and stay on the beaten path or beaten on the path.

I choose to duck under that ribbon and I cannot wait to see what awaits. How about you?

The following are related articles and content that I just did not have the ability to address in this post. Please take the time to read what these Educators had to say about their experiences:

A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher

Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

A letter from a disgusted teacher: I QUIT

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” by Kerry Patterson delves into a world of high stakes conversations bringing to the readers attention assumptions and narratives that often drive not only our engagement into situations but also our reactions within situations.
A conversation tips into the crucial when two or more people are engaged in high stake, opinionated and emotionally taxing conversation. According to Patterson people respond to these critical situations in one of three ways: avoidance, face the issue and handle it poorly, or face the issue and handle it well. Throughout the remainder of the post I will discuss influences, areas of focus and ways to combat our hardwired reactions.
One of the first steps in reducing the negative impact crucial conversations can have on our relationships is create a shared understanding of the context definition rooted in the act of conversation… dialogue. Patterson defines dialogue as the free flow meaning between two or more individuals (Patterson, p.44) and within this dialogue there lies the potential for conflict. More often than not people tend to avoid stressful conversations, however; no solutions nor growth can be derived from a lack of conversation. In chapter 3 Patterson posits that individuals who excel during high stakes conversations are those who start with heart (Patterson, p.54). Starting with heart requires an individual to be self reflective and examine the motivations they bring to the conversation as they work to remain focused on the facts of the conversation no matter the emerging increases to stress levels. Within this reflection and focused approach participants in the conversation must stay clear from making a suckers choice (Patterson, p. 54).

A Suckers Choice is a limitation of action as imposed upon by the individual narrowing one’s thoughts to winning or losing, or the either or choice. In order to avoid the suckers choice one must clarify what one wants and does not want to be able to find the pathway back to dialogue. More often than not individuals make a suckers choice when a quick easy descison with high emotional connections is made. When all parties needs are not taken into consideration the intellectual and emotional safety of the participants is compromised. If during a conversation a person believes their safety has been compromised their reactions may manifest in several ways with the first being silence. “Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning” (Patterson p. 75). The second tactic a person may employ is masking. “Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true opinions” (Patterson p. 75). Masking can be delivered via sarcasm, sugarcoating or couching. Thirdly a person may simply avoid the situation or other party altogether thereby never having to address the issue. Finally a person may opt out of the conversation and exit the conversation or the room itself.

One can see that feelings of safety are essential to discussions, however; as safety is compromised and people move to silence others are compelled to cognitive violence. “Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool” (Patterson p. 77). Individuals may engage in conversational violence via actions of controlling the tempo and flow of the conversation, labelling the other party as a means of dismissal, or a person will approach others by attacking with the intent to belittle and/or threaten the other person into agreement.

Becoming a vigilant self-monitor is key to breaking the silence or violence reaction in crucial conversations. Individuals are pre loaded with emotional reactions and unless one takes the time to reflect on what triggers this default reaction one may never be able to restructure their response. Pausing during the conversation and taking a moment to be aware of one’s emotional state is essential as it can allow a person time to refocus and scan the conversation for mutual purpose in an attempt to further dialogue. Mutual purpose is simply the common goal of all parties involved and the investment they carry into the outcome of the decision. Through sharing a mutual purpose tension in dialogue may be reduced as all parties are invested in success. While engaged in establishing or reestablishing mutual purpose one should always make sure that the other party knows that their concerns are being acknowledged and no hidden motives underlie the decision. Patterson suggests employing the CRIB strategy: Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a mutual purpose if one is not currently present in the dialogue, and Brainstorm new strategies.

Patterson also suggests to utilize in concurrence with CRIB a listening strategy of Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, and Prime or AMPP to ensure individuals stories, a person’s narrative which drives their reactions, do not break down dialogue. When individuals Ask they should be looking to see if they understand the context of the other person as it has been presented as this is where mirroring comes in to help a person truly understand the other’s point of view or concern. As a means to further the dialogue within the mutual purpose framework paraphrasing is essential as it allows for the generation of continuity in the conversation. Finally with all other connectivity elements in place it is time to prime the conversation with mutual purpose as an endpoint to achieve the shared goal of all parties.

It is also important to establish clear decision making policies. Patterson cites four ways decisions can be made: command, consult, vote and consensus. All of these pathways reflect the level of involvement of parties connected to the issue or concern in discussion. Each of the decision making approaches carry with them benefits and detriments to the decision making process. It is important to choose which individual or combination of approaches best suits the situation. Command in decision making reflects the least amount of contribution from third party stakeholders and has its place in the deployment of initiative or problem solving. One must take into account the greater the pool of contributions via consultation or voting the longer the decision making process may take and comprises from both sides are an essential element. Consensus contains the most involved dynamics in crucial conversation. Consensus is going to be more laborious in time dedicated to sharing concerns and establishing mutual purpose and the possibility that this in turn may generate more crucial conversations is an element to be aware of.

We all have the ability to keep our emotions in check when stakes are high and chemicals start to run our thoughts as it takes effort and commitment to understanding roles, purpose, expected outcomes and group dynamics that work in times of easier decisions and especially during more difficult decision events. Always remember you have the ability to effect any discussion in a positive way and help stakeholders reach mutually beneficial results.

Educational Technology Stack

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Educational Technology Stack

This is a stack of technology related links aimed at supporting teachers in their development and implementation of 21st Century skills in their classrooms. Share and pass along to your colleagues. Thanks 

What characteristics and skills do you believe will be required by educators of the future?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I believe a lot of the skills that teacher’s possess right now can provide the groundwork for their transition into the digital realm of teaching. All our current skill sets that help us to design, create and enhance the personal touches of our disciplines curricula is a solid foundation on which to build. As for specifics of characteristics and skill sets I believe teachers first and foremost must see a value in the use of the technology not only for the students education and future job use, but also as much for themselves as life long learners. Teachers must want to set out and explore the digital world and build an understanding of the current technology trends the students in their classrooms are now living with. Secondly teachers must not be hesitant to tailor the web tools as to best fit their teaching environment and cliental, although it is my experience that no matter where we are students seem to be cut from the same cloth, but subtle differences in technology availability will enhance or impede this part of skill building. We also need to remove some of the sci-fi anxieties surrounding the emergence of the 3.0 learning environments. An avatar is an extension of our personality and this can be somewhat disembodying leading to online anxieties that could stifle an educators growth and want to use the resource in their classroom. I believe people can achieve positive online interactions through self-reflection and the progression of online identity creation as well as just working through the hype that the web is a scary place full of people trying to steal our identity. So I would also add courage as a needed attribute in the virtual world. Although the skills mentioned do not even begin to exhaust the list I am even more intrigued to read about what you think are some skills needed in a web 3.0 environments.