Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't Go, July.

Dear July,
     The other day I noticed how close we are to the end of your stay. Boy, the time has just flown by! It's hard to believe that our time together has come to a close and in a few days you will be gone. I am imploring you not to go.  I have to admit, I have just begun to really enjoy you. Just this week I have started to truly feel the magic of your days.I stopped checking the clock to see if I was late. I baked cookies!  I began poking through the books I have been meaning to read, finished one last last night. I noticed, really noticed, the beautiful blue and pink sunsets that have marked the last few evening's end. I even started to walk regularly, been meaning to do that for many months--not sure what you did that got me there!  July, you are a quite wonderful month.
     I have penciled in this final week as our time together to bond, relax, and really feel the power of your presence. I am in no way ready for you to leave and be followed by August. August is just not my favorite. With August comes those back breaking days of setting up my classroom combined with shopping trips for the school supplies.

     So much effort to create just the perfect environment. So much money spent on supplies that will no doubt be gone by January. In August, I begin to have the dreaded "teacher nightmares." That is never restful sleep; I wake up panicked by the situation I was clearly not prepared for in the dream. Can't find my classroom, late for the school day, unprepared to teach, missing my shoes....after twenty years of teaching, you would think they would stop. None of this makes me feel happy or relaxed.
     In addition, August means cramming in any last minute appointments that should have been taken care of in July. August means coming to terms with all the great plans and ideas I had for the summer that didn't and, now certainly, won't happen. That just makes me feel bad. August is filled with judgement for time and opportunities wasted. Bossy and judgmental, who needs that? Not me.
Finally, August is often called by teachers, "one big long Sunday night." A huge reminder that school is starting and our restful time is gone.
      So, July, you are soooo my favorite. Please stay? I really need you.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Please stop "helping" us. Please.

I am so involved lately in advocating for what is right and just for the field of education. Everywhere you look are self proclaimed experts so eager to join the conversation about how to fix our profession. How wonderful that so many feel so empowered to offer their expertise to our leaders. How is it even possible to imagine so much good will? Or is it. Are all the "helpers" really helping? Does the teaching profession need all to succeed? I wonder.

I saw a post recently on FB showing a new concept: a public data wall where students names are posted near the benchmark they have achieved. So the entire class would be aware that "Norissa" was at the lowest indicator for that particular marker. This was obviously a suggestion from a "helper" as a way to encourage those slackers to catch up with the rest of the class.

Imagine that. I wonder if the same "helper" would like a wall for teachers? We could post names of teachers whose test scores were lowest and that would surely help them see how they had to catch up to the others. Yes. This is how our profession is currently viewed. As if we are in so desperate need of help that any, yes, any new idea would be better than what we are currently doing.


Right now. Step away from my profession. Stop offering your feeble suggestions since in doing so you are making it abundantly clear that I have no idea how to help myself. Then as you disengage yourself from my career, might you consider that whomever you have been listening to about the terrible downward spiral of education might actually be lying? Yes. They are lying to you.

My school is not failing. Schools do not fail. Systems fail to provide what children need. That is what is happening. Pockets of need are showing up all over the country demanding attention. Many children go to school everyday to escape from pretty bad situations at home. Many children go to school each day to have a nourishing breakfast and lunch. Many children each day must travel through terribly dangerous neighborhoods simply to get to school. Teachers see this day in and day out and this, this is what the helpers should be looking at.

Could I ever so gently suggest that the "helpers" look at those pockets of need? Can you agree to take those well intended suggestions and put them toward solving the real problem of poverty? Can you find a way to give needy children new clothing? Can you find a way to put a replacement refrigerator in the home where the family is using coolers to keep food fresh? Can you find a way to help a child have a happy birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving? Can you help a teenager find a part time job? Can you get some childcare so students are staying home from school to babysit their siblings? Can you help to fill the shelves at the food cupboard? Can you work on a Habitat House? Can you volunteer to read in an elementary school? Are you really interested in HELPING?

If, instead, you are content to offer up ridiculous unproven notions that you are certain will fix those schools then really, just, stop.

We Have Got This. Thanks for your concern. We Have Got This.

Teachers have all the answers within us. We constantly monitor and adjust within our classrooms. This is how we work. Our work is never, and I mean, really, NEVER done. And we pack up at the end of every long day anyways knowing it will be right there for us the next day. Maybe the "helpers" saw this and interpreted it meant we really wanted them to help us. No. We knew from day one that we had chosen a challenging field to work in. We knew from day one it would not be easy and it isn't.

So, once again, let me make this brutally clear. WE HAVE GOT THIS. Nothing to see here, folks. Please, Please, Please go find those glaring pockets of need in your communities and help them. They truly do need your wisdom and good intentions. And by that, I mean your money. Find an organization whose mission is to really help the children and donate your time and money to them. And, you know what will ultimately happen? You really will help the children.

The field of education is not stronger as a result of all the reformer nonsense and lies. Yes, lies. It comes right back to that. What you have been told is simply not true. Look into it and you will see I am right.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Patience ....."

This is always a hard time of year for me. Living in Rochester does not make it any easier. It's gloomy, it's cold, and there is no respite in sight. My dad, a wise farmer, once encouraged me to remember that "once you get through February, spring is right around the corner!"

Always loved his optimism with nearly all situations. I loved how he could smile and shake things off with a gentle shrug of his worn, tired shoulders. I can still see him, in response to one of my complaints about winter, breathe in with a small tug of his lips to one side of his face. He would reach up and adjust his cap (usually a Yankee cap) slightly off center and look me straight in the eye. The message he would always deliver was patience, that "good things are coming our way" and he would finish it up with "just you wait and see."

I think of him often now as my profession is being threatened on all sides. I wonder if his answer would remain the same. George never shied from pointing out a conspiracy theory, though usually that came up when discussing his beloved Buffalo Bills. I do think he would be sad that each individual teacher is being told that an entire year's worth of work is only worthy if the score on a 3 day long painful test is high enough. He likely would not even be able to understand the convoluted method of determining the score for the student much less the score for a teacher. (Administrators can't even fully explain it.)

I know, for sure, he was proud of me becoming a teacher. I know, for sure, he believed  every day I went into my classroom I was going to try to make a difference in each of my student's lives. I know, for sure, he knew I wasn't afraid of being evaluated; I had shown him many of my early evaluations just to help him understand my professional life.

George would surely scowl at the suggestion that I was only interested in protecting my pension and the fact that Governor Cuomo would say that about teachers would not sit right with him. Nor would he find it the least bit amusing that the hard work in our evaluation process was to be called "Baloney" by our Governor Cuomo.

I am reminded of a time when I saw him get politically active. Many years ago, Rochester was hit by an historic Ice Storm. It was severe and power was off for many customers for weeks. My parents, George and Nancy, were one of those households whose power remained off for more than 14 days. They were in their 70's at the time. Their frustration became clear when they placed a large sign in their yard and started marking off the # of days without power as houses around them all had their power turned back on already. They were spending time in their garage where the wood burning stove kept them toasty warm. They kept a generator going to prevent their basement from flooding and alternated plugging it in there and then the refrigerator and so on.

 But their biggest concern through this entire frustrating event in their lives was for the neighbors across the street, in their 80's, who also had been overlooked by the power company. George and Nancy were furious that no one was looking out for the elderly couple across the street!

When interviewed by a local news station that had seen their sign, he likened it to his experiences in WWII where the fight was much more serious. He simply couldn't believe the treatment he and his neighbors were receiving by the local power authority who was not able to even answer all the phone calls they were getting and seemed indifferent to their plight.

George had simply decided enough was enough. His patience was gone and it was time to "bring in the big guns, by golly!" It was not long after the news report that George and Nancy and the "elderly" neighbors had their power restored. It really was the sign that did the trick. It was an old political sign of his nephew, Dale Rath, who had run for office some years before. The irony was not lost on the rest of us who had tried, in vain, to call for them, had tried, in vain, to get them to come stay with us, who had tried, in vain, to problem solve this situation. It was the gentle, wise farmer who took the "bull by the horns" and solved the dilemma.

I am pretty sure that George would agree that it is time for teachers to start bringing out the "big guns." I wish I knew what that meant for our profession. I know, for sure, all teachers need to get involved in educating everyone we can about the hurtful, destructive policies being applied to education. I know, for sure, teachers cannot do this alone. I know, for sure, if our profession is being attacked, so too are administrators and superintendents and it is time for all leaders to respectfully share how devastating the testing has been for the children and the teachers. I know it is time to notify all the lawmakers to make sure they really understand the ramifications of the various policies they will be voting on.

So, I don't have a big sign to stick in my lawn but when I say, "It's On," I mean it. George would want me to speak up for the kids just like he spoke up for his elderly neighbors. I will contact legislators, news sources, anyone who will listen. They cannot ignore us forever just like the power company finally had to help out George and Nancy. Here is where the advice my dad gave will make the most sense. I will be patient, I will persevere, I will not stop until the situation changes. I will expect our leaders to find their senses and finally, finally do what is right for the children. By golly.