Last Day

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I made a mistake. But, there are good and bad sides to it.

I have the awesome opportunity to teach overseas this summer. I have been super excited about this and I still am. However, it’s just now settling in that I’ll actually be WORKING during that time – and working a lot… I realized that I’m not really going to have a chance to “stop” before starting school next year.

I realized that I’m not really going to have a chance to “stop” before starting school next year.

Today is our last day of school. Before I even leave the country, I’m going to be doing some volunteer work and helping my friend run a camp for junior and senior high students. I’ve realized that I may have overcommitted myself a little bit and I’m worried about burning out during the summer, only to come back to a brand new school year.

What tips and tricks do you have for balancing your summer and school year out so as not to get burned out?

A Dangerous Phrase…

The other day I was sitting at lunch with several colleagues and heard a phrase that I’ve learned to hate this year: “I’m not doing that.” I’ve seen so many things fall through the cracks this year simply because teachers don’t want to do something they disagree with. We have several programs that we have tried to implement this year that haven’t been used effectively because teachers refuse to do it. This is the reason that our token economy has had no impact whatsoever. This is why our students hate our character education programs. Teachers don’t like it, so they don’t do it.

I’ll admit it, I haven’t been perfect at this either. However, I think all of this stems from an attitude of entitlement – that when a boss tells you to do something you have the option to do or not do it. “I deserve this” and “I deserve that.” “I don’t HAVE to do that.” Not doing something is very rarely a solution to the problem. In most career fields, if you don’t do something your boss asks you to, you get disciplined or fired.  If you constantly complain and refuse to do things – even in a school – you aren’t going to be liked and your words of criticism will be dismissed anyway.

Not doing something is very rarely a solution to the problem. 

 

On the other hand, if you are a team player and perform a required task even though you aren’t a fan of it, your words carry weight. I once heard my pastor, in talking about our denomination, say, “because I follow the rules, I can complain.” If you are reliable, trustworthy, and obedient, you will succeed in building good work relationships. And more importantly, you will do what’s best for your students. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right?

More importantly, you will do what’s best for your students. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right?

My challenge to you, friends, is to finish out this year with an attitude that represents your willingness to be part of the team and do what’s best for your students, even if it’s not always doing something you enjoy or agree with.

 

What I learned in Black Church

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Ethnicity is a tough topic to discuss, but I’m a person who likes to speak the truth. I still want to be sensitive, though, and state that everything I say here about ethnicity and culture is meant to be respectful and in good taste.

Everything I say here about ethnicity and culture is meant to be respectful and in good taste.

In college, I had the opportunity to tour professionally as a musician in several different settings. One of the groups in which I was involved would travel to churches and do music. This group embraced diversity and that allowed us to travel to Black churches, White churches, small churches, big churches, etc…

If you’ve never been in church, let me explain some of the differences.

DISCLAIMER: None of the things I am about to say are true of all churches everywhere. These are just general observations I’ve made in my unique set of experiences.

None of the things I am about to say are true of all churches everywhere. These are just general observations I’ve made in my unique set of experiences.

White Church

In the churches in which I was raised (I am a white male), the act of doing “church” consists of prayer (by the pastor), singing together, and a sermon. The music is rehearsed ahead of time and everyone sings along to the same tune. Most relevant, however, is the fact that when the pastor speaks, the congregation sits quietly and listens. Crying babies are removed by their mothers, and chattering teenagers are shushed.

 

Black Church

The Black churches I’ve been to have some similarities to White churches. There is still music, prayer, and a sermon but the atmosphere is totally different. The service is like a mosaic where everyone played a part. During the prayer, people in the audience yell out praises or thanks to God. The music often consists of a choir singing the melody while a leader adds lib or places their own spin on the song. The band stays on stage during the sermon and adds inspirational music behind the words of the pastor – sometimes being so driven by the words of the pastor that the room erupts into a “praise break.” Most importantly, however, while the pastor delivers his sermon, people are free to yell out approval or praises whenever they want.

 

The Point

I teach mostly African-American students. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the amount of White students in our part of the building. When you look at the differences in expected church behavior, it’s no wonder that sitting quietly and raising your hand is so foreign to them. They’re allowed to yell out their thoughts sporadically in church. They’re aloud to shout something without permission and not get in trouble for it. The practice and structure of church is also the closest thing to school that students experience outside of school.

The practice and structure of church is also the closest thing to school that students experience outside of school.

I’ve been trying to find every way to make my teaching culturally relevant to my students. Traditional teaching methods where students sit, listen, and raise their hand just don’t work with these students! We have to make our teaching fun and relevant to whatever culture are students are coming from. To be honest, I haven’t done a very good job of this and would like to improve.

What teaching strategies or modifications have you made to teach students from a different cultural background than you?

Keep it Simple!!!!!!!

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I don’t know about you, but I like things that are simple.

I think there’s a reason that Bloom’s Taxonomy has stuck around. It’s a simple tool with just a few steps that are easy to understand. I love listening to Dave Ramsey and I understand his process because he divides it up into seven easy steps. Alcoholics Anonymous has mastered this, putting its program into a 12-step process that anyone, including people with intense addictions, can understand.

The question is, then, why have we made education so complicated? Why does my pacing guide require me to teach six different things at one time?Why can’t I choose one topic and spend the amount of time on that topic needed for my kids to get it?

I feel that, if I could make my class more straightforward, my students would succeed more.

Is your classroom complicated or simple? What tricks have you learned to simplify things for your students?

How McDonald’s is Saving my Teaching Career

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McDonald’s is saving my teaching career.

How? It’s very simple.

Almost every day, after school, I drive down the street and purchase a Large Diet Coke from those Golden Arches. Then I return to school and get some work done.

This is one of the ways I’m surviving my first year. After a whole day of teaching, I need a break before I can dive into the next day or whatever needs done. After 32 oz of nutrisweety, carbonated goodness and a breath of non-school air, I’m ready to get things done. I notice I’m much more efficient when I do this.

How do you survive? What are your tricks for making it through the day in this challenging profession?

So will I get a badge and pepper spray too?

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There has been a lot of debate about gun control lately. With all the shootings going on and the amount of violence in our cities, I think it’s a fair topic.

One of the main points of discussion has been about teachers or administrators being armed themselves when it comes to school security. Here’s my perspective: every school is different, so we should leave it up to districts and administrators as to how they run their security.

Every school is different, so we should leave it up to districts and administrators as to how they run their security.

I work in a pretty rough school in a pretty rough district. In fact, I work in a building that has experienced a shooting before. For that reason, I’m very thankful for the armed security officers we have in our buildings. They know how to do their job and do it very well. Honestly, I wish we had more of them.

With that said, I don’t think that it would be a good idea for me or our administrators to be armed as well. It wouldn’t take much for some of our students to snap and try to wrestle a weapon from a staff member. But, they perceive a uniform and badge differently than they do khakis and a polo.

They perceive a uniform and badge differently than they do khakis and a polo.

On the other hand, I went to an academically successful suburban high school in which there was very little chance of any sort of student mutiny or attacks on staff. Arming teachers in this setting makes more sense to me for two reasons.

1. It’s safer for the teachers and administrators in question.
2. These settings seem to be the ones often targeted for mass shootings.

Think about it: Columbine and Sandy Hook both fit the latter profile – suburban, well-behaved, generally filled with people who appear more “successful” or “perfect.” They also tend to have less security coverage throughout their buildings. A resource officer may pop in and out or a staff may be stationed at the entrance, but there aren’t typically security personnel stationed on every floor like my building. Having an armed teacher (especially if the students don’t know they are armed) in these settings could save lives.

Either way one looks at it, I think we need to leave this decision up to local administrators, because every school is different.

Have any of your schools made decisions on how to handle this? What’s your perspective or opinion?

Why isn’t a diploma enough?

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As I sat in the teacher’s lounge today, I heard my colleagues complaining about the annoying certification process they had to go through. I agreed with them. Mine consisted of silly things like:

  • taking a basic skills test (which I had to do to get into college anyway)
  • completing an annoying pilot program (which was one of the worst-assembled things I’ve every experienced)
  • taking a teaching practices and content area exam
  • a nice, hefty fee

To me, this is just another tax that fuels a pretty messed up system.

Accreditation

It’s my understanding that universities with teacher education programs must undergo accreditation by the Department of Education. In short, they’re making sure that whatever the university is teaching will make good teachers. If that’s true, then why isn’t a diploma from one of these institutions enough to get a teaching job? The only thing I can think of is the background checks that go with it….but wait…don’t schools do that when you get hired anyway?

Why isn’t a diploma from one of these institutions enough to get a teaching job?

The Solution

Redundancies permeate education. It drives me crazy to think that, across the nation, there are countless people working in county-level offices of education while school district administrators are doing the same job. Imagine the money we could save without redundancies like licensure and certification. We could open new schools and fund better programs for our kids.  Let’s can licensure and certification programs and let teachers be the professionals that they’ve trained to be

Let’s can licensure and certification programs and let teachers be the professionals that they’ve trained to be

First post!

Notebooks, Eraser and PencilThank you for reading the very first post on TeacherPains!

Let’s get one thing straight: This is not a site for complaining. TeacherPains is a place for solutions. If you’ve spent any time teaching in a public school, you’ve noticed how much of a mess America’s education system is in. Again, if you’ve ever worked in a public school, you’ve also noticed that most folks tend to complain about their problems and not do anything about it. TeacherPains is a place for the people who actually do the work of teaching (not politicians, bureaucrats, or administrators) to provide solutions to the issues holding our kids back. Lets make this a movement. Let’s move and act to make education something that helps our students really succeed.

As a new teacher in an urban school district, I can provide some unique insight into the muck that is the American education system. This site will serve as an anonymous outlet that will help me share my thoughts on teaching and education. It is also a place for others to express their ideas on what we can do to brighten our students’ futures.

A little bit about myself:

I am a first-year teacher somewhere in America.

I am a person with a degree and experience in education.

I am a professional.

I am a person who believes that education is about the students.

Please feel free to comment with ideas or questions! I’m excited about the future we can make together.