One of my colleagues once gave me the advice that we cannot focus on the fantasy of how things should be, but instead we must deal with the reality of how things are. The reality is that we have kids in our classrooms every day who are in great pain, who feel that the way they feel or the choices they have made are unacceptable and wrong. They are bullied and beaten down by words or fists. They are mocked and made to feel like freaks. They have lost friends and family because of who they are or what they have done. That’s why it is unfathomable to me that anyone would not want our classrooms to be a place of safety and acceptance, a place where a teenager can feel respected and be treated with common decency.
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Teachers, parents and children have worked for these changes, in a variety of ways, throughout this school year. They have hosted forums, engaged in conversations with community members, started support groups on Facebook and contacted elected officials. Despite all of the advocacy, however, none of these issues has been resolved. Knowing that these issues still linger, it’s easy to get depressed and frustrated.
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Following our trip to Columbus, lawmakers didn’t immediately take action to change the amount of time spent on testing or the amount of money our school district received. Charter school accountability didn’t improve either. The next day, I went back to my classroom and legislators went back to their meetings and responsibilities as scheduled. To the untrained eye, it may seem that we didn’t accomplish much by participating in OEA Lobby Day. That’s flat-out wrong. Continue reading →
Teachers are often lectured, “Get to know your students, but that’s not easy to do. A lot of kids can be pretty closed down, and, if you try to get to know them before they’re ready, it can be counterproductive. Bonding with students is fundamental to the learning process. John Hattie, in his landmark book Visible Learning, created a list of 138 influences on student learning. He placed student-teacher relationships in 11th place, far ahead of many things one might think more important. State departments of education, including Ohio’s, are requiring resident educators to demonstrate that positive relationships are being fostered in classrooms. Continue reading →
The craziness of the end of the year and writing exams leads to a much shorter temper for me. Each April I promise myself I will keep my patience no matter what, and every year I fail. Occasionally my frustration erupts. “Are you kidding me? You didn’t bring paper or a pencil to English class? Seriously?” But this year is a bit different. On a November morning last fall, a car accident took the lives of three of my students. Continue reading →
Becoming a delegate isn’t hard. There’s no secret handshake or password. There’s no test over Robert’s Rules of Order or the OEA Constitution and Bylaws. All you have to do is let your local President or another officer know you’re interested, and when your association holds its delegate election in the Fall, you can get your name on the ballot. Continue reading →
Kids also talk to me about the tests. Luckily, at the elementary level I haven’t gotten any deep questions about why they have to take the tests, although I know they touch on this in their classrooms. They tell me things like, “I’m scared. What if I fail the [OAA reading] test and can’t go to 4th grade?” Or “I’m sick of taking tests.” They don’t know that these are high-stakes tests. They don’t realize that if many of them do poorly on one or more of the tests, in our district at least, their teachers may be offered probationary contracts instead of standard contracts. They don’t understand that low performance on these tests may lead to a reduction in funding for the entire school. Continue reading →
School secretaries rarely encounter students at their best. Students come to the office when they’re tardy, sick, injured, misbehaving, and in trouble. They ask the secretary for help when they leave their homework in Mom’s car or lose their house key. They dash through the office door when their medication has worn off and it’s time for their next dose. They are often embarrassed, uncomfortable, distressed, angry, or upset when they’re in the office. Continue reading →
For almost twenty years, I have prepared students in my classes for the Proficiency Test, the OGT, the ACT, and now the PARCC and my own SLOs. Never before this year have I felt that the testing took over my classroom. The testing is ridiculous. Every teacher knows it, and now with the many issues with the PARCC and AIR tests, parents, too, are realizing that required testing has gotten out of control. As a teacher, it seems to me we have a few options about how to approach these tests. Continue reading →
We need more time for teaching, not testing, we’re telling legislators and leaders. And they’re listening. As educators, we know our students might forget the names of the presidents who hailed from Ohio or how to solve an equation. But the lesson we hope they never forget is the love of learning. What matters most — the joy of discovery, a sense of curiosity, creativity and imagination — will never appear on a bubble test. But it comes to life when a student reads a book, performs music, creates an experiment, or writes a story. Continue reading →