Monday, August 31, 2009

Today was our first official back-to-school day for teachers. I've been to my classroom or to meetings at least 5 or 6 times since mid-August, but today was the day all of us were back in the building. I love the electricity, the positivity that crackles around us on these first wild days. The trick is to try to find a balance between important information meetings and working on getting the classroom ready. It can be tricky, and if we are not prepared in either area, it's a terrible way to start the year.

Still, working to find this balance is so much easier when we are all tanned, refreshed, and smiling!

I also found joy in the excited anxiety of our new first year teacher. He is soooooo ready, and he's going to be absolutley great, but he has his doubts. That's understandable. Likewise, back slapping with the other old veterans was fun. We look good for our age, of course-ha!- and look forward to a productive year.

Also, kudos to the administrators who condensed a series of informational meetings into a "Virtual Opening" whereby we teachers read/listen to the welcome speech and other introductory info about our school from the comfort of our own computers. Very convenient, very user-friendly.

Tomorrow..... back at it, and with a smile on my face... at least for now!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teachers without teaching degrees???

As my daughter so aptly puts it: WHAT THE FRENCHTOAST??


These headlines are unimaginable, I would imagine, and yet the NYTs has posted an article titled:

Do Teachers Need Teaching Degrees?

Come on, aren't we past this? Are we still having to justify and beg for a little respect? Sadly, the answer is yes.

Of course, we are our own worst enemy. Teachers aren't expressly known for our work ethic... (although we should be!!), but those nasty summer months "off" tend to bias the public against us. Teachers don't reflect a particularly corporate demeanor, and for many folks, corporate equals professional. The media doesn't always show us at our best--check out HBO's new series Hung, for example. The lead character is a forlorn coach/social studies teacher whose better days are long behind him.... and now he resorts to prostitution to work his way out of the rut of a life he has built by default. The message is clear: teaching is for losers. The young and attractive female teacher is a secret sex maniac; elementary teachers are lightweights who just like to color and read stories to kids; high school teachers wish they were anything but.

A close read of the NYT article reveals that the real issue is whether masters of education degrees should be rewarded with increased pay, OR should student performance be the barometer. This, of course, is a different question altogether.

Do teachers need education degrees? Absolutely YES.
Should these degreed programs be improved? Absolutely YES.

I've blogged about this many times over the years, and I stand firm in my belief that most training programs are long on theory and WAY TOO short on practical experience, especially with regard to managing the classroom experience. In today's climate, where every teacher must be, at some level, a special ed teacher, the demands of our profession have never been as taxing.

(Of course.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Power of "NO"

On my continuing exploration of the UNCLUTTERER's Plan for a Remarkable Life.. (see July 28 post)

#6. "Say No to the stuff that doesn't matter...."

Where to start? Well, what DOES matter comes to mind so easily.... most educators can easily think about student achievement and consider the important elements that create, support, and improve it. It's usually a fairly linear process: I can say yes to staying late or coming in early to better organize my three different curriculums in various skill levels, using research based teaching strategies. I take the extra time to learn the complicated new technologies that promise to streamline my IEP writing (I complain, but I learn.) Mentoring new teachers, working most evenings at home, sharing my classroom management expertise with my peers--YES,YES,YES.

What to say NO to?

NO mindless griping.
NO gossiping of any sort.
NO wasting time checking my email more than 3 times a day.
NO trying to do everything on my own.
NO to anything that refocuses my attention away from my students and their success.

And if we accept that a happier teacher is a better teacher --- is there real research on this?---this year I vow to say yes to
*Getting to know 3 people I don't already know well.
*Thanking more often the ladies who provide admin assistance.
*Take a few minutes of my rather short lunch break to be alone, quiet my mind, breathe in/breathe out. Breathe in again.