Saturday, September 24, 2016

Stop Teacher Shaming

I've been getting more and more annoyed lately with something and it is time to talk about it.

Teacher shaming needs to stop!

Guess what? I am not talking about the bad rap that teachers get in the media, or the way some parents/people don't believe that teachers have a hard job, or the way that many administrators bully their staff (Although this should be address also).

Instead I am talking about the shaming that TEACHERS do to one another.

Let me give you several examples:

Example A: Judging Other Teachers
Several years ago I got into a conversation with another teacher in which I ended up crying. 

I was telling them that I was having a rough year. My students are, for the most part, not inclined towards learning. I go home each night and try to figure out what will interest and motivate these particular children. I usually only take 2 hours to myself each night to take a bath and watch a T.V. show on Netflix. 

 I have had success in picking out books that they LOVE. They love to read them and talk about them, but then when it comes down to actually analyzing them, they refuse to put pen to paper or think. They also really like my music and prezi lessons, but again, when it comes to using actual critical thinking skills, they just refuse. 

I was explaining all of this to this fellow colleague and how I feel like the focus of society is no longer on education and I just don't know how to make up the difference in my classroom (I am in tears no less)

This colleague's response was, "Oh, I'm so glad to hear you do work at home, because I always wondered. I see you leave school each day at 3:45 and I wondered if you actually did any work."

This irked me to an extreme level for several reasons:
  • I spend each summer writing all my lesson plans ahead of time so I know what I am doing for the ENTIRE year.
  • I spend each summer coming up with new material/lessons to try to keep them modern and fresh (which has branched out to include spending most nights creating new lessons to find more engaging lessons for this particular breed of student).
  • I spend many hours at the start of each new grading period copying all my material for six weeks ahead of time.
  • Because of this, I am able to grade essays and written assignments during my planning period.
  • Because of my transparency system I am able to grade multiple choice tests in minutes, put them in the grade book, and hand them back before class is even over most of the time.
  • I hire students to update my board each afternoon during bus waves (bell ringer, journal question,  agenda, objective, etc...).
  • I RARELY, if ever, write referrals.
  • I usually don't have behavior issues in my class.
  • My standardized test scores have been well above the cut scores and in the 90's the last 4 years.
Yet, all of that gets ignored because I leave work at 3:45? That MUST mean I am a lazy good for nothing teacher. 

I'm sorry but even if I DIDN'T go home and do work, how does that make me less of a teacher? If I am getting everything done at school because I am organized, efficient, and have planned my time wisely that is somehow something to feel ashamed about? 

I was still stewing about this comment several days later when I went to a conference with group of teachers from my district. We drove a school vehicle to a location about 2 and a half hours away. 

The two elementary teachers that were with us kept complaining about teachers at their school who leave work to go to the gym at 3:45 and said, "I sure wish I had the time to leave work right at 3:45 and go to the gym. *I* have to stay at work until after 5 most days to grade papers and work on lessons. Sure would be nice to have such an EASY job."

Example B: Talking About Other Teachers
I worked at one school where a large majority of the teachers would constantly text one another mean things about other teachers, talk about other teachers at lunch, and look up other teachers on Facebook and mock their photos.

One of these teachers had me pulled into the office for a talk because she, "did not like my face."

I could write a book about my experiences with mean spirited teachers at that school (and maybe I will one day).

When I started talking out about my experiences, I realized that this is not an isolated thing. Teachers do this to one another A LOT, especially to new and inexperienced teachers (The ones that probably need the most support and lifting up).

Do me a favor, on Monday, stop by a new teachers room (or any teachers room for that matter) that you don't normally talk to and say something night to them....make their day! And maybe think twice before you talk about another teacher behind their back.

Example C: Telling Other Teachers What to do
When teachers TELL other teachers what they should be doing and that they are bad teachers if they don't do this drives me crazy!

A few years ago a high profile teacher blogger wrote a post about how teachers needed to stop fighting a battle with students with pencils. She felt that teachers needed to provide as many pencils/supplies as the students needed and be done with it. PERIOD. End of Story. If she had explained her pencil procedure and why it worked for her it would have been a different story.

I was completely taken aback by this post and have to admit I stopped reading her blog then and there.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that different things work for different teachers based on personality. A classroom management technique that I use might not work for another teacher and vice versa.

I feel that teachers should 100% be sharing thoughts on what works and doesn't work in their particular classroom so that others can PERHAPS benefit from it. However, putting a giant blanket statement over any issue or topic is just not cool. 
Example D: Negative Comments
Another trend I have seen popping up more recently has been the need to for teachers to leave comment on social media. 

A few examples:

Comment on a classroom rules post on Pinterest:
"Classroom rules, if you even have to have them, should be worded in positives as opposed to negatives; what the children should do instead of what they should not do." 

Comment on a first day of school activity post on Pinterest:
"Why is there no alternative for any kids with (Type 1) diabetes or food/dye allergies?"

Comment on a high school lesson idea on Instagram:
"Too hard for my 3rd grade kids"

Comment on "wanted poster for missing assignment" on a blog post:
"You should not show students guns in school!"

When I see these types of unnecessarily negative comments on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc... it makes me really sad. It makes me sad that another teacher decided to take time out of their day to pull another teacher down just a little bit. Comments or suggestions are fine, but shouldn't they be kind or constructive? Otherwise, what is the point really?

Can't We All Just Get Along?
I have never understood why other teachers want to tear one another down in this way. 

Aren't we all fighting the same fight?

We are all in the trenches together. Why can't we cover each other's backs instead of tearing each other down with "friendly" fire?


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Short Stories from a Middle School Teacher: Welcome Back

Welcome Back Everybody!
Every school system I have ever had the privilege of working at has held a convocation to welcome the teachers back from summer break. I don’t know about you but I can’t think of a better way to get teachers pumped for the upcoming school year than to stick them in a hot and musty high school auditorium for three hours and COMMANDING them to be better than the previous year. I can think of better ways to pump teachers up such as: giving us an extra day of summer vacation in lieu of attending convocation, recognizing accomplishments we have made instead of reminding us in all the areas we could have done better, giving us our standard pay increase. Hell, even giving me a shiny new quarter would pump me up more than a well executed convocation.

During my fifth year of teaching I walked into the school avoiding most everyone I could so I didn’t have to do the obligatory, “How are YOUUUUUU?! How was your summer? Did you cut your hair? Happy to be back?” song and dance with them. Just say hello (or even nod) and move on if you don’t have an actual relationship of some sort with me. Does anyone really enjoy these fake and forced encounters or am I just extremely anti social and rude? I am always tempted to look at the person and said, “Well honestly I’m not great because I am here and having to carry on this conversation. My summer was fine until about 18 minutes ago. Yes, of course my hair looks different you have not seen it in three months, and now that I have told you all that, I think you can answer that last question for yourself. Okay, nice to see you, byeeee!” Instead I engaged in the song and dance with at least a dozen coworkers with something that resembles a smile on my face before we are shuffled like cattle into the auditorium.

I hate convocation but the only thing that I hoped for was that this convocation would have something that could top the amusing moment from the previous years. That year they had hired an inspirational speaker to come and talk to us about showing affection towards students. This woman suggested that rather than touching children, which could be misconstrued, we should instead hug children with our eyes. She demonstrated her technique for us with a squint and a flutter of the eyelashes. A fellow co-worker, Kristen, was sitting next to me and began trying out the technique on me. After eye hugging many unsuspecting people that day we determined that looking at a student like that would get us in more trouble than giving them a pat on the back.

My friends and I sat down and began to wait for convocation to begin. Thirty minutes after the shindig should have started, we heard that they we are waiting for the band teacher to locate and set up a keyboard on the stage. Forty-five minutes after the powwow should have started a teeny tiny little old man (that I could swear looks exactly like what a human leprechaun should look like) walked onto the stage to introduce himself as our new superintendant. The first thing that he made everyone in the room was say good morning approximately four times until he felt that we had the right timbre of pep in our voices to satisfy him. (I would like for someone to explain to me why people in positions of power always want you to say good morning to them louder and louder. Why kind of perverted power trip is that? Just let me remain in my seat, in my head, in my happy place, ignoring you.) He told us that he was retired but decided to come back for one more year. He read us some sort of inspirational quotes and said that nothing says school to him like hearing the “Pledge of Allegiance” and hearing “My Country Tis’ of Thee.” He then asked us to stand and repeat the pledge with him. While the pledge is being said I began to notice something odd about my friend, Paul who was standing next to me. Paul was LOUDLY over enunciating every single word to the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Crotchety old ladies started to turn around and look for the culprit. When they finally locked their eyes on Paul he would put on a face of utmost seriousness and sincerity that they would smile at his patriotism and turn back around. These same old ladies would turn back around and shame me when I began laughing at Paul.

After we sat down the need for the keyboard was revealed to us. The band teacher began to play “My Country Tis’ of Thee” while the elder high school warbled his way through the song. Throughout the song I sat in disbelief that they made us sit for forty-five minutes in a crowded musty room while they searched for a keyboard and someone to massacre a beloved song so that our new superintendant could boast visual and somewhat auditory aids at the end of his five minute speech.

When the song was over a member of the school board office took the podium says with a smile, “My, what an inspiring rendition of “My Country Tis’ of Thee” that was don’t you think? Mmmm-Hmmm.!”

-----Before I go any further it is imperative that I explain what type of person this school board member is. She is the type of woman who is always smiling and excited no matter what she is saying to you. It doesn’t matter if she is saying, “Good morning” or “I’m sorry we are going to have to let you go, but imagine all that time you will have to scrapbook now!” she always has that stupid smile plastered on her face. You can never tell how she feels about a subject except to make you think that every moment in life is one full of glee. In turn, this makes her out to seem like the fakest person you will ever meet. I think that the first day back to school doing the obligatory song and dance with each person must be a moment of pure and unadulterated joy for her because she gets to practice her “Glee face.”-------

But I digress back to the moments immediately after the unfortunate singing of “My Country Tis’ of Thee” the Glee woman takes that stage and says with a smile, “My, what an inspiring rendition of “My Country Tis’ of Thee” that was don’t you think? Mmmm-Hmmm.!”

Kind of puts a new spin on those words when you know her background doesn’t it?

After that I am fairly certain I blacked out from boredom because the next thing I knew I was being forced to stand and clap before being herded out of the auditorium and into the cafeteria for a three hour faculty meeting where I was forced to say, “Good afternoon!” a variety of ways.

I love teaching!!!