Saturday, August 29, 2015

The time is now...

After seeing how hard the SEA and our local employees fought for improvements all summer long, and now seeing that changes still haven't been made by the time school is starting, I feel inspired to voice my concerns as well.

I've served in a variety of positions as an educator for over 15 years: Express activity leader, substitute, classroom teacher, coach, mentor teacher for arts programs, college instructor...I feel blessed to have experienced education from many different angles and to have worked alongside some wonderful people. None of these jobs are easy. All of them require more hours than what people assume. One particular position I held was only paid for three months out of each year, and every year, I was told the pay would surely improve the following year…It was only after 8 years that I finally started getting paid for all ten months of that position. Sadly, broken promises and lack of support have become more widespread in recent years. And they seem to be perpetuated not only by the school districts themselves but also by some of the more vocal members in the community. 

I recently heard someone suggest that the school districts just fire everyone and bring in "scrubs who won't strike" to finish the job. Do you really want your children's future to be in the hands of someone you'd consider a "scrub"? Another common argument is, "if you don't like the pay or the hours, get a different job." But what happens to your kids after all the best employees take that advice and leave for their different job?

The workers in our schools today care about your kids; they work hard for your kids; and they trained hard to earn the opportunity to be hired for these jobs. Just as importantly, they were hired because they were considered the best for these jobs--the best for your students. Why are so many districts and community members now willing to sacrifice that? Are people really so offended that employees are standing up for what they deserve, standing up for what YOUR CHILDREN deserve?  

Instead of trying to stop the strike by insulting employees who already feel disrespected, we should be supporting their fight to improve the state of education. If you want to avoid a strike, AND bring about positive change, please help convince your districts to create better conditions for their employees and their students!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Teaching tips: Paradoxes of the profession

Education in America today is full of paradoxes: some are challenging and a bit disheartening; some are amusing and kind of exciting. So when someone recently asked what advice I would give to a brand new teacher, I automatically started thinking about how to use these paradoxes to our advantage! I tried to keep the list to five but teaching is incredibly multi-faceted, so I could only manage to stop at five if I added two bonus tips. I think they're worth the extra 10 seconds of reading though! 

1) Plan the long term goals before you organize the daily details, but stay flexible enough to change those plans if one or more students suddenly need something different. 
2) Prepare so you'll have answers for all the random questions you might be asked in class, but be honest enough to say when you don't know an answer. (Then go home and find the answer for the next day!)
3) Speak firmly and naturally, but not until students have given you their attention. (Firm and natural eye contact and body language will probably help you get their attention first.)
4) Be open and sincere with your students so that they see you are a real person with feelings just like they are, but be ready to put aside your personal bad day when you step into the classroom.
5) Maintain open communication with parents, but discuss difficult situations with students first whenever you can.

Bonus #1) Be ready to feel like the lone adult for most of the day, but seek out opportunities to give respect and encouragement to all of your school's employees--other teachers, specialists, secretaries, custodians, counsellors, even administrators. 
Bonus #2)  Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, but be prepared to hold it since teachers are not in charge of their own bathroom schedule. 

I really believe teachers should be lifelong learners who aim to teach students, not subjects. (Ok, maybe that's bonus paradox #3...and #4. Sorry...) So I always welcome questions and suggestions for my writings!