Category Archives: Outstanding Teaching

I Feel Like I’m Doing Something Illegal By Actually Teaching My Kids

Teaching.

Real authentic teaching.

The art and science of teaching is a talent.  Those of us who are passionate about our profession, are deeply trained in instructional pedagogy, and know how to light the fire and love of learning in our students… are the ones growing more and more down and disheartened when the latest and greatest “new” reform or mandate hits our classrooms.

Being handcuffed to these mandates and reforms (many are wasteful and ineffective) and seeing the transformation of the teaching profession slowly erode… sends teachers into the grief cycle.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The Teacher Grief Cycle

Denial… No way are “they” expecting me to do this!  What?  This isn’t good for children.  Seriously?

Anger… This is complete B.S.!  I want to throw these materials out the window.  I want to burn them.  I want to tear them up and send them to my curriculum director.

Bargaining…  Well, maybe I can figure out a way to tweak these lessons to make them more accessible to my students.  Maybe I can sneak in a creative lesson now and again and work around this pacing guide.

Anger… Oh my GAWD.  This lesson is the stupidest thing I ever read in my life.  I refuse to teach this one!  I don’t give a rats booty if my principal walks by my room and asks me how many lessons I have completed from the adopted “program”.

Depression…  I can’t keep doing this.  Every single lesson needs revising and I have to rewrite it so my students can learn.  I’m exhausted.  The end of module test is garbage.  Now I need to use my prep to rewrite it and put it in a better format.  When I get home, I’m going to bed.  The alarm sounds in the morning… do I have to go to school? How many sick days do I have left?

Anger… Oh crap!  For the next three weeks I have several tests to administer.  Test Test Test.  I haven’t had the time to teach the content because three weeks ago, I just finished the last round of testing.  Anyone have a hammer?  I’d like to smash all the computer screens.

Bargaining…  Hang in there.   Get up.  Once I walk into the classroom and the students arrive their faces will put a smile on my face.  They need me. They are my purpose. I can figure this out.  I can work around all the expectations and mandates placed on me.  Maybe I will stay until 7:00 p.m. tonight and get caught up.  I think my spouse is golfing this evening.  Hmmm… who can I call to watch Johnny?

Depression/Bargaining…  I’ve been late home every night.  I’m missing out on being with my family.  Johnny has basketball tonight.  Did I turn in the form he needed?  I can’t remember?  Wonder if I can make a healthy meal before we leave for practice?  I’m exhausted.  Maybe I can get away with one more night of fast food?  After I get Johnny to bed, I have 30 tests to grade.  Each item requires me to use a scoring rubric.  I wonder if I can grade them in one hour?  Maybe I can get to bed by 10:00 p.m. tonight?  I have to be to school by 6:30 a.m. so I have a little time to prep for my lessons and get materials ready before the 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. grade level morning meeting…  then I need to greet my new student before the bell rings… puts my class size at 28.  Sigh.

Anger… I hate this job.  I don’t love it anymore.  If I hear the word “rigor” or “data” or “I Can Statements” or “unpacking the standards” one more time, I am surely going to explode!

Depression… How many more years do I have until I can retire?  Too many?  Hmmm… what else can I do?

Bargaining…  But… But… But… I love TEACHING.  I mean when I really really get to authentically TEACH.  I love creating engaging lessons and inspiring my students to find their talents and passions.

Acceptance…  Well, since this crap doesn’t seem to be going away… I’m going to close my door and do what I’ve been trained to do.  I am a TEACHER.  I TEACH.

Consider the Following Story Written By a Talented Middle School Teacher in Ohio

“We had a PLC yesterday (which is what they call these meetings when they simply tell us how its going to be; no real “learning,” sharing among colleagues or enlightenment going on).   They told us that our test scores were absolute crap. They did say that they know the tests are garbage, but that we still needed to show more “rigor” in how we taught our students so that they could rise to the challenge.

There’s that damn word again.

Rigor.

I DESPISE that word.

We are now being told that all of our assessments should start to look like questions from the AIR test that Ohio has been saddled with to “get the kids used to them.” I’ve been assessing my kids for understanding for years through projects, stories, journal entries, formative assessments, and numerous varied ways for years, and I think I know how to tell if my kids understand something by this point.

What’s killing me is that EVEN THOUGH MY CURRICULUM DIRECTOR KNOWS THIS IS WRONG and HAS TOLD US IT’S GARBAGE, he is still encouraging us to do it, knowing full well that our kids don’t think, don’t even have the capacity to think, on the level that the tests want them to…

Alas, it served to depress the hell out of me yesterday. Then I just said ” ‘F’ it.” And went right back to what I normally do. This is insanity anymore, not real, authentic education.

I feel like I’m doing something illegal by actually TEACHING my kids.”

-Ohio Middle School Teacher

The Five Stages of Grief are Alive and Well in Classrooms Across the U.S.A.

The 5 Stages of Grief are alive and well.  Educators bounce back and forth between each stage often, sometimes daily.

Consider the national teacher shortage.

Consider the reports of the number of teachers leaving the profession after only 5 years of classroom experience and those retiring early.

Consider what all “The Testing” and “Mandates” and “Reforms” are “Gaining”.

Improved student learning?

Consider the thousands of teachers who are standing strong and staying.

Consider the real reason they stay.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

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“I touch the future…. I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

I remember my first years of teaching.   What an absolute joy it was… arriving at school at 6:00 a.m. and staying until 6:00 p.m., and my weekly routine of driving to school on Saturdays.   Teaching was my soul and my students became part of my heart.  I gave of my time by choice because I loved making a difference in children’s lives.

Teaching was fun.

Teaching was creative.

It was inspirational to innovate and design lessons that engaged my students and ignited their love of learning.

Teaching truly was a science and an art.  I still believe it is today… IF teachers are given the time and allowed to do what they are trained to do…

Today, teachers put in long hours because they have to…. and the extra hours are often not spent creating inspirational lessons… rather teachers are shackled with; endless paper work, constant tests to score and log and evaluate, countless meetings, tracking themselves on teacher evaluation sheets to prove themselves, attending professional development on yet another new program they are required to implement, reading the scripted programs handed to them to be followed and ready for the next day…

Christa McAuliffe was trusted as an educator, and given the liberty to be an innovative and inspirational teacher. 

Today marks the anniversary of the tragedy of the Space Shuttle. January 28, 1986 the shuttle exploded. I was in my dorm room at the University of Washington. It was one of those moments the heart skips a beat and one’s eyes become glued to the screen. No! It couldn’t be.

On that particular day, I didn’t know very much about Christa McAuliffe. However, 14 years later I was shaking her mother’s hand in Washington D.C. She spoke kindly to me and thanked me for my years of teaching. Grace George Corrigan smiled as she autographed the book she wrote in honor of her daughter, A Journal For Christa. I remember the awe I felt, listening to her speak of the memories of this special mom, wife, educator, astronaut… the goose bumps peppering my skin.  Christa, indeed, was one of those rare gems many aspire to be like.  She left a legacy.

Christa Book Cover  Christa Autograph

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher. An innovative teacher.   She was known as the “Queen of Field Trips” and she believed strongly in experienced based education. Her students conducted mock trials to learn more about the law. She developed a class on the role of women in the history of the United States. At first, she encountered trouble getting her course accepted, but she wouldn’t give up. Eventually it was placed as an elective and her students were inspired. One of Christa’s students wrote, “Mrs. McAuliffe’s course on the American woman changed my outlook on life. It was like she discovered something new every day, and she was so excited about it that it got the rest of us excited, too.”

A Message to Teachers Today:

I am in awe of the majority of teachers.   The challenges we face on some days feel insurmountable. We climb the mountain anyway.   Children come to us from all walks of life. We embrace them anyway. We are handed programs our expertise may not resonate with. We breathe life into them and navigate through them anyway. The powers that be want to judge us. We inspire anyway.   Christa McAuliffe Reach

Continue the path and the course in which learning is evident and alive.

Be innovative.

Creative.

Diverse.

Imaginative.

CONTINUE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR KIDS. Trust yourself. Surround yourself with your colleagues and inspire one another. Think outside the box. Be different. There is nothing common about you… nor is there anything common about any one of your students.

Motivate.

Inspire.

 “To (All Teachers), You touch the future!” Sincerely, Grace Corrigan

I dedicate the following video to each and every teacher across the United States. If you feel a need for a little inspiration right now, be touched by listening to this TED Talk video. Ken Robinson is an amazing speaker and will make you laugh. He may also give you pause about the current education reform efforts, and whether these efforts are the right direction for the future of our children.

The summary of Ken’s three principles in his TED Talk entitled: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

  • Human beings are naturally DIFFERENT and DIVERSE.
  • If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance…. CURIOSITY is the engine of achievement.
  • Human life is inherently creative.   One of the roles of education is to awaken and develop these powers of CREATIVITY.

 “Teachers are the lifeblood of schools.” 

 I encourage all teachers to avoid the culture of compliance. Be your unique self and encourage your students to be their unique selves.  I believe Christa McAuliffe embraced these same principles. If she were here today, I am certain she would be standing tall… encouraging us all to teach innovatively… and to infuse every lesson with diversity, curiosity, and creativity.

 I hold the torch for this kind of teaching. The fire burns fiercely. Will you join me in holding this torch?

25 Things you may not know about Christa linked here.

Christa McAuliffe 4 (2)

“I touch the future…I teach.” Christa McAuliffe

Fire is Catching

RAZ

A Mommy, Wife, Educator… Opposed to all things COMMON.