Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pay More Teachers or Pay Teachers More?

So my friend and colleague, Bill, and I were talking about the current, sad state of affairs in Education. On the one hand, districts throughout California are making hard decisions about increasing class size to reduce the budget impact (for those of you unclear: larger classes mean fewer teachers = less expense. On the other hand, we decry the woeful pay that teachers make (I cannot use the word earn, because I do believe we earn more than we make).

As teachers we are encouraged to differentiate and meet each child where he or she is, to provide learning opportunities to address all the learning styles and multiple intelligences outlined by Howard Gardner. I would love to do this and create a truly child centered classroom. But Bill is right, this is hard to do with 30+ kids.

So perhaps we keep the pay the same for teachers but hire more teachers. Reduce class size, not increase it. Radical idea. Doesn't do much for the budget, but it certainly helps us provide a learning environment that allows children to not only develop assets necessary to thrive today, but also to guide our students as they develop the 21st century skills needed to thrive in their future.

Monday, May 16, 2011

We Need to Unlearn!

From Edutopia
‎"If we’re going to keep making sense of an ever-shifting world, we need to unlearn the idea that learning occurs only in school. We need to unlearn that our own learning and our students' learning is limited by time and space, " educator Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. What else do you think we should "unlearn?" Bonus points for posts that begin with.."We need to unlearn.."
Passion-Based Learning: An Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-BeachBy Heather Wolpert-Gawron.
We need to unlearn that learning is an individual pursuit. We need to unlearn that we have to be the experts in our classrooms. We need to unlearn that leading is only for the leaders in the front office. That means we have to really help many teachers learn how to unlearn.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Open letter to the School Board

I do not write in hopes of changing your minds; I understand that the Ed Code and budget situation controls many of the hard decisions you have to make. I write to put a face on the problem. For the last 5 years I have been laid off and somehow, I keep coming back. It breaks my heart to think that this year, I will not be so lucky. Most of you know I became a teacher late in life, after retiring from a very successful career in telecommunications. To make the point that I teach because I love it, I used to tell people I didn’t “have to teach, that I wanted to teach.” But lately I have realized that is wrong. I do have to teach. I am passionate about teaching. It is in my blood, it is what I was meant to do. I give myself mentally, physically, emotionally and financially to my students and my school.

One reads in the paper about the difficulties in retaining new teachers. The Washington Post reported that half of teachers quit the profession in the first 5 years. I would be happy to be able to teach a 5th year! Why do so many of us new teachers leave teaching? Many say it is because the lack of support, large class sizes, and mostly lack of appreciation and pay. Speaking for myself, I have had wonderful support from my administration, including the Board, my colleagues and my New Teacher Mentor. I have taught class sizes from 20-32 with no complaint. I feel wonderfully appreciated by my students, parents and my principal. My pay is much higher than I ever thought a teacher could make, and for all of this, I am grateful.

So what makes me think about leaving the profession? Every year in January the rumblings start – enrollment is down, the state and federal governments are slashing budgets, revenues are lower than expected. Then March 15 comes around and just because I am one of the last ones hired, I get a pink slip. After enduring endless questions and suppositions from concerned colleagues, family and even students, I attend an administrative hearing represented by a union appointed lawyer who says there is nothing he can do for me. Then May 15 rolls around and I receive my final layoff notice. More questions, rumors and “what if” questions swirl around me during the interminable posting process. Parents ask if there is anything they can do. Administration says they are helpless, bound by Ed Code. And unsuspecting students in 3rd grade say, “I hope you are my teacher next year.” Well I hope so too, sweetie. What makes me think about leaving is this depressing yearly cycle of rumor, innuendo and inefficiency.

During this yearly cycle, I am still teaching my 31 kids with a smile on my face every day. I stay late to grade papers and coach a girls’ running club. I come in early to help students who are struggling in math. During prep, I help colleagues integrate technology into their lessons. I work with a 5th grader to help design a sign for the garden. I answer emails from my students and parents from home in the evening. Yes, I think about leaving the profession and the thought breaks my heart. I love teaching. I am passionate about it. I spend my spare time and my own money developing as a professional. I love watching the light bulb go on above my students’ heads. I am thrilled to expose them to new ideas and new information. I am lucky to be able to share my expertise and knowledge of technology. Watching my students grow along with our school garden makes my heart soar. But this sad yearly cycle has a weakening effect.

When you vote to lay us off, know that you are voting us off the island and some of us may never come back. Who wins?