Tuesday, February 4, 2020

School Choice

I recently had a parent tell me that they wished they had more school choice because they would take their child to a different school. Now I understand that parents deal with difficult situations and I believe they truly want what's best for their children... but, the next statement she made showed me she clearly is misinformed. "I wish there were more charter schools or private schools in our areas. I mean, billionaires don't send their kids to public schools."
Exactly. Billionaires don't send their kids to public schools to learn to be well educated, valuable members of society. They send them to private schools to learn to continue to be billionaires who don't really care about people in public schools.
If these billionaires really cared about improving education and making our country better, they would start with pushing legislation that FULLY funded education for students with disabilities and TRIPLE the funding for schools in low-income districts.
If billionaires cared about making America more competitive in our schools then they should make sure teachers are being paid as the professionals that they are instead of instituting and belittling those educators who have to work a second or third job just to support their family.
If billionaires actually wanted to make a difference in education then they would recognize the value in having teachers write their own tests. Billionaires know the value of money, so why not save states and districts billions of dollars that are being wasted on standardized testing and spend it where it will make a difference for all students by reducing class sizes so children can get individualized help from their teachers.
Billionaires do not care about your child or their future... but do you know who does?...Teachers!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Hard To Reach Students

We often use this description when referring to students who we may not share interests with, or students who show little interest in the subject matter we teach. But are they really "hard to reach" or have we simply been trying the wrong tactics?

Let me tell you about a couple of these students who had been labeled as "hard to reach" who were put into my class. Yes, they were put there. They did not sign up for it. They had been kicked out numerous other classes and mine became the "dumping ground" for troubled students.

That was fine by me because troubled students ended up being stellar students in my class. Typically, after school, I had play practice but there were always a few short weeks in between plays where we didn't have rehearsal. As we waited for rehearsals for the next to begin I would work on my truck after school. Sometimes it was working on the engine, other times it was the sound system, other times it was the suspension. There was always some project to work on. Often times those "hard to reach students" would hang around the building after school which was odd because according to other teachers these students hated school. So one would think that once the bell rang they would be the first ones out of there.

I invited them to help me on some of the projects with my truck as I knew that they enjoyed working on their own vehicles.  How did I know that?...well, that is one of the first steps in reaching "hard to reach" students. I listened.

During our after school projects I taught some of the best lesson of my career. These students proved to be quite intellectual. Our conversations were deep, philosophical, and inspiring. I learned that these students were no "hard to reach" at all. They just weren't being challenged or listened to.

I still keep in touch with these students. They still continue to challenge my way of thinking and keep me learning and listening. I am grateful for those conversations and those projects. Not only were we building a truck, we were building strong relationships and building trust.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Is There Such Thing as a "Wrong Vehicle"?

I was asked by a fellow educator who is both looking for a new job and a new vehicle, "Is there such thing as the wrong vehicle?", meaning is there a vehicle he should not buy that may give off the wrong opinion when he interviews for a job.

When I first started my education career I will admit that I cared about the impression I put out to the public. I wore a shirt and tie every sing school day for the first year. I took out my earrings and never wore them again. I kept my car clean, and my desk. I did all these things that had absolutely now barring on how I taught in the classroom. A shirt and tie may look good but it did not make me a good teacher. 

Soon I began to realize that the connections I made with students and the quality of the lesson I gave them was far more important than trying to "look the part" to the public. I began participating in school spirit dress-up days, joining in on casual Fridays, and even riding my motorcycle. These actions did far more in building positive relationships and improving the culture and climate of my classroom than a shirt and tie ever did.

So regardless of what vehicle you drive, if a school leader is going to judge you during a job interview for what you drive then that is school culture you do not want to be a part of. 

Use the fact that drive a big truck to carry your scuba equipment as a way to connect with students whom you might not normally visit with. Or use your motorcycle as a way to connect with the gear heads who want to know what you ride and why chose that model. Let your uniqueness be you and let it foster connections with students who need to know it is okay to be themselves. So drive a beat-up '85 Honda Civic or a brand new Toyota Tundra, walk or ride a bike. It doesn't matter nearly as much as being there for your students.

Any administrator who is hiring a new teacher should only concerned that a teacher has a vehicle that can safely get them to the school to teach kids.

So be yourself, truly, wholeheartedly, and unapologetically, no matter you drive. As long as you are driving students towards being the best versions of themselves possible then you are alight in my book.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dress up days

Dress Up Days

Image result for dress up days
"Many times students don't want to dress up out of embarrassment or lack of school spirit. Seeing my teachers dress up makes me want to participate and I know won't be embarrassed because they are participating right along side me." - - student

"Yes, we look up to our teachers and expect a level of professionalism but it is important to be reminded sometimes that they are regular people too" - - student

As an educator I try to stay up on current trends and happenings in the world of education across the country which leads me to joining several social media groups for teachers and administrators. On one such group an administrator posed the question as to whether or not teachers and/or principals should participate in school spirit dress up days. I replied that my personal belief is that yes, indeed they should participate. If they want students to have fun, enjoy the days, and build positive relationships at the same time, then model the behavior you want to see in your school by dressing up, getting others involved and just to be on the safe side, keep a change of business attire in your closet in case you have a parent meeting or other item that needs your attention.

When I first started my education career I was in school that frowned upon dressing up with the students on spirit days. I noticed that some of the veteran teachers still dressed up and appeared to be having a lot of fun. I asked one of the few teachers who participated why they dressed up when the administration had made it clear to us that though it was not against policy, it was not preferred. This teacher said they were focused more on people than on policies and they learned how valuable it is to make those connections with his students. I took that message to heart and began participating in every dress up since my first year. And when I do, I don't mess around.

Check out some of my favorites

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Scarlet Letter and Understanding Love

Let me start by saying, "this is not my typical educational blog post."

Today in class, while reading The Scarlet Letter, my students became very heated over the fact that little Pearl was punished nearly equal to her mother by standing with Hester on pillory, though she was guiltless of any wrongdoing. She was punished for being a kid.
This discussion led to the arguments of whether it was romantic and loving for Hester to stay in the town that her beloved and father of her child was residing or was it selfish of her not to put her child first. 
In trying to make the argument that the case of Hester and Arthur Dimmesdale was quite different from mine, but I always put my spouse first. This clearly was not met with an ecstatic response from my students. Now granted, Dimmesdale and Hester were not married, they did not have a traditional relationship by any stretch of the imagination, and we do not currently live in a theocracy as was present in early Puritan Massachusetts. Rather than get into a discussion that drifted from the content and state standards I agreed to continue the topic as blog post. So this blog post is based on questions from my students and a true desire to understand why my incredible wife, Melissa, and I conduct our marriage the way we do and why we have found the success we have as a couple.

First, marriage is something we work at every single day and we are incredibly proud of that work. It is special, extraordinary, and we want it to last forever so we treat our marriage the greatest and most precious item we posses, because it is. 

Melissa and I have been together for over 21 years (That is more than half of her life. May 7th of 2020 will mark being with her longer than I was without her). Like many our age, our lives are consumed by the logistical juggling act of running a household with three daughters, managing our teaching careers (yes, we are both teachers), keeping our numerous cats and dogs happy and well, and planning lessons and caring for all students who enter our classrooms. Oh!...and then there are the extra-curricular activities we lead like students council, tennis, directing numerous theatrical productions a year, all while making sure we schedule time for each other. Indeed, our lives are impossibly busy. But at the top of all our priorities, we list loving our kids and right above that is our marriage. 

When Melissa and I were dating and began talking of marriage we decided then and there that our marriage and our faith would provide the foundation for everything that we build together. Long before we made our vows over the marriage alter we made a vow to each other over a chicken finger basket at the Dairy Queen. We would always put each other first. Over career, over parents, over family, and yes, even over our kids. Now please, do not get this statement wrong or interpret it as anything other than what it is. We were not saying we would put our marriage first at the expense of our other obligations, but rather we are prioritizing what is most important so we can make the other priorities in our lives better because of our love for each other.

To put it simply; the greatest gift I can give my daughters is for them to see a husband who loves his wife and puts her first. I want them to find a man who loves them in the same way.

If I were not to put my wife first then it becomes easy for anything else to fill that spot. If my kids are first then what happens they when all grow up and move out? If I have put my wife lower on the list during that time, then suddenly try to move her back to the top of my priority list I imagine it would not be met with the greatest reception. 

If I put work, my career, or anything else as my top priority then what was the point of getting married in the first place? I want to be with Melissa forever. If I put my career first then my spouse becomes little more than a roommate.

And even more damaging, if I do not put my wife first then that leaves the door open for another woman to come along and fill that spot. By keeping my wife at the top of my priority list it keeps my romantic heart solely dedicated to her and no one else. 

My wife is truly the best part of me and I will always treat and love her in a manner to reflect that fact.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Are We Really Preparing Them for the "Real World"?

So often in schools today we claim that teachers are doing their best to prepare students for the real world yet we still require them to sit in assigned seats and raise their hand when they want to use the bathroom. Are we really preparing them for the real world? Where else in their lives are they going to have to have assigned seating (other than a plane or a concert) and when in the world are they ever going to have to actually raise their hand to use the bathroom?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Don't Yell at the Flowers


I have never been accused of having a green thumb. Even my fake plants died because I forgot to pretend to water them. Though I may not be the greatest horticulturalist on the block, I am rather skilled in metaphors.
     Allow me to share one such example I have learned about flowering plants. Sometimes when caring for a plant you give it the recommended amount of sunlight; the right amount of food, and precise measurements of water, and still the flower does not bloom. You change those variables and still the flower fails to bloom. Your expectations remain high, your phyto-maintenance skills are at their finest, and yet this flower, of which you care for so deeply, remains in its dormant state. It is in this moment that you must look at the environment in which the flower is planted. You must change the very surroundings it lies in. Replace the soil, change it out for a more fertile environment. You must change the very thing that is holding it back. Changing the climate of the flower will finally allow it bloom, just as we always desired it would.           
     Now let me tell something of which I am certain...you will not get a flower to bloom by blaming the flower for its own failure or worse, yelling at the plant!

Studies have been proven that this method does not work. The same goes for our students. We cannot be quick to blame them for not reaching their potential as quickly as we desire. Sometimes we give them all we can, we foster, we support, we encourage, and we give our time and our all and still our students may not bloom. It is at these moments where we must look at the educational environment we have created and look to how we may need to change the climate they are in to give them best environment they can get and allow them to bloom. It may not be easy, the results are truly beautiful.