Honest Musings on Life and Learning

Posts Tagged: Education

Education Questions for Presidential Debates Make Me Angry

HOW ARE WE GOING TO FIX OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM? GIVE ME DETAILS!

I don’t get angry about many things, but one thing that does make me very upset is when Presidential candidates, or any candidates for that matter, get asked questions about how they’re going to reform education to make our students the BEST in the world.

When it comes to health care, medicare, and jobs, it seems everyone lays out specific plans that they will follow and advocate for. When it comes to education policy, there seem to be ONLY buzzwords: like performance pay, respect for teachers, charter schools, teacher importance, STEM……

BUT HOW WILL YOU IMPLEMENT THAT CHANGE? LIKE ALL OF YOU, I WANT THEM TO TELL ME THEIR DETAILED PLAN. Leave out the rhetoric.

I saw this article: http://bit.ly/Sk9XBC asking people to generate essential questions for the Presidential debates and it sparked me thinking about the education-related questions that we want our candidates to answer.

I will start the list. Please add others….

1. What do you think makes an effective school? How are you going to make all of our schools, including Title I schools, more effective over the next 4 years?

2. How much of a role do you believe school leaders and teachers make in the lives of their students? Based on that answer, should effective leaders and teachers be paid based on how effective they are? What is your plan for reforming school leader and teacher pay?

3. In the next 4 years, how do you plan to increase our American students’ world rating of 17th in Science and 25th in Mathematics? What would your plan look like at the school level?

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I truly believe that a big part of the reason we teachers are not rewarded with the respect or pay that we deserve for the job we do day in and day out is that the majority of people do not understand what teachers do and how many roles we play in a given day. Yes, I know that there are tons of politics, money, and stigmatized parties to blame as well. And I certainly know that we will have to jump through all those hoops when there is a plan in place to build this respect that teachers need (foreshadowing to a future post on the RESPECT initiative which I am very excited about). But before we can devise a plan, we must also know where public perception lies. Because without general knowledge of the behind the scenes of the teaching profession, those who are in charge of our government with no teaching experience and those voting on laws with no teaching experience will certainly not make educated decisions about education.
Teachers are counselors, mentors, nurses, parents, friends, presenters, managers, data analyzers, collaborators, and character developers.  Most Americans think about teachers only through the eyes of their own teachers when they went through school, but there are very important things they are missing:
1. You don’t see everything as a student.  Even if you try to think back to your own schooling, you will only remember the times when you were around your teacher, which definitely is the most important interaction and learning time for a student, but much has gone on behind the scenes for a teacher to plan that valued time he/she has with you!
2. In order for that instructional time to be used as effectively as possible for students, teachers need to well-planned (long-term planned, unit planned, and lesson planned), data needs to be analyzed as to which students do/don’t need the lesson, content needs to be mastered by the teacher, materials need to be created and ready, differentiated plans may need to be created for those students who need lower/higher skill set level within the lesson…This is all for one lesson. Let’s take a step back and also think about how this needs to be done for every class a teacher teaches. For Elementary teachers, that means a lesson in Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies and Grammar needs to be ready for each day. For Middle and High School Teachers, that may mean different sections of the same class, different grade levels of the same subject, or different subject with the same grade level.
3. Behind the scenes: Like the circle graph above shows, teachers wear an extreme number of hats in a given day/week.  Would you want your child in a class with no parent communication, no field trips, no school events, no tutoring/after school activities, and nothing up on the walls? Behind the scenes of actually presenting content, teachers are doing all of these things, and normally don’t ask for credit for any of them because we do it for the good of students and the good of the school. How many other professions and people would work for free for the cause they believe in?
All of us know it’s not a 9-5 job. You take your work home with you. You’re always thinking about your students and your next lesson. BUT, how far should compassion go? Weekends turn into grading days. “Vacation” weeks turn into professional development days. You get the picture. I know many other professions are like this too, MANY. At the risk of sounding complain-y, I wanted to paint a picture for you of a teacher’s responsibilities and perspectives on the job from the inside. Public perception of what a teacher does needs to evolve with what teachers do in 2012 in the classroom.  Government officials and voters should make sure that this fall, they go into classrooms of today and talk to teachers. If we can get more people advocating for the respect of the teaching profession, we can get more talented people into and staying in the profession, and we can begin to revolutionize our education system for our students. It may just start with public perception!

I truly believe that a big part of the reason we teachers are not rewarded with the respect or pay that we deserve for the job we do day in and day out is that the majority of people do not understand what teachers do and how many roles we play in a given day. Yes, I know that there are tons of politics, money, and stigmatized parties to blame as well. And I certainly know that we will have to jump through all those hoops when there is a plan in place to build this respect that teachers need (foreshadowing to a future post on the RESPECT initiative which I am very excited about). But before we can devise a plan, we must also know where public perception lies. Because without general knowledge of the behind the scenes of the teaching profession, those who are in charge of our government with no teaching experience and those voting on laws with no teaching experience will certainly not make educated decisions about education.

Teachers are counselors, mentors, nurses, parents, friends, presenters, managers, data analyzers, collaborators, and character developers.  Most Americans think about teachers only through the eyes of their own teachers when they went through school, but there are very important things they are missing:

1. You don’t see everything as a student.  Even if you try to think back to your own schooling, you will only remember the times when you were around your teacher, which definitely is the most important interaction and learning time for a student, but much has gone on behind the scenes for a teacher to plan that valued time he/she has with you!

2. In order for that instructional time to be used as effectively as possible for students, teachers need to well-planned (long-term planned, unit planned, and lesson planned), data needs to be analyzed as to which students do/don’t need the lesson, content needs to be mastered by the teacher, materials need to be created and ready, differentiated plans may need to be created for those students who need lower/higher skill set level within the lesson…This is all for one lesson. Let’s take a step back and also think about how this needs to be done for every class a teacher teaches. For Elementary teachers, that means a lesson in Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies and Grammar needs to be ready for each day. For Middle and High School Teachers, that may mean different sections of the same class, different grade levels of the same subject, or different subject with the same grade level.

3. Behind the scenes: Like the circle graph above shows, teachers wear an extreme number of hats in a given day/week.  Would you want your child in a class with no parent communication, no field trips, no school events, no tutoring/after school activities, and nothing up on the walls? Behind the scenes of actually presenting content, teachers are doing all of these things, and normally don’t ask for credit for any of them because we do it for the good of students and the good of the school. How many other professions and people would work for free for the cause they believe in?

All of us know it’s not a 9-5 job. You take your work home with you. You’re always thinking about your students and your next lesson. BUT, how far should compassion go? Weekends turn into grading days. “Vacation” weeks turn into professional development days. You get the picture. I know many other professions are like this too, MANY. At the risk of sounding complain-y, I wanted to paint a picture for you of a teacher’s responsibilities and perspectives on the job from the inside. Public perception of what a teacher does needs to evolve with what teachers do in 2012 in the classroom.  Government officials and voters should make sure that this fall, they go into classrooms of today and talk to teachers. If we can get more people advocating for the respect of the teaching profession, we can get more talented people into and staying in the profession, and we can begin to revolutionize our education system for our students. It may just start with public perception!

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