The struggle is real

In the 60s and 70s, we learned about sending our troops away to war and having them return to an unsupportive environment where they were ridiculed for performing tasks that our government “asked” (really forced) them to complete.  We learned that these soldiers were being forced to enroll in the military and then asked to “fight for our freedom” and what did they receive in return?  Protests and ridicule about killing innocent people in a foreign country.  How has our support for our troops changed?  Well for one, joining the military is voluntary (sometimes).  What else has changed?  We support our soldiers while they are away and send them care packages filled with goodies they don’t have the luxury of having while fighting in another country.  We also don’t protest and ridicule them for the jobs they were being asked to do by our government.  We instead focus our attention on the systems that are asking our soldiers to perform these tasks.

This is somewhat how I feel right now in my profession as a teacher

Yes I know, to make an exact correlation to what soldiers went through and teachers is not a fair comparison however I am going to attempt to point out some similarities.

1.  Teachers are the ones fighting on the front line.

Teachers are the ones in the classrooms with students EVERYDAY! Day in and day out!  They are dealing with students hormones, foul language (just being honest here), sassy attitudes, loving attitudes, emotional baggage, insecurities and much much more.  In addition to all this, teachers are being asked to teach through it all in a way that reaches every kid with all different thought processes, make sure they are engaged and pass this assessment to make our school look good.  Us teachers are doing the work!!  We are soldiers on the front line.  We are the ones signing up for this job and being asked to do things that we sometimes don’t agree with and sometimes things we can’t LIVE without doing (teaching kids)!

2.  Teachers are getting ridiculed for doing jobs that a bigger system is forcing them to do.

If you asked the most dedicated, student focused teacher the question: Why do you do this job? They would answer with something similar to: I want to make a difference in students’ lives! (This is why I do this job!) Teacher’s don’t want to: judge students, fail them, test them once a month (sometimes more), be the mean guy (even though sometimes its a job requirement), make kids endure standardized testing, let them fall behind, and all the other shitty things we have to do.

WE WANT TO HELP KIDS LEARN!

WE WANT TO HELP KIDS BE SUCCESSFUL AND PUSH THEM TO THEIR HIGHEST POTENTIAL!

Why else would we do this job???  For the money???  HA!  We do this job for similar reasons that soldiers want to “fight for their country”.  The benefits of working with students outweigh  the negatives (it’s getting harder and hard to say this).  Right now as a teacher, our systems (public systems) are forcing these negatives down our throats.  All the positive things and reasons that motivate us are getting pushed away by people making decisions who AREN’T even educators!  Some of them have never taught a day in their lives!  On top of this who is being ridiculed and blamed?  TEACHERS!  Similar to the way soldiers were being ridiculed to do things they didn’t agree with and being chastised about it , our teachers, who are the main workers on the front line, are being asked to push aside what they know is right for students, to check off boxes on someone else’s agenda!  And who’s being blamed and put down for it????? #facepalm

3.  Teachers aren’t being given what they need to be successful.

Everyone knows teachers don’t get paid enough.  But what everyone might not know is that teachers work more than what we get paid for.  Now you people with the “but you get paid during the summer” argument might want to check yourselves.  In Hawaii, we are 10 month employees which means we DON’T get paid “during” summer.  But instead our 10 month salary is being stretched out over 12 months so that we  don’t have to worry about not getting paid for 2 months.

Now check out the #DITLife blog posts, where teachers from across the nation decided to share a day in the life of their typical teaching day.  I’m amazed at how much time these teachers give to their profession.  As a teacher, I am getting paid for a 8 hour day.  But how much do I actually work? If I kept a record everyday I would definite be going into overtime by Wed or Thurs.

Effective teaching takes time.  It takes time to plan deliberate lessons that are engaging, standards based and rigorous.  It takes time to plan for 7 different preps a day (being the only HS math teacher, I taught it all and had to plan it all).  It takes time to give specific descriptive and timely feedback on students’ work (formative assessment).  How much time are we given to do all this?!  ONE HOUR!  ONE HOUR!!!  ONE HOUR to plan for 7 different classes, give feedback on student work, make copies for tomorrow’s lesson, differentiate your lesson, this list could go on and on!  Teachers are expected do a quality job without being given a reasonable amount of time.  This also doesn’t include all the administrative things we have to attend: data team meetings, academic and financial planning meetings, leadership meetings, this list could also go on and on.  In a nutshell, the first thing teachers need to be successful in this profession is time to do all this and they don’t get it.

Other things teachers don’t get to be successful is basic things to make their classroom function: desks and chairs (now ask if these items are in working order), basic supplies: dry erase pens or chalk, chart paper, a few computers, pencils, manipulatives, novel books, pencils, professional learning resource books.  Do we send our soldiers out without the tools they need to get their jobs done?  Do we ridicule them when they aren’t given supplies they need to do a good job and come back without the job done?

If you know me by now, you know I’m against the BLAME GAME.  I’m very solution oriented, I seek for ways to make the best out of shitty situations.  So whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, administrator or merely a bystander think about the struggles teachers are facing today.  What can you do to be a solution to this mess of education?

Parents – How can you support your child’s teacher by even just giving them positive feedback on something you like about their classroom?  How can you rally behind the teachers who are on the front line of education and working over their hours to make your child’s classroom a safe and productive place to learn?

Administrators – What are you doing to be a solution to your school’s structure and system?  Are you allowing teachers to make decisions based on what’s best for students?  How are you supporting teachers and parents in this huge transition in education?  Are you the leader that is the role model for all at your school?  How are you being the educational leader in all this?

Teachers – What are you doing to support your fellow teachers that are teaching along side you in the battlefield?  How are you being the role model for your students?  Have you committed to life long learning for our students as well as for ourselves? How are you striving to be that teacher you never had but always wish you did!?

Be a solution to our dilemma and not another grumbling voice that would much rather talk the talk but never really walk the walk.

I’m striving and struggling to be the change I want to see in this world.

Won’t you join me!?

The struggle is real

My reason for teaching

I have never been very personal on my blog about teaching but if you’ve ever chatted with me (on computer or in real life) you have gotten a little clue into how much teaching students (math in particular) means to me.

There is no question that I should be in this profession.  There have been times where I have asked myself: “Maybe I care just a little too much.” But as I think about every single student I have had contact with there is no way I can live with myself if I held back on the amount of caring I have for each and every student that I encounter.

These students that come into our lives are our future.  They are the ones that will be our neighbors, our engineers, our congress people, our voters, they are the future of my community, my island, my state and this country.

I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to help mold our future generation.  If not me, then who else? I remember reading one of Fawn Nguyen’s post that we are lucky to do this job.  We are lucky to get the chance to educate some amazing human beings.  Are they amazing when they come into my class?  Most likely NOT!  Are they better people because they’ve taken my class?  DAMN STRAIGHT!  But overall, am I a better person/teacher/human being because I’ve had the honor to teach them?  This is a given!

Each and every student of mine knows that every move I make inside or out of the classroom is for them.

Three years ago I had the honor and privilege of having a squirrely (like all freshman are), sassy (to keep me on my toes) and yet loving and sweet boy in my class (which I will call IPA).  He had that attitude towards math class that gives me my drive…..to be the best teacher I can be! Which pretty much means he hated math.  Well….let’s just say it wasn’t his strength.  Every lesson plan, every activity, every move I made in class was to get him (and any other similar students) to start SLOWLY changing their minds about math and learning in general.  I was DETERMINED to get him to at least appreciate math for its functionality, beauty, structure, or any other awesome reason people are attracted to math.  He was my drive, for the past 2 years, to be better.  To look for and write better lessons, to have high expectations, to break lessons down so all students have access to the content.  Without IPA (and many other students like him) there is no way I would’ve pushed myself as hard as I did.  There is no way I would be as determined year after to year to write better lessons.  There is no way that I would be where I am today in my profession.  We all have these students.  We have the hardest ones that we are pulling our hair out over but if they weren’t here where would we be.  We have those students that challenge us EVERY DAY but still they are in our rooms at recess and after school and we think “I thought he hated my class and math.”  We have those students who we see grow into young adults that we are proud to say “I had the privilege to be his teacher.”  IPA was one of these students.

A week ago we lost IPA in a car accident and that is the reason for my overly personal post here.  Since his death, I’ve been reflecting on all the great teaching moments he has given to me: toll booth conversations, math arguing, arguing about the quality of his work, arguing about him being smarter than he actually thought he was, the reason for being a better math teacher, the reason that I ultimately do this job!!!!  I can’t express enough how lucky I am to have had IPA mold who I’ve become as a teacher.

As teachers we often get caught up in the politics, the power, the rigamarole of the profession.  Don’t forget your reason for being here!!!!  Remember that day in and day out.  See your students’ faces, hear your students’ voices because one day they won’t be there any more.  Be proud knowing that you gave every student everything you could offer them and more!  You are the change agent!  You are the lucky one that ultimately has the opportunity to mold and be molded by the future of your community, your island, your state and country.

I am proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to teach IPA and many other students like him.  And I will never take that for granted!  NO matter what tests, initiatives, or ratings get dumped on our profession.  I am proud and honored to be a teacher of the future.

To learn, read.

To know, write.

To master, teach.

My reason for teaching