Tag Archives: teaching

Link’n’Blogs – 10.7.16 – Overworked; Under Paid


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

When I was working in high schools, we teachers had a saying about our compensation: never calculate the hourly wage. Truly, we believed that, factoring in time away from the classroom grading, preparing, prefecting, ect., we’d be making pennies on the dollar.

Turns out we were right… A friend of mine who is a principal posted this study. It demanded re-posting!

Teaching Overtime

overtime_clock_lead_copyright_imilian

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Link’n’Blogs – 9.2.16 – The Real Work of Home


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Brandy Young, an elementary school teacher in Texas, has a big idea. Perhaps you heard about it last week. If you did not, take a read below. She’s let her students’ parents know something important about the homework she’ll be assigning their children this year… I am starting to believe more teachers should do the same thing.

Down with Homework

homework.jpg

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Link’n’Blogs – 7.1.16 – Hey, Schools – Stop Body Shaming Girls


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

I was Dean of Students at an all girls school many years ago, the first Dean of Students as a matter of fact. One of the responsibilities that fell under me was dress code. Before the school opened, I worked with a committed and talented group of people to design a dress code that the kids could follow. #MiserableFailure. I have, ever since, been highly interested in dress codes, specifically in how they apply to girls. Andrea Romano had a great take on this issue in Mashable last week.

Hey, Schools – Stop Body Shaming Girls

Body Shame

 

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Teach & Serve No. 41 – Thresholds

Teach & Serve 

No. 41 * May 25, 2016


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Today is the last edition of Teach & Serve for the year.

Tune in next fall for Volume II

Thresholds

We may, like many of our students who are about to leave our schools or our colleagues who are moving on to other work, want to stand on this side of the door, we may want to hold here, just for a while longer.

As the end of the year draws closer, and the promise of summer is all but upon us, we revel in the prospect of sunny months, of halcyon days, of down time. Sometimes we revel in that promise more than our students do. We plan the time off or, rather, we enjoy the notion that we don’t have to plan – we don’t have to plan time, we don’t have to plan new classes, we don’t have to plan at all. We see the door before us, opening on to the summer, and we’re eager to rush through it. We’re ready to cross the threshold.

No more lessons, no more books (or iPads or tablets), no more students’ dirty looks.

Bring summer on!

Something nags, though. There is something that holds us in place. In these late spring moments, we stand at the door with a little reluctance to push through. We have one foot in next year, but we also have one still in this one.  We are aware of the students with whom we’ve journeyed these many months, of the colleagues with whom we’ve worked. We’ve shared the moments of the year together – moments that have been good, moments that have been bad, all the moments in between.

We’ve been part of the lives of hundreds of other people. And all of that is about to change for the group of people we’ve lived with, day-in-and-day-out, this group of people who occupied the minutes and hours of this year will never be assembled again. Not after the door opens, not after we pour out into the summer.

It’s all about to change. Once we cross that threshold, it changes forever.

So, we may, like many of our students who are about to leave our schools or our colleagues who are moving on to other work, want to stand on this side of the door, we may want to hold here, just for a while longer.

But, we cannot stand in threshold. That’s not the job.

The work of today – today on one of the last days of the school year – is what it has been throughout the school year: moving forward. The work has been to ready the way, to direct the traffic. From the moment the year began, from the moment the faculty meetings opened in the fall, we’ve been pointed in this direction, pointed to the threshold, to the door.

Door HandleWe stand by the door, not at it, not in front. We stand with one hand on the handle, ready to open the latch.

We do not stand in the threshold.

The work of the educator is constantly in motion and focused forward. The work of the educator links from one lesson to the next, one unit to the next, one demonstration, one equation, one experiment to the next. We link one year to the next. We are future focused people, though, in the moments of the school year, we don’t always realize it.

It is not always easy to push open the door. There are students who we would like to bar from passing through because we believe they are not ready. There are colleagues we want to hold on to who are going to go. We know some of what is on the other side of the door. We know what can happen when the threshold is crossed.

We also know that it must be crossed. And it will be. We hope the students are ready. We hope they are ready to move on to the next level, to the next step, to the next school. We hope we’ve done the job well.

We’ve led our students to the threshold. It’s time to watch them walk through it. It’s time to let them go. It’s time to close the door on this year and to rest, relax and recharge.

And we need not worry too much. When we reach the end of the summer, we will stand at another threshold: the threshold to a new year.

That is one of the blessings of the work we do.

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EduQuote of the Week: May 23 – August, 2016

door quotes

Even if we never talk again after tonight, please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me

 

 

EduQuote of the Week will return next fall.

Happy last weeks of school!

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Teach & Serve No. 40 – You Changed My Life

Teach & Serve 

No. 40 * May 18, 2016


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You Changed My Life

Working in schools isn’t like painting a wall. Teachers don’t get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant.

 
Mid-May in schools is rife with many emotions. Teachers and administrators are ready to bid the year farewell and to get to summer vacation. Mid-May brings with it the promise that an opportunity for rest and recharging is not far away. Certainly there are some obstacles yet to clear what with exams or grading final projects, cleaning out of classrooms and turning in of reports, packing up material and checking out of buildings. Though the end is nigh, there are still things to do.

Our students have things to do, too and they normally don’t accomplish one of the most critical tasks of the end of the school year. With varying degrees of seriousness and success, they approach their final projects and tests. They clean out their lockers. They sign their yearbooks and they say their goodbyes. But they typically leave out something very important.

Many summers down the road, water passed under bridges, calendar pages turned, former students realize they forgot something back in the spring months of their school days. At some point in the journey of their lives they recognize what happened and some seek out former instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”

It’s not entirely fair to expect students living in these mid-May moments to understand what has occurred in their lives. Some do. Some know the debts of gratitude they owe. Some are able to articulate this to their teachers. But the vast majority have not the breadth of knowledge, the introspection or the reflective capacity to get it. They haven’t lived enough life and that’s okay. As educators, we know that our students are not finished products. They have more to learn.

And so do we because, in the mid-May morass, we are just as likely to forget to acknowledge to ourselves that we have, in fact, changed lives.

paintingWorking in schools isn’t like painting a wall. Teachers don’t get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant. Teachers don’t get to see the results of the hours of preparation and the early mornings and the late nights. Teachers don’t know the seeds they are planting as they are dropping them in fertile ground. Teachers don’t know the affect they have until long after they have had it.

At this moment, I know full well that many of your students are not paying attention to you in class, are pushing every button you have, are just as ready to be away from you as you are from them. I know that many of us are just as ready for summer as our charges are. I know that there is much to accomplish and much to do. I know this. But I know something else, too. In mid-May teachers need this critical perspective and I would like to provide it.

Please allow me to remind all the teachers and coaches and administrators and educational professionals: you have changed lives these last nine months. Please allow me to say something about this profound work:

Thank you.

You have changed lives.

Treasure giving that gift, even if those who receive it are not always able to acknowledge that they have.

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EduQuote of the Week: May 16 – May 22, 2016

door quotes

… we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When … the whole world tells you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — “No, you move.” – Captain America, Amazing Spider-man #573

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Teach & Serve No. 39 – I Love Trouble

Teach & Serve 

No. 39 * May 11, 2016


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I Love Trouble

Schools should embrace the right kind of trouble, not shy away from it.

troubleWorking in schools, we sometimes find ourselves in trouble, as it were. We find ourselves at odds with others. We find ourselves at loggerheads. We find ourselves emotionally keyed up and in stare downs across the faculty room. Often, we don’t know how we got into these situations. They seem to just happen.

I remember far too many of these sorts of moments from my time in schools. I remember staring down a colleague who was sure I mismanaged the timing of a field trip to such an extent that it impacted his afterschool activities with students. He was probably right. I remember standing in my principal’s office moments after he had appeared in my classroom to berate me in front of my kids. He was absolutely wrong. I remember all manner of conflict running the gamut from right to wrong stopping at all points in between.

This kind of trouble ought to be avoided. It’s bad for business.

However, not all trouble should be avoided and, for good or for ill, there are people with whom we work with whom we ought to be in trouble. Always be in trouble with the right people for the right reasons.

Really.

Once, in a conversation with fellow administrators about a teacher’s desire for assigned courses she would instruct the following year, I was told by someone a step up on the organizational chart: “it’s not your call.” At the time, I was serving as Assistant Principal for Faculty and Curriculum. By any stretch of the imagination, having input on what teachers (who, for better or worse, fell under my charge) would teach was a subject on which I held valid opinions, a subject with which I was intimately familiar. While the final decision rested with those above me – it was, in fact, their call – the idea that I was in conflict with this particular person over this particular decision didn’t upset me. That this person was heavy-handed and attempting to put me in my place with his language may have, but the fact that we disagreed did not.

This was the right fight to have, the right trouble to be in. This administrator was the right person to fight, the right person to be in trouble with.

I found myself in trouble with this person over-and-over again. Bracketing the ego I know I have and the argumentative nature that can be a part of me; bracketing the petty fights I may have instigated and the silly conflicts we may have had, the trouble I got into with this person was the right kind of trouble and this person was absolutely the right person to have trouble with. I suspect few tears were shed by this person when, years later, I left the school for different work in education. Frankly, this person should have shed tears and should have recognized our troubles as good ones.

The troubles we had centered on the different ways we thought students should be treated. They centered on we believed administration should partner with teachers. They centered on how parents be engaged. The troubles we had centered on issues of mission. They centered on fundamental questions of how we should proceed as a school.

The bottom line is that trouble in a school can be a change agent. Schools should embrace the right kind of trouble, not shy away from it. Schools should be happy for trouble over equally good ideologies, trouble around valid pedagogical methods, trouble about different ways to proceed when the ways to proceed seem similarly good.

Schools should love this kind of trouble.

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EduQuote of the Week: May 9 – May 15, 2016

door quotes

Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow. – Albert Einstein

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Teacher Appreciation Week – Personal Journey Five


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2012-01-09 22.16.38

Me in my first classroom – Bishop McNamara High School, Fall 1992

During this Teacher Appreciation Week 2016, I intend to share a memories of my years in teaching – some I’ve posted in years past and some new ones – if only to recall the moments that stand out and the moments that have somehow inspired me to press on.

“We All Saw Him Fall”

I’ve had hard days as a teacher – experienced train wreck classes that didn’t go well, inexplicable and sometimes all too explicable conflict with colleagues, and self inflicted and ridiculous deadlines when I’ve failed to complete grading when I should. None of my days, however, match the one I write of today.

The best part is, the terror of the day was completely self inflicted.

Early in my career, I fancied myself something of a hard ass. I wanted students to like me, yes, but I wanted them to fear me more. I wanted to be a tyro in the classroom – rash and unpredictable but able to win over my charges with my quick wit and towering intellect. I wanted to be John Houseman from The Paper Chase, Jamie Escalante from Stand and Deliver or Joe Clark from Lean on Me. Simply put, I wanted to be more than I was.

In order to be that – to rise to that mode, I would, well, throw erasers at boys who talked in my class.

I know what you’re thinking, “Wow. That is Hard. That is Scary. That is Bad Ass.”

Thanks.  I know.

Early in my career, black board and chalk gave way to white board and dry erase markers which was good for me because the erasers for white boards are made of cardboard casings and are light and fluffy. No harm done when one of these babies drills a young man in the side of his talking head.

During an afternoon class, a kid who I really liked was chattering away as if distracting me and his classmates was his job. I shot him looks, told him to be quiet and, generally, took him on, daring him to keep talking.

He did.

When I could stand it no more, I reached behind me (I was facing the class with my back to the white board) and, feeling the fuzzy eraser, gripped it, picked it up and let it fly.

It might have been just when it was leaving my hand that I realized I had thrown, not one of the light, fluffy variety, but an eraser with a hard, plastic shell into which you could latch markers. The notches for the markers came to very definite points.

And those points were sharp.

The kid who was talking saw the eraser coming. The little s#!t was an athlete and he ducked it, easily.

Just behind him, another student who had said about five words in the entire course of the semester looked up just in time to have his forehead split by the eraser.

There was a brief moment of him sitting – stunned – hands covering his forehead waiting for the pain to subside.

Before the blood started running like a river down his face.

My entire career flashed before me as I got him out of his desk and down the hall to the bathroom.

I left him there to clean up and walked back to my classroom, wondering if I’d just lost my job. I opened the door in a cold sweat.

Sitting in the front seat, grinning, was Little S#!t.

“We all saw him fall.” He said. “We all saw him fall.”

Unbroken

It’s been fun reliving these stories and remembering these particular moments. It occurs to me that I’ve been in education for over half my life. That’s a very long time and I am proud to have made this work my vocation.

When I first shared these memories three years ago, I wrote this on the final day of Teacher Appreciation Week: “It’s the last day of exams at my school. I am still in the building as I write this. One of my duties around here is managing our Book Store and today was our Used Book Drop when students (and FAR TOO MANY parents, for my taste) drop off the books they’ve used this year to be shipped back to our supplier for a refund. Next fall, the process will reverse as the families will order their books and the company will ship them out to homes all over the Denver metro.

Book Store Manager. Student Council Moderator. Co-Service Director. Junior Class Moderator. Summer School Principal. Assistant to the Principal Chapel Choir Moderator. English Department Chair. Math Department Chair. Accreditation Chair. Creative Writing Club Moderator. Dean of Students. Assistant Principal. Acting Principal.  There might be more. Over 22 years, I’ve played a number of roles in the schools I’ve worked. I liked some of those roles very much. I detested others.

Of all the roles, though, the best has been teacher. I’ve never wanted to leave the classroom. When I got my first administrative position, I was relieved when my new principal told me that, not only could I still teach, she would be teaching, too. This has been great for her as a principal and great for me as well.

My first planning book from my first year of teaching. I don't know why I keep these things...

My first planning book from my first year of teaching. I don’t know why I keep these things…

I got into teaching to hear myself talk.

No, that’s not right.

I got into teaching to be with young people. To work with them. To learn from them and, on rare occasions when the stars align, to teach them something about a greater good. Something about themselves. Something about God.

It’s never been about the Petrarchan Sonnet or diagramming sentences or, dare I say it, A Prayer for Owen Meany for me. I’ve learned from the good teachers around me, those who taught me, those with whom I teach and those I get to observe. The good ones – the great ones – can be teaching  1+ 1 = 2 and wow their charges.

I think I am a good teacher. I still want to be a great one.

What’s great about the last day is that, in two short months, there will be another first day. It will be my 22nd first day as a teacher.

The circle remains unbroken.

I hope nothing ever breaks it.

And, really, even the change in my responsibilities within education from teacher/administrator to current position with the Jesuit Schools Network hasn’t broken that circle. Supporting the work of Jesuit schools in my current role feels as vocational as my work within the schools did. Over 25 years in education. Unbroken.

Feels pretty, pretty good.

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