Friday, October 18, 2013

Quick Thought: Are Teachers in General "Expendables"?

So I went to one of those seeming time-wasting sites where you can take a quiz. This quiz determines what Star Trek character you would be if you lived in that amazing universe of creatures and pioneers. 

As it turns out, I am an "Expendable Character" AKA "Redshirt". 

Here is my full report. 

My favorite part is the note about my job being important 
and the correlation to death. 

Something about this is interesting to me as I reflect on the perspective of teachers in general. When you break down a first year teacher's salary, they make about 5-6 dollars an hour. I actually made more than that working at Subway 6 years ago.

Everyone knows that the job of teachers is very important. Unlike Star Trek,  in real life there aren't enough main characters to change the plot of the continuing debacle of American education for those in poverty. We need many more redshirts to be main characters in making a change. But in order for that to happen, maybe a change of clothes would be a good start?

The question to which I have no answer is: What is the equivalent of changing out of a red shirt in Star Trek to the change in the real world? Not just for teachers, but for everyone involved with education (parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers, etc).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2. Teachers Really Are Superhuman

The second point I am pondering in my list of things I've been learning is that with all jokes and cutsy frivolousness aside: teachers really are superhuman.

I want to make it clear, I am not calling myself superhuman or ALL teachers for that matter. But I have seen teachers who do all the stuff required of them and more. 

For example, some of these teachers: prepare unit plans, create lesson plans, work like crazy to get new classroom supplies for free through contacts, connect personally with all their students and families, quickly respond to all administration and district requirements, actually pay attention in professional development meetings, are constantly positive, are fine with little sleep, jump through all the hoops both the state and federal government push them through, and most importantly actually help kids learn both academic and social skills that set them up for a successful future. The list could go on for a very long time. I just don't have enough experience or ability to keep it going. 

I am working my best to get there. It would be nice to just have one of those slick montages you see in the movies (think Stand and Deliver, or Freedom Writers) happen in real life. You know, where the teacher is angry and depressed and the students hate each other. THEN the music starts and about 2 minutes later the classroom is united by some glorious and common goal and the teacher's face is glistening with tears of joy. Sort of like how Mulan was an awkward week stranger, and then she became a gladiator-like Kung Fu master. Wouldn't that be cool? 


Why does our society as a whole seem to just not care that these superhuman teachers are basically serfs amongst us? This is a complex and weighted questions and I realize there are many answers or deflections to it. Either way, things are simply messed up in the US of A when it comes to education. I don't know what the solution is. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

1. There is so much more to public school than academics

As referred to in my last post, I am beginning to learn a lot in my classroom. The first point is that there is much more involved in public education than most people seem to realize.

Something I saw on Facebook and felt an affinity with. 

First, just plain academics without social context, vision, or sense of community among students is hallow. Teaching with only a focus on pure numbers and reading is like a military leader or football coach teaching the necessary tactics of their respective professions but leaving out any mention of things like "band of brothers", team, community, trust, and respect.

Admittedly, I realized this need for student trust and safety before I started teaching. What I did't include in my perspective was the fact that some students may resist any move towards working with others or controlling their words and actions. It is very difficult to figure out what these students need and what challenges they are facing both in and out of the classroom.

Now when I am focusing on academics and actually teaching material, it isn't just presenting information. No, even this must be done in a way that builds the social and moral identity of the student. The spider man cheer, the watermelon cheer, silent cheers, love fingers, 2 claps on 2, and other things are used at an insane pace and frequency to keep students engaged and feeling positive. Students also deal with a large quantity of frustration when doing their work, and coping with these feelings of inadequacy usually isn't something all students have learned about. They may choose to throw their desk, cuss out their neighbor, jump out of their seat and steal someone's pencil, or just cry and scream. Teaching them a better way, while also actually teaching them content is a challenge I really don't understand quite yet.