Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Old Dog CAN learn a few new tricks

As I prepared for a new semester, I realized that I'm not as stuck in my ways as I thought.  I just survived my first "Genius Week" here at George-Little Rock.  What is Genius Week?  It's a week where students choose a project that they work on for a week and at the end present their findings to a panel of teachers or community members.  Students worked on original music, original movies (which were posted to YouTube), started their own businesses, invented some really amazing products (a few that I would personally invest in), etc.  It was truly an amazing week of learning and facilitating.  When given a problem (one that they are passionate about), these kids will do amazing things.

I've always said that I hated change, but that's not true.  In the past fifteen years I've survived SMART boards, one-to-one classrooms, Moodle, Google Classroom, and now Genius Week.  Survival implies that these changes were out to destroy me...and upon reflection that is the furthest thing from the truth.  These changes have made me a better teacher - and a better person.  I find myself more flexible than I was twenty years ago.  

Now don't get me wrong - I still stress out if I don't think I'll get through my curriculum, and I hate seeing kids out of the classroom because of meetings, leaving early for athletic events, and generally missing class.  However, Genius week wasn't missing curriculum, it was giving control to the kids.  Something I need to do more often.

I realized that I struggled with facilitating.  I wanted to solve the problem or at least get in my two cents worth.  That was a valuable lesson for me.  Genius Week also made me think of how I could bring some of that energy to my regular course work.  What "problems" could I create in literature, government, or law that these kids could solve?  

Regardless of what people think of the 'old guard,' there are a lot of us well-seasoned teachers willing to look at new innovations in education and embrace them.  We can bring some of that seasoning into new philosophies and provide kids with some wonderful experiences.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The "End of My Time Off"

Tonight as I sit and work on grades, I realize that Christmas break has quickly come to an end.  Just like summer and any other breaks, the time flew by.  It was full of laughter, food, and time with family.  It was also a time full of speech practices, prepping for upcoming courses, and correcting papers.  I know that I chose to be at school for most of the break, but now that it's over, I would give anything for one more day to sit in my PJ's reading a novel.  

Most teachers use their "time off" for prepping for upcoming courses, grading papers, and recharging.  It always amazing that at least once during a break someone makes a sarcastic comment about a teacher's easy schedule.  I also know that this has been a sore point for a lot of teachers.  We somehow feel we have to defend our Christmas break or our summers off.  For 2015, I'm done.  I'm not going to justify the calendar any longer.  I know the schedule I have.  I know what kind of hours my colleagues log and the time coaches spend with their students outside of the school day.

According to the Washington Post, an average teacher works 53 hours a week. The article went on to say that if the teacher is also a coach of extra-curricular to add on eleven to twelve hours to that total. I once asked a previous superintendent if I could change my contract to be paid by the hour.  He simply chuckled and said no school district could afford to pay teachers by the hour.

If we truly stop to think about the disparity between the hours worked and the salary paid, is it any wonder that young people choose other professions rather than education?  I have a daughter that recently earned her teaching degree, and she is anticipating her first job.  I've repeatedly asked her if she was sure about her professional choice.  And I believe she's given me a great answer.

She didn't choose education for the hours or the money.  (None of which will play out in her favor.) She's getting into education for the look on a student's face when they understand a concept or when a sixth grade class thinks it funny when she sings a parody to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" She's getting into education because a seventh grader said that he actually likes math because of her.
She's getting into education for the same reason I did 24 years ago - it's all about the kids.

So I'll sit in my PJ's tonight, watch the "Twilight" marathon, and continue to grade Literature 9 papers. All that because I'm excited to see the kids tomorrow!