Monday, September 26, 2011

Why are Experienced Teachers Leaving the Profession?

I read the following article with interest:
Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience

I am a teacher who has left the classroom. My reasons vary from those stated in the article a bit.  Why I left and why I have not returned are two very different stories. I would actually really like to return to the classroom but over the past 10 years my hearing impairment has worsened to a point that it would not be appropriate to return. I have a rare type of loss that is not really helped with the current technology of hearing aids and other adaptation technology. I do love the education field however, and I stay current in my readings and with my curriculum writing activities. I do volunteer in my children's classrooms and I always walk away with a yearning to go back and work hands on with the kids again. I miss it!

I did not leave the classroom due to my hearing loss however. I left because of a burnout that was caused by an absolutely worthless administrator that was placed at my school. I had been teaching for 5 years in a high poverty school. Our students lacked for the basic daily needs and it could be quite challenging but also quite rewarding working with them. For the first few years I was there our school had an outstanding principal. He was respectful and supportive of teachers. He treated us as professionals and he had the student's best interests at heart. He helped balance the challenges with the rewards and made teaching there a joy! Sadly he retired and was replaced by a new principal who had no prior experience being a principal. There is no way to sugarcoat it, she was a nightmare! She was disrespectful to staff, students, and parents. As a staff we went to the upper administration and even met with the superintendent begging for help with her. Our pleas were ignored. Sadly she remained at that school for 10 years and ran it into the ground and teacher turnover was very high. She was finally removed with the help of the teacher's union. At the same time we were dealing with her I was going through a series of miscarriages. I was pregnant again and this time I didn't miscarry. For my sanity I knew I could not return to that school with that principal after my maternity leave so I took a leave for a year.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my son. I also quickly realized that staying home was not as much of a financial burden as we had expected. We paid less taxes, saved money in gas, childcare, clothing expenses, etc. One of the biggest surprises was looking at how much I was saving by not teaching. I poured a ton of money into my classroom, at least 1 full paycheck per year! Since we were surviving financially, I loved being with my son, and I still was feeling the burnout of working with that principal, I decided to end my employment instead of returning after my leave.

My daughter was born 2.5 years later and I still loved being home with them but I did start to feel that pull back to the classroom. That is when I started taking my units that I had created for my classroom and preparing them to sell to other teachers. I tested the market on Ebay and was pleased with the response. At the same time I was doing this my hearing started to worsen and when I was ready to return to the classroom it had become too much of a disability to allow me to do so. Fortunately I have been able to stay current and continue with my love of education through curriculum writing and sales.

Which takes us back to the article. Why are teachers leaving? I found some of the following quotes interesting:

"It's the demands," said Jamison, who is beginning her third year in the classroom. "There are state demands, district demands and parental demands. We haven't even mentioned the needs of the individual student. It's tough." 

"I'm doing more work, but I'm getting less money every year," she told NBC News. "Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health, but on your family."

Speaking of new teachers: "And too often, they soon realize that their jobs aren’t what they thought they would be: Teaching to tests and fighting bureaucracies rather than experiencing the thrill of opening up young minds, educators say."

The article does go on to talk about the difference in turnover in a school with a positive working environment versus one with a negative one. I can attest to the truthfulness of this!

The article talks about changing teacher prep. programs at colleges and other possible solutions. Personally I am not so sure. Do we want to better train our teachers so that they are ready for bureaucracies and teaching to a test or do we want them to be focused on opening young minds? It angers me to see on a daily basis teachers getting bashed for the problems in the education system. I firmly believe we need to stop blaming the teachers and start to seriously look at the administrators and bureaucrats that are running things. I don't think the general public really realizes how little power the teacher has in the educational hierarchy. There are so many fantastic teachers out there that are leaving, not because of money, but because they aren't allowed to actually teach which is where their passion lies!

I also took note of the following:
"While education experts caution that lack of experience isn't necessarily an indication of a teacher's ability, student achievement scores do show that on average a first-year teacher is not as effective as a third-year teacher, said Susan Moore Johnson, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education." 

Are standardized test scores the only measure of success? We live in a quickly growing district so there are a lot of new teachers being hired every year. My kids have had a first year teacher several times. It has always been extremely positive. I find that first year teachers are so enthusiastic. What they lack in experience they make up for in passion. They love their jobs and it shows in every interaction with their students. I know it was true of me my first year! As a society we need to value that and retain that passion. If every classroom had a teacher full of that passion we would be on the right track to fixing this system. What can we do as educators and parents to retain that passion? What can we do to support our teachers so the passion doesn't defuse?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How did you, or will you, discuss the 10th Anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in your classroom?

I frequent a bargain board forum where often times things go off task and things are discussed that are not "bargain" related. Yesterday there was a post that has me thinking both as a parent and a teacher. Here is the post:

"I just read the teachers blog and my 8 year old has an assignment for the weekend. This was on her blog: My homeroom class assignment to research and write two paragraphs on what 9-11 is, why is it so important, and what does it mean to you. This assignment is due Monday 9-12-2011. (social studies)


I just walked into the room and asked XXXX if she knew what 911 was. Then she proceeded to tell me about the assignment and I asked her if she knew what she was going to write about, she said she didn't know what it was and was going to google it.


WDYT?"

This really got me thinking about the discussion of 9/11 in the classroom. As I read the responses to the post I was shocked that so many felt this assignment was totally inappropriate and that 9/11 was a topic that should not be discussed in the 3rd grade. Many thought it wasn't an appropriate topic until high school age. Here's an example of a follow-up post:

"My problem with this is That *I* want to be the one to decide when the time is right to tell my kids about tragic events. As parents, we know our kids best. We know what is tmi, and what will be fine for them to handle. I guess I think this is more of a high school topic."

Of course there were others who posted and didn't see a problem with it. They argued that to an 8-9 year old child 9/11 is an historical event not that different than Pearl Harbor. Obviously this wouldn't apply to a child whose family was directly affected, but to the general population of 8-9 year olds, considering they weren't even born yet, it is history.

I have to admit I was a bit baffled by the feeling of inappropriateness. It honestly would not even cross my mind that 9/11 would be a taboo topic in the 3rd grade. In fact at school Friday was my 3rd grade daughters day to bring in a current event topic and give a small presentation. She took in a story about the ceremony happening in NYC on Sunday, 9/11, to unveil the memorial. She talked about how it is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on NYC, DC, & PA. How this memorial will open on Sunday, to family only, in a special ceremony that President Obama and Former President Bush will attend. Poetry will be read along with the nearly 3,000 names of the people that died that day. It never once occurred to me that it wouldn't be an appropriate topic for her to present. When I was helping her prepare and practice her presentation we had a long discussion about what happened that day. We talked about what terrorism is, why these guys felt the need to do what they did, how the passengers of Flight 93 probably saved hundreds of lives by fighting back, and how so many of the first responders on the ground lost their lives going into the building to save others. We even talked a bit about the science behind the buildings collapsing. She asked questions and I answered them in appropriate, truthful way. I feel this was totally appropriate discussion to have with my 9 year old.

My kid's school district also had a patriotic day on Friday where everyone was to wear red, white, & blue. The elementary school collected loose change for the local food shelter. The middle school collected canned food for the food pantry. It was a day to come together as Americans and help those neighbors in need as we did 10 years ago. Again I feel this was an appropriate response to the anniversary.


I just don't understand the purpose of keeping the 9/11 event a secret from children? Do you have to tell them gory details and show them graphic footage? No! But it is a part of our history as a country just as Pearl Harbor is. Why would we not discuss it with them? It is all over TV and they are hearing things. Isn't it better to discuss it with them and explain it on your terms as parents and in an age appropriate way in the classroom?

Now as a teacher I think I would have gone about giving out the assignment in a different way. I wouldn't have just given it to the kids and then posted on my blog. I would have sent the assignment home along with a note asking parents to talk over 9/11 with their child in terms that they are comfortable with and then have the children write something about what they learned from the discussion that they had together. I wouldn't just send a 3rd grader off alone to google it! I see the poster's point in that.

How did you as teachers handle the discussion of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in your classroom? As parents how do you feel about it being  discussed in your children's classrooms?


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ETA: After posting this I headed over to The Lesson Cloud Blog (see link on the left) and saw a post from Sunny Days in Second Grade. I love what she did! Check it out:


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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy International Literacy Day!

What a great day to celebrate! I love reading, have always loved reading! I love reading to my kids, my students, myself! I love quality literature, I love not so quality literature! ;) I love magazines and the old dinosaurs, newspapers! I see a value in all kinds of reading. Reading is to gain knowledge, but it is also to entertain and enjoy.

I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and I have to say my very favorite are the seven books of the Harry Potter series. So in honor of International Literacy Day I am going to discuss my favorite!

There is a reason this series is so popular, why they make non-readers spend hours with their noses in the books! There is no other literary world that has drawn me in quite like the world that J.K. Rowling has created. I have read the books multiple times. I will never tire of reading them.

Last year I read the series from start to finish to my three children. What a wonderful bonding experience it was for us. I can't describe how magical it was to reveal this world to my children. It is by far one of my most treasured experiences with my kids. Of course they fell in love with Harry's world as much as I did. We got so into it we planned an impromptu trip to Universal Studios last January just to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It lived up to the hype. It was such a fantastical trip, literally walking into the books. The attention to detail was phenomenal!
This July I was finally able to go to the midnight opening of a Harry Potter movie. In the past I have always gone alone on opening day but felt it would be odd to go alone to the opening midnight show. This year my two oldest kids, Joey and Ally, were old enough to join me! We headed to the theater, the kids armed with the wands they purchased in Florida! It was so much fun to sit amongst all the die hard Harry Potter fans in the theater and see the book come to life on film. I have to admit I was pretty choked up at the end, not because the story was too sad, but because it was the end! For 12 years I have anticipated the book and movie releases and now we had reached the end. No other book has touched me in quite this way.

Fall in love with Harry Potter all over again by reading the series to your students and children. Check out my novel units that accompany each book. The first unit for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is newly updated with new activities added and now aligned to the Common Core Standards for Grades 5-8!
Find it at:


Also in honor of International Literacy Day I am offering my Frindle Unit for 15% off at my Teachers Pay Teachers store from now through 9/14! Check it out! Check out some other great sellers that are offering great deals on their items as well: Teacher 2 Teacher Blog


And last but not least please check out my FREE offering of End of the Book Activity Ideas for ANY BOOK!


Go grab your favorite book and have a Happy International Literacy Day!