teachers

Missing the Good Stuff Sucks

Missing the good stuff in life isn’t something I relish, especially when it involves my kids. I want to be there for the things they do, whether it be sports or drama or choir or a community function or major things like graduation and moving up ceremonies. Those things are important and the support of knowing your parents are there to support you is one of the best things to help your kids feel safe and secure in this world. I know I really appreciated that my parents made it to as many things as possible when I was a kid. I didn’t always express my appreciation like I should have, but it did mean a lot.

Today is tough for me because I am missing something I feel I should be at. Instead, because of my job, I am missing it. So, instead of doing what I should be doing I am taking a moment to vent my frustration. I doubt it will help me feel better, but I just can’t help it. What’s worse about this whole thing is that it is because of my job that I am missing it and it is my profession that makes it more difficult on people, specifically parents.

You see, today my son is “graduating” from the 8th grade. It is really just a moving up ceremony and in the grand scheme of educational things it isn’t that important. BUT, it is important to him! Unfortunately, I am missing it. Missing the good stuff sucks.

Why am I missing it? Well, I am a teacher and work for a completely different school district than both of my school aged children. What that means is that I end up missing many of their school related activities. Parent/teacher conferences, concerts or performances that take place during the school day, celebrations at school, graduations/moving-up ceremonies…you name it, I probably have missed it because I was fulfilling my teacher duties somewhere else. I am not sure why school districts schedule things during the work day. It doesn’t make sense to me and I am sure there are reasons I don’t know of, but either way it is frustrating. I am sure there are many parents who are missing the ceremony today because they have work obligations, that is the unfortunate thing schools do.

Anyway, all that to say I am proud of you, son. You have grown up so much over the last few years and this transition will be a big one for you. You worked hard this year, made some mistakes and grew from them. You worked hard this year, learned some new things about yourself and the subjects you were studying. You worked hard this year and experienced some great successes as well. You have tried new things, some you liked and some you didn’t. You are moving up in this world and I can’t wait to see where life continues to take you.

Congratulations, and I love you.

State Senator Ignores the Voter

Supposedly “serving” the 10th legislative district.

Thank you, Barbara Bailey, for making my job as an American government teacher harder. I teach other social studies classes but you have been a shining example in my classroom of what NOT to do. You are one reason why my students are confounded by politics and apathetic to the pleas of participation in the political process. They see that you (and many of the others who are supposed to represent us) aren’t representing them or the other state voters, but instead your work in Olympia shows clearly you are only representing the interests of the Republican party in the state.

I did not vote for you, though I tend to lean to the right in most cases. I voted for your opponent over the years. Why? Well, because you have consistently demonstrated that you are only going to toe the party line. I am not sure how you continue to win elections, but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that you are entrenched in your position and most voters have no idea what your stance is so much as they know your face and name. Many voters don’t care enough to know, they just vote on the most basic information. Statistics on voters and campaign ads show this most clearly. But really, that is beside the point right now.

At the moment, you and your Republican cohort in the state senate are bent on attacking teachers and dismantling the teaching profession. I am not sure why and I can only speculate, but my guess is it has something to do with private dollars finding its way into the Republican coffers in order to push for a narrow, special interest generated agenda. The responses I have received from your office (or someone that works for you, specifically Josie Cummings) also prove this out.

SB 5748 : Teacher Evaluations

SB 5748 passed out of the Senate and is now in the House of Representatives. 
This bill brings back 40 million federal funded dollars back into Washington's School system. Washington State became the first state to lose the waiver of $40 million because Washington didn't require state tests to be used in evaluations. 

Your message has been passed along to Senator Bailey. She knows that this is just the first step of many in evaluation reform and would love to hear ideas from great teachers like yourself that create a better evaluation system. Education continues to be a top priority for Senator Bailey and she greatly appreciates your comments and will keep them in mind as bills come before her. 

Best,
Josie Cummings
Aide to Senator Bailey

The excuse of finding funding dollars via teacher evaluations is a really weak look at finding ways to fund education. Our state stood up to a federal government that bullies states into unconstitutional mandates in education. Should we be embarrassed about being the first state to lose the “waiver” from the federal government? No! $40 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to funding schools in our state, a state that has Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, etc. Our state could replace lost revenue (plus more) through just a quarter of a percent raise in taxes on businesses like the ones mentioned. But, our state senators are too weak, or too beholden to special interests.

I-1351 : Class Size

Thank you for writing to Senator Bailey regarding the importance of funding education and I-1351. As you probably know, I-1351 did not include the revenue sources that would pay for this transition in education. However, The Senate is working hard to fully fund K-12 Education in Washington State. 

The Senate released their proposed budget yesterday afternoon. The Senate proposed a 1.3 billion additional dollars for K-12 education, which is the largest K-12 investment in state budget history. 
This would make education 47% of the state budget. $350 million dollars are allocated to lowering class sizes for K-3 class rooms. 

Best, 
Josie Cummings

I-1351 was passed by the voters and has a requirement for lowering class sizes K-12. The language wasn’t written in vague terms and was not left open to interpretation when the voters passed it. However, as you can see, the senator wants us to believe that I-1351 is only for K-3. Obviously, senator, you haven’t read it or you wouldn’t/shouldn’t vote to short change the children of the state. It doesn’t matter that the initiative wasn’t written without funding. Much of the legislation passed by the legislature in our state doesn’t have funding sources tied to it, but you all seem to find a way to pay for it later. In this case, the voters passed it and want it. Denying it is just ignoring the voters and playing word games to redefine how you have to deal with it.

The other misleading point in this response from the senator is that they are giving “additional” money to education. This statement, however, is VERY FALSE. The reality to the statement is the legislature is CATCHING UP on what should be spent on education. There is no additional revenue being added to education. The state supreme court found the legislature in contempt of court and has mandated the legislature adequately fund education. At best, the additional $1.3 billion brings the state closer to funding education fully, something it hasn’t even come close to doing in the past, but is roughly $2-4 billion short of what is needed, depending on who you talk to.

Then, she drags other political leaders into the fray as well since there is no answer to bad political maneuvering.

Thank you for writing to Senator Bailey regarding funding for I-1351. The Senator appreciates your involvement with this very important issue. The passage of I-1351 clearly represents a new challenge, considering the measure makes spending commitments ($4.7 billion across four years) without identifying a revenue source. It is certainly revealing that Governor Inslee’s own budget proposal fails to fund I-1351.

Thanks,
Josie Cummings

In other words, I can’t explain our Republican plan so I will point fingers at the Democratic governor. That’s really rich. Politics at its best!

Ultimately, we need a legislature that is willing to do the difficult task of standing up for children and the people tasked with educating them. The state supreme court has said repeatedly the legislature fails in this task. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be many people in our state government that are willing to do that. Instead, we get excuses and more placating/catering to big business. (Boeing gets an $8.7 BILLION dollar tax break?) Let’s hope the state supreme court doesn’t allow the legislature to continue in this “lack of funding, drag our feet to fix the problem” game. Except that is something they are asking for, yet again!

Wearing the senator down?

When I last sent the senator an email requesting that she support a budget that gives more funding to education, closes tax loopholes for large corporations, provides more money for competitive pay and benefits for educators, and doesn’t cut state services to the poor, I didn’t get much of a response. Instead it was just a short, one line email:

Thanks for the message. I will make sure this gets in front of the Senator as budget negotiations continue.

Best, 
Josie Cummings

As you can imagine, the message doesn’t hold out much hope for her changing her position, which is unfortunate since ignoring the will of the voter seems to be the norm these days. I could hope that I am wearing her down and she is going to change her party-line, voting alignment but that seems like far too much to hope for.

Unfortunately, the broken system also discourages teens who are just now becoming eligible to vote. They see how broke the system is, they see how it ignores the voter, and they see how politicians tend to perpetuate the system to their own benefit and not that of the people. A new generation of apathetic voter is born…thanks again, Barbara Bailey.

Those Who Can, Teach

Perhaps there should be at least one prerequisite for becoming a lawmaker: FORMER EDUCATOR.

Perhaps there should be at least one prerequisite for becoming a lawmaker: FORMER EDUCATOR.

Those who have spent little or no time in a classroom, including those with lots of money and “data,” should not be able to tell you how a classroom should function. If one requirement to be a lawmaker was that the person needed to have been a former educator, no matter the level, maybe we wouldn’t have the most asinine education reform movements we have ever seen in the last 20 years.

Anyone agree? Anyone see any problems with this suggestion?

My 2-cents: 33 Problems That All Teachers Will Understand

I don’t normally like to piggyback on someone else’s writing, but there was an article back a week or so and I thought I would add my two cents to the content of that article. It was called “33 Problems That All Teachers Will Understand” and I can understand a bunch of them since I have been a teacher for a while now.

I want to reflect on these problems by relating my own experiences. We are now into the first week of school so now seems like the best time to tackle this task. If you click on the link above, it will open a separate window and you can read my blog along with the original article.

#1

Students are often waiting at my door in the morning (7:00am) because they are looking for extra help or for a quiet place to study before school actually starts. I often consume three cups of coffee on the way to school (I live an hour away from my school and commute each day), so I don’t really have a problem getting caffeinated before I have to address their needs, however there are times that I wish there were no students as I use the beginning of the day as my planning period.

#2

No teacher likes this. Really, there is nothing exciting about curriculum changes unless it is one that you have begged your principal to make so you can teach an elective course (I am a high school teacher) you have always DREAMED of being able to teach. Unless you have a situation like this, most change is not good change. More than likely the change is being mandated by “elected” officials with no classroom experience and no clue about what goes on in a real classroom. Not the stuff that happens on the day of their special visit, but EVERY day in the classroom. Otherwise, you are just an interruption. Quit meddling and leave the education policy to the people who know the kids and know what they are doing!

#3

Can’t say that I have one single kids that falls into this category. I do, however, have a whole class that falls into that category. The district I currently work had the “Class from Hell” graduate in 2008…and we all breathed a sigh of relief when they left!

#4

Yeah, ok. Try it!

#5

Been there, done that. You gotta “love” those parents who start teaching their kids to play the victim early in life rather than teaching them to accept the consequences of their actions. It will only snowball, and we wonder why society is sliding backwards on the evolution scale…

#6

The fun thing about teaching teens is that their sense of humor runs the entire spectrum – from appropriate to inappropriate, from dry to hysterical. If you take yourself, and your class, too seriously then you miss chances to connect with students and build relationships (that leads to rapport) that have an impact on them. After all, kids want the adults in their lives to “be real” with them.

#7

As much as I am aware of what goes on in my room, you can’t compete with all the “inside jokes” and everything else. Just ignore it and move on.

#8

Sounds a lot like a state legislator in every state around the country. Everyone seems to be an expert except the people in the classrooms. It is time for retired teachers to take over the legislature and REALLY get stuff done? Why do I say that? Well because teachers have been doing the best they can with what they are given and always make miracles happen. Who has been doing more with less longer than anyone else? Teachers.

#9

Endless requests…

#10

Weekend? HA! It’s just two more days to get my job done without getting paid for it. 

#11

Yes, yes there are. Not only that, but sometimes kids say the dumbest things! In my classroom I have a thing called the “Stupid Board.” It is a place on my whiteboard where I record the random things kids say that aren’t so smart. I make a point of telling the kids at the beginning of the year that we all have those moments and we can’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t laugh at ourselves. AND, no one is exempt. I have been on the board many times myself and the kids love it just as much as they see the stupid board as a sort of badge of honor. Have fun in class!

#12

Whut? U must b kiding? LOL. Y wood u say that? My cell fone isn’t to blame 4 how i right. 

#13

I have been lucky to get a few gifts in my years of teaching, but they really haven’t been bad. Unfortunately, as a high school teacher, you really don’t get many. However, the best gift I ever received was a $100 gift certificate to a really fancy restaurant in town. It was from a graduating senior and her family as an appreciation for teaching her for two years (she was a great student too so it was really easy, plus I wasn’t her only teacher to get one!).

#14

Yep, going back after a break sucks. The students show it, we feel it but don’t show it as much as we can.

#15

When it is in your blood, you can’t get it out. It just comes naturally.

#16

This can be a tough one to handle. Some teacher try to BS their way through it. Probably not the best display of professionalism. Others take a more human approach with, “I don’t know but will find out and get back to you.” Teachers, as much as we would like to be, just can’t be a repository of all knowledge. People think we should be but there is just too much to know! Sorry, folks, not gonna happen. I have given the “I don’t know” response in the past and probably will in the future too. There is nothing wrong with not knowing and we have so many resources now available to find out rather quickly. Today’s stumper question: “What exactly does the ebola virus do?” Well, that is a good question so let’s look it up together and find out!

#17

Or mustard from your sandwich.

Or soup from your bowl.

Or chalk on your butt from leaning against the chalk tray.

Or having to go the bathroom for two hours with no break and finally having to run out of the room with no explanation other than “That feels better” when you return back to the room.

#18

Damn internal clock!

#19

Ok, so Victoria Secret really isn’t a problem for me, but just running into student anywhere is always an interesting experience. They always seem so perplexed to see you outside of your “cage.” As if you really don’t have a life beyond the classroom! Yes, I go out to eat, shop at the grocery store, attend movies, visit the park, and all the other things I happen to do when I am not at school. I don’t live there (though it seems like it at times) and actually do things I enjoy other than reading history books.

#20

This is actually one of my pet peeves!! I call them “danglies” and I hate them. I actually spend two minutes talking about them when I go over my syllabus to explain that they make me mad and really make me mad when I see them on the floor and the janitor now has to pick them up. I actually go so far as to not accept homework if they are still on the paper when it is turned in. Fix it, then turn it in!

#21 & #22

Lost cause. You will get sick and there is no avoiding it. What’s worse? Well, it is less work (or hassle) to go to school sick than it is to plan for a sub. Again, no one is better at “grinning and bearing it” than teachers.

#23

Yes, we beg for these too. Living an hour away from my school, I often have to drive THROUGH the worst stuff to get to school because the school hasn’t experienced the worst weather and there is no reason to cancel it. 

#24

This also is a losing battle. The younger they are, maybe the easier it is to control it. However, at some point you may just have to adopt the “college mentality” when it comes to cellphones in the room. That is, keep right on going with the lesson and let them be distracted. If they miss the material it will result in consequences they will have to deal with in the future, like failing a test…I know, I know…that is too real. How dare I? I provide the opportunity to get an education if they choose not to take it, is that my responsibility?

#25

Can’t do nothing fun in school any more…

#26

Sometimes, a sense of humor gets me through the day and then there are those moments where you just can’t say all you want to. A very thin line gets walked at times.

#27

Or Friday mornings at 7:00am.

#28

Early bed time.

Papers to grade.

You just want “to be like broccoli.”

Lack of motivation.

You really do have a headache.

#29

Only Friday? Try every day at 3:00pm!! Where is my nap mat? Oh, there it is, under my desk.

#30 & #31

As a teacher, there are many scenarios that play out in your head in mere seconds. Many of them include totally coming unhinged – throwing books, tossing tables, slamming doors, punching your computer, etc.  Instead, you calmly handle it just like you did the first 23 times you had to deal with it.

#32

The sad things is, I worked in retail management for five years. I made more, per year ($40k), as a rookie store manager for a furniture company than I did after seven years of teaching ($38,600). Now if that isn’t disheartening, I don’t know what it. Why is educating the most important possession you have (your children), not the most important profession? Don’t tell me you think it is and then not pay me accordingly. That is really patronizing!! Our society needs a serious adjustment of values.

#33

Despite all the problems in or with my job, THAT is the reason I get up each day and come back to the classroom.

 

Comments? What do you think? If you are a teacher, which one(s) stand out for you? Leave a comment below.

 

An Unfortunate Metaphor

(C) R. Grenz

(C) R. Grenz

A student found this dollar bill in a textbook that I handed out about a week earlier. Obviously this dollar had been torn into many different pieces (some lost) and then taped back together using packing tape. The student was perplexed and didn’t want it. I posted a picture of it on my Facebook account and asked if people thought it would still be legal, which I thought it was since it still had both serial numbers. Others thought it would be legal because it had more than 50% of the bill still intact. One friend even recommended taking it to the bank and exchanging it for a whole dollar.

I admit I have thought about attempting to spend it but exchanging it for a “fresh” one seems less sketchy. Am I sad, or just desperate?

An Unfortunate Metaphor

The more I thought about going and exchanging it, the more I realized it is a pretty good representation of my paycheck. As most of you know, I am a high school teacher. Many of you probably don’t know that I work in a state that ranks 23rd for teacher pay. No, that isn’t the worst nor is it the best, but certainly it could be better! That dollar pictured above is literally what it feels like each month when I get my paycheck. I have lost so much buying power of the years that just maintaining a “middle class” standard of living gets more difficult every month. Not only do I make less than I used to (or should), but the cost of nearly everything continues to go up.

Milk and cheese have gone (or are going) up.

Flour has gone up.

Fruits and vegetables have gone (and are going) up.

Gasoline keeps going up, usually for no reason other than speculators are gambling on the world supply based on current world events.

Pet food has gone up.

Containers/packaging have gotten smaller and contain less, but the prices have gone up!

The cost of everything is or has gone up. The paycheck buys less and less each month! My dollar, what is left of it, doesn’t go as far as it used to.

I know what you are thinking. I can hear you muttering to yourself now. “Here we go again. Another teacher whining about how much they don’t get paid but should. Enough already!” I can understand your skepticism, but perhaps one teacher’s personal experience can convince you otherwise. I am going to try at least. I may not be successful but at least thanks for listening.

Reality

I’ll start with the fact that my family doesn’t live a lavish life and we try very hard not to live beyond our means, a difficult endeavor these days. We live in a three bedroom house (mortgaged and underwater) that is just slightly over 1300 square feet. We have two cars, one paid for (it’s an 11 year old Volkswagen) and one belongs to the bank (a car we bought used more than a year ago when it was already two years old). We bought the second one because we needed a more economical commuter car for me. We don’t go on vacations every year and when we do we have either saved for it or it is a simple family camping trip to the other side of the state. We don’t have any fun “toys,” a camping trailer or recreational vehicles. We have enough to be comfortable.

Next, I work TWO jobs. I am a full time teacher (day job) with nearly 12 years of experience and I also work part time (15-25 hours a month) as a driving instructor. I have a college education. Should it be this way? “Get a college education,” they say, “you’ll make more that way!” That’s funny because I never thought I would be working two jobs to make ends meet. I knew that teaching was never going to make me rich. I’m a realist. But, I never really believed that I would be counting every penny, and picking them up in parking lots because I just might need them. Yet, with all the work and effort, sometimes the ends still just don’t meet.

My wife works part time and tries the best she can to balance a work life and a home life, not an easy task and one I don’t envy. She makes our $300/month grocery budget magically stretch and still puts tasty meals on the table. It’s not easy and I am thankful she puts out all the effort that she does. 

There are lots of things and experiences that I would love to give my kids, but I can’t. I have kids that have grown and left the house. They have needs and I would love to be able to help them when they need it, but it is hard when it feels as though it could risk our own financial stability. I just simply can’t do all I need to, let alone want to.

I know I am not the only one out here dealing with this issue. There are many people in the same boat as me, making due with one oar. There are many public servants who don’t get paid enough. There are many people working in the social service community that do miracles every day with resources that could and should be more plentiful. So, I am trying not to complain and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. I am really just trying to help some people see the reality that many people live with every day – I am surviving. I don’t have it bad, but I don’t have it good either.

A Final Thought

I once heard an anecdote about Bill Gates. The way I remember it is this: Bill Gates is so rich that if he dropped a $100 bill on the floor it would be a waste of his time to pick it up because the effort to retrieve the bill from the floor would actually cost him more money than he dropped. Now, I am not going to fault the guy for having money. He is living the American dream and then some. But, that obviously isn’t how 99% (probably more) of Americans live.

So, what am I going to do? Well, I am going to go to the bank and exchange that sad little dollar held together with packing tape for a fresh one. Then, I am going to go out and make it stretch as far as I can.

Just a little bit more…

5 Myths About Our Schools That Fall Apart When You Look Closer

What happens when you take numbers and read them for what they REALLY say instead of reading them for gloom and doom? A PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report that actually makes more sense than what the media and school reform proponents would have you believe.

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for an interpretation that is more fair and balanced.

Check out the link below!

When You Look Closer.

Attack of the Naps

Napping. One of the great mysteries of life. Why did we hate them so much as kids, yet today think about them all the time. You might not, but I sure do! Ever have those days that just don’t seem to end and all you can think about is taking a nap? For me, it is more like every day. I fought them as a kid because I didn’t want to take them, and now I fight them because I have to “be an adult” and work. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? If only we wouldn’t have fought them so hard when we were younger. Anyways, I have noticed a pattern for these “nap attacks” so I thought I would share it with you.

Don’t we all?

5:00am The alarm goes off and the day begins with a shower and dressing.

5:47am  First thoughts of lying down to take a nap begin.

6:00am  Out the door for my hour long commute to work.

6:22, 6:39, & 6:52am  Thoughts of pulling over before my eyes close. “Head bobs” have begun and maintaining lane position is tenuous. Perhaps the back seat is more comfortable than it looks.

7:04am  The busyness of the day as a school teacher begins and the desire for naps subside for a short time.

10:44am  When is 3rd period over? 16 minutes, meaning a little over an hour to lunch. Should I use lunch today to take a nap with my head on my desk, or just lay on the floor behind my desk and use my jacket as a pillow?

11:23am  Only 37 more minutes till lunch and nap time!

11:24am  Only 36 more minutes till nap time.

11:33am  Man, this is a long hour. Only 27 more minutes to an awesome, quiet nap…gotta remember to lock my classroom door when they all leave.

Is that a keyboard impression on your face?

11:56am YES! It is almost time. Survive four more minutes!

12:01pm  Crap! I forgot to make copies for 5th period and I have to find time to eat. Maybe if I take my sandwich to the copy room with me and eat while the machine works, I can still work in a 20 minute nap.

12:03pm  The copier is out of toner and I have to walk to the office to get more (or it is jammed, out of staples, out of paper, or turned off completely). Nap time is slipping away. Maybe if I hurry…

12:04pm Please, people, I am on a mission and can’t stop to talk. Can’t you see this as I fly by you in speed-walker mode?

12:17pm  Copies are done (or other small project). The hope of a nap has faded since there is only 13 minutes of lunch left. Perhaps I should work on something for tomorrow. Maybe a nap before I go home for the day is still an option.

1:33pm  Short video in class today. The room is dark, and warm. If I sit in the back  and close my eyes, do you think they’ll notice my nap? “Mr. G, I need to go to the bathroom. Can I go?” Ok, if it weren’t for the interruptions I could make it work. Better not risk it. Dagnabit!!

2:23pm  Seven minutes ’til school is out. I can’t wait. Gonna close and lock the door. That afternoon Circadian Dip is working at full force. I may not survive. Stay upright, stay upright!

2:33pm  After several minutes of end of the day questions, closing the door for a nap is impossible as students filter in to finish essays, assignments, or take tests that were missed in previous days. I should have locked that thing before class was over!

3:09pm  Work, work, work! When will it be over and I can go home?

4:14pm  Time to head for home. A short nap when I get home might be a good idea!

4:36pm  “Head bobs” begin again.

4:44pm  I seriously begin to contemplate guardrails. What are they for? Hey, if I ease my car into it, I can take a nap and the guardrail can act as a guide to get me home. Think of them as bumperguides…

4:47pm  Guess the idea about guardrails isn’t a good idea. Naps aren’t worth the thousands in repairs needed for the car.

4:50pm  Begin pinching my arm, punching my thigh, and chewing gum to stay awake. A loud radio doesn’t work, as it eventually becomes white noise in the background. Turning on the AC (or rolling down the window at certain times of the year) doesn’t work either, the cold becomes overwhelming and the hypothermia lulls you into a desire to sleep as well.

5:19pm  HOME! My family is happy to see me (most of the time), a kiss from the wife, and read the mail. Desire for a nap has subsided at the moment.

5:24pm  Second wind has struck. Family activities dominate the evening.

7:55pm  Sitting on the couch, a brief thought of a nap comes back. However, it is close to bed time so I fight the urge, otherwise there will be little sleep tonight.

9:21pm  Bed time. Not really a nap, but I’ll take it. The warm, soft bed is calling my name. DO NOT GET IN MY WAY!

There you have it. My near daily battle with “nap attacks.” I am sure all of you out there have similar battles with naps. Tell me about them and we can commiserate together as we survive adulthood and responsibility, both of which don’t seem to make time for naps – even when we want to.

**Post script**  Whew!! That was tiring. All this talk of naps makes me want to take a nap. I think I’ll go take a nap now. Happy napping!