Tag Archives: education

Friday Fulfillment

Meetings, open house, a student suspended, a schedule that doesn’t flow… All the usual teacher struggles were weighing me down on a Friday.

In the middle of a BAS assessment, a student from four years ago walked in. She was a shy, ten-year old who hesitated to participate in the whole group and somewhat anxious making friends. She was proud today to tell me about her start at high school, and the straight-A report cards from last year, and two former students she’s now best friends with. I asked her what she’s reading and her favorite subjects, and also what she remembers about fifth grade.

She told me, “I remember how you taught me to believe in myself.”

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When the going gets tough…

The tough get waterproof mascara.

I was very mindful today of my attitude; it used to be that educators avoided the teachers lounge if they didn’t want to be bogged down with woes and complaints, from the classroom temperature to how on earth will I afford retirement. These days, it seems a shadow of uncertainty is lingering in education no matter where you enjoy a Diet Coke.

After a social studies test last Friday, when 9 of my 5th graders incorrectly labeled the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I needed to give myself a time-out before I could productively address them.

It reminded me just how much my mood impacts 21 students. 21 different, impressionable and developing children. 21 kids, who are trying to figure out where they belong.

Today, an avid reader raised her hand during independent/guided time in the morning. Working on being more supportive, I veered from routine and went to her quickly. She said, “Did you know Malcolm X once lived in Boston?” We discussed her biography choice, and I cautioned her about the mature themes and challenging concepts. Her response, “I understand… But I’m wondering, how did he affect people here in Boston? Especially black people? What was his legacy?”

I was floored. If I wasn’t such a timid kid, I would’ve turned cartwheels that I should’ve learned years ago. Her thinking generated so much enthusiasm, that adults visiting around 3:00 commented that they were so eager to learn. Things may get tough, but there’s mascara to withstand the tears.

I read a comment about why anyone would want to be a teacher today, with evaluations publicized, data-driven cultures, questionable compensation, and so on and so on. Last Friday, I even briefly wondered what I’m doing. But as long as we can inspire something, in someone, the good still outweighs the bad.

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Power of Poetry

I started shaping my students into poets, and I love what’s happening in our classroom in just two weeks. Children are so open when they know you care, and are like sponges when it comes to learning something new. I’ve learned a lot about their every day struggles and what’s important to them from just a few poems.

One of my kids, who’s a top achiever, has mice in his crowded apartment, not enough clothes to wear. Another is torn over her dad’s jail stints. One student is battling the mother’s alcoholism. And of course, there’s Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj references throw in.

We’ve worked on wish, sensory and animal poems so far, and discussed Eloise Greenfield, Langston Hughes and Jack Prelutsky. I love their eagerness and feel like it’s a great balance to all the pressure some of them feel with MCAS. Will post more of their thoughts soon.

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March 23, 2013 · 10:41 am

Color, Cut, Paste. Eat trash.

Some teachers say don’t throw your life away, this one says you better not throw your lunch away.

About 20 hyperactive and moody five- and six-year-olds are getting ready for lunch in Bridgeport, Conn., with a teacher who is approaching 70 years-old. It’s just after morning work time on Tuesday, but she’s wondering how she’s going to make it to the 3:00 p.m. bell on Friday.

“Ok boys and girls, throw away your trash from lunch… Not you, Billy; I’ve had enough of your behavior. This isn’t playtime! This isn’t daycare.”

Billy seems like he is physically unable to control himself. He laughs like a maniac and disturbs other students. He needs one-one-on attention just to focus write his name. Lunch time is unbearable, and he chooses to launch his food at the girl near him instead of placing it in his mouth. Moving his seat doesn’t work, sending him to office is a joke, and his parents don’t understand the problem. What’s worse, right after lunch during math, he usually throws a fit saying he’s hungry.

She’s had enough.

“That’s it. Get your nuggets out the trash – you’re gonna eat every last bite.”

That’s how I imagine kindergarten teacher Anne O’Donnell, 67, came to be arrested and charged with risk if injury to a minor on Tuesday at Park City Magnet School. She allegedly took the five-year-old boy’s chicken nuggets and banana out of a garbage can and forced him to eat them.

She was released but agreed to appear in court.

67 years-old!? In a kindergarten classroom?

My mom, who is in her early 50s and has been teaching kindergarten for about 15 years is stressed out, frustrated and nearly crazy. Even though she’s been a teacher for 30 years, she’ll have to continue working in education until she’s 68 to receive her full retirement benefits. If she’s stuck in kindergarten until then… Well let’s just say she won’t make it.

I don’t know anymore more details about this teacher, and I am by no means defending her action. Such punishment is obviously endangering the child, not to mention humiliating and animalistic.

I do not defend her, but perhaps it should bring attention to what teachers need. My guess is she’s stuck in that classroom, without much support, just working a few more years so she can receive her well-earned retirement. She feels defeated and trapped, and maybe even worse because she knows the kids need her patience.

If she doesn’t torture herself, along with the kids allegedly, for just a few more years, she’ll have a rough retirement, maybe have to move-in with her jerk of a son, crazy and condescending daughter -in-law, 3 young kids that are wilder than the ones she escaped and spend her ‘golden years’ as a charity case in their basement. Who knows.

Back to the point: Instead of just handing out pink slips randomly or to low-performing teachers, hopefully Obama’s education team will spend their millions restructuring the staffing system. O’Donnell could be out of her kindergarten class, using her years of experience to lead new teachers or implementing new programs. More pay caps would ensure her retirement as well as a fresher teacher to take on the classroom, and there are a bunch of nonessential positions that can be eliminated. There’s dance teachers making $45 an hour who do nothing but stretch with the kids in their classroom for a short time.

I hope people see bigger implications from this incident: 1. Until some kind of restructuring in each district happens, both students and teachers will continue to be slighted, and even in danger.

2. Only get nuggets from McDonald’s. Nobody can throw those away.


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“Any idiot can teach.”‘


With a lot of states restructuring their school systems, reorganizing schools and making budget cutbacks I keep hearing about “such and such school with bad teachers” or “low performance schools” with most of the blame placed on the teachers.

When I was substitute teaching, I landed a long-term spot and loved every minute of it – even when a five-year-old threw up all over me – and didn’t understand why it was a generally frowned upon profession. Most of the teachers at my school were caring professionals doing their best.

Now as I struggle to be a paid journalist, I’m thinking about getting back into a classroom. Almost everyone, including my teacher-for-25-years mother is telling me not to do it, take some time and give myself a chance. As if teaching would be throwing my life away.

A good teacher must be a secretary, nurse, actor, arbiter, event coordinator, therapist, social worker, and sometimes a police officer depending on where and what age you’re instructing. Their jobs are endless, and those performing their job correctly know that the day doesn’t end when the students file out.

As cliché as it sounds, teachers are in charge of our tomorrow. Every graduate has at least one teacher that they will always remember and appreciate. If I were that person, would I be throwing my life away?

Teachers need more support. Are there lazy, uncaring ones teaching our kids, yes, but there are more men and women who are really trying. About 70 percent of new teachers leave the classroom within five years, so it’s safe to say that newer teachers who outlast the statistics definitely have the heart. Maybe we should give them more teacher development courses for free or at affordable prices, equal resources and more community involvement.

With Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Duncan is in charge of distributing more than $100 billion for education funding and college grants, but only a small portion is intended for teacher quality investments; none for raises.

I think the average teacher’s total compensation is great (I’d be off to better start than I would as a journalist and have nice long vacations), but it is not designed to ensure effectiveness.

In most states, teachers earn more as they take approved classes. So a new teacher may earn $43,000 to begin with, and increases to $46,000 once they have completed enough credits. With this system, there are teachers concentrating on their pay scale more than their class. There’s a computer teacher in Boston making $85,000 teaching just five classes, and the kids don’t even know what Microsoft Word is.

I hope this money being poured into school districts will save most of the 600,000 education positions Washington estimated will be cut, but more so I hope there is more support for our current educators and reform in the schools. That computer teacher would be doing a much better job if there was someone pushing her or the student’s work determined her paycheck.

Teachers deserve a higher place in our social caste; I know it’s not frowned upon like a used car salesman, but in terms of prestige and respect it seems lower than it should be. True, we equate them as morally decent people, or at least used to before Letourneau and other such incidents, but the positions aren’t really esteemed.

As cliché as it sounds, teachers are shaping our future. It takes certain kind of hardworking, patient person to teach well and we should applaud those that are doing it right.

If I choose to become a teacher, I would be giving myself a chance. Myself and many others.


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