I decided that I would post the following reply to a cousin who is working on some research. I just keep going over these ideas about education and think it is time for a major paradigm shift. How can we sit back and watch the profession fall apart.
We needed dedicated individuals who know they can make a difference as teachers and we need to give the teachers the environment, the encouragement, and the confidence to do the job they are asked to do. We should no longer expect teachers to clean up all the society’s ills dealing with the future generations in a six hour block of time.
Teachers need to be able to teach, and all the other issues need to be handled by professional counselors, social workers, and other support staff. Americans need to prioritize education and they need to understand what it takes to educate the students.
Here is my conversation which starts with the basics of classroom instruction but spins off in how we can shift the paradigm:
Kagan or Kagen, as I am unsure of his spelling, is one of the gurus or cooperative teaching structures. I think his full name is Stephen Kagan. We have used his work a great deal and when coupled with Marzano understanding really leads to higher order thinking skills.
The PNI is a method to have students reflect on a reading and state (I require full sentences) something that is positive, something negative and something interesting. I changed up the order and added the application question to finish up the HOTS thinking into a more synthesis level.
The scoring guides make grading so much easier on major projects and the small daily activities you do. I can do about 30 pineapples in 10-15 minutes if I have no interruptions. While students are doing them I can grade as they hand in, too, since the time it takes varies a bit among the students.
Now remember, a full class for me is about 10-12, which is comparable to 25-30 students in a typical high school classroom. I suspect in a typical classroom, I would have 10-15 minutes at the end of class to grade while they were working on homework or a practice activity. When we had 75 minute classes, it was easy to get them done, but now we are back to 60 minutes and I am struggling with the grading on a daily basis.
I make take some papers home to grade, but I seldom do it. If I have 30-45 minutes plan a day which is not interrupted, I can easily keep up with the paperwork at school. The problem I am having is student engagement begins when I arrive at 7:30 and continues until they all leave round 2:30. There is no uninterrupted time.
I have learned that the at-risk students have a “schedule”: Monday, review the weekend’s activities–parties, arrests, fights, etc.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday–student can focus on school work without too much trouble so that is the meat of the learning activities.
Friday–planning for the weekend takes priority so I have learned to reduce the hour’s teaching activities and focus on cleaning up problems from the week–missed assignments, incomplete work, and redos.
Not fighting through the at-risk schedule makes the teaching much less stressful. Sometimes you just have to adjust and accept that variables that are at your hand.
I have long been a proponent that school districts need to reevaluate the expectations they have for teachers:
First year, rookie teachers should not have any other additional activities assigned to the. If they want to coach, they can as an assistant but not the head coach.
Second through the fifth year teachers do need assistance with their structure. Mentoring is ok, but most schools do not structure that in a reasonable manner and put the burden on the mentor who is also a full time teacher.
Mentoring teachers need to be just that, mentors. Identify a well-experienced, flexible, and inventive teachers to serve as mentors. Assign them a set of young, inexperienced teachers and allow them to teach only one or two classes. The other teachers are their students and their responsibility.
I also think you should take away tenure. Too many tenured teacher are complacent and no longer attempt to hone their skills. Remove that security and implement a program that encourages teachers to continue learning, too. The profession has had some opportunities to do that, but the cost is becoming prohibitive. Time to start thinking outside of the box and work with the teachers.
Finally, after working on compensation for over 10 years, I think it is time to evaluate the work environment. The work environment is as much at fault as low pay for encouraging teachers to stay in the profession. What in the world makes a teacher want to stay in that building, classroom, or even the teachers’ workroom to get the work done. Consider child care issues. Look at flex time (which we worked on and finally have here in Warrensburg). Look at job sharing. And for crying out loud, keep the most excellent benefit package possible. People are willing to work a little less if the benefit package and the positive atmosphere keeps them happy.
The expectations that are being placed on teachers is absurd right now. There is the tutoring–after school. There is the social service work we do. There is counseling that is not available through the school counselors as they only deal with testing and scheduling. Social workers need to be paid like high school counselors and not the hidden salary schedules of the district which are so low it is not even above board knowledge that they exist.
Oh, I could go on and on. Unfortunately I do not know how to get this message to go beyond. We need it out there loud and clear. We need mavericks that will promote this and develop it in the schools.