miranda lambert teaching

Teacher Tuesday: The rewards of social media

Facebook sometimes gets a bad rap.  Everybody who is hip and tech savvy seems to have a Facebook or Facebook page while the rest consider it a waste of time and an invasion of privacy.  Granted, some people spend way too much time reading news feeds and posting statuses that no one cares about.  Worse still are those who upload photos that no one wants or needs to see.  Photos of children are freely posted without regard for the potential of some pedophile somewhere using the photo or information in some perverse or criminal way.
All that said, I too, have joined the bazillions on Facebook.  I have more “friends” than a person could ever keep up with, and I take an hour now and then to scroll down the news feed to find out what is happening out there with people I rarely see in person.  It’s an excellent way to keep up with people I would never see or hear from.
But the best thing about it?  I get to be in touch with former students I would never hear from otherwise.  And what I learn is the best reward a teacher could ask for.
I see them grown up now with families and careers and surprising maturity.  For the most part, I didn’t teach the “gifted” kids or the “honors” kids; I mostly taught the ones who struggled through high school, the ones who might have dropped out without my special dropout intervention program.  Many of these kids were labeled underachievers and troublemakers by teachers and administrators who should have known better.  It speaks volumes when some of these kids call themselves “rejects” or “losers” because they have not been successful in school.  In my opinion, school has failed them, and not the other way around.  I spent a lot of my time defending these kids to the very system which prides itself on educating every child.  All too often many kids do get “left behind” in the quest for school district recognition.
Anyway, back to Facebook.  What better reward could a teacher have than to see posts by former students describing their service in the military, their careers, their children, their spouses, and their homes?  I love finding out that my kids (students) have grown up into responsible citizens and family members.  Facebook gives me a window into the world of my former students that I would never have had before.  
I have discovered that my former students are now electricians, plumbers, mechanics, contractors, singer/songwriters, nurses, massage therapists, police officers, gun dealers, photographers, real estate brokers, weather forecasters, business owners, lab technicians, firefighters, landscapers, fence builders, teachers, legal assistants, car salesmen, computer technicians, cowboys, professional cheerleader director, and the list goes on.
So, however self-absorbed today’s generation may be, I’m glad that they are giving me glimpses into their successful lives.

Teacher Tuesday: Good news for Texas students

This week Governor Rick Perry signed into law House Bill 5, which reduces the number of tests students have to pass to graduate from high school from 15 to 5.  It also allows students to choose whether or not they want to go the “4 x 4” route, taking four English courses, four science, four math, and four social studies classes, or take four English courses and then three of each of the other subjects.

It frees students–kids in my book and my mind and heart–from the tyranny of over-testing.  It frees them to learn from teachers who are not as burdened with test scores and stressed-out administrators.  It frees them to benefit from the expertise shared by teachers who have been freed from restrictions on what they have to teach.  Teachers will be able to flex their creativity and share their passion a little more now that some of the testing pressure is off.
Contrary to what many outside of the education realm believe, this new ruling gives students more freedom and more choices, not fewer.
Also in the law is the provision requiring school districts to approve six career and technology courses which can take the place of a fourth credit in math.  This is a huge step forward in what we used to call vocational education, which sadly all but disappeared in the 90’s when lawmakers decided that every student should go to college.  This law gives students the choice to learn what we used to call a “trade” such as auto mechanics, welding, carpentry, or cosmetology, or begin a career in the medical field or other fields which do not require four-year college degrees.
This new approach to education not only allows students to pursue other avenues of education, it validates the student who chooses not to follow the traditional college route.  As a teacher and director of a dropout prevention program for over seventeen years, I saw hundreds of students whom the traditional system had given up on, kids who needed other options besides college.  Two of these students were my daughter and her husband.  My daughter is being trained in medical records by the company who hired her and has better benefits than I did.  Her husband just graduated from a technical program at our local junior college which licensed him for a career in air conditioning and heating service.  I am optimistic for his future success as a business owner and provider for his family.
My daughter with her husband on graduation day!
Texas HB 5 has many other provisions which you can read here if you are interested.  The link will take you to an analysis of the bill in detail.  I’m just happy that Texas legislators have finally realized that our students were being over-tested and that not all students fit the traditional college mold.
Thank you, Texas legislators and Governor Perry!  It’s a step in the right direction!

Teacher Tuesday: Another school year gone. . .

I was at my doctor’s office today getting a bone density screening (yes, I’m that old) and the technician said, “So, you teach?”
Of course I told her I had retired last year, so she congratulated me and proceeded to tell me that she used to be a school teacher and sometimes wanted to go back. 
I could not encourage her!
The noblest profession is fast becoming one of the least desirable.  New teachers are leaving early and seasoned teachers are longing for retirement. 
This medical technician doing my screening told me that her friend, a fifth grade teacher, felt the same way I do.  Teachers are becoming more and more powerless as administrators bow to demanding parents who will not allow their children to experience disappointment, failure, or consequences.
Until parents respect the teaching profession and the teachers’ ability to provide the best education for their children, and allow teachers and administrators to provide the necessary discipline to provide an optimum learning environment, things will continue as they are or get even worse in our public schools.

Trashing my profession is not my intent, by the way.  I actually miss teaching!  I miss the experience of seeing students take in new information and learn.  I miss the camaraderie between colleagues, and I miss greeting my students as they walk in the door.  I have wonderful memories of my days as a teacher and administrator.  I just hope that those still in the profession will be able to say the same.  
Summer vacation gives educators a much-needed break and energizes them for the coming school year.  Let’s hope that they will be excited and enthusiastic when they return in August.
I pray that it will once more become a profession I can recommend to others!

Teacher Tuesday: Most teachers I know would do the same.

Have you seen the news clips of the aftermath of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado?  The scenes of the parents and teachers of those elementary students are heart-wrenching.
There is the mother who finally finds her child with his teacher and collapses on her neck with happy tears of gratitude.  There is that teacher who claps his hands and calls to all fifth (or maybe sixth) graders to join him so their parents can find them.  Then there is the young teacher who covered the bodies of her small students and held on to keep them and her from being sucked away by the tornado.
Another teacher herded teachers and students out of their usual hallway shelter into restrooms and closets to get them out of harm’s way.  Sadly, another teacher was found dead sheltering several students who had also perished.  She gave her life protecting her students.

The media portrays these teachers as heroes, and rightly so.  However, I don’t believe I know of a teacher who wouldn’t do the same to protect her charges from harm.  One teacher said she was determined to hand her kids back to the parents who had entrusted them to her.


Teachers are more than disseminators of information.  Really great teachers develop relationships with their students and consider them their own children in a way.  Their concerns, trials, and successes become ours as teachers.  We are the children’s guardians by day, seeing to their mental, emotional, social, and physical needs.  We love them, perhaps not in the same sense or depth as their parents, but we do love them. Yes, even those who are hard to love!    
The Moore tornado is a horrible tragedy.  Adults and children died, more were injured, and many more lost everything they had.  But the toll would have been much worse had not dedicated teachers rose beyond the call of their profession to keep their students safe.
 May God bless teachers.  May God bless kids and their parents.  And may God bless all those affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes.

Teacher Tuesday (on Wednesday!): Incentive to Teach?

It seems the powers that be just can’t stop making the teaching profession more and more attractive to would-be teachers.  First, they gave us longer school days and longer school years.  Then they began teacher testing.  Soon after followed high stakes student testing, the results of which can threaten a teaching career, and certainly has caused some administrator reassignments. Then they took away teacher control of curriculum so that teachers have no say in how or what is taught.  Then there is the erosion of teacher authority with the removal of corporal punishment and the lessening respect in the home for teachers, whose rules have little backup from administrators.
However, we can’t blame the administrators.  They are forced into submission to parents by the threat of legal action and being replaced.  The threat goes all the way up to the CEO of the school district.  Teachers and administrators must conform. 
Now there is talk in our state legislature of raising the teacher retirement age to 62 and doing away with the formula that allows teachers to retire when their years of experience and age equals 85.  (It may be 90 now.  Thank goodness I was under the old rule of 80.  That’s one good thing about being older!)
Changing what often doesn’t need to be changed is what legislators do.  Having never been in a classroom except as a student and to visit on parent night, they believe they know what is best for teachers.  They continue to make the teaching profession less and less attractive to those who would consider it as a career.
During my last year as a teacher I taught with three first-year teachers who seriously questioned their career choice.  They felt stuck in a profession for which they had spent thousands of dollars being educated, a profession which offered few rewards other than knowing their students and seeing a few succeed, a profession which demanded much time and effort outside the classroom.  They voiced many times that they had no idea they would have to work so hard.  Something is seriously wrong here.  Don’t we want to attract and retain young teachers?  Who is going to be there for our grandchildren?
Teaching is not an 8 to 4 job as many believe.  Teaching requires as much time outside the classroom as it does inside the classroom in preparation, evaluation, and organization.  It is draining emotionally and physically.  Any time off is needed and much appreciated, even though much of it is spent in more preparation and education for the field.  
I would suggest to those who believe that teaching is easy to try corralling 30 children or teens in one room and get them to do the same thing at the same time.  Have you ever taught Sunday school or led a Cub Scout group?  It’s an exhausting feat just to get them to listen.  And teachers today go way above and beyond that by actually getting them to perform and succeed.
I would say to legislators:  get out of the business of the schools and let teachers teach.  They are the professionals. They know what is best and what works.  Stop taking the perks away from them.  They deserve them.  And next time you want to dictate how teachers should teach, go volunteer in a classroom for a week.  You’ll leave with a new perspective.