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!

Random Friday: Airstream love

Have I mentioned that I was one of Miranda’s teachers in high school?  I ran the program that allowed her to graduate early so she could pursue her music career.  Operation Graduation not only allowed her to finish her high school credits while working late night gigs in East Texas, it was also responsible for graduating Mark “Tex” Adams, who built motorcycles for motocross superstars Travis Pastrana and James Stewart.  Sadly, Mark died earlier this year after being struck by a car while aiding a friend stranded on a highway in Florida.  Best friends Miranda and Mark graduated in 2002 and were also classmates of my son Matt’s.

Miranda snapped this photo with my phone at a Teachers Count photo shoot in Nashville!

Many other students who might have dropped out of school were able to graduate under this alternative program, which I developed and directed for 19 years at Lindale High School.  Among my 300+ former students are nurses, business owners, college graduates, and also my own daughter and future son-in-law!  Alternative education is near and dear to my heart, as you can tell.  I have also been heavily involved in the Texas Association for Alternative Education, in which I am a past president.

This post was supposed to be about my love of Airstream campers, but I guess I will discuss that another time. . .my students matter so much more!

April  xoxo