Friday, April 20, 2012

Protecting Our Investment

Some studies show half of new teachers quit in the first 5 years.


I've been doing some marketing freelance work now and again, since moving from Ohio to lovely North Carolina. The firm I've helped out is a very cool, cutting edge place filled with incredibly sharp talent (I guess I am the exception. Ha ha).

I signed on, jumped in, and in a day was working along side my peers ... the learning curve was there, but almost non-existent.

Compare that to teaching ... well, you can't actually - there's no comparison. As my second year of teaching wraps up, there have been literally hundreds of man hours put to my training.

Starting with student teaching experiences, right up to the one-on-one mentorship, coaching and counseling I've been receiving from my very busy but hands-on assistant principals, I'm a walking taxpayer-funded work in progress.

I'm twice the teacher this year I was last, and I expect myself to continue to grow exponentially in this nurturing environment.

What's my point? One, parents and the community should feel very good about the intense level of training we all receive. Two, I'm very grateful for the support and the continued chance to grow.

But my third point goes out to the politicians and policy makers.

Without intending to be adversarial, I am wondering why, in the spirit of partnership, educators and politicians can't work together to better protect our massive investment in teachers?

I was in disbelief at the above-referenced study: half of new teachers quitting in five years. I poked around, asked some veteran educators in my building, and they confirmed this is absolutely the case in terms of their experience.

I also chatted with a first-year teacher as I put this post together, and he said he's very aware that he is a sharp guy who can make a lot more money somewhere else ... and he knows with the pay freeze he's stuck at his current salary of about 30K. (I agree, he could do anything he wants - he's very sharp).

So I asked him the big question: Why are you here? He replied that he wants to make a difference, and to live a life of meaning. Plus he loves being here, and truly loves his job.

Now that's an investment worth protecting.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blogger's New Interface

Google bought Blogger years ago (2003?) and I guess it's surprising it took the designers at Google this long to monkey around with the user interface.

To my fellow Pinnacle Bloggers - it's not so bad; it appears Google's just made this product appear a lot more similar to gmail, documents, etc.

If you are freaked out, you can go under the settings symbol and revert back to normal (until we all are forced to change. Kind of like new Facebook).

But unlike Facebook, which has gone from super simple to having the appearance of a space shuttle control panel, Blogger's new interface seems clean and logical.

Having used the old GUI for over five years, I was a bit annoyed at the gently forced change this early a.m. But so far, no major complaints or problems!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life-long Learners ... (Me Too!)

"Mr. Bank, what are the seven wonders of the world?" - a student from honors World History today. Me, "Uhhm ..."

"Mr. Bank, Pocahontas married John Rolfe? I thought it was John Smith! Tell us the story!"

Me, "Well, see ... "

"Mr. Bank, what was the capital for the early slave trade in the New World?" Me, "You see .... "

And my favorite, "Mr. Bank can you explain to me the situation with China holding our debt? Is it really that scary?"

I got hit with these three questions all before 10 a.m. today.

When I don't know an answer, I fess up, get on Google, and get the students the answers as fast as I can. Sometimes I roll it right into the lesson; other times I look up the info and share it a bit later.

But one thing's for sure: These kids are forcing me to be a life-long learner in ways I never anticipated.

Since starting teaching, my factual / conceptual knowledge of history and literature has gone through the roof ... I can only wonder just how much a 10 or 20-year veteran educator knows about his or her areas of expertise.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Schools Verdict: Guilty (Just Not as Charged)

I could go on and on about the incredible teaching I see every day at my school.

But what about the bad stuff? What about the devastating criticisms launched steadily at my profession by all walks of people?

Here's my evaluation on the state of public education, based on what I've seen so far:

Yes, teachers are often encouraged to conform, and loyalty to the system appears to be rewarded over fresh thinking about the system. However, this is also true for corporate America: The easiest way to fail at a company is to walk in and question current management, rock the boat, or try and chip away at the status quo.

Where innovation flourishes is just where it should: In the classroom, as expressed by passionate and creative teachers. Every single day, in schools across this nation.

It's also true that longevity is rewarded, often first and foremost. This is also exactly the case in the corporate world. Starting with firm partners, there's always a clear organizational hierarchy starting at the top with those who've put in the most time.

This is because people who have been there the longest, in schools and in companies, typically know the most. No rocket science needed to figure this one out.

My biggest indictment of schools? Our loss of control regarding our own destiny. The teachers and administrators around me are the experts, but we are forced to defer to politicians who've never stepped foot in a classroom as a teacher.

The problems I see in schools are not inherent; rather, they are imposed, ironically, in the name of solutions from outsiders who could would lose their minds if they tried to teach my rowdy fourth period freshmen for a week straight.

Yes, we are guilty. just not of what the public, politicians and experts so often convict us of.