Yes, that is a new book with the front cover ripped off and the back cover barely hanging on. The pages are crinkled and I saw the student doing this while sitting at her desk. I asked her "what do you think you're doing? What did that book ever do to you?" She laughed and said, "It hit me." I took a second one on one to ask her why she destroyed, not my, but OUR property, that the book was hers while she had it and she just destroyed HER book. Her response was that she "don't know that shit." What does this mean for our students? More after the jump. Read More.
Why are some schools more successful than others? Is it the teachers? Maybe its the technology. Could it be that good facilities produce good students? All of these are pieces to the puzzle; however, some schools in Dallas are used as dumping grounds for the "undesirable" students from other campuses. This dooms certain campuses to failure and tells the students already there that they pretty much go to school in an educational dumpster. That causes problems for everyone at those campuses: students, teachers, and administrators.
With so much controversy surrounding DISD central staff in the past week, it's important we realize that DISD isn't some student focused, cohesive group fighting against educational inequity. Should it be? Yep! Unfortunately, politics are still politics at EVERY level. Between the administration (Superintendent to Assistant Principals), teachers, and students (including parents), there is an unhealthy amount of animosity and mistrust. Why? Nastiness behind the scenes is one example, but it doesn't tell the story of mistrust in the classroom. More after the jump, read more!
It is a reality that teachers face punishment for "making their school look bad" by "failing too many kids," whatever that means. Dallas ISD has a "goal" of only 15% failing, while some schools have administrators striving for only 10%. Admirable? Yes, but not if you're cooking the books by strong arming teachers. The last blog was spot on about how it affects student culture, but what about teacher culture? More after the jump. Click "read more" to find out.
There is an expectation among students that if they show up they will get a grade. Where has this expectation come from? Have their prior teachers passed them for doing that just? You got it A, you tried B, you showed up C? Even if this was the policy of previous teachers, is it their fault? Teachers today are required to fail less than 10% of their students. The school will not tell you how to grade your students, but not meeting the requirement results in extensive paperwork, growth plans, increased evaluations and additional pressure. For example direct quotes I have been told by my administration are:
- “You need to decide if the paperwork is worth it, as a young teacher you have more to worry about.”
- “Have you done absolutely EVERYTHING to ensure that the student would not fail”
- “If most students are failing because the will not do homework, why do you assign homework?”
- “Have a makeup packet for students that are failing the final week so they can pass”
Is this preparing students to be college ready? Aren’t we teaching kids you can wait to the last minute, you don’t have to work hard, if you don’t do it, no worries the teacher will not count it? Those are not habits that set our students up for success. Do successful students ask why the teacher failed them or do they reflect on their own shortcomings. In the end, who is the passing requirement really hurting? Students that have not mastered the material are passed year to year, falling continuously further behind. We now face eleventh grade students that cannot read a picture book asking for a grade because they are present.
Is asking teachers to make different lessons, different versions of lessons, and different methods of teaching those lessons all for one class period too much? Probably. Will the world differentiate anything for our students? No. Is it necessary to ensure that all our kids are successful in school? Yes; however, that's a bigger question that goes beyond the classroom to standardized testing and learning as a whole. This blogger says differentiated instruction (DI) is critical, but if you believe in DI, you CAN'T believe in standardized testing as well. More after the jump.
We are graduating more high school students than we were last year and the year before that. Everyone Celebrate! Pop Bottles! After we are all done patting ourselves on the back for pushing out another class of seniors that may or may not be prepared to do anything, let's reflect on how they got that Diploma.
Have you ever passed a kid because you didn't feel like doing the paperwork? Has a coach or administrator ever come to you and asked you to bump up a kid so they could play? Have you ever given a student that tries really hard that passing grade even though they did their best but got a 50? If you answered YES to these questions or any of the others running through your head, then ask yourself this, "Are more kids graduating or are we just giving more diplomas?"
The value of a high school diploma 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, meant much more than it does today. Kids graduating from today's inner city schools aren't ready for college, they aren't ready for the workforce, and, quite frankly, some aren't even ready to write their own names. We have kids walking across the stage, smiling and waving, that can't even SPELL graduation. Does everyone deserve to be happy and to feel proud of themselves? Absolutely, but that cap and that gown are a privileged. You have to earn that...or you did.
We've "upped the rigor" in our classes while lowering the grading standards and our integrity as teachers. The result is a diploma that isn't even worth the paper it's printed on. We need more teachers willing to hold kids to a high standard and administrations willing to support those teachers vs. districts that set arbitrary maximum failure rates. Let's make our students BE proud instead of just FEELING proud. Greatness is still possible in the inner city, but not if we don't force greatness upon it.
Letting things continue the way they are could very well make college the new high school, graduate school the new college, and so on.
In our public schools, fights are uncommon. They don't happen every day, they don't happen every week, and they don't happen between every student; however, fighting is not unusual.
There is a culture at some schools that fighting is cool and I'd argue that it comes from the inability to use their words. Expression is limited in many inner city schools to acts of violence and boisterous profanity when it comes to conflict resolution and disagreements.
Fights, when they happen, happen between all races, genders, and sexualities, so blame can't be assigned to any one group of people...except the teachers. Often these uncommon, but not unusual, events are triggered (in the eyes of administrators) by a lack of engagement in the classroom.
A fight broke out in my classroom once. A student walked into my classroom and started punching one of my boys. I left the classroom to break up the fight considering I knew both students, the fight was getting out of hand. I had no phone, radio, or hall monitor in sight to call for help. Instead of helping me, my students pulled out their phones to record and my fellow teachers in the hall closed their doors, leaving me to fend for myself.
The following day my administrator told me that if my kids were not allowed to leave the room for bathroom and water or if the student was more engaged in the lesson, the other student would not have been able to enter my classroom, without permission, and assault my student.
I've also seen a fight between two girls that was so bloody it made me nauseous. The administration is handling it now, thankfully, but the students, when asked where the adult was to break it up, told me that they broke the fight up themselves because there was no adult and they were worried for the safety of the other girl. Only after the size limit on the video recording was satisfied though, of course...
Rather than focusing on blame, we need to focus on three things: Monitors, consequences, and most importantly, social and emotion health. Without enough monitors for our hallways, consequences for misbehavior, and social/emotional health support for our students, NOBODY can feel safe at school. I know the district has a tight budget, but you can't put a price tag on safety.
Safety in schools is something that none of us can take lightly. Violence between students is jaring and visible. It's treated as a reflection of the violence in their communities that has produced an attitude, rooted in deeply ingrained survival instincts, of defensiveness and suspicion toward challenges to their security.
There is, however, a much less publicised violence and that's violence toward teachers. Recently, a teacher attempting to remove a cell phone from a student was thrown to the ground while the other students laughed and filmed the encounter. Obviously we all only have one perspective and lack most of the facts, but when do we stop making excuses for students and start protecting teachers?
Teachers are the ones on the front lines in the classroom. Teachers are the ones breaking up the fights. Why would a teacher or coach want to break up a classroom or cafeteria fight when the risks are so high? Why would a teacher want to take a phone or enforce a seat change when they could get hurt?
The reality is that teachers are the ones most poorly protected by our administrators and, at a higher level, our laws. If a student hits a teacher, they get a vacation at home and maybe a transfer. In many cases they get put back into the very same classroom with the teacher they assaulted.
Should the student get counseling? Should teachers get training in proper restraint and conflict management techniques? Absolutely, but not if the automatic responses to self defense continue to be administrative leave and termination of employment.
Teaching and learning can't happen if no one feels safe. Discipline can't exist if rules aren't enforced. Rules can't be enforced if administrators don't support AND protect their teachers.
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Hello students, teachers, parents, and people who just plain care about education, Welcome to Turn and Talks!
Anyone who has been in a classroom in the past few years knows what an MRS is. As teachers, we're encouraged to get our students talking, and that's what we're trying to get EVERYONE doing, both during and after the school day.
Here's what you'll be getting here: An unfiltered and honest discussion on education from two twenty somethings with a few years in the classroom under their belts. We're not experts, we're not classroom veterans, but what we are is two people that care and believe in a better tomorrow. Check out our daily blogs, weekly podcasts, and, most importantly, our comment sections where you can turn and talk to other people with the same interests as you. All material is personal opinion and not at all meant to be represent as 100% fact. Since we're sharing out opinions with you, share yours with us!
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