Friday, March 27, 2009

HISD offers $20,000 to recruit effective teachers

So now the Houston Independent School District is at again with another controversial program. Enticing effective teachers to work at low performing schools for 2 years for a extra stipend of $10,000 per year. Which brings us to our topic at hand. How much emphasis does a teacher have on a student's performance? How much emphasis is placed on a student who has a supportive family? In a few years we are all about to find out.
I, for one, can't help but think about the teachers who are effective at those low income schools? How do they feel about this new venture? What are their feelings about this? If I was working at one of those schools, I would be extremely upset. I would take this effort as a personal insult and if I wasn't already feeling discouraged, you better believe that would be exactly how I would feel then. The message that I would be getting is "You are not good enough, so we're going to spend more money to get someone better". Hmmmmmmm.....nice. here's my two cents on this matter. I strongly believe and support every school to want to strive to become better, however NOT at the expense of morale of the entire staff. Two scenarios that I think are being overlooked: (1) New teacher coming in is not full accepted by the staff and (2) Staff morale has now dropped causing an even more lack of production.
You want a better school.....than you build it from the ground up. Start with what you have and grow from there. Have the stronger teachers lead and model what they have been doing well, and emphasize those skills. Bring in the parents and hold them accountable for what goes on at home. You can't expect a student who does no reading at home, but plays video games, to excel on his exams.
Doing this will show the faculty that YOU believe in them, and that as a team YOU ALL can raise the scores TOGETHER. Higher morale will inturn lead to student statisification....which in turn will lead to less office refferals....which will lead to more time learning. Now...where's my $20,000?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Share, until you can't share anymore.....

I heard this quote pretty much sums up my first year teaching experience...."We are all in this....ALONE". Meaning, that as teachers we all might have the same problems and struggles but we all tend to deal with it, with our doors closed. Which is exactly what we should never do.

Vicki Davis, has made a great post about how we as bloggers should continue with our posts. It's very easy to get overworked, with normal (and un-normal) paperwork as well as with our own personal lives. Sometimes we might even push aside our blog postings to the back burner and without even knowing it we have inadvertently effected the lives of other on-line teachers.

I realize that I have become a much more effective teacher because of all the great bloggers who have shared their experiences. Teachers who took the time to share what worked well for them, and even what frustrated them to pieces. I love hearing all the different tools and new techniques that are used to solve similar problems that I go through. It's through blogging that I am able to help others who I normally wouldn't see or talk to. By blogging I am able to open up my door and allow the world to see how I am able to solve and handle my problems.

So take a moment and think about how your contributions have been going. Do you think you can contribute either as a blogger or a commenter on a somewhat more consistent basis? I know I'm going to step up my postings and comments and do my part to help share ideas across this online world.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tweet, Tweet.....You're Fired!!!!

We all have to be very careful at what we now post on our social sites. Future employers are now able to view and verify your sites and determine just how viable a candidate you really are. This article from MSNBC tells how an employee weighed his options at working for a company, only to discover that his future employees were very tech savvy and were aware of his decision and even went so forth as to comment on his tweeter about it.

The world is small, and with all the social sites out there it's getting a lot smaller. Take the time to be extra cautious as what, and when you post items out there. You never know who is watching and taking notes on you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homework....sometimes less is more

As a former student, I hated homework and everything about it. As a teacher, I know it can be a frustrating for both the parents and the students, so I try to send home a few items as possible. When I was a second grade teacher, the only thing I really had them do was read, and then they would record in their journal the title of the book, the page numbers, and a short reflection. What I really wanted them to learn was not going to happen at home, but rather in the classroom. So I just focused all my teaching efforts to make it as effective and efficient as possible. Unfortunately I do know that from time to time we had to do grade level projects where I can see the parent's influence from all different degrees. From writing, to building, to even creating the idea of it, the parents who I saw, had taken away the child's ownership and made it their own. While they might be trying to be helpful, is actually causing serious problems down the line when the projects become bigger and more important.

The Houston Chronicle, wrote a story discussing this very issue and explained that parents who tip over into doing the majority of the thinking and writing need to stop and back off. Helping them with thinking about how to solve it, is fine. Helping them write it and solve it while they watch is not. It's a hard and sometimes blurry line that parents have to deal with. So the rule of thumb is to try to do as less as you can.

How do you feel about homework? Do you notice that as teachers your parents are having more and more influence on it? As parents, are you finding that you are coming more and more to your child's aid?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Some friendly advice.....

It's spring...and with that brings: flowers, rain, tests and yes interviews. I'm pretty sure I won't be moving schools, but if I were, I would follow the advice that was given on The PrincipalsPage blog. He laid out, exactly what not do and hopefully we'll do our best to not do them.

I did have the fortune of interviewing some teachers to fill an open spot earlier this year, and that was something else. Here's what I learned what not to do from that experience....

1) Show up early - I'm not talking about camping out, like those shoppers do on Black Friday. Instead show up 15 min early, just to show that you care about this interview and that your priorities are set. Waiting for someone to show up after school is hard....especially since we all have other things that we could be doing.

2) Be honest, but not too honest - Time and place, time and place....TIME AND PLACE. There is a time and place to talk about your stance on drug use, politics, and religion. It's a good idea to not bring up this stuff on your next interview.

3) Do your homework - No not that kind of homework (but do that too) I'm talking about actually using the internet to use and start checking out the school's website. Know the names of the principal and the school's demographics and try to come up with how and why you would be an asset to them. More importantly, when it's time for you to ask some questions you actually have something decent to ask other than...."when's lunch?".

If you do this you're chances of landing that teaching job will increase just a bit. Just don't ask about sending in your resume.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Technology.....the time is now!!!!!

Learning from textbooks are now a thing of the past.....welcome to the next stage, WEB2.0!!! Writing in journals and sharing only with classmates and the teacher, are now slowly being replaced by blogs and web journals. The feeling of writing to a bigger audience is more "real" to the students, and they will in turn learn to appreciate and take pride in their work.

This should be more than enough reason why teachers need to learn how to learn and apply these tools into their classrooms. Part of what we do, is make sure that by the time they leave school that they will have the tools necessary to get a job. It's now clear to see that the jobs of tomorrow will require the knowledge of basic internet skills. Skills that we as teachers can easily incorporate into what we do in our everyday teaching.

It's hard to change your way of doing things, but in order to best serve the students, we need to. Take a moment and reflect on the amount of time you allow your students to use the internet, and ask yourself if you're doing all that you can. I always feel like I can do more, and after watching this voicethread by Belinda you'll feel a bit better about the why and the how. Now all you have to do, is ask yourself when?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parents Vrs. School Districts.....

My heart goes out to parents who have special needs children. It's hard enough having kids, but it takes a little bit more to handle special needs kids. I should know...I work with them every day. So when I heard about this story, I had to take a moment and reflect on it.

Sped teachers are required to show paperwork of what sort of accomplishments the student has or has not achieved. It's a tough work, and very easy to get swamped in paperwork. However, the Sped teachers are required to follow what has been stated on the ARD paperwork.

I'm not sure why this school district is not providing the documentation that the parents are asking for. If the student can do the tasks then find a way to document it, or find some ways to help the student achieve it. If a parent has concerns about whether or not their child has met a certain criteria, than the teachers and administrators should meet again to readjust his goals.

I hate hearing a story told from only one perspective, and unfortunately that's what we get from our local media. So I'm going to "hope" that the school district had some reason why they choose to act the way they are....but in the end, what I really hope is that the student gets the appropriate care and education that he/she deserves.