Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reflective Teaching: 30 Day Blogging Challenge--Day 17

Day 17--What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

The most challenging issue in education today is having to do more with less. I don't know if that is a new issue; I rather think it isn't. We go into this profession because we feel called to bring knowledge to the next generation.  Most of us go into this career to make a difference.  Few become teachers assuming we'll make a lot of money.  In spite of low salaries and long hours, most of us welcome the ups and downs of the school year.  However, we public school teachers are facing extreme pressure to push our students harder in order to match the scores set by students in other nations while at the same time getting less support from the public.

School districts all over the US are tightening their monetary belts, and that increases the challenge in education. I know people who think that education gets enough financial help, and if only they (read: schools, school boards, departments of education) would manage their money better everything would be okay. That is likely true. However, that thinking does not help the teacher in the trenches with an over-large class of students who are reading below grade level. The resources that might have been there in the past to help have dwindled to trickling. The school that used to pay for after-school tutoring can no longer afford to, yet the teacher is still expected to offer tutoring. The teacher used to get a decent supply budget, but now she is finding that she spends almost $1000 a year for basic classroom supplies out of her own pocket. True, she wouldn't have to do that, but then there would be kids in her classes who didn't have paper or pencils or resource books or a healthy snack when they needed it.

Pressure to excel adds to the challenge in education with test scores becoming the litmus test of teacher ability. High standards in education are absolutely a good thing; however, when a teacher's job is on the line because of how well his students do on some standardized test that they do not have any personal stake in, that's not a good thing.  Too often the students do not care about how well they do on those tests because they are not held accountable for their scores.  The teacher is, however.  Because of this, teachers find themselves spending more and more time prepping their kids for that high-stakes test.  Especially in smaller districts where the poverty level is high (and that is often judged by the free and reduced lunch percentage), teachers are expected to reach almost impossible standards with students who are more worried about whether they have enough to eat than whether they master the content.

With less support, we face more challenges.  These challenges are not going away any time soon, so those of us in education must gird ourselves for the battles we are bound to face.  Luckily, we teachers are good at doing more with less.  Whether we should have to be good at that is an issue for another day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflective Teaching: 30 Day Blogging Challenge--Day 16

Day 16--If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

I would want superpowers for lots of reasons.  I'd love to have the ability to move things with my mind especially if I've just settled myself on the couch with a TV tray full of papers to grade only to find that I left my pen on the table across the room.  Of course, that one would be a superpower for use at home, not in the classroom.

I would enjoy being able to transport myself to school from my house instantaneously so I would be able to sleep longer and avoid the traffic.  It would also be nice to be able to get papers graded in a flash so I could enjoy relaxing evening at home during the school year.  Wait... those are also for not in the classroom.

Okay, if I am serious about a power I'd want in the classroom, I would want one that deals with time.  I'd love to be able to manipulate time so that a lesson lasts exactly the amount of time so that the students don't get bored, but also just the right amount of time so that the students get the most amount of learning done.  Sometimes, even after so many years as a teacher, I don't always time things correctly.  I want to use all the time from bell to bell, but some classes move through the material faster than you planned, and some take forever over the same material.  Yes, I think I would like to be able to make the class last just the right amount of time for optimum learning.

What spider do I need to get bitten by, or which gamma-ray array do I need to be radiated by, or which scientist do I need to be "discovered" by in order for me to get that superpower?  Sign me up.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflective Teaching: 30 Day Blogging Challenge--Day 15

Day 15--Name three strengths you have as an educator.

Three strengths I have as an educator:
  1. Content knowledge--I love my content: English Language Arts.  I have enjoyed reading and writing for as long as I can remember.  Analyzing literature for themes and deep thoughts, writing fiction and nonfiction of varying genres, using proper grammar--presenting all that information to my students so that they, too, can get the same joy from the written word as I do is one of my strengths as an educator.
  2. Willing to learn and try new things--My grandfather used to tell us that a day's not been wasted if you've learned something.  When we can learn how to help our students grasp our material in a better way (or deeper in a way that we already knew), or when we can learn how to use a technology that helps us do our jobs better, that's a great thing, and I think that is one of my strengths.
  3. Desire that students succeed--When a teacher knows what a student can do, she can inspire the student to do even more.  Sometimes the teacher is the only one in the student's corner--not even the student is always in his or her own corner.  My students always know I am their loudest cheerleader even as I correct their papers and push them to better scholarship; my desire that my students succeed is one of my best strengths as their teacher.