Teachers are starting the 2017-18 school year. While the focus appears to be on transforming teaching into digital competency-based instruction, or personalized learning, real human teachers are what make learning for every child personalized. That title was stolen from them.
Teachers work to bring students together. They let them know that every child, no matter who they are, what they look like, what religion they practice, where they come from, their difficulties and disabilities, is welcome—because teachers recognize greatness in every child.
If you’re a teacher, here’s what might bug you as school starts:
- Having all your planning time taken up by useless meetings when you’ve got rooms to decorate and planning to do.
- Learning that digital instruction is becoming more important than you.
- Determining you own 27 textbooks for 30 students.
- Learning your new principal is from Teach for America or from New Leaders.
- Facing pressure to teach Common Core.
- A small classroom where you wonder how all your students will fit.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and those like her who criticize what you do.
- You’re being pushed to use a tech program student privacy is compromised.
No matter what problems you have, here is your mantra. “I am a teacher. I have the power to help children learn and find joy in life. I will protect children from harmful school reform the best I can.”
Teachers and Parents
- Get to know your student’s parents. Find out if they can help you. Learn if any are lawyers or well-connected to outside groups who can assist you.
- Understand parents might have their own set of problems if they don’t help you.
- There is nothing better than a parent-teacher friendship built on trust and hope considering the challenges a child might face.
- Organize with parents to demand changes within your own school. Quit waiting for legislators to make rules. Start local.
- Join the PTA. Sometimes teachers forget the T stands for teachers. Go to meetings and present your needs and concerns.
- Find outside support in the community.
- Notify parents about controversial topics or activities you are going to cover. This is a courtesy and will help to avoid complaints.
- Let parents know you need them. Often there’s at least one or two who are eager to assist you.
- There is power in numbers. The more parents you know, the better you will be. Together you can change bad policy.
- If you have little time to do the above don’t feel guilty. Parents want you to focus on their child.
Teachers to Teachers
- Join professional education associations in your specialty area.
- Tune out those in the news who put teachers down.
- If your school is poor, get together with other teachers to purchase and share materials. Create a school resource center to get the maximum use of resources.
- Some teachers push heavy desks, lift boxes of books, and redecorate their classrooms like the best interior designer the world has known. Don’t hurt yourself.
- Work with other teachers and demand a contract. Every teacher deserves a contract.
- If you are new and lonely, reach out to other teachers in the school. Bring cookies to the teacher’s lounge. Observe and get to know the teachers you admire.
- Check out social media. There are a variety of Facebook groups. You will meet other teachers and parents who will lift your spirits.
- Bad school policies got you down? Pick the most important issue and work with others to make changes. Collaborate and share with other teachers. Conspire to change the school if it needs changing.
- If you already have tenure, see how you can use it. Understand how much power you have.
- If you are unable to change anything, just teach the best you can!
- Take care of yourself. Exercise. Make quiet time to recharge.
- Join the teachers union. You may not agree with everything they do, but you need the voice and the camaraderie of other teachers.
Teachers and Children
- Help children understand it is fine to fail. No one can be held back when there are different routes to greatness.
- Ignore trendy words like “grit” or “mind-set.” Don’t be intimidated by such words.
- Be firm but not strict. Let children step out-of-line a little. Smile at them when they do. Do not pick at them for minor infractions.
- Fewer classroom rules are easier to understand.
- Some teachers will struggle to understand how to blend technology into their classrooms. Others will justifiably be angered by it.
- If there is Maker Space activity in the school, enjoy. If it takes over the library, beware.
- For kindergarten teachers, it’s still about play and more play and a fight to keep outrageous assessment and ugliness out of the classroom. Bring back play kitchens, dolls and water tables. Paint and do art and dance and music.
- If your school doesn’t do art, music, or dance sneak it into your class schedule.
- Tests are only good if they reinforce what you are doing to help students, not to provide information for corporations to sell things. Seek ways to protect children without losing your job.
- When the Teach for America, or, New Leader principal comes in to tell you they need more data, better results, and Common Core curriculum, smile and shut your door. Do only as much as needed to comply, than teach the way you know is best.
Teaching is a remarkable profession and you are great! Have a wonderful year!
I would be glad to add your thoughts to any of the above lists.
Also, to my Florida friends, stay safe.
Here are some of my favorite teacher blogs of the past.
Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes them Leave?
40 Reasons to Honor Teachers in 2016
If Thankful for Teachers, Return Trust to Them
Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes Them Leave?
25 Reasons Why You Should Appreciate Public School Teachers
Blaming Teachers While Students Self-Destruct
Why Teachers Quit and What Administrators Would Do if They Wanted to Keep Them
Thomas Ultican says
Your advice reminds me of my mother saying, “I go to the meetings and politely listen to what they say. Then I go back to my classroom, shut the door and teach the kids.” Her first job was in a one-room school in Banks, Idaho, (1930’s). Some things have not changed.
The more I study the issues surrounding education, the more convinced I am that teachers are the most important ingredient. The main benefit derived from education comes from the child’s opportunity to form teacher-student relationships with many adults over a twelve year period. It is these relationships with adults other than their family that enhance the student’s development. Theories of pedagogy have value but the real value is derived from developing human relationships. Education technology can be a positive tool, but if it undermines these relationships it becomes evil.
Kellie Sullivan says
Hi, my names is Keller Sullivan and your article is of dire importance. I have searcheddar the other Internet and there is not much that I can find on this topic. I have been sounding the alarm since my son was in kindergarten. Our children are being taught above their grade level and then being accused of being the problem when they don’t understand. The problem has only gotten worse. My son who is now in 5th grade, is being taught or rather given 7th grade level math. His teacher blames him for not concentrating hard enough and being distracted. I am at a loss for how this continues to happen. Your article was great, but I’m truly looking for answers to how we solve the problem? What can we as parents do? Who do we talk to or rathe complain to? How do we fix this problem?
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Kellie, I would start with expressing your concerns to the teacher. I’d find out why 7th grade material is being used. If the teacher has already told you why, I’d call for a meeting with the teacher and a school administrator. Children should not be pushed beyond what they are developmentally capable of doing. Let me know how you make out. Good luck.