Survey for bullies.

Please take the survey on the Widget list in the right-hand column. Thank you.

I’ve been working since I was nine years old. Granted, it was mostly babysitting gigs and poorly run lemonade stands until age thirteen when I was a busgirl in a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. But I’ve worked constantly. Along the way, I’ve met my share of sexism and microaggressions from all manner of coworkers and supervisors. And in those four decades of work experience, not once have I ever witness a bully paying any kind of consequence for their actions. Maybe there is some invisible karma that gets metered out, or some moment of self-reflection in a quiet, pensive moment where the bully thinks, “Gee, whiz, I was kind of a jerk. Since [X] happened to me, I now understand when [this other person was going through the same thing] how awful I was to them.”

Is empathy really empathy when it requires the same exact event? Well, that’s a question for another time perhaps, although my first instinct is to answer empathy is a proactive emotion, it gets in front of another’s pain in order to prevent further damage.

In a recent discussion thread, a parent shared her detailed concerns about her son. I know from a teachers’ perspective addressing bullying is a daunting task: children, and then they grow up to adulthood, get deep pleasure from the control and social status when they bully others. Even in one of my classes now, a new student says something that makes other boys snicker, just because they aren’t used to his colloquialisms. So: time for a conversation with those two young men. It can’t be ignored.

What bullying is:

  • Persistent and targeted harassment regarding someone’s personality, social status, race, gender, health or cultural viewpoints.
  • Putting someone down or marginalizing tastes in clothes, music, movies, books, and other media
  • Not having an established understood relationship (friendship) that has its own rules and boundaries for ‘trash talking’ and teasing and proceeding to harass or intimidate another physically or verbally
  • Systematically shunning someone from a group or social situation

What it is not:

  • Differences of opinion or approach regarding a common goal or objective

This is from a discussion thread, and he shares insightful information:

I am sorry to see that this is going on, and a repeated daily matter no less.

The thing that saddens me is that schools ingratiate this behavior and “the person in question” will continue to go with a belief that they are invincible. This will carry on throughout life and unfortunately at some time “the person in question” will do real damage in the workplace.

Schools and companies have been far too risk averse and don’t want to deal with real issues because it takes time and too many resources. But there needs to be the line drawn at any kind of physical assault. The name calling and belittling, unfortunately, will be part of life and that should not be acceptable. While I personally would not condone it as it interferes with your son’s learning process (as you have already demonstrated with the vomiting).

Fortune 500 companies do nothing about a workplace bully on 99% of the cases. Ultimately the target is diminished, emotionally beaten and crushed, their work performance suffers and eventually leads to layoff or termination. The bully will usually get a promotion or move on to other larger projects to help feather their nest.

The rare occasions when a bully is held accountable is when they have done something so egregious that there are too many witnesses or it is so flagrantly damaging that it can not be concealed.

Just moving around and transferring schools is not going to be sufficient. There are always going to be cliques and factions with their small minded people who think they are responsible for choosing who is important in life.

–Allan Rei Tan

Have I ever bullied someone? Yes, once. And it’s a painful story for me to tell, and I pray for forgiveness. I didn’t derive any pleasure or status from the event, but regret and shame.

My plan as an educator is to continue helping students recognize when they’re bullying, or being bullied: to empower those who are being harassed and flip the script on the bully. But it can’t come from a single voice, but that is where it starts.

 

 

Open your eyes.

“They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. … At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”. –attributed to Margaret Atwood

It’s okay to be scared and feel hopeless. Just not all the time.

Please: do not tell me the story of how you’re a responsible gun owner. I don’t care. What I would rather hear is how you will raise a good human, never say words like “Be a man” or “Boys will be boys.”

Tell me how you encourage your children and grandchildren to vote. To think critically about consequences of their actions. To value life.

Tell me how you raised your daughters to be independent, and your sons knowing that they were not entitled to love. That everyone gets their heart broken. And hearts can be mended. But death is final.

And that temporary rage and pain can be healed with love.

And to all children: any group that beckons you to belong that involves hurting others is evil.

When will we learn that to raise someone up does not mean to put someone down? Encouraging our daughters to move into STEM/STEAM careers does not push our sons out. If anything, our sons can and should move more freely through the world. Our world.

Understand that masculine toxicity exists. It’s a scourge. Our boys and young men are stewing in this sludge.

When I wrote this last October–well——now will you listen?

When a young adolescent male is sitting in a constant bombardment what images and messages, as sophisticated as any terrorist interrogator and brainwashing system, how can we possibly expect any other outcome?

There are complex and confounding factors, compounded by a deadly list:

  • Easy access to guns.
  • Parents who raise their sons with toxic abuse of all manner: modeling what a “man” is through intimidation, fiscal control, entitlement, and dogma.
  • Citizens unwilling to hold their politicians accountable because they have been fed nauseating lies.

But we can’t wait for parents to do the right things. We can’t expect them to lock up their guns, or not have them at all, or to teach their children that hate groups are blind rage and destruction personified.

Perhaps we, educators and others, must play this role–teach children that they are loved, and welcomed, and included.

But they are not entitled to someone else’s life.

Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story 
(and Country) Is This?

This misdistribution of sympathy is epidemic. The New York Times called the man with a domestic-violence history who in 2015 shot up the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, killing three parents of young children, “a gentle loner.” And then when the bomber who had been terrorizing Austin, TX, last month was finally caught, journalists at the newspaper interviewed his family and friends and let their positive descriptions stand as though they were more valid than the fact he was an extremist and a terrorist who set out to kill and terrorize black people in a particularly vicious and cowardly way. He was a “quiet, ‘nerdy’ young man who came from ‘a tight-knit, godly family,” the Times let us know in a tweet, while the Washington Post’s headline noted he was “frustrated with his life,” which is true of millions of young people around the world who don’t get this pity party and also don’t become terrorists.

But we cannot allow ourselves to despair.

To falsely equivocate, stating “not my son!” Not all boys!

We can turn this tide.

We have young men such as David Hogg and young women such as Emma Gonzalez.

David Hogg Rallies People to Vote in the 2018 Midterms in Powerful March for Our Lives Speech

If gun deaths were a disease, we would be vaccinating our children, demanding medical interventions, and doing everything in our power to save them. And yet–in our nation–the idea of gun ownership trumps our common sense logic and instincts to protect and love our children:

Tackle this issue as we would anything that threatens our children, including some gun owners’ insane fetishizing of the Second Amendment.

Amplify the messages of their peers that are positive. Hopeful. And empowered.

Call your representatives in the House and Senate. Change your mind. Do the right thing.

red t raccoon

Postscript: Hate starts young.

What do you say to a four-year-old white supremacist?

Let’s start with love from the start.

If you ever think for one moment taking away guns isn’t the answer, read this.

The longest day of my life
 
As my daughter finally sleeps, I no longer can keep the tears from falling. We see / hear about these tragedies through a TV screen once removed. While we grieve with and for the families, we truly have no idea what they are experiencing.
The outpouring of prayers and love from across the country have been very much appreciated by our family. And for those saying that sending prayers means nothing, all I can say is STFU! You have no idea how much it meant to us today knowing we were not alone in praying for our child.
I’ve talked to some people today and then had to shut my phone off as it became too overwhelming. But, I think it’s important for people to hear these stories and truly understand the impact.
Our day started off normal. Isabelle was happy and looking forward to the weekend. I dropped her off about 7 a.m., told her I loved her, to have a good day, and then headed home to get to work.
I got home, walked upstairs and my phone rang. I noticed her name on the screen and figured she forgot something. As I answer the phone, she is whispering and I can barely understand her. Then I hear her whisper….mom, they are shooting up the school, I’m hiding in a closet. I love you mom. In the background, I hear gunfire. I beg her to stay on the phone and she says other kids with her want to call their parents and don’t have phones. I beg her not to hang up as the call drops. I was frozen, standing there with no idea what to do next.
As I ran down the stairs, I’m texting my husband next door telling him to come home now while waking Kam up to tell him what’s going on – thank goodness he already finished school and is home. We meet in the front yard and I’m trying to tell Kenny what’s going on while crying and trying to get in my car. At this point, I don’t know what to do. I send a group text to my family telling them she’s hiding and to NOT to call Isabelle and give away her hiding place. I want desperately to get to my child; however, being a part of a law enforcement family, I also don’t want to hinder the police from doing their jobs to try and save my child. We make our way towards the school and are passed by no less than 30 emergency vehicles along the way. During this time, we are frantic and both of our phones are blowing up. All we can do is stare at them praying she calls us again.
As we near the school, traffic is stopped and parents are running from their cars towards the school. We know they won’t let us near the school, so we sit and wait while arguing and basically freaking the hell out. After being there a while, we can’t stand it any longer and start making our way on foot to the school. We’re almost there when my phone rings and it’s Isabelle telling me they’ve gotten her safely out of the school. She’s in a police car waiting to be interviewed as a witness and the police have told her to tell us to not come to the school. All we can do is return to our car and wait and wait and wait.
We are then forced to leave the area. We were given no choice and instructed to go to another school miles away to await our daughter. As we arrive at the school, we are told to go to another location and give them her name. We are then told to go to another location and wait for them to bus the kids over from the high school. We arrive at that location only to be told to return to the last location. At this point, Kenny has had enough and refuses to budge one more step. They are repeatedly telling us we need to leave that area and he’s standing there with his chin in the air acting like they are not even speaking. His mind was made up and he wasn’t moving one more inch until we had our daughter.
At this point, an FBI officer walks by and Kenny chases him down. Basically, they explain our daughter will be detained for questioning and we should leave a number and they’d call us when she was released — as if there was a chance in hell that we would leave. As we’re speaking with him, the first busload of children arrives. We watch these children walk off looking lost while their eyes search the crowds for their loved ones. Our daughter isn’t on this bus, or the next one, or the next. She calls and tells us she is still at the high school; but, she’s now on a bus and should be there soon. Her friends and boyfriend are calling for reassurance that she is safe.
By this time, we’ve been waiting hours. The parents are forced to stand outside in the heat. Tempers are rising with the temperature and we watch a few parents force their way through to find their kids. We also see the community rallying around and arriving with cold bottles of water and big hugs for the waiting parents. I’m on the phone as another bus passes us, Kenny heads to the back of the building again. The next thing I see is him walking towards me with Isabelle. Finally, I get to hold my baby as we both cry and I try not to notice the blood on her. As we see the media arriving, we hurry her to the car and head home. We get out of the car and Isabelle turns to me crying and saying…I’m so sorry! I’m completely confused and she says…I’m sorry for calling and upsetting you! I can only close my eyes and think about this child who is still worrying about others after the traumatic experience she just experienced. I assure her that she did everything right and try to get her to go inside. There are only Kam and my mom waiting inside; but, she is too overwhelmed to even see anyone. She hugs her grandma, decides to change her clothes, and heads upstairs almost immediately. As we’re sitting upstairs, she’s clearly in shock looking around the room blankly until she glances down. She looks at me and says…this is my favorite outfit and now there’s blood on it and burst into tears. We hold her until she calms down and convince her to change clothes. Kam is trying to get near her and she’s just too hyper sensitive to have anyone around. We’re trying to soothe her as Kam walks back into the room with tears in his eyes. I leave Isabelle with Kenny and go to him as he starts crying and telling me he just found out his best friend was one of the children who died. I now have two children crying and we are helpless and can do nothing but hold them and try to make them feel loved and safe. I glance down and notice my foot is bleeding. I have no idea what I’ve done or when it happened, as I don’t even feel it. Kam heads off for time alone and we stay with Isabelle while she begins to calm down. We’re thanking God our child is home and then she begins to talk… I can only say that I’m so glad we didn’t know what was going on while we were waiting… She arrived at school and headed to her first period, Art. She loves this class and was excited to finish her year end project. As she focused on the project, the first shot barely registers and she isn’t sure what she heard. Suddenly, the kids start screaming and running. The gunman enters their room from the classroom next door and fires a shot that grazes one girl and hits a boy in the classroom. She said everything happened so fast and everyone is panicking and running around the room. There’s a door at the back of the room to which the kids are running…only to discover the door is locked and they are trapped. Seeing the kids turning back from the door, she immediately starts running towards items to hide behind. She’s moving from item to item as the gunman continues to fire into the classroom. She is now covered in dust from the bullets hitting the walls around her. Kids are scrambling trying to hide / escape and she finds an area where he can’t see her, but she can see him. She finally runs for the supply closet where she and 6 other kids hide. They are able to lock one door and begin blocking the other door as another girl runs into the closet with them. As they are moving heavy items in front of the door, the gunman screams…Surprise M*****F****** and begins shooting into the closet. The gunman hits 3 of the 8 kids in the closet…killing 2 of them instantly. He leaves to chase other kids who ran out of the room and they hear more gun shots. Then he comes back.
By this time, Isabelle has called the police and is whispering into the phone. They tell her to stay quiet and that help is on the way. Then silence on the phone. They hear the gunman in the classroom next door yelling Woo Hoo! and firing more shots. She hangs up and calls the police back to be told that they are entering the premises and to stay quiet and keep hiding. Then she hears only silence again. The gunman then comes back into their room and they hear him saying….are you dead? Then more shots are fired. By this time, cell phones all over the classroom are ringing and he’s taunting the kids in the closet asking them….do you think it’s for you? do you want to come answer it? Then he proceeds to fire more bullets into the closet and tries to get in. She calls the police again and they tell her they are headed towards their classroom. After another 5-10 minutes, the police arrive outside the classroom. By this time, she has been laying on the floor for over 30 min next to her deceased classmates. They listen to the exchange between the gunman and the police, as they can hear him reloading his weapon. Finally, the gunman surrenders and police take him into custody.
As the door to the closet opens, she is staring at guns pointed at her. They are instructed to put their hands ups and slowly leave the closet. As they are leaving the closet, they are walking past bodies in the classroom and hallways. They are frisked and removed from the building where they are placed in police cars awaiting questioning. She and her friends had been in the same room with the gunman the ENTIRE TIME. At this point, she makes the call to us that we received while walking towards the school.
Finally, they get her on a bus where the bus driver is asking her if she knows anything about her own daughter, who Isabelle had seen on the floor as she walked through the classroom. This wonderful woman did everything she could to make Isabelle feel safe while not knowing the status of her own child. As the afternoon progresses, her phone is going crazy with students reaching out to one another. The kids are sharing about what they saw and who had been injured and transported to the hospital. One friend who ran from the gunman tells them there was more than one gunman, although we’ve not heard this again in the media. It’s at this time that I notice she is agitated and I look at her phone. Unbelievably, other students are bullying her on social media. Blaming her for not trying to do more to save her classmates, calling her a liar about what happened, etc. I tell her it’s time to shut off social media and put the phone away.
She is now glued to the TV and my niece, Savannah, is on her way over to be with her cousins. Every noise makes her jump and sounds are triggering reactions. She’s our shadow.
Isabelle becomes more and more upset over the TV, as they are interviewing people that weren’t in the area where the gunman was and they are reporting incorrect information. She tells me that she has been contacted by the Washington Post and wants to let them interview her. Now, you have to remember, this is our extremely shy child and my only thought is to protect my child. We talk about it and I explain that while some may feel better sharing their story, others do not. She is insistent that she share her experience so that people know what happened. Within the hour, we have a reporter and cameraman in our home. They were so polite and careful with her. We’re finishing up the interview and I look down and notice that I never even wiped the blood off my foot. We turn our phones back on and are being bombarded with calls and texts. Wendy calls as her friend’s son was shot and in surgery. Steven calls from out of town to check on everyone and ask if we know anything about a foreign exchange student his friend is hosting. My niece, Savannah, has come over to be with her cousins. Gregory is now at the house. Our family calls asking if we know anything about the kid’s cousin. By early evening, the families of missing kids are still waiting for news. Explosives have been found in the school and they have been unable to identify the fatalities while they continue to sweep the building. As the evening progresses, Gregory and Kenny take the children to the vigil for the community, while I go for food. On my way to get food, my phone rings with confirmation that their cousin has died in the shooting. After 10 hrs of waiting, the parents were called together and asked for pictures of their children. They then matched them and notified the families. Think about that for a minute….over 10 hrs…not knowing whether your child is safe.
We return home and begin to eat. Remembering that we were supposed to take Gregory to dinner for his birthday, I tell him that we’ll take him another time. He looks at me and says…this is just a meal. I could’ve been remembering that I lost my sister at my birthday for the rest of my life. As confused as I was feeling, this helped me focus.
As the media announces the names of the confirmed dead, Isabelle falls apart. She’d been watching the TV so intently waiting for this. She had prayed that her friends lying around the school were just injured and the confirmation of their deaths was crushing.
Isabelle tells me that she’s afraid to take a shower. I tell her that she might feel better if she washes away the day. She decides to try and took the quickest shower of her lifetime. She said the water hitting the tiles reminded her of sounds she heard while locked in the closet.
Later in the evening, another parent reached out to ask if Isabelle could come over as her daughter wanted to see her. As she also wanted to check on her friends, I drove her over. We weren’t there 15 minutes and she was ready to leave. One of the other girls was not at school today and the other had run out and was not near the shooting area. As we get in the car, Isabelle tells me that she couldn’t breathe and had to leave. They felt like strangers to her, as they didn’t have the same experience. We talked about grief and how each child’s experience and reaction to it will be different depending on where they were in the school at the time. For now, she feels like she needs to be with those people in the two classrooms that were targeted…and I completely understand.
We get home and she asks her daddy if she can sleep with me. He left to go take care of Kam and I’m sitting her watching her sleep. I’m so proud of her and her bravery and caring heart. She saved herself, called the policy, shared her phone with others who were afraid, spoke to a reporter to share her story, and stayed strong until she was able to transfer her burden to us. So far, she’s sleeping peacefully. No tossing, turning… nothing I anticipated. But as she dreams, she knows that I’m sitting her watching over her and I hope that’s enough for her to find peace in her slumber.
As for today….
The bus driver who so kindly watched over my daughter…lost her own.
My daughter lost two beloved teachers and friends.
My son lost his best friend.
Our family lost their cousin.
A family in Pakistan lost their daughter who was here as a foreign exchange student.
Other families’ children didn’t come home today.
Our community lost their innocence and feeling of safety.
And I noticed that I still haven’t washed the blood off my foot.

 

Slings, arrows and whatevs.

(They don’t think I know a b***load about the Gospels but I dooooo)

Another great post from The Great Handshake: Moral High Ground and Blowhard Bloggers.

Since someone had the brave honesty to tell me I was being condescending the other day, I will take this feedback to heart and try to change. However, from what I read and think about daily, many of us teachers only have our egos to protect us from the onslaught of negativity. It’s thin protection, and tears easily. We boost ourselves by mumbling our own mantras of worth and value in students’ lives with near immeasurable moments we continuously capture. Some, like me, use the blogging platform to do this, some social media. We promote ourselves, our moments, and we are the star of the show.

And there is not a dang thing wrong with that.

We need to be our own champions: however, I will make note of Great Handshake’s advice and do my utmost to veer away from blowhard-ery. My colleague had a point: I can be condescending at times.  It was the right thing to say, and in no way offensive. And if we don’t reflect on who agrees with us and who doesn’t, then we stay stuck, which may lead to apathy, a sour grapes rigidity. Boredom and apathy make an interesting emotional team: they mire and muck motion.

Consider, however, they are the signs of poor health: they are the signals we, teachers and students, simply need to rest. We don’t have to answer every question, or respond to every remark.

Just–rest.

When we rest, enjoy the mediocre and mundane, then we can go back to our scholarly research and curation, and share with others. Or not. When I started this blog I added a disclaimer – I just write this for myself, and if others get something out of it, bonus! Writing is a selfish act, like art, that becomes open to public interpretation.

Today I can’t rest, but I did allow myself this time to write and think. And then I can get back to ideas like these:

What’s Working In the Classroom (some ideas I want to keep):

I drew daily inspiration from the teachers I met. Many were in tears over policies with catchy names and disastrous consequences, but their dedication was a constant. Across America, teachers in ordinary circumstances are breaking the standardized mold. They cast aside worksheets, textbooks, lectures, and test preparation in favor of empowering students to collaborate, solve real-world problems, and discover their strengths and interests.

The specifics of these remarkable classrooms were all over the map: kindergartners in Fort Wayne, Ind., designing robots; elementary students in Dunbar, W.Va., running the school’s information-technology help desk; middle schoolers in Fargo, N.D., producing documentaries about local historic buildings; high school students in Albuquerque, N.M., creating social-media campaigns for the city’s soccer team.

 

 

 

Let me tell you about my boat.

Yes, this is an open letter. I hope it’s read, and understood with the best of intentions. It comes from a place of love.

Dear 7th Administration Team Coming to My Building in 13 Years:

You won’t know me, except maybe by reputation. I’ll be in a new building with a new team next year, the first time in my current twelve-year career. However, three of the four administration team is not only leaving the building, but leaving the district, as of today. Some teachers cried today, uncertain of their own professional futures, and being one of the veterans of the building, like some scrappy old sea captain, assured them they would weather this, too. And they will.

Nonetheless, it is quite a talent drain, caused by upheaval and uncertainly of the district and school board’s plans. (Whatever those may be. We, the staff, parents, and community members speculate daily.)

So: you’ll be the next crew. The seventh generation of administration in thirteen years.

But if the truth was known I may not have left. I work with some of the best educators in the world. There is a major upheaval in my district, and I am grateful beyond measure for my new opportunity in a new building. I am going to work in a building, by all accounts, that is a supportive, welcoming and healthy atmosphere. So when you come to my current building, never doubt for one minute that I was not an excellent teacher and my students over the twelve years thrived. And they thrived in spite of the leadership changes.

And I know others who’ve left my building experience ‘survivors’ guilt’ because not all schools are as challenging as this one, and students may not have the layers of trauma and effects of poverty, I will not have that same experience. There is no guilt for me: I don’t believe I am abandoning my students, for the simple and purest of reasons: my colleagues make that school amazing. There is nothing to run away from.

If there is one thing –one important, critical thing–I can advise any new admin team is my school is not broken.

It does not need to be fixed.

The staff isn’t there because they’re second-rate or floundering.

I know in last goodbye emails the staff is recognized as one of the most dedicated staff there is, but they’re not just that.

They’re world-class educators: they are global. They are larger than life. They are intelligent and please:

do not get in their way.

Let them show you the way.

Your instincts might be to come in and get the lay of the land, and then slowly, build your empire. You’ll hire people you know. It may even borderline on cronyism. You may hire people in your own image, or your ideas of what the perfect teacher is. You may institute new rules and protocols, which is your right, but please consider what institutional knowledge comes with the staff already.

It is vast and deep.

So please: when you’re about to put down that first brick of your empire, stop.

Allow the tribe of my school to embrace you, and share the culture of the school with you. You are not there to change the culture. You are there to embrace and bask in the climate.

Allow the teams to continue.

Trust in their professionalism.

These are adults. They are not assets to be managed.

Allow for open collaboration and dialogue.

Be transparent.

Be honest.

Admit your strengths, and what you bring to the table. Weaknesses don’t matter. Truly. Nor do the staffs’ minor weaknesses or foibles.

This is such a great staff you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. To lead this group of educators you need only to listen and share your expertise when asked. Be interested in what they’re doing. Support the nooks and crannies, not just the big fields or the big rooms. The joys of working here is in a thousand tiny moments. Let the staff share these, and marvel at their enthusiasm.

They are not the walking wounded or victims of some prior poor leadership. They move with their own volition and purpose. They are educated, curious, and did I mention intelligent? Intelligent with a fervor and ferocity that may be unmatched by many other staffs.

Remember, you are joining their crew. They will welcome you with open arms and perhaps a dash of healthy skepticism. Show them you understand the true definition of a leader is someone whose strength comes from humility.

The staff is going to love you. This will be the best gig you’ve ever had.

Mrs. Love

 

PS If you appreciate my love of Wes Anderson films, you’ll also appreciate many of my colleagues, too.

 

 

 

Dowry.

Back in April 2015, Love, Teach wrote a blog post that has been widely circulated, What I Wish I Could Tell Them About Teaching in a Title I School, and it is solidly one of those I wish I had written.

My district is in flux now, and I don’t know what exactly is going to happen next. I am learning that in times of chaos babies do, indeed, get thrown out with the bath water. (Forgive me, Sharon.) I’m resigned to whatever happens as long as I can keep teaching. I have invested in myself on behalf of my students, and I want to keep a positive net balance.

So when I move ahead, sideways, or upwards, what will I bring with me?

  • A robust classroom library I’ve spent years curating and refining.
  • A process of planning instruction that meets the needs of the students with forethought and deep reflection, in the moment, and processed over time
  • Binders full of lessons, units of study, scope/sequence curriculum maps
  • Technology skills galore
  • Ability to connect with students and parents
  • A love of working with teams of teachers to collaborate
  • A strong mentoring background to help new teachers
  • Deep devotion to teaching writing and helping students find their paths
  • Strong and innate desire to support the administration and colleagues
  • A supportive PLN across the country, and world
  • A sense of humor

And I’m also taking and knowing everything Love, Teach wrote, too.

As well as cups full of pencils.

I belonged in my building when I belonged: there is no gauzy film of nostalgia over my years in my first teaching job: it was and continues to be hard. Now, perhaps I don’t belong or am included. And that’s okay. I’m not going through the growing pains many newcomers experience in a tough school such as mine. When I was a new mother, I didn’t want the advice from older women, I just wanted them to tell me I was doing a great job.

And even though the difficulties and challenges, however, have shifted, the students still need the same from me: someone who knows them and cares about them and likes them enough to set high expectations grounded with deep empathy.

How do I know I’m helping? When a student asks me three tough questions about police violence and #BLM for her passion project. When a student is having a bad day and then brings me a flower the next day because I was kind. When I tell a student that dangerous behavior is first my problem, and he says, “too bad for you,” and then I tell him, well, now you know, so it’s your responsibility now….he got it. It’s not all on my shoulders, and that’s heaven: when colleagues I know and trust share the support and love for our students, I know we’re doing it right.

I still have a lot to learn, as do we all.

Why Took Much Experience Can Backfire by Francesco Gino, in Scientific American:

By contrast, when we’re reminded that the more we know, the more there is to learn, experience opens our minds to the fact that there are multiple ways to approach the same decision or task—even those that start to feel monotonous over time.

Consider views that do not align your own:

As Porter has found in her research, it’s an important realization: Higher levels of intellectual humility are associated with a greater willingness to consider views that don’t align with our own. People who have higher intellectual humility also perform better in school and at work. When added experience is accompanied by awareness that we have more to learn, we are more apt to see that the world keeps on changing—and that we’ll have to change along with it to thrive.

 

Careful.

One a walk with my husband the other day, we came to the conclusion that neither of us has much charisma. And by and large, that hasn’t been a problem for us.

I think.

Not sure.

We’ll see.

Both of us are similar in our questioning/challenging of issues that affect us personally, locally, and nationally. (Globally, too, but our area of effect diminishes.) And, those who perceive themselves with unwarranted authority may push back or act in retributive ways. However, we both would agree that those true leaders, who are collaborative and inclusive, use their charisma well to garner support and common effort.

Our challenges are too many and difficult to expect anything less from each other. Be careful.

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/how-to-tell-if-your-school-district-is-infected-by-the-broad-virus/

Such Bountiful Assessments

Just in time, during our ELL Endorsement class yesterday, we reviewed various assessment protocols and terms. They weren’t unfamiliar, but a timely reminder. Funny, that.

Two, at the top:

  • Reliable.
  • Valid.

As the man said, “Houston, we may have a problem.”

Is the SBA test, or Smarter Balanced Assessment, actually Smart, Balanced or a valid/reliable Assessment? Here are some resources for you to draw your own conclusion, with a dash of my own observations.

From the Department of Education, ESSA page:

 

Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.

Yelp. About that. I was told I was ‘teaching to the test’ when I offered my resources about the brief write rubrics so we could help students grow as writers, the resources I wanted to share did not find a forum in my building last year (or this year, either.) But okay–it’s still good stuff, and there are many ways that the Common Core and SBA have some challenging and rigorous questions. I just wish it wasn’t all at once, in secret, but little assessments over the course of the year (i-ready doesn’t count) that show growth.

Think about it: instead of a minimum of four days, with three-hour testing blocks during the month of May, there were smaller assessments, open, transparent, and available for PLC discussions, to show student growth? And what if—WHAT IF — Federal dollars weren’t tied to the scores? If accountability is the order of the day, I would wager most teachers have no issue with accountability as long as their professional judgment and expertise drive the assessment and continuing instructional decisions.

Plus sides (with caveats)

  • It is essentially a reading comprehension test, even for many of the math questions. If we continue to build strong literacy programs with this focus, that is a plus. However, literacy does not need to mean solely text: it should include multiple pathways and access points for all learners and abilities.
  • There has been a huge increase in the resources available for educators. Many of the questions are aligned with Common Core.

Drawbacks:

  • Currently, it is one of the few measurements for Federal dollars.
  • It’s expensive in terms of instructional time, financial, and stress for students, parents, and teachers. And administrators.
  • It may not be reliable or valid. It’s chock full of inaccuracies.
  • Educators may not be accurately helping students prepare for it. (And this could lead to further undermining of teachers as professionals, implementing more canned or scripted programs.)
  • It is not transparent. This goes against everything Hattie, et. al prescribe for student and teaching effectiveness: know the targets and criteria for success, and allow students to monitor and reflect. This style of summative, opaque assessment flies in the face of that research and best practices.

Some previous posts on this topic:

Theatre of the Absurd

Tomb Raider

http://prezi.com/1ellu5vq58bz/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

 

My own conclusions? More of a wish list, I suppose.

I wish…there are more collaboration instead of isolation about assessment.

I wish…there were alternative pathways for all students with varying abilities and needs to have access to assessment and instruction that challenges, celebrates and is based on growth.

I wish…much, much time and money were spent on this.

For further reading:

Disrupting Boredom.

I’m bored.

And that’s a good thing.

Because creative folks like me (and I believe we’re all creative) shake things up when we’re bored. (We sometimes get in trouble, but if we do too much cost-benefit analysis  we will never break the cycle.)

This past week, the week after break, I gave my students space and time to work, clean up assignments, and it’s working well. But I couldn’t help feeling something was missing. It’s tough to look at curriculum I created, like a painting or sketch, and know it’s not done, it’s not good enough, and it needs more. I have little guidance, or opportunity for dialogue, and am professionally isolated this year. (More about that when I analyze Call-Out Culture, losing my tribe, and being sent to the metaphorical solo igloo.) Rest in peace, Jean Briggs. I feel you. It’s sure darn cold and lonely when you’re iced out of the group.

And very timely, the gentlemen at The Great Handshake wrote the essay I needed:

The Great Handshake, “Disrupting April” —

My co-blogger Adam always says that great teachers are really just about making moments. Those kind of moments form memories by disrupting the normal blur of the school day, and those memories connect to some kind of learning for the students in our classrooms. Unfortunately, we often forget the great gift of memorable moments. We tend to let each day pass without noticing, and we fall victims to the seduction of forgetting. It seems kind of nice not to think, but before we have taken notice we are bored and miserable.

Those words, ‘memorable moments.’ There are a hundred of them every day. The student who says, “I love coming to this class!” with no sarcasm or cynicism, the ELL student who wants to keep writing on the Digital Dogs post, the colleague who says a kind word, or the young thinker who uses the digital tools to create something new and solid, and supports my instructional efforts.

The best teachers and educators recognize this tendency that we all have to slide through our days without any meta-cognition, and they become masters of disruption. They have the ability to build fences, around huge spaces where kids can feel secure and creative, and then within that space, they disrupt, ignite and engage.

The thing is–and I am not alone–we teachers live in fear so we falter, freeze and fail. Our nature as educators is to meet and exceed standards: and if those standards are subjective and punitive, we stumble Sisypheanally up a mind-numbing hill. If we are to empower and engage our students, we must look to our own engagement and empowerment first.

What this looks like may not fit into a subjective checklist. It is now my mental challenge to get over that, get beyond it, and not allow it to stifle this process.

Thank you for the reminder, gentlemen.

 

 

Three more for the road…

Spring break is over today, and while it was magnificent in many delightful ways, I’m fighting off the “Sunday” feeling. If I were choosing an overarching theme for this year it would be “Contradictions & Paradoxes: The Professional Dilemmas of Mrs. Love.” Wait, that’s a title, not a thematic description.

Oh well. Whatever.

The featured image of our district’s calendar says there are ten more weeks of school. “Normally” I would be ending the voyage, the journey with my ELA students by argumentative writing, onto memoir, and bowing out by saying, “See? I told you that would go fast!” and they would look at me in amazement at my sorcery and augur skills.

But I’m teaching semester classes this year, and it’s a bit disorienting. I have to make connections faster, and it doesn’t give a lot of time to build history and the ‘inside jokes’ but we’re doing all right. I can’t shake this feeling that other teachers are passing me by, and I’m still bogged down by unimaginative and muddied conversations.

There are some ideas I want to capture, though, three big ones from readings:

I. This is a long article from KQED/Mindshift, but worth the read.

How Do You Know When A Teaching Strategy Is Most Effective? John Hattie Has An Idea

A Model of Learning
From: https://www.nature.com/articles/npjscilearn201613/figures/1

Here is my warning*:

Too often educators apply an incredible concept and then try to truncate it and make it fool-proof. Paradoxically, this ends of doing more long-term harm to students and teachers.

myth

Examples:

Grit.

Growth Mindset.

Learning Styles.

And maybe Hattie’s Success Criteria:

For Hattie, most learning rests on student understanding of the success criteria for a learning task. Hattie calls this a “prelearning phase” because if students don’t understand what it will take to be successful, they often act blindly and without motivation. He says that students who are taught the success criteria are more strategic in their choice of learning strategies, and thus more likely to encounter the thrill of success that will lead to reinvestment in learning.

Success Criteria are magnificent as assessments. As Hattie states, it’s a pre-learning phase, which means pre-assessment. They are an ASSESSMENT. Repeat: AN ASSESSMENT. They are not guarantees of learning the first time. If they were, then a computer could write them and score students, and they’d all receive 100% every time. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? For some administrators, writing the success criteria is tantamount to its first name only: Success. But the second part, Criteria, is where the learning and teaching happen.

They can be used as:

  1. A student’s self-assessment
  2. A teacher’s assessment and information on instructional steps
  3. A means to articulate a goal or process
  4. A reflective tool: see Caitlin Tucker’s work: http://catlintucker.com/2018/04/ongoing-self-assessments/ (I have years’ worth of student self-assessment and reflective pieces, but this is really good, too. Share and adapt!)

“Too often students may know the learning intention, but do not [know] how the teacher is going to judge their performance, or how the teacher knows when or whether students have been successful,” Hattie and Donoghue write in their article. When students understand how they will be evaluated they can also self-evaluate more effectively, a metacognitive skill that can help students become more independent learners.

How students gain initial content knowledge that they can then manipulate has long been a discussion among educators. Some argue students need to learn basic information before they can begin to use it. Others say students will learn information when it is critical to a problem or project they are trying to understand.

The Hattie/Donoghue learning model dives into that discussion, describing learning strategies that work best at the surface level, and those that help consolidate surface learning, as well as those that develop deep learning and work to consolidate deep learning. Lastly, Hattie and Donoghue deal with the idea of transfer, which broadly means being able to identify similarities and differences between problems and effectively apply previous learning to new situations.”

I have often wondered if our overemphasis on Learning Targets and Success Criteria stunt students’ true growth, that if they can parrot what they are, many students remain stuck at the surface level of learning. This is Hattie and Donohugh’s caution to us, and we should take heed. If the learning isn’t transferrable, then it’s not learning.

II. Jackie Gerstein Fills My Teacher Heart With Joy:

Just read it.

https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/educators-as-active-listeners/

III. Cult of Pedagogy to the rescue (again)

4 Ways Microsoft is Making Learning More Accessible

Since we are a Microsoft-centric district, I shared this with the staff, too, and more importantly, will be sharing it with students.

 

P.S. And someday, I dream of this level of collaboration and professional growth:

Be The Change

but for now, I’ll just keep on keeping on.

 

*Warning is too strong. How about one of these?

 

auguring, augury, forecasting, foretelling,predicting, prediction, premonition,presaging, prognosticating, prophecy (alsoprophesy), prophesying;

 

apprising,informing, notification, notifying, tip-off;

advice, counsel, guidance,recommendation, suggestion, tip;

announcement, declaration