Tag: teacher

Who Will Protect the Children?

February 14, 2018 has turned into another September 11, 2001 for me. I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news of each tragic event. With September 11, I was walking through the teacher’s lounge when I heard in passing about a plane hitting a building in New York and caught a glimpse of some video. I didn’t think much of it at the time and went back to my classroom prepared to teach. No teaching happened that day and life how we knew it changed forever.

On February 14 of this year, as I sat in a data chat meeting with my assistant principal, my team, and a few other people, my friend looked at her phone and suddenly gasped. She quickly filled us in on what what happening. Again, I was shaken by the news, but thought (no, I hoped) that it would turn out to be another false alarm, just hearsay, just some rumors being passed around, but it wasn’t. I had another class period to teach so I headed back to my classroom. Again, no teaching happened for the rest of that day as we got word, little by little, about what was unfolding.

But this time it was so different.

This time the news tore me apart in a completely different way. All I could do was pray, pray that my God would comfort those who were hurting, save those who were fighting for their lives, and give me the strength I needed to be strong for those around me, the peace I needed not to succumb to fear.

You see, as a teacher at a school only 15 miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, this hit too close to home. Before I could even try to wrap my head around how I was feeling about everything, I was first faced with the task of comforting and consoling my 8th grade students who were frightened and worried that since the gunman was still at large at that time, there was a possibility that he could be heading our way.

“She’s so calm,” was what one of my students commented about my outward demeanor. Inside, I was desperately trying to process everything I was hearing and seeing while not adding to the tension and apprehension that was slowly seeping into my classroom. I had to hold it together for my students. Numerous questions were sent my way. After all, I was the adult in the room, so of course, my students believed that I had all of the answers.  We had been placed on a soft lock down as a precaution. This, in turn, caused my students to start asking if their parents could come and pick them up, yet most of them were afraid of leaving the safety of my classroom to even walk outside. At that moment, so much responsibility was put into my hands all while I worried about the safety of my own children. My seven-year-old son was on the same lock down in his aftercare program on my school campus. My older son, was, hopefully, on his way home from his high school on the other side of town.

But this time it was so different.

While my students and I should have been reviewing the parts of an essay for an upcoming statewide assessment, I was instead reviewing the procedures if we were to go on a Code Red lock down. Where in the room would we be the safest? What did we do if the fire alarm went off in the midst of it or someone knocked on the door? Remember to stay off your cell phones; stay away from the windows. Don’t panic. Help would be coming. Wait for the all clear signal to come.

But this time it was so different.

I’d all seen on the news the stories of the mass shootings at other schools, threatening notes sent over social media, some who’d brought guns to school but were caught before they could carry out their plans, so I knew the threat was very real. We teachers had started the school year off with a special training for what to do if there were ever an active shooter on campus. We even had to endure listening to an actual phone call made by a teacher during the Sandy Hook shooting. We practiced for what would happen if we were under a Code Red and the fire alarm was pulled. We even practiced evacuating the entire school to another location should the need ever arrive.

But somewhere in your mind it’s always just a drill. It will never happen here. It can’t happen here.

But this time it was so different.

I have old coworkers who currently work at Stoneman Douglas and the middle school next to it. I have a coworker whose son and daughter attend school there and were there when it happened. I have other coworkers who live in the same neighborhood, who pass by the school going to and from work and have neighbors who were direclty affected by the events. My dad delivers mail to one of the families who lost their child. A woman who works at my children’s dentist office told me about her daughter fearfully hiding in a portable with 27 other students for hours. I have a student who lost friends in the shooting and still came to school the next day and shared her grief with us. I’ve had to read an email to my students explaining to them how we (their teachers) would be there for them if they needed to talk even as my voice shook, and I struggled not to cry. I’ve had to review with my own son’s their schools’ plans for emergency situations just to be sure they know exactly what to do.

But this time it was so different.

It wasn’t THEM this time. It was US. Even though we have always felt a certain unity with the teachers and parents of those other schools in other states, this week it really hit home.

 It can happen anywhere, at any time, to any of us.

My mind keeps going back to the same questions. Why? Why does this keep happening? What can we do to prevent another one from happening? Why aren’t we doing more? How many lives must we lose before something is done? Will I be ready if it happens at my school?

What would I do if it were my child?

Who will protect the children?

Are we really going to make them do it on their own?

I pray that this opens the door for meaningful conversations to happen, for those who CAN change this to open their eyes, to question what needs to be done. As of right now, it’s the kids who are standing up and speaking their minds. It’s the kids who are screaming out that enough is enough. It’s the kids who are out marching and protesting and planning walkouts. It’s the kids who are calling the adults on their foolishness and their BS. It’s the kids who are saying that they will make a change.

We should be embarrassed. We’re the ones here to protect them, not the other way around.

Are their lives not more important than our winning an argument? How long before WE, the adults, decide that enough is enough?

How many parents have to bury their children before our hearts and minds are open to change?

 

 

America, something has to change! Now is not the time for our country to be divided! As you can see, division has only served to hurt us more! Division has only served to hurt the innocent who for too long have had no voice! As you can see, there clearly is a problem! Now is not the time to pick a winner or a loser! Now is the time to do what is right! Let’s stand up against the violence and stand up for our children! Let’s stand up and use some freaking common sense! What we’ve been doing is NOT working!

It’s time for us to stand up in love and do what we know we need to do, what we have to do to ensure the safety of our children. The last thing any child should ever feel at school is fear.

Personally, I choose to stand on God’s word during this time, and anything that I do will be done from a place of faith and love because my trust is in Him. Believe me, I am angry, and I am desperate for change, too. I know that change can happen.

It’s whether or not we will put aside our differences and make it happen.

Or will this be, like all of the other times, another forgotten cause until the next shooting happens?

Will we get it together before we allow this to happen again?

I don’t know the answers, but I am willing to help.

Not one more child, please.

Not one more child.

Who will protect our children?

 

 

The Heart of a Teacher (The Untold Story)

When I envisioned becoming a teacher, I pictured standing in front of a classroom presenting these beautiful, heartfelt lessons to the enthusiastic students seated in front of me who were just as excited about education and who were ready and eager to learn. While I didn’t go into teaching to feel a sense of power, I certainly thought I would at least earn respect from my students, their parents, and the community. We would all work together to ensure the success of every child in my classroom. Hey, maybe we would even lock arms and sing, “We Are the World,” overwhelmed by just how much we had done that would impact the world within that year those students were a part of my class. (Okay, so that might be taking it a bit far.)

                                                   

I was a bit naive about how things would really go down, but is it too much to ask for me to have something close to that? Suprisingly, yes it is. The reality is that my classroom is far from magical, and every day is a battle to get my students to be enthusiastic about the learning process.

But what surprises me even more about everything (and what this post is really about) is how ignorant everyone else is about exactly what it is that teachers are required to do. People truly believe that our days begin and end with the ringing of the school bell, that the only time we spend working is during those “work hours.”  How hard can it be, right?  It infuriates me when someone comments on the number of days off that we have, citing the breaks and holidays, as if those days off make our job any easier or when someone who has never been in the classroom wants to tell me what they would do if they had to deal with a particular situation in my class as if I am too ignorant to have thought of the same solutions. (I would never allow a student to speak to me like that. Why don’t you just throw him/her out? You just have to have discipline and the kids will behave.) Boy, please!

                                                                 

The thing is, it’s not easy. People don’t really understand just how difficult this career is, just how many different hats teachers are asked to wear, how much pain and happiness our hearts go through in a day while dealing with other people’s children and the endless demands placed upon us. You see, I actually feel like what I spend the least amount of time doing each day is actually teaching the subject that I get paid to teach. Yeah, I said it.

Now, before you freak out, let me explain.

   

Unfortunately, all of my students don’t come to me from perfect homes with supportive parents who are able to help guide them through the many ups and downs of school. Many of my students come to school with so much on their own plates that school is the last thing on their mind. Just this year alone, the stories that I have heard about some of my students’ lives is enough to make many Lifetime Channel movies (and you know how dramatic those can be). The things some of them have dealt with and seen or are currently dealing with is too much for even adults to comprehend, so how do we expect a child (my students are thirteen and fourteen years old) to be able to process what they’re going through or for them to care about what their grade is in my class? My teammates and I have been in tears several times this year as we try to fathom the hurt and pain that some of our students are dealing with every day. We’ve all been to the point where we just want to take some of our students home with us so we can shield them from the frustration and suffering. Yet, I’m supposed to just teach them about essay writing and grammar and everything will be okay?

What about all of the normal teenage issues that kids have to deal with? Although each school level has its own set of problems, I can definitely speak on middle school students and all that they’re going through at this age. Fitting in and learning who they are are the biggest concerns for my students. Their self-worth is based upon their hairstyles, their clothes, the way they think they look, how they speak, the music they listen to, sports they play, what group they hang out with, how many followers they have on Instragram, and the list goes on. It’s very difficult to teach someone who is worried about how everyone around them perceives them or is uncomfortable in their own skin. So I spend a lot of my time dealing with bullying, low self-esteem, conforming to fit in with others, misplaced anger, overwhelming sadness, and a sense of worthlessness or just confusion. It’s impossible to ignore all of this and just try to teach kids who have all of these other issues on their mind. Yet, I’m supposed to just keep on trekking and make sure these students are proficient at picking out the best textual evidence to support their thesis statement and writing a great paper. Really?

Electronics, video games, TV, and social media. Even parents know that these are tough competition. In this age of technology, kids are attached to these items 24/7 and getting them to focus on other subjects can seem impossible. I have kids literally falling asleep throughout the day because they stayed up to 2:00am on the phone watching videos or texting friends. Teachers have to constantly be on top of new fads, working to make lessons as fun and engaging as possible, finding clever ways to infuse the technology the kids love and yes, even social media, into our lessons. In a culture of instant gratification, trying to get kids to slow down and focus on a task that they can’t perfect right away, telling them they will have to practice it over and over again in order to master it, is a monumental task. Yet, I should be able to get my students to write, revise, and edit their essays several times before they turn them in to me. Let’s be realistic, please.

In order not to make this a book, I’ve only pointed out just a few of the issues that we encounter as teachers. Only…a…few. I haven’t even gotten to the fact that in addition to teaching we are expected to still be curriculum specialists, guidance counselors, referees, grief counselors, moms, dads, police officers, advisers, entertainers, data analyzers, be able to supply students with the basic school necessities, keep them engaged, well-behaved, report any inappropriate, suspicious, or below-grade level behavior, serve on different committees, attend numerous workshops, and keep up with every educational trend all while someone sits in the back of our classroom and evaluates our every move or while people sit in their government offices and make decisions that will impact our workload and pay.

Personally, I feel like we’re superheroes in disguise, saving the day behind the scenes, but never getting the credit for all that we do.

So please don’t get upset with me if a child’s test scores is not my first priority. I’m sure that I speak for all teachers when I say that we’re more concerned with the people seated in front of us than the scores on a paper, with the growth and development and the overall well-being of our students than what level they scored on an unfair test. Yes, we do want to see them do well on the tests, to improve and show growth, to be successful in school, but that’s not the end all be all. That’s not our daily motivation. We are focused on the WHOLE child, not just the part evaluated by a test.

And our students see us as more than just teachers. They tell us about their problems, and brag to us about their accomplishments, they get hugs from us to cheer them up or give us hugs to try to cheer us up, they scream our names from down the hallway and run to us to say hello, some adopt us as Mom or Auntie or Uncle and try to invite themselves to dinner at our house, they beg us to come watch them at their games or to read the story they wrote. We are so much more to them and they are so much more to us.

I wish more people would listen to us and understand our hearts, hearts that break for our students as well as swell with pride. What we give our kids can’t be found in a textbook or on the next state assessment.

What we do is more than just teach.

We give our students our hearts.

EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That should count for so much more than any test score.

All of my teacher friends, what do you think? Please feel free to chime and comment below!

 

 

 

Education in America is a Freaking Joke (poem)

Education in America is a freaking joke
I need you to sit down and take note
As a teacher I can explain to you firsthand
The foolishness on which I must expand
About the career I’ve chosen
About what’s got me groanin’
Questioning the choices I’ve made
That’s brought me to this day
Where I have to explain
The craziness in which I am daily forced to partake

And I say again,
education in America is a freaking joke
I don’t mean to rain on or take away your hope
I just wanted to give you some insight
To explain to you this plight
About a system that no longer works
About a system plagued with anger, frustration, and hurt

In order to so-called “compete” with other nations
We’ve sacrificed the very essence of education
Because it’s all a sick, twisted game
Where teachers are always the ones left to blame
Teachers are rated on test scores
So now their lesson content has become a bore
Testing is seen as the only way to understand
The brilliance inside of a boy or girl’s head
The kids don’t respond because they know it’s no longer about them
The system’s not set up for them to win                                                                                                                                                     It serves to just further divide
A nation that seems set to commit suicide
No child left behind
Has left most of them struggling to find
A place where they belong, to fit in
A place where they, too, can feel like they can win

And what about the parents
Why isn’t this problem apparent
That their lack of participation
Only adds to the devastation
Why do they get to sit back with fingers pointed
And not realize how much they contribute to this disjointed
And broken system that makes no sense
How long will this insanity persist?

Come on America
When will we get it right?
When we will we stand up and fight?
We need to make the classroom a place
Where children have the chance to be great
To see what makes them special and unique
Without constant fear of a harsh and judgmental critique
Let’s teach them the lessons and values that they really need
Now just how to pick between answer choices A ,B ,C, and D
Help them to discover the talents they possess
Show them how to turn that into success
Help them to compete with themselves
Not just constantly compare them to someone else
Give the teachers creative freedom
And trust that they have enough wisdom
To guide their students to the next level
Without the stupid tools you use to measure
How “effective” they are when do what they do
And by the way,
Why don’t you let them do what you hired them to do? (more…)

We Are Called to Love

It’s November already.

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I remember the beginning of this year and the promises that I made to myself to make this year my best year yet. I was determined to be #unbothered by life and people, to focus on setting goals and achieving them, and to change things in my life that were no longer working for my good. I am happy to say that while I may have lost my cool a few times (or many), I didn’t reach all of my goals that I set, and I haven’t made every change that I wanted to make, my life has improved drastically by what I have accomplished thus far.

Spend more time in the presence of God. Check!

Lose weight. Check!

Transfer to a new school. Check!

Reduce my debt. Check!

These were just some of my goals that I made and achieved, and my life has definitely been much more fulfilling. I must say that I am quite proud of myself. When I do my check-ins with my accountability partner, I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I realize all that I’ve done to improve my life and my state of mind.

However, lately something has been missing. There’s been this empty space that’s been longing to be fulfilled. While I’m not a selfish or self-centered person (although we all are in some way), I didn’t feel like I was doing all I needed to do in the area of service. My heart has always gone out for other people (I mean, I am a teacher), but I have not been consistent with going that extra mile to help others.

Lately, I’ve felt the need more to do more to help others especially when I consider how I can have a bigger impact on the lives of my children. How do I really get them to love and to appreciate and to be grateful for their lives and all of the blessings they have?

How do I get them to understand that they should give more than they take in this world?

What is the legacy that I want to leave behind that my children can take up and continue even when I am gone?

That’s when I decided enough was enough. The end of this year would be the beginning of my journey in purposeful serving. In other words, I would be purposely seeking opportunities to be a blessing to others. Some things that I have done thus far:

  1. Gotten more involved in my Raktivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist) community on Facebook, getting inspired by all of the wonderful, beautiful things other people are doing to serve others selflessly. These people have hearts so big that I don’t know how their chests can contain them.
  2. I’ve joined a campaign this month called Neighborly November. Instead of just doing 30 days of Gratefulness in which most people document 30 things for which they are grateful, we are challenged to put action with our gratitude. Every day I must find a way not to just speak of my gratitude but to actually live it out. (Created by Carrie Wisehart)
  3. I took my younger son (6 years old) to my school’s sorting of the items from our Harvest Drive. We had an enjoyable time while running food from the center of the gym floor to the designated areas around the room. More than 100 families were able to receive food just in time for the beginning of the holidays because of this Harvest Drive. I felt so fulfilled just watching all of the volunteers running back and forth cheerfully sorting food even after a long day of school and work.
  4. I started working on a community service project with my team at work so we can get our students involved in serving others while learning the concept of giving without expecting to receive something in return (more to come on this in future posts).

While it’s easy to live in our bubbles and focus on just our own problems and needs, God has called us to love and serve one another, to use our gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and that’s just what I want to do. I want to do it and teach my children and my students the same thing. I pray that my children and my students will learn to love helping others, not because they will be rewarded, but because it feels good to do so, that they become intrinsically motivated to do what’s right.

I write this post not because I want any accolades or praise but to hold myself accountable. If I tell everyone what I am going to do, I know that people will be checking to see if I’m doing what I said I will do even on those days when I don’t feel like it and just want to focus on self.

Maybe I can motivate others to do the same.

Maybe I can start a small movement.

Maybe I can open more hearts to the love that God has called us all to show.

Stay tuned for more…

What Teachers Really Do During the Summer

I have people who are upset with me right now, giving me the side-eye whenever they see me. What is it that I have done to make people so upset with me? It’s all because I am a teacher and I am off for the summer and I keep posting pictures of my legs crossed, a book in my hand, and a cup of coffee at my side. No worries. No schedules. No concerns.

I’m sorry, but I am not sorry. I’m sorry that not everyone can have a job where they get two months off and, thanks to year-round pay, still get paid for it. However, I am not sorry because this is a well-deserved break. I won’t go into all of the details of what a teacher has to do during the year. However, I wanted to give some insight into what most teachers actually do during the summer.

*Disclaimer: Please excuse my grammar in this post. It’s not a dissertation, just some fun, so please don’t judge me.*

Here’s a list in no particular order:

#1 – One thing that I know I do plenty of during the summer is reflect on the previous school year. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What can I do better?  How did I actually survive that one class period that made me want to quit every single day? Will THAT child be in my class again next year? Why did I become a teacher? Is there time for me to get another degree over the summer? Do I really have to do this again next year? Then something clicks in my brain. Wait…I have two months off.  Two full months. Two months. Then I come back to my senses and I say, “I think I’ll stick with this teaching thing after all.” Got to take the good with the bad.

#2 -Believe it or not, we actually start planning for the next school year. Wait, did you really believe all of that teacher magic could really happen with us coming back only ONE week before the students do? Noooooo!!!! Most teachers have already started filling their Pinterest boards with classroom decor and ideas for the new year. Some are attending summer trainings in order to learn new strategies (oh, and for a much needed stipend). And all are praying that this year will be the year of perfect lessons, no unnecessary meetings, and perfectly behaved students. Hey, we can dream. To tell you the truth, we know that the first week back to work for teachers is actually filled with meetings, meetings, and more meetings, so there is NO real time to plan in our rooms.

(more…)