Celebrating resilience

All educators and policy makers need to watch this TED talk by teacher Clint Smith, a beautiful testament that draws attention to the “false, one-dimensional narratives” so often perpetuated about our students.
“So often we focus so much on the quicksand, that we fail to see what has refused to drown”
“No one can define who we are if WE are the ones holding the dictionary.”


The glamorous life of a teacher on a Snow Day

Ah, Facebook. The Pinterest for uninformed opinions. This has been an especially brutal winter in the midwest, and the brutality (and banality) of comments on Facebook are proportionate to the windchill factors. Take this gem posted by a “friend” on the last day our district cancelled on a -22 degree wind chill day:
“Sure wish I was a teacher. Once again, they get to stay home, sleep and still earn money while the rest of us have to work for a living.”

This person cannot have children. If he does, then he has no regard for the safety of children who walk to school and are at risk for windburn, frostbite, or just slipping on ice and breaking a bone. Either that, or he believes the Perfect World myth that all parents ensure that their children leave the house protected by the winter suit of armor- gloves, hat, scarf, coat, heavy boots, etc. The reality is that many kids arrive at school with not even a coat for protection, let alone gloves (and forget about a hot breakfast!)

But this comment did not mention the students. This comment (and many others in my feed) was directed at the Lucky, Lazy, Leeches – the Teachers. Obviously we spend our snow days snuggled under blankets, sleeping until noon, and munching cookies as we watch the afternoon soaps. That kind of fiction is fun to propagate, but read on for a glimpse into the TRUE glamorous world of a typical snow day.

  1. We get the call. “THANK GOD,” we think. But not for the reasons you think we think it. We’re thinking “Thank God! Now I can…”
  2. Finish grading 140 argumentative essays
  3. Complete the state-mandated lesson plan template for every class this week that includes 6 categories and involves thoroughly explaining learning activities, the rationale for choose these methods, the specific ways we will differentiate our approach in order to meet students and their various learning styles/abilities/disabilities/skills/behaviors, the exact content standards our lesson addresses, the assessments (both formative and summative) we have developed to gauge their understanding and learning. (I’m leaving out a few more categories here simply because I’m exhausted from typing.)
  4. Continue reading the stack of non-fiction books we purchased with our own money in order to assess their suitability for incorporating more NF into the curriculum as mandated by the Common Core standards.
  5. Spend an hour participating in a Webinar to enhance our knowledge of instructional strategies and help to meet the required six semester hours of credit we need in order to renew our licenses.
  6. Evaluate students’ mid-term SLO test data and pray that their progress thus far will ensure that when we are graded on the new, state-mandated evaluation instrument, their test scores will deem us to be at least “Proficient.”
  7. Read the educational blogs and Twitter feeds that comprise our PLN (Personal Learning Networks) in order to find and exchange fresh ideas for the classroom.
  8. Email our colleagues about the resources, ideas, and tools we find through our reading that we think would be beneficial for their classes as well.
  9. Experiment with a technology tool we are unfamiliar with, but that teachers in our fields in another school are raving about. It might take an hour or more to figure it out, but if we think it could enhance our students’ learning, it’s worth it.
  10. Actually Communicate with our students. Thanks to the flexibility provided by tools such as Edmodo, Moodle, and Remind101 and yes, even email and texting, we can engage with our students even on a snow day. We post project due-date reminders on Edmodo, answer emailed questions from students, read and critique papers shared with us through a Google document, or create and post videos explaining project options to our class website.
  11. Spend some quality time with OUR OWN children.
  12. And if time permits…exercise!

In short, if a teacher posts to Facebook, “YAY! SNOW DAY!” The subtext of that post is “THANK GOD I GET A WHOLE DAY TO CATCH UP ON THE WORK I’M USUALLY DOING FROM 7-10p.m. MOST NIGHTS OF THE WEEK!”

Oh, and Ditto for a Sick Day.


Quote of the Year!

Quote of the Year!

This is the quote on the back of the shirts that every employee in our district was given at our opening day meeting this year! Faced with a new evaluation system, new standards, and new challenges, this is exactly the mindset needed to move forward as a powerful, united front of educators working collaboratively for the good our our students. This philosophy, coupled with all of the new, eager staff, has me completely stoked going into this school year!