Monday, June 22, 2009

Is teaching a real profession?

Teaching is a field that needs more credibility. Some functions that help give credibility are licensure/certification processes, a code of ethics, and methods based on empirical/objective data.

The fields of medicine, law, social work, and business all benefitted from these functions. For teachers to be respected in our fields we need these functions as well. We've recently had some teachers (about 250, according to some news articles) terminated for various reasons. One of those reasons is that some teachers reportedly don't have proper certification.

I keep hearing about teachers who care about their students and are doing an effective job in the classroom, but have not passed Praxis.

Nurses who don't pass their exams don't get to be nurses anyway just because of their kindness. An engineer without a license would. Here's a quote from

Long story short, your four-year degree might teach you what you need to work as an engineer, but until you pass these rather rigorous exams, no one is going to hire you for a good job. You might get some beginner-level jobs, which could help you build up experience, or an employer might even put you in an internship program that will lead to your getting the PE license on their dime, but until you get those essential pieces of paper, your career isn't going anywhere.

We teachers need to upgrade the way we think about our profession.

On a similar note:
I am currently researching the lack of a substantial code of ethics for the teaching profession. I will blog more on that later. However, I'll put in a little piece for now. The AFT and AAE both have Codes of Ethics but unlike some other professions, such as the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) and medical professionals and lawyers, those codes cannot be used to hold someone accountable. Also, teachers don't refer to their code of ethics (if they even know that it exists), and furthermore, teachers are not required to get regular yearly or biannual trainings on ethics like social worker, attorneys, and medical personnel are.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Should we tell them we're offended?"

I teach at an academically-successful upper NW school which has all the supplies and support it needs. Every student’s situation is not perfect but generally the kids are well-behaved and able to be reasoned with.

Well, twice this year our students have had interactions with students from other schools, and the exposure has opened their eyes a little.

While visiting a far NE middle school, some of our sixth graders heard their sixth graders cursing. Our sixth graders asked one of our teachers, “Should we tell those other sixth grade students that we’re offended by the language they’re using?” The teacher’s response was, “I suggest you don’t.”

Then our band students visited an elementary school in one of the roughest neighborhoods in DC. One student reported (I wasn’t there) that the kids there were “sooo bad.” the listening students were so loud that the students could absolutely not hear what was being played, and the PE teacher kept blowing his whistle during the performance to quiet them. After the performance, some of the students from the home school began tossing the bass drum around!

This student’s parents had debriefed with him at home about this experience. They told him that many schools in the district were like that and that he was at a good school. I don’t know if they encouraged him to appreciate what he had, but I encouraged him to. I also told him that seeing other children play in a band may have been an inspiration for other kids at the home school, which is in the beginning stages of having its own band.

Once during a parent-teacher conference, I heard another set of parents stating how lucky their kids were to be in our school, considering the state of so many DCPS schools.

I say all that to say this: I think our schools should do more interchanges so people can be reminded that not everyone lives like we live. No matter which side of DC you live on (or MD or VA), not everyone lives like you. Exposure helps you see the opportunities, blessings, and perspectives of other parts of your nearby world. Furthermore, I hope this type of exposure, followed by discussions, will help us empathize more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Move Over - Here Comes Inclusion, DCPS!

Tonight I attended a Chancellor's Forum held to discuss the state of SPED in DC. Inclusion was the focus of the program. I think the general attitude of central headquarters is the same as that expressed by Richard Nyankori specifically, when he said, "I won't force inclusion (on any one person) but I will force the issue (that children should not be segregated)." He also stated that the model of inclusion he was envisioning was one in which teachers trusted each other enough to share the responsibilities and where service providers enter the classroom and work with teachers and all needy students.

I will include more details about this meeting tomorrow, but now I am sleepy and in bed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teachers With Teaching Disabilities

This is from The Onion

WASHINGTON—A shocking report released by the U.S. Department of Education this week revealed that a growing number of the nation's educators struggle on a daily basis with some form of teaching disability.
The study, which surveyed 2,500 elementary and high school level instructors across the country, found that nearly one out of every five exhibited behaviors typically associated with a teaching impairment. Among them: trouble paying attention in school, lack of interest or motivation during class, and severe emotional issues.
"For teaching-disabled and at-risk educators, just coming to school every day is a challenge," said Dr. Robert Hughes, a behavioral psychologist and lead author of the study. "Even simple tasks, like remaining alert and engaged during lessons, can be a struggle. Unfortunately, unless we take immediate action, these under-performers will only continue to fall further behind."
"Our teachers are in trouble," Hughes continued. "Some can't even teach at a basic sixth-grade level."
As noted in the report, hundreds of schools have already begun setting up special classrooms in which the teaching- disabled can receive the extra attention they require, teach at their own unique pace, and be paired up with patient students who can help to keep them on track.
According to school administrators, new programs like these encourage marginalized and disenfranchised teachers by rewarding them for showing up to school prepared and taking an active part in classroom discussions. Many also have counselors on hand to intervene when an instructor grows frustrated or throws a tantrum and storms out of the room.
In the new "Teachers First!" program at Wesley Academy in Chicago, educators who were once labeled "lost causes" and left to flounder in the system for years on end are now diagnosed with specific teaching disorders, given extra time to grade difficult assignments, and, in the case of particularly troubled teachers, moved back a grade.
"We're much more sensitive now to the factors that influence their behavior: abusive home lives, drug and alcohol problems, or often, the fact that they never should have been put in regular classrooms to begin with," Wesley principal Donald Zicree said. "A lot of these poor men and women have been told they can't teach for so long that many start to believe it after a while."
"Rather than punishing our teachers or kicking them out, we give them a gold star every time they do something right," Zicree continued. "If they write the correct answer to a math problem on the board, they get a gold star. If they volunteer to read aloud during English class, they get a gold star. You'd be amazed what a little positive reinforcement can do. Some of our teachers† have even stopped drinking in their cars during lunch."
According to Zicree, school officials aren't the only ones excited by the difference the new programs are making. Many educators have also responded favorably, realizing that they no longer have to act out or create disruptions in order to get the attention they so desperately crave.
For a few, like Michael Sturges, a 10th-grade history teacher at Wagar High School in Council Grove, KS, being put in a special classroom has reawakened a love for teaching he hasn't felt in years.
"Now that I know I have a teaching disability I don't beat myself up so much when I have a bad day or can't grasp the material we're working with," said Sturges, 38, who has pinned a number of perfectly graded assignments up on his wall. "I used to think teaching and stuff was pretty lame, but now—I dunno—I guess it's all right. If anything, being in school now might help me to get a decent job when I'm older."
Added Sturges, "You know, something that pays more than $24,000 a year."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Next year's classroom

As much as I like to study and promote the idea of inclusion for mild to moderately impaired SPED students, I will be in a self-contained classroom next year. I will work with emotionally disturbed children, of course with the goal of helping them improve till they can be in an inclusive environment once again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reasons Teachers Stay in DCPS

There was a discussion on the DC Teacher Chic blog about whether or not teachers should come to work for DCPS.

One poster who was anonymouse, responded with, "Others stay for a variety of reasons including a short commute, inertia, a great school community where you have your niche, can't pass Praxis to work in the counties, too close to retirement to give up on it, or because it's your home and your life and your calling."

I think that sentence sums up all the reasons I can think of for why teachers stay. Oh, maybe there's one more. I think some teachers don't have marketable up-to-date skills to make it in another school system. Especially when people keep complaining about the lack of quality PD. My advice to any teacher is the same advice others have given to me. Stay five years then leave. Otherwise, you will lose your skills and grow stagnant here in DC. Of course, if like me you stay five years and decide you enjoy the job despite its troubles and woes, then stay and keep making a difference.

And take charge of your own PD.

African American Teachers Absent from Wilson Training

DCPS is training groups of teachers in the Wilson Reading Program. Wilson is a research-based program that has proven its effectiveness for years. I was thrilled to make it into the first cohort to be trained.

One aspect of training disturbed me, though. Most teachers in DCPS are African-American (I'll try to find out the percentage). Yet, half of the teachers learning to use this highly effective reading program where white. At least two more were other non-Black races. Where are the Black teachers? Were they not interested? Did their special education coordinators not tell them about the training?

Granted, my coordinator (who is White) did not tell me about the training - I found out from a (White) friend. One White lady said a teacher in her school has the Wilson materials and has been to a training but does not use Wilson or any other effective remedial reading program.

Furthermore, five of the trainees (15% of the participants) were from the DC Teaching Fellows program. While I support the program (I'm a Fellow, myself), it is true that people who teach through alternative certification are less likely to remain in the school system.

What's going? Maybe they think Wilson is just a fad or just another program that DC is trying this year, just to be tossed aside next year.