The Mentality of Elementary School Teachers

Throughout the years, I’ve met many educators who have worked at all levels of the profession. There’s one that has always stuck out to me. The elementary school teacher.

While teachers from all parts of the system leave the profession, the reasons all varied, and though I have only worked at the elementary and middle school levels, elementary teachers have long exhibited the ‘YES SIR, YES MA’AM’ behaviors. I’ll explain.

Teachers have duties, responsibilities, and obligations associated with their daily schedules; however, 60% of these things aren’t things that they should be doing. In fact, it may well be higher than 60%! I’m mostly talking about the things happening within the walls of the school.

Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be burned up.

James Altucher

I recently had a random conversation with a fifth grade teacher, Lisa, who left the profession 16 years ago to care for her children. This year, she went back into the classroom, as she described the many changes since her first year in education back in the early 2000s. Her demeanor was a bit timid, sweet, and she was definitely that ‘Yes, ma’am’ type. It made me reflect on some of the other conversations I have had with other teachers. One, in particular, stood out. At a Halloween party last year, I met a high school teacher, named Jessica, who absolutely loved her job. I had just left teaching, so we continually talked about education throughout the night. She was in her third year and expressed zero qualms. She loved her administration, peers, and students. She said she had full autonomy. I was in complete shock, as this wasn’t my experience in my many years in education. Jessica was a no non-sense person, too. She was the type that spilled her truth, tactfully.

I want to iterate that many teachers love their jobs. They love aspects of their administrators, peers, students, and other stakeholders. However, there is a distinct difference of personality and mentality between elementary and secondary school teachers. The problem? Elementary school teachers say, ‘YES SIR, YES MA’AM’ all too often. Elementary teachers are more nurturing, in general. They are used to babying children; ensuring colorful classrooms and fruitful lessons. Elementary teachers are pleasers, meaning, they are less likely to speak their truths, tactfully. Instead, they over exert themselves with tasks unassociated with making their classroom and prosperous. If they don’t, administration and even some peers will say, “but it’s for the kids,” sparking guilt. To put into words kindly, secondary teachers appear to value their own time and have more self-respect. Secondary teachers target the opportunities of lessons over the fluff of providing nurturing environments. I mean, have you seen elementary classrooms verses secondary classrooms? High school classrooms are boring af! To my point, high school teachers have different mindsets than that of elementary school teachers.

Countless times, I was told that I would be an awesome high school teacher. Though, I never taught high school officially, I completed several high school internships during my undergrad, and I do agree that I had more of the mentality of a high school teacher.

When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.

Paulo Coelho

Teachers! Learn to say no . . . tactfully. I was always that teacher who would speak up for myself and others; however, I was one of the only elementary school teachers to do so. My door was barely decorated, my room wasn’t the most extravagant, and I didn’t always attend the after school/ evening activities and events. But I did pride myself on my ability to form amazing relationships with my students and their parents.

Work Toxicity: Being the Change

Would you rather:

A) Work in a happy, joyous environment with zero toxicity; lower wage?

B) Work in a highly toxic, stressful environment filled with tension; higher wage?

 

Do wages even influence work toxicity? I don’t really think so, though, I do know that work toxicity influences employees’ happiness and output.

 

If stakeholders are part of an organization with the same goal in mind, what triggers certain members of that very organization to form toxic perceptions, behaviors, and attitudes? In fact, who is to blame for such toxic-ness? The employees? The supervisors? The CEO?

 

In education, we hear the term, IT TAKES A VILLAGE, but what if that village if full of toxins? Bad behaviors? Conflict? Then what? Now what?

 

How is it that we build relationships with others, and in an instant, that relationship can turn toxic? The foundation to any relationship is trust. When we first encounter new people, we tend to trust them more so than not. We tend to build walls when that trust dwindles over time. We also tend to put ourselves around others like us, creating clique-ish relationships.

Scenario: Yesterday, I had the best relationship with my boss. My boss spotlighted my achievements and work ethic in a sit down shoot-the-shit, informal gathering. Today, my boss gave me a write-up for being insubordinate that led to the questioning of my place in the company; whether I was a good fit for the role.

My mind is boggled, though! How do employees recover from scenarios like this in order to maintain high levels of production to meet, and exceed, goals? Who is the change?

 

The book titled, Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, delve into three practices that underscored social influence:

The power of an individual, willing to voice his or her opinions for the betterment of the people: The authors detailed a CEO’s endeavor to digest why his subordinates viewed him as unapproachable. When the CEO asked the auditorium of employees to respond, it was silent. People do not tend to share their honest thoughts because of retaliation. However, one guy, who “Countered to the norm” (p. 152) had major influence when he asked to meet with the CEO one-on-one. Instead of personally feeling attacked and becoming defensive, the CEO thanked the one person who had the courage to voice his perceptions honestly. “The CEO showed his genuine support fo the behavior of being candid by not becoming defensive and by rewarding the person who had taken the risk to be honest-even when it hurt-and he then made personal changes to demonstrate his commitment” (p. 153). This resulted in more candid, honest dialogue amongst the team where employees opened up more to solve problems together successfully.

Partnerships with opinionated, respected, and connected leaders who make up approximately 13.5% of the population: Grenny et al. underscored how Mao Zedong used social influence through “opinion leaders” (p. 167) to create change and followers amongst their Chinese village. With the health epidemic of poor conditions in rural China back in mid-twentieth century, Zedong chose to target local educated villagers over health professionals who had a passion for serving their people. These villages who were referred by their peers with basic forms of education, exhibited several months of training to cover the basic necessities to influence and improve the health crisis within the villages. These opinion leaders were taught to treat common illnesses and ailments, recommending hospital treatments for worse health problems. Villagers’ health quickly improved as they embraced new hygienic practices. Zedong didn’t implement a traditional blanket policy because of its popularity; instead, he grew “support from the top with the actions of the on-the-ground opinion leaders” (p. 169).

Involving all to change social norms; Breaking the silence and being accountable: Change comes with breaking barriers that protect the status quo. Traditions don’t change by staying silent. Traditions change when they are brought to the forefront of conversation and debate. Having open discussion about old and new norms is essential to change. Be “200 percent accountable” (p. 181) where all is responsible for empowering fundamental behaviors that promote positive change; communicating clear expectations. “Old norms begin to fall when influencers bring the hidden cost fo bad habits into the bright light of public discourse” (p. 182).

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

For the record, I hate the word, NORMS. However, when change is needed, norms need to be exposed, discussed, and transformed. Work toxicity grows with comfortability, complacency, and silence. Change grows with influencers, starting with you!

Teaching at Title I Schools vs. Privileged Schools. Does it Matter?

Yesterday, I had a few friends over for game night with food and drinks. While playing games, education came up. In fact, education comes up often with us because we have all been teachers in the classroom. As the conversation rounded the corner into a deeper, more passionate dialogue, I reflected on the experiences of each of us: Jude, Ellie, Connor, Monty, and myself.

Out of the five of us, only two currently teach. My partner, Jude, worked for a private school and loved the experience. He got hired at a charter school the following year and worked there for about six months before leaving the profession. Ellie (pseudonym) and I worked at a local charter school together before she left to teach in another state at a Title I school. She ventured back to DFW after a couple of years and currently works in a high-achieving, privileged school district. Connor (pseudonym) works at a secondary charter school in DFW, which happens to be in the same network of schools where Ellie and I worked together years ago. Monty (pseudonym) worked with me at a Title I school in Richardson. She was about to go into her fourth year of teaching at the same schools when I recommended that she get out. Monty left K-12 education to join me in my current role at the Art Institutes.

The underlying element of our constant discourse surrounding the education profession is passion. We are all 100% passionate about helping students achieve success. So Why aren’t we all still in the profession?

The answer is easy! R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Jude: Quickly found that his peers were more problematic than any other stakeholder in education. His leadership was constantly in his room, developing him to be a better leader. His students respected him because he earned it, though he was hard on them. But his peers were jealous of his rapid success and positive energy. After all, Jude is a half-full type guy.

Ellie: Was challenged at our first charter school together. She wasn’t respected or appreciated because her bubbliness and lively personality that made her appear as scatterbrained, if you will. She was snubbed for a music teacher position at our school, though she was highly qualified. She left after a couple of years to another state where she said she fell in love with teaching. Moreover, it was a Title I school in Harlem, New York. Now, she works at a very privileged school district and absolutely loves her job. It’s hard to get into her district because very seldom do teachers leave. She has the autonomy to make her classroom her own. She doesn’t have to turn in lesson plans or attend many meetings. She has the ability to actually teach!

Connor: Has a specialized science degree. Simply put, he could make big bucks outside of education. He teaches high school science classes and is a sports coach. He has been in his current position for a few years and was recently disregarded for a team-lead role, though, his scores were some of the highest in the network. He’s eager to grow as an educator, but also deeply off put by the politics of education. He and his peers don’t see eye-to-eye in most cases. However, his students look up to him because of his love of teaching, the respect he has earned from them, and the support that he provides them. I give him another year before he leaves the profession all together.

Monty: She is the most diverse of all of my friends and coworkers. She’s a single mom as well. She has so much desire for helping others, as she puts others’ needs before her own. She craves challenges and collaborative learning opportunities. She seeks guidance and is receptive to feedback. She confronts conflict and doesn’t conform to comfortability. She was at the same school in which I left mid-year last year because of leadership. She’s always had my back and knows the up-and-downs of working in such unprofessional, under-appreciated conditions. In actuality, she lived it. She was split between schools for two years. She worked her ass off to make things better for all stakeholders. She went the extra distance with each task asked of her; not mediocre, to say the least. This summer, she was approached by the [awful] principal at the school that I worked at to become a full-time team lead at the school that I worked at. While she was excited to just work at one school, she knew the devastation that existed. A week later, the other school that she was split with for two years approached her to become full-time there. She was ecstatic. Both schools, mind you, are in the same district, minutes apart and both Title I. However, Monty wanted to work for the second school because of the professionalism and respect that the leadership gave her. Long story short, Monty left the district, altogether, and jumped ship to work with me at The Art Institutes. She approached the [awful] principal at the school we both worked who approached her first to let her know that she wanted to accept the other school’s offer. The [awful] principal lost her shit, to put it nicely. She did everything she could to ensure that Monty wasn’t able to transfer to the other school within the same district. Literally, simple paperwork and a signature and Monty would’ve stayed in K-12 education. 

It’s stories like this that exemplify the dire need for change in our school systems. How is it that all of us, who are so passionate about education and helping others grow, are not in the classrooms leading the way?

Once again, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Monty is currently in training at The Art Institutes. I have been there several months. While we won’t have the opportunities to enjoy long breaks and summers off, we have the abilities to be part of an organization that embodies professionalism and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We have odd hours, but we are valued and appreciated for what each of us has to offer. We even get an hour to simply enjoy a meal and down time. I enjoy going to work because the stress level and challenges are a different type of ‘hard.’ I leave work at work, underscoring the importance of a well-balanced work-life schedule.

As social media is being pulverized by the many unhappy teachers going back for the 2019-2020 school year, I am reminded of the BS that teachers go through. Seriously, many teachers who just went back this past week have already begun bitching about their leadership, peers, and other things, such as having to work mandated evening events throughout the year and professional development. I’ve had conversations with teachers who are dreading going back; some who are starting next week.

These things, I don’t miss. What I do miss? THE KIDS! And the self-R-E-S-P-E-C-T that I should’ve commanded, with confidence, of myself and of others.

Aretha put it best! [You can sing it!]

A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin' (just a little bit)
You're runnin' out of fools (just a little bit)
And I ain't lyin' (just a little bit)
(Re, re, re, re) when you come home [or to
school, right?]
(Re, re, re, re) 'spect
Or you might walk in (respect, just a little bit)
And find out I'm gone (just a little bit)

Professional Development.

It’s that time of year where school leaders and committees are gearing up for the beginning of the school year, with hours upon hours of teacher and staff professional development.

In many school districts, teachers go back to work one to three weeks before their students arrive. New teachers in the school district tend to go back before the returning teachers do.

Then it happens. Every year. Teachers are exposed to endless PowerPoint presentations.

A buddy of mine, Dr. Chris Gurrie, EdD, is an expert in communication, public speaking, and training activities. He is a professor at The University of Tampa, travels around the world giving public speeches, and is a contributor for HuffPost.

Chris’ experiences with bad PowerPoints is that it’s disrespectful. In fact, Chris wrote about it in a 2015 article titled, IS YOUR POWERPOINT DISRESPECTFUL?

“It disrespects my time, it disrespects my intelligence, and it disrespects the presenter’s own intelligence. This speaker knew he was committing PowerPoint atrocities and he went ahead and did so anyway.”

Dr. Chris Gurrie, EdD

Chris goes on reeling on the idea that we let this happen. The fact that we attend meetings and actually stay through the awful experiences of bad speakers.

“I do not believe it is out of respect that we do not say anything to the presenter, because looking around a room of bored audience members finds them on their cell phones and laptops fully disrespecting presenters anyway. So, why do we continue this dance? It floors me that we allow ourselves to sit through horrible presentations where we learn nothing and retain very little.”

Dr. Chris Gurrie, EdD

Teachers sit through PowerPoints every year and no one says anything! Our body language sure does, but, in my experience, leadership doesn’t really seem to care in most cases. I mean, they worked so hard putting the fully-loaded presentations together that they expect everyone else to ENJOY their hard work.

Chris is right though! I have always felt disrespected as an educator, adult, and human being after I have sat through irrelevant, boring, useless PowerPoint presentations. In fact, it has gotten so bad that by the time the students arrived for their very first day of the school year, I was already burnt out and exhausted.

How can school districts change the landscape of they professionally develop their teachers and staff?

As Chris indicated, our time is precious and should be respected. Teachers need to, once again, stand up and speak up about what works and doesn’t work, professionally speaking. It really isn’t that complicated. Presentations should be engaging, energetic, and applicable to all audience members.

We have to not stand for our time to be wasted. While I would never advocate disrespecting a presenter, I do advocate that we stand-up for our time—and proceed to the nearest exit. Perhaps that will send a message—no more Death by PowerPoint please.

Dr. Chris Gurrie, EdD

In the world of education, I honestly do not see many teachers following through with Chris’ advice. If I was still in the classroom, I’d definitely be the first to stand up, speak up, and possibly exit as fast as I could. However, I already know that this behavior would easily stir controversy within the school and among the staff. Leadership would most likely consider this type of teacher behavior as disrespectful and unprofessional. In most cases, teachers are so used to sitting through bad presentations and willfully keeping their thoughts to themselves because school leaders have become experts in phrases like, “it’s for the kids” or “you’re not a team-player.”

If you’re a school leader or any professional development facilitator/ presenter, be bold, be mindful, and be different. Be the change, dammit.

If you’re a teacher who is most likely going to experience the many bad back to school presentations . . . well, be tactful, be truthful, and make it a teachable moment. You can be the change, too, dammit!

See Chris’ HuffPost article below:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-your-power-point-disre_b_7166230

a higher standard.

Educators! You are held to a higher standard. A higher standard than even our President of the United states is held. While Trump gets to tweet about anything and everything that comes to his mind at any given moment, educators might want to ruminate about the idea of socially voicing similar opinions. Since before Trump took office, he has used his Twitter platform to inform, story tell, and bless those who follow or care about the hamster wheel turning in his brain.

Educators! You aren’t Trump! In fact, you shouldn’t want to associate with anything that embodies the character of Trump. Where does he fit into our humane, respected society? Where is Trump’s decency and moral duty to treat his American people with kindness and equality? His name calling, alone, disparages the principles and ideologies expected of the Office of the President of the United States.

A teacher in Fort Worth, right down the street from my residence in Dallas, decided to idiotically TWEET @THEREALDONALDTRUMP over of, what she calls, a takeover of illegal immigrant students. She was FIRED [ironic, eh] unanimously by the school board. The teacher assumed her tweet was a private matter [on a public platform?!?] between her and POTUS.

Social media has become quite the adversary within the workforce regarding freedom of speech. Most should know by now that social media and personal platforms can and will be used against you . . . and guess what? It will be used against you. In education, specifically, social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snap Chat are just several platforms where educators should be abstaining from sharing ‘too much’ information, stories, and opinions.

So why would this teacher feel the need to publicly reach out to Trump? Isn’t her job to educate all students, regardless of background, status, race, etc.? Why wouldn’t a teacher want to help a child to become a more well-rounded, respectful member of society? Isn’t that what we need in our communities? Aren’t we supposed to honor our American values by providing welcoming, safe spaces to ensure that all students experience a quality education to be successful in life? That’s where the higher standard comes in. Educators should be ensuring higher standards of educational experiences within the walls of their classrooms and schools.

As Americans, actually . . . as people, aren’t we supposed to accept and tolerate those around us who are different? In a professional setting, we sure do. Why is it that some want to use their platforms to encourage rift and uproar among their neighbors and community? I understand the importance of social media and having a platform to promote an agenda. After all, I have my own blog. However, a platform must maintain a certain style and standard in order to hold its value, depending on the type of platform and the intended audience.

I’ve learned most about people with differences by having conversations, asking questions, and being respectful. I’ve taught illegal immigrant students and American students with illegal parents. I’ve also worked with and taught people of all races, convictions, and cultures. We can’t stay comfortable within our own ‘bubbles’ and expect to learn about human beings with differences. I push boundaries with people to enthuse learning opportunities, bond, and build trust. As a Caucasian male, I want to be a pillar for diversity and equality among my minority friends and neighbors. Not everyone is treated equally.

Though, I feel this [former] Fort Worth teacher had every right to babble on about her views to Trump [and anyone else], she also has to maintain that respectful level of standard. If I was her student or a student’s parent and I found out that she tweeted Trump about a matter dear to my heart and personal situation, I may not hold her in the same light. Our relationship and connection may be thwarted by her poor decision to publicly act indecent. The teacher should have abandoned her post to find a profession that pairs with her ethics and morals. There are lots of jobs in . . . um . . . well, that’s for another blog.

Anyway, educators, think, think, think before you put something on any platform that may come back to haunt and be used against you because you decided to lower your standard. Emails and even personalized text messages have been used against people in the workplace. Remember, if you are in a position where your ethical and moral values don’t reflect those of your profession, you should probably make some changes.

STOP THE HATE! TWEET SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOUR FOLLOWERS LAUGH, respectfully. Bring people together. Go to a coffee shop and talk to someone. Meet someone new, different, and extraordinary. Simply, be nice! Enjoy a walk outside and reflect on how you can be a better person and make a difference in society.

Every year, I’d show my students a Soul Pancake video of strangers in a ball pit who talk and question one another to find their own ‘common.’ IT’S HEARTFELT AND TOUCHING.

Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfHV4-N2LxQ

#TheEnd

Happy Pride, Teachers.

As I sit and ponder my thoughts on this beautiful Friday afternoon in Dallas, Texas, I cannot escape the social media focused on PRIDE WEEKEND this weekend. While pride has made several changes this year as far as location goes, I want to highlight all of the current, past, and future LGBTQIA educators. When I was in the classroom, I was not exactly able to be my actual self. I mean, I was ‘out’ to my teacher colleagues; however, my gayness wasn’t exactly the topic of conversation with my elementary students.

In Texas, like many other states, LGBTQIA people can still be discriminated against for their sexual orientation. In recent years, down the street in Mansfield, Texas, a lesbian art teacher was fired for showing a picture of her future wife to her students. She sued the district for violating her rights; however, I’m not sure of the outcome. I do know that many I am saddened for this situation to take place and can empathize with her frustration.

I want to take you back to my very first teaching position back in Tampa, Florida. I literally started mid-year, on a January Monday morning. The eighth grade physical education teacher left without notifying his students about his departure. I was not ready for what I was about to experience [That’s another story]. By the end of the school year, though, many students were questioning my sexual orientation. In eighth grade, the kids were already sexually active themselves, sadly. I remember a particular student, from Sweden or Switzerland, asking me if I sucked d*ck. I was shocked! She threw me off guard, big time. I didn’t know how to answer, but disciplining her for her disrespectful language was out of the question. Schools don’t do much these days with that. I kind of brushed it off, until the very last day of the school year. I knew I wasn’t coming back to the school. I went up to that particular student and asked her if she remembered what she had asked me earlier in the school year. She knew exactly what I was referring to and tempted to repeat it. I pretty much stopped her with my facial gesture [nothing sexual], solving the mystery. We hugged, as she was 100% supportive.

When I moved to Dallas and worked as a K-5 physical educator, I never came out to any of my students or parents. It was quite easy to hide my sexual orientation from the K-4 students. I do believe that some of the 5th graders were hesitant to consider me straight. Once again, I was out to my colleagues, but not out to my students, parents, or the community. This was also the case when I taught 5th grade mathematics at a local public school. Though I was out to my colleagues and knew that my sexual orientation wasn’t information my students needed to know, I always felt a sense of inadequacy and it actually hindered my self-esteem and confidence. I couldn’t have pictures on my desk of my partner. I couldn’t have my partner’s photo appear on my locked screen on my cell phone. When my partner had sent me something, such as Tiff’s Treats or Nothing Bundt Cakes [both are amazing], I had to hide the card he sent me and brush off questions from students about the sender. The kids always assumed it was a female colleague sender.

My partner and me

Kids at my last school constantly thought I was dating many of my female colleagues that I spoke with in the hallways or hung out with outside of school. They always asked me if I was with certain female teachers. One student asked if I had a side piece, too. By the way, some of the fifth graders at my last school were sexually active. Yes! In fifth grade. I actually played off their ‘straight’ assumptions of me dating my female colleagues. I mean, what would they think of me if they found out Dr. Hampson was gay? Many would be okay with it, but many wouldn’t look at me the same. Just when I thought some of the students cracked my sexual orientation, they’d question me about being with another female colleague. I was relieved every time. Honestly, I think if I had taught sixth grade and higher, the kids would’ve known so much more about my sexual orientation. Kids are super intuitive and I was able to dissuade K-5 kids from finding out my sexual orientation, but I’d be fearful as the kids age. That one grade higher frightens me with anxiety.

I haven’t even touched on my interactions with parents and the community. Because I was hiding who I actually was, I lacked self-esteem and confidence. Especially, when I was one-on-one with parents. I felt more comfortable with several parents who I had built a strong rapport with, but I still felt that inadequacy and loss of being my true self. I also worked in an area where family traditions weren’t particularly supportive of the LGBTQIA community, in a general sense. Of course, there were plenty of families that I assumed were open-minded. In fact, one of my previous colleagues and friend who taught music, was gay and out. I don’t know if he necessarily ‘came out,’ but the kids and parents assumed he was gay and he didn’t hide it. I remember hearing several students talk about this teacher being gay throughout the year, but I didn’t hear negative comments and that made me feel more comfortable.

This next generation is surprisingly open-minded and tolerant. I am hopeful that more people will feel comfortable with themselves, both personally and professionally. Whether I attend the pride festivities or not this weekend, I am grateful to be able to be myself as I assume my next professional role in higher education. I hope that teachers of all sexual orientations are able to be themselves as tolerance and acceptance heightens throughout America.

Happy Pride, Y’all!

Shifting Schools to 4-Day Weeks

It’s time for school districts to reflect on their current systems in order to compete in the education world. It’s time to change educational trends to attract better teachers while improving functionality and implementation. Isn’t it about time that school leaders shift their organizations’ policies and regulations to meet the growing trends of society?

A school district in a Denver, Colorado suburb did just that by shifting to a four-day school day. This past school year [2018-2019] was the very first year and it was highly appreciated by the teachers and students in the district. The school days were a bit longer, but teachers already work long hours. Most teachers aren’t able to leave when the students leave their campuses. In fact, many teachers stay hours after their mandated work hours to catch up on work related tasks. There were times that I stayed at school until 9:00 PM working on grading, changing my room around, decorating my room, lesson planning, and other stuff.

The superintendent of the Colorado school district indicated that his district was one of the lowest in the state regarding funding and teacher pay; therefore he had to be creative in order to attract teacher talent.

Teachers left surrounding districts because they were attracted to the four-day work week. Teachers had more leisure time and time to spend on planning for their students. Students had time to enjoy the outdoors and with family. Some high school students were able to spend their one weekday off working and saving money for college.

Parents weren’t so on board with the change because of the inconvenience and the extra expenses that many had to spend on such things like daycare.

I think change is necessary to stay on top of the trends that attract highly qualified teachers. In this example, teachers were stoked about the workday and not so much focused on the unsuitable teacher pay. The superintendent actually said that this simple change attracted more teachers with graduate degrees and he was able to fill positions that were difficult to fill prior. The superintendent also insisted that higher teacher salaries was never on the table, therefore, he knew he had to be a game-changer, think outside the box, and challenge his community to accept his district’s school day transformation.

I am an advocate for constant change when the change is a forward-thinking, pioneering change. Teachers, in general, are quite used to change. Many are antagonistic of change in its primal stages, but eventually come to terms with its acceptance once perfected. There is a difference in change that causes continual chaos in the workplace and change that promotes continual progression and productivity.

Are you a proponent of a 4-day school week?

Bernie and Charter Schools

Charter schools have been a hot topic in recent years because of its school of choice regulations, yet, many Americans have a difficult time deciphering the difference between public, charter, and private schools. Most recently, Bernie Sanders (D), a presidential candidate, announced a policy, A Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education, that would ‘Create an education system that works for all people.’ Bernie’s plan targets 10 key items:

  1. Combating Racial Discrimination and School Segregation
  2. End the Unaccountable Profit-Motive of Charter Schools
  3. Equitable Funding for Public Schools
  4. Strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  5. Give Teachers a Much-Deserved Raise and Empower them to Teach
  6. Expand After-School/Summer Education Programs
  7. Universal School Meals
  8. Community Schools
  9. School Infrastructure
  10. Make Schools a Safe and Inclusive Place for All

Since this blog focuses on charters schools, I’d like to just talk about number 2 on the list: Ending the unaccountable profit-motive of charter schools. Bernie insists that charter schools have impacted minority communities with its on-going racial segregation. Bernie indicated, “Seventeen percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority, compared to 4 percent of traditional public schools. This has led the NAACP, the NEAAFT and others to criticize the charter movement for intensifying racial segregation.”

So what are charter schools and how are they different from public and private schools?

Charter schools are tuition-free, open-enrollment schools of choice that are independent public schools. Meaning, they operate like a public school, but have freedom in the way they govern. Charter schools have to follow educational laws, but have some independence on some rules. Many charter schools operate based on a lottery system. Students can reside outside of the school’s area and still attend.

Private schools are privately funded, non-state schools. Private schools have almost no government oversight, meaning, they have the freedom to govern as they see fit. The student selection process is up to the school and the students are charged a tuition. Many private schools are affiliated with a particular religion. Students can come from all neighboring areas.

Public schools are tuition-free, publicly funded state schools. They receive government funding and must meet specific criteria set by the American governing body, meaning, they must follow all local, state and federal educational laws. Students must attend the public schools that are located near their residence.

I have worked at both public schools and charter schools. The experiences varied, based on the district’s [or network] leadership and how they allocated funds. I have seen the good and bad that come with both institutions. I do know that our education system, as a whole, needs a transformative overhaul and it’s important to have the conversations that are currently taking place.

I view this topic as I view our politics. If you’re for charter schools, you’re most likely going to support charter schools. If you’re for public education, well . . . you’re going to support public schools. If you have zero idea what a charter school is or are simply uniformed of this topic in general. . . you’re probably not going to give a sh*t either way.

Read Bernie’s plan at: https://berniesanders.com/a-thurgood-marshall-plan-for-public-education/

Teachers Ask, Community Gives.

The school year is coming to a close for many teachers, though, the stress and anxiety for the next school year has already begun. As teachers start to enjoy their shortened, needed summer breaks, they’re already planning in their heads what they’ll need for next year’s kiddos. People acknowledge that teachers are poorly paid, but many do not understand the scarce resources that many districts provide to their teachers.

At a charter school that I worked at, my friends bought my classroom lined paper so that students could have paper to use to complete their work. In all of the schools I worked at, access to the copier machine was a challenge. Teachers were limited on the number of copies they could make because of ‘budgetary reasons.’ Teachers were not allowed to even use the lamination machine because a teacher left it on and that ruined it for the entire staff. Many schools have outdated textbooks with interactive resources for classroom sizes of 10, meaning, teachers better use cooperative grouping if they want to reach ALL of their kids.

Anyway, teachers need help from their communities to fund their classrooms. It isn’t a surprise, though, when teachers spend their own paychecks on their students, classrooms, and schools, and, yet, still do not request help from parents and the public. There are websites that are great for helping teachers to fund school resources.

Classroom Giving is an organization where you can get involved. Teachers can post what they need and the public can help to fund those needs. Check their website out here: https://classroomgiving.org

When I was in the classroom, I used DonorsChoose.org, another great resource to help fund teacher resources. However, teachers need to know that materials funded belong to the school itself. The teacher will use the material funded, but if the teacher leaves the school, the principal has to sign off on letting the funded resources go with that teacher. It tends to get complicated.

“Materials funded through DonorsChoose.org are the property of the public school or Head Start center at which the teacher is employed when resources are shipped. The teacher who created the project is the sole steward of the donation while employed at the school, carrying out the project for which the materials were donated.” – DonorsChoose.org

When I worked at the charter school where my friends provided paper, I also used Donors Choose to fund a projector so that I could implement technology. My family actually funded the projector [through Donors Choose] and the projector was sent to the school in my name. The school received, opened, and inventoried my projector. Mind you, I had to create and get this funded through my own doing. When I left the school, I felt as though the projector belonged to me and should be used in my next educational environment. The school thought otherwise. It can become a messy transaction so be aware of that. My thoughts were, ‘If the school allocated funding to ensure best practices of student learning, I wouldn’t have to fund this projector [and other materials] myself. My friends wouldn’t have to buy my students paper! I did all the work and my awful school gets to keep it? But the CEO’s brother was the operations manger of the three schools in the network and drove a newer Mercedes and a Range Rover. Hmmm…”

I reached out to Classroom Giving to verify their OWNERSHIP POLICY and will update this when they respond to my request. This is a great opportunity for teachers and the community to come together to help fund classrooms and schools. Teachers, be cognizant of who owns the funded materials!

Teachers Change Lives…in a Failed System.

Armando Christian Pérez was on the View this morning and inspired me to write about his past, present, and outlook on education. Armando opened up an estimated ten locations, since 2013, of his SLAM charter school network in various states. SLAM stands for Sports Leadership and Management.

Though he did not graduate from high school nor attend college, Armando has become an inspirational leader for disadvantaged students worldwide. While on the view, Armando stated, “The system was booked to fail you, instead of push you through. Why is education so important to me? Because a teacher changed my life. Ironically, the system might have failed me, but a teacher changed my life. A teacher believed in me.”

In the short segment that Mr. Pérez was on the view, discussing his challenged, disparaged childhood and educational journey, he maintained a positive outlook on life thanking his mom and a singular teacher who changed his life. This particular teacher pushed him to take risks because his teacher expressed, “the biggest risk you take is not taking one.”

The system has been failing students and teachers for decades. However, even with a continually failing system, everyone can remember a teacher who made a difference in their lives and who inspired and influenced them to be more kind, to be a better person, and/or to be successful in life.

Great teachers are leaving the profession. More and more teachers who love what they do are exiting because of the failed system, not because of the kids. The system has failed teachers to do their jobs. Teachers, current and past, know exactly what I am talking about. Teacher expectations, including class sizes, are increasing yearly; however, their school districts lose funding or money is allocated elsewhere, hindering their pay and benefits.

I have been expressing to everyone I know that education needs a major overhaul and transformation. We have school leaders in positions where they are ineffective due to their lack of knowledge of the ever-changing profession. These leaders who taught in 2005, or even 2010, and became leaders continue to use systems that worked back in those times, however, ineffective in today’s schools. Principals who taught even five years ago are out of the loop, in many cases.

Every teacher knows that students act differently when school leaders walk in, therefore, these leaders experienced a flawed viewpoint of the classroom and teacher effectiveness. I could go on an on, to be honest.

What needs to happen, though, is a focus on teacher happiness and satisfaction. Any CEO with a successful business model will tell you that happy employees create happy customers. Education needs to implement this too. Happy teachers will produce happy students, creating successful communities. Students should always be a priority, obviously. They are bringing in the funding after all, but a shift needs to occur to target the overall well-being of ‘the teacher.’

Thank you, Armando Christian Pérez, for all that you have done for education. You may know him as an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer, named PITBULL.

Pay Teachers More? HOW DARE YOU!?

Texas teachers have been waiting patiently [for years] for pay raises that match the pay of other professions. Currently, Texas legislators are working on an education reform bill that will potentially give educators more money in their pockets.

Does this sound too good to be true?

Many teachers are depending on their districts to give them the $5,000 raise that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has insinuated would happen for months, and many teachers simply don’t really believe it’s going to happen.

FYI teachers, this bill will not be all pay raises as expected. Your individual districts will decide what to do with the allocations afforded to them by the state. Meaning, you may get a raise, amount determined by your district, or you may get lowered premiums towards your healthcare that will ultimately give you more money in your paychecks. The amount, though, will vary depending on your district.

According to Andrea Zelinski and Allie Morris at the Houston Chronicle, “Public school teachers in Texas could see a pay raise under the Legislature’s sweeping education reform bill, but the size depends on the district, which can choose whether to boost salaries or put the money toward health insurance benefits.”

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/In-Texas-education-funding-plan-more-teacher-13895782.php

Teachers in Texas are still making less money compared to the national average.

Fernando Ramirez at the Houston Chronicle indicated, “Texas teacher’s ranked 28th on the list, with a salary $52,575, faring better than surrounding states Oklahoma ($45,292), Lousiana ($50,000), Arkansas ($48,304) and New Mexico ($47,122), but still lagging an impressive $7,085 behind the national average.”

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Texas-teacher-salaries-lag-far-behind-U-S-12886188.php

Over the past several years, we have seen many teachers in many states protest for more, well-deserved pay. We have seen an uprise [about time] to ensure that teachers are compensated for their hard work and dedication to the profession. States like Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, North Carolina, California, and West Virginia have all endured official teacher strikes; however, rallies around the country are continuing to gain momentum.

Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, has called for a national starting pay for teachers at $60,000 a year. He has also indicated a desire to ban for-profit charter schools.

Every election year, politicians empathize with teachers about their working conditions and underpaid compensation; however, once elected, there has been little interest to invest in teacher working conditions and pay raises. We are going in a foward direction, but we are going at the speed of a ‘school zone’ instead of going 85 mph on State Highway 130.

Teachers, confront your districts and continue to rally for what you deserve! It’s a waiting game at this point, but I am hopeful that districts will start appreciating their teachers and staff. We will see if this is actually too good to be true!

HEY COACH! THE REASON WHY I TAUGHT.

Yesterday, I was eating at a local Mexican restaurant and noticed a child, about 10 years old staring at me as he passed by. He and his family were eating next to our booth, behind where I was positioned. The boy was on his phone and he passed by a couple of more times. I finally turned around and asked if they had gone to Uplift Education, a local charter school that I worked at. The family said, “Yes.” I then asked if the boy went to Luna, where I taught physical education years ago. The family became overly joyed as they responded with, “Yes, he does!”

The boy is going into the 5th grade next school year. I was his PE teacher when he was in kindergarten! I was ecstatic to run into him and his family. His name is Adrian and he remembered me from so long ago! He immediately asked me if we could take a picture together! Man, kids know how to make you feel like a celebrity [especially when you run into them outside the classroom].

Adrian’s family and I continued talking for a bit longer about school and education in general. The family was just so happy that we ran into one another and the grandmother remembered me as the PE teacher and the guy who directed traffic in the school’s daily carline!

Teachers, embrace these moments when they happen to you! I was always hesitant, at first, to run into my students when I was a teacher. At times, I would run the other way! I know you have, too! Now, I look forward to those moments! I always say that teachers love the aspect of teaching and being in the classroom with their students. It’s the other ‘stuff‘ [and other stakeholders] that destroys the profession. But running into prior students trumps the negative ‘stuff’ and horrible experiences that I endured outside of the classroom, away from my students.

The family took my blog info and I look forward to keeping in touch with them! Keep in touch!

Hands Up! Watch Your Mouth!

Texas senate passed a bill that Governor Greg Abbott(R) will most likely sign into law that will allow so-called SCHOOL MARSHALS (teachers…yes, teachers) to have access to guns intended to protect students and prevent school shootings.

As a previous educator, I want to whole-heartedly denounce this bill as the worst possible solution to preventing school shootings and keeping students safe. Everyone pretty much knows that teachers are overworked and under-appreciated. Oh! And teachers are, of course, underpaid. But I think it’s important to focus on teachers’ attitudes and their trigger-happy capabilities.

Marshals receive 80 hours of training, including practice in “live shooter” scenarios.

“Gun rights advocates say the marshals will save lives. But teachers’ groups and gun control activists worry that more guns on campus, even concealed weapons, will lead to potentially lethal accidents. Critics have also suggested that it could lead to more violence against African American students because of inherent biases.”

https://abc13.com/society/texas-senate-passes-bill-to-arm-more-school-teachers-/5314453/

In my experience inside and outside of the classroom, I have witness teacher tantrums, excusable and inexcusable. I have seen racism and biases against students of color. I have seen the downward spiral of teachers constantly targeting the same students and the low self-esteem that resulted from the constant ‘teacher terror.’

While I was in the classroom serving disadvantaged students in Title I schools, student discipline was always an issue. The principals were continually running around with their heads cut off trying to manage discipline with ineffective strategies and techniques. In most cases, students were given a nice talking to and sent back to class with zero consequences.

Therefore, teachers have had to up their game with their own classroom management techniques that target character, discipline, achievement, community, and reward. Classroom management in and of itself can be exhausting, especially for new teachers. Piss a teacher off with a gun and what? Hands up, watch your mouth, kid! What happens when a teacher feels threatened and they are simply overreacting?

Teachers cannot even handle their own personal drama in their work settings. I like to refer to schools as a Big Brother household. Not all schools, but the ones I’ve worked at and the stories my teacher friends tell all relate to either teacher drama or student discipline. I encountered so much drama that it became exhaustive to even deal with. The many times that I confronted the sh*t-talking villains, many would play victim and claim that I was threatening and disrespectful. I could just imagine that if I was a School Marshal with a gun, how some of the villain sh*t-talking teachers would respond.

Teachers aren’t always right, either. Many look for arguments, especially with the same students. Many teachers prey on kids because they know they’ll get a reaction out of them. I had such amazing relationships with my students that they would feel comfortable spilling the T on their other teachers. I would see when teachers were in the wrong when talking to students or disciplining students when the teacher was the one who provoked it all. Don’t even get me started on the loud teacher…more on that later.

Teachers need the resources and a stabilizing, healthy work environment to teach, effectively. The Governor should be focused on the student achievement gap, teacher pay and benefits, and teacher happiness and satisfaction.

“Arming teachers is not the way to fight school violence,”

Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers’ Association.

A teacher shouldn’t be capable of pointing a gun at a student who is disrespectful or misbehaves, or a teacher who he or she simply cannot stand, especially if that same teacher is the sh*t-talking, preying villain. Dialogue and reform are necessary to combat school shootings, but the resolution is supposed to negate schools from becoming war zones, not creating them.

Elementary School Teacher ‘ALLEGEDLY’ Threatened Her School After Resignation. What if She’s Innocent?

When I first read the headline of this teacher who threatened to ‘shoot up’ her school after she resigned, I thought, “Maybe it’s true, but what if she actually hadn’t done so?”

People are so quick to assume guilt, of many situations. The word ‘ALLEGEDLY’ means accused, but not proven.

When I left teaching, I felt there were teachers who planted things in their brains in regards to unimaginable, unethical behaviors. With zero proof, these said teachers, gossiped, of course, creating unimaginable scenarios in their heads. In schools, particularly elementary schools, gossip makes its way around like the plague. I pretty much considered working in the elementary school setting as being on the set of Big Brother.

To my point, because the principal didn’t fancy me much, and these teachers disliked me (because I had previously put them in their places for talking sh*t about me and others), I feel their target on me could’ve easily ended with me in a similar situation that this teacher in North Carolina who ‘allegedly’ threatened her school is in now. I’m not saying she’s innocent, but I’m not saying she’s guilty.

I’ve learned that people, particularly, people in high positions take care of one another, sometimes covering up for them in bad situation. Because of credentials, principals are ‘allegedly’ always correct when it comes to their viewpoints because of their high positions and relationships with higher ups in the district. Throughout my short time with my last principal, I realized that she could [and did] make some pretty little white lies in many of her statements about me; however, because she’s the principal and could portray me as insubordinate, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

Give this teacher an opportunity to prove herself innocent or guilty.

Oh! And on another note, the law is designed to make money from the accused. That story to come…

Next Year…STAY OR GO?

It’s that time of the year when teachers are exhausted, annoyed, and ready for summer. With summer fast approaching, one would think that teachers would be feeling less tense and anxiety. In fact, it’s simply the opposite for many teachers. Some are enduring summer school to make ends meet, financially, and many are contemplating on going back to their schools next year. They’re questioning whether there are better schools out there; however, scared to take that leap of faith. If they go back, will they encounter the same bullshit politics that they experienced prior to this point in their lives? If they go to another school, if even hired, will they experience worse work conditions?

Even when interviewing, educators love to play ‘GOT YA’ questions with their tone-deaf, unauthentic general questions. When I was part of the hiring committee at my previous school, the room turned into a ‘mean girls’ party. Seriously, as the only male in the room, it was awkward to say the least. The teachers and principal talked a lot of ‘smack’ after each interviewee. It was a sad experience for me and I felt bad for the teacher candidates, though, for those who didn’t get the job, I’d say they were better off in a different school. At one point, the principal let us know that her boss (executive director) let her know that she needs to hire ASAP and it’s time to get the 2am candidates because those at 10pm aren’t showing up. Meaning, when you’re drunk, you settle! We started settling for candidates because hiring became scarce. One of the candidates, a newbie to education, interviewed over the phone. When I searched for her on social media, I showed the committee. Drama ensued, of course. Name calling from the committee, including the principal ensued. Her social media said she was a model and boy that sparked debate.

My point is that teachers are in a bind. Leave or stay? Do they leave their comfort zone of instability and chaos for something new and unknown? Do they stay because they come back for the kids? Do they endure an exhaustive, condescending hiring process where they have to prove themselves, professionally and personally? I left the teaching profession and it took me 6 months to find a job. It’s worth the move. I say, if your leadership has failed you and made your experience less than satisfactory, leave! Find a new school or leave the profession and be an advocate like me!

Teacher Planning Time… Know Your Rights!

In Texas, law states that teachers are entitled to a daily 45-minute planning period that should be only used for lesson planning, parent conferences, and grading. Teachers do NOT have to attend other planned meetings set forth by their school and district leaders, peers, and so on. Teachers either do not know this law or know it and are still afraid to actually stand their lawful grounds by ensuring that the law is followed. Teachers need their planning time!

Texas Education Code, Section 21.404 says:
Each classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent-teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning. A planning and preparation period under this section may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.

The commissioner of education has interpreted the law to provide teachers with a great deal of discretion in how to use their time.
 

Decision of the Commissioner of Education
Strater v. Houston ISD (1986):

“The purpose of the planning and preparation period is to allow teachers ‘time to engage in parent-teacher conferences, reviewing students’ homework, and planning and preparation as the teacher, not the administration, deems best. The statute clearly relieves the teacher of any duty during this period of time and prohibits the district and its administration from requiring the teacher to engage in any other activity the administration determines to be useful and important.”

Welcome to my Blog!

I created this blog to give insight into my ‘undesirable’ experiences in education as an outspoken minority within the profession. Educators refrain from standing their ground, sticking up for their rights, and ensuring their own satisfaction and happiness because of the failed system and/or retaliation from administration, peers, and politics.

I want to provide an outlet of opportunity for educators, both past and present, to express their own ‘undesirable’ professional experiences in education! I was that teacher who stood up for teachers’ rights and was pushed out because of poor administration, both at the school and district levels.