Technology integration for high poverty schools is a luxury for most teachers. The teachers either have some outdated technology or none at all.
As a math teacher integrating technology honestly was not a priority until after an intense conversation with my son about 3 years ago. He was so disappointed because he felt like school had not prepared him for real life.
Our conversation really bothered be so much that I began to reflect and change how I taught math concepts to my students. I’ve always made sure that I connected math to real-life situations but I also included culturally responsive teaching and more technology.
Although I have plenty of experience with working in high poverty settings, making changes like these didn’t come without its challenges! There were many challenges that didn’t anticipate. For example, after getting a classroom set of Chromebooks I didn’t expect my high achieving students would have so many computer deficits. I had to take the time to teach them basic keyboard skills.
After implementing Google Classroom with just one of my three classes, I quickly realized that there are 5 simple steps that teachers in high poverty setting show follow to get started with Google Classroom.
1. Create a Plan
Before jumping feet first into using Google Classroom it is very important to create a plan. This plan should include:
Purpose – if you don’t set the purpose for implementing the platform the students will use is a entertainment tool
Expectations – lay the foundation of what you expect when using the platform
Consequences – what will you do when students don’t follow your expectations
Computer storage- where will you store your computer/how will you charge your computers
Frequency – how often do you want to use Google Classroom
Routines and Procedures – routines are the step by step process and the procedures are the how
2. Find Resources
There are many blogs, podcasts, and books that you can turn to when getting started with Google Classroom. When I decided that I wanted to use Google Classroom I began with Twitter. I found the hashtag for Google Classroom which then led me to other resources.
Being a change agents can sometimes be a lonely place. Often times it seemed as if I was the pioneer for trying to expose my students to more 21st Century skills. This made me look for resources outside of the school and sometimes the school district. If you want to implement innovative teaching ideas in your classroom don’t let the lack of support deter you because there are online communities that can provide the support that you will need.
3. Prepare Your Classroom
Preparing your classroom for technology integration may seem silly to some teachers. When I began to use Chromebooks on a daily basis it changed the dynamics of my classroom. I had to create an area to store the computers as well as additional routines and procedures for distributing and charging the computers.
It is not uncommon for students in high poverty setting to associate computers with entertainment. Throughout this process I learned that it’s a huge mind shift for me and the students when we began to use computers alongside paper and pencil.
4. Scaffold Google Classroom Introduction
Just like with your instruction you have scaffold the implementation of Google Classroom. Some of the students will go with it and be rock stars and others not so much! Of all of the resources that I have used, I think Alice Keeler’s blog does a great job of scaffolding instruction using Google Classroom.
When I introduced Google Classroom to my students I began with a simple Youtube video on the purpose of the platform. Then I created a question in the stream for the students to answer. Every week I introduced a new feature by creating a new assignment for the students.
5. Create Paperless Assignments
There are some teachers who have paperless classrooms. I’m not a fan of total paperless classrooms. Especially not for in a high poverty school, because a large majority of the students don’t have access to computers at home. Also, sometimes the technology doesn’t work. Creating a hard copy for the students allows me to continue with my lesson when the technology isn’t available.
There are 2 programs that I use to create paperless assignments that integrate with Google Classroom. Nearpod and EdPuzzle are 2 platforms that I use to create my assignments. I create Google Slides to create my lesson and Nearpod allows me to make the slides interactive. I use Edpuzzle to flip some of my lessons with videos.
There are a plethora of other apps, extensions, and platforms that can be used with Google Classroom. You have to remember that less is more!
If you started using Google Classroom or would like to start using Google Classroom you can download my FREE Google Classroom checklist below!
It’s been almost 6 months since Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains flooded Houston. Life has not been the same since the 40-50 foot Pine Tree fell on my house.
One would think that in 6 months my life would be back to normal. Nope! I moved into a duplex and slept on an air mattress for 3 months. Then I hotel hopped for 2 weeks before I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and moved into my unfinished house.
I have had so many ups and downs since Hurricane Harvey. To the point where I thought I couldn’t take much more and almost broke down in front of my students. Things aren’t as intense as they were after the storm but my life hasn’t returned to normal yet.
Back to Work
The most stressful part after Hurricane Harvey was going back to work. I wasn’t ready to go back at all! When it was finally time to go back, I was living in a house with huge holes in the roof. Every time it rained outside, it rained inside of the house. With every rainfall pieces of the kitchen and living room ceiling would crumble and fall.
With all of this going on at my house I went back to work anyway. My first week back at school was really difficult because I didn’t have all of my materials because my home life had been turned upside down. I began teaching anyway. We were 2 weeks behind so I had to get started fast. If you teach in Texas you know that 5th and 8th grade teachers teach 9 months of curriculum in 6 months. Since we lost 2 weeks to Hurricane Harvey and a week to the ice storm we only had 5 months to prepare our students for STAAR testing.
I figured dealing with being displaced would be difficult but not having enough time to effectively teach your content is the pits! I feel so bad because I have had to cut so many activities out because I don’t have enough time for them.
My principal asked me last week how did I feel about this school year compared to last school year. My response was there’s not any comparison. Last year I had enough time to prepare my students for these high stakes tests. This year I’m just praying that the information sticks!
When that Pine Tree fell on my house I felt helpless. With all the donations that were pouring in you would think that someone would ask about the teachers. I have to admit I didn’t expect my school district to do anything for us but make us work like Hebrew slaves. Based on how the school district handled other situations, I didn’t expect much from anyone at the district office.
Well, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when my principal told us that if we needed to take care of Hurricane Harvey related business that it wouldn’t be a problem. This is even true 6 months later. Trust me when I say I have had to leave early or come late to school because I either had to call or deal with the insurance company, mortgage company, or the contractor.
What shocked me even more is that instead of using a donation that was given to the school district for other things our superintendent gave up to $5,000 to teachers and other staff members that were affected due to Hurricane Harvey.
The lesson that Hurricane Harvey taught me is that people still do care about teachers. My perception of my school district has totally changed because our superintendent saw people with real problems instead of just employees of a school district.
The title of my blog post is Who will care for the teachers? I asked this question because teachers are people too. I hope by sharing my story teachers will not remain faceless when decisions are being made that may devastate the already devastated.
The concept of scaffolding can actually be tied to Lev Vitgosky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky believed that a learner’s developmental level consisted of two parts: the “actual developmental level” and the “potential developmental level. Scaffolding can be described as the bridge that is used to connect what a student already knows to the new learning that he or she will acquire. It is essentially connecting the new to the known.
Why should scaffolding be important to educators?
Scaffolding instruction should be like gold to educators teaching in high needs schools or who teach a diverse population of students. Teachers who scaffold their lessons when teaching complex concepts are telling their students that they believe in their students’ “potential” to learn what they are teaching. The actual development level of their students does not make them shy away from teaching their lesson or compel them to water down the content.
Student achievement is important to teachers who plan their lessons for students who may need more support with the on grade level content. The grade level standard is the goal and the scaffolded lesson is the road map that teachers use to get students to reach the goal.
Teachers who scaffold their lessons when teaching complex concepts are telling their students that they believe in their students’ “potential” to learn what they are teaching. Click To Tweet
What does scaffolding look like in a lesson?
Scaffolding may look different in each content area. According to Wood, Bruner, and Ross scaffolding most effective when support is matched to the needs of the learner. For example, the needs of a student in math may not be the same in reading.
Many administrators tend to generalize students, academic ability. They will ask questions like, “Why is this student doing so well in reading and not in math?” I cannot tell you how many times I have had to have this lively discussion about why certain students perform well in reading and are in the red in math. It seems as if there’s this new idea among certain administrators that if a student is strong is one area they should strong in every content area. NEWS FLASH!!! It doesn’t work like that.
The grade level standard is the goal and the scaffolded lesson is the road map that teachers use to get students to reach the goal. Click To Tweet
Scaffolding vs. Discovery
Over years I have heard some trainers and teachers say, “Let the students discover first.” I always wonder why would I let them discover when they don’t have a clue about what to look for! From a Vitgotskyian approach to learning the teacher’s role is to moderate the students’ learning activity as they share knowledge through social interactions (Dixon-Krauss, 1996 p.18)
Scaffolding is an important part of effective teaching. It can include modeling, providing cues, and creating an activity the builds from basic to complex.
When attempting to scaffold a lesson consider these 4 questions:
How will you assess the students’ background knowledge?
What will you use to connect the new learning to what the students already know?
How will you break the content into smaller chunks?
When will you provide feedback?
Teachers of diverse learners cannot afford to create lessons that just require him/her to stand and deliver. All students have potential. Are you creating lessons that communicate that you believe in your students’ potential?
Having students that are working at multiple grade levels can be stressful for even for the most seasoned teacher. It really shouldn’t be a surprise when teachers struggle with implementing Tier 2 interventions.
The response to intervention model is very clear about what steps to take when students are not making progress with Tier 1 instruction. Yet, schools with large populations of high need stundents continue to struggle to ensure that Tier 2 inventions are taking place.
There are 3 reasons why teachers struggle with with implementing Tier 2 interventions.
1.Tier 2 students are not identified
At the beginning of the school year teachers are busy giving BOY (beginning of the year) tests, reviewing data from the previous year, and disaggregating data from the current year. DATA ,DATA, DATA! Schools are data rich2 but are information poor. This means that teachers are unable to take the data and translate it into useful information. There’s so much data that teachers are using ONLY raw data to make instructional decisions.
Schools are data rich but information poor. Click To Tweet
2. Teacher don’t know where to begin
With all of the technology that is available to schools many teachers struggle with putting a RTI plan together for students. Sometimes students have huge academic gaps that it’s overwhelming for less experienced teachers. For example, if a 5th grader struggles with reading most teachers who have not taught reading at a lower level will not know know where to begin this student’s interventions. This this then leads to students not receiving any remediation if adequate support is NOT available for the teacher.
3. Remediation is non-existent
Often times effective remediation is not offered to students. Since education has become so test driven that Tier 2 interventions have become test prep practice. Most tutorials that are supposed to help students with skills and concepts are “how to pass the test” sessions. Teachers , through no fault of their own, have to focus on helping students to master test taking skills. True interventions/remediation doesn’t stand a chance in a system that is so focused on passing tests.
Even in a high stakes test driven school system I have managed to effectively implement Tier 2 interventions. You can register for my live FREE Response to Intervention webinar here.
I have always taught in low income or as some would call them high poverty schools. Over the course of 17 years my view of my role at these schools has drastically changed .
When I finally moved up to a high stakes testing grade level I used to love being the underdog and then coming out on top. Then all of a sudden at the beginning of the 2008 school that feeling had vanished and was replaced with boredom.
I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings
After my 9th year of teaching in Houston I left Texas and temporarily moved to Louisiana. I was tired of the constant emphasis on testing. I’m sure you’re wondering why of all places I moved to Louisiana. I began my teaching career in Texas and all I was groomed to become a Texas teacher with Texas ideals. That meant absolutely NO creativity or innovative thinking. As I approached my 10th year of teaching I began to feel like I was a mouse on a wheel.
Although the East Baton Rouge Parish School System was in total chaos, I was able to tap into my creative side. I received training that increased my math pedagogy. I also became the educator voice for education policy at the state capitol. Two years after leaving Texas I was finally off of the mouse wheel.
While I had finally gotten off of the mouse wheel I knew that Houston was my home. On December 7, 2014 with my new found knowledge I left Louisiana and moved back to Texas. I was so happy to be back home but I quickly realized that not much had changed in the Texas school system. While I was learning all of these new instructional strategies in Louisiana many of my Texas colleagues were using the same old teaching strategies.
After a year and a half of teaching in the Texas public school system I knew that I had changed but the school system had not. To make matters worse the administrators that I worked under made it abundantly clear that they weren’t interested in creativity of innovative teaching ideas.
I found the article on the Internet and much to my surprise I had finally had a name for my resistance to the pedagogy of the Texas public school. Everything that the professor talks about in the article gave me confirmation that my caged bird feeling is valid!
I have such a different view of how teaching and learning should looking in the urban classroom. I do believe that students in urban schools should have structure, however they shouldn’t be treated as prisoners inside of the school or classroom. I think children should be taught how to behave instead of being controlled instead of being told what to do and how to think. The Pedagogy of Poverty doesn’t appeal to me, but the author of the article states that The pedagogy of poverty appeals to several constituencies:
It appeals to those who themselves did not do well in schools. People who have been brutalized are usually not rich sources of compassion. And those who have failed or done poorly in school do not typically take personal responsibility for that failure. They generally find it easier to believe that they would have succeeded if only somebody had forced them to learn.
It appeals to those who rely on common sense rather than on thoughtful analysis. It is easy to criticize humane and developmental teaching aimed at educating a free people as mere “permissiveness,” and it is well known that “permissiveness” is the root cause of our nation’s educational problems.
It appeals to those who fear minorities and the poor. Bigots typically become obsessed with the need for control.
It appeals to those who have low expectations for minorities and the poor. People with limited vision frequently see value in limited and limiting forms of pedagogy. They believe that at-risk students are served best by a directive, controlling pedagogy.
It appeals to those who do not know the full range of pedagogical options available. This group includes most school administrators, most business and political reformers, and many teachers.
I cannot tell you how many people that I have met that fit the above description. I have worked with minority teachers who live and die by the Pedagogy of Poverty by having low expectations for students who look like them. Every time I witness the pedagogy of poverty in progress my response is always the same. You can’t expect students to think and act like intelligent human beings when appropriate behavior isn’t taught and reinforced.
School districts will continue to graduate student who have bathed in the nuisances of the pedagogy of poverty. If the cycle is going to be broken it will require teachers and administrators to work together to fulfill the true function of education.
Tuesday morning was just like any morning except on this particular Tuesday morning Hurricane Harvey had made landfall on the the coast of Texas. After a night of pouring rain I went outside to make sure that the trenches that my son and I dug to help the water drain were working. After being outside for a while I immediately noticed that the there were huge gusts of wind. I looked up at the tree tops of the pine trees swaying in the wind and decided to go live on Facebook to talk about the possibility of one of the trees falling.
My dog Sam follows me everywhere I go, so as usual while I sat on the couch he was lying on the living room floor. Not long after I sat down on the couch Sam’s ears perked up and I heard a cracking noise. I jumped up off of the couch and ran to the front door. When I reached the front door I turned around and a large pine tree branch crashed through the ceiling. The tree didn’t immediately fall so I turned around to see what was going to happen. I don’t know why I stopped at the front door but that moment will be forever etched into my memory.
On the Road to Recovery
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get the pine tree off of my house. It had been on my house for 2 days and the weight of the tree had begun to put more stress on the frame of the house. The city of Houston was a disaster and all of the entrances to my neighborhood were flooded. Well to make a long story short my mechanic (of all people) volunteered to cut this 50 ft. pine tree. The tree cutting began with 2 men and ended with 6. By 6 pm the tree had finally been cut in half and taken off of my house. Knowing that the tree was off of the house gave me a sense of relief.
While scrolling down my Facebook timeline I came across this article by US News “Houston Schools Chief: Many Students Will Lose Everything” This headline immediately made me feel like nobody cared about what was happening to teachers. For the first time I felt like going back to work may not be an option because with everything that was going on I felt like I was one loop short of fruit loop.
Going Back to Work
The first day of school was supposed to be August 28th two days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. That date has come and gone and the start date is now Sept. 11th. Teachers across Texas are hurting and it seems as if nobody is asking about the teachers. In addition to my home life being in shambles my school was damaged by the storm so I don’t even know where I’ll be working. My stress levels are already high because I will have to move out of my house and I’m going back to a classroom to deal with students who may have lost everything.
I don’t want to sound like what my students are going through isn’t important but I’m a person too. My question is “Who will care for the teachers?” I’m very fortunate to have educator friends and a teacher union who cares about teachers. Hurricane Harvey has left Texas in a state of devastation and shock. Setting a start date for school can’t be the sole focus of the school district. School districts have to take care of their teachers too!
All too often when teachers discuss classroom management I hear, “When I was in school…..blah, blah,blah….” When a teacher begins his/her statement with “When I was in school” my eyes immediately roll because I want to ask the teacher are you teaching your mini clones? Don’t get me wrong I can understand these teacher’s frustrations but every generation is different.
It just baffles my mind to hear these teacher’s view of classroom management. For this very reason I realized that there was a need for a classroom management class that met the needs of teachers who teach in diverse settings.
This summer I facilitated my first classroom management training. I know what you’re thinking, but this was no ordinary classroom management training! This is a 3-hour training and only focuses on 3 topics: building relationships, culturally responsive management, routines and procedures.
Developing Culturally Competency
This past weekend I attended The National Council on Teaching Mathematics Affiliates Leader Conference because I’m the NCTM Rep for the Benjamin Banneker Association . NCTM has taken up the issue of access and equity in mathematics education. So naturally cultural responsiveness was on the agenda. One of the over arching ideas of developing cultural competence is that teachers have to recognize biases, values, and ways of doing things that arise from their own culture. Before teachers can recognize these things they must be able to identify their social identity.
The goal of cultural responsiveness is to help students to succeed. The opposite of cultural responsiveness is called assimilationist practice, in which school systems attempt, consciously or not, to steer students into conforming to practices that are valued at school but at odds with their own culture (Ladson-Billings, 1994). I think as our students change over time, teachers have to examine what classroom management should look like in a classroom in 2017.
The Classroom Management Spectrum
Teachers often approach classroom management as either discipline or as a reward and routine. I’m not sure that teachers (me included) have ever looked at classroom room management from an student engagement standpoint.
The rationale behind student engagement focused classroom management is by shifting to a student-engagement focus, the teacher becomes more concerned with inclusion of all rather than exclusion of those misbehaving.
Some of the teachers that I talked about in beginning of the this article will ask why. Well the answer to their question is, students from home backgrounds more closely resembling the dominant school culture are most likely to feel engaged in school and have positive school relationships (Zyngier, 2008). Classroom management designed by European-American middle-class teachers for European-American middle-class students does not meet the needs of many of those who don’t fit that description (Milner & Tenore, 2010).
Strategies for the New School Year
Students who are not from the dominate culture will sometimes come to school with a resistant attitude. Research has proven that these students see themselves as outsiders to the culture of the school and this leads them to resist enculturation.
When teachers focus on engagement it recasts the role of the teacher from an authoritarian figure to a helping and collaborative relationship. Focusing on engagement can be demanding because it requires the teacher to get to know their students, the root of their disengagement, and how to address it.
Engagement is not “edutainment” it is creating authentic opportunities that allow students to actively engage in classroom activities. Students are best engaged through lived experiences, including popular culture, acknowledging their socioeconomic realities, cultural heritage, language, and the social context of the community (Yang, 2009).
1. Classroom Environment
When setting up your classroom for the new school year pay close attention to how you arrange your classroom and develop your routines and procedures. Sometimes teachers can inadvertently send negative messages about behavior through classroom arrangement, routines, and procedures. Using a classroom design that supports collaboration can enhance cultural relevance among those students who value cooperation over competition.
Personalizing your classroom environment can also encourage students to claim an important sense of ownership and familiarity with their surroundings. Every school year I see teachers buying decorations to create a classroom environment that resonates with the teacher. The classroom environment can be used strategically to communicate respect for diversity and cultural representation, to reaffirm connectedness and community, and to avoid marginalizing and disparaging students (Weinstein et al., 2003).
2. Routines and Procedures
Routines (sometimes called rituals) are shared, socially scripted patterns that reduce the cognitive complexity of the classroom (Leinhardt et al., 1987). Research suggests that teachers who start class immediately and interact with students throughout class time are more effective in terms of student achievement (Latham, 2002).
The nature of routines can contribute or take away from culturally classroom management. Strict and rigid routines can isolate students. Routines that encourage collaboration and community can make students feel like they are a part of your classroom and then use their own knowledge base to participate in the classroom activities.
Some questions to consider when planning for classroom routines and procedures can include:
What should the students do after they enter the classroom?
How will I distribute or collect student work?
What signals will I use to get the students’ attention, end an activity or regroup?
How will the students line up to go to the restroom?
How do I want the students to ask for help?
What should students do when they are finished with their work?
What will be the procedure for dismissal at the end of the day?
Classroom management is more than rules and discipline. The decorations, displays, classroom arrangement, routines and procedures are all essential parts of successfully managing a diverse classroom.
You can say that I’m the master of disaggregating data. I’m that teacher who can’t wait for the results of any test because it gives me starting point. I love data. When there’s not any data or enough data I feel lost.
Sadly I realize that this is not the case for many teachers. Most teachers that I have worked with have a basic understanding of using data to drive instruction. This means that they know that the students are not making progress but they don’t know how to use the data to get the students to meet grade level standards.
In addition to teachers not being able to effectively use data to driven instruction, many administrators will not admit that they are leading a school and do not know how to use data to drive instruction.
When teachers and administrators in inner city schools do not know how to use data to guide instruction, it keeps students who need Tier 2 instruction from getting the support that they need to meet grade level standards.
The DRIP Syndrome
Urban teachers are often data rich. This means that they have an abundance of data such as benchmark test, grades, standardized test, weekly test and etc. More often than not the teachers don’t know which data points to use or how to interpret the data to guide their instruction. Having access to data and doing nothing with it is known as the DRIP Syndrome or Data Rich, Information Poor.
The DRIP Syndrome seems to plague many urban schools. For example, when I began teaching at my previous school I noticed that school wide Response to Intervention (RTI) didn’t exist even though our school district collects enormous amounts of data on our students. The teachers had access to the students’ data but nothing was ever done with the data.
Last year it was mandatory for us to attend these Professional Learning Community or PLC meetings. After sitting through a couple of the meetings I asked my principal what was the school’s goal? At first he really didn’t know what I was talking about but after explaining what I talking about he said, “The goal for the school is 70 percent.” I took his answer at face value but in my mind I was thinking why aren’t we aware of the the school goal?
Every grade level met for PLC meetings twice a month so I discussed the idea of making one of our meetings a data PLC. They thought is was a good idea and agreed. Well, you know how long that lasted? It only lasted 2 months. Our leadership team would come in and take over our PLC agenda and discuss testing logistics, and other fluff that had absolutely nothing to do with student achievement.
RTI in the Classroom
Since my school had not implemented a complete RTI program I decided to implement the 2 tiers I was responsible for implementing in my classroom. Since this was my 2nd year at this school I knew that the leadership team really didn’t have a clue about RTI. So when school started at the end of August I began like any other teacher with Tier 1 instructional strategies. My Tier 1 interventions included:
I’m a firm believer that desperate times call for desperate measures. I was desperate! I knew that I had to do more than just track my students’ numbers so I began to keep anecdotal notes on my Tier 2 students. I needed to keep track of the misconceptions that and mistakes that my students were making so that every time we met I could bring this mistake or misconception to their attention to correct their thinking.
As you can see there was not any structure to taking these notes. One day I grabbed a composition notebook and began to write.
The purpose of anecdotal notes is to:
provide information regarding a student’s development over a period of time
provide ongoing records about individual instructional needs
capture observations of significant behaviors that might otherwise be lost
provide ongoing documentation of learning that may be shared with students, parents and teachers.
At the end of the year I sat down one day and looked through my notebook. I smiled because I could see the the progress that my students from October to May. Documenting qualitative data also improved my students’ data. At the end of the year 12 of my 16 Tier 2 students showed enough growth to pass their standardized math test. It was such an awesome feeling because some of these students had not been successful on the 3rd or 4th grade math tests.
Since anecdotal notes worked so well I decided to create Tier 2 forms that I would need for next school year so I won’t have to use that composition notebook.
After the debacle I had last year I returned from summer vacation with something to prove. Little did I know my administrator was thinking the same thing. Not in a good way.
I’m a firm believer that a persons actions always speak louder than their words. My principal’s actions were saying a whole lot! So, it was no surprise when I was called into his office and was told that that the Teacher Development Specialists said, “The teachers feel like if I don’t do something they don’t have to do it.” As I sat their I thought to myself, “You all give me too much credit!”
Needless to say I immediately knew that I was in for a fight because one thing I knew about my principal was that he was vindictive and sends other people to do his dirty work.
The Novice Administrator
On our campus it’s common knowledge that he would often use your evaluation as way to render you powerless or to make you conform. In September our grade level decided that we needed to move our gifted and talented students and some high achievers into one class because they were controlling the pace of the classes. My principal was against this idea and tried to deter us from moving the students by putting a whole lot of restrictions on moving the students. Despite his attempts to stop of from doing this we moved the students anyway. So, it was not surprising the my assistant principal always used this newly formed class for my evaluation.
So They Say “I’m an Ineffective Teacher”
After my first evaluation the dam broke loose! The assistant principal came down to my classroom to let me know that I was being put on a PPA. A PPA is a Prescriptive Plan of Assistance or a growth plan. As she was telling me all of her reasons for doing this I just sat there. While she was talking I was thinking, ” I guess she’s trying to tell me that I’m an ineffective teacher.”
After our conversation I received an email with the PPA attached. If you have never been put on a growth plan your evaluator chooses the area of instruction that you need “help” in. My jaw dropped when I read that my area of improvement! I-1 -Facilitates organized, student-centered, objective-driven lessons. When I saw that I knew that this was intentional because since last year my principal had been trying to discredit my math content knowledge since last year.
The Invisible Power Struggle
For some unknown reason my principal hired a Math Teacher Specialist who had only had 2 years of teaching experience. He knew that she has not taught any grade level higher than 3rd grade. All the teachers knew that he put her on a pedestal and were were supposed to listen to her every word because she had 100% of her handpicked class to pass the 3rd grade math standardized test. So, I knew that this move was his way of trying to discredit my 16 years of teaching experience and content knowledge.
Most experienced teachers would have filed a formal complaint but I decided not to for 3 reasons.
I knew that I could beat him at his own game
The complaint would have taken away my ability to focus on instruction
I didn’t want to file a complaint against the assistant principal because I knew that the decision came from the principal
Not So Ineffective
In our state 5th grade is a promotional grade level, so the 5th grade students take their standardized test in March. The test scores came back in April. We all knew that the scores were back. When they came back the math scores had improved by 15 points! You’re probably already know what happened to that PPA. Yep you guessed it! At the end of the year I went from being rated ineffective to effective. Hmmm…..imagine that!
I don’t view my success as a teacher on test scores because that’s 1 data point. I determine my success by how well my math students do in 6th grade math in middle school. In the eyes of the school district the test scores my sores showed that my students and I had a successful school year.
At the end of every school year the teachers have a summative meeting with their evaluators to discuss their evaluation ratings. Before my summative my principal and I had a long conversation about me returning to the school. The conversation was much needed and ended with him saying that if I couldn’t get on board then he ask that I find another campus. I’m a no nonsense person who doesn’t wear their feelings on their sleeves. So I stood up ,shook his hand, and said, “I respect that.” So often as he did during the school year, I let my actions speak louder than my words. I sent him an email that said I decided to transfer to another campus for the 2017-2018 school year.
The pledge of allegiance is and always will be a controversial topic. With the increasing focus on inclusiveness based on linguistics, race, gender, and religion trying to find a balance can sometimes be difficult for advocates on both sides of the aisle.
The end of the school year is a stressful time for teacher because we have so much to do. It’s not unusual for teachers to bump heads at the end of the school year because our patience has worn thin. For example, our 5th grade team was practicing for our awards/promotion ceremony. Since our student population is about 90% Hispanic we echo parts of the ceremony in Spanish. This is not a big deal or anything new.
Well this year a teacher who is new the campus says, “I think that we should say The Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish too.” My response was that all of the programs at the school say the pledge in English. As you may have already guessed, she didn’t agree with my response. So, she makes the statement, “This is a dual language school.” Needless to say the conversation quickly went down hill and ended with me saying, “This is and English speaking country.”
When I said that all hell broke loose! She ran off to the principal’s office to tell on me as if I said something wrong. I wasn’t concerned at all about her telling the principal what I said (which she often did all year) but it made me wonder when did saying that America is an English speaking country became offensive?
[Tweet theme=”basic-border”]”I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”[/Tweet]
I know some teachers will not agree with me and that’s okay. I don’t agree with any country’s pledges or national songs being recited or sang in any language other than the original language that it was written. I’m all for inclusiveness, however I feel like there has to be boundaries. I posed the question about reciting the pledge in other languages to English speakers and English speakers of other languages. These are some of the responses that I received.
That would be like translating the Mexican pledge and reciting it in English.
It takes away the meaning of the pledge.
That makes no sense.
People should be allowed to say the pledge in their own language
The beauty of this conversation is that as educators we can have meaningful discussion about The Pledge of Allegiance as it pertains to students. Outside of what we all think or feel about America and The Pledge of Allegiance it has meaning and it represents the United States.
After having this conversation about The Pledge of Allegiance I realized that our students should understand what they are saying when they recite the pledge of allegiance. That’s the beauty of being an educator, we can always find a lesson in the most controversial or insignificant conversations.
Welcome to the 3 E’s Blogging Collaborative. On the last weekend of each month, my fellow educators and I will be telling our classroom stories about our explorations of empathy, empowerment, and equity with our students. It is our mission to explore these topics together, but also to provide FREE ideas and materials for others wishing to do the same. We hope to build a bank of materials and ideas to support these classroom endeavors. We also hope you’ll be stopping by again to engage in the conversation. Check out the other members of the collaborative below to continue this month’s conversation and benefit from even more resource