SC for Ed

SC for Ed

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I've Been Teaching for 12 Years and I Love It, But We've Got To Change Some Things

Blog Editor's Note: This post was originally published on December 4, 2017 at Patrick Kelly graciously let us re-post it on this blog as its information resonates with so many educators. 

Author: Patrick Kelly
Teacher at Blythewood High School
Richland School District 2

This week, I had a conversation with a colleague about a common topic for teachers at this point in the school year—exhaustion. This is my 12th year in the profession, so it’s not like I haven’t experienced mid-year fatigue in the past. But after spending last year out of the classroom, the physical and emotional toll of teaching seems deeper this year than at any other point in my career.
As my colleague articulated, I’ve been reflecting a lot on one question, “What has changed to make this job so hard?”
The unfortunate and scary reality is that my colleague and I aren’t isolated incidents of burnout. You can find a vast array of articles about teachers that are “barely hanging on.” This development comes with a high cost in the form of increasing teacher turnover. For example, in my home state of South Carolina, the number of teachers leaving the profession increased by 18 percent last year.
In trying to pinpoint why this is happening, I’ve found many people are quick to point the finger at “kids these days.” This, however, is an answer I refuse to accept. Today’s students may face new distractions and challenges, but helping students learn and grow always has been and always will be hard work. Plus, anyone that views students as the problem is missing the point entirely. Students aren’t the problem for teaching; they are the reason for teaching.


Instead, I believe the answer to my colleague’s question is more complex. Teaching has become “so hard” because what we expect of teachers has changed drastically in the past decade while the structure of the job has remained the same.
The changing expectations have largely been a positive development. The requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act for all states to adopt “college and career ready” standards was an important step forward in our nation’s commitment to ensuring all students are taught to rigorous expectations. An education that truly prepares students for advanced study and the workplace requires mastery of skills like creativity, collaboration and communication—skills which are not easily measured using traditional multiple choice tests. Evaluation of these skills is best achieved through project or portfolio based forms of assessment that require far more time from teachers for evaluation and providing meaningful feedback.
Our schools are also increasingly shifting to competency-based models of instruction that focus on mastery learning. This, in turn, requires far greater levels of personalized instruction, which again, places more demands on a teacher’s time.
I am feeling this acutely in my own practice. Three years ago, I decided to allow more opportunities for retakes on tests and revisions of essays in my classes. This decision was based on analysis of data, and it has led to improved student academic outcomes. However, the new approach also leaves me stretched thin. Ten years ago, I simply moved forward after a summative assessment; now, I take the time to individually work with students to develop mastery long after the initial assessment.
But in spite of these changes in what is expected of teachers, the basic structure of the workday remains unchanged.
According to a 2013 survey of teachers in 34 different nations, American teachers spent the most hours per week on classroom instruction, with a comparatively small percentage of their total work week available for planning and assessing student work. This lack of time has been compounded for many teachers by increasing student-teacher ratios, a problem that is especially pronounced in many of the urban and rural schools that work with our most high-needs students.
For example, my school is currently partnering with a rural elementary school where fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms have ratios of 35:1. Personalization of learning for 35 fourth-graders is literally an impossible task for any single person.
This combination of limited planning time and big class sizes may have worked in an era where teachers were expected to stand and deliver a lecture and administer multiple-choice tests, but it is ill-fitted for a teaching model based on skills-based standards, individualized instruction and providing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery.
Simply put, we are asking teachers to deliver 21st century-instruction in a job structure designed for the demands of the past century. We are asking our teachers to be more innovative, but there isn’t matching innovation in teacher work environments. If we want to stop the exodus of teachers that are burning out, we must find the will and capacity to change this reality.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Finding Courage Through Music

"Finding Courage Through Music"
Post By: Lisa Ellis

I am on a mission. I am on a mission on behalf of the educators and students of South Carolina. For too long, we have been set aside. Asked to do more with less. Expected to build without the proper tools. But no more.

I depended on others to see the problems and speak about them. I hoped that others would fight for what was best. But no more. 

I will not be set aside. I will not let my students be set aside. I will ask for more. I will expect the proper tools. I will depend on my voice. I will fight for what is best. 

But it's scary, and so to give myself courage, I listen to these songs. They remind me that I have a voice to make education better. I hope you will join me in using your voice to better public education in South Carolina. Need some courage? Try listening to these songs.

John Legend and Common

"Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people's energy
Welcome to the story we call victory"

Rise Up
Andra Day

"You're broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can't find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise unafraid
And I'll do it a thousand times again
For you"

We're Not Gonna Take It
Twisted Sister

"Oh we're not gonna take it
No, we ain't gonna take it
Oh we're not gonna take it anymore
We've got the right to choose it
There ain't no way we'll lose it
This is our life, this is our song
We'll fight the powers that be"

Hall of Fame
The Script

"You could go the distance
You could walk straight through hell with a smile
You could be the hero
Do it for your people
Do it for your pride
How you ever gonna know if you never even try?"

Hamilton Cast
"Rise up
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up
Tell your sister that she's gotta rise up
I’m past patiently waitin'
I’m passionately mashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation
And I am not throwing away my shot
I am not throwing away my shot
We’re gonna rise up (time to take a shot)"

What About Us

"We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far
What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?
We were willin', we came when you called
But, man, you fooled us, enough is enough"

We Weren't Born To Follow
Bon Jovi

"We weren't born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe
Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren't born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe"

"Oh, and after everything you've done
I can thank you for how strong I have become
'Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
I'm proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come"

Fall Out Boy
"Sometimes the only pay off for having any faith,
Is when it's tested again and again everyday,
I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass)
I try to picture me without you but I can't
'Cause we could be immortals, immortals
Just not for long, for long"

Lea Michelle
"I push to the limits
I climb every wall
I keep on believing
Anything's possible
I stand ten feet tall
I keep on believing
Anything's possible"

What songs give you courage? 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Why I Am Leaving Teaching" by Elizabeth Bagnall

Five years. Five years of inspiring, listening, advising, hoping, helping. Five years of teaching. 
Today, I closed the door to my last classroom. Why? I couldn't take the realities of teaching anymore. I've worked at Title 1 schools. I've worked at affluent schools. I've worked in the city. I've worked in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that no matter where you go, public school is the same. Politics over pedagogy. Money over motivation. No, it's not the kids. I love the profession of teaching. I love working with kids. Genuinely. I know in my heart that being a teacher has been a blessing words cannot express. 
That being said, the politics of teaching is beyond what I can handle, silently. Some people can trudge through the battlefields of teaching. They keep their heads down and work within the system. For some reason, I just can't. I don't know why. I feel guilty for being, somehow, incapable of letting go of all the things I see wrong in today's education system. But today, as I closed my classroom door for the last time, I couldn't help but wonder: what's wrong with questioning the system of education? I don't hate educating. I hate today's version of "education". I hate the culture surrounding education. Teachers are not held in high esteem. Students are given low expectations. Administrators are more worried about graduation rates than preparing kids for the real world. 
When I started teaching, I saw education as the "key". The way to change the world is through teaching. In my heart, I knew that to be true. But after five years, the bureaucracy made me realize that the way to truly change things isn't in the classroom, at least not for me. I've spent five years putting my heart and soul into my classroom, just to watch myself become burned out, disenfranchised, bitter, and angry. And, it's not just me. Every teacher I know deals with "The Unnecessary Politics of Education". It is the reason why countless teachers leave the profession. I truly applaud the teachers who can look beyond the bureaucracy. They can keep their mouths shut and smile through the pain. And, it is painful. It hurts to know that you have put all these hopes and dreams into kids who are being totally screwed by the system. If all these really great teachers could stand up, band together, and come up with a real way to fix the system, education would be everything it's meant to be. Instead, those teachers who can survive the politics can't stand up for fear of retribution. They discuss it privately in closed-door classrooms. They go home and curl up with their significant others and complain about their woes. They roll their eyes when they are told to go against their ethics, but at the end of the day, they do as they are told. They stay silent in the name of their careers, their livelihoods, and their students. 
I wish I could. But, I just... can't stay silent. I'm too much like my grandmother. Once I've washed my hands of something, I'm done. I'm done watching an entire profession be minimalized and undervalued. I love teaching and I love good teachers, but I won't live in a world where people who work so hard have to bear such a heavy burden. It's going to take someone who can't keep their head down in order to make this system better for those who can. I wanted to change the world. Now, I know that, for me, changing the world isn't helping kids (though I'm thankful for that chance); my way to change the world is making the world better for teachers. Teachers deserve to be heard. They deserve to be respected. They deserve to have a voice that puts the needs of educating children before test scores and graduation rates. They deserve to have students who respect them, parents who appreciate them, and administrators who will look out for them and not the financial "bottom line". That is my new mission. 
To every great teacher I know, there's a battle brewing in the world of education. And, I'm going to be a champion.