Education today

I just took 4 surveys for DDOE about Delaware education.  It was fun!  I love surveys!!!!

A lot of questions about ratings, profiency, requirements… Sad really. To quantify the human race…

We are all different.  We look different.  We act different.  We live different. We create differently. And it’s all good.  Who wants everyone to be the same?  We are all a part of the fabric of mankind.  We all play a part, have a place, each with equal value.  

Some would say that value must have a weight that is able to be measured.  I say why?  It is what can not be measured in numbers that is the most important so why reduce the human race to numbers, rankings, proficiency levels.  

Success comes in so many forms and success is more about meeting needs than achieving a certain rank.  If there is a need and you meet that need, that is success.  That need may be a heart transplant, or a nice lawn, or help getting off the floor you just fell on.  All needs are all success once met.  

Education needs to focus on improvement.  I know, improvement to who’s standard.  How about movement forward?  

Focus on movement forward to be better than you were yesterday.  Not perfect, not satisufactory, just better.  That is enough, that is success.


Let’s Fill The Gaps! 

Why doesn’t government focus on filling the gaps in society, specifically education? Elected officials need to focus on the gaps, not the whole system. 

For example, education starts at the local district level.  Each district has their mission, and vision.  They know their weaknesses and strengths.  They set their yearly goals to do x, y, and z.  X focuses on math.  Y focuses on reading.  Z focuses on writing.  Typical of Delaware districts based on testing and curriculum. 

But then, the state sets their mission and vision.  Tries to find their weakness and strengths. And set their goals for x, y, and z.  And x, y , and z are also about math, reading and writing. 

So we are spending double time and double money on the same things… WHY?

Most of the time the state uses resources on something and districts don’t like it and then create their own.  This has happened with DPASII many times.  We are wasting time and money. 

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the state to fill in the gaps the district doesn’t fill.  Delaware has done a great job doing that for foreign language.  There is money for immersion programs, something districts could not have done before and districts like the idea and want to do it.

The state may think the districts are not doing a good job.  Well, create programs that schools could apply for to get help in those areas.  But don’t recreate the wheel.  We waste so much money redoing things that don’t need it.  

This is where choice is helpful.  A school doesn’t have special Ed you like, go somewhere else.  

Public schools are trying to be everything for everyone and they can’t.  

Maybe the state should  focus on gaps and not overhauling the whole system every few years.  The idea at the state level rarely makes it to the school, so stop doing it.  Focus on the arts, languages, technical careers, physical fitness and health and special needs.  These are the areas districts would welcome funding and training.  Not in ELA and Math, because they do that already.  Maybe not to the liking of the state, but the state doesn’t have to like it.  The people do.  The people have to live with their schools everyday.  And if people don’t like it.  People will choice out and the school will close.  

An idea…

Why do the most neediest student get the less effective, qualified teachers? 

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? 

I am an art teacher, a damn good one.  However, I have my limits like all people.  I can’t do everything perfect and some things I am not qualified to do, or paid to do, or hired to do, but I do them in that, “other duties as assigned” part of the teacher contract.  

Would parents want to know what teachers do in the “other duties as assigned” part of a teacher’s job?  Would the General Assembly be okay with the ” other duties as assigned” part of my job? Or any teachers job?  Or the decision process related to what teacher get what student for how long and at what time of the day? 

Take me for example.  In my tenure in Delaware education I have taught art, music, STEAM, and math.  I have taught classes of 10 to 38.  Disabilities, you name it and I have seen it in my classroom.  Ranging from the inability to talk, walk, or hold a pencil all the way to a fourth grader with a house arrest ankle bracelet; and don’t forget the child with an 8th grade reading level in third grade.  Sometimes I have had the help of a para, but most times I am on my own.  I teach whoever comes in my room.  It’s amazing we have all these regulations in Delaware.  Who is highly qualified.  Who is certified? Qualifications for emolument.  But once your hired… It truly doesn’t mean a damn thing! 

Below are a few situation that happen all the time.  Some of these are personal experiences and others have been observed. 

Scenario 1: a school board member really wants more gifted options in their district.  So an idea comes up that teachers are to share their interests and talents with students outside of their teaching area.  So, it’s implemented.  But, we can’t mess up math and ELA time,  so the specials teachers can do it.  So for 12 class periods out of the year, non standard, non district approved classes were created for students based on what teachers like Taking away from art, music, pe, and more…

Scenario 2: enrollment in down, so related arts teachers have less classes.  We need help with test scores in math and ELA.  So related arts teacher start helping the tier 1 and 2 kids to improve their scores.  ( didn’t I say most neediest student with lease equalified teachers… I am certified, but not in math; definitely not common core math) 

Scenario 3: there are so many students and teachers that we have floaters; teachers with no permanent classroom.  You guessed it, most of them are first year teachers… My first year sucked… And I had a classroom. I wonder how these first years go…

Scenario 4: someone messed up on scheduling a school event, so let’s switch everything about our day.  So a teacher will teach classes on the last full day of school that they have never, ever taught before.  Student they have never meant…

Scenario 5:  abc student has a hard time in the morning because their medicine doesn’t work until later.  This student really needs a routine to start the day off right, so let’s give them special first thing in the morning.  Everyday they will have a different first class up until their medicines starts working. 

Scenario 6:  we have a lot of students geting ones on SBAC.  We need help.  Let’s hire more paras.  They are qualified and know what to do to gets test scores up.  Our teachers have failed, paras will close the gap! 

Scenario 7:  Let’s teach something new!  There is no curriculum, no training, and no real money, but it will be cool and fun!  There is no time in the schedule so let’s cut art and music down and we can fit it in.  

I feel I am getting more and more sarcastic with each scenario and I could go on and on.  It’s crazy isn’t it? 

What are we doing? 

I do think that everyone I work with today and in the past have and will continue to do the best they can, but it’s not working.  We are all in the system and the system only lets you move so far and do so much from where you are.  And speak out… Teachers are people pleaser, we don’t like to get yelled at.  

Our system is designed for needy students to fail.  New teachers to fail.  Challenging populations to fail.  Anyone who really needs it to fail. 

I do not know the answers but I think most of it is mindset.  If you have a talent, you should use it.  Life is not supposed to be easy.  The good teachers should get the neediest students.  The experienced teachers should get the students that are hard to crack.  The fragile students due to medication or trauma should get the teacher they see day in and day out during challenging times because they have a relationship like no other.  The students who can’t read should have a reading specialist. The student who struggle in math should have a math specialist, not an art teacher. 

It’s not all about money. It’s about value. I am good at what I do.  I was hired to teach art.  Let me do it.  Reading specialists specialized to teach kids how to read.  Let them do it.  Many specialists do “other duties as assigned” like scheduling, event planning, and data analysis.  I don’t think that was part of their degree. 

Our system has to change so the neediest get the best, not the other way around. 

‘Twas the night before school…

OMG!  It is way into the wee hours of the morning and I cannot sleep.  Tomorrow is my first official day of school, not kids, just teachers. 

I am excited to get the year started. I get to lead the Pledge on Tuesday morning in front of the whole district staff. I can’t wait for the hustle and bustle of the first weeks of school.  And I am dreading it too.  Getting up at 5am, monitoring breakfast, writing endless lesson plans, and working on the weekends because I have too.  I will miss spending time on the beach or at the pool watching my babies play.  

School… So wonderful for some, and so god-awful for others.  It gets harder and harder every year.  Maybe because I have been teaching over half my life… Wow!  

I still love it! The smell of new wax on the floors.  Opening up boxes of new crayons.  Deciding what new fun things I will do in my classrooms!  It is nice, a new start every year.  A chance to change, be better, do more, or less. 

Teaching, the most important job there has ever been.  And I get to start it again, for the 14th year in a row.  To touch a child, to touch the future, in a way that most could only dream of…  Hopefully I will get some sleep too!  

I May start drinking beer, way to Go Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and thank you for supporting the Arts! 

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Fellowship at DDOE

I just finished a 6 week fellowship at DDOE. It was a very interesting experience at first, but ended very satisfying. Now that it is over, I will miss it.  

I have to say, expect for a very very very very very very small portion of DDOE, everyone was very nice, helpful, and wonderful to work with. There is always one or two people at every place of work that just rub you the wrong way or make you want to run for the hills.  That is what I experienced this summer. 

DDOE if filled with hard working non-educators and  educators who really do want to help kids.  They talk about kids and teachers and the community daily.  They really try to provide resources, training, and information to help everyone understand and implement new and revised regulations put forth by our legislators.  

I really enjoyed the ability to dig into an issue, research the pros and cons, and really understand why things are the way there are in Delaware.  I learned that there are no easy answers.  Every issue is a version of gray and has so many moving parts that it is hard to pin point the #1 root cause of most problems we face. 

Yes there is a lot of data, but not data (from my view, position, and project this summer) that can identify individual students in particular schools. Data is used on a larger scale and a broader sense to improve the system.  Frankly, the classroom teacher has the most assess to any individual student’s person information including address, demographics, behavior, test scores, etc.  Me, being an art teacher, probably have more than average assess because I teach so many students at multiple buildings.  

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of information that comes from the state gets filtered by the district and in turn distorts the message or intent.  Not on purpose; it’s like the game of phone.  One person whispers to another and when the message gets to the end, it’s a mess! 

Many people at DDOE are looking forward to the needed changes that ESSA will hopefully provide.  More local control, more focus on the whole child, and more stakeholder engagement.  This is very different from RTTT and the Mark Murphy led DDOE.  

Mark Murphy turned education upside down and shook really hard making a lot of things fall out of our pockets.  Some good, some bad, and a lot realy ugly.  Then, we had to sort and catergize, and assess, and justify beyond a reasonable doubt what fell out of our pockets when we didn’t even know what we had.  I am not sure if we needed this change, but that is what we got.  Now, hopefully there will be time to reflect, talk, and really plan a course for Delaware’s future.  

It depends on our new Governor… Who will be chosen as new Secretary of Education for  Delaware?  Only time will tell…