Anyone ever buck the system?

Discussion in 'General Education Archives' started by TeacherShelly, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Dec 14, 2006

    So I want to be a teacher. My credential classes start Jan 8. My reasons are personal: I have always wanted to teach young children; I have twins starting Kindergarten next fall; and I think parents efforts are sabotaged by our "profit-motive" culture, meaning they are at work either making ends meet or climbing the ladder, and need committed partners like teachers to help them bring their kids up.

    My reading history includes Alfie Kohn, John Holt, Daniel Goleman, Michael Gurian, among others. Whenever I talk to teachers about my deeply held beliefs about children and education, they invariably start to shake their heads in warning that I'll be beaten by "the system." My best teacher friends have quit in disgust at being forced to teach to tests, demand conformity at all costs, and extinguish creativity in themselves and their students.

    I want to teach kids through well designed projects that engage their entire being - integrating all "isolated subjects" like math, science, reading, interpersonal, etc, into enjoyable and interactive activities. I want the kids to be included in determining what happens at school - as Alfie Kohn says, "working with" rather than "doing to" kids.

    So is there anyone here who has challenged the system and made their classroom more creative and inspired/inspiring? Anyone made their class creative and inspired while working within the system? Examples, please... I need to know! My volunteer work in my neighborhood school reveals lots of individual subjects being taught in less than creative ways. Lots of rote memorization and drills/worksheets. I remember being bored to death by this same kind of thing way back in the 80s.

    Am I setting myself up for a major disappointment? What am I getting myself into?

    Shelle
     
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  3. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Like anything, we enter into a career with hopes and personal goals and then we realize that we don't have as much personal freedom as we wish. Do I think it's impossible?. No. I think as teachers we have to strive to bring creativity into our classrooms. That's what any good teacher does. However, once you are in a school you will be so wrapped up in testing and other things that yes, it can be hard to be as creative as you wish and still cover all the material that you have to. Don't be discouraged! We need teachers who want to continue to be creative. It's easy to get beaten down.
     
  4. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    I think you can still do all that in the context of a public school
    but you will need an opened minded boss or closed door to your
    classroom. I bet you could find what you are looking for in a charter school or perhaps some private schools. I know of one near my house that would probably embrace your ideas.
    link to their website. http://www.jordanglen.org/About Us/AboutUs.html
     
  5. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    By your description of bucking the system I'd like to think that I buck the system everyday...or at least I try:)...and I know many, many other teachers who do the same.

    There is no reason in the world that you cannot have inspiring lessons that are creative and promote higher order thinking skills within the public school system.

    --Adam
     
  6. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    oh..by the way...what subject do you plan on teaching?
     
  7. Tigers

    Tigers Habitué

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    It is definately possible. but a lot harder. If you already do volunteer work you probably have some organziations which are near and dear to you, so I would suggest trying to implement as much service learning as possible. However, be forewarned that if you go into a public school classroom and make big changes, which you will, there are a lot of teachers who will resent you: for trying to change things, for your hubris, for doing what they really want to do, or for doing what they wish they could do. Anyway, ready yourself for this, for many teachers are blind-sided by this peer resentment. They have the idea, "why I am just trying to improve the quality, do the best thing for the kids, the best way I know how: Why would anyone have a problem with that?"
     
  8. cmorris

    cmorris Comrade

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    It completely depends on your district. In my district, it wouldn't fly. You *have* to follow certain things; it is almost scripted! If you are "caught" doing other creative things while "neglecting" the scripted stuff, there will be problems! I'm going to try and leave next year...
     
  9. TXTeacher4

    TXTeacher4 Companion

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    I try to make learning as fun as I can while sticking to what the district says I have to teach. I think it is very possible to compromise so that your guidelines are covered while being creative.
     
  10. Miss Jana

    Miss Jana Rookie

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    Just to add my two cents that might not make too much difference. I do my student teaching in January, so I'm not out there in a school just yet... However, I have been observing and feeling a bit discouraged at what I'm seeing... I took an Early Childhood Curriculum class this semester and I found it so wonderful. I'm in my Masters program and as an undergrad I got the specialization in Early Childhood Education, so I had a lot of those kinds of very creative classes....very different than what I see out in the schools.

    I talked to my professor about this dilemma and she reminded me (now this is in my state of TX, I don't know about others), that the standards are there and we have to follow them... but the standards say WHAT the kids must learn...not HOW they have to learn it. So I think there is much flexibility to teach creatively...as long as the kids are learning what they need to learn. In my curriculum class, we learned how to implement different creative programs to accomplish the same goals. It was a great class.

    I know that it depends greatly on your state, district, school, and principal...there are some that expect everything done their way, and there are others that don't care as long as the kids learn what they need to learn.

    I think it's a great idea to check out some private schools also...during my curriculum class we had field trips to some stellar schools in my area... very creative and project oriented... A joy to watch! :)

    Unfortunately, depending on where you work, there will most likely be some compromises. I would definitely talk about your philosophy in your interviews (if you can afford to be choosy), to see if they mesh with the school.

    And I think it's very wise what Tigers said... It's weird, but I've seen that happen with colleagues (I taught in private preschool for years). It's a shame that it happens, but it does sometimes. So be prepared for that.

    I fully expect to do what I feel is best when I start teaching. I want to find a school that will let me do it with the minimum amount of compromises. :)
     
  11. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Dec 16, 2006


    I tried and got a dissapointing observation from my principal who said that I "ad-libbed too much" and did not stick to the script of the reading program. When I told him my kids were bored to tears and needed a challange, he hesitated and then said that I need to stick to the program, and that this program has resources to help those students (worksheets). I feel that at this school district, they are creating a generation of closed-minded children who are great at filling out worksheets. My husband said, stick it out till I get tenure, then do what I want to do, and only do what they want me to do when they are in their observing. I don't know how easy that would be. It's funny, I do my own thing now, I still stick to components of Open Court, yet, if I have such a probelm with "ad-libbing" and not sticking to the program, then why is it that my kids had the highest scores on the latest OARS test??? It just does not make any sense. I am also very discouraged with education. I know for a fact that it's those politicians who don't know a thing about education that are making all these trouble for us teachers, and teachers have no say, whatsoever!

    If I had a chance to redo my decision to become an educator, I would not do it again, as sad as it is. I love teaching. But, it's not worth it.
     
  12. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Dec 16, 2006

    Great post! This is the way it should be and has been at the three different schools that I have worked at (in 2 very different states - NY & FL)...and shame on any and all districts that do not see it this way! We are professionals...I have gone through an enormous amount of training to get to where I am today...what is the point if I am just to read from a script. Not to mention that I cannot imagine that a single shred of research can be found anywhere that says reading from a script promotes any kind of learning...

    Sorry...I just find this very unprofessional, frustrating, and sad.

    However, for those of you who are thinking of leaving education or not following through with your student teaching, let me assure you that this is not the case in all schools.

    Even if you do your student teaching and your cooperating teacher is a "script-reader" that does not necessarily mean that the school will not let you do your own thing. When I did my student teaching, I too was discouraged by my first placement...lecture, lecture, lecture...I basically learned what NOT to do. My second placement (within the very same school) was the exact opposite...I learned how to apply the theories I was learning in grad school to real-life classroom situations...it was one of the best learning experiences of my life.

    One more thing...

    I spend a great deal of time training teachers for interviews. I always tell people to make sure you know the school's philosophy of education and make sure it matches your own philosophy. Many new teachers think they must take whatever job is offered to them (and maybe they do), but what is the point of taking a job that you will be miserable at?

    --Adam
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree with a lot of what has been said. But.... (OK, here's where I lose some friends :) )

    There's something to be said for some of that rote memorization. As a math teacher, I simply cannot believe the number of 17 and 18 year olds who don't know their times tables. Understanding the concept of multiplication is all well and good. But you cannot factor a polynomial unless you have MEMORIZED the times tables. And, no, your calculator will not solve the problem for you-- you have the product and need to find the factors.

    Likewise, our language is very complex. There are some basic grammatical and spelling rules that simply must be memorized. ("i before e except after c...") Far too many high school graduates are seemingly incapable of writing a coherent essay. All the creativity in the world is useless if one cannot make himself understood.

    That aside, creativity is the very backbone of teaching. So, for example, when I covered addition and subtraction of decimals with my 7th graders this year, we balanced checkbooks. (Without the hated calculator, of course!) They even learned how to write out a check (not in the syallbus, but an extra I threw in.) They felt so very adult that they were dying for more examples-- and adding and subtracting the decimals. When teaching integers last week, I had them make up puzzles (are they called crostic puzzles??) with a Christmas theme (And I teach in a Catholic school, so it can be Christmas :) ) They had a great time and spent the entire period adding and subtracting the integers.

    My point is that good teaching demands a combination of the creative and the necessary. One without the other will either bore the kids to tears or leave them uneducated. In my school that's not bucking the system-- that IS the system!
     
  14. awaxler

    awaxler Comrade

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    Aliceacc,

    I think you made my point exactly (or at least the point I was trying to make:) )

    The point is it should be up to the school district/state to determine "what" should be taught...but it should be up to the professional educator to decide "how" to teach that material...

    We can and should be able to teach the same thing in two different ways as long as both of us are meeting the standards.

    --Adam
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Absolutely.

    In fact, it's funny. I did some freelance writing last year for one of the major textbook publishers. (I was still a SAHM then and had the time.) One of the things I had to submit was a scripted lesson for some of the topics. I mean ver batim: I say, the kids respond, I say, they respond kind of stuff. It blew my mind-- who teaches like that?? I found it very hard to write, and harder to envision anyone using.

    When I teach the upper levels (precalc, intro to calculus) I walk in with problems worked out; that way I know I won't give the kids a problem that has no solution. But my 7th grade lesson plans consist of a topic, a list of things I don't want to forget to mention, and the homework assignment. I'm well enough versed in my material not to need prompts like the ones I was asked to write. I would certainly like to hope that other professionals in the classroom are as well versed.
     
  16. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Very interesting. Sometimes I feel like a total outsider when it comes to parenting - and here I come into the world of teaching and suspect I'll feel like an outsider there too.

    Today I had a "Haberman" style interview for my CalState TEACH credential program I'm starting in Jan. The interviewer seemed completely in touch with my general theory of children. In a nutshell, all children want to learn. All children want to please us adults. When their behavior goes off-track, there is a need they have that is not being met. Poor behavior is usually seen as a "choice" the child made (as if they weighed the situation and decided that in their heart of hearts they wanted to be punished); or that the reason is not valuable because the only thing that is important is stopping the poor behavior. Regardless of what the kid's motives and intentions were, and regardless of the longer range effects the punishment will have. Sometimes this is justified as being fair to the others who want to learn. But I truly believe that ALL children want to learn. I also think that kids (the ones who are behaving well) can learn volumes from how we adults respond to the poorly behaving ones.

    I sense a suspicion among many of the adults I meet regarding children. "They're all trying to get away with something." "They are lazy and will always take the easy way out." "They are so much worse than in my generation." And so on.

    I really don't see kids this way. And certainly not my own kids. They are full of the love of learning. They are curious, explorative, and boundless in their zest for anything new and interesting. I don't want them to learn that "bad" kids get their due, that "good" kids mindlessly do whatever an adult asks them to (and expect a "reward" for everything), and that pleasing teacher is the best way to decide who they are in the world.

    Further, I don't want to treat other people's kids that way either.

    Many of the posts I've read on these kind of boards also give me a sense of a "code" among teachers to fight parents' desire to be involved in their kids' education. Any question about curriculum is suspected to be controlling behavior. A teacher speaks to another teacher's student and it looks like sabotage. What is the deal with all the suspicion of everyone's motives? Why can't a parent ask an intelligent question about a lesson plan? Why can't other teachers treat a student in another classroom with friendliness and maybe even provide another respectful adult voice in their life?

    I have all the respect in the world for the profession of teaching young children. I want to come into that profession and lift kids up. I want to collaborate with other teachers, even those who prefer not to teach the way I do, without having to wonder if they are angry with me for being different from them.

    Can anyone offer some insight? :confused: I probably sound bitter, but really I'm just pre-frustrated. And worried that my new career is going to make me so frustrated I'll blow up and tell off my whole school in the first year. :eek:
     
  17. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Dec 18, 2006

    Change....
    I think you have many of the ideals that a lot of us had as we entered the profession. I'm glad, and I hope you are able to keep many of them. I'd like to address a couple of your points.
    First...your feelings about children. I think you are right on. Children aren't inherently "bad" or "good" (neither are adults, for that matter), but instead many of them are responding to the environments in which they have been raised. I know that in my situation (granted, a great one where I teach), I do treat my students the way I would like to be treated and expect them to do the same. For the most part, they do. I teach middle school, so there are developmental things that kids go through at this age that sometimes arent' too nice, but my colleagues and I use those moments as opportunities to teach, and show the kids how the choices they make to day affect they adult they are becoming.
    As for your feeling that many of us on the board don't like intereference from parents or other teachers, I know some of the posts you are referrring to. I know, too, that in general we welcome parents who are interested in their children's education and colleagues who want to work together to make our schools better places. The posts you are referring to, where teachers complain about the parents in their schools, usually come after something BIG has happened (and BIG things do happen), and the teachers have not received the support of their admin. or fellow staff. Unfortunately, this is not all that uncommon.
    Don't get too down on us :) :). The boards are a place where many of us come to vent. The anonymity and the knowledge that it is mostly in-service and pre-service teachers reading our posts creates a feeling of safety that many of us do not have in our schools, and no matter how much he listens to me, my husband just doesn't understand what it is like to have my job.
    Good luck to you. I hope that you are able to keep some of the "rose colored glasses". After fourteen years, I'm a bit more jaded, but basically pretty positive about my job.
     
  18. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    As a public school teacher I have to say that I incorporate projects, hands-on, and thinking activities. I think a lot of public school teachers do. Public schools tend to get a bit of a bashing, but they are full of awesome teachers doing great jobs. Yes, I have a curriculum that I have to teach, unit tests that I must give, and a state mandated high stakes test that they must take. However, within those parameters, I have found an awful lot of "wiggle room". How I teach them is still up to me. I work hard to bring in projects and lessons and leave the text book aside. It's a challenge, but one I think is important enough to take.
     
  19. Giggles1100

    Giggles1100 Comrade

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    Dec 18, 2006

    A couple of things, to do the type of teaching you want to, will take money of your own, don't expect the school district toprovide you with materials or manipulatives that they see as "not needed" to teach. Secondly what you teach will depend on how frowned upon you get. If you are a CM or SPecial Ed teacher, youhave more freedom to be creative, have a pillow corner for reading, or kitchen to domath skills in etc. I am a creative teacher liek you, I have never been frowned up, butthen I teach Special Ed, BUt I will tell you it took me a good 5 years toget me towhere I had really wanted to start at in teaching this way because of having to buy many of the resources, manipulatives a nd stuff to get my room to look the way I wanted ti to be with centers ebcause the districts did not feel that those things were necessary because no one in my class "NEEDED" those things per their IEP to learn so I was spent paying for these things on my own and my students are very successful. Don't be discouraged, but do research your district and/or school you will be at to make sure they are not going to team teaching, which could hamper your creativity, that the principal is on board with you and the administrators.

    Good Luck
     
  20. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Dec 18, 2006

    Thank you, Mrs. R, Giggles, & Christy for your replies. The point that teachers vent here now seems obvious, but for some reason I hadn't taken that into account. And just so you all know, I wasn't referring to specific posts here or just here, I have been reading a lot in different places.

    I know I'm ignorant (in the literal way) of teaching reality. I will no doubt feel and think differently when I have real experience in a classroom. There are five or six alternative schools here in my area and I will gravitate toward them, hopefully do my student teaching in them, and things will be fine.

    I want to make sure everyone knows I don't mean to be hard on posters here or teachers in general. I know it probably sounded that way, and I'm sorry. I think I am suffering this much because I am a first-time parent sending my twins off to school next fall, AND a new teacher. This seems like a lot of possible areas of stress, huh?

    Thanks for not being hard on me! You've all been ace and I appreciate having a place to ask my questions.

    Happy holidays, and peace!
     
  21. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Dec 18, 2006

    Change,
    I don't think you were being hard on anyone. I think your concerns were valid, especially as someone who is VERY new to the profession. I think it is great that you are passionate about what you want to do and that you are willing to take on what I consider to be a MUCH harder job than mine (alternative schools). Good luck both with sending your own kids off to school (I did that for the first time in August - weird) and with your career. Keep posting and keep asking questions. I find that I discover all kinds of new things when I answer people's questions! :)
     
  22. engteach

    engteach Rookie

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    Dec 19, 2006

    Homeschooling and cottage schooling?

    Have you thought about homeschooling your own kids with these methods? Or perhaps cottage schooling with other families?
     
  23. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I have thought about it, but I need to earn some income.

    Thanks for that, I truly appreciate your words.
     
  24. mnteacherguy

    mnteacherguy Companion

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    Dec 19, 2006

    Get Tenure, then buck the system....that's my advice.

    Tenure protects you by law. If you are doing what's in the best interest of students and can prove it your adminstration has no power over you. As long as you have the welfare of your students in mind, and are doing the best you can at your job I am proud to call you a fellow teacher
     
  25. ldamsteegt

    ldamsteegt New Member

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    Jan 8, 2007

    Educational Paths

    "It just does not make any sense. I am also very discouraged with education. I know for a fact that it's those politicians who don't know a thing about education that are making all these trouble for us teachers, and teachers have no say, whatsoever!

    If I had a chance to redo my decision to become an educator, I would not do it again, as sad as it is. I love teaching. But, it's not worth it"

    I would agree 100%. I feel most educators are stuck in a paperwork rut with little funding to back up any hands on projects they want to do. I have the flexible teaching job that I want ...4 year old preschool, but it is in a child care center with child care pay, teaching public school. I work two full time jobs just to pay my loans.

    Then there is the complete opposite, the large public school system which pays well but you are teaching from the book for every subject and the caddyness is unbearable. This is my first time on the forum and it is sure nice to talk about things with other teachers that you can't do anywhere else, Thanks!!! Laura
     
  26. Tigers

    Tigers Habitué

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    Jan 8, 2007

    I believe that there is a pretty competent public school teacher, Raife, in the L.A. area.

    Just remember, as frustrating as the rules can be...when you shut the door you are the teacher. If that is not autonomy, then I don't know for what you are looking. I knew an amazing teacher in WA state. She taught eighth grade. She went back to a politician becuase she felt she could make more of a difference...there is that idea...and there is always the starfish one....
     

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