Something has to give. I just know it.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Sarge, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    At what point does a school districts "mandates" become too overwhelming for teachers and how to teachers finally say "enough is enough?"

    In our district, we have the following mandatory programs that we need to a) know how to implement and b) manage to implement in the amount of time we have.

    • Scripted reading and math programs that we must follow according to a pacing guide that dictates (to the day) what we teach and when.
    • Common core standards that will, apparently, make the aforementioned scripted programs obsolete. However, no new adoption is going to happen until at least 2017. That will make our reading program 15 years old.
    • An instructional minutes mandate that tells exactly what we teach at what times of the day - leaving virtually no time for anything but reading and math
    • Positive Behavior Intervention System and the Second Steps Anti-Violence Program which we must somehow fit into all of the above, without cutting anything out.
    • All of this must be done using direct instruction methods. We spent the last two years with regular staff development on these methods and our lesson plans and teaching must reflect it.
    • Most of the teachers just finished a Spencer Kagan cooperative learning workshop and the principal says they will be looking for Kagan structures in all of our lessons next year.
    • Any student who is struggling must be addressed through RTI. We get virtually no resources for RTI and must do all interventions during regular class time while we are direct instructing and the students are learning cooperatively.
    • K-3 teachers have no specials or preps and our school day is on the short side in terms of instructional minutes.

    Taken on their own, each one of these programs, methods, or strategies has very strong merits. However, I've often began to think that our district has piled on so many layers of mandatory requirements for teachers that it is now virtually impossible for one teacher to do everything they are officially asked to do.

    Furthermore, many of these mandates are contradictory. For example we must teach Open Court Reading for the exact same amount of time each day. But the OCR lessons vary in length. That would be OK if we could stretch out the longer lessons to last two days. But we also have to follow the pacing guide. We could do that if we were allowed to cut out parts of Open Court. But we have been told officially that we must teach the whole program exactly as it is written.

    What will be really interesting is next year when we are expected to use Kagan structures in our lessons. It seemed to me, during the training, that many of these are the opposite of the direct instruction methods that we just recently adopted as the standard way we teach in our classrooms. I can't really picture them saying "OK, all that direct instruction stuff is out the window, now we want you to use cooperative learning."

    And heaven forbid they just let us actually choose the best method that we, as teachers, feel meets the needs of our students.
     
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  3. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    The teachers as a collective whole need to give them the finger in the classroom and do what you feel is most effective. If the results end up better you point at that. We have minutes that we are suppose to follow and are directed to be on the same day as other teachers and programs we have to do and all. Many of the teachers don't do everything that is "required", they adapt it and do what they feel is best for their own students.
    They don't actually say that is what they are doing. More of a don't ask don't tell situation. When asked questions about it you fluff the truth and just make it sound good.
     
  4. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jun 13, 2012

    This sounds very like the 'National Curriculum' that was introduced in the Uk back in the early 90s. Each subject produced a detailed plan of what was to be taught and when it was to be taught. Each subject was also given its own percaentage of the week's teaching time. Amazingly when all the percentages were added together it came to 120%. This was pointed out at the time but the politicians just ignored it! Then once in place stuff just kept being added on to fill up even ore non-existant time in the week. Then it bacame the norm not just to tell us what and when but also how we should teach.

    This led to some bizarre events. For instance every year 6 (5th Grade) class in the country would start 'The Romans' on the same day of the same week! Thus every library in the country would be stripped of books on that subject for a month. Then the topic changed and the next rush to get the library books began again!

    Now it has been decided (20 years later) that a national Curriculum is not the best thing and provided that you set up a Charter school or take your school away from district control you don't have to follow it. Only schools that remain in district control have to follow it.
     
  5. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    Jun 13, 2012

    This is part of the reason why there are so many stories I'm coming across about college students choosing NOT to major in education and established teachers are leaving the profession.

    The powers that be are taking what has become a lousy job (it also used to be a "profession") and making it lousier.


    :|
     
  6. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Sadly, more and more teachers are treated NOT as professionals who can judge their students' needs for themselves. I understand the whole "race of the test scores" mentality, but can you imagine if your doctor was mandated to treat only knee problems on Wednesday at 10:30 and you happen to have a heart attack? Oh gee, too bad. We can't help you until Monday at 8:45 because that is when we are allowed to deal with heart problems in patients. Insane.
     
  7. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    I just attended a workshop and the advise from the presenter. Her advice, don't ask don't tell. Close the door and teach! Forget the nonsense. I was blown away! How do we do that?
     
  8. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    Jun 13, 2012

    I agree
     
  9. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    I would tend to agree with that.

    Look, it's never going to change. Just like our country. Things get worse and worse for us (regular folks), and no one notices, no one cares... Teachers moan about it, but what do they do? Nothing. I've never seen teachers strike, or wield their power, for anything other than when their jobs are on the line. They're even happy to jettison the younger teachers for the cause, as long as they aren't the ones axed.

    Whenever possible, as you say, I'd ignore the nonsense.
     
  10. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Sarge,
    I left a district like yours -- they actually required us to teach longer than the school day to make the required minutes. They'd add new mandates, but never let go of old mandates. It was ridiculous.

    Now, I'm in a different state and working for a very small private school where I am actually allowed to teach! I am so much happier.
     
  11. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    That was the approach I took this year.
     
  12. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I think many teachers are already frustrated with this and leaving. This is one of the reasons I am so happy teaching here in Mexico. I don't have to deal with the same stresses I would be dealing with if I were teaching back home in the states.
     
  13. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jun 13, 2012

    Sarge, jeez ... I've heard about schools like that but honestly never really believed they existed. At least not in the extreme like you're describing. It's not only that the kind of instruction they are requiring does not serve children well, it's that it's impossible to execute, especially without driving the teachers into comas (exaggeration).

    I just finished my fourth year teaching. The parents and the paperwork are starting to dampen my enthusiasm for the first time. If I could not follow my students' needs and my own love of creativity, this job would hold no interest or motivation for me.

    How can something so bad for teachers and children be a mandatory occupation of kids' time, for YEARS? What could make this make sense?
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    "Just close the door and teach", unfortunately, does nothing to solve the underlying systemic problem.
     
  15. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    You are right, but it does help the problem that is the day to day happiness of the teacher.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Unions and teachers' organizations could and should be making the case to the public that this sort of thing is untenable. I don't see that happening, however. Why not?
     
  17. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    The other issue with it is-you can't even always do that. I know more and more district's are implementing more stringent evaluations. Part of our score is based on following the schools "policies and procedures". If we used a scripted program (I am very lucky because even though we use one, our school recognizes its faults and allows us to "supplement" with real literature ;))-but if we were expected to be doing something at a given time and we weren't doing that would go into our official evaluation.

    Sarge-I agree with you wholeheartedly and have often wondered if one day we won't see a picket on our Super's lawn of frustrated teachers. I bring it up in trainings-but we have to use this method, but this completely is the opposite of what we were told to use. We are just expected to make it work somehow. I don't know.
     
  18. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    Jun 13, 2012

    Sarge, I'm in a very similar situation. We have all these "programs" that have conflicting goals. It's downright maddening.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Is this case being made to the public?
     
  20. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    So...I would like to know what future careers these children are being trained to do?

    I don't know of any job that has every single employee doing the same thing and saying the same thing at the very same time. Even factory workers on assembly lines perform different jobs.

    Is this what Ca schools are generally like? Sarge...any chance of you moving to a less rigid school...perhaps one that actually has the education of the children as a priority??
     
  21. 2ndTimeAround

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    There may not be a lack of students in education majors but I do know that there are a lot of top-notch students that are changing their future plans because they can do so much better (make more money, have more autonomy, make a bigger difference in the world) in another profession.

    I fear that very soon the adage that "those who can, do...." will soon come true.
     
  22. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I don't know about elsewhere, but my local union(s) (we have 2) have been and continue to be extremely vocal about extreme legislation pushed by our wonderful governor, even to the point of filing a lawsuit. Here in Louisiana, we have a governor who was surely traumatized by a public school teacher as a child, because he acts as if he has a vendetta against the public school system, and especially against teachers. He is pushing through legislation that is consistently shown to be bad for public schools, proven to be ineffective, or makes no sense (giving public tax dollars to fly by night charter corporations with no track record?). Just this week, he vetoed a bill (that passed with 100% bipartisan support in both the house and senate) that would have given a tax break to organizations that donate goods/money to public schools in need! We are also implementing Common Core and teaching Handwriting with materials that will not be replaced. Last year, RTI almost killed me, and this summer, we are getting a new principal, so I don't even know what kind of lesson plan s/he will want.

    All that said, I feel your pain, Sarge... wish I had some suggestions.:unsure:
     
  23. CFClassroom

    CFClassroom Connoisseur

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    Honestly, it makes me sadder as a parent than as a teacher.
     
  24. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Oh, me, too, definitely.
     
  25. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    We "deploy" for RtI and each teacher teaches a different level of students for a thirty-minute-long block of time.

    Has your school thought about implementing a similar model so all students can receive services in a thirty minute period?
     
  26. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Good suggestion, YTG - if the implementation of RtI were the only issue in the day that needed addressing. But Sarge's point, if I read him correctly, is that the entire day is overbooked to the point of unsustainability. From his description, he's right.
     
  27. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I started to cringe more and more as I read each issue he's dealing with!

    I thought I'd tackle one issue at a time! :dizzy:
     
  28. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    When I started at my school, many people "shared" with me that one of the most veteran teachers at the school tends to isolate herself. Other teachers would go on and on and about how she hides in her classroom and makes a point of not involving herself with things outside of the classroom. I guess it is my fresh view, but as the year progressed, I realized she was probably doing the best thing for herself and her students. She wasn't wanting to isolate herself, but she felt she needed to because she knows what works for her and her students. She'll probably retire soon because she's so fed up. Sad.
     
  29. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Are you sure we don't have the same governor here in Maine? Sounds a lot like the idiocy occuring in the Blaine House over the last 2 or so years.
     
  30. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I don't see how that could work in most places today though. Sure I could choose to isolate myself from the other teachers for whatever reason, but that's not going to stop administration from coming into my room for walk throughs or informal observations whenever they please. I'm careful and choosy about who I'm friendly with and who I share things with but I don't think isolating myself would have meant I was left alone by admins. At least where I am the idea of shutting your door and just teaching the way you know is best doesn't work. :(

    Luckily though where I work it's the support from the other teachers that keep me going with all of the insane demands being placed on us. My school is similar to the original poster's, maybe not as tough but definitely very close.
     
  31. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Valiantly attempted, YTG, and sometimes fixing one thing at a time is the right choice.

    Where fixing one thing at a time can run into trouble, though - and where I think Sarge's district, undoubtedly under pressure, has gotten itself in the trouble it's in - is that it's really easy to design a fix intending it to be limited, but without paying enough attention to everything else that surrounds it. It is a fine thing to decree that more time must be spent on literacy activities, and it might even be true in some sense - but, as economics teaches us, resources are not infinite: that time has to come at the expense of something else.
     
  32. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Oh no, she's not unfriendly about it. She's very social with the other teachers. She's just the type where she'll listen to the new policies etc., try them long enough to determine they don't work for her, and then close her door and forget about them. But, like I said, she's one of the most veteran teachers on campus, so I think administration just sort of smiles and views her as being "set in her ways." I'm not sure they would be quite as willing to turn a blind eye if it were me ;)
     
  33. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    We can't "just shut the door and teach," because (1) our lesson plans are checked, (2) most principal's do spot checks of classrooms (unofficial observations), (3) our wonderful governor just added "value added" as a large part of our professional assessment/tenure/etc., and (4) in my district, they are installing cameras in the classrooms!
     
  34. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Worse, "just shut the door and teach" makes it appear that at least SOME teachers can manage the whole... "steaming heap", shall I call it, to be polite?... of mutually incompatible and unachievable demands without difficulty, from which it's easy for administrators and the general public to infer that all the other teachers are merely whiny or incompetent or both.
     
  35. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    We do that too. However, it is not enough intervention for the lowest students, and adds a half an hour of ELA for other kids who don't need it. We still have to do all of the core phonics testing that comes with RTI.
     
  36. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    yup, yup, yup!
     
  37. Ross

    Ross Comrade

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    Right! Until the problems of education (let us exclude the debates of unions, pensions, pay, tenure... for now) become part of the national dialogue, little will change.

    There are alarming indicators in the classroom as demonstrated by the numerous postings here that bureaucratic interference in the classroom is having a bad effect on both teachers and students.

    Whenever possible, I try to engage adults outside of the education profession in discussion of the problems involved in teaching. Many are troubled, but still no change.
     
  38. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    All I want them to do is say "Now that you are doing this, we can cut out doing this ..."

    Either say "All that direct instruction stuff we pushed last year was lame. Cooperative learning is really where it's at."

    Or even better still ...

    "Now that you have all had extensive training in both direct instruction and cooperative learning, you are free to choose the method that best suits the needs of your students and the content you are teaching."
     
  39. drooping_cactus

    drooping_cactus Rookie

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    :eek:hmy: I'm speechless. Is that what it has come to now? Really?
     
  40. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Us too, minus the cameras, thankfully! I think the only way a teacher could get away with that was if they had tenure and simply didn't care how admin viewed them, knowing they'd still have a job either way. However, tenure is now illegal in my state, so that's not happening for anyone!
     
  41. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    It only takes one bad evaluation to lose tenure in Louisiana now... and we will no longer have due process of appeals either. I wish people realized that (at least in Louisiana, a right-to-work state) tenure doesn't mean a guaranteed job - just a guarantee of due process!
     

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