Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Just an Elementary Teacher...

A friend of mine recently attended an informational meeting about enrolling her son in dual credit classes. During the course of the presentation, the college representative said something along the lines of, 


What we don't want is for some of these really bright
STEM kids to end up just as elementary school teachers.

Wow. 

Quite the slap in the face of the audience members who were, in fact, elementary school teachers. I could tell that even recounting the story to me left my educator friend feeling a little dazed and confused, even though she was trying to laugh it off. As someone who has devoted my entire adult life to elementary school children, and more recently to elementary school teachers, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. 

I have been a teacher since I was 21 years old, and have always been enamored with the work, even though it hasn't exactly been monetarily advantageous for my family. I have written on this blog countless times about the juxtaposition of love and hate, strength and weakness, the hilarity and despair that this work often exposes. I love the technicality of the work we get to do each day. I'm fascinated with miscue analysis, constructivist learning theory, and how technology can be leveraged to connect students with a broader audience for their complex voices. What I do not love is how the system continually puts elementary teachers in a box, speaks about us as though we are less-than, and perpetuates the myth that since we can't, that we teach.

Possibly even more problematic about the entire exchange for me is that my son is a "really bright STEM kid," who wants to be a teacher. My 14 year-old was in a STEM program for 4th and 5th grade and has continued to pursue classes that will help him achieve a STEM endorsement from his future high school. He is fascinated with science and math, with engineering and process, and all he wants to be when he grows up is a teacher. 

As a, "teacher kid," he has grown up with a lens for education that often leaves him questioning some of his school experiences. He has a great BS detector when it comes to assignments and activities. While I have always required he stay respectful, I have encouraged him to question, wonder, and maintain an open dialogue about education and how it may constantly be improved. His STEM background and his desire for an engaged learning environment are the very things that would make him a wonderful teacher, and it's definitely not something I would ever discourage.

Dr. Latoya Dixon, in her new book, Burned Out, Beaten Up, Fighting Back, says, "It’s time to give the profession the respect it deserves and reshape the narrative on public education." I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Dixon for the #StoriesinEdu podcast that I co-host with Josh Gauthier. It was a fascinating discussion, and this recent exchange highlighted that we still have so very far to go in earning the respect (even within our own profession) of our society.


Several years ago, I watched this video from Taylor Mali entitled, "What Do Teachers Make?" What I know for sure is that even though what I make does not equate with what I do, that the difference elementary teachers (and all teachers) make in the lives of our students can never be measured, and that is worth more to me than you will ever know.




Saturday, January 20, 2018

#StoriesinEdu

For several years, I have enjoyed listening to podcasts. I actually began by listening to the Serial podcast, from the creators of This American Life. I was drawn in by the voices, the engaging storyline, and the humanity in the voices that would play through my earbuds. I then briefly dabbled in Mortified, based on the recommendation of my friend, Kate Wood. This podcast introduces you to someone new each show who recounts a most embarrassing moment, usually from their teens or twenties. Isn't that when the very most mortifying things seem to happen to us?! Again, what makes this podcast intriguing is not just the storytelling, but also getting to hear the stories from real voices, with laughter, groans, hesitant pauses and the humanity that is presented throughout the show.

It seems like everyone is jumping on the podcast trend, and as much as I like words and stories, it seemed natural to want to try something like that myself. I'm working on a book, but that can seem so daunting and overwhelming. The episode structure of a podcast lends itself to succinct storytelling and can be a welcome friend on a drive to work, a walk around the neighborhood, or just background as one gets ready for work.

After several Google Hangouts and Twitter DMs, my friends Jason Bretzmann and Kenny Bosch of #personalizedPD fame encouraged Josh Gauthier and I to give it a try. They take care of the technical stuff and I get to jump in on conversations with the most fascinating educators and hear their stories.  It's not particularly glossy or famous, these educators are from rural and urban districts, work with elementary, middle, and high school students, coach teachers toward technology integration and the pursuit of personalized goals, and are one of the reasons that I wake up motivated each day. The #StoriesinEdu podcast gives me the beautiful opportunity to turn up the volume on the voices in education that we should be listening to, the voices of the people with feet on the ground doing the work.

As an instructional coach, my role has changed and that shift hasn't always been easy. In the classroom, I always knew my impact, and even when I felt under-celebrated, I had kids that would validate the importance of the work I was doing. I had love notes, trinkets and treasures, missing-teeth smiles, and lots and lots of hugs. As my role has changed, so to has my mission; I want teachers to feel empowered and celebrated, to be reflective and flexible, and to own the importance of their own impact. The #StoriesinEdu podcast has given me the opportunity to broaden that mission, to expand it outside of the work I do in my own district, and to amplify the stories in education.

If you have a story to tell, reach out to Josh or myself. We'd love to hear from you!

Some other podcasts to check out:
Always a Lesson podcast with Gretchen Bridgers
Cult of Pedagogy podcast with Jennifer Gonzales
Mortified
Serial