Friday, January 31, 2014

The buck? What Buck? We can't stop that buck.

I'd first like to say that I'm tired. I've been teaching for 9 years in Fairbanks, and I'm tired. I'm tired of watching our academic leaders sit back and watch things happen to our schools. They have watched state funding plateau for the last 5 years leaving our budgets short. They have allowed the state to dictate the value of our students, schools, teachers, and support staff. We listen to them blame a lack of funding for all of the cuts, and the increased class size. And we sit there and accept it, and I'm tired. I'm tired of feeling this way about my job. I'm tired of allowing our leaders letting us feel this way. Sure they say that they value us, and praise us for all the great work we do, but what actions are they taking to reinforce that?

I'm currently reading a book called "What Great Principals do Differently" by Todd Whitaker. A great book that I recommend you all read and start using as a measure by which you rate all principals and Ed leaders you encounter. One of the main concepts that has stood out for me as lacking in our current academic leaders is highlighted in the following paragraph:

         On-site visits and interviews with teachers and principals revealed some key
         differences between the very effective and less effective principals. One critical
         difference was that effective principals viewed themselves as responsible for all
         aspects of their school. Though these principals regularly involved staff, parents,
         and others in decision making, they believed they were responsible for making
         their school the best it could be. Regardless of whether situations arose within
         the school or as a result of outside factors such as budget cuts or school board
         decisions, the more effective principals saw themselves as the ultimate
         problem solvers.

What this says to me is that we are currently expecting our students to meet the high problem solving standards that are coming from a common core based system than we are of our academic leaders. Instead, we are getting a town hall meeting to show us that we don't have the numbers because of the state which means we have to cut jobs. We have to increase class sizes. We have to hide behind these things and not think outside the box. What does it matter to them? They will keep their jobs. They're salary negotiations will stay out of the public's eye. Where are the creative ideas that are keeping staffing levels? Where is the leadership of our district saying, "sure this is happening and it sucks, but this is how we are going to manage. Here is how we are going to rise above."

So, yeah, I'm tired of expecting more of my students than we do of our administrators. I'm tired of letting my value be dictated by a boss that allows outside influences to negatively perceive the outstanding job I do each day. Time to raise the standards we have for our leaders. Time to see some new ideas on how we ARE going to fund the missing budget amount, or how we ARE going to trim some other things that will keep our school performing for the students. Because after all, it is the kids and their parents that we work for. NOT the state, and it's lacking budget.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Our perceived worth = budget cuts

I know it's been a while since my last post. The holidays are a busy time in our house, and I tried to spend as much time away from social media as I could. It was nice. Until, I decided to check Twitter on New Years Eve and saw the local paper tweet out a headline and link to an article "School District Expects Deficit." Perfect... I had to click and read the latest in the state school funding drama. The state government isn't increasing the per student allocation for the 5th year in a row. The response from our Superintendent came off as whiny with a hint of doomsday-ish sadness. That's just in my opinion of course. But, that has been our district's stance for years now. Didn't get what we want? Threaten to raise class size and cut teachers! The world is ending!! The state hates education!!

Geez.. Enough is enough already. The truth is we need to pay teachers what they are worth. Right now, there is an overall feeling, Nationwide mind you, that the education system isn't working at a respectful level. Our media outlets don't help the matter with most news stories in education focused on negative headlines (earlier post about this, here). The best of us teachers are so busy working hard for our students that we don't spend extra time selling what we are doing to media outlets for coverage. Our admins are bogged down with paperwork from their bosses that they are trapped (sometimes by choice) in their offices, and the figure heads of our districts are just that. They are not out in the classrooms observing the front lines and noticing the outstanding efforts of the teachers and getting the proper PR out about our schools. 

Instead, we have another "don't fund our underperforming schools" headline. Great. Exactly how is that going to help? Who in their right mind will look at all of the negative perceptions of education and think, "wow that sounds like a great career!" Decreased funding, teacher cuts, schools with leaking roofs (yup mine does), and negative media coverage will not help change the course of education! In fact, that will only further hurt our students as the best of us teachers get fed up, and find success in other career fields. 

The thing that will fix all of our problems is a new system for training teachers. That starts at the University level and continues with our educational leaders. But that change is hard, and requires a University and a district to overhaul the teacher prep structure. There's no incentive for a University to do that, because people will pay tuition to get a teaching degree regardless. And if the teacher is just mediocre at best it doesn't hurt the University, they got their money. Most districts are more focused on finding a fix-all curriculum that scripts lessons for teachers, so that all teachers will be the same. Stupid.  Scripting mediocre teachers will still lead to mediocre educations for our kids, and doesn't solve any problems. We just spend more money on a curriculum and resources that inflate the pockets of someone else. 

In the end, we have to simply create better teachers that inspire students, and demonstrate to everyone that there is value in funding education. To give credit to our governor, he did say that he would consider a base raise if he knew the spending was going to something that would help change the system. Seems to me that this would be the best time to show a new teacher training program that funnels money to creating a better teaching crew. But, I'm sure that won't happen, and our educational leaders will silently support the notion that our teacher's aren't cutting it. That the money we need will go to technology and curriculum that will make our teachers better. It won't. And the quality of education will continue to be questioned, and teacher value will fall some more. 

So, what's a guy to do? hmm.. Reminds me of a Clash song... And if I go, the trouble, could still be there, but if I stay... maybe it'll double.... Crap.