Saturday, March 03, 2012

Painful Perspective

Since my teacher of the year nomination, I've had the opportunity to not only host a tour of my school district, but to visit other districts here in Oz as well with KTOY nominees from our region.  Earlier this week our team visited two districts in towns only fifteen or so miles apart from one another.  As a kindergarten teacher, I greatly enjoyed sneaking peeks into other early elementary classrooms, but also experienced some revelatory and emotional moments in the middle and high schools we toured as well.

In my career I know I've been fortunate to teach students with the help of not only experienced and highly qualified colleagues, but with the involved support and encouragement of my Stars' families.  No, not every year was ideal.  Inexperience was a problem.  Horrific "parenting" made for long sleepless weekends and holiday breaks as I worried about whether or not my students were eating or escaping abuse or neglect.  Budget considerations always seemed to be the bottom line, no matter how much of a PR spin was fed to parents and other community members.  Like many teachers, I learned how to beg, borrow, steal, reuse, recycle, and creatively problem-solve to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear for the benefit of my students.  I've been rewarded for my efforts, being hired in each state we've moved to every time Uncle Sam had our family relocate.

For the past three and a half years I've worked in a district often referred to as "La-La Land."  I'm partnered with experienced colleagues and supportive administrators, and though we don't see eye to eye one hundred percent of the time, we can agree to disagree and try to compromise in the best possible way for our students.  Additional grade level colleagues or specialists are only a phone call, email, text, or two minute car drive away.  My classroom is equipped with most of the materials my students need each year for math, reading, science, social studies, music and movement and other creative explorations and constructions.  I have a SMART Board, iPad, laptop, five desktop computers, and share twenty four iPads for students.  Technical assistance is readily available when needed and professional development regarding technology happens regularly.  Our district has its own planetarium housed at my school.

The grass isn't just greener on our side of the fence, it's saturated technicolor GREEN in our neck of the woods.

We're not sipping lattes on lawn furniture for recess duty though. We're often caught in a whirlwind of change not only because of our exceptionally high student turnover rate (over half of our population relocates after one year) but because our district is always looking for the newest learning tool, effective/efficient program, or paradigm shift that will continue to give our students an edge.  Doing what we can to stay abreast of best practices, while well-intentioned can be exhausting.  Re-evaluating curriculum materials and curriculum-delivery-tools annually, mapping, flexing, PLC'ing, grade level planning, intervening, preparing and attending professional development, learning new SOP's for technology integration and usage and constantly updating those SOP's as we go along makes for a dynamic environment full of fast-paced evolution and change.  Toss in the shift to the Common Core and it's safe to say it's been difficult to find time to stop and smell the roses, much less maintain a regular family schedule.

Visiting other schools in the state, I've seen and been told about each district's issues, concerns, and strengths.  Visits will continue through May, as our team observes how each district interprets today's public school requirements for data, intervention and instruction, and how their resources, pace, and pedagogies compare to one another.  While inspired by the creativity and caring for students that I've seen, I have to remind myself to bring my bottle of Exedrin.  Seeing the struggles, hearing the concerns, and witnessing the cost to students and teachers as many schools struggle to stay afloat is migraine and even guilt-inducing.  I remember being in the thick of a constant battle zone when I taught in districts elsewhere.

Though grateful for my job, it's still difficult when I realize I'm feeling like some sort of survivor who made it out alive and intact, on parade in front of fellow educators still down in the trenches.


  1. Congratulations on your nomination - what a great experience for you to see surrounding areas - very eye opening, indeed! I just found your blog today and would like to present you an award. Please visit my blog, Two Fulbright Hugs, to see the details and snatch the award! :)

    Two Fulbright Hugs
    Teacher Timesavers

  2. Yes indeed, saturated technicolor green!!!! It is very difficult as I see more and more school districts and the resources or lack of resources their teachers share. That constant battle to create equal opportunities for all students is a shared concern and in many places a losing battle, I fear!

  3. Wonderful reflection and I think I got a good taste of your personal experience.
    Our school has some tech but Kindergarten is low on the totem pole of funding and change. Our students don't get immediate attention for learning needs from the experts. We have to wait it out and refer later unless it is profound. Students with ADHD are not given a diagnosis or plan until the end of the year after experiencing some pretty rough times.
    I applaud you for picking up your show each time your husband was reassigned and bringing new thinking about teaching and learning to the next job.
    I've enjoyed your posts for years now and one of the most poignant was the one about the flooding at your house. You became a real person to me through that series.
    Congratulations on your nomination. Early childhood educators need to be recognized like this more than we are.

  4. Anonymous6:53 AM

    I love this post because it is so true. I often post poems I have written that reflect the push and emphasis on standards, tests, curriculum, technology, etc and how that often keeps us from remembering that we are teaching a child. And yes, all of those things are important but what good are they if you have a child who does not demonstrate kindness, respect, empathy, and helpfulness.

    In my district we use Conscious Discipline which is the most amazing and powerful thing I have ever learned or used in the classroom. It is all about building a School Family and giving others the tools they need to solve problems and control and understand their own feelings and emotions. My school is a magnet school for the GT program but the other half of the campus is the neighborhood kiddos...who I teach. These are like the kiddos you talked about above that live in poverty and come from very sad and struggling home lives. It has been amazing seeing how Conscious Discipline can reach everyone and more importantly help the teachers know how to reach and touch each heart.

    Congratulations of your nomination. I can tell from your blog that you are passionate about your love for the children and their education.

    I am your newest follower and would be honored if you would come stop by my blog! =)

    Heather's Heart


As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!