Tag Archives: education

Guns are the problem

I tell myself I’d throw my body in front of a killer intent on shooting my students. I tell myself that every time there’s another school shooting. That means I tell myself this at least monthly and usually more often than that.

The last month more than one student died throwing themselves in front of killers with guns. And both of them have been lauded as heroes.

They are. They are heroes. But they are victims too. And I am so sick of reading people post about their heroism while defending the unending gun culture in this country.

These young people died because we have a problem we refuse to address.

Yes, it’s evil. Evil is everywhere. But we’re the country where gun violence is the second leading cause of death for young people. We’re the country where a school shooting has to have a bigger story to even make the national news. We’re the country where states decide to arm teachers in answer to the gun epidemic instead of addressing the real gun problems. Where prosecutors press charges on bartenders who serve mass shooters instead of fighting to change the gun laws.

Yes, the students who died this month throwing themselves in front of gun wielding killers are heroes. But they’re also tragic reminders that we are perfectly fine letting our children die in schools, in movie theaters, in shopping malls, at concerts, in churches, instead of saying no more.

Guns do kill people. They’ve killed an awful lot of kids since Columbine. And we’ve done nothing to try to fix that travesty.

Meditation Trial and Error: Tales From the Classroom

When I reach the end of my Calm session and the coach says “okay, now if you’re ready, open your eyes…” I’m never ready.

I have a giant class this semester smack dab in the middle of the day. The class that follows is not big, but they are loud and excited about life all the time.

I asked if they wanted to try breathing with the Calm app and they were all in.

So we sat in a circle and closed our eyes and focused on breathing.

About half the class broke after a minute. They couldn’t stop the laughter.

It does feel awkward to sit silently breathing the first few times you meditate. It’s just weird when we’re so used to constant bombardment from a million different directions. So I get it.

A few of us kept breathing, but the kids who laughed got busy working.

We’ve tried a few more times with the same level of success.

Then yesterday hit and the kids sat in a circle breathing, no laughter, no anything other than breath and peace. When I stopped they said “Nooooooo! That was like a minute.”

Nope. 2 minutes 48 seconds.

We made it to 4 minutes and started work.

Y’all, those four minutes were everything.

The stress of the day was gone for me AND for the class. They were so much more focused in their work. And they could not believe how much time had passed.

We don’t meditate every day, and it’s completely optional. The kids said they wished we would make it an everyday exercise.

Maybe we will.

I just really like this new leggings print.

Tales From the Classroom

She didn’t have her photos.

Easy photos.

20 photos that tell the story of our classroom.

But nope. No photos.

Why?

Her phone had no storage.

No problem. I gave her a little point and shoot to take her photos.

Excited, she took the camera, started walking around pressing the display screen in frustration.

Wait. What?

“Miss, how does this work? How do I get pictures?”

That’s when I realized I’d made a world of assumptions. When I handed her that camera, I assumed she would know how to use it because it was a simple point and shoot.

But that simple camera was completely foreign to her. She’s 14. She’s grown up pushing a button on a screen to take photos.

Fortunately, she wasn’t afraid to speak up when doing that didn’t work.

I showed her how to snap the pictures and she quickly took care of the assignment.

She learned how to use a point and shoot. I learned a whole lot more.

So often I think I’m assigning something super easy, but it’s only easy if the students have had specific life experiences.

I’ve got a lot more to learn.

On to the next assignment.

What I’m loving: The Young and the Restless, the train running from Fort Worth to the airport, DoTERRA On Guard, Quest snickerdoodles, Spark People, teaching

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

School, School, The Golden Rule

I loved school from the start even though it didn’t always love me.

In Bald Knob at 5, I think, I got in trouble for singing off key on purpose. It’s the only thing I remember about being in school there except the time I accidentally stayed on the bus and was scared I’d never get home.

In first grade in Minnesota I couldn’t read even though everyone else in my class could. But I didn’t feel like a failure. I felt special because I got to sit at a little cubicle desk and use a film strip about dinosaurs to help me learn phonics. I never doubted I’d get to the circles, and I was determined to get to blue.

When we moved to Texas I liked learning, and I even got over the time my teacher screeched and threw my paper in the trash because I’d written “in the margin.” She didn’t define margin. I thought she meant the side with the holes. It seemed silly to me to lose all that great space on the side without holes.

The worst I felt was because my handwriting never quite measured up to that of the girls who stood at the board and showed off their penmanship with pretty curlicues and hearts to dot the perfect i. But I loved school.

I loved school until junior high when a math teacher crushed my world every single day by telling me it was dumb that I couldn’t do simple algebra.

But in high school a new math teacher helped me see the teacher was the one with the problem not me.

Monday I go back to school for the second semester of my 25th year teaching. During meditation today my brain kept drifting to everything that needs to be done and things I want to address and how excited I am to see the kids but how sad I’ll be to lose this time. That’s what this break has given me more than anything. Time to breathe, to play, to reflect, to just be.

I’ll miss this break. But I still love school.

What I’m loving right now: The Daily Calm meditation, The Young and the Restless, my down comforter, the Dallas Stars, Tyler Seguin’s answers on the Tyler Seguin show on the Ticket.

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After. (Hit 48k last night at group!)

Lessons

Be kind.

Help others.

Event + Response = Outcome

Everyone is just as busy as you are. We all have the same 24 hours.

When you’re feeling down, do for others. It will make you feel better.

When making a parent phone call, put yourself in that parent’s position and ask yourself what you would want to hear.

You can’t take words back.

Don’t speak in anger.

The universe listens and responds.

The Serenity Prayer is real.

The Golden Rule is real.

Say yes more.

Learn to say no.

You do you.

Written goals are better.

Dream big.

Make your own fun.

Perfection is impossible.

Deadlines are deadlines.

A clean desk is possible.

A messy desk isn’t a moral failure.

Ask.

Listen.

Love.

The Pilfering of Public Education

Another reason to vote for pro-public education politicians:

The pilfering of public education continues. Next week starts testing, where we will do what the state makes us do even though we know these tests don’t measure what testing companies and politicians and charter schools focused on test scores and the bankers that make big bucks off those charters say they measure. These are endurance tests where focus and the ability to sit for long periods of time will be rewarded even though those two things don’t tell us much about the future success of a student. These endurance grades will be applied to districts and schools this year. Next fall we’ll see the new crop of A-F grades. Schools filled with children who can sit, read, bubble and write for FIVE straight hours will earn an A grade. Good for them.

I’m not anti-test, but I am anti this monster our politicians have created.

A few years ago a new student joined my class in mid-October. She was confused about the focus on tests, the practice tests, the streamlined lessons built to the test, the classes for those who’d failed the test. Where she lived, no one ever talked about the test until the week before and then you took a two-hour test on a computer and went on with your day. She thought Texas was crazy. She’s right.

But schools have to do what the state tells them they must. So we will do this. Our testing coordinators have planned and organized and worked to make the process as painless as possible. We’ve been trained to actively monitor, read directions and say “I can’t answer that. Just do the best you can.” Administers are ready to walk through buildings monitoring constantly. The hall assistants have their Fitbits ready to count the steps. I think some of ours did 10 miles last year.

We will do this and we will make sure our kids know they are more than a test score. The testing company will earn its $70-$90 million they’ve been paid for this test year. And we will lobby the lege to change this nonsense. And it will go on and on and on UNTIL we vote for politicians who listen to educators.

The World is Changing

When I was in college, I had to take speech to graduate. I HATED talking in front of people, but as my professor told me, if I wanted a degree, I had to do it.

I survived.

Today I’m a workshop speaker, I’ve spoken at school board meetings, I’ve given speeches at rallies, I’ve presided over meetings. All of that still makes me nervous. I’m not sure any of those public speaking moments would have ever happened if Dr. Dencil Taylor hadn’t told me I had no choice but to speak in front of my class. EVEN though I told him I’d get sick. He was heartless.

Actually what he was was a master educator who believed more in me than I believed in myself.

Today speech class is no longer part of the required curriculum in Texas colleges. The lege decided it wasn’t necessary. EVEN though public speaking ability is one of the skills business leaders say is absolutely essential to success.

Recently I read about a university that is cutting liberal arts majors. On further investigation I found this is a common theme in higher education. The reason given over and over again: it’s tough to get a job with a liberal arts degree.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if a degree that encourages you to think and read and write can’t translate to a job.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if we only look at education in terms of vocation.

I was alarmed when students said they didn’t want to take high school journalism because they didn’t want to be journalists. I mean, let’s be real, high school IS NOT ONLY about what you’re going to do later in life. And it shouldn’t be. Shoot in all likelihood students will change their major more than once in college if they go to college. They’ll definitely go down different career paths regardless of whether or not they get a degree.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with vocational education, but for us to make all educational decisions through that limited lens is a huge mistake.

And that mistake is the same mistake universities that choose to discontinue liberal arts degrees are making.

The world is changing. Training for a vocation is not enough. Students need to be able to think critically and problem solve and write and analyze data and think some more and work in collaborative groups and think some more. They need to learn how to be flexible and understand the difference between fact and opinion, and they need to understand the power of propaganda. And they definitely need to know the past because it serves as a lesson, a warning, a road map to our future.

Yes, we need vocational education. But vocational education is not all we need.

Liberal arts subjects help us navigate that changing world. Removing them from the curriculum is the wrong answer to a real issue.

The world is changing. Absolutely.

21st Century Education: Yearbook

A few years ago someone asked me if yearbooks were even relevant anymore.

I was ready with my standard response: Kids in publications classes learn to communicate effectively, collaborate, problem solve, question why, tell their community’s story creatively and work on a deadline under massive stress in complete chaos. Relevant? Check out the 21st century education skill sets demanded by today’s top corporations and you’ll see yearbook checks almost every box. With design and surveys, it even makes the math cut.

Yearbook, newspaper and journalism classes aren’t just about the end product. BUT the end product does, in education speak, show mastery of the skills learned in the course. In yearbook’s case, the book encapsulates the school year FOREVER. In 50 years the book will be what people turn to to learn about the past. The yearbook is the school in book format.

Yearbook is not just relevant, it’s essential.

(More on this tomorrow.)

Teach the Vote: Save Our Public Schools

When I first started teaching one of the best teachers I’ve ever known told me something that has proven to be true in ways I never imagined.

When I said I didn’t like to “be political” she said teaching would always be political and that there were forces at work trying to destroy the public school system because they wanted to raid the funding.

I didn’t believe her in 1994, but by ‘99 I saw she was right. Back then it was Pearson and the high cost of testing and curriculum for the tests and retests. I still didn’t understand the full truth of what she saw.

I didn’t understand that banks were starting for-profit charters and moving into states while pulling funding from schools. I didn’t know hedge-fund operators were donating huge amounts to politicians to change the rules. I sure didn’t expect the state to give billions to private investors while cutting funding to our state teacher pension and insurance fund. I didn’t realize then that the push to make public education teaching a drive-through profession was because without a large,vocal group of seasoned public educators, politicians could raid funds all day long and few would know or care.

Flash forward to two decades later.

What that teacher underestimated was how apathy toward voting in the education profession made it easy for politicians to do the billionaires’ bidding, leaving school districts struggling while for-profit charters flourish with no or little oversight.

So here we are. On Feb. 20 early voting starts for the Texas primaries that will be held March 6.

Teachers must stand up and say no more.

We must vote for our students and our schools. We must vote for ourselves and our futures. We must vote for our retirees.

This election is a battle in the war on public education. It’s not about party. It’s bigger than that.

If you want to know how to fight back, a good place to start is the Texans for Public Education site. There’s a list on the site of the public education friendly candidates running for office.

Public education is a bedrock of our democracy. It levels the playing field for all students when it is allowed to.

And when career educators—not just teachers but our staffs, counselors and admin as well— work their full thirty years or more, public schools are stronger.

Both traditions are under attack.

Voting can change that.

The teacher who told me teaching is political was right. We can’t afford to ignore that truth. If we do, our students suffer and our profession will cease to exist.

Yes, you should be a teacher

Mrs. Lee, I’m thinking about being a teacher, but I just don’t know. What do you think?
My former students ask me this question pretty often. My answer has not changed even though education has.
Yes. Yes, you should be a teacher. No other job is as rewarding as awe-inspiring, as beautiful and life affirming as teaching.

Yes, teaching has changed, and yes, everything is more test centric. Despite that, teaching is still an incredible job.

Yes, kids curse and question authority and their phones will drive you crazy. Kids always cursed and questioned authority. It’s different now for a lot of reasons, but that’s not just an education issue. And the phones are crazy, but walk into any restaurant and look around. It’s the same everywhere, and it’s certainly not just the kids. We get to be part of teaching society how to use those phones successfully instead of letting them control our lives.
Yes, teaching hurts sometimes. When your kids lose parents or grandparents or get kicked out or live in a hotel or come to school dirty and hungry or get involved in the slippery slope of drugs and alcohol or go through bad breakups or fail their STAARs or get criticized and ridiculed for work they were proud of or wreck their cars or drop out–GOD, that last one hurts so bad–you bet it hurts. And that’s why you will be an amazing and wonderful teacher. Because it does hurt you and you will do everything in your power to help your kids through the tough stuff. 

Yes, politicians who are beholden to banks and other special interests will make you crazy. Yes, the politics of teaching can drag you down if you don’t let it energize you. Yes, you will sacrifice sleep and money and health. And still, yes, you should teach.
Unless, the only reason you’re thinking about teaching is the decent starting salary. Because if that’s it, no, no, no, no. You don’t want to teach for the money, I promise. 
Teaching is hard physically and emotionally. It takes everything you’ve got to do it well, and there will be days you suck it up in the classroom, and those days can have terrible consequences if you’re not immediately aware. You will go home Fridays and crash. You will spend hours (and sometimes $$$) on lessons that fall flat. You will lay sleepless in bed staring at the ceiling worrying about a kid in your class, you will ask for unspoken prayer requests for kids going through struggles that seem impossible.
You will gain weight if you are not extremely careful or blessed with great metabolism or someone who works out constantly. You will work sick and miss moments with your family. You will sit through meetings wondering why on earth they didn’t just send an email or read emails wondering why on earth they didn’t have a meeting. You’ll go through great new concept after great new concept after great new concept discarding the one that came before for the new until your head is spinning and you can’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing.
And still, you should be a teacher.
Because yes, there is heartache and frustration, but there is so much more. You are changing the world, lighting a light, showing the way, challenging and enlightening and loving kids to success. And honestly, there is no better job in the world.

If you feel like maybe you want to teach, try and see. Give yourself three years to discover if the classroom is your calling. If it’s not, that’s okay too. You’ll still look back on your time with kids as an educational experience. If it is your calling, you have found an amazing life journey and the best job in the world. ❤️