Tag Archives: students

Time to Make a Difference #TeachTheVote

I teach in a 21st century classroom. I’m one of few people in my building who do. My friends who teach English, social studies and math do everything in their power to expose their students to a 21st century classroom, but it’s not easy. Those who teach science in my building have newer labs, thank goodness, but even those could be better.
My 21st century classroom is great, but it’s also frustrating because our current infrastructure doesn’t support true 21st century education. We’ve grown accustomed to dance parties while our computers and their spinning pinwheels of doom provide a nice background.
In 2008 I started the school year in a wheelchair. My husband rolled me to class every day, and he was shocked to see the classrooms looked just like they did when he graduated in 1983.
When we go to Denton, Austin, Lubbock, Abilene, Mansfield for competitions, my kids wonder WHY their schools don’t look like those of their state peers.
When they see their friends in the small towns in our surrounding area going to new schools, they ask why we don’t have new schools.
That could change.
When bond election discussions started, our local school board made recommendations based on a study done by outside sources. They decided the decision shouldn’t be theirs alone.
A Community Facilities Action Team was created from people across the district: educators, parents, former board members. They worked for months on recommendations and heard from groups across the city. The district has kept the community factually informed on the district website.
It’s been democracy at its finest.

They’ve narrowed the decision down to two choices for now with an election scheduled for May. If you’re a Wichitan, I highly recommend going to http://www.wfisd.net and looking at the possible future for our secondary schools.
I hope you’ll get out and vote.
I know how I’m voting. Our kids deserve new schools. They deserve the chance to be competitive with their peers.

 

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J-Teacher and Proud of It

21010_84342_0(There’s a request for comments at the end of this. PLEASE comment!)

I love my job. It’s stressful, crazy, political, time intensive. It’s teacher, counselor, motivational speaker, cheerleader, project manager, classroom facilitator, photographer-photography teacher-camera man, advertising manager, marketing director, technology guru, technology support, Adobe Genius, Apple aficionado, sound checker, light checker, mic checker, school supply-battery-Duck tape-Sharpie-supplier, Mom  all rolled in to one.

I’m sure I left something out.

But still,  love my job. In spite of 12-15 hour days, in spite of summer months spent at camps without being paid for the time, in spite of meals missed and mad momma phone calls and a $0 budget, I love my job. To me it’s the best job in the world.

Here’s why:

Yearbook and newspaper and AV are outcome-based products, produced collaboratively by students for students using project management, high tech, and problem solving skills. Students leave journalism programs strong writers with an eye for design and the ability to use professional programs that get them real world jobs right out of high school and paying jobs on college/university staffs. They know how to work in chaos–probably the most underrated skill learned in the newsroom. Remember dorms? Me, too. If you can’t concentrate on the work in front of you even though there’s a tequila line outside your door, you’re in trouble.

Our kids learn note-taking skills like one other. They learn to discern the important stuff and read between the lines and question authority RESPECTFULLY. They learn ethics and editing and how to be on a crazy-insane-OhMiGodI’mGoingToDIE Deadline and survive SUCCESSFULLY…even if it’s done at the very last second.

Our kids learn how to manage commercial budgets and sell an invaluable product to a community to make that budget happen.

Our kids learn how to produce quality products in 45 minute classes and time spent after school while learning Elvish or Spanish or Sonic-ese on the side. And they learn the difference between analysis and news, unlike most people today.

Media literacy problems? Not with J-kids.

Our yearbook kids produce the ONE thing that stays with the school forever. When anthropologists look at what teenagers were like in 2013, they’ll look at yearbooks because they last forever. Technology can’t compete. DVDs are almost passe, and my kids don’t even know how to use the boom box in my classroom, but they can go to that 1962 Rider yearbook, and they totally know what to do. THEY LOVE THAT BOOK. It’s the first Rider book and it tells the Rider story. It’s the only thing that can.

Our newspaper and A/V kids serve as the voice of the students body, the defenders of the constitution. When I tell my kids that, they think I’m kind of crazy until we start talking about it, and they realize how absolutely essential they are to a quality school environment.

J-classes are some of the most important classes on a campus. It’s why when you look at the 21st Century Classroom description, you can line it up next to a J-class and check, check, check…all the way down the list. We are cutting edge. We are forward thinking. We are the 21st Century Classroom, which is funny since I’ve been in the high school newsroom since I was 15…back in the day of cut and paste and lightboards and headline counts from hell. But you know what? Back then we were cutting edge 1980s technology. (We even had a computer that worked with something other than C:    )

That’s the nature of high school journalism, and it’s why quality schools have quality high school J-programs.

Yep. I love my job. And I’ll fight for it forever.

If you were on your high school J-staff (yearbook, newspaper, broadcast), tell me how it impacted your life in a positive way whether you’re in the industry or not OR drop me a line at marybeth AT marybethlee DOT com. I’d love to be able to show people why my classes matter.

THANKS!

For Those Considering a Career in #Education

Me last year talking to my editor from my desk.

Me last year talking to my editor from my desk.

In the last two weeks I’ve taught classes with former students at workshops, gone out for margaritas with a former student and talked about everything from higher ed and linguistics to which hockey players to follow on twitter, chatted with a former student about her soon to be released by Entangled Publishing novel and finally tonight, laughed at the photos two former editors posted on Facebook for #tbt.

If you’re thinking about going into education know this: you’ll never be paid what you’re worth, you’ll always be the “bad guy” politicians can point to as wanting too much when all you want is job security and a decent paycheck, you’ll spend money on your classroom and the kids and you’ll never get that money back. You’ll work crazy ridiculous hours and drive your non-teacher friends nuts when you start talking about “education reform” and NCLB. You’ll go to the grocery store and see kids slinking away hoping to God you don’t see them AND kids who run up to you, give you a hug and introduce you to their grandmother who’s visiting as “My favorite teacher.”

You’ll be cussed at, laughed at, ignored and loved. You’ll attend trainings that don’t seem to serve a purpose during time you could be setting up your classroom. You’ll learn a million different acronyms for the Next Best Thing in education and those acronyms will change often.

You’ll meet amazing people dedicated to changing the world and then watch them thrive…or burn out…or decide it’s just not worth it to teach. You’ll have friends join admin…even DOWNTOWN admin, and then you’ll wonder if they’re still “friends” or if they’ve crossed over to the Dark Side. If you stick around long enough, you’ll learn it takes a village and the Dark Side is a myth…usually.

You’ll have classes without enough desks, without enough books, without enough super secret codes to unlock the sparkly new technology you’re provided. You’ll run into proxies that render said technology useless on a regular basis even though you used the website the week before to teach your classes.

You’ll spend hours on snazzy lessons with everything from rock songs to movie clips to pictures of places you’ve visited while on the quest to become a better teacher…AND someone in your class will try to sleep anyway.

You’ll be told you only work 9 months a year so quit your dang complaining…all the time. You’ll hear “We don’t need to pay teachers all this money. We can do school on the computers. Let the kids learn it all online.”

You’ll wake up some mornings feeling like a rockstar and go to bed feeling like a rock.

You’ll need to invest in super-dee-duper vitamins because schools are germ factories.

You’ll cry with your kids who lose boyfriends, parents, babies. You’ll want to smack them when you see their names in the paper on crime beats. You’ll want to call them up and say congrats when you see they’ve finished in the top of their class at UT. You’ll ask them if they’re sure they want to teach when they tell you they’ve decided to pursue a degree in education. And you’ll feel like crying again when they say they want to be just like you.

So think long and hard before you go into education. Starbucks gives full benefits, including a matching 401k for 20 hours a week. There are easier paychecks.

BUT nothing beats waking up in the morning excited to go to work. Nothing beats being a teacher when you love it.

Dead Girl Walking

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad…Rewind. Today was AWESOME!

You know those days where you think I just need to go back to bed?

Today started with me squirting makeup all over my shirt. Changed shirt. Then I ran out of coffee, so I got less than a cup for breakfast. Then I realized the freezer was left open over night and everything in it was ruined. Then I spilled part of that less than a cup of coffee on my pants, so changed pants. I thought maybe this morning was a sign from God to go back to bed. I didn’t though. And today was AWESOME at school–other than when I got a 10-sheet of paper paper cut on my thumb AND broke a nail. My students were awesome, our discussions were amazing, life at school was great! To top it off one of my precious special needs kids said my legs looked small now. Doesn’t get much better than that! Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.

If you pray, please continue to pray for us. We’re STILL looking for a house plan that will work and meets our needs. Thanks!

Moving Day

I’m moving rooms. I almost said no. New is tough. It’s hard to let go of a place you’ve been in for over a decade! It’s especially tough since DD spent four years in the old newsroom. But the new space is bigger and better and I can’t believe I almost said no because of nostalgia. I won’t be at Rider forever. Even if I spend the next 13 years as the newspaper and yearbook adviser, someone else will follow. I can’t let my memories and the names written on the wall keep me from moving forward.

Things I’ll miss about the old room:

It’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

The courtyard window.

Easy access to the studio.

The names on the wall including DD’s, including my former editors who got engaged this year after dating for years. The started dating when they were sophomores in newspaper together. Their brother and sister are on staff now. When they got engaged, the sister painted a heart between the names. (So sweet!) The random places people signed the walls all over the room. The fact that there’s no room on the walls because they’re covered in design ideas, old posters and quotes kids say throughout the year, the fact that you have to be able to pay attention in complete chaos because the newsroom is tiny and there are usually four classes going on at once, the way I can be at my desk and look out across the room and tell if kids are working at every computer except one, the memories of staffs for years stopping work for random deadline dance parties, the ability to turn off the light and disappear from the school because without lights most people don’t know where we are, the Newsroom Lane hallway with first amendment posters, the phone IN the room so kids answer and make us laugh if I can’t get to it fast enough, the cabinet that used to hold curriculum but now serves as a binder holder for binders that never get used (An AP Stats study guide from five years ago was found there this year! Seriously, never gets used!)

The move is a good thing. The only bad thing is photo camp starts tomorrow. It runs from 9-noon. They turn the air off in our building at noon. It’s going to be 111 the rest of the week. I’m thinking the move might have to wait until all day air next week. Even though that means someone’s going to be moving in while I’m moving out.

Don’t forget Don’t forget Prodigal is on sale now. Click the link to buy or preview. Coupon Code: ZH29T good this week! Use it and the book’s only $0.99! Sisters with secrets.
Eighteen years ago, Cass Deason Myers ran away from home and heartbreak. Now she’s running away again, this time to the home she left behind. A preacher’s wife, Cass finds herself questioning her faith and her marriage. Her sister’s phone call asking for help with their mother provides the perfect opportunity to escape.
Anna Deason-Fite-Turner doesn’t want or need help for herself or her three daughters. But her mother is another story all together. Calling Cass is a last resort. But when Anna finds the bottle of pills in Momma’s dresser drawer, she knows she has to call her sister. Unfortunately, Anna knows when Cass comes home the whispers will start, and once again, everyone in town will compare perfect Cass to her failure of a sister, even though she’s the one who stayed behind.
Prodigal: a story about family, faith and the redemptive power of love.

 

The Bad News

If the all the cuts proposed are adopted, I’m losing more than 10% of my pay next year. OUCH!
The good news: I work for a district that made this process completely transparent. As painful as this is, it’s not a surprise. And I’m not alone. Several people will be taking huge hits. And unfortunately those hits will affect those of us who spend several extra hours a week and time with our students on weekends more than it hits those who show up for work and check out at quitting time. Unfortunately, those of us going the extra mile had the salary stipends that could be looked at. The state government has to balance the budget, and they’ve chosen to do so on the backs of public servants and the children of the State of Texas. The district has to make budget. End of story. Our budget committee was made up of people from all areas of our district, not just the supers and admin. They studied every area possible to find the cuts, and they did what had to be done. I appreciate the people who gave their time to serve on this committee. Hopefully, their hard work won’t go unappreciated.
What bothers me is how so many people in the public are reacting to the cuts. So many people are saying hurtful, horrible things about teachers right now, and it breaks my heart.
We give our lives to our jobs. You won’t find us on long business lunches with glasses of wine and margaritas or at the gym for 4:00 a fitness class before running home to get dinner together for our families. At night we spend time with our families when we can, but almost always, we’re working on grading papers, giving quality feedback, or doing lesson plans at the same time.
Yes, public education spending has increased in the last decade. But society expects astronomically more from us than they did a decade ago. Are there areas of waste? Sure. Schools are bureaucracies. Waste abounds in bureaucracies. Are there bad teachers out there. Yes. But finding them isn’t as easy as non-educators seem to think. And it costs money to get them out of the classroom.
Today at lunch a friend said she knows a single teacher with two children who qualifies for federal assistance. That makes no sense.
I’m terrified right now. It seems to me that this is a battle for the USA. This is the country where everyone gets a quality education. Where hard work means something. Where children of poverty can change their lives, and that change starts with school. But the US is changing. Poverty levels are increasing, the middle class is shrinking and the rich are getting richer. We’re truly becoming a society of haves and have nots with little upward shifting taking place over the course of time.
All this said, I know I’ll be okay. God’s in control. A couple years before she died, my grandma told me the story of her life during The Great Depression. So many people lost their homes and jobs, tent cities cropped up everywhere. She lived in a tent. My house is paid for.
I won’t get to build the house we wanted to build right now, but I have a home.
I won’t be going to Vegas on vacation, but I have my family.
I won’t be getting a new car, but my car works.
I won’t be spending a lot of my own money on my budget-less publications program, but I probably should have stopped that a long time ago.
So yes, I’ll be okay.
But our schools, that’s another story. A story controlled by politicians and lobbyists and people who have no clue what we do every day on campuses across the nation.

The Digital Revolution

New year, new semester, fresh starts, blank slates.
I love new semesters and I can’t wait to see what this one has in store.
Advising publications has changed significantly over the last 15 years. The digital revolution has made everything easier, but the sheer amount of information makes it more difficult, too.
Kids are far more comfortable IM’ing, chatting, texting than they are talking. Interview electronically and you get great quotes. But you lose the body language, the setting, the intensity.
You also lose a bit of the reality. Because people will write things in an e-mail or in a chat they’d never say in real life.
I wonder where we’re headed with communication. Five years ago I would’ve never imagined students telling me they’d rather text than talk on the phone. This year most of my kids told me that was the case.
And it’s contagious, I guess. The other day I was trying to text on my old non-backlit phone while DH and I were running errands, and I couldn’t see the text. Instead of calling the friends I was trying to reach, I closed the phone and decided I’d try later.
I never tried. No telling what I missed out on. All because I didn’t want to talk.
When I first started teaching, we’d read the book 1984 and my kids would say that would never happen. These days we worry about WHEN it will happen.
I love the movie Wall-E. But it’s disturbing that the whole time I watched it, I wondered if that’s where we’re headed.
I hope not.
I love words. Explicate is my favorite word because of the way it feels to say it. That just doesn’t work in text speak.
I love the digital revolution, but I hope it doesn’t destroy us.

One of the kids in the newsroom on her iPhone. You can't see it because she wasn't supposed to be doing it, but I know. I never saw her talk on the phone. Not once in the whole time I had her in class, but I saw her text and play games all the time.