Monday, August 13, 2012

Message to teachers

I’m sure there is a law that requires edu-bloggers to give some kind of beginning of the year message to all those that are about to start-up in the Fall.  Those that don’t add to the blogosphere are picked up by black sedans in front of their houses and take you to mock up of the movie Brazil.

Yeah, I can’t afford to let my face end up like Rue McClanahan on a bender so I better send words of wisdom (for what they are worth) to rooks and vets alike. 

Let’s remember that we have some one of the most important jobs in existence.  No pressure or anything but we really do.  We have the ability to shape and mold future generations to do really cool things like invent iPhones, win Olympic gold medals, and disclose hundreds-of-thousands of documents on Wikileaks.  Hey, it could happen!  Also remember that what is going to be learned as important to the kids might not necessarily be what you intend to be important.  I’m not under any illusion that AP U.S. History will all of the sudden create a deluge of people interested in investigating how fat President Taft was.  However you never know which little piece of everything that you do will impact that brain and therefore impact their life.  Teach with passion and the conviction that the students are paying attention, even when they don’t seem to be.

By the way, you are a paid professional.  Act like it.  Dress the part, prep the part, execute the part, and then reflect and make all the parts work better.  If people don’t really know how to be professional, mentor them.  If people refuse to be professional, make them a non-existent part of the educational process by being awesome.  If the shame doesn’t bring them around, find other professionals to tell the interloper that the teaching is bigger than their overinflated ego.  Tell them to get with it or get out. 

Expect to work hard.  If you are a rookie or have only been doing this for a couple of years; yes, it is supposed to be this hard.  It does get easier as the years go along but it will never be “easy.”  It’s not supposed to be easy.  We are doing something that is very difficult in conditions that are far from optimal.  Get over it and work.  Come to work early, leave late, and always work on making things better for kids.

And be yourself.  Teach within yourself.  As controversial as it might sound, most of the instructional models that you will be exposed to are crap.  All good teaching has essential elements that models simply put in a nice outline and force you to repeat.  Good teachers take the elements and make them a successful part of instruction by using their passion, preparation, and ability.  Kids don’t want an act.  They don’t want a script.  They want you to care, and not just about the curriculum you are teaching.  The curriculum is a vehicle to teach lessons that will never be in State Standards, Common Core, or any idiotic textbook maps, alignments, or whatever.  Bring “you” into the classroom, teach them something, and you will be rewarded with things that money can’t touch.

Your abilities are the most paramount thing to teaching these kids.  Don’t get wrapped up in all the conversation about technology.  Technology is a tool.  But it is currently being touted by everyone as one of the overwhelming necessities in the classroom.  It’s thought that if you don’t teach about or with technology you will doom the souls of your students to a purgatory filled with Wal-Mart Mac N’ Cheese and a constant loop of the movie Glitter on a drive-in screen.  That is not going to happen (we hope).  The iPad will not make you a substantially better teacher.  Neither will a QR Code.  Neither will Dropbox, Twitter, a blog, Wi-Fi, or the fastest computer this side of the HAL 9000.  Tech is a tool, not the focus of the teaching.  You listen long enough and it will sound like technology is a necessity.  Wrong.  Great teachers are a necessity.  The relationship between a teacher and the students is monumentally more important than the relationship between electronics and the student.  Period.

This is why you should ignore Flipping.  You should ignore it because if you try really, really hard to Flip your classroom, you will have found that you actually Flip much of it anyway.  Only you made your kids read, write, and didn’t bail them out by creating pretty videos.  Reading and writing is becoming a lost art in this world of technology.  You are bound by the ethics of teaching to stop that.  Technology is a wonderful thing.  But to the young minds that we teach technology has become an agitator against reading and writing.  It is the Echthroi, the Nothing, that which tempts people into a pit of ease and false serenity.  You must stop this.    Don’t do it as Atreyu or Charles Wallace, do it as yourself.  Bring your own talents and passions to the profession and bring about a new Renaissance of the read and written word.

The last thing I’ll throw out is to remember to focus on your students.  The most important things that will happen this year will happen within the four walls of your classroom, and almost all those other distractions are superfluous crap.  Unions will not make you a better teacher.  Neither will district-lead professional development.  Or pissing matches with colleagues.  Or confrontations with irrational parents.  Or anything that keeps you from focusing on best meeting the needs of the kids.  Learn to serve them in the best way possible.  Teach them.  Demand from them.  Hold them accountable.  Be there for them.  Support them.  Smile at them.  Shake their hands.  Laugh with them.  Cry with them.  Take this wonderful profession that you have chosen and do good.

Go. 

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