‘Reach Out to Community -Posts’ Posts

 

Great Teacher Stories on the Patch News Website

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It can be really hard to get positive education stories into the big newspapers. But I’ve started a blog to publish great teacher stories on the Patch news website – at least from the Chicago area. If you haven’t checked out Patch, it’s a system with separate news sites for various local neighborhoods across the country. My blog is on the Evanston, IL site.

The story I put up today is by Chicago English and drama teacher Rob Schroeder, about a powerful moment when a special education student performed a monologue on stage for the first time. And as Rob states about the learning and success he experienced:

“You can’t get that from a multiple choice test.”

Last week’s story, beautifully written by retired District U46 teacher Jan Booth, is about how good teachers must not only teach but learn important lessons from their students.

But I need more stories for this blog — so Chicago area teachers send me your stories of great moments in your classroom! If you need to remain anonymous as the author, I’ll honor that. But with summer coming, you should certainly have a little time, even if you’re holding down a summer job or teaching gig to supplement your limited school paycheck.

New York Teachers Are Writing to Critique a New ELA Test

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Wow! I’m stunned! Dozens of New York Teachers are writing to critique a new ELA test created by Pearson publishers. Their comments are posted at a new website created by Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Judging from the teachers’ copious reports and analyses (we counted 59 teacher responses plus a number of principals just in the category of “multiple choice questions”), the test was a disastrous fiasco. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about it is that it’s so badly designed it will be useless and ultimately discarded.

So considering how little time teachers have to write and their general tendency not to speak out, we want to consider why so many have done so. We have three hypotheses:

  1. If teachers and kids are made totally miserable the teachers will be stirred to write.
  2. If the issue is highly focused and a very specific forum is created, many teachers will respond.
  3. New Yorkers are more outspoken than the rest of us around the country.

Perhaps the answer combines all three possibilities. In any case, we hope the conversation will reach a wider audience and not be confined to only the world of educators.

Hear Great Teacher Stories at Story Corps

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It’s still Teacher Appreciation Week, and people can hear great teacher stories at Story Corps so go to their site and listen now. And you can record still more of these at the Story Corps booths in Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. Just make a reservation on their website.

We especially like these because most include a teacher and a student or two, so it’s not just the teacher bragging. And what’s great is that these are seen by people throughout the country — though it’s a good idea to alert your school community to go online and watch, to make sure you get seen by the people you want to influence.

Learn from Teachers About Why They Teach

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on Teacher Appreciation Day, what better activity than to get parents, friends, community members, legislators, and others to learn from teachers about why they teach. So go to the Learning Matters website page on “Why I Teach,” and enjoy, add your own explanation — but also use Facebook, Twitter, email, and any other tool you have to get these testimonies out to the wider world.

May 7th Is Supposed to be Teacher Appreciation Day

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May 7th is supposed to be Teacher Appreciation Day. If only we were! In any case, this would be an excellent occasion to explain to the community just exactly what we should be appreciated for (and if you’re a Teachers Speak Up follower, you know exactly what I’d like you to do).

In an op-ed on the “Take Part” website, Greg Mullenholtz, a math coach in Silver Spring MD, touts the new RESPECT program sponsored by the US DOE as the voice of 5700 teachers advocating for what teachers need in order to be supported in their work – and thus truly appreciated.

We’ll admit that we don’t love everything about the RESPECT initiative — it seems to start from the assumption that teachers are a rather weak bunch at this point. And it seeks such a broad range of improvements in our schools that it’s hard to know where to start. The Take Part website is a bit mixed as well, with some posts and articles that defend the most draconian of policies. And we can’t see who guides this site. However, at least teachers’ voices can be found there.

So besides receiving some cookies in the teachers’ lounge, what will you do to help people appreciate what you REALLY do?

Two Great School Stories Recognized Publicly

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It’s great to see that at least sometimes good schools and teachers are appreciated in the press. Here are two great school stories recognized publicly.

First, a whole school district in Hartsville, SC, is working with community partners and a retired corporate CEO to implement a whole-child approach to kids’ learning (developed by child psychologist James Comer).

And first-grade teacher Carol Hines in Farmersville, PA, gets lauded in the local paper as she had her students study about, write letters to, and finally interview a local marine corporal who served in Afghanistan.

We are always curious about how these stories come to light. Anyone connected with a school can get it started, of course. But it sure would help if teachers were taking the lead.

Great Video on Why Teachers Stay With the Job

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Readers, please take a look at this powerful, great video on why teachers stay with the job, made by teacher Beth Shaum. Then visit her blog, Use Your Outside Voice.

And now, if you’re a teacher, ask yourself: wouldn’t it be wise to take just a few minutes each week — in spite of the intense, time-consuming work of teaching — to communicate like this in order to get YOUR outside voice out to the world so that more people understand and appreciate what you do?

More Teachers Advocating and Making Their Voices Heard

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It’s encouraging to hear of more and more teachers advocating and making their voices heard. Here are two fresh examples, one national and one local.

The national item is the “Occupy the Department of Education 2.0” event that just took place in Washington D.C., organized by the new Network for Public Education. The report on this is in the “NPE News” bulletin on the Web, written by Anthony Cody. While NPE is more advocacy-oriented than our effort here at Teachers Speak Up, it is indeed teachers speaking up, and that’s a good thing. Read about it here.

The local event is about teacherscourageously testifying to their local school board to oppose budget cuts, described in a Podcast by our friend in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, Kevin Hodgson. Take a listen.

Teacher Sees Power in Public Communication

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It’s great when a fellow teacher sees power in public communication. Here’s Janet Ilko’s comment on our latest post about her journey:

Thanks for sharing my blogpost. I have been blogging for about 2 years now, at www.writinginmyhand.org, about my classroom and working with students. I ran across your site a few months ago, and initially I thought “What can I do? I am just one voice?” But I have come to realize that one voice inspires another, and that is how change happens.
I just want to clarify that at that morning meeting [with local business people] I was asked “What do you need?” , but it will take time to build those relationships that will help us find funding. The important thing we need to do as educators is bring people into our classrooms. Go out to our communities and really reach out and invite them in. The more people see the wonderful work in so many classrooms, the less value the negative media machines will have on policy makers. We have the power, and in my opinion, the duty to make sure the messages about our classrooms are accurate and fair.

Thanks, Janet! Surely this will encourage more teachers to speak up. Check out Janet’s blog by linking here.

I Will Gladly Help Teachers Write About Great Classrooms

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Teachers are busier and more overwhelmed than ever, with larger class sizes, more planning for new mandates, standards, and performance evaluations. Yet it’s more important than ever for us to speak out to the public and explain just what we do for kids every day, so we gain support rather than still more of such burdens.

To make it easier to do this, I will gladly help teachers write about great classrooms — by interviewing those who volunteer and then sending them a transcript. I’ve had lots of experience doing this as I gather classroom stories for the professional books I write. So all that a teacher would need to do would be to edit the document, and add any missing details or clarify them when necessary. Of course the teacher should clear the effort with his or her principal. And then I’ll help locate a news reporter or outlet for the story.

OK, who will go first?! Let me know in a comment, or send a message to my Teachers Speak Up Facebook page.