You’re in the homestretch towards winter break. You’ve almost made it. But, let’s face it, this stretch isn’t often pretty. If you’re like many teachers, your classroom is a mess, your desk is full of papers to grade, and the bags under your eyes aren’t going to go away until well after Christmas.
Teaching can be both incredibly exhausting and incredibly rewarding. At Teaching Channel, we’re here to support you in both your triumphs and challenges. Though we want to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished this year, we also want to keep it real. So this holiday season, we’re celebrating the craziness and exhaustion that can come with teaching in December.
While the messy stacks of “overwhelm” don’t look pretty, they’re a sign of your dedication. Even when teaching isn’t perfect and classrooms aren’t always Pinterest worthy, you keep going. And that’s a reason to celebrate! We’re all hobbling towards the winter break finish line, so let’s do it together.
On August 22, 2016, President Barack Obama named a cohort of 213 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the celebrated Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Teaching Channel is excited to announce that Laureate Kristin Gray is among the honorees. Kristin will travel to Washington D.C. to join this group of the nation’s top math and science teachers to be recognized. They will celebrate, network, and engage in outstanding STEM-based professional development.
We caught up with Kristin for a quick chat to find out more about the award.
Stories Have Power
Even a casual read of the national narrative on public education today reveals a very clear theme. The narrative is largely negative. It is often politicized. Salaries are negligible and, in some cases, respect for educators is even worse. It’s no wonder headlines pose questions such as, “Where Have All The Teachers Gone?” and “Is This The Canary In The Coal Mine?”
A great number of teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years. Ever-expanding expectations packaged as professional responsibilities — where there is little respect for teacher professionalism — have become so complex and demanding that increasing numbers of master teachers are burning out and checking out, well before they’re due for retirement. Our students are paying attention to how their teachers are treated. They’re paying attention to the conversation and the steadily declining enrollment in teacher preparatory programs is a clear indication that this is a conversation of which they want no part. These trends are reaching crisis points across the nation in the form of both teacher shortages and substitute shortages.
You might be thinking, “Why all the gloom and doom during Teacher Appreciation Week?” I hear you. But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about why I see a glimmer of hope for a bright and brilliant future… in spite of all of this noise.
I met her in 2000 as I was bringing my oldest daughter, then three years old, for her pre-kindergarten screening. She was amazing. She had a way of connecting with young children that was completely non threatening and on their level; yet they understood that she was in charge. My daughter used to say, in her three-year-old voice, “She is not a lady; she is a little girl.” She insists that you call her DeeDee, but her name is Dr. Deneita Jo Farmer.
DeeDee is the coordinator of the Pre-Kindergarten Partnership Program for Oak Park School District 97, and has been for many years. The program she leads is designed for students who are at-risk, and my daughter qualified due to a speech delay that she has long since overcome. DeeDee assured me that I was doing all the right things and that my daughter wouldn’t suffer any ill effects as a result of her diminished hearing during her early years.
I wasn’t born the daughter of a teacher. When I was in 8th grade, my mother, Marilyn, decided to return to school and fulfill her dream deferred to become a teacher. Like so many educators, teaching was my mother’s second career. She left a good paying job as a banker, shouldered substantial student debt, and sacrificed family time to become an educator. Watching my mother make such sacrifices was inspirational. She worked nights, went to school during the day, shopped at second-hand stores, and still managed to meet every demand or emotional need my sister and I presented.
After her first year as a teacher, my mother actually went back to banking for a few years, demoralized by intense observations and critiques. Eventually, she returned to the classroom and was finally able to see her dreams fulfilled. Now, with less than five years until she retires, she still has the same passion I saw in her when she entered the field. Teaching is not only a career for my mother; it is her vocation.
It is a calling.
Watching my mother as a teacher, I learned a series of important lessons:
As we ring in the new year, let me take this opportunity to introduce myself and to share some wonderful news.
First, the news: Teaching Channel – that is to say, you, the vibrant community of teachers, coaches, mentors, and educators of all stripes that comprises Tch — just topped the 800,000-member milestone and continues to grow each day!
This number represents to me not just the individuals across the country and around the world who call Teaching Channel a professional home. It also represents a validation of our mission to open classroom doors, through high-quality video, so that teachers can share practice, inspire and learn from one another, and, in the end, get better together. Read more
For the past several years, I’ve used Teacher Appreciation Week to pay tribute to this wonderful community of teachers, to colleagues, to the teachers who have made those indelible marks on me, and even to my own mother. Yet, this year, there are three young people who have lived teacher appreciation, but may not really understand what it means. For you, my children, some insight.
Dear Evan, Lauren, and Zachary,
Many (many) years ago, there was this little girl who spent her summer afternoons creating neighborhood schools for all of the children on her block. She mimicked what school looked like to her: rows of desks, questions and answers, praise and encouragement from the teacher, stickers and stars on the top of “assignments.” She imagined what it would be like to free an idea in someone else’s mind. She was crestfallen when the game of tag pulled her “students” away all too soon in the afternoon. She would wake up early and try to think about how to make learning fun.
I recently visited a set of schools in Chicago that are part of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) network. AUSL is an amazing school-turnaround organization in Chicago Public Schools. They produce over 150 new teachers in a top-notch residency program, preparing future teachers to work in urban schools.
The incredible thing about these schools is that when you walk in the front door, you can immediately feel that the adults in each building take their work really seriously. The schools are immaculate, light and joyful, filled with student work and inspirational acknowledgments of students’ accomplishments. When I visited classrooms, they were purposeful, engaging places where kids are doing important work. When I visited with teachers, they were mulling over what they need to do to ensure that their kids succeed, and they have an excellent handle on student performance data. When I look at their work on our collaboration platform, I see teachers and coaches working together to hone their skills, to give each other feedback, and to help each other grow as professionals. When I talked with administrators, they were enthusiastically working with teachers to strengthen their learning so that the teachers can in turn lift student learning.
For Teacher Appreciation Week we’ve concocted a weeks worth of tweets to keep teachers feeling loved and appreciated. During the week of May 4th-May 8th, come to Twitter and answer these questions.
Remember to use the hashtag #TeachersRock so we can find your answers and share them with our teacher community.
The Teaching Channel blogs we love are the ones that provide us with ideas and quick tips. Your clicks and comments tell us that. This is not that type of blog. This blog’s aim is to remind you that you make a difference, an idea just as useful and equally important as our blogs with classroom ideas and quick tips.
Days set aside for national recognition give us moments to think about why we do what do, just when we need to hear it most. May is the month we teachers often feel––simultaneously frazzled to the point of unravelling and also fulfilled to the point of pride as the hard work of the previous 8 months blooms. Teacher Appreciation Week is well timed.