Saturday, September 26, 2009

Job Interview

I went on a job interview yesterday. Asst. Manager for a retail store.

I shop whenever I have the money, I figure that makes me an expert on retail stores. The HR person interviewing me insisted on asking about my experience working in retail.
Now I don't have much experience in a retail store. That is to say my
experience consists of working at a gas station a few years back. I shop though and that should make me an expert.

So I don't understand when the HR lady, who herself is not a retail store manager, asked me how I thought it was possible that she could hire me to supervise when I would know less than the associates I was supposed to be supervising.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Motivating Students

I'm loving this idea by J Krause.

I remember my days as a high school student. I was about as lazy and cocky as it was possible for a high school student to be, yes I know that is saying a lot. I did the minimum amount of work necessary to pass and probably less than that on many occasions. I did however pass, though sometimes I think just because the school didn't want to deal with me one more year.

This may be good or bad depending on your point of view.
It's good, because evidently I generally have a better grasp of the knowledge and skills that make up the high school curriculum than the average high school student. I personally don't see the harm in graduating from high school if you have the knowledge and skills high school is supposed to teach.

It's bad because I never learned what to do when my limits were tested. I was never held back because of my lack of effort. I might have been given a poor grade, but never held back.

After high school I went off to college. I struggled a bit with calculus, but eventually figured it out. Beyond that I muddled my way through just like I did in high school, by showing up to class taking notes and reading the books. I didn't put much effort into my homework, I simply depended on my ability to pass tests to get me through. For the most part, my amazing ability to pass a test without studying served me well.

There was one professor however who refused to let me slide like I had done for the past 15 years. He made it a point to give me low grades on every paper I wrote unless I spent hours each week writing and rewriting with him in his office. I didn't learn anything. I quit trying and I failed that class. The next semester I took it again, but withdrew and eventually dropped out of college thanks to the influence of that one professor.

Was I a failure? Did my history of never needing to struggle doom me to fail? Did that professor fail me as a student? Did my high school fail me by not preparing me for the true rigors of college or professional life? Did I fail myself with my own lack of passion and willingness to take the easy way out? These are questions I ponder on occasion.

Of course today many students have the option of taking AP classes, or college credit classes, but even if I those were available for me then I probably wouldn't have taken the opportunity. Honestly, I was lazy. I didn't see a need to do more than what was asked at that particular time. Don't get me wrong I loved to learn, I just didn't see the purpose of proving it to my teachers.

I don't know if J. Krause's experiment would have prepared me any better for what future college life held for me. I do know that if that one professor had approached me as a student full of promise who needed molding instead of a lazy good for nothing punk I like to think I would have chosen to learn instead of run away.

So Mr(s). Krause good luck to you and your students. I think this class will teach some few students to learn. It won't work for every student and I hope not every teacher follows this idea, but I hope one or two do so every year, if only to make sure to give all students the opportunity to shine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teachers Strike

gTeachers Strike

Originally published April 25, 2008 – 5:48 am by Brendan

Can you imagine 400,000 people staying home from work?

As a teacher I am often asked how I would fix schools in America. I always say the easiest way is to raise starting salaries to about $60,000 a year then wait seven to ten years. I figure the raise in pay will attract so many eager new students that colleges will be raising standards to keep classes to a manageable size. In about four years schools will have so many new applicants they can pick the best of the best. Then after a few years teaching we will start to feel the effect of these new high quality teachers.

Before I get flamed like crazy this is not the entirety of what I would do if by some weird coincidence I actually had that sort of power and influence. It’s more of a discussion starter for a question that is more rhetorical than real.

I would like to qualify that we do have many outstanding teachers in our schools. I think almost every educator I have worked with has put in a top notch effort. While those schools have been considered “at risk”, every year I worked they met AYP (adequate yearly progress) according to NCLB. More importantly the teachers, parents, and students all felt we were producing high quality education.

All that aside though why shouldn’t we pay teachers $60,000 a year? I mean besides the question of we can afford it. I also don’t think the argument of teachers being lazy works either. Teachers work harder than most people think. I don’t mind a discussion of weakening tenure either, just realize that teachers need to be protected from one irate parent or principal.

Take it from there. Go to our discussion board and talk.


Teacher Pay

Teacher Pay

Originally published May 21, 2008 – 6:15 am by Brendan

When the folks at Global Scholar asked if anyone would like to be a blogger and not get paid I actually jumped at the chance. I’m one of those guys who has a book somewhere inside, but I can never seem to get it out. I figure it is because I can never seem to follow through with the first piece of advice any writer will tell you: sit down and write everyday. So here I am writing everyday.

I’m pretty new at this blogging stuff, or old if you think about it. (As a motorcycle enthusiast I was writing about my travels before I knew blog was a word) I do have two blogs as a sort of diary for my boys that I hope they will take over when they get old enough. The surprising thing to me was how many blogs are out there just on the state of education.

Today I looked at Educationwonk, Coach Brown, Scenes from the Battleground, And Three Standard Deviations to the Left, among others.

It was Three Standard Deviations to the Left, that caught my attention. If you remember early one I wrote an article where I mentioned that the quick and easy fix to education would be to raise teacher pay to about $60,000 and then wait a few years. I didn’t think I had a chance of actually being original in my thought, but I had never come across anyone who had even thought of the idea before.

Now of course he put a bit more thought into his plan (or hers). He went on to quote leaders in the field such as Sir Michael Barber (good and bad). He also shows some data on the amount of pay teachers receive in countries with the best rated school systems.

In the end though she sees improvement in education being made by one of two major changes being made. Either we increase pay (as in South Korea) to encourage the best and brightest college students to enter the teaching profession, or we somehow create an attitude of respect (as in Finland) for the professionalism of teachers.

There is one more step. There must be a way to weed out the poor teachers without ruining good teachers. More on that tomorrow.


Firing Teachers

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the
Firing Teachers
Originally published May 22, 2008 – 6:48 am by Brendan
Yesterday I wrote about attracting the best and the brightest teachers. There are two basic things that need to change if we are going to attract the best and the brightest teachers. (This is not to say that some of the teachers now aren’t the best and the brightest.) The first is to raise teacher pay and the second is to increase the respect for the profession of teaching.
It always shocks me how many people think teachers don’t work for their money. It also shocks me how so many people, when they find out I am a teacher will, tell me how great it is I’m in such a noble profession. Both statements bother me.
I don’t teach for some sense of nobility. I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t think it is particularly easy, but the work is something I like to do. Isn’t that what all those self help books say is the key to happiness, enjoy your job and it won’t feel like work? As for not actually earning the money we get paid, well I can list a dozen reasons why you are over paid also, but no one complains because your paycheck doesn’t come out of my taxes.
Anyway, the point of this article is why not just fire all those horrible teachers? As most people would tell you it is the little matter of tenure. It is difficult and expensive to fire a teacher. Personally, I don’t see how or why it would cost over $100,000 to fire someone, especially when there is documented evidence that he was touching female students and asking for synonyms for oral sex, and more. Of course I think I would have just called to police and had him arrested. Then you could fire him for not showing up to work while he spent the next 10 years in jail. Just like the reason they fired Tiffany Shepard.
The problem is teachers aren’t and shouldn’t be at will employees like most of the rest of America. The first time a child goes home and complains to mommy and daddy about the horrible teacher who gives out homework and your out looking for a job. So the teacher’s union came in and brought protections to the teachers. (Actually tenure predates unions, because it is so important.) Today we have rules and procedures for getting rid of bad teachers, but because it has to be refereed by lawyers, we end up with huge legal bills.
I think too many administrators and others too often let poor teachers continue teaching without any paper trail. When 84% of school districts in Illinois have never given any tenured teacher a bad job evaluation over an 11-year period something is wrong. Of course it is difficult to corroborate this finding because often complaints about teachers are kept private. Then again it has been so difficult to firebad teachers for so long I’m willing to bet many of them were promoted out of the classroom. (Schools are not alone in this practice) And no your principal is not one of those promotions.
There is no doubt that teachers are in a tenuous position. If we are to effectively teach we must have the authority to ask students to do things they sometimes don’t want to do. We must be able to tell parents the truth about the observations we make of their children. We must have the freedom to choose what and how to most effectively teach. (Within the curriculum and within reason) We also have many judgment calls to make everyday. Like this counselor fired for not reporting possible abuse. The problem according to her is that the child almost always exaggerates for attention and she didn’t believe him, though she did some follow up on her own and didn’t find any proof.
Mary Huges obviously made a mistake in not reporting the possible abuse, as the father eventually pleaded guilty of that very crime. Should she be fired for it is a decision that the school board should make. They did. Did she have a right to fight her termination? Obviously the South Dakota supreme Court felt she did. Furthermore they felt that the school board made a mistake. I’m not so sure I agree, but when you have only one reason to fire a person you take those chances.
I think it is safe to assume that most if not all school districts have a procedure to remove tenured teachers. It involves a lot of documentation, observations of teaching, red tape, chants, prayers, and magic spells. I agree that there should be a fairly long and involved procedure for firing teachers. I think it should be possible though.
Just remember these generalities. If students think they can get a teacher fired there are many who would simply because it is easier than learning. If parents could get a teacher fired there are many who would simply because it is easier than being a good parent. If teachers aren’t afraid of getting fired there are many who won’t teach because it is easier than actually working.
The one and only reason I like No Child Left Behind is that NCLB has forced schools to concentrate on performance. More classroom observations are being done, more questions are being asked, more thought is being put into things like curriculum and methods. I just wish they had thought more about how to effectively measure the performance of a teacher before they decided to test the heck out of our kids.
Right now teacher unions would like to, among other things, protect teachers, improve working conditions and raise pay. That’s why we form unions. Schools could negotiate a better procedure for firing tenured teachers by raising pay. Here we can kill two birds with one stone, increase pay and get better teachers and make it easier remove bad teachers at the same time. Soon we have better schools and the increase in pay becomes worth it.