Educated to Death

An educator's attempt at keeping sanity in a system that pushes children through an assembly line in little boxes.

0173: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Saying ‘No’ #education #firstyear #SOSchat #teacher

educatedtodeath.com

People face many challenges throughout their career. Saying ‘no’ is one of them. While it’s a mere two letter word, it can be one of the most difficult things to say. Many people never learn because they’re afraid (for a variety of reasons) or they never knew they could. Here’s your permission. It becomes harder to say it if you don’t learn to do it early on. It’s a skill that prevent burnout, administrative abuse, feelings of powerless, and so forth. I, of course, am not advocating that anyone shirk their responsibilities; rather, I am hopefully offering you a skill that will give you an element of control, and more important prevent you from being taken complete advantage of. As always, use discretion.

How to say ‘No’

While it should be as easy as saying the word, if you’ve ever tried it’s seldom that easy. You might finding yourself running through numerous scenarios of what might happen if you do say it. Perhaps you’ll be fired, reprimanded, or forgotten. Maybe you’ll lose favor with whoever’s asking. Maybe they won’t ask again. These are all things to take into consideration. Which brings us, I believe, to the crux of the matter: saying ‘no’ without alienating the inquirer or seeming defiant. So how do you do it? A friend offered me something similar to these steps, I’ve found them useful, so I’ll pass them along.

1. Decide if you want to do what they’re asking. Ask for time to think about it.

This is the part where you weigh your options. Is what I’m being asked something I need to do, want to do, have to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, etc. My struggle is often wanting to do more than I have time to do. So when asked, if you need time to think if over, ask. Ask if you can think about it over night. If they press you for an answer, reiterate that you really need some time to think it over. More often than not, the time for consideration will be granted. Of course, there are somethings that the answer is yes before you’re asked. That’s a situation that requires your own judgment, and probably can’t be handled in this limited space.

2. Delivering your answer

You’ve made up your mind. Your answer is no.

a) Empathize.

Show that you understand their predicament, if there is a predicament. This could also equate with you understanding the weight of the situation, or the need to solve the problem. The main thing is to understand.

b) Express a desire to help them, but not right now.

This is where you’re actually saying ‘no’ without saying it. “I am really interesting in helping you with _________ , but _________.” You want to help or participate, but you’re unable at this time due to whatever. Maybe you have too much on your plate. Maybe something else.

c) Share your desire to do more in the future. Reschedule if you can.

You want to help them. You’re just unable at the moment, but you want to keep the opportunity, better, future opportunities intact. Ask if the task can be rescheduled, if it’s that type of task. Ask to be considered if another opportunity arises.

All together it might sound something like this:

“I understand where your coming from, I see this is very important. I’d really like to help you, but I really have too much on my plate to give it my all. Is there anyway we could reschedule?”

Something like that. Mold it to your situation.

It’s important to remember you’re saying no because you value your time, not because you’re being defiant. It’s your mental health and relationships at stake. You won’t always get your way, but it’s worth a shot. Use your best judgment when saying ‘no’. Every situation is unique. Be wise. Be creative. Be happy.

0172: The Sullied Good We Do: Teachers as Cogs in the Machine #education #revolution

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By the very nature of our position as teachers we have the ability to do many wonderful things. We equally have the power to do great harm, with or without intention. Our system of compulsory education is at the very least imposing, beyond that it serves to colonialize and massify every soul that passes through its machinery.

These statements and ideas are bothersome as they serve to split me, the teacher and human, in half. They indict me of some unconscious atrocity committed at whim my own hands. Further, by making such statements I run the risk of alienating myself from anyone who finds them as offensive as I do, and guarantee that I will be misunderstood on some level. But, I believe the duality of our profession holds truths well worth bearing witness to. To not notice the dual nature of what we do would be negligent. By understanding it better and our role within it, we are better able to disrupt what needs disrupting and bring forth our more valuable attributes.

My intent is not to expose some conspiracy by some powerful few; rather, I want to understand my role in a system that functions beyond the intention of the pieces that work within it. It’s a system that is both benevolent and useful, and equally harmful. There are aspects that enlighten and liberate, and suppress and colonialize. Unfortunately, as the tiniest pieces of this machine, teachers, it is not always possible to decide how our duties will be carried out, besides outright rebellion.

I debate whether I should provide a laundry list of specific characteristics of the machine, its cogs, and their functions. I think this would be trite, as we all have our own understandings that hopefully are perpetually changing. The truth I put forth is simply that, my understanding of the truth. I challenge you as a teacher, human, thinker to examine your understanding of your role within the system. Be honest in seeking the good you do, and the atrocities, no matter how small, you commit. Honest reflection is a means purging and pruning anything unnecessary or ill.

I will make one solid indictment of the system, its teachers, and consequently myself: all children are not served equally; some experience great gains, others have experiences that are detrimental to the educational, personal, and public lives.

As we are cogs in a machine, so is the education system. Blame and intention are too minute to tease from the grand playground. Disrupt what you can, and be conscious.

0171: How to Land a Teaching Job (#firstyear) #education #SOSchat #k12chat

educatedtodeath.com

Landing a teaching job in these economic times can be a perilous task. Districts are facing budget cuts and hiring freezes galore. I’ve had the experience of moving around a bit over the past few years which has meant scrambling around for teaching jobs. Here are some things that have helped me find jobs. As always, use your discretion when taking advice. Job hunting and scoring is not a one size fits all task. Additionally, I’m posting this in the summer many jobs have already been picked over. This, in many cases, is an early bird gets the worm kind of field. If you haven’t been hired don’t give up. I’ve seen people hired as late as a month after school starts. Here are some simple things that might work.

1. Apply.

This seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised. Find a general area where you’d like to teach and apply to everything within driving distance (You decide what driving distance is. If you can do an hour, do an hour). Clearly the more places you apply the better chance you have of landing an interview.

When applying, follow protocol—sort of. Most districts want you to apply at their central office or online. So they can call you. Do this. But don’t let that be it. I’ll talk about the next step in the next section.

Don’t worry so much about where you apply. We all have our “dream schools” where we’d like to teach, but those jobs are often rare. So, apply anywhere and everywhere. You can always turn down the job, but if offered be sure to decline with kindness. Education can be a small town. Every connection is important. Never burn a bridge.

2. Follow up

You’ve applied with district offices, or third party hiring firms (I hate these by the way, waste of district money and inefficient), what now? I’ve seen many people stop after applying. They put in their app and wait on a callback. This is protocol, generally speaking, but it’s not enough if you’re competing. In my experience, I’ve been best served by either calling the school to set up an appointment with the principal, and EVEN BETTER served by just dropping by unannounced. Of course, if you’re going to drop by, you must be as charming and polite as possible, and you’ll probably have to wait. When dropping by, whether you called ahead or not, you’ll need to take a few things: a resume, a teaching license (valid of course), and praxis scores can’t hurt (you’ve passed it or other like test right?). The resume shows you’re prepared, and it gives you something to talk about. Make sure your resume has relative work experience. The teaching license and the test scores are a big deal. They’re required. I’ve been offered jobs just because I had already passed the praxis II. There were no questions beyond that either. I didn’t end up taking the job, but it was offered.

Going to the school on your own shows initiative. People often wait to be called. By going, you’re also giving them a face, personality, and relationship to reference when digging through applicants. You become more than a piece of paper. They’ll often call central office for your file. You’ll at least have a better shot.

Additionally, education is a network. If one school you visit is not hiring the admin might know of another place that is. They might just pick up the phone and set up an interview for you. Anything can happen. Always be willing, polite, and flexible. This goes far.

3. If you have connections use them. If you don’t, make them. And, go easy on the name dropping.

If you know someone in a district or have a connection, say a professor, teacher, office worker, whoever don’t be afraid to ask of they know about an opening somewhere. Someone always knows someone, who knows someone. If you want the job do what you can to get it. Jobs are created through the grapevine in many places. Maybe not the best way, just how it is. Always value and nurture your network. You need help when you’re a teacher.

If you don’t have connections, you probably do and just aren’t being creative. Meet people. Seriously, I’ve met people standing in line at the grocery store who have given me the name of who I need to see about a job. I went to the place and was expected. Serendipitous indeed. So it pays to talk to folks. If that’s not your bag, find a way. Shoot me a message if you need to know more about networking (@educatedtodeath on twitter, or submit something here, also educatedtodeath@gmail). It’s trial an error.

Always, go easy on the name dropping. It can come off pompous. And, you never know who’s pissed off whom. It can help, but you’re better off finding a way to have someone else drop your name.

4. Be persistent, but not annoying

The key to landing a job is trying until you succeed. If you have to go to twenty schools. Go. You’re playing a game of odds in many cases. Try everywhere.

If a school shows interest, ask when they might know something. And for goodness sakes don’t stop searching until you’ve signed a contract. It’s now a done deal until it’s in writing. Also let them know you’re interviewing elsewhere if they ask. You’re A commodity they need. They should think they need to hire you before someone else does.

* to reiterate: Don’t quit searching until you have a contract. Words aren’t always solid.

5. Experience is an issue

Schools want experienced teachers. You may not have any official classroom experience. You at least have student teaching and some practicum experience under your belt. Be sure to share that. Keep track of what you do that might make you an asset to the school. Maybe you can coach. Maybe you could lead quiz bowl. Do you sing? Dance? Landscape? Everything can be an asset.

But back to experience. You need some. So this may speak more to those still in college, maybe not. Do everything you can that will function as experience. Volunteer in classrooms. Substitute teach (a perilous adventure for many). Tutor. Work with kids. Work in classrooms. Work with high stakes testing (that can be a selling point, bleak, but a selling point nonetheless).

Also, it’s a good idea to pick up an extra certification. If you’re an English major, take enough classes to get a social studies and history certification, or math, whatever. The better qualified you are, the better your chances.

Remembe: Be willing, polite, and flexible. Once you’re hired once it’ll be easier to get hired again.
If you don’t get hired this year, get on the sub-list. Work in classrooms. Do what you can to work in schools. But, if you’re persistent, and really put yourself out there you’ll be hired with any luck. Happy hunting.

Contact me if I can help in anyway. Again, be wary of advice. These are tips, not rules. Do what you know and can. You’re ready for this. Cheers.

0154.5: Politicians, Politicos, and Pollyanna’s: The Futility of Change #education

educatedtodeath.com

Yesterday, I posed the question: what would education be like without politics? That was a far too general question upon second glance. Education as an institution is an almost entirely political institution. It runs likes a bureaucratic machine— of course, some parts are better oiled than others. I received a response that said education would be worse without the politics. Being that it is so much a political system, I agree. Without politicians, the system would collapse. In my questioning I made a terrible mistake/s. I made the assumption that all politicians are bad, and that all political systems are as well. They are not. Some people/systems have the best intentions and follow those intentions up with committed action. These would be politicians who function as true representatives of the people. My dealings with this group have been generally delightful, but only in the way sharing war stories is delightful. We share frustration with the slow rate of change, and nonsensical impasses to seemingly common sense legislation. As we see, things that need funding often aren’t, and money is often put into things it shouldn’t. When we ask “why can’t these funds be redirected” we’re met with mounds of paperwork, advocacy challenges, and so forth. I have, on the other hand, encountered politicians who are not at all sympathetic to the needs of teachers, students, people in general. They have what they need, so do their children and grandchildren. They share with me insincere condolences and general pats on the back for “all the good work in doing”, but have general disregard for anyone who isn’t allowed to walk in tunnels beneath The Hill. I’ve had ranges of experiences with politicians, politicos, and Pollyannas, but one thing remains the same and will remain the same: bureaucracy so often prevents progress (that’s stating the obvious in the worst way). Additionally, people make decisions as representatives for People who they will never know or understand. Education Systems, Prison Systems, Healthcare Systems, etc. all fall prey to grave inefficiencies, greed, corporate influence, nasty politics, and most important harming and neglecting just as many people as they “help”. Certainly, there is good that comes from all of the above institutions, but huge profits should not be listed in those lists of goods, especially if they’re not functioning in a helpful manner for all. So, I ask another question, hopefully a more focused question (with fewer “what-if’s” and more “how’s”): How can bureaucracy be eliminated or lessened from our institutions? How can services become more equitable? How can people be empowered to better sustain themselves? What will it take to make education more equitable for the children I teach? What will it take for the children of color I teach to be considered just as valuable as the kids across town?

I don’t know of these questions are better phrased, maybe just more honest. What can be done? Who can do it? Is it possible? Historically, Institutions don’t really change too much once they’ve been given life. So, if no change, what?

0154: #education #politics #bureaucracy #SOSchat

educatedtodeath.com

@educatedtodeath

What if education wasn’t about politics? More important, what if lives and quality of life issues weren’t tied to the political decisions of people many will never meet? Really, what would happen? I’d like to pretend to be aiming at something poetic here, but really what would happen? Would it be better? Worse? Different? In what ways? Why do demigods exist?

What if there was less bureaucracy? Would things change for the better? What if real shareholders had a real say?

0153: Teaching for Change? #Revolution? #education #SOSchat #occupyedu #OWS

@educatedtodeath
educatedtodeath.com

The concept of teaching for revolution extends far beyond the classroom. Yes, teachers teach for change. We want the learners in our care to leave with skills and understandings that will enable them to succeed. We want to provide the opportunity to access keys to a better future. But what is a better future? Is it simply graduating, going to college, getting a good job? Is it enlightenment? Is it power? What? If we are preparing our students to be consumers alone then we are doing them a monumental injustice. It’s possible to view success as access to products and services. But, could success be viewed as a transfer of power from one entity to another? A shift in the status quo? An outright overthrow or disruption? An equalization of powers? I think we should seek to answer these questions. Certainly, teaching for social justice has a root or two in the understanding that there is an imbalance of power. People, the People, must always push against authority when it becomes oppressive, suppressive, and flat out greedy. I don’t believe education as a whole will go the way of this form of teaching, but it has it’s place among the people who are blindly crushed beneath the heel of a leviathan. If you see injustice, if you know it as constant force in our day to day existence, help us gather and continue sharing ways we prepare our learners for success.

0152: There’s Power in the Blog: How #socialmedia is improving my practice #SOSchat @coopcatalyst #education

Originally posted at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/

I’m sure this topic has been explored to some extent, but I’d like to add my perspective. I’ll attempt to work towards a concise explanation, but I surely won’t arrive there on the first attempt. I’ve digressed before beginning.

Beginning. My initial purpose for beginning my blog, educatedtodeath.com, was simply as a means of maintaining sanity and hopefully to reroute some developing cynicism. As many teachers are, I was isolated, exhausted, and becoming disheartened. My classroom was going the way of my dwindling spirit. I started to blog. Very quickly writing required reflection and a thrust back to some theory. I started reading with regard to my practice again— something that is easy to do after leaving academia. Quickly my writing evolved or evolved me into a more honest person. Not necessarily in word, but in deed. All I was doing was putting my thoughts down— and publishing them. I’ve journaled quite a bit about my practice in the past, but have fallen out of practice either because of contracted technical or academic writing. Writing that was to be seen was very purposed and directed by a force outside of myself. This writing was beneficial to me, but not on a terribly personal level. But again, I digress. So first, the blog has forced me to take my personal experiences, thoughts, rantings, idiosyncratic thinking, and so forth and put them on paper (a seemingly anachronistic and abstract word now)— oh yes, and make those thoughts public.

That’s the kicker. The making it public part. That’s where I have found the most benefit. It’s the community. Social media has become, for me, a professional learning community (That should be stating the obvious, by the way, but it is not universally obvious to those who don’t, for whatever reason, participate). Participation in this learning community has taught me more about my practice and myself than formal institutions or private reading has. I have access to quality professional development, that is free, experts, and the understanding that my expertise as a teacher is also valuable to others. It is quite empowering to be able to informally and semi-formally interact with colleagues in a way that lends itself to collaborative problem solving on an often global scale. Participating in social media has provided me with a sense of community. With that sense of community also comes a new awareness.

The new awareness/es are many. First, with the awareness that what I am writing is being read and taken to heart by others adds a level of responsibility, just like speaking to a group does. I am responsible by choice for providing my readers/partners with pieces that are at least thought provoking, informative, and at best transforming. I don’t, however, think I should attempt to be clever, careful, or overly responsible. I have tried, and am trying to chart my growth by writing or attempting to write what is truthful to me in that moment. I try to save heavy editing for higher stakes writing. This allows for risk-taking.

I think risk-taking in this setting is important because it allows my input and understanding to be accepted, denied, or transformed by the community. The community appears to function as a collective consciousness that is constantly morphing. The power is democratic and dialectic for the most part. Ideas that are accepted are amplified, others are shot down, and others still become points of contention that can produce an even greater learning experience for involved parties.

So in the cloud above, I have submitted some ideas that will be viewed, and supported, dismissed, augmented, diminished, etc., etc. Either way, My experience has been incredibly fruitful. Help me understand it more.

Addendum: I didn’t manage to discuss twitter participation. It has affected me in a similar, but different way than blogging. Tweeting, especially in chats, has been tremendously beneficial. It’s nice to have near real time communication. I’m steadily learning more about its uses as a political, social, activism, grassroots, professional tool. I’ll write more, and do share.

0151: On reading and my learning #education #SOSchat #thought

@educatedtodeath
educatedtodeath.com

I’ve noticed (not for the first time) that what I am reading affects my writing, thinking, and other readings. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s testament to the ongoing process of meaning making. As I interact with texts I am changed, and as I am changed the texts are also, at least my readings of them are. Further, it’s testament to the concept that reading and writing are reciprocal processes. Each interaction serves to change me ever so slightly. This is not to say that I topple with every new idea, rather, that I sway like a sapling, flexible, but rooted, but still changed by the power of the wind. By learning how I learn, know, and understand helps me understand why and how I teach. Equally, it’s a step in creating/allowing authentic learning experiences in my classroom practice.

0150: On Beating a Dead Horse #education #edreform #race #equality #class #SOSchat

@educatedtodeath
educatedtodeath.com

So often the proverbial horses we beat are not all dead to all people. Equally, some of the windmills we fight are not windmills at all; some of them really are raging giants. I submit, the monster, the giant, the pulse of the horse is to be determined by those nearest to them. If you’ve beat your horse completely to death or conquer your windmill, congratulations. Move onto the next one or help me conquer mine.

0149: Questions on Equality in #Education #race #class #SOSchat #occupyedu

@educatedtodeath

I am becoming aware, brutally aware, that my experiences in public education are not common. There are people who see public education as a mildly problematic institution that generally does a good job of providing children with a basic education. There are others who find public education more than satisfactory. Children are treated in a humane manner and even allowed to thrive. Some of these children are affluent. Some are not. So I stand corrected in some areas. I’m glad that public education is serving some people a “good lunch” of equality and positive experiences. No doubt teachers work hard no matter the situation. But, there is still a stone unturned. My experience of public education as a teacher, a speaker, even a student.

First, I teach, have taught, attended, and am connected with educators who work in schools that primarily serve people of color, that is, anyone other than white. I think I have arrived at a point that requires questions, rather than attempted answers. Hopefully, those answers will arrive soon. So here goes. Are there schools, districts, and systems that ensure non-white students are treated equally to their cross county/city/neighborhood/any other division counterparts who happen to be white? Perhaps there’s a better way to phrase that question. Are children of color who are poor, illegal, ostracized from mainstream society, valued as much by any institution as other children? If so, where? I hope my experiences are very narrow. I hope the experiences of my peers who share my experiences around the country are narrow as well. But, even still, I am not satisfied. If my experiences were limited only to me, and I am totally disillusioned with a system to the point of being blinded to the good it does, then why are the children I teach less important than someone else’s children? Why are the children I have taught less valuable? Why don’t they receive the resources others receive? Why are they considered criminals the moment they are born, or the moment they enter kindergarten? And this view is not necessarily perpetuated by their teachers. I’ve taught alongside many understanding and frustrated teachers. I’ve taught with deeply committed people. I cannot call this an exception or a rule. I have found groups of teachers around this country that equally see this as a problem. But, to say that all teachers or people understand this would, in fact, be a sweeping generalization. That’s a good thing I suppose. And good for those who don’t understand this. But for those of us who do, what can we do? It’s appalling to know that people are still valued over other people. And they are. It is not possible to apply full blame to any single entity, but there certainly are directions in which we could wander. I hate that I am confused on this issue, and I’m not sure the question “why?” would even begin to answer or unravel the problem. Further, the problem neither begins or ends with public education as an institution; it is a problem, the problem of race, class, and equality, that runs throughout many of our American institutions. These problems certainly aren’t new, and I don’t know how to begin solve them except through dialogues that may lead to a new and revolutionary awareness of people who aren’t treated with equality that they should be. And let me rephrase that. Transformational dialogues must be a part of any shift in power. People who are oppressed, and there are people who are deeply oppressed this United States, but begin to function democratically, they must become a part of the change that affects them. For equality, power must shift. By which means, I dare not speculate. Certainly, this is the “real world” and students must learn to function within certain frameworks. But, what if those frameworks are not actually accessible to everyone? Or maybe just less accessible? What are we to do then? Are we to stay the course of public education and offer general courses in bullshit? Or are we to offer some alternative?

Regarding Freire in PK-12 education, if there is a third world in our backyards, what means does the third world have to access a first world? If there are parallel societies* in the US that function alongside mainstream society, but mostly separate, how is that gap to be bridged? Forcefully? Through dialogue? Mutual transformation? Who knows. I think that should suffice for now, from my vantage. I’m not sure how to go about answering these questions, just as I am unsure about answering them, but they need answering. I can’t foresee answers coming easily.

*Parallel society- those groups and subgroups who live within a society who are not represented by the lawmaking body, but subject to its imposed illegalities and punishment (Foucualt, ‘Discipline and Punish’); an underculture. What is to come of these groups of people?

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