Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Two Cents

When I was a child, my father had a plastic Santa boot container on the shelf in his closet.  When he got home at night, he would sort through his change in his pockets, pick out the pennies, and drop them in the boot.  The boot was heavy, most of the time, and when it got really full, he'd ask me to help him count and roll the money to take to the bank.  

That change was magical to me.  Pennies turning into dollars.  

It was a good kind of change.

The Te@chthought Blog Prompt for today:

How has education changed since you began teaching?

It's Sunday, and I try to get myself into a positive frame of mind for the weekI am also conscious of the number of social media posts that I see from teachers whining about continued change, which, quite frankly, is sucking the life out of the profession.  I'm not sure that there is a specific pinpointed tipping point for the shift in the societal perception of education, but it is evident that education in general - and teachers - are under a seriously more intense scrutiny.  There has been so much change in education, that the boot full of pennies might as well also contain rubles and yen, if it is going to adequately represent change, so I'll limit my commentary to three observations:

  • I received my teaching degree nearly seventeen years before I actually accepted a teaching position, so many of the physical changes to schools -- like the classic "Faculty Lounge" -- had already happened.  When I was student teaching, the faculty room actually did contain a coffee can ashtray, stacks of newspapers, sofas for a quick nap, and a lot of discussion about who was going to win Sunday's big game.  There was an air of relaxation, even if it was tainted with stale cigarette smoke.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a smoke-free working environment, but the schools that still have nameplates on doors that state  Faculty Lounge get under my skin.  There is no time for lounging today.  (And you all know that it would be seriously dangerous for anyone to close their eyes during the infamous A Lunch.  I'd be afraid I'd wake up with a Sharpie mustache.)  

  • Technology has advanced at a rapid pace.  When I first started teaching, securing access to computers or projectors required signing up on a grid in one of multiple binders in the library.  It took weeks of advanced planning to incorporate technology into a lesson -- unless you were rocking the overhead projectors on the carts in the back room.  Our district has also improved my physical working conditions immensely through the renovation and building projects over the last ten years, resulting in a tremendous increase in access to technology for everyone.  The internet was pretty much used for email, and some very rudimentary www searches.  And I'd never heard of the word B-L-O-G, which has advanced the way I reflect on my teaching as well as connect with other educators across the globe in a Professional Learning Network that reaches miles and miles.
  • My final big observation deals with, of course, the change in scrutiny.   NCLB made an attempt to compare apples to apples for the public -- only serving to confuse people and create impossible goals for school districts.  The new teacher observation system has taken away the feeling of positivity between educators and administrators.  And don't even get me started about school security or the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  I'm trying to stay positive about the fact that my school year has already included mandatory 3 1/2 hour child abuse recognition and reporting training, which has already been revised, resulting in another 3 1/2 hour training (coming soon to an auditorium near you!) and the need to pay sixty bucks every three years to prove that I am not a threat to the children I teach.
All of this is not stagnant.  I know that six months from now, what is in place today will be a dusty thing of the past.  But we, as educators, still have the opportunity to roll that change and turn it into something else.  Something bigger, better, or less heavy, much like the pennies in the boot on the shelf.  For it's obvious that if you are asked for enough pennies for your thoughts, you just might be able to do something great.