Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Got this from my district today, inviting all NBCTs to come watch, it'll be great!

Nope. This kind of junk is part of what keeps us underpaid. My students are not a mercy project, they are people who need me to do my work well for their benefit, not in order to feel like a superior person. My craft is not built out of good intentions, and good intentions aren't where learning comes from. Teaching IS a job. It takes talent, work, study, and it should be paid like the profession it is. We don't say this about doctors or firefighters or politicians. And you know what? We pay them properly. I wish my district and my union would stop perpetuating this crummy myth that teaching is done out of goodness, rather than out of passion and talent and desire for career.

I hate this narrative about my profession. It's damaging to me, my students, education as a whole.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Professors: Teachers or Researchers?

A bill in North Carolina is proposing to make professors at universities teach 4 classes per semester. And that's in addition to the research they must do (commonly referred to in academic circles as "publish or perish"). Understandably, those in academia are upset by this. Being required to do your job a certain way, and particularly in a way that it doesn't work, is infuriating. Being required to do so by people who are not in your industry: even more ridiculous.

But...why are we conflating these two things? Why do professors have to be full time teachers AND researchers? Where did we get the idea that subject matter experts are the best teachers? Clearly, some professors don't really get the work that goes into teaching:

Teaching college, especially if you’re good at it, isn’t particularly hard. But it does take time—and those 75 minutes in the classroom are the least of it. There are the office hours (which most students eschew for for professor as 24-hour email concierge); there’s the prep (anywhere from two to 10 hours for one class meeting); and then, of course, there are the hours upon hours—upon godforsaken hours—of grading. Four (or five!) courses, even with the shortcuts afforded by a teaching assistant here and there (which most people don’t get), are a full-time job in and of themselves.

You know what happens when true subject matter experts (the kind who just get it from the start) teach? They can't explain things. They understand so intrinsically that they are easily frustrated when students don't. And they can't see why their classes don't understand the steps to solve a problem, in large part because they don't see all the steps clearly themselves.

Education reformers, especially those who haven't spent time in the classroom, think it's all about making sure teachers know things and are infallible sources of information. But we're not that. We're problem solvers, explainers, writers, activity designers. Teaching is not easy. It's not simple. And it's definitely not something that should be done while also conducting huge research projects.

Why don't we separate the research from the teaching? I would love to be a college lecturer, but I would not like to be a researcher. And I definitely would not like to do both.

North Carolina education bill: It would require public university professors to teach eight courses per year.

Plotting My Revenge

When EtheSecond is 16 and in that "sleep all the time" stage, I'm going to play him recordings of himself from the past week's 2 AM freak outs. At full volume. 20 minutes after he falls asleep.

When EtheFirst is all grown up and taking care of my infirm self, I will tell him I want oatmeal for breakfast even though I really don't. Then, when he brings me oatmeal, I'll throw it on the floor and cry until he brings me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Toasted, but not crunchy. After that I'll berate him for not being able to put my oatmeal back together.

And both times, I'll laugh my ass off, then shout "look what I'm doing" and show them how good I am at sitting on non-chairs. Because they should know!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ten obvious truths about educating kids that keep getting ignored - The Washington Post

Ten obvious truths about educating kids that keep getting ignored - The Washington Post

A reminder to myself - do what is good, not always what is expected.

I've been feeling in a rut about my teaching. Frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted; all my creativity is being used on getting children at home to sleep and feel secure. I'm stuck in a pattern of Lecture, Reading, Quiz, Video, Repeat. Not my best work, but simple.

I'm about to embark with my sophomores on a month long research project, and I'm kind of dreading it. It's a wonderful project, full of deep learning, research, and self-directed investigation, but it's also messy, confusing, and consuming. And since I won't be teaching sophomores next year, it's hard to approach the project with the same sense of refinement and reflection that I have in the past.

But it's worth it. I'm happier with myself when I do good work, and that colors the rest of my world. So I'm hopeful that I will remember the information here:

-Memorization is pointless; students quickly forget

-Students learn better when they're interested in the topic

-If they know I care, they're more likely to do better.

I will not let myself be dragged down by the temptations of easy work, of low expectations from society, or the pressures from "reformers" to deliver reductive, linear education.