Why I don’t support our new Secretary of Education, from a former charter school teacher turned public.

empty-classroomAs a former inner city charter school teacher, turned small-town-rural public school teacher (and Michigan resident) I have had a lot of emotions running through my head in the last month about the nomination and eventual historic confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education.

You see, when I first started working in the charter school system I thought it was great. I jumped right on the school of choice, charter school train and didn’t understand why so many were against it. I was told the lie that every charter school teacher and parent is told that “charter schools have more freedom and flexibility for teaching and learning, that you can’t get in public schools” (and I believed it).

It wasn’t until about 6 months in that viewpoint started crumbling, and within a year I would have done anything to get out. Now that I am blessed to be a public school employee, that school of choice, charter school train has completely derailed.

Here are my issues Mrs. DeVos,

  1. Education is NOT a business. It boggled my mind and broke my heart when I went to corporate training for the charter school company I was working for, and was made aware that the “top performing” schools within the company received the newest and best resources and technology. A teacher from a near “top performing” school complained that she only had 10 laptops in her room. When my school, no where near the top, had two outdated computers per classroom that only worked some of the time.
  2. “Freedom and Flexibility.” Remember that “charter schools have more freedom and flexibility” bit? Let me reiterate that it is a lie. As a charter school employee I was forced to limit each unit to strictly 3 weeks (including pre-assessment and post-assessment time). What happened if my students hadn’t reached proficiency or mastery? It didn’t matter, I still had to move on and assess in the three week window, and show my data. As a charter school teacher, I was also required to hand over all of my lesson plans weekly to prove I was staying on this three week cycle. Since I have started working in the public school system I have never had so much freedom of how I teach my students. My administration trusts me, and I no longer live under micromanagement.
  3. Quality. Every student should be able to receive a quality education, isn’t that the main point? In the charter schools I have been in that has not been the case. A quality education can not take place when you have transient teaching staff that leaves after a year (or less) because they are overworked and underappreciated, and especially when you can’t fill those gaps when teachers leave. Or when you have administration that is not qualified to do their job, much like you Mrs. DeVos. And a quality education cannot take place when you do not have the resources or physical space.
  4. Accountability. This is one of your main sticking points Mrs. DeVos, though you can’t even explain it when questioned. What does charter school accountability even look like? Because in Michigan, the state we both live and work in, I don’t see it.
  5. Rivalries. Since the creation of the charter school system it has been played up as a “free public school option” other than students assigned local public school districts. I’m not saying choice shouldn’t be an option, but seeing the impact this has had on public schools in Michigan is horrible. Just look at a city like Detroit, that now has a crumbling public school system and has you, Mrs. DeVos, written all over the charter school system that broke it. The only schools that should be rivalries are the neighboring towns that you always want to beat in football or basketball on a friday night, not steal their students and funding.

There is so much I wish I could put into words. But I will just leave it at that as a teacher that knows both sides, charter schools are not the answer, and I will not stop fighting for quality and equal education for my students.

I wish you the best Mrs. DeVos, because after all why would I want some one to fail. But just so you know, you have one huge uphill battle to fight with the former charter school teachers, that know what charter schools do, and the public school teachers that will fight for what is right.

I will leave you with the two quotes that have been sticking with me throughout this:

Never forget that the real power of education doesn’t come from a corner office. It doesn’t come from a political office. It comes from the daily interactions teachers have with their students, from what kids are learning every day. -unknown.

and

You have the most important job of anyone today. Our kids need you to advocate for their futures. -George Lucas.

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it all stacks up.

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I’m pulling for you.

To my new students at the end of our first semester together, 

I just wanted to let you know that I am pulling for you. 

As I stood in the cafeteria chaperoning our last dance, I couldn’t help but realize how much I love each and everyone of you.

You see I am frequently overcome with gratitude for having the opportunity to be your teacher, and to be part of our school. I’ll admit that I’ve teared up at our pep assemblies, band concerts, and sporting events. Why that is? Because I’m an emotional wreck all the time? No. Because I cannot believe how incredibly blessed I am to be your teacher and a part of your life. 

I know that not all of you have a cake-walk outside of school, or even in school. I know that as a high schooler you have lots of baggage that your bring with you and create for yourself. Those high school relationships that I hear about and see on a daily basis? I know how exciting it is to have have high school relationship, and how it hurts when it ends. Peer pressure and friend drama? I know it sucks. I know the outside world and the events going on in nation right now are confusing and overwhelming. That the next weeks hold a whole lot of uncertainty, I know. And I want you to know that I’m pulling for you. 

I want you to be happy, to prosper, to reach the goals you have set for yourselves and even those you thought you couldn’t reach. I want to see you succeed, not just in my class, but in life. I’ll be here the whole time pulling for you. 

This week holds the inauguration of our 45th President. A lot of you have mixed feelings. A lot of you understand the uncertainty of the times, and how this inauguration can and will affect your future. And some of you don’t care. I’m right here pulling through with you. We’ve got this. 

I could keep going, and in my head every day I do, but just remember; I’m pulling for you. I’m pulling for you to succeed. To be happy. To live your life to the fullest. To better yourself. 

Thank you for letting me be your teacher. You bless my socks off everyday. My “bad days” aren’t bad days, trust me I know what those are. Teaching you is my dream job. This first semester was amazing, and the second half of the year is going to fly by…but hopefully not too fast.

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Fresh Start.

fresh-start1.jpgAlmost everyone has heard the quote, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”

Towards the semester break last school year I really began to question if I was meant to be a teacher, if I had wasted four years on a degree that I wasn’t compatible with. I wasn’t happy. I was more stressed than I had ever been. I strained relationships because of it. I wasn’t an enjoyable person to be around, I will be the first to admit that. It was so hard to find the positive in things when I felt all I did was eat, breathe and live a job that I hated. I was in a toxic work environment and I mistook that as what teaching really was. Teaching just wasn’t a glorious job right? Things must have just been sugarcoated for me before. Wrong.

As a first year teacher, I was already burning out. I felt overworked, underappreciated and nothing I did was enough or made my job enjoyable. This is not to say that there weren’t good days, but no good day, regardless of how good it was, could cover up the main issue. This wasn’t to say I didn’t love my students either, they will always have a special place in my heart and I think of them frequently. Those kids changed my lives forever, but they were overshadowed by the bigger picture and issue.

Fast-forward to now, a new school year and a new school. After a full week under my belt of year two, I can say I do not have a new “job”. I have a new home. I don’t go to “work” every day because I love every minute of it. It’s not that pulling teeth feeling of I HAVE to go to “work”. Instead, it’s the great feeling of “let’s head to school and see my wonderful students today”, “let’s go change the world” and “my job matters”. I am reminded why I went into teaching, why I love teaching.

Last year I frequently contemplated taking a “personal health day”, and admittedly did, just because I was so unhappy and so burnt out that I couldn’t emotionally face my students and deal with everything thrown my way in a given day.This year, already, I know that will not happen. I don’t want to miss a day with my students. I want to be there.

Multiple times a day I am reminded of how blessed I am for this fresh start.

I know God put me where he did last year to show me that (1) He will protect me, (2) I am stronger than I thought and can do more than I thought, and (3) I can change the lives of students that I thought I was not able to reach.

To those who were with me along the way. Those who surrounded me and dealt with me last year. Thank you. I cannot thank you for supporting me and inspiring me to be the best I could be.

I cannot wait to see what God will show me this year and the years to come.

Cheers to year two!

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Dream Big and Make it Happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

when God makes plans

(As some of you know my charter school closed at the end of June and then recently was going through a transition into the local public school system. Due to a number of circumstances and reasons, I decided not to be part of the transition and was at peace knowing that God would place me in a school that was best for me and my family)


God always has plans, He knows it all. Regardless of what choice you make, he already knew what choice you were going to make and how it was going to be a part of your life plan. He put you in those circumstances to make those decisions for a reason. Yes, we have the free will to make those decisions, but He already knows. He knows what is best for us.

Being on the search for a new teaching job I had my “list”, you know that dream list. After this last school year, I had a very clear list of things that I felt I needed in a school in order to be content.

Looking for a teaching job is stressful, just like any job…in Michigan especially, good teaching jobs are hard to come by. After lots of closed doors and knowing falling back on my last school was not what I considered a last-ditch option, I knew God still had a plan.

Finally, in mid-July I accepted what I thought was my dream job. It was such a great school, with great leadership, and a new type of program that I wanted to be a part of. It almost hit every thing on my dream list (all but being in a public school system, being close to what we call home, and having a contract), you can’t be picky after all…so I was content.

But, God was not done yet.

My husband and I began looking for new place to live. We realized we would have to downsize. We would both have a commute to work. And that we would have to compromise a lot in order to make it all work, but I felt this was the school and I needed a job, so we were going to make it work. On top of all this having to find a place to live stuff, our lease was up on our current house on August 31st, and we had to give a 30 notice…meaning we needed to find a place and move all within the next month.

Last Monday we went to look at a house to rent. We drove through the neighborhood before meeting the landlord (who coincidentally never showed up), when I got a call. A God sent call. (You see I had applied for EVERY teaching position that I was qualified for in a 90 minute radius from us.) It was for an interview at a public school district that was 15 minutes from our home. I thought this door had been closed.

When God has a plan he makes it work.

My interview was that Thursday. I didn’t feel it was my best interview. I kept telling myself that I had a job that I was SO excited about 2 weeks previous and we would find a place to move and it would all work out.

Then, I was called back for a teaching demo, the dreaded teaching demo, for the next day. I had 15 hours to prepare it.

Once again I did not feel like I was on my A game for my teaching demo. There were so many things I would have fixed and done better. I braced myself for bad news, and kept reminding myself that I had a job and that God was good and had a plan.

But, God wasn’t done yet. Sunday, I was called back for THIRD round Monday morning. I would know in 24-48 hours if I got the job or not. Totally tried to keep my cool and kept reminding myself over and over again that it didn’t matter what the outcome was because God had a plan and I had a job.

Then came Tuesday morning, 8 days after the initial unfolding of God’s plan. I started my morning off with a phone call from the principal, offering me the job. 

Today, I officially crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s.

Let me re-emphasize that this school hit everything on my “dream school list”…is a well-reputed, a public school, I have a legitimate contract, it has a union, it has excellent insurance, that has a social-economic average in-between the schools I have worked at previously AND it is in the same county as we live in (literally 15 minutes away!), so we don’t have to move.

Guys, God is so good. He knows what is best for us. He has a plan for us. Sometimes we just need to be patient.

To God be the glory,

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Many are the plans in the human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

 

when a school closes…

Schools-doors-photos-021When a school closes the first thing that is mentioned are the politics behind it. Everything is always about politics.

When a school closes the next thing that is mentioned are the jobs. What about the teachers? What about that great janitor that has given everything to make sure the school building is the best it can be? What about the lunch ladies?

When a school closes fingers are pointed. The State is blamed. Education reform is blamed. “They don’t know our school….our situation…our community…they just don’t understand”

When  a school closes the questions arise about the students. “Where will they go? Where can they go?”

The last thing that it thought of when a school closes, is the impact. The impact this will have on the community. The impact this will have on the students. The impact this will have on the future, their futures.

You see, you can’t just close a school (especially an inner city school) without it going unnoticed. Regardless of your opinion, the “proficiency”, or performance of that school; that school kept kids off the streets. That school was a safe haven. That school opened opportunities. That school offered an education. That school offered hope to the broken. That school mattered. 

Not all schools need to be saved or can be saved. But whatever happens, our kids need to be given the chance and know that they are not being given up on.

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He who opens a school door, closes a prison. 
Victor Hugo

A letter to my dreamers.

IMG_20160609_182300To My Dear Students, 

As I close the chapter on my first year of teaching I can’t help but thank you.

Thank you for accepting me on week three of the school year, when you were already beginning to like your original teacher.

Thank you for pushing me to become a better version of myself, both for you and for me. I am stronger because of you.

Thank you for challenging me and making me a better educator. I feel I am ready for all of it now.

Thank you for loving me, even if you didn’t show it most days. Reading your end of the year evaluations of our class me made me tear up.

…and thank you for changing me. You truly have. I have changed as a teacher, and as a individual.

Because of you, I have been opened to the true inequalities and unfairness of the world. I grew up in a seemingly opposite world from you, and seeing your struggles breaks my heart. Along with those struggles though, comes the true power of education.

Cherish your education, value your education, use your education. Chase your dreams and make them happen. Don’t let the world say you can’t. You can.

As this year comes to a close, remember I love you. You will forever be part of my heart. I am proud of you, so many of you have came so far. I want you to be successful. You are more than students to me, you are my kids.

With love,

your history teacher

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The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams. 
Eleanor Roosevelt

pause & reflect

Here we go.

With only 3 days before closing the book on my first year of teaching I am having a hard time fully taking the entire year in. I have tried to pause and reflect on the whole year multiple times this past week. Every time I quickly find something else to occupy my mind in fear of crying and having a full emotion break down.

This school year was a rough one. I knew it would be rough.

They tell you that all your years in college, hoping to prepare you for all of the “adultness” that will suddenly be thrown at you as soon as you walk into your classroom for the first time. In reality nothing can prepare you for that moment, that moment when you are the most adult-y person in the room, regardless how much of an “adult” your students think they are, or actually may be, or how close they might be to you in age.

Even though it was rough. I learned a lot. Here are just a few.

  1. I am stronger than I ever imagined I was.
  2. The power of education in everyday life is more powerful that I ever realized. Working in an urban school in a struggling community made this so, so obvious.
  3. My students are more than my students, they are my kids. Each and everyone of them has a piece of my heart. I love them.
  4. Teaching in an under-performing urban school is not for the weak. If you hold on for the ride, it will change your life forever.
  5. Life isn’t fair. I know I said this all the time growing up, but for real, life isn’t fair. The lives my students have been handed isn’t fair.
  6. God is amazing. He’s not done with me yet. He’s putting me through these trials to prepare me for even better.
  7. I can survive on 4 hours of sleep.

There is so much more that I can’t even articulate into words right now.

Regardless of what you did this school year, whether you are a new teacher, a veteran teacher, “just” a teacher, or a student; take time to pause and reflect. Amazing things happened this year. Students learned and grew, you learned and grew.

Stay tuned as I continue to decompress this first school year.

Love and hugs,

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Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman