The Myth of the Super Teacher on Vimeo

Roxanna Elden is a great speaker.  The message that she sends forth in this video is stellar.  I have not read her book as of yet but I intend to.  She is 100% correct when she says that all teachers need honesty, humor, and practical advice.  The only problem I see is that a lot of leaders forget that teachers need this and that they view us as lazy if we are not getting 3 hours of sleep a night in order to create that amazing lesson plan.  We are human.  Nobody works with teenagers on 3 hours of sleep.  Did you before becoming an administrator?

Here is a touching story that is good for everyone to remember:

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you...” he told them.
“So... pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Many administrators have forgotten this over the years of not being in the classroom.  They have forgotten this story for their teachers, but they have not forgotten this for themselves.  Most want us to fill the jar with the sand first and they call us lazy when we don't.  We are all people, not robots.  It is important to remember that we all have lives outside of those walls, including students, and sometimes situations take place that impacts what goes on in those walls.

This year our superintendent in his opening address wanted to work with various positions around the district as a way to stay connected on what we do day in and day out with children.  This was a huge inspiration for me as a teacher.  Here is someone who quite frankly has a very busy schedule and wants to come in and work with teachers, secretaries, custodians, and bus drivers for a day to get a sense of the "trenches".  This is a leader.  Not many superintendents would be able to invest, not sacrifice, the much needed time in order to do get the first hand view of the classroom after so many year being out.

In my talks that I have had with many people I have worked with over the years, many of stressed upon me that whenever I do step into that position of administration, to not lose sight of what it is like in the classroom.  My intention is to always keep that very close to my heart.  The true battle ground is the classroom, not the office.

We put a great deal of emphasis on that our schools are failing and that our kids are not learning in schools today. It is true, the American education system is in a triage situation and needs to have attention placed the critical needs. Many parents and teachers are concerned with the fact that students are failing classes, even I am. But take a moment and look at what failing truly is. Does a child learn something by failing? In my opinion, they do. They learn how not to accomplish something. Failing does not mean unsuccessful, but we place great emphasis on the fact that failing is unacceptable. Let's take a look at some famous failures.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Failure! 
At 30 years old, Steve Jobs was forced to leave the company he build from the ground up. Failure! 
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked "imagination" and "original ideas". Failure! 
Oprah Winfery was demoted from being a news anchor because she was "not fit enough for television". Failure! 
Albert Einstein could not speak until the age of 4 and teachers told him that he would not amount to much in life. Failure!

It is important for us as educators to let every student know that failure is just a rehearsal for success.  Kids are worried about failing, and they should be, but when they do, and they will, they need to know that they are not failures as a person.

Traditional testing has become very degrading to those students who see a number that is not considered passing.  But those same students could go out and fix my truck without much hesitation and go to work as a mechanic and make twice what I do.  So which one is the failure, the student who has volumes more knowledge than I about mechanics of machines or me, the guys with two college degrees, two masters degrees, and an almost completed Ed.S?

This reminds me of a Big Bang Theory episode where all four guys were driving and something happened to Leonard's car.  He asked, " Does anyone here know anything about the internal combustion engine?"  Every one of them said, "Yes, tons."  "Does anyone here know how to work on the internal combustion engine?"  Their reply, "Absolutely not!"  That was three guys who all had terminal degrees and Wolowitz of course (BBT fans will know why that is funny) who had immense knowledge of many things in this world but could not even fix their car.  Are they failures?  I would say at that moment for that circumstance they were.  Again, being a failure at some things is not bad.  Failure is just a rehearsal for success.  I fail regularly at taking out the trash and helping with the laundry, just ask my wife.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

This is so true.  Lately, I have been spending some time thinking about character and how that is applied in schools today.  I know of a teacher who speaks in a manner that is so unprofessional to their colleagues, students, and even parents.  I have during my career specifically heard this teacher say to a student "You are dead to me."  Even if you dislike the person, who makes it known in their professional career?  And on top of that who says that to a student?  How did this person even get a position in our classrooms?  Character is a big part here.  We are role models for students and if they see this then they think it is okay as well.  Do we want a society filled with degrading people?  If you have a good report with a student then making jabs back-and-forth does take place, but both parties know the other is kidding around and that they know where the line is drawn.

I make sure that when I am joking with students they know that I respect them, that we are not friends, and that there is a line and neither of us should cross it.

This is very interesting.  I am not sure I totally agree on a "bar exam" for teachers but there is one thing for sure that I do know, educators are never completely proficient in their field.  Take for example doctors and lawyers, they are always referred to as "practicing medicine" or "practicing law".  Why can't teacher ever view themselves as "practicing educators".  In my 10 years of teaching the field has changed drastically.  When I entered the classroom there were computers in schools but mostly in the form of computer labs and a teacher computers for use in their room.  Now we are heading into 1:1 schools with iPad and laptops.  I never thought it would come down to that.

As the times change, we need to as well.  If you put a doctor from a hundred years ago into an operating room they would be totally lost.  Place a teacher from a hundred years ago in todays classrooms and they wouldn't skip a beat.  Nobody would want a doctor using outdated methods to cut on our bodies but why is it ok to have teachers using outdated disengaging methods on our children.  Kids don't need to memorize tons of information, they need to know how to apply the information.  Teachers are aware of this, but administrators are the ones that are keeping most schools behind.  For the administrator that has been out of the classroom for more than five years, don't ever tell a teacher that what they are doing is incorrect. They may not be doing a great job at engaging students in the curriculum, but your words don't mean anything since you are not in the battlefield.  Teach classes on top of leading the school.  Be in the battlefield like the rest of us.  When you say to me that you do not know the kids as well as the teachers, that is a problem.  You are suppose to lead the school and should know the kids just as much as the teachers.  If you say "we are in this together", be in it with us together.

Effort to create "bar exam" for teachers moves forward - Related Stories - Accomplished Teacher� by SmartBrief: Effort to create "bar exam" for teachers moves forward
The recent proposal by the American Federation of Teachers that teachers would have to take a test similar to the bar exam that lawyers take is advancing. Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, said that within 90 days, he will move to create a commission to work on a list of standards that beginning teachers should know. "It's an opportunity for the profession to step back and say these are our expectations based on what the profession sees as important to have when you step foot in the classroom on the first day," Thorpe said.

Here I am going to criticize as constructively as I can two perspectives of education, teachers, and parents.  I have linked to both recent articles that both made me get a slice of passion as this summer is ending and I am starting to head into daily reflection mode.

First of all, let me get this out on the table right now, schools cannot be successful for students if teachers and parents cannot work together.  End of story!

Who knows how best a child learns, teachers or their parents?  Some here would say teachers and some would fight till their death saying, parents.  I say both.  We all know that there are parents out there that really do not show too much care about their children but those are not the parents I am talking about.  I am talking about the parents that are engaged in their child's education.  A parent will always and should always advocate for their child and no teacher/administrator should ever try to drive a wedge between that relationship and for those of you that do, shame on you.  Teachers and parents should be fighting together for child's best interest, that interest is learning and being prepared to enter the world that is ever changing.  We are fighting against the people that could make each of jobs so much easier.  Neither side is the enemy, the enemy is the political system that is changed by suits who have no children and have never been teachers and feel that the only way to assess whether a student has learned is through a test.  

Both articles below are great and to some extent, I agree with both.  Yes, parents, you should always back your child, but please understand a teacher does not have one classroom of 30 students, we have 30 classrooms of one student and it is a very difficult job.  Yes, there are some bad seeds that have ruined it for lots of us, but that is not the case of everyone.  Please talk with us.  I rarely get parents that come to me to talk to me about something that concerns them.  They usually run to the principal and complain and then the principal comes to me.  Out of all of the concerns that have been brought to me from my supervisor, do you know how many I have addressed?  Zero!  That is right.  Parents if you do not have the guts to have a difficult conversation with your child's teacher then you must not really care about the situation enough to change it.  Have the guts to come talk to me and find out the real reason I do what I do.  Your children are worth it for you to have the guts to talk with their teachers and that is really all that teachers want.  Some do not want to have any parent communication but don't realize how much easier their jobs would be if they had parents on their side.