Cranky!

crankyfaceYeah that’s me. Cranky!

Every day I read amazing, energized posts and reflections by teachers all across the country.  They are excited by their practice and seem to have so much fun teaching a fresh new approach to curriculum.  I however, am feeling my time in the classroom must be coming to a close. I don’t feel the drive and energy that once fueled my work as an educator of 27 years. I suspect I would be better off not reading all these posts because they make me feel more discouraged.  The most popular posts are from a core of educators who seem to have the world by the tail.

Not only do they love their jobs, but they seem to be devising their own curricula. I don’t hear any frustrations with the expectations coming down from administrators, the state, and the Common Core.

I, however, am feeling the strain. We have weekly COP (community of practice) sessions during one of our prep periods.  Our focus is always on drilling down the standards and discussing how we are meeting the Common Core. We never actually share our own personal ideas on practice. When we talk about developmentally appropriate practice, it’s just a reflection on how the academics have pushed off play time. Early childhood educators KNOW that play IS learning in a truly integrated sense.

The bloggers I follow also enjoy tremendous tech advantages. I just finished reading a post by a teacher who has an interactive white board and 1 to 1 iPads in her kindergarten class. She is not alone. Many other bloggers have great tech tools and take them for granted.

This particular blogger has Skype conversations where the classes can actually see each other on the IWB and stay engaged. Try doing that (as I have) with a poor quality projector on a pull down screen or on a laptop. It’s a lot harder to feel connected when you can’t see who’s doing the talking.

I would love to see a study or survey of the equipment and tech kindergarten and other primary grade teachers have in their classrooms. It’s not reasonable to put out a call on Twitter because so many teachers are not present there. Their PLNs are teachers in their schools and districts, if they have a PLN at all. Connected teachers are not the reality. In my school, we only have 2 out of 35 teachers who have Twitter accounts that are active and follow educators. Most folks are on Facebook but not as part of a PLN.

There are entire collections of apps and Symbaloo webmixes for well-connected teachers, in well-funded programs. I have access to a COW of laptops for one hour a week. The laptops are updated only rarely so many sites don’t work at all. Installing updates is essential, as so many sites and plugins get updated, but our part-time tech guy doesn’t get to that. He’s too busy putting out fires  during his 1:30 – 3:30 shift. After that, he goes back to being the custodian. I have updated the computers a few times this year myself but that just feels wrong when I have so many other things to do that directly improve my student’s learning.

Our district has always kept the fiscal focus on keeping staff, not buying tech or even maintaining the tech we have. Even our supply budgets have been cut by more than half of what they used to be 10 years ago. Much of what we have is low bid and refurbished. The bandwidth is a huge problem. The other afternoon, I continued an after school PD tech session with some teachers on blogging. The refurbished Macs with one gig of ram were incredibly slow. Boy, do I hate that beachball! My iPad blows these school hardware tools out of the water but I don’t plan to make that a school tool.

Would anyone care to comment? Here are a few questions that come to mind.

  • How much of school budgets get swallowed up by the needs of the Common Core?
  • How much of our PD time is focused on writing and re-writing goals so they are aligned with the Common Core and use a smart goal formula?
  • How much of our PD time is spent working on evaluation tools and creating data so others can see what we do for a part of our day?
  • How much of a student’s day gets swallowed up working toward a good score on a high stakes test created by an ed reform business?
  • Why have we veered away from student inquiry in favor of chasing smaller targets of learning?
  • When did people stop looking to the teacher for the best ideas on reform and curriculum for educating children?
  • When did PLAY become a waste of a student’s time?

I curate Scoop.it Kindergarten and posts on the importance of play always make it into the curation. I hope I can bring the creative aspect of play into a science based integrated curriculum next year. I will no doubt have to leave the expected activities and pacing that are plaguing our schools now. The revised curriculum will bring in more inquiry and exploration. The students will be engaged with learning about things in our world and will gradually build the necessary communication skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities. Science based activities already use an abundance of math work.

My heart and mind know that I can get my students where they each need to be, where each student is learning at her own pace, and with her own unique challenges and support. This cranky teacher is not able to do that in the current climate of big business and the Common Core.

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