Why I Didn’t Go to the Oklahoma Rally for Education

First of all, I wasn’t given the day off of school to go, as so many of my peers were. That’s fine; if a district chose to give teachers the freedom to stand up to the injustices we are being served as public educators, by all means! Go! Be merry! Yell a little for me! However, testing approaches, and let’s be honest: making substitute plans is WAY harder than just staying and teaching.

Therefore, I was at school all day today. We began Julius Caesar, we continued on in Romeo and Juliet, and we even analyzed poetry (and they did it all by themselves which was amazing). I continued to teach for one reason and one reason only:

my kids.

I know many critics who will criticize teachers who took the day off and school districts that had no school. I know many critics who will look down on teachers and administrations such as myself and mine for staying at school. “Aren’t you just doing what they want you to do, but with no benefit for yourself? They don’t have to change if you’re willing to keep working for nothing!” My kids even asked me, “Mrs. Mac, if we’re so important, why didn’t you go?”

And again I’ll answer: it’s because of you.

I knew coming into this job that it is thankless, it is under-paid, and the hours are well, let’s put it nicely, deplorable at best. I didn’t decide to teach because I wanted to be famous. I didn’t decide to teach because I get so much freaking support from the government and from parents. I didn’t decide to do it because every day the kids smell like roses and give me perfect answers. I did it because I was led to do it. It is my calling. I love literature. I love that literature lets us “know that we are not alone” (Vonnegut). I love kids because they’re sad, and silly, and crazy, and dumb, and sweet, and mean, and ugly, and driven, and lazy, and for every other reason that Christ loves me.

That being said… I am mad. I am discouraged. I am ashamed. I am hopeful. I am upset. We. Need. Change. But it doesn’t start and stop with salary, or testing, or whether or not I can conveniently pay my union dues. It starts at the heart of all of those problems.

I wouldn’t need to be paid more if kids felt like they had a buy-in, if parents supported me at home.

I wouldn’t need to be worried about testing if kids if the previous reason was true.

I wouldn’t need to pay my stupid union dues (which I am only paying in case I get sued by some crazy) if the following two reasons were true.

I’m not saying the government is absolved from its problems and discrepancies, and I’m not saying that it’s any ONE PERSON’S FAULT. I’m not even saying that these problems can be fixed! What I am saying is that there is a lot of finger pointing. There are MANY problems. Perhaps the presence of my peers on the Hill today is going to make a big impact on this year’s legislation. Perhaps my presence could have been helpful today. What I do know for certain is that my daily presence with these stinky, silly, smart kids IS making a difference. So what if I don’t have all the books I need? So what if we don’t have laptops/computer access? So what if we’re a little behind because we spent so much time on a problem they couldn’t work out?

Teachers make a difference every. single. day. In their classrooms. Doing life with their kids. We don’t just teach standards (which are arbitrary at best). We don’t just teach math and science and English. We teach kindness, patience, humanity, love. We teach kids that there are people who can be counted on. We teach them how to be those people. And we don’t do that because this job pays well, or because we might be famous, or because we get so much darn appreciation that we don’t know what to do with it… We do it because we love our kids; we love our jobs.

We may be taken advantage of by the government, by students, by parents, by the media, by the world. But at the end of the day, good educators don’t do it for their approval. They do it because it’s the right thing to do.

That is my daily testimony, and I hope that today’s rally proves that, in some small way, that’s all good educators want. We want to be supported. We don’t want to ALWAYS be the bad guy. Because if being “bad” means making kids do the RIGHT thing, I never wanna be right.

God bless teachers, God bless students, and God bless you for making it through this entire rant…

MM

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How Rubrics Saved My Life

If we are being honest, Jesus saved my life. But the use of rubrics in my classroom has been a huge blessing.

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I teach English II, which is an End of Instruction tested subject in the State of Oklahoma. I have a lot of material to cover and a limited amount of time in which to do it. With the implementation of Common Core, I make it a priority that writing be a part of the curriculum as much as possible. But, in the world of an English teacher, more writing, which equals more learning and hands-on-experience, also means more grading.

Blech.

This year, I took the basics from the state writing rubric and only included what a score of 4 would earn. I average the five components together (on a scale from 4-1, like the state test) and that’s the grade I give the student (all of my essays are out of 100%).

I have had these English II Writing Rubricsmade up for awhile, but I never really used them. I have specialized rubrics that I use for other essays, but for general writing — I was lost. In one of my classes, I’m guinea-pigging the use of Interactive Notebooks. While students have a very organized notebook, I have a hard time grading their writing from the notebook! I’m currently halfway through grading the essays from my 3rd hour with these rubrics. There’s space to write notes and I highlight the areas students need the most work.

It’s going so fast, having this guide, and it’ll be a really quick and easy way for me to organize and post their grades.

In short, the use of the rubric has saved my jam-packed weekend from being “bleh I have to grade essays.” Instead it’s more of, “now I can hangout with my boyfriend and not have a worry on my mind!” Thanks, rubrics!

Ms. K

Testing: Springtime and Change

It’s been awhile since I have chronicled my adventures. Life here in classroom 8 has been trucking along. In the last few days I’ve heard several comments about how worried my current students were. They claimed that last semester’s students said I was mean, unfair, and made them work too much. My current student’s have boasted that this semester is not only fun but they’ve learned stuff. I’m both proud and scared at the same time: testing is in a week an a half. And when it gets here, it’ll all be over but the crying.

We are currently doing Julius Caesar this week and next. But as I type, they are doing a practice EOI test. I took it upon myself to give them the test, gauge their progress, and then make up packets for them to hone their skills. On the one hand: I’m differentiating. On the other, I’m going to have to scramble this next week to get everything together.

But at the end of the day… it’s for my students. I have had some tough conversations this semester about cutting and depression and pregnancy and Christ and gay marriage and totalitarianism and… and… and… I have gotten frustrated with my 2nd hour but I have not lost my temper. I have had several students push every button, fail their work, and cease to try. But I have not given up. Even when I wanted to give up: I haven’t. I am praying my students pass their tests. But even if they deny everything I’ve tried to impart into their sophomoric brains, I know that God has taught me A LOT about what it means to be a leader, what it means to be a teacher, what it means to be me. 

Several other factors into God’s molding have been my recent car accident and that my roommate is leaving at the end of May. Lots of changes are happening and this whole growing up thing is hard… But through it all I’ve had Christ and the support of the few readers who peruse this blog. And for that, I thank you.

I hope to be posting some of my lesson plans for Julius Caesar soon. I’m really enjoying this play and oddly enough, so are the students!