Excerpt from Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! As it turned out, majoring in education became my lifeline. The department was headed by Dr. Vaughn Jaenike, whose leadership provided motivation for me. Student teaching saved my collegiate study from complete failure. Vaughn arranged my student teacher practicum with his wife, Ruth Jaenike. She met me in the hallway on my first day of student teaching as she was on her way out of the building to teach at another school. Hastily, Ruth informed me I would need to teach music to first graders on my own. How could I be expected to accomplish this on my first day? The teaching pedagogy received thus far had been minimal, so the concept of teaching by myself terrified me. To this day, I do not remember what I taught. But when the day came to an end, I adored teaching!
Ruth and I shared a collaborative spirit. We decided to approach music education through the humanities, encompassing singing, art, architecture, dance, theatre and symphonic music. Working with this incredible mentor produced the feelings of deep appreciation for the perfect job. At the end of each unit, we held culminating sessions with professionals from the community. Ruth lit the flame which began my passion to teach. I will always be thankful for Vaughn and Ruth’s influence in my life.
NOTE: I just completed an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) where I heard Ruth passed away recently. The past 24 hours have been filled with sadness as I came to the realization a great lady was no longer with us. Rest in peace, dear Ruth and know you are one of the main reasons for any success I experienced.
Clothes Do Not Make The Man: Thirty minutes into the rehearsal with my junior high school men’s choir, I received a new student. His counselor dropped him off without much explanation. The defining culture of the 80’s boasted extreme dress for many. But this young man exhibited a jaw dropping appearance. Steve wore heavy make-up, purple hair, and his leather jeans fit so tightly that he found climbing the stairs of my risers difficult. He sported a bold leopard vest which stretched around his ample stature. Every pocket contained a long chain connected to yet another pocket. Steve’s appearance made it challenging for the class to mask their awe. As a teacher in the performing arts, I admired students who dressed outside the norm. Steve took his individual look to a new level of creativity. I quickly assigned Steve a seat and remarked how I admired his rocker look. The glare he shot in my direction disguised nothing. Steve displayed an attitude with a capital A.
Steve’s membership to our choir would prove interesting, as we prepared for a patriotic music celebration. I proceeded with our class discussion about the National Anthem. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Steve’s hand shoot up. I immediately went into yoga breathing, which prepared me for any verbal onslaught. In with the good breath, out with the bad, I called on Steve. He spoke in a low, exasperated tone, “What if I don’t like this country and I don’t want to sing this song?” I told Steve I would like to visit with him in my office over the noon hour so he could share his thoughts. I assured the class Steve was NOT in trouble. I did so hoping this would stop any student-led hypothetical discussions on Steve’s presence in our choir. The meeting was not about disciplining Steve for his outspoken manner. I genuinely wanted to hear his views on the subject.
He arrived at lunch looking disgruntled in that surly, roll of the eyes way which all teenagers mastered by age 12. He slumped down in the chair, looking at the floor. I told him I valued all students’ opinions, especially those in opposition from my beliefs. I grew up as an outspoken teenager, and most of my teachers openly disliked me for it. As a teacher, I aspired to a different standard. My comment genuinely surprised him. In the next few minutes, Steve and I found common ground. When he shared some of the downfalls he witnessed with our country, I could not disagree. We came to the conclusion that when we sang the patriotic songs, he would be excused from singing. Men and women sacrificed their lives defending his right to make that decision. Steve transitioned well into our class and when the patriotic concert came, he performed every number. Did all my confrontations with students end so successfully? No, they did not. Acknowledging the fact young people nourish opinions different from adults allowed the sharing of those ideas, without prejudice, in a healthy environment. A sarcastic or demeaning retort from a teacher closes down any possibility of respectful discourse.
Teachable Moment: I honestly enjoyed visiting with students who held polar opposite beliefs from me. Modeling positive discourse became a great way to help the student feel heard and respected. Polarizing episodes began to dissipate, and in their place, an honest exchange of ideas. Today’s society could learn from this one important aspect of human dynamics: agreeing to disagree is much healthier than hating and demeaning the other person for their point of view.
Audience: The four points of view (students, parents, teachers and administrators) are addressed would attract lay and academic readers. The contents are non-gender specific including the treatment of LGBTQ students.
*According to the Guardian, a recent survey found 80% of classroom teachers have seriously considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months.
*Two quintessential aspects of the treatment of teachers have been omitted from most school districts: mentoring of struggling teachers by peers/administrators and due process of unreasonably fired or harassed teachers.
*The entitled parent and the administrator who cannot or will not administrate are two paramount factors contributing to the hostile work environment.
*Troubled students hold more impact in today’s classroom. The sanctity of life and moral compass of decades ago replaced by a violence-prone culture. *School shootings will not subside until teachers learn to reach these volatile children, who slip through the widening cracks of an ill-equipped educational system.
At the end of most chapters, I include Reflection Questions for all four points of view: Students, Parents, Teachers and Administrators. Here is an excerpt:
1. How do you deal with peers who look, think, act and speak differently than you?
2. How do you deal with bullying when you witness it?
1. Has your child been bullied?
2. Have you given your child skills to use when confronted with teasing?
1. Are you able to hand out consequences to bullies that have shown positive results?
2. Have you given your students skills to use when confronted with teasing?
1. How do you deal with bullying when you hear about it?
2. Are you able to hand out consequences to bullies that have shown positive results? If yes, what are they?
Bullying is real and YOU are the front line defense!
In my 46 years of research, I witnessed many changes. In my opinion, there is a direct correlation with these changes and the downward spiral of our educational system:
*Downgrading of dress codes for both students and teachers
*Disruptive classroom behavior
*Technology driven teaching practices
*Shorter attention spans from students
*Parent roles running the gamut of helicoptering to complete absence
*Ill preparedness and immaturity of new teachers
*Administrators who could not or would not administrate
*The increase of bullying, both in the perpetrator and the victimization of children
*Dismissing of the Judeo-Christian God and values
*Stem curriculum without the balance of the arts
*Higher student dropout
By the conclusion of this book, I hope the reader can gain a better understanding of what it takes to become a successful student, parent, teacher and administrator. These four points of view (POV) will be addressed. My life journey encompassed all four. I propose this challenge: through your own life experiences, are you willing to maintain an open mind and gain insight into points of view which differ from yours? Will you join me and become the advocate voice to change our educational system for the better?
*provide sets of questions at the end of chapters, where the four points of view (students, parents, teachers and administrators) will commence productive discussions.
*contribute even more succinct questions in an entire chapter put forth for the four POV’s.
*describe real situations which happened throughout a 46 year career. Bad things happen to good teachers as well as inspirational moments, which can alter a student’s or teacher’s life forever.
*share impactful insight to the rewards of teaching.
*encourage teachers to become proactive in their day to day encounters with parents, students, colleagues and administrators.
*include “teachable moments” throughout where the reader has the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.
*change “the world according to me” point of view, thus walking in others’ shoes to affect positive change in today’s teaching environment.
*strike down the negative climate (vitriol emails and social media rants), and return to the values of yesteryear, where teachers were treated as members of one of the most noble professions.
*understand there are ways to reach troubled students and prevent future school massacres.
* acknowledge social media is the bane of our existence, especially for our children.
*concede bullying is real and it walks hand in hand with social media.
*comprehend better what transpired in our public schools and culture when the Supreme Court decision of 1962 demanded God vacate our schools.
*initiate real conversations in the Teachers’ Colleges, school professional development sessions, school boards and in homes to stop the mistreatment of teachers.
Synopsis: The teacher disparity in pay teeters on the tip of the iceberg. How American culture treats teachers, through entitled parents, social media and lack of support from administrators, is the deplorable underbelly of this glacial mass.
Overview: Navigating the waters of child tantrums, an adolescent accidentally lighting her hair on fire, a potential suicide and having a parent threaten my life, I awoke one fine spring day as the victim of forced retirement. Anecdotes of a seasoned educator do not fail to entertain as well as educate.
Distinction: My memoir comes laced with narratives of success, failure, passion, teachable moments and what it means to be called teacher. Current topics (bullying, school shootings, the inclusion of special needs children, entitled parents and their perfect children, assessments and general lack of support of teachers by our culture) explored and solutions discovered through decades of gaining wisdom. Instead of mere story telling, reflection questions for students, parents, colleagues and administrators prevail at the end of most chapters. Exceptional teachers are leaving the ranks. Our educational system is broken. This book not only addresses the brokenness but more importantly contributes real solutions gained through 46 years of research.
Current day educators require tremendous courage to correct and refocus the crippled system. The fear of job loss or uncertain retribution prohibits most returning or retiring teachers to share their grievous stories. Forced into retirement from a job I loved, I am prepared to become their voice and shed light on the overall ill treatment of America’s educators. This reasonable voice, advocating change, is achieved through the language of passion, unconditional love and grace.