NOMINATED FOR TOPSHELF 2020 BOOK AWARD!
One of the best parts about being a teacher is watching your former students grow into incredible adults. Such is the case with Lisa Valentine Clark. This young woman is currently raising a family, co-starring in movies and hosting her own nationally broadcasted radio show. A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to be a guest on the Lisa Valentine Clark Show. Here is our conversation about education: http://www.byuradio.org/episode/255e8c9a-0746-4cf5-bc40-e888308423e4?playhead=2041&autoplay=true. The interview begins at 35:01.
By the way, Lisa has famous siblings: James Valentine (Maroon 5) and Amanda Valentine (placing second of Season 13 Project Runway). She currently designs her own clothing line Valentine Valentine. Lisa and James (and their adorable sister Gina) participated in my Nebraska choir program. Unfortunately I moved before Amanda attended my school.
In my book, I addressed this important issue: teachers must assume all of their students are destined for greatness. I never dreamed the Valentine children would hold prominence on the national stage. The same may be said of my other “famous” students: Scotty Johnson (Gin Blossoms), Scott MacIntyre (Top 10 American Idol 2009) and Nate Zuercher (Judah and the Lion). I take NO credit. Having these talented people pass through my orbit made my teaching path even more exciting. Lesson learned: treat all students as if their journey is the most important aspect of your professional life.
When I’m not marketing my book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” I teach voice. The schools in our area started last Monday and to my dismay, my voice students came to their lessons exhausted and frustrated. Why you ask? It appears some educators do not understand middle and high school students are not that far removed from elementary children. In what way? These adolescents want to reconnect with their friends and enjoy a first week of school void of tests, threats and terse teacher directives. Unfortunately many of the teachers in my district jumped in with the “business as usual” rigidity of the no nonsense approach.
What exactly am I addressing? These actually transpired. Read and weep:
- Many students missed their first two days of classes due to faulty schedules. The people helping with the situation were impatient and rude. Really? This process couldn’t be corrected in the previous spring or before school started? The first contact with school is a negative one? Why, why, why?
- DO NOT ASSIGN A HEAVY WORK LOAD IN THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL!
- English teacher told class that taking drama class was a waste of time since none of her students would ever make it in Hollywood. Do not ever speak poorly of any colleagues or other subject areas in your classroom.
- Math teacher took roll and then gave out a test to determine placement.
- Don’t threaten two hours of homework every night in order to advance the agenda of using class time wisely. Don’t threaten period.
- Remember ADHD students are challenged with too many posters, fliers and colors in a classroom. I was guilty of this one.
- Students do not enjoy sitting in a pod of four other students, facing each other and having to converse. Organizing pods is effective down the road, not in the first week. First day of this class presented unnerving eye contact with total strangers
What do students want? What would parents like? What makes the most sense? Use the first few days to foster a genuine connection with your students. This can be accomplished with ice-breakers and group activities. Students sense immediately if the instructor is invested. Get to know everyone of your students on an authentic level. It would be more productive spending the first week of school easing kids into the rigors of learning. Postponing the “do or die” assignments, tests, and quizzes will not hinder your curriculum calendar. Instead, your creating the freedom to learn in a supportive environment will insure comprehension moves at a faster pace.
I address strategies in my book for effective classroom management, discipline and learning. Buy your copy today on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
I am a Teacher. That is to say I was a teacher until summarily dismissed, fired, forced to retire on April 25, 2017. I am not sure which term fits my demise best. Over the past two years, I reflected on a lifetime of teaching. In my search for answers, I discovered many esteemed educators are leaving their districts due to a hostile work environment. How do we raise up this noble profession to the reverence of yesteryear?
Communities: Make every effort to vet school board contenders to insure their educational values are based on knowledge and not political influence. What are their educational backgrounds? Have they taught in the public school system? Are they parents of school aged children?
School Board Members: Please demonstrate the same pre-election exuberance after elected. Are you resolved to insure teachers’ freedom from vitriol criticism and frivolous complaint? How do you avoid becoming, inadvertently, a rubber stamp for ineffectual or bullying administrators?
Students: No teacher exists, including the ones you dismiss as inept, who doesn’t feel the day to day rigors of insuring your success. You need to avail yourself in committing sweat equity to the work required. Instead of complaining about instructors, challenge yourself to positively impact their daily routine.
Stand up for your vulnerable peers. Demonstrate, through actions, your school is a safe place. You may need to do something drastic and unexpected to protect the wellbeing of those around you. Become a fierce warrior advocate for kids unable to defend themselves. You hold the power to make a difference.
Parents: For the love of all humanity, step away from your computer! Writing incensed e-mails to your child’s teacher, hitting send and believing you are entitled to rancorous opinions is the most demoralizing act perpetrated on teachers. If you find it awkward to speak to the teacher face to face, re-evaluate the validity of your complaint. Your children are entitled to an equitable education. They are not guaranteed high grades, a lead in the play or varsity standing.
Allow your child to fail! Even if the perceived failure resulted from unfair selection or grading, supporting children in the how to’s of overcoming disappointment is paramount to their development. Scottie Pippen, winner of four NBA championship rings and two Olympic gold medals, received no athletic scholarship from any university. He originally made his small college basketball team as the equipment manager. Thankfully no parent, teacher or administrator felt pressured to change the sequence of events directing his young life.
Administrators: Two valuable tools disappeared in the last 20 years: mentorship and due process of staff. The art of constructive criticism has been lost to abrasive and unfiltered attacks. Children are NOT victims, teachers are NOT monsters and the parent is NOT always right. Dereliction in eradicating abusive student behavior and the omission of shielding teachers from unwarranted condemnation wreak havoc for the teaching profession. Administrators must provide judicious faculty assessments, unbiased decisions and guidance.
Teachers: If you are new to the profession, muster your courage and stay the course. Life exists after a poor assessment, admonishment from an administrator or parent complaint. Do not allow naysayers to destroy your passion for teaching.
Are you a seasoned teacher? If you have journeyed thus far without consternation, count your blessings. An extraordinary administrator mentored and shielded you!
Let’s make sure “putting kids first” is not just a clever slogan on a school district advertisement. Our children are the future of this country. Putting them first translates into guaranteeing teachers have a supportive environment to make that true difference in a child’s life. We all wear the same team jersey! If we advocate for the better treatment of teachers, this action alone could become the single positive force to alter the downward spiral of our fractured public school system.
Exciting news! “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is nominated for a TOPSHELF 2020 Book Award. Pick up your copy TODAY from Amazon/B&N. After reading it, please give it to a deserving parent, teacher or administrator.
I welcome the third fall where I do not return to teaching. Understand I loved teaching for 46 years. The students were the highlight of my career. But there were times my colleagues and parents often created an atmosphere of distrust and disdain. You have to love children in order to teach! Why else would anyone return to a job where the environment has the daily potential of toxicity.
Examples of overt adult bullying:
1. An administrator sends an email to a teacher asking the teacher’s presence in his office three days down the road. When the teacher writes back and inquires why the meeting, the answer is vague. Knowing the teacher will worry about the reason for three days provides the administrator more ammunition to harass. Upon arrival to the meeting, there is a list of accusations from students, parents and colleagues. All allegations are assumed true. Even when the teacher thoughtfully explains, there is no sign of affirmation from the principal.
2. The team leader conducts the day’s agenda only to spend the last five minutes in an open, negative discussion regarding one of the teacher’s actions.
3. Parents truly believe their child is the brightest and the best. When a teacher, coach or in my case a choral director does not pick this child for the musical, highest choir or (fill in the blank), questions of how the child may improve are NEVER asked. Instead vitriol emails of accusations of ineptitude prevail.
4. Tenured teachers cannot be fired. But they can be driven out by the above behaviors. In my research, I believe this approach of ridding the nation’s older, more experienced teachers is the norm and not the exception. Instead of offering a cap to their salaries or buyout, these seasoned educators’ lives are harangued and harassed by parents, colleagues and administrators.
How did I arrive at the above list? All transpired in my last nine years of teaching. My advice after 46 years: DON’T PUT UP WITH THESE BEHAVIORS. This fall, resolve to become proactive in your stance against the bullies who undermine and deter your success.
I address strategies in my book to avoid becoming the victim of such bullies. Please purchase my book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. PRICE REDUCTION! Read it, use it as a catalyst for fighting those who impede your life as a teacher and then put it in the hands of a deserving parent, colleague or administrator.
What a great idea! Using this book as a professional development day. Questions for students, parents, teachers and administrators follow almost all chapters. And there is one chapter entirely dedicated to reflective questions. There are solutions to bettering the lives of our educators. Read about them today!
I found this in my Facebook memories from two years ago:
God often uses money to confirm direction for our lives. Many times God uses a lack of provision to move us into new directions. It is a catalyst to encourage new ideas and strategies. Many times a loss of job becomes the greatest blessing to our lives because it provides the catalyst to do things we simply would never do without taking the step to get out of our comfort zone. -From Ephesians Four Ministry
April 25, 2017 my principal stood above me, shouted the words “Did you not hear me? You will not be the choir teacher here next year! If you do chose to return, you will be placed where you cannot be a part of any negative student interaction and where you will have nothing to do with collecting money.” Today, July 22, 2019, some 790 days later (but who’s counting), I now understand the above quote. Here are the gifts I received since my dismissal:
- RESEARCH: Pay disparity and disrespect are the issues confronting today’s teachers. Teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers than ever before.
- REALITY: Harassment of older teachers with the intent to drive them out is the dark and dirty secret prevailing upon our nation.
- REAL PURPOSE: I would never consider authoring a book were it not for the fact there is a national trend to rid our system of experienced teachers.
- RELEVANCE: Some 19 months later, I saw the fruition to my writing in a published book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!’
- RESISTANCE: My new purpose is to expose this trend: experienced teachers are persecuted by parents and inept administrators. When these educators escape the fray, they are often times replaced by unskilled younger teachers while school districts tout “putting kids first’ on their websites.
It’s truly odd to speak a heart of gratitude to those who ended my career so abruptly. I now see clearly my path detoured in order for me to become a teacher advocate. I will dedicate the remainder of my life to that end.