PILING ON!

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, David Ramsey’s headline reads: Piling on refs at a crisis point, threatens youth sports. As a teacher of 46 years, here is my own headline: Piling on TEACHERS at a crisis point, threatens EDUCATION.

Who are guilty of the “piling on?” Chronic, complaining parents and non-supportive administrators. In the article, Mr. Ramsey continues “We’re on the brink of an officiating catastrophe. Fans who shout insults and threaten violence are sending high school officials into retirement.” Our country’s educators are also heading into retirement in greater numbers than ever before. Why? As a teacher, vitriol parent emails filled with insults and threats found their way to my computer. On one occasion, my principal sent me home due to a telephone threat by an intoxicated parent stating he was coming to school to “get me.”

How is this allowed to happen? As a performing arts instructor, I found myself the object of parental unhappiness, due to auditions. The administrators were always carbon copied on the emails. How did my administrators react? Hiding in their offices! In my final End of the Year evaluation (where I was terminated), a handful of parent complaints ended my career. Is this simply a poorly run district’s issues or is it a national trend?

In my book signings (Colorado and Nebraska) and social media platforms, I witnessed a national trend of attacking teachers. I was not a microcosm. This is not a local problem. Today’s educational community is facing a crisis. What needs to change?

Parents: stop venting by email or speaking poorly of your child’s teachers behind their backs. If you feel cause exists, please schedule a meeting with the teacher. If you feel awkward about doing this, stop and re-evaluate the true importance of your “problem.”

Administrators: stop excusing parental meanness and stand up for your teachers. It’s just that simple. Long after the disapproving parent and their child leaves your school, you hold an obligation to insure teachers stay on your staff for more than the national average of three to five years.

Parents, teachers and administrators: Purchase “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” TODAY (AMAZON/BARNES & NOBLE) and initiate an atmosphere of positive communication. Today’s trend of losing one of our country’s most valued assets needs your direct involvement. Teachers are a precious commodity. Retain them and know our children will directly benefit.

I Am An Author

Last week I stood at the door of the local Barnes and Noble, greeting all who entered. At first, I just spoke a brief “hello.” This was my first time out signing my book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” When an administration, who clearly disliked me, forced me out of my job in 2017, I wrote about my experiences. Not only with the school district I served for nine years but also the problems encountered in education. Now I need to insure the public receives my message: there are incredible educational issues facing today’s students, parents, teachers and administrators.

I faced the deficit brought on with forced retirement by pouring out anecdotes, teachable moments and reflective questions for the next generation of teachers. As I faced the customers passing through quickly to find their reading materials, I realized my presence did not detour their path. I designed postcards with a clever saying along with the information about my book. Scrambling, I began passing them out. They were gone within minutes. I began to feel my pace and understood I needed more than a “hello” and a postcard. So thus began my new spiel.

“Hello! My name is Paula Baack. I am a local author and a retired teacher. I wrote about my decades of teaching and the issues facing today’s educators. I am signing my book. If you do not plan to purchase it, I will sign this postcard.” Something clicked. After the phrase “I am a local author,” people looked up at me and smiled. When I suggested there are many issues facing education today, they paused and agreed. The remainder of the afternoon was a success! I signed all the books Barnes and Noble had on display and had to ask for more. But here is the takeaway: I am an author. Until that afternoon, I never spoke those four words. Moments still exist where I have to complete a reality check: I got fired, floundered for months, wrote a book, self-published it and now it is out there for anyone to read. I did not see that coming.

If you have a story to tell, please take the time to write it. Perhaps you will stand in a bookstore someday declaring “I am an author.” The sentence, while it does not complete the definition of whom I’ve become, reminds me of my new role. Pretty exciting to find a new purpose and relate it to my vocation of 46 years!

NATIONAL RADIO BROADCAST

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.

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL FIASCOS!

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.

IN CELEBRATION OF THE NEW ACADEMIC YEAR

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.

TOPSHELF 2020 BOOK NOMINEE

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.

ADULT VERSON OF BULLYING: PARENTS, TEACHERS AND ADMIN ARE ALSO GUILTY

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.

ANOTHER HAPPY READER!

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!