JUST US!

Teachers: sometimes it’s “just us” as child advocates. I was a career teacher for 46 years. A local reporter contacted me regarding my decades of reporting child abuse, which this pandemic is creating. I just completed the interview and learned this staggering fact: Child abuse reports to my county’s DHS during the first part of April 2019, compared to the same period of time in 2020, have dropped from more than 950 to under 400. So that’s good news, yes? Certainly not!

A headline from the April 7, 2020 New York Times: THE CORONAVIRUS COULD CAUSE A CHILD ABUSE EPIDEMIC. The article, written by Dr. Agrawal, a child abuse pediatrician, states: The Covid-19 pandemic has created the conditions for a rise in child abuse that could go unchecked.

But not in the county I live, right? Wrong.

The frontline reporters of child abuse are America’s teachers and counselors. Their advocacy role is completely diminished through eLearning and lock downs. Our children are sheltered in place with parents who lost jobs, lost savings or both. Our educators were literally given hours to swing 180º and mount online presentations. Their multiple classes, full of children who never experienced this non-contact educational system, have encountered the lack of WiFi, working computers, frustrated parents and politicians who hypothesize school starting in January of 2021. Child abuse is on the rise but there is no one to report it. Stop this madness now!

SOLUTIONS:

  1. Form national, state and local coalitions TODAY and address opening schools sooner than later. These coalitions, comprised of high school students, parents, teachers and administrators, hold the future in educational reform. Legislators and government officials must listen to these coalitions and implement their findings.
  2. Brainstorm with the philosophy of “no idea is wrong.” Conceptualize social distancing, sanitizing, contact tracing, class size, local medical preparedness and the use of tandem online/ in school resources .
  3. Curb the constant drone of gloom and doom from politicians, scientists and the medical community. When you take away hope and purpose from America and her children, the end results will highlight a more gruesome post pandemic tragedy than ever imagined.
  4. Embrace the “we won’t know until we try” mindset, which defined this country since her inception.

Let’s not waste another day on data, hypothesis or painting pictures of pessimism. None of those elements serve our children well. Preach forward thinking solutions. Practice proactive approaches. Persevere to open our schools no later than the fall of 2020.

This Sequestered Semester: The Loss of Hope and Purpose

Malala Yousafzai is my idol. As a teacher, I promoted her throughout our school by purchasing 300 “Ask Me About Malala” buttons. Each of the 300 students were tasked with sharing information with the school body about this heroic young woman. Malala almost gave her life in order for the young women of her country to receive an education. Her quote reflects the power of education during this Covid 19 sequestered semester.

As a retired teacher and a current vocal coach, I am privy to the viewpoints of parents, educators and students in this difficult time. What have I learned?

  1. Students, parents, and teachers are stressed beyond measure in the abyss of online education, class requirements, homework expectations and the unknown of future schooling.
  2. Hope and purpose are lost for both our educators and students every time a “professional” bloviates on television regarding the extension of stay-at-home orders.
  3. Federal and state legislators, who previously inserted their upturned noses into American education, are incredibly silent, shedding no light on this jagged path of educating our children via eLearning.
  4. Parents are in tears, teenagers depressed and teachers’ hearts are broken. Our college and high school seniors are devastated. Will colleges be closed? Are there jobs post graduation in this economy? Will mental health facilities be equipped to handle the next wave of illness?

Let’s contemplate some viable solutions:

  1. Do NOT cancel schools for the remainder of the year. Keep all options open: restarting schools with formal graduations taking place at a later date; schools opening with staggered schedules, allowing for social distancing; admin and faculty stepping up and creating ways to give their students encouragement.
  2. All classes, for this semester, should be pass/fail.
  3. Assignments must be creative and yes, fun. Stop all testing! Check for understanding in a less confrontational way.
  4. This semester is about surviving, not exponential learning. Obtaining any new knowledge under these conditions is short termed at best. Accept that as a given.
  5. Find ways to encourage and lessen the fear. The community, legislators and the federal government need to understand that job loss and illness are not the only caveats facing homes across the nation. The future of this nation, her children, are paralyzed in limbo, not knowing what destiny holds.

At present, the only light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train! Everyone involved with education needs to press pause, step back and reassess how to better support our children and their teachers. Hope and purpose are dying faster than the virus kills.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Amazon/Barnes & Noble.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

Sixth and Final in a Series

(Please read the previous five blogs!)

Over the past weeks, I addressed issues where America falls short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blogs handed out a failing grade to:
America’s universities (teacher education)
Chronically complaining parents
Inept administrators
Teachers who chose the profession for the wrong reasons
School boards who act as a rubber stamp

How does our culture return to the era where teaching holds a revered place in society and teachers receive the utmost respect? School boards, superintendents and administrators must foster an environment where teachers do not feel afraid to come to work. Here is another reason our educational system is failing:

STUDENTS:

With my teacher sense of humor, I’ve often stated “they don’t make kids like they use to!”. But with all humor, there is some truth. Do you students (or parents) recognize any of these as your own character flaw:
1. Always comparing yourself to siblings and friends with a victim mentality (I never got the breaks my brother received).
2. Questioning authority with the same victim mindset (it’s not fair I have to have this project done by the end of the week).
3. Believing teachers really do operate in a sphere of giving better grades to the popular kids.
4. Asking a coach to excuse you because something came up which is much more fun.
5. Crying or whining when things don’t go your way. Demanding no need to follow the rules because you are (fill in the blank).

As seen with the response to the corona virus, our young people feel entitled to operate above the rules. Before the demand for all bars to close, college students populated them with overcrowding and defiant behavior. Why should they have to stay isolated when contracting the virus would not be as devastating? Did they consider how this mindset could lead to mass numbers of illness in older adults? Did they adhere to a proactive stance of stopping the spread? No, they celebrated openly, throwing caution to the wind. Students’ attitude of entitlement did not just manifest itself in their collegiate years. This “everyone for themselves” viewpoint began in their formative years when parents and even teachers allowed them to look at the world from a “me” point of view.

SOLUTION:

PARENTS: The time is NOW to effect change. Encourage your children to do volunteer work. Help them understand their role in society by enforcing the Golden Rule. Allow them to make mistakes, followed by immediate accountability. Bring back reasonable consequences for poor behavior. Stop placating your children with best friend status. Instead, parent your children as if our world depends on it, for it does.

TEACHERS: Until parents identify their children’s poor behavior as unacceptable, your jobs will increasingly become more difficult. The only way to survive is to put forth fair, consistent rules and consequences. Do not allow a parent or administrator to talk you out of the unearned grade or consequences for a verbal assault. That is not an easy task and often the reason teachers are leaving the profession in such great numbers.

ADMINISTRATORS: In 46 years as an educator, it was only my last year where a handful of parents and two administrators ended my career. Would earlier retirement bring about a better solution? Not for me. Their behavior only solidified my belief that this nation lost her respect for our teachers. Unfortunately what happened to me continues as the “actions du jour” of our school systems’ admin. For the love of our dedicated teacher work force, stand up and scream, “I’m mad as hell that teachers are leaving their jobs and I won’t let that happen under my watch!”

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Amazon/Barnes & Noble.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

FIFTH IN A SERIES

(Please read the previous four blogs.)

Thanks to @DanaPerino (Fox News) and the NYT, America received yet another warning regarding the decline of reading scores in half the states. Ms. Perino shared her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the past weeks, I addressed issues where America fell short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blogs handed out a failing grade to:
America’s universities (teacher education)
Chronically complaining parents
Inept administrators
Teachers who chose the profession for the wrong reasons

How does our culture return to the era where teaching holds a revered place in society? School boards, superintendents and administrators must foster an environment where teachers do not feel afraid to come to work. Here is another reason our educational system is failing:

SCHOOL BOARDS

Do you know the philosophy of your local school board? Is it a politically correct statement in theory or does the school board implement what they advertise? Are teachers valued assets? Are teachers protected from frivolous complaints? If teachers are threatened with termination, is there due process? Do children with ALL learning abilities find quality instruction ?

Teachers cannot be effective in a hostile workplace environment. Parents, while an important input of valued appraisal, must never hold the power to dictate which teacher remains, subject delivery, or appropriate discipline. All children’s lives matter. However it appears America provides great educational resources to the very bright and the very challenged. The majority of students who fall in-between often slip through the cracks of misdirected philosophies of education.

Taxpayers must better vet candidates for school boards. Instead, most of these boards serve as a rubber stamp in supporting any action taken by the superintendent or school administrations. These same taxpayers also need to make their boards and superintendents accountable for the appropriate use of local tax monies.

SOLUTION

Community conversations must be initiated on the effectiveness of the local school board. Does the school board reflect the expectations of their constituents? Do taxes reflect a positive, meticulous use of funding or are they used to pay off high rates of insurance to protect boards against litigations brought forth by unfairly fired or demoted teachers? Does the board demonstrate an awareness of problems in the district? What does the relationship look like between the school board and superintendent? Does the board seem approachable? Does the school board actually hold power to affect change? Does the superintendent come across as approachable or does he play the role of politician? As one of my banker friends thoughtfully stated years ago: children are our highest ranked asset, whose rate of return grows over the lifetime of the parent. Shouldn’t school boards take an active role in children’s schooling in order to receive the highest rate of return?

School boards need to implement the following: principals’ performances reviewed every quarter; disallow state legislatures’ mandate for student testing; distribute a climate survey every semester to research teacher well-being; seek answers to issues from teachers in the district after said survey is published; reduce the budget by cutting the top heavy admin staff in buildings. Teachers do not enter the field believing in great wealth. Salaries are important but even more so the retention of successful educators. If board members demonstrate the same pre-election exuberance after elected, perhaps these members could affect positive change in their districts by solving the day to day issues facing American educators.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Amazon/Barnes & Noble.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

FOURTH IN A SERIES

Thanks to @DanaPerino (Fox News) and the NYT, America received yet another warning regarding the decline of reading scores in half the states. Ms. Perino continued to share her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the past weeks, I addressed issues where America fell short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blogs handed America’s universities (teacher education), chronically complaining parents and inept administrators a failing grade. Here is another reason our educational system is not able to keep up with other global systems:

TEACHERS:

I witnessed it with my own child 30 years ago and with my grandchildren present day: what happens in the transition from the love of school expressed by elementary children and the sometimes complete disconnect with high school students?

As harsh as it sounds: teachers. There are three kinds of teachers standing in front our children today:

1.Those who couldn’t figure out what to do with their lives so teaching appeared to be the easiest track.
2.Those who chose teaching as a stepping stone to “something better.” Mr. Holland’s Opus, a great movie in 1995, depicted such a journey.
3.Those who are impassioned and dedicated with the love of learning in their students.

Before you cast the stones of contempt in my direction, I was all three of those! In college, I wore out my welcome in the music department. With threats of expulsion since I chose not to show up to my classes, I barely graduated. It was the ’70’s, Viet Nam war was the daily news and I, like so many, didn’t want to commit to anything. There was a bright light: my cooperating elementary school teacher saw something in me and fostered that spark to teach.

However when I started out teaching, I yearned for the stage. Teaching was my stepping stone to put food on the table until I could support myself with a singing career. It never transpired, much to my chagrin. I was a good teacher in the beginning but certainly not impassioned or dedicated.

It took time, mentoring and a Mr. Holland’s Opus moment to finally see myself as a teacher journeying through a lifetime pursuit of educating children and adults with passion and fervor.

SOLUTION:

1.If teaching was the easy track and you are just going through the motions, please change your vocation for the sake of our children. You can make more money and avoid the sometimes vicious classroom environment by doing so.

2.If teaching is your stepping stone to something better, again, please vacate your position. Kids, as young as kindergarten, can spot a teacher who is not committed to teaching. It’s reflected in your lack of energy, creativity and overall relationship with your students.


3. If you are or always was a dedicated teacher with a genuine love for every one of your students, pace yourself. America needs you to stay the course. You cannot continue to operate on overload with the day to day rigors teaching demands. My mantra: work hard and play even harder. To use the phrase bestowed on our men and women in uniform: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.

Happy New Year or Is it?

When I am not advocating better pay and treatment for teachers, I coach singing. This week began my second term where these conversations ensued:

Are you ready to return to school? No, I really don’t like it. Did you have a great break from school? No, it wasn’t long enough. Do you love returning to school? Not really. It’s just boring and not much fun. From a six year old: the only part of school which is fun is recess.

Yet every January the public schools begin the new calendar year with the same ol’, same ol’. Each year the expectations kids will become engaged in January are the same as the ones in August. And yet, the majority of our school-aged children dread the classroom. Why?

It’s really quite simple: testing, testing, testing. Add to that the lack of creativity in bringing the F word back into the classroom. Yes, FUN. How do you avoid this conundrum?

Walk in the shoes of your students. Do you want to sit in a row or a circle for weeks at a time? How would you like a test every day? Change it up! Sit on the floor, bring bean bags, wear pajamas or at least on one day per week, let the students guide the learning. You may be amazed in the outcome. Gather up your student leadership and colleagues to design units of study which reside outside the usual vanilla envelope. Don’t be afraid to rock that crazy, at times unstable educational boat. You will enjoy your job more and perhaps when kids come to my voice studio, they will be clamoring to return to the classroom.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.

BOOKLIFE PRIZE REVIEW IS IN!

Title: Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!

Author: Paula Baack

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Audience: Adult

Word Count: 72,537

Assessment:

Idea/Concept: Although Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! sits somewhat uneasily between memoir and guidebook, the author ultimately presents a highly informed, insightful look into the state of education in America and the toxic work environments many educators face.

Prose: This book is well-written and organized, while the author’s prose conveys her passion for teaching and her frustration toward the many impediments facing teachers and students today.  

Originality: As a devoted educator, Baack backs up her findings with her own unique experiential evidence, while broadening the scope of the book to focus on the collective experiences of teachers and students in America. 

Execution: Baack’s own experiences offer credibility and immediacy to the sections that are more pointedly informational. While the focus of the book is more on how to rescue teachers than on how to save students, Baack’s ideas are inspired and potentially broadly beneficial. Her clearly-referenced religious overtones sometime interfere with the more actionable advice, but not significantly. She does not proselytize, but, rather, espouses values that many of us, religious or not, still hold.

Blurb: Baack makes an urgent plea to teachers, administrators, parents, and students to work collaboratively to improve the American education system to some of its former high standards. 

I am so pleased as a first time author. Thank you BookLife!

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

Third In A Series

Thanks to @DanaPerino (Fox News) and the NYT, America received yet another warning regarding the decline of reading scores in half the states. Ms. Perino continued to share her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the next few days, I will address all issues where America falls short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blogs handed America’s universities (teacher education) and chronically complaining parents a failing grade. Here is another reason our educational system is not able to keep up with other global systems:

ADMINISTRATORS: In 1971, I began my 46 year career. I’ve seen administrators of all types. Here is an excerpt from my book:

1.He hired the best, stood back and encouraged his staff at every turn.
2. She held onto rules (some unwritten) which must be obeyed. No gray area or compromise.
3. She encouraged her staff to meet her expectations. If some of the staff struggled, the administrator stood by their side and mentored them.
4. She sat by the front door and would not allow her staff to leave before 3:30 pm.
5. One principal’s philosophy was the Performing Arts existed as a fluff curriculum. Those teachers simply acted as a support staff for the school. Their out of classroom expectations would include lunchroom duty, cleaning up the lunchroom tables, crosswalk assignments and other non-teaching requirements. He believed those assignments justified a performing arts program.
6. She scolded staff for reaching out to troubled students. Her philosophy: only a licensed psychologist should offer support to students. Come to work, teach your subject, and then go home.
7. She could not deal with any parent who raised an issue. In a panic, she told the teacher to fix things with the complainant.
8. He organized face to face meetings when disagreements arose with his staff, parents or students.
9. She openly declared she did not like some teachers, and for no reason. If she couldn’t fire them legitimately, she encouraged her admin team to drive them out.
10.She stated if staff received a parent complaint and did not acquiesce to the complaint, she would not support the staff member.

If you are a part of a school administration, what kind of administrator are you? If you are a parent, which of these best supports your philosophy of administrating. Teacher? If you’ve been teaching for more than 10 years, you’ve encountered many of the negative examples.

SOLUTION:

1.School boards and superintendents must insist their school administrators support their teachers, no matter what the complaint. Administrators should never play the adversarial role with their staff.
2. Even the worst case scenario teacher deserves to be mentored.
3. When there is a problem with staff, due process must be the rule of the day. No more guilty until proven innocent allowed.
4. The teacher should never be threatened with innuendo of losing his job just because of a student accusation and a parent pushed “send” on a vitriol email.
5. Maintain this philosophy and the day to day operations of problem solving should be less complicated: Students are not perfect, parents are not always right and teachers are NOT monsters.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

Second In A Series

Thanks to @DanaPerino (Fox News) and the NYT, America received yet another warning regarding the decline of reading scores in half the states. Ms. Perino continued to share her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the next few days, I will address all issues where America falls short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blog handed America’s universities a failing grade for teacher education. Here is another reason our educational system is not able to keep up with other global systems:

PARENTS: Receiving a profoundly faceted high school education is not a high priority for many American households. Parents in European and Asian cultures show their allegiance to education through: longer school days; longer school year; higher pay and better retirement benefits for teachers. Please do not mistake the American parent’s advocacy of education. “My kid deserves all A’s” is not akin to “My kid deserves the best education possible”. Parents want the grades, inflated if possible, to demonstrate their child’s prowess in school. However if their child does not do the work, many parents will insist on the highest grade possible. Learning outcomes be damned! The schools are glorified babysitters with parents sitting on the perimeter demanding their child deserves better treatment than others.

Which parent are you? The tough love parents allow their children to fail and support their children’s teachers, even when it is challenging. In absentia parents find it almost impossible to catch their children up as they progress. The helicopter parent, while always present, also contributes to the demise of American education. How? Their very physical presence fills their child’s classroom with pressure to succeed on both the educator and the child. There is a new syndrome of parental mayhem. The lawn mower parent: if they disagree with test results, disciplinary measures or how their child is treated, they just mow down anyone in their way.

How do these parents impede American education? Vitriol emails, open verbal harassment, and insisting to the administration their child deserves special treatment demonstrate just a few of the tactics parents use to harass their children’s teachers. Yes, teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers than ever before, many due to lack of compensation for the overtime hours. The premise of my book states it best: Truth: Educators do not commit their passion to teach believing untold wealth awaits them. The purposely concealed story: national teacher shortage is due to a dominating hostile work environment, created by the very people educators serve.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Do not allow parents to communicate classroom issues with teachers via email or phone.
  • If there is a problem between child and teacher, the administrator will set up a meeting where everyone is in the room.
  • No longer would innuendo and meritless accusations be acceptable.
  • Parents should have input into the school’s sports, academics and activities through committees. But never should a handful of parents dictate curriculum, classroom management or an established teacher’s approach to delivering instruction.
  • Administrators owe it to their staff to insulate them from frivolous complaints. The lack of administration support of their teachers is another reason for the problems which face American education. I will address that issue next.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

First In A Series

My advocating passion for teachers was reawakened just now. @DanaPerino (Fox News) cited the NYT article bemoaning the decline of reading scores in half the states. She continued to share her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the next few days, I will address all issues where America falls short in preparing her young people for the real world. Here is one of the reasons our educational system is not able to keep up with other global systems.

UNIVERSITIES: Teaching teachers is not a high priority. How do I know this? I have volunteered to speak (gratis) about today’s issues in education at my state’s universities. Most will not return my phone call or email. My own alma mater finds me irrelevant. Yet when I graduated from this state university decades ago, my student teaching experience was filled with teachers, in the trenches, sharing their real life experiences. University instructors were current on the educational trends shaping our culture. Most just arrived to the university setting from at least a decade of successful public school teaching. Today, not so much.

At a recent book signing, a first year teacher stood before me. I asked her how her year was going. She looked at me with sad, blank eyes and stated: I wish my college had prepared me for the emotional drain I experience in the classroom every day. The reason why today’s post secondary education scholars cannot prepare our teachers? CHECK THEIR RESUME´S! Most have not spent more than three to five years in public education. Today’s collegiate professors could not possibly instruct classroom management, crisis intervention, active shooter response, bullying…well you get the picture. Today’s teachers are a product of an out of touch university system.

SOLUTION:

1. Hire seasoned, successful teachers currently in the field to instruct new teachers. These educators are and will continue to be the frontline in mentoring today’s new hires. 2. Stop insisting on abstract educational research for professorial tenure. 3. Instead, require professors to serve part time in a public school setting. 4. Stop reinventing the wheel. Go back to the basics of teaching math and reading. 5. Stop using professors’ untested dissertations as the next model of “how to teach anything.” What do these five proposals cost? Nothing. It does require a real dedication to mentoring America’s students through the reconfiguration of the university teacher education program.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.