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.

TEACHERS: DO NOT STRIKE!

As a retired teacher, how could I make this statement? Do I not remember how my salary barely paid bills? In real time: how am I making it on my retirement? Why am I unable to fathom today’s educator dilemma?

After 46 years of teaching, I understand all of the dilemmas teachers face! That’s why I wrote “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” But striking is against my better judgement. Here is why:

  1. Parents have to scramble to find child care.
  2. Many parents will find it necessary to leave their children unattended during the school day.
  3. Children need a regiment to afford better retention of learning. Staying home for days, often unsupervised, postpones if not cancels the child’s ability to retain previously learned concepts.
  4. The community does not see the plight of teachers when they strike. They only see the empty school house, void of instruction and safety for their child.
  5. The potential loss of pay or postponement of salary may place the educator behind the proverbial eight ball even farther.

Is there an antidote for the teachers in this nation who work daily under poor conditions, low pay and constant verbal attacks? Yes! WORK THE RULE. Back in the ’80’s, I worked in a school district where the education association was extremely proactive in garnering salaries. At one point, the association and school board were at impasse. The proposal to WORK THE RULE was executed with great results. Here is a portion from my book regarding this concept:


When to Work the Rule: Commitment to teaching for a substandard salary took its toll. The teacher representatives decided all teachers should “work the rule.” Teachers reported to their jobs 30 minutes before their classes began. The school day was filled with teaching and assessment. Everything, including grading papers, took place within the school day. When the children went home at the end of the day, so did the teachers! No homework assigned. Extracurricular activities postponed. The community needed to understand how much time their teachers worked outside the school day. After almost two weeks, the board felt pressured by the parents to end this stalemate and find a salary compromise.


Working the rule became a powerful tool when negotiating. The majority of the staff, in order for the shortened day to produce an impact on the administration and parents, must agree to participate. This approach challenged those of us who gladly gave extra time and energy to our jobs.  Perhaps “work the rule” would better facilitate the impending teacher strikes. Keeping students in a routine and providing working parents a safe place for their children is paramount. Strikes punish the student and the parent more than anyone. Teachers, administrators and school boards cannot afford to lose the support of their community.

Purchase “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” TODAY from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I hope one day this book will serve as required curriculum for university education programs.

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.