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This blog will share the thoughts and experiences of the current and past Colorado Teachers of the Year. While these teachers work to represent their noble profession, they are just a few of thousands of incredible teachers statewide. We welcome and encourage these great teachers to share their experiences and join these discussions. In addition to teachers we hope that students, parents, administrators, community members, policy makers, and/or anyone else interested in education feels welcome to get involved.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Evaluation/Effectiveness Bill

There is a bill being formalized that will modify current laws and policies concerning the evaluation of efficiency for teachers and principals. I have read the bill and its accompanying fact sheet and I believe there are a lot of positive pieces within the bill. I think Senator Johnston is on the right track, but the bill would be much stronger and have greater potential for impact if they can just wait till December of this year.

The issues myself and many teachers have with the bill concern the evaluation of effectiveness. In education we are not very good at evaluating teachers and principals, and we certainly don't know what constitutes an effective teacher or principal. This bill does not help us solve this problem, which is what it is intended to solve. In December we will have two quality sources of information on teacher effectiveness and evaluation from the governors education council and the Bill and Melinda Gates grant in Denver Public Schools. These two groups are charged with finding the best ways to evaluate teachers and how to measure effectiveness.

If we pass the bill, then we will have every district in the state defining what the bill leaves out, which will cost a lot of money and creation of evaluation programs that may or may not be effective. I believe many districts would prefer to see what DPS and the governors council have found out. This information could help them prevent wasting of time and money. We already lack money in education, and an unfunded bill will not make things better without more detail and suggestion on how to do things the right way.

The bill really has great potential, and is ultimately necessary legislation, but we need to know what effective teaching and administering looks like and how to evaluate it appropriately. I want to see the change take place over the next few years, but I also want to make sure that districts are given as much information and support as possible to enact this change.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teaching = Talent

I recently read an article in "New York Times Magazine" about what makes a good teacher. The conclusion of the article was very good, as it determined that quality teachers are highly skilled and talented in the art of teaching. It described a disconnect between how we train teachers and what good teachers are able to do. It has apparently become evident that we struggle to teach teachers how to teach effectively. The article discusses possible reasons for this. One main reason is that good teachers have broken the day into nuances and small decisions that shape and frame their classroom. What you say, how you say it, and where you say it all have meaning. I completely and totally agree with the conclusion of this article.

Quality teaching is an art that requires practice and in depth understanding of how to read people and situations. This is why not everyone is capable of teaching, and why some of our most famous quotes are so frustrating. "Teachers aren't all that smart in their content area." "How hard can it be, you get the summers off and you only work from 8-3." "If you have a degree, then you can definitely teach." "Teachers are all so great and do such a wonderful job." I add the last quote because I don't believe that people really mean it (lip service), especially since it is statistically impossible for every teacher to be that great.

We need to increase exposure for high quality teachers, and do a better job of recognizing teachers for what they do. I honestly believe that most people are somewhat unclear of what quality teachers do day in and day out. They are unaware of the time, energy, and effort that is applied to ensure that students are succeeding. One reason could be that everyone went to school, so they believe they know what's going on in the classroom. We should probably share every detail, nuance, and decision we make throughout a day, so that they truly understand the complexity and difficulty of the job.

What are some of the small details/nuances of teachers' jobs that make them "high quality?"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Emotional Connections

For those who are unaware, teaching is a career built on relationships with students. Successful teachers are mentors, advisors, and all around supports for students and their families. We are emotionally connected to students, sharing the joy of success and feeling the pain of failure. We are filled with pride when a student demonstrates citizenship and we are filled with disappointment when a student demonstrates foolishness. The roller coaster of emotions is felt by all teachers, and we only ever want to increase the positive experiences of our students.

I have been recently working with a former student who is on the road to dropout. His poor choices are depressing to watch, but I am involved because I know that the positive relationship we took time to build in the past can redirect him. It is difficult to watch a student fail, but I am hopeful that my support will lead to more positive emotions for this student and myself. This is the center of being a teacher. Reaching out and providing help while looking in the face of likely failure, because I know he is worth it. I'll let you know if he gets back on track.

Teachers, please share your stories of helping students to become more than they have believed possible.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Investing in our future

Our students are our future, and we need to invest the time and resources now so that our future is bright. What should we do to ensure that our communities, schools, and businesses are all working together to invest? I think we need lots of mentors from the business community who are in the schools weekly (human capital), and I think we need to raise funds and create a large "pot" of scholarship money that is presented to 8th grade students (12th grade is too late). The mentors can help set students on a path based on any career interests, and the scholarship money will be set as the reward for any student who successfully completes all predetermined requirements throughout high school. What do you think? I need lots of help and lots of ideas. Thanks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Deer Creek Tragedy

I want to encourage everyone to keep the students, parents, and faculty at Deer Creek Middle School in their thoughts and prayers. It is depressing when such horrible atrocities take place at a school, but I know they have the strength to get by. One of my friends is a teacher at the school and she says that things have been difficult for everyone, but is confident that the strength within their school and community will see them through. Thank you to everyone who has been able to aid the students and families impacted by this event.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beyond Brown

I just watched the PBS documentary "Beyond Brown," and I was reawakened to some of the ridiculous inequities in our society. I highly recommend the video and suggest some kleenex or a stress ball to squeeze in frustration. The ending is particularly upsetting.


All students deserve equal opportunity to achieve success. I'm sure no one will disagree with this statement, but the reality is that not all of our students are receiving equal opportunity. Students from non-dominant groups receive less funding per student in our state (Arroyo, 2006), are taught by less experienced teachers, and are held to lower expectations (Gandara and Contreras, 2009). It is unfortunate but true. In Denver Public Schools there are many teachers, administrators, students, and parents who are working very hard to change this, but we need more help. I urge you to seek equity in your community and work to ensure that all students are given equal opportunity. Most of my students are classified into non-dominant groups, and most of my students are finding success not afforded to peers in other schools. But...we still need more help to increase their chance at equal opportunity. We need your help and support. Please go to an underserved school in your comunity tomorrow and build a quality relationship with a student and give them the opportunities they deserve. In case it wasn't repeated enough...we need your help. :) I hope to see you in our schools soon.