Martin

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16 thoughts on “Martin”

  1. Hi Bradley, are you able to join us on May 10th for our gathering in Queens? If nothing else, we will definitely be able to offer an open ear to your plight. Sometimes it really helps to just dump all the ballast – especially on people who understand.

  2. I am teaching in a state where 50% of my evaluation score comes from administrator’s observations and the other 50% from English standardized tests & graduation rates. I ensure good observation scores by politely educating my admins about foreign language best practices. I know what I am doing, and they do not, so I tell them about it during our feedback sessions. They may have no clue what is going on in a language they do not know, but they do understand buzzwords like “student-centered,” “literacy-building,” “scaffolding,” etc. They nod and enter their numbers and give me advice (because they have to jump through hoops, too) that I can discard in my mind because I know more than they do about teaching a foreign language.

    The other 50%, I have no control over. I do not teach these children English, and I accept no responsibility for those that choose to drop out. I would like to see them try to fire me over such things. So, that 50% I wash my hands of.

    To Bradley and others who are having a hard time at the end of the year, it will soon be over and you will still have a job, and next year will be better because of your experiences now.

  3. …they may have no clue what is going on in a language they do not know, but they do understand buzzwords like “student-centered,” “literacy-building,” “scaffolding,” etc. They nod and enter their numbers and give me advice (because they have to jump through hoops, too) that I can discard in my mind because I know more than they do about teaching a foreign language….

    This idea of “taking it to” the administrators by pro-actively “schooling” them before they can school us is an idea that we discussed here about a year ago. Robert Harrell makes this point often and more proof why he should preside over ACTFL as was suggested here recently. (I’m not letting go of this one, even if he is too busy in CA throwing down change. At least we get him on the ballot, I say.)

    You describe how to deal with administrators beautifully Erin. Any new teacher reading this should absolutely make it their intention to emulate what you say about educating administrators. They DON’T get what we do and, like children, they need to be told.

    And we have all sorts of good printouts for them right here in our Primers section so keep those on a clipboard or something, ready to hand out like candy to anyone who walks in – they will serve as springboards for discussion, and handing someone a text like Robert’s Q and A sheet in the Primer section is like wielding a baseball bat against their intrusions.

    Sorry to put another “to do” thing on your list of how this training works, but it has to be done. We are digging for buried treasure in hard clay and the work is slow going, but we have to do it. Krashen did the research but he can’t apply it, as he has told me many times. We have no choice but to keep digging.

    I also love the advice to Bradley here, Erin:

    … it will soon be over and you will still have a job….

    This is just so true. We can choose (a) to make ourselves miserable worrying about being judged by idiots or we can choose to (b) get to a conference and make things happen for a great year next year. I choose (b).

  4. I have a small confession to make. We are over halfway through the semester, and I have a total of either two or three grades in my gradebook – and no one has said a thing.

    1. Another confession: I had to turn in interim grades this Tuesday. I had some grades in there, and checked some homework but not all of it (I have to give it here), and called it done within about 30 minutes. I used to spend hours. I think some of my colleagues still do!

      1. One of the things I love about TCI is how little time I now spend outside of class doing work (aside from the many, many hours I spent immersing myself in all things TCI/tprs this summer). I came home with nothing to do this weekend for school besides the need to find a new song of the week. Last year, I’d have a huge stack of multiple page exams to grade. My kids know more than last year, so I don’t feel bad at all about it.

        1. I completely get what you’re saying. The prep I do, I enjoy. It’s working with the language & culture itself (creating readings, typing up based on discussion with students, finding pictures worth using for look & discuss). I still need to improve on reducing grading needs, but it’s pretty good now.

          1. I’m trying to keep one place for all grades per student.

            Students do all written work (exit quizzes, dictations, fluencywrites, etc.) in the same notebook they store in class. That is each students’ “portfolio/evidence/whatever you wanna call it.” I can assign grades based on the response I get when I look them in the eyes and if anyone wants to challenge me on it, then I can show them the notebook.

  5. I haven’t put a single grade in the book since January – not a single grade. No one has noticed. I didn’t give one quiz or dictee or anything because my students have been focused and learning. I haven’t felt the need to test them because, if you remember, I am the wacko who said that I can just look in my students eyes during class and get what’s going on. I know. Crazy talk. But it’s how I’m rolling now in April.

    Now if I have to give grades to prove to my superiors that I am doing my job, that’s one thing. But I just can’t buy into that as what is best for my students. I know what they know. Poor kids. In Colorado kids are tested 30% of the available instructional time. I don’t know where I read that so sorry for not being able to support that statement. It may not be Colorado – just DPS. Not sure.

    I know, I know, I’m retiring and I can get away with it. Granted. I’m not looking over my shoulder anymore. It is a very freeing feeling. I gotta say that. I don’t know what I would do if I were a younger teacher right now. I think of Angie and Sean and James and I am just in awe of what they are doing.

  6. I don’t know what Martin’s situation was in terms of administrators, but in my experience in a non-public school that was also supposed to be “doing the best for the kids” there was still the expectation (sometimes overt and more often implicitly woven into the system) that the teachers must make every sacrifice. The “teacher as martyr” syndrome is alive and well in all schools, is my guess. I observed over the years that indeed the teacher was supposed to be a sort of superhuman who must not have needs of their own. If one points out difficulty sustaining their energy, they are met with “well, that is what makes us different, we all put in 80+ hours / week. Remember it’s for the kids.” This is the “busy as status symbol” and “I do more so I am more” syndrome rampant everywhere in our society.

    I still call bullshit on it, as you say Ben. What are we modeling as humans when we proudly declare things like “peeing is for wimps…I’m a teacher, I have a bladder of steel.” Yes these are things I have heard in my building. I just found out we have literally zero subs in our district. I know I have been feeling more tired this year, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Last week when I got back from ACTFL to find all the materials I’d prepared for the kids scattered about the school, I found out there was no sub in my room, and the kids were sent to various spaces for the 2 days I was out.

    It doesn’t sound like much, but the difference is that a couple days a week we don’t get a prep, due to subbing for our colleagues and/or covering a mass study hall. But for me that is the difference between feeling centered and ready to teach each class and feeling completely scattered and overwhelmed because I don’t get the down time I need to reset during the day.

    Martin is one wise dude. Keep yourself intact, I say. Yes I need an income, but there are other things to weigh and other ways to earn a paycheck.

    Ooh, and re: grading. People definitely notice when I don’t put grades in. Starts with the kids bc they check constantly. It has been more difficult this year to keep up with entering grades (no prep and all). Then there are parent emails about the grades. I still make them up, and justify the marks with various rubrics and such, but that does add a layer of stress and looking over my shoulder. These thin layers add up easily.

    1. The tragedy, and it is very tragic, is that when teachers buy into the teacher as martyr concept, they are not doing it for the kids. They are doing it for the kids’ grades. You just said above, jen, and so accurately, this:

      …people definitely notice when I don’t put grades in. Starts with the kids bc they check constantly. It has been more difficult this year to keep up with entering grades (no prep and all). Then there are parent emails about the grades….

      So the scenario is one of teachers giving their all “for the kids” and yet having the kids not respond in kind to that dedication, but playing us for grades.

      1. Jen also said:

        …I still make them [grades] up, and justify the marks with various rubrics and such, but that does add a layer of stress and looking over my shoulder….

        Yeah I finally let go of looking over my shoulder. I never needed to. I am the professional and faking grades is the most honest thing I can do for my students as a comprehensible input teacher. Making up grades is the only way I made it through. Had I tried to come up with actual grades, which are fake since everything is upside down in our profession right now, it would have been too much. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Everywhere I see teachers trying to use the old system of point counting and still use stories. And yet, as we know here from Claire, instruction and assessment must mirror each other, so that “faking” grades – usually with a rubric – is not fake at all. There must have been at least 50 articles posted here on this topic. Here is just one of them:

        https://benslavic.com/blog/?s=this+is+your+grade+book

        There are also very very important articles on this topic in the Primers hard link at the top of this page.

  7. Those thin layers do add up. So many layers on us. I was just talking to Ben about this. How it is so hard to BE with the kids and be present to them emotionally. There is so much stress on us. And on the kids. Not even considering the TEACHING and LEARNING that is going on, just the human stress. Jen, we will meet next year, right? I do not think I can stand it! I want us to come to NYC to do a workshop SO MUCH. Is that close enough? The last part of July, on the way to Europe?

  8. “I don’t know what Martin’s situation was in terms of administrators, but in my experience in a non-public school that was also supposed to be “doing the best for the kids” there was still the expectation (sometimes overt and more often implicitly woven into the system) that the teachers must make every sacrifice. The “teacher as martyr” syndrome is alive and well in all schools, is my guess.”

    You are so right, Jen. Doing more work and getting less paid used to be expected from teachers joining the growing community of Waldorf schools these last decades. When I joined my school more than 25 years ago it was just two years old and a bunch of rather young colleagues was busy building classrooms, discussing the pedagogy and doing every necessary work that could not be done by the very engaged parents. Nobody was asking if you had the strength, the time or the willingness to do what had to be done, be it weekend or holidays. You were supposed to draw your energy from doing teacher meditations or reading the voluminous books of Rudolf Steiner.
    Nowadays these things are changing because younger teachers are less willing to spend so much time at school, and most wives of Waldorf teacher won’t be willing to back up their husbands at home to this extent.

    When I met my future wife and we decided to be a patchwork family and, later, to build a house, things got of course more complicated, and it took me years to learn to gradually reduce my engagement at school and to take over more responsibility in our family. I had to learn to feel less ‘important’.
    When my wife became a sports teacher at our school ten years ago, we both had to cope with job and family. My wife burned out, was more or less kicked out of our school, and was no longer able to work at all from 2010 on. So, after all, although most of the children were already gone (our last and only common child will now soon leave our house), our situation had become even worse and many things rested on my shoulders. Plus … I had been disappointed by my ‘own’ school.
    Had there not been my discovering TPRS and Ben, I would not have made it up to now. Too bad that I had cut myself off from part of my feelings these last maybe two or three years, which led to my breakdown. So, you will surely understand my present situation even better now.

    As for the administrators: Usually Waldorf schools are run by the teachers themselves. At our school, we elect a team of three colleagues to be the principals/administrators for a certain number of years, but they won’t take influence on the single teacher’s pedagogy unless there are real problems with students or parents. Second advantage: We only assign grades for the last two years and the exams because we are required to do so by the ministry of education. Third advantage: small groups in language classes, about 15 – 20 students. So, compared to many of you, my teaching conditions are (or maybe: were) almost ideal. There were ‘just’ the ordinary hard parts of teaching Tina describes so well in her post “Teaching with the eyes”.

    1. I am glad that you are taking care of yourself, Martin. I have been in that place and it is a terrible decision to have to make to leave your classroom, but it also just one more step along our life’s path. Not the great tragedy that it feels like at the time. I wish you deep healing and much joy ahead.

    2. Martin, this is the stuff of teaching that we don’t learn about coming up. Thank you so much for sharing. In my teacher training days I heard lots of times that the average teacher career spans 5 years. I figured it was the stress but never knew any of the details. Wishing you and your family all the best, Martin.

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