Report from the Field – Paul Seevinck

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20 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Paul Seevinck”

  1. He was bulldozed off the field. By two to three times the number of students that makes any sense at all. And who says 150 is a normal load. Paul walked. I’m good with that as the right decision. He wins. Utah education loses big. But do they care? No. Not really….

    1. I wish I could say that things will get better at some point. I was waiting for that day, but the future of Utah education is not looking pretty. I was re-reading some of your responses to me from over a year ago and they seem to be prophetic. I couldn’t reach five years.

      Ben Slavic says:
      September 4, 2015 at 5:35 AM

      Paul teachers with normal class loads have to make 1300 decisions a day. So you’re over 1500, certainly.

      And I don’t know how long you have been teaching but 50% of all new teachers quit within the first five years that they spend in the classroom. The reason cited is lack of support. You don’t have any support. In fact, whoever you are working for is unconscious and absent in terms of the support you need as a teacher.

      This is pure burnout material. Look, honestly, five is too many. We all know it.

  2. …I can’t seem to get the buy-in during class (mainly from myself) after doing the same brain breaks and structures for seven classes (each 75 minutes)….

    Anyone who stops and thinks about this – 7 classes each 75 minutes – can see that there is some really sick puppies running that district.

    On another note, Tina and others working with the Invisibles may see one profoundly revealing word in the above sentence by Paul – the word structures. Not getting buy-in with structures. It’s like when John Piazza in speaking of target structures said this, a few years ago:

    …students can smell a rat, the rat being our agenda for them, our targets and scope and sequence, and our stories which are only there for exposing students to our target words….

  3. Wow, this makes me really sad. I have had to face comments like that from board members – things like “Any teacher worth their salt can handle big numbers…” (paraphrased). One time I was asked to sign my initials to a change that they decided to make in my contract (after my next year’s contract had already been signed months before) – relative to numbers – and I chose not to initial. I wasn’t going to play their game.

    I must say, tho, I have been blessed – I’ve never had huge numbers like 38 and 40. That’s ridiculous. Paul, I hope that you will be happy in your new position. But it sounds like your kids will be missing out on one great teacher.

  4. ???? I don’t even get it how they can think 7 x 75 mins is even doable. WTF???? Even with 20 kids 7 blocks is ridiculous. I am indeed stupefied by this.

    I am in awe of you Paul for even making it that long. You are supremely wise to let that go so that you can replenish yourself and find balance in your life. Even though some people say things like “oh hang in there, it’s for the kids” I disagree that we are supposed to bleed ourselves dry. Maybe I am selfish, but in my opinion it’s not worth it. You will find another way to work with kids if that is part of your path. Many blessings to you and I hope you are breathing deep sighs of relief. Wow. I am still shocked to hear this.

    Sick sick system.

    1. I completely agree that even a “normal” load of 150 students or so (which is what I have) is definitely pushing the limits of what is sane for any regular human being. I know I don’t always give my students all that I have, but I feel like we have to find balance in our lives if this is something that we actually want to stick with. It is absolutely unacceptable to be asked to do that much work. Even if you were paid six figures (which is unlikely…) it’s just not healthy for anyone. Getting out was the right choice. It’s sad that they even think that anyone should find that acceptable.

      1. For eight years I always thought that our focus here was on strategies and the research and how they fit together and for just these past few years many of us here have noticed that it is really about our mental health. It really is. And Paul, honored by Utah as their best and then walking, giving up those kids, shows his support for himself and his own right not to be used by ignorant people. How can we serve others unless we take care of ourselves?

        1. “How can we serve others unless we take care of ourselves?”

          That is from the heart. We are just as important and just as in need of positivity, support, and respect as the kids we teach yet that message often gets lost somewhere along the line.

          Well done, Paul, for making the compassionate choice to take care of yourself. That takes serious strength and self-love. You are inspiring, brother. All the best for the future.

          1. So nice to hear from you Jason. And so great to see you and Bryan last summer in Agen. I don’t know if you saw that picture but here it is:


            Hey come to Erlangen, Germany after Agen if you can. Tina and Kathrin and I are cooking up a conference over there for the week after Agen, the first week in August.

          2. Thanks for the link to the picture, Ben. Last summer was fantastic and the memories have helped keep me going this school year. I am very much looking forward to returning to Agen again in July.

            I would be in Erlangen in a heartbeat if I had a clear schedule. That week I’ll be completing a mindfulness and meditation teacher training course in Wales. Any chance of videos being taken? 🙂

          3. Yes, we want to use that platform in Erlangen to focus on the Invisibles and emergent targets, since Kathrin Shechtman is there who has played such a leadership role in this concept. Beniko will be there as well and we hope to get a whole Story Listening thing going on there in Erlangen as well. So that conference will certainly have a clear focus of emergent targets. Beniko and Tina have been tearing up the email circuits clarifying, getting deeper into this non-targeted theme. I see that as a significant development.

            I will ask Tina and Kathrin to remember to collect some good videotape on those sessions. There will also be an almost identical focus in Comprehensible Cascadia in Portland earlier in the summer in June. I am starting to hear more and more about the term “mindfulness and meditation” in our group – jen S. and Elena and others are prying the lid off of the idea that teachers need to be mental wrecks during the school year. Big topic! We should do a session on it at a workshop. Mindfulness in our teaching. Hmmm!

          4. I would be happy to share my knowledge and experiences of mindfulness with the group. Anywhere and any time: conferences, on here, over Skype, you name it. Our TPRS/CI community is close to my heart and I would be honored to help our brothers and sisters to dance with whatever comes our way.

  5. Utterly uncivilized. Savage. Cruel. An outrage. Surreal. Tragic. Did I miss anything? I’m very sorry to hear about what’s happened to you and your students. Wish you the best moving forward.

  6. josh, I think you missed “a travesty of all that is right and good”.

    Here are some thoughts about this, in no particular order:

    While it is true that, generally, the true reward for a job well done is another job and that students (and their parents) want classes from the best teachers, that is zero justification for an administrator to sit back and do nothing about the situation. What is the school’s administration doing to improve the teaching capabilities of the other teachers?

    In addition, while this is not about pay, just remuneration is an important element. The educational system in the US is a bastion of “equal pay for equal work”, a situation that has rightly benefited many who otherwise would have received less pay simply because they were members of a particular group. The steps and columns salary schedule assumes, however, that all teachers have approximately the same work load. When teachers take on extra work, e.g. coaches, athletic and activities directors, drama teachers, and music teachers, they receive an additional stipend for additional work. 300 students is additional work. How does this load compare with that of other teachers? If there additional pay? If not, then the school is not following a policy of equal pay for equal work; it is giving the same pay for unequal work.

    The comment by an administrator (or anyone else for that matter) that “Any teacher worth their salt can handle big numbers …” is pure, unadulterated manipulation. It plays to both a teacher’s insecurities and a teacher’s ego. On the one hand, it is designed for the teacher to think, “If I can’t handle big numbers, then I must not be very good – but I can’t let others know that, so I’ll take the big class.” On the other hand, it also is designed for the teacher to think, “I know I’m good, so I’ll take the big numbers and prove it.” It is further designed to put the teacher on a guilt trip for daring to think smaller is better. It also lets the administrator off the hook for not doing his job properly. No matter how good a teacher is, there is a maximum number of students, beyond which instruction is ineffective. That number varies by method of instruction (I can lecture to more students than I can interact with personally), setting (some rooms are more conducive to learning than others), motivation and maturity of students, and many other factors. The maximum number for a language class at the high school level is much lower than the maximum number for a western civilization lecture class at the university (and even then, these courses are generally accompanied by tutorials with extremely small numbers of about 10 students). As a teacher with class sizes of 21, 27, 34, 36, and 43, I can tell you that my instruction in the smaller classes is more effective in the first-year class of 43. (My colleague teaches the other first-year class of 36.)

    Sidwell Friends’ School, alma mater for the children of several presidents and numerous other celebrities, is considered the top school of its size in the nation. In 2005, Sidwell had the top AP English language exam scores for any school in its size range – even though it does not offer an AP English course. The school also has an extremely low student-teacher ration. During the 2014-2015 school year, 1150 students enrolled in Sidwell. There were 155 teachers and 112 administrative and support staff. That yields a student-teacher ration of 7.14 to 1. Would an administrator suggest that the teaching staff at Sidwell is “not worth their salt” because they teach to small classes? Absurd! (BTW, it is the practice of schools like Sidwell to offer and advertise small class sizes that puts the lie to the education deformers’ claim that class size doesn’t matter.)

    Paul, I’m sorry to see a good teacher bulldozed out of education, but it sounds like your decision was the correct one.

    BTW, the reason that the statistic for teacher burnout uses the fiver-year mark is because that is the first time for credential renewal. Many have indicated that the greatest burnout and career change occurs during the first two years, but that is harder to track.

    1. OOPS! Error correction –

      That one sentence in the paragraph about manipulation should have read

      As a teacher with class sizes of 21, 27, 34, 36, and 43, I can tell you that my instruction in the smaller classes is more effective THAN in the first-year class of 43.

  7. To look at this from another point of view. If you earned the privilege to take on more with the same amount of time, why did they stop at adding two students per class. Why not double the number of students per class? And why not punish those who are less capable with single digit classes? Or force them to one-on-one tutoring each period?

    Well, I am sorry to hear what this has come to for you, Paul. I do hope the new job is something which you can look forward to each morning.


  8. I’ll just add that as a colleague and co-worker of Paul over the last few months he will be sorely missed. He is being bulldozed and it stinks. Utah really needs to take a look at how it does education for sure. I’ve known Paul for several years and that is why I decided to become a part of the team at his school when the chance arose! His enthusiasm for teaching and his love for the kids are admirable. He’d grown the program so much they just had to add another Spanish teacher (lucky me!) I am excited for his new adventure, but also saddened to lose such a WONDERFUL teacher and an ally in the building. Blessings, friend…

  9. I am assuming that no one in administration was willing to look at the fact that Paul had about 250 students too many and try to work out a deal before just letting someone of his caliber just walk….

  10. I hope you feel a tremendous load lifted off your shoulders, Paul. I couldn’t imagine having that workload. Be free, brother! I’m sure the sun is shining bright on your future, wherever it may take you, just as it shines on those red rocks in Utah. I’m also sure you will find open doors in later years if you choose to get back into education.

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