What Teachers Make

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

     This post is in a series of #d100bloggerPD posts about What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali.  I had three different sections to read as part of our book study.

Thinking it Through: The Timeline at the Back of the Classroom

     This section is about looking at a child's way of thinking, and allowing it to guide you as a teacher.

     He talked about going through the history book in rough chronological order.  He went through each section, and the kids loved it.  But, he began to realize that all middle schoolers thought that all of ancient Chinese history happened long after everything in ancient Egyptian history.  They couldn't comprehend that they happened at the same time in history because they learned about them in two different parts of the school year.  They assumed that what they learned first happened first.

     I noticed this in our fourth grade, when they taught about the Revolutionary War and King George, and then added a unit about the Middle Ages after that.  They could not comprehend that the "kings" in those time periods were not the same king.  They were SO confused, and it made us really analyze not only the information we teach, but also how it is delivered, and how it is received.

    Mali described creating a giant timeline in the back of his class.  He made a 12 foot blank timeline, and measured 350 decades in centimeters, labeled them, and sealed them with packing tape.  The year started with a blank stretch of 3,5000 years, and he slowly added post its about the size of a stick of gum after every lesson.

     He then says:

     Does this chapter mean that everyone should make a giant timeline in the back of their room?  You could.  It's a great idea, and one that our 4th grade teachers actually started to do after we had that King George dilemma.  (They also stopped teaching about the Middle Ages, but that's another conversation.)  But, what I took away from this chapter was that Mali watched how his students received the information he was teaching them, thought about what he REALLY wanted for them to take away, and changed his teaching to make it happen.  That is way more that just making a timeline.

What Teachers Get: Presents From Parents

Hilarious misspellings, thank-you notes years later, confessions of tipsy parents at holiday parties, and the laughter of children: these are some of the lucrative benefits that are never mentioned in anyone's contract.
     Teachers never become teachers for the gifts, or if they do they quickly realize that they need to find another reason to teach.  Teaching is a work of heart, not a work of gifts.  I've had a fair share of presents throughout the years, and they all come from the heart, not matter what the object is.  He tells us about a gift certificate that he got for dinner, and how he wrote the parents a thank you letter and they framed his thank you letter and gave it back to him.  And, it kind of confused me, as it did him.

     It made me think of my favorite gift of all time.  It wasn't the gift certificate to the movies, which I loved, and it was ALMOST the Staedler pens (ok... that might be a tie).  The most meaningful gift I ever got was this:

     It is a broken music box shaped in a heart, from a student that challenged me to see things in so many different ways.  He taught me more about classroom management than any college course ever did, but he also gave me hope that teachers can make a difference to those that need the difference the most.  He was in my second grade class, and I kept in touch with him all the way through 5th, and tried once he went to middle school.  Sadly, he is also the one who showed me that sometimes, the difference we make isn't enough, but that we have to keep trying.  So, as I snapped that picture today, I remind myself that all children bring their own unique struggles, and that them sharing those struggles with us and building a relationship is the REAL gift.

Fighting Back Against the Attack on Teachers

We live in a country of unchecked greed and excess, where everything and everyone has been slowly squeezed bloodless so as to maximize earnings for a tiny fraction of the population.  Profit in the short term has come to trump sustainable and equitable long-term growth, to say nothing of environmental preservation.
     Wow, doesn't that just paint a bleak picture of our world today.  I actually looked at the publication date (2012) to see if the word "trump" in the quote was purely a coincidence or a craft move.  In either way, he said that in a world as greedy as ours, of course "the machine" would eventually set their sights on teachers.

     He takes great offense to the words "greedy and lazy" when complaining about teachers, and he goes into details explaining why those words are inaccurate.  As this blog is read by teachers, I won't even go there.  It would be preaching to the choir!  What he does say, though, is that we work so hard that we actually end up with a workweek that is not SUSTAINABLE.  That we, as teachers, are so on the opposite of lazy, that we work for free so much that we end up burning ourselves out and sometimes leave the profession because of it.  So, this year, remember to take time for yourself, too.  Sleep matters.  Your health matters.  YOU matter, just like your students matter.

     The next segment of What Teachers Make #d100bloggerpd is up tomorrow!  Make sure you stop by Grammar Momma with Amy Gorzkowski and read more!