My good days far outnumber my bad days

Zachery Durnell is a member of Phi Gamma Chapter at the University of Findlay.

Zachery Durnell--without MarineWhen I complete my teacher training program at The University of Findlay in Ohio, teaching will officially be my second career. Prior to this, I worked in fine arts administration in various settings from Florida to Massachusetts to New York.

Naturally, when you work for a not-for-profit organization, you are at the whims of the organization, the economy, and the donor base to support the organization and the organization to provide jobs to their employees. The lack of any security at all and the work in general was unsatisfying. Something needed to change, and an organization that was failing provided the impetus for that change.

I left Massachusetts and went back home to Ohio. My guidance counselor from junior high asked me to work with her on a musical. One day, a conversation commenced on my qualifications, the work that I was doing, and my interactions with students. She persuaded me to get a substitute’s license and get my feet wet with teaching. I found out that I really liked what I was doing and also found out how hard teaching is: the challenges, the disappointment, and the satisfaction. I have been subbing for almost four years and going to school at the same time. My good days far outnumber my bad days.

Teachers who have been at it a while think I am crazy for going into teaching with all of today’s requirements, evaluations, and observations. I sit back and think about the career I had and look at the career in teaching that I want, and do not want to go back.

I would rather have some certainty with a teaching job than none at all. Better benefits, and pay are also positive aspects of this career change. I could have gone back to school and into business or another field to make money. As a teacher I will make more hands down than what I did in fine arts administration. I will also have the satisfaction of have some impact on a future generation. To me that seems to be pretty important, powerful, and fulfilling.

We’re pinning!

Rachel Gurley is chapter operations coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

PrintYou may use Pinterest to plan your marriage to a spouse that has yet to be determined or your imaginary dream closet, but are you using Pinterest to further your career?

Educators should be!

Kappa Delta Pi has only recently joined the Pinterest community. It wasn’t very hard to find topics relatable to educators; it’s clear there’s a whole online world to explore. Boards by KDP headquarters feature KDP gear, technology trends, lesson plans for Common Core, and much more. Our boards offer a broad range of topics, however there are resources out there for specific subjects. Educators can build a board around their specialization. Pinterest features content for special education, early education and high school. You name it, it’s probably there.

What boards would you like to see from KDP Headquarters? Obviously there’s a lot of content out there, and we don’t promise to pin it ALL (although I’d love to pin all day).

This month KDP member and volunteer, Mindy Keller-Kyriakides, is our featured guest Pinner. Mindy is a secondary education teacher with a passion for creating a positive environment of learning. She currently serves on the Kappa Delta Pi Web Committee

Already we are seeing great things from Mindy. My personal favorite being the PINspiration from Kid President (this week’s just for fun video on KDPGlobal).

Who or what are your favorite accounts to follow? What resources could you share? Want to be a guest pinner for KDP? Contact me at Rachel@kdp.org.

The De-Professionalization of Teaching: What Does it Mean for Traditional Teacher Education Programs?

Traditionally those who wanted to become teachers enrolled in teacher education programs at a college or university to receive a degree that would allow them to apply for a teaching license in their state.  University and college based teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) which is authorized by the Department of Education to determine if schools have developed rigorous teacher preparation programs that meet national standards.  This process of accreditation ensured that new teachers would be prepared to educate children and assume the role as a teaching professional.

Today, there are a plethora of alternative certification programs that provide different pathways for those who want to work as a teacher.  In Washington, DC the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) lists 13 organizations that are state-approved educator preparation programs, of those only 8 are colleges and or universities. The other five are non-profit organizations or Local Education Agency’s. In an effort to recruit more teachers, especially in areas where there are national shortages such as special education, math and science, many states are advocating for alternative programs that offer certification to prospective teachers, without requiring a degree in education.  In New York, the Department of Education is now asking for the ability to license teachers without having to go through college or universities. What does this mean for traditional teacher education programs?

One of the well known alternative programs is Teach for America (TFA). TFA recruits recent college graduates to teach in high poverty, inner city schools. They receive five weeks of training before receiving their own class of students.  Teachers from traditional programs take a variety of courses to gain knowledge about child development, teaching, and learning that typically take 4 to 6 semesters, and spend 12 weeks or more as a student teacher working full time alongside a qualified teacher before they are expected to take on their own classroom. The latter is more time consuming, but it also offers more opportunity to become highly qualified.

Teacher shortages are real and we must do something to recruit more highly qualified young people into the field of education. But we must remember that teaching is a profession. It requires skills and knowledge and opportunities to learn from those who have more experience.  When we reduce teaching to something that can be learned in a few short weeks, we devalue and de-professionalize the field of teaching.

Traditional teacher education programs must now compete for students that might be swayed by these new programs offering a paying job as a teacher much sooner than what it takes to complete an undergraduate program. But is teaching a job or a career? Are we professionals or are we low-skilled workers? Do you want the person educating your child to have the knowledge, skills, and preparation needed to be a great teacher, or would you prefer someone who had five weeks of training?

Dr. Denisha Jones is an assistant professor and coordinator of Early Childhood Education at Howard University

Contradictions in School Safety Coverage

Why is there so much contradiction when it comes to keeping or making our schools safe? While I do not believe having an armed guard at a school is the answer to safety for children and schools, I do not think reading about the mayor of Philadelphia and the Governor of New Jersey and how they angrily attack the idea of armed guards in schools, then reading in the same newspaper or news release that their schools have armed guards is the answer. These two politicians are presenting  such a contradiction of ideas and beliefs, and I am sure there are other governors and mayors who are vehemently attacking the IRA and armed guards being placed in the schools yet we read in the newspapers about armed guards being placed at their schools as well. Why is there such a contradiction of ideals when we all should be focused on creating a more safe environment and agreeing on ideas about what can and should be accomplished?

A uniform approach and less political posturing are needed. We have experienced horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary and Columbine High School. We do not need politicians who are posturing for re-election or furthering their political careers to be using the safety of our schools as a political issue.

Clear thinking and reasonable solutions are what is needed.  Conversations about real solutions and remedies for this horrible trend have to be had. Conversations that involve all stakeholders and not just politicians can pinpoint real solutions that are based on real situations. Research is telling us that our schools are much safer now than a decade ago.

The conversation should focus on what is working and how to make real choices and improvements that will continue to improve the safety of our most precious national resource.  Instead of new gun regulations that would most likely not prevent a mentally unstable individual from entering a school and shooting students and teachers, a plausible approach would be to look at policies that have already proven to be  successful and add to or improve upon those policies.

Marcia Bolton, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education and the Director Certification, Student Teaching and Intern Programs at Widener University Chester, PA.

Establishing a Safe Learning Environment

Many schools have increased their vigilance regarding those who enter their buildings.  Procedures include single entry points, requiring visitors to request permission to enter by communicating with main office personnel, vestibule video cameras, adult or (sometimes) student escorts, and security personnel stationed at common entry points among other strategies.

While ensuring a safe learning environment is not arguable practical constraints very often determine the strategies and procedures that can be effectively employed in achieving this result.   Frequently, cost is at the top of the list.  But schools have found ways to fund efforts to provide safe learning environments.

Despite the implementation of such procedures I have seen people (myself included) wandering around schools that I have had the opportunity to visit not having checked –in, not being escorted, not wearing visitor identification.   Yet the money has been spent on efforts to secure entry.

Are those of us responsible for implementing security strategies and procedures truly paying attention, making a personal commitment, putting forth the effort to make sure that, to the best of our abilities, schools remain a safe place to spend time?

How effective is restricted access in establishing a safe learning environment?

Raymond J. Dagenais, Ed.D. is a Curriculum/Professional Development Specialist at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and a co-leader of the Design Team for the Aurora University based John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School

Common Core White Paper and Webinar

Kappa Delta Pi would like to know how the Common Core has impacted teaching and learning in your respective area as a student, teacher, and/or educational leader.  Please read our white paper available here  and tune in to our three-part Common Core webinar series.  Please share in this discussion board: How has the Common Core impacted you?

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The Chicago teachers’ strike matters for more than education

The current strike of Chicago’s public school teachers is not just a dispute over better wages and working conditions, but a fight for the survival of public education in the U.S. As access to quality public schools is essential for the working-class, it is apposite that the basic organization of the working-class – the union, is being used in this fight to defend public education.  Thus the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) battle with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) should not just be embraced by advocates of public education but by the entire labor movement as well. Chicago’s teachers, by dusting off the long under utilized lessons of U.S. labor history, are teaching us a valuable lesson on how unions have and can be used to bring about progressive reform and systematic change.

Leave it to teachers to actually learn from the past.  Since the 1950s the labor movement has overwhelmingly relied on two labor/management conflict strategies. One being business unionism where contract disputes are settled at the bargaining table by bureaucrats and lawyers. The other is simply voting for Democratic candidates hoping they will represent the interests of labor. Reliance on these two strategies has resulted not only in decades of retreat but also the near decimation of the labor movement as a whole. Instead of following these dead ends, the CTU has reached back to the numerous examples of social movement unionism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In 2010, the insurgent Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) took over the leadership of the CTU, transforming the CTU from an appendage of the Daley Machine and into a grass roots union tied to parent and community organizations. A year later when Barack Obama’s right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, was elected mayor of Chicago the CTU knew it had a fight coming its way. Emanuel has been determined to implement the education policies of Obama’s Secretary of Education and former CEO of CPS, Arne Duncan. Duncan’s Race to the Top education policy through the expansion of charter schools and the busting of teacher unions basically boils down to the goal of privatizing public education.

No one becomes a teacher to get rich. As teachers, the members of the CTU have placed the welfare and education of Chicago’s 350,000 public school students above all other demands. Their document The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve makes this abundantly clear.  In response the Illinois state legislature passed legislation making it illegal for the CTU to bargain over any issues other than those related to wages and compensation. This meant that issues such as class size, curriculum, and guaranteeing that all Chicago public schools have the libraries, nurses, social workers, textbooks, air conditioning, and playgrounds needed could no longer be bargained or struck over. With the Emanuel administration not negotiating in good faith and refusing to address the basic social and material needs of Chicago’s students the CTU prepared for a strike. Again the CTU took a lesson from the past. They prepared for a strike not to use as a threat during bargaining, but a strike to win.

The CTU strike has transformed the debate on education reform. It has also shown the labor movement a true example of how to fight back against austerity. Through striking the CTU has dealt a blow not only to the Emanuel administration, but also to the bipartisan assault on public education. This past weekend CPS conceded to the CTU a number of wage and compensation demands, while at the same timing essentially rewriting every article of the basic CTU/CPS contract that has been the model for the past fifty years. In sticking to their democratic rank-and-file principles, and not trusting CPS, the CTU’s House of Delegates (HOD) voted to continue striking in order to give its membership time to go over and discuss the contract proposal. This time is also needed for the CTU membership and its allies to figure how to continue the fight for the non-strikable demands that sparked the conflict with CPS. In response to the HOD vote, Emanuel is seeking an injunction against the CTU to end the strike, stating the strike is a “clear and present danger to public health and safety.”  Coming from someone who refuses to provide nurses, social workers, or air conditioning to a large number of schools this injunction attempt is pure hypocrisy. Until a contract is signed all advocates of public education and the entire labor movement needs to put its support behind the CTU.

Tom Alter is working on his Ph.D. in labor history at University of Illinois at Chicago, and a member of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign.