An Apology to Current Generations (Teachers and Students) in Education?

learning envir

As you walk into your classroom for a new year, excited and inspired, I want to apologize for the days you are destined to experience. Through no fault of your own, your classroom has been set up for failure.

It has nothing to do with the seat you will sit in, the desk you will use, the lack of technology, the old textbook, nor the artistic bulletin board for sure. You will hopefully still have a room filled with love, kindness, creativity and inspiration!

However, there are many who have come before and now lead you blindly into the future….Many who have been taught by old school word of mouth, or writings in text…..Many who continue to declare your learning environment to be uninspiring, to be failing….

Continue to declare your schools to be failing

Continue to declare your teachers to be failing

Continue to declare your parents to be failing

Continue to declare you to be…………..

Failing in a classroom THEY are failing to transform.

They talk about a “Flipped Classroom” as if it is transforming, but yet it has existed since the textbook was brought into the classroom. Do you remember having to read (learn) Lesson 2 at home to discuss the next day? placing the lesson in a video format may make it more engaging, but not transformational. Hopefully you have a teacher that will use technology for communication while you are outside the classroom to better inform him/her what you are and are not learning.

They also talk about “Station Rotation” as if it is also transforming, but yet, every elementary, middle, and high school has used some form to differentiate instruction. Simply bringing technology into the mix does not make it transformative. Hopefully you have a teacher the will use technology to make the stations engaging and efficient so when you are on your own in a small group, you are making the most of your time there.

Every student and teacher is asked to look into the mirror and judge the reflection, so look into the mirror and tell me what it says about you! Are you a Failure? I know NOT! You are a generation with more knowledge at your fingertips than any generation prior, and you use it! Whereas I learned in an offline world filled with deceit, you are tasked to learn in a world filled with deceit, both offline, and online! Whereas I grew up being careful of other who were two-faced, you are learning to be judgmental of many who remain faceless behind the screen of their computer! You have to adapt in a world that is changing EVERY DAY! Be Proud of Yourself!

In fairness, let’s ask the so-called experts to do the same and take the time to look into the mirror and tell us what they see? In true irony, the P.A.R.C.C. reflection clearly spells what their statistics mean. As for the Smarter Balance, better known as S.B., initially the reflection is clear that they too are full of it. You see, YOU are not a reflection of your test results, and neither are your teachers. Both you and your teachers are a reflection of your hard work and dedication to your education. Their test can only evaluate your effort on that particular day of testing. Their test can only evaluate how you answered their questions on that day. Have you ever panicked and did poorly on a test? Have you ever had at-home factors negatively affect you in school? Where it fails is its lack of ability to evaluate you or your teacher as a person, the drive to be better, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the pride you have in your heart!

I sincerely apologize for the failings of the older generations to provide you with a better learning environment. We are trying. We will get it right. As students and teachers, make sure to focus on the task at hand inside of your classroom! Keep your nose to the grindstone, stay inspired, and be Proud of your work!

Please Feel Free to Share, Like, or Comment!!

I am looking for submissions from anyone willing to share your stories of inspiration in Education!!

Email me at ojlowe@optonline.net

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End of the Year Thought: Students are more than Data

When others speak about how important testing and data is for evaluations of student and teacher performance, understand that they have no idea what they are talking about. There are too many factors in life that affect student performance and so many  times of intervention for teachers to possibly calculate how inspirational they are. Just think about what this child covers in his song: Bullying, death of father, single mom, attire, homelessness, loneliness, social standing, fear, distractions, and most importantly, desire to learn!

Teaching and Learning is not about a test, we must take care of our students and their learning environment!

Like, Share, and Follow if you agree!!

I had to Apologize to My Students- Their Reaction Left Me in Tears!

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Portion of a letter given to me from a student in a partner class after learning I was leaving. Truly humbling to learn you inspire students who are not even in your class.

Almost 2 years ago, due to circumstances in education, family, and life, I made a decision to leave teaching, to walk away from my classroom.  Two weeks prior, I had to endure the task of informing my students of my decision. It’s ironic how selfish one can be in a profession that is filled with the rewards of giving. My profession, for the first time in 15 years, started feeling like a job in the weeks leading up. I had lost focus, and with it, lost the love and passion from which I thrived. It had become all about me: the hatred building up inside of me, the decision I had to make, the failure I was going to be in my students eyes. I hated that society didn’t value my profession. I hated that the Federal and State governments tried to label my students as Proficient or Non-proficient. I hated that my performance was going to be judged based upon these tests. I hated that I was a data collecting machine. I hated Summative and Formative testing. I hated those who spoke of pedagogy and rigor. I hated that my district didn’t value technology. I hated that I was reprimanded for the tangle of electrical cords when my request for replacement batteries for laptops was denied. I hated that increasing contributions to my benefits package guaranteed a continued pay cut every year. I hated that a yearly pay cut meant I could not provide for my family and left me no choice. I hated having to make that decision. I hated that I had to look my students in the eye and tell them “I am sorry, I failed you as your teacher.” In my search to excuse my feelings of failure, I had lost sight of the only opinion that truly mattered. In those weeks, I truly did fail my students, but my students never failed me.

On that dreaded day of revelation, about 30 minutes into my tear filled explanation of my decision to leave the classroom, one of my students stopped me.  She stated through her own tears, “Why do you keep saying Sorry? You did nothing wrong.” She continued by clarifying in 3 minutes what I had tried to say in 30.  She informed all that putting my 3 kids ahead of them as students was nothing to apologize about. She proceeded to lecture the class and myself that even though we only had 2 more weeks together, we should be thankful for the last 4 months of being Mr. Lowe‘s class.  With the conviction of a true leader, she requested everyone to not discuss this anymore and make the most of our last 2 weeks together.  She ended by telling me that I was more than just a teacher to this class.  She believed in everything I said including forever being one of Mr. Lowe’s kids, and my being out of the classroom was not going to change that! There have been plenty of times students had to correct me and there have been plenty of times students have inspired me, but this was just the beginning of the most inspiring 2 weeks I had ever experienced. It is inspiring to see your students put into action everything that you preach about as a teacher especially when you had just dropped a bombshell on them. “Leave your troubles at the door.” “When you enter this classroom, you enter with a promise to always do your best, even when things are at their worst.” “Are you proud of your work?” Did I ever mention these were 4th Graders?

In a true moment of students teaching the teacher, I had become that lost student needing help, disengaged due to outside circumstances. The outpouring of support came, lesson after lesson. Parents and students, past and present, went out of their way to deliver messages of inspiration and encouragement. My students were right, I had nothing to be “Sorry” about. In fact, I was grateful. I loved every minute I spent in the classroom. I loved inspiring. I loved seeing the Ah Ha moment. I loved the laughing. I loved the dancing. I loved when they made fun of me. I loved the raw emotions of crying, fear and anxiety turn to happiness, courage, and hope. I loved seeing a C student get a C+. I loved seeing BFFs form from my choice in seating. I loved the hugs of excitement and sorrow. I loved to see confidence sprout from doubt. I loved saying “I’m proud of You.” I loved getting in trouble because I fought for my students. I loved working with parents. I loved being inspired by students. I loved seeing them present their work. I loved hearing them sing. I loved welcoming them in the morning. I loved being loud in the hallway with them. I loved the high fives. I loved the down lows. I loved the April Fools pranks. I loved the egg toss and the egg drop. I loved having International Day. I loved steps of improvement no matter how small. I loved the first day, last day, and all the days in between. Most of all, I loved my students, each and every one. I would like to end by telling each and every one “I thank you for being a part of my class, my family! You played an important part in making me the teacher I was, and the person I am today! For this, I will always love you!”

Why Do Most Fail at Becoming a Teacher?

Over the last 30 years, the educational system in the US has taken a beating and along with it, the teachers.  Everyone from the President, to the local John Doe, has an opinion on how to best fix our decline when compared to nations around the world.  From the Common Core to a laptop, the answer to our problems is out there, if only those teachers would listen and change.  However, the teachers are protected by those Unions and tenure, so how are we supposed to change the status quo?  How do we get through to teachers for them to understand that we have to set higher standards for the students, set higher standards for the teachers, evaluate the students’ progress, evaluate the teachers’ progress, and recognize that standardized testing will resurrect our great educational system?  It’s simple…..We DON’T!!  Most will say that our educational system is broken. Most will say that our students today are not as educated as they were in the past.  This is simply not true.  

The biggest problem in education today is the leadership and direction it is under. Leadership that has little to no experience of what it takes to be a classroom teacher. Leadership that continues to break the most simple cardinal rule of teaching, “There is NO one-size fits all” answer!  Yet, the educational reforms continue to come down the pipeline from every new leader that takes office with the idea that he or she will be the savior for our children.  There have been changes from standards to content, yet we continue to look at our students as failures, for according to the research and data being collected, we continue to decline. 

By way of elimination, leadership has finally identified the underlying issue of our decline, the teachers.  How does the saying go?  Those who can, do…those who can’t, teach? Really?! Why is public persona of teachers so bad?  Could we be buying into the anti-teacher propaganda issued by those who initiated the failed reforms?  Why have we lost sight of what truly matters in educating a child?  It goes beyond the Common Core, NCLB, Blended Learning, Public vs Private vs Charter.  It is deeper than the subject matter being taught in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Science, and Social Studies.  It is more powerful than any data you can collect from standardized, summative and formative testing.  Yet, without listening, our leaders have inundated our teachers with a workload that takes them away from the single most important factor in educating our students.  

The best teachers have the ability to connect with a student and inspire them to learn, not just in the classroom but beyond, a life-long learner. The innate ability to recognize struggle, depression, or emptiness and counter with support, potential, and hope.  We can all claim the ability to do such things, but teachers do this with 20, 30, 40+ students in their classrooms everyday!  All while understanding the idea of failing even one student is unacceptable.  So, why do most fail at becoming a teacher? Simple….it is easier to follow another career path.  Teachers are the small percentage of those willing to take the responsibility of educating our youth, while receiving a barrage of disrespect, simply for the love of teaching.  

Through mandates and reforms, none of which were teacher driven, we now blame our teachers for failing our students, however, it is we who have failed our teachers.  The research and rigor of the new programs, reforms, and CCSS may help the educational system as a whole, but they are just duct-taping the problem.  Until we focus on supporting the needs of the teacher and the needs of each individual student, learning will only be defined by a test result.  During my time as a teacher, I was always amused at the parade of individuals who touted the “next best” idea or reform that was going to reach my students and make them successful without ever meeting them.  Did they know that Matt’s parents were getting a divorce? That Mary just lost her Grandmother, her inspiration?  That Robert was missing 40 days of school to care for his new born brother? That…….did they even care?  What made them think that spending 3 hours collecting, organizing, and relating data was more important than having a 5 minute conversation with a student?  Do they understand that my C-student’s effort to improve is better than than my A-student who doesn’t?  Labeling a 4th grader as Proficient or Not Proficient does nothing in predicting their future success.

I would argue that today’s students are smarter than any generation before them.  They are accessing and learning information at ages that are stunning.  If our educational system is failing our students, it is doing so because leadership, not teachers, has limited them to be proficient or non-proficient through a standardized test.  Our students should not be judged on a score, and our teachers should not be judged on a test.  A teacher’s job is to promote and inspire life-long learning- to relate and inspire a student to learn not just in the classroom, but more importantly at every moment possible.  To learn not because they have to, but rather because they want to!