Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts


Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

By Betsy L. Angert

Human beings are a fascinating bunch.  We gather information through observation, and the reading of facts, figures, and formulas.  We draw inferences and deduce. Granted conversations too play a role in what we conclude; however, mostly humans rely on the readable. What we cannot see is thought less significant.  Take Hurricane Sandy for example.

Meteorologists saw the signs.  Citizens, who merely glanced at the papers understood what was visible in print; Sharp Warnings as Hurricane Churns In. People began to do as people do when warned of an impending storm. They prepare for the worse.  Individuals and families evacuated the area.  Transit Authorities shutdown the system.  Cities and counties hunkered down.

Now, after the tempest took its toll, young ones do as the adults had done.  An eight-grader’s account looks at what appears on the surface. As do most, she too attends to material concerns.  Rarely, do we know what else to do. Society and school curriculums that reflect a standardized surface reality do not give us the critical thinking tools needed to assist persons who have experienced an emotional trauma.  Today, we have one. We have Psychological First Aid.  This relief is not as a “kit” filled with bandages, cotton balls and antiseptic; nor is a box full of funds or quick-fix tricks. No, this Aid is much like cake you bake or the casserole you might make for family or friends in distress.  Either is a gift of love.  Each opens the door for conversations that reveal feelings.  So what is this Aid?

It is  The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund. Oh sure, you say, another charity, another request for cash. How can dollars provide psychological  support? Currency and coins cannot. In truth, food and water do not feed a soul. Bricks and mortar also are inadequate; even blood does not heal our emotional hurts.  So again you ask, why contribute to this Fund?  What makes it different? It’s the ingredients.

This cake or casserole to be presented will be made with the finest blend “The Core Actions.” The essence of the mixture. Ah, take a whiff, or dip your fork in and taste what the eyes cannot see.

  • Contact and Engagement
  • Safety and Comfort
  • Stabilization
  • Information Gathering: Current Needs and Concerns
  • Practical Assistance
  • Connection with Social Supports
  • Information on Coping
  • Linkage with Collaborative Services

How is that possible? Let us look at the cook.    Save Our Schools,  a grassroots, people-powered, non-profit organization has organized and effort that focuses on the emotional needs of students, Teachers, and School Support Staffs.  SOS will work to support  several New York and New Jersey schools, in dire need.  Provisions, while material, will offer opportunities to open doors that evoke fruitful and emotional discussions. Gifts that invite children to play bequeath the freedom necessary for caring conversations.  

Only through these dialogues do we “see” into the soul to more than merely addressing the visible wounds. A box of crayons, paper, and a Trained Counselor, these are the ingredients that, when stirred together bake a beautiful cake. The frosting is Contact and Engagement.  We advocate that Teachers are provided the space to become the first element in a Psychological First Aid Box. With a moratorium on the administration and use of high stakes standardized testing for teacher and student evaluation emotional relief can begin.  Chitchat and chatter, is the small talk that makes possible the sense of Safety and Comfort, which is another essential  factor.   The food that evokes thoughtful dialogues. The Save Our Schools Students and Teachers Fund will offer these.

Fictional books and academic texts too will be among the gifts we give. The Practical Assistance piece of the cake.  The Practical  also speaks to the Stabilization necessary.  By being there, within schools and communities, as union locals, area Parent Teacher Associations and other education allied advocacy organizations will do more than  throw money at an unsightly broken wall.  From within, we will Gather Information, as well as address Current Needs and Concerns.  We will establish a Connection to Social supports while providing psychological and emotional Information, Support that grows coping muscles.  We will also build Collaborative relationships.  We would like to build one with you.  

If you choose, please contribute to the cake, casserole, or The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund.  We thank you!

Resources and References…

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org

Why We Say Save Our Schools





copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

Students Struggle to Survive…

Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

“Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

“Teach to the Tests.”

Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

Race To The Top Myths.

  • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
  • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
  • Rigor is “right.”
  • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

Race To The Top Truths.

“Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

National Standards. Low Expectations.

Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .

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Education Defined . . . Policy Or Pupils Passionately Pursuing Personal Growth?


copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

As American educators and members of Congress contemplate the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind, I feel a need to share an exposé written long before the program’s inception.  More than a decade ago, I yearned to discuss what I considered a crisis in the classroom.  It seemed to me, in America, we did not advance authentic learning.  Recitation of facts, figures, and formulas passed for wisdom.  Overtime, in my opinion, school policies and practices worsened. 

More and more our culture embraced an archaic idea.  Statistical accounts passed for the acquisition of knowledge.  Presumed experts in education, or public policy makers, recorded the results of a test or two and proclaimed a pupil proficient.  If the majority of students in a specific school are evaluated as excellent, then the presumption was, professional educators in that facility were worthy of more money.  Each assessment was judged a milestone, rather than a moment in time on the path of progression.

As adults, we busily documented the details in a futile attempt to validate what we, as children  recognized as invalid.  When we were young, we were sensitive to the veracity, a cold, the flu, too little sleep, a divorce in the family, or a death affected our performance.

Our earlier endeavors to verify learning led us farther away from authentic assessments.  Portfolio reviews became less probable as mature minds sought solace in numbers. 

Thus, it was not surprising, in 2001, Americans embraced the emblematic enigma, No Child Left Behind.

Today, I would like to share what was a sad situation before George W. Bush entered the national educational scene, in hopes that we will consider what occurs when creativity and curiosity are void in our schools.

This exposé was published in 2005.  However, it was written in the 1990s.  It appears in the Education Resources Information Center database. 

As you peruse and ponder, please recall at the time of this writing No Child Left Behind was yet to be born.  However, standardized tests already saturated the system.  The pump was primed.  Principals and the public were prepared.  Teachers taught to the tests.  Pupils were nothing more than name, rank, and grade.

I invite your reflection.  I offer . . .

Education Defined . . . Policy Or Pupils Passionately Pursuing Personal Growth?

copyright © 2005 Betsy L. Angert

Everywhere we turn there is talk of education, educating all students equally, leaving no student behind, setting standards, creating charter schools, teaching the basics and yet, for me, the most basic of pedagogical principles, the one that brings the best in education is lost.  For me, this basic pedagogical principle is advancing the love of learning.

When, why, where, and how did we as educators lose the practice of this principle?  When, why, where, and how did we as a society lose our focus, leaving the love of learning behind?  I believe we lost the love of learning when we chose to be a mere measure of standard and to saturate our schools in naive and narrow standards.  Who made this choice?  We did!  We as a society, as administrators, as educators, as parents, and as individual persons chose to set and settle a standard.  We are still setting and settling for simplistic standards. 

We settle for being standard, sub-standard, superior to the standard, yet, still the measure is standard.  We accentuate the normal, what was normal, is normal, and what will be normal, while we squelch what can be beyond normal.  We measure the means, the methods, and the medium scores.  We function in and focus on a world that weighs through “norms.”  We speak of Authentic Assessment, Portfolio Review, of attending to and advancing individual Learning Styles.  Then, we consider the time, the money, and the masses.  We express how overwhelming the situation seems and ultimately, we choose to settle for what was or what is standard.  For me, this choice creates a great loss for our children, the greatest loss.

Yet, we chose and continue to choose to lose our love of learning.  We chose and are continuing to choose to ignore innovation, imagination, insight, and curiosity; instead, we do what is easy.  We make excuses; we blame, we justify, rationalize, and intellectualize.  We rather do what is convenient, comfortable and what we can quantify quickly.  We want to grasp a sense of “reality” rather than grow what we do not yet know.  We chose and continue to choose to focus on “doing” and “having” rather than on being.  We chose and continue to choose to believe in impossibilities rather than create possibilities.  We subjugate the soaring of our souls and subdue our desires and dreams.  We opt for shortsighted standards in our own lives’ and by extension, in the lives’ of our children.  We teach our children the legacy, and they, in turn, will teach their children as they were taught.  The cycle will continue, unless . . .

I am offering my ideas on “unless,” sharing some thoughts, my theory, and a short story to illustrate my beliefs on learning.  I am writing to those that teach, to those that set the “standards,” and those that postulate pedagogical policies.  I am writing to educators, and that includes all of us, those that teach professionally, as parents, or as persons that are there, exchanging and engaging with others. 

My “unless” proposes a shift of standards; I propose that we shift to a convention of caring.  I propose creating a considerate, collaborative, and creative connection between a pupil, a purpose, a philosophy, pedagogy, and passionate pursuits.  I propose abandoning the standard of rote, routine, regimented, and rehearsed systems and creating curriculums grounded in love.  I propose and believe that we learn when we love.  We learn from those we love.  We may love people that are powerful, passionate, or even punitive!  There are many types of teachers.  Knowingly or not, we are all teachers.  Simultaneously, we are all students.  We are each, forever learning.  Lacking awareness, we will learn what our teachers teach, even if their methods evoke madness.  As Will Rodgers suggests, “If you teach a lesson of meanness to a human or a critter, don’t be surprised if they learn it.”

Pupils are people.  Human beings are complex, a growing essence.  They evolve through experience not simple exchanges.  To truly learn is to acquire authentic wisdom; beings must do more than receive material, memorize, recite, and recall.  Realizing greater understanding comes when we cultivate and motivate a love of learning.  People, pupils will learn what they love, from those that they love.  The lessons that they love the most, those that are offered through loving relationships, will last a lifetime.  In order to truly teach, educators, parents, administrators, and society, must “touch” students’ minds through their hearts.  We must meet our pupils where they live and ask them to teach us of them selves.  We must listen, learn, and choose to grow greater from what our students teach us.  We must collaborate with our students.

Pupils may experience what they believe and feel as profound problems.  Parents may be a puzzle.  Friendships may feel futile.  Sensing their self worth may seem a struggle.  Learners may feel troubled, ill, ignorant, hurt, or happy.  Each of these emotions will effect their performance.  In the course of the day, particularly in the classroom imagination, innovation, and investigation are invisible entities.  Interestingly enough, the energy we are able to observe is far less powerful than the force of our feelings.  Often and especially for most students, expressing emotions seems an empty effort.  Teachers treat these as excuses.  Educators rarely dare to delve into these unobservable areas.

The most formidable force in the classroom is the satisfaction of the instructor.  The instructors’ satisfaction seems to be our foremost concern.  A teacher will infer and intuit a pupil’s level of learning and then give the student a grade, “A” through “F.”  Educators [parents or administrators] grade pupils on how well we perceive that they grasp the information that we [believe we] are teaching.  We etch these classifications in stone or at least in a pupil’s “permanent record.”  This method is the standard modus operandi in most school districts, in the majority of schools, for nearly all teachers, in both public and private educational institutions. 

Once you label me, you negate me.
  ~ Soren Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher]

We desire, expect, or presume that a student can and will learn on our schedule.  We believe that once we teach the techniques, provide the tools, offer the concepts a student can simply choose to learn it or not.  I believe that nothing is “just that simple.”  Think back on the time, energy, and effort it took us to learn those things we truly love.  When we learned to ride a bicycle, we started small; we began with a tricycle.  We gained confidence.  We loved our newfound freedom, the freedom to move about and to be.  The more we grew [learned], the more we wanted to grow [learn].  We wanted to achieve greater feats.  Then we went on to training wheels.  We may have fallen; we did have fear, but oh, the power of dreams.  Balance was the benefit of effort, energy, and emotion.  It was not a simple or magical moment.  We did not desire to ride a two-wheeler and then, immediately “just do it!”  We learned, we grew, and we passionately pursued our personal growth.

As adults, we seem to forget our feelings, especially those we experience as students.  Even a born scholar struggles to master novel material.  Instead of remembering our pain, our fear, or our hesitation, we do what was done to us, what has always been done, and what we now deem ‘works for us.’  I ask, “Did the tried and true truly work well for us when we were students?”  I suspect that at any age we can relate to the following experience.

You have a test to take.  The subject may be math; it may be science, English, or even history.  There are so many facts, figures, and formulas to remember.  You gather all your notes; your corrected homework assignments, your books, and you cram your brain with information.  You create flash cards.  You memorize answers to any possible question, to every probable query.  You recite the facts that you recall.  You ask family members to quiz you.  You call your classmates to ensure that you have all the particulars.  You sleep on your books hoping the knowledge will filter in through osmosis.  You wake early and review your books again.  You read your notes as you walk, drive, or ride to school.

You receive the exam, and wham; you realize that you know all the answers.  You do well.  An “A+” is your grade!  Then 5 minutes later, five hours later, five days later, five months later, or especially and even 5 years later, you know none of this information.  You did not learn it for a lifetime, but memorized it for a moment, only a minute, or two, maybe longer, yet not for a lifetime.

Interestingly enough, I have asked many people, teachers, students, friends, family, and even acquaintances and still I have yet to met a single person that cannot relate to this experience.  We teach by rote; we expect students to learn by rote.  Rote is only a routine; doing rote can and often does become habit.  Our habits continue.  Rote does not advance wisdom.  Wisdom is the wealth that evolves when we chose to be curious and aware.  We as a society become easily entrenched in our habits.  We are comfortable with what was and what comes. 

Habits are to the soul what the veins and arteries are to the blood, the courses in which it moves.
  ~ Horace Bushnell [American 1802 – 1876, Father of American Religious Liberalism, Yale Law School, Author of Reform against Nature]

In defining ourselves, we may think that we are our habits.  Many believe that what they do is their nature.  People do not tend to consider that what we do is what we learn.  Typically, we learn most of what we do when we are so young we do not recall or realize that we are learning.  We begin learning while in the womb.  We learn what to be and what to think, say, feel, and do.  As we age, as we socialize, we learn to present ourselves as what we do.

When we discuss ourselves, we offer what we do as though this is who we are.  Our career, our circumstances, and our condition pose as our nature.  These are actually our choices.  They are rarely conscious.  Habits are convenient.  Habits come easily.  We move in manners that are casual and comfortable.  We learn [our habits] from those we love.  We learn our lessons well.  Families, friends, and familiarity teach us how to move through life.  We are all learning, always.  Learning is a constant in living.  The life we live seems so natural.  We believe that we “just do it.”

We, as a society prefer that learning be swift and sweet.  We establish structures that are short, simplistic, and standardized.  We seek safe solutions.  Advertisers know this.  They rely on our desire for effortless answers.  Marketing professionals and the companies they represent bank on us by the billions. 

Among the multitudes of marketers, Nike? saturated our minds with a belief that we can “Just do it.”  Nike Vice President of Marketing, Bob Wood acknowledged a cynicism in the earlier “Just do it” advertising attitude.  In January 1, 1998, Nike? introduced an inspirational new campaign entitled, “I can.”  “I Can,” “reflects the deep emotional connection that people have with sports in feeling good and setting personal goals.”  Sue Levin, Women’s Brand Director discusses the inspirational theme of “I Can.”  Sue Levin states, “When athletes become larger than life, sometimes we take for granted what it took [for] them to get there.  What gets lost in all the cynicism is the incredible power and emotion that sports creates.  Emotion, power and ambition are the things we all need more of, not less.”  In 1998 even Nike? realized that no one could simply “Just do it.” 

Sadly, in my mind, we as educators “Just do it,” with little awareness for what we are creating.  We teach; we often teach, just as we were taught taking learning for granted.  Professional educators, from elementary school instructors to professors, policy makers, parents, persons in any profession, and actually, all of us, in every population express the cynicism of “just do it!” in word and deed.  We may mistakenly believe, or more accurately, we may unknowingly believe that the methods that helped us to learn will be beneficial to others.  I believe that it is vital to realize that what is best for one individual may be injurious for another.  The past permeates our present.  The past is powerful; it is part of our present, and until we consciously choose to know and to use what we know to change, the past will be our future.

For me, doing as was done before is not learning, it is merely mirroring or mimicking, doing, saying, thinking and sadly, sometimes being as expected, as instructed, or as is standard.  Rote realizes little learning, at least not the learning that lasts a lifetime.  I believe that learning is more than rote routines or rehearsed reviews.  I believe that learning is looking, listening, challenging, and choosing to explore beyond what is known.  I believe that learning evolves through curiosity, choosing challenges, and caring to discover what is not yet known.

Previously, presently, and probably some time soon, we will lecture, provide analogies, offer exercises, and test.  Instructors teach the techniques, the standards and the formulas, and then expect their students to understand.  Scholars train students to state the facts, do the drills, practice the process, and then promise that the pupils will progress.  We may teach to the test.  Educators may devise an examination that reviews the text.  Teachers ask little of their learners.  Memorize what the mentor says, retain what you read, acquire the information as though it is a possession and present it to the tutor as if it is a gift and yours to give.  Advancing in schools is just that simple and we just do it.  I propose that genuine learning is not a simple task, but a labor of love.

I believe that the type of learning that lasts a lifetime and empowers us evolves through empathetic exchanges.  When someone gives credence to “who” we are, when another person believes in us, we are able to achieve beyond our own belief.

The mind is no match with the heart in persuasion; constitutionally is no match for compassion.
  ~ Everett M. Dirksen [Senate Minority Leader 1959 – 1969]

Who we are is an interesting exploration.  We know to ask our youth “what do you want to be” not what do you want to have or to do and yet we teach them to do and to have.  I find this curious.  It seems that in the classroom and in much of life, we define a person by their cuteness, career, and circumstances, by their ethnicity, race, or religion.  These standards, just as those used in testing and grading, exist only on the surface.  We deem their intellect to be commendable or worthy of condemnation.  We make determinations; we classify, stereotype.  Often, we create self-fulfilling prophecies.  We label students.  We track their progress.  We think, say, and do all of this in the name of caring.

Society claims to care for each and every learner.  Every member of society seems to agree that we want our youth to succeed.  Parents, public and private institutions, policies, and professionals stress success.  The school districts, the state, and the nation set static standards to in an attempt to validate that we are concerned with growth and learning.  Then, we continue to train, teach, and test to static set of standards.  We state one mission and then stress another.  We maintain our means, methods, and manners.  Learners must prove their worth and who they are on standardized tests we set before them.  Yet, I ask, who among us is standard?  Who learns or grows simply or in a standard manner.

Society, scientist, and sage stress or suggest sensitivity to our students, and yet pupils must perform as planned, and on the educator’s schedule.  Schools and scholars may teach to modalities, but test to codes.  We do not offer interviews for audio verbal learners or an innovative, inventive project for the kinesthetic pupil.  We do not ask students to evaluate their errors and submit their work continuously, until they the learner feels satisfied that he, she, or they have learned and achieved success.  Currently, in many if not most of our classrooms, “success” is a set standard, a grade, granted to those that do, say, and think, as they are told.

Instructors assess pupils on their visible performance.  Teachers examine the tests, the assignments, and the attitude of the student.  Might we truly share with and care about the individual?  A student may have great physical support, but little emotional assistance.  A learner may have a well-trained memory, but may not know how to think.  Teachers attempt to teach thinking skills through customary tactics.  Instructors show, then tell, and expect students to absorb the wisdom.  I offer this thought; thinking is not a possession to acquire, but a state of being.  I cannot give you wisdom in the way I might give you gold.  Beliefs build.  Just as flowers, people bud, they blossom and bloom with nurturing and love.

In today’s classrooms, boardrooms, and beyond, there is [little or rare or] no consideration for the person that thinks beyond what they are taught or told to think.  There is ample shunning for a curious concern.  Students that have the mind of a true scientist, which differs from a technician, know that knowledge is not fixed; answers are not simply correct or wrong.  Students that stretch and seek greater wisdom than a simple right or wrong answer, those learners that look beyond the surface receive criticism for being “overly analytical.”  In truth, these aware students challenge the convention; their active desire to learn creates chaos in the classroom and, or in the community.

I believe and experience, as do many when asked to truly reflect on their own life experiences, that society does not seek to satisfy the innate human desire to grow.  Educators, administrators, and the community do not care to meet the true needs of our population.  Meeting the truest needs of our students is too costly, not easy, and initially it does not seem as efficient as what is standard.  Time is tangible and therefore tantamount to the cost in the minds of many.  We do not work for or with unique individual people [or pupils].  In each and every field, even in the field of education, our concern is only with the common populous or with popular philosophies, not with the profound or the power one creates when they are passionately pursuing personal growth, when they are empowered.

What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
  ~ Samuel Johnson [English Writer 1709-1784, Producer of Dictionary of the English Language, Contributor to Gentlemen’s Magazine]

The popular and the profitable govern.  Again, I offer Nike? to illustrate what often is.  Nike? too chose to subjugate the “emotion, power, and ambitions that inspire personal pursuits.”  Nike? chose to retain the “Just do it” slogan and to supplement this saying with the “I can” maxim.  Now, years later, we rarely if ever witness the inspirational “I can!”  The cynicism and simplistic “Just do it” survives.  Habits indeed are challenges to change! 

I wonder and I ask of our habits, those of our students’ and of our selves.  If our habit is to strive only for a set and surface standard of excellence, might it be a challenge to be and believe beyond this shallow sense?  If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we stop ourselves.  It is safer to set and settle for simple standards such, as the sky is our limit?  Possibly, it once was and then we explored and traveled beyond the sky, into space.

We can and do, sadly, at times, create what we believe.  Self-fulfilling prophecies are abounding.  Might we be limiting our own learning, our teaching, our growth, and the growth of our pupils because of our standard belief?  What might our students and our selves be and what might we choose to believe and then create?

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
~ Shakespeare: Hamlet, IV, c. 1601

Do we believe in our students more than we believe in the current standards of operation?  Do believe in practices that subvert a student’s [a persons’] desire to passionately pursue personal growth?  Do we care for the career path that enables the best of consumption or do we care to create a curriculum that creates a love of learning?  Do we care more about policy or pupils?

Where pupils [people] are concerned, it is a challenge to care about oneself, to believe in oneself, when others do not seem to care about or for you.  When others do not believe that you can go beyond what is now the best, you are less likely to do so.  It is a challenge for our students’ to care about themselves, when it seems that we do not act as though we care about them, about their concerns, about whom they are within, or when we do not seem to believe in them.  When it seems that teachers, administrators, parents, and society only care about the grades, what is a pupil left to pursue. 

The intention of this paper is to advance awareness for the power of personal relationships.  When someone truly believes in us, cares about us as individuals, then we are more able to believe in ourselves.  I believe as Morrie Schwartz, former professor at Brandeis University proposes, “Love always wins.”  For me winning equates to growing and the journey that brings us to being our best.  For me, winning is not the product of a competition, winning is not a state; instead it is an ever-evolving evolution.  I believe that winning is learning, growing, glowing from within.  Winning for me is a misnomer; it is not a beginning and certainly not an end.  Winning is a mere moment.  Growing continues, moment by moment.  I believe that the strong grow continually and are eternally successful.

There are times that students, teachers, or anyone may appear to be successful and strong.  Any of us may believe we are the best at what we do.  Yet, we do what we know, what comes easily.  Innately, we crave a challenge; however, we may lack the confidence to create a greater journey.  Many, take the path that most others also travel.  It may seem safe though secretly we sense that it is far less gratifying.

We can choose to grow, but it is easier to strut-our-stuff, the stuff we already have and know.  We all have skills, talents, and we can settle into these or we can explore and be beyond the standard.

Practice of Pedagogy

I offer this story in hopes that any of us may remember, reflect, and realize what might more authentically be “Excellence in Education.”  The following is an actual incident that occurred while I was teaching Drawing and Painting at a High School in California.  This story is not exclusively an “art education” experience.  I have taught and have been a student in many disciples.  For me, all learning, throughout life shares similar characteristics; the greatest of these is human action and interaction.  I share this story as a epic simile.

The year could be any year, the students any students, situations are not exactly the same, but always similar.  For most of the students at this High School, Art was a requirement, not an elective.  Thus, many of them felt forced to take this class, to fulfill their mandatory Fine Arts credit.  Students expressed that creating art was for the “talented” and they assured me; they were not.  I think talent is an evolution, resulting from encouraging experiences. 

Many students said that for them, Drawing/Painting was irrelevant; it held little appeal.  Midway through the semester a transfer student named Phil joined our class.  Students felt Phil was talented, but just as the others; he preferred to do what he did well.  Phil’s was comfortable doing what came easily.  Art classes had always been an easy “A” for him, requiring minimal thought or effort.  It quickly became clear to Phil that in this class, learning, growing, and gaining greater knowledge were required.  Improving, and expanding one’s awareness, wisdom, and acquiring skills is what I encourage, express, and expect. 

I feel the need to interject here my own conflict with the word “expect” or “expectations.”  My expectations are not an etched rubric, platitude, precept, or a particularly prescribed edict.  My only expectation is of personal growth.  I expect and encourage a growth that energizes the pupil, the person, and one that cannot be calculated or considered by an outsider.  I accept that we are all a work in progress and life affords us an opportunity to create a living portfolio.  Productions, revisions, student critiques, reflective interviews, and student journals actively demonstrate what learners’ learn.  To some, it seems like “a lot of work.”  Some students expressed discontent.  Phil was among these.  He confronted me stating, “You expect too much.”

Phil questioned why he needed to expand his skills and knowledge.  Why did he need to explore?  In comparison to other students, Phil was great; his work was amidst the best, possibly even better than the best.  In teaching, I do not suggest comparisons.  Phil recognized that for me, he and his work were unique and stood alone.  Another person’s work is his or her own.  I compare Phil’s work to Phil’s other endeavors and not to the efforts of others.  He stated that he was satisfied with his skills and abilities.  Phil, knowingly, was choosing not to learn, or to grow. 

I considered this decision limiting.  Phil’s given skills were fine, however, I believe grades are a reflection of growth.  The idea of going beyond what he knew was scary for Phil.  Phil was reluctant to approach what was unfamiliar.  People profess and pretend to have no fears, yet, I wonder is there anyone that truly does not fear the unknown.  The unknown may be failure, and again, I wonder, might it be greater success.

I felt and feel Phil is similar to all of us in that we can and seem to think, say, do, feel, and be what comes easily.  We can see success as an action that is “Just that simple.”  We may believe that we can “Just do it” and we will “obtain” success or at least a surface sense of it.  However, to be better than we imagine, that takes time, inner strength, support, and energy.  I believe that being better than we might imagine is what we will be when we passionately pursue personal growth.

In my interactions with Phil, as in my interactions with all others, I chose to consistently discuss and demonstrate my trust and belief in him.  Only he can choose to believe in himself, however, I wanted him to be certain through my words and deeds that I did believe in him. 

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.
  ~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]

Actions and interactions with Phil were expressions of what I accept and strive to live.  The student and I must develop and maintain a solid relationship; it is essential for [mutual] greater growth and authentic learning.  Supportive, sharing and understanding must be consistent.  The connection evolves through continual exchanges.  Exchanges that engage, involve, evolve, and advance meaning in one’s life and, once experienced feel essential. 

As I engaged in my personal pedagogy, exchanging authentically with Phil, and then again, upon reflection, I realized that I felt and feel great empathy for his fear of the unknown.  We can all question our own ability to cope successfully with a challenge.  I believed in Phil’s depth and quality.  I did not question that greater growth was possible for him.  He could choose to create achievable goals.  Goals are reachable!  He could realize and did, his dreams.  I knew, I know and believe that we all can be what we want to be.  Sadly, we are each our own worse critic.  Believing we can be what we want to be can be a challenge.  Being the best may seem impossible.

Every noble work is first impossible.
  ~ Thomas Carlyle

Years ago some considered my circumstances impossible.  I broke my arm badly.  There were numerous fractures in my arm; there were breaks in every direction.  I knew I needed help in healing.  I needed more than a wish, a prayer or a dream; I needed to believe in me.  I decided to buy the inspirational gift my mother gave me as a child, a classic book, The Little Engine That Could.  When I re-read it, I was not surprised to discover that my memory of what my mother had read to me as a child, was not the same as it actually appears.  My mother changed the ending, creating a more encouraging message.  I endeavor to share and live what my mother gave to me.  My mother recited, “I think I can.  I think I can.  I know I can.  I can!” 

Whether we consider ourselves teachers or students, we will forever be both, simultaneously.  I believe it is vital to consider that we are all Don Quixote; we dream the impossible dream.  We all need and crave a supportive, patient, gentle, trusting soul that believes we can be what we want to be.

Collaboratively and Collectively, We grew.

Be it with Phil or another, I am less concerned with students liking me than I am with them liking themselves.  I respect Phil for questioning my expectations.  I encourage “real” questions, concerns and discussions of these.  I believe that learning is possible and intrinsically motivating when one understands why it is important to them.  For me, dialogue and the exchanging of ideas are opportunities.  When a student initially resents a request for doing what may seem difficult, he/she is, at least, thinking.  When thinking through challenges, a creative ethos evolves.  Later, he, she, we can look back and laugh at our own stubborn, scary processing. 

For me, there is humor in how strongly we can challenge another’s belief in us, as did Phil.  He realized his accomplishments.  He appreciated my true belief in him and his abilities.  Phil initially, considered my belief that grades are a reflection of growth unfair.  He may have also questioned my belief in him as being unfair; nonetheless, as he began to expect more of himself and of me, and to accept.  He grew.  Sharing Phil’s discovery and acknowledgment of his own quality and his respect for himself was an honor.

Once Phil explored new horizons, he found them exciting and openly told me how much he enjoyed his new knowledge and abilities.  He enthusiastically shared that he realized his ability to see more.  Though the world had not changed, his perception of it had.  His awareness grew in academics and in the arts.  He seemed excited by what he now noticed and appeared stimulated and motivated.  A more confident sense of self was emerging.  Phil became interested in increasing his own skills and awareness.  Phil’s energy extended to others.  He was motivated and motivated others.

Phil heard from other students that I would not be returning to teach at this High School the following semester.  One day, while checking on Phil’s progress, I saw that he looked upset.  I asked what was wrong.  He shared what he heard and then asked if this was true.  Was I leaving?  When I told him that it was, he groaned and complained.  I asked, why was he was complaining?  He had told me that I expect “too much.”  He said, “That was before.”  He said that he realized how much he could and would learn in my class and that he looked forward to learning more.  I was pleased and astounded by his sincere admission.  When teaching there are many moments that remind me of how much I enjoy facilitating learning, being a teacher!

I believe and experience that we all can make a difference in the lives of those we touch.  We each effect and affect others.  The process is never ending.  Empathy is truly the greatest educator.  When we are sensitive to our own limited sense of self then we are able to accept that people need people to achieve more than they might ever imagine is possible.  It is exhilarating to share, care, and grow [separately and together.]  I enjoy partaking in this process.  Students teach.  An aware educator learns how to teach to individuals, learns to relate materials in a manner that is more meaningful, real, and relevant to the unique person that he or she is supporting.  Each student, each person, each entity has its own style.  It is essential that an instructor identify an essence.  We all desire to be important, acknowledged, and appreciated. I believe we learn when we love, when we feel loved, when we share lessons with love.  Empathy is the best educator.

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than there is for food.
  ~ Mother Teresa

For many educators, it may not seem possible to create a relationship where we listen, hear, respond, and collaboratively learn with each individual student.  There are too many pupils, too many parents, too many projects and too little time!  There is curriculum to write, lessons to teach, and grades to gather.  “There is just too much to do and not enough time in a day.”  We focus on what students do, on what we do.  What we do, what they do, is of little depth and lesser quality than who we each are.  If we choose to consider whom the student is as a unique individual, if we show that, we genuinely care, if we consistently connect, discipline problems are next to null.  The paper work that these problems generate is nonexistent.  The telephone calls, the daily contracts are no longer necessary.  If a teacher and student are working together as trusted colleagues, each loving the process and the progress, then they are engaged in learning, listening, and looking for answers, rather than attention.

He, who adds not to learning, diminishes it.
  ~ The Talmud

I, as a teacher learn from my students.  This is true whether I am instructing in the arts, the sciences, or in the social sciences.  In all that I teach, I, as a learner look to my teachers, the students.  Just as we are more than what we do, people do not exist in a single role.  I am never solely a teacher or a student.  My relationships are reciprocal.  I learned from Phil.  He taught me who he was, what he needed and wanted.  At times, I learned these through his expressions and by observing what he was reluctant to pursue or explore.  Phil taught me how to teach him.  His being expanded my awareness.  I was his teacher and I was his student.  He was my teacher and he was my student.  The relationship was one of reciprocal reverence and respect.

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.
  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People/pupils, just as Phil did teach me who they are.  Phil, as all persons/students, shows and tells me how they learn.  They, we all offer what we think, how we feel, and what interests us.  If only others, or I, as a teacher, as a student choose to be sensitive to what those in my life, in my classroom, are teaching me.  I will learn.  I believe that everyone does learn; every one does teach.  My students and I can learn and teach if I, if we choose to. 

Here I am including a summary of my personal philosophy and pedagogy.  Please consider this.  Please know and trust that if you would want to discuss this I am open to the opportunity.  I ask that we advance our pupils not only from grade to grade; I ask that we advance their passionate pursuit of personal growth.

My Attitude and Approach to Teaching is to Appreciate and be Aware.
Experience teaches me that when we Believe and Trust that Learning is Effortless and Pleasurable.  It Is!

  • Knowledge is power, I believe that knowing is empowering!
  • Without a belief in oneself, school can be an overwhelming challenge. 
  • When we believe in our ability, our goals increase.
  • Discuss awareness for all that we are, and all that surrounds us, offer the why, where, what, how, and when! 
  • Build awareness of interrelationships between the course of study and all other subjects. 
  • Assist pupils in realizing that all is relevant to their personal interests. 
  • The reward of teaching is assisting others to be aware, share, and grow.

    Intrinsic Motivation is invigorating!

  • When learning is intrinsically motivated, the rewards are deeper and lasting. 
  • External rewards, extrinsic motivation, may assist in the appearance of learning; often the depth is short term. 
  • Production is greater when it is personally gratifying.
  • Experiences effect what we expect.
  • When educators empathetically create affirming experiences, students will believe learning is pleasurable!

    My Idea of Ideal and The Intention Behind a Desire to Educate is . . .

  • Schools and teachers providing the knowledge necessary for students to gain greater understandings.
  • Students and teachers continually learning how to complete desired tasks, as though they are labors of love. 
  • Instructors finding ways to assist students in developing a sense of personal satisfaction.
  • Educators choosing to provide the affirming attention they too crave. 
  • Learning being personally relevant for the students otherwise studying is uninteresting and burdensome. 
  • Students can realize that information is there for the asking and the taking if educators share the substance.
  • Instructors informing and showing students how easy it is and joyous it is to retrieve volumes of guidance. 
  • Learning is an excellent experience . . . “when we know better, we do better!” states Maya Angelou
  • Students able to believe they can learn anything they choose to, trusting that others believe in them.

    A Style of Caring and Sharing is Strength.

  • Maintain a strong belief in students!  Build a strong reciprocal relationship between students and self.
  • Build trust.  Self-respect coupled with reverence for others serves learning and achievements.
  • Know, Honor, Act on the knowledge that learning is a process acquired through reflections and sharing.
  • Offer extensive responses, open opportunities for exchanging ideas.  Revisions are part of the process.
  • Remain flexible, open, and available, exchanging ideas, respecting, listening, learning, and collaborating.
  • Accept that growth is not simple; it occurs over time, not in a lesson [s], nor is it evident in a test.
  • Discuss and Promote Awareness of the students.  Be sensitive to the individual Learning Style and person.
  • Endeavor to reach the visual, audio, kinesthetic learners effectively, while focusing on human interaction.
  • Discuss reasoning and expectations for each lesson.
  • Encourage students to express their position.  Listen and exchange. 
  • Create an encouraging environment for investigating and internalizing information.  Believe!
  • Share students’ successes with others, fellow students, fellow teachers, parents, staff, and community.

    Role as a Teacher

  • Teacher/student must develop and maintain a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
  • Structure learning/studying so that it is interesting and enjoyable.
  • Teacher is a tool, collaborating, assisting in the development of students’ securing self-worth.
  • Recognize the students [who they are as individuals, how they learn, and their work.]
  • Be consistent!  Consistency is the key to effective teaching.
  • Be patient, progress is a process!
  • Engage, Encourage, and Empathize!  Empathy is the best educator!
  • Enjoy the growth, energy, and greater growth!

    “To teach is to learn twice.”
      ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

  • Teachers Work For Salaries or Students


    Taylor Mali on what teachers make. YouTube.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    You have heard it said, perhaps you uttered the statements.  “I want to be a teacher and work only ten months a year.”  “I want a career that allows me to leave the “office” at 3 in the afternoon.”  “Those that can do; those that cannot teach.”  Some think, the job of an educator is a simple task.  There are no challenges.  The time spent on campus is short and sweet.  Yet, studies show that individuals are leaving the profession in mass.  According to the Washington Post half of new teachers quit within five years. 

    Educators flee from a profession they once thought prized.  This has been the trend for quite some time.

    Jessica Jentis fit the profile of a typical American teacher: She was white, held a master’s degree and quit 2 1/2 years after starting her career.

    According to a new study from the National Education Association, a teachers union, half of new U.S. teachers are likely to quit within the first five years because of poor working conditions and low salaries.

    Jentis, now a stay-at-home mother of three, says that she could not make enough money teaching in Manhattan to pay for her student loans and that dealing with the school bureaucracy was too difficult.

    “The kids were wonderful to be with, but the stress of everything that went with it and the low pay did not make it hard to leave,” she said. “It’s sad because you see a lot of the teachers that are young and gung-ho are ready to leave.”

    The proportion of new teachers who leave the profession has hovered around 50 percent for decades, said Barry A. Farber, a professor of education and psychology at Columbia University in New York.

    Nevertheless, the misnomers surrounding this vocation continue to circulate.  Life is bliss when you work to help children learn.  Perhaps that is why teachers work as hard as they do.  They know they will not be fully financially compensated for doing as they routinely do.  Yet, their actions and the results of these are extremely rewarding.

    Recently, Education Week published Teachers’ Workday Is Difficult to Pin Down.  This exposé discusses the dynamics of the teaching profession, from hours paid to hours worked.  Recently, a report , still in its preliminary stages revealed that teachers work, on average 15 ½ hours a day.  In an article published in the The Honolulu Advertiser teachers share their perspectives.

    Dawn Kodama-Nii, a third-grade teacher at Wilson Elementary, called the study “pretty accurate,” at least in describing the amount of extra time she and her colleagues work.

    She arrives at school by 7 a.m. to prepare lesson plans and get her classroom ready. She leaves at around 5 p.m., taking work home. Nearly every Sunday she puts in another seven-hour day.

    “We put in so many hours,” said Kodama-Nii, who is married with a 2-year-old daughter. “As a teacher, your job is never done.”

    But Sylvia Koo, a veteran math teacher at Farrington High who works an average of 10 hours a day, said it’s not the quantity but the quality of hours that should matter more.

    “We do work more than our seven-hour day, but I don’t work 15 1/2 hours every day,” said Koo, who also advises the school’s math team and teaches math in an adult education class twice a week. “The fact that some teachers go home at 3 p.m., though, doesn’t make them bad teachers.”

    Nor does it make them a teacher, “absent without official leave.”  Educators take their work with them wherever they go.  Most instructors cannot and do not leave their work at the “office.”  In my own life, once I exited the school building, my day was not done.  I graded papers while dining.  I wrote plans beginning in the late afternoon.  I was working and reworking into early evening.  Before I realized it, the day began again and I had yet to go to sleep.  Rest seemed less essential than preparing for my classes.  On most mornings, while in the shower, I would think of a better way to present the material. I would quickly make changes.

    I drove back to the school building and waited in line to use the copy machine.  Well, I could have stood still and chatted; however, other arrangements needed my attention.  Students scurried in before the bell, hoping to speak with me.  There were parents to call, electronic mails to file through, paperwork to complete, and of course meetings.  Weekends were slightly different.  There was time to look for resources and materials.  These could help me motivate minds individually.  In truth, I must excite each pupil personally if they are to truly learn.

    My story is not unique.  Teachers throughout the world could tell the same or similar tales.  Nevertheless,  those not driven to the teaching profession think this scenario is overstated, unreal, or simply not credible..  Individuals quarreled over the findings in this recent report.

    An Advertiser editorial said that the 15½-hour workday “defies logic,” and added that the newspaper’s reporter should have spoken with someone outside the committee who could have brought perspective to the matter.

    But the debate in Hawaii throws up a question with as many answers, it appears, as there are education interests: How many hours does the average teacher clock in?

    Further complicating the issue is the fact that teachers work a calendar different from that of other professions-usually around 38 weeks a year.

    Based on the shorter work year, some researchers have argued that teachers are on a par with other professions in pay for actual hours worked. A controversial report that came out earlier this year from researchers Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters of the New York City-based Manhattan Institute computed hourly wages for teachers using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find that, on average, they earn more than economists, registered nurses, and architects, among others. In fact, it said, the average public school teacher was paid 36 percent more than the average white-collar worker in 2005.

    While I, and many studies dispute this claim, I think it is vital that we look at what goes on in the classroom. On average, a single class may have twenty to forty students.  Each pupil has his or her own history and manner of working, coping, or relating to information and instruction.  These may not be complimentary.

    The stress on a student or a teacher takes a toll.  While most educators feels connected to the scholars in their space and to the curriculum, troubling matters amass.  Frequently, a teacher is frustrated.  They feel they have little time to teach.  Discipline is a dilemma.  Class size does not always lend itself to effective instruction.  Efficacy is reduced.  Sadly, educators no longer believe that they can facilitate growth.  We have all heard the phrase, “teacher burn-out.” Frequently, educators, as people in all professions expect much of themselves.

    We all see parents unable to “control” the crying of a lone child.  Perhaps, we are the forlorn mother or father embarrassed when our offspring runs rampant up and down store isles.  Imagine, being an instructor, trying to stimulate a class full of students, each with their own individual interests, while maintaining a constructive classroom demeanor.

    The ability to control students in a classroom is a critical factor in any educational setting.  After all,  if teachers do not react adequately to students  when their behavior is disruptive, instruction suffers.  Teachers who distrust their ability  to maintain classroom order cannot avoid this key  factor of the job.  Day in, day out, they must  continue to instruct students in order to reach educational goals.

    Teachers who have no confidence in their classroom management abilities are confronted by their incompetence every day, while  at the same time understanding how important that competence is if they are to perform well and  achieve the educational goals.  Furthermore, they are likely to know that their colleagues routinely  succeed in obtaining a comfortable classroom environment (Metz, 1978). 

    Teachers who (1) distrust their classroom management abilities under standard job conditions  and (2) understand the importance of that competence, (3) cannot avoid the management tasks if they  are to reach the educational goals, and (4) are informed that colleagues routinely obtain a comfortable learning environment, can easily suffer  stress, exhaustion, and negative attitudes (Davies  & Yates, 1982; Usaf & Kavanagh, 1990).

    Several  studies demonstrate that doubts about self-efficacy can in themselves trigger the burnout process.  Chwalisz, Altmaier, and Russell (1992) found that  teachers who score low in self-efficacy reported a higher degree of burnout than their counterparts who score high in self-efficacy.

    Greenglass and  Burke (1988) conclude that doubts about self-efficacy contributed significantly to the development  of burnout among male teachers.  The more specific  relationship between teachers’ perceived self-efficacy in classroom management and burnout has  been investigated as well.  Friedman and Farber  (1992) found that teachers who considered themselves less competent in classroom management  and discipline reported a higher level of burnout  than their counterparts who have more confidence  in their competence in this regard.

    Sigh deeply and continue to assess the predicament of educators.  When the Manhattan Institute cited their conclusion, there was a clamor among educators.  Career professionals spoke not of the circumstances within the learning environment.  They addressed other concerns, those mandated by government.

    The study met with vehement opposition from teachers’ unions, which pointed out that it did not take into account additional hours that teachers put into their jobs outside the classroom.

    While school days have always been long, “there is a lot going on now in terms of the No Child Left Behind Act,” said Reg Weaver, the president of the 3.1 million-member National Education Association, referring to the mandates of the 5-year-old federal law.

    “There is a ton of paperwork that needs to be done in addition to other responsibilities, and teachers are trying to juggle the duties and responsibilities they have both in classroom and after school,” he added.

    We have heard that from many a teacher; yet few take the time to consider the truth of this statement.  Assumptions are made.  Instructors often have students grade their own, or a classmates work.  Yet, those methods for correcting are not always practical, possible, or pedagogically sound.  Humans crave attention and the admiration of those they perceive as experts.  When a pupil works diligently, and receives a score on a paper and no comments, they feel lost, devastated, and desirous of more.  If an academic is expected to excel they must have information to assist them.  Authentic achievement involves much nurturing.  It is challenging to stimulate learning within a large group.  Individuals want and need attention.

    Showing interest in each learner takes a lot of time.  The clock is ticking.  Twenty students, perhaps forty, five, six, or seven subjects to teach, this is the dilemma.  Journalist, Vaishalo Honawar, writes, this is a complicated question and the answer is equally complex.

    Across the political spectrum, experts tend to agree that many teachers put in hours well in excess of the seven-hour workday stipulated in most union contracts.

    According to Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, teachers work as hard as professionals in other fields, and then some.

    “Teachers work as many hours per week as other college graduates, ? or at least women teachers work as much as or more than women college graduates in other professions, while male teachers work slightly less than male graduates in other professions,” said Mr. Mishel, whose board of directors includes labor-union officials.

    “I think it’s a mistake for people to think teachers only work their contracted hours,” said Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a conservative-leaning advocacy, and policy group in Washington. It is “difficult and almost impossible” for teachers to get all their work, including preparation for class, done within the hours stipulated in the contract, she added.

    Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledges that there is more to the question of teacher work hours than hard facts. In its latest annual survey on worker compensation, released last August, the bureau found that elementary teachers worked 36.5 hours a week, while secondary school teachers worked 36.9 hours. Special education teachers worked 35.4 hours.

    But the bureau also says, in its Occupational Outlook Handbook, that after including school duties performed outside the classroom, many teachers work more than 40 hours a week.

    Teachers’ unions, meanwhile, have their own figures. According to Mr. Weaver, the average teacher spends 50 hours a week on instructional duties, and 12 more hours on non-instructional tasks, such as grading papers, advising students, and serving on bus duty.

    Those responsibilities, in essence, stretch the workday of an average teacher to more than 12 hours-almost twice what is stated in most contracts.

    Yet, many quibble.  Among the economists and researchers, remarks are made.  Michael Podgursky, an Economics Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison quipped, “People always think they’re working. But if I’m on a treadmill thinking about work, does that count as work?”  Nevertheless, in Hawaii there may be some hope for overworked and underpaid teaching professionals.  It seems the Time Committee cares.  Will parents, Principals, School Boards, and Districts?

    $63,000 More?
    In Hawaii, the Time Committee was set up in 2005 as a result of a collective bargaining agreement between the school board and the union. (Hawaii has a single, statewide school district.) It was in response to teachers’ concerns of spending many extra hours on the job, said Joan Lee Husted, the executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

    “Our teachers have been complaining that with NCLB and with standards-based education, they have been doing more testing, more paperwork, and more committee meetings than they are preparing for delivering instruction,” she said.

    The preliminary report found that teachers spend 1,780 additional hours a year, or 254 additional seven-hour workdays, on noninstructional duties that include creating lesson plans, grading tests, counseling individual students, and communicating with parents, among many other tasks. If teachers were compensated for the additional work at the average daily rate of pay, the report says, it would cost $63,000 more per teacher per year.

    Meanwhile, the NEA’s Mr. Weaver said a teacher working for 15 hours does not sound, to him, beyond the realm of possibility.

    For most teachers, he said, a 12-hour workday is common.

    “Teachers are always engaged with the children and the community,” Mr. Weaver said. “We spend a lot of time working.”

    Perchance an additional $63,000 per teacher is ah, but a dream.  Nonetheless, in a time when American students are falling behind, we as a nation might consider that investing in education and educators benefits society as a whole.  Schools are not meant to serve as storage spaces for children, while parents go off and play or make money to pay the bills.  Our educational institutions are the foundation for our future.

    A Teachers Work and Wages . . .

  • pdf Teachers’ Workday Is Difficult to Pin Down, By Vaishali Honawar.  Education Week. April 18, 2007
  • Teacher’s day ends long after bell, By Catherine E. Toth. Advertiser Urban Honolulu Sunday, March 4, 2007
  • How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid? By Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters.  The Manhattan Institute
  • The National Compensation Survey (NCS) U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, Working Conditions, Low Salaries Cited. By Lisa Lambert. Reuters.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, May 9, 2006; A07
  • pdf Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, Working Conditions, Low Salaries Cited. By Lisa Lambert. Reuters.  Washington Post. Tuesday, May 9, 2006; A07
  • Insights Into Why U.S. Students Lag Behind in Global Academic ‘Horse Race,’ By Edward B. Fiske. International Herald Tribune. Tuesday, February 11, 1997
  • Virginia Tech School Shooting. Once Again, Why?


    Footage of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16th, 2007

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It happened again.  This time it was bigger and bolder than all the times in the past.  At present, this was the worst massive gun massacre on a campus, in a community, since the inception of this country, unless you consider the numerous deaths that occur during war.  In combat, a single shooter or a pair of gun totters can destroy many lives.  Few are any the wiser.  American soil has seen many a battle throughout its short history.  Nevertheless, in recent times violent clashes, in quiet neighborhood are more abundant.  Today’s carnage is the most recent example.

    At least 33 people were killed today on the campus of Virginia Tech in what appears to be the deadliest shooting rampage in American history, according to federal law-enforcement officials.  Many of the victims were students shot in a dorm and a classroom building.

    The investigation continues.  For now, details are scant.  The shooter or gunman is deceased, assuming there was only one.  The armed man took his own life.  He was not carrying any identification.  Until families of the deceased are notified, names will not be released.  The circumstances were horrific.

    Sidewalks throughout the campus are stained with blood.  Everyone asks why.  Some thirty lives were lost needlessly.  The nation mourns.  Journalist, students, parents, and administrators question the police in depth and detail.  Earlier decisions are being scrutinized.  Could law officers have prevented the second and more extreme bloodbath.

    There were two separate shootings on the campus in Blacksburg, Va., the first at around 7:15 a.m., when two people were shot and killed at a dormitory.  More than two hours later, 31 others, including the gunman, were shot and killed across campus in a classroom building, where some of the doors had been chained.  Victims were found in different locations around the building.

    The first attack started as students were getting ready for classes or were on their way there.  The university did not evacuate the campus or notify students of that attack until several hours later.

    As the rampage unfolded, details emerged from witnesses describing a gunman going room to room in the residence hall, the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, and of gunfire later at Norris Hall, a science and engineering classroom building.

    I know not why this particular incident occurred; nor do I think this is the question we need to be asking.  Again, as I have stated in the past, for me, we must wonder about a society that nurture violence and brutality.  I inquire; what do we breed into our children, our adolescents, and adults?

    For decades, entertainment in America has been snide, rude, crude, and violent.  Shock-jocks fill the airwaves with racist, misogynistic slurs.  Rappers flood television and computer screens with denigrating images.  Movie pictures are gory.  Life on the streets is more gruesome.  Then there is the trauma and drama in our homes.  People yell; they scream, they slam and damn.

    We as a civilization might wonder why the gunman or shooters at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University did as they did.  Together we can ponder whether the police thought little of the initial domestic dispute.  Nevertheless, I believe, until we think about what occurs daily in our homes, or on our streets, nothing will change. 

    I propose that we contemplate why we as a country are so willing to enter into a war with other nations or other persons.  People in America are angry.  Our countrymen lash out.  Americans are not trained to talk with their friends, families, neighbors, or adjacent countries.  Until we consciously work to solve stresses calmly, through conversation, scenes such as this will continue.

    Again, I present an article written months ago, after other school shootings.  Then, simple solutions were postulated.  I penned my thoughts.  School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators? Aiding and abetting educators, airline pilots, police, campus cops, or citizens will not deter the crime.  The crisis will not end if everyone carries a gun.

    Blaming adults for their inaction or decisions during a single event will not prevent the next attack.  You might recall, another incident that occurred less than a year ago.  A young girl was assaulted and the community expressed concern asking of her elders.  I wrote, Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere!

    Please, I plead; let us all ask ourselves what is causing such crimes, such chaos.  I beg; please do not blame others.  Ask yourself, how does my silence or my screaming contribute to what comes.  Remember, no man is an island.  We are each involved with mankind.  Our neighbor is as we are.  If he is in pain, we will be hurt.

    “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume;
    when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book,
    but translated into a better language;
    and every chapter must be so translated . . .
    As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon,
    calls not upon the preacher only,
    but upon the congregation to come:
    so this bell calls us all:
    but how much more me,
    who am brought so near the door by this sickness . . .
    No man is an island, entire of itself . . .
    any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind;
    and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    it tolls for thee.”

    ~ John Donne

    Shooting and Sources . . .

  • Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • pdf Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?  By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. October 8, 2006
  • Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere! By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org. May 11, 2006
  • John Donne.  Meditation XVII.  No Man is an Island.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University  The New York Times.