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Why we need to keep arts in the schools

I recently attended my granddaughter’s spring orchestra concert and was amazed at the progress of the young middle school and high school students. The program featured the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, who each played three or four selection, in the first half and the high school students in the second half. By presenting the show in this manner we were able to see the gradual increased proficiency of each grade.

Even the sixth graders had progressed far beyond the basic Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which they performed at their first concert in February. One of their selections included the Can Can by Offenbach. The seventh grade performed Brandenburg Concerto #5 by Bach and the eighth grade did a complicated number titled Variations on a Sea Chanty by Richard Stephan. All selections were performed with precision and I didn’t hear a single squeak or squeal from the strings and all students played in unison under their teacher’s direction. The high school’s performance was flawless and I thought I was listening to a professional production.

The arts are delegated to a second class position

As I watched the performance I couldn’t help but think how sad it is that school districts now feel the need to delegate music and other art programs to a second class position. True, our students need to know the basics in math and science but the arts can add so much more depth to our lives. The students who performed that night thoroughly enjoyed their experience and the audience showed its appreciation by cheering loudly. The other classes showed the same enthusiasm for their fellow performers that you might find at an athletic event.

What music taught the students

I realized those students had learned more than just the basic notes and how to play their instruments. They learned team work by listening and blending their instrument with the others. They learned discipline by watching the director and reacting to her cues. They learned self-confidence by being able to walk onto a stage without passing out. They learned to appreciate other types of music. And, they learned that all types of moods and emotions can be expressed through music from light and lively Bees a Boppin or the Can Can, or the silliness of Adam’s Family Theme to darker moods of Dark Catacombs by O’Laughlin.

I must compliment their teacher, Linda Stieg, who has obviously spent many, many hours working with these young people to bring out the best in them. She told the audience how she has stressed with the students the need for dedication, hard work, and setting goals. These are also tools which will help them in the future.

Music speaks when words fail

I sat there pondering how best to express the thoughts and joy of the evening when I saw a young musician walk by with a bumper sticker attached to his cello case that said Music speaks…when words fail. That sums it up perfectly.

Thank a music teacher

With all these positive elements how can the school systems justify eliminating the arts? A young person needs to experience many different areas in order to grow into a well-rounded individual. Work in the basics is important but they also need to develop their bodies, mind and soul with activities in athletics and the arts added to the core subjects. The next time you sit down to listen to your favorite music be sure to thank a music teacher.

Governor Kasich, we want a new bus driver

 

The Battle over Issue 2 Continues

The showdown over Issue 2 (formerly SB 5) will take place in a few days and the financial security and rights of many of those who are the backbone of our society are at stake. At the beginning of Kasich’s term he declared that if the people of Ohio weren’t on his bus then the bus would run over them. W-e-l-l-l-l-l, not so fast my friend.

How Issue 2 affects teachers

This bill affects state workers, teachers, nurses, police, and firefighters. It is a union busting bill disguised as a tool to balance the budget; but, what it really does is it tramples on the rights and working conditions of many people and sets them back decades. I have never been a union person myself nor have I been loyal to any particular political party and don’t believe in voting a straight ticket. So why am I so passionate to see this legislation defeated?

I first became aware of the issues when it was SB 5.  I objected to the bill for many reasons but as a former teacher I am offended that the  bill severally hinders teachers’ abilities to work effectively in the classroom by:

  • ·         ending work rules as a topic of collective bargaining, such as length of school day, building assignments, class size, etc.
  • ·         eliminating the ability to strike
  • ·         allowing a school board to implement its own last offer in order to end a bargaining impasse
  • ·         allowing a school board to terminate, modify or renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement if it faces significant fiscal problems
  • ·         a shift to merit-based pay
  • ·         the end of tenure

The bill includes many other offensive issues but these are the ones specifically targeting teachers. In addition, during the debates over SB 5 in the spring it was reported that Kasich proposed giving teachers bonuses of $50 for every student who shows more than a year’s worth of improvement based on existing state measurements. Translated that means that teachers will receive $50 for every student achieving a certain score on state achievement tests. This merely opens Pandora’s Box for teaching solely to the test and cheating and manipulating test scores (remember the latest scandal in Atlanta where teachers and administrators did just that?).

Jennifer Walker, an English teacher at Youngstown’s East High and the 2009 Teacher of the Year, said teachers at inner-city schools should not be rewarded based on the same metric applied to suburban teachers. “We are teachers whose students live in poverty, who hear gunshots on their streets at night,” Walker said. “I feel like teachers are a scapegoat. Schools are not to blame for the problem, we just mirror society’s problems.”

A school system cannot be compared to a corporation

As I said in Teachers Get No Respect, March 26, 2011, a school system cannot be compared to a corporation. There is no product to sell or manufacture except education. A profit and loss statement cannot be produced on this commodity because it is so nebulous. As a teacher, one of the most frustrating aspects of the job for me was that I never knew whether or not I was reaching my students. They might pass my tests but did they really learn the material and, more importantly, were they learning to open their minds and think for themselves? There were no measuring devices for immediate gratification.

Sometimes one had to wait for years before finding an answer. As an example, I once had a student in my class who I thought was under-performing. I called on her frequently in class, not to embarrass her but to delve into her mind. I knew she was smart enough to  handle the material. We were often at odds because she resented my attention. One day she burst out in class, called me a name that rhymes with witch, and stormed out of the classroom. I was shocked but never gave up on her.

Several years later I had quit teaching and one day I heard a knock on the door. There stood that student. She said she had to come to me and apologize and thank me for believing in her. She had had an adventurous life since graduating from high school including living on a kibbutz in Israel; however, she went on with her education and continued to learn and expand her universe. Yes! That is the confirmation I needed to know that I had gotten through to her even though you would never know it when she was in my class. She said I was the only one who had ever believed in her and challenged her and she didn’t know how to respond. Would she have passed mandatory state tests at the time? No one knows. But, the important fact to me is that I had been successful in planting the seed to learn. Nothing can ever top the feeling of knowing I had finally reached her—not even Kasich’s $50.

That, dear friends, is something that will never show up on a test and cannot be measured. That experience is priceless. Most teachers aren’t concerned with merit pay they just want to do the job they love without restrictions and endless regulations and testing. They are there to guide, counsel, and gently open the minds of young people. Their greatest reward is to see their students go on to live fruitful and meaningful lives.

Respect the teachers

The teachers have been strangely quiet on the debates over Issue 2. That is probably because school began in the fall when the political machinery was gearing up. They were more interested in getting a good beginning to the school year than fighting over their own personal and political concerns. That is as it should be, it is called dedication to the profession. We, the public, expect no less from the ones to whom we entrust our precious children.

That is why I am appointing myself as the spokesperson for the teachers in the fight over Issue 2. They have important business to attend to in the classroom. I have completed my time in the classroom and have also served as a lobbyist for the arts in education and am now lobbying for your support for the teachers. Show your respect for the job they do. Don’t take away their few rights they fought so long and hard for. Give them the freedom and security to do their jobs without encumbering them with countless tests, paperwork, overcrowded classes, extended school days, loss of tenure, and more.

Vote NO on Issue 2. Show the teachers the respect they deserve.

The Fracking Song

To learn more about fracking click on the link below to see one of the funniest and most educational videos about fracking. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, I couldn’t explain fracking any better if I wrote a thousand pages. See My Water’s On Fire Tonight or The Fracking Song.

BREAKING NEWS: GOVERNOR, LEGISLATORS AGREE TO TEACH IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The front crossview mirror of a school bus; it...

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In light of the recent controversy regarding teachers and SB 5, governor Kasich and many legislators have agreed to teach in public schools for the next grading period.

They agreed to remain in the classrooms the entire grading period stating, “How hard can it be?” They continued that they look forward to the comfort of leaving work at three o’clock daily so they can catch up on much needed sleep and workout time. When reminded they would have to prepare lesson plans, grade papers, and arrange graphic presentations they said they would refer these duties to their able aides. When reminded they would have no aides or secretaries for paper work and classroom presentations, governor Kasich replied, “Then I will just talk to them all day as I have done on the campaign trail and at Fox News.”

In addition, governor Kasich agreed to take on the extra duty of driving a school bus. Referring to his recent comments that he is driving the bus and you are either on it or you will be run over, Kasich pointed to his excellent driving record. He stated that he drove SB 5 over bumpy roads to adoption and feels navigating a school bus will be no different. When asked about his confrontation with a state highway patrol officer regarding a traffic violation, Kasich stated he felt certain that incident did not disqualify him from driving a bus. As governor he would see to it there were no obstacles ahead.

Many legislators also felt confident and felt no special education or preparation would be necessary for the upcoming task. One lawmaker was overheard to say he spent 12 years in a public classroom and felt he knew all he needed to know about teaching.

A spokesman for the teachers stated, “We are looking forward to an extended spring break. Many of us will be seeking new employment or taking on a second job.” One student commented she was looking forward to the change. “The teachers are wise to our tricks so now we get to educate a whole bunch of newbies.”

An interested parent commented she was looking forward to the experiment. Referring to talk of parents taking over failing schools she said, “I feel certain my son’s school will be in the failing group and then I can take over the system myself. I look forward to seeing that my son has all the additional help he needs, regardless of the other students’ needs. My son is the one who counts,” she said.

When asked about the significance of announcing this plan on April first, Kasich said he saw no correlation between the timing of the announcement and April Fools Day.

I STIRRED UP A HORNET’S NEST

My last blog, Teachers Get No Respect, created a big response. It seems all you have to do is mention “teachers” and “Senate Bill 5” in the same breath and people automatically bristle. There are strong feelings both for and against. I have received e-mails and been part of several discussions since posting that blog entry.

 What I find so interesting is nowhere did I take a stand for or against unions, yet, in all discussions people automatically assume I am pro union since I am defending teachers. My point is teachers have a very hard job and deserve the respect to have their voices heard. As I stated previously, the teachers are not the bad guys, however people tend to put them in the same category as bratty kids who need to be punished. Teachers are the first to recognize we have problems in the educational system and they are very willing to help find answers. However, people are too quick to place blame and look for retribution rather than answers.

I have the unique perspective of being able to look at this problem from both the educational and business point of view. And these are two completely different worlds! I must say, in some respects, the teachers bring some of this on themselves in that many don’t dress and act as professionals. Casual dress, jeans, flip-flops, etc. may be comfortable in the classroom but are not appropriate when working within the business world. Showing up at the statehouse wearing T-shirts with messages may have worked on college campuses but this only perpetuates the perception of teachers being less than professional. Like it or not, society judges people on their appearance.

Here are a few comments sent to me by some with experiences in the classroom or associated with teachers:

From Linda      “…it just sickens me, what the republicans/Kasich are doing. In fact, I went down to two of the rallies at the statehouse, (my daughter) wanted me to go, she couldn’t be here herself. She’s a speech therapist in a school district in the Akron area….”

From Kathie    “loved your blog—right on!!!!! I challenge everyone who criticizes teachers to teach for one marking period—not a day—but a unit with plans, activities, assessments, etc. Then tell us how truthful “those who can do, do. Those who can’t, teach”….if you asked me to define myself, I’d tell you “teacher”—even before “mother” because all mothers are teachers.”

From Jerry       “overall I think you’ve laid out a pretty good argument from the teacher’s side of the question. I’ll have to say that I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but…I tend to look for a larger view of things. Maybe the problems aren’t so much SB 5 but much deeper. From my perspective there is really NO direct relationship between “teaching and learning.” I mean, teachers teach, and students learn and it doesn’t necessarily happen that “if teachers teach”, “students learn”. That, for me, sums up the whole question of what actually happens in classrooms…we have achieved two outcomes…neither of which we necessarily started with…1)provided employment for a huge number of people; teachers, janitors, administrators, etc. and 2) provided babysitting services for little Johnny and Suzie. Likely folks will reel at hearing this…and especially from one who defends “education” to the bitter end.

From my background, and that does include 25 full years in a classroom, the whole enterprise needs to be examined….in this case politicians are picking the “low hanging” fruit once again…I think they suffer from a similar problem as do the rest of us…”they haven’t a clue”…I suspect that this little issue you have spoken about will only lead to divide us further and eventually to armed conflict in this wonderful society we have created…there are multitudes of problems all relating to this and solutions can’t be found by taking swipes at each by writing a few paragraphs…

Oh let me add these thoughts:

1.      I don’t think teachers are overpaid (even though I would have done it for less)

2.      I do not know where to begin to balance income and outgo for the State Government

3.      I do not think that cutting education budgets are necessarily the problem

4.      If nothing else perhaps the new Gov. will help us focus on the “real” problem (whatever it is)

5.      I do not support labor unions in the “education” arena (especially the way it works today)

6.      Many times OEA and FTA tried to organize our school, I always fought against it. (for the most part those in favor of a union were those who couldn’t find employment outside a school, those who taught occupational skills were opposed)…that might give a clue as who supports unions in education.

I started this debate by asking that we give teachers some respect. We have serious problems in the educational system and nothing good will be achieved with each side trying to outshout the other. It seems Jerry summed up the debate with #4—if nothing else perhaps the new Gov. will help us focus on the “real” problem (whatever it is.) Let us hope something good will come from all this chaos and vindictiveness.