Education Week - March 30, 2016 - (Page 21)

limits our definition-as well as our experience-of happiness. He gives an example: A mountain climber scaling a cliff may not like her cramped muscles, but she feels a satisfaction that transcends liking. I may not like my brain turning into a papier-mâché pulp after teaching, but I feel satisfied when I teach well. So, the next time a student says, "I hate school," I'll agree. I hate school the way the writer hates working on a complicated plot for three hours, or the way the athlete hates getting up at 4 a.m. to run 10 miles. But when my students and I struggle through a long essay and find the perfect words to express ourselves, we feel accomplished in a way that is greater than painless joys. We feel gratified in a way that transcends "like" and "hate." "Great speech, Mr. O," I can hear that student say. "But you didn't say anything about why we go to school or why you teach." I imagine the entire class leaning in as I stare back and wish a greater purpose would fly through the window. I would tell my students that when we learn about the world, we grow. We better understand our lives and the lives of others. As we get a better sense of how things work, the world becomes a little less cloudy. We learn to become better people. " If we truly wanted to attract, retain, and support the best and brightest principals, we would focus on making their jobs more doable." and make even the principals of high-performing schools feel like targets. If, as seems likely, these trends continue, principals will need all the stress relief they can get. Sadly, they seem to be availing themselves of this less. State associations of principals and other professional organizations report that attendance at their conferences is declining. Principals feel too harried to take time away, to devote themselves to precisely what they need: renewal. Stress is almost always intensified by isolation, and almost always reduced by connection and support. This is especially true when one has little control over the sources of stress. Connection and support are not just niceties: They are life-sustaining and competence-enhancing. In Dublin, the Guinness, the socializing, and the singing weren't responses to Riley's findings, but they certainly made sense in light of those findings. So long as American principals remain under siege, they would do well to get their Irish on. n ROBERT EVANS, a psychologist and school consultant, is the executive director of the Human Relations Service in Wellesley, Mass. He can be reached at When I was in high school, my life was chaotic. My history teacher, Mr. Karpluk, would call my house in the morning to wake me up for school. When I arrived, he would walk me to the sports fields to ask how I was. He cared for me at a time when few people did. So I have another purpose: I want to be Mr. Karpluk for my students. I want them to feel like they matter, and I want them to remember that feeling. At the end of the day, I still feel like a used piñata, but my students can't fix that. I can't expect them to inspire me. Isn't it my job to inspire them? I try to do so 180 days a year, and it exhausts me. Although this may sound too simple, taking a walk is the best antidote. When a stack of papers sits on my desk, I walk out of my classroom and clear my thoughts of writing assignments and literary passages. I explore the parts of the school I rarely see: the music rooms where students sing, the woodshop where the smell of cut wood fills the hallway, the cacophonous cafeteria. I feel uplifted seeing my students in the world outside my classroom. I return energized and ready to teach-whether I like it or not. n PATRICK O'CONNOR is a high school English teacher in Massachusetts. He is a freelance journalist and a writer of fiction and poetry. Finding Joy in Teaching I By Jonathan Eckert teach to entertain myself. For the past 20 years, I have shared this key to quality instruction with elementary through college students. They all look at me like I am a bit egocentric and a little crazy. I don't think I am. My own entertainment is only one ingredient of the whole recipe for a productive learning environment. But if I am not enjoying teaching, student learning will suffer. If I am bored, burned out, or beaten down, it is highly unlikely that my students will engage in vibrant learning. This is true for assessment, content, and classroom management-the three cornerstones of quality instruction. One way to judge the quality of an assessment is: Do I want to grade it? If I get tired of assessing essays that try to persuade the principal to say no to school uniforms, I change the assessment. If I can't bear to read another policy memo about a particular topic, I change the syllabus. If I do not enjoy assessing the assignment, my students rarely enjoy completing it. The quality of the work suffers. What about teaching the same content day after day? I taught four sections of science to 7th graders for years. Photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and asexual reproduction were not what got me out of bed in the morning. The key for me was to focus on how 100 different individuals interacted with the concepts during the labs. Suddenly, asexual reproduction became fascinating when I heard students trying to make sense of it. "How can a potato get jiggy under the ground?" one student asked. Classroom management also has to remain fresh. I posted a magnetic Elvis Presley replete with an extensive wardrobe on the front board of my 5th grade classroom. If the class got too loud, I would remove, for example, Elvis' Hawaiian lei. This equaled one less minute of recess. A lei and the removal of his sunglasses equaled three fewer minutes, and so on. The students could earn these items back for quality work. At the end of the week, if Elvis was dressed like "the King," we had 15 minutes of recess. Eventually, I only had to take a couple steps toward Elvis to quiet the classroom. Admittedly, some of my techniques are a bit quirky, but that is the point. We should engage students in ways that we enjoy-a teacher's enjoyment is a precondition for student engagement. Teaching morale has declined over the past two decades. Promised K-12 improvements, meanwhile, have included increased rigor, more testing, and "teacher proofing" a narrowing curriculum. Many of these changes have taken the joy out of the classroom because teachers have lost control of what is taught, when it's taught, and how it's assessed. This situation should not come as a revelation to anyone who has stood in front of students recently. In the schools I visit across the country, I hear a common refrain: "Teaching isn't fun " Getty 4. I don't feel guilty about missing school for my own professional growth. 5. I take my full vacation and don't work during it. 6. Most weeks I receive at least one professional compliment. 7. Someone above me cares about my development. 8. Each day I get to do what I'm best at and care most about. The best score is 8-the worst, 40. As I ask the questions, uneasy laughter builds. As people total their results, which tend to cluster in the 30s, the room grows quiet. Invariably, some principals won't reveal their scores. Needless to say, this questionnaire is not scientific. Its purpose is to dramatize a point: The pressures and expectations placed on principals are increasingly untenable. If we truly wanted to attract, retain, and support the best and brightest principals, we would focus on making their jobs more doable. In this regard, the last two items in my questionnaire have a specific source. As Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education, has reported in these pages, voluminous research shows that the two key elements for success in work and life are "having someone who cares about your development and having an opportunity to do what you do best every day." This is especially true, he argues, for students and teachers-and, I would add, for principals. Rather than concentrate on correcting weaknesses, Busteed says, "the most successful people focus primarily on building on what they're naturally good at and turning those talents into strengths." This finding appears repeatedly in the management literature-and is just as repeatedly ignored by policymakers and regulators, who continue to foster initiative fatigue, fixate on deficits in schools' performance, dismiss the crucial impact of negative out-of-school influences on students, A teacher's enjoyment is a precondition for student engagement." anymore." This is a tragedy for all of us. The only way to build better learning environments is through trust. I still find classrooms where trust exists, but they are becoming increasingly rare. A fear of testing, failure, and loss of control is now the norm. We know that safe learning environments are essential for students, but they must first exist for teachers. School improvement has to start at the classroom level. The implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act could create more-supportive teaching conditions. States and districts could reconsider accountability policies that erode trust and support. Instead, they could support professional learning that promotes expertise and differentiated roles for teachers. However, our work is more human than many policymakers grasp. And so teachers and administrators must lead the way in prioritizing learning that embraces risk, inquiry, and hard work. Principals and teachers need to take back their schools, so teachers can take back their classrooms. Teachers and principals must be fearless. Teachers have to stop blaming others-principals, district offices, and departments of education-for what they "have to do" in their classrooms. Great teachers find what works for them and their students, and they run with it. They beg, borrow, and steal ideas and then make them their own. They find their own versions of a magnetic Elvis and take a risk. This is the only way to grow. Many veteran teachers repeat the following mantra to their students: "I am not here to entertain you." Maybe teachers should start telling themselves, "I am here to be entertained by my students' learning." If teachers find enjoyment in their students' learning and growth, they will never stop learning and growing themselves. n JONATHAN ECKERT is an associate professor of education at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of The Novice Advantage: Fearless Practice for Every Teacher (Corwin Press, 2016). EDUCATION WEEK | March 30, 2016 | | 21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 30, 2016

Education Week - March 30, 2016
State Boards Feel New Need To Flex Muscles
Distress Call Issued On K-12 Facilities
Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?
Sanders Gets Educators’ Attention Despite Limited Specifics on K-12
Table of Contents
DAVID GAMBERG: What Makes a School?
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting To Dissipate?
ACT’s New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
Home Schooling Gains Popularity With Military Families
Blogs of the Week
‘Teach to Lead’ Projects Face Uphill Climb at State Level
Hearing Weighs Student-Data Privacy Concerns
High Court Weighing Birth-Control Mandate
ESSA Rule Negotiators Grapple With Issues of Flexibility, Equity
ROBERT EVANS: Principals, Get Your Irish On
PATRICK O’CONNOR: Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching
JONATHAN ECKERT: Finding Joy in Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - March 30, 2016