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3 Ways to Help Teachers Flourish in the Classroom

Year after year, we see teachers striking around the country – West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and now Los Angeles, where tens of thousands walked out of the classroom to protest their large class sizes, low salaries, and lack of supporting staff. Right here in Florida, there continues to be a teacher shortage impacting the quality and effectiveness of education students are receiving in the classroom.

No one challenges the point that teachers should get paid more, but no one is willing to act to make it so, no one is willing to put the “money where the mouth is– not the national, state, and local representatives. Yet, we want all students to succeed, not one to be left behind. How can this be, when teachers themselves are constantly left behind with limited power to influence their own professional growth and economic security? What quality of education do you think students will get when teachers cannot pay the bills at home? When they have to work second jobs?

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So, teachers leave the field and too many classrooms have to settle for what they can get, a body in the classroom with hardly any experience on the subject, classroom management, lesson planning, and how students learn. On the national level, schools have lost over 100,000 teachers and supporting personnel while the number of students increased by over one million. Despite the lack of adequate compensation for what they do, teachers leave the classroom for other compounding reasons such as lack of personal growth opportunities, collaboration with other teachers, and the stressful classroom environment.

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For teachers to flourish in the classroom, these things have to be addressed:

  1. Treat them with dignity and show them respect – I do not know when the teaching profession gained the negative perception that it now has. Perhaps, it has to do with all the teacher strikes over the years or the recent public classroom videos on teacher and student conflicts. It might also be the myriad of school shootings that took the lives of many students, teachers, and staff. Why do people automatically feel sorry for and pity a person who is a teacher? “Bless your heart,” “You poor soul,” or “I would not want to be in your shoes.” These are some of the most common ways people respond to a teacher. To help teachers flourish in the classroom and in the teaching profession, they must be treated with dignity and respect. Their work is a worthy one and it should be treated as such.
  2. Give them opportunities to grow professionally – teacher growth and the education system seems to be a great paradox. The science, English, math, social study, music, art, business teacher should study at the highest level. Teachers should be experts in their fields and when they are compensated for their expertise, that would revolutionize the education system. The education system must encourage teachers to be experts in their respective fields to increase the quality of education that students are receiving. What we see in the classroom oftentimes, are teachers who do not study the subject they teach and may take years on their own, if they are motivated to be an effective teacher. To flourish, teachers must have opportunities not only to participate in formal education but also non-formal education such as teacher collaborations, workshops and subject-specific conferences.
  3. Provide them a positive work environment – a negative, stressful, and conflicting work environment are at the core of why teachers leave the classroom. Yes, teachers deserve to get paid as well any doctor, but the reason they leave the classroom is not usually about salary. They leave because students are disrespectful and the classroom is often a war zone that even the school administration does not have an answer for. They leave because they teach too many classes and must take work home daily if assignments are to be graded. They leave because teaching is a stressful job that affects one’s overall health and what happens at home after work. For teachers to flourish, schools must provide a positive environment that supports the work they are doing in the classroom

Paying teachers what they deserve would be a great start not only to keep the ones already in the classroom, but also to attract potentially great ones. There must also be opportunities for them to become better every day at what they do, alongside a positive work environment that supports them to help students succeed not only in the classroom, but also in their life experiences.

Do You Have a Growth Plan for Your Children?

This morning, my son and I had a heart-to-heart talk about the future.

As an eigth grader, he has a lot on his plate. He plays soccer for his middle school and the local competitive league. He made all-county, solo and ensemble program for playing trombone. He is a member of the National Junior Honor Society. All of these programs require after school practices. In addition, he is carrying a load of eight classes in which he is required to keep a “B” or better.

As a parent, I monitor all of these activities while keeping my eyes open for opportunities for his personal growth and development. One such opportunities is offered by his school district is the Cambridge program, where he can earn up to 45 college credits upon high school graduation. I was all over that opportunity and signed him up. This morning he had to get up at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday to go take the test.

We talked about why is it important to work on his future today instead of tomorrow. If he wants to have a successful future, he has to show up to class, work hard, and keep up his grades. He has to participate in school and community programs to help him become a well-rounded person. We talked about the stages, seasons of life, how being in grade school right now is an opportunity of a lifetime, which cannot present itself in the future. Therefore, he must learn what must be learned right now.

As my son and I stood in that line waiting for registration to start, I could not help noticing that the group was not a balanced one. Why wasn’t there a more diverse group of students testing for this free program? The Polk county school district is one of the poorest of the entire state. Was the information available to all parents? What measures were taken to ensure that all parents had access to this information?

Too many parents expect the school to do their jobs for them. As parents we have to remain informed about how we can prepare our children for the future. We must partner with our children, their schools, and the community to ensure that we are taking advantage of all opportunities to enhance their future. At this time, we should make it our business to know our children school websites like the back of our hands. The information, programs, and resources are available, but it is up to us to sign up, fill out the application, come of the informational meeting, follow through with the directions we are given.

I know too many students who graduate high school and have no clue what their next step is. If you are lucky to still have a student who still has time, get moving to make the most of it. Research technical schools, community colleges, and work opportunities with tuition reimbursement. You can start to help your children develop a growth plan at any time. Why not start now?

Happiness Habit 2: Be Teachable

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On any given day, I have an abundance of opportunities to learn new things in books, through people, and by listening to what’s going on around me.

I don’t know about you, but I never have enough time to learn everything that interest me. The opportunities are ubiquitous, so boredom is rarely an experience I entertain.

In this way I developed an attitude of learning. Just like I learned to do math, I can learn to be happy.

Happiness is something that we learn from our family, friends, and our environments. It is not something you achieve with certain status in life.

To change along with life we have to be teachable.

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Are you teachable?

Which one of the following will help you develop a teachable attitude?

To be teachable…

  1. Observe: Make the practice of observing the people around you. Watch their behaviors, how they speak to each other, the words they use, and their nonverbal behaviors. Sometimes you can learn more about a person just by watching their behavior. You can easily spot genuine happiness and unhappiness.
  2. Be Humble: Realize that you don’t know nearly as much you think you know. Be willing to listen to others. Ask the right questions and listen intentionally. The better you listen, the more you learn.
  3. Appreciate the people in your life: The more appreciation you show for the knowledge, tips, and experiences they share with you, the more encouraged they will be to pour more into you in terms of their time and resources.
  4. Be Available: How can anybody teach you anything if you always have something better to do? Schedule time in your schedule to be teachable, engage with others, and to practice being available to others.
  5. Reflect on learning: Take a bit of time in your schedule to think about the things you’ve learned, how you applied them to your life, the results you experiences in your life and business. Also consider who you learned from and how the learning took place. It might benefit you as well to think about who you would like to sit and talk to for your future learning. Consider how you can be more available to share your knowledge and experience with others.

Enjoy This Moment

For most of my life, I carried a future perspective. I wanted to get so many things done and achieve greatness. I was never where I needed to be and believed that I had much ground to make up. You see I had to do it for so many generations who came before me and did not get the chances and opportunities that I had. But it never seemed I could make up the time lost and opportunities. Therefore, I burden myself with unnecessary loads of responsibilities that were not my own alone to carry. As a result, my capacity to enjoy the moment has been compromised.

It never occurred to me that I was playing God during those many years of my life. Even though I was a Christian, I was not living a God centered life. I was trying to do it all on my own. I was trying to save people that only God could save. I was giving people things that I did not have. I took the responsibility to care for adults who should have taken care of me.

I remember in college, I worked two jobs while maintaining an 18-21 credit hours of course schedules. Although, God blessed me with a four-year scholarship, my main mission was to finish a degree and make the big bucks, so I can continue to pay bills at home and provide for a slew of family members back in my home country, Haiti. I finish my four-year degree in two and a half years. The truth is I got the degree but I did not enjoy my college experience.

These were more than moments I failed enjoy—that was my life. That is why I make it priority to enjoy the life God has given me now. Here are a few ways I enjoy my life:

  1. I make God a priority. I know that He is in control of my life and my household. I read and study the word by myself and with my family. Since I have small children, things can get challenging at times, but I work on meditating on God’s word every chance I get because I desperately need to survive the days. I enjoy praying and studying with the children; they are hungry to hear about God.
  2. I listen attentively to my husband’s stories. I know I read the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” In that book I learned that the women love to talk and tell the stories to their husbands. However, in my world my husband loves to tell me about the stories he experienced at work. I am the one who would rather put my feet up and watch the news while snacking on something delicious. It was not at all easy at first because there is always a child asking for something, dishes needing washing, or clothes needing folding. However, over time I have learned that it is important to him to tell me how his day went, so I learned to welcome his stories and have many great laughs in between.
  3. I play with my children. The children love tickle time. Although, they are seven, eight, and nine years old if I start tickling one; I have to tickle all of them. I have reading time with them where we each read a book and share stories. Often time they read to me and that is an activity we both enjoy. We play soccer together. My husband is a huge soccer fan and a very good soccer player. The kids love when we put our soccer gears on and play together. We also enjoy playing chess and they have a blast when mommy and daddy lose. In addition, I take every opportunity to snack or have a meal on the table together. Of course, we do not have time to do these activities every day but we make it a priority to do one or the other during long breaks and over the summer.

We become happy and enjoy our daily life when we choose to do so. It is guarantee that we will get bombarded with distractions attempting to still our happiness. But we don’t have to give in and be miserable. We can choose to be happy.