Failing Teachers

A fellow teacher recently told me that this was her last year teaching, I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not.  She isn't the first teacher who has told me she's done, honestly I've lost count of the amazing teachers who have left the classroom.  I'm not really sure that anyone ever notices.  When I asked this teacher to tell me why she was leaving, tears started to fill our eyes.  In fact, they're still flowing as I write this post.  She recounted what we all know.  The work load that we are assigned is never done.  We are compelled to earn endorsement after endorsement that we pay for.  We spend hours away from our families during our personal time to receive these endorsements and receive no pay for the time.  All of these requirements are taking us away from our students who need us.  These students are facing circumstances that you can't even imagine.  Divorce, child abuse, neglect, loss of loved ones, hunger, just to name a few.  This is happening in all of our schools, not just the ones that you see in the news.  We need to be there to help these children, but we are too stressed to think clearly.  To top it off, we have an evaluation system that tells us in no uncertain terms that we just can't do it all, EVER.  We are left feeling inadequate.  The extra hours and energy that we are spending in the classroom leave us in turmoil at home.  We can't keep up with all of the demands that are placed on us, so we are left feeling inadequate at home as well.  The message that teachers have received is "You are never good enough".

Bill and Melinda Gates honored my district with a $100 million grant (one-hundred-million-dollars).  They did this with the understanding that our district would match the grant money, that's $200 million dollars.  Their objective:  to improve student achievement by rethinking how best to support and motivate teachers to elevate their game during the adoption of the Common Core curriculum and beyond. (  This objective was translated in our district by hiring good teachers out of the classroom to become teacher evaluators.  Our evaluation system is pages and pages long evaluating us on every nuance that could ever happen in the classroom all in the span of a twenty minute lesson to an hour long lesson.  No part of the evaluation system in itself is evil, each area individually sounds reasonable.  I would even dare to say that you could meet all of the requirements in a lesson. We still have to ask what this system costs the student, teacher and administrators? It takes hours upon hours of time to prepare a lesson that would meet the accomplished and exemplary ratings.  These are the two acceptable ratings.  I keep reading that we are provided with more meaningful feedback at the conclusion of these lessons than prior to the new evaluation system.   I personally have not been given information that is more meaningful to me as a teacher than I was before the new system.  In fact, I have spent quite a bit less time with my administration because most of their time is spent doing half of our evaluations.  That's right, in my district we are double evaluated, by the peer evaluator and administrator.  There is no data that supports that this evaluation system is providing a higher quality education for our students.  In reality, the data shows that the students in elementary schools are fairing no better.  

My colleagues and I have seen something strange happen over the last year.  We thought that we had figured the whole evaluation system out.  We were receiving scores that made us proud, then all of a sudden part of the teacher's pay was going to be linked to the evaluation scores.  My teaching has improved according to the stakeholders that observe my classroom, but my scores are slipping. Areas where I had always received exemplary were now accomplished.  In some cases these scores were dropped even lower.  Evaluators were sent back for re-calibration (that means they had to fine tune the scores they were giving).  Now I certainly hope that we didn't recalibrate our evaluators so our teachers don't score beyond a means that we can pay them.  Surely I must be mistaken by correlating these two events, but I doubt it.

Teachers don't like talking about feeling inadequate.  We would prefer to quietly work away in our classrooms doing what is best for our students.  We certainly don't want people thinking that we are inept at our jobs.  These feelings keep teachers from talking to people outside of the classroom honestly about what is happening.  Please understand that teachers aren't well.  The reality is that at the very least they are stressed beyond a healthy means.  I personally cannot control my autoimmune disease because stress triggers my symptoms.  Some teachers have had nervous break downs, certified breakdowns as diagnosed by a psychiatrist.  Some have gone to their doctors and been prescribed medication for anxiety.  Others have increased unhealthy lifestyles to compensate for their stress.  Others are just leaving the classroom for a less abusive environment.  These are not rare cases.  I can no longer find a teacher in the classroom that enjoys teaching under these means.  Where is our union? Where are the sane people that should be supporting us? Possibly they are all on the "I Hate Common Core" bandwagon.  Too busy to notice what the real problem is because they are sheep believing everything that they read on Facebook.  

So how do we fix this mess that we are in? I'm personally going to focus on what's important in the classroom, my students.  When I leave the classroom, I'm going to focus on my family.  I'm going to rely more on my intuition of what is right, and less on what other people tell me.  I'm going to try really hard to care less about this ridiculous evaluation system.  We need to stand up for what's right and tell stakeholders "no" when they add more to our list.  I'm also pleading with everyone to rally together to help with a resolution to this problem.  Let's fix it together before it gets ugly.  If nothing changes and I have to choose, I choose my family.  It doesn't have to be that way though, we don't have to keep losing good teachers.  Stakeholders can fix this problem.  Get rid of this ridiculous evaluation system.  Spend the money on allowing mentors to come in the room and collaborate with the teachers, side by side in an environment that supports learning.  Stop adding to the teacher's list!  Let us focus on our lesson plans and students.  Allow administrators to walk into the classroom and determine if we are doing a good job with a simple checklist and an end of the year evaluation. Please stop over complicating classroom responsibilities and leave the teaching to the people who are most qualified- the teachers.

Florida Teacher Blogger Meeting Fall 2014

SeaWorld of Orlando was very gracious and welcoming this past weekend by offering a lovely venue for our meeting.  Their staff went above and beyond to take care of us.  This mother dolphin and her baby were just too cute for words!

Putting together a meeting for a large group takes a lot of work and coordination.  These lovely ladies were such a joy to work with.  They certainly took a challenging task and made it fun.  A HUGE thank you and hug goes out to each one of them.  From left to right:  Tammy from The Space Coast Teacher, Lisa from Learning Is Something To Treasure, Bridget from Hard Core Teacher Resources, Melissa from More Time 2 Teach, Mary from A Classroom Full of Smiles and me, Amy.

It was such as pleasure talking with this lovely group of women.  They have so much to offer the teaching world.  I just love catching up with them.  We were able to share different tips and techniques that we are implementing in our classrooms. It also nice spending time with people who really get your trials and tribulations.

Aside from talking about teaching tips, we also like seeing what teachers are buying for their classrooms and just for fun.  The following vendors were gracious enough to offer us a glimpse into their stores. introduced us to their Classroom Faces shirts.  These are adorable and super reasonable.  I was seriously shocked to see that they could print them this cheap for teachers!!! They will upload pictures that your students drew of themselves and put together a classroom t-shirt for you.  You can click on the t-shirts to see their store.

We also learned that Shutterfly has a company called Treat.  They can personalize all kinds of teacher swag.  They sent all of the teachers the cutest teacher mugs.  This is right up my alley since I'm a coffee-holic.  I know what I'll be giving my girl's teachers this year!!!! Speaking of treats, Blue Bird Bake Shop spoiled us with the most delicious cupcakes.  The icing in itself tasted like a dessert.

Paper Virgo had the most beautiful jewelry that they offered each one of the teachers who came to the meeting.  I was just blown away by their generosity.  The jewelry was exquisite.

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a Gator Girl.  I am very proud to say that I graduated from The University of Florida.  I cannot tell you how excited I was to win this hand-made bracelet from Bridget at Bridgeations on Etsy.  It is definitely my happy statement.

Planbook introduced us to their on line lesson planning.  It was most impressive to learn that the program automatically adjusts your lesson plans if you don't finish a lesson or have to reteach it.

I will leave you all with the view that I had at dinner with Meredith from Creativity To The Core, Elyse from A Is For Apples, Melissa from More Time 2 Teach and Mary from A Classroom Full Of Smiles.
Take care of yourself,

Classroom Conversations on The Primary Pack

Hey guys! I'm blogging all about classroom conversations over on The Primary Pack Blog.  I would just love it if you would go over there to read what I have to say.


$2 Tuesday

I'm teaming up with my Primary Peeps and Laura from A Grace Filled Classroom to offer you all a couple of deals and a sale in my store for one day only.

Did I mention that I am having a sale in my store for one day only?!!!!! That's right, I marked everything down.

Stop on by for my $2 specials.  These items are 2 of my best sellers.  Read the comments to see how much everyone enjoys them.  When you are browsing around, be sure to check out my other sales.

 When you are done shopping in my store, be sure to check out some of the other $2 specials.  If you all want to link up with us the link is on the bottom.

A Grace-Filled Classroom

Classroom Full of Smiles

Parent Communication with Mrs. Labrasciano

Parent Treat by A First For Everything

Parent communication and encouragement is a must! This week during conferences, I used some freebies from my good friend Julie from A First For Everything.  The parents really took notice of our small gesture.  They also loved the extra parent literature that we left next to the mints.

Parent Teacher Conference by A First For Everything

This week our progress reports coincided with Parent/Teacher Conferences.  This was a specific request from the teachers.  We wanted to be able to speak with the parents about the progress their kids were making early on in the year so that we could set the pace for the rest of the year.  Just like everyone else, I found myself to be overwhelmed.
Progress Alert Folders by More Time To Teach

Our district requires that we send progress alerts out for the students who are performing below expectations.  However, I send a report home with every student.  Keeping communication up with parents, shows the parents that you care about their child.  It helps to ease any fears that they may have from the unknown.  It may help to show them that there is a potential problem.  Every student has something that they can work on to be a better student.  This is important to communicate with parents.
Parent Progress Alerts by More Time 2 Teach

My good friend Melissa from More Time 2 Teach has a great freebie that allowed me to put together a Progress Alert Folder to send home with each child.  It tells the parents exactly where their child is and where they need to be at the end of every quarter.  I staple any testing data that is acquired into the folder throughout the year.  At the end of the year this folder goes onto the next teacher.  They can then see exactly how the student progressed through the year and how the parents commented.   Another benefit of having these folders is that you have all of the student's data at hand.  You can use these at conferences, meetings about the child and report card time.

Progress Alert by More Time 2 Teach

Progress Alert by More Time 2 Teach

Introducing The Primary Pack Collaborative Blog

I am so excited and blessed to have the opportunity to work behind the scenes with the fabulous bloggers of The Primary Pack!  We are collaborating to bring you a rainbow of ideas!  Make sure you follow along to grab a bunch of colorful freebies, as well as enter our giveaway with $300 worth of prizes!
Hi! I'm Amy blogging from Learning Lessons With Mrs. Labrasciano. (La-bra-she-on-o)  I am a  Florida teacher who loves my family, animals and of course, my students. This year I moved back to 2nd grade ELA teacher.

When I'm not teaching, I'm with my family.  My husband and I have been married for 13 years. We have 3 beautiful girls who set the moon and stars for us.

We seem to collect animals that need rescuing.  Our family has currently adopted two cats, Lucie and Elsie and one dog, Hurley.  Below you will find Hurley.  He had a rough start to to life that has left him with some quirks.  I'm teaching my girls that everyone deserves love and help.
Our dog Hurley.

Enough about me now.  Let's focus on The Primary Pack.
To celebrate our new collaborative adventure, The Primary Pack is hosting a giveaway with tons of fabulous prizes!

Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway AND here's my "colorful" freebie!  Just click on the image!

 Hop along to meet our other bright bloggers and to grab a rainbow of freebies!