I find the conversation around education a little…safe. Saccharine even. (You know, that sort of fake sugary flavor that’s a little too sweet and leaves a weird aftertaste in your mouth, but everyone still eats it because it’s got no calories, even though it might be giving us all cancer.)
If you don’t say “what’s best for kids” at least three times then you clearly must be a selfish person who cares nothing about your students’ futures. Convey momentary doubt and you lack high expectations. Express any amount of passion (and God forbid, anger) about something you want to see changed and you’re marginalized as a boat rocker, a bad team player, or worse yet, a lazy teacher who doesn’t want to put in any more hard work than they have to.
So we filter ourselves. We dilute what we’re really thinking to fit within the parameters of acceptable education conversations.
I also find the conversation around education a little…unproductive.
Not just because of its overly saccharine nature where no one is actually speaking honestly, but because it’s usually very divorced from the daily realities of working in schools. Sure, policy issues have huge implications, but only in the macro sense. I still have a group of 30 students coming in tomorrow morning that I need to be ready for, a co-teacher I don’t get along with, a formal evaluation from my principal next week who has only been in my classroom one other time this year, multiple emails to respond to from the upset parent of a kid I can’t stand, a basketball game to attend after school, and somehow still be a functional human being who requires sleep, food, loving relationships, and some time to decompress.
Where’s the room for that in our education conversations? You know, the real things we face on a daily basis in schools. The conversations that get relegated to quick rants in the teachers’ lounge or long ponderings at Friday Happy Hour or reactive problem-solving sessions in your best teacher friend’s classroom down the hall after school or…that we never find the time or place to address at all.
Class Dismissed is about all of the conversations you need to have after the kids leave. Not head in the clouds idealism. Not overly saccharine buzzwords that convey next to nothing. Not lofty policy issues far removed from the day-to-day. Not quick tips and tricks that claim to transform your teaching tomorrow.
Schools don’t work that way. So we can’t have a conversation that way.
We deserve a conversation that is actually helpful to us. A conversation that addresses our (many and continuous) immediate needs. A conversation that doesn’t question our motives for doing the work we do. A conversation that respects that there is always more than one way to do anything within a school. And a conversation that isn’t afraid to talk about the really awful parts of working in a school — yes, that sometimes means the kids too.
And that’s where you come in.
The primary segment of Class Dismissed will feature our hosts, Cristin, Andy, and Cal, offering advice and perspective on the problems, issues, and situations you call and write in about. (If you’ve ever listened to the podcasts Dear Sugar or the Savage Lovecast, you’ll get the picture! Yes, we’ve taken our inspiration for Class Dismissed from podcasts about love, sex, and relationships… We told you this conversation would be different.)
We want you to call us at (312) 772–6126 or email us at email@example.com with the problems you’re facing in your school that you need some help thinking through. From the absurd to the serious, the relational to the systemic, we know how valuable an outside perspective is in helping you sort through what can often feel like a flaming dumpster fire.
Here’s what this might sound like if you called us:
Hi Class Dismissed, I’m a high school teacher at a small, rural school in the Midwest. I’ve been teach chemistry and physics for ten years now. Since the school is small, I don’t have any other teachers who are teaching the same things as me so collaboration is pretty tough. We’re also a really small district so there aren’t many nearby schools that I can connect with. Needless to say, it can be pretty isolating.
Anyways, I was getting pretty bored with my teaching last year so this year I decided to switch to a more discussion-based and lab-based model of teaching my subjects. It’s been really exciting to plan for and it’s really be reinvigorating me in terms of liking how I’m teaching again.
The one big problem is the kids are totally not into it. They are so used to just sitting-and-getting that are almost actively resisting this type of class format that demands them to bring their brains every day and actually use them. I’m getting really frustrated with them even though I know that this is a better way for me to teach, not to mention more fun for me too. The other day I just got so frustrated that they were pushing back on me to just tell him how to do stuff and what the right answer was that I just stopped our lab discussion and went to straight lecture. I knew that they had just worn me down and then I felt really crappy about myself for giving in.
What do you think I should do? How can I get them on board with this lesson format that demands more out of them when they seem to be teaming up against me and resisting thinking for themselves?
Besty DeVos certainly isn’t going to talk about that with you! That’s why you need Class Dismissed. That’s a real problem that you’re facing. One that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of a major current policy issue. One that a new perspective could help you think through. One that has immediate implications for tomorrow when your kids walk back in your room.
Call us at (312) 772–6126 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you emailed us, you might write something like this:
Hi Class Dismissed. Brand new teacher here. I am drowning! I teach 6th grade in a large city on the West Coast and honestly, I do not even know where to begin with pulling my life together.
I am barely sleeping at night because as soon as I get home from school I crash for an epic nap and then wake up to start planning my lesson for tomorrow, which I suck at, so I’m up really late. My principal yelled at me in a staff meeting the other day because I haven’t entered any grades yet this quarter. I have a special education co-teacher in one of my class periods who hates me because I never get her lesson materials until the morning of, so she can’t modify them for my kids with IEPs.
And this is all leading me to be a real monster to my kids. Granted, they’re all acting crazy all the time too, but I just snapped yesterday in the middle of class. It was really hot in my classroom and one of my boys went to go lay on top of the air conditioner. I don’t know why this, of all of the things happening in my room at the time, set me off, but as soon as I screamed, “Dominic, get off the damn air conditioner!” I knew I had crossed some sort of line. (At least I didn’t drop the F-bomb at him…)
I didn’t even recognize the person who was yelling at Dominic! This isn’t how I thought teaching would be! But I am just so in over my head with everything I don’t know how to pull myself out. I’m really afraid to talk to my principal to ask for help and my co-teacher, like I said, really hates me. What do you think I should do? I don’t want to be someone who gets jaded and burned out in my first year of teaching, but right now I’m not sure I can make it through the rest of this year let alone make my career doing this.
If you want to call me back to talk, that might be helpful too. You can call me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. Just let me know when you are going to call so I can keep myself from that epic nap I can’t seem to stop taking after school…
Now that’s a situation! But you can relate to it, can’t you? Bet you’ve never heard anyone actually talk about that situation though!
Call us at (312) 772–6126 or email us at email@example.com.
Class Dismissed isn’t just for teachers. Here’s what a call from an administrator might sound like (because we know you’ve got problems too and fewer people to talk to about them):
Hi Class Dismissed crew. Principal at a 500 student K-8 elementary school in a large, urban district in the Northeast and this is my third year there. I’ve got a teaching staff of about 35. Each year, I’ve turned over about half of my staff — most of whom are quitting even though I’d like them to stay. Our test scores are very middling and have gone down slightly each year since I’ve been here too. My superintendent watches those scores like a hawk — pretty data obsessed in a bad way. Not even sure he knows my name but he certainly knows my school’s testing averages.
I’m really worried that if we don’t do something pretty quickly to turn the scores around, this may be my last year. I have given my teachers a ton of resources for test prep each year and they use them, but they have been pretty vocally opposed to using them. I don’t know if this is why they are choosing to leave my school or if it’s something else, but I have a feeling that the pressure I’m feeling about test scores is getting passed on to them in ways they don’t like.
I lost my assistant principal this year due to budget cuts so I’m pretty much running the show from an instructional standpoint, but my time is largely spent on operational things, and discipline issues, and compliance tasks, so I don’t have a lot of time to get into classrooms or work with my teachers which I would really like to do. So it really does seem like I’m just this guy who is in his office telling teachers to do test prep stuff just to get scores but has no idea what’s actually going on inside of classrooms.
How can I change this perception of myself as the principal? Do you think this is why my teachers are leaving or am I just being paranoid about that? Thanks for your help.
Yup, that’s a pretty real issue too. An issue that teachers might not hear about very often because there is no real place for teachers and principals to hear about the mutually crappy things that frustrate them about their schools. No place to be vulnerable and honest together. No place to hear from a different perspective. We’re all too busy being safe…and saccharine…and unproductive.
I’ll bet you’re narrowing down the issues you want to call in about right now! Heck, give us three calls and send us four emails! A few quick pointers:
Keep your calls/emails to under about 2 minutes so we can play/read them on the podcast.
Call us anonymously with enough distinguishing characteristics to give us some context (see the examples above), but feel free to leave your name and call back information after you tell us your problem/issue. With some issues, it might be best for us to call you back so we can discuss the problem further with you. (With emails, we’ll keep you anonymous, but write it that way too.)
No problem is too big or too small. If it’s something that’s happening in your school or classroom, it’s occupying your mind, and you need some help and outside perspective on it, call us.
Got a comment about one of our responses from a previous show? Call us and tell us what you would have told to our caller!
Help us give you the education conversations you deserve — the ones you need to have after the kids leave. Call us at (312) 772–6126 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.