I GOT ABOUT SIX DISTINGUISHED RATINGS ON MY MOST RECENT EVALUATION WITH MY WORST CLASS!!!!
That moment when your class of 5th graders is a giant pain in the butt and won’t stop talking.
And you are brave enough to let five of them put your room back together while you walk the rest down the hall.
And you come back and they all point to the chalkboard where they have written “We love you Ms. E——” with a bunch of hearts. And then they forbid me to erase it.
This is why we teach.5
How our country designs urban schools and their children to fail
- Massive stress is placed on standardized testing
- Teachers are forced to teach to the test because if the kids don’t do well, it makes the school and teacher “fail”
- In many states, including Maryland, student’s “growth” (aka test scores) determine 50% of a teacher’s observation. So if you are a great teacher but your students have behavioral problems or are chronically absent or are too tired or too hungry or have a special need or are ESL and don’t test well, then you are seen as inadequate and can be fired for it.
- When they have to teach to the tests, students lose out on social studies, health, and science until grade 5 or higher
- The arts and technology are being cut for budget and because they “don’t help with testing” even though it’s proven, for example, that music class helps students score better on reading and math
- Students who are ESL and special needs have to take the same test and their scores are counted with the other students, which makes the overall scores go down
- A student with an IEP is legally NOT allowed to held back for ANY reason, so kids who can’t even spell their own name have to take these standardized tests once they hit grade three.
- ESL and special needs students can excel in music and art but there is so much pressure put on testing that it makes them feel like failures when they can’t keep up
- There are 3 pre-tests and a post test AFTER the actual test, which takes away almost a month of instruction in the mornings. This makes the students very irritable and tired and increases behavioral issues.
- New tests are created constantly so that the testing companies make more and more money and force teachers to buy more materials from them. They also keep making tests harder so that urban schools will have to spend more money and take more time to figure them out.
- Urban schools are incredibly under-funded so that students who need an aide or a psychologist or some other help either won’t get it or they’ll get it once or twice a week because that aide/professional/counselor/special ed person has to shared with a bunch of other schools.
- Schools have resorted to adding extra weeks or hours onto the school day. This makes it hard for parents to get babysitters or take them to school so the kids just end up staying home. The earlier weeks and the longer days make the students more frustrated and more tired and, when they are older, more likely to drop out. They also do not pay the teachers any extra for this time or these weeks.
- New rules have changed suspensions. Suspensions make schools “look bad”, so they will do whatever they can to keep a student in school. In my fiance’s middle school, a student can cuss out a teacher and threaten them and they will only get a slap on the wrist and will be back in the teacher’s room the next day unless they have a weapon. While other means of punishment should be looked at, there are students with severe enough actions that they need to be kept away for the safety of their peers and teachers.
- Many urban schools under a certain number of students do not have a nurse
- Class sizes are monstrous because the schools don’t have enough money to employ enough teachers, so the teachers that are there have classes of 30-40 students and are expected to be able to give each child individualized attention, which is not possible.
- Teachers are stuck using out of date materials and many have to buy their own pencils, paper, and other supplies for their children.
And finally, when all of these things happen and a school is “failing”, the media and the government turn and blame everything on teachers and the union and tenure and they brainwash the public to go along with it so that nobody finds out the truth.1
A ranty-ish thought on teaching
the best and brightest teachers with the most experience taught at the schools with the most issues
and the new teachers taught at schools with lots of funding and good parental involvement and well-behaved kids
and the better the teachers got at teaching, the “tougher” school that they tried to work at
Think about runners
runners might start with a 5k
when they good at the 5k, they go out and try something more difficult like a 10k or a half marathon
Why isn’t teaching like that?
Think about gymnasts
they start with easier things like cartwheels and summersaults
and the better they got, the harder things they had to learn.
They don’t learn how to do back handsprings on the balance beam
and then say, “Oh no, for the rest of my career I’m just going to do hand stands every day”Why do we force our beginners to start at the hardest level and work our way down to more manageable? Why is teaching backwards from most other hobbies and pursuits and jobs? We are meant to start off easy and get harder as we go, but teaching is backwards.
Because of this, 40% of teachers quit before their fifth year
Does nobody see how frightening that is to the future of education in America?
Honestly, and I know I’m biased, I believe that experienced teachers should go to the rough schools and use their experience to make things better for the kids, and let new teachers sit in the suburbs until we have the skills to leave the nest.
Does anyone else think this way or is it just me?
Picture the scene. It’s the end of a long day. A frustrated newly-qualified teacher (NQT) flops down in a chair nearly in tears after year 9 were barbaric to her. One student in particular was appalling. The NQT recounts with a lump in her throat the way in which they behaved. Another voice pipes up: “Jon Jacobs? Really? Behaved like that? He’s alright for me.”
Four words that undermine a colleague. What you’re trying to say is that they can behave differently, normally, and the NQT may just have caught them on a bad day. How it actually sounds is: “Jon Jacobs? You can’t control him? I can.” Don’t do it. Instead offer tips on how they’re better when not sat near the back or a strategy that will help them cope. But do all that once you’ve made them a cup of tea. And provided tissues. And possibly some chocolate.”
Yes yes absolutely.
I was saying that a class kept talking over me and one of the other teachers laughed and said, “They don’t talk over ME” and a long-term sub that they know outside of school too laughed with her and I was just about ready to kill someone.
I also once asked a teacher for advice on her class’s behavior management (they were awful for me more than once) and she just said, “Well, I’ll think on it” and never helped me one bit.
Some things i have discovered while urban teaching music
Fifth graders do not like Metallica. First graders do, especially “Enter Sandman”.
Bluegrass > country
Fifth graders like Verdi’s “Dies Irae”
You will be begged to watch Annie
Boys are more open to the Nutcracker if you show them sections where the male is lifting the female a lot (ex. The Arabian Dance)
If you talk about how ballet dancers dance on their toes, be prepared for half the class (mostly boys) to try it and fall on the ground.
Students will whine about doing rhythm cards until you put a backbeat to it.
Students like to show off; bring in an audience (principal/teacher/secretary/ etc) and they will automatically use their best effort. PS It’s not just you; they will do it to everyone
If you have a dreidel in your hand, their listening skills multiply X3
Young children will dance to anything
Turn it into a game and they will learn it much faster
Kids can pronounce my name easily and will correct adults
You will want to scoop a few kids up and take them home instead of giving them back to their parents
The child has been molded by the parent; children are not “bad” by default
Instruments are a good bribing method
Hugs will make your day
Sometime all kids need is someone who will listen
And the stories they have will break your heart
With music, sometimes the best way to teach is just through exposure
Play is often a greater teaching tool than you gabbing
Seeing children teach each other while you simply monitor makes you feel like Superman
Seeing other teachers as exasperated as you are makes you feel a heck of a lot better
Children can have two faces; one with their peers, and one with you. The second one is the more honest one.
If you play/sing for your kids, it will probably blow their minds
Not every day will be productive, especially during testing or right before a break. That’s okay.
Lesson plans are not set in stone. Not even close.
I stutter a lot and the kids either don’t notice or don’t care
Utilize student helpers; make it something to be earned rather than something given for a favorite
IF you feel crappy, remember how you felt your first day and realize how far you have come.
My fiance just learned that there is a chance he might lose his job.
It’s just hearsay, but frightening nonetheless.
On top of that five kids quit chorus because their ringleader decided so.
And our microwave just decided to be completely unusable.
I don’t know how people can expect these middle school kids to learn when whoever has the money decides to cut over 100 grand from the school budget. That means bye bye to supplies and to teachers.
Of course the arts get hit first.
I don’t know what to do.0
You take beats, melodies, vocals, and effects and layer them on top of each other. You mix and match to create unique rhythmic and melodic patterns sung to you by little beatboxing cartoon guys.
If you used the right combinations of beats and things, you can unlock music videos (which I didn’t know until my students figured it out!) You can record them so they will play back to you. You can also download and share them if you wanted.
It is a great tool to use when teaching about composition because it lets them compose without them getting frustrated about it.
Your kids will love it. They will constantly bother you to hear what they have created. They will jam to it in groups. Some will even try to rap overtop of their creations. They will write it down to take it home. The best thing is that they are creating music and they are very excited and proud of it (and don’t always realize what they are learning!)
PS. My principal came in while the class was doing this and she loved it. So it is administration approved.5
I’m so proud of this class project that I had to tell you
Backstory: I teach music to urban prek-5th grade kids. This is fifth grade.
I did a school-wide unit on Fantasia: Music tells a story. I love Fantasia and wanted the students to experience it. The result was very positive and some of the teachers were jealous!
Fifth grade watched “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Fantasia and “Flamingos” and “Steadfast Tin Soldier” from Fantasia 2000. We talked about how the creators of the movie listened to the music first and then designed the story off of what they heard.
I had fifth grade listen to “Infernal Dance of the King” from Stravinsky’s Firebird. The students had to create a story from what they heard in the music. I played through the section twice so they could take notes and then write out the story fully. Some kids’ stories took up an entire page.
After they wrote them, I reminded them that they were animators and had to animate their story. I used a four-panel comic book template for them and they could make more than four panels if they wanted. They had to tell their story in the panels without using words.
Next week they will finish them up and color them. I will then hang their drawings alongside their stories on my bulletin board so that anyone who sees them can get the artwork AND the story behind it. I am very excited to see how each student individually interpreted the music.
First year teacher has the creative juices flowing.35