Thursday, June 6, 2013

NC Budget Letter

The NC State budget isn't pretty this year. Education is being pulled through the mud. It might not help but I can't sit back and watch this happen without saying something. Below is the letter I sent to several house and senate representatives in NC:

As a graduate of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and currently an elementary school teacher with eight years experience in this system, I am very concerned about our state’s budget situation. I would like to take this opportunity to express some of my concerns regarding several issues which are currently on up for discussion. In my eight years of teaching in CMS, I have worked with amazing, successful and dedicated teachers. Morale in the past few years had dropped due to the state of the budget. I’ve watched many high-quality professionals, whom I respect and look up to, become frustrated and overwhelmed. Many issues we face are beyond our control at the school level, however, some are in your hands. I implore you to consider the following concerns.

  • Teacher Tenure: I work with many talented teachers. Teachers who consistently score highly on evaluations and show student growth on assessments. These teachers should earn their tenure and not constantly worry their jobs are at risk. I do understand there are teachers around our system and state that are not so great. There should be a system in place for teachers who are not successful but taking tenure from every teacher is not the best option.
  • Teacher Pay: Teacher pay has been frozen in our state for five years (I was corrected by one of the representatives I contacted - we actually did receive a 1% raise this year. However, that was eaten up by the 2% federal social security tax increase so I am actually bringing home less money.). In my eighth year teaching, I am making the same amount I made as a third year teacher. In the past five years I have learned so much from working with students, participating in hours of professional development, and collaborating with my professional learning community. I am a better teacher, yet I have received no more compensation. My life has changed in the past five years. I’ve gotten married, bought a house and adopted two shelter dogs yet I’m living month to month on less money due to increased cost of living expenses, taxes and health benefits costs. As a professional educator with a master’s degree (which I will not be compensated for if this budget passes) who consistently receives high marks on evaluations, I should not have to worry about paying my bills but I do. Like most other educators in North Carolina, I didn’t enter the field of education to make money but at the same time I can’t afford to work  for a state that doesn’t compensate me fairly. Embarrassingly, our state is 48th in the county in teacher pay behind states who are much poorer but still see the value in public education. This needs to change soon or we will lose amazing teachers who literally can’t afford to teach any longer.
  • Increased Class Sizes & Teacher Assistant Reduction: With larger class sizes and without support from teacher assistants, differentiating instruction and teaching students on their instructional levels becomes more difficult. With the current RTI model for our most struggling students, classroom teachers will not be able to provide students with intensive needs the attention they need to succeed. If the classroom teacher has more students to work with and no assistant s/he will not be able to meet the needs of all the students. I fear the result will be a sharp increase in the achievement gap that we have worked so diligently to close. Our assistants help the school day run more smoothly, from morning hall, cafeteria, car pool, etc duty, to working to provide small group instruction to the intensive and strategic students or covering classes while teachers are in IEP meetings, professional development sessions, etc. They are a vital part of the school. At my school and many other schools throughout the state we emphasize TEACHER in teacher assistant.
  • Support Public Education: Our state has some of the best public schools in the country and students come from around the world to attend our public universities. North Carolina public schools win awards, year after year, for academics as well as sports and other extra curricular activities. Please support the great things happening in our public schools by not supporting vouchers. Vouchers that are meant to give students “options” do not open doors for all children to attend high quality schools; they allow people who aren’t educators to open for-profit schools that do not make the grade or help our students succeed. Use the money you would use on vouchers to invest in low performing schools to help them soar.

Currently, there are amazing teachers sitting at home writing lesson plans, grading papers and contacting parents. If these proposed changes take place, these teachers will be making plans to retire early, transfer to other districts/states, or switch careers. Decisions such as discontinuing tenure, firing instructional assistants, increasing class size and providing vouchers may be the last straw for many underpaid educators who are working harder than ever to teach our students more with less. Please consider how these decisions will impact North Carolina’s teachers, support staff and most importantly, students.

Heather Ramsey

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Think Before You Post

My most popular bulletin board this year was my "THINK Before You Post iPhone". I got the idea from some of the iPhone bulletin boards I found on Pinterest along with the THINK poster that is popping up everywhere. I thought the iPhone would be a perfect way to display the information to teach my students to be careful what they share digitally. Over sharing becomes a bigger problem once students enter middle school and have more freedom with phones and the internet but still happens too often in elementary school. Teaching our students about this early on can hopefully prevent headaches in the future.
This bulletin board was a bit of a pain. I made it early in the school year and was very happy with it.

In an attempt to save it for next year, I decided to run it through the laminator. It was too big so I trimmed here and there. when it finally fit through, the laminator ate it up. I tried to save it, to no avail, so my iPhone 4 got the slimming iPhone 5 update:

I actually like this one better because of the colors, because "Think before you..." is on one line and because the letters at the bottom are easier to read. I'll be keeping this one for a while... or at least until the iPhone 6 arrives. Click here to download the PDF file to create your own T.H.I.N.K. Poster!