IT'S USEFUL AT TIMES TO HAVE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO “MAKE THE GRADE.” WITH THIS IN MIND WE HERE AT OUTLOOK-12 HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL COLUMN WHERE YOU, OUR READERS, CAN WRITE TO US WITH YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS AND GET PERSPECTIVE AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR RESIDENT AWARD-WINNING EDUCATION VETERAN AND CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST GARY COOPER. AN EDUCATOR FOR MORE THAN 45 YEARS, GARY HAS TAUGHT STUDENTS FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND IS ALSO A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.
Q: I’m a substitute teacher, and Mr. Cooper, I am sick of being looked down on just because I’m not full-time. I don’t mean the students. Kids are always going to try to pull something with the sub. No, I mean from my fellow teachers and from the administration. There’s this real snooty attitude at the school where I sub. It’s all subtle things - just the way they look at me and their tone of voice and attitudes in general. But I’m sick of it, and I’m sick of them, and I want to knock them off their high and mighty horses, so they stop looking down on the subs in general. What should I do?
A: I’m one of those people that believe doughnuts solve most problems. Years ago, I worked with a middle-aged man who served as a substitute teacher. I remember one day he came into the faculty lounge, sat down quietly and read a newspaper. A few days later, he came into the lounge again prior to the beginning of the school day with a couple of boxes of doughnuts. He announced that he was Guy the substituted guy and offered the faculty members there the doughnuts as an ice breaker. Quickly, Guy the substitute guy became the most popular substitute teacher in the school. Our principal hired Guy more frequently than any other substitute. He was very popular with the student body, and at the end of the year, our principal offered him a full-time position. Interestingly, Guy turned down the job, explaining he had accepted a sales rep position for a major education company. Now, I am not endorsing that you purchase pastries for your fellow educators. Just simply get to know some of the teachers and let them get to know you. Seek their input and advice, and most faculty members will appreciate your contributions and skill set.
Q: I’m a high school history teacher, and I’m facing suspension. I’m a real political junky, and with all the buzz about the presidential race and all, I tend to run my mouth. I made some statements during class about my political views. Looking back now, I guess what I said was pretty sarcastic and could be viewed as insulting depending on which party you’re with. I hadn’t planned on talking about politics at all, but that class was right after lunch, and it just so happened that day I got into a really heated debate with a fellow teacher about our political views and was still all hyped up when I went to class. So I guess you can imagine what happened next. Some of my students complained to their parents, the parents complained to the principal and I am facing suspension. Is there anything I can do at this point?
A: In my opinion you have committed the cardinal sin of expressing your personal opinion on political positions. It is acceptable to express your views with your colleagues, but you should almost always refrain from discussing your viewpoints. For example, I strongly believe teachers should not inform their class of who they would or would not vote for in an upcoming election. Teachers are to provide unbiased information and steer clear of personal thoughts and feelings. In general the only time I might endorse a teacher speaking on political issues is to oppose the expression of hate speech. Learn from this experience, so you don’t step into this rabbit hole again and offer the needed apologies.
Q: I am a fifth grade teacher and have organized my class into a group learning format like the one you’ve described in your previous articles and columns. My experience with this teaching method has been a joyful success. Unfortunately, my vice principal views these methods of learning as just a desktop activity. He feels more is learned by keeping students in rows. What can I say to my administrator?
A: Evidence done nationwide supports that standardize test scores rise dramatically from utilizing this style of education. In addition, discipline problems are considerably reduced. Tell him you know that going into a school year using a group learning format will greatly increase any teacher’s chances for success. It is true that a good instructor will adjust the presentation of lessons to shorter instructions aimed at learning specific information or skill. Remember, it is not what you teach but what your students learn. Although many excellent teachers use traditional methods, many education experts view this style of teaching as a bit obsolete. Good luck with your vice principal. It is always more difficult to achieve anything without administrative support.
If you would like to write to Gary for advice, please email email@example.com