AMA (Ask My Advice)

Let’s try something new, here!  I am a high school teacher of 16 years.  Full disclosure: I have taught every grade from 6-12, but have been teaching English in grades 8-12 for the last 10 years.  For the next week, I will be answering your questions about anything and everything education…I will try to respond within a few hours of your asking the question, but definitely within one day!  Let’s see how this goes!

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Emily,  i have numerous questions for someone with your experience, but will ask you two:
1) what is the biggest change in education in you years in a classroom; student behvior, admin, testing…etc?
2) how do you feel about common core?

thank you

dadlife Parent Contributor Commented on November 22, 2015.

1) That’s a tough one…I would say the biggest change in education has been the reliance on testing.  I’m not talking about high stakes testing (which, honestly, in high school has become less of a big deal as of this year), but all of the small assessments that we have to give on a quarterly basis.  Last quarter I gave a reading baseline, this quarter a different reading test on computer, then the midterm, then another reading test in May to check for growth.  This is not including the PSATs that all 9-11th graders took in October, and the SAT my Juniors will take in March.  It is overwhelming for the students and the teachers, and I find myself apologizing to my students for it all.
2)Common Core in the English classroom has meant re-vamping our curriculum in ways that I am actually pleased with.  Honestly, it’s just meant that we are more transparent about what we are already doing.  It hasn’t changed my teaching much.  I do worry about the level of reading and writing that we expect across the board, because for some it is just too high of a bar.

on November 23, 2015.

Emily, thank you for your response. It is refreshing to know that not all educators are completely opposed to common core. I was actually somewhat surprised to find this out. I thought everyone hated it. there has been so much negativity about it.

on November 25, 2015.
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Hi Emily. Thank you for doing this AMA. My question is about the use of technology in the classroom. My kids are high school aged and they have told me that some of the students in their classes are on their cell phones texting during class and that it is very distracting. And I personally think it is rude to the teacher and other students. Do you encounter these types of problems and if so, how do you deal with it? Should students be allowed to use technology in the classroom at all? Thank you!

JenniferLax Parent Contributor Commented on November 23, 2015.

This is a constant concern for all of us.  99% of my students (such an English teacher…making up stats) seem to have smart phones and they are always out.  We have tried various things: a few years ago, we had a lock it or lose it policy but parents got upset about that.  Then we had them just keep them in their bags and turn them off, but now it is up to teacher discretion.  I allow them to use their phones to look up words, and do basic research on a topic when I can’t get laptops, but texting is an issue.  I give them a warning and then take the phone away if I have to say something again.  With technology as omnipresent as it is, I don’t know the right answer.  But I agree it is rude, and I try to just constantly talk about respect in all modes in my classroom.  My larger concern is the fact that when students are texting, they are not PRESENT.  It’s amazing how much they miss.  I think it’s a conversation we should be having in the classroom, and at home about being in the moment, and respectful to those around us.

on November 23, 2015.
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What is your opinion about the debate regarding whether teachers should be tenured or not?

RosaXo Parent Contributor Commented on November 23, 2015.

Tenure is almost a non-issue these days.  I think job security is incredibly important, and for the first 4 years (before you get tenured), administrators can fire a teacher pretty easily (I believe).  Tenure saves teachers from discrimination in the work place, as well as forces the system to make every effort to mentor and work with the teacher.  I believe that until teachers are paid for the hours they actually work (many more than you’d imagine!), and for everything they do outside of the classroom (within the schools), clubs, mentoring, conferencing, phone calls to parents, paperwork, curriculum writing…etc…then tenure is a good option.  Hope that answers your question!

on November 23, 2015.
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What are your thoughts on Public versus Magnet schools? Is their an real advantage with one over the other?

katy@rebel Parent Contributor Commented on November 24, 2015.

Additionally, how do you feel about charter schools?

on November 24, 2015.
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My experience has been that magnet schools are no different than other public schools but may center around or be more focused on a specific subject (the arts or justice…) and often have newer nicer buildings with newer technology.  Depending on where you
live, a magnet school might be better than the other options, but you really have to do your research…visit the school, see the class sizes and know your kid…In my town, we have fantastic public schhols and while we have magnet elementary schools they are equal to our non magnet elementary schools.  They seem to be most needed in cities but research is still needed into graduation rates.  Right now research tends to show that magnet and charter schools are not showing any real advantage over regular public schools overall….so it’s hard to generalize.

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