Merit Pay – Canada Edition

In case you don’t know merit pay is kind of a tough topic to deal with. According to wikipedia, “Merit pay is a term describing performance-related pay, most frequently in the context of educational reform. It provides bonuses for workers who perform their jobs effectively, according to measurable criteria. In the United States, policy makers are divided on whether merit pay should be offered to public school teachers, as is commonly the case in the United Kingdom.”

There has been many talks among many school boards about merit pay. Mostly in the States but it has started to become a discussion in Canada. Many of you know that I am based out of Canada but I like to know about all of North America specifically.

When I came across this article, it kinda got my wheels turning about this topic. Sure it would be cool to get a little extra money for doing what I do best (or so I think), but do I want to be judged consistently throughout my career? Not really…

Also how is the whole system going to work? Teachers who have more “difficult”classes get more just because their students are coded/special needs or those who have the top students in the board get more? How would we be judged? I don’t think there is any one way that this could be decided. There are so many factors involved in teaching. New teachers would barely have a chance of making anything and they’re are the ones that need it (Come on, 6 years of school!).

And what about the students?

Would having a financial incentive really prompt me to do my job any better? Right now, I would do my job and not get paid. I love my job. I love my students and I only ever want them to be as successful as they can be. Giving me more money isn’t going to change that.

For merit pay to work, I honestly think it would take a really long time to sort out all the kinks.

Do you want merit pay? Would it make a difference on the students?


Start of the Year

Guess what?

A new year has begun (and I start today). Some of you have already been in school for a little while and others may not have started yet. All the same, I would like to wish you a happy new school year with plenty of smiles and groans about homework. Good luck!

What about assessment?

This great little article talks about assessment. Oh what a grand wondrous topic. I think we’ve all taken (or had to take) a PD session or a class on this all important subject. This author takes it in bit of a different direction. Are we so concerned with assessment and evaluation that we are missing out on other parts of our student’s education? They argue that we may be putting the cart before the horse. With all things I think a balance is needed to maintain the best for our students. What about you?


Teachers as a Network

This nifty little diagram was found over here on the CEA website.

My favorite part of this article was the example of a teacher with all these connections.

“Consider the following picture: Ms. Linkedin arrives at school by 7:30am for her 8:00am class. She is prepared to answer her students questions on last night’s lesson posted on the class wiki because their homework was to write their questions on a shared Google doc. This took no more than 10 minutes of her time and allowed her to adjust the morning’s lesson to accommodate for their questions. (The lesson was a video she flipped using the TED Edsite.) A departmental meeting is planned for her first spare of the day and as head, she has reduced the meeting time by half by collaborating asynchronistically on a Google doc. During lunch, Ms. Linkedin takes ten minutes to read a few tweets from her #edchat Twitter stream and to contribute a few of her own. The afternoon is smooth partly because of a great idea she gleaned from her Personal Learning Network (PLN) about assigning different roles in group work and now the class is humming with excitement. At the day’s end, Ms. Linkedin leaves deeply satisfied, partly because of her students’ enthusiasm and partly because of a parent’s compliment about the good work she is doing, evident by the open class wiki.”

I keep reading this over and over and it’s totally what I want to be.  But where to start…

Junk Food Laws

Recently the school board I work for changed their policies on vending machines. As far as I know, all schools in the system have replaced pop/soda with healthier alternatives as well as the snacks machines. Some schools have even gone so far as to remove them entirely.

When I went to school (which was in the last 10 years) we still had all that ‘unhealthy’ stuff. I will admit that the occasional bag or chips or chocolate bar would be the perfect way to get over that failed test or whatever else had gone wrong in the day. I personally never abused this privilege but I sure know people who did.

I’m curious to know whether these new changes and laws (all over Canada and the United States) are actually going to make a difference in the lives of children?

Junk Food Laws May Help Curb Childhood Obesity This article found on Huffington Post Education, talks about a few studies done that prove that states with strong laws on junk food have kids who gain less weight at critical growth years. I encourage you to read it and form your own opinions.

I’m still going to encourage my students to learn about nutrition and make their own healthy decisions.

Online Math Tools

As I said before the Math resources are coming! (Run for your LIVES!)

Found on Pinterest (yay!) this site has composed quite a few tools that are online and can be used in a variety of Math units. There is of course the usual calculator, but also 2 hundreds charts, a sticky numbers app, and one where you can see angles. There are a few others but I’ll let you discover those on your own.

The one that stood out for me is the teacher’s toolkit. It has all those things, plus some so teachers can pull them up on the computer or SMARTboard for whole/small group instruction. Enjoy!

8 Online Math Tools and Interactive Resources

Written By A Kid

I am a huge fan of most things nerdy/geeky and by proxy love a woman named Felicia Day. She has this snazzy channel on YouTube and has just released a new show called Written By a Kid. I’ll allow the video below to explain what it’s about

They also have videos on how they created the visual components to the stories as well as some behind the scene stuff. So with great delight I will post the first story and I will leave the rest to you.

Getting a Job – My Story

I wish I had been smarter about this and wrote more about it when I was going through the process, but I didn’t.

I was very lucky to have my final practicum school offer me a 6 month temporary contract covering a maternity leave. I had my final presentation, passed in Wednesday afternoon and in my silliness took the next morning off. Turns out my principal had brought in a recruitment person from the school board I wanted to be a part of and I missed an opportunity to have an interview. Luckily my principal told me I could have the next morning off to go to an interview. Off I went and turns out the same person had worked with my husband a few years back. We hit it off and I felt like I delivered an excellent interview. On my drive back to the school I kept going over what I had said and wondered if it was what they were looking for.

When I returned to the school (for a staff meeting) I went in like nothing had happened because not everyone knew I had this interview. After the interview my principal asked to see me. Of course the automatic thought was that I had done something wrong and was going to be corrected. As I sat down he shut the door and slowly took his seat.

“How do you feel about teaching French?”

“Fine. I can do it.”

“Would you like to teach Grade 4?”

“Uhh. Yes.”

“Well congratulations you have the job!”

“Holy… really? THANK YOU!”

Turns out as soon as I had left the office my interviewer had called him and told him to hire me. I was exactly what they were looking for and he had even set up two mentors for me to rely on in the next 6 months. I was so happen to be able to walk back into the staff room and have him announce that I wasn’t leaving in December but that I would be staying on. As far as I know, everyone was quite happy to have me stay on and be a part of the team. It was a change from my Grade 1 & 2 music to Grade 4 general, but the fit couldn’t have been better. Those 6 months were the best way to start my career.

Those six months ended in June. I was devastated to have to leave the school, as there was no longer a position for me. Unless of course I wanted to take another temporary contract and it would be only for 4 months. It was not worth my time. My fabulous principal kept the 3 temp. contract teachers in the loop as much as he could. Being a specialist (music, drama, art, languages, etc.) gave me an advantage as they’re always needed within a school board. Therefore it wasn’t much of a surprise when I was the first one to get a phone call. It was for an elementary school (I would be the music teacher) in an area of the city I was unfamiliar with. I went to the interview with as much knowledge as I could get from past school newsletters, teachers I knew who had taught in the area, and anything else I could get my hands on. The school admin were friendly and allowed me some time to look at the questions before we went through with the interview.

I thought it had gone well. I got a phone call but I was not the right person for the job. I was almost relieved because I think after the interview it wasn’t the right school for me. About a week later I got another phone call, this time from a Jr/Sr High. Big change from my last interview. I went into this one doing the same amount of research as I did before. School newsletter, asking around and anything else I could Google about the school. This school was a smaller school (only a few hundred students) and had a very small staff.

I went and did the interview then they offered a tour around where my classrooms would be. I was thrilled and quite surprised that they even suggested that. I supposed that would have indicated that I had made a short list of some sort. The admin assistant took me around and we bonded over the fact that she had only been there for the last few months and was just getting to know the place herself. When we got back to the office they were still talking and I was just told to wait. I have to say that those 3-6 minutes of waiting were just brutal. When the principal came out they wanted to see me again and ask a few more questions.

These questions were BRUTAL. While I had thought that the questions asked previously were quite tough, these really pushed my knowledge of my own teaching style, management and personal characteristics. They asked about specific situations about students and school policy. One I found quite hilarious (afterwards) was they kept saying a teacher was “sick” and therefore late for school and I was covering for them for up to 2 weeks. They seemed pleased with my answers and informed me that I would find out if I had the job later that day. Lo and behold I got a phone call at 4:15pm asking me if I would like to “rest my hatchet” at that school. I was thrilled and accepted.

As of September, I am teaching Band 7/8/9, Drama 7/8/9, Band 10/20/30, Drama 10/20/30 and Math 7. Expect a lot of Math resources to pop up in the next little while…

Crowd Sourced Advice for New Teachers

This came up on my twitter feed yesterday (shared by my local teacher’s union). I added my two cents and I encourage you to as well.

  • Make friends with your admin/office team.
  • If your students don’t know how/why they are in trouble. Explain. Some just don’t know.
  • Smile.

The list was composed by the owner of the lovely blog called Free Technology for Teachers.