Interview With An Educator

For my TEL111 course, I had to interview an educator that I admire. I chose Ramya Vijayagopal for my assignment, a dear friend and a wonderful educator via Teach For America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Here is an excerpt from my paper about Vijayagopal:

I met Ramya Vijayagopal for the first time in the summer of 2016, where we were
coworkers in Residential Life at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Vijayagopal would be entering her senior year at Ithaca College in the upcoming fall and was starting to think about life after graduation. I listened to her bounce her multitudes of options around that summer, and was thrilled for her when she was accepted into Teach For America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she would be serving as a middle school science teacher for the School District of Philadelphia. Vijayagopal began her service in 2017, after her graduation from Ithaca College with a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism. While serving her two years with Teach For America in
Philadelphia, Vijayagopal is pursuing a Masters in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Teach For America is a diverse network of leaders working to confront educational inequity, with the vision that one day all children in the United States will have the opportunity to receive excellent education (Teach For America, 2018). There are currently 53,000 alumni and 6,700+ Corps members across the United States. As Vijayagopal words it, “TFA is…good for people who want to work with youth and fight for education” (personal communication, June 2, 2018).


Here is where you can read my final paper.


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Performance Pay for Educators

Should educators receive performance pay?

I believe that in its ideal state, performance pay is an excellent concept. We should always reward teachers for their amazing work and service to our youth. However, there are also a lot of dangers involved in performance pay- political, emotional, cognitive.

What I mean by this is that teachers who desire the bonus ultimately may begin to teach with methods that assist the teacher, but not the student. At the end of the day, progress needs to be about the self-identified success of the student. Performance pay does not put student success first when brought to fruition.

How would performance pay affect you, personally?

Performance pay would affect me personally by creating an environment where I need to decide between my own personal success or the educational futures of my students. I find this outrageous and upsetting. How much I’m paid should not be determined by the scores my students receive on a standardized test if my students are truly engaged in their courses and are learning in a way for them.

As we already discussed in previous blog posts, standardized testing takes away the individualization of learning, which so many of our students need. Therefore, if I am teaching my lessons one way, and the standardized test presents it in a way that only confuses my students, then who is at fault? Is it myself, for not teaching to the test? The test, for not allowing my students to demonstrate their application of the knowledge? Or is it the student, who knows the material but gets nervous on tests?

So, ultimately, performance pay is asking me to choose, but both my own success and the educational futures of my students mean the world to me.

And what if I am not to receive performance pay? Say I do not meet the standards set by my school district to receive performance pay, and say that information is made public. Doesn’t this set me up for failure, when parents call the school and demand their students are transferred out of my class? Doesn’t this make me less marketable if I choose to change schools?

I also think of the women and people of color who are less likely to receive these performance based promotions based on their gender and/or race. This seems like another way for the system to work itself into a bigger knot, and another way to monetize education, which I cannot support.

Do some of your own research and include one resource, that you find yourself, to help support your stance.

As Razo states in her 2014 dissertation,

The educational employment sector does not produce widgets; you cannot simply offer a teacher bonus pay to teach faster or teach more students. The inputs and outputs in an educational organization are more complicated than in an industrial setting.

I fully believe that quote says all you need to know about the pros and cons of performance pay. Teachers are not mechanical- neither are our students.

So why are we treating them both like they must perform as though they are well-oiled machines, and ignoring the ones who are a little rusty?

When watching the video about motivation being driven by purpose this week, I recalled that teachers are not driven by money. They do not go into the profession because they want to make money. They go into the profession because they have a servant’s heart- because they love working with youth and all that it means to work with youth.

Incentive pay or performance based pay draws attention and focus away from that purpose. It ultimately pushes teachers to focus on results, results, results. But sometimes our students need us to slow down and see what their version of success is. Performance based pay does not account for these moments where teachers are truly put to the test.


References

Razo, A. (2014). Does Rewarding Performance Pay for Teachers Result in Higher Student Achievement?: A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://repository.asu.edu/attachments/137276/content/Razo_asu_0010E_14148.pdf


 

Reflection: Diversity + Culture in Education [VIDEO]

Good afternoon all!

Today I’m here to talk about a podcast called This American Life. I recently listened to Episode 562: Parts One + Two: The Problem We All Live With (click here to access the transcript).

Here’s a little synopsis of the episode, provided by the creator:

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there’s one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program.

Seems interesting, right?

I listened to this podcast as instructed by my TEL 111 course, and found it absolutely fascinating, in a horrifying kind of way. So, what did I do in response?

I made a video. 

Watch it below:

Click here for a transcript. 


By the way, a correction- around 8:24 I mention that 1/2 of black students are not attending an accredited district.
 
What I MEANT to say is:
 
1/2 of black (K-12) students (in Missouri) are not attending an accredited district.
 
Please forgive me, I am a poor editor. 

What are your thoughts on my video? On the original podcast? 

“Great teachers become great.” -Mary Kooy

Below lies a blog post I wrote for my education course this term. I found it to be a thought-provoking assignment, and am curious what others think.


What do you think are important characteristics/traits of educators and why?
Empathy is an important trait that educators should have. Encompassed in empathy is genuine care and warmth, and I firmly believe that all educators need to possess this. This is something that can be learned, but that some people inherently have. Empathy is a skill that pushes an educator to see the student in the back of the room struggling to maintain his focus, because maybe lecturing is not how he best learns. It is what causes them to reach out to the student and say, “How can I make this material manageable for you? What can I change about my teaching to be more relatable for you?”

In relation to empathy, I believe educators are malleable, and able to bend to meet the needs of the student. They understand that there are different types of learners and that not everyone will succeed in the same way. In fact, success may look extremely different for learner A than for learner B. Educators recognize this and are able to congratulate and encourage learners to continue their work in the way that best suits them, while providing a platform for help and resources for those who need it. Educators understand that the real success is in the journey of learning, rather than the outcome on the exam.

What do you think are important types of skills/abilities/talents educators possess and why?

As stated above, malleability, or flexibility, is a key ability that educators have in their toolbox. They reach out to the students who are goofing off in class and recognize that whatever they are doing is not enough to capture their attention, so they need to find a way to be more interesting than the gossip. This may mean digging up new material, or rethinking old material. Either way, the educator should be able to meet the needs of the students by engaging their senses and finding ways for the process of learning to be better entertainment than the drama.

I also think that educators hold the ability to lighten any topic. Say a student fails an exam and is feeling down about it. The educator, rather than scolding the student, should look at them and say, “What can I do better? How can I help you get the results you want?” Again, this is where the flexibility comes in- results look different for every individual. Some students want to see an A+ on their exam. Others want to raise their grade a few percentage points. And some may benefit more from writing an essay about their learning rather than taking a multiple choice test.


Are there any important rewards of being an educator?

Definitely, and I believe my experience tutoring and mentoring freshman in high school have shown me those rewards. I firmly feel that service, which is truly what being an educator is, is the most enlightening way to find your own true potential. Students challenge you. They say, “Miss, why do I have to learn this? Miss, I don’t wanna do this right now.” It is your role to challenge them back.

Walking into a classroom everyday should inspire you to learn just as much as the students will that day, if not more. Seeing your students should brighten your day, and I have found that for me, it does. Watching my students go from not understanding how to solve an expression to completing it the next day with ease in the new way I taught them is completely indescribable. I take zero credit for their success- it is their dedication to learning and asking questions that gets them to where they are today. That is the most rewarding thing.

What knowledge is necessary to be an educator and why?
To be an educator is to be a learner for life. You are always changing, evolving your course to meet the needs of today’s world. Everyday there are new innovations and discoveries in every field imaginable. Therefore, to be an educator, you must first be an ever-eager learner.

You should be a master of your craft, if you can be. It is essential to be challenged by the students. They should strive to pass you in knowledge- you must not let them, but let them think they can. You should know how to keep them vigorous, even when the stakes seem low.

Lastly, to be an educator you must believe in the individual. You must understand the complexities of the mind, and imagine what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes for a not just a day, but a lifetime. You must know your students. Of course this takes time- but an educator hits the ground running. To expect students to be vulnerable, you must be vulnerable yourself. An educator finds a way to incorporate the lives on their students into their work.



What are your thoughts? What are the qualities of a great teacher?