#TeachingInNC

Courtesy of Terrance Ruth

As a black boy growing up in Florida, Terrance Ruth was inspired to become a teacher not by anyone at his school, but by his mother. She was a nurse at a youth psych ward and often brought her children with her to work.

Image of teacher Angie Scioli
At Large Productions

Teachers are a common subject in Hollywood films. Portrayals of teaching range from the unorthodox style of Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poets Society” to the dull and droning econ teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A new documentary film about a veteran North Carolina teacher explores how popular culture’s portrayals of the teaching profession are a far-cry from what happens in most classrooms around the country day-in and day-out.

Terry Stoops is the Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation
Twitter

Contributions to the superb #TeachingInNC project are, to quote baseball great Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again.

The names of classroom activities are different, but children today are engaged in tasks that have cycled in and out of public school classrooms for decades. 

Whether it is group work, hands-on activities, student-led discussions, or focus on "real world" skills, it is a good bet that previous generations of experts have promoted it, teachers have employed it, and children have suffered through it.

WUNC ran a month-long project where we asked teachers to give us a snapshot of their lives.

Many teachers shared photos of exciting things happening inside their classrooms. But many also shared frustrations. Teacher pay and workload topped the list:

We asked a variety of educational leaders in the state to review all of the responses to #TeachingInNC. We asked a simple question: what do you see? 

'The pictures really speak a thousand words'

Oct 31, 2014
State Superintendent June Atkinson listens to a second grade student from Perquimans Central School read from his favorite book.
NC Public Schools

In looking at and reviewing the snapshots of teachers' lives submitted by some of the state's 95,000 public school teachers, I am proud to see such wonderful illustrations of creative, engaging and quality learning occurring in our public school classrooms.  

The pictures really speak a thousand words as to why our students are making such strong academic growth and why they are graduating in record-breaking numbers. The pictures depict what I see all the time across the state in the many classes I am so fortunate to visit. 

Mark Jewell
NCAE

When I look at these tweets from our amazing educators and students, a big smile comes across my face. It makes me reflect back to my own career as a NC public school teacher.

I have worked in education for 27 years.  I started in 1987, teaching in my home state of West Virginia. But by 1997 I was in the classroom in Guilford County, lured to North Carolina because of her reputation as a leader in innovation and classroom practices.

Being a teacher is tough anywhere. On a national scale, being a teacher in North Carolina is arguably among the most challenging environments in public education. 

Recent "rankings" have painted a picture of North Carolina's public schools that have raised alarm in communities across the state, bringing public education to the forefront of policy and politics. 

Most would agree that where we are is not where we need to be to compete economically in modern regional, national, and global markets. 

Bill McDiarmid
UNC School of Education

One of the things that struck me was how rewarding teachers continue to find their careers despite the environment they are in. Many teachers don't feel valued or respected. While there are good aspects to the [recent] pay raise for early career teachers, more veteran teachers feel like the service that they put in isn't valued.

And yet if you look at the comments (in #TeachingInNC) you see how committed, enthusiastic and creative these folks remain.

Howard Lee
UNC-TV

I found that a lot of the responses were inspirational, and I am big on inspiring students. I thought the attempt was being made to get students really excited about learning, and I really like that.

There was one post that was about success. The teacher talked about helping students find their dreams. I am in the midst of writing a paper about dreams, hope and faith, and this is what I am writing:

Dreams inspire, hope motivates and faith sustains.

(Note: Lee points out several posts that are by teachers talking about inspiring students.)

At the beginning of this school year, WUNC ran an experiment. We asked teachers a simple question: "Give us a snapshot of your life, in words or pictures."

By the end of the month we had 1,400 responses, mostly on Twitter.

Teachers talked about their pay, their frustrations, their surprising moments, their working weekends, their plugged up classroom toilets. They took photos of t-shirts kids wore and notes students left. We saw a remarkable number of ways teachers are using technology. In short, we received just what we asked for, a window into the teaching profession in North Carolina today.

>> Look at the archive of responses here. Look at how educational leaders across the state responded to the project here.

Nancy Gardner is one of the teachers who contributed to the project. Gardner is National Board Certified Teacher with over 26 years of experience in grades 7-12. She currently teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C. where she chairs the English Department. We asked Nancy to review the tweets and Instagram contributions and tell us what she saw:

"I am inspired, and yes, a little weepy, when I read and view all of these at one time," writes Gardner. "Although some of these mention the salaries and frustrations with all of the issues facing NC teachers, the 'narrative' continues to reinforce the dedication our teachers have to helping all students become successful, in spite of the challenges."

Gardner then provided this list, something she calls "broad takeaways":

"No longer do we have rows of traditional teaching with the teacher in the front of the room," writes Gardner.  "All levels, K-12 are in small groups-and the lessons are teacher facilitated or coached."

More than 300 teachers across the state have participated so far in our #TeachingInNC project.  It's where we ask teachers to give us a snapshot of their lives, using words or pictures. We hope that, collectively, these snippets will give "the rest of us" a sense of what it's like to be a teacher in NC. 

Most teachers are sending in their snapshots via Twitter, but some are using Instagram. This one made us laugh.

That same teacher also submitted this:

>>Browse all 701+ submissions here.