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Ben Gilpin benjamingilpin

Ben Gilpin benjamingilpin

Elementary Principal, dad to two boys, husband, edu consultant, speaker, edu blogger, runner, sports fan, #michED supporter and I believe all kids can succeed.

Posted by on in What If?
"Those who can do, those who can't teach." - George Bernard Shaw
From my view as an educator I find this quote to be ridiculous.  Yet I would also say that EVERYONE believes themselves to be an expert when it comes to school.  It is the one profession that nearly all people have experienced in one way or another.
Check out the statistics (above) and the trend of people going into education:
The above graph (image found NEA article) and subsequent trend should not surprise me...but it does. Deep down I would have thought the numbers were on the decline, but not to this level.
So the simple question is why?  Where are all the education majors, and why are they looking elsewhere?  
I believe there are many answers.
First, let us take a look at pay versus tuition costs: The average beginning salary for teachers in the United States is $36,141(1).  The average student loan debt from a 4-year university stands at $26,600(4).  
I make two observational conclusions on this data.  One, choosing to be a teacher with large debt makes it nearly impossible to buy a house and attempt to live the "American Dream."  Two, tuition costs are rising around the nation, but salaries are stagnant.
Second, the narrative that people share about education is not positive. We've all heard the horror stories about angry parents, long hours, disrespectful students and administrators that rule with an iron fist.
Third, the sad state of affairs is that many incoming freshman have grown up in the testing era. Nothing can inspire a person less.  Our legislature has put a microscope on test scores, and as a result, schools around the nation feel the pressure to exceed the state average.  It shouldn't be about a standardized test score, but unfortunately many still believe it is.
Fourth, the quote at the top is something people are aware of.  It used to be teaching was a noble and fulfilling profession.  If you entered into a career in education you knew you wouldn't be a millionaire, but the lives you would impact would brighten your heart for a lifetime. Unfortunately educators struggle to have a satisfying life.  The truth is, in the last two years the suicide rate is up 80% (3) in educators.  Many teachers are on some form of anti-depressants.  This is a disturbing trend.
If you read the above points you probably won't believe this, but I'm an optimist and I do believe in education.  Yes, it can be a phenomenal career!
Here is how...
As educators we have to change the narrative.  You've heard about school branding and sharing stories from the classroom.  This is imperative. School is not the same as it was years ago. Our legislature believes school is the same, in fact, many of our families believe school is the same. It's not.  School is different.  Technology is now integrated into most things we do.  Teachers teach everything from multiplication facts to coding.  When you were in school did you learn to code?  Did you survey surrounding areas with a drone?  Did you skype with classrooms from around the World? Education is different.  It has to be. The status quo is not what our society needs.  We must push the limits to help create a better world.  That is how education is different, and we must share that story with our community and beyond.
The next way we can build a better profession is by strengthening teacher voice and choice.  It's time to personalize professional development.  We cannot continue to treat everyone the exact same.  The time has come to individualize educator growth.
Third, we need higher education to be better.  If we are truly going to turn this trend around then universities and school districts need to communicate better.  It's a shame that nearly 20% (2) of teachers leave the profession by the end of year five.  This speaks to the poor job being done. Higher education needs to be better and school districts need to be better. Schools must put a strong emphasis on mentoring and supporting new teachers.  
We need to hear more stories that make us feel good.  Ask a teacher to share a story about why they teach.  I bet if you take the time you will laugh and cry during that story.
Education is NOT for those that can't...EDUCATION is one of the most gratifying and meaningful careers in our world.  Not everyone can do what teachers do.  Think I'm wrong?  Try it yourself. 
I welcome you to take the time to listen to the latest episode of UnearthED.
Finally, the one question I have heard for years has been, "Would you encourage your own child to be a teacher?"  As a parent and educator you must know your kids.  I've got two terrific boys and if they wanted to be in education I would support them to the best of my ability.  As for encouraging, I believe in following your passion, if they have a passion and desire to teach I would help cultivate that.
This week's big question:  What did I miss?  Why is there a decline of college students majoring in education?  How would you begin to reverse this trend?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Here are links to articles that provided data for the above post:
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Posted by on in What If?
I recently watched a fantastic six minute YouTube video featuring Steve Harvey.  I know, I know, Steve Harvey had the gaff at the Miss Universe Pageant, but that doesn't detract from the great things he has done for people.  I imagine he has made most of us laugh, cry and think.  The video is titled, You Have to Jump (6 min).  
I bring this up because the message has made me reflect on my journey. How many times have I jumped?  Is there still more opportunities in my future?  I honestly don't know, but I hope to have the courage when the time comes.
There was a time I jumped.
Years ago I was at a low point and feeling very much isolated in my career. I was filled with doubt and I had several depressing days.  On the outside I tried very hard to smile, be positive, and support others, but on the inside I was lacking belief in myself.  Then one evening when I felt very low, I turned to my wife and said, "I'm not sure I can do this." She was amazingly supportive and cheered me on like no one else could.
That night I turned in very late.  I actually sat in bed and checked out twitter for the first time.  I had an account prior to that night, but I nothing with it.  That night I jumped.  I began to follow conversations, click on links, and connect with other educators.  I threw caution to the wind and went for it.  Within a very short amount of time I could feel myself energized.
You never know when opportunity will knock.  I never want to look back and regret not jumping.  I don't want to be the person standing on the edge and watching life pass me by.
My individual journey has been filled with its fair share of "forks in the road."  I think I've jumped multiple times, and who's to say I won't again. 
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Posted by on in School Culture
photodune 6547519 resolutions on typewriter xs
"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."  -Carl Bard
Have you ever felt the tug to do New Year's Resolutions?  Call it peer pressure or guilt, I often feel the need to set goals for the upcoming year.  
Last year I took the #oneword challenge.  I chose to not advertise my word in an effort to stay grounded and focused on what I needed to do to be better.  My word was Relationships.  In my opinion this is not an area of glaring weakness, but sometimes I get so busy with life that I forget to focus on what really matters.
This year, I have my own goals and resolutions that I will focus on, but this post is more about Challenging the Status Quo in Education.  I do not believe education is broken, but I do believe it needs a significant overhaul.  Here is my list of Resolutions I wish for in education.
1)  Let the Professionals Be Professional!  Several weeks ago President Obama set in motion legislation that would essentially give back High Stakes Testing to State Governments.  He stated, "Learning is about so much more than filling in the right bubble."  I agree!  But we can do better.  I challenge State Legislators to END High Stakes State Testing.  Standardized Testing was never supposed to be High Stakes.  When first introduced, Standardized Tests were designed to help schools improve education.  Now they are tied to funding, and viewed by many as a way to place blame on educators.
2)  Can't We All Just Get Along?  During my lifetime the tug of war between Elementary, Secondary, Higher Ed and Employers has been poisonous.  Employers point the finger at schools and universtities and say the people they are hiring are not ready for the "real world." Higher Ed then points the finger at high schools and says these students are not college ready. Secondary looks at elementary and says these kids aren't at grade level.  The blame game is destructive.  Let's STOP!  It must start with Higher ED shifting a focus away from memorization, ridiculously long essays, and lecture driven classes.  We need Higher ED to embrace the mindset of problem solving, creative thinking and relevant learning.  I'd love to see more internships for Freshman and Sophomore students.  
3)  How can I help you?  I think it is safe to say that we all agree that all people are different.  My question is, If we believe this why do we continue to clump people together and teach them the same?  The time is now to shift to personalized learning.  It starts with differentiation and then comes individualizing, and finally we arrive at a personalized approach.  If you aren't differentiating, the simple question is, Why?  Do you think all people are the same?  This shouldn't be for just students.  As educators we should be personalizing professional development for all.  Some activities call for full group participation, others call for personalization.  The time is NOW to make the change. 
4)  Society, what is wrong with you?  I recently took in an NBA basketball game and I gotta say, YUCK!  Minus a few really elite players you've simply got a bunch of high paid athletes with mediocre skill.  The NBA is a gold mine, but why?  I can honestly say, I felt bored watching the game.  It was predictable and bland.  Sure you get a few moments where you cheer, but by and large, you know the superstars will get the calls and you can typically predict who will win.  Yet these athletes make millions.  Our teachers make FAR, FAR less.  The world seems backwards. There is a popular saying, "Those who can, do; Those who can't, teach."  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  Great teachers change the world!  We all have a teacher that sparked us, changed us and brought out our passions.  These are the people that should be making millions.  
5)  Anybody have the time?  For far too long schools have been dictated by seasons, age, and time.  The outcome is very predicatable and this system will benefit some, but definitely not all. The time has come for us to throw out time restrictions.  Why do we have to be an 8am - 3pm educational system?  I relish the chance to overhaul the system.  I'd love to see secondary students have the opportunity to sleep in and go to school at a later time.  I'd like to see flex schedules that allow students to do internships or work study programs at all parts of the day. Times have changed, but our system has stayed the same.  
6)  Just Stop Already!  Nothing gets me more fired up than a legislator telling me what is best for schools.  When an elected official takes office they have a duty.  Unfortunately they also ALWAYS have an AGENDA!  But they shouldn't.  The role of an elected official is generally the same.  They are:  listen to concerns, review policy, support your area, help find practical solutions to problems, and serve the people of your region.  That's it.  End of story, please stop telling everyone what is wrong with schools.  Truth is, most government officials haven't been in a classroom in years.  They are going off of standardized test results and a few "sky is falling" individuals.  Schools are not broken, we would love your help and support, but we are certainly not broken.
7)  The Rollercoaster ride needs to end.  My entire life I've worked with people.  It's what I love to do, but one thing frustrates me.  People in general are full of drama.  I've watched it time and again.  Let me ask you, do you know someone that is a constant positive influence?  If you do, think of this person.  I bet this person is a lightning rod for good!  The challenge is, can you get rid of some of your drama?  What is bringing you down as a person?  Money?  Weight? Relationships?  Whatever it may be, I challenge you to get control of yourself and eliminate some of your drama.  Nobody wants to associate with the drama filled individual.
8)  Contagious Kindness.  The final wish for 2016 and beyond is for people to simply be kind.  If we all chose to value and appreciate the little things.  If we all chose to not take for granted our health.  If we all chose to stop and smell the roses, we would be a whole lot more patient, happy, and forgiving.  My hope is for kindness to always win. 
I intentionally stopped at eight. I feel as though I could easily get to ten, but I'm not.  My question is, what would you overhaul in education?  What resolutions would you make to help education move in the right direction?
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Posted by on in School Culture

"Gratitude is one of the most important human virtues and one of the most common human deficiencies. Gratitude does not develop without effort." - Dieter Uchtdorf

 How often do we cherish the moment?

Do we tell people how much they mean to us? Throughout my school career I enjoyed several caring and wonderful teachers. I also had my fair share of teachers that I simply didn't connect with. Looking back one teacher made an impact with me as a student & teacher. As a fifth grade student I was placed in the room of Mrs. Janice Wetters. I had several friends in the room and at that time fifth grade was part of the Middle School.

It was a Whole New World.

When I think back to my fifth grade year several memories pop into my head. It was the first time in my life I held a girl's hand! I learned how to divide triple-digit numbers. I really got excited about science, and I found a true appreciation for consistency. As I look back what I remember the most about fifth grade is that Mrs. Wetters was predictable, consistent and reliable. I never remember her missing a day of school. I always knew that she would treat everyone the same, and each school day was filled with routine and procedure. In the moment I likely thought fifth grade was boring, but thinking back I appreciate what my teacher put in place.

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Posted by on in School Culture

 About two months ago this young lady (see above) came up to me, gave me a hug and told me she wanted to be a principal when she grows up. 

I smiled, patted her on the back and told her, Go For It!  I told her she would be a fantastic principal. 

As I walked away I had a grin on my face.  My sense of pride was pretty high.  I take being a role model very serious, and for good reason, many of our students will only have a few principals in their lifetime.  I, for one, hope that they look back and remember the positives. 

Then a little later I thought of my advice.  "Go For It!"  Hmmm...would I tell my own boys the same thing?  Would I encourage our youth to become educators?  Is it a satisfying career? 

My mind pondered these questions as I lay in bed one night.  Years ago I didn't plan to become a teacher.  Shoot, I went to college and changed majors twice before I finally discovered my passion.  I still remember sitting in classrooms and I filling out interest surveys.  Each time it had me doing something outdoors and traveling.  The point is, some people find their passion at a young age and others continually search for it.  The trick is, whether you discover it at age 10 or at age 40, it's about doing what you love. 

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