Higher Ed Vs. K-12


Long-time educator supporting individualized learning for all students. Earned BS in elementary education, Master's is Technology for Teachers, and Ph.D. in Computing Technology for Educators. Teaching experience in all grades from Pre-K to adult. Currently retired, but still involved in education through Learningbyts, as an educational consultant and CEO and author.

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14 Responses

  1. CybrScrybe says:

    Oh…. the trials and tribulations of getting a late start in a new system…. I’ve survived… and still feel I made the right decision returning to the classroom… but there were times….

    For example… Since I started this year two weeks late, I was scrambling as many a new teacher needs to do. Labor Day weekend was spent getting the classroom ready, and just in time, as I was able to take the kids for the first time from their teachers on the Tuesday afternoon after Labor Day.

    I scrambled for two more weeks, with many of the same challenges any new teacher faces. The difference is that I knew that these challenges will get better as the year goes on, so had the confidence to push on. The challenges I’m talking about could all have been made easier if someone in the system had thought ahead. For example, nowhere was there a list of faculty members and the grades they taught, so in addition to learning 60 new students names in the first week of school for me, I also had to ask someone for a list of who is in the school, and who teaches what. With 5th graders, I could at least ask the kids what the gym teacher’s name was, or where they had band, and on what days. I imagine a new teacher wouldn’t even have been aware of the fact that 3 days a week, smaller reading groups (a perfect scenario for literature circles) had to be planned for, because band students were out of the room.

    Because of the craziness of the school calendar, I didn’t see my kids for a full week until the third week I was there. I only had the kids for three days the first week due to Labor Day and my late start, then three days the next due to district testing. The third week was almost a full week, but the High School had “carnival” as part of their homecoming ritual, and all elementary students spent the afternoon enjoying the festivities… but it still cut short my time with my own kids when I desperately needed to be bonding to them.

    In addition, planning time was cut short due to district required training after school, and the fact that schedules for specials were still up in the air. As an experienced teacher, I could see where the training was really necessary as it was on the upcoming testing. However, it really took time away that I could have used fine-tuning classroom management or lesson planning, as I didn’t have the summer to prepare those.

    Other issues in the building that could have been made easier, were getting keys to the building, and getting access to the computers (especially since lunch count and attendance are done there). The school should have a faculty handbook stating all the procedures in the school, or who to contact for what. I didn’t know I had to call the administration building to get codes for the building or passwords for the computer system. I had to do that while teaching all day… as well as spend quite a bit of time contacting past employers and Graduate institutions in order to complete paper work for insurance and so that I might get a pay check at the end of the month.

    I still don’t have a copy of the fire drill procedure for my room, or the first aid paraphenalia that the video we saw said we should have in our rooms. These all should be listed in the handbook, as well as where we should be able to find them.

    In addition, the procedures for dismissal (do teachers need to check out that all their students are on the buses?), or what to do when you have yard duty, are not written down somewhere, so I will have to bother my colleagues with trivia. Not that any of them have been reticent in sharing… but I’m sure new teachers get tired of having to always ask questions. I know my colleagues are busy people, and have lives of their own, so would like to save questions for them that I can’t find answers to elsewhere. Having a faculty handbook that keeps all procedures in one place would be useful to have.

    Like I said… I’ve survived this, and my kids and I have progressed through the honeymoon stage of September, and moved on to the testing stages of October, where all rules and consequences are tested. As a new teacher, I know I would be feeling at this point that I can’t do this…. that I’m lousy as a teacher. I know that I had a few moments of doubt about whether I made the right decision a couple of times, and know that if I hadn’t had 20+ years of success under my belt, I may have broken down and cried with frustration.

    I’ve already started to bond with the kids, reminding me of why I am here…… and still constantly battling the overflux of paperwork. I think back to the interview I had at the University where they were worried about how I’d find the time to grade 75 lesson plans in one semester. I just grin to myself as I think about the 75 pages a day I grade as a 5th grade teacher, and think…. would I have been continuously bored at the University? I’m not sure…. one thing is certain… this K-12 teaching job still takes a lot of vim and vigor…. but is a lot of fun..


  2. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed your reflections on the start of school and your frustration with the lack of information on procedures is common. Couple that with the self doubts of a new job, no track record, and isolation and you see why the first year is so stressful to new teachers.

    What are the opportunities for community collaboration with teachers at the high school?

    Thanks for taking the time to write.

  3. CybrScrybe says:

    Another week has passed…. I had many mixed feelings this week. I finally felt like I was getting a handle on what the kids know and can do, yet still feeling like grading papers is an uphill battle. Report cards are due next week, so it’s time to put all that together to make sense.

    This grading issue also brought out one of the changes that have occurred since I was last in the classroom — creating ILP’s (Individual Literacy Plans) for students who are a year behind grade level. Is this due to the No Child Left Behind Act? Or is it something that Colorado has always done, that Maryland did not do?

    I think creating the Literacy Plans is a good idea, as it really made me focus on what strategies I’ll need to try with the individual students. I only have 4 students that need it, and one that I need to watch. In most of my Maryland classes, there were probably at least 6 in every class. Is that because this class is small and hand picked (the teacher’s were supposed to give me their best- which I feel wasn’t fair to them, but appreciate it). It means some extra paper work, but it’s worth it if the students benefit.

    The plans need to be signed by parents, student, teacher, and an administrator, and then submitted to my principal. I was up until after midnight one night this week getting them completed, but haven’t had a chance to meet with the parents yet. Since next week is conferences, I hope I can do that then, but wonder if I’ll get into trouble by not submitting them by the due date (yesterday). As a more experienced teacher, I realize that I may get scolded for this non-compliance, but they won’t fire me in the middle of the year for it. As a new teacher, I would have been shaking in my shoes….. I’m hoping since I started two weeks late, administration will be willing to give me the week’s leeway..

    Had another reminder this week of the need to get my emergency sub plans completed. The unexpected death of a secretary at the Middle School, upsetting the whole community, pointed out the closeness of a small rural mountain town. It also pointed out that we never know when our time has come. I had a personal encounter with my own mortality when my car hydroplaned off the highway spinning 3 times in the process. No injuries or even damage to the car occurred, and I made it to school on time, but the fact that I was only 100 yards from landing in an arroyo made me think about how I need to live every day to the fullest, and make plans so my kids will have someone able to keep their educational process proceeding if I become laid up.

    This weekend will be spent catching up on grading writing assignments (from the technology classes), and working on report cards. Hopefully working through this process will give me some closure to the beginning of the year madness, and let me start the new quarter even with the rest of the faculty.

  4. CybrScrybe says:

    October 30, 2004

    Report cards got completed, and I’ve met with most of my parents already. Have some reschedules planned for Monday.

    Conferences went well, as most parents understood their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Several had students who have had straight A’s in lower grades, but got a “B” or “C” for the first time in 5th grade. It’s hard to explain that concepts are really getting harder now, and most kids can’t coast through like they could earlier. I found something to encourage the parents to be involved with their child, as I feel that is very important, especially at this age. Parents tend to feel that their children are growing away from them as they near middle school, and while that is partially true, the kids still need their parents involved in their lives, just in different ways. Hopefully by encouraging them to help their student with homework, those parent child bonds can continue in a healthy manner.

    The excitement this week at the classroom level was the Halloween parties, of course. I’m glad that challenge is over, and we can get back to work. I did some little classroom management things like putting desks in a U shape for the week and having fun review dittos to do, to keep the classroom under control. Everyone made it to the party, so I guess the changes worked.

    On another level, my excitement this week came from being that the Technology + Leadership + Learning (T+L2) conference in Denver.

    One of the major thoughts that was a focus of the conference is that NCLB says that 8th grade students MUST be computer literate by the 2006 school year. That means that today’s 5th graders will need to have those skills before they reach 8th grade. We can give them a leg up by providing whatever we can.

    The other factor that kept getting repeated is that today’s kids are neurologically different than we are, due to the fact that they have been around computers all their lives, so educators need to be meeting students in the world they are familiar with… a technologically rich one. These thoughts were expressed by Susan Patrick (from Rod Paige’s office) to folks at the state level (Jared Polis -chair of the State School Board; Leroy Lewis – Secretary of Technology & Chief Information Officer for State of Colorado; Kent Tamsen – Director, Education Technology Center, Colorado Department of Education) to others from other countries. The state board is looking at writing the new Technology Plan (the old one has expired) and it sounds like teacher training will be a focus, as well as providing grants for more technology.

    So it looks like I need to start planning training for teachers on all kinds of technology…. I knew there was a reason I was pushed back to the school level…

    Planning ahead..


  5. CybrScrybe says:

    December 5, 2004
    Another month has passed since report cards and conferences… my how time flies when you are having fun!

    During this month I was able to get more work out of the kids in the technology lab. Thanks to talks with parents during conferences, more kids have buckled down to work, and we’ve also ironed out some of the glitches. The main glitch, that of not being able to save student files to anything but a floppy disk which they aren’t allowed to take home (fear of bringing virus’back in). ;-(…. has been made less of a hassle by utilizing an online classroom space on Tapped In. This allows the kids to save their files in a safe environment, and work on them at home, and at school.

    During this month I also received my evaluation, which consisted of being observed three times. I’m still not sure how it turned out, as my administrator hasn’t shared the written report that she will be turning in to Admin with me.

    Sending out grade checks this week caused quite a bit of confusion. While 45 kids had very successful assignments, which we were able to display for the rest of the school to see, 15 had difficulties completing all assignments. Therefore, when parents saw incomplete work, and the accompanying low grade, panic hit. I’ve had more contacts with parents this week than all semester so far. It’s great that they want to keep up with their child, but it makes me feel like I’m not doing something right. Why do I feel so responsible for their lack of work?? I’m working extremely hard with grading 100 papers a day, and 500 a week, teaching good lessons, giving corrective lessons on the side, as well as sometimes providing enrichment activities, but still feel very frustrated that all kids are not achieving to the best of their abilities.

    I really feel that Susan Patrick (Dept of Ed in Washington, D.C.) had it right when she said that education is backward. We base education on time rather than concepts. Students are given only a year to master certain concepts, when they all learn at different paces. We should be letting them take the time they need to master the concepts! I can’t wait for the new educational philosophies that are strong points of online learning to challenge the old feudal system!

  6. CybrScrybe says:

    December 11, 2004 – The battle in my head and heart between Higher ED and Elementary classroom rages onward..

    As I prepare for the exciting holidays ahead, I’m starting to enjoy the kids a little more. It’s definitely an excitement missing at the higher ed level.

    However, my feelings as to whether to be in the Higher Ed environment or the Elementary classroom are still in turmoil. It’s a little early for me to decide where I want to be, as I’m just recuperating from the feelings of “catching up” with starting late in the classroom. However, my contract is only a one year contract, and to have a job come next September, I need to be laying the ground work and applying now for higher ed positions if I want to go that way.

    The ideal situation would be to stay in the Elementary classroom for another year, to give me time to finish my Ph.D. without strain, as well as to have a year with kids where I’m not “adapting” to a new system, thus giving me a more realistic view of the work and workload. However, that ideal may not surface, as the “intent to not renew” contract states clearly that the position is only for a year. It also states that I will have a first choice of any open positions in the system before new teachers are offered them. So as long as my evaluations are good, chances are good that I will have a teaching position somewhere in the district. There is even a possibility of an opening at Rye if a teacher retires.

    So do I sit around waiting for the possibilities? and have the slight chance of being unemployed in September? As the only breadwinner in the family (my husband has been unemployed since we moved here), I can’t take the chance, and have to have a back up plan. Therefore, I need to be applying to higher education institutions at the current time.

    My thoughts follow this line…. Once I get a Ph.D., would it be a waste of talent to be in a 5th grade classroom? or should I be at the higher ed level sharing my expertise with young teachers who will have the vim and vigor that might wane for me in the coming years (I’m within 15 years of retirement)?

    Will the higher education scenario fulfill MY needs? I’ve left the elementary classroom two times now, once to raise my own kids, and once to spread my own wings to grow in the higher ed world, but I keep returning to the elementary classroom. Will sharing my visions and abilities with future teachers fulfill my needs to teach? I evidently missed something at both the institutions I worked at, but I was there as a tech support person, not as faculty, and therefore not really teaching on a fulltime basis. Will working as a supervisor of future teachers, give me the pleasure of watching kids learn that I enjoy so much? Will I be allowed to do that as an Instructional Technology faculty member?

    Another question that keeps surfacing in the back of my mind is, once I’ve been through the research process, where will be the best scenario for furthering the field? As a professor, or as a teacher? If I choose to research further, will I have to fight a stigma in the elementary classroom because parents will wonder if I’m doing research on their kids? Will being Dr. Schulz (or Dr. Barb) be a help or a hindrance in the elementary classroom?

    If school districts were ready for an online coordinator, than I think my dilemma would be solved, as that’s where I want to put my future energies… into creating schools that can take advantage of online curriculums to make it easier on teachers, as well as pace learning for students to meet their needs. But I suspect this scenario is at least 5 years away yet… so where can I impact the change the best???

    Time and opportunities will tell..

  7. CybrScrybe says:

    January 1, 2005

    The rush to Xmas is over, and the break was beneficial to me in several ways. I utilized the time to catch my breath, analyze my teaching so far, and try to plan for the next 5 months. I also put a lot of effort into working on my dissertation.

    I’ve put in 4 full days working on checking papers and report cards, as well as planning ahead. However, some of that time also focused on thinking how I can change things. At first, with the late start, and not being familiar with the curriculum, I went along with what the grade level colleagues were using … that is the Anthology for reading, and the textbook for Math. Since the technology class is not required by the district, I was free to try my own thing, but was pulled up short due to a myriad of technlogy challenges, and the students lack of feeling responsible for the work.

    In addition, I was told by the administration that I need to be sure to utilize the software that was bought before I came, as it was a large financial investment and they need to see that it’s being used. While the software does have curricular connections, most of it is in game format. The students love playing it as that is the world with computers that they know. It does teach skills, but it doesn’t stretch their knowledge of technology as a tool rather than a toy. I strongly feel that they need to develop those skills as they will need to know all facets of technolgy to be 21st Century workers. So it looks like I’m going to have to juggle the software with projects that teach the skills I feel are necessary like Information Technology Skills.

    So how will I change my teaching in the next few months? I’d like to veer off the Anthology more towards the use of literature circles,(have been doing that on the sly anyway), but am limited by the lack of trade books to use. In the past I always had literature books that matched my Social Studies units, (Such as Johnny Tremain, and Then What Happened, Paul Revere for the Colonial Days unit). However, this school has very few books that have multiple copies that match the curriculum. Even though we did the budget for the next school year already (and funds are very limited), I can’t see how I can get ahold of enough copies of the books (without going broke myself)for this school year. So I’m still thinking about how to handle this..

    As for math, I hope to be able to utilize more of the manipulatives that are hiding away in a colleague’s closet. I think the math units that we need to cover before the testing lean themselves well to use of the manipulatives. And since we need to raise math scores on the test an astonomical amount of 30%, I’ll need to apply them as much as possible.

    I think some of the answers to these questions will be changed when we meet as a grade level during our work day on Monday. Although some of that time may be spent completing report cards.

    More thoughts later..


  8. CybrScrybe says:

    Wrong….. that day was spent moving my classroom from one hallway to another one. Since the school was able to get a full time music teacher, the extra classroom next to the computer lab was left empty, so my administrator suggested that I move there. So instead of using that day for planning, etc. I spent the day moving boxes, books, posters, and the rest of the needed classroom materials.

    How has the move been? Mostly beneficial. Now that I’m next to the lab, I can keep an eye on when the lab is empty, and my kids can pop in there to complete work, or look something up. I’m also there for lunch and morning recess for kids to be able catch up on work.

    The best part has been the instructional benefits. I can now teach the kids a background lesson, say on poetry in my classroom, then have them go right next door to the lab and apply what we’ve talked about. I think the kids aren’t quite as happy about it, as they have to do real work now, but they’ve produced some really nice projects. The benefit to me is that I can encourage and help kids that are having trouble thinking about and organizing their writing without the computers getting in the way. But the fact that if they can finish their thinking process in my room, they can go to the computers gives them a carrot to work towards.

    Teaching itself is still a learning process. The kids started to get testy with one another the past couple of weeks, and behaviors were not as good as they’ve been. It took me a couple of days of watching them to figure out that the social pressures of the coming holiday – Valentine’s Day – was causing them to act out to each other. The age old “Who’s going with whom” syndrome was taking its toll as one student “dropped” or “broke up” with another. This was not going on in the classroom, but was an underlying tension that played itself out in constant underlying conversations, angry looks, etc. to each other, and taking away from their learning. I had forgotten about this tension, and once I figured it out, I was able to put my own pressures (threatening to take away their party) on them to get them to focus on their work rather than social relationships. The tensions are still there, and manifesting themselves in strange ways, but the kids now have the incentive to keep their personal struggles under control through lessons.

    Again, as a new teacher this would have been devastating to me as the learning and grades have gone down. I would have assumed that my teaching was the reason, but having years of seeing these same syptoms at this time of the year, I know that it’s part of their developmental process as 5th graders, and can deal with it appropriately. I still need to reflect on my teaching so that I can find better ways to motivate their learning as this social process unfolds, and keep them on track.

    In addition, the looming spectre of the state tests in March keeps me focused on trying to “cover” curriculum so that they will have the skills they need for the test. If the practice tests given by the state are any indication, these tests will be easier than the MD tests used to be, and the practice tests are given in small chunks, enabling us to start practicing with little pieces now. And the practice tests ease my burden slightly in the planning process….

  9. Novagrrll says:

    “Once I get a Ph.D., would it be a waste of talent to be in a 5th grade classroom?”

    Are you saying that 5th graders aren’t worthy of a teacher who has a Ph.D? Shame on you! Why should you think that your “talents” are too good for children and fit only for those in higher education? Perhaps it would not be your “expertise” you’d be sharing, but your arrogance instead.

  10. bschulz says:

    Ouch… Novagrrl.. point taken… but I didn’t think that 5th graders don’t deserve a teacher with a Ph.D., just that I’ve seen too many of the type of professor you are talking about.. the ones with arrogance that haven’t been in the classroom for years.

    I just keep wondering if the Ph.D. will allow me to share that love of working with kids with future teachers. If I’m in the classroom, I only touch 30 or so kids a year, however, if I’m in higher ed, and I give 30 teachers a year my love of teaching, they in turn will touch 20 kids a year for the next 20 years.

    Is it arrogant of me to want to impact the future through impacting teachers? Possibly… and I’m not even sure I’m good at teaching in higher ed as my experiences are limited there. But in no way did I mean to imply that 5th graders did not deserve a teacher with a Ph.D. On the contrary… aren’t all teachers Ph.D.’s at heart? … most are lifelong learners who just haven’t focused their studies in one area, or done the research required, but that too may change with the focus NCLB has on making research based changes.

    Hope this clarifies things for you…

  11. CybrScrybe says:

    It’s now time to be winding down the school year. The testing is completed, and it seemed that the kids did well. Field trips, and Field day, and DARE graduation as well as Science Fair projects, and Spelling Bees, Brain Bowl, and Spring Plays take up a lot of the instructional time between now and the end of school. 5th grade attitudes are in full swing, but the fun stuff makes me glad that I’m still not behind a computer screen all day. I’m really enjoying being with the kids as they work through all these activities.

    On the other side however, I’ve got a big job search in process as the district budget says my position will no longer be available next year. So which way am I leaning –K-12 again, or higher ed? At this point it looks like I’ve put in more applications in K-12 than higher ed, so maybe my heart is still here. However, while I’d like to be able to apply my technology training in the K-12 world, that world is not quite ready (basically budgets are not quite ready) for my vision of schools of the future. And while I think I could still be involved with K-12 students as a professor (I’d make it my service time to work in the schools to lend an extra hand where needed), it won’t be like being in the classroom and close to the kids. I know I’ll miss it again.

    So which way will I go? Check back at the end of the summer….

  12. CybrScrybe says:

    It’s now the end of July, and with a new school year pending, what’s my decision? I wound up selecting a position in a school district surrounding Denver as an “Educational Technology Specialist”. This position involves working with 13 schools and aiding their teachers with integrating technology across the curriculum. It will include doing workshops for teachers, as well as mentoring others, and possibly co-teaching some lessons with teachers.

    I’ve also agreed to write curriculum for an online school district in Arizona on a part time basis. So as you can see, although I’m working in the -12 world, I’ll be using the skills that I fine tuned at the higher education level in working with adult students, and developing online curriculum.

    Life seems to have a way of working things out!

  13. CybrScrybe says:

    It’s now December again, and after a semester in K-12 at the admin level, I’m pleased with my decision. I love the flexibility of my job, and when I walk into schools and see those shiny faces, I’m reminded of why I am doing the work I am doing.

    This district is a lot more tech savvy, and even has goals to bring online learning into it, so my position has been perfect for me.

    However, as I reread this blog, I had a nostalic feeling of missing out on kids lives. Keeping in touch with last year’s kids via TappedIn, and their occasional chats has helped me keep in touch.

    I guess I’ll just need to start co-teaching more, to be able to aid teachers and kid in the classroom!

    My dissertation topic is changing as well, to a topic that this district can use to implement online learning.

    So now my outlook is…

    “The world is my oyster, and I’m having fun finding little pearls…”

  14. CybrScrybe says:

    Well another year has passed, and that administrative dream job turned into a political nightmare, complete with a mole in the organization. While I have to admit that the original position was probably meant to only be a one year position, and any data I gathered while doing a needs assessment of the schools defended that concept, I will always wonder if I could have done more to make the position last a little longer. True, there are pockets of teachers who could use the hand holding of an Ed Tech Specialist, however, in general (in this district, at least), teachers have the technology message, and are doing some really neat things with their kids. And while the district still needs someone at the helm to make sure that curriculum meets tech standards, and tech meets curriculum, the need for several admin positions is not necessary.

    Therefore, I’m back in the same dilemma as I was at this time last year – finding a job and deciding which path to follow. However, there is one big difference. I now feel that I have reached the pinnacle in K-12 and can go no higher, thus meeting that goal I had for myself. And while I still might consider an administrative position, my research and higher ed experiences made me realize that I would no longer be quite as happy in a teaching job as before. I’ve grown to be able to see things in a more global way than most K-12 educators. And while politics get played in higher education as well, I know now how high I can climb there as well.

    So…. that leaves me to fill out my remaining years until retirement just working a job(s) that are not meant to lead any higher. And that’s ok…. the question is… can I find one near my grandkids, so I can watch them grow?

    Or should I consider spreading my wings in another direction — either the commercial world, or my own consulting business?

    And so the decisions continue…. stay tuned…

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