By Mike Myslinski
Sarah Payne, Michelle Makinson
Ever want to eavesdrop on colleagues? In this series of conversations, here’s your chance to listen in on what CTA experts, who are members like you, are saying about today’s issues.
Fourth-grade teacher colleagues Michelle Makinson and Sarah Payne teach at Bagby Elementary in San Jose. Both are Cambrian District Teachers Association members. Sarah has Michelle’s son in her class.
Michelle: Teaching is a calling. Nobody in their right mind would do this job for money. I know we get paid, but it’s not enough.
Sarah: It’s not a lot. I got my teaching credential at San Jose State and I’m here now — which is the best decision I could ever make. I feel so happy about being able to make a difference. It’s not just about the high test scores. At the beginning of the year, we see those students who don’t want to raise their hands, who don’t want to ask questions, who don’t have a lot of self-confidence.
Michelle: It’s about their evolution as a person.
Sarah: We’re teaching people how to be good people. How to be good citizens.
Michelle: It’s even more important we do this with class sizes increasing, as we’re getting combo classes that force behaviors into smaller quarters. It’s even more imperative.
Sarah: Now we are at 30 students to one teacher.
Michelle: PE used to be twice as much time as it is now. Music is now every other week instead of every week. You see more behavior problems because there aren’t these outlets for people to shine. Everything is academics, academics, academics. Because of budget cuts, we are neglecting the whole child.
Sarah: What keeps me going is knowing that I can think of things to say that will really have an impact on students.
Michelle: It’s also about looking back at somebody I had nine years ago who sat in my room like an angry depressed lump and did not do any work. Seriously. Now he’s playing football and he’s going to go to college. Now he comes back to me and he’s helping me with another student. He’s volunteering to tell his story to this other child. I knew he was depressed and sad. It had to do with the human element. How does that come out on the standardized test scores?
Sarah: We strive to build this community in our classroom. We are a classroom family. They have to feel like it’s a safe place, that they’re not going to be made fun of.
Michelle: I am proud of our test scores here, but that’s not what I’m most proud of. I am most proud of our climate. That when you come to this school, people know the “Bagby B’s.” Be safe, be responsible, and be respectful.
Sarah: We have a song, too, about that.
Michelle: We have a framework in which we’re organizing all of our behavioral expectations by these “Bagby B’s.” Kids can go, “I know why I’m not supposed to climb up that slide — because it’s not safe.”
Sarah: We’re teaching them that here at school, but we want them to apply these things outside of school as well. Not only in the playground, but in the classroom and outside of school. For me, it’s about teaching them to persevere. I see a lot of potential in our students. I also see that teachers have to spend a lot of time teaching them how to persevere.
Michelle: I don’t believe there are any bad kids. There is always hope. I never run out of hope. You don’t always see the plant growing until way later.
Sarah: This is my second year as a classroom teacher. I am staying.
Michelle: (Smiles) I’ll tackle her. I’m not letting her leave.