Behind the Headlines - Nov. 30, 2012

Uploaded by WKNOPBS on 03.12.2012

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>>Eric: Allyson Chick is the
first Memphis teacher to be
named Tennessee teacher of the
year in 30 years.
A second and third grade teacher
at Richland Elementary School,
Allyson has been a teacher
since 2001.
She joins us today to talk about
the award, her approach to
teaching, and her role in the
lives of students.
Thanks for being here.
>> Allyson: You're welcome.
>> Eric: And congratulations
I should say.
>> Allyson: Thank you so much.
I'm excited to be here.
>> Eric: Let me start with
a basic question,
a simple question.
What does it take to be
a great teacher?
>>Allyson: I think the number
one thing is having heart and
passion for what you do, drive
and determination,
most importantly.
I think we're not all cut out
to be teachers.
But I think if you have the
heart and passion for what you
do, then you have what it takes.
>>Eric: I was going to introduce
you as a third grade teacher,
you said you're actually a
second and third grade teacher,
and you're very proud of that.
Tell people what that means,
because I think it's a small
thing, but it's a really big
thing about the ways in which
schools. I won't admit my age
right now but I'm with the
public schools and think
teaching, the profession, the
approaches have changed a lot.
And, and the fact that you're a
second-third grade teacher is a
really big change for teachers
and for students.
>>Allyson: Well, I'm a second-
third grade looping teacher.
And this is actually my second
year in the loop.
I sort of have a bucket list of
challenges that I have for
myself in teaching, and looping
with my class was one of them.
Another one is having a class of
all boys, I don't know if my
principle is willing to do that.
But I've just always wanted to
do that and just sort of
experiment with my practices
in that way.
For my students, its good chance
for me to help them advance
quickly, when I start the second
year of the loop, I already have
the knowledge of my students'
needs and abilities
They're already aware of our
rules and procedures, so you can
hit the ground running.
So you have a great chance of
making a stronger impact because
you already have that community
bond, you're not spending a
whole lot of lag time teaching
the rules and procedures.
And getting to know you.
We spend a couple of days
reviewing what we did
over the summer.
And then we hit the ground
running. So this is something
I'm very excited about.
>>Eric: It's something they do
in Montessori schools, not that
you're an expert on Montessori,
but isn't that right, that
Montessori schools move the kids
in groups and some
of those things?
You've been a teacher for what
12 years now, do you see more
and more small but really
important innovations coming
into school?
I mean is not the same old thing
that I experienced, maybe you
experienced when you
were in class?
>>Allyson: You know, I
would think about that question
when I was preparing for the
interview process, I was
thinking about changes that
happened in the school system
within the past five years.
And more recently changes have
happened quicker.
But for the most part, a lot of
what I had done in school was
very similar to what I'm doing
today, it's really recently that
we're adapting our practices and
taking a look to see how can do
things differently.
Which is exciting.
We're on the cusp of a lot of
great changes and making this
type of change is just one of
many that I think we're doing
for the better.
>> Eric: And you talk about
Memphis City Schools, first
teacher, from the Memphis City
Schools in 30 years to win
this award.
I mean, we could talk for hours
about all the changes that are
going on, but some of those
changes are tremendous
You know, everything from the
money that the Gates money
has brought in.
>> Allyson: Sure.
>>Eric: And Kriner Cash,
the current superintendent,
brought in and changed a
whole lot of approaches.
There's changes at the state
level with everything from
teacher to tenure to contract.
And I don't expect you talk
about all those things.
But do you as a teacher in the
classroom feel all that change?
All that change that we talk
about in newspapers and on TV.
Do you feel that difference
in your classroom?
>>Allyson: Absolutely, I can
sense those changes all over my
classroom, within the buildings
within the school district.
You say that I'm not an expert
at those things, and maybe I'm
not, but I'm very interested in
all of those things.
And I read a lot and I study a
lot to see how things are
happening here, and how things
are happening in other
parts of the country.
There's a huge shift right now
in taking a strong look at what
we're doing in our classroom,
and how we can best meet the
needs of our students.
I mean one of the strongest
shifts I think is in employing
Common Core practices, and using
Common Core standards,
a unified set of standards
throughout the nation.
Teaching teachers how to
implement those standards
is a big challenge.
The evaluation process is a huge
issue right now and we don't
have all the kinks worked out.
And not having all the kinks
worked out is kind of a
difficult thing to accept for
teachers in general because it's
kind of like giving a test and
not proof reading it complete.
And not to say they haven't
proofed and edited the process,
its just that we don't know if
its the most effective thing and
so we have to go back to the
drawing board a lot to
make sure that we can edit
and make changes.
But, to attach a score to my
name with something that is not
perfect is difficult when you
have teachers that, we want
all of our students to perform
at high levels and we want to
perform ourselves
at high levels.
>>Eric: I said you weren't an
expert, what I really meant to
say is, you're certainly more of
an expert than I am on these
But that level of
experimentation and the
uncertainties, you sound like
you're comfortable with that and
a lot of people aren't.
And, and I'm not picking on
A lot of people in business, you
know you look at all kinds of
things, when they're not
comfortable with that kind of
change and certainly
experimentation, but you are.
>>Allyson: Well, and I may be
unique in that I'm a studier and
it's kind of like baseball.
If you pitch I'm gonna' swing.
And so when the rubric came out
initially, I made sure that I
was part of the process.
So, in developing that rubric, I
joined three different working
groups that I could be aware.
I like first hand information.
>>Eric: Right.
>>Allyson: So.
>>Eric: Tell us, let me
interrupt you a little bit, the
rubric is the evaluation
standards that, that they're
trying to put in?
>>Allyson: Right, right.
>>Eric: That was a state law
that was passed, and now the
whole difference in changes, and
how teachers are evaluated.
>>Allyson: Right. Well, it used
to be that teachers were
evaluated once every five years.
And I don't want to make any
mistakes here in saying that
when I talk about the rubric I'm
talking about what
administrators use during
the observation.
And the observation is one
component of the
evaluation process.
Other parts of the evaluation
process include State quota
perceptions, value added data.
So it's not solely based on the
observation, but the observation
is a large part of it.
>>Eric: Sure.
>>Allyson: So in designing the
rubric, we had to take a lot of
factors into account.
And so a lot of modifications
have had to be made each year.
We're on the second year
and next year will be
the third year.
So this year, last year, was
10-1 point 0, which is the
teacher evaluation measure and
this year we're on 10-2 point 0
and next year we'll have
10 - 3 point 0.
And facing the merger we need to
redesign a rubric and evaluation
system that meets the needs of
both Memphis City and Shelby
County schools, which I'm a part
of that design team as well.
>>Eric: You mention the
merger, it kind of hangs over
everything, at least on a big
level with the schools.
What is your sense of
that right now?
I mean, you talk about being on
a group looking at standards for
the unified school.
What else do you here or feel or
know with this big transition
happening and all the
uncertainties about that
transition going on?
>>Allyson: Well certainly it's
not wrong to be apprehensive.
I think we all are.
We're all concerned, we want to
do what's right and what's best
for our students.
We want to make sure that within
this process and within this
change that students are first.
I mean, I think that we don't
know all of the answers
and that's difficult.
Change is not easy, and it
doesn't always happen quickly.
And we don't know
all the answers.
And because of that, I think a
lot of us are incredibly
>>Eric: Yeah.
>>Allyson: So, there's a lot of
assumptions and misinformation,
I believe being informed
is what's going to help everyone
go through this.
>>Eric: Yeah. You know lots of
talk about the city schools,
over many years now, and more of
a spotlight on certain things
you know to be, completely
stereotypical, unfair.
I mean, critics say well, you
know, the city schools are, the
failing school district, that
Shelby County Schools are this,
you know the old county schools
for these great.
And I'm not saying that everyone
says that, but that's the
harshest kind of critics
tended to say.
You belie that, I mean you just,
I think a lot of things do, but
the fact that you're from a city
school, you've been in the city
schools I think the whole time
you've been teaching.
What is the biggest surprise
that someone who isn't familiar
with the city schools but
watches a lot of news about,
reads about it, pays a lot of
taxes about it.
What are the biggest, or some of
the biggest surprises that
people would find if they went
in to a city school?
>>Allyson: We have
amazing teachers.
Incredibly strong, knowledgeable
teachers that are
highly affective.
And I think that, with all due
respect, as a representative of
the media, I have to say that,
it doesn't help to hear negative
stories about a very small
percentage that doesn't
showcase our best.
And I think that the media could
do a whole lot better of a job
showcasing the quality teachers
that we have in both
Memphis City and Shelby County.
Because we do have
amazing teachers.
And I think that that would
probably be the biggest
surprise; that there are
teachers just like me out there
that put in countless hours,
spend lots of their own money on
supplies and materials for their
kids, are nurturing and warm and
create and inviting classroom
where students can succeed.
>>Eric: Yeah. And I think as
I've read about this award and
some of the articles about it,
you, I think have talked about
great support from people around
you, that one of
the negative things.
And you're absolutely right.
It doesn't hurt my feelings at
all to criticize the media,
about in general the way the
media can cover things
like this.
That you're not really in
isolation, you have great
support around you.
And I think that's
something that I think maybe
people don't understand.
But talk about that, I mean the
importance of, let's say,
your principal.
I guess that's one of the more
important things that can happen
is a strong principal, strong
teachers under.
Is that true?
>>Allyson: Absolutely.
My administrator, Sharon McNary,
she shows me everyday what a
strong leader is supposed to be.
Before I went into education, I
guess I had some preconceived
notions as to what an
administrator was supposed
to be like.
And seeing her and the type of
work that she does and the
leadership that she has, it
opens my eyes to what that
leadership is supposed
to look like.
>>Eric: Yeah.
>>Allyson: And she is amazing.
The type of support, the
knowledge of her teachers'
abilities, the way that she can
bridge the gap between
professionalism, the
relationship that she needs to
have with her teachers as a
leader and even friendship
outside of work, is amazing.
>>Eric: Yeah.
>>Allyson: I truly feel that
where I work is more like my
extended family.
>>Eric: Yeah. And you talked
about in one of the interviews I
read or saw, going to kids
birthday parties.
Talk about that whole family
thing, and really considering
the kids a part of your family.
I guess that's important to you,
or did that just seem
natural to you?
I mean is that more of a
purposeful decision or just
something that's just, of course
you go to a birthday party; of
course you'd be part of your
students lives in that way?
>>Allyson: I guess I never
dreamed, when I envisioned my
career that this is the type of
relationship that I would have
with all of my students
in my class.
But even before I came to
Richland, I was very connected
to my students.
And I just think that that's
just part of who I am.
I feel that my students need to
know that I care about that, and
that's one of the ways that I
show that. If I'm invited to a
birthday party I'm gonna do
everything I can to go.
Sporting events, family
gatherings, I'm part
of their family.
By the end of the year, you
would think that I was one of
the family members in a lot of
my students' families because
that's the type of support my
students need.
>>Eric: Yeah. And I've heard
that people who work at charter
schools in Memphis-- and other
schools, but this forum I was
at, that some folks talking
about charter schools in really
the toughest most impoverished
parts of the city, county too.
But, these people were saying
that one of the great things
that they do, they are open.
Kipp Academy's an example;
they're open almost
12 hours a day.
They're providing in some cases
2 and 3 meals a day, some of
them are moving toward Saturday
schools or part time Saturday,
and that the kids love it
because its this sense of
stability and so on.
I mean, does that, Richland I
don't think does that, but in
your, in a general sense of
looking at the city schools, the
area schools, is that a
direction that schools
should go into?
To supplement some of those
family activities, that family
support where kids don't have
that at home? Is that an
appropriate role for
the schools?
>>Allyson: I mean, I think
that's definitely something to
look into.
I personally have always kept
students after school if
they needed it.
A lot of families can't afford
after care programs and its
just, I don't say anything.
I don't expect any kind of pat
on the back, I don't expect
parents to give me
anything for it.
It's kind of just having
the mentality that this
is what needs to be done and
this is what my students need.
And I've just always
been this way.
And whether it makes me a better
teacher than another teacher,
well I don't believe that.
It's just what I feel in my
heart that needs to be done.
Now, do I think that every
school district or every school
needs to have a program like
that? I'm not so sure.
But I think that it would be
fantastic if we had a type of
program that would help educate
parents as well.
>>Eric: You talk about different
schools, different places and
it's part of the debate about
the Municipal schools saying
they simply want more local
control and the flexibility to
adapt to their students, their
community, theirs needs more so
than a bigger massive
You can comment on that whole
debate if you want, but I don't
want to put you on the spot.
But at the same time, you as a
teacher within one elementary
school within a very big system,
do you feel like you have the
freedom to adapt to your
specific kids?
You know, again, going back to
the negative kind of, really
unfair stereotypes of urban
schools, that there's this kind
of one size fits all approach,
but seem to be describing, to
some extent, that no, you have a
lot of flexibility to adapt to
your specific kids.
Is that fair? I'm on
something here?
>>Allyson: Not when you talk
about flexibility. I wouldn't
say that I have 100% autonomy.
>>Eric: Sure.
>>Allyson: I don't. I mean
that would be amazing.
And I think the challenge is
that with teachers you have
different levels of ability, you
have different years of
experience, and with the varying
years experience, at times as a
school district there's a lot of
prescribed program to help
support the needs of teachers
and to help strengthen their
classroom instruction.
We don't always differentiate
the needs of our teachers.
The expectation is that we'll
differentiate for our students,
as teachers that we'll do that.
But we don't always
differentiate the needs of our
teachers in terms of
professional development.
And so that being said, that's
something that we probably
need to look at.
And our time is valuable so I
don't think teachers need to go
to professional development
opportunities that they could
probably teach.
But it's difficult when you have
6500 teachers, maybe to analyze
each individual teachers
strengths and weaknesses.
But I think that the evaluation
model is helping us to do that.
It just takes a little bit of
time in order to do that.
>>Eric: Yeah. Can you talk
about different levels of
teachers and so on?
I mean go back over
your 10 years.
Do you look back at those first
years and think I was good but
I'm so much better?
Or do you look back on those
first years and think gosh I was
really learning on the fly.
I mean look back on your career
now of 10 plus years, how much
have you learned over that
period of time?
>>Allyson: Oh, there's no doubt
that I've learned a lot.
But I will say this,
when I was in college at
the University of Memphis
and I went through this,
my student teaching program, I
was chomping at the bit to get
out and have my own classroom.
I was a diehard teacher
even then.
Growing up I was that way.
I couldn't wait to have
my own classroom.
I read a lot constantly, and had
a lot of good models to go by.
By models I mean different
teachers that I've had
in the past.
I had a good student teaching
experience and I was able to
learn a lot from that.
And when I came out I think
there were some things that I
was insecure about in terms
of my practices but if you're
not a reflective teacher you
need to be.
You constantly analyze and look
at what you've done each day and
for each lesson and think: If I
was going to redo this lesson
what would I do differently?
And I think it's that type of
reflection that's helped me grow
as an educator, and working with
colleagues that are very strong
and help look at the strength,
the best practices.
And I guess, sort of a mentoring
type relationship.
Never had an official mentor but
looking to my colleagues though,
I think is what supported
me the most.
>>Eric: And at any point
you talk about wanting to be a
teacher, back many many years,
was there a point in maybe that
first year, or maybe even last
week where you, some of the
idealism some of that just hope
and desire to be teacher ran up
against some harsh realities of
frustration or a bad day?
Or has it really been
fulfilling in the way you
expected it to be?
>>Allyson: It has. You know,
I've never once doubted my
decision to be an educator.
I've thought about other careers
that I would be good at, but I
love what I do.
My students make me feel like
rock star everyday that I walk
into my classroom.
When I was going through this
process we talked about, well
what if you don't get it, or
what might happen?
And the truth is the reward is
going to my classroom everyday.
When I wake up in the morning
I'm excited to come to school.
Sometimes I stay up very, very
late, and part of why I stay up
very late is because I'm looking
at different strategies that I
can employ in my classroom.
And I'm excited and anticipating
how my students are going to
react to the new ideas that I'm
going to present the next day.
I'm just excited to do my job
And I have a lot of passion and
drive for what I do and I think
that my kids know that and
that radiates with them.
And then you can ask even most
reluctant learners and they can
tell you that I'm excited and I
have passion for what I do.
>>Eric: Yeah. And talk about
the side of teaching, and I
don't know how much of this you
do at this grade level,
of dealing with parents.
I mean parents are, people talk
about how, schooling starts at
home, you know, the
involvement of parents.
How do you involve the parents,
or do you involve the parents in
you know the, the process of
educating the kids?
>>Allyson: I'm truly blessed
because I work at a school where
parent involvement
is a priority.
We're not a title one school.
And what we do not have from
title one funds we do
have with people.
And by that I mean we always
have resources and
human capital.
So for us, I think having
parents everyday is our
greatest resource.
Me personally, I have a website
that I put together that is very
interactive, it has tons of
websites that students can
access at home.
I put together slide shows of
events that happen at school and
activities that happen in my
classroom, so that even parents
that can't always come to school
can access what their students
are doing, and can share those
things with family members,
co-workers, friends.
Parents are the foundation of
our school and I look at the
relationship as a triangle, its
three sided and I have: my
students, my parents, and I.
And all three are essential in
the success of my students.
>>Eric: And does it ever get to
a point of, you know, people
talk about helicopter parents.
I mean have you seen a shift
maybe that parents are that much
more involved, maybe cross the
line of maybe too questioning
what you do in the
classroom or no?
They're just there; they're just
supportive of what you do?
You know what I'm saying?
The helicopter parent
phenomenon, people maybe talk
about it at an older age, where
parents are just all over the
teacher and questioning every
decision and asking you about
everything. Do you see that?
>>Allyson: You know from
time to time maybe.
But I don't' believe that my
parents are excessive and I
believe that they have right to
question, and I make
the time for them.
And you've different levels
concern and interest and it's
not the same as when
we were kids.
And when we go into the
classroom to talk about our
students, or as parents, when we
go in to talk about our
children, I think that we look
back at our own childhood and
our own experiences in school
and that's our foundation for
making any kind of connection to
what our kids are going through
and it's not the same classroom.
But I think my parents are
always willing to listen, I have
great relationships with them,
and I'm always willing to take
the time to discuss whatever
questions they may ask.
I start the year with the
mindset that you're willing to
work with them and you are a
partner in their child's
educations, which sets the tone
for the year and how you're
going to interact with parents.
>> Eric:And so, what's
next in terms of this award?
You are entered into the
competition, or you have entered
the competition for national
Teacher of the Year.
How does that process work?
>>Allyson: Well, you want to
know about the initial process
or where I go from here?
>>Eric: Sure. Where do you
go from here?
>>Allyson: Okay. Last
Tuesday, as you know, I was
honored as Tennessee Teacher of
the Year, which is
incredibly exciting.
And the next day I was informed
that I had to complete the
application for National Teacher
of the Year.
And that was due in
Nashville yesterday.
And then in Nashville they put
together the necessary materials
in addition to my application
and it will be sent to
Washington D.C. by tomorrow.
And then I will wait until
February to find out if I might
become of the four finalists.
And then in April it will be
announced nationally on the lawn
of the White House.
>>Eric: Wow. And then you-
>>Allyson: I'll get to
meet the President.
>>Eric: And then you
mentioned the process to
get to this.
There was an application
process, is that right, to
become Tennessee Teacher
of the Year?
Tell us quickly about that.
>>Allyson: It was
pretty extensive.
So you have to be selected from
your school and then from your
city and your region and be the
grand division winner in your
grade and then be selected as
the grand division overall
winner, which that of course
would be West Tennessee.
And so that makes me the West
Tennessee Teacher of the Year as
well as the Tennessee Teacher
of the Year.
>>Eric: Okay. And you were
at Richland for five years?
>>Allyson: This is
my fifth year.
>>Eric: And before that?
>>Allyson: I was at Fox Meadows
Elementary for seven years.
And for one semester right after
I got through student teaching
at Springhill Elementary they
hired me to complete a semester
for a teacher that was on
maternity leave. And then I
was surplused and went
to Fox Meadows. It was one of
the 10 new schools that year.
>>Eric: You mentioned U of M,
did your teaching certificate
and your teaching
training there?
>>Allyson: I'm a product of
the public school system
here, went to Shelby County
I graduated from Bartlett High
I went to the University of
Memphis, and I did my student
teaching here as well.
>>Eric: And we talked a
little bit before, but do you
look forward and say, boy you
know someday I'd like to be in a
principal's office, I'd like to
be a superintendent's?
Or do you foresee yourself
staying in a classroom, or you
haven't thought that far ahead?
>>Allyson: You know I've
entertained thoughts what my
ideal job would be and it's
always in education
in some capacity.
And I think ultimately I would
like to work with teachers.
And I've sort of painted a
picture of what that job would
look like; I want it to be a
non-intimidating position where
I get to work with teachers to
help them cultivate
their practices.
But hoping that when the time
comes and the opportunity
presents itself I'll know.
Because I'm not sure right this
minute, if you asked me right
this minute if I'm ready to
leave my students.
I love what I do, and I love my
kids so it would be really
tough, but I'm hoping
that I'll know.
>>Eric: Yeah, right. And would
you foresee yourself, I mean a
thing like Teach for America or
those kind of programs or
something within the school
system or maybe some above?
>>Allyson: I'm personally; I'm
open to any anything that
involves students and teachers.
So there's lots of programs
out there, at this point
I don't know.
It just depends on what
opportunity presents itself.
>>Eric: Okay, well, as we wrap
things up here, make sure
we touch on any other, you know,
educational reform that you see.
And there's been so many
over the last couple years
in the Memphis City Schools.
Are there things that you look
forward to over the next years,
skipping over the merger, as
more changes take place?
I mean what do you look forward
to changing and adapting to over
the next few years?
>>Allyson: I think that the
biggest change right now is two
really, the adaption of common
core standards in the classroom
and our measure for
teacher effectiveness.
Personally in terms of
my growth, technology
is my passion.
I want to learn anything I can
to advance my students
with technology.
That's what they're interested
in, so whether it's using smart
boards or iPads or laptops or
iPods, I want to know how I can
use it and put that in my
classroom and reach my
students that way.
>>Eric: Well thank you.
Congratulations again.
Good luck in the
national competition.
Thank you for joining us.
Join us again. Good night.