In an effort to increase test scores in math and reading in so-called “struggling” schools, numerous intervention programs are purchased on our behalf. So many programs are layered on top of each other that it becomes nearly impossible to carefully consider them all.

Although relatively expensive, the cheapest and most efficient interventions tend to be school licenses for personalized learning software. Use of these programs make leadership think they’re actually doing something. Additionally, usage and performance data, accessible from any computer, can give central office personal an easy way to track schools, and something on which to hold them accountable when they fail.

When my students’ usage for a particular software program is not up to snuff, I hear about it. Then, if my students do not meet certain benchmarks, it can be easily attributed to the low number of minutes using the software. If only I could use the program with “fidelity,” we’d be much better off.

Companies don’t understand, however, that implementation is also part of their program. Don’t always blame the teacher for infidelity. Maybe it’s also that the program sucks. Seriously. If my usage is low, what I’m typically told to do is use it more. Why can’t you use it more, what’s the problem? But my feelings about the program are not considered. Just use it more, all right?

My Kindergarten students don’t enjoy using personalized learning software, and I don’t enjoy having them use it. Their computer literacy skills are not where they need to be to be able to log in, stay logged in, and refrain from right clicking when they should only left click. Windows get closed and headphones get tangled. Any chunk of time spent in a computer lab is not worthwhile. I don’t teach in ways that the software “teaches” students. I don’t really use the software myself so I don’t really have a firm grasp of what it’s supposed to do.

But if these software peddlers really want to have successful programs, they need to do more than just write the software and be done with it. The effectiveness of any program should also include how easy it is to use on a school-wide basis. If it can’t be used, then it shouldn’t be used. Schools like ours cobble together educational technology. We have first, but mainly second, hand hardware. Most of it is “housed” in a single computer lab, which is now a pretty outmoded form of technology usage.

If too many logistical hurdles exist to use software appropriately, then it might also be an indicator that a program sucks. If a school cannot adequately pool resources, plan and schedule use of a single lab for hundreds of students, then it’s not always the teacher’s fault that fidelity is not achieved. Pressuring teachers to keep up usage data will inevitably take away from other, more important activities. And for every 30 minutes I get my students to use the software, we’re likely only getting about 10 actual minutes of usage because of logistical challenges.

So don’t get on my case about fidelity. Success of a program doesn’t begin and end with the software. It depends on a lot of other facts that don’t get addressed, and are largely out of my control.


In teaching, I often don’t have problems with students. Very little out of the ordinary.

I do, however, get more stressed about the adults.

Even though I first started teaching because I hated the thought of an office-type job, schools are still workplaces in a lot of ways. There are alliances and ass-kissings. There’s gossip and back-stabbing.

Schools are plagued by absenteeism and laziness. There are many people who draw paychecks but seem to do absolutely nothing. Folks complain about this being the last straw, their absolute last year, then we’re blessed once again with their presence the next year.

Some of our least-effective teachers in actual classroom practice are, however, very effective at positioning themselves in very flattering ways. I’m sure they’d be much better teachers if they took that energy and channeled it into what matters. Their students would certainly benefit. But it is often the case that keeping one’s job, while doing as little as possible, is more important than the purpose of the job itself.

Seriously, I become less sympathetic to the plight of teachers the more I actually, well, teach.

In recent days, I have been bombarded by the announcement of personal and professional achievements of colleagues and friends on social media. This is definitely a phenomenon unique to the new world of perpetual connectivity and oversharing.

What isn’t new, however, is the collective, and in turn personal, perception that K-12 teaching is a career of last resort. It’s a steppingstone to bigger and better things. Sometimes those stones are loose, or missing, and we stumble on the path.

As the age of the student decreases, this effect seems to be magnified. High school has its ways of being “prestigious.” There are more leadership opportunities, and teaching awards or other accolades have a tendency to cheat towards secondary. Of all teachers, K-12 and otherwise, elementary teachers, particularly early childhood, are nearly invisible.

This is not to say that we only teach for awards or accolades. Hell, I can go a whole day without seeing more than one adult and no conversations with the outside world. Recognition be damned. But this has been a very personal struggle of mine my entire career in teaching.

I’m not looking to host a pity party here. Yet this feeling of thanklessness cuts across all genders, races, and social classes as nearly all early childhood and elementary educators feel invisible. Do others feel this way?