By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Robyn Barberry teaches English and drama at a Maryland high school. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.
(CNN) - In Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver has been criticized for failing to physically intervene in a three-on-one fight that took place in July. The bus driver says he was afraid to step in. As a high school teacher, I can't blame him.
The adults who work in public schools are outnumbered. When a violent, hormone-fueled scene unfolds, it's our duty to quell the calamity with every resource we have in the name of safety. But where do we draw the line?
Early in my teaching career, I was afraid of some of the bigger boys at school, especially one. I could see he carried a great deal of hatred inside - for me, for his classmates, for the world. He was tall and muscular; he could have been an athlete, but his poor grades, bad attitude and spotty record kept him from playing sports.
One afternoon, as I waited outside my classroom door, I heard a scuffle behind me. The boy I feared and another, smaller boy were shoving each other by my white board. I stepped in, and told them to stop. When they didn't, I shouted louder and told another student, my go-to helper, to get another teacher. As the shoves turned to punches, rage grew in the larger boy's eyes. The other student asked him to stop, but he had thrust his hands around his neck. I tried to pull him free, but the large boy shoved, pressing the other student and my arm against the cinder block wall. I felt trapped and frightened, and thought I might black out. Just then, two male teachers pulled the boys apart and dragged them to the office.
"Are you OK?" a third teacher said. "Look at your hand!"
My wrist was red and swollen. It hurt, but not as much as knowing I wasn't safe in my own classroom. My neighbor teacher took over my class so that I could go to the office to fill out an incident report. I could barely grip the pen. Two police officers assigned to our school urged me to file assault charges against the boys, but I insisted they just hadn't seen me. I wanted to believe that they wouldn't hurt me, but I also wondered if the boy would retaliate if the law got involved.
Fortunately, my wrist was only sprained and I returned to work the next day in a cumbersome brace. But I kept wondering, what if the boy had pushed the other one harder? What if his anger was directed at me? Suppose it was my head that was smashed against that cinderblock wall? What if he'd had a weapon?
On the other side, what if adrenaline gave me undiscovered strength and I had hurt one of them? Could their parents sue me? Would I lose my job?
(CNN) - Dale Irby retired this year after a four-decade career teaching gym and driving a school bus near Dallas, Texas. But his departure ends another long tradition: Irby wore the same outfit for every school yearbook photo for 40 years.
After he accidentally wore the same shirt and V-neck sweater in his first two yearbook photos, his wife, also an educator, jokingly dared him to continue. By the time he retired, it was a (slightly ill-fitting) tradition.
"I don't think I'll be wearing it again," the Garland, Texas, man told CNN's New Day. "It's pretty snug."
Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools!
By Erica Fink and Laurie Segall, CNNMoney
(CNNMoney) - Your child's school knows just about everything about your kid. Now, many school districts are storing all that information in the cloud.
Non-profit inBloom offers an Internet database service that allows schools to store, track and analyze data on schoolchildren. If you think about it, that information is more than just test scores. It's whether kids receive free lunch - a telling indicator of the family's finances. It's the time a student got into a fight in the schoolyard. And it could be a child's prescription medication.
The upshot of storing all that data in one location is that it can be used to tailor specific curricula to each child. If Johnny's data suggests that he's a tactile learner and he's failing math, inBloom's analytic engine might suggest a particular teaching approach.
Teachers say that kind of insight can be helpful.
Jim Peterson, a teacher in Bloomington, Ill., says inBloom has helped break down the silos in his school system's data collection. His school district supports 50 separate data systems.
"This is all about building personalized learning environments for kids," he says.
Peterson also thinks having this kind of data will spur new innovation in education, encouraging entrepreneurs to build applications that can help teachers make use of their students' data.
But as more school districts team up with inBloom, including New York, parents are becoming increasingly vocal critics of the data collection.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools!
By Melanie Hicken, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) –While most people dream of the day they can retire, many college professors plan to put it off or work until their final years.
The sluggish economy has made people in all professions question whether their nest eggs will get them through retirement. Professors are no different - plus many of them love their jobs too much to leave. But paired with the fact that colleges and universities are offering a smaller percentage of tenure-track spots, it's making it increasingly tough for aspiring professors to start their careers.
A Fidelity survey released Monday echoes prior studies and anecdotal evidence that found many professors are teaching into their golden years.
Fidelity polled several hundred faculty members between the ages of 49 and 67, and nearly 75% said they planned to retire after age 65. While 65% of those planning to delay said they were motivated by financial reasons, such as maximizing Social Security payments or hanging onto health insurance, more than 80% plan to stay for professional reasons.
"If I go several days without teaching, I long for it," said 71-year-old writing professor Donald Gallehr. "I miss my students. I wish I was in the classroom."
But many of these professors are holding onto coveted - and shrinking - tenure-track spots, which usually guarantee lifetime job security. Tenured and tenure-track professors made up about a quarter of instructors in 2011, compared to nearly 40% of instructors in 1989 and close to 50% in 1975, according to the American Association of University Professors.
By Lauren Russell, CNN
(CNN) - While most of the nation's students are enjoying summer break, teachers in a handful of states are studying – not their fall curriculum, but how to take out an assailant.
In Ohio, Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman.
"We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class," Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. "People doubted if we could fill the class."
Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said.
Interest in arming teachers has grown among some school staff, gun rights groups and lawmakers in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 students – ages 6 and 7 – and six adults were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.
Photos: Teachers pose with their guns
Gun rights groups have sponsored classes for teachers in a number of states from Texas to Ohio.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - On page 73 of the elementary school handbook in Moore, Oklahoma, among entries about chewing gum and bicycles, there’s a warning about the weather.
“Sudden tornadoes are a common occurrence in Oklahoma, especially in the spring,” it cautions. “Teachers should strive to maintain an atmosphere of orderliness and calmness.”
Indeed, they knew just what to do last week as a massive EF5 tornado approached. Children crouched along interior walls, faces down, legs tucked, fingers woven over their necks. They bunched into closets or huddled beneath their desks. Teachers positioned themselves between the kids and the howling, quaking wind they heard coming.
At Briarwood Elementary School, Tammy Glasgow told her second-graders she loved them as she shut the doors to the bathrooms where they sheltered.
First-grade teacher Waynel Mayes commanded her kids to sing “Jesus Loves Me” over the roar of the wind - to scream it if they needed to.
When the walls quivered at Plaza Towers Elementary School, principal Amy Simpson shouted “In God’s name, go away, go away!,” again, again, again, until the tornado had.
But gone, too, in the aftermath were Briarwood and Plaza Towers schools, decimated into a tangle of bricks, desks, school books and mud. Seven Plaza Towers students died in the rubble. All of Briarwood’s students survived, along with thousands more around the district.
At a news conference late last week, Simpson recounted, “Not one parent blamed us … because they’re Oklahomans, too, and they know what a tornado means, and they know what it means in school.”
They know, just as she does, that teachers were watching over their children.
“The teachers,” Simpson said, “were able to act quickly, stay calm and take literally the weight of a wall onto their bodies to save those that were under them.”
After years of political beatdowns and public backlash, educators have emerged as heroes time and time again in recent months.
It happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where six educators died along with 20 students when a gunman burst in.
Again in Taft, California, where a teacher stood before a 16-year-old shooter who had already wounded a student and persuaded him to hand over his shotgun.
Another time in January, when a school bus driver in Dale County, Alabama, died while blocking an armed kidnapper from snatching multiple children from his bus.
Even last week, when Ingrid Loyau-Kennett approached a man wielding a bloody meat cleaver on a busy street in London. She calmly kept the man talking until police arrived. Loyau-Kennett hadn’t trained for this, exactly, she told ITV’s Daybreak, but said she used to be a teacher.
As the man with the butcher knife spoke, she said she thought of a school nearby that would soon release children in the middle of the gruesome scene. She said it was more important to keep talking than to worry for herself.
“Better me than the child,” Loyau-Kennett said.
(CNN) - The sign that covered a set of doors read, "We Love You Plaza Towers."
Children, toting big book bags and balloons, hugged their teachers and said goodbye before departing for the summer.
Many managed a smile despite the sad fact these end-of-the-year moments took place at Eastlake Elementary School because Plaza Towers is just a huge pile of rubble.
Kaylee Sanchez, a kindergartner who was shielded by one of her teachers as the storm plowed over Plaza Towers, said she was "freaking out" before going to Thursday's reunion.
But once she and the other children got there, laughter and playfulness returned to a group that suffered the worst when an EF5 tornado struck Monday.
Seven of their schoolmates were killed by the storm, which lead to 17 other deaths.
Kaylee's mother, Maria, applauded administrators for putting together the sendoff where students also received a backpack full of activities, snacks, stuffed animals and some basic necessities for the coming days.
"It's a really good thing because they get to see all their friends to make sure they are OK," Maria Sanchez said. "It's a good atmosphere to see the all these kids laughing and playing. ... My own daughter has been scared until today. When it started storming this morning she didn't want to come."
Pounding rain soaked Moore on Thursday morning, and winds sent pieces of debris flying, hindering recovery efforts three days after the devastating tornado.
Once she got there, Maria and the other children spilled around, and raced up to each other when they saw someone they had been worrying about.
Emily Stephens, a student at Plaza Towers, said she was in an underground shelter when the tornado hit.
"I just hope everyone's OK," she said. "I hope they get a new house - and a better one."
Stephens said "some of my house got ripped down."
She was happy to get the crayons, books and candy and, most importantly, see her classmates.
"It makes me glad to see my friends and that they're alive," she said.
(CNN) - When first-grade teacher Waynel Mayes saw that a tornado was approaching her Oklahoma elementary school, she began to move the desks around, told the kids they were playing "worms" who had to stay in their tunnels.
Then, she had another idea: She grabbed their musical instruments and asked them to play and sing as loud as they could. They could scream if they were scared, she said, but just don't stop singing.
"All our teachers were so brave," Mayes said, but the kids helped, too. "They were the bravest, they were the heroes because they listened to all the teachers."
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - It was the end of the school day. The kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School were stuffing their backpacks, looking forward to going home, playing with friends, eating snacks.
But the tornado warnings changed that.
When the twister came barreling in Monday afternoon, terrified young students huddled together in the hallways, screaming as walls and roofs caved in. Chairs and backpacks swirled above them. The winds and blaring sounds enveloped them. Cars from the parking lot landed just inches away.
Teachers dove onto groups of kids to protect them from falling debris.
It was the biggest tornado they'd ever seen. Described as a lawn-mower blade spanning two miles, it shredded through their town.
"It was scary," student Julio Rodriguez told CNN. Teachers instructed the kids to crouch down, "and you covered your head with your hands," he demonstrated.
"I had to hold on to the wall to keep myself safe because I didn't want to fly away in the tornado," one little girl told KFOR.
The 17 mile-long twister stayed on the ground for 40 minutes.
By the time it was gone, so was the school in Moore, Oklahoma. In its place was a huge pile of rubble, trapping teachers and children.
And seven students were dead.
They were in a classroom, Moore Fire Department Chief Gary Bird told CNN Wednesday.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN Tuesday that the children were in a basement, where they drowned. But Bird said Wednesday that based on everything he's been told, "it had nothing to do with flooding."
In the tornado's wake, the school quickly became the epicenter of the tragedy in this shattered town, part of the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.
Oklahoma City (CNN) - Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow walks around what's left of Briarwood Elementary, struggling to pick out of its wreckage the things that once made a school.
"This was the cafeteria."
"This is where my desk sat."
"This is my classroom door."
"That yellow wall that's standing, that's where we were," said Glasgow, pointing to a squat stack of cinder blocks.
She, like many teachers at Oklahoma City's Briarwood, helped to keep students safe when the tornado tore through Monday, killing at least 24 people in the area, but incredibly, given the state of the building, no one at Briarwood.
Their actions no doubt saved lives.
Many have called the teachers - at least one of whom literally shielded children with her body - heroes.
But Glasgow said simply: "It's just our job."
Right before the tornado hit, she hurried students into two bathrooms and a closet. There were about eights boys in the boys' bathroom, including Glasgow's son, and a dozen girls in the girls' bathroom.
She and other adults were with three children in the closet.
"Before I shut the doors, because both bathrooms had doors, I said, 'I'm going to shut these doors,' and I said, 'I love you.' The boys looked at me a little strange. (I) walked in the girls' (bathroom) and said, 'I love you' and they all said 'I love you' back.
"I just told them to pray, and then that's what we did the whole time in the closet, just prayed," said Glasgow.
The storm blasted through.