Archive for January 2007

What Teachers Make   Leave a comment

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,”What’ s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began…) “Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental… You want to know what I make?” (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) “Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant… You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?”

Posted January 31, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

What are teachers?   Leave a comment

I have been busy dealing with the overwhelming traffic at the website. Your comments and appreciation make this hobby the best time I have … besides teaching class. 🙂

We started this site the beginning of this month. In the last three weeks we have moved up 3,000,000 web sites due to the major traffic from you all. Please keep you ideas and thoughts coming.

Here is a great “teacher metaphor” my sister sent me today. It says so much about what teachers can do ….

WHAT TEACHERS MAKE

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,”What’ s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then([“mb”,”
began…) "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they
could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make
kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't\n
make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental… You
want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and
every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question.\n
I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them
have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them
to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I
\n make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other
countries learn everything they need to know in English while
preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a
place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to\n
say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the
United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if
they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their
hearts, they can succeed in life.\n

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) "Then, when people
try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no
attention because they are ignorant… You want to know what I make?\n
I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?"

THIS IS WORTH SENDING TO EVERY TEACHER YOU KNOW. (And everyone on
your mailing list, for that matter).

THERE IS MUCH TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT: "Teachers make every other\n
profession."

\n

\n

\n

\n

\n

\n

\n

\n

\n

“,1] ); //–> began…) “Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t
make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental… You want to know what I make?” (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to
say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) “Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant… You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?”

THIS IS WORTH SENDING TO EVERY TEACHER YOU KNOW. (And everyone on your mailing list, for that matter).

THERE IS MUCH TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT: “Teachers make every other profession.”

Posted January 31, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

Education Reform – The Necessary Cornerstones   Leave a comment

Is the dream of education in high school being realized …. Is secondary education getting students better prepared for their futures?

Remember, I am a teacher …. My two cents says “not.” School isn’t getting the job done today. There are three points I think make the cornerstones to rebuild our secondary education system:

1. Effective teachers

2. Whole teaching

3. Curriculum reform

Effective teachers are noticeable. They are passionate and compassionate. They are flexible and thus have excellent classroom management and students naturally do better since they are interested in what is being taught. The methods used by these teachers engages students. I don’t consider national board certified teachers to be necessarily effective.

Whole teaching criteria means subjects are meaningful and pertinent, while the class environment is such that it’s conducive to learning. Teaching methods comes into focus here. Are students better served using project based learning or is a computer game more functional? What best stimulates knowledge transfer, along with appropriate cognitive skills and learning behaviors?

Curriculum reform points to teaching students with material that is directly applicable to their life … today, tomorrow and gives them choices to study depending on the future they pursue? Integrated are performance based assessments that measure comprehension and not memorization. Technology will play a role here as it needs to facilitate learning and assessment whenever possible.

Here are some articles that are great food for thought in examining our secondary education system.

Study for NBPTS Raises Questions About Credential
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/05/17/37nbpts.h25.html

‘Tough Choices’: Change the System, or Suffer the Consequences
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/01/17/19tucker.h26.html

Posted January 20, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

Is Education Preparing Students – Teacher Quality Essential   Leave a comment

Research indicates that expert teachers are the most important—and the most inequitably distributed—school resource. In the United States, however, schools serving more than 1 million of our highest-need students are staffed by a parade of underprepared and inexperienced teachers who know little about effective instruction, and even less about teaching English-language learners and students with disabilities. Many of these teachers enter the classroom with little training and leave soon after, creating greater instability in their wake. Meanwhile, affluent students receive teachers who are typically better prepared than their predecessors, further widening the achievement gap.

Promoting literacy involves teachers using an effective methodology to accomplish and support student ownership, teachers acting as a facilitator, and teachers stimulating student problem solving skills. The cognitive conditions necessary for accomplishing literacy include 1) retrieving information such as prior learning; 2) presenting the project material; 3) providing learning guidance throughout the material and through student/teacher interactions; 4) engaging students in reading, writing, and discussing; 5) providing feedback through peer/class/teacher discussions; 6) assessing performance; and 7) enhancing retention and transfer through peer/class discussions to apply the project material to life outside the classroom.

The population of ELL students is on the rise and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Students from non-English speaking backgrounds represent the fastest growing segment of the student population by a wide margin. From 1991 – 2002, the number of identified ELLs in public schools (K–12) grew 95%, while total enrollment increased by only 12%. In 2002 – 2003, more than 5 million school-age children were identified as ELLs, 10.2% of them being K–12 public school student population. These students speak more than 400 languages combined, but nearly 80% are native Spanish speakers. From various reporting sources, there is constant news about the achievement gap between ELL students and native English speaking students. According to a compilation of reports from 41 state education agencies, only 18.7% of students classified as being limited in English proficiency met state norms for reading in English.

The notion that we can remain a world-class economy while undereducating large portions of our population—in particular, students of color and new immigrants, who are fast becoming a majority in our public schools—is untenable. Mostly because of these underinvestments, the United States continues to rank far behind other industrialized nations in educational achievement: 28th out of 40 nations in mathematics in 2003, for example, right behind Latvia. Meanwhile, leaders of countries like Finland that experienced a meteoric rise to the top of the international rankings have attributed their success to their massive investments in teacher education.

We need to invest in our teachers from whom we expect so much. This will greatly enhance the ability to make the promise of education available to all students.

Posted January 19, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

Education – Robotics Team Highlights Necessary Learning Environment   Leave a comment

Education … is it fulfilling the dream of preparing students for their future?

I was going to begin this by pointing out how the majority of education provided in high school DOESN’T get students “out of their box” in terns of critical thinking skills. I’m not here to blame the students, teachers or parents for this … just stating my observations. The evidence for this is in low achievement scores, increased drop out rates from high school, fewer students attending high education, fewer high school graduates moving in to degrees in technology and science … that’s enough for now.

Then I remembered the robotics team at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix. A school placed one block from a major freeway artery and in the poorest part of AZ. However, those kids have stunned the nation by consistently placing in national competitions, after they beat MIT (yes, the university). And yes, I have talked about this team before.

They are a poster example of students moving forward in developing critical thinking skills and demonstrating success from it. How? Well, their teachers say the class work takes place in a project based environment with students learning from each other, one where the teachers act as facilitators and not the typical instructor or lecturer. The classes for the robotics team won’t fit in a traditional school schedule and students come in to work before school, after school and on weekends …. WITHOUT having to be bribed or cajoled. Hard to believe but nonetheless true.

So, yes … education has the potential to teach students critical thinking skills they will always be able to use….. just have to locate where that class is taking place in your area.

More on the robotics team …..

Wired Magazine article
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/robot.html

Washington Post article
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8429-2005Mar28.html

Team Web Sites
http://www.falconrobotics.org/

http://www.phxhs.k12.az.us/education/club/club.php?sectionid=3670

Posted January 18, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

Is Education Preparing Students – Character Education   Leave a comment

Continuing from yesterday … are we fulfilling the promise of education … preparing students for their future?

I hate to seem so negative, but a conversation I had today with another teacher today reminded me another important aspect I cannot find in the achievement tests I must give or ones I have reviewed …. character education. Are we providing opportunities and reinforcing to students the value of being global citizens, stewards of the environment or compassionate to one another?

After all, they can be brilliant at math, know how to conduct perfect experiments and be excellent writers … but will they be able to balance a checkbook, understand a financial statement, comprehend the consequences of limited water resources, the ecology required for clear air, or discuss disputes without having to rage?

After a day of working with students, I am reluctant to go on tonight. I am sounding so negative about what education students currently receive, suffice it to say I think little to nothing is being done in secondary education to include topics in character education.

We need to give our future leaders of the world a basic foundation for moving forward in life. An essential part of that foundation are the skills of being global citizens and stewards of the environment, and a recognizable level of interpersonal skills. I think including character education in the curriculum is a smart strategy to accomplish that.

In case you wondering about character education, check out this useful resource on the subject for all grade levels http://www.goodcharacter.com/.

Posted January 17, 2007 by Jack in Instruction

Is Education Getting Students Prepared?   Leave a comment

This week let’s talk about the dream of education – in honor of Dr King.

Sometimes I talk to my students about what education means to them. Their most common responses are (not in this order): 1) education gets me prepared, 2) I have to go – it’s the law, 3) and I don’t know.

I am going to make a bold presumption here …. most people think education is getting students prepared for the rest of life. If this is the case, then it naturally follows that we have to ask, what is secondary education preparing students for?

From a teacher point of view … my answer is for students to go to higher education.

Realistically, I have to say students aren’t being prepared for the future by current secondary education. Why? I see two distinct sets of students in my classes: those wanting to go to college and those with no plans to go to college.

Today, the gauge of learning is based on students scores of required achievement tests. With that focus, we are missing the boat of preparing students for the future. For example, if a student isn’t going to college/university, why do they need to know about cells and genes? Would they be better off knowing about basic nutrition and taking care of the environment? I think so, but in my district we have to teach all students about genes and cells since that is what the achievement tests are based upon. Go figure, if a student has no interest in the subject being taught during class …. are they really going to work that hard to reach success? More likely, that student will be absent from class or possibly disrupting it when they are there.

Here is my first observation to explain why education is not fulfilling the dream of preparing students for the future.

1. High school has two sets of students A) those who are going to college and B) those who are not.

Those sets are determined by the students themselves. Yes, we can cut up that pie by race and socio-economic status. However, the fact remains – no matter how you dice it up – there are two sets of students. From what I have seen, I believe that a students’ motivation determines where they are going.

So why do we teach the same curriculum to students who have different future requirements – based on the choices they have made. I think a better approach to having students be prepared is changing the curriculum so both get sets a basic core set of subjects, then the education road forks into two specific paths with specific subjects for each fork.

Posted January 15, 2007 by Jack in Instruction