Sunday, May 28, 2017

What is Learning?

Before I delve into the topic of what learning is, and what your preconceived notions of it are, I would like to point you in the direction of a great resource for your personal learning needs.

If you have some free time (It is summer, you should have some free time), then there is no better way to spend some of it then learning something new. Learning for learning sake is a noble endeavor. In the education world we call it "professional development", and expect to earn some sort of continuing education unit, because most of us are required to have a certain amount to make sure our teaching license / certification is current. My personal learning needs are met at EdX.  This is a free to audit resource that has mini courses taught by faculty at universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Columbia, just to name a few. They do not offer any CEU's but you can, for a fee, obtain proof that you took the course and may be able to argue some sort of credit with your state DOE. I am currently working through "The science of Learning: What every teacher should know", and "Leaders of Learning".  One is by Harvard and the other Columbia.

So, what is learning? This seems like a simple question. However it may not be as simple as you think. I want you to try this simple exercise. Write the number 48341 down on a piece of paper. Please, humor me on this one. Once you have it written down memorize the number. 


Now, that you have the number memorized, you did humor me didn't you? In your mind, without looking back at the screen, or at the piece of paper, add 1 to each digit of the number.

How did you do? I believe that you may have been able to do it, but it was not as easy as just memorizing it. To memorize it, you may have either used the phonic loop, or mental visualization, but once you had to add one to each number, you may now have had to combine both techniques, or used something else. The average person can manipulate 7 bits plus / minus 2 in working memory at any given time.  So, when I ask you to remember 48341, you can easily do it, but if I asked you to remember 483126758394102394 it would take a bit longer. Taking this information and storing it into long term memory is an even harder task, and you are an adult, that is focused on the task, and actually paying attention.

Most students can keep up with us on the white board, understand it, write it down, and keep going. However, unless the student makes meaningful connections with the information, they will not convert it to long term memory, or actually learn it. Understanding the material, and learning the material are 2 different things.

In my class I may teach 2 step linear equations. I may start out with something like 2x + 4 = 5. I then tell them to subtract 4 from both sides, and then divide by two. If you are wondering the answer is x = 1/2. I will ask the class if they understand what I did, and if they can explain what I did, and most of them can. The students can do this without any problems, and any issues.However, when I ask them to do the next one on their own, they freeze, and unless we can connect this to either something they did in the past, or a current memory that has meaning, the information will just fall away. We started to help create the pathway in the brain, but we did not solidify the connection.

So, what do you think learning is?  When you lecture, how much of the material do you really think that your students retain? I am talking about the attentive, engaged, students.  Now that you have read this far, what was the number that you came up with after adding 1 to the original number?  What was the original number?

Learning is about creating experiences that the students remember. It is also about making meaningful connections to previously learned material. Do you ever wonder why if you tell a funny story students will remember it, but the quadratic formula goes away after a few weeks? It is because they made a meaningful connection with the material, our funny story, but not with the quadratic formula. Nor, were they able to connect the quadratic formula to previous knowledge, if it is a brand new topic that we did not connect to a previous lesson.

Just because they understand your lecture, that does not mean they are learning the material.  Understanding is not learning, but once we understand, then we can start to solidify the pathways that lead to long term retention.

The last concept I want to shortly discuss, is that of a brain break, and chunking information. Everyone has working memory, think of it as a whiteboard in the brain. Some people have a larger whiteboard, and some have a smaller whiteboard. Just like the whiteboard in your classroom, working memory can fill up. If you lecture for 50 minutes a class, straight through, the best you can hope for is that the students take good notes. Their working memory will fill up, and most of the information will be lost. Students need to take in the information in chunks. When you plan your lessons, you should consider this. Break up lectures with group activities, or take a break in the middle of the class to watch a you tube video. Some teachers look at this as getting off track, but the brain research actually supports using the break. It lets students download their whiteboard, clear it off, and start again. It starts to form the first part of the neural pathway, that you can help them solidify later, or they can solidify it when they study later that night.

To really learn more about learning, listen to the experts, go to EdX and look up "The science of Learning: What every teacher should know", and "Leaders of Learning". They must change the way you think about learning.  Thanks again.



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Surviving The End of the Year

So, for most of us, this blog is being published at the end of the school year. Some of you may be worn out, tired from graduation ceremonies, awards days, final exams, grading, and end of the year parties and/or field trips. So, in this blog, I will share some of the tips and tricks I use to keep myself sane, in the end of the year crunch. It may be too late for this year, but you can use them next year, and hopefully be more energized than your fellow teachers.

First of all, if it is your first year teaching, over work yourself a little this year. Here is what I mean. Take the first summer and try to lesson plan the entire year. I know this sounds crazy, you do not know how long the sections will take, you do not know how far you will get, in fact if this is your first year, you do not know anything. That is ok. Here is how I did it. Hopefully you will have your curriculum already. If so, pick a spot in the book that you would like to get to, in an ideal world. Now divide that up into 4 sections ( by Quarter). The divide that up into about 8 weeks. This will give you an idea of about how much you can cover per week. This is not exact, but it is a general rule of thumb. Then take those weeks and break them up into days. Now plan each day with a basic plan. An amazing resource for this is Planbook.com. Once you have done this, all throughout the year update your lesson plans. If something worked, keep it and if it didn't work, dump it. After your first year of teaching, you will now have an electronic lesson plan that you can just use from year to year, updating it with new techniques and technologies, and specific differentiation each year, with minimal effort. So then, at the end of the year, while everyone else is still lesson planning, and trying to figure out how to plan those last few tests, you will already be done.

Now, this next part may seem obvious, but I have seen many teachers get stuck with this. Do not schedule any large project due dates, close to exams. You do not want to find yourself grading an honors project, a chapter 20 test, and a final exam the last week of school. Enough is already going on. I like to have my final Honors projects due at the end of April, and my last chapter test around a week weeks before finals. This gives me plenty of time to grade them, and then use the extra time in the last two weeks for creation of my final exam, getting any last minute homework grades in, and then posting my grades.  That means all I have left to do before summer, is grade finals and post semester grades. 

Next important thing, make copies early. Many teachers find themselves waiting on the one department copier for hours while other teachers make copies of their final exams, or final worksheets. I like to make mine about a week before finals. I  go in early one morning, and knock out all of my copying. If you use software for your test creation ( I use KutaSoft) then you can take your old exam, regenerate questions, (This keeps the same type of question, just changing the numbers and shapes) and then you are all ready to print. You software when possible to make your life easier.

The last things, is to schedule realistic end of the year parties. While having, music, movies, water balloons , food, crazy decorations, dressing up, etc.. may be an amazing experience, do not try to schedule something this big the last couple days of school. Worst case scenario, you also have to be a  party planner, while grading exams, tests, homework, projects, and trying to get grades turned in. Schedule the large party beginning to mid may, and then, the last day,  have a small food day and show a video compilation of pictures you have taken of the class,  as a way to reminisce before the year ends. ( I have been guilty of this one many years)

So, overall, just do what you expect your students to do, start early and plan well. How many of us have given a lecture to a student about waiting until the night before to start the homework, or make sure your presentation played, or make sure program worked, and then turn around, and do the exact same thing ourselves. We are professionals, we should know better.


Ok guys have a great summer!  I will still be blogging all summer long. Thank you for following along, and I hope I have been at least a little help to some of you.

 




 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Listening with empathy

We are all guilty of falling short on this, myself included. We start listening to someone, we hear their concerns, and then one of two things happens: we squirrel off into a text, email, or Facebook post on our phone that catches our eye, or we decide that the matter is insignificant and start planning our canned answer. I would like to address both of these scenarios from the student to teacher perspective, and then from the administrator to teacher perspective. So, let us dive right in.

It has become common place to check our phones mid conversation. Someone can be talking to us and, without even an "excuse me", we jump straight to our phones mid sentence. I am guilty of this from time to time. The problem is that the person that you are talking to, instantly feels that his time is less important than that email that made your phone ding. Teachers should not do this to students, period. Your job, your duty is to make sure that your students receive your attention. There is nothing on that phone that requires such immediate attention that you have to stop mid sentence and check it. If it does, give the student the courtesy of saying excuse me for a second. Then go back to the conversation. If you are an administrator, nothing will make your teachers feel unappreciated more than you not being engaged in the conversation. I understand that administrators time is valuable. I worked at a school where I had to make an appointment to sit down with the principal, and even then it may have been a few days out, and had better been worth the time for the meeting. However, if you are that busy, just schedule another time for the teacher to come back. 

Now, the fun part. The importance factor. Every teacher has a student that thinks their problem is so important that you must stop everything to fix it or the world is going to end. In your mind it is so insignificant that you do not even want to hear it. So what if Joe has lost his calculator for the 20th time, and thinks John took it, it is just at the bottom of his messy locker. You do not want to keep dealing with it. This part is all a matter of perspective. Yes, on the grand scale of things, the problem is small. Yes, the world is not going to end if you do not address this issue. Yes, you really have things that are more important to finish up, that actually matter. However, a little empathy goes a long way to keep the relationships intact. A little empathy makes a person feel like they are important. A little empathy will set a person at ease, and make their day so much better. Take a few minutes to actually listen to the student, hear them out, even repeat back the problem as you understand it, and then send them off trying to solve the problem. Notice, I did not say you had to solve the problem, it is their problem, just acknowledge the problem, and set them up to overcome it themselves. My classroom management is based on relationships, and I would hate to lose that over something so trivial.

Now, the tricky one. This is really what separates the administrative super stars from those that just do their job adequately. A teacher has an issue, lets say it is something small, like one of the light bulbs are out in the very back corner of their room. The administrator, has a budget to worry about, a fundraiser coming up, a ceremony to plan for, and parent meetings to conduct. Your light bulb is the last thing they need to worry about. However, the teacher tells the administrator about the light bulb. The administrator dismisses it, gives an answer of we will get it fixed, and if not, we can deal with it this summer. The teacher goes back to the room, feeling dismissed. Every day that the teacher looks at the light bulb that is out, or has to move students to see better, they are reminded that they were put off. Every day they get more and more frustrated that their concern was not handled, that the administrator either forgot, or did not think it mattered enough to fix. The next time the teacher has an issue, they will think of the light bulb and keep the issue to themselves. Now the morale has started to drop. The teacher in the next room has a light bulb out now, so the first teacher tells them administration is not going to do anything about it, might as well not even report it. So, now the second teacher's morale is dropping.  Now replace "light bulb", with anything that is important to a teacher, and it is easy to see why this is tricky. Administration can not go around fixing every problem instantly, but they can make sure their teachers issues get handled before they have to become the squeaky wheel.  This is where some of you may say, "These teachers are adults, they just need to get over the light bulb and understand that the world does not revolve around it." However, it stopped being about the light bulb a long time ago, it became about being heard, about felling supported.

I had the immense privilege to work under Mr. Stevens at John Overton High School in metro Nashville. He was one of a few assistant principals there, and he was the one that dealt directly with my department. He would make a purposeful trip to each one of his teachers classrooms at least once a week, and ask "How can I help you?" "What can administration do to make your job easier?"  Most of the time, I had nothing, but when I did, he would write it down and get back to me within a day. He would let me know if it could be done or not, and when it would be taken care of. He always had a smile on his face, and every morning when he passed me he gave me a "High 5". It was not forced, it was not cheesy, this man just loved his job, and took care of his teachers. No matter how busy he was, he made a point to say hi to me, and other teachers on my hall, every morning before students arrived. He did not avoid us, he initiated the conversations, he asked about our problems, and he found solutions.  He was engaged. We always think about how good a teacher is about being engaged with their students, but sometimes we do not think about administration being engaged with teachers.

Do you like your students? Do you like your teachers? Do you hope that they come back, and that the atmosphere of your classroom / school is healthy, and that people enjoy coming to work / school? Well, then we all need to work on our active listening, and learn to show empathy. I know personally, it is the end of the year, I am helping with graduations, creating finals, getting grades in, creating awards, organizing water balloon fights, chaperoning dances and field trips, answering the technology requests,  and everything else I have to get done, so I have fallen short. I have messed up many times.  I have asked my students on many occasions to forgive me, and I have tried to take the first 10 minutes of class to hear them out. Sometimes you have to humble your self, and say, "Hey, my bad, how can I fix this with you." I have also taken a few minutes at the end of class to talk to some students privately to make sure they felt like their voice was heard.

Sometimes problems that seem small to us, are large to other people. Sometimes we can not fix the issue, but if we listen, and show empathy, we can at least show people that they matter. Sometimes they just need to get it out, and know that their issues are important. Sometimes, you have to take 20 minutes and just change the light bulb, or help the student find the calculator, to avoid a larger problem later on. So, please, show people that you care.











Sunday, May 7, 2017

Punish one or Punish them all?

Many years ago, I remember as a small child, sitting in my elementary school lunchroom. On the wall was a large traffic light. When it was green we knew that the lunchroom was being quiet. Once it got to yellow, we knew that we were getting close to being in trouble, but were not quit there yet. Then you would, all of a sudden, look up and it was red. That meant that we would not be going outside after lunch for our extra 15 minute break.
This was the case for most of my elementary career. Teachers would give the general, "If you do not stop talking, you will not go outside." Not all of us were talking, but one thing to be assured, all of us would get the consequence. When I first started teaching, I was guilty of this as well. When you give the class a little room to start talking, and then they take it to far, and have trouble redirecting, you feel like THE ENTIRE CLASS WILL NOT STOP! So, you have no choice but to address the entire class, right?
The problem with is that there are some people in the class that are truly not talking. They are on task and not causing any issues, while 95% of the class is talking, so they get the consequence as well. This leads to the mentality of, if I am getting punished, I might as well also participate in the talking. Why should I have none of the fun, but get 100% of the consequence?
The way to avoid this is classroom management. Here are a couple of points that are directly related to classroom management.

1) It is not the fault of the students that are on task, that you are struggling with the classroom.

2) It is not the fault of the other teachers in the school either. Sometimes school leadership will have to make rules to ban things ( cell phones, fidgets, hacky sacks, water bottles, etc) because a few teachers classroom management skills were lacking. Or, they just didn't want another thing to deal with.

I will be exploring classroom management again in a later blog, but for now here are a couple tips to keep the consequences direct at those breaking the rule, and not at everyone.

First in the classroom, have a way to redirect the entire class. Not a consequence, just a transition.   Also, not just when you feel that they are out of control, but something that provides a redirect from one activity to the next. Come up with something that works for you, practice it and use it consistently. The one thing that hurts most classroom management schemes is lack of consistency.

 My example that I use is : "Heads Down!" Here is how it works: I teach a mini 10 minute lesson. I break the class into groups to wrestle with the material. When they have been given enough time, ( or if I think most of them have gotten off track) then I say "Heads Down!" They know that they have to stop talking, put their head down on their desk, and anyone that keeps talking instantly gets a consequence. Then, after a few seconds I say, "Heads up, no talking." Then I go onto the next part of the lesson. My students have gotten used to this, and it is just a normal part of class.

Next piece of advice, do not let it get out of control to begin with. This goes back to consistency. If one person is talking and getting away with it, another person will try the same thing. Then a few more, and a few more. Next thing you know, you are trying to give the entire class a detention. Stop it when it starts, consistently. Now, ask any of my students, I believe they will tell you that my classes are fun. However, I establish early, that there is time for fun, and there is time for work. I am flexible, but firm. I let them know I care, and that I care enough to hold them accountable.

Lastly, I want  to address all of those devices, electronics, fidgets, etc, that always plague teachers from year to year. This years flavor is the spinner. Remember, you are king of your domain. Your classroom, is YOUR classroom. You can give, and you can take away. Here is why I am never plagued by these devices. At the beginning of the year, I tell my students that I have one rule: Do not make any disturbances for the class. If you do, then I will do something. I do it without begging, without negotiating, without asking them 5 times to put it away, they know the rules, and I give a consequence. Here is what that looks like it reality. I worked at a private Christian school, where cell phones were allowed in the classroom with teacher approval. This was nice because Kahootz and I are good friends. There would be times the student would use them, and then have to put them away. So, when a student pulled their phone out, at a time that I did not say they could, I would take it. Period. I would give it back later, and depending on their attitude I may send a note home, but the device was mine for the rest of the day. This removed the distraction,  class kept moving, and they knew I consistently enforced my rules, so these instances were far and few between.

I still do this today. Any device that causes an issue, I just take it. They will get it back, maybe end of period, maybe end of day, but I remove the distraction, and keep moving like it never happened. Some teachers may say," I just do not want to put up with it." Well, welcome to teaching. Every year, it will be a new device, a new electronic, a new fidget, a new game, a new something. Schools can not add a new rule every year to cover every new thing invented. Some of it falls on us, the teacher. We can ban them in our rooms, and not have issues. We do not need to always rely on a school rule to bail us out from being the bad guy and taking things away.

Now, that being said, if it is a matter of student safety, or a matter of preserving the integrity of the school, then yes, ban away.  Student safety comes first. If any device, lets say the spinner, becomes an issues where student are using them to hurt students outside of the classroom, then they should go away. Because, honestly, that is where the school rules are very useful. They are very useful, for student safety in and out of the classroom, and for students doing things between classes. However in the class, the teacher should be able to control their domain.

My last disclaimer, we all work with students. No amount of classroom management will fix the days where you have to have administrative support to deal with a student. No amount of classroom management will stop a particular student if he has it in his mind to do what he wants to do, and not what you want him to. I am not saying that I never have to ask for help, or have to refer to admin, or that I always control everything. I am not saying that you are a bad teacher if you are losing the battle to whatever the latest craze is, because it happens. All I am saying, is that we need to address those students specifically, and those groups directly, and that we should not punish the students that do follow the rules, for the sake of those who do not.

Again thanks for hanging around reading. Please reach out with any follow up, or just to kick around ideas.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Exceptional Leadership

There are functional leaders, and then there are great leaders. Those that inspire, those that you would follow to the ends of the earth. Now, by no means am I an experienced visionary, that can rally the troops, and institute change in any type of situation. I do, however, have some experience in leadership and I can share that experience with you. My leadership opportunities are not educational experiences, they are from my time in law enforcement.

I worked at a small police department in South Carolina just south of Florence. Lake City police department was a fun place to work. I worked straight night shift, and I loved it. When our immediate supervisor left the department it was time to hold the Sergeant's exam. I had only been a police officer going on two years, but that was the minimum qualification, so I applied to take the test. I was only 24, and in police years, that is still a baby. There were more qualified officers that were going to take the test, and I thought it would be, at best, a fun experience. When we got our results, I was surprised. Not only did I get the highest score, I was offered the position.
Before my first shift as Sgt. I did not know what to do. Not only was I young, I did not have any leadership experience, and some of the officers on shift had been policing for 15 - 20 years.

I had ideas. Great ideas, that I thought would improve the crime rate, optimize patrols, and new and inventive techniques that I learned at the police academy just two years before that had not made their way to the department yet. I knew, however, that these hardened police veterans, were not going to listen to any new ideas that I had to share. So, here is what I did.

In my first meeting, as I looked out at the eyes of every officer on my shift ( 7 of them, but it seemed like 100) I knew they were ready to shoot down whatever I had to say. So, I started like this: In This room there is many years of combined law enforcement experience. You guys are in the streets every day, and some of you have helped me on many occasions. I know that you guys  have great experience and ideas, so let's have them. What would make this night shift better for you? What can we do differently that would improve our results? They had a lot of good ideas, and once I listened to theirs, I threw out some of mine.

We decided on which things were manageable, which things needed approval from higher ups, and which things we could start that night. See, no matter how good your ideas are, if your people are not on board, they will not work. So, here is my first advice, get feedback from your people. The people that are in the trenches everyday should have a hand in policy creation. Listen to their needs, address their concerns, and give them a voice.

My next piece of advice, is to always keep the communication lines open. Minds wander and people assume. You do not want your people assuming the worst, when a memo can clarify a lot.

The next thing I learned, is that if you want your people to respect you, you need to make sure they are trained well. I had a corporal, he was my right hand man. The best thing I ever did was to train him to do my job. I taught him everything that I knew, kept nothing back. So, when I was not around, he functioned just like me, and when I was there, I could count on him to handle situations without much oversight. I had him train someone that could take his place if anything happened, and so on.
This empowered my team, gave them a sense of purpose, let them know that I believed in them, and when an opening came on another shift in leadership, it was my guys that were getting the spots.

If you are insecure in your position, you will live in fear that someone else will take it from you. In this fear you will keep people down, and not let them fly to their full potential. This will hinder your team, and never let them reach their full potential. In this case, you should probably not be in the position that you are in. However, if you are comfortable with your position, know that you do it well, and are secure in it, you will empower your team. It will make them better, it will let them know that they are appreciated, and that you believe in them. Then they will follow you because they will believe in you.

So, my personal experience leads to these small tips:
1) Listen to your people, give them a voice. Let them help shape the atmosphere, and empower them to be agents of change.

2) Communicate with your people. Facts are friendly. Yes, there is some sensitive information that is for leadership only. However, bad morale is fueled by assumptions. No communication will destroy your team.

3) Teach your team members to replace you. Your team should not shut down because you miss a day. Your team should not shut down because the top 2 or 3 people are not there. There should always be a person that is trained to make decisions on hand.

4) This one I had to learn the hard way. Recognize your best people. People are human, and while it was their job to protect and serve, and they were glad to do it, they still wanted to feel like they did it better than the next guy. Printing a certificate and placing it in a $5 frame for shift officer of the quarter, went a long way to make people feel appreciated.

5) The last thing I would say, is do not hold people back. I may have had an officer that was the best person to work traffic accidents. No one may have ever done it better than him, and if I had to replace him, I would know that the next person would not do as good of a job. However that is no reason to keep him on traffic duty. If a detective spot opened up, I should recommend him. I should let him move up, even if he is an asset to the team. That is not an excuse to hold him back. Your job as a leader is to make sure your people go on to bigger and better things eventually. They deserve it, and you need to help them achieve that.

This list is not exhaustive, and it is only the things that I have experienced first hand. I had to find out some of these the hard way. These rules apply to any leadership position, and there are many more out there to be learned.

Thank you again





Friday, April 21, 2017

Handling Behavior in a school setting.

As long as there are students in the classroom, there will be students causing trouble in the classroom. I watch teachers get frustrated, and give lectures, and send students out, and fight the good fight. Now, let's be honest with our self, students are at the age where they are going to do stupid things. Their brains are not completely developed, and their decision making skills are not fully matured, so they are going to mess up. We should expect that of them. However, there are times where the situation requires getting administration involved.

If you are a Dean of Students, or an Assistant Principal and you have do deal with discipline, you feel like you are walking a precarious tight rope. If you are too lenient on the student than the teacher will get upset with you, too harsh and the parent will come down on you as well. So, what do you do? What is the magic recipe of discipline?

Well, there are a couple of things that you can do. If you are at a public school, well, your hands maybe tied. There may be an escalation policy that you have to follow. It may read: 1st offense phone call home, 2nd offense detention, 3rd offense.... and so on. On the other hand, offenses may be classified by seriousness. Where a classroom infraction involves a detention or silent lunch, and a fight may require 3 days out of school suspension.  Now, if you are in a private school, you are really in a tight spot, because not only do you enforce the rules, you also make them up. So, here is my advice.

First, when you make the rules, make sure every rule counts. What I mean by this is, if there is a rule that is not being enforced, and you really do not need it, get rid of it. There is no need to keep rules on the books that really do not mean anything.

Second, do not have un-said rules. Either it is a rule, and worthy to be put in the handbook, or it is not. Rules that you have to guess at, or are based on the mood of the teacher are no good to anyone.

Third, have a clear, set level of action, based on the consequence. This is important for a couple of reasons. It prevents "favorites" from being treated differently, and it also prevents "discipline rage" where the consequence may increase with the mood of the educator. They need to be specific, clear, uniform and followed consistently. Now, that is not to say that there can not be grace, but build that in. Write in some appropriate warnings, choices for different levels, and some grace depending on the circumstances. However, if the consequences are uniform, gracious, using common sense, and are designed out of love for the student, you will have a good response. Plus, everyone has to sign the handbook, so if they sign, they are agreeing with what consequences you have come up with.

The reason for this third step is simple. If the rule exists, and a consequence exists for that rule, than it is not you creating the discipline, you are just following the rule. Now people can get mad at the rule, and mad at the consequence, but you get to blame the rule, and take some of this responsibility off of your shoulders. You are no longer in the position of punisher, you are in a position of referee, following the rule.

One other thing that I would like to say, is that documentation is key. Creating an atmosphere where your teachers have resources to document the good and the bad, is a must. Documentation is helpful, so that we can track patterns of behavior across the school day. Bullying is a push button topic that we are trying to fix in education. To be able to see a pattern of behavior, is key to stopping this from happening.

Lastly, encourage an atmosphere of collaboration. Each teacher on staff has a unique skill set, strength and weakness. When one teacher falls short, it is nice to have other veteran teachers to run "what if" scenarios with. It is also helpful for coming up with education plans for students. For example, one student may not be able to see the board, and only feels comfortable mentioning that to a specific teacher. That can be discussed and the student can get help. Maybe it seems a parent is particularly upset with how you are handling a situation, but another teacher noticed that it was the way you started the note home that could have been taken the wrong way. It is always nice to have a second set of eyes on any situation.

Thanks for following along, if there is a topic that you want to hear my opinion on, please feel free to reach out to me.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Change in education: Do we really know what to do next?

You can ask many educators, parents, students, leaders, and government officials, and they will all say that education needs to change. They will throw statistics at you about the students that we are losing. They will talk about other countries, and how they are surpassing us in STEM fields. Teachers blame Administrators, Administrators blame Legislators, Legislators blame Teachers, and the cycle goes on. People point fingers, and blame, they yell and argue, and they protest and march.

Now, I know two things. First, education as we know it, is not working in the information age. Second, no one knows what it should look like. If someone knew exactly what it should look like, they would just do that thing. Teachers and administrators are not anti-education. I refuse to believe that one magical fix exists, and people just refuse to institute the fix. So, we really do not know what it looks like. 

Here is a good  Article out of John Hopkins on this lack of knowing what to do, but it may look like.

So, then the question is, does anyone know how it should look? Well, maybe. I had the privilege to attend a teacher in service at The Ron Clark Academy. I do not have enough space to tell you all about the amazing things that go on at The Ron Clark Academy, but I am going to provide a link. to a
News Article by CBS news.

So, if this school is amazing, and getting results, why do we not just make this the standard of education?  Once you read the article, and if you investigate the school further, you will notice things like "National teacher of the year" and "Inducted into the national teacher hall of fame" in the bios of some of the faculty. So, if you take the best teachers, give them amazing resources, and a Head Master that is a beautiful form of crazy, then there is no wonder why they set the world of education ablaze.

However, what about the average school, with average teachers, with basic supplies. I believe that if we can pin down what learning in the information age should look like, we can make a difference with a few decent teachers, not just with the all star team.

So, while I am going to leave this post a little empty, without really giving any advice, insight or speculation. I want you, the reader, to start trying to figure it out. Research new ideas in education, watch a couple Ted talks, take time to read books on how the brain actually makes connections. Try to be the change that you know exists. I know you are bogged down in lesson plans, and end of the year stuff, but you owe it to your students to be better, and to help fix our broken system.  I do not have to be the guy with the great idea that fixes education, as long as someone has the idea, we will all benefit.

See you all next time.