30 January 2007
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?"
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 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."
19 January 2007
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
‘Tough Choices’: Change the System, or Suffer the Consequences
18 January 2007
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.
17 January 2007
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
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
Washington Post article
Team Web Sites
16 January 2007
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/.
15 January 2007
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.
09 January 2007
No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is it the right approach or a bad one? There are a lot of difference views out there. Basically, I think everyone will agree it’s an effort to improve the reading, math and science skills of students by making states more accountable for the results of elementary and secondary students that attend their schools.
After that premise, the controversy begins: 1) what is the appropriate way to fund this accountability of the states that the federal government is now requiring, 2) what are the best methods for measuring improved learning skills, and 3) what are most accurate processes and procedures for recording and identifying results.
Personally, I think – as a teacher – that the premise of NCLB is good. After that I think the federal government should bow out and let the educators resolve the issues. Seriously, the federal government cannot even balance their own budget, how can they be setting policy on how to best educate the next generation of leaders in this great country? Perhaps – just like teachers need to attend professional growth classes to get renew certification – politicians need to attend professional growth classes on balancing budgets to be eligible for reelection….
The point of view form the white house:
Great article by wikpedia on NCLB fundamentals and issues:
NPR – National Public Radio – five interviews/podcasts that talk about different aspects of the controversy with people in the trenches:
“...... the billions have gone to what is effectively a pilot project for untested programs with friends in high places.”
08 January 2007
I think Jay has a definite possibility for raising money or freeing up money in education. My question is, what is the benefit for students? Is that money going into purchasing real tools that students can use for learning and if so – what are they and when will they arrive? In other words, if the money is going to end up on a budget line and then tools never get purchased then everyone loses. This simple sounding scenario shows the complex equation of education. A feasible idea to raise money …. yet that money can get lost in the inefficient system management pervasive in the business of education.
* Find this entire article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/07/AR2007010701098.html?nav=rss_education
07 January 2007
A girl is caught with a note and quickly tears it up, blushing, as her classmates chant, “Read it!” The teacher tries to demonstrate simple machines by pulling from a box a hammer, a pencil sharpener and then, to her instant remorse, a nutcracker — the sight of which sends a cluster of boys into a fit of giggles and anatomical jokes. This NY Times article says it all about a tough day for teaching……
I am one of the lucky teachers cause I have had other successful careers, which allow me some experience to fall back on when the teaching gets tough.
Sure, we can say that every person in a career has a hard day now and then. When I was a project manager at IBM there were ridiculous days too … but I was sure getting compensated for those trying moments. When I ran an insurance business there were plenty of tough days and the same when I was a sheriff deputy …..
Yet teaching is so high profile since parents actually expect, unlike any other profession, that teachers can work magic with their kids … that is a big point. When is the last time a parent tried to teach their kid about ecology or history? Do parents even spend quality time with their kids these days? In fact, do parents even really discipline their kids? So teachers have this job to teach and discipline while students carry in their emotional and mental baggage from home ….…. I think there is a oversized expectation of EVERYONE that teachers have this magic dust we sprinkle on students and they just start behaving “correctly” since our classes are stuffed and the kids have to take numerous test cause lawmakers think that will help them understand why kids aren’t learning ……
I remember once when I was student teaching to get my certificate a parent called the school to complain that I wasn’t allowing the student to retake a quiz because he was absent – I was stricter then – and so I got a visit from the Assistant Principal (AP) to discuss my actions … yes I did recant and let the student take the quiz …. live and learn that’s a favorite mantra of mine.
There are two types of student as far as I can tell. One group thinks they deserve everything. The other group, which I prefer, thinks they have to earn what they get. You guessed it, the “deservers” think they start with an A. The “earners” understand they have to achieve an A. The “earners” remind me of my high school days … I get along with them much better.
What are your kids … what were you in high school … a deserver or an earner?
06 January 2007
Just when we thought there was enough testing, the
Here is the link on the computer tests I mentioned:
Here are good resources to explain a national curriculum:
National Educational technology Standards
05 January 2007
The majority of teachers, as I was talking about yesterday, are doing a remarkable job! It’s unfortunate - in any profession - when a few folks spoil the reputation of all the committed and hard working professionals.
To help teachers, especially in science, here are three specialized search engines that focus in finding useful teacher content on subjects and methods:
1. Biology and Chemistry Labs for class
2. Science Teacher Material
3. Teaching Methods
Biology and Chemistry Labs for class
This search engine is loaded with sites that have online resources to use in front of class or at a computer lab with class. It also has hundreds of traditional resources relating to all the concepts in these two sciences to get material, handouts, and read about real time issues.
Science Teacher Material
Here are thousands of specific sites relates to earth science, physical science, life science, geology, physics, and chemistry for material that can be used to do lesson planning or to use as a supplement for a certain topic being discussed.
Every wonder what the different teaching methods are? This is the portal where you can get all that information. For example, do a search on “teaching methods” or a search on “self regulate learner” or “constructivism” or “skinner” and so forth. Read this material and find ideas for incorporating different learning theories into lessons to see what is most effective.
To add a resource to these search engines please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the information.
04 January 2007
In case you are wondering, I am pro teacher. I do think that teachers, when given the necessary support, can and do produce extraordinary results. Right now I am a science teacher in a public high school. This is my third year teaching after leaving a successful career in business. I see many good teachers doing amazing things with students …. opening many doors intellectually and emotionally. Teachers have the best job since we are able to work with the minds and hearts of the future leaders of our planet.
I also think there are teachers who need to retire. I am not saying there are bad teachers, just teachers who, it looks like to me, no longer have the passion they once had for the work, so it’s time to go. This happens in any career people work in. After a while it’s possible to loose the passion …if you are in law enforcement, a business owner, a politician, whatever career you have chosen. That is what happened to me working in business and that is why I left. How can anyone do an excellent job without passion for the work?
Teaching involves more than lesson planning, lesson delivery and classroom management. I was looking for a purpose statement or job responsibility statement for teachers in my district but I haven’t found it. It must be around somewhere. In business that was the first thing you saw when applying for a job: 1) the responsibilities for this job are thus …., 2) the skills needed for the job are thus …., and 3) the pay range is thus based on experience and skills. I really wish public education was run more like a business cause I think the teachers who are doing great work will be rewarded while the teachers who need to go will be leaving …..
Anyways, I am pro teacher and I don’t think the computer is a sole answer for teaching, although it’s a great tool if we can get it in the classroom and not just at a lab … but that is another blog page.
Here are some teacher resources ….
National Association for Prevention of Teacher Abuse
Teacher Support Network
03 January 2007
Instead of focusing on building new tests to measure content assimilation, we need to focus our efforts on understanding what works in each teachers’ classroom to reinforce knowledge transfer by collecting student feedback. Comprehending the success of classroom instruction is more than criteria reference testing. Collecting reliable and valid feedback means all students are given an opportunity to respond to questions dealing with classroom instruction they received in every class. The activities in math class that support a student in learning may not work in their English class. To have a sensible and meaningful dialogue about student learning for improving academic progress, we must include appropriate student feedback into the equation.
School districts of all sizes, can benefit from outsourcing administrative functions, according to the
Let us hope that the decision makers in education see the light and begin listening to their customers.
02 January 2007
Greetings in 2007, may this new year bring us closer to beginning some meaningful process changes in the education of our country’s greatest resources – our teenagers.
I finally found a site with stats about what we spend on schools and how we spend it. Standard and Poor’s is doing an excellent job with this “School Matters” site they created. That they do it speaks volumes about its' reliability and validity. The site is located at http://www.schoolmatters.com/.
In 2004 we had 49 million students in public schools and were spending $4,910 on instruction for each student in 2003. Yes, those are public tax dollars being spent.
There is a ton of information here. You can drill down by state on performance, spending, and demographics or look at the national averages. This is an excellent resource to learn more about specific schools and who the education leaders are in a specific geographic location.