In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids

tony-lays-it-all-out-on-the-chalkboardI loved the Nike slogan in the 80’s “Just Do it.” This is something we as teachers in negotiations need to remember. If you read too much of the news around education, it will leave you feeling left out to dry. For some reason the climate in political circle is bad toward teachers. It’s not warranted however. We in education have seen so much good happening in our classrooms, schools, districts, and regions. We know teachers are continuing to pass on knowledge and students are receiving it. There is an issue of economics that has center stage. The conservatives for the most part want higher test scores and they want the ability to produce them without traditionally credentialed teachers. They open chart schools, of which some are very good I must say, that employ low paid teachers that are not unionized. I assume they still must be credentialed but if they can save money I am sure they will find a way around that. We studied hard to get two degrees in college and we long to show our ability in the classroom. We work hard to see measurable growth in our students. Unfortunately, this is not being seen by some voices in our culture.  Continue reading “In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids”

Inspiration for New Teachers: The Tortoise, the Hare, and Personal Bests

On your teaching journey, don’t compare yourself with others. Just do your best and you will find much success.

This post is dedicated to the new teaching degree students who are feeling the sting of our times in education. Don’t give up! Teachers, especially new ones, are under a lot of pressure sometimes to create the best walls, the best lesson plans, and the best APPEARANCE to the teaching “pack” around them. I remember when I was starting out back in the late nineties when I sometimes felt like all the veterans around me were like the “hare” and I felt like the slow moving tortoise. You know it’s an old fable but it stands up true today in our fast paced teaching career more than ever.  If you do the right things, consistently, and keep at it, you will finish the race strong. Those doing the work for education degrees shall have their “day in the sun.” Best of all, you will make a difference in the lives of children.

It seems sometimes that the fast running hares of the world are enjoying their developed speed all around us, but you can’t let that sway you from the road in front of you, however small. They were once like you and if you keep your resolve, you will be successful as they are at teaching. You may even be better at it. Like my high school track coach Mr. White used to say: “Don’t worry about Jamie Oman, you run your own race Riley and get a personal best!” Jamie Oman was a CIF champion runner, I was simply a point man for the team. Every time I “took a man” I felt pride and I carry that with me today.

Times are tough now in education. Stay strong, we need the best teachers to stay in the profession while thousands are quitting. On your teaching journey, don’t compare yourself with others. Just do your best, stay focused on your own teacher evaluations and you will find much success.

Desert Trails and Charters in the News Again

MG_1774-525x350I’ve heard some outrageous things about the “blossoming” Desert Trails in the news lately. I’m still waiting to see if they are all true. They brought national attention to our small desert school district last year when the parent trigger law was invoked for the first time in history. I won’t thank them for that yet. If it ends up bringing good to the school district and to public education as a whole then I will but the jury is still out. Their mvement was fueled by illogical and unfounded hatred for public school teachers and teachers’ unions. Neither are the true enemy of education. Debra Tarver introduced the nation to a new form of organizing parents through fear and lies. In doing so, she advanced her career and income. What happened? A charter took over a public school. I wrote about this about a year ago you can read that here. Basically I was interested in looking at the criteria people use in politics to judge (and prejudge) schools. Gathering data and putting a SPIN on data is a common practice in the media these days. As long as the spin mobilizes enough votes, it doesn’t matter how logical it is.

Brooke Self on Twitter: "DesertTrails Exec. Director Debra Tarver speaks to the AESD board regarding ed code violations related to tax filings from: http://ow.ly/DBoqd
Brooke Self on Twitter: “DesertTrails Exec. Director Debra Tarver speaks to the AESD board regarding ed code violations related to tax filings from: Brooke Self on Twitter

DesertTrails Exec Director Debra Tarver speaks to the Adelanto school board re: a notice of ed code violations

They cite one test and say this percentage of the kids are below grade level and another test to point out they had huge improvement. Recently Desert Trails has reported a 47% proficiency rate for their students in Science. Do they mean the whole school or just grade 5, where the test has been given as far back as 1997, when I started teaching in public schools. If it was just 5th grade, what of K-4th and 6th grade? Besides that, why are we not hearing amazing statistics in Language Arts and Math? Are these not the crux of an education? I might argue they are. In an emergency board meeting tonight I learned there have been written allegations of the school district against Desert Trails including non-filing of taxes. I must say here these are only allegations. Still, watch the news to see where these allegations go.

In the same board meeting a gentleman got up and slammed our city’s schools. He saw no glimmer of hope in them. I found it sad to listen to him. I also found it pathetic and disgusting. If only I could talk to him and explain the “union” is not the cause of his woes. Perhaps he was the most disgruntled person Debra Tarver, the Director of Desert Trails, could get to speak on behalf of the school? It sure sounded that way. I got to thinking about how they are now in a similar boat to the schools they once assaulted with the help of Parent Revolution last year. They must now answer to the umbrella district they fled from. That has to be tough for Tarver and people who follow her. I’m writing about this situation because it is close to home and because I think the charter option, good or bad, needs to be addressed by teachers. Not all charters come about this way. Schools don’t have to be ruthlessly and arguably immorally taken over to go charter. Schools can apply on their own. There is so much to be said on the Desert Trails, Parent Trigger, Charter school topic: What do you think about it? All opinions are welcome.

Priorities and Poverty

IMG_3328I watched The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete tonight and I was illuminated about some aspects of black culture along with the culture of poverty for all races. I love movies that shine a light on a world I don’t know first hand. As I watched the film, I gained empathy for some of my African American students who face similar challenges. I won’t be as hard on some students in my class who don’t perform up to my culture influenced rubrics. For some kids in poverty, we as teachers need to have different priorities. If a child is virtually raising him/herself, we should praise them for applying her/himself even in a lesser way than a child with parents. Are we preparing students for a test or for survival in the real world. I think every teacher would benefit from watching this movie. School is like a sanctuary. When you see how starved Mister becomes, you realize that it’s Summer and if he were in school, at least he would get a meal. Continue reading “Priorities and Poverty”

How to Be the Teacher Your Students Will Never Forget

I was asked to mention this article and I really liked it. So here it is mostly in its entirety. Source is linked below. A very good read, full of some good truths for teachers.

A teaching career can be one of the most challenging, yet one of the most rewarding careers that a person can pursue. Most educators embark upon their careers with a determination to make a difference and to be a teacher that students remember and count as an inspiration. Chances are, you have had a teacher at some point in your academic career that truly stood out, perhaps even inspiring your own desire to become a teacher. If you’d like to make that same impression on your own students, these tips may point you in the right direction. Keeping this advice in mind while emulating some of the behavior that your own inspirational educator exhibited can help you become just as important of a figure in the lives of your students as a few great teachers once were to you.

Respect Your Students

In order to maintain control over a classroom full of kids, you’ll have to command their respect. One way to accomplish that goal is to play the role of the authoritarian teacher that refuses to accept anything less. More gentle educators know that getting students to feel genuine respect, rather than blind fear, depends upon the amount of respect they show those students.

Be Patient

Some of your students will learn differently than others, and have to go at their own pace. Others will have behavioral problems that prevent them from comporting themselves in the same manner as their peers. In every class, you will have at least one student that tries your patience, but it’s important that you do your best not to let it affect you. When your students look back at you through the lens of adulthood, they’ll be more likely to remember the wonderful teacher that was patient with them and coached them through their difficulties than the ones that couldn’t manage their needs.

Show Compassion

Your students will come from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. They’ll have different learning styles and different home lives that will affect the way they behave at school. Rather than lashing out at a student who’s clearly acting out due to anger or fear, take the time to work with them and show the compassion they need.

Teach Enthusiastically

In order to inspire enthusiasm for a given subject in your students, you’ll have to show that you’re excited about teaching the subject matter. Approaching every class as if it were the most exciting thing you’ve ever done and showing a sincere eagerness to share your knowledge and help your students learn can make a significant difference in the way they respond to you and how they remember you throughout the years.

Set High Expectations, and Help Your Students Meet Them

It is okay to set lofty goals for each and every one of your students, as long as you’re willing to put in the extra work it takes to help them meet those expectations. Work with students that need extra help, coach those that need a confidence boost and make sure that they know you’re behind them all the way. When your students look back at the time spent in your classroom, they’ll think of the sense of confidence you instilled in them and all the encouragement you gave. While the memories of apathetic or bitter teachers fade away, they’ll still remember the teacher that did everything possible to make them feel powerful and capable.

Engage Your Students

Getting kids to connect with the source material is a key to helping them retain it and to fostering an appreciation for it. Working in as many hands-on ways as possible and getting kids engaged and connected is a great way to not only help them learn, but also to help them feel secure in their environment and eager for each new day.

Get Involved

Teachers might have summer vacations and weekends off, but the truly great ones spend time outside of the classroom working with their students. Whether you’re coaching a sport, supervising an after-school activity or spending time in a tutoring program, your students need to know that you’re taking an active interest in the school. Kids can spot the teachers that are simply going through the motions until summer vacation arrives and those tend to be the educators that they don’t carry such fond memories of when their school days are over.

via How to Be the Teacher Your Students Will Never Forget – Become A Nanny.

What Should we Test in Public Education?

What should we test in public education? How about: practical job skills, traditional academic skills, and citizenship? To me, these are three great targets to start with.

There’s been a lot of talk this past year about standardized testing in public education. To get a teaching degree requires a lot of discussion on this. There are many points being made on the internet and in books about how standardized tests are not the best assessment of the quality of schools. So what should we test in public education? How about: practical job skills, traditional academic skills, and citizenship? To me, these are three great targets to start with.

Practical job skills are missing in our k12 system now. There are some classes in high schools across the country that attempt this but it should have precedence over all else if we are to prepare our students for a rough economy. Think tanks, collaboration, parent groups, and administration need to come together and brainstorm on this sort of curriculum. Teaching online is proving to be one innovative method toward this. It will have to be a malleable framework since the marketplace changes year to year and sometimes even sooner. One question these think tanks might address is this: “What skills have been universal through the decades in productivity at work.” I think this is the #1 Topic “A” priority item we should address as we reform public education. Teaching to a test gets very few people hired after graduation.

Traditional academic skills should still have priority as well. Language arts and math and crucial to surviving and thriving at work. We should keep the standards and standardized test models and use them but at a second priority. As it has been, the standardized test has been given more attention and focus than it merits, in my opinion. It does however give us a measuring stick that can be useful in planning classroom goals and lessons. This should be woven into the practical job skills aforementioned.

Finally, students need to be taught citizenship. As our system goes through the major changes it is going through now in attempt to escape the recession, our students should be prepared to make their contribution to keep the country strong. There is much material out there on teaching citizenship and behavior skills. This should be sorted through and a new “curriculum” of citizenship should be created. Tests of citizenship would do well to model what good citizens do in America. Very soon, our students will be the citizens of America and the world. How will they be prepared if we don’t guide them with our public schools.

To conclude, I do agree with many out there saying standardized testing is not the answer. At the same time, I feel it may be the answer if the test is based on the right priorities. If we focus on the practical first, we will be doing our students and country a much better service as public educators. Just like the road showing how to be a teacher, every child should have a clear path whatever she/he wants to be.

What Is College Prep?

Many schools claim to be college preparatory schools, but what does that title really mean? There are multiple definitions for college readiness and they all seem to work. For example, if a school follows a college-preparatory curriculum, does it automatically mean the students are ready to enter and do well in college courses? If a student attends a school that does not define itself as college prep, but the student gets high grades and does well on placement and admission tests, does that mean the student is prepared for college? Some schools such as the Landon School consider all facets of a students’ growth, including course work, character development and learning good values such as honesty and respect are what make a student ready for college.

Start Early

According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit group that advocates policies to increase college level opportunities and achievement, the effort to ready a student for college is a kindergarten through twelfth grade endeavor. The discussion is also driven by statistics that show that almost three-fourths of students who enter college or other postsecondary education, do not finish.

Traditional Wisdom Questioned

In the past, it was thought that if a student passes a specific set of academic courses, they are ready to do college-level work. In some cases, this is true, and some states have modified their curriculum to reflect this for all students whether they are college-bound or not. However, research conducted by ACT Inc., the producer of one of the two major college admission examinations has found that while taking all of the recommended academic courses is beneficial, it does not necessarily ensure successfully completing a college degree. The results may show that the high school courses may not have the right level of rigor. It also shows that along with academic excellence, students need good mental practices when they leave high school and enter college, such as critical thinking and ethical living habits, which provide another example of the Landon experience.

The Value of Mentoring

When teachers connect with students on more levels than classroom teaching, the students have a better chance to develop a healthy mindset. Teachers are mentors and coaches when they help students learn beyond the classroom such as on playing fields, in art galleries and libraries and in performing arts centers and learn to understand and explore all aspects of life. Mentors have the opportunity to model the principles of teamwork, perseverance, practice and fair play.

Other Qualities

Along with academic success and good ethical standards, students also need to develop problem solving skills, analytical thinking, inquisitiveness and the willingness to accept critical feedback graciously. They should also know how to use feedback to improve themselves, but be ready to fail at times also. In the digital age, ways of thinking may be as important or more important than content knowledge according to the study Standards for Success conducted at the University of Oregon.

Students who cannot cope with college level work often take remedial courses for which they get no credit. According to research, these students are unlikely to graduate. It is no wonder that there are different opinions on what constitutes college preparedness. The views of kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers and college professors vary widely.

Common Core and Typing Skills

tumblr_mtibaspb9k1ssyq3bo1_500When I was in school, typing was not as universally required as it is today. The students of today must type in their answers to standardized tests like Common Core. As a teacher, I have to help my students type in their usernames and passwords all the time for reading and math tests as well as other learning websites they are required to use. In the case of some, it takes 20 minutes just to log in. That’s why my school site purchased a typing program for the kids. As tech, my job was to upload the student information to the game. I did so and I think using this game is going to really infuse self-assurance and speed into their typing. In turn, I hope it enables them to test more accurately. Continue reading “Common Core and Typing Skills”

Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

IMG_2454.JPG
If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum? Continue reading “Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed”