There I am, in the middle of lecturing my son with raised voice, when I see the tears welling up in his eyes. I wonder why it has to come to this again- why he simply won’t listen to me. … Continue reading
I Got EDWARD LOWE! Which person, character, legend, superhero…..are you?
You are an individual like no other. There may be 6 billion people on the planet, but your friends would agree that you stand alone. While everyone else needs to know what sandwich, color, wrestler, superhero, furniture, snack, room, bird, celebrity, singer, dog, cat, state, candy, fish, job, athlete, sport, or artist they are, you are one of the few who understand that YOU are YOU! Unless what your mom said is true…”You are what you eat”, in that case, you might want to find the “What food are you eating Quiz”…..
(feel free to replace your name, copy/paste for your status)
1. Blended Learning- Whether defined as a mix of Technology and Paper/Pencil or a mix of Learning In and Out of School (watch a TV Special at home/ write a summary), students have been a part of Blended Learning for years…..
2. Flipped Classroom- Students learn subject matter at home to provide more discussion for understanding time in the classroom………hmmmmm
3. BYOD- Bring Your Own Device……parents have been providing devices for years….
4. Reform- Term to define when politicians and their cronies discuss their ideas to improve education and provide a revolutionary plan.
5. Charter School- (See #4 Reform)…..when you mix business and politics with education…..the question is what is more important- the bottom line, or your child’s education?
6. CMS- Course Management System……says it all…….
7. Inclusion- to include all students in activities? Now there’s an original idea to education……
8. Interactive Whiteboard- a giant board where a student can work out or demonstrate a solution? Who would have thought……
9. Open Educational Resource- a place where students and colleagues can share teaching/ learning materials…….
10. Small Learning Community- Revolutionary idea of working in small groups…….
11. Tier 1-2-3 Intervention- The idea that students may need little, some, or lots of extra help…….
12. Learning Environment- Whether it’s the school or the classroom, the Learning Environment lives on……
13. Performance Pay- As if the expression of “I got it” wasn’t enough, simply put a letter of thanks confirms a teacher’s performance is above and beyond……
Obviously, this was written with a bit of sarcasm. Contrary to what mass media is promoting, there are many dedicated teachers who have been doing an OUTSTANDING job of educating our children. Using new terms to describe ideas already in place can only fool so many. I am not against technology. On the contrary, I wish to promote it in education. However, it must be understood that technology is another tool that can make the teacher-student relationship more effective when used properly. Simply replacing a hammer with a nail gun does not make a better carpenter, and in the same mold, better technology tools do not guarantee a better education. Don’t believe the hype- Education in America is strong, and will continue with our move to Technology!
As the time approaches for spring conferences, I thought it would be helpful to offer some advice to parents as you head in.
Time is limited to have a meaningful conversation with your child’s teacher at Parent/ Teacher Conferences, so be sure to make the most of the time you have. Here are 5 simple rules to follow that can make the difference in helping your child in Elementary and Middle School:
1. Stop focusing on the Grades: Especially in Elementary School and even Middle School, parents tend to focus way too much on whether or not Johnny is getting straight A’s. Let me be clear, grades are important, however the need to debate turning some B’s into A’s is ludicrous. Harvard will not be checking Johnny’s 5th Grade report card to determine his acceptance or rejection. The question to ask is whether or not your child is giving a great effort towards their education. It is about preparing your child for their future education: A “hard-working” C is better than a “lazy” A!
2. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses: You will most likely be surprised as a parent to hear what the teacher sees as both strengths and weaknesses. Seeing your child in the different light of a classroom allows the teacher to be open-minded and not be prejudiced towards certain actions. Each child can truly start with a clean slate every year, so the teacher should be able to express individually what he or she sees in your child. Celebrate and be proud of the strengths your child demonstrates, but take more notice about their weaknesses. Each child is only as strong as their weakest link. The question to ask is simply what strengths and weaknesses does the teacher see in your child. No child has every suffered low self-esteem based upon their strengths.
3. Importance of Social vs. Academic: If you are focused on grades, you will never get to the most important factor for success in life. Your child’s ability to socialize with their classmates is just as, or, I would argue, more important than their academics to be successful in life. Collaborating with partners and groups is a fact of today and tomorrow’s workplace, and those skills are developed throughout the school day, in the classroom, at lunch, and at recess. The question to ask is what does the teacher see in your child’s ability to interact with others in the school, not just with classmates, but all students, staff, etc. Some of the greatest ideas have been lost because someone never voiced them.
4. Identifying Gifted/Remedial: You may feel as if your child needs to be placed into Gifted and Talented, or needs remedial help. Should you wish to discuss the options, or requirements for either, please make sure to have some documentation. For GnT, your opinion that your child is as smart as Billy who is in GnT, is not the requirement. If your child is not receiving straights A’s on average, then please be rational. As for remedial help, be passionate about the help your child needs, but come with organized thoughts not centered on grades. Behaviors that you see at home that can be compared to what is seen at school is extremely helpful. Also understand that there is a difference between a struggling student and one who needs remedial help. The question to ask, either way, is whether or not the teacher observes your child on the same level as you do, and what steps can be put into place to 1) help your child immediately, and 2) ensure your child receives proper support if identified in observation. In either case, GnT or Remedial, documentation to support your child will go a long way.
5. Place your Pride aside: While it is great to hear your child is doing well, there will be times that you will receive information you don’t agree with or don’t want to hear. Keep an open mind about what is being said and how the situation can be rectified. The last thing a teacher wants to do is create an irate parent by making up situations. It is not a knock on your parenting abilities, just simply communicating the situation they observe to obtain the best possible solution WITH you. Also, remember that for the teacher, it is NEVER about you and parenting, it is ALWAYS about what is best for the student. The question to ask is what can I do to help solve this issue. It is a sensitive discussion that every teacher dreads having to approach, and you reaching out an olive branch of joining forces will be welcomed.
As an added bonus, never be afraid to ask you the teacher for advice on helping your child. How to help a child with Homework is something most parents want to know. You can ask for a list of questions to ask to help with Reading Comprehension, options in developing study skills and note taking, or even help with the “new ways” of solving math problems. Just don’t ask if they have extra workbooks for you to have. They spend enough of their hard-earned money on the students, and I am letting you know that the local teacher supply stores are open to the public. You can purchase most teaching materials there and get help from the sales person who is usually a teacher or former teacher themselves, or simply ask during your conference where you can go and what is recommended for your child!
The Common Core State Standards are leading the way to improve the American Education System. Based upon their performance on PARCC and Smarter Balance Testing, students will be expected to show “Mastery” and their teachers will be evaluated based upon those results. Supporting individuals clearly state that this is a great check and balance system with high expectations and standards that will be consistent for each and every child. What is wrong with having high standards? Especially with our educational system in a free fall, becoming engulfed by the rest of the world? Well…….
What if all the media surrounding Common Core State Standards and Standardized Testing is propaganda aimed at completely destroying any and all positive support for Public School Education? Could there be a force sinister enough to collaborate behind the scenes in an effort to destroy the foundation of America that has educated many successful generations? The first question that would need to be answered is whether or not our children are truly falling behind when compared to the rest of the world. When you look at the PISA and TIMSS results, it seems that our students have consistently ranked about the same year after year, slightly above average. This is nothing to yell out in the streets about, but where does the panic of our declining educational system come from? The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education outlines the status of our educational system while debunking some myths surrounding it like the belief ”that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has.” We could argue why comparisons of educational systems via standardized testing is wrong and slighted, but it would do nothing to help identify what the problem is. As the rest of the world has invested into their own educational systems, they have dramatically improved. Does this mean that the US system has declined, or simply that many countries around the world are educating their students at a higher level that is now in comparison with the US?
So why the outcry about our “failing” school system? Well, it seems to me that anytime politics becomes involved, money is somewhere behind the scenes, so lets see where the money goes through my average joe eyes. Here in New Jersey, there are districts that are struggling to educate their children, especially in the inner cities like Newark and Camden. This is nothing new, and when you compare inner city students across the country, most are labeled as struggling. With that being said, one can easily see why these districts are targeted as if the blame is squarely on the inner city schools. Our Governor is pushing the development of Charter Schools, and personally, I have no issue with the development of any type of school that may help children, but it should never be at the expense of those in the Public Education field. The push is directed at these identified struggling districts because no one will question the attacks except for those stakeholders directly affected, and who is going to listen to the complaints coming from these inner city stakeholders? Even when the testing data shows that the Public Schools are outperforming the Charters, the propaganda drowns out the positive news. It is alarming to hear that in Newark, even though the Public continues to outperform the Charter, funding continues to be cut to the Public Schools. Do what you need to make the public schools perform negatively. This is a simple game of money and politics. All you have to do is look at who is being hired to run these Charter Schools, and simply connect the dots back to the politicians. It is an absolute shame because it is the children who suffer in this game.
Our students losses are at Big Businesses gains! It has become big enough to even get coverage as an Investment Opportunity! In other words, the Charter Schools will do whatever it takes to make money, for that is the business it is in. Think about that……..Now think about what is best for your child? Sadly, it has never been proven that Charter Schools are better performing. When you look into it, what is truly different? Are the classrooms different? Are the teaching styles revolutionary? Simply, the answer is No. In comparison, they are in the same class as a private school. One in which they get to select which students get to attend, and have the option to dismiss students who are not performing up to their level, both options of which a Public School does not have. The difference is that big business is playing with the guaranteed funds of our taxes. By preying on the hopes and dreams of the inner city school parents who are fed up with the failures of the inner city schools, these charter schools will continue to expand. If these charter schools simply educated our students better, then why is the focus in the inner city? If they simply educate better, and are the answer to making the US #1, then I along with everyone else would want my children to go there also.
The problem with America’s Educational System is that money and politics got involved! From NCLB to CCSS, our focus is to solve the propaganda that our educational system is somehow failing our students. The truth be told, we are failing our students………simply because the focus is on everything else, but THE STUDENTS!! I was lucky to have worked under the great leadership of Principal Joe Vicari and Asst. Principal Alan Ball at one point in my career who advised in one of our first meetings: “Ed, don’t make teaching too complicated. Truly care for each student, set high expectations, and the rest will take care of itself!” Many of my prior posts explain how I feel, and how my students believed in my classroom, so I want to be clear. Spreading propaganda about a failing educational system is the work of those who would benefit the most to do so. Those who have gained the most are…….Politicians and Charter Schools. When it comes to Public Education and its funding, big business should have no business in it. Why would anyone think that a better educational system is one in which the focus is on the bottom line? We need to place the focus back on the STUDENT(S) and provide the solutions necessary to meet each and every one of their NEEDS to succeed. Let’s get back to setting high expectations, identifying their needs, and caring for each individual child, so the rest can take care of itself!!
So there have been requests as to how a teacher can develop a classroom with high expectations and hold students accountable. Below is one of my handouts that would be delivered on the first day of school, and each student would be asked to read out loud and sign with the promise to do the best they can to achieve. There would always be one available for students to reread at a moments notice. I would also cover this pledge with parents on Back to School Nights as I explained my expectations for the students in my class. I believe it sets a high standard from the start and it is something that my students and parents appreciated. I do believe that if your students give you their best effort, success will follow!
To be successful in life, I must be disciplined. I must be willing to give my best effort without being asked. I must develop an ability to drive and push myself, especially when things are tough. I must not be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone will make them. Winners are those people who learn from their mistakes and continue to strive toward their goals. I must do what it takes to be a winner. I must be willing to look past what others do because I understand that only I can control what I do. With this knowledge, winners will never blame others for their mistakes. Winners will assume responsibility for their actions, suffer the consequences, and resume the track of success.
I am the one who is responsible for the positive and negative praise that I receive for my work. It is my decisions that will determine my reputation, and my fate. Successful people are not born they are made. I must strive to become successful no matter what path I choose, because I understand that if I don’t strive to be successful, someone else will. I cannot blame others for my lack of success; I can only blame myself for my lack of effort.
“Am I proud…” Is a perfect way to start knowing if I am on the right track. If I am not proud of my effort or work, then how can I expect others to respect my work or me? Anything that has my name on it will reflect the type of person I am, and the type of person I will be remembered as. I must understand that success is never easy. Success is hard work and I must be willing to give a great effort in order to receive the rewards of success.
AM I PROUD OF MY EFFORT TODAY?
In my 15+ years of teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students, I tried to keep a very complicated system as simple as possible. We kept our standards high and did our best to reach them. I only asked one … Continue reading
As I walked around the room watching my students take the “BIG Test” at the end of the year, I could see the frustration and confusion in their faces. I just didn’t understand why. They were one of my best classes and were well prepared. My belief was that if I prepared them in knowledge, the test would take care of itself; I never taught to the test.
I did however take a look at the test and what I saw made my blood boil to a huge issue with so much riding on these tests.
Lets see how you do: Problem on 4th grade test.
Directions: Estimate (Simple enough, right?)
37 x 8= ___ A. 400 B. 240 C. 320 D. 32
If one can’t see that there is a problem then they are blind to the fact to show understanding means to be able to explain their process and answer. As an adult, our thinking process has already been skewed by our experiences. Most will say that the answer is obviously C, and they would be correct by the test’s standards. However, why even have A or B as a possibility? The directions simply state to “Estimate”- it does not ask for the “best estimate”.
For 4th graders, it is simply wrong for test makers to place the “correct answer” along with the “next best answer”. Not only does this confuse the child, but also produces feelings of anxiety over which answer to choose. I have had plenty of students who could explain choosing answer A because 40 x 10= 400 would be an acceptable answer! Even though most would consider answer B wrong, a student does show ability and understanding of estimating by explaining that 30 x 8= 240 and the real answer would be higher.
Multiple Choice tests were developed to help save time and effort in grading. However, they do a disservice by not allowing the student to explain their thinking process and for the teacher to hear it, and help to correct it if necessary! Yet, this is one of the prime methods of testing and we are determining both student and teacher evaluations of understanding on them? I am not arguing that C is not the “Best Answer”, however, our concern should be whether or not the student can explain the process, while getting the right answer. Does a Multiple Choice test accomplish what is necessary to identify strengths and weaknesses? A. Yes, B. No, C. Never has, Never will.
- Test Hacks: How to Guess Like a Pro on Multiple Choice Tests (hackcollege.com)
- Tips on creating a Multiple Choice Test (rainersularte2011.wordpress.com)
- America’s Dumbest Idea: Creating a Multiple-Choice Test Generation (worldcreativity.wordpress.com)
- Researchers apply Benford’s law to physics exams to see if they can do better than chance (phys.org)
I remember growing up with the knowledge that when an adult spoke, I listened. It didn’t matter if the adult was right, wrong, or respectful. It didn’t matter if I was just told something different by another adult. It would be disrespectful for me to state my opinion, or question an adult. Forget having an opinion or a side to a story if there was a problem. Should my parents be called in for an issue, I did not get a chance to explain my side, nor did my parents even care to hear one. Is this the right way? Sadly, as adults, we are preconditioned to continue to trust and listen to other adults who claim to be the experts. Sadly, as adults, we continue to ignore the voices of the little ones, the children. WHY?
There is a hidden problem in almost every school across this great country, yet no one is talking about it. Consequences. Our focus is on the issues that the mainstream media feeds to us. Bad teachers, Common Core, Failing Schools, and Bullying are all issues being fed into our conversations and ideas about our public education system. Imagine if these are simply the aftermath of a deeper and deadlier issue. Are adults the ones to be trusted? Why aren’t we listening to what our children have to say? Placing children in harms way with consequences like restraining bags, electric shock, and scream rooms are despicable. We are trusting adults to make decisions about helping our kids with these barbaric means? When did it become acceptable for an adult to punish a child in a manner that would be unacceptable for a criminal?
Think back to your education and the most influential teachers you had. What made them special to you? Now think for a moment that your favorite teacher on your worst day had stuffed you into a secluded “Scream Room”, or delivered shock therapy, would they still be your favorite teacher? When a child misbehaves, there is a reason for the misbehavior that must be understood and addressed for the situation to be rectified. Every day there are students who become disengaged with their education, their future. There has to be a reason behind it, and we must be willing to take the time and energy to stop and communicate this.
Your most influential teachers are the ones who took the time and effort to listen and relate with you. Instead of handing you ineffective consequence after consequence, they were the ones who took the time to find a solution with you. Even the simple consequence of “missing recess for missing homework” can be idiotic at times. I once had a 5th grade partner teacher who sat a student out of recess for 3 months because of missing homework. Did the punishment deliver the right outcome? How did this help? Do you think the student wanted to miss recess? By simply sitting down and having a conversation, it was found that his priority after school was taking care of his siblings (laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc), not homework. After discussing options with him, the student began finishing his homework based on the guidelines that were agreed to. While he never respected the teacher (she never cared to listen), he felt empowered to know someone would listen and relate with him and put forth a better effort because of this simple offering.
I am not saying there should be no consequences, and our children should do whatever they want. I am simply pointing out that we, as adults, should remember what it was like to be a child on our good days and our bad days. Remember that we should be using consequences only if they produce the right outcome, and never use them as punishments. Unfortunately there are cases where students are literally dying from these severe consequences, but we must also recognize that we are killing the inner spirit of the child by punishing them. Every child starts off their education by WANTING and LOVING to go to school to LEARN. The question we need to answer is “What stops a child’s passion for learning?”, or even more “Who killed the desire within the child?”
- Lecker: Toxic Stress Hurts Children (dianeravitch.net)
- Children’s benefits from school’s environment (noblechange.wordpress.com)
- Violence in Education (truthbehindtheredwhiteandblue.wordpress.com)
- A Student Explains What’s Wrong With Our School System And Why We Mistrust Teachers. Nails It. (upworthy.com)