An Apology to Current Generations (Teachers and Students) in Education?


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As you walk into your classroom for a new year, excited and inspired, I want to apologize for the days you are destined to experience. Through no fault of your own, your classroom has been set up for failure.

It has nothing to do with the seat you will sit in, the desk you will use, the lack of technology, the old textbook, nor the artistic bulletin board for sure. You will hopefully still have a room filled with love, kindness, creativity and inspiration!

However, there are many who have come before and now lead you blindly into the future….Many who have been taught by old school word of mouth, or writings in text…..Many who continue to declare your learning environment to be uninspiring, to be failing….

Continue to declare your schools to be failing

Continue to declare your teachers to be failing

Continue to declare your parents to be failing

Continue to declare you to be…………..

Failing in a classroom THEY are failing to transform.

They talk about a “Flipped Classroom” as if it is transforming, but yet it has existed since the textbook was brought into the classroom. Do you remember having to read (learn) Lesson 2 at home to discuss the next day? placing the lesson in a video format may make it more engaging, but not transformational. Hopefully you have a teacher that will use technology for communication while you are outside the classroom to better inform him/her what you are and are not learning.

They also talk about “Station Rotation” as if it is also transforming, but yet, every elementary, middle, and high school has used some form to differentiate instruction. Simply bringing technology into the mix does not make it transformative. Hopefully you have a teacher the will use technology to make the stations engaging and efficient so when you are on your own in a small group, you are making the most of your time there.

Every student and teacher is asked to look into the mirror and judge the reflection, so look into the mirror and tell me what it says about you! Are you a Failure? I know NOT! You are a generation with more knowledge at your fingertips than any generation prior, and you use it! Whereas I learned in an offline world filled with deceit, you are tasked to learn in a world filled with deceit, both offline, and online! Whereas I grew up being careful of other who were two-faced, you are learning to be judgmental of many who remain faceless behind the screen of their computer! You have to adapt in a world that is changing EVERY DAY! Be Proud of Yourself!

In fairness, let’s ask the so-called experts to do the same and take the time to look into the mirror and tell us what they see? In true irony, the P.A.R.C.C. reflection clearly spells what their statistics mean. As for the Smarter Balance, better known as S.B., initially the reflection is clear that they too are full of it. You see, YOU are not a reflection of your test results, and neither are your teachers. Both you and your teachers are a reflection of your hard work and dedication to your education. Their test can only evaluate your effort on that particular day of testing. Their test can only evaluate how you answered their questions on that day. Have you ever panicked and did poorly on a test? Have you ever had at-home factors negatively affect you in school? Where it fails is its lack of ability to evaluate you or your teacher as a person, the drive to be better, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the pride you have in your heart!

I sincerely apologize for the failings of the older generations to provide you with a better learning environment. We are trying. We will get it right. As students and teachers, make sure to focus on the task at hand inside of your classroom! Keep your nose to the grindstone, stay inspired, and be Proud of your work!

Please Feel Free to Share, Like, or Comment!!

I am looking for submissions from anyone willing to share your stories of inspiration in Education!!

Email me at ojlowe@optonline.net

A True Teacher Doesn’t Make A Difference, but Rather Influences Lives Forever


Due to confidentiality, the names in the story below have been changed, except for the inspirational teacher with whom consent to use her name was granted. 

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Every year a new flock of students walk into each teacher’s classroom to pursue their education. What most don’t realize is that every single students also carries extra baggage through the door with them. I am not talking about the 3 bags of supplies that the overzealous moms get while School Supply shopping season is underway. I am referring to the unseen baggage of parental demands, parental divorce, homelessness, starvation, abuse, and so much more. It is the baggage that, while unseen, plays a significant role in the engagement of each child and the success they will have in the classroom.

For Mrs. Randall, every student is assumed to have baggage, but this baggage is never to be used as an excuse. She is an exceptional and inspirational teacher whom I am proud to say was one of my partner teachers early in my career. Joe, one of her many students, walked into her third grade class just as the many others had before. Mrs. Randall’s reputation precedes her, so I expect that he walked in with a huge smile and full of excitement. Joe didn’t stand out as having problems at first glance, but as any great teacher knows, its whats under the exterior that counts. “First impressions are everything”, is a phrase many people believe, but not to a true teacher!

As the year progressed, Mrs. Randall noticed that under the exterior, Joe had the potential to be a brilliant student. He would be caring and supportive to his classmates, and yet, he would struggle with the everyday responsibilities of his school day. Mrs. Randall learned that Joe was extremely street smart, mostly due to the fact that he had learned a lot about life on his own. You see, Joe came from a family that didn’t provide consistent support. Due to several factors, Joe’s parents were not always available, including incarceration at several times for the father. The pattern again continued when Mrs. Randall was asked to move up to teach 5th grade and Joe was placed in her care for a second time.

Though it never seemed like enough, Mrs. Randall always cared for her students as if they were her own. Joe was no different from any other student, but at the same time, Mrs. Randall couldn’t help but worry just a bit more about the situation she knew Joe was in. Especially at the end of the year when he would be moving on to the Middle School across the street. Joe would not only have to deal with the issues that Middle School kids bring, but also with the move to foster homes which would continue for Joe and his sister till he turned 16. How could school be a priority for someone who needed to care for and protect his younger sister? And when she lost touch with him for those years, Mrs. Randall could only wonder and pray….

There was no contact until Mrs. Randall received an email from Joe just to reach out and say that he was now a freshman in High School. Then several years later she received another email from a now grown “Joe” asking her to review and edit a letter he needed to write to get into law school! Life in between emails had not gone well due to the foster homes, and he quit school. However, he had refocused, got his GED, and was, at 19, finishing college and trying to get into Seton Hall Law School! All on his own!  His reasoning for becoming a lawyer was to help other children like himself and his sister from falling into abusive homes.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, Joe has fallen in with a bad bunch of people and was actually in jail himself for a little while. He has since gotten out and is trying to get back on the right track. Mrs. Randall and Joe continue to keep in touch through the wonders of Facebook. In true teacher fashion, Mrs. Randall continues to be there for her students long after the classroom, and continues to encourage and support Joe for what he can accomplish. It is never about the mistakes students make, as we all make them- it’s about picking up the pieces and making a positive change!

When asked if there was anything that stood out in her talks with Joe to show the role she played in his life, she replied with one simple line from an email she had received:

“Hey Mrs. Randall! I attend Seton Hall Law School, and you were the building blocks of my education.”

A true teacher influences Lives!

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He took to the Podium to Recognize an Important Individual- What He Said Surprised Everyone


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As I remember, I was just getting back home after a long day of teaching and coaching. It was around 2005 and I had been teaching and coaching for almost 10 years at this point. Every day, I loved that my life was filled with a passion to teach, a classroom of passionate learners, a passion to coach, and players who were passionate to learn. Very few people understand how fulfilling life can be when you have these things. I believed that I had it all, and that I was emotionally “on top of the world”!

That is, until this day. Upon entering my house, my wife greeted me with a message that would end up driving my passion for teaching further than I ever thought it could. It was a very simple message that started it all, “You need to call- Mrs. Stone. Here is her number.”

“Mrs. Stone? Who is that?” I remember stating. My wife gave me little information, other than it was important to call back, it had something to do with a past student. Stone? Could only be David Stone, and exactly like a parent getting a phone call about their child, the thoughts rolled into my mind- Is he ok? Does he need my help? Has something tragic happened to him? Why would his mother be calling me? What had happened? …… You see, David was a 5th grade student of mine at Anastasia ES in Long Branch. He wasn’t a struggling student. He was one of my top students. One of those students with great parents and a solid foundation to be successful. But that was 5 or six years prior and by my calculations he would be a Sophomore or Junior in HS. What could have happened? I had moved to another district shortly after he graduated from my class and I was in the midsts of stamping my footprints at VMES in Brick, NJ. While I always thought (and continue to do so) of past students and how they are doing…. getting a call like this was troubling.

As soon as I was able to make contact with Mrs. Stone, my fears were put aside when she assured me that everything was alright. We had a couple minutes of updating conversation, followed by the reason for the call. She would have rather had David personally call me, but he was busy and since time was of the essence, she was making the call on behalf of him. David was doing extremely well both academically and athletically, and he wanted to ask for my attendance during his induction into the National Honor Society. Each inductee was to choose the person they felt was most influential in their academic career, and ask for their attendance. While the choice to be in attendance was an easy one, I did not know the impact it would have on me!

I don’t remember how many days went by before I was to attend the ceremony, but I do remember feeling on cloud nine just for the fact that a student chose me, out of all his teachers, parents, coaches, and role models, as the one who most influenced him! That knowledge, in itself, is what makes it all worthwhile! It was great to be able to talk with colleagues about these recent events. It was a great drive back into Long Branch, and it was great to walk into an auditorium and see colleagues and parents that I hadn’t seen in years, but nothing prepared me for the moment that David stepped up to the microphone, not just to be inducted, but to make a speech about his “Person Who Influenced Them”.

David started his speech with a simple question to the audience- “Are You Proud?”  He paused and waited……when he continued, he spoke of how I had asked these three simple words every time he handed something in when he was in 5th Grade. He spoke of the power of having to look me in the eyes and answer this one simple question. He spoke about how these three simple words began to impact everything he did. He spoke of hearing these three simple words constantly being asked of himself for anything he did. He spoke of the impact academically these three simple words had for every homework assignment, school project, or paper he had to write. He spoke of taking these three simple words into his athletic pursuits, workouts, and daily practices to make himself better. He spoke of the impact these three simple words had in leading him to the place he currently stood. He spoke of how these three simple words were going to take him down the path of success in life. It was moving, it was powerful, and it was inspiring!  Then he turned, looked in my direction, and simply asked…….

“Mr. Lowe……..Are YOU Proud?”

(Yes, Mr. Stone……..I am!)

As teachers, we always talk about  inspiring students, providing safe learning environments, and being positive role models, but what Mr. Stone taught me was that even 3 simple words could change the world for my students. It is not about a special project or a well developed lesson. It is not about the homework, classwork, or the ten page paper. It is not about a passing grade, benchmark tests, or standardized tests. It is about THE STUDENTS! I learned that I had to be cognizant of EVERYTHING I said and did around my kids. Mr. Stone inspired me to be a better teacher not just everyday, but every second of every day in the classroom!

While there were many factors in education that were out of my control as a teacher, when students entered my class, they became my kids. I had control of this, and my expectations of them. I believe that when teachers have high expectations, treat students fairly, and support them as individuals- the students will have the same for you as a teacher! Inspiration is a two way street in a well designed classroom!

I thank you, Mr. Stone. It was my passion to touch every life that became a part of my class. It was a privilege to have touched yours. It was inspiring for you, my student, to have touched mine!

– Edward Lowe

Please Feel Free to Share, Like, or Comment!!

I am looking for submissions from anyone willing to share your stories of inspiration in Education!!

Email me at ojlowe@optonline.net

Educational Reform- Let’s Start HERE!


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There are many thoughts and ideas about improving the educational system in the US, and with that, there have been many to take the podium on how to properly fix it. We have gone from individual state standards to the present day implementation (almost) of the Common Core State Standards. We went through No Child Left Behind, which, unfortunately, pushed every student ahead- whether they were ready or not. Sometimes the answer to a problem is so close that we actually look past it. We have made educating our kids much to complex- from standards, to Higher Order Thinking Skills- we have forgotten  that in its simplest terms, it needs to be ALL ABOUT OUR STUDENTS!

Don’t misunderstand my message. It is great to have standards, it is great to provide Higher Order Thinking Skills, and it is great to even have Bloom’s Taxonomy. However, none of these items will be the constant that provides success to our students in today’s classroom and the future educational system. These are all tools to build upon in delivering an environment in which a child can be successful in, but we have lost sight of the true foundation it must be built upon. So while we are implementing these policies, the foundation upon which we build continues to crumble.

AThe foundation to learning for any individual is to have them inspired and passionate to learn. If we were able to create the perfect environment where the CCSS were implemented with properly trained teachers who had the best of the best content materials, both digital and in print, there would still be no guarantee that a student will learn. What has been forgotten is the power and influence a teacher can have on a student. While most say that teachers do a lot more than babysit, there is no denying that it is all teachers are given credit for. With that being said, I will be dedicating my blog to tell stories from fellow teachers and myself regarding some of the most inspirational and uplifting stories of how they personally touched the lives of their students and how students touched their lives. While each and every person can name the teacher or teachers that most influenced us in our lives, how many of us can do the same for a textbook, standard, politician, or trending reform project? The truth is that teachers are the backbone to our educational system, and we have to get back to focusing on supporting the power within each teacher to inspire the students they educate!

If you are a teacher or a student with an inspiring story that you would like me to include in the series: Please send me your story along with a picture to ojlowe@optonline.net

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Thank you- and as always, please Share, Like, and Comment.

3 Issues of “Age Appropriate” when it comes to Technology?


A close friend and colleague posted the following which led to an interesting conversation and plenty of eye-opening feedback:

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In today’s ever-evolving world of technology, with the ability to bring information and knowledge to its user- What is Age Appropriate when it comes to Technology? The following are 3 issues to contemplate when providing technology into the hands of your kids.

Identify The Benefit of Use

“I give it to them to keep them busy and out of my hair,” is NOT an acceptable reason in terms of good parenting. Sorry-but there must be a purpose for your child to have a tablet or smartphone. Anytime you put technology, or anything new, into the hands of a child, they will be engaged. Something as simple as a new pen can be just as engaging as a tablet. Granted, the tablet is visually much more stimulating. However, depending on the situation, the pen may offer more engagement to a child with the simple addition of your attention coupled with a stack of blank paper. An iPad may offer apps, but you must make sure that the apps are specific to challenge and engage your child. Make sure it is meaningful to them- If they love music, make sure music and instrument apps are available. If they like to build, make sure they are engaged in something that will expand their interest, like MineCraft!

Simply handing them, or getting them, a phone or tablet does not guarantee engagement or a pleasurable experience. The tools should not be used just to occupy the interest and time of your children so you can “relax”. Social media has opened the door to a paradox of social engagement that we must keep a close eye on. A high number of teenagers admit that they feel more accepted online than in real life, but an even higher percentage say they have seen or been a part of cyberbullying someone online! It is a tool that can provide powerful information and knowledge, or deadly sadness and regret to your kids. Make sure technology is not used as a replacement of you- as true interaction between parent and child can NEVER be replaced!

Changing the “When I Grew Up…..” Mind-frame.

Does the image below bring you back to the era when cell phones were first introduced?


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“If someone needs to contact me, they will find a way or they can wait till I get home!” sound familiar?  Making decisions on whether or not technology will have a true use in the future is difficult to understand when we have no past scenario or use case to make decisions from. It didn’t take long to understand the necessity of a cell phone if you were involved in the business world where deals take place at a moments notice and millions can be lost if you failed to stay in contact. Many parents today say “Who does my son/daughter need to communicate with at 8, 10, or 12?”- Sound Familiar? “There is no reason for my child to have a $200, $300, $400+ toy to play with.”- or is there?

Think about yourself- Why did you end up with a cell/smart phone? It wasn’t because they became smaller in size. It helped to solve a need in your life, or more importantly, a need created by a society moving to mobile technology. For all, it is a simple need to stay in touch- with family, with friends, with news, with business. Most of us, as adults, do not truly use the full power that can be utilized with technology. We talk about what it can deliver in terms of knowledge, information, and education- but always about delivering to the younger generations. Why, though, don’t adults of all ages also take advantage of the knowledge and information it can deliver? Adults become silo-ed into relying on what worked for them growing up. Unfortunately, the younger generations are growing up in a world that is unlike anything in history. If we try to raise our children by the same standards that we were raised, the younger generation will be competing globally at a huge disadvantage. If you choose to withhold technology from your children- It will be like sending your children with a bicycle to race against those who own a motorcycle!

Level of Responsibility

Understand that simply buying an expensive device for your child does NOT make you a responsible parent. However, a level of responsibility is needed for parents to understand when a child may borrow a device from the parent, or when the parent may actually purchase a device for the child! Every child is different, and when to place technology into their hands will be different for each child, even in the same family. Age is a factor, but should not be a deterrent. Can a 7-year-old have a new iPhone? If there is an identified benefit and he or she shows the maturity to care for a device properly, then why not? However, if your child is willing to run out onto a basketball court with their new $500 iPhone in hand, does it matter what age they are? What they are showing you is a lack of responsibility, and thus should not have an expensive device purchased for them.

Once you recognize that there are huge benefits for your child’s future in putting technology into their hands, and change your mindset to be open to providing it, it only leaves you to decide what, when, and how to provide it. This is about providing support for your child’s future, not providing for your child’s happiness. This is about providing better education options for your child, not providing for your child what you did not have yourself.

Conclusion

Once you understand the true benefits to your child’s future using technology and change your mind-frame to what the world will be through your child’s eyes, you will only need to determine what level of responsibility your child can handle. Parents must stop trying to be their child’s “Best Friend” and focus on being their “Best Parent”. It can be this simple. Your focus, as a best friend, is to provide happiness. Developing responsibility is recognized to be an adult to child teaching- parents, teachers, coaches, etc.- and becomes foggy when parents are more interested in being their best friends. Being a parent means more than being a friend- and with it, comes great responsibility. Use the situation to teach about responsibility if needed. There is nothing wrong with telling your child “NO, you will have to borrow mine”, but it is better for their future to tell them “Yes, but only when you display the level of responsibility to own one.” Your child will either rise to the challenge and develop the maturity, or they will confirm the lack of responsibility by simply displaying it.

What are your thoughts?

Please feel free to Share, Like, and Comment Below!