End of the Year: A Teacher’s Message to Students

BYOD

The following is what I would hand out to my 4th and 5th grade students on the last day of school. As many teachers believe, once in my class, every student gained a permanent spot in my heart. Learning the core subject matter is important, however, true teaching is about preparing each student for life. With that being said, below is my final message as students left my class- feel free to use in your classroom if you have the same beliefs……

As you begin to mature, always remember……(from Mr. Lowe)

  1. You can only control what YOU do.
  2. Respect is EARNED! not demanded.
  3. Adults are NOT your friend, so don’t treat them as such.
  4. You can’t quit on others, ONLY YOURSELF.  **Remember, You are not allowed to quit!
  5. If your friends say you are annoying, listen to them. They are not lying, they are your friends.
  6. These are the toughest years in your life. They will also be very rewarding.
  7. Most don’t “grow-up” until they are 25 years old, so if they are picking on you, take it as a compliment, because they are jealous of you for something.
  8. In the end, it is YOU and your ATTITUDE.
  9. Yes, those whom you hang out with ARE a reflection of you. People will judge you by them.
  10. If you feel like your carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and no one seems to care, call me.  Even though you will deny it, there is ALWAYS someone who loves and supports you.

**Respect your parents.  Yes, they are going to stop you from having fun.  It is for your own good!  You won’t understand until you have kids of your own, so just live with it.  They love you.  Count on that!

I am now letting you go with hopes and wishes for nothing but the best for you.  If you are EVER in need, you know you can call me (732) ***-****.

Or email me just to update: FaceBook me when you graduate from HS, if it’s still around.

Thank you for giving me your best efforts, I appreciate it and I Love You!

Don’t forget to Follow, Like, and Share the message! Thanks!

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Focus- A New Concept Saving Education?

It has been almost 3 years since I personally left my classroom. In that time, I have learned that the disconnect between the educational classroom and the real world is much bigger than I ever thought possible. The influential experts in the real-world, most who have little to no experience in the classroom itself, are truly on their own agenda and have lost complete focus. Between the political government and the educational agenda influencers, there exists a public relations nightmare for each and every one of our classrooms and each and every one of our students. The propaganda of failing schools and the decline of the American Educational System has spread like the plague from sea to shining sea. Our focus has been diverted to testing and data that is irrelevant and skewed rather than solving and providing the proper solutions for the needs of our teachers and students.  Below are just a few thoughts I have had in the past 3 years:

1. International Comparisons- China has ranked #1 for the last two PISA reports, so shouldn’t we then copy what they do to be successful? Well, if you understood that China selects a targeted group who are then taught simply to be successful test takers of the PISA- then you would understand how idiotic that would be. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention to PISA testing, but to use it to say we are failing because we are not #1 is ludicrous. We never were #1, and as a matter of fact, we have fluctuated around the same number every year on average: Math=30th, Reading=19th, Science=23rd. It is a measuring stick for us to use, but what we should be doing is learning from other successful nations and look to incorporate ideas that help to make them successful into our system. Hmmm, simply allowing COLLABORATION of different but successful educational systems?

2. Common Core- If you knew that students in New Jersey were given an advantage for post secondary acceptance that would lead to better job opportunities over the students from say Alabama, what would you say? What if you lived in Alabama and learned that your adopted State Standards simply weren’t as rigorous as those in NJ? This inequality exists today. The Common Core State Standards have been blurred by negative propaganda that clouds what the initial goal was to be: National Standards for every student across the board to level the playing field. It also brought a better system of less standards for deeper mastery, or in learning terms, spending more time in areas of need to allow true knowledge, thinking, and understanding rather than memorization. Hmmm, provide students the opportunity to not just learn, but truly understand concepts with multiple ways of thinking- while leveling the playing field for all students in the US?

3. Technology- Today’s students are “Digital Natives” who must learn on technology in order to be successful for future jobs that will be created, right? If this statement is true, then how is it the my generation is able to be successful in a technology infused world when we did not learn on technology? The main objective for any teacher is to best support their students to be self thinkers who are motivated to be successful and think outside the box. From the textbook to the TV, there have been many examples of innovations that were going to provide a better education to our students, yet many fail to realize that these are simply tools to support education, not the answer to. Technology, whether tablets, laptops, or data analytics, should also be looked at in the same fashion. They will support learning in the classroom for both the teacher and the student. However, it has more potential and possibilities in supporting our teachers and students. One that can supply individualized learning with adaptive software that can meet each student with work that will challenge and support exactly where and when the student needs. It is not the use of technology in the classroom that can provide a better education, but rather the data from the use that can be collected and analyzed on a student and teacher that can help. Hmmm, use technology to collect data, analyze, and report correlations to standards and learning per individual student and teacher to provide both with relevant information and path to improve from?

4. Focus- International Comparisons, Common Core, and Technology seems to be the focus of everyone to improve the American Education System, and were the first three concerns here. If our focus to improve our system are on these “outside factors”, then we will never be successful through any lens. The media and politicians have allowed the focus to be drawn to data that truly has no bearing on student success or failure.  The focus should be on the students. This truly is a simple concept of which the research has backed up consistently. Students who come from stable homes with good socio-economic environments are more likely to be successful in school. Students attending properly funded schools who feel supported by teachers, staff, administration, parents, and surrounding community are more likely to be successful in school. Students who are properly cared for with three nutritious meals a day, proper grooming, appropriate physical activities, and a safe home to sleep in are more likely to be successful in school. Students who feel safe in their school environment, especially in their classroom are more likely to be successful in school. Hmmm, focusing on supplying supportive environments at home and a safe environment where students feel supported in schools can help student achievement?

Education has always been about the Student. Education needs to focus on what counts and what truly matters. If we lose focus on the student, it is they who become lost! While the PISA scores are important to track for comparison, focusing on raising the scores will not result in positive gains. While the implementation of Common Core State Standards can provide better guidelines and a better baseline for comparisons, focusing on standards will not raise scores either. While technology has the potential to change the classroom as we know it with exciting and engaging possibilities, it is worthless without a student who is inspired and supported to use it.  Should we focus on developing the best educational environments, both inside and outside the brick walls, focus on providing the supportive environments at home, and focus on supporting the student mind to think freely and engage in learning- We will deliver students who are successful in life! Hmmm, focusing on students so that they can be successful in life……….Is this a new concept?

For Every Parent Who has a Child

Bullying is no longer in the mass media and has taken a back seat to other issues plaguing the United States, like Teacher Evaluations and Standardized Testing. Kids of all ages are now left to fend for themselves. As America changes its focus to what ever the mass media chooses, more young kids will have to wake up to a another day of being a victim. Sadly, it is our American Society that continues to fail our children. The opportunity was there to help. The push from celebrities and politicians, the coverage from mass media, and even an emotional movie to show the damage that is being done. So what happened?

America happened. After hearing about bullying for over a year, America’s lack of focus to support its children, its future, kicked in. We became immune to the stories, and emotionless to the suffering these kids go through. We are a society that talks big about helping, volunteering, and sacrificing for those who need help, but behind closed doors we truly are a society that refuses to help those in need! We are the greatest country at immediately stepping up to the plate and contributing to a recognized need with help, but it only takes time for us Americans to simply lose focus, and simply forget those in need.

the-bully-busters

Here in NJ, Superstorm Sandy caused devastation throughout the state, and there was a great outpouring of support. By the one year anniversary, funds had dried up, and people here have been begging for support and help to get back on their feet. Today, just a year and a half later, the victims of Superstorm Sandy are nothing but a memory to most unless you live in an area still under the effects of the damage, or know someone affected. What about the folks and areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina? If you tour the areas, you will find the same devastation. Sadly, it is the American way. As devastating events happen around the world, America is a leader in providing help, however, we are also the leader in leaving places to fend for themselves soon there after.

Even worse, as the same type of disasters repeatedly happen, we become immune to the devastation. Remember Columbine back in 1999? How many school shootings have there been in the US since then? According to Wikipedia, since 2010, there have been over 80 shootings. How many did you hear about? Still think we are not immune? In 2014 alone, US school shootings are over 30 so far! These are our children who are being killed and who are even doing the killing.

Bullying is an issue that touches everyone. Please talk to your kids every chance you get about the issue and how to solve it. I am not talking about your kid being the bully, nor am I talking about your kid being the victim. I am talking to everyone who has kids! The best way to defeat Bullying is to inspire the BYSTANDERS to speak up! EVERY kid has witnessed Bullying, however, very few have spoken up to help end it. One of the greatest attributes about growing up in America is our immediate leadership in helping those in need. All it takes is ONE PERSON to speak up and the rest will follow. Recently a boy near Pittsburgh has been brought up on criminal charges because he recorded his bullies planning their next attack?! Unfortunately we, as adults, continue to fail our kids, so it will be up to the children themselves to be the ones who change society. They have the will and the power, we just need to empower them to take the leadership role!

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1 Simple Message for Success in the Classroom!

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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!

SUCCESS

         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?

Why Do Most Fail at Becoming a Teacher?

Over the last 30 years, the educational system in the US has taken a beating and along with it, the teachers.  Everyone from the President, to the local John Doe, has an opinion on how to best fix our decline when compared to nations around the world.  From the Common Core to a laptop, the answer to our problems is out there, if only those teachers would listen and change.  However, the teachers are protected by those Unions and tenure, so how are we supposed to change the status quo?  How do we get through to teachers for them to understand that we have to set higher standards for the students, set higher standards for the teachers, evaluate the students’ progress, evaluate the teachers’ progress, and recognize that standardized testing will resurrect our great educational system?  It’s simple…..We DON’T!!  Most will say that our educational system is broken. Most will say that our students today are not as educated as they were in the past.  This is simply not true.  

The biggest problem in education today is the leadership and direction it is under. Leadership that has little to no experience of what it takes to be a classroom teacher. Leadership that continues to break the most simple cardinal rule of teaching, “There is NO one-size fits all” answer!  Yet, the educational reforms continue to come down the pipeline from every new leader that takes office with the idea that he or she will be the savior for our children.  There have been changes from standards to content, yet we continue to look at our students as failures, for according to the research and data being collected, we continue to decline. 

By way of elimination, leadership has finally identified the underlying issue of our decline, the teachers.  How does the saying go?  Those who can, do…those who can’t, teach? Really?! Why is public persona of teachers so bad?  Could we be buying into the anti-teacher propaganda issued by those who initiated the failed reforms?  Why have we lost sight of what truly matters in educating a child?  It goes beyond the Common Core, NCLB, Blended Learning, Public vs Private vs Charter.  It is deeper than the subject matter being taught in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Science, and Social Studies.  It is more powerful than any data you can collect from standardized, summative and formative testing.  Yet, without listening, our leaders have inundated our teachers with a workload that takes them away from the single most important factor in educating our students.  

The best teachers have the ability to connect with a student and inspire them to learn, not just in the classroom but beyond, a life-long learner. The innate ability to recognize struggle, depression, or emptiness and counter with support, potential, and hope.  We can all claim the ability to do such things, but teachers do this with 20, 30, 40+ students in their classrooms everyday!  All while understanding the idea of failing even one student is unacceptable.  So, why do most fail at becoming a teacher? Simple….it is easier to follow another career path.  Teachers are the small percentage of those willing to take the responsibility of educating our youth, while receiving a barrage of disrespect, simply for the love of teaching.  

Through mandates and reforms, none of which were teacher driven, we now blame our teachers for failing our students, however, it is we who have failed our teachers.  The research and rigor of the new programs, reforms, and CCSS may help the educational system as a whole, but they are just duct-taping the problem.  Until we focus on supporting the needs of the teacher and the needs of each individual student, learning will only be defined by a test result.  During my time as a teacher, I was always amused at the parade of individuals who touted the “next best” idea or reform that was going to reach my students and make them successful without ever meeting them.  Did they know that Matt’s parents were getting a divorce? That Mary just lost her Grandmother, her inspiration?  That Robert was missing 40 days of school to care for his new born brother? That…….did they even care?  What made them think that spending 3 hours collecting, organizing, and relating data was more important than having a 5 minute conversation with a student?  Do they understand that my C-student’s effort to improve is better than than my A-student who doesn’t?  Labeling a 4th grader as Proficient or Not Proficient does nothing in predicting their future success.

I would argue that today’s students are smarter than any generation before them.  They are accessing and learning information at ages that are stunning.  If our educational system is failing our students, it is doing so because leadership, not teachers, has limited them to be proficient or non-proficient through a standardized test.  Our students should not be judged on a score, and our teachers should not be judged on a test.  A teacher’s job is to promote and inspire life-long learning- to relate and inspire a student to learn not just in the classroom, but more importantly at every moment possible.  To learn not because they have to, but rather because they want to!