Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good News About Public Schools

Kudos to Brian Cleary whose article Good News about Public Schools ws printed in this week's edition of Ed Week.

Mr. Cleary's article included some great stats about positive things with public education that people never here.  These included:
About 90 percent of the kids in the United States go through the public school system.
The literacy rate in the United States is 99 percent for those age 15 and older.
Most of our recent presidents—from both parties—were largely products of public education, including Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon.

I often say that we (in public education) spend 90% of our time worrying about 10% of the students.  They seems to be endless attention on the students who aren't successful and very little attention on the students that are successful.  Of course we want everyone to be successful, and of course we want to do everything we can to help all of our students.  But let's not forget the good; the positive; the many, many successes that occur in public schools everyday.

And it's particularly nice (and unfortunately rare) to see it in print.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Professional Conferences

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are holding one of three Regional Conferences this week in Baltimore, Maryland.  This is close enough to my hometown that I can actually commute to the conference each day.  If you love teaching mathematics and learning about teaching mathematics, then (like me) you love going to an NCTM conference.

Every year, thousands of math teachers from Pre-school teachers to college teachers attend the Annual NCTM meeting (held somewhere in the United States) and/or one of these three Regional conferences.  There is something for everybody.  Presentation, workshops, and a huge area of vendors.

People come to be better teachers.  They meet other teachers from around the county; they make professional connections; they learn new teaching strategies; and it's a lot of fun too!  The best teachers are constantly learning and improving.  It is great to be surrounded by teachers who love what they do and are eager to get better.

The other two Regional Conferences this year are in Las Vegas, Nevada

and Louisville, Kentucky

I would encourage all mathematics teachers to attend a Regional or National NCTM conference.  You will be glad you did.  You will return to your classroom eager to try out the new things you've learned!

Online Professional Development

I think it is fair to say that a major, behind-the-scenes aspect of teaching is the constant professional development and teacher training that goes on.  I think that the general public has this sense that teachers are pretty smart and they know their content very well.  They graduated from college and they are done with the "learning" portion of their lives.

Of course every teacher knows that through informal and formal ways, professional development and constant learning is what makes great teachers great teachers.  New standards, new resources, new technology, new requirements, (etc.) insist that teachers stay current; and that requires training--what we call "Professional Development".

Once again, it's a tough job being a teacher.  Finding time for additional training is tough too.  Some of it happens during the summer time; but some of it has to take place during the school year.  My next couple of posts will talk about these varied professional development opportunities that great teachers take part in.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thinking about Thinking

I remember (when I was in school) my teachers would say, "I can't open you head and see what you are thinking."  And then (I guess) they would encourage us to ask questions when we didn't understand something.

I think the biggest challenge for teachers is to try to know what their students are thinking.  We can't always "see" it on an assessment.  Even as mathematics teachers, it is not enough to see that the students are getting the right answer.  We're glad they are getting the right answer, but we don't necessarily know that they are thinking through the problem correctly.  This is particularly evident when they get some answers right and others wrong and the problems are very similar.  Teachers think, "How did you get this right and this wrong?"  We assume that they made a simple arithmetic error.  Sometimes that IS what happened.

But other times the problem is that the student isn't thinking about the problem correctly.  Their method works sometimes and not other times.

This is why it is so important to have lots of discourse in the classroom.  Teacher-to-student, student-to-student, and whole class discourse.  We have to "hear" what the students are thinking.  And if we want students to be comfortable to speak up in class, then we have to establish a learning environment where students feel safe to share their thoughts.

Someday, we might have a device that can show us what students are thinking.  But today, we have to find ways to encourage students to help us to know their thoughts; to talk about their reasoning, their "thought process"; their ideas.  It's all about the learning; which requires thinking; which requires teachers to know what their students are thinking.

Yipes!  Teaching is hard.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Art of Education

       The challenge of education is the art of education.  Namely, it is the art of finding the best way to reach every single student.  Learning styles and teaching styles have to "mesh".  Someone said that teaching really IS rocket science.  I've also heard that teachers make hundreds of decisions everyday--often on the fly while the class is going on.

       We know that our best teachers connect with their students.  They get to know them.  They talk with them in the hallways and in the stands during football games.  They care about their students.  And their students want to make their teachers proud of them.

       This blog is constantly on the lookout for positive stories about public education in America.  Let me know your stories.  Maybe I'll have some guest contributors.  And I want to post pictures and videos of the good and great things that are taking place across the nation in our K-12 classrooms.

       When I taught high school and middle school mathematics, I always enjoyed making Positive Phone Calls home to parents.  It's amazing to me, but nearly every parent told me that they never received a positive phone call from a teacher.  It made me feel good and the parents loved it.  Word got out to my students that I did this and students actually WANTED me to call their parents.  It was great.

       Teachers are always looking for ways to connect with their students.  I see it every time I visit a classroom.  And I read about it on Twitter and in journals often.  I am anxious to share these great ideas with others.

       Congratulations to all the teachers who have mastered the Art of Teaching.

       Keep it up!

6:30am - Time to Start a Blog about the Good Things in Public Schools

It's 6:30am; "No time like the present." (Right?)  So here is my first post; really my introduction to this blog.  This blog that I have said to myself for years (and to others) that I should write.  So here is the beginning.

The blog is called, What's So Good About about Education?.  The purpose (the vision) is to highlight the good things that occur in American education every single day.  There are lots of sources out there that talk about the bad things in education.  This would make the average person think that there is nothing good about education in America.  Well that's just not true.

In truth, I may talk about the good and the bad, but I want to stress that there is lots and lots of "Good" going on.  We need to acknowledge the hard work of teachers and the many, many successes of our students.

I hope to  be able to do that.

Have a great school day America.  I know you will.

Peter Cincotta

Public Schools and Choice

       Is it true that public school kids and their public school parents don't have choices?  I'm sure that I will expose my igno...

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