Showing posts from March, 2014

We Teach All Students

A business executive comes to a high school to say that students graduate without the skills they need to succeed in the business world--the World of Work.  He says, "If I had employees that didn't do their job, I would fire them."  "In fact," he says, "I would only hire the best people in the first place."  And the school responds, "That's the difference between public school and business; We take all students; We teach all students."

     Public schools don't pick the best students or the students with the most potential to enroll in their schools.  Public schools take all students.  As the old commercial used to say:
Big kids, Little kids, Kids who climb on rocks. Tough kids, Sissy kids, Even kids with Chicken Pox. And public schools are proud that they teach all students.  We are not a business.  And while we often compare our student achievement data against other schools and other school districts, as a national public sch…



Teachers and Parents Working Together

They say, "It's takes a village to raise a child."  And it is certainly true that we want our children to have many experiences with many different people as they grow and learn about the world.  Teachers will tell you that when parents are involved in their child's education, the child tends to do better in school.  I would go a step further and say that it is very necessary for parents to be invested in their child's Pre-K to Grade 12 education if we want the child to be very successful.

     Teachers spend 7 or 8 hours a day with the child and the parent spends the rest (or most of the rest) of the waking hours with the child.  It is beneficial for teachers and parents to work together to help children to learn and to grow with confidence.  Public schools understand this very well and the best public schools actively seek ways to get parents involved.

     When I taught middle school children, some parents would tell me that they planned to "back off…

Science Fairs

Another great thing about public schools in america is the Science Fair.

     The science fair has been part of public education for generations.  Parents and grandparents come to see their child present his/her project and to have fun seeing other project displays.  Students get the chance to proudly show their work to an audience and to explain their findings.

     Science Fairs are fun, exciting, educational, and often community events.  Kids get to see experiments and they get to do experiments.  PlayDoe, slime, volcanoes, hovercrafts, popcorn--it's like an amuzement park in your very own school for a day.

     Science Fairs are great.  Everyone loves the Science Fair.
     Have a great time at the Science Fair!

This is How We Learn in the 21st Century

We know that good teachers become great teachers when they collaborate with other teachers.  No matter how good you are, you can always improve when you share ideas with other teachers and listen to ideas from other teachers.
     Today "other teachers" doesn't only mean the teachers in your building.  It could mean other teachers in your school district, or other teachers in your state, or (really) anywhere.  Social media makes it possible to communicate with teachers virtually anywhere and virtually at any time.  And when we do, we improve.
     Yesterday, the middle school math specialists in my school district met with their counterparts in a neighboring school district--along with math specialist from other surrounding districts.  We call ourselves the Mid-Maryland Math Specialist Group (Twitter hashtag #M3SG).  The theme of the day was Preparing for a 1-to-1 Learning Environment.  It was a great professional experience in which we got to hear ideas and plans f…

Why Do You Blog?

Recently a number of people have asked me, "Why do you have a blog?"
     I have an answer--that I will share with you below--but it got me thinking about why other people blog.
     In my case, my blog is about my thoughts and ideas about my profession of education.  Additionally, I blog because I believe that my own professional development comes from reading and listening to other people in the education field (and outside of the education field) who talk about issues that I care about.  I blog because I want to contribute to this professional conversation.
     In the 21st century, learning comes from a large number of sources.  Ordinary people who are passionate about something become experts at that something.  People like me hear about these self-made experts and seek them out for their knowledge on the subject.  To me, blogging and the associated contacts that I make via blogging help me to gain a much wider perspective on the issues that I care about.

Education Adjusting to Change

So, the story goes like this...

     Rip Van Winkle sleeps for 100 years.  Then he wakes up.  He walks around town and sees a supermarket and says, "Wow, this is very different from what I remember before I slept for 100 years." Then he walks a little further and sees a neighborhood of houses and (again) remarks about how different everything is.  Then he walks a little further and sees a school.

    Rip Van Winkle walks into the school.  He walks down the halls; he walks into classrooms.  He sees the rows of desks; the teacher's desk in the front of the classroom; the board in the front of the classroom.  He smiles and breathes a sign a relief.  "This", he says, "looks familiar to me."

    Of course, this story is not a compliment to our public schools.

     This story illustrates how difficult it has been for our public schools to change over the years.  While some people find  comfort in this "sameness", many public educators are gr…

The Value of National Testing

Chapter tests, unit tests, and final exams have been around (seemingly) forever.  These are tests that happen in school.  But what about the nationwide tests that students take?  I'm talking about the SAT, the ACT, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), and the new PARCC and Smarter Balance tests.  What is the value of these tests?

     Let's start with the SAT and ACT, because most people know about these tests.  The purpose of the SAT test is to reliably predict an individual's success in their first year of college (see report here); and the SAT does a pretty good job of doing this--particularly for mathematics.  The stated purpose of the ACT is:

     Your ACT composite score, together with your high school grades, indicates how prepared you are for   college. In addition, the scores from the various sections of the ACT will help your college place you in the right classes, matching your skills with course requirements.(citation)

     Of course, asi…

Great Learning Products in Public Schools

Let's face it, for some people, public schools are Big Business.  Sixteen thousand school districts; 100,000 schools; 3 million teachers; and 50 million students.  The U.S. is a big country and we have a lot of public schools and public school students.  When you throw in parents and relatives and neighbors and siblings you get a large percentage of the U.S. population that has a connection to our public schools.

     This leads to great competition among makers of educational products; which (in turn) leads to great learning products for our students.  I work in the field of middle and high school math and practically every day I get an email or a tweet or some communication about some new educational product.

     Just as a quick example of such a product, I really like Desmos which is a free graphing calculator that is great for class presentations to students.  It was created with middle and high schools in mind.  It is a great tool for teachers and students.  Another pro…

Learning about People with Disabilities

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she had a classmate named Jack.  Jack was (and is) developmentally delayed.  Jack has an adult personal assistant with him all of the time when he is in school.  Jack doesn't talk.

My daughter's welcomed Jack to class in kindergarten in the same way that she welcomed all of her students.  Jack participated in all activities--as much as he could--just like everyone else.  My daughter and her classmates viewed Jack in the same way they viewed everyone else.  "He is a student just like me."  "We have the same teacher."  "We all do the same things."

My daughter is in eighth grade now, and Jack has been in her grade all along the way.  My daughter and her peers view Jack in the same way they did in kindergarten.  "He is a student just like me."  "We have the same teachers."  "We all do the same things."  Of course, as my daughter grew, she also grew to understand that Jack has learning…

Dedicated Teachers Love What They Do

What's so good about public education?  Answer: Dedicated Teachers

     Dedicated, caring teachers make school special for students everyday.  Students want to make their teachers proud--especially when they know that their teachers really care.  Dedicated teachers make school fun and they make students believe that they can do things that they didn't think they could do.

     Dedicated teachers make parents very, very happy.  Who doesn't want their children to have great teachers??  Parents always worry that their children might get a teacher who is uncaring or mean or unwilling to help their child.  When our kids get a great teacher, we are relived and very grateful.

     Anyone who doesn't work in education is always amazed when their friends or neighbors who are teachers spend so much time talking about their students and working on ways to make their lessons engaging.  So many people come home from work and never think about work until the next day.  Dedicat…

Learning From Experts - Wherever They May Live

In a couple of weeks, the middle school mathematics leaders in my district will meet with their counterparts in a neighboring district to talk about and think about and make plans for the day when every student will enter school with their own device for learning.  We are calling it a 1-to-1 Learning Environment.

     Part of the day will include a panel discussion with four educators from around the country who will join us via Google Hangout.  A principal, a teacher, a technology specialist, and an education technology coach from four different states in the U.S. will make up the panel and will share their experiences with our group.

     I believe that this is what we mean by 21st century education.  We want to learn from the experiences of others who have "been there".  This discussion--in real time--will help us to think about the things we haven't thought about yet.  It will help us to plan for the rollout of 1-to-1.  And we will make connections with other edu…