Showing posts from March, 2015

Learning vs. The Appearance of Learning

How do you know if you've learned something?  Think of yourself and your own experiences.  It could be in school or in college or at home or at work or at the beach or anywhere.  Think about something you know and understand very well--how did you learn that?  Think about a time when someone tried to teach you something--like how to wash clothes, or how to fix something, or how to download a file on a computer.  How do you know when you have learned something?  How can you prove that you have learned something?
       Now let's look at our students (and our schools) and the question  becomes, How do we (the educators) know that our students are actually learning?  How can we prove or demonstrate that they have actually learned something?  And does this "proof" really demonstrate learning; or does it merely give the appearance of learning?  
       Do grades accurately measure learning?  Do tests accurately measure learning?  Do performance tasks accurately mea…

Good Teachers Demand High Quality Performance from Their Students

When you think about your favorite teacher, was he/she also your easiest teacher?  Was it the teacher that let you do whatever you wanted to do?  Was it the teacher that handed out grades like candy, but didn't care much about how much or how well you learned the course content?

       The pedagogical term "a warm demander" has existed within the teaching profession for quite a few years at this point (see Ed. Leadership article from 2008).  The term was coined by J. Kleinfeld in 1975.  It refers to a teaching personality that makes an emotional connection with students, but also expects high academic and behavioral results from students.  This teaching technique has been praised as being particularly effective for poor and minority students; students who have historically achieved at much lower rates than their middle-class, white peers.  (see Becoming Warm DemandersCaring Teachers, and Warm Demander Pedagogy)

       A famous example of the warm-demander teache…

We Offer Opportunity

We have all heard the expression, "Opportunity Knocks".  It conjures up images of something good coming your way.  It could be a new friend, a promising new relationship, a new job, or a chance to get some thing that you've always wanted.
       "Opportunity Knocks" also implies that this good thing is offered to you, but it is not thrust upon you.  You can take it or you can leave it.  As adults, we sometimes lament the opportunities that were offered to us that we did not accept.  We also (in hindsight) sometimes realize opportunities that we were offered and didn't recognize them as opportunities at the time.

       Our public schools offer opportunity to our students.  The opportunity to learn, to grow, to be responsible citizens, to be successful...  The process of educating children is long; it is divided into different school levels and different subjects.  It is offered by different people at different times.  It probably doesn't look li…

The Most Epic Pi Day Ever!

Not since March 14, 1915 has Pi Day been this epic!

       Oh yeah.  You know it.  Pi Day this year is going to be a big one.  3.14.15  The stars are aligned; the digits are aligned.  It is going to be bigger the Super Bowl of Mathematics--a national holiday for mathematics teachers everywhere!

       In my school district, we are celebrating with a major celebration.  We are running the Pi-K race with 400 participants.

       There will be a pie eating contest.  We are looking forward to the Einstein look-alike contest (Albert Einstein was born on March 14th.)  And we will have activities for children of all ages.

       So let's hear it for the one, the only, the irrational, the never ending, the number Pi


Blood Donors and Students: Doing the Right Thing

I've been a blood donor since I was 18 years old.

       Over the years, I've grown more and more impressed with the blood donation system in the United States and Canada via the America's Blood Centers and the American Red Cross.  They have a difficult and (yet) very important job.

       Here is the difficult part:

       Imagine if you had the job of trying to convince people to volentarily have a needle stuck in their arm?  They would also have to answer a lot of personal questions about their past travels--especially if it included travel to certain countries--and questions about their possible drug use and even their sex lives and sex partners.  As compensation for going through this ordeal, donors would receive a hearty "Thank You", a bottle of water, a snack, and occasionally a free T-shirt.  No money; no raise; no notoriety.  In fact, friends and neighbors would probably question your reasons for doing such a thing if you were a blood donor.  And…

Are the new PARCC and Smarter Balanced Tests Too Difficult?

Public schools across the country are now using the new PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments in Mathematics and English/Language Arts in grades 3 to high school.  Aside from the political commentary about these tests, some teachers have concerns that they are too difficult for their students.  Along with this concern comes concerns about hurting students' self-esteem, battling parents' perceptions of their children's abilities, and aligning earned course grades with earned PARCC and Smarter Balanced scores.

       I have heard and read comments that say that these tests are good for students who are very strong academically, but that they are inappropriate for students who are average or below average.  Sometimes parents have commented on sample problems and have stated that they are too hard for the students.

       The standards that these tests are written to are aligned to world-class education standards.  I realize that "world-class" is a buzz word,…