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Showing posts from June, 2015

Somebody Has To Tell Them

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Nobody likes to hear bad news.  And nobody wants to be the person to give the bad news.


       In our public schools, we (sometimes) have the following problem...a student is not achieving at an acceptable level.  He tries to do well; he does some things well; but overall his achievement is too low for his grade or age level.  Public schools have lots of ways of helping students to raise their level of achievement and (indeed) it is our job and moral responsibility to do so.

       The problem is that someone has to tell the student and his parents that he is achieving below grade level.  That is a hard conversation to have.  No teacher wants to tell their students' parents this news.  No parent wants to hear this news.  But someone has to do it because we don't want to allow students to go through school thinking that they are doing fine (academically) when, in fact, they are below grade level.

       Sometimes we try to give this news through grades on report cards or …

Why Do You Teach?

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The school year ended four days ago and I am thinking about welcoming my teachers to the next school year.  (Wow.  That was a short summer vacation.)

       Every year in our school district the teachers return to school one week before the students return.  On one of the days of that first-week-back, all of the secondary teachers in the district meet in their subject areas for a full day of professional development before the school year begins.  This is a time to learn about new resources, to network with other teachers in other schools, and to energize teachers to get excited about the new school year.

       We know that an effective teaching strategy for student understanding is to ask a lot of questions that encourage students to think about what they are learning.  If students can explain what they are doing and why they are doing it, they must understand it pretty well.  It also reinforces the idea that we want students to understand underlining concepts and not just to …

Summertime Learning

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Summertime may offer a break from formal schooling, but learning can take place in all sorts of formal and informal ways throughout the summer.  Many school districts offer summer programs that are part academic and part recreational.  Boy Scout and Girl Scout summer camps offer lots of learning opportunities that involve working with groups of people as well as individual projects.  Of course many libraries offer summer reading programs for children of all ages.


       Family trips during the summer offer children the opportunity to learn about different places and different people and (perhaps) different foods and different climates.  There are also many online programs that help students to sharpen their math skills such as TenMarks and Discovery Education.

       Learning takes place in all sorts of settings and in all times of the year.  Summertime can provide time for families and for children to explore interests and build on abilities.

       What will you learn this sum…

How Do You Define "Winning"?

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Expectations play a large part in our perceptions of just about everything.  If you go shopping and expect to pay $75. for good pair of running shoes and find out that they only cost $50. you're happy because it was less than you expected.  If, instead, they cost $125. you're not happy because it was more than you expected.  But what if your expectations were not reasonable?  What if the average cost of good running shoes is $135.?  Compared to this average, it seems like a pretty good deal to get a good pair of running shoes for $125.

       How do you define "winning" when it comes to the education of your child?  What are your expectations?  To what do you compare your child's progress?  Some people look at the comparison of their child's test scores with other students in the class.  In high school, some people look at their child's class rank (which is a comparison of your child with other students in his/her grade).  Other people might look …

Congratulations to All First Year Teachers!

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June, 2015
Dear First Year Teacher,
       Congratulations on the completion of your first year of teaching.  You did it!
       After making the decision to be a teacher  and finishing your degree and navigating the job market and landing a teaching job you have reached the point in the school year where you can look back and say, "I did it.  I've completed my first year of teaching."
       You probably learned some things that you didn't expect to learn--and that's a good thing.  (Learning is always a good thing.) For instance, you might have learned that some students didn't retain the learning they had previous years.  This might have caused you to consider different teaching strategies to reach these students and to help them to learn this year's content.  Secondly, you might have learned that you understand your content so much better now that you have taught it--compared to when you just had to learn it as a student yourself.  This might have cause…

How Much Help is the Right Amount of Help for High School Students?

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Parents and teachers want school-age children to be responsible--at least, "responsible" given their age.  But what is the right amount of responsibility for a high school student--or for a new college student?  How much "help" do 16 year olds (or 18 year olds, or 20 year olds) need to navigate the rigors of high school courses, college courses, and college life?

       Some high school students seem to breeze through high school with very little guidance from adults while others struggle--same for college.  These students make some teachers say, "See!  They can do it, so anyone of you can do it."  But is this just a "sink or swim" mentality?  Does this viewpoint help students learn responsibility, or does it prevent them from succeeding.

       On the other end of the spectrum, some say that we help student too much in high school and (so) they aren't prepared for the independence of college courses.  (Is it true that college teacher…

Comparison to the Standard

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Recently I saw my doctor to check my cholesterol level.  This is something that I don’t worry about enough and (hence) know little about.  As my doctor went through the various numbers for my LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and glucose I became very confused because I didn’t know which numbers were “good” and which were “bad”.  I asked him, “Is 90 high?”  His response was intended to be helpful but instead I found it to be completely useless.  He said, “It’s better then most men your age.”
            Now I realize that we live in America and competition is at the heart of many of our activities, but everything in life is not a competition.  Why should I care if my cholesterol is better than “most men my age”?  I’m not going to win a prize for having better cholesterol than the next guy.  I happen to know that two-thirds of Americans are overweight.  What would it matter if my doctor said that my weight was better than “most men my age”?  I was hoping my doctor would give me a ra…