Showing posts from December, 2016

College Not For All

I'm going to start by saying that I went to college, my wife went to college, my siblings went to college, I want my children to go to college, and everyone I work with went to college.  I'm a big fan of "going to college".  College provides specialized knowledge in a specific field of study; often by people who are experts in that field.  There is a benefit to going to college, but since this post is about "not going to college", I'll just say that the benefits of college are well documented.

       So why am I (a lifelong educator) writing about not going to college?  Because public school desire to teach ALL students.  All students are welcome in our public schools.  We take all students.  We don't have some sort of litmus test that permits some students to enter our public schools and denies others t enter; we take everyone.  And in doing so, we have an obligation to teach all students.  This means that we teach the students who are colle…

Do Our Brightest Students Get What They Need?

Public schools are good at educating the average student.  We are good in the education of above average students.  We spend a lot of time, money, and energy on the education of below average students; and while this is a difficult population in terms of bringing them up to grade-level standards, we've made numerous improvements over the years to help these students.

       This leaves the most limited students and the very brightest students.  For the purposes of this post, I'm defining the very limited as the academically weakest two to three percent of our student population and the very brightest as our top 1% in terms of academic ability.  We have laws and programs and policies to help the most limited of our students.  They may not receive a high school diploma, but we help them to learn as much as possible during their school years so that they can have a full, happy, and satisfying life.  We help them to go as far as they can in terms of skills and abilities.  B…

Is It Possible to Help Students Too Much?

How much is too much?

       Can you care too much?  Can you love too much?  Can you help too much?  When it comes to students and learning, sometimes teachers and parents help too much.

       Their hearts in the right place, but goals are short sighted.  Teachers and parents help too much when they tell students the answers in an effort for them to complete the classwork or the homework.  They seek the short-term goal of compliance with an assignment.  But they don't see the longer-term goal of helping students to learn how to learn.

       Educators have an expression for the results of too much help.  We call it, "Learned Helplessness".  It's when students learn to purposefully not try too hard because they know that a parent or a teacher or someone will eventually give them the answer or do the work for them.

       Since most students (and some adults) don't see or understand the benefits of learning, they believe that school is only a series of ass…

Teaching to the Test Is Not a Bad Practice Anymore

Education has this phrase:
Teaching to the Test In the past, this phrase was a derogatory phrase that meant (at the extreme) the only thing we do during class time is to prepare students to take a test.  This implied that we never taught additional topics that weren't on the test, and that we never taught at a higher rigor level than what was required on the test.  The other (more broad) implication was even worse; We didn't concern ourselves with whether or not students actually learned anything, our only concern was that they got a high score on a test.
       This sort of Teaching to the Test probably did occur at many public schools, but I would hope that teachers (and schools) never lost their desire to encourage learning over mere test grades.  Indeed, teaching at a higher rigor level than was required on a test would serve the dual purpose of (1) helping students gain a higher level of conceptual understanding, as well as (2) helping students to score well on a …

Changing Math Attitudes

I'm borrowing the title of a Facebook group to use as the title for this post.  The group called Changing Math Attitudes is composed of math teachers and other educators and (I suppose) other folks that seek to share experiences and expertise in the effort of helping students (and adults) to see mathematics as something beautiful, sensible, and doable by everyone.

       The first step in improving abilities in anything is to believe that you can do it.  We want students to understand that mathematics is not a secret code to which only a privileged few have access.  There is no "math brain".  Everyone can understand mathematics and it will take a group effort by many people in many circumstances to effectively change the view of mathematics that so many people hold.  This is the view that says "I'm not good at math."  (And so many people freely say this out loud when they would never say that they can't read or that they are bad at Science or His…