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Showing posts from April, 2016

Future Schools: It's All About the Learning

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In the future, our middle and high schools won't use grades and grading--at least not the way we think of grades and grading today.  Parents will brag about what their children are learning.  As the school year ends, students will reflect on what they learned--rather than on the grades they got.  Colleges will identify qualified applicants based on what they have learned in their P-12 schools.


      Students will move at their own pace; some will finish high school when they are 16 and some finish when they are 21--and both are perfectly acceptable.  There will be an appreciation for the value of education throughout our society; and all students will feel valued in their schools.  Teachers will teach classes and help individuals; sometimes face-to-face and sometimes online.  "Sit-and-get" lecture will be replaced with active learning that includes students working and learning together--actually talking with each other during school.  Questions will be asked and …

When You're Learning And You Know It

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When you're learning and you know it shout "Hooray".
When you're learning and you know it shout "Hooray".
When you're learning and you know it, then your face will really show it.
When you're learning and you know it shout "Hooray".

       It's a good feeling to learn something.  A good teacher will help students to recognize when they learn something and will praise them for their efforts in the learning process.  But a good teacher won't artificially praise students for little, minor steps or for mindless efforts to complete an assignment.  This sort of artificial recognition, though intended to benefit and encourage children, is not as good as when a teacher helps a child to know that effort and hard work--no matter the outcome--is praiseworthy.

       Sometimes students have a fixed mindset and they don't believe that they are able to learn.  These students need teachers to help them to realize that they are able to learn an…

Kids are Great

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As an educator that works with adolescents all of the time, I never like it when I hear other people saying negative things about teenagers--as if every single teenager is a drunk and a drug user and out all night causing havoc (with the possible exception of the children of the people who make these statements).  Well I'm here to tell you that it's not true.  Kids are great.


       And I'm not the only person who thinks so; just look at the stats:

In 2015, 90.7% of high schools students didn't smoke (source)In 2011 this number was 84.2%In 1996 this number was 78% (source)In 2013, 65% of high schools students never drank alcohol79% of high schools students didn't binge drink alcohol (source)In 2014 among 12th graders:96.4% didn't use Ecstacy96.7% didn't use OxyContin97.4% didn't use Cocaine98.1% didn't use Inhalants (source)In 2014, 97% of teenagers were not arrested for any crime (source)        These are the stats you never hear about on the…

Why Do You Remember Your SAT Score?

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What's your social security number?  What is your phone number?  How tall are you?  When were you born?  What did you get on your SATs?  Huh??  Why is your SAT score is a number that you memorize every bit as much as your phone number?  I can't find any survey data that says the percentage of adults who recall their SAT score (from among adults who have taken the SAT), but my own anecdotal evidence suggests that it is very high.  I dare say that a far majority--maybe more than 75%--of adults who have taken the SAT more than 20 years ago can still recall their score today.

       Why?         Why is this number, this score--which has no power whatsoever in lives of people in their 30s and 40s--so ingrained in our memories?  It's just a number that (years ago) described our ability to do high school mathematics and our knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.  It won't get us a raise or a promotion twenty-plus years later.  There's no colle…

Education that REALLY Prepares Our Students

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This week I've had the great fortune of attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Annual Meeting.  Many subject areas hold these types of large, national conferences to help teachers and supervisors and school board members and principals to grow professionally and help students to achieve.

       I attended one particular session that discussed the need for our schools to examine the needs of the world that we live in and to make appropriate changes to the education that we provide to our students--the adults and workforce of the next generation.  The speaker was Diane Briars; President of NCTM.  She referenced the book Education for Life and Work (2012) that discussed the sort of competencies that will increase in the near future.  These include:


non-routine analytic skillsnon-routine interactive skillsthinkingreasoningexpressing information to othersinterpreting information and responding appropriately
       Math teachers know that we teach reason…

"I Can Barely Read"

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"I can barely read."          You never hear anyone ever say this with pride.

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       Last week I attended a Professional Learning session about Blended Learning.  Three English teachers were presenting.  One of them said, "...and we're all English teachers, so when we put grades into the grade book, we are all bad at math so we look for shortcuts."

       I am a mathematics supervisor and everyone in the room knows who I am.  When the teacher made this statement about being bad at math, another teacher looked at me and sort of made a face that said, "I think you just insulted the math supervisor who is sitting over there."  The speaker saw this face and looked at me; and then other people in the room began to realize what was going on.  Slowly people started to laugh at the slightly embarrassing situation that this teacher put herself in.


We Don't Want Teachers - We Want Effective Teachers

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The United States has over three million teachers.

       Public, private, elementary, secondary...approximate 1% of the population of the United States are teachers.  With fifty million students, we need a lot of teachers.

       And considering the importance of education, we (particularly) need good, effective teachers.  We need teachers who do their best to understand how their students think and how they learn.  We need teachers who understand the content that they teach, but mostly we need teachers who want to work with children; we need teachers who like to work with children.

       Over my career, I've noticed a subtle difference between wanting to be a teacher and wanting to be an effective teacher.  Our best teachers are also good learners.  They study their craft; they learn from other teachers; they seek information about adolescents and how the brain works.  No one is born with this knowledge; it takes time and effort to gain this level of expertise.  And m…

Encouraging a Growth Mindset for your Students

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Growth Mindset is an understanding that you can learn and achieve anything if you are willing to work and practice and study and try.  A student's ability to learn is not predetermined from birth.


       This is an important concept for teachers who seem to always have some students who believe that they are not born with the skills necessary to learn.  A common saying among some students is, "I don't have a math brain.", meaning, "I don't have the ability to learn math regardless of the extent of my efforts."  We know now that this is not true.  But teachers are often faced with the prospects of needing to convince some of their students that this is not true.
       This chart is filled with suggestions for helping students to view their perceived obstacles in a different way.  Part of a teacher's job is to motivate their students to do their best everyday.  The more that we can convince students and then demonstrated to students that effort leads…

Teachers Learning from Colleagues

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The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics have just released a new feature on their website called It Worked!.  Stories and videos of Math Coaches talk about situations that have occurred in our public schools in which professionals learn from other professionals and (together) they gain more experiences and expand their abilities to help students to learn.

       The opportunity to hear from colleagues is a valuable professional learning opportunity.  Teachers and Teacher Specialists grow in their profession in many ways:  coursework, membership in professional communities, reading journals and articles.  But to hear from a colleague is particularly nice because we can see ourselves in their stories and in their situations.  We can think about similar situations that we have encountered and how we might handle those situations.

       The It Worked! feature is filled with Elementary and Secondary examples of how mathematics coaches faced challenges and found productiv…

Blended Learning - 21st Century Schools

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For the past two decades we (in education) have been talking about 21st century schools.  I've read books about it; I've attended lectures; I've read articles; I've had numerous conversations.  The crucial need to end our 19th century, factory-model schools and begin to give our students the school experience that will (best) prepare them for the world that they will inherit has been upon us for a long time.

       When I look at the trend toward Blended Learning, I see the 21st century school that I've always imagined.

Students are learning at their own pace.Teachers can give better individual feedback.Students have choices of how they learn best.More student-to-student discussionMore emphasis on learning and less emphasis on gradingMore student engagementLess discipline issues because less students being bored in classBetter preparation for college and careerResearch skillsPersonal responsibility for learningWorking in teams and working individually       …

Mondays and Other Great Opportunities

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I think Mondays get a bad rap.
       Like New Year's Day and your birthday and the first day of school, Mondays can be important (and frequent) firsts.  They are opportunities to begin something great; to get a fresh start.  Everyone is well rested from their two-day vacation and filled with stories of their adventures over the weekend.  Mondays can be the days to move on from the trails and tribulations of the past week and begin anew.

       How do you begin the school week in your classroom?  What is your goal for the week?  How do you greet your students on Mondays?

       In the same way that (we know) students tend to be more attentive in the beginning of every class, we have a unique opportunity on every Monday to take advantage of the "newness" of the week and to start something exciting.