Showing posts from May, 2016

Amazing Things Await Those that Can Learn

Our school system has an event we call Future Link.  Seventh grade students come to the local community college and participate in conversations with scientists and botanists and engineers; and they think about what they want to do as an adult.  Every speaker has the same message: People and companies are doing amazing things and you can be part of this world of discovery if you work hard in school and learn as much as you can.
       I listened to a talk about the building of the James Webb Space Telescope and was amazed by the scope of the project.  Over 1000 people from 17 countries have been working on the design and building of this telescope.  Eighteen specially designed mirrors will be used.  The telescope is so big that it can't fit in the spaceship, so it had to be designed to fold in sections and then to unfold once it got into space.  Huge problems had to be solved, designed, and built.

       I was particularly impressed with the list of engineering fields that…

Is There Too Much Testing?

       The very word conjures up emotions in students and parents and school officials alike.  Within the educational community, this word conjures up other words like: measuring, accountability, fairness, purpose, practice, instructional time, online, paper/pencil, formative, and summative.  Your connection to these feelings and issues probably shapes your views about testing in our public schools.  Part of what makes this such a big issue is that there are no simple "right" and "wrong" solutions.  It is a complex problem that requires thought and discussion among many stakeholders.

       The goal of schooling is learning.  There may be other benefits such as socializing, joining a club or team, earning a diploma; but the goal is learning.  Our ability to measure learning has grown significantly over the past twenty years as educators come to understand the value of frequent formative assessments in combination with teaching strategies that enga…

High School Graduation and Beyond

May and June is the time in the school year when we think and hear a lot of graduation.  High school and college students are graduating; completing one important life event and moving on to the next.  It's exciting, it's a happy time, it's a time to celebrate!

       As a nation, we have a lot to celebrate because we have seen a rise in the high school graduation rates over the past few years and that's a very good thing for our nation.  In the 2013 - 2014 school year, the high school graduation rate was 82.3%--an increase of over three percentage points from the 2010 - 2011 school year.

       Our society demands a workforce that is willing and able to continually learn and to use the knowledge of past learnings.  Students who succeed beyond high school are the people who understand that their ability to do a job is not dependent on the grades they earned in high school as much as it is on their desire to continually learn and to do their best.  We need thinker…

Helping Students with Learning Disabilities is Common Practice

In my lifetime, the transformation in public schools towards helping students with learning disabilities has been incredible.  We've gone from self-contained classrooms--in which these students rarely or never interacted with their peers, to full inclusion--in which, today, it is rare for almost any classroom to not have a student with a learning disability.  We used to call it "Mainstreaming"; but now we just call it normal.  Teachers from the 1970's and 1980's would have never imagined a world in which this was possible.  They never had the training that our teachers have today.

       Teachers know that the sort of strategies that help our Special Education students are just good teaching strategies that help all students.  We are better (now) at teaching students who might be weak in reading or mathematics (and don't have a learning disability) than we were in the past because of our training for Special Education students.  Every school has a Spec…


EdCamp is sweeping the nation!  Have you heard about EdCamp? Check out this quick (1 minute) video:

       EdCamp is like a huge faculty room with teachers from all over your school district (or state) coming to one place to talk about whatever education topic they want to talk about; and to do so with other teachers who are interested in sharing ideas and hearing from others on the same topic.

       I often tell our new teachers that an important way to grow and to improve professionally is to talk with and hear from other teachers.  Everyone has ideas; everyone has something to contribute.  Different teachers have different experiences; different teachers hear about and use different resources.  One teacher uses Desmos (for example) to demonstrate attributes of graphs and equations; another teacher uses PearDeck to gather quick formative information from students (and to enhance student engagement); a third teachers uses TenMarks to determine the level of understanding her Algebra …

The Science of Learning

This is an exciting time to be a teacher.  The field of education, like medicine and energy and information technology, is growing in the knowledge domain.  We are constantly learning more about how children learn and the best ways to help them to learn.  Brain research and its connections to learning have been able to provide to our teachers simple strategies to help students to learn.  For instance, we now know that our student's brains grow and thrive when they are able to have good social connections with other students.  Therefore, we need to provide time for student-to-student discourse in the learning environments of our classrooms.  We know that the brain and the body are interwoven and are built to help each other.  That's why it is important for students to get up and out of their seats regularly during class time; and recess is an important part of learning and brain development.  Also, we know that fear and stress prevent students from doing their best in sc…

It's OK To Struggle When You're Learning Something New

Years ago I knew of a little boy whom I never heard speak a word until he was nearly ten years old.  It wasn't that he couldn't talk; his disability was more serious than that...he was born with two older siblings and a mother who wanted the world to view her son as "Always Correct".  To ensure this perception, whenever anyone asked him a question, she would answer the question.  The older siblings did the same thing--but not for the same reason.  They just thought of him as a child that didn't talk much.  Clearly my nephew got the message (at a very early age) that other people would do things for him--even speak for him.  There was no reason to speak or even to think very much.  Of course, his mother loved him and she wanted the best for her son.  She didn't like to see him struggle to learn how to do things and didn't like to see him cry, so she did just about everything for him.

       Sometimes teachers are like this mother.  We want the best …