Tag Archives: community

“fixing” bad schools

 

Usually headlines like The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools on the New York Times and other establishments are some long winded ideas from people who aren’t teachers, or who look at models that wouldn’t fit the whole country, but every once in a while, an article get it right.

 

It looked at a typical inner city, diverse, and poor community in Union City, New Jersey. The difference is that the school in question is not private, a lottery choice school, charter, but rather a public elementary school. The school has raised expectations, given oversight to teachers, valued early to late education, and looking at the student as a whole individual who needs cultivating. To some people, this may seem bizarre  dangerous, or unattainable country wide, but that’s wrong.

 

Already with the influx of teachers nationwide connecting to each other more than any other time in history (blogging, twitter, et al), common core standards being adopted, and a better understanding of what testing does and doesn’t do, schools have never had a greater opportunity to rise. Some of the ideas aren’t new, even perhaps a century old (Dewey), but a growing teacher community can start to adopt these standards together. Expectations need to raise. Critical thinking and higher orders of expression need to be cultivated.

 

I have been lucky to work in a classroom that gives me such freedom to teach – but still follow standards. It’s by no means a challenge to take the droll textbook and connect it to the lives of the students. Sometimes it’s challenging conceptually for both parties (teaching about slavery, number systems other than base 10, understanding what a hypothesis is and how to form one, determining theme, mood and tone) but the benefits are endless.

 

 

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building a classroom

I’m going to skip right to the point, the following is just a (pinterest free) list of ideas/necessities for building a classroom. Comment and add, please!

  • Supplies area
  • Schedule (daily, monthly, yearly, modifiable)
  • Desks (table groups)
  • Subject “wallpaper” as follows:
  1. Math – big ideas, academic language, examples/problems
  2. Literacy – books/authors, genres
  3. Science – experiments, current science topics
  4. Social Studies – artifacts, current events
  • Discipline (how to solve problems, class motto, community, notes)
  • What to do when finished with work (activities either class/teacher generated)
  • Places to sit during silent reading (variable locations temporary)
  • Meeting area (rug?)
  • Attendance/behavior (slots, sticks, techno)
  • Books/library
  • Teacher supplies/desk
  • Technology – computers, laptops, etc.
  • Student work (art/written with clips to change it weekly/monthly)
  • Number line
  • Places for backpacks/instruments/lunch
  • Current objectives
  • Safety kit
  • Water/sink
  • Bathroom pass (rubber chicken??)
  • Multiple work areas (drafting table, low table)
  • Multiple chairs (bouncy, soft, solid, spinning)
  • Super Nintendo (The kids will have been born a decade after it was released…)
  • Music (pandora?)
  • Creative spaces to work

And other things too! It’s been good looking at a variety of classrooms to get some ideas.

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parent teacher student

The students aren’t just students. Though I reflected that education should be thought of as life itself, there’s still life outside of education.

The biggest part of that life outside of education is parents. I finally had a chance to meet with parents for the (somewhat intimidating) parent-teacher conferences. Fortunately, my master (cooperating, etc.) teacher had a great idea to include the students at these meetings. Unfortunately, few students came, but the parents were there with a list of questions.

I have no doubt in my mind that the parents want what’s best for the kids – and they want a great education for them. They also want great grades. And grades are something that needs to be very clear, else it becomes a match of lawyers.

Students, parents, and teachers need to have close communication and constant clear communication for education to go beyond what’s happening in the classroom.

A constant thing I hear from parents is that their children are the exact opposite of how they are in class. I’m not sure why that is, but I have some theories. Maybe if more parents observed or helped in the classroom they can see how their kids and other kids interact. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

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