Tag Archives: professional

on blogging – part two

 

Making my writing public, so that the world knows what I have to say about education, schools, learning, and teaching has helped me grow as a teacher. It has also shown me how little I know. I’m on an island in the middle of my classroom, while there’s a world out there with teachers that have taught thousands of students, and combined, millions, if not more. I’m struggling to teach eighteen and to make it count.

 

Teachers have commented and liked (!) my blog. I’m sure they understand I’m a beginner, but their comments and likes make me feel like I’m on the right track. Occasionally, I comment on a blog (see: Cliff Mass) that incites the teacher passion I have within, because something was wrong on the internet! I got fired up, blogged, commented, shared, talked, and got more and more people incited, all because someone wrote something on the web.

 

To feel that power, and intensity, the hive gathering on its prey, to speak truths, undoubtedly unperturbed by his position, by Mass, I say blogging is here to stay. Do I not sense that there could be moments where hours are not kind, and words do not flow like wine? Constant blogging, setting aside that brief moment to write something that I myself do not have time to read, and then gather more information whilst waiting for my morning java? How do I take it, that these teachers pour their very souls thereunto the world, their students, and the community? How can I not partake?

 

These posts, here and here, show my growth as a blogger, because they started a conversation. The latter post is the infamous Cliff Mass response, and the former is the trend in finding out what the students are learning, and how do we know. I don’t think anything though could top the Mass post because the conversation crossed over (to Mass’ blog). My comment can also be found on his blog.

 

Outside my cohort I have received comments here, of which I have also commented outside the cohort.

 

Blogging, onward!

 

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“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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Only you know what to do

Being a teacher is hard work. You’ll work evenings, nights and weekends. The time with the students is too little, the time is too little, the circumstances are too large and energy is something that mostly the students have (sugar + caffeine is a PED that’s necessity in ed).

 

Which brings me to this, an article from Education Week about staying sane as a teacher. I came up to one of the last lines after reading through the advice — “Only you know what to do.” Advice is tricky as so many people (me included) are set in their ways. There is a difference between teaching and advising (the latter is for the counselors, the former, well…).

 

The advice in the article is grounded in experience. But one person’s experience is different from another – and so it goes. A lot of what I have been learning in my education program  stresses student data and connecting with other teachers, but the other two points are little more salient.

 

I once imagined myself, as the author did, going into a school akin to Beirut in the ’70s or Detroit now and being this amazing teacher and changing the world there. I could do that, or I could just teach whatever students I end up with. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from, every student, rich or poor, needs the best chance to succeed. I can still make a difference anywhere I go and hopefully make the world a better place.

 

And on the last point – enjoy being young. I am still young(ish), but I am married now, and within a few years a few kids. I have always found time in the past to enjoy life, even now with school, and school, and school, I still find joy in the little things. I have the energy now to be in an environment that requires that energy (though it will take the aforementioned coffee).

 

Note: This is probably my most disorganized blog post. But this is a blog, so, yeah.

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evaluating teachers

It seems that there is another swing in education toward teacher evaluation, as I caught up it in the NY Times.

 

One person put it succinctly: “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”

 

I think that really sums up my feelings. When I heard about the TPA (postponed indefinitely), I was worried about the test for many reasons, but a big portion of it is how they’re doing it, and how I can use that information. It’s the same with standardized testing. There could be a lot more use out if it than evaluating teachers/schools. What about a test that we can use to gauge where students are at the start of the year, something valid for teachers and students.

 

It’s the same for teachers. Is it just going to be a checklist? What do all the prompts mean? How can an evaluation be truly objective? I honestly think most teachers want to be better teachers. And evaluations, if done right, could work just for that purpose. But it won’t be an easy or cheap (in time or money) to properly evaluate teachers to make them better, and live up to the professional standard for which we all strive.

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Pros of the Pros

Professionalism is easy to distinguish in some careers – by their dress, their voice, their standards. I’ve had as many types of teachers as I’ve had teachers. The different doctors I’ve seen over the years have been very similar in demeanor (even in Korea, though that’s another story of the circumstances of needing to see a doctor). Given the achievements of the Korean students, I expected a certain professionalism among their teachers I saw in, well, other professions. What I saw, though, was not unlike teachers in America. One teacher was highly focused on rigid memorization. Another used games constantly while another used role play. One teacher used projects, another used discipline. The results varied as widely as the teachers – certain students would react better to a certain method (I’ll have to explore this in a whole other post). The problem lands on the students, as the teacher’s have their own preferences. Yes, all the teachers (in Korea or otherwise) get their bachelors, masters or beyond, but when they’re in the classroom they react as how they always would.

 

Since people are different, they’ll treat children differently based on their own preferences, culture or otherwise. Some children will be taught, some will learn science, some will learn history, but something or someone is always left behind (this isn’t about that other ‘left behind’ act). As in other professions, teachers have to work together to ensure methods and standards in the role of being a teacher. It shouldn’t be left up to the district, or people who never were teachers, but teachers themselves setting the standard and controlling the standard. It’ll start small, but it’ll grow. I hope it includes tweed jackets.

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