Education Articles 12/31/2013

An American teacher shares the differences in the American and Finnish education systems first-hand as he teaches in Finland. It is eye-opening.

tags: education rubrics assessment

Self explanatory: a fabulous idea for students!

tags: education politics New York

Carmen Farina, former principal and teacher, has been chosen to lead NYC schools.

What’s Medicine Got to Do with It?

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CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

Ron Thorpe, the president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, writes about an innovative idea that needs to gain steam –the idea that education can use the medical model to build our profession is brilliant! Currently the modal year that a teacher has been teaching is ONE. This is a crisis in our profession that is not only costing money, but also is a problem for our students. We need experience in our classrooms; although excited with ideas, none of us were at our best our first year in the classroom. With constant turnover we cannot build a great profession and make learning what it needs to be in classrooms. By setting up a program similar to that of a residency program, we give teachers the time to have strong role-models from whom to learn. These first-year-out-of college teachers have the opportunity to learn from the most accomplished teachers thus they aren’t alone that first year when we lose so many to other professions. Ron Thorpe writes a well-thought out article based on research. Here is part two of a three part series on building our profession.

Building a True Profession (Part II of III) | NBPTS

tags: education building profession

Building a School from the Ground Up

There are times that I look around the school building and consider why we do as we do. This could be simple things: why do we start lunch at gasp 10:15 even though we serve less than 600 students (this changed soon after I go a hold of the master schedule –no more brunch at my school!). Or why is the schedule so choppy and some grade levels might not have large blocks of time to teach that they require to be most effective. Then there are the bigger things like the entire vision for the school: where we are headed and how we are going to get there. Sometimes I wonder if we do things simply because it’s how we’ve always done them. Don’t get me wrong; if something is working and has a purpose, by all means, it should continue. If it isn’t, though, what could we accomplish by either tweaking it or revamping the entire thing. I think that sometimes the tendency is to get so bogged down in the day-to-day (which is certainly easy to do in this business) that we can lose sight of the bigger picture and the steps we’re taking to get there. If we consider building a school from scratch, sometimes that answers the question for us. Would we have created the schedule this way if we did it from scratch, or are we doing because it’s easier and it’s always been done this way? Are we teaching this way because it’s best for students or because we’ve always done it this way? Are we teaching this curriculum because it’s what our students need to know in the year 2014 or is it what we’ve been teaching since 1950?

These lead to much more difficult questions. Earlier this year England announced that they will have mandatory computer programming in every grade. Does this mean that schools in the United States are missing the boat by not offering this to the masses? What about 1:1? Today so few districts have gone to this even though we know technology is the native language of our students. How do we find ways to keep the curriculum current with our ever-changing world? These are all questions we as educators must ask in the years to come. We must work together to determine the answers. The answers will be demonstrated in both the curriculum and the way we deliver it.

An Instructional Leader

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CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

As an assistant principal I consider myself first and foremost an instructional leader. When I made the decision to leave the classroom and make the move to administration, one of the strongest pulls for me was this idea of being an instructional leader and leading by learning. If as the instructional leader of a school, I don’t model through learning and I am not the lead learner, I cannot expect my staff to be teacher-learners thus improving the learning for their students. One of the most powerful ways to learn is through highly functioning Professional Learning Communities. Over the past year and a half we have implemented PLCs in my school. These groups have gone to work at tasks like analyzing students’ work, looking at formative assessments and data, creating common formative assessments, and analyzing standards vertically. Their work has grown over this time and teachers talk about how much it now impacts their practice.

Using ongoing data from their common formative assessments has been a change for the staff. Once they give these assessments, teachers chart their students by class and grade level as to those who have mastered the chosen standard, those who are close, and those who need more interventions to master that standard. Working with their teammates and having professional discussions gives them a sense of partnership to determine within these data teams how to get specific students where they need to be. By giving teachers the time, training, and tools to utilize formative assessments in meaningful ways on data teams — as a school we have been effective and impacted student achievement!

Education Articles 12/13/2013


Establishing A Growth Mindset As A Teacher: 9 Affirming Statements

How do teachers grow? By connecting through professional learning networks, by using technology, by taking risks, and by letting go of some control. Check out this article for more details.

tags: education teaching learning

Education Articles 12/12/2013

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“Why Humanistic Teachers Get Fired: Because They’re Stupid” | Edutopia

The author of this article gives great tips for teachers who want to navigate the change process in education in a managable, appropriate way. He brings good perspective for being that advocate without going too far.

tags: education teachers change

LicensePublic Domain CC0

License Public Domain CC0

Leaders – Do We Practice What We Preach? | Breaking Down The Walls Of The Classroom

A leader in my own school system writes about one of my passions –creating an engaging learning environment–in this case for adult learners.

tags: professional learning education

LicensePublic Domain CC0

License Public Domain CC0

The Best Resources For Learning About Grade Retention, Social Promotion & Alternatives To Both | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

The always-a-hot topic of retention. A list of great resources and research.

tags: education retention learning

Technology Integration

I enjoy the perspective that this brings. Even though change makes us nervous, we cannot allow those nerves and what-ifs to hold us back. We have to open ourselves to the present and future and as difficult as it sometimes is, use the resources at our fingertips: social media, BYOT, to name a few. They open our classrooms to the world and endless possibilities in our schools. I am working with one team in my school currently as we implement a BYOT pilot and determine what it will look like. They are excited to pilot this endeavor but know that they will be the guinea pigs as they iron out  issues as we move forward with our technology roll-out. I cannot help but think that we have to look at change as opportunity not blocks.

To Homework or Not to Homework?


As I began my elementary teaching career, I was unsure about how I felt about assigning homework…. but in the interest of upholding school policies, I gave it four days a week to my itty bitty second graders –and I held them accountable if they didn’t complete it. I began to believe that homework was an important part of every child’s education. I gave it four days a week as a second, fourth, and fifth grade teacher; by the time I started teaching eight grade, I had changed my tune, though. Now based on my experiences and all the research that I have read, I have completely altered my thoughts on homework –especially in the elementary years. Now don’t get me wrong; when I taught little ones, I didn’t give much homework. They read, did some math practice, or spelling work depending on the night. It was all in the name of responsibility I told myself. By the time I taught older students, middle school, I wanted the projects to be completed in school for many reasons: 1) I wanted to assess what my students knew rather than than what their parents knew, and the best way was for projects and writing to be done in school; 2) middle school students have very busy lives between sports and other extra-curricular activities; I needed to plan around their other seven classes so that they didn’t have a ridiculous amount to do on a given night.

I don’t have children of my own but sometimes watch the evening routines of my friends and laugh (or cry) to myself. I see how exhausted children are by the time they get around to completing work; and how frustrating it is for parents; I begin to understand why they give in so often to hinting at answers or even going so far as to do homework with their children –gasp! What is the purpose of homework? As elementary educators, this is something that we have to carefully scrutinize. Responsibility? Practice? Higher-level thinking? To prepare for the next day’s assignment? Family projects? Could we give our students time during the evening to read with their families?

The American Failure to Recognize Teachers as Irreplaceable

Writing Feedback

write, a photo by erichhh on Flickr.
Earlier today a teacher friend of mine asked me what I thought the single most powerful thing a school/teachers could do to impact writing. After thinking for a moment, my response was teacher feedback. Given a workshop-style classroom is already in place and students are writing daily, much of their learning growth will come from one of two times. One, during their daily (or so) writing conferences with their teacher or two, with written commentary on their writing. When I say writing, I by no means mean final papers, graded, finished, no-opportunity-for-learning writing; but rather the formative writing along the way. I often gave my students quick writes that were a paragraph or two, collected them, and gave them feedback on one or two specific items. This way, even when I had 125 students, I could get them back in a timely manner so the feedback was actually meaningful to them. In this case, the feedback was either a few quick sentences or a checklist of items that I was looking for — either present or not. My intentions were that by the time we got to a final major assessment piece of writing, the students would have mastered all the skills being assessed on that piece because through ongoing feedback, remediation, and conferencing, the skills were taught again and again as needed.
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