Friday, January 29, 2010

Reinvestment

Reinvestment


I was speaking with a person the other day and she mentioned a time when she was in front of a school board laying out a budget for technology. When she finished one of the board members asked her if she would be be back in three years or so asking for more money.


"Of course!" she said, "In your business do you buy computers and networking equipment once and forget about it? No, you buy it then in a few years you upgrade some of it then buy some more. It's and on going process."


Not an exact quote, but never mind the use of quotation marks, the point is the same. Why would anyone in their right mind think schools are any different than businesses in this matter. Actually the trend lately is to try and make schools businesses. People with no training what-so-ever are running some of the largest school districts in the country. Time and again I hear people complain about the amount of money teachers make and the lack of results they have to show for it. business language comes in and folks start talking about accountability, benchmarks, and paradigm shifts. Except that schools are expected to do all of this without the same resources of a business.


Last month I was working in an office. Every single person in the office had a computer and everyone was expected to learn to use the computer on a regular basis. That being ever single day. Every single person had access to the printer and could print out anything and every thing they needed. I even copied stuff that was two sided to one side pages so I could scan it. Then I would throw the copies away. I didn't throw them away I took them home and I let my kids use it for paper. I could have scanned it directly but the network couldn't handle it. I'm pretty sure the IT person will use that as part of his argument for a network upgrade next chance he gets.


At schools it is common for teachers to have limits on the amount of paper they can use.


In some schools some teachers (notice some and some) do everything they can to not use a computer. They refuse to get training, they claim the system they have been using for years is good enough.


In schools teachers spend a lot of time presenting material to students. How many office professionals would dare make a presentation today without a projector and powerpoint slides?


In business colleagues collaborate on projects all the time. In schools there is no time to spend co-planning.


In business when people in tow different cities want to talk they set up a conference call or more often these days a web conference complete with video.


So my point is this: When we say we want education to be more like business, why do we always bring in the cost cutting hold everyone accountable to some sort of made up statistic part of business, but we never bring in the everyone has the resources to do the job, lets see if we can bring everyone together and dream about the possibilities part of business.

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Business model for Education


I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/



Business model for Education



I’ve read “The World is Flat” by Terry Friedman, and next on my list is “Disrupting Class; How Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis Johnson and Michael Horn. I’ve listened to and argued with those who think education is failing. I’ve watched the respect for the education profession sink to new lows.



I’ve seen education move from educators researching how students learn and attempting to meet those needs to schools giving themselves ulcers trying to pass some silly test. I once even had a principal blanch when I told her I wasn’t going to disrupt my planned curriculum so I could spend more time drilling students in using a specific method for answering essay questions. (The sad part is she was a very good principal)



Schools need to meet the needs of the top performing students, they need to meet the needs of low performing students, and they need to meet the needs of every student in between. Today’s schools will not only educate the workers for tomorrow’s business, but they will also turn out the leaders of tomorrow’s businesses.



Many of the top leaders in business Bill Gates (Harvard University), Steve jobs (Reed College), Steve Wozniak (University of California, Berkeley) all dropped out of college. Many other leaders have some very good education, Lee Iacocca (LehIgh University), Warren Buffet (Columbia University).



It seems to me the theme for many an education critic is something along the lines of schools should be more like business. The problem is schools aren’t business.



Most new businesses fail, do you want to have the school in your new neighborhood fail? Of the businesses that have been around as long as public education in this country most make the bulk of their money from something other than the original product they started with. (Wrigley soap)



I think when critics say that schools need to follow the lead of business they have it backwards. Business needs to follow the lead of schools. As Jeff Utecht says, “ we (technology people) are not just pushing this stuff because we like it, but because it’s our world today. Today’s world is changing, just as yesterday’s world did before. The leaders of today’s world are already educated and are busy picking up experience. Tomorrow’s leaders are being educated today. If schools can’t teach them exactly what they need to know then they can at least teach them how to adapt and learn on their own.



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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back to Education

Back to Education


After being out of work for so long it is great to be earning money again. Around Thanksgiving I started working at a temporary Christmas store then switched to a temporary office job with a construction company, finally in January I secured a permanent job with a school district. The differences are startling.

The retail work of course was a lot of standing around and helping individual, with the occasional cashier work thrown in, I suspect I overcharged someone $700, because my boss made sure I was put on bagging and not the cash register after the first week. No real big deal the person got her money back and I didn't get fired.

At the office I was consulted many times on computer and basic desktop publishing issues. As a relative computer expert I showed the full time employees a few tricks and tips. The permanent employees were convinced that their office was 20 years behind in most technology. They were convinced that if the owners would loosen up the purse strings a bit they would have all kinds of great hardware and software at their finger tips and would be much more productive.

What they did have in the office was a computer, less than two years old, and sometimes two for every single employee. They had networked copier/printers with scan and email capabilities. Most people in the office were issued a blackberry synced with their email. Every desk had a phone and an extension. Each person had their own desk and I along with, obviously, one other person were the only people to share office space. When I started working and the IT department didn't have a computer ready for me someone yelled and I had one the next day, complete with desktop laser printer.

Back in the school system. I am sharing a temporary office with one person. I will move to two schools where I will generally share space with several people. Of course I will spend most of my time with students in the classroom so I will barely spend anytime in my shared space anyway. I might get a laptop, which will be very useful as I am working in two different schools. Currently after a week I am still borrowing an old desktop and I don't have an email. But really the stark difference I see is the printing scanning capabilities. Being able to access a central copier with hole punching, stapling, sorting, collating, and scanning abilities directly from the computer at my desk would be so useful as a teacher.

Basically, the so-called behind the times office just had so much technology we don't have in our classrooms it's staggering.

After spending the last two years reading, and thinking about the possibilities of technology in the classroom the realities are just so very different.
  • While some schools and even third world countries, are discussing the possibilities of one laptop per child. We still have a lot of schools in Illinois with one ancient eMac sitting on the teachers desk.
  • While some schools are using internet2 based WiFi we also have schools put-putting along with overstressed or non-existant connectivity.
  • While some schools debate the merits of open internet policies based on trust and human monitoring, other schools block any site with blog in the URL and don't even think about anything to do with Social Media.

The excitement I had about coming back to the classroom and implementing all the great, and often free for educational use, technology is being tempered a bit by the harsh realities of a lack of resources, a centralized bureaucracy, and physical limitations. I'm sure I will have a lot of fun once I finally get into a classroom and work with the students. I will also have a better idea of the technology and what I will be doing. I will have access to and be able to start pestering the IT department to start opening access to more sites, at least for my use.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Science

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Science

June 10, 2008 – 6:06 am by Brendan

Another month another report telling us how bad our students our. The National Center for Education Statistics has released it report on the condition of Science Literacy in the United States. The National Science Teachers Association has reviewed the report.

It is what you expected, the U.S. Is below average in science literacy. Of course most of this information was taken from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was last taken in 2006 and will again be taken in 2009, where the focus will be on Reading. What you don’t expect to hear (and you don’t) is that when comparing Science scores from the top students (90th percentile) the U.S. Ranks a bit above average, though statistically an insignificant amount.

What you do hear is that our student population is growing. You hear our student populations is getting more diverse. You hear that drop out rates for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics are falling. You hear math and reading scores are increasing. You hear college enrollment is increasing.

You hear hope if you want to listen. Our schools improve year after year. We have along way to go obviously, but let’s keep working. The one thing schools do too often is give up on programs or reforms that are working. They give up because they aren’t working fast enough, or someone else takes over and puts their baby in place, or school boards change, or what ever. What we are doing is improving, let’s take what works and keep it then build on it and increase the pace of improvement.


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Real Science vs Creationism

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Real Science vs Creationism

August 14, 2008 – 12:00 pm by Brendan

I’ve written about it before, but I’m sure there will always be a controversy about teaching the origins of man. Personally, I don’t understand the problem with being descendants of monkeys. When my wife calls me a slob I can just point to my ancestors and say, “Well at least I don’t fling poo.” Be that as it may a guy by the name of Charles Darwin noticed that many animals on the secluded isle of Canary were very much different than their mainland relatives. Thus the idea for evolution began.

Almost 200 years later this theory of evolution has been tested argued and revised by the best scientists around the world and nothing has ever been proposed as a better idea. Well I suppose many other theories have claimed to explain life better than evolution, but none has seriously challenged the soundness of the theory.

When I was a kid there was a joke that went like this:
Kid speaking to God:
Kid, “How much is a million dollars to you?”
God, “Not even a penny.”
Kid, “And how long is a million years to you?”
God, “ Not even a second.”
Kid, “Cool, can I have a million dollars.”
God, “Sure, just a second.”

It may be a joke, but for me it explains the difference between God creating the world in six days and the world evolving in 4.5 billion years. Occam’s Razor says that the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

In my usually long winded fashion I have lead us around to the problem with Louisiana passing SB 733. This law, signed by Governor Jindel, June 25, 2008, allows science teachers to use supplementary materials not supplied by the state.

It doesn’t sound very scary when you read the bill, but why does it specifically point out “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”? Further why does the bill also specifically mention, “This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine,…”? What critics of the law contend is that it is merely a backdoor attempt to teach intelligent design or creationism in public schools.

The teaching of science in general is all about the teaching of critical thinking skills, why is it necessary to state specifically, “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner,… “ The backbone of science is the scientific method. That is a specific, objective way to question, and test scientific theories.

Scientific Method graphic

In my research I have found that for the most part the attempt to replace evolution with creationism has met with stiff resistance. On the other hand there seems to be a disturbing trend for creationists to target children in, I suppose, another attempt to win the long term war against evolution.

Still, if a person must insist on teaching alternatives to evolution I would much prefer my children learning about the Flying Spaghetti Monster or a new one I found Hyphiod Logic. On second thought I don’t think I want my children to learn Hyphiod logic.

Really though, the point is that children, even most bright high school children, don’t know enough to truly debate the veracity of complicated theories such as evolution. It is enough to know that this is the accepted theory, just as the theory of gravity is the accepted theory, and if they wish to study more they can major in biology in college.


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Real World Math Doesn't Work

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/



Real World Math Doesn’t Work

May 2, 2008 – 6:12 am by Brendan

According to this article research done at Ohio State University, using real world examples of mathematics in action hurts more than it helps.

To tell the truth I can understand where this might come from. It is a very messy business extracting math concepts from the math we use in the real world. My favorite textbook for teaching Mathematics is Connected Math, written by Michigan State University. Connected Math is a research based math program, meaning they spent money and time learning how children learn and retain math concepts and then put that knowledge into action. Furthermore, the team at MSU continues to review what is working and what doesn’t work.

I can hear you ask, “How is this different from any other Math textbook out there?” Most math textbooks start with a set curriculum, then they hire teachers and other experts to compile lessons and units to teach the skills and concepts. While the editors do a good job of keeping a good overall organization to the book and the lessons and units do work well in a good textbook, there is a weakness in this approach.

The writers are writing the lessons that are successful for them. This system has been around for a while and it is an improvement on letting thousands of individual teachers start with nothing. I don’t believe it is the best system. I see the basic flaw being that there is no unifying force. Connected Math starts with Mathematics as a theory and teaches students how to understand it in the real world. Connected math attempts to teach the curriculum as it fits into mathematics as a whole, while traditional texts simply teaches skills and concepts without a true final destination in mind.

The weakness with Connected Math is that teachers have to understand Mathematics and the theory and methods of teaching math. While there are minimum standards for middle-school math teachers, this doesn’t guarantee they will be knowledgeable enough to effectively teach Connected Math. If the teacher is able to teach Connected Math effectively, then the amount of time, energy, and creativity required to teach Connected Math can also rule out some teachers. (Don’t get me wrong I don’t know any lazy teachers, but even experienced teachers will need to put in some 60 to 70 hour work weeks with Connected Math.)

At the end of the day OSU has done one research paper showing that teaching math using real world examples slows the learning of math. While MSU and many others have hundreds of research articles showing that students learn better by connecting to the real world. I think the difference is how much time is spent taking the real world applications of math and attempting to correlate the lessons learned with formal math concepts, something Connected Math puts heavy emphasis on doing.


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Rising Test Scores

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Rising Test Scores

July 22, 2008 – 5:06 am by Brendan

Would you complain if your child finally passed the state standardized tests? Public schools across New York have shown an increase in the percentage of children who have figured out how to pass standardized tests. Some folks of course are claiming it a huge success while others are looking for any excuse to call it a fluke.

Richard Mills, New York state education commissioner, finds the results encouraging and exciting. He also claims the gains are the result of schools doing more to monitor improvement throughout the year. Mayor Bloomberg, New York City mayor that is, declared it a “wonderful day for New York”. Personally, I would think that the increases can be contributed to improved education methods, practice, luck, and a bit of teaching to the test. While the gains are impressive, at the end of the day 40% of New York City students still can’t read at grade level.


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Public or Private School

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Public or Private School

June 4, 2008 – 3:41 am by Brendan

For most of us the debate about public or private school was mostly about how much money are you willing to spend on education. There was no question that private schools were better, sometimes much better, at educating our students. Would you believe me if I told you that assumption was wrong? Like someone somewhere once said when you assume you make an ‘a–’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.

According to the article “What Do We Know About School Effectiveness?” in the May 2008 issue of Phi Delta Kappan – The Journal For Education, an evaluation of data collected by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) collected in 2000 and again in 2003 suggest that, when students with the same background factors were considered, public school students preformed better than private school students.

I wrote before in “How Do You Learn in This Kind of Environment” students in our public schools are facing difficulties that are almost unimaginable to the majority of America. Somehow though the majority of them find a way to get an education.

There is no doubt that work has to be done to improve education in the United States. The problem though is not necessarily the current system. The system has it’s flaws I know, but it is actually working better than than can possibly be expected, if you factor in other influences. To truly create change in the quality of education (at least for the most at-risk students) in the United States requires changes in factors outside of how we educate children.


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Public Perception of Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Public Perception of Education

There are some places where it is often easy to get the impression that teachers are the most lazy, money grubbing, good for nothing, bums. Just read some of the comments at the end of this article. Meanwhile, the other paper in the same county writes positive articles on the exact same school district and there is only one comment.

Last month Phi Delta Kappan The Journal for Education published the results of their latest Gallup Poll. Thankfully, not everyone in America hates teachers. Some highlights of the poll.

  • · Almost 80% of Americans think the next president should rely on advice from educators about education policy.
  • · Almost 60% of people want NCLB to change significantly
  • · A plurality, (46%) but not a majority of people think schools should be under the control of local school boards.
  • · A plurality, (37%) but not a majority of people think Federal funding is the best way to finance public schools.

· >>COMMENTARY<< As long as Americans think American education generally is pretty bad, but their own children go to a pretty good school, it will be very difficult to make the kinds of changes actually needed to make the American education system globally competitive…..parents who are looking at the homework and text their children bring home se that the work is more difficult than the material they covered in the same subject at the same grade.

· >> COMMENTARY<< Each year, I find myself slipping further and further away from the core beliefs that define my vision of a quality education. …Rather than encouraging my students to embrace curiosity and to always wonder, I drill discrete skills, teach from a pacing guide, deliver prepackaged multiple-choice assessments every three weeks, and refuse to slow down in a never-ending quest to demonstrate my effectiveness as an educator.

§ Editors note- In my opinion GlobalScholar can demonstrate effectiveness of educators while still allowing teachers to encourage creativity.

· There is almost a 50 - 50 split when asked if there should be national standards, but if the wording is changed to one set of expectations for all the split changes to 60 - 30 for standards.

§ Editors note – I’ve found that standards, like most committee generated statements, tend to get too bloated to be of real use in schools. They are also better suited for skills and not concepts so only measure one part of the learning landscape.

· American are highly supportive of high school students taking college-level courses and earning college-level credits while still in high school.

§ Honestly why hold students back if they are successful, but not ready to leave home for college.

§ Americans believe the most accurate picture of academic progress is provided by examples of student work.

§ Editor’s note – pretty much the opposite of NCLB and the focus on standardized testing.

§ 80 % of the public feel that school performance should be measured by improvements shown during the year.

For more in-depth information I highly recommend visiting the poll online and even comparing it to polls in previous years.


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New Math vs Old Math

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


New Math vs Old Math

August 12, 2008 – 6:12 am by Brendan

There are those who would classify the debate between new math and old math as a debate between teaching basic math skills and teaching concepts. While there is a certain amount of merit to that opinion there is also a larger debate of which new math and old math are just a small part.

Old math people are those who would rather students be able to do the algorithms for computations that have been around for thousands of years. That is memorizing addition and subtraction facts, as well as multiplication and division facts, and many formulas for solving arithmetic problems. The idea is that students learn to do the math they will need first then later if they care to continue in the field they can figure out why.

New math people want to start by understanding why and construct how. That is build up the concept of numbers and how they relate to each other and discover algorithms for addition and subtractions, multiplication and division, and the many other formulas for solving arithmetic problems. The idea is that if students understand why they need such esoteric processes they will always remember them.

Critics of old math feel that too many students, especially minority and girls, find memorizing formulas without context to be very difficult. I don’t think this is because of an inferior intelligence but because some people just don’t remember things very well out of context. Most tips and tricks I have read about improving memory have almost always started with finding or creating a hook to hang the memory on. That is to give it some sort of context to help you remember.

Critics of new math feel that students aren’t learning the basic skills necessary to succeed in math. They feel that students spend so much time building the understanding of concepts that they don’t stop to learn the standard working algorithms. They don’t learn basic facts and thus are handicapped by not being able to recognize basic relationships between numbers, especially when using fractions or ratios.

The question is how this debate relates to this mysterious larger debate. The larger debate, which includes new math old math, phonics and whole language, teacher centered and student centered, constructivism and direct instruction, and others is the debate between classical and reform education.

Next week I will write about the differences between classical and reform education.

Some sources for further reading on the math wars, definitely not a comprehensive list. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


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No Child Left Behind

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


No Child Left Behind: Strengthened

April 23, 2008 – 6:13 am by Brendan

I don’t know many teachers who support NCLB. Most good teachers assess their students informally everyday, with activities like warm-up, and class discussions. We then use formative testing in the form of quizzes or tests as often as every week. To have a year or more of education be crammed into one week of testing then use those scores to determine the fate of a school is enough to make one feel like the Department of Education has no respect for the profession of teaching.

I will say one good thing about the NCLB act, it has focused the discussion on accountability and results. While I don’t believe the focusing on testing truly measuring the education of our children, I do think some educators and schools have responded by building a case for better teaching methods. Yes, I am sure many schools teach to the test, but the schools I have had dealings with have responded by attempting to hire and support a higher quality of teacher. I have a feeling (sorry no research) that better schools are improving because they are focusing on organizing high quality standards as a guide for teaching and hiring or training teachers to use Best Practices in the classroom. I could be biased because GlobalScholar has created an entire suite of teaching tools based on high quality standards.

April 22, 2008 U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced new proposals for strengthening No Child Left Behind. Much of her proposed regulations in my opinion seems to be little more than red tape for schools to spend money on, there were a few bright points I want to highlight.

“Assessments and Multiple Measures – Measures of student academic achievement may include multiple question formats.”

“Including Individual Student Growth in AYP - There is general consensus among teachers, administrators, researchers, and advocates that states should be permitted to include measures of individual student growth (i.e., growth models) when determining AYP.”

“Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program (announced March 18, 2008) - Differentiated accountability means creating a more nuanced system of distinguishing between schools in need of dramatic intervention, and those that are closer to meeting goals.”


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Poetry

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Poetry

August 19, 2008 – 5:45 am by Brendan

I’m not much good at poetry. I did teach it to fourth graders in Illinois. Why, because even though I’m not very good at creating it I can still be moved by good poetry.

The only rule I ever had when asking 4th graders to write poetry was that they were not allowed to rhyme. Now I generally prefer my rules to be positive. (Something I learned from Dr. Wong) However, the negative rule is usually easier because people as authority figures generally think in terms of what we don’t want rather than what we do. (In general the best leaders lead by asking us to do, while the poor leaders lead by highlighting what could go wrong)

Before I get carried away again I wanted to share some poetry. As I said I like to teach poetry without allowing students to rhyme. Why, because Poetry is much more than tying together a series of rhyming words at the end of sentence. Poetry is about creating emotions. Poetry is about sharing. Poetry is letting someone else see who you really are and what your really feel. I don’t know about you but I can’t do those things if I am concerned with finding a word that rhymes with orange.

When I start my poetry unit I usually get a couple of books from the library with poems that specifically don’t rhyme and share them with my students. Then we recreate a few as a class or groups and finally they write some on their own. Usually, we will spend a class with each type of poems discussing what it means, how it shared that meaning, how we can recreate it etc…

What I usually get is 25 limericks that are returned and required to redo. Then 25 concrete poems 2 paragraphs, and maybe a haiku or something. My real purpose in teaching poetry though is to expose my students to a variety of new poetry they might miss, practice some writing, spark creativity, and possibly inspire.

Like this post was inspired by Taylor Mali (seen on these pages not once but twice) and Darren Draper.


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Prom

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Prom

June 12, 2008 – 5:50 am by Brendan

I never went to prom. I’m a guy I didn’t get into those things. The fact that I’m ugly and never had a date in high school didn’t really figure into things. So it constantly amazes me the extravagance and importance that many people put onto this one night.

So when I saw an article about proms on NPR I just had to check it out. With all the importance and extra stress that people put on this high school event I figured the story would be good. It wasn’t, it was actually pretty boring. The most excitement I could find were in the comments.

The lack of a story might actually be the biggest story though. The twist in this story is that this was the first prom at this particular school that was interracial. Technically the school never sponsored a prom because they would have by law been forced to allow all races to participate. This year was no different it was a privately held affair, but for the first time it was open to any person who wanted to come.

This probably would have been a story to make the national headlines if only some outraged parents had organized a group of protesters, preferably with pitchforks and torches. Nothing like that happened. Kids got dressed up, washed cars, got their hair done, and went dancing. Pretty much like almost every other prom in the country.

All I can say is Charleston High School, welcome to the new century.


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Kyle Orton and Da Bears

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Kyle Orton and Da Bears

If you are not a Chicago Bears fan I will let you know a little secret, we cannot find a decent quarterback. Sid Luckman is our claim to fame. He played quarterback in the 1940’s and won 3 championships. Since then we won the championship in 1963, won the super bowl in 1985, and lost the super bowl in 2006.

Billy Wade the quarterback in 1963 had a passer rating of 74 that year 2 points above his career stats of 72.2. He went 2-8 the next year was benched the second year and retired three years after winning the championship. Jim McMahon, quarterback in 1985, had a passer rating of 82.6 that year 4.5 points above his career average. In his entire career he never started all 16 games in one season. Rex Grossman quarterback in 2006 is currently sitting on the bench. Rex is sitting on the bench because the coaches think Kyle Orton, who sat on the bench during the 2006 Super Bowl, is a better quarterback.

Think for a second. If Orton is the better player why wasn’t he the quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl? Would the Bears have won if he was the quarterback in 2006?

I hope you enjoyed the bit of Bears history there. What the heck does it have to do with education you ask?

I’m glad you asked that question. If the quarterback is the most important person a football team and the teacher is the most important person in the classroom they just might be similar. Probably not, but let’s play along and look at the difficulty in hiring a quarterback.

In the NFL there are a lot of very smart people who get paid to scout prospective quarterbacks and recommend them for hire. These scouts have access to reams of films from the players past history, college and pro. Every year groups of these scouts hold what they call the NFL Combine. During this week long event prospective college players are measured in myriad of ways. Comprehensive stats are kept on all players from college and into the pros. New statistical measurements are created and applied using these stats for an even more in-depth look at what a player can do.

Yet with all of this time and money being spent on finding the great quarterback, still the Chicago Bears have only found one great one in their 90 year history.

The problem is arm strength, speed, leaping ability, etc… those things you can measure just don’t always translate to being a great quarterback. It is the same in all sports and all positions. Bobby Hull, a hall of famer for the Chicago Blackhawks scored at or near the bottom in almost all measureable categories, yet still he excelled at his sport. (Some say he just had a knack for twisting just enough to change a full body check into a glancing blow)

Now let’s hire a teacher. We can send them to school to get certified, we can make them take tests, but in the end we can’t figure out if a person is going to be a great teacher unit they have been in the classroom for a while. Even then, as in the case of Kyle Orton, we might be tricked into thinking the other guy with better stats should be the teacher.

The truth is what makes a great teacher can be very difficult to define. The traditional method is for a person to major in education in college. There he/she studies subjects like child psychology, classroom management, etc… in preparation of taking over a classroom in the near future. There is even a short internship during one semester.

There are those who think teacher certification is useless for the same reason it is difficult to find a good quarterback. All that work in college and all the measurements in the world can’t tell you if someone is a good teacher until you actually get them into a classroom and let them teach. Should we close education programs at college? That would be like teams refusing to participate in draft day.

The new(er) method is to remove barriers to becoming a teacher. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree can and should be able to transfer into education at will. After all the first two years of college are pretty much the same for most majors and the second two year can be compressed for high achieving students. These prospective teachers can have a short intense summer of learning about education then move right into an internship (while continuing to study)

Teach For America (TFA) is one of the biggest such programs to take people from business to education. The track record for these teachers is by some accounts about the same as, or worse than, it is for traditionally educated teachers. (1, 2, 3) Should it be taken off the table? Heck no, that would be like refusing to allow prospective athletes to walk into a training camp.

So how do we find out who is the best teacher and hire them? We don’t we let them teach and then decide. For some the rigors of teaching will thin out the herd a bit. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) For the others every year will be a learning opportunity. For some, like Kyle Orton, it may be a few years before we realize that they are actually very good (perhaps they learned what other innately know or do). And some will be sent to the rubber room, while the verdict is decided. (If we aren’t going to fire CEO’s who drive companies into the ground why fire teachers who are just taking up space?)

In the end while a teacher, like a quarterback, is arguable the most important person in the classroom, they are not the only people in the classroom. Yes, the best trained person will do better in most cases, but sometimes you have to take into account intangibles like heart, and leadership.

In Chicago the Bears are famous for great defense and great running backs. That is why the Chicago Bears have won almost twice as many championships with poor to mediocre quarterback than with Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

In the classroom you can do your best to find good teachers, but even then it is more important to support those teachers with high quality schools and high quality support staff. Give even the average teachers a chance to win. Expect average teachers to be able to win because they don’t have to drag the rest of the school with them.


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Leadership in Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/


Leadership in Education

August 5, 2008 – 4:15 am by Brendan

If you are reading my blog and you like it you should read this one also.

Chris Lehmann is the principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia PA. While I cannot personally attest to his ability as a principal He does seem to have a quality resume. I have been reading his blog for a few months now and I have to say it usually impresses me.

Friday he posted about NCLB. I have mentioned NCLB many a time (1, 2, 3)and I’m sure that every education blogger has written about it several times in the past few years. I have also said before, as has almost every teacher I have ever known, that NCLB puts too much emphasis on one test.

What we, as educators, haven’t done, as Chris so aptly puts it, is give anyone an option that is better than NCLB.

What we need to do is “tell a new story — we need to articulate a vision of caring, student-centered schools where students are judged by the work of their own head, heart and hands. We need to talk about how the technological tools at our disposal allow us to fundamentally change the structures of our schools so that we can prepare students for the world they will inherit, but we can’t do that as long as our assessment system is firmly placed in the past.”

What is our story? How do we show the powers-that-be what is in the head, heart, and hands of our children? Where is the proof that the student-centered classroom contains students that are actually learning?

I have some thoughts on the answers to these questions, but that isn’t my point today. My point is for you the reader to think about these questions. What proof do you think is objective enough to determine high quality from low quality teachers? How will this help us improve education in the future?

Write your comments here or email me direct. The address is my name at globalscholar.com. I would really like to know what your thoughts are; I don’t want to write to you my readers I want to have a conversation.


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