Thursday, December 23, 2010

Education Reform

My letter to my local representatives concerning education reform. 

It has come to my attention that a special committee on education reform has been created to hold hearings on education reform. 

There has also been some mention of Geoffrey Canada and his new education reform movement called Stand for Children. 

In my years as a teacher, student, education specialist, and education blogger I have done much research and writing on the topic of education reform. You are welcome to read my blog. I suggest searching for key terms such as firing teachers, quality education, and reform. 

There is no doubt that education is changing along with just about everything else in the world. However, making changes quickly and expecting fast reform is a sure recipe for failure. 

I know that Mr. Canada has had some success with the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Though not as stellar as we are sometimes lead to believe. However, what is less publicized is the true cost of his private reforms. I believe that cost of running HCZ has been very much more than that of the public schools in the area. ($16,000 per student)

What also seems to be lost in the general clamor for school reform is that notion that charter schools are not meant to be replacements for our public education system. They are meant to be laboratories. Charter schools develop new and innovative charters or ways of running a school, test them out then if they work scale up (sometimes they are not even meant to be scaled up) and if they don't work close or change. Even chartered schools that work are not always meant to replace schools, but rather create opportunities or alternatives. 

With all that said I do agree with the basic principal of the HCZ. That is, schools alone are not a solution for the education crisis in America.To truly improve education there must be changes in nutrition, home life, and health care also. 

The idea that education can be reformed by judging teachers on the basis of one or more tests, by reducing their job security, or incentivizing pay is ludicrous. 

Value added measurements done on a classroom level are just not that reliable. At the minimum they should include several years of testing. They should also be a minimal measure of a teacher. They should be backed up by physical observations of the teacher by several parties as often as possible. I know there is a push for watching video, but as someone who has observed in the classroom a video is just too limiting, especially for a formal evaluation.

As a business person yourself I'm sure you know that the worst way to motivate an employee for the long term is to make them fear for their job. 

We also know that merit pay doesn't work. We have known if for a long time if you are unsure of why please watch this excellent video by Dan Pink, or this article from Time Magazine

National, state, and local conversations on education must happen and I look forward to participating. Let's make sure I and everyone else has the opportunity to participate. 

Brendan Murphy

http://twitter.com/dendari

The Blogs:
http://jhuistemurphy.wordpress.com/
http://philosophywithoutahome.blogspot.com

"The question is not will he be a doctor, but what kind of doctor will he be"
paraphrase from Harry Wong

"I can't define a hero. All I know is that it's someone you probably don't notice, but when you find out what they did and how modestly they did it, you can never shake off the feeling that you're cut from a lesser cloth, and you find that braggarts suddenly offend you a great deal more than usual."
―Admiral Wullf Yularen[src]
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ideal Life

Norman Rockwell paintings look cool. The quintessential American life. They are a moments captured in time, but they aren’t flowing emotions. They evoke emotion, but attempts to recreate what you think the participants are feeling fails and fails miserably. We have everything we need to create our own Norman Rockwell painting. We just don’t realize he didn’t paint reality, he painted ideals.


Photo and quote from Denverpost.com


The most memorable moments are not the scripted scenes or the moments we imagine. No, the most memorable moments are when something happens unexpectedly and instead of getting angry the people let go and enjoy the moment. Happiness in life can only happen when we give up control.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Educational Philosophy

My rewritten philosophy of education, cross posted at my student blog. Comments encouraged.


Educational Philosophy

          Schools can and do influence most aspects of their students. To effectively educate students schools must reflect the attitude of the local community and build a vision derived from these values. At the same time not compromising on the needs and expectations of a larger community.
            It is the responsibility of the school to teach the curriculum, but more importantly schools must engage students in becoming life-long learners.   Schools should be safe places for students to experiment and take chances, to follow their interests, and learn independently beyond the normal scope of the curriculum.
            With the curriculum as a concrete foundation to build on, teachers can guide students as individuals in learning the basic skills of deconstructing problems and creating solutions. With patience and care students will learn the skills necessary for independent critical thinking through the standard curriculum.
            The ultimate goal of a school is to produce a graduate who is a life-long learner with the ability to think with an open mind and consider different points of view.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Philosophy of Education highlights

I've highlighted the parts of my educational philosophy I still like. I've also added a short rewrite I did about two years ago while looking for a job. (mostly just a copy paste job)



We must teach our students the skills to think and reason critically. Critical thinking is taught through the vehicle of other subjects when we ask students to solve problems rather than memorize answers. Students are given time to explore concrete areas on their own until they discover regular patterns on their own. As these patterns are discovered the teacher gently pushes towards formalizing the rules. For example students are given blocks to count with; the physical presence of the blocks is something they are familiar with and they learn to add by putting blocks into a pile one at a time. The blocks are concrete and easily understandable to the children. As they become more familiar with the results they move into adding with fingers and eventually to doing it in their head. As higher levels of math are taught we can again go back to the blocks that are easily understood and build form there. The students are taught that when they don't understand they try to break down the problem to parts they do understand and build form there.

The goal is for students to learn not by the teacher saying they are right or wrong, but when the students discover how their experiments either work they way they predicted or they don't When they don't work the student is forced to reevaluate what he/she thought was right and re run the experiment. The Scientific Method applied to learning if you want to think of it that way. The way we teach can either help students to become more independent or can foster a dependence on getting answers from “experts”. The teachers' role is very intensive in education. Teachers must be expert enough to lead the students as they need it, but be patient enough to allow the students to learn on their own. 

With students especially younger students it is helpful to introduce concepts as concretely as possible. Using manipulatives or other hands on work to illustrate the concepts. Eventually moving to the abstract by generalizing over different variations of the same theme. As we get older most people develop the ability to think more abstractly, but even then it is often easier to start with a more concrete model and more towards the abstract.

The teachers role in education is not simply to impart information to students, but rather to guide students in the discovery of their learning. This sometimes means presenting the same concept to students more than once, but in different formats. Often each concept will touch on or relate to more than one skill so this often becomes a natural part of planning a curriculum.


Philosophy of Education

Schools are a major influence on the lives of almost everyone, whether they like it or not. Many of our basic notions of good and bad are in part formed by our early education. Take for example “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” One of the reasons this book was so popular was because so many people can identify with the premise. In our early years we learned that good people share, wash their hands, put away toys, etc... From the very beginning we learn some of our most basic mores in school. Are our school trying to teach this? Should we be teaching this as educators? Do we have a choice?

The average American spends 6 hours a day, 180 days a year, for 13 years in school. Whether we like it or not that is a large chunk of the social live of most children. This is not the greatest time influence on our children, but it is just behind family and peers. During this time schools and teachers will have a large impact on the lives of our students. We as teachers will educate the minds as well as spirits of our students. To be effective education needs to have certain goals to strive for as well as a plan to achieve these goals. As a part of society these goals must be acceptable to the parents of the children we are education.

Schools were originally build to teach specific intellectual goals. However, schools do influence children in ways other than just concrete curriculum subjects. School can, but don't always have influences on the morals and values of their students. If we had a concrete goal such as all students will have good morals how would we teach that? Who would be the final authority on what good morals are? Is it the teacher, the principal, the PTA? The problem is that the definition of morals would be different for each person asked. Schools should be aware of the effect they have on students orally and intellectually, school need to prepare students intellectually but also be aware of the effects on students morally and at least not do any harm.

So how do we teach this? After all we will have an effect on this whether we want to or not. We teach this by not teaching it at all. We must teach our students the skills to think and reason critically, by learning to use critical thinking building skills in more concrete subject like math or science the student will learn to use critical thinking in other areas of their life. Critical thinking is taught through the vehicle of other subjects when we ask students to solve problems rather than memorize answers. Students are given time to explore concrete areas until they discover regular patterns on their own. As these patterns are discovered the teacher gently pushes towards formalizing the rules. For example students are given blocks to count with; the physical presence of the blocks is something they are familiar with and they learn to add by putting blocks into a pile one at a time. The blocks are concrete and easily understandable to the children. As they become more familiar with the results they move into adding with fingers and eventually to doing it in their head. As higher levels of math are taught we can again go back to the blocks that are easily understood and build form there. The students are taught that when they don't understand they try to break down the problem to parts they do understand and build form there.

The idea is that as children are focused with the less concrete problems of morals and values they can break down the problems to a way they understand and build from there they can make and use their own rules. These rules don't become formalized by the teacher saying they are right or wrong but how the students discover how their actions make it easier or harder to get along with their peers.

With concrete goals in regular subjects schools have a solid curriculum to show that students are being educated well. The way we teach can either help students to become more independent or can foster a dependence on getting answers from “experts”.

The teachers' role is very intensive in the education of children. Teachers must be expert enough to lead the students as they need it, but be patient enough to allow the students to learn within the development stage they are currently in.

Children especially younger children tend to be more concrete. As we get older we develop the ability to think more abstractly. With students especially elementary students it is helpful to introduce concepts as concretely as possible. Using manipulatives or other hands-on work to illustrate the concepts. Eventually moving to the abstract by generalizing over different variations of the same theme.

Not all students will be at the same ability or developmental stage at the same time. At times it may even seem that individual students change from hour to hour, or subject to subject. It is important that as teachers our lessons give the students the opportunity to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways. As long as students are moving toward the ability to demonstrate mastery to independent objective measures. This will give students who do not learn in the traditional teacher directed method the chance to develop their knowledge in their own ways.

The teachers role in education is not simply to impart information to students, but rather to guide students in the discovery of their learning. This sometimes means presenting the same concept to students more than once, but in different formats. Often each concept will touch on or relate to more than one skill so this often becomes a natural part of planning a curriculum.

Schools have always had and will always have a large impact on their students. It is the responsibility of the teacher to not only teach the subject matter at hand, but to give the students in his or her charge the tools to continue learning after leaving the school. To that end the school should be a comfortable place for students to experiment and take chances. Students should be encouraged to follow their interests and learn independently beyond the scope of the single class.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I hope everyone has a great Winter Break. Stay safe and we will see you next year. A little something for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Lockhart’s Lament.  - The views of a middle school math teacher who also spent many years as a math researcher and college professor.

Alan Keys Ted Talk . boring for about the first 10 minutes, but then he gets into some thoughts on teaching math.



What do you think? Should we change the way we teach math? How would it work? I've thought about it before here.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Philosophy of Education

My philosophy of education from 10 years ago. I am required to rewrite and condense to 150 words by January 3rd, 2011. It will be interesting to see how much of my philosophy has changed after having actually taught.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think reducing the number of words would be the most difficult part of a writing project.


Philosophy of Education

Schools are a major influence on the lives of almost everyone, whether they like it or not. Many of our basic notions of good and bad are in part formed by our early education. Take for example “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” One of the reasons this book was so popular was because so many people can identify with the premise. In our early years we learned that good people share, wash their hands, put away toys, etc... From the very beginning we learn some of our most basic mores in school. Are our school trying to teach this? Should we be teaching this as educators? Do we have a choice?

The average American spends 6 hours a day, 180 days a year, for 13 years in school. Whether we like it or not that is a large chunk of the social live of most children. This is not the greatest time influence on our children, but it is just behind family and peers. During this time schools and teachers will have a large impact on the lives of our students. We as teachers will educate the minds as well as spirits of our students. To be effective education needs to have certain goals to strive for as well as a plan to achieve these goals. As a part of society these goals must be acceptable to the parents of the children we are education.

Schools were originally build to teach specific intellectual goals. However, schools do influence children in ways other than just concrete curriculum subjects. School can, but don't always have influences on the morals and values of their students. If we had a concrete goal such as all students will have good morals how would we teach that? Who would be the final authority on what good morals are? Is it the teacher, the principal, the PTA? The problem is that the definition of morals would be different for each person asked. Schools should be aware of the effect they have on students orally and intellectually, school need to prepare students intellectually but also be aware of the effects on students morally and at least not do any harm.

So how do we teach this? After all we will have an effect on this whether we want to or not. We teach this by not teaching it at all. We must teach our students the skills to think and reason critically, by learning to use critical thinking building skills in more concrete subject like math or science the student will learn to use critical thinking in other areas of their life. Critical thinking is taught through the vehicle of other subjects when we ask students to solve problems rather than memorize answers. Students are given time to explore concrete areas until they discover regular patterns on their own. As these patterns are discovered the teacher gently pushes towards formalizing the rules. For example students are given blocks to count with; the physical presence of the blocks is something they are familiar with and they learn to add by putting blocks into a pile one at a time. The blocks are concrete and easily understandable to the children. As they become more familiar with the results they move into adding with fingers and eventually to doing it in their head. As higher levels of math are taught we can again go back to the blocks that are easily understood and build form there. The students are taught that when they don't understand they try to break down the problem to parts they do understand and build form there.

The idea is that as children are focused with the less concrete problems of morals and values they can break down the problems to a way they understand and build from there they can make and use their own rules. These rules don't become formalized by the teacher saying they are right or wrong but how the students discover how their actions make it easier or harder to get along with their peers.

With concrete goals in regular subjects schools have a solid curriculum to show that students are being educated well. The way we teach can either help students to become more independent or can foster a dependence on getting answers from “experts”.

The teachers' role is very intensive in the education of children. Teachers must be expert enough to lead the students as they need it, but be patient enough to allow the students to learn within the development stage they are currently in.

Children especially younger children tend to be more concrete. As we get older we develop the ability to think more abstractly. With students especially elementary students it is helpful to introduce concepts as concretely as possible. Using manipulatives or other hands-on work to illustrate the concepts. Eventually moving to the abstract by generalizing over different variations of the same theme.

Not all students will be at the same ability or developmental stage at the same time. At times it may even seem that individual students change from hour to hour, or subject to subject. It is important that as teachers our lessons give the students the opportunity to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways. As long as students are moving toward the ability to demonstrate mastery to independent objective measures. This will give students who do not learn in the traditional teacher directed method the chance to develop their knowledge in their own ways.

The teachers role in education is not simply to impart information to students, but rather to guide students in the discovery of their learning. This sometimes means presenting the same concept to students more than once, but in different formats. Often each concept will touch on or relate to more than one skill so this often becomes a natural part of planning a curriculum.

Schools have always had and will always have a large impact on their students. It is the responsibility of the teacher to not only teach the subject matter at hand, but to give the students in his or her charge the tools to continue learning after leaving the school. To that end the school should be a comfortable place for students to experiment and take chances. Students should be encouraged to follow their interests and learn independently beyond the scope of the single class.
 
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mathmusicians

Pythagoras, depicted on a 3rd-century coinImage via WikipediaOk so a couple of videos have been floating through my PLN this week.  I followed them to their youtube home and found one mathmusician.  Oddly enough I remember one musician spending hours , or what seemed like hours, telling me how chords in music aren’t random but based on mathematical principals.

So I’ve always known there was some sort of connection between math and music, I’m just not really sure of the connection.  You won’t either after this blog post, but I hope someone figures it out and explains it to me.

Anyway, the videos she creates are pretty cool and do a great job of connecting real world mathematics to doodling.  After watching the videos I thought it would be great time filler for those half days when you can’t really teach anything and the students just don’t want to learn anyway.

Show them the video and turn them loose to be creative. Just be sure to ask them to explain what they can of the math before you hang them on the wall.

If you don’t have the time or ability to get a youtube video into the classroom here is a link to a cool Pythagoras Tree applet.  Students can draw those pretty easily.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sharing what We Know

Source: http://www.chicagob2b.net/links/pages/...Image via Wikipedia
Today, I don't have a resource so much as a request for collaboration. If you haven't noticed yet the country is under a strong push for common standards. What they call Common Core Standards. On June 10, 2010 Illinois adopted the Common Core Standards. These standards will be adopted in three phases according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

I know there are people who are spending a lot of time getting us ready to meet these new standards. However, I don't see any reason why we should leave all of that work to the administration. I also see a lot of reasons why we should, at the very least, show what we know.

With that in mind I would like everyone, or as many people as possible, to share their favorite lesson and align it to the new Common Core standards for mathematics.  Please, don't spend four hours making a new lesson and getting every little detail perfect. Take a lesson you already have and show us how it meets the new standards. Then post it on the Waukegan math teachers wiki page. The easiest way to do that is make your adjustments, copy the lesson from Word, go to this link, click the edit button near the top right, and paste the document onto the page. Don't forget to save it. You don't need an account and you don't have to put your name on your work. If you would like to be a bit more neat you can create a new page, but I will let you figure that out on your own.

I'm not asking you to share because it will help the administration make the change. I am asking for two reasons: First, sharing your favorite lesson is a great way to help your fellow teachers improve. Second, as teachers it is not our right, but our RESPONSIBILITY to participate in all aspects of our students education.

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