Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reading Student’s Non-Verbal Cues

I'd like to introduce you to my first guest blogger, Vanessa Van Petten, creator and of RadicalParenting.com and author. Vanessa wrote her first book at 17 "You're Grounded!: How to Stop Fighting and Make the Teenage Years Easier" She continues her mission to help teens and their parents understand each other with her second book.

Reading Student’s Non-Verbal Cues

By Vanessa Van Petten, creator of RadicalParenting.com and author of the parenting book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?”

Teachers are often the great interpreters of the younger generations—always having to read, converse
with and mentor their students. At RadicalParenting.com—a website for adults written by teens and kids to give them a secret view into the minds of teens and tweens we write about how important teachers are in young people’s lives.

One of the most important aspects of this teacher-student relationships is reading non-verbal cues. In my book, Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded I give tips for parents and teachers on how to read the non-verbal cues of the kids, tween and teens in their lives. Here are a few I share:

Battle Stance

Battle Stance is when someone stands with their feet wide, hands on their hips and shoulders square. It usually means they feel attacked and are going on the defensive. If a teacher or parent sees this they can immediately diffuse this subconscious state by taking a casual tone and ask the person to sit down or go to another room. This tells them they do not need to feel attacked and physically removes them from a defensive state.

Fear vs. Surprise

In my presentations and articles on Social and Emotional Intelligence I often reference microexpressions. A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression that is shown on the face of humans according to the emotions that are being experienced. Unlike regular pro-longed facial expressions, it is difficult to fake a microexpression. They often occur as fast as 1/15 to 1/25 of a second. There are seven universal microexpressions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise, and contempt. In terms of lying, I believe that fear and surprise are the most important ones for parents to recognize. After all, if you ask your teen, “Did you know about the cheating incident at school?” A fearful microexpression will tell you something very different than if they look surprised.

-The brows are raised and curved
-Skin below the brow is stretched
-Horizontal wrinkles across the forehead
-Eyelids are opened, white of the eye showing above and below
-Jaw drops open and teeth are parted but there is not tension or stretching of the mouth

-Brows are raised and drawn together, usually in a flat line
-Wrinkles in the forehead are in the center between the brows, not across
-Upper eyelid is raised, but the lower lid is tense and drawn up
-Upper eye has white showing, but not the lower white
-Mouth is open and lips are slightly tensed or stretched and drawn back

If you liked these tips and are interested in learning more about the non-verbal cues of kids, tweens and
teens please check out my book “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?


Paul Ekman (1999). Basic Emotions. In T. Dalgleish and M. Power (Eds.). Handbook of Cognition and
Emotion. Sussex, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

"The lie detective: San Francisco psychologist has made a science of reading facial expressions" by Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, September 16, 2002.

Book: Why Kids Lie: How Parents Can Encourage Truthfulness


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google, Apple, Microsoft which is the greater fool?

Diagram Android DevelopersImage via WikipediaI was reading this article, specifically the comments. The author felt that google stuck it to Apple and Microsoft, hence the title, “Larry Paige Just Made Apple and Microsoft Look Like Fools”. The comments however were mostly the exact opposite. Many of the commenters specifically mentioned that Google paid three times the price for three times the patents, or that Motorola, the company Google bought, has a less than stellar reputation lately, not to mention the fact that they are losing money. They point out that Google is probably annoying the other hardware manufacturers that build phones with their Android operating system. I think they are all missing the point.

The commenters also point out that Google probably did this for protection from patent lawsuits brought about by Apple. This is the point, but not as the commenters see it. The consensus opinion seems to be that Google will use the patents they bought to hit back at Apple or create their own phones and compete with already established companies that are building phones with the Android operating system.

I think this is wrong on both accounts. As much as many of the commenter's think it would be foolish for Google to spend 12.5 billion to buy patents and then set them free, I think that is exactly what they intend to do with them.

Google isn’t in the phone making business. They aren’t even in the phone operating system making business. They are in the advertising business. To make money on advertisements they need a lot of advertisements on a lot of real estate, even if that real estate is a phone. by supporting and giving away the Android operating system they essentially get all that real estate for free. The patent lawsuits from Apple has cost Google a lot of money to keep and expand that real estate. By buying the patents and making them open source companies who make phones (and tablets) with the Android operating system no longer need to fear lawsuits from Apple and can and will expand their use of the Android operating system.

Really Google didn’t buy Motorola for hardware, or patents. They bought an end of the patent lawsuits from competing companies. Too many people are trying to simplify this to be a simple straight line from the cost of building a widget, subtracted from the price of the sale, equaling profit. Business is more complex than that and the larger the business the more complicated the line from cost to profit.

What does this have to do with education you ask? Simple, the profit from education is generally at the end of a longer and more complex line than any business you can imagine. To reform education requires us to be able to see past what looks like a foolish purchase and envision the ultimate possibilities.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Three unrelated things

Tax Increment Financing - TIF is a method to use future gains in taxes to finance current improvements (which theoretically will create the conditions for those future gains). definition from wikipedia as of Aug. 13, 2011.

School tax increases in Chicago - Homeowners are being asked to pay, on average, an extra $84 in annual property taxes to help plug Chicago Public Schools' $712 million budget deficit. From Chicago Tribune “City school tax hike greeted with frustration

The undereducated American workforce - The United States has been underproducing college-educated workers for decades. The undersupply of postsecondary-educated workers has led to both inefficiency and inequity. from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

TIF’s are great, except what they do is pull money that would have gone into the general fund for a city and reserve it for a specific area. this sounds great, but what it really does in the end is short change education. Hence the need to raise property taxes in Chicago to make up for the school budget deficit. In the end we all lose with an undereducated workforce.
Enhanced by Zemanta


Friday, August 12, 2011

Measure of Effective Teaching

Have you walked on over to the Bill and Melinda Gates sponsored Measure of Effective Teaching Project? This is where Gates tries to answer the question: "How can effective teaching be identified and developed?"

Some would argue that this should have been the first and main thrust of his education efforts. For without the answer to the first half of this question school reform is doomed to failure. Others might say that the answer is and always will be "it depends".

Some of my highlights and comments about the MET Project Preliminary Findings Policy Brief.

Our goal is to help build fair and reliable systems for teacher observation and feedback to help teachers improve and administrators make better personnel decisions.

From the MET Project Preliminary Findings Policy Brief

For this report, we have studied student achievement gains on the state test and the supplemental tests in grades 4 through 8 for five MET districts. (The comment I have is how effective are gains in standardized tests in measuring teacher effectiveness? Not good as far as I remember)

we measure student achievement gains using two different tests in each subject, the state standardized test and an additional, more cognitively demanding test (It is nice to know they are using more than one measure of improvement)

we anticipate expanding these outcomes beyond traditional tests to include noncognitive measures (When?)

Each student’s performance at the end of the year is then compared to that of similar students elsewhere (just when you thought it was straight value added measurements they throw in a curve, but is it a true measure of teacher effectiveness)

a teacher’s past success in raising student achievement on state tests (that is, his or her value-added) is one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to do so again (Except that we are using value added measurement to measure the ability to add value so of course this is consistent)

the teachers with the highest value-added scores on state tests also tend to help students understand math concepts or demonstrate reading comprehension through writing.

In many classrooms students reported that “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test,” or “Getting ready for the state test takes a lot of time in our class.” However, the teachers in such classrooms rarely show the highest value-added on state tests. On the contrary, the type of teaching that leads to gains on the state tests corresponds with better performance on cognitively challenging tasks and tasks that require deeper conceptual understanding, such as writing. (Shouldn't this suggest that we need to put more emphasis on teaching higher level thinking skills and less on classroom management?)

students report positive classroom experiences, those classrooms tend to achieve greater learning gains

valid feedback need not be limited to test scores (for students and teachers I think)

First we sorted teachers based on student perception surveys and value-added on the state math assessment. (The question I was looking for but didn't see was something to the effect of: My teacher refused to give me the answer but made me figure it out for myself?)

The difference in learning associated with being assigned a top quartile teacher rather than a bottom quartile teacher was more than seven months— roughly two-thirds of a school year! (This whole notion of putting student learning into grade level broken down by month is really a poor measurement of education. It losses effectiveness with age. Also when we ask students to identify and use specific skills they seem to be less knowledgeable than if we just ask students to solve problems, but that's just my opinion.)

[project time line for Winter 2011] Preparing systems for multiple measures of teacher evaluation: using digital video, training observers, and meeting data requirements. (I have found using video to observe is wholly ineffective. You can't switch focus from teacher, to student, to board, to whole class as fast or often enough. I also can't zero in on a conversation or student when I want to. Finally, how do you ask the students for their feedback?)

Reinventing the way we develop and evaluate teachers will require a thorough culture change in our schools. No longer should teachers expect to close the door to their classrooms and “go it alone.” (Good teachers will agree with this and have been pushing for collaboration for a long time)

retraining those who do classroom observations to provide more meaningful feedback

we need to be humble about what we know and do not know

 In the end I don't think this commission is doing the right research to answer the first half of their original question, "How can effective teaching be identified?" The assumption is that effective teaching can be identified by some sort of value-added measure with one or two standard tests. However, the question is how to you identify effective teaching so we should start with: Is this value-added idea working? How do we effectively observe teacher effectiveness in the classroom? What is an effective measure of student growth? The answers to these questions are being assumed and they shouldn't be.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


In education accountability seems to be requiring students to take standardized tests and if the students do not meet the required scores the school is punished. This is supposed to mirror the free market. In the free market if a company makes a bad product losing consumers and eventually going out of business is the punishment.

This is the story of my first riding mower. I spent the winter researching quality, price, and size of riding mower for my yard. What I ended up with was a piece of junk that I had to take to the mechanic at least once a year from 2006 to 2009, when they finally replaced the lower part of the engine. It was the next summer I was contacted about a class action lawsuit.

The suit was settled just this year (2011) I received a $21 check in the mail and a one-year extension of my manufacturers warranty. I wrote Kohler (engine manufacturer) and told them my tale of woe and asked how I could make a claim on the warranty.

Well, it turns out that though my engine failure could have been caused by a manufactures defect, it could also have been caused by something else entirely. Therefore without pictures of the broken engine or a clear recollection of a repair job done two years ago I was denied any claim whatsoever.

So tell me. How is this being held accountable? Making hundred hundreds of extra dollars per machine because then returning each customer who filled out the proper paperwork $21?

Have you ever read a Dilbert cartoon? The incompetents get promoted into management.
Dilbert Cartoon from http://www.dilbert.com/

Some folks think unions and schools are protecting subpar teachers who should be drummed out of the profession. Claiming that in the free market employees are regularly fired for poor performance. I worked a lot of jobs from the age of 16 until 30 when I got into teaching and I haven’t seen that many people fired.

In my experience (outside of education) it is completely normal for the “bad” employee to continue working for years. It even seems that the higher the pay the more secure the job for the “bad” employee. The lower paying jobs are usually shift work and the “bad” employee can just be left off the schedule while managers just pass the blame down the line.

Have you ever watched the Apprentice with Donald Trump? When the project manager admits a mistake s/he usually gets fired.
Donald Trump picture found at http://www.thebestdvdshop.com/images/

Should there be accountability in education. Yes, the nature of the accountability needs to be a matter for open discussion between teachers, administration, parents, and students. I would lean towards things like digital portfolios that have a record of work done as opposed to tests, but that is because I value fair and honest evaluations over cost savings.

Should there be a system to remove teachers? Yes, and there already is one in every district. Can it be streamlined and improved? In some cases yes, but in other cases it works just fine.

At the end of the day the person who should be evaluating teachers and holding us accountable are the parents. They don’t do that through test scores. They should be doing that by following the progress of their children during the year, communicating with their teacher, and supporting and supplementing the education as much as possible.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Born to Learn

A a middle school teacher I loved the last three minutes of this video. "oh no say parents, oh yes say adolescents " "We shouldn't belittle.... ' "instead of letting them sit passively in class..." "they will be bursting with a desire to learn..."


Friday, August 5, 2011

Videos for Inspiration

I started reading this blog post - well watching the videos and I didn't get through the first one before I had something to say.

Lessons for teaching:
Good teaching then becomes the ability to give students time to slow think, but to be there when they need help.
More importantly we need to understand our subject well enough so that when students come up to us with half formed ideas we need to recognize the path that they are traveling on so that we can guide them further along the right path - not our path.
Well right path isn’t necessarily the right term because sometimes the wrong path is more important to travel first.
Sometimes students come up to me with questions and my best response is not an answer, but a question. Why did you do this? What were you thinking when you did this? What did you want to happen? Why don’t you and Joe work together I think you two are working on similar ideas?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This Guy Joe

Aliosha VII YachtImage via WikipediaThis guy Joe borrows my truck everyday to tow his boat to the lake. He never offers to pay for gas or maintenance on the truck. Once he even drove the truck into a ditch. He walked away and left it there. The next day he came over to borrow the truck and got mad that it wasn't back in my driveway ready to tow his boat. He went to the mechanic and borrowed the truck from there before it was finished being fixed. Then he demanded the mechanic upgrade the tires and rims and add a bit of chrome.
Bills have been tough lately. I can't afford to keep filling the truck with gas everyday so Joe can drive to the lake. Actually, he has the truck all the time and only returns it so I can fill the tank.
I thought about not filling the tank, or even trading in the truck for a smaller car, but Joe threatened to let my neighbor take rides on his boat instead of me. (not that I've had the time or money to take a ride on the boat in years).
I tried to find a second job, but Joe was the only person in town hiring and he refuses to give me a job. He says I should trim the fat in my household budget instead.
So I raided my kids college fund to fix the truck for Joe, I cashed in my IRA to put gas in the truck for Joe. I cut meat from the grocery list and turned off the cable so Joe could use my truck. Vacations have been a dream unfulfilled for years. I guess next week I'll sell my vacation home to the Chinese immigrant. I mean really Joe needs to have a way to get his boat to the lake and someday, some day I'll get the chance to borrow it. That is if Joe will let me borrow it.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Turning Point

Taken from a friends facebook notes

I promise I only ask once a year.....

by Joe Kvidera on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 5:53pm
As most of you know, I work at Turning Point, McHenry County’s only
comprehensive domestic violence agency and shelter. Coming up on August 12th
& 13th, we’re holding our huge annual fundraiser “Take a Stand for Tuning
Point.” It’s a massive event that involves our local radio station Star
105.5, a couple dozen local businesses and service groups, over 100
volunteers and hundreds and hundreds of donors. It’s always a little
awe-inspiring to see all the people turn out and pitch in. It’s like the
last minutes of “It’s a Wonderful Life” where all the friends and neighbors
pitch in with a dollar, or some change- whatever they can spare- to make
sure the old Building and Loan survives.

 This will be the sixth year we’ve done this event and it never fails to
amaze me. People come by to tell us thank you for what Turning Point has
done for them or their mother or their sister or their friend or their
co-worker or….or….or…or. And then there are the people who come down because
they heard us on the radio and never knew Turning Point existed…and they
need our help.

In the last year, our advocates responded to 5,862 hotline calls. These are
calls from people in a bind- in fact many of the calls are not domestic
violence related. Folks call because they are in trouble, they know our name
and know we can help. The majority of these calls get referred to other
social service or government offices that can provide assistance: Turning
Point advocates listen, assess and help the callers to find the help they

And then there are all the callers that DO need our help: In the past year
we’ve served 1,825 clients, wrote 694 Orders of Protection and even
continued our work with another local agency, the Home of the Sparrow, to
provide transitional housing for those clients who are ready to leave our
shelter and start new, healthier, safer lives in new homes.

 And speaking of that shelter, it has been at or near capacity recently-
tough times stress families in all ways and we’ve had a decided upswing in
clients that need shelter, food or other assistance to survive.  Doing more
with less is our daily goal.

But we can’t do everything with nothing! Here’s where you come in. If you
can help, this is the time to do it. No donation is too small or too big:

•    $5 can buy a ream of printer paper that might be used to write an
order of protection, stopping the violence in one home for one family.
•    $50 provides one session of counseling for a victim in crisis: One
session might connect her to services that could potentially save her life.
•     $600 is enough to provide crisis intervention, legal advocacy, and
non-legal advocacy for one “walk-in” victim of domestic violence who comes
to Turning Point for help rebuilding her life.
•    $1800 provides a full course of counseling for a child who has
witnessed or experienced violence in their home.  Children in abusive homes
tend to model their parents and grow up to be in abusive relationships as
adults without counseling and early intervention.
•    $2,700 provides emergency shelter and supportive services for one
victim of domestic violence who had to flee their home in order to be safe.
Staying in the Turning Point Shelter isn’t just “bed & board”- Residents get
individual and group counseling and often job training, parenting classes,
financial counseling- whatever they need to successfully transition to
peaceful, healthy homes of their own. In the short term, that shelter saves
lives; in the long term, staying there can also CHANGE lives.

There are several ways you can make a donation (which is tax deductible as
allowed by law):

1.    Write a check and mail it to Turning Point, PO Box 723, Woodstock IL

2.    Make an on-line donation by going to
http://www.mchenrycountyturningpoint.org/ You can click on that “Donate Now”
link and make a contribution with a credit or bank card. Please consider
setting up a monthly donation; $10 a month over the course of a year makes a
HUGE impact on our finances. (There is also a lot more information about
Turning Point there!)

3.    If you are on Facebook, you can visit the Turning Point Cause page,
become a supporter and make an online contribution there.

4.    The event is held LIVE on air Friday August 12th  and Saturday
August 13th .You can stop by Sam’s Club in Crystal Lake and make a donation
in person. Or call in (during those two days only- phones are live 6 AM
Friday until 6 PM Saturday ONLY) on our donation hot lines (815) 914 0618 or
(815) 914 0930- Tell ‘em Joe sent you!

5.    Or call Turning Point during business hours and give us the
information: (815) 338 8081.

6.    This year, we’ve got a whole bunch of other ways to help. There is a
clothing drive Saturday the 6th. We’re doing a “McCare Night” with 7 local
McDonalds and a “Dine out event” with Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard, Colonial
CafĂ©, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Noodles & Company all on Route 14 in Crystal
Lake on Wednesday August 10th.  We’ve even got a daycare center doing a car
wash for us- see what I mean about how all those different folks all pitch
in for us? You can read all about what’s going on at the Turning Point Blog.
http://www.mchenrycountyturningpoint.org/blog/?p=3181. If you can buy a sub
or bring us your used clothes, it will earn us some money and we’d
appreciate it!

I know times are hard all over- If you can help, thank you. If not, I sure
do understand. If you can, please pass this on to your E-mail list or
Facebook friends. As part of us “doing more with less”, we try to spend as
little money as possible on fund raising and a message like this one is a
free way to reach folks so we don’t have to resort to expensive events or
buying a mailing list to reach new donors.

 Thanks so much!!


Education Equity: Civil Rights of the 20th and 21st Century

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22:  Chicago school teacher...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThis post has been in my brain since I sat and read the Supreme Court decisions concerning desegregation of education during our school law class. This will be my last post on this blog, but please do follow my growth on my personal blog.

Just the other day I was listening to the radio (NPR I think but I can't seem to find the recording) and someone was talking about Cuba and segregation. The general gist of the show went like this: In an effort to be equal Cuba banished race in all census forms.
Except that ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.
Instead of the free and open society Castro envisioned what he actually got was rampant De Facto discrimination.

The speaker went on further to suggest that in the U.S. we had De Jure discrimination. In the U.S. the people had real facts, words, and deeds to fight against and thus the struggle for Civil Rights was born. In Cuba accusations of racism are easily deflected with a shrug of the shoulders and the suggestion that we have no race, how can we have racism?

It was an interesting show and got me back to thinking about education segregation in the United States.

In the 1960’s when it was legal to discriminate on the basis of color or religion it was blatantly obvious that there were inequities in the educational system. When these cases finally made it to court this is what the court said:

“Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.” (Brown v. Board of Education)

“those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school” (Sweatt v. Painter)

“A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. “ (Brown v. Board of Education)

“Local control over the education of children allows citizens to participate in decisionmakeing, and allows innovation so that school programs can fit local needs.” (Milliken v. Bradley)

“The adoption of a freedom of choice plan does not, by itself, satisfy a school district’s mandatory responsibility to eliminate all vestiges of a dual system.” (Freeman v Pitts)

A basis for determining if a school district were desegregated was set forth in Green v County School Board of New Kent and reiterated in Freeman v Pitts: to achieve unitary status schools must be equal in terms of:
  1. student assignments,
  2. transportation,
  3. physical facilities,
  4. extracurricular activities,
  5. teacher and principal assignments,
  6. resource allocation,
  7. and quality of education.
In Green it was determined that the freedom of choice didn’t desegregate schools. “Rather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the plan has operated simply to burden children and their parents with a responsibility which Brown II placed squarely on the School Board.”

In Freeman v Pitts desegregation was not achieved in the Dekalb County School system because:
“In the Supreme Court Case of Freeman v. Pitt the District Court found that DCSS had not achieved unitary status with respect to quality education because teachers in schools with disproportionately high percentages of white students tended to be better educated and have more experience than their counterparts in schools with disproportionately high percentages of black students, and because per pupil expenditures in majority white schools exceeded per pupil expenditures in majority black schools.” (Russo, p. 1096)

Why is this important today? Just days after teachers marched on Washinton DC?

If school choice didn’t work in Kent County why do we think it will work today?

If inequity of funding was a symptom of the problem 50 years ago how can we reform education by cutting funding today?

If lack of experience and lack of advanced degrees was a symptom of poor schools in the 1960’s how can replacing those same teachers be considered reform today?
Enhanced by Zemanta