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Posted by on in School Culture

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If your students need opportunities to build their resumes to become viable college applicants but your school doesn't have multiple clubs and societies, all hope may not be lost. Here are a few things that all teachers can do to create privilege for their students:

  1. Learn how to write a really good letter of recommendation.
  2. Create opportunities for students to showcase their leadership skills that will pique the interest of college admissions officers, and that can be specifically referenced in letters of recommendation. For example, my English department created short-term, peer-tutoring positions last year when we realized that some of our middle school students needed help with discussion skills; we're also hoping to put students in charge of literacy initiative efforts so that students have the chance to collaborate with librarians and community members. This kind of student involvement benefits everyone.
  3. Implement a rigorous, and well-rounded curriculum so that students can develop strong research, writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. 
  4. Advocate to keep or build music and drama programs.
  5. Invite college representatives and alums into your classroom. Students may need to hear about prestigious universities from multiple voices. We also need to find a way to make university recruiters aware that they should be visiting talent in your school.

Why This Matters

Students enrolled in prestigious (and costly) prep schools have a distinct advantage in college admissions because, as Shamus Khan writes in Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School, prep schools are particularly good at creating opportunities for students. Schools that have multiple clubs, organizations, and socieites will have multiple students who can boast about their leadership skillls, community involvement, and personal initiative. Not surprisingly, it's easier for students to gain access to an elite university when they have a team of adults working on their behalf helping them to earn a number of achievements that impress university recruiters.

This discrepancy between wealthier schools that can easily fund a number of programs that serve students and other schools that are struggling in the midst of budget cuts contributes to the end result of prestigious universities tending to serve those who already have advantageous backgrounds.In 2013, for example, only 15 percent of Yale’s student body came from families earning less than $65,000 ($12,000 more than the median income in the US). If students living in underserved communities aren't able to get their foot in the ivy door, they will be missing out on access to important connections and opportunities that may be their best tickets to upward social mobility.

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Photo shared by on in School Culture

I was recently a guest on the "My Bad" podcast (check it out here) with Jon Harper (follow this guy on Twitter and check out his EdWords blog, he is the real deal!) and he asked about my new role as a featured blogger for BAM! Radio Networks: EdWords. He asked me if I would be as transparent with my posts on that platform as I am on my site. I had to think for a second and then I answered the question, with a resounding no. It was at the moment that I realized I must be even more real and transparent than what I had been before.

Being a featured blogger for EdWords is an honor. I understand that with an elevated platform, it becomes necessary for increased transparency. I will now be able to reach even more people with my voice. I hope to use this increased degree of transparency to impact educators on a deeper level. Before I can do this, I need to increase my transparency with my staff and this happened last week. I have struggled, both personally and physically, for the last several weeks due to various reasons.

For starters, I injured my shoulder during my last Spartan Race (race recap here) and I have not been able to do much in terms of working out. For those who aren't too familiar with me, I suffer from extreme ADHD and I rely heavily on my training for Spartan Races to balance myself out. After suffering this injury, I was thrust into a deep funk. I found myself depressed about my physical condition and felt powerless. The only thing I could control was my eating and I became a bottomless pit that consumed anything and everything in sight. I could have easily worked on cardio and leg strengthening, but could not find any motivation to do so. I was numb. ***

Next, we found out that my wife, a bilingual elementary teacher, would not have her contract renewed because her district had to cut the program due to budget deficits. I lead a private, special education school so our family relies on her health benefits through the public school system. To make matters more interesting, she is 22 weeks pregnant with our second son and she is due at the beginning of October. She is showing and there is no way she will find a job anywhere with the knowledge that she will be out on maternity leave.

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Posted by on in School Culture
stencil.twitter post 98

I realized early in my career that teachers actually have the same students each year.  After the first month or so all the students get shuffled into the roles of the previous year’s students and they receive their name.  You have probably met some of them.  There was Joe “Lazy,” Kathleen “Doesn’t want to work up to her potential,” Frank “Rude,” Mary “Her parents don’t even care,”  Harold “Doesn’t like anything,”  Nicole “I waste my time with her,”  Jerry “Never asks questions,”  Helen  “Doesn’t come back for extra help,” Greg “Never focused,” Melissa “Doesn’t Study,” and Carey “Needs to pay more attention.”

FierceThose labels take the pressure off teachers.  Why is Greg failing?  It is because he is never focused.  Why does Mary not pass in any homework?  It’s because her parents don’t care.  See how easy it is!  If you give each kid a label and a reason for their actions you remove responsibility from the teacher to figure it out and place it on the student. There is no need to continue wondering what is going on and why the kid is having problems.  Greg would simply do better in class if he just focused.  After labeling we perceive all of their actions as coming from that label.

We fear uncertainty.  Labels prevent uncertainty by predicting results.  Label a kid a jerk and that is what he is, no need to figure him out—it is certain what the problem is.  No need to figure out why the kid is doing what they are doing.  No need to try and figure out how to help the kid.  They are just a jerk.

Labeling a kid also changes our reaction to their actions.  When we label a kid we place our emotional baggage into the label and into our treatment of the kid.  We react to everything based on past experiences that we have had.  It is nearly impossible to not do this unless you stop, and realize that is what you are doing.  We interpret the students’ actions as being done to us.  If a student doesn’t hand in work the teacher says “He did not do MY work.”  If a kid says that a class is boring it is “He told me that MY class was boring.”  Teachers take the actions of the students personally, their words and actions hit on the baggage that we carry with us that was packed by our parents, our teachers, and our previous life experiences.

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Posted by on in School Culture

thinking

That kid doesn't want to learn.

My colleague hates change, she won't ever listen to my idea.

He didn't even look at me as he walked down the hall. Why is he mad at me?

My sister hasn't called me in weeks. I must not be important to her.

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Posted by on in School Culture

 stencil.twitter post 56

Spring is a time for rebirth and new beginnings. As we pull the weeds of winter, we reflect on our learning successes, assess, plan and hope for the next year. Gardens are a grand way to teach children sequence of life, planting, tending and watching that garden grow, just like learning. Tending the garden of the heart.

Teaching is cyclic and routines offer us continuity. We share our rituals and routines with the children in our care, offering much needed stability and a gentle kind of love and nurturing wherever it's needed. And that's pretty much everywhere, one child at a time, for various reasons.

I love class or morning meetings, circles or whatever name you use. The time is well spent. Even five minutes sets the tone for the day, with a quick review of prior learning (especially helpful to an absentee) and transition to the next activity. This is time worth spending. More than time on task, definitely engaged. Engaged in emotional safety and sense of class belonging and visibility. Tending the garden of the heart.

Lately I've seen some really cool school gardens. When I was Principal, a garden was already at the school, a good beginning. We added a wildlife compound and accomplished many project based learning activities, at the time not putting a name to it.

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