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Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

Posted by on in General

There have been numerous education initiatives proposed, adopted, and later left on the side of the road during my teaching and administrative career. Initiatives involve ideas, programs and techniques that often are created, analyzed, and deemed viable options by the individuals farthest away from the students who will be impacted.

Teachers are sometimes selected to serve on steering committees which will make recommendations to administrators. However, administration has the option of accepting such suggestions or discarding them and making a completely independent decision. Unfortunately, many initiatives are chosen not on the basis of student success, but upon financial savings instead.

And many of the teaching strategies that follow are misguided, failing not only students but their teachers as well.

When I started first grade in 1965, I was already a good reader. Despite the fact that my parents had little money, they provided my siblings and me with books and plenty of one-on-one support in learning how to read those books on our own.

I entered school, and my love for reading was instantly extinguished. There was a heavy emphasis on phonics - in sounding out the letters of every word before we could read the stories in our readers. Phonics is an extremely important piece of the reading process, but I was already far ahead of my classmates, and I did not need the constant drill. Differentiation for all students had yet to become a buzz word, much less a highly-regarded practice in American schools.

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Posted by on in General


My wife and kids leave for school about an hour before I do. Which means I have a good chunk of time to spend how I choose. Sometimes I use it well and sometimes I waste it. Don't get me wrong, by wasting it I don't mean that I am lying on the couch throwing down bacon while watching SportsCenter. And by using it well I don't mean that I am editing the final draft of my magnum opus. Probably somewhere in between both scenarios lies the truth.

But one day last week I was feeling anxious. Jittery even. And it wasn't the coffee. It was nothing in particular. For those of you that have anxiety, like I do, you can probably relate. Those of you that don't are probably wondering WTH I am talking about. I mean why was I feeling anxious if I had nothing to be anxious about?

That's precisely the point.

Anxiety is often out of my control.

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Posted by on in General

Competency Based Learning (CBL) is gaining popularity and has been growing as more schools, districts, and educational systems realize the many benefits it offers.

Called by many names and crossing over many initiatives, including: Mastery Learning, Personalized learning, Formative Assessment, and Differentiation, competency based learning can truly help educators meet the needs of all students. This also begs that we understand what it is, and more importantly, what it isn't. 

What is Competency Based Learning?

The US. Dept. of Education defines Competency Based Learning as: "Transitioning away from seat time, in favor of a structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning (ed.gov)."

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red thread

Doris and Carl Malone sat at their usual table in The Forgotten Crumb enjoying the performances of slightly inebriated patrons searching for their fifteen minutes of fame at the karaoke microphone. The couple had met here nearly twenty-eight years before, fallen in love, and married on the very stage that was now a platform for a middle-aged woman trying her best to sound like Barbra Streisand. She was followed by a young construction worker channeling his inner Barry Manilow and then by an elderly couple singing “I Got You Babe,” expertly and comedically nailing the mannerisms of Sonny and Cher.

Doris relaxed, enjoying the music, but enjoying her time with the love of her life more so. When Carl impulsively rose and moved toward the stage though, she gasped and blushed. This was something she would never consider doing in public despite the fact that she was in front of a demanding crowd of third graders every Monday through Friday. Carl, on the other hand, had no inhibitions, and moved confidently toward the microphone.

With the first few notes of “Song Sung Blue,” Doris felt happy tears rolling down her cheeks. Our song, she mused. Better even than Neil Diamond himself.

“Song sung blue, weeping like a willow,
Song sung blue, sleeping on my pillow...”

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Daddy how do you get bad thoughts out of your head?

When my daughter first whispered these words I thought I had a suitable response. I told her just to think about something that makes her happy. Sometimes that strategy works for me. But not often. After about a minute she said Daddy, it’s not working.

This time I tried to give her some ideas. Maybe that was all she needed. At least that was my hope. I never like it when my little girl, who’s not so little anymore, is sad. Once again though, my advice failed.

My wife and son had already fallen asleep. But I know what it feels like to worry and I know what it feels like when you can’t get your thoughts the way you want them. And simply trying to think happy thoughts is just a temporary fix. I should have remembered that.

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