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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in good teaching

Posted by on in General

pool

I nearly drowned as a second grader! A couple of the other kids had their arms around our coach as she walked closer to the deep end of the pool. I followed closely behind her. But before I knew it, I could no longer bob up and down and touch the bottom of the pool with my toes. I panicked and tried desperately to keep my head above water. At the moment before I knew my life was about to end, I looked up into the stands and saw my mom motioning to me to put my head down and swim. “Swim, Sandy!” she yelled. I looked to the side of the pool, and my coach was doing the same thing. No one was running to save me! “Swim, Sandy!” their blended voices hollered. It wasn’t the most graceful American crawl, I’m sure. But, I did make it to the side of the pool and am still alive to tell the story. 

I’ve often thought about this experience when I’ve faced changes and challenges throughout my career. When I start to feel a little overwhelmed or some self-doubt, I hear the voices in my head saying, “Swim, Sandy!” I know then that I need to FOCUS and swim! It isn’t always pretty getting to the side for a breather, but I make it. My coaches don’t jump in and rescue me, but I know they’re on the side cheering me on because they believe that I’ll be successful. As a result, I have a stronger sense of self-efficacy. There is a need for some basic knowledge, but the application of what I’ve learned is up to me. 

“Jumping into the deep end of the pool” can be a little scary, but it’s also where we’ll experience the most growth. Being in the deep end of the pool forces us to leave our comfort zones and apply our new learning. While many educators heed the advice of starting small when it comes to change, I’ve always jumped in and have swum for my life. It's even been a joke that I'll figure things out as I'm doggy paddling. I’ve grown very comfortable with being uncomfortable. Making mistakes and learning from those mistakes is part of who I am. It’s part of my creative spirit. Although I can envision where I need to go and want to be, I don’t always know the “how-to’s, ” and that’s where there’s risk-taking. It’s often through play, experimentation, and collaborating with others that the best ideas come about and benefit kids.

Regardless of whether educators jump in the deep end of the pool or start at the shallow end, the point is to move forward and start making the changes that our kids deserve. It seems that our profession is the only one where those who remain stagnant are allowed to keep their jobs. We would never go to a doctor or dentist who was not current with the most updated medical practices. We would never board a plane of an untrained pilot and seek advice from a lawyer who did not know the current laws. Businesses that don't continually change and adapt go out of business. Yet, educators who have children's lives on the line, continue to hold onto old mindsets and traditions. 

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Posted by on in General

teaching

Educators everywhere immerse themselves into the work of impacting young lives because they love kids! Teaching is no ordinary job, and it takes an extraordinary teacher to overcome the many obstacles that children face. It takes an exceptional school leader to create a culture where children and adults have high expectations and can learn in a positive, safe, environment. I believe, like many others, that teaching and working with kids is a calling. We are called to serve the youngest population, to provide an education where young people are taught to rise above mediocrity and to think for themselves, to collaboratively problem solve and make the world better. We are called upon to teach students how to be leaders, readers, learners for a lifetime and changers of the status quo. The challenge is great, and the responsibility is immense, but educators everywhere accept the challenge and in the words of Marva Collins, “Make the poor student good and the good student great with no excuses in between.” Teaching is not for the faint of heart. It requires hard work, dedication, and unceasingly love.     

It is not uncommon for school administrators and teachers to work long hours, weekends, and holidays preparing their lessons and learning how to improve their practice. It’s not uncommon for teachers to have sleepless nights worrying about students, to purchase granola bars so kids can have something on their stomach, or to spend extra hours away from their own families to attend extracurricular activities. It’s not uncommon because those who enter the teaching field know that “the pay” is knowing they can have a positive impact. Administrators and teachers know the negative public perception of schools, and yet they dig in and serve their students and communities day in and day out. They know that their talents are gifts to be shared with their students. Educators not only believe but know that they can make a difference!     

Great educators refuse to let students fail! They teach children that difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and stepping stones to success. Children learn about having a growth mindset and how to overcome challenges. Teachers give students hope and a belief in themselves. Michelangelo said, “Inside is an angel trying to get out” about a piece of marble. Teachers know that every child has something wonderful and special inside. They know that every child can learn. And they know that they cannot meet every child’s needs alone. The challenge is too great! Great educators know that it takes collaboration and a commitment to action that will ensure that every child succeeds. Their focus is the learning of each student. They roll up their sleeves and delve into the work!     

In those rare moments of disappointment and despair, great educators are inspired to further the work. They know that just one more time, one more attempt might make a connection and difference for a child. First, it’s the work and then the inspiration. Thomas Edison did not give up on his vision. He learned hundreds of ways not to make a lightbulb. It was only after hours of focused work that his team was inspired and found a way. And the “miracle” was light.   

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Posted by on in School Culture

Little Prince

I've loved The Little Prince since I was a child, and with each reading or exposure, I get something more out of it. As a kid, I'm certain I missed some of the symbolism or allegories, but I'm sure I empathized with the fact that I felt adults didn't always understand me, or have the right priorities.

This summer, I re-read The Little Prince for the first time since becoming an educator, and below are my three take-aways for educators:

1. On Authority

On one planet, the prince meets a King, and

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Posted by on in General

0-HomeworkDoesntWork.png

When I started as a brand new teacher in the Chicago Public Schools some 13 years ago I came across a poster on the wall of the attendance office, that explained the “Grade x 10” formula for assigning homework. So, a first grader should have 10 minutes of homework each night (1st grade x 10), while a high school senior ought to spend 120 minutes on his studies every evening following the same formula.

But why do teachers give homework? They believe it can help students be more successful as it allows them to practice what was learned and to remember what was taught. In addition, homework is somewhat of a holy grail in teaching. Teacher preparatory programs push it, textbooks are designed for it, and it is a deep-rooted tradition that allegedly promotes student learning outside of the school walls.

Kids ought to have homework, right?

Wrong!

There is a growing body of research challenging the effectiveness of homework. Alfie Kohn, the author of the 2006 book, Homework Myth, concludes that there is no evidence that homework benefits young children and questions the advantages it brings to older students. Kohn also points out that a 2011 study “fails to find any meaningful benefit even when the study is set up to give homework every benefit of the doubt.” In The Case Against Homework, Bennett and Kalish (2006) explain the negative effects the homework overload has on children’s achievement and development. And there is a plethora of other academic studies that have comparable findings.

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Byte

Do you know what a yottabyte is?

No, it’s not a nip on the knee from a beloved Star Wars character. It’s a measurement of digital information. And one I never dreamed would ever be necessary. When we purchased our first home computer in 1987, we upgraded from 10 to 20 megabytes, because we were convinced that was all we’d ever need.

But now, the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2015 uses the word zettabyte when discussing the amount of digital information in our connected world. Cisco reports that “IP traffic will reach an annual rate of 2.0 zettabytes by 2019.” Zettabytes? Hang in there, I can explain. It takes 1,000,000 gigabytes to equal an Exabyte, and 1,000 exabytes to equal a zettabyte. How much longer will it take us to reach the next level: 1,000 zettabytes, which equal a yottabyte.

A yottabyte, to put things in perspective, equals about 250 trillion DVDs of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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