Category Archives: Thoughts on Teaching

Author Praises Catholic Schools

“They reminded me of my own public schooling in the 1950s,” Ms. Ravitch recalled in an interview this week. “The halls were quiet. It was orderly. And there was this commitment from the teachers.”

The NY Times article discusses Ravitch’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

students in Catholic schools did not necessarily score higher than those in public schools on standardized tests like the SAT, but they were far more likely to take rigorous classes, graduate on time and attend college.

However, we don’t get any reasons, there’s no proof within this article.

The may just be a public plug for the best-selling book, but if I can find it in a library, I’ll be sure to pick it up.


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Terrorists and Teaching?

We may be wrong about why our students do the things they do, and we’re probably not going to get any change in behavior until we figure out what the real reasons are.

The article What Can Teachers Learn from Terrorists I found off of another classmate’s blog. It’s interesting to juxtapose these ideas together.

“The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists” is a piece by Bruce Schneier. He says,

People turn to terrorism for social solidarity.

He follows,

We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need.

Now, how does this lead to thinking about the classroom? Hmmm, fostering community to encourage productive behavior? Trying to get to know people as individuals? These sound like good things for teachers to do in their classrooms too. Larry Ferlazzo, author of the article I’m referring to, suggests (as noted at the beginning), that teachers try to find out the reason behind the behavior, and not just punish the “bad” behavior.


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Evaluating Educators

Excellence in Teaching is a new pilot program aimed at discovering why some schools are on probation while their teachers continue to score “excellent” for Chicago Public Schools.

Flickr photo

Instead of a vague checklist that principals use to rate teacher effectiveness, the new program aims to define good and bad teaching, gives principals and teachers a common language to discuss frankly how to make improvements, and requires evidence that teachers meet certain criteria.

Defining the Good

With so many different learning styles, and every student an individual learner, teachers need not only communicate an idea, but make certain that all students understand. A teacher can’t just have something present-and-accounted-for…there needs to be quality. So now, when evaluating teachers, how is there only a present-and-accounted-for/not,  option? If education isn’t a clear cut path, how are teachers being evaluated only on whether or not they’re on some kind of path?

That’s what this program is exploring–how do we establish a feasible system of evaluating our educators without the multiple-choice options? How do we create a feasible system of deep-discussion, accounting for different teaching styles as well as different learning styles?

And yet I can’t help but worry about the possible future of my teacherhood–and the stress of evaluations! Where does intention and reality meet?


Flickr photo courtesy of kevindooley


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Context for the Classroom

The NY Times article, Working Financial Literacy, argues that Americans need to learn about bucks and banking (or money and management) in school.

Literacy Expands

What is “financial literacy”? Even if the article doesn’t define it in the first paragraphs, thinking of what “financial illiteracy” could mean may lead us to think of the trouble that we’re in right now. I remember learning how to write a check in sixth grade. As part of a special in-class program, we also learned a little bit about buying stocks and followed a few selected companies. But when do I learn about appropriate prices, or how to do my taxes? Thanks to the internet, there’s some opportunity for folks to teach themselves, but sources can not always be trusted.

Link Research to Reality

The internet has revolutionized the way society works. Now it takes about 3 seconds to look up facts and those who have been calling for education reformation now have more evidence than ever to support the notion that we need to teach kids how they can teach themselves–independent learning. A teacher can be the top resource in the class, not necessarily a dictator of information. When educators provide context to their lesson, suddenly everything becomes more meaningful.

Why not talk about economics by using the average income of the area in which one teaches? Why not discuss what student loans really mean to students? Schools are already overwhelmed with information/skills/strategies necessities, but integration can help a lot. Context provides opportunity for integration.

When teachers know their students, they can guide their lesson planning to create meaningful contexts in which the lesson occurs. Personal finance can extend beyond the realm of economics–what mathematical ideas can coincide? What about discussing current events in terms of the economy? Or discussing nutrition as part of a budget–or the effects of industry-budgets on the environment.

Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer, but why isn’t there consistency among all schools. Why aren’t we doing all of this now already?


Flickr photo courtesy of billerickson

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Another Kind of Tangible

Coming Out in Middle School (and before a date has happened)

In this article, the issue of school-readiness in regards to LGBTQ students is raised. There need be no tangible evidence to suggest that students know of their sexuality. Some students know before they’ve gone on a date and struggle with bullying. One student says that his sister still says that for him it’s “just a fad”.

Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

In the previous post, I talked about the concerns that too much is put on the schools. Perhaps, more often than not, schools are blamed with a good point. Schools might not be more than ideas and actions (often corresponding), but that’s what life is too. In schools, people can learn a great deal beyond texts. They can learn about themselves.

There’s a lot of potential for “education” of all sorts in schools.

A middle-school counselor in Maine summed up the view of many educators I spoke to when she conceded that her school was “totally unprepared” for openly gay students.

What do ya’ll think?


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Tangible Organization

“I think it’s convenient for people to want to punish the school because it’s the only tangible organization in this mess,” Ms. Darrow-Rioux said.

There’s been a lot of press lately about bullies and birds, particularly the tragic case of P. Prince, a high school student who committed suicide. The article from the NY Times discusses blame.

The Blame Game

A student commits suicide. How much ought the bullies be punished? The school officials? What is the protocol for recording episodes of bullying?

With all of the stresses of being an educator, and all of the stresses of a society trying to protect its children, are teachers and school officials seen with a biased perspective?

I worry about things like keeping my door always open if a student is in my room (and getting fired if I don’t and a student lies about activities behind closed doors). I know that I don’t want to hurt people, but I can’t say the same goes for everyone else. All have their own philosophy.

I can’t help but wonder about the teachers’ perspectives in this case. I wonder not only what they know (that perhaps they’re not sharing), but what they must feel…under attack. But is it justified? Would it be different if we could know of innocence, or of guilt-taint knowledge of ignoring a bully problem? Can a society see their guilt?


Photo courtesy Ed Yourdon, Flickr

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Gender Gap GASP

In short, equal opportunity brought an unequal result.

–The Atlantic, Marshall Poe writes

The Atlantic published this article called, “The Gender Gap: Maybe boys weren’t made for the classroom“. Scaaaaaaandalous!

the education system rewards self-control, obedience, and concentration—qualities that, any teacher can tell you, are much more common among girls than boys, particularly at young ages…years ago teachers may have accommodated and managed this behavior, in part by devoting more attention to boys than to girls. But as girls have come to attract equal attention

As I read this article, I got hung up on the writing. “girls have come to attract equal attention”? As far as I’ve heard, girls are still neglected in the classroom and gaps in their education are too commonly overlooked because they are praised for being silent (“obedient”). Where have I heard this? Oh, my teacher education classes. I’ve read about it in essays (that I really need to look up again and post here). The problem is, being obediently quiet does not mean that girls are participating. Participation is the negotiation and renegotiation of meaning, from the constructivist stand point, creating meaning = learning. When girls are praise for being silent, they are also being praised for not participating. And what’s all this talk I hear about needing to foster active learners, learners who are participating?

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