July Discussion: If you were calling the shots how would you change ongoing professional development for teachers in your community?

If I were calling the shots, I would make sure professional development was relevant and appropriate for the grade level and subject matter.

Too often teachers are forced to sit through a professional development class that does not apply to the subject and/or grade level they teach. One year, all of my high-school colleagues had to sit through a class on tiered assignments. That, in itself, is not a bad topic for a professional development. What made it a waste of time for all of us is that math, science, social studies, English, language, art, music, and PE teachers were all in the same professional development that presented tiered assignments for a 2nd grade literature assignment.

As English teachers, my department was annoyed, but those of us teaching regular English classes were able to apply the basic idea of the assignment to our curriculum. Even within our department though, far too many teachers had no use for a differentiated lesson. Many teachers only teach AP and college preparation classes. There is no room for differentiation for college bound students because colleges do not differentiate their assignments. To tell you the truth, this is one of my biggest issues with the college students I currently teach. Many of them have never written an essay and are completely lost in College Composition. I often wonder how many of those students had differentiated assignments instead of mandatory essays.

Furthermore, if my English Department had a tough time using a professional development class geared towards 2nd grade literature, can you imagine how the other departments felt? It’s no wonder many of them were caught passing notes and playing games on their phones. (Does that sound familiar? No matter who the students are, if you are not giving them relevant and appropriate student-centered lessons, they will get bored and check out.)

In order for professional development to truly improve teachers, they need to have these elements:

  1. The person teaching the professional development must be a teacher. Even people who have been out of the classroom for too long, like principals, counselors, coordinators, etc. will not deliver relevant information unless it is to give the teachers behind-the-scenes information so that they are in the loop. Only experienced master teachers will know what teachers need in order to improve their classrooms.
  2. Each department should have a separate professional development led by people who teach the same subject. The professional development instructor should be able to address all aspects of teaching and courses in that department.
  3. The majority of time allotted for professional development should include time to apply the new concept/skill/strategy to the classroom. If teachers are not given that time, then the day will be wasted. Teachers do not have time on a normal day to realign their curriculum to a new concept. If the professional development is truly valuable, then the majority of the day must be dedicated to lesson planning and curriculum alignment or else it will be for naught.
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Dennis McCarthy on All In with Pauline Hawkins

On May 9, 2017, Dennis McCarthy joined me on All In with Pauline Hawkins. This was my first live show! I did record two prior to this one, which helped make this show great–that and Dennis is an intelligent, interesting person, making him easy to interview.

Besides being a good friend and the father of my oldest child (are you intrigued yet?), Dennis is a local author and researcher who has made an incredible discovery that will rock our literary world. I consider him a modern-day Galileo.

Dennis researched the authorship of the Shakespearean plays and has unraveled the mystery that has surrounded the viability of William Shakespeare being solely responsible for the entire body of work. Listen to the podcast to hear what he has discovered and how he started his research. To contact Dennis, email him at dennismccarthy@4threvolt.com

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Choose to be Teachers and Students

My daughter and son-in-law asked me to speak at their wedding. I was honored but also hesitant–what could I, of all people in their lives, say about marriage? The only thing I know without a doubt. With their permission, here’s my speech:

As we gather to celebrate your journey together, I want to share with you a little wisdom I’ve acquired along the way. After 15 years in education, I’ve realized a very important fact: We never stop being students. As a matter of fact, even without an education degree, we are all teachers as well.

This concept applies perfectly to our relationships. Every thought, word, and action speaks volumes for those willing to listen, watch, and engage. If we choose to be diligent observers of the people in our lives, we learn the important aspects of who they are. But as much as people observe us, they can’t know everything about us, unless we teach them. We must not be afraid to share the inner workings of our hearts with those we love and trust.

Therefore, Nicole and Tripp, you must choose to be teachers and students of each other.

As much as you think you know the person standing in front of you, there is always something to learn about each other. You must be willing to teach the other what makes you happy, angry, or sad; you must be willing to learn how to ease each other’s burdens and how and when to give each other space.

I know from watching the two of you together, that you have already learned much about each other and are not afraid to teach each other about your needs.

But as time goes on, each of you will change and grow—sometimes together; sometimes apart. But if you make the commitment to always be a student and a teacher, you will learn about the changes and teach each other who you are becoming. You will learn to give each other space and comfort when you each need it because you will teach each other when and how. Just as teachers can’t expect students to know what they have not been taught, you can’t expect the other to know how to meet your needs.

Teach each other with patience and love. Engage with each new stage with diligence and passion. Be dedicated students of each other and your relationship.

Just as you have chosen to marry each other today, Nicole and Tripp, may you choose to be teachers and students for the rest of your lives.

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May Discussion with Global Teacher Bloggers: What do teachers most want to tell parents?

What do teachers most want to tell parents?

“Effective parenting refers to carrying out the responsibilities of raising and relating to children in such a manner that the child is well prepared to realize his or her full potential as a human being.  It is a style of raising children that increases the chances of a child becoming the most capable person and adult he or she can be.” Dr. Kerby T. Alvy

When it comes to fostering a life-long love of learning, parents are the biggest support for their children.

Here are my top 5 things parents need to teach their children so they are successful in school:

  1. Teach Them How to Talk to and Respect All People: Students who cannot talk to or respect other people will have a hard time in school. There are so many students who are disrespectful to others; it is truly shocking. Having positive relationships in school affects students’ abilities to function in that school. Most issues are avoidable when one realizes it is caused by lack of respect, plain and simple. Teaching children how to respect peers and adults will help them to have great relationships and help them benefit from collaboration with teachers and peers.
  2. Teach Them to Stand Up for Themselves and Others: Obviously, not all children will be respectful and kind to each other; it will be necessary, at some point, for a child to stand his or her ground. Parents need to have conversations with their children about when it will be necessary to stand up for themselves and others, and then give them the tools, words and confidence to say enough is enough in a mature way. Teaching this can be tricky as well. How do we teach our children to stand up to someone without turning into bullies themselves? There is a fine line, but it is necessary to know where that line is. Students who are not afraid to protect themselves and a weaker person have the makings of true leaders.
  3. Teach Them the Necessity of Working Hard: A new trend in student achievement seems to be that even minimal effort should be rewarded with an A (according to some students and parents). If students want A’s, they need to be willing to put in the hard work necessary to get that A. It is unfortunate that parents are supporting this trend because it leads to students only caring about the grade, not the learning. Students who do not value working hard will be susceptible to cheating, which will lead to more severe consequences as they get older.
  4. Teach Them Accountability and Responsibility: Students who are not afraid to answer for something they have done are more likely to make better decisions as they get older. If students cannot admit to wrongdoing for small things, and think they got away with it, the trouble they can cause and get into will intensify exponentially as they get older. Being accountable also means that students know their responsibilities. Students need to show up to class; they need to come prepared with all materials for that class; they need to be rested and ready to learn; and they need to find a way to connect with the material the teacher presents.
  5. Teach Them Failing is Learning: Every self-help book tells its readers: Learn from mistakes. Learn from the setbacks. Yet, the current education movements seem to revolve around the idea that failure is not an option. Failure always has and always will be an option, and people can learn some of the best lessons from their failures.

 

This list comes from Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System. Pauline Hawkins’ book is available on Amazon as well as directly from the publisher using the link in the right margin.

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The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: March 2017

What roles do teachers have in creating kind and compassionate citizens?

Teaching is about investing in our future.

Teachers need to do more than teach content. We are so much more than knowledge transmitters and test proctors. We are human beings that have made it our life’s mission to improve the world through nurturing, guiding and educating the world’s children.

I became a teacher because I wanted to help children/teenagers become the best they could be. I had a few amazing teachers who changed my life, and I wanted to be that teacher for other people.

Teachers stand in front of the classroom and help a room full of people discover the beauty of knowledge, and discover who they are and who they can become some day. If teachers are not embracing the importance of their role, then they may be doing more harm than good. Whether we like it or not, we are role models; we are educational coaches and knowledge facilitators.

When I taught in the high school, I taught the whole child, not just my content area. I love English and everything in the curriculum: writing, grammar, literature and oral communication. But what I loved more was how the English curriculum lent itself to teaching my students life skills, particularly kindness, empathy, and compassion. I believe these characteristics are more important than content knowledge because they will help students become successful in all areas of life, not just in the classroom or with standardized tests.

As a mother, I am also a teacher and role model to my children. I am not the perfect parent by any means; however, I have been raising children for 30 years now; my daughters and stepsons are adults, living on their own, and enjoying happy, successful lives, through which they are contributing positively to society. Ian is thriving and making significant gains in school.

As I navigate through my parenting experiences, I struggle with many of the things parents and teachers are currently dealing with. I struggle as a mother on the other side of the desk with how my son is treated by teachers and students in the classroom. However, my experiences as a teacher have given me insight into my collaboration with my son’s teachers. What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that if we all work at behaving as and creating kind and compassionate citizens, we can effectively help our children become happy, successful adults.

As important as it is for teachers and parents to model and teach kindness and compassion, students have a responsibility to engage with this part of their education as well. It is through the daily lessons, contrived or not, that students discover who they are and who they want to be. If we all work together, we will help students acquire the skills necessary to become civic-minded individuals who continue our work in improving the world through nurturing, guiding and educating the world’s children.

Much of this comes from the “Introduction” to my book, Uncommon Core: 25 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in a Cookie Cutter Educational System. I have changed a few parts to focus on the question at hand.

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Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing

Creative by Nature

“The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.”

noam-chomsky-005

The following is a partial transcript for an interview with Noam Chomsky uploaded to youtube by The Progressive Magazine.

“You take what is happening in education. Right now, in recent years, there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers so that you have to teach to tests. And the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher.

That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process. It means the teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention…

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The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: February 2017

How do we teach young people the rigorous critical thinking and research skills to distinguish news from propaganda? How do we ensure the next generation is one which communicates civically, values honesty, and recognizes reality?

facts-imageFirst, we have to have courses for young people to take that are centered on critical thinking. Most college campuses have an introductory course that stands alone or coincides with a writing class, but until college, most students do not have intensive critical thinking instruction.

In the critical thinking class I teach at GBCC, we read about and practice observation skills, word precision, facts and inferences, assumptions, opinions, viewpoints (and their filters), arguments, logical fallacies, and inductive and deductive reasoning. The most important part of this course is not the tests students take, but the discussions we have as we explore the concepts and share our experiences with critical thinking or the lack there of. What students learn is that they need to read, ask questions, be willing to say “I don’t know, but I’ll research it,” and then actually do it. They learn to spot those logical fallacies and not be duped by them. I tell them never to just believe anyone, not even me. They cannot trust the majority of sources, including mainstream media, because everyone has an agenda.

However, within the constructs of my high school English classroom, I still made sure students received some critical thinking lessons. During research projects, I showed students how to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources, where to find those legitimate sources, and how to use them ethically. We also had a number of shared inquiry sessions during classes on the most controversial subjects that didn’t have easy answers. Here are a few questions I would ask during these sessions: Did George do the right thing when he shot Lennie? Who demonstrated the worst behavior in Romeo and Juliet? Who is responsible for the destruction of freedom and equality on Animal Farm? Through these discussions, students learned to listen to each other (regardless of whether they agreed with each other or not), go beyond their own experiences and care about people and/or characters outside of their own bubble, and look back at text support for their responses—all critical thinking skills.

Which brings me to me next point: Students need to read more, and not just for pleasure, but also for exposure to the human condition. Reading diverse texts will arm them with knowledge outside of their limited perspectives. People cannot be critical thinkers when they have limited knowledge and limited experiences.

Finally, it’s not just young people who need to learn these skills. We have far too many adults who are role models for these young people that do not have critical thinking skills. I’ve said it before and will say it again: We cannot expect our children to learn skills the adults in their lives are not demonstrating on a daily basis.

http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB

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