November 2011 Archives

Poverty Matters

"It's no cop-out to acknowledge the effects of socioeconomic disparities on student learning. Rather, it's a vital step to closing the achievement gap." Richard Rothstein In our present economic climate, where it seems that politicians are completely disconnected from the people who voted for them, schools have a serious issue with poverty. It doesn't matter whether it is a rural, urban or suburban school district; the number of students living in poverty is rising, which can be devastating to their education. There is a great deal of research which indicates that poverty can severely effect a child's education. Poverty has ...


Creative Learning Environment

If educators are not promoting a respectful climate in a creative learning space, then they're just moving furniture. Today, I saw two first graders working together to open a thermos. Although this is a situation that happens every day in schools across North America, it was nice to watch them figure the situation out together. I was standing next to them but they did not ask me to open it for them. First graders think I'm pretty strong! Instead, one held the thermos while the other one turned the top. A great thing happened...it opened and they did not ...


Professional Development with the Experts Through Twitter

Great teachers know that they don't have to know it all. They just have to know their resources. Many times when we're struggling with the issue of meeting the needs of our students or those of our teachers, we search for great websites. Websites from experts can help inspire us to make the necessary changes in our classrooms or schools. However, many times they may require a membership or fee, which can limit the amount of help they provide. Through our searches we may find free sites. After negotiating our way through the sites we find resources to use with ...


Catcher's Mitt

Later on, I found my niche. It wasn't baseball; it was school, and running and art and music. Dad and Mom had taught me that life is special. It doesn't always work out the way you want--sometimes it works out better. A few years ago I wrote a story entitled Catcher's Mitt for Grief Digest. Unfortunately there are not enough books on the subject of grief for children and publishers like the Centering Corporation, which publishes Grief Digest, are one of the few organizations that focus on the topic of grief. There are so many children affected by this subject ...


Why Educators Should Join Twitter

In late July I decided to join Twitter. To be perfectly honest with you I had no idea what I was supposed to do when I got on there but I heard so much about it I thought it would be a worthwhile experience. The only concern was that we have so many distractions already in life that I wasn't sure that I needed to add one more the list. I consider myself fairly technological, and given the amount of time I spend checking e-mail I know that I am "connected." I have a "Smart" phone, IPod, IPad, laptop and ...


Common Core Standards will be Uncommonly Expensive for School Districts

"Textbooks should be used like a dictionary, not a novel." Unknown For the first time in our educational history a majority of the states across the U.S. will have the same teaching standards, which many educators have wanted for decades. Many of those states are doing a great job building curriculum maps for teachers. Some states are doing something really unique; they're actually getting teacher and administrator input in the process. School districts, and the teachers and administrators within those districts, like what the common core offers to students. It focuses more on depth than breadth. Over the years ...


Using Social Networking to Build 21st Century Skills

"Good people know that high stakes testing has limited value and they keep operating anyway. They don't let testing get in the way of doing the good work they want to do to get kids prepared for life." Todd Whitaker In education we have a habit of using terms so often that we push staff to a place where they do not want to use them anymore, which means they are in jeopardy of not being engaged in the process. We have seen it with terms such as "differentiated instruction" and "hands-on learning." If we're not careful it will happen ...


Four Day Weeks OR Extended Days: Where's the Equity?

Recently there was a story in Education Week entitled Push is On to Add Time to School Day, Year (Fleming). Some schools are adding time to their school day and school year. If done correctly, this will allow teachers the time to focus on great instructional tools like Project-Based Learning (PBL) and perhaps offer students the time to create service learning opportunities within the school district. In the Washington Post, there was a story about schools that are researching the idea of a four day school week (Layton). Four day weeks are created by schools in order to cut costs (i.e....


What if We Taught at Hogwarts?

Every student should be able to get lost in their imagination from time to time. As we grow older there are so many times that we are too busy to retreat within ourselves to imagine bigger ideas. We need to encourage students to do that when they are younger so they can strive for something new in their lives. Students should be exposed to experiences that provoke thought and inspires them to want to find a path to follow in life. Sometimes they do that by surrounding themselves with good friends and play games on whatever the new hot item ...


Parents Shouldn't Have to Talk Educationalese

Are we talking at parents, or are we talking with them? As much as we should try not to leave students out of the parent-teacher conferences (Student-Led Conferences), we should also make sure we are not leaving parents out either. As educators, we communicate with parents daily or weekly, not just at parent-teacher conferences. We need to make sure that we are providing them with the opportunity to give input, because they know their children better than anyone. Every time that we meet with parents we have an opportunity. We can show them we understand them by listening to their ...


No Testing Week: Part Deux

Although, we have always been a close staff we have had open and honest discussions about testing, NCLB and how we can move forward in a time with so many mandates. As adults, we can all remember the stress we felt when taking an exam. It didn't matter whether it was a chapter test created by a teacher or the SAT's, we know what it feels like to worry that we may not do well on the test. For one week, I want students to feel what is like to not have to worry about a test, which is why ...


Death By Ditto

Everyone uses worksheets but it can be very depressing to see a pile of dittos on a teacher's desk waiting for students as they enter a classroom to begin the day. Although there is always a time when worksheets may be appropriate, dittos can be a symbol of a lack of creativity. We must try to limit there use in classrooms. As class sizes rise and high stakes testing pressure increases we are running the risk of boring students to tears by using death by ditto. Death by Ditto is the overuse of using dittos to educate students. The overuse ...


The Issue of School Climate: A Conversation with Jonathan Cohen

"Educators are now used to data being used as a hammer rather than a flashlight." Jonathan Cohen On Saturday morning I went out to breakfast at a small café near my home in Albany, NY. When I was sitting at the high top table waiting for my order, I overheard two older men talking about bullying. They were probably in their late sixties or early seventies. One of the guys was talking about a show that he saw that focused on bullying. He said that there was a teenage boy who was small in stature and he spoke to the ...


Parent-Teacher Conferences WITHOUT Report Cards

Report cards have long been the focal point of the first parent-teacher conference of the school year. In the mind of the teacher, as well as the parent, it always made sense to have the report card sitting front and center as they discussed the academic progress of a child. However, instead of making grading the focus of the conversation, many school districts are making the student the center of attention by having parent teacher conferences without the report card. Over the past few years some school districts, including the one where I am a principal, are taking a new ...


High Stakes Testing is not a 21st Century Skill

Recently, New York State test scores were released to the public and showed that students scored lower in the areas of ELA and math than in previous years. The results were quickly announced by the media. Even the national news chimed in to report the devastating results of the high stakes tests. News stories appeared about how our students are doing worse in reading in math than ever before. The New York State Education Commissioner put out the following statement. "Student outcomes have been stubbornly flat over time. The Regents reform agenda is designed to change that, by driving long-term ...


Robert Doesn't Fit In

Most days, Robert walks into his elementary school with his head down. It's not that he doesn't like his teacher or school, it's just that is how he likes to walk. Students quickly walk past him on the sidewalk and the hallway because he walks so slow. They smile, laugh and talk with one another as they pass him one by one. They're not laughing at him but they're not inviting him into the conversations either. Robert has a hard time getting his schoolwork in the right place, so his teacher has to remind him where to put his homework ...


Student-Led Conferences

We take the mystery out of learning because we have a habit of talking at children and not to them. As many schools prepare for parent-teacher conferences they should consider involving the students in the process. It sounds like a radical concept to involve the student in the process of discussing their academic progress but it is an approach that many schools use and it has been around for decades. It's called Student-Led Conferences. For a long time schooling has focused on one to glow on, one to grow on and one to go on. During the conference, teachers tell ...


The opinions expressed in Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.
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