February 2012 Archives

Communication Doesn't Have to Mean Reinventing the Wheel

Communication is one of the most important things we do everyday. It's done formally through great teaching practices, emails and one on one conversations we have with parents and professional conversations with colleagues. Formal communication is a part of our careers, and it is something we learned how to do at a young age and we have an obligation to do the same thing for our students. We, adults and children, have informal conversations about what we do in our private lives, which are just as important as the formal conversations we have in our careers. When having informal conversations ...


The Homework Debate

Sometimes parents want to help their children with homework but may not know the "right" way or newest way of doing it, which could be counterproductive to getting it done correctly. Why do teachers believe that homework is so important? Is it really important at all? Do teachers believe that whatever they teach is so extraordinary that students must continue to work on assignments at home as well as school? Or, are administrators making top-down decisions that homework must be a part of a student's nightly practice? Is homework being used to teach students time management techniques? Whatever the reason, ...


The Transient Student

"Each person has something to contribute to the group, and the group is diminished without that contribution" (Tomlinson et al.p.30). They walk into our schools mid-year. Sometimes it's the beginning or middle of a random month. Long after teachers have created bonds with their students and begin to feel like a family, the transient student enters the roster. Depending on the school, the teacher may roll their eyes at the thought of a new student or the principal fights with central office to find out why they are getting the student when the other schools in the district ...


When the Internet Goes Down: Banning Technology

A few weeks ago I grabbed my trusty notebook off my desk and walked into a classroom to do a teacher observation. As I sat at the back table to get a better view of what was going on around me, I watched the teacher prepare to use her Smartboard. Unfortunately, the internet went down and she was not able to complete the lesson that she had planned. Fortunately, she is a seasoned teacher and was able to come up quickly with a back-up plan. I started thinking about people who complain about the internet and our over focus on ...


Putting Faces on Data

"Education, of course, is overloaded with programs and data. The growth of digital power has aided and abetted the spread of accountability-driven data-adequate yearly progress, test results, for every child in every grade, common core standards, formative and summative assessments galore" (Sharratt & Fullan. P.2). Imagine for a moment that data isn't becoming a dirty word. Let's imagine that when done correctly, and with integrity, data can provide useful information about students. Jonathan Cohen from the National School Climate Center once said, "Educators are now used to data being used as a hammer rather than a flashlight." What if we ...


Helping Students Cope with Math Phobia

Educators may be teaching students to have a math phobia rather than teaching them to love the subject. On Monday our school celebrated the 100th Day. If you have ever spent time in an elementary school you know how excited primary students get about the 100th day of school. It's right up there with Halloween and Valentines Day (which happened to be the next day). The masked super hero, Zero the Hero (Dr. Jean) came to visit with students. Zero, who is a high school student (Shh...don't tell anyone) taught our kids about the importance of math. Our K-5 ...


The Stigma of Low Expectations

"We underestimate students when they fall short of expectations because they don't understand the school game and we determine that they lack motivation. " Carol Ann Tomlinson Recently, I read another great article in Educational Leadership by Carol Ann Tomlinson. Carol co-authored the article with Edwin Lou Javius which focused on teaching up in the classroom (Teaching Up). Teaching up is about providing high quality educational experiences to all students, not just the ones that teachers feel excel in school. Their concern is that many students who enter the classroom can learn more than they are expected to. Often teachers have ...


Improving the Forecast for Learning: Tips for a Great Winter Recess

Today's guest blog is written by Jill Vialet, CEO and Founder of Playworks Schools all over the country are trying to figure out how to improve outcomes in the classroom. So, what does that have to do with the weather? When it is too cold or wet outside, many schools cancel outdoor recess. And when kids are cooped up in a classroom all day without the chance to let off some steam, that can affect their ability to learn. Most education experts don't spend a lot of time thinking about recess, but it is an invaluable tool that can help ...


Governor Cuomo: The True Lobbyist for Students?

In his 2012 State of the State Address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he was a lobbyist for students (Hu. N.Y.Times). Speech after speech he uses data that shows that N.Y. State students are lagging behind the rest of the country. He often mentions that New York is number one in spending but 38th in results (Santos, N.Y. Times). He ignores all of the good news about New York's schools, such as their recent rating of number 3 in the nation for excellence, according to the Quality Counts report. He also ignores how New ...


What is Your Achilles Heel?

The current economic and political climate could become the Achilles Heel for schools but they must not let it. Everyone has an Achilles Heel. It's the one thing that can take even the strongest of individuals to a dark place. Depending on the individual or the situation, an Achilles Heel can take us down or make us stronger. It all depends on who the adult is, and how they deal with the situation. Unfortunately, even children have an Achilles Heel. If taught resilience at a young age, children can grow up to do great things with their lives. How does ...


Helping kids learn to succeed

Responding to Peter DeWitt's "The Benefits of Failure." Today's guest blog is written by Debbie Silver (parent of 5 boys and teacher of 30 years) The Japanese have a proverb that says, "Fall down 7 times, get up 8." I think that is a wonderful metaphor for what most of us want for our children. We would like to think that when our child does a face plant in the dirt, she will rise, dust herself off, lift her chin in the air and proclaim, "Well, I learned what not to do, so I'll try again." However, fostering that kind ...


Teaching Kids How to Disagree

Conflict resolution is one of the most important life skills that students can learn when it comes to social and professional relationships. If you've ever spent time in an elementary school, you understand that students get mad at one another. As a former first grade teacher I heard my share of kids who said, "He's gave me a dirty look," or "He called me the S word," which was not the vulgar S word that came to mind. No name calling is ever kind but we do know that some are much worse than others. Students have disagreements all the ...


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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