October 2005 Archives

Philadelphia principal and former high school basketball coach Chris Lehmann reflects on the news that three-time WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes opted to come out of the closet earlier this week. To him, the mere fact that this sort of thing is still news explains why her announcement should be important to educators. And here's why this belongs on a blog about teaching... I've been the first adult that a student has come out to -- the 'test parent,' if you will. I've seen kids run away from their parents because they were afraid of the ramifications of telling them. ...


Dree, a 1st grade teacher at an inner city Catholic school, seems to be in an awkward spot with the new teacher she's mentoring. "As her mentor, it's my job to make sure she's doing okay," she writes. "But it's not my job to babysit her or her kids. Any advice? I could use it!" A few people have weighed in with suggestions, or at least some sympathy. (From Chalkdust)....


Just in time for Halloween and the annual showing of the Peanuts animated classic, Mrs. Cornelius compares teachers to the eternally optimistic Linus: My Great Pumpkin is the day when we are given the tools to do our jobs, when students are told that education is the priority by our society and by their families, when politicians behave as though education, culture, and civic virtue are the most important priorities that society can bestow upon its citizens. I don't need all kids to speak English, I don't need all kids to be angels or geniuses-- I'll take all comers if ...


Substitute teacher Mr. Lawrence offers up yet another theory for why there are so few male elementary school teachers: But most aggravating of all in elementary schools is how many times I've had to repeat the assignments to them. I've even written them on the board and taken to pointing. I make sure all the details are up there, like what page, what questions to answer, whether or not they need to use complete sentences, whether or not they need to re-write the questions. Still, they'll look at me in complete puzzlement and ask, "What do we need to do?" ...


After a frustrating, water-logged day in her classroom, middle school science teacher Ms. Frizzle makes a valid point about a perennial frustration at all too many schools. So, we have two broken radiators, one fixed radiator plus fumes, broken outlets in several classrooms, and disappearing copies. And might I add that no matter what they do, in four years of teaching at this school, I have NEVER ONCE taught in a classroom that was a comfortable temperature during winter months?! Never. I have thermometers posted on the walls - for science - and I have seen classrooms hit 98 degrees ...


Over at eduwonk, guest blogger GGW suggests a different take on merit pay: I wonder if these high-performing teachers would instead be comfortable with (and motivated by) receiving merit bonuses in the form of discretionary accounts of, say, $5,000 for the year to spend on the general welfare of kids in the school? A merit slush fund, if you will. A teacher could buy extra books without red tape, small rewards for the kiddies with the highest improvement on vocab quizzes, a brand new collared shirt for the student who seems to have only one. Ten meritorious teachers could ...


First Year Teacher (actually a second-year teacher, as we've pointed out before) has remembered why showing movies isn't always a good idea. When will I learn that showing a movie is not a relaxing thing? I have this idea periodically that I can take a rest and catch up by showing a movie to my classes. Then I turn it on, after the ten minute warning about how I have another, less enjoyable, activity for them to do if they cannot listen (which is a lie, I have nothing), and they squirm quietly for two minutes, whisper for one, and ...


Newoldschoolteacher takes an uncharacteristically admiring look at Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the efforts of his charitable foundation. While Gates is a proponent of the small-schools initiative, what this teacher-turned-grad-student finds more compelling is his never-say-never approach to eradicating malaria in Africa. There are so many parallels here with education. Just as they know nets and insecticide work for malaria (they helped to eradicate it among officials in the British Raj in India), we know that discipline, hard work, and attention to academic rigor work for urban education. What's missing is merely the will to do it, someone to come ...


Here's a discussion that only an educator could love. Of special note are the user-submitted commments, assuming you can make sense of such cryptic statements as "I wish Staedtler expanded their Ergosoft line so [it] encompass all grades from 6H to 8B." And if you can make sense of this, I'd keep it to yourself. (From Pencil Revolution.)...


Mildly Melancholy notes that, among other recent frustrations in her busy teacher’s life, a poetry unit she’d been teaching has been washed out by the inevitable test-prep demands. Our poetry unit is now not really there; we have to do all test prep, every day. We can use poems to show students how to answer test questions about them, but not a study of poetry. And we have to practice writing responses, for the test. Stupid, stupid test. So poems must be used, not enjoyed or contemplated. Surely this says something—and not a particularly good something—about...


In the blog he is keeping for Teacher Magazine, exiled New Orleans educator Jim Randels reflects on a recent retreat held in South Carolina for students and teachers who’ve participated in Students at the Center, a high school writing program Randels co-directed in the Crescent City. Among the chief emotions expressed at the gathering, Randels says, was anger at New Orleans’ plan to convert many of its public schools into charter schools. In an written reflection excerpted by Randels, one student who spent several days in the Superdome after the Hurricane Katrina hit suggests that her own interests in ...


A number of New York City teacher-bloggers are ruminating on the city’s tentative new contract, which would increase teachers' salaries by 15 percent over roughly four years in exchange for 50 additional minutes of work per week and the loss of some seniority rights in school assignments. Ms. Fizzle says she’s on the fence in part because she thinks a strike would be unsustainable at this point: I may not have a mortgage or childcare to pay, but I have Manhattan rent and student loans, and I wouldn't last too long losing two days pay for every day ...


NY Teacher ponders the age-old question: Why are professional development workshops such a waste of time? In the case of her school, she says, it’s because all the teachers are forced to attend the same weekly PD session, regardless of whether the topic applies to their subject area. (Pity the poor gym teachers.) She wonders: What if, instead of meeting whole school in the auditorium, we had smaller more specialized PD sessions? We could team up with other schools in the district so that social studies teachers, math teachers, early elementary teachers, etc. could work separately to really focus ...


The rigors of the Advanced Placement program remain a constant worry for educators, particularly as pressure mounts to bring more and more students into AP classes. But Ms. Cornelius, a high school AP history teacher, has her own reasons for keeping her class as tough as she can: There is usually mucho handwringing over how to make this class in many schools more accessible and easier. I am, after all, about to be immortalized on the pages of the school paper as the teacher who gives the most homework in the school. Not that I am some sadistic dragonlady, but ...


Even with NCLB's penchant for slicing and dicing student performance into dozens of categories, California junior high school teacher Polski3 managed to identify a few subgroups the law missed: The kids who wear their PE clothes under their street clothes. PE clothes that have been worn all week, running about and whateverelse they did in PE in temperatures over 100 degrees F. Are they recognized by NCLB? Phewthetically, NO. A good number of our RSP kids who are also ELL (Special Education students who are also "learning" English.) Are they recognized by NCLB ? ?Por que pasa dude? Our migratory students. ...


As is the case for many teachers, the Web-filtering system in place at his school has been a major source of frustration for Bud. He points out that when it comes to potentially objectionable material, there's a big difference between how schools treat online content and other classroom materials. If you want to keep or remove a book from a school in most Colorado school districts, there's a written policy to follow. It outlines very specifically what happens when something is challenged and what the criteria are for removal. But when it comes to a website, it seems that IT ...


EdWonk points out that the U.S. Department of Energy's just-unveiled energy conservation initiative -- the readily mocked "Energy Hog" program -- has resources for educators on its Web site. She's a little skeptical: I can just imagine it now: Thousands of eager students (ages 6-13) who have been deputized as "Energy Hog Busters" being sent home from hundreds of schools to execute their assigned missions of pointing out to energy hogs parents where they are wasting energy. Let the annoying begin! (From The Education Wonks.)...


Denver teacher GroovyGrrl offers up a quiz on her most recent pay hike. She then reflects on a longstanding justification for why educators are paid what they are paid: It infuriates me when I'm told, in not so many words, that because my job is so fulfulling, that it makes up for a lack of salary. Excuse me? When did my employer become my parent? My family and friends give me love and I feel fulfilled; they show me love, and I feel valued. My employer is supposed to show that I'm valued by giving me money. (From Groovygrrl's weblog.)...


Mz. Slmph is a bit overwhelmed at the moment. She's far from alone at this point in the school year, but she articulates why one time-tested tactic for dealing with such a slump is no longer operative. I know I would feel better, and things would probably go much more smoothly if I just let loose a little and went with the flow. But who can let loose when, not only are the futures of 70 underprivileged students partially RIDING ON ME, but I've got members of the STA*TE ASS*STANCE TEAM lurking in the hallways, just waiting to "pop...


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