December 2007 Archives

Always in the loop, John Norton of Teacher Leadership Today reports that a number of teachers who went to the National Staff Development Council's annual conference earlier this month came back abuzz about a presentation given by cultural anthropologist Jennifer James. Details are somewhat scattered, but James seems to have emphasized the importance of teaching kindness and recognizing mythological transitions in our culture. John's got more....


Hobo Teacher reflects on those students—you know the type—who come in on the day of their final exam to ask for tutoring: I’m not sure what they think that they can accomplish in such a small amount of time. It’s not like I can put my hand on their foreheads like a faith healer and transfer the information over into their brains. Maybe I should try though because it sounds like they’re in need of a miracle. He describes some other questionable student test-prep approaches here....


The Contra Costa Times hosts a blog called My First Year, in which a handful of young teachers in Oakland write (or are supposed to write) about their harrowing experiences. In a recent post, one of the participants notices that--um--she and her fellow bloggers haven't been posting a whole lot. (There have been only nine posts since early September.) Is this, she wonders, because they're all simply swamped, or--more interestingly--because they're afraid to say too much? She writes, with apparent trepidation: But recently I've spoken with many colleagues and friends who are shocked that I'm participating in this blog as ...


Speaking of Bill Ferriter, looks like congratulations are in order. His blog The Tempered Radical has won Edublog's award for Best Teacher Blog of 2007. This should come as no real surprise to readers of this page, as we have found ourselves highlighting Bill's posts with more and more frequency lately. The Tempered Radical--at once outspoken and articulate, reflective and provocative--has become a must-read for anyone interested in today's education scene from an experienced teacher's point of view. To use his own sign-off: Rock on, Bill....


Bill Ferriter, provocative as always, wonders why the U.S. government resists setting numerical targets for climate change, even as it absolutely demands them for school reform....


Sam at clean up on aisle life marvels that, after three-plus years in teaching, she finally attended an IEP meeting that seemed constructive: Everyone had read all the anecdotals, focused on the child's needs and behaviors and successes, and was expressing opinions and ideas in a productive manner. It was textbook in its beauty, and I feel that we reached the best possible decision for this particular student, as well as exhausting many, many other options. The experience, she says, has helped overcome some of her growing pessimism about the proccess: I am one of those teachers who has started ...


Ms. M. provides a harrowing--and hilarious--account of her school's annual ice-skating field trip. Sounds like a pretty dubious idea from the start, right? Well, guess who ends up in the emergency room?...


One of the stars of the professional development circuit, classroom tech expert Will Richardson has grown frustrated with schools' continued use of workshops and in-service days to provide teacher training: In the best case, they are a full day of one or two particular tools. In the worst case, they are one or two hours on a lot of tools. Either way, the experience usually serves to overwhelm, and at the end of the day (or hour) the participants head back to the craziness of their teaching lives where I’m guessing much of what they have “learned” fails to ...


NYC educator offers some provocative comments on a new ETS study finding—surprise, surprise—that children's home environments have a major impact on their achievement levels in school. He writes: The reason why this study is important is because it emphasizes something educators already know--our classrooms and our schools do not exist in vacuums. Our students come to us with lives and backgrounds that are far more influential upon their academic potentials and performances than whatever I do for 45 minutes a day, 183 days a year .... The findings likewise suggests, NYC educator opines, that efforts to improve achievement...


Eduwonkette highlights a "cool teacher," including her personal advice for new teachers. See more cool teachers here....


Bill Ferriter offers some useful advice for teachers who are interested in using wikis for class projects but are concerned about students posting inappropriate material. In the end, he says, the risk is worth the reward: My wiki for this year currently has over 200 pages of content created by my kids that have literally been revised thousands of times. Most days, I've got dozens of kids online interacting with content even though most of the work on our wiki is ungraded! ... My tolerance for risk--and the tolerance for risk demonstrated by my administrators--has grown since starting to work with ...


Hobo Teacher is skeptical that any of the various education-related legislative initiatives being bandied about will ever really improve his lot: Let me put it this way; you can build and rebuild the fastest, most badass car again and again and its bolts are just that—bolts. And that’s what teachers are—the stuff that holds things together—no matter the design with its improvements (or mistakes) and changes....


Renee Moore sees growing evidence that rigid school-testing systems can ulimately curb teachers' potential and intellectual flexibility. This doesn't bode well, she suggests, for high-needs schools....


Just back from the National Council for Social Studies' annual conference, Polski 3 raises an interesting question: Why don't the people who organize these things get more actual teachers to make the presentations? Way too many of [the presenters] were NOT teaching students using the materials they were presenting. And why is this? Because they were college/university/publishers people. Browsing through the convention program, I'd guesstimate only about 1/4 of the workshops were actually presented by practicing classroom teachers. Personally, I prefer to hear about activities, ideas, etc. from someone who is doing these with real kids, not ...


Hobo Teacher has to get his picture taken for his school's "Rock Star Wall." Sounds like a nice honor of sorts, but he makes an interesting point: I guess this wall is an attempt to celebrate the teachers, but why can’t it be a “teacher” wall? There’s nothing wrong with being a teacher. There shouldn’t be a need to sell what we do as special by trying to compare us to such extraordinary lifestyles. And then there's the fact that they're using the leftover Thanksgiving decor for the backdrop ......


You've heard about U.S. News & World Report's new ranking of the 100 best high schools in the country? Well, Teacher blogger Emmet Rosenfeld's school was number one. He offers some thoughts on the rankings and what makes his school so good....


California Teacher Guy discusses the problems he is having in teaching writing to his students. The materials he received at a PD institute, he says, haven't helped: I don’t write the way they want students to write. I just write, just let the words flow, and then I arrange and rearrange and cut and paste and hack and chop until the resulting product is pleasing to read. I can’t tell you how I do it, I just do it—and it works. But all that crap about brainstorming and prewriting and outlining and whatever else they tell you ...


TMOA of the 408 divulges he's entered a period of career crisis--of professional longing and frustration--that he calls "the ledge." It happens, he says, to many ambitious teachers in the three-to-five year range: I live up on that ledge, man, live there in the tightrope narrow space where you need to struggle against the constraints of the system in which you work. It’s in that space where you know you do it for the kids, where everything is for the kids, where you get paid in appreciations and handslaps and end-of-the-year surveys from the kids, and you love doing ...


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