The traditional epicenter of the classroom may be losing some of its sway. Many teachers today are reportedly getting rid of their desks, saying the bulky objects distance them from their students and obstruct classroom interaction. There’s no research as yet on how many teachers are going without desks, but the movement appears to be strongest in charter schools. A number of charters have banned teacher desks outright in an effort to promote greater engagement with students. The idea of a teacher just sitting behind a desk “kind of makes me nauseous, actually,” says a founding teacher and administrator ...


Teacher Joseph Lekuton has high standards for his middle school social studies students. His "infamous test on the whole world," as one student puts it, requires that the teenagers locate and identify nearly every country and capital on the globe. That knowledge should come in handy for them now that Lekuton will be living on the other side of the world: He recently won a seat in the parliament of his native Kenya. After a decade at the McLean, Virginia, Langley School, Lekuton declared his candidacy last April in a special election to replace several members of the Kenyan parliament ...


It may not be immediately obvious, but some chronically and terminally ill children need school. It’s a routine that returns them to normality (a time when they weren’t confined to a hospital bed), and implicit in the education process is the idea that, yes, one day I will get better and use what I’m learning. That’s what the New York City Department of Education is banking on by employing 87 licensed teachers who serve 550 students in 42 city hospitals. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, for example, has been the site of state exams, graduation ceremonies, and ...


In an effort to improve student decorum and reduce distractions, school districts in the Northeast and elsewhere are increasingly turning to uniform or dress code policies. While the established research has concluded that such polices make little discernable difference in student performance or behavior, a new, small-scale study of schools in Ohio has found that schools requiring uniforms have higher graduation rates and fewer disciplinary problems. The author of that study, Virginia B. Draa of Youngstown State University, says uniforms help blur class lines between students and reduce peer-pressure issues. They may even heighten teachers’ expectations of students, she speculates. ...


Just in time for the new school year, the great homework debate is boiling over again. Harris Cooper, a noted education researcher at Duke University, has co-authored a new study finding that elementary school students gain little from most homework assignments, and that excessive amounts of homework might even be bad for middle and high school students. In his new book, The Homework Myth, education gadfly Alfie Kohn is even more strident. He calls for the complete elimination of homework, which he blames for stress, family conflict, and slackened student motivation. Other education experts believe that the problem isn’t ...


While schools across the country take time this week to commemorate the 5th anniversary of September, 11, 2001, Madeleine V. Leckie Elementary in Washington, D.C., has special reason to remember that day: It lost a teacher, a student, and two parents when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon. Hilda Taylor, a teacher from Sierre Leonne devoted to boosting geographical knowledge, was on board the flight with her 6th grade student Bernard Brown II, as part of a multi-school field trip to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California. Leckie parents Johnnie Doctor and Marsha ...


As the technology becomes more widespread, teachers are increasingly turning to blogs as a natural classroom tool. According to Will Richardson, author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, tens of thousands of teachers across the country are now actively blogging. While many teachers maintain blogs to offer personal reflections—or just plain vent—on the teaching life, others are using them as a way to build greater classroom community and keep busy parents informed about what their children are doing in school. “The more [parents] know, the more they understand where you’re coming from...


Here’s a back-to-school idea to think about: A new study published in the journal Science found that black students who wrote a short essay on their values at the start of the school year got a lasting boost in academic performance. The study, conducted over the course two years at a suburban middle school, asked randomly selected students to write a brief explanation of the values that are most important to them. A control group was instructed to write about values that they rated the least important. Each year, the black students who wrote about positive values scored about ...


Getting hauled out of the classroom on day two wasn't exactly how Eric Hamlin had expected to kick off a new year at a new school. But Hamlin, a geography teacher at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood, Colorado, was suspended for allegedly flouting state law. His offense: displaying flags from other countries. Yes, that's right. Colorado law says that foreign flags may hang in classrooms only when they are relevant to the curriculum. After a little detective work, Principal John Schalk determined that Hamlin had no lessons planned for the immediate future that would relate directly to the flags in ...


You know those nine pizzas? The ones your very excellent mother just served? The pizza days are over, pal. With the world's prominent astronomers voting yesterday that Pluto will no longer be classified as a planet, the mnemonic device several generations of schoolchildren have used to remember the order of planets in our solar system is now missing a vital piece. Teachers planning astronomy lessons using an old solar system model may find themselves plucking out the smallest Styrofoam ball and rewriting the memory aid to feature noodles, nuts, or nothing. On the plus side, though, many educators recognize that ...


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