It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes one to educate a child. The spotlight is on the classroom and the teachers are in the hot seat. Who is watching? The mayor, the city council, the school board, the media, universities, and the non profit community are, that’s who. What do they want? To be INSIDE your classroom (metaphorically). Too many cooks in the kitchen means nothing gets done. What’s the solution? What’s the best way for elected officials to get involved? What about non-profits and universities? Share the responsibility. Education is a 24 hour job and there’s enough hours to go around. Read more after the jump.
Yes, that is a new book with the front cover ripped off and the back cover barely hanging on. The pages are crinkled and I saw the student doing this while sitting at her desk. I asked her "what do you think you're doing? What did that book ever do to you?" She laughed and said, "It hit me." I took a second one on one to ask her why she destroyed, not my, but OUR property, that the book was hers while she had it and she just destroyed HER book. Her response was that she "don't know that shit." What does this mean for our students? More after the jump. Read More.
Why are some schools more successful than others? Is it the teachers? Maybe its the technology. Could it be that good facilities produce good students? All of these are pieces to the puzzle; however, some schools in Dallas are used as dumping grounds for the "undesirable" students from other campuses. This dooms certain campuses to failure and tells the students already there that they pretty much go to school in an educational dumpster. That causes problems for everyone at those campuses: students, teachers, and administrators.
With so much controversy surrounding DISD central staff in the past week, it's important we realize that DISD isn't some student focused, cohesive group fighting against educational inequity. Should it be? Yep! Unfortunately, politics are still politics at EVERY level. Between the administration (Superintendent to Assistant Principals), teachers, and students (including parents), there is an unhealthy amount of animosity and mistrust. Why? Nastiness behind the scenes is one example, but it doesn't tell the story of mistrust in the classroom. More after the jump, read more!
It is a reality that teachers face punishment for "making their school look bad" by "failing too many kids," whatever that means. Dallas ISD has a "goal" of only 15% failing, while some schools have administrators striving for only 10%. Admirable? Yes, but not if you're cooking the books by strong arming teachers. The last blog was spot on about how it affects student culture, but what about teacher culture? More after the jump. Click "read more" to find out.
How do we determine Talented and Gifted? A better question is, "how SHOULD we determine Talented and Gifted?" The reality is many kids are sorted in to TAG programs from an age where the only requirement is to be able to spell T-A-L-E-N-T-E-D and G-I-F-T-E-D earlier than their peers. We've started closing doors on kids that keep out kids that bloom later and lock in kids who have long wilted. More after the jump.
There is an expectation among students that if they show up they will get a grade. Where has this expectation come from? Have their prior teachers passed them for doing that just? You got it A, you tried B, you showed up C? Even if this was the policy of previous teachers, is it their fault? Teachers today are required to fail less than 10% of their students. The school will not tell you how to grade your students, but not meeting the requirement results in extensive paperwork, growth plans, increased evaluations and additional pressure. For example direct quotes I have been told by my administration are:
- “You need to decide if the paperwork is worth it, as a young teacher you have more to worry about.”
- “Have you done absolutely EVERYTHING to ensure that the student would not fail”
- “If most students are failing because the will not do homework, why do you assign homework?”
- “Have a makeup packet for students that are failing the final week so they can pass”
Is this preparing students to be college ready? Aren’t we teaching kids you can wait to the last minute, you don’t have to work hard, if you don’t do it, no worries the teacher will not count it? Those are not habits that set our students up for success. Do successful students ask why the teacher failed them or do they reflect on their own shortcomings. In the end, who is the passing requirement really hurting? Students that have not mastered the material are passed year to year, falling continuously further behind. We now face eleventh grade students that cannot read a picture book asking for a grade because they are present.
Is asking teachers to make different lessons, different versions of lessons, and different methods of teaching those lessons all for one class period too much? Probably. Will the world differentiate anything for our students? No. Is it necessary to ensure that all our kids are successful in school? Yes; however, that's a bigger question that goes beyond the classroom to standardized testing and learning as a whole. This blogger says differentiated instruction (DI) is critical, but if you believe in DI, you CAN'T believe in standardized testing as well. More after the jump.
President Obama had a great call to action in his State of the Union address by advocating for free community college for EVERYONE! The idea of a low to no cost college education is HUGE. I'm not even talking about our national or international competitiveness. The opportunities this presents for our students is AMAZING and maybe college can really become something ALL of our kids start believing is attainable. Something I think is missing. If this is going to work we have to be honest about how our current no cost educational institutions work. We need to look at the shining lights on the hill and the hovels in the valleys of education to really make this bold vision work. If we don't take care, our community colleges will end up just like our public high schools. Click "read more" in the bottom right corner to see what I mean.
We are graduating more high school students than we were last year and the year before that. Everyone Celebrate! Pop Bottles! After we are all done patting ourselves on the back for pushing out another class of seniors that may or may not be prepared to do anything, let's reflect on how they got that Diploma.
Have you ever passed a kid because you didn't feel like doing the paperwork? Has a coach or administrator ever come to you and asked you to bump up a kid so they could play? Have you ever given a student that tries really hard that passing grade even though they did their best but got a 50? If you answered YES to these questions or any of the others running through your head, then ask yourself this, "Are more kids graduating or are we just giving more diplomas?"
The value of a high school diploma 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, meant much more than it does today. Kids graduating from today's inner city schools aren't ready for college, they aren't ready for the workforce, and, quite frankly, some aren't even ready to write their own names. We have kids walking across the stage, smiling and waving, that can't even SPELL graduation. Does everyone deserve to be happy and to feel proud of themselves? Absolutely, but that cap and that gown are a privileged. You have to earn that...or you did.
We've "upped the rigor" in our classes while lowering the grading standards and our integrity as teachers. The result is a diploma that isn't even worth the paper it's printed on. We need more teachers willing to hold kids to a high standard and administrations willing to support those teachers vs. districts that set arbitrary maximum failure rates. Let's make our students BE proud instead of just FEELING proud. Greatness is still possible in the inner city, but not if we don't force greatness upon it.
Letting things continue the way they are could very well make college the new high school, graduate school the new college, and so on.
In a profession that gets so bogged down by observations, data, paperwork, compliance and meetings, we often forget why we signed up to be a teacher. Every once in awhile we get a thank you note from a student, an improved score, or a great day that reminds us. We do this because of the kids and for the kids. Incase it's a struggle to remember why your here today, check out a video from a DISD HS teacher who clearly remembered to stop and have fun.
In our public schools, fights are uncommon. They don't happen every day, they don't happen every week, and they don't happen between every student; however, fighting is not unusual.
There is a culture at some schools that fighting is cool and I'd argue that it comes from the inability to use their words. Expression is limited in many inner city schools to acts of violence and boisterous profanity when it comes to conflict resolution and disagreements.
Fights, when they happen, happen between all races, genders, and sexualities, so blame can't be assigned to any one group of people...except the teachers. Often these uncommon, but not unusual, events are triggered (in the eyes of administrators) by a lack of engagement in the classroom.
A fight broke out in my classroom once. A student walked into my classroom and started punching one of my boys. I left the classroom to break up the fight considering I knew both students, the fight was getting out of hand. I had no phone, radio, or hall monitor in sight to call for help. Instead of helping me, my students pulled out their phones to record and my fellow teachers in the hall closed their doors, leaving me to fend for myself.
The following day my administrator told me that if my kids were not allowed to leave the room for bathroom and water or if the student was more engaged in the lesson, the other student would not have been able to enter my classroom, without permission, and assault my student.
I've also seen a fight between two girls that was so bloody it made me nauseous. The administration is handling it now, thankfully, but the students, when asked where the adult was to break it up, told me that they broke the fight up themselves because there was no adult and they were worried for the safety of the other girl. Only after the size limit on the video recording was satisfied though, of course...
Rather than focusing on blame, we need to focus on three things: Monitors, consequences, and most importantly, social and emotion health. Without enough monitors for our hallways, consequences for misbehavior, and social/emotional health support for our students, NOBODY can feel safe at school. I know the district has a tight budget, but you can't put a price tag on safety.
The Dallas Morning News - A woman returned to her Dallas home Monday morning and found the baby girl she was caring for had been drowned and her 14-year-old daughter was in police custody.
The drowning was reported about 6 a.m. at the Rosemont at Hickory Trace apartments on South Westmoreland Road in Red Bird.
The 2-month-old, Justice Hull, was dead when police and paramedics arrived, police Maj. Rob Sherwin said. She would have been 3 months old Wednesday...“There’s very little doubt that this investigation has revealed that this is an intentional act,” Sherwin said.
Terrible tragedies like these are incredibly difficult to stomach. Why did it happen? How could this have been avoided? We may never know the answers.
Ensuring these tragedies don't happen again must be our priority going forward. Increasingly younger kids are being left in control of young siblings and relatives without any experience or training. How can we prepare our young care givers and parents?
One option is to include proper childcare as a more prominent part of health class for all of our students and a supplementary class for young and expecting student parents. Students should be equipped with emergency supplies and plans as well as frustration management techniques to help our students become capable and trustworthy caregivers.
I'm going to leave the guilt or innocence of this teen up to the jury, but blame lies also with the circumstances surrounding this tragedy which created the conditions that made it possible in the first place.
Safety in schools is something that none of us can take lightly. Violence between students is jaring and visible. It's treated as a reflection of the violence in their communities that has produced an attitude, rooted in deeply ingrained survival instincts, of defensiveness and suspicion toward challenges to their security.
There is, however, a much less publicised violence and that's violence toward teachers. Recently, a teacher attempting to remove a cell phone from a student was thrown to the ground while the other students laughed and filmed the encounter. Obviously we all only have one perspective and lack most of the facts, but when do we stop making excuses for students and start protecting teachers?
Teachers are the ones on the front lines in the classroom. Teachers are the ones breaking up the fights. Why would a teacher or coach want to break up a classroom or cafeteria fight when the risks are so high? Why would a teacher want to take a phone or enforce a seat change when they could get hurt?
The reality is that teachers are the ones most poorly protected by our administrators and, at a higher level, our laws. If a student hits a teacher, they get a vacation at home and maybe a transfer. In many cases they get put back into the very same classroom with the teacher they assaulted.
Should the student get counseling? Should teachers get training in proper restraint and conflict management techniques? Absolutely, but not if the automatic responses to self defense continue to be administrative leave and termination of employment.
Teaching and learning can't happen if no one feels safe. Discipline can't exist if rules aren't enforced. Rules can't be enforced if administrators don't support AND protect their teachers.
For the full video, please click here:
There is a hose for your fire. In the last few years more conversations, more talent and more actions have begun to take place in Dallas to improve the state of the education system. People are noticing that there is a different tone regarding the direction education will go in Dallas. As with any large system, this change is not immediate, but will start small and spread before the fire can.
There are many signs that show education is moving in the right direction. As a teacher in Dallas, I see three key areas that show education will improve.
1. Effective Teachers: More effort and more focus is placed on hiring and retaining strong teachers. TEI is one step towards attracting strong talent to the district and keeping teachers in the classroom that are effective. We want the best teachers in our district, leading our classrooms. If a teacher can’t teach, a student can’t learn.
2. Open Communication: In a large district, there is still accessibility and communication between the community and the district leaders. The superintendent is vocal about his beliefs, his ideas and his rational for his actions. From the Superintendent notes to open meetings, he has made himself accessible not just as a listening ear, but one who turns complaints and comments into actions.
3. New Ides: District leaders have indicated they are looking for new ways to teach and improve schools. The district is eager to do what is right for our students and work with individuals that have innovative ideas on what that means. From implementing alternative schools, to increasing technology in classrooms, Dallas is working towards becoming a leader in instructional practices.
In seconds I think of the students that teachers hate but are great in my class. The student that causes disruptions, will not do their work, will not listen and gets written up every day, but in your works hard and tries. I can think of three kids at the top of my head that fit into this category. Kids that are smart, capable and do well on my exams but need more encouragement because they have been told no, told they cause problems, and told they can't.
If we start dividing kids into groups, these are probably the kids that would be put into the "extra needs" group. We do not need to be dividing kids further and creating more separation in the school system. We are already trying to overcome huge gaps that created lasting differences between student achievement. We have least restrictive environment for a reason. These students can and want to succeed, removing them to the "special" unit is not going to achieve this. Put all the disruptive kids in one class and what expectation are you setting for that period? What message are you telling the students, they can't learn?
Is the goal to help those students or remove them so others can learn. Sure, other classes will run more smoothly, but these will fall far behind. Yeah, it worked in the Wire, but schools are not Emmy nominated TV shows. Who will teach these students? If teachers can't handle three at a time, how will the teacher handle 26 at a time? It is not about separating out the bad, it's about supporting teachers, additional resources and the bigger issues in schools to successfully instruct all students in a classroom.
These kids do not need to be removed, they need positive motivation, encouragement and a school that believes in them.
In seconds, we can all think of those one or two students who make us negative about the whole school. The ones who make excited when they are absent. The ones who make your class better by not showing up. Do they deserve to learn too? Do they need our help? Absolutely, but are we helping them by writing them up daily and letting them disrupt our other students? Absolutely not.
If we separate out students with learning disabilites, if we have special class periods for students learning english, if we have entire class periods for our athletes, then why don't we have separate classes for the students that routinely disrupt the learning of our other students?
Would it be so wrong to isolate our chronic misbehaving students in a wing away from the other students and rotate the teachers in? What if they had one less elective and instead had a class that helped develop their social skills and academic behaviors? Why are our AVID students the only ones receiving that extra skills work?
If we're supposed to different instruction, then we should take it all the way and make the entire day different for students that need the extra support. ISS isn't the answer. Alternate programs within schools may be.
Our education system is in trouble here in Dallas. Rome is burning and our kids are the kindling. Our leaders have been accused of fiddling with small issues instead of focusing on larger, more important problems. I'm using vague language here because I want YOU to fill in the blanks.
Where should we be focusing? What do you think the priorities of our leaders really are?
If I had to say where the focus should be, it'd be the following:
1. Discipline - some of our schools are out of control. Students can do nearly anything, as often as they please, with no repercussions from the school. Administrators are too worried about blowback from the district. Teachers are hamstrung by excessive paperwork. The problem is, the kids know it.
2. Improved support for teachers - There are so many expectations of teachers and they're going up every day. What's missing are meaningful and easily accessible development opportunities that are being replaced by more paperwork and one size fits all weekly Professional Development.
3. More teacher autonomy - Teachers need to be allowed to teach. if something is successful, then it should be encouraged. Teachers are being constrained by teaching norms in a district where the students we teach are anything but. Teachers are forced to pass kids they know don't deserve it because they don't have the freedom to grade their own way or test their own way. Let teachers teach. Let teachers grade.
Hello students, teachers, parents, and people who just plain care about education, Welcome to Turn and Talks!
Anyone who has been in a classroom in the past few years knows what an MRS is. As teachers, we're encouraged to get our students talking, and that's what we're trying to get EVERYONE doing, both during and after the school day.
Here's what you'll be getting here: An unfiltered and honest discussion on education from two twenty somethings with a few years in the classroom under their belts. We're not experts, we're not classroom veterans, but what we are is two people that care and believe in a better tomorrow. Check out our daily blogs, weekly podcasts, and, most importantly, our comment sections where you can turn and talk to other people with the same interests as you. All material is personal opinion and not at all meant to be represent as 100% fact. Since we're sharing out opinions with you, share yours with us!
This is the blog where we share our thoughts with you! Please comment below. Feel free to say we're wrong, yell at us, tell us we're SO RIGHT, and anything else you want to say. After that, turn and talk with someone else and keep the discussion going.