Tag Archives: education

It’s not getting any better out there in education land

I have spent this Saturday morning reading teacher blogs, hoping to find some ray of hope, a glimmer of a brighter future, a sense of improvement. Instead, I found lots of hopelessness, dark days, and abandonment.

An Urban Teacher’s Education writes of deteriorating health and a sense of loss. He’s giving up his New York dream and returning to the West Coast. I wish him well.

On the West Coast, I read about a school librarian in Los Angeles who is being RIF’d (reduction in force) and not allowed to return to the classroom with her teaching credential because she has been out of the classroom for too long. She gives grueling, detailed evidence of what is wrong with these RIF hearings. I went through something similar in 2003, but then the district acquiesced and let us have our jobs. I knew then the end was coming. This year, the district RIF’d all of the consumer home ec teachers. They are not even allowed to apply for other jobs in the district.

Another New York teacher, this time an 8-year veteran, was told she is not good enough for tenure, yet her record seems to show just the opposite. So much political hammering.

One bit of news, different from all the rest, is coming out of the heartland, Ohio. The community college in Dayton is NOT raising tuition, but is giving out tenure and merit pay, costing the college $1.5 million. Guess that is the place to be a teacher right now.

Another teacher sounds fed up

Although she teaches elementary school, and she is in another state, Lisa Parisi sounds like me. Her last post is very insightful and I encourage you to go over and read about what she is going through and to realize this is happening all over the country. Veteran teachers, who really do know how to teach well, are being ignored for all the “programs” that are being sold to districts.

Although no money for teachers and classrooms, there is plenty of money for “training,” and so the districts are buying these canned programs with high hopes of increasing test scores. Good teaching is losing out because the teachers are told they MUST adhere to the program, lock-step, or else.

Next year there will be another new program, with all the bells and whistles, that will increase test scores. That much you can count on.

Welcome Steu Mann, M.Ed.

Today I am welcoming a guest blogger to my spot.  I am huge believer of project based learning (PBL) and Steu’s comments resonated with me.  Hope you enjoy his work:

K12 Lesson Strategies – Three Easy Tweaks

Today the K12 education world has tons of experts analyzing and measuring infinite nuisances. There are plenty of learning theories old and new. Students face a raft of assessments to supposedly measure what they have learned or are capable of learning. Yet, every school day the fact remains, there is a teacher in a classroom – doing the trench work – to carve out learning in the lives of students. I’ve been there and I’ve done that successfully. Being a K12 teacher is an unforgettable experience and an awesome responsibility. Here are three easy and simple tweaks that can be done in any classroom, around the world and in any language, to expose learning opportunities and shape lifelong learning skills in the future leaders of our world.

1. Build Lessons Like Life 
Students today have multi-tasking ingrained in their cells, it’s a 21st century survival skill. They are used to playing a video game, texting, and chatting at the same time. Imagine, taking a race horse and placing her/him on a farm in the prime of their life. That horse just may display some issues and do some serious rebelling. A lesson isn’t the method to bring a student into our domain – just the opposite. As educators we must structure the lesson to capture student attention. Life brings multi faceted situations to each of us more than once a day and class lessons need to be designed the same way. A simple matrixed lesson is driven with a clear learning objective. It provides multiple activities during a class period with opportunities for students to work with other students. Teachers can include formal or informal assessments as needed. Most important, before class ends, there’s time for each student to reflect on what they have learned or observed. Matrixed lessons keep student’s busy learning not disrupting.

2. Lesson Delivery: Relevant Content
We live in a world of 30 second sound zips that are deemed informational. Taking that into consideration is absolutely necessary when planning lesson activities and resources. It takes time to reorient student attention spans to encompass a broader perspective of thinking. Like all other teachers, I wanted to reduce the learning curve on students assimilating concepts. The easiest track I found is using real-world examples every day in my lesson. Instead of talking about the components of cells, I would discuss AIDS and cover the cell components. Instead of teaching rectangles I would talk about how much paint is required to paint the school classrooms. Instead of talking about Newton’s Laws we would cover car accidents, soccer, and do car (battery operated) races. As adults we know that life arrives quickly, K12 students can perform better when our lesson structure encompasses enriching their thinking skills.

3. Pedagogy – Constructionist – Project Based Learning (PBL)
Everyone generates knowledge and meaning from experiences. Learning to drive is a classic example. You can talk about it all you want, but driving a car is much different that watching a video, listening to a lecture about it, or reading a book. Jean Piaget is a favorite of mine because he integrates behavior and cognitive aspects into his ideas about learning. Using PBL in classes forces students to use their minds and to “do” the work. I’ve seen it over and over; students produce better individual comprehension solving problems when working with other students. Why? They learn from each other by asking questions and listening – essential behaviors for learning. When students work in groups it requires them to build broader skills than it takes to listen or watch the teacher present information. Plus, it allows students to manage each other – which they do effectively when given the opportunity while teachers practice appropriate classroom management skills. There are varying degrees of PBL complexity. An easy way to get started is with a simple project and then working up the scale. A 10 minute activity working in pairs to produce a venn diagram is an example of a simple project. Producing a play that demonstrates understanding of a famous poet is a complex example. Learning successes will show up by doing a little PBL each day. It’s important to give students time to 1) understand the level of task difficulty they’re assigned and 2) get familiar with project procedures. The best part of PBL is that it prepares students as lifelong learners because they’re expanding their social and academic abilities. I think any teacher can use effective PBL in a class lesson, even when that lesson involves an on line resource.

Steu Mann, M. Ed.
Founder, Ed Tools Directory 

Exit stage right

The whole state of California was in test mode yesterday and today with the major stakes Exit Exam, also known as CaHSEE (California High School Exit Exam).  The majority of the test takers were the sophomores, class of 2011; however, any junior or senior who has not passed must take it again.  And again, and again, and again…because this test must be passed to receive a high school diploma from a public high school in California.

I may have been the only teacher on our campus who was happy these past two days.  I did not test this year (usually I have sophomores and so proctor the test for my students), but rather spent the 4 1/2 hour period each day with my marketing 3 seniors.  We freeze the school in period 3 and those not taking the test spend the time in that classroom.  I used the days for a guest speaker and business plan presentation preparation.  

Most teachers see it as a waste of time and many kids get bored and want to go to other classrooms.  I have a few kids who spend some time in my room who aren’t my period 3 student, but they have to have a project on which to work.  They cannot hang out, or so I thought until today when I let a girl come in during the second two hours and she ended up being a goof-off.  I finally sent her back to wherever she came from.  The time is too valuable to waste, or so I believe.  I’m not in the majority on the campus.

It’s not Easter break yet?

Just did a quick look at last year’s posts for this time.  It was Easter break!  This year we still have four more weeks before Easter break.  Aaack.  

My calendar is filled every day with things to do for those next four weeks.   This week alone I have a dinner party at my house, entrepreneurship class at Fresno State, a parent conference, and a field trip.  On Friday I will have to prepare for a sub for the following Monday.  Then I will start all over.  I have a hunch that all of you dear Readers in education are facing the same maddening schedule.

Three Cups of Tea

Our school is adopting a school-wide project this next year for Pennies for Peace, and as a part of that venture, we are all reading “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin.  I have been on a search for every used copy I can find, and just finished reading one of the many that I have accumulated for our students to read.  It is a remarkable story of a man’s desire to help educate Pakistan and Afghan children, believing that education is the way to world peace.

This is a story that will be evidence to our students that one man’s life can make a difference, and they too can make a difference.  After reading the book, I certainly appreciate all of the benefits and luxuries of living in the United States.   I hope my students will be more cognizant of what they have after reading the book.  Although sitting in the most concentrated pocket of poverty in the United States, we are still so much better off than the children in the hills of those far off countries where education is not a right, but a far-fetched luxury.

Another teacher with whom I work has set up a blog for the students to use during the school year to mark their progress with the project.  It is going to be interesting to see what all happens in our school because of this book.


I just received a news update that had this leading article: California adds 25,800 jobs in February

(AP) — California employers added 25,800 payroll jobs in February compared to a month earlier as information, hospitality and education jobs increased, while construction jobs shrank, state officials said Friday. How funny, and how ironic, that just when things look up, and more educations jobs are added to the State’s payroll, all these teachers are getting their layoff notices.   

Doing something else

For four days last week I headed to a different school in the city than my usual inner city institution.  I was part of a group learning how to teach entrepreneurship and we met at the state university, where long ago, in another time, I did my undergrad work.  The building in which this workshop was held didn’t exist until about a year ago, and it houses a state of the art (I guess from my limited knowledge of such things) recreation center.  All I saw every day upon entering was all these “machines.”   A number of the young people in our group oohed and aahed each day and wished they could go and exercise, but the setup is only for registered students which makes sense because there are over 22,000 students at this learning institution.  When I was there, maybe 13,000, and we were not interested in exercise.  Just walking across campus was enough for most of us.  Now, students want to park as close to class as possible, or take a shuttle, but they are willing to spend hours in a gym (ok, recreation center) where it is noisy and sweaty.  I think this may be the new place to meet the opposite sex, but I digress.

Where I’m really going with this is that I was out of the classroom for four days last week.   I was with adults, no kids.  I was not in charge, fewer responsibilities.  I started later each day than our usual 7:50 a.m. bell so was able to spend more time at home each morning.  The one drawback, we didn’t leave campus until 5 p.m. each day so I had to deal with commuter traffic, something I never worry about unless I’m stuck in a meeting at a district office until 5, and that is a rare case.  I am almost always home by 5 p.m.

At the end of the four days, I realized how relaxed and recharged I felt.  Although we did a lot of learning and we also worked on projects, it was different to work solely with adults again.  Also, these were very intelligent, focused adults who all had pleasant personalities and enjoyed being there.   I didn’t miss the tyranny of the moment, the rush to get everything done before the bell rings.  I didn’t miss dealing with 20 different sets of problems every hour as I juggle the lives of my students and their various needs.  I went home in the evening and told my husband pleasant stories of the day, not horror stories.  He was pleased too.

It is only after an experience like the one last week that I realize the toll I pay to do the work I do.  It is hard work, necessary work for society, but I wonder how much longer I can keep doing it.  I try to encourage younger teachers so they will stay in an inner city school and do the hard work.  Two of last week’s attendees were from an inner city school in Los Angeles, and in talking to them, they both said they didn’t see themselves doing this for more than four years.  It’s too hard.  The young man, who I could tell is a fantastic role model for students as well as a good teacher, said he was being priced out of the LA lifestyle that he sees his friends enjoying and in which he wants to take part.  He was born and raised in LA and does not want to leave to work in a less costly part of the state.  The young lady is a math genius and after she finishes her master’s degree will probably leave to work elsewhere or continue to get a doctorate and eventually work in a university setting.  Teaching ninth graders about algebra is draining her soul.

What would I do if I didn’t drive to the inner city school each day?  With whom would I like to work and what would the work look like?  Where do I want to live?  Can I make the money to afford the lifestyle I would like?  For although it is hard work that I do, I get paid pretty well to do it, especially since I have been doing it for 19 years and I have the top amount of education for the payscale.   All questions I am contemplating.