Friday, August 31, 2012

Online teacher certification

Increasingly we see or hear of teachers with "online certification". I can see how some of the subject knowledge and even some of the professional knowledge topics can be covered online, but I struggle with full certification online.

Socratic classrooms

I came across a discussion today on "Socratic Classrooms". This particular commentator was describing how she sets up her lessons in such a way that students run the discussions and she used the approach, "Listen, Discuss, Collaborate". Apparently she has been doing it for years.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Job Applications

Another friend of a friend is looking for a new job. She feels she is ready to take a step up, take more responsibility, move ahead. And earn more money. She is young-ish, well-educated, very competent, successful, has initiative, is reliable and committed, and she is willing to move.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who's the boss?

A friend of a friend just lost his job. I know that this happens, but this was unusual. He was the principal of the best school in the region, a school which consistently wins awards, competitions and prizes, a school whose enrollment continued to grow despite the recession, and a school with close to 100% staff retention and over 90% student retention in what is a highly-mobile area. The most interesting thing is that this is a fee-paying private school, one whose parents could choose to go to any other school public or private. They chose this school because of what was happening there, and what was happening there was because of this principal.

Why did this principal lose his job?

Teachers Talking

Teachers like to talk, and that is a problem because if students are not actively participating, they find something else to do and that something may not be constructive and it may not be desirable.

I remember in my student teaching days an exercise where we would plot "TTT" (Teacher Talking Time) and "STT (Student Talking Time) on a chart. It was very simple; every 15 seconds or so we would check one of two columns and then at the end of the lesson produce tables and graphs. Inevitably, teachers spoke the majority or almost all of the class, and equally inevitably they were shocked at how much they spoke.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Efficiency in public education

So legislators want to examine "efficiency" in public schools. (What happened to waste, fraud and abuse?) As always, the problem starts with defining the term. I thought efficiency means faster, better, greater output with the same inputs and so on. Apparently to these lawmakers, efficiency means "cheaper".

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How long is a teacher's day?

Yet more complaints in the press that teachers work only half a day and half a year. Yet more complaints from some teachers about how much / how hard they work.

The problem is how to define "work". Many (most?) jobs define work by time in the office, time at the bench, time on the phone. Some define work by the task, or more usefully by the outcome.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flipped Teaching

Much fuss has been made of this, with some claiming to have "invented" it and writing books, giving lecture tours and making money from what is really an old idea.

What is flipped teaching?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What is teaching?

In the news again today, teachers are not doing their jobs. But what is teaching?
- feeding students who don't have lunch?
- parenting students who don't have parents?
- reminding students to go the bathroom when they forget to go by themselves?
- staying late with students whose parents are not at home or late picking them up?
- looking after students before school instead of planning because they arrive early and there are no monitors?
- counseling MSers having sex because they can't talk to their parents? or they don't have parents?
- advising students on appropriate / inappropriate behavior because they can't talk to their parents? or they don't have parents?

Teacher Loss

So the NYT reports that 50% of teachers leave within 5 years. It's either poor recruitment, poor screening, poor preparation - or something about the job makes it untenable. No other profession would tolerate such attrition. Millions spent on training, practical and technical, colleges, internships, practicums, supervision and yet 50% still vote with their feet. Perhaps instead of blaming the teachers as NCLB and its boosters do, perhaps we as a country should re-examine what schools are for and thus what we want from teachers and thus what they do. As a Math teacher, is it really my role to soothe a suicidal 6th grader because her 24 year-old boyfriend has left her? As a Geographer, is it really my role to provide family counseling to a 26 year-old single parent who has no idea how to raise the daughter she had when she was 14?

The Role of Language

Assuming that French is important in a French class, and German in a German class, and also assuming that Mathematics is important in a Math class - what does it matter if the student is taught Mathematics in French or German or Spanish? Requiring Mathematics to be assessed in English is really testing two things. Should they not be separate? Or should we assess students in PE on how well they understand the metric system while we are measuring their jumps?

Charter Schools are Public Schools

Charter schools are funded by the government and must follow policies set by the government. While some charters have apparently successfully positioned themselves as "private schools for free", they are not. Many in the media have fallen in with this and frequently contrast charter schools to public schools which is a false dichotomy. Charter schools are public schools and should more accurately be referred to as "public charter" (as opposed to "public district").

Why do they do this and why does it matter?

School Uniforms

School uniforms are important and I say uniform not "dress code" deliberately. Uniform means uniform - one form or one style. They make wearers recognizable as part of a group, and so create a sense of identity and of belonging. They build and maintain school spirit.

Uniforms increase safety and security as wearers are quickly and easily identifiable. It is easier to locate all your students on a field trip if they all wear the same uniform. Additionally, experience has shown they reduce crime such as shoplifting, loitering and graffiti because of this identifiability factor.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Is Chinese-language instruction a fad or is it here to stay? By Chinese I mean Mandarin as that is the language of government, education and business and is replacing the regional languages across the Chinese mainland.

Educated people used to learn classical Greek and Latin, the languages of the greats (or at least the great minds and great arts). Then French, and perhaps German. Remember Russian? After Sputnik, the US had thousands of Russian programs - Russian was the "language of the future". Today? Very, very few. Same with Greek and Latin, and increasingly with French and German incidentally.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Public or not?

Public means funded from the public purse (ie, by government) and controlled by public policies (ie, by government). Non-Public means the opposite. US public schools are either traditional district schools or charter schools. Non-public schools include parochial (attached to and run by a parish), proprietary (owned by person or company and for-profit), corporate (owned by a corporation such as Meritas) and independent.

Why does this matter?