Entries Tagged 'Teacher Reads' ↓

Self-righteousness is not a strategy

More than ten years ago I wrote a newspaper column criticizing writers who attribute motives to others. I am going to violate my own critique here.

When educators say, “We should do what is best for the child,” these words contribute nothing to the decision making process, which leaves the significance of the utterance in the speaker’s motive. Evidently, the speaker wants others to re-set their consciences to what is best for the student, putting aside whatever selfish motives they probably have.

But the reason educators struggle to do what is best for the student is not that they don’t want “what is best for the student.” It is that they don’t know what is best. There is never a sign saying:

→ This path takes you → to what is best for the student →

In fact, the opposite is true. “Best for the student” raises numerous issues:

  • “Best” in the long-term or short-term?
  • What if “best” for one student sets an unacceptable precedent?
  • What if “best” for one student disadvantages others?

The questions go on and on.

Saying you want what is best for the student might make you feel good, but it contributes nothing to the decision making process. Self-righteousness is not a strategy. I love irony.

Educators: The choice is ours

This morning’s newspaper (1/28/2014) had a “tech quote” from Knightscope CEO William Li, whose company sells robotic security guards:

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and we’ll soon have a few billion more, and law enforcement is not going to scale at the same rate; we literally can’t afford it.

Li wants people to (1) imagine how to live more safely on a crowded planet, and (2) invest in his company.

Modeling and teaching what it means to be educated is another way to live more safely on a crowded planet. For those of us who are educators, the choice is ours. We can continue to ignore the six virtues, or we can make them the foundation for graduating a more educated citizenry.

If we ignore them, Li will be wealthy and his robotic security guards will be happy (if properly programmed). The rest of us will live in fear. I love irony.

 

Measuring knowledge and skills — Really?

My students say we define “educated” in terms of knowledge and skill because these can be measured by tests. Really? How do tests measure knowledge or skill?

They don’t. Student answers indicate whether a specific learning is present or not. Test answers are like on-off switches, not yard sticks. Just like virtue, knowledge and skills are “measured” with teacher judgment. They are just more difficult to gauge than virtue. I love irony.

Honest and dishonest opinions

Opinion columnists try to persuade readers to their point of view. The honest way is to be true to facts and ideas on the other side while explaining a different opinion. The dishonest way is to distort facts and ideas on the other side to make your opinion look like the better one.

Here is an example of the second from John Hood, regarding the latest chapter in North Carolina’s Leandro lawsuit:

Continue reading →

Losing the war? It’s our own fault. Part 1

In the Foreward to Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education (EC: RTAOPE) Deborah Meier wrote:

And we need resistance to the continuing assault on public education that reduces schools to market-driven factories that select and sort our students, distorting visions of communities of learning and growth and activism. We can’t internalize the norm that’s out there and can’t accept that this is “the way things have to be.” We mustn’t adjust to injustice, losing our visions, our hope and our active resistance. (pp. x-xi)

I’m on the side of resistance because I agree with Meier.

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Defining “effective” teachers

For three reasons I was drawn to the article, “For better North Carolina schools, link teacher pay to effectiveness.

  1. I want better NC schools.
  2. Paying higher salaries to “effective” teachers is a good idea (if it can be done).
  3. It can be done only if we define “effective” teaching.

We all want #s 1 & 2. The hard part is #3. It is not enough to describe “effective” teaching. Paying higher salaries for all those descriptions would increase spending, not keep it the same or lower it. Continue reading →

Are they smart or not smart?

A school board member wrote an email to his friend about taking the Florida tenth grade standardized test:

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

The friend is Marion Brady, who wrote the blog (updated by Valerie Strauss). Continue reading →

Poll: “Parents back standardized tests”

When pollsters question people who know very little about the topic of the poll, we say they are polling an “uninformed population.” This poll is an example.  Although parents don’t know the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, and they don’t know why we give the first and not the second, they “back standardized tests.”

From hearing policy makers talk about test scores, I already know uninformed people back standardized tests. I love irony.

 

Letter to teacher (also my student)

Dear Mary,

You mentioned a highly successful program in your school (brain-based ways to teach letter patterns and phonics). I believe you say it was successful because student reading scores went up. Is that right? Continue reading →

A perfect analogy

Bringing the six virtues to learning situations improves education just like burning more calories than are consumed reduces weight. The analogy holds in two ways:

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