Tag Archives: Student

If I Could Change How Schools Work

When I found this topic, I knew it was something I had to write about. As an educator I have a strong opinions about the way schools run and should be run. Of course, if you have read my blog you know I have opinions on many subjects. Guess I wouldn’t blog if I weren’t so opinionated. Well back to the topic. I would make three major changes: de-emphasize standardize testing, allow educators to run schools, and hold parents accountable for student performance, behavior and attendance.

I believe that there is too much emphasis on standardize testing. Teaching to minimal skills tests lowers the standards. Standardize testing can be a useful tool. I wouldn’t eliminate standardize testing but rather change the way they are used. Below third grade it is better to focus on mastering basic reading and math skills. A criterion base skills portfolio or assessment would replace current standardized testing.  Traditional standardized test like California Achievement Tests or Standford Achievement Test would be used for grades four through six. The test would be used as a part of annual student assessment but not the total package. When used properly achievement tests can provide a useful data about a students potential or as an indicator of possible problems. For students in middle school and high school I think it would be better to use end of course testing similar to AP tests.

One of the most frustrating things for me as an educator is that politicians have more say in how schools are run than professional educators. That would be like having an auto mechanic set the standards for medical care rather than doctors. Allow teachers to teach with the support of administrators, parents and politicians.

Yes, teachers need to be held accountable but parent should be held accountable as well. Students whose parents are involved and supportive of both the child and teacher do better. Unfortunately, many students do not come to school prepared to learn. They may lack the essentials such as adequate food, shelter and a stable home life. It is difficult for a child to concentrate when they are hungry or worried about where they sleep that night. For some students school is the first time they have encountered an environment with rules and structure. They are used to being able to do as they please and often have difficulty following rules.  Then there are parents who are overprotective or believe their child can do no wrong. Anyone who causes problems for their child must be the problem.

Well, that is my take on school reforms. It is not everything that needs or should be done but it is a start.

The Importance of Reading

 

At the wise old age of 6 I decided that I had no need to learn to read. I was determined not to waste my time learning to read. My mom was equally determined that I was going to learn to read.

Reading, writing and basic computational skills are considered essential components of a good education. Of these three reading is the most important. Reading is the foundation upon which other academic skills are built. Mastery of reading skills in the primary grades has often been considered a good predictor of future academic success. The content subjects like history and science rely heavily upon the ability read, synthesize, analyzes and process information.

Not only did I learn to read but I became a reader. I discovered that reading opened the doors to the amazing world of books. Through reading I have explored the world, relived important historical events and many other wonderful adventures. A little secret my mom shared was that if you can read you can learn to do anything. I have learned how to cook, scrapbooking techniques, make home repairs and even program a web page by reading. In fact, most my hobbies I have learned by reading. Educationally reading is the great equalizer. It can provide a well-rounded education regardless of the availability of formal education opportunities available.

Teachers That Made a Difference

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post. Today I want to write about some of the exceptional teachers I have encountered either as a student or educator.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. J was one of those teachers who made learning fun.  She had the ability to keep students on a wide range of levels actively engaged in learning. She used many life lessons and practical things to teach not just books. She instilled a thirst for learning and encouraged independent learning. After the school year started a new building opened and our class moved to a new room. One of the activities was to paint our classroom. Our class spent time researching the perfect paint for the classroom. We selected a color that would  keep the room bright. We even had to figure out how many gallons of paint would be needed. For her my learning disabilities were just minor hurdles. Instead of focusing on my bad handwriting she had me work on activities to improve my fine motor skills. Our class had desks with the chairs attached that spun around. At times it was impossible for an extremely ADHD child like myself to sit still. Mrs. J would allow me to move to a table at the back of the room or even sit on a special carpet square on the floor.

In upper elementary school music class was a haven from a school day that was at times unbearable. Mrs. T made music class a fun place. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t write or had a hard time sitting still. Mrs. T encouraged her students to participate. We had to participate in class talent shows periodically. In one, my “act” failed miserably. Of course, my classmates responded by laughing and making fun of me. Mrs. T quickly stopped it and proceed to praise my effort to try something different. This was not the only time she encouraged me to try something different or encouraged my creativity. After turning in a poorly written report for class she had me stay after school to fix it. I expected to be yelled at or punished. By this time in my school career I really didn’t try because I had learned  that no matter how hard I worked my teachers would rarely give me more than a passing grade.  Instead Mrs. T took the time to help me put together a good report. She  believed I was capable of more and was smart.

In high school I had three teachers that recognized my potential and would not allow me to slide through class. My high school keyboarding teacher had a reputation for being very tough. She was notorious for sending unsatisfactory progress reports home. I had a rough start in her class. Mrs. H was constantly on my case about not working.  I did well on the knowledge  part of tests but poorly on the performance part.  I tried to explain that I had a problem with coordination. Mrs. H decided to call my mom. It was after this Mrs. H became determined to help me pass her class. She was not required to stay after school helping me complete class assignments.  Mrs. W was another teacher that teamed up with my mom to help me not only pass her class but graduate.  I learned a lot from Mrs. W. She often modified written assignments allowing me to complete them orally.  Mrs. G, my senior English teacher and speech coach, tried to convince me that I could write. By the time I had reached my senior year in high school I avoided anything that involved writing at all costs. Getting words on paper was not a pleasant experience.  At the time I couldn’t understand why my usual B’s or C’s on writing assignments were not acceptable. It seemed futile to keep revising and rewriting papers because I was not capable of writing.  Oh, I just want to say Mrs. G you were correct I can write.

One of the best teachers I have ever had was in graduate school. Dr. B is able to relate her subject matter that is interesting. Sometimes I would become engrossed in the lectures that I forgot to take notes. While she demanded excellence from her students, she also truly cared.

I believe that the Big Guy is one of the best natural teachers I have ever met. The Big Guy never intended to become a teacher. While in graduate school (the first time) he took a job teaching part-time at the school where I was teaching and loved it. The Big Guy has a way of making learning fun and interesting.  He is not afraid to try new and creative things in his class. He is fun to watch because it obvious that he actually enjoys imparting knowledge to his students.

How is College Different from High School?

College and high school both have classes, students and teachers. College is a completely different world than high school. The focus in high school is educating and equipping teens with the skills needed for adulthood and life. College prepares adults for careers and or to reach personal goals.

One of the greatest differences between high school and college is freedom. Out of necessity, the high school environment is by teachers, administrators and security. In high school, students have some choice in course selection within a prescribed course of study often determined by state or accrediting agencies. In college, students have the freedom to select a major, the courses and number of courses taken and even to attend or skip class. For some college students especially freshman freedom can be overwhelming.

In college, the responsibility for one’s success is with the student. In high school teachers must monitor a student’s progress, encourage and motivate students to succeed. I had a practice of giving my students an assignment sheet every 3-6 weeks, had assignments on the board, email reminders and verbal reminders of assignments. Students caught short or failing to complete an assignment still believed that somehow it was my fault. Even some parents felt I should have somehow done more, give his/her child extra time or otherwise not allow them to face the consequences of irresponsibility. In college, students receive a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and it is the student’s responsibility to complete assignments in a timely manner.

Many students graduate from high school without ever being academically challenged. High school teachers must often teach to middle or lower level students. Often students are able to graduate from high school without learning to study. In high school I was able to make B’s by just being semi-conscious in class, I quickly learned in college that I had to actually participate and pay attention in class. Preparing for tests is another is drastically different in college. In high school teachers provide review sheets and in class reviews. College professors often provide a review sheet but it is the student’s responsibility to complete it.

The method of instruction is quite different in college. Most college classes are lecture based and require extensive amounts outside work and preparation for class. Being prepared for a high school class involves having the correct book, supplies and homework. College students are expected to read assignments in preparation for class discussions and complete homework even if it is not graded. In high school, teachers are encouraged and in some cases required to provide instruction employing a wide range of multi-sensory methods. The majority of assignments are completed in class.

Grading is extremely different in college. When I was teaching high school we were required to have at least three daily assignments per week, three to four test per grading period and one project. Daily assignments, tests and projects made up one third of the grade. Grades in college are often based up two or three tests and one to two papers. The purpose of homework assignments is quite different in college. Homework assignments in high school are used to provide reinforcement, usually graded and assigned several times a week. Homework assignments may not be graded, occur less frequently and may be used to cover supplemental material.

The transition from high school to college can be difficult for some students. However, with a proper understanding of the differences between secondary and post-secondary education it is not an impossible tasks. College can or should be time of personal growth, self-discovery and preparation for life

One of the greatest differences between high school and college is freedom. Out of necessity, the high school environment is by teachers, administrators and security. In high school, students have some choice in course selection within a prescribed course of study often determined by state or accrediting agencies. In college, students have the freedom to select a major, the courses and number of courses taken and even to attend or skip class. For some college students especially freshman freedom can be overwhelming. 

In college, the responsibility for one’s success is with the student. In high school teachers must monitor a student’s progress, encourage and motivate students to succeed. I had a practice of giving my students an assignment sheet every 3-6 weeks, had assignments on the board, email reminders and verbal reminders of assignments. Students caught short or failing to complete an assignment still believed that somehow it was my fault. Even some parents felt I should have somehow done more, give his/her child extra time or otherwise not allow them to face the consequences of irresponsibility. In college, students receive a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and it is the student’s responsibility to complete assignments in a timely manner.

Many students graduate from high school without ever being academically challenged. High school teachers must often teach to middle or lower level students. Often students are able to graduate from high school without learning to study. In high school I was able to make B’s by just being semi-conscious in class, I quickly learned in college that I had to actually participate and pay attention in class. Preparing for tests is another is drastically different in college. In high school teachers provide review sheets and in class reviews. College professors often provide a review sheet but it is the student’s responsibility to complete it.

The method of instruction is quite different in college. Most college classes are lecture based and require extensive amounts outside work and preparation for class. Being prepared for a high school class involves having the correct book, supplies and homework. College students are expected to read assignments in preparation for class discussions and complete homework even if it is not graded. In high school, teachers are encouraged and in some cases required to provide instruction employing a wide range of multi-sensory methods. The majority of assignments are completed in class.

Grading is extremely different in college. When I was teaching high school we were required to have at least three daily assignments per week, three to four test per grading period and one project. Daily assignments, tests and projects made up one third of the grade. Grades in college are often based up two or three tests and one to two papers. The purpose of homework assignments is quite different in college. Homework assignments in high school are used to provide reinforcement, usually graded and assigned several times a week. Homework assignments may not be graded, occur less frequently and may be used to cover supplemental material.

The transition from high school to college can be difficult for some students. However, with a proper understanding of the differences between secondary and post-secondary education it is not an impossible tasks. College can or should be time of personal growth, self-discovery and preparation for life

Havard Law Offering Tution Break in Exchange for Public Service

gavel.jpgThere is a growing need for lawyers who will serve the public interest. The debt incurred during law school prevents some students in serving the public from taking low paying government or non-profit jobs. Also, many of those who take jobs as assistant DA’s often quit after a few years in search of better paying jobs to pay off debt. Harvard Law school has developed a program to help encourage students to consider public service. In a new program students who agree to spend five years in public service will be eligible for 3rd year tuition waivers. Prior to the third year students must demonstrate an interest in public service through either clinical programs or service projects. Also, Harvard already has a system in place to track students after graduation as a part of existing tuition forgiveness programs.

Source: New York Times