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Legimus intellegam ea est, tamquam appellantur nec ei. Dicant perfecto deserunt quo id, ea etiam impetus pri. Mel ne vidit laboramus definiebas, quo esse aeterno
Tracey Woodard – edu|FOCUS
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Author: Tracey Woodard

Teacher

Should All Teachers Be Education Majors?

There is a school system in Savannah, GA that offers a non-traditional path for people to become teachers (you can read about it in an article here).  Leaders there are questioning whether or not all teachers should be education majors. In a district with over 400 teaching positions to fill, the process basically allows for a larger application pool from which to select the most qualified teachers, including some who didn’t start out in the field; for example, having a retired army veteran who worked in aerospace engineering to teach math. The program has been around for a while, but is getting more publicity recently due to the teacher shortages in the district and the state. I’ve mentioned before how public education today suffers from being a system stuck in the past, disproportionately adapting to how the world works today.  So I think this school district’s method for selecting new educators holds some merit.  Not to say that those who pursue a career in teaching from the get-go are any more or less qualified to teach, but that there is something to be said for those who can relate their actual life experiences to the classrooms they lead.  They tell writers to “write what you know” in order to make a good story, so why not apply that thinking here?  Teach what you know. In this instance these “new teachers” are mostly coming out of necessity to fill positions, so it could seem like more of a desperate attempt rather than a way to facilitate new (better?) learning methods.  But it’s not as though these educators are randomly plucked out of their office buildings and told to teach - I would hope that they at least have some desire to pass on their knowledge.  Plus, as the article points out, they are required to pass a teacher preparatory program and pass educator exams and background checks.  The only thing they’re missing is a title on their diploma.  I know of a few people who majored in completely different subjects in college, and ended up becoming teachers in public and charter schools, only getting certified in teaching after the fact, so again, it’s not this is a particularly new practice. But I think one of the biggest benefits to having alternate career professionals come into schools to teach is having a more direct way to relate subject matter to lesson plans, and to showcase exactly where and how those lessons can be used in an actual job. Teaching in general gets a pretty bad rap since people are less likely to take a job that comes off as being thankless, underpaying, and stressful.  This means there fewer people actually pursuing a degree in education, which is what is has led to the situation many places across the country now face – not enough qualified teachers.  By openly and proudly offering an alternative path for those who may want a career change (into the world of education), it could lead to a revolution in the way many...

adulting

“Adulting” or Teaching Kids to Be Adults

You’ve probably heard the term “adulting” being thrown around by those from my generation (gen-Y, not millennial,  thank you very much) whenever we accomplish something that seems like it should be normal behavior for someone our age.  There’s even a book and blog on the topic.  But whether or not you like the term, it is a real feeling that comes from the fear of not being good enough or responsible enough at your/our age for appropriate amounts of time, mainly because you feel as though no one has taught you how. Life is hard, and there is no manual on how to get through it, but there are certain life skills that can be taught to help make the transitions easier.  Most of them should come from a home setting, but that may not be the most helpful/available for all people.  School, however, is available for all, and there was a time when subjects like home economics (or family consumer sciences circa 2000-something) were taught with some importance. I personally would have liked to have classes available on how to deal with personal financing, like how to do taxes, or how investing in the stock market and 401Ks work (I still don’t fully know, honestly).  True, parents/guardians can shoulder some of the responsibility in making sure their children know these things, but one way to definitely make sure kids get a decent amount on exposure in dealing with real life situations is to include it naturally in school curricula.  Instead of focusing on having a student body full of trigonometry and calculus experts, we could have student bodies full of kids who know the nuances of taxes and budgetary needs for their lives and their communities.  Imagine how much more helpful it would be in the long run. And as outdated as it may seem, I also think some kind of class on how to present oneself socially and professionally should also be added to the school roster, as many people seem to have forgotten the basics of decent human interaction.  If working years in retail has taught me anything, it’s that not everyone understands what it’s like to live as someone else on a different social scale.  Plus, in today’s digital age, social etiquette is much different from what it used to be, so that’s the kind of education that could benefit multiple generations. From what I remember, these life lessons were somewhat taught when I was in high school, lumped together in one class – family consumer sciences.  The problem was that no one really took it seriously because it was a) more of an elective and b) it was generally taught by older teachers who either didn’t want to, or didn’t know how to relate the subject to the new and changing generation.  One of the biggest things I envy about students today is their accessibility to the world via the internet, and how easy it is to find ways to apply what is taught in schools to the world...

The Detroit “Sick Outs” and What We Learned

What did we learn after the recent Detroit teacher strikes, or “sick outs?”  Nothing new, to be honest. After it was made public that city public schools wouldn’t be able to pay its teachers their salaries in June for work they’ve already done, it was only natural that they would hold some kind of protest.  But teacher strikes are a no-win situation since it only raises more problems, whether a solution is reached or not.  Students miss out on receiving an education, parents have to revise their schedules to care for the kids, those students to rely on free lunch programs end up going hungry, teachers get even more reduced pay from their union dues/payouts, and the list goes on. In the case in Detroit, a solution was promised but that doesn’t necessarily mean a victory, as the district will still run out of money come next month, and there was no say in where that teacher salary money was going to come from. So what did we learn here?  Well, what we should have learned is that the general media focus on this event was on the wrong things, as usual.  Rather than highlighting the problems that always come up with teacher strikes, and pointing out what all the issues that come with running a failing school district, we should have seen more coverage on those individuals actually in control: district administrators and state education legislators.  There always seems to be a lack of direct information or interviews from those at the top when it comes to solutions, and more focus on what the strikes are doing to those directly involved. If you remember, there was also a bit of news coverage on Detroit public schools a few months ago highlighting the poor physical conditions the buildings themselves were in, mold growing in the walls, no heat, rodents, vermin, falling ceilings, etc.  But once the sickouts started up, most of that coverage went on hold to “media-shame” the teachers on strike for keeping the students away from school.  It seems like every time a teacher strike happens anywhere the focus goes directly on the students missing out and the parents having to adjust, instead of what the teachers are protesting as a whole.  And once the strikes come to a conclusion, all that focus on poor student life disappears again.  It’s like there’s an automatic stigma that comes with teacher strikes that stops people from realizing that the problem is much bigger than paychecks. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="396"] You've seen this, right?[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="472"] Not okay[/caption] Seeing how something like a teacher strike can essentially shut down an urban area should lead us all to realize just how important public education really is in terms of the bigger picture.  Rather than shaming teachers, we should be shaming legislatures and administrators for not doing something to fix or prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.  This lack of open communication with those in charge can only lead to more misinformation and a skewed focus...

Hindsight on the College Experience

It's that time where soon-to-be high school grads will be picking their colleges to attend, if they haven't already.  These are just a few things I've realized about the whole college experience when I stop and look back. I recently came across an article discussing how Ivy League schools are seen as inherently better than everywhere else when it comes colleges.  Regardless of what type of profession you want to go towards, or where your interests lie, or what your skill levels are, that Ivy League school on your application list automatically rockets to the top as being the number one choice to make simply because that’s how we’ve all been led to think.  The author mentioned how this shouldn’t be the norm anymore, since seeing Harvard (and the like) as the number one place to be for college is only relevant to those who want to extract from the university everything it has to offer in terms of educational prestige; meaning Harvard shouldn’t be seen as the most aspirational school to go to for every student. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="210"] They even have a logo[/caption]   Interestingly, the comments on the article counter this point, noting that big names are idolized for a reason, and that every profession has the same type of problem.  Not all of us, but a fair majority of us will agree that having a large and potentially influential connection on a resume is what helps you get noticed more so than your skills.  Being able to say that you went to an ivy league to help you get a job is like saying you took a coffee brewing class in Italy in order to get a barista job, or you interned at MTV in order to get that production job at a local TV station.  We tend to see those experience-boosting jobs as a means to an end for something else.  College is no exception, as people tend to choose a college based on their interests, and how it can get them a job in the future. I agree with the author’s intention in saying that we need to put less emphasis on big name schools being the end-all goal for every college bound student, but I don’t think bringing down the big name schools is the way to boost the smaller name schools’ reputations.  Prestigious colleges and universities get their status from those who perpetuate them; almost any Ivy League (and near-ivy like my Alma Mater) graduate will tell you that their school’s reputation is pretty accurate due to adequate resources, positive environment, enriching classes, involved professors, etc.   These opinions tend to be biased, of course, because who better to advocate for a school than its alumni, but also because of a deep-seated need for validation when it comes to defending such a big choice (but I’m no expert on psychology).  You’ll see the same level of loyalty from alumni of state or smaller name schools for the same reason, firsthand experience from happy customers, and a need...

A Return to Education in Politics

A few months ago I mentioned that education should be the number one topic of discussion this election season since your education level affects, literally, everything in your life and the lives around you.  And I don’t mean “education level” like whether or not you went to college, but education in that you are knowledgeable and informed on things that matter; the education of the general American public. Since then there have been all sorts of interviews and debates that gave all sorts of opinions on the issues, education included, but I personally feel like the media’s biggest focus this year has been skewed away from education in favor of topics that garner more views and anger (border walls, anyone?).  And as the two main parties are still fighting amongst themselves for a nomination, we have to look at the importance of education for both from different starting points.  I can remember hearing more on the subject on the democratic side, as there are only two major players, but also because they seem to at least have education reform near the forefront of their campaign promises.  Plus they haven’t had to constantly battle for media attention from one particular outlandish and outspoken candidate by giving soundbites and quotes on other subjects, if only to keep their name in the media circuit.  I remember hearing slightly less on the subject on the republican side for that very reason – the attention continually gets placed on other more controversial issues instead. So if you really want to know what your candidates think about the future of education in this country, you’ll have to do a bit of digging around, which on the one hand is kind of good as it means taking an active interest in the political machine (increasing your education, as it were).  But on the other hand, it means that this election season is failing at putting education at the forefront of the general public interest as a whole.  While this may partially be the fault of the capital M “media,” since it’s what drives public interest in the first place, it’s also on the candidates’ shoulders for not realizing just how important education really is with regards to everything else.  Yes, there are still many other factors when it comes to running a country that deserve attention, but I still maintain that most of the issues that stem from those factors start from the education (or a lack thereof) on the matter.  Not everyone deals with the inner workings of our foreign policy or how the national budget will be balanced, so not everyone has to be fully educated on the subject, thus making its importance in media coverage less relevant.  How can we expect the entire population to know what’s the best method for dealing with something like foreign affairs when they know so little about how it works?  There are only so many topics you can cover, politically, before you start to lose attention, so why not make...

Is A Year-Round School System Better?

Should children have so much time away from school?  Is the system of going to school for 180 days straight (minus spring and winter breaks), then having three months off for summer outdated and ineffectual?  Perhaps this sentiment is coming from the dreariness of a working adult, but sometimes I think grade school kids end up being away from a school environment for far too long after spending a very compressed period of time trying to learn everything they can.  So are the concepts behind having school year-round a better solution? Hopefully you’ve all seen the statistics about how kids lose a large portion of what they learned throughout the year during their summer break due to inactivity, and a lack of experiences relating it to real life (a problem with American education as a whole, really).  Therefore the first few months of the new school year are spent recapping what they already should know, which then leaves less time to learn the new stuff.  Of course, this isn’t true for every student, but it is enough of a problem to create statistics for it. The older I get, the more I start to agree to the idea of year-round schooling like they have in most other countries.  In case you were unfamiliar, there are still 180 school days total, they are just spread out through the entire year, for instance having 45 days in school followed by a 15 day break or having 90 days on and 30 days off.  There are already numerous studies and articles about the pros and cons of this system – the National Education Association website lists a few of the basics plus links to a few sites discussing the topic – and a quick google search can yield you all the results you could want for either side.  The biggest concerns come from a much wider range of life aspects like parent vacation time, babysitters, summer jobs, extracurricular activities, finances to run the school, complications between schools going year round versus schools with a full summer break in the same district/location, and so on.  All of this basically comes down to the fact that schooling is treated as such a separate entity from the rest of daily community life that there isn’t really a way to adapt a year-round schedule without a general community overhaul.   [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="743"] Year-Round or Traditional?[/caption]   So maybe it’s not the year-round thing that I’m into, but the sense of a more immersive education experience, without overworking students (and teachers) for such a long time only to step away for three months of nothing.  Perhaps if there was a way to emulate the feeling of getting a break from the routine of going to school, but still be in a structured learning environment that can add to the learning experience, while also getting the community involved.  I think something like 45 days in traditional classes and 15 days in some type of modified school environment, like work studies, or mini-internships, something along those lines. ...

New Education Legislation, Same Problems

So the president finally (finally!) signed legislation that ended the torment that was No Child Left Behind in favor of allowing states to take more control over education issues.  The new legislation, called Every Student Succeeds (White House Press Release here), also prohibits the government from implementing Common Core-esque requirements that force every single school system to fall in line based on the same criteria.  While there will be less emphasis on standardized testing, students in certain grades will still be subject to some standardized tests throughout their school career, as before.  The biggest differences are that the federal government no longer has any say in how to reprimand those schools who perform poorly, leaving it up to the states to take action as they see fit (with the exception of the schools who fall in the bottom 5%), the required yearly tests are more flexible in how they can be administered, and graduation rates are given more attention. President Obama himself referred to this as a “Christmas Miracle” since this rewrite was met with bipartisan support, but the real miracle would be actual progress in the education reform movement once the hoopla dies down. While advocating power from the federal level down to the state level may work for some aspects, it isn’t necessarily true for everything.  Take for example other issues the nation is still struggling with, like gun laws, marriage rights, and reproductive rights.  There are still massive disagreements (both on the local and national level) on how these topics should be regulated, which is understandable when you have a large group of people from different backgrounds.  You can’t expect an owl to understand the plight of a stingray, although as humans you would think we could all come to some kind of understanding when it comes to basic human rights. As far as education is concerned it seems as though the majority can at least agree that everyone deserves to go to school, but the concern stops there.  Seeing as how getting what’s considered a “good” education is largely based on financial stability, this makes education a class issue (and inadvertently a race issue).  As long as there is such a large gap between the upper and lower classes in the world, there will be conflicts when it comes to receiving and delegating finances. I’ve mentioned in a previous post about the issues that arise with this new legislation (back when it was known as Every Child Achieves), including how children in poorer schools still can’t be accounted for in the same way that more affluent schools are, and that relying on testing to prove effectiveness can lead to big business like Pearson and McGraw Hill being the ones in control of your child’s education.  And these issues are still a potential problem, but it seems like that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream media as important to think about right now.  It’s election season, so anything having to do with politics is given the forefront, especially something that paints the...

Small Steps for Education Reform, No Giant Leaps Yet

The education reform movement is finally starting to make some more headway across the country, what with the government admitting the pointlessness of high-stakes testing and failure of NCLB-esque programs, and an increasing desire for accountability from charter schools and other alternative education mediums when it comes to results. But is it enough? You may have seen ads lately for something called the XQ Super School Project, where Jessica Williams from The Daily Show walks around the street in a spacesuit talking to people about problems with the current school system. Those ads were just vague enough to peak my interests, but had I not already been involved in learning about the education reform movement, I don’t think I would have given it a second thought, let alone visiting the website myself to learn what the deal was. In case you didn’t know (or don’t watch much TV), the XQ Super School Project was started by Russlynn Ali, former assistant secretary of civil rights for the US Department of Education, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs (yes, that Steve Jobs) with the intent to create a new school model for American schools. According to their website, by taking ideas from literally everyone who has something (constructive) to offer, they propose people to team up and put their creative ideas together to re-imagine how the American public school system operates. A quick google search will give you more info on the project, who’s involved and what people are saying, the biggest headline being how Powell-Jobs has personally donated $50 million to the project for future developments. While I applaud this movement for trying, I can’t help but think that it isn’t enough. Yes, $50 million is a lot of money for one person, but for an entire nation, it’s barely enough to cover the costs of advertising this campaign. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen or heard much about the project in full. Maybe Powell-Jobs was hoping other high-profile individuals would donate as well. Maybe they were hoping for the social media machine to latch on to this project and run with it. Whatever the case, the site only boasts just over 5000 people having signed up, which is no small group, but in the long run aren’t nearly enough people thinking about the future of education to make a lasting difference. I vaguely remember similar projects in the past that had significant financial backing from a few people with the hopes of changing and bettering the American education system (I believe Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation being another big one). And yet, we’re still in the same place we were decades ago when it comes to how education is run. It’s not for a lack of trying, but a lack of comprehensive action. Anyone can ask others what they think about the American education system, and how they think it could be improved, and most people would agree that there needs to be some sort of change. But it’s only when...

Money and Education

Inequalities Are Still The Bigger Issue

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that no one hates poverty more that those who live in it.  So why is there such a stigma against poor people but not their circumstance?  We’ve all been brainwashed to think that you’re successful if you can live affluently, are average if you can live comfortably, and if you can barely live day to day you’re a failure.  While this isn’t necessarily inaccurate, it does leads me to question why anyone would want see someone else struggle through life? We don’t want to (I would hope), but I think it’s that feeling of bittersweet relief that comes from knowing there is someone else worse off than you that makes it okay for us to ignore the situation altogether; you’re not living a fabulous life, but at least you’re not scraping by on nothing.  And it’s that middle class complacency that is the biggest enemy in this fight.  I’ve talked about this before with regards to inequalities in education, and how those of us who don’t have to deal with living in poverty tend to forget about those who do; not on purpose, but by circumstance and media influence.  And in doing so we forget that not everyone starts out on the same level when it comes to working toward the future, and end up fighting against each other for the wrong reasons because we’re distracted from the bigger picture. I admit I’m a sucker for click-bait articles – the ones with the catchy questions and the “you won’t believe what happened” titles that beg you to follow through to find the answer.  I also know that this is a huge, if not the biggest, marketing strategy especially when it comes to writing (I do it, too).  Nevertheless, I find myself clicking those articles all the time because they offer a distraction.  And when it comes to education-related news, I’ve noticed a lot of the popular articles about issues that not only have no relevance, but distract from, and pretty much actively ignore, the bigger issues at hand. We see articles about banning recess and competitive play in lieu of more classroom time and avoiding bullying, but we don’t hear a lot about how different schools are affected by these changes.  Middle class and private schools can afford to forgo recess because they have gym equipment, but for some poorer districts recess is all some kids have for any type of positive physical outlet while still being kept safe (there are also social repercussions, which we’ve covered here).  And we see articles about suspending kids for wearing the wrong color green for their uniforms (not kidding) because it was distracting, but hear less about exactly why they couldn’t find the right color. Not to downplay the ridiculousness of suspending someone for wearing forest green instead of hunter green, but what if one child couldn’t afford to shop at a certain store that sold that one specific color, would he be suspended too?  Side note, out of...

More Reasons to Keep Recess and Competition

Coming off of Ms. Miller’s post about the importance of recess for developing social skills, and how it’s disappearance to make way for more teaching time (read: test prep time) is only becoming a hindrance,  I noticed another recess-related issue that seems to be causing more harm – banning competitive play. The debate over dodgeball is probably the best known example since some think it facilitates bullying and is too physically dangerous, while others think that getting hurt and losing is a natural part of growing up (which it is).  And recently I’ve heard of some schools banning things like soccer and other ball-heavy competitive/contact sports because they are too rough, and banning playing tag because children tag too forcefully and it contradicts the “keep your hands to yourself” rule.  I’ve even heard of a school’s unofficial rule against children having a best friend because it puts some children in competition over each other’s attentions, makes other children feel isolated, and if children have a fight they then have to deal with pain of losing a friend. I can understand the intentions behind these practices, but in the end all this does is shelter kids from the realities of the world.  Life is competitive, friends regularly come in and out of your life, sometimes you’ll lose a game, bullying does happen, and sometimes you will get hurt.  I’m not a parent, but I know that wanting to protect your kids from harm is the strongest, most natural instinct you can have, and that’s okay.  But continually trying to block them from all the negative things in life will only breed a false sense of security and entitlement that will alienate them even more in the future.  And using recess as a means of perpetuating this is no help whatsoever. Rather than trying to stop competitiveness, we should be emphasizing good sportsmanship, and how to deal with the aftermath of losing.  If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again is a cliché for a reason.  Classifying a failure as the end of the journey is the wrong way to go about it.  Since we do learn from our mistakes, we need to make sure kids know that failure is only a bump in the road, and the only thing it leads to is finding another way to succeed, and that there will be a next time.  And with regards to the more naturally competitive kids who could use play as another means of bullying, we need to teach them how to accept the flaws and limitations of their peers and how to work together with them.  Putting a stop to one form of bullying just ends up shifting the focus somewhere else; we need channel children’s energies constructively, not push them away for someone else to deal with. In addition to limiting physical outlets, cancelling recess kind of seems like another way to depersonalize the school experience, meaning that schools are trying to keep all the focus on academics alone, and not on how to...

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