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opinion – edu|FOCUS
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opinion Tag

kids watching movie in classroom

Visual Media in the Classroom

Visual media in the classroom should not be a replacement for hands-on learning or teachers by any means but that doesn't mean they can’t serve a purpose to the classroom. While a number of people would disagree with me, and sometimes for good reasons, we know for a fact that the average person is a visual learner - we learn quicker through imagery and sound than we do through traditional methods like reading. For example, I think it’s still important to have students read books for a literature class, but this question had me wondering if teachers should show movie adaptations of those books afterward? When you bring this idea up, the first thing parents ask is whether or not it defeats the purpose of reading the book if kids could just skip it and watch the movie? I think, as with most things a balance has to be struck but videos and visual media are as important as books if we want kids to actually absorb what they have learned. When I was in school, I remember we watched a lot of videos in place of class time, and I looked forward to those times, because watching a movie was the fastest way to pass the time in class. And to make it better, the average class time is 45 minutes, so most of the time we would have to take 2-3 classes to watch the whole movie. Now that I'm older, I realize that not only did it feel like we were passing time, but we actually learned a lot that I still remember to this day, because I learned it visually and without any stress or pressure to learn. I think a lot of us might remember watching episodes of The Magic School Bus or Bill Nye the Science Guy in science class. My parents remember Reading Rainbow and Electric Company. The school I went to had 1st through 3rd-grade classes watched quite a bit of Veggie Tales as well. I believe the movies and shows we watched provided equal educational value to the books we read and instruction we received. I've come to find, the less stressful the situation, the easier it is to absorb and learn. Visual media makes the learning environment less stressful, in my opinion, making it easier for today's students to absorb information. To make visual media effective, however, there should be reflective discussion and follow-up work after the movie or show is over. One example is when my English class was watching the movie Glory which is a movie that highlights the contributions and struggles of black soldiers who fought for the North during the Civil War. The teacher had us taking notes during the movie, so that we could complete an assignment around the civil war and how people used the English language to express themselves compared to today. In that experience, I feel we all learned a little more about the civil war, about the contributions of black soldiers in the North, and...

— Success is a combination of: Chutzpah, Sisu, and Grit.

What do young professionals think about public education?

Dallas public schools don’t have a good reputation. Significantly, it’s not just parents who are concerned with the state of public education in our city. Polling a gathering of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Young Professionals group, 65 percent said that they would not send their child to a public school in Dallas. When you think about the future of public education and the disparity that sees many students of color receiving a subpar education, this is significant. When asked “If given the opportunity, all things being equally comparable, would you send your child to a public or private school?" 83 percent said they would send their child to a public school. This speaks volumes to how the public schools in Dallas (both traditional and charter) are viewed among young professionals in Dallas (albeit a very limited and unrepresentative sample). But it brings up another challenge: if this is how the one percent feel about education in Dallas, how must the parents of the students attending these schools feel? And what are the consequences, should these young professionals have children in the next ten years and nothing in the DFW area changes? School quality is more than just a PR problem for Dallas. It’s something that needs to be addressed, aggressively and immediately. Public schools are the lifeblood of our city— they create the citizens of tomorrow. Student success in school and student opportunities beyond K-12 education will determine the future of our city. If our students are well equipped, they have a greater chance to go on to good jobs and invest back in their communities. If they are not prepared, if the opportunities for them post-high school are lacking, in large part because of the lack of preparation they received as students in our city, we will merely be continuing the cycle that currently exists— a cycle that doesn’t do enough to support low income students and help them pursue opportunities beyond the neighborhoods they grew up in. Can we fault parents for pulling their children out of public schools that are failing and placing them in private schools? No, but not every parent has those same options. We must focus on improving the public options for every student— regardless of their background and income level. We need to invest in public pre-K so that students have support from their earliest years; support rigorous teacher preparation for teachers who will be prepared to support students in these high needs schools and support those teachers so that they remain in the classroom. We must work within the communities to involve parents and families in the process. And we must take on this responsibility ourselves, rather than waiting for someone else to champion the cause. If we do this, over 83 percent of tomorrow’s students will attend public schools, leading to greater diversity and community involvement in the public school community— a win in and of itself....

Newton’s Laws of classroom dynamics:

Back in September I got to watch a lot of great learning. I also listened to teachers worry about both the physical mess in their room and the mental mess in their heads. Then went home where I am reading a book on Isaac Newton: The result is that I have discovered Newton’s Three laws of Classroom Dynamics:   The first law of classroom dynamics: Learning is not Passive...

Students Are Children, Not Statistics

It’s back to school time, which means we all should prepare ourselves for an onslaught of new opinions on everything education-related.  Whether the loudest voices are talking about helpful or harmful things is up in the air, but an open dialogue about education is what we need for any effective changes to happen.  Bringing attention to any issues that you come across may not give an immediate solution, but at least it starts to get people thinking.  I think that one of the biggest causes for most - if not all - conflicts in life starts with ignorance, and the best way to drive out ignorance is through education. That being said, my attention has recently been brought to a number of education-related stories that were a bit concerning for one reason: the conclusion I could draw from them was a lack of actual children being featured as children. In my attempts to keep up with politics, I’ve read about more potential candidates’ plans on education reform including ideas like free community college, student loan refinancing, more/less funding for charter schools, reducing federal government involvement, and so on.  A quick Google search will get you hours of declarative statements, soundbites, and promises.  But it’s still a little soon (and frankly there are just too many potential candidates) to fully delve into the pros and cons of all the issues here.  Also, politicians as a whole commonly use issues like education in a general sense as a platform or a bullet point rather than using it to inspire, so no surprises there. I’ve also seen more articles highlighting the disparity between white and minority students’ advantages and disadvantages when it comes to receiving a quality education, mainly due to a difference in disciplinary action.  White students are more likely to receive treatment and specialized attention for being disruptive, whereas black/minority students are more likely to receive suspensions or put in detention centers – the school-to-prison pipeline.  This ever-expanding practice is garnering more attention (as it should), but not for reasons that have to do with solving the problem just yet.  However, it is good to hear more and more people realizing the inherent racism that still exists in this country and how it affects lives in multiple ways – again, attention and education can drive out ignorance. One specific story you also may have heard about recently was a critique on one charter school’s method of teacher reform, the No-Nonsense Nurturer Program (which sounds like an oxymoron in my opinion).  A teacher likened herself to basically becoming a robot in the classroom to reportedly increase productivity, but instead felt more like she was alienating herself and her students be becoming less personable.  The NNN program itself sounds like a way to teach teachers how to teach by having them all use the exact same method, much like computer programming.  But one of the best things I remember about my school career was how different my teachers were in approaching their particular subjects, and inspiring excitement...

Remembering Privilege: Using the Past to Motivate

I recently had the opportunity to visit historic places in Alabama that were tantamount to the civil rights movement: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma. I have extended family in Montgomery and Birmingham so I’ve been visiting there all my life, but now that I’m old enough and mature enough to fully understand what happened 50 years ago, those visits take on a whole new meaning. It is important for everyone to know the history of the country’s biggest social revolution (especially since it is still relevant today), but as a black person it’s even more important to keep in mind the changes that needed to happen, and sacrifices that were made to get us to where we are today. (Whether that place is on equal footing as the rest of the country is debatable, but again, that’s another story.)...

parents raising hands

Champions aren’t just teachers

One of the most pervasive hashtags I've seen of late is #AllKidsNeed. A while ago I heard a moving TED talk from a woman you may or may not have heard of before named Rita Pierson. Mrs. Pierson, who still garners that respect from people she didn't even teach, said it best - all kids need a champion. Sadly, she passed away the same year she gave her talk. I agree that every child deserves a champion, but I am certain that those champions aren't just teachers. Unfortunately not everyone involved in the education reform movement agrees. The Franklin Foundation for Innovation is working to be a champion for our public schools - yet some question our ability to do so since our leader (me) is not an educator by profession. Mrs. Pierson's quote is a powerful one, and her speech was a powerful dialogue on what it means to teach, what it means to develop citizens, and why it is important to build and maintain relationships. She was an educator and passionate about the idea of spreading knowledge to change communities and build opportunity for brighter futures. I loved her message. I am seeking, through my organization, to spread that message, to fix the issues that exist in our public schools, and shutdown the massive for-profit education machine that I personally believe is choking the success out of our public education infrastructure. What has me blogging about this was a recent dialogue with a group of people who basically said that they believe an organization trying to improve education or reform education can only be credibly led by an educator. A strange belief really; since the lack of inclusion of "other voices" is a common complaint amongst those who want to see schools improve. This group also stated that schools aren't broken - and that failure statement, they feel, is perpetuated by people who just want charter schools and for-profit education. These folks, all of whom were educators, actually said that they're weary of people stressing the importance of collaboration. Seriously? Any effort to reform, fix, improve, change (or whatever other verb you want to use) anything requires collaboration, demands partnership, and ultimately thrives on teamwork. Anyone who believes otherwise is either in this for the wrong reasons, or simply part of the problem. So, is the only shot we have at REAL education reform dictated by whether or not an organization leading the charge is led by an educator? If Michelle Rhee (Students First) and Vicki Philips (Gates Education) are any indication, I certainly hope not. Those two "former educators" represent organizations that are completely derailing education reform - pushing malformed constructs like "school choice" and anti-union messages that do little more than mask the institutional and policy issues that got us to where we are today. I think Mrs. Pierson, a consummate educator, would disagree with the idea that reform efforts are best led by educators. Diverse thinking brings the kind of disruption and creativity that leads to breakthrough outcomes. Mrs. Pierson understood the importance of relationships and bringing all...

In York PA education will be all about profit

In York PA education will be all about profit thanks to the Corbett administration who asked a judge to grant receivership of the district to a local businessman who intends to "sell" the district to a for-profit charter school corporation. Believe it or not, this all happened December 1st, and a PA judge granted the request on the 26th which is when the news broke, leaving parents caught completely off-guard. Unfortunately with all that has been going on in our communities and in the world some stories, even the important ones, fly completely under the radar. The district's Chief Recovery Officer, David Meckley, was appointed to his post by now outgoing governor Tom Corbett in 2012 to fix fiscal issues within the district. 2 years later, the best suggestion he could come up with was to sell the district and the futures of York's children out to a for-profit venture. This move now gives Mr. Meckley sole authority to make York, PA the first city in the nation to turn it's entire school district over to a for-profit education entity called Charter Schools USA. You can read the article on PennLive.com by clicking here. Mr. Meckley is not an educator, does not operate under the counsel of educators, and is able to act unilaterally without the support of the elected school board, administrators, or parents of the children being served by the district. My issue with this is two-fold. First, as a father of two I am bothered by the idea that my children's education can be decided by a person I did not elect to hold that decision in his or her hands. Recognizing that the York school district has had serious budget problems for sometime, we have to admit that many school districts have had a similar issue; and the use of political force to push an agenda here smacks of cronyism. York's parents simply aren't being given a choice - or even a say in what happens to their children's educations...

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