Teachers Can Be the Worst Students

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I am currently taking two online professional development courses through a local school system. Both are book studies, and if you look in the sidebar, you can guess which two books. The interesting thing to me is that one group is active, dynamic, and interested in conversation about the book we are reading. Participants are posting resources. Participants are actually reading each other’s posts and providing feedback that instigates discussion. Interestingly enough, a large number of the participants are not currently teaching, but they are taking the course to keep their certificates current.

The other group does the bare minimum required. Many of the response posts are bland recapitulations of the poster’s points with a somewhat encouraging “I agree” stamped on. We’re reading a really interesting book, and the discussions are just mind-numbing. I think the majority of this group is in the classroom, too.

I really hope these teachers are not accepting the kind of work they are producing from their own students.  On the other hand, part of me wants to say that if you aren’t willing to be a good student, it doesn’t make much sense to be a teacher.  I think the best teachers genuinely like to learn.  I know, I know.  A lot of professional development is stupid.  But these two online courses really aren’t!  That’s just my opinion, I guess, and clearly the majority of the other participants don’t agree.

I find the dichotomy really interesting.

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Teaching Today

Today was a professional development day, and we had an interesting guest speaker on the topic of discipline. I wanted to share part of what he discussed today with edubloggers in hopes that we can contribute to the dialogue.

Do you think teaching is harder today than it was for your teachers when you were in school?

Most of my faculty said yes, it is. So did I. Why, I wasn’t sure I could articulate, but I just knew something different exists between teachers and students today that didn’t exist when I was a student myself. Our speaker identified three cultural markers that changed schools and made teaching (and for that matter, parenting) more difficult.

  1. Columbine. If the last few days with another school shooting in the news have underscored anything, it is simply that our schools are no longer about education first. We are about safety first, and education has to come second. That’s frightening on a couple of levels.
  2. Monica Lewinsky. The dialogue we have to have with teenagers is different. A sizable contingent of our girls does not believe oral sex is sex, and, surprisingly, our boys are doing little to disabuse our girls of this notion.
  3. Technology. We can’t keep our students or children from bad information. We used to be able to control what they heard and saw a little better. Now they pick up information they aren’t mature enough to process. The Internet is an amazing, wonderful, useful tool, but we all know it has a dark side that has given our youth access to stuff they frankly shouldn’t see or in some cases (in my opinion) even know about. I wish I didn’t know about some of it, too — I was pretty happy not knowing, truth be told. Our speaker didn’t mention this aspect of technology, but every teacher knows that it has proven to be a temptation for cheating, too.

Obviously, other factors have changed our society and contributed to the way our educational system is today, making our jobs harder than our own teachers’ jobs were.

Why do you think teaching is more difficult today? If you don’t think it is, why not?

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UbD Educators: Suggestions?

I have mentioned before that the UbD Educators wiki has grown quiet.  I think there may be two reasons for this:

  • We’re all busy educators who have difficulty finding the time to create, post, and/or comment on others’ posted UbD units.
  • We’re not getting what we need out of the wiki.

It’s not in my power to alleviate the first problem, and believe me, I hear you there.  However, the second problem is much easier to address.  The wiki is only as good as we make it.  If you need a feature that the wiki doesn’t have, add it.  If you have trouble keeping up with new pages and discussions, try subscribing to the site’s various RSS feeds (you can keep up with all changes or just changes to one page).  If you want to make a change, but you aren’t sure, ask the wiki members about it on the Suggestions page.  the majority of the wiki’s members have not yet contributed either unit plans or discussions.  I want to hear your voice!  I don’t mind lurkers, but we have the potential to make this wiki a huge repository of ideas and discussion about UbD, and we can only do that through teacher contributions.

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Can Teaching Be Outsourced?

The World is FlatYou may recall I am reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat for an online PLU course. In chapter six, he describes the kinds of people who will be “untouchable,” that is their jobs will be safe in the flat world. I admit to thinking that teaching is one of those “untouchable” jobs. However, I am also taking this course online and specifically sought out an online masters program in Instructional Technology to apply to because I did not want to schlep downtown to classes two nights a week or go to a weekly professional development class at a school across town. I wanted the convenience of learning at my own pace, in my own home. And it’s not difficult anymore for adults to find an online program of study. What about K-12? Can teaching be outsourced? If it can, what do we as teachers need to be able to do in order to remain viable in the field of education. If it can’t be outsourced, why do you think that is the case? How will education change in view of the prospect of outsourcing?

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Stuff for English Teachers

I recently started using StumbleUpon (here’s my profile) in my Firefox browser to discover new sites, and I feel stupid for not trying it before now. Poking around the Internet for the last week or so, I have “stumbled” upon some good sites (and found some on my own):

  • Read Print has online books. I like the Shakespeare section. I did notice a few typos on the site (Hamnet Shakespeare died in 1596, not 1896), but the articles were interesting.
  • I’ve probably mentioned DailyLit before, but it merits mention alongside Read Print. I don’t think I could have finished Moby Dick if not for DailyLit. I am currently reading Emma. All of us have five minutes for a book each day.
  • Guide to Grammar and Writing has some interesting grammar activities; I found it via SMART’s English/Language Arts Resources.
  • NCTE Inbox is now a blog! I missed the inception when I let my NCTE membership lapse.
  • What Should I Read Next? looks like a great tool for teachers to recommend to students who are looking for books similar to ones they already like.
  • BookMooch enables users to swap books.  It’s free (except for postage).
  • Here’s a huge collection of writing resources.

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Thank You, Betsy

As my husband increasingly needs to use our home desktop for his own writing, I found that I did not have enough time to work effectively from home or to pursue my various interests. I am not faulting my husband — in fact , it is precisely because I wanted to be supportive and encouraging of his burgeoning career as a journalist that I curtailed my computer use at home. I decided the only thing to do was to save money for a laptop, and I also decided that if this blog or any other information I had provided had been useful, perhaps donors would be interested in helping me save. I have been sitting on this announcement because I haven’t really set any balls in motion yet, but it is my intention to apply to go back to school and earn an masters in Instructional Technology. Therefore, it became more necessary than ever that I have a computer, preferably a laptop, in order to pursue my studies.

Several people made generous contributions, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated them. However, a reader of my husband’s work, Betsy, had a laptop she no longer used and decided to donate it to me. I am now the proud owner of an Apple iBook G3. I believe that this laptop will enable me to do anything I might need to do for school, and it was always my hope that I might indeed be able to purchase an Apple with my savings. I had a website that sold used Apples bookmarked, and I had been saving with the goal of purchasing a used Apple — more affordable to me than a new one — from this seller. However, Betsy’s generous donation made all of that unnecessary. Therefore, I would like to tell those of you who donated towards my laptop savings that you have two options: 1) allow me to use your donation for other items I need for my classroom (supplies, decorations, etc.), or 2) request a refund for your donation. If you donated, and I do not hear from you, I will assume it is OK to apply your donation to other classroom needs.

I want to highlight a website called DonorsChoose.org. If you are like Betsy, and you have an item you no longer use and wish to donate for educational purposes, please check out this site. You may find a teacher who needs exactly what you have, and you can be helping not just that teacher, but also his or her students with your donation. You can also choose to contribute funds towards purchasing the items the teachers need. Your gifts are tax-deductible. You can also look for teachers in your state so you know your gifts will benefit students close to home. Please check out their site for more information. I would have used the site to request help, but it is limited to public school teachers at this time, and I am currently teaching in a private school.

Thanks again, Betsy for your generosity. I can’t wait to get to work!

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Georgia’s New Graduation Requirements

Georgia is making changes in its requirements for graduation that will go into effect beginning with next year’s ninth grade class (the class of 2012). What follows is a table I adapted from my daughter’s school counselor’s publication for high school transition:

Current Rule Proposed Rule
4 tiers with different requirements: College Preparatory (CP), College Preparatory with Distinction (CP+), Technology/Career (TC), and Technology/Career with Distinction (TC+) One common set of requirements for all students
22 total Carnegie units required for CP and TC, 24 units required for CP+ and TC+ 23 total Carnegie units required for all students
4 units of English required for all students 4 units of English required for all students
4 units of math required for CP and CP+, 3 units of math required for TC and TC+ 4 units of math required for all students
3 units of science required for all students 4 units of science required for all students (the 4th unit of science can be used to meet both science and elective requirements)
3 units of social studies required for all students 3 units of social studies required for all students, all courses are specifically identified
1 unit of health/PE required for all students 1 unit of health/PE required for all students; 3 units of JROTC may be used to meet the requirements
1 unit of computer techology and/or fine arts and/or technology career preparatory and/or foreign language required for all students; 2 units of foreign language required for CP and CP+ students 3 units required from CTAE and/or foreign language and/or fina arts; foreign language is not required for any student to graduate, whether CP or not
5-6 additional elective units depending on tier (CP, CP+, TC, TC+) 4 additional units of elective units for all students

Basically, Georgia is doing away with Technology/Career diplomas and building one set of requirements for all Georgia graduates. I would like to know more before I criticize the new set of requirements, but I have to say that I’m not sure this is a good idea. Tech/Career prep programs often provided a good alternative for students who didn’t plan to go to college. I have the following questions:

  1. Do the new requirements mean that Georgia is doing away with TC-level academic classes? Back when I was teaching in public school, there were “Vocational track” classes for students who didn’t intend to go to college. Therefore, will students who don’t intend to go to college still take what are essentially CP-level academic classes?
  2. Students entering college will still have to have two units of foreign language in order to get into college. I understand that these units will have to come from the electives requirements. Will this be a problem for students who have to take foreign language? What do our colleges think of changing this requirement so that foreign language is no longer required for graduation?
  3. What do my peers currently teaching in Georgia public schools (or elsewhere for that matter) think of these changes?

You can check out this section of the Georgia DOE website for more information.

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Blanche DuBois Syndrome

Yet another female English teacher has made the news after having sexual relations with sexually abusing a student.

I’ve written about this problem before, but it occurred to me that at the time, I didn’t mention one of the reasons I am concerned about the issue, as the post is centered around the larger and more important issue of child abuse. But… is it just me, or does it seem as though an inordinate number of female teachers who victimize male students are English teachers? Or do I just have that perception because I notice it more when the teacher is described as an English teacher? I mean, sheesh, I don’t want my profession to become the butt of jokes — “she was an English teacher, wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean?”

Wikipedia’s article “Sexual harassment in education” has some interesting and appalling statistics.

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