Sunday, May 23, 2010

For Teachers Who Do The Right Thing

My heart and mind reach out to you,

As you  toil to find just the right book,

Long nights searching for just the right lesson plan,

When you enter with a tired body and smile anyway,

My later years will always recall,

Your kindness, gentle regard and a heart that says, I care.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Close School, Start from Scratch?

Abruptly closing schools because of failure of students to thrive academically is often driven by frustration, long term denial and hopelessness.  Why not burn it to the ground.  Would that make a difference?

What we need to do is remove or reassign all staff involved in a failing school.  New staff with a positive attitude, equipped with proven and fresh ideas must replace defeatist behavior.  We must put an immediate stop to head in the sand mentality and embrace people not easily intimidated by failure.  Then, devise  carefully thought out multiple success strategies.  Be prepared to repeat the strategy search again and again until you get it right.

There is an expression that failure is not an option.  Actually, that is not always true.  When facing challenging situations or failure the need to adopt a trial and error approach is always a possibility.  Rather than cringe at mistakes, we must learn to learn from our mistakes.  After all, mistakes simply tell us to take another road toward our objective.

In other words, laugh at your mistakes, make notes and remember once a mistake is understood the road to success is narrowed, and easier to choose and travel.  Keep in mind, teachers who are afraid of failure tend to teach  students how to fail.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Nice Note

I often receive feedback that I am too negative.  Well, I truly try to avoid hurting anyone. 
But, I do hit hard at situations that effect negatively the lives of adults and especially children.  My thought is that too many people over do feel good talk because it helps them more easily turn away from hurtful circumstances. 

Oh goodness, here I go again.  I am sorry to burst any one's bubble.  But, bubble people too often put feeling good ahead of eliminating pain and suffering.  Sorry everyone, but I am putting my efforts into exposing pain and suffering, and at least lessening misery that comes from it..

I appreciate that feeling good seems the easy course;  however, I believe that rooting out and challenging people to recognizing misery, and trying to do something to change it is usually difficult but still a more worthwhile endeavor.

Just think for a moment, If misery caused by pain and suffering declines happiness usually follows.  So what is your dedication today?  I know where I am coming from. Where you are coming from? 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Each And Every Non-Reader

Ever asked yourself what happens to non-readers after they drop out or forced out with a sham diploma.  I am not just referring to massive throngs of non-readers that occupy the preamble of speeches critical of education, but  real individuals who face lifetime banishment from the good life.

What is their day like?  How do they make a living? Do they get married?  Perhaps, end up in prison?
Where do they live?  What about the expense of food, clothing and transportation?
Possibly, we will never know the answer to these questions.  Nevertheless, it is imperative that we ask.  Not only their future but our future depends on what we know and don't know.  Positive change cannot tolerate stupidity.

We hear alot of abstract chatter about why Johnney can't read. The reality is that there are thousands of individuals adrift that cannot answer the basics of who, what where and when because they can't read. Well, maby not completely lost, but definitely preoccupied with survival one day at a time.  Reading for these people is a distant third on a scale of one to three.  Let's just say bluntly that if you are not interested in learning to read our conversation has ended.  Now, see the real meaning of alienation unfold before your weary eyes.

Perhaps, it is possible to recognize a non-reader.  What might distinguish a non-reader from the rest us?
Sometimes, they observe and listen attentively.  They will tell you that they learn better without reading.  Given a book, they flip pages, look at the last page and abruptly close the book.  Obviously, they engage only projects that are easily observed and preferably supported by a peer that offers insightful commentary.

Unfortunately, in todays world more and more intricate devices are enclosed and cannot be viewed.  Talk support isn't much help since there is nothing to see.  Fewer and fewer jobs allow strategies used by non-readers.  More and more signs pop-up that imply non-readers need not apply. 

The challenge to non-reader gets worse, never better.  Success in life fades rapidly.  Difficulty eating, sleeping and negative feeling about self equals dispair.  One rainy day becomes a torrent and dark clouds descend down to earth squarly on non-readers.  Even sunlight pierces the eyes like swords intent on destruction. Whoever said a sunny day inspires hope?  For some of us a sunny day just makes our problems easier to see and harder to bare.

Consider this sad but true scenario:  It's not just adults that find themselves in an impossible delemma.  Imagine a six year old who cannot read  that beloved primer Dick and Jane.  Teachers fret, mothers sigh, fathers holler, and cuss and call you names.  How about stupid, dumbell just for starters.  Then, the unforgettable declaration.  "You will dig ditches for the rest of your life.  Of course, all this is done with good intentions.  Now, lets top it off with a drug or two.  Surely, a good drug will take the edge off the terror a six year old non-reader feels.  All too often, a trusted family doctor muses, "Oh, my goodness you are having some kind of negative reaction".  If only doctors bothererd to read and paid attention to search that cleary warns some drugs are not approvd for little kids.  Would you believe off label prescriptions are often prescribed for children by readers that behave as non-readers.  Then again reading is not everything, right?

I guess at times everyone relies on observation and commentary to learn.  Funny thing, two or more heads some readers and some non-reader often collide with a deafening screech. Both seem awash in a fog or meteor storm.  Communication stops and relationships dissolve. Easy to exercise charity donations, big government and status quo driven school boards minic the fabled phoenix and finally do nothing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Same Old, Same Old...

Latest nationwide reading scores show 30% more or less students reading below proficient level.  Understandbly, some folks needing a fallback position are actually relieved when students score "approaching basic" and are often observed expressing sighs of relief..whispering, "it could have been worse".  Remarkbly, going backwards somehow looks good even at a time of disaster. It looks to me like some kind of marshmellow road.  It is soft, bouncy, feels good and provides a safe place to bury your head.

Let me begin my comments:

Definition and Limitations:  A good reading program, strategy or technique successfully teaches a student how to read.
Ok, do what works and discard what doesn't work.  No pass ever on this one.
Any kind of intimidation or violence from anyone is not allowed.

Why do the  same reading problems keep returning test after test? 
Because educators continue to incorrectly identify causation and or implement flawed solutions

Why do obviously smart people miss pinpointing causation?
Because use of very complex analytic tools may in fact call attention away from the obvious.  More often than not, the problem requires little elloboration and is simple rather than complex. 

What might the obvious look like?
To begin with, dysfunction familes tend to produce dysfunctional kids.

How do dysfunctional children behave in traditional classroom settings?
Primarily, just plain survival need overshadows all other occupations including learning to read.  Try to give students hope.  If you cannot do it find someone that can. 

What would short term solutions look like?
Today, every failing student must be accompanied by an adult significant other during reading instruction.  This strategy will lessen discipline problems.  Please don't whine that it can't be done.  Just do it.
Forget making grade level lessons more motivating and use primarily remediation methods.  Simply, start where they are today...
Teachers must have have multiple techniques and resources at their finger tips and be prepared to use them...let student try them on and observe what works best for him/her.
Remember Vygotsky, find the zone and stay in the zone.
Yes, provided students are attentive, good old repetition works.  Practice till you are blue in the face!
Every child must attend class, no excuses.
And, individualize,  individualize...basically, stop buying more paperclips and hire more help.

What whould long term solutions look?
Require (no excuses) all parents or significant other participant in school activities.  They don't have to  be smart just interested.
Every local church must adopt a family or familes, and promote reading.
At least eighty five percent of money allocated to improve reading scores must be spent on actual reading instructions services not administration.  Forget long term investments and spend the money now.
Divide responsibility for student reading progress. Althought the classroom teacher fills a lead role, administrators, parents and curriculum specialist and must share student success and failure.
Stop the shootings.  Assign two policemen during critical hours before during and after school on every street corner.
Expect failure and have a clear plan to get back onto the success path.  Remember, baby steps are OK.

Readers are encouraged to add his/her ideas...I have just scratched the surface!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ability Grouping for Yound Children Absurd

Recently a school administrator asserted that in new revised Kindergarten standards whole classes lesson should be ended and ability grouping should be implemented.  That is right, one beast for another

How sad, misguided and just plane ignorant are the pronouncements of  this educator.  Lets see, the last time I reviewed NAEYC standards and guidelines the strategy of ability grouping for early childhood ucation programs was soundly rejected. 

Rather than ability grouping, child learning style, interest, experience and temperment are to be used as a basis for planning and implementing activities for young children.  Clearly, so called ability criteria assumes that young children can accurately be sorted into groups that learn better or worse than other students of similar age.  This assumption simply lacks research support.

On the issue of disgarding the use of whole class lessons.  Again, ignorance seems to prevail.  While exclusive use of whole class teacher directed lessons is generally unacceptable it is possible to conduct occasional whole class lessons provided the teacher builds and ephasizes self directed activities.  It is essential that any activity reflects the interest, experiene, learning style and temperment of participating children.

What is supported by scientific research is a set of best practices guidelines that presents the most accurate undestanding of how children learn and grow.  In this caseit is the education leader that needs inservice and not the classroom teachers.  Thank goodness the teachers in this situation spoke up and questioned the assertions of misinformed education leaders.

It is my opinion that the  success of early childhood education today requires competent teachers supported by equally competent adminstrators, curriculum specialist and parents.

Preposterous, but...

Today, I learned that the recurrent twenty five percent more or less of middle and high school students tested and scoring below basic for reading and math skills now demonstrate a basic or higher level of competence.

Now, where are the jobs and pay scale reasonably expected by academically successful students.

I am assured that many slightly higher than minimal wage jobs exist.  I am so delighted to hear such good news.  Also, note that what business people really want is a large pool of workers that lowers the cost of employment.

The crazy bottom line for the above crazy scenario is that we might one day have millions of average or better educated people with poor job prospects.

I guess crackers taste the same whatever street corner you are sitting on. 

Get a good education anyway.