Education Update #21

Education News 2

Life on the Front Line of Teaching

She can’t say her name because she’s a working school teacher spilling the beans on nervous breakdowns, helicopter mums, death threats, bad dads, schoolyard stabbings, sexual assaults and how it feels to be called “whore” and “c…face” and “pedo” in the workplace. I suggest she use a pseudonym that combines her regular title “Mrs” with an adjective that describes her mood after four years in Australian education. “Call me ‘Mrs I’m-Not-Gonna-Take-It-Anymore’,” she says with a thick Irish accent. Let’s call her Mary. On her second day at the regional Queensland Prep to Year 12 school she taught at last year, a boy in her Year 9 class turned to his friend and said, “Hey Dean, if there was her and another teacher and you only had one bullet, who would you put it through?” Dean was undecided. But the boy looked straight at Mary. “I’d put it through her.” He’d known Mary for about 20 minutes and hated her with a passion that would not bend. “You’ll be gone in a week, pedo,” the boy said. “Excuse me?” she said….read more

Lesson Idea: Teaching About Tolerance in High School English Class

The Holocaust, the Salem Witch Trials and Women’s Suffrage immediately come to mind when I think of events that never should have happened. When my colleague came into my classroom with a project idea to turn victimization into activism, I was instantly on board. The R.I.G.H.T.S. Project is an extensive multifaceted program that requires students to research, write, collaborate, present and utilize available technology….read more

Audience and Purpose

As curriculum and content, “English” is really a matter of understanding communication — who said what, how they said it, and how you can use similar patterns to say things yourself. Diction, tone, grammar, theme, thesis statements, mood, structure, idea organization, supporting details, main idea, literary devices, and dozens of other things are all pieces in service of communication, both sending and receiving. Understanding audience and purpose is critical for reading and writing….read more

Recasting At-Risk Students as Leaders

“I guess I’m a loser,” Michael, 16, told me when I asked why he was going to drop out, “and school is a waste of time.” Needless to say, I was disturbed by his plan, but even more by his self-assessment. Michael’s sad story got me thinking about the potential role of leadership development for at-risk youths—one of the most important, yet frequently neglected, factors in motivating failing students to reach their maximum potential….read more

Teacher Absence, Leading Indicators, and Trust

In education, we often hear that teachers are a crucial ingredient, and research shows that teachers are the most important school-based influence on student achievement. And if teachers’ presence in the classroom matters so much, shouldn’t we pay more attention to teachers’ absences?…read more

The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher

A week before the first paper was due, a young woman in my class raised her hand and asked where the rubric was. Shamefaced and stuttering, I had to admit that I had no idea what a rubric was. She helpfully explained that this was a set of guidelines explaining what I expected them to write, how I expected them to write it, and how each aspect of the paper would be evaluated….in other words, an outline for the paper. Oh, I replied. No, I continued, there would be no rubric. And as I saw the crestfallen faces in front of me I realized what these students expected me to be: a helicopter teacher….read more

Teaching is an Art, Not a Science

Our national despair over the performance of our schools has fuelled an industry of tips and techniques that are being mechanically applied to teaching in the hope that they will produce predictable results. This approach, largely borrowed from corporate and industrial practices, attempts to replace the art of teaching with a science of instruction. Colleges of education and school administrations have embraced the notion that if teachers perform a set of designed activities, the desired learning outcomes will inevitably occur. The results of this mechanisation of teaching have not been promising….read more

15 Things Every Teacher Needs from a Principal

“Principalship” entails many things, but at its core, it is—and has always been—about building trusting relationships. We may balance the budget and successfully maintain the building; we may ensure that teachers have the necessary resources and all the professional development opportunities in the world…but if we fail to build trusting relationships, what good are balanced budgets, “SMART” classrooms, one-for-one programs and squeaky clean amenities?….read more

Highly Effective Leadership: Is your Head of School a “Boss” or a Leader?

Have you ever had a good leader? Ask yourself, “Is my Head of School/Principal/Head Teacher, a good leader?” If someone is good enough to attain the position of Head of School, that generally signifies to me that they are worthy of my allegiance. It doesn’t mean that I blindly follow everything but they have a great deal of my initial respect. I start off with respect for them and that can either intensify or dwindle depending on their actions from thereon in. I am not completely naive. I have worked for people before in various places of employment where I have looked up to them just because of their position of authority and they have disappointed me. It has been a good lesson in life….read more

Do We Let “school” Get in the Way of Learning?

I had some great conversations today in Queensland, Australia about some of the ways we need to change our mindsets about teaching and learning. A big one that I kept reiterating was how we hold our students to a different standard than we often hold ourselves….read more

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