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Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

Two grandsons are starting school this week and overcoming shyness, which got me talking to John about what happened one time when I was a shy first grader.

My family had stayed an extra month on Fire Island that year, which meant that when I got to first grade on the mainland, I didn’t know any of the routines. For example, I didn’t know what the lined paper that appeared on my desk after recess was for. (It turned out it was not for drawing a picture of a girl.)

Another routine was morning attendance. We would all sit quietly at our desks, and when Miss Dobbins called our name, we would say, “Here.”

This particular morning, I was really not feeling at all well but was too shy to raise my hand in the middle of a ritual. I didn’t want anyone to look at me.

But becoming increasingly desperate, I made up my mind that when my name was called, I would go up to the teacher’s desk and tell her I felt sick.

Miss Dobbins called my name. I got out of my seat quickly and hurried up to her desk and opened my mouth to say, “I feel sick,” and vomited all over her lap.

She didn’t get mad, just asked another teacher to hold the fort while she cleaned up and got me some help.

People looked at me after all.

(One always feels an urge to come up with a moral for every tale one tells children, but I don’t think this tale has one. Stuff happens to everyone. Even grandmas.)

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Thomas Whaley, a teacher of 7-year-old English-language learners on Long Island came up with a creative way to build confidence while building writing skills. He has students make the case for why they should be president.

Jasmine Garsd reports at National Public Radio, “Whaley does not look like the kind of guy that dabbles in magic markers. Before he was a second-grade teacher, he worked at a public relations company in New York City.

“He says he started thinking about doing something else while riding to and from work on the Long Island Rail Road. ‘I would talk with people on the train at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the way home,’ he recalls. ‘They were people who had a complete disconnect from the young people of the world. They were all so focused on adults and the rat race. And I realized that this was not for me.’

“That was 16 years ago. He has been teaching ever since.

“In addition, Whaley has found time to write a novel called Leaving Montana, and he’s starting to write children’s books. Last year, he won the New York state teacher-of-the-year award.

“This second-grade presidential campaign is an example of why. He tells me he got the idea when he asked the children one day to raise their hands if they thought they could never be a U.S. president.

“The answer broke his heart.

” ‘Almost every single child who is an English-language learner believed that they couldn’t be,’ Whaley recalls. They’d say things like, ‘ “I can’t run for president because my parents are from a different country.” That was a biggie. “Because I’m poor, and you need a lot of money to be the president.” “Because I don’t like to read, or I can’t read.” ‘

“Whaley says the presidential speech project is about more than just learning to read and speak in public. He wants these kids to learn to boast about themselves.

” ‘Bragging about yourself, and your best qualities,’ Whaley says, ‘is very difficult for a child who came into the classroom not feeling any confidence whatsoever to read three or four words.’

“Robert Epstein, the principal at Canaan Elementary, says this is the essence of what makes Whaley such a great teacher.

” ‘There’s a sense of community that’s really unsurpassed,’ and the students will take risks as a result, Epstein says. He adds that Whaley goes above and beyond what is expected of him as a teacher. ‘If one needs sneakers, I’ve seen him go out and buy sneakers. He’s gone to homes. He’s constantly on the phone, constantly emailing parents.’ ”

More at NPR.

Photo: Christopher Gregory for NPR
Thomas Whaley walks his students back to class from the library.

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Having heard one too many panel discussions and lectures lately about the downsides of the “ageing population,” I was delighted that a few upsides were mentioned at today’s Harvard conference on “Ageing + Place” — a refreshing and intriguing event presenting the latest research and design ideas related to ageing.

Meanwhile, John was on my wavelength again, sending me a link to a story about someone who seems to be ageing remarkably well and making a contribution to society while she’s at it.

Katie Honan of DNAInfo.com writes at BusinessInsider about a 100-year-old woman who is still teaching children in a Brooklyn elementary school.

“Three days a week, Madeline Scotto walks across the street from her home to St. Ephrem’s elementary school, where she was part of the first graduating class.

“She climbs the stairs to her classroom, where she works to prepare students for the math bee. She pores over photocopied worksheets with complicated problems, coaching kids on how to stay calm on stage while multiplying and dividing in their head.

“She’s just like any other teacher at the school — except for one thing: She’s 100 years old.

” ‘I think it just happens, you know. You don’t even realize it,’ said Scotto, who marked her birthday on Thursday.

” ‘Last year I thought, “This can’t be, that I’m going to be 100.” I sat down and did the math actually. I thought, I could not trust my mind. This I had to put paper to pencil — I couldn’t believe it myself. It just kind of happened. I guess I’m very lucky.’ ” More here.

Is there a person of any age who isn’t astonished when they think of how old they are? I think if you are 21 or 40 or 65, you are still going to say to yourself, “How did that happen?”

Photo: DNAInfo
Madeline Scotto is 100-years-old and still teaches students in Dyker Heights.

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When I was a teacher in Pennsylvania hoping to get accreditation, a supervisor from the teachers college where I took classes came to observe me at work. It was quite a long time ago, and the only thing I recall is that he remarked that I needed to do more with my classroom bulletin boards.

There I was, trying to do creative things with 11-year-olds in language arts (the play within the play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream springs to mind), but his checklist required him to observe the bulletin boards.

So imagine my delight when I saw an article today about a study suggesting teachers may be putting too much emphasis on bulletin boards and wall decorations.

Jan Hoffman writes at the NY Times, “That bright, cheery look has become a familiar sight in classrooms across the country, one that has only grown over the last few decades, fed by the proliferation of educational supply stores. But to what effect?

“A new study looked at whether such classrooms encourage, or actually distract from, learning. The study … found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted … than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.

“The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.

“ ‘So many things affect academic outcomes that are not under our control,’ said Anna V. Fisher, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon and the lead author of the study, which was published in Psychological Science. ‘But the classroom’s visual environment is under the direct control of the teachers. They’re trying their best in the absence of empirically validated guidelines.’ ”  Hence the impetus for the study. Read more here.

Photo: Psychological Science
In a new study, 24 kindergartners were taught in two classroom settings: one unadorned, the other decorated with posters and artwork.

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Ashoka, which defines itself as “a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs,” has a blog called Changemakers that might interest readers. The March 26 post is on teaching and empathy.

Nora Cobo at the Center for Inspired Teaching writes, “While test-based assessments are essential, they reflect only one type of data and one kind of skill that students need. Schools must also focus on students’ social-emotional growth in order to create sound learning environments. Such settings help students develop interpersonal competence and improve short- and long-term academic and personal outcomes.

“Center for Inspired Teaching partners with teachers to change the school experience for students to include these critical skills. … Instead of looking at students’ behavior as something to be corrected, we train teachers to look at students’ behavior in terms of unmet needs. In particular, we ask teachers to consider students’ needs for Autonomy, Belonging, Competence, Developmental appropriateness, and Engagement — the ABCDE of learners’ needs.

“For example, a teacher may encounter a student who repeatedly gets frustrated and leaves his seat to chat with classmates when he encounters a complicated geometry problem. Rather than assuming the student has a bad attitude, the teacher strives to figure out which of the student’s needs is not being met. The teacher may discover that the student learns best when physically engaged – and offer him the option to tackle the equation by measuring distances by walking.

“Similarly, a teacher may find a student who refuses to work in a group setting, saying she just prefers to work alone. In examining the student’s unmet needs, that teacher may discover that the student longs for more autonomy with her work – and empower that student to create on her own.

“The teacher may discover, upon further engaging her skills of empathy, that other members of the group aren’t treating the student kindly, and therefore the student’s need for belonging is not being met when classroom groups are self-selected. …

“Placing empathy at the core of teachers’ practice ensures that students learn how to think, not just what to think – and go beyond covering the curriculum to learn the skills they need in order to thrive.”

More here.

Photograph: Kate Samp, Strategies for Children

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Last night we finally watched the DVD of “Waiting for Superman.” We had to wait until we were up for it. We knew it would be good, but painful to watch. It’s a documentary about the broken public education system in this country.

I see now why people come away from this movie saying, “It’s the unions.” But although we clearly need to find a way to dismiss bad teachers and reward good teachers, to just say, “It’s the unions,” seems too simple to me. Even if it is true, when you consider the context of poverty, unemployment, the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world, the War on Drugs, three other wars, confused approaches to immigration, Wall Street greed at the expense of the poor and middle class, antigovernment bias, and many skewed political priorities, to lay the problems of inequality in public education at any one door seems too simplistic.

Still, as the movie makes clear, we need to get rid of bad teachers immediately and make sure children get high-quality teachers before they give up hope. Lotteries to get into better schools are too cruel to too many. Activists can check out this site.

By the way, the film is very well done. We loved the creative graphics making the data real and the clips of Superman movies and past political speeches and TV shows.

Reader Asakiyune writes: “I very much agree with what you said about unions and teaching and the documentary–it bothers me when a problem as complex as that is reduced to one soundbite.”

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