Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Digits Not Atoms

We have known since we started using computers that digital learning is always been liberating for all concerned as recently written about by Michael Horn.

Essentially it is about the digits and not the atoms. The physical activity of handing out paper, collecting paper, opening books, notebooks, and grading are all more efficiently done in digital form rather than atomically. When the daily chores are done digitally, students do more and teachers accomplish more with the same effort. In addition, with the digits, teachers can alter and distribute the work more quickly and the students always have access. The dog can now eat better. Students have constant access and with email can communicate with the teachers. Digits will always make learning better.

When it comes to those administrative chores, teachers can be more efficient with basic software used for grading, contacting parents, creating lesson plans and worksheets, and assessing their students. The syllabus and other classroom business should be online. In addition, administrative work will always be better digitally, easy to distribute and easy to access in meetings.

Teachers who keep digital folders are more efficient and productive.

When one becomes digital and loses the atoms, teachers will find they have more time in class for the students and have more efficient time out of class. In the end the students will benefit and succeed more regularly because their teachers are digital.

Atoms just take more time and time is key in improving education without destroying the teachers and burying them in atoms. It's about the digits, not the atoms just for the simplest of chores, imagine when we begin to develop more complex digital lessons.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CyberEnglish is brain surgery

The Jensen book supports CyberEnglish.

I've always said, CyberEnglish is as close to brain surgery as a teacher can get. Because we are in computer rooms we have access to the technology that let's us watch our scholars create, edit, and produce work. Beyond that, the curriculum of CE is project based. In project based lessons, the scholars must collaborate and use all their skills to complete a project. It is more than any multiple choice test can provide. What concerns me is that those in charge have been hoodwinked by big business into thinking that a test based curriculum is the way to go. Of course it is easy and the public sees and believes what it is told by politicians, advertisers, and big business. Since we a market economy we are driven by the flim flam of business and not by the intelligence of educators. Americans are very ignorant about education as witnessed by where we are today and by the politicians they have put in charge of this very important facet of American life. We do not follow our brain, instead we follow our politicians and that is a huge mistake because they are led by the lobbyists. Education is big bucks, in fact it is the second largest industry in America. The military is number one. So common sense and intelligent choices will not be made since "there is gold in them thar schools." Big business only cares about the bottom line and making money, not about doing the right or even intelligent thing. Multiple choice tests are economically more profitable than any project based curriculum, so we have MC tests to do our assessment. People are too lazy to do it the right way, so we do it the bad way.

We know when we choose a doctor, a contractor, or an employee; we want to see a portfolio of their work. We don't give them multiple choice tests. We want to see what they have done. We want to critique their work, before we choose them to work for us. So why don't we do this in education? The Jensen book outlines some very specific reasons why we need to take more care in our classrooms and why we should. And yet, we always ignore common sense in education and replace it with the misguided money grubbing ways of big business. The folks in charge of creating the tests are not educators. They do not consider the science of pedagogy, and they certainly don't reflect on brain research. In fact they work in a bubble. They do not consult with the teachers in the classroom about the contents of the tests they make, they don't share the results and they destroy the tests after they have scored them. When they make a mistake it is horrendous and there are no ramifications except the students suffer and the company still keeps the contract. And the American public accepts this without question. Politicians support it because those companies give money to the politicians, who send their children to private schools because of the donations. It is a vicious circle, a very, very, vicious circle with most Americans completely out of the loop to what is happening to them.

We are witnessing the dumbing down of America and we don't even see it. Consider how we see some politicians revel in their ignorance. Most notably, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Joe Biden. It is embarrassing. America's problems are not the result of bad education, yet, it is the result of bad business decisions and the acquiescing of educational policy to big business instead of the teachers. That is America's problem, big business rules and the people suffer and are the victims.

In yet another article about the perils of the current tests, the suggestion is,
Both groups will create tests using technology in both administering and scoring and will measure “performance-based tasks, designed to designed to mirror complex, real-world situations,” according to the New York Times.
Sorry this won't work. We need humans involved. The best way to assess our scholars is for our scholars to publish their work, as we do in CyberEnglish, and then let teachers and anyone who wants to to look at the work and to write their findings. The problem of course is that this is labor intensive or too labor intensive for big business because it is not cost effective. Education shouldn't be led by accountants, it should be led by educators. We just don't get it. We keep hearing about blended schools without too much of an explanation, but CyberEnglish was doing blended school in the 90's and is still doing it today.

More on Brain and emotion: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2012/mar/05/emotions-and-brain/

The Divided Brain: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2012/mar/16/divided-brain/

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Caitlin's Wedding


Today is Caitlin's wedding day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Ten

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Ten, "Memory and Recall"
My homework will involve the Flow Map.

The most important takeaway is that "memory is malleable." Our interaction with our students and their memory in learning at the point of original encoding, maintaining memory, and retrieving learning. We learn a lot more than we demonstrate and seem forgetful on ways we use to assess. The tests we give, don't give our students their due course. Project based assessment is far superior. These dumb tests teach us that these are dumb tests. Memories are dynamic and not fixed.

We remember anything related to survival, food, shelter, and people. Research shows that the details of the process of memory is a baffling intellectual labyrinth. There is no place for all our memories. We have multiple memory locations and systems which can cause us the problem especially when we destroy brain cells or have a brain injury.

There are many pathways to store and retrieve memory. The pathway is usually similar to learning pattern. Memories are either explicit or implicit. Explicit learning may be semantic, words and pictures, or episodic. Implicit memory are reflective and procedural as shown in above figure.

Semantic memory, explicit memory, AKA declarative, factual, and linguistic. This would be names, facts, figures, and textbook information. There is a limitation to this memory because of time and capacity. Working memory is crucial here. Sometimes we forget the name of someone we just met or the contents of a page just read. Working memory can hold two to three things at a time, NOT more as has been thought. Multitasking is over rated and not done well as we know. Notetaking and working with one electronic tool at a time are ways to improve working memory, learning, and attaining success. In class give simple directions one step at a time. Use worksheets to help students learn how to manage multiple steps at one time so as not to depend on our limited working memory. I'm always reminded about this when I set out to do something, am spoken to or have further input and when I get to where I need to be, I forget why I'm there. Usually I need to return to the starting place to rediscover what I was about to do.

Another kind of explicit memory is episodic memory. This memory relies on autobiographical, spatial, and event-laden material. Episodic memory has unlimited capacity, is effortless, is is used naturally by everyone. The caveat is that we can have overload of information that contaminates memory which will cause us to put information of one memory into another. Teachers can use movement, different seats, and different procedures in class to eliminate staleness.

Reflexive memory is an implicit memory, which is how we react to a siren, a tap on the knee by the doctor. Reflexive memory can be either emotional or non-emotional. Flashcard repetition or "over-learning" are good classroom strategies. Raps or fill in the blanks are also useful tools.

Procedural memory is another implicit memory. This is a habit, body, and motor memory method. Riding a bike comes to mind. This memory is activated by activities such as sports, theater, dance, games and the other kinetic things we do.

Memories are malleable. We do not remember everything we experience. Jensen suggests seven reasons why our memories fail us: transience (erosion over time), absent-mindedness (not paying attention), blocking (on tip of tongue), misattribution (confused by similar memories), suggestibility (contamination of other memories), bias (prejudices), persistence (negative memory becomes pervasive). There are events in your life that we never forget where we were, for example, 9/11, Challenger, JFK. Memories are not stored intact and will unravel or change over time.

Two different variables are used in memory formation and retrieval. More active memory are considered less consolidated than inactive ones, more fragile, subject to change, and harder to retrieve. synaptic consolidation happens within minutes to hours after initial learning occurs. Learning memories are high in choline found in eggs, salmon, lean beef to name a few. Diet becomes crucial in memory on all levels and in all aspects of learning.

Jensen suggests it is more about the student's attitude about memory and diet. Develop a more positive attitude and eat better.

The last two chapters are summations of what has been said before in conclusive manner. They offer good advice to new teachers in particular and for experienced teachers to refine their practice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Nine

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Nine "Critical Thinking Skills" are not innate, they are learned and the product is intelligence. My homework will involve the Double Bubble Map.

Cognition is created from our lower order brain systems. What we need to do is help them develop, cooperate with other systems, and learn. Developing critical skills involves exploring the unique brain, the problem solving brain, the maturing brain, the adaptive brain, and the emotional brain.

We all have a unique brain. This single fact has always confused me about the factory model in education. It is one reason I embraced the computers in 1984. Computers allow for our uniqueness. This is why we use differentiation in our classrooms. It is why saying it slower and louder still doesn't get through. Different strokes for different folks.

We are problem solvers, sometimes to a fault. Many times I have heard, "Don't solve the problem, just listen." We solve problems, the brain loves these exercises. Exercises we can encourage to develop these skills in our students is to help them maintain focus and attention to the task. Learn how to prioritize tasks and to make distinctions in relevancy, order, and similarities/differences. Asking for help is always useful and avoids time wasted and frustration. In short developing good habits builds problem solving skills.

Researchers know that as students learn new critical learning skills their brain mass changes and connections are realigned as lots of activity takes place in the synapse. Building critical learning skills is like body building. Do it in intervals, start small, and vary duration. Increase as skills develop. Time and patience are essential. These skills will develop naturally as our brain sees relevancy of task, does repetitive tasks to assist the memory neurons, and is specific about the task.

Teachers are more knowledgeable about the stages of brain development than they were a decade ago. We know more now. The result is that our lessons are more attuned to the maturing brain and provide lessons suitable for that brain at that time. We have to be more flexible with different students as we watch them perform.

Oftentimes we will hear that we are "playing it by the seat of our pants" or "winging it." This is the quality of our adaptive brain. The adaptive brain develops when we explore, are faced with new experiences, and create.

One common thread for all of our work with the brain is nutrition. A healthy diet leads to a healthy brain.

My homework will use the Double Bubble Map. I would use the compare and contrast page, a short story exercise, and some poetry.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Eight

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Eight, "Motivation and Engagement" deals with how we motivate our students. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
Motivation is defined as the combination of "arousal" and "drive." Arousal indicates a goal is to be achieved and drive as the force to make it happen. So how does the brain influence these two forces? In theory, each new year should bring renewed hope and aspirations. All too often, these hopes are dashed early in the school year. One thing we need to do is unlearn them about failure. We have to break the demotivation forces such as a lack of positive relation with a teacher of friend, learned helplessness, disrespected because of race or sex, perceived threats, drug use, that school is irrelevant. Students who fail have a record of failure so we need to unlearn them before we can teach them. Certainly exercises that they can accomplish quickly, with ease, and successfully will begin the process. Using direct and blatant rewards is just the start.

When considering how rewards affect the brain, we only need to recognize how when we are recognized in a favorable way about our work, we do better. Our pleasure neurons have been stroked and that feeling is one we want to repeat over and over again. The same goes for our students. Consider the motivation of Wall Street workers as they anticipate their bonus or waiters who work for tips. Students, too, work for rewards be they treats, prizes, or grades.
The brain does the same thing with rewards. The brain makes its own opiates in response to rewards. These chemicals then become useful in helping the brain in other functions demanded of the classroom. Success breeds success, just as failure breeds failure. Another consideration is the reward that is is anticipated as opposed to the reward that comes as a surprise. The chemicals in the brain do different things in each situation. So as teachers we can do some planning, anticipation of rewards with our students as we plot out a study plan, provide reward for projects, and the like. The caveat is to be careful of expectations for rewards for menial tasks and even escalation of reward expectation as in greed. Not all rewards are equal to all students.
So be judicious, use low cost rewards, use abstract rewards, and begin to develop intrinsic rewards.

If rewards isn't your thing or feasible, conversations with students during planning process, altering a project because of student feedback, and choice within projects on small and big things will build paths for intrinsic motivation. Verbal encouragement and modeling the joy of learning very often is reward enough for students. Constant, consistent feedback is always loved by the students. I know when my students come into the class and don't find a paper with their name on it, I remind them they were reading yesterday and didn't add anything new to their webpage. That reminder is enough as they tell me they will be writing today and know they will have paper feedback tomorrow. That is their motivation for that day.
In short, much of the research shows that motivation is a direct result of how teachers treat students. For me it is create the challenge, provide the tools for success, build a supportive environment, and get out of the way. And oh yeah, I don't answer my own questions and I take a couple of minutes to respond to a call for help, which is usually solved by the time I do respond.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Spider's Web


The metaphor of this web does not allude me as I contemplate the brain and CyberEnglish. Web building is a blueprint of the brain for the spider and my scholars in CyberEnglish.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Seven

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Seven, "Managing the Social Brain" takes on more relevancy in the new world of social networking.

Social experiences change the human brain which has created a new discipline, "social neuroscience." Teachers need to be mindful of the social interaction of their students.
Schools are social places; as a result. they change students' brains. Social contact lowers blood pressure just as social isolation is just as devastating a health risk.

The social brain affects cognition. Students aren't born with social skills, they are learned. Ways to help the student learn these skills is to work in groups. Five to twenty percent of class should be done in small groups. Groups of three to four are better than larger groups. Strategies for the classroom could be pair share, competitions, simulations, drama, and small group discussions followed by a presentation. Social ranking in groups can cause stress or highs, depending upon rank in the group. Many other considerations like preening, bias, peer pressure, and dress styles can affect social behavior and in the end a good setting for learning.

Teachers should include group work in their classes to encourage improved social skills.


Homework is the Multi-Flow Map. I would use a newspaper article that addresses a current social situation and have the students write about it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Six


Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Six, "Physical Environments for Learning" discusses how architects are listening to neuroscientists as they design learning centers.

While visiting colleges with my son recently, I was observing his reactions to the different campuses. After visiting a few schools we arrived at the last college of the current tour and immediately he expressed a liking for the school. He became enthusiastic as we parked the car. The interviews that day were the best and he had a good feeling about college. The first indicator for him was the physical appearance of the campus. In my English class, I provide my students with the five traits of determining character in a story. The first is appearance. Appearance is something we all use in making a judgment or choice in another person. At conferences about construction of workplace and schools, some of the issues considered in design were stress, safety, privacy, mobility, lighting, humidity, temperature, convenience, aromas, collegiality, and productivity.

In some cases teachers do have control of their classroom environment. Seating has always been a crucial component in class. Do we let them sit with friends or not? Do we seat them alphabetically? Rows or circles or groups? When I entered a public school in NYC, I was overwhelmed with 32 students in a class. I started with the obvious alpha list design and found it very unsatisfying in classroom discussion. One day when I walked in two students were reviewing their horoscopes. They discovered they were compatible signs and commented on how that proved why they were friends and worked well together. Another student entered and it was revealed hir horoscope was in conflict with the other two and that explained the conflicts the third student had with the first two. Immediately I struck on an idea of seating the class. I had each student indicate their horoscope element: earth, air, water, fire. I then proceeded to rearrange the classroom into these elements. I was amazed at how productive and distinctive each group was. That simple rearrangement enhanced learning in my classrooms. I have fans in my room so I can adjust the temperature in my classroom because it is on a central system. When it is too cold because of the AC, I can open a window and position a fan near it to warm it up a bit. I am lucky, my room is never too cold in winter. The custodians in my schools have always been responsive to my requests. Lighting has always been an issue in my classroom. I have floor lamps around the room and a bank of windows facing north. I usually only turn on the lights by the windows and leave the room lights off. The computers and the ambient light of the floor lamps provide good lighting for my students. When another teacher comes in and flicks on the rest of the overhead lights the students react in a negative way. Students comment on the positive lighting in my room, while some teachers comment negatively. Lighting was the point of the Hawthorne effect done many years ago and that concern hasn't changed over the years except that lighting has become a more important concern in classrooms.

Noise is another concern as ambient sounds, echoes, outside noise, noise from the hallway or other classrooms all have an effect on your classroom and learning that happens in it.

Designing smarter schools is the point of this chapter. In 2001, I wrote a paper about what I thought schools should look like. As far as I'm concerned it is about creating, with what you have, the best possible learning environment and to constantly tweak it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth


An American won today's stage 3 at Tour de France. Go Ty!!





Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Five

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Five, "Emotional States" discusses how neuroscientists are providing evidence to the fact that we should be more cognizant to the emotional state of our students. Learning is dependent upon how we feel, act, and think. Emotions are crucial in how we create our reality.

Jensen summarizes the research on emotions. Emotions drive attention, create meaning, and have their own memory pathways. they regulate behavior and help us organize our world.
Emotions drive a passion for learning, help our attention span, support persistence or retreat, and provides incentives. Daniel Goleman's work on Emotional Intelligence started in 1995. Just as there are physical states, there are emotional states and this new science is uncovering new things about learning and the brain.

Perhaps the reason emotions has not been on the brain research radar is that emotions are not located in one area of the brain, but are distributed throughout the brain. For example frustration and pain are housed in the anterior cingulate; pleasure from drugs in the nucleus accumbens; and terror in the amygdala which guides decision making. In addition it isn't just the different connections, but also the messengers involved in transporting the different emotions. Further the prescribed drugs some people take that suppress some of the natural brain chemicals causing an imbalance.

Jensen goes on to explore just four of the emotional states our students may find themselves in a classroom. Emotions cause us to remember the highlights of school through field trips, hands on experiments, or a friend rather than a lecture. This is why those out of school always wax nostalgically about school, until they really probe. School was always better when I was a kid. Not so. Jensen has selected four emotional states to concentrate on: fear/threat, joy/pleasure, sadness/disappointment, anticipation/curiosity.

When the brain is faced with fear/threat there are three reactions, fight, escape, freeze. Escaping is no a real option. Students tend to freeze and exchange facial and body language threats. Fighting may occur at class change, in the hallway, or out of school. The chemical reactions happening inside the body and mind of the student have overshadowed any chance of learning. The next thing to happen is the stress level rises. In many situations, moderate stress improves learning, but prolonged and intense stress can and will be very damaging. The difference between useful and dangerous stress is dependent upon our control or assumed control over the event causing stress. The emphasis has been on student stress, but more research is suggesting schools need to examine stress levels in the adults, too.

If the stress level is too much, students tend to drop out. Too much negativity results in bad behavior and choices. On the other hand, when students experience joy/pleasure in the classroom, then learning will occur and had occurred. Dopamine doesn't alert our pleasure neurons, it enhances our ability to pay attention.

Sadness/disappointment connote a negative response. However, sadness/disappointment unlike the stress of fear/threat, may be useful in not repeating the actions that resulted in sadness and disappointment. Being cognizant of the event will provide the learner with fodder to not repeat the event that resulted in sadness/disappointment.

Anticipation/curiosity create a heightened and positive state of hope and vigilance. They are called "appetitive" states because they stimulate the mental appetite. A student has to come to class hungry to learn. This has always been an argument by me for students taking time off between high school and college and between college and grad school. Students need to have a mental appetite to learn as they commence new institutions of learning. What's the rush? In addition, if a teacher is priming the learning process by guaranteeing success, then the learning will improve, success will be achieved as the student anticipates a positive experience. That experiment I tried a number of years ago when I guaranteed 90's to all my students for the semester resulted in 99% success. In fact many students produced more than they ever had and learned more than they thought they could.

So the question is how do we influence these emotional states? Increasing the positive flow of the good chemicals in the students, to help them feel good about themselves is what the student brain craves. What we know about the effect of emotion on the brain is that emotions are ubiquitous, they run our lives. All behavior is connected to our emotions. If a student isn't in the mood to read, s/he won't read. Our states aren't who we are, so be positive in labeling a student by a state. When a student displays a negative state over a prolonged period, help is required. We have mood swings and our emotional state will change very quickly depending upon outside influences like a good grade on a paper as opposed to bad grade. Events influence the chemical flow in our bodies and then our emotions.

Ways to change the emotional state is to ask questions that engage the student by including them in the answer. Not what should this character do, but what would you do if you were this character. Teachers should share their joy in learning. Celebrating student accomplishments is good in any class. Try to incorporate some physical activity in class, moving around, standing up and moving to groups. Debating a point, acting out a scene, or just having a lively discussion will improve attention and stimulate the brain for learning. Chaos always finds its order, especially in a classroom. Allowing students to journal or share their lives with you will engage them and make them feel safe and provide the appetite to learn.


As teachers adjust to emotions, their own and those of their students, learning environments will improve. Again it is more about quality and not quantity. Take time to address emotions, especially tragic ones, joyous ones, and positive emotions that surround us in and out of school. When we ask, "How are you?" expect a detailed answer. Model by giving a detailed response when asked, "How are you?"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Four

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Four, "Movement and Learning" focuses on kinetic energy and how we should balance seat time and activity. By exploring anatomical, imaging, cognitive, and functional studies our classroom practice will enhance learning.

Jensen explores the evidence for the connections between mind and body, the links between the cerebellum and the rest of the brain. The anatomical evidence tells us that the cerebellum is located in the back of the brain and is the size of a small fist. It contains nearly half the brain's neurons and is considered the most complex part of the brain. Most of the neurons are "outbound" thus influencing the brain. Evidence from Imaging techniques support the role of movement and the visual system, language system, and memory. This is the lightening storm going on in our brain. Recess is important because the activity of running, rolling, jumping, and sliding affect the inner ear canals which are very important to regulate incoming sensory data that affects attention. No one can argue against exercise. In some schools all students begin with exercise or gym before classes. In these cases, the evidence shows better academics. Learning how to play on a playground, learning the rules and engaging social interaction become useful tools in the classroom where they need to learn to play with ideas. Play is important.
"The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 603–605
Some activities we can do would be drama, role playing, quick games, group work, and even stretching. In my computer classroom I find it essential to have the students get up and move around and even when working in groups move around in their rolling chairs. When they want something they know they have to get up and get it because I'm not bringing it to them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Three

Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind Chapter Three "Rules We Learn By" begins the conversation about "Nature vs Nurture." Homework is the Circle, Bubble, and Tree Maps.

The "Nurture" argument justifies the teacher's existence beyond simple babysitting. Now Jensen defines learning and establishes his seven points that influence learning. Learning is both explicit and implicit. Explicit learning comes from what we read, write, and speak about that comes from outside sources like textbooks, videos, and lectures that revolve around task prediction and are assessed by tests. Implicit learning happens from within that are developed by habits, activities, things that we "do." When we learn, we develop "memory." On a more complex level of learning, we employ more strategies and tools. Jensen has espoused seven critical factors in the learning process that concentrate on the brain and less on the environment. These factors are
  • Engagement (goal oriented attention and action)
  • Repetition (priming, reviewing, and revising)
  • Input quantity (capacity, flow, chunk size)
  • Coherence (models, relevance, prior knowledge)
  • Timing (time of day, interval learning)
  • Error correction (mistakes, feedback, support)
  • Emotional states (safety, state of dependency)

Engagement is simply paying attention. Students are distracted by many environmental stimuli in the classroom and paying attention requires some discipline and skill. On one level teachers can provide choice and a good environment which considers lighting, furniture, temperature, and safety. Students can provide good sleep, avoid drugs or alcohol, and are aware of their needs. As for attending to the brain paying attention to our glucose level is important. Another important factor is safety. Not just physical safety, but also safe in making mistakes and not being embarrassed.

Repetition will never not be important in learning. In order for repetition to be useful, engaging, and useful instead of boring variety is the spice. Consider using pre-exposure, covertly, well before the action. Use previewing, overtly, before the event. Priming is the DoNow that stimulates the brain and prepares it for learning. Reviewing is the takeaway from the event. Finally revision is is the overt action as it pertains to the event.

Input Quantity deals with the notion that more is not necessarily better. Teachers are always at odds with the distinction between quality and quantity. What is needed is in-depth learning that may seem slow in the beginning, but in time students will do more because they have developed the skills to do more and to remember things. This is a good argument for annualization of our classes instead of the constant changing of students every semester or less. Just as we get to know them and have a good rhythm going we change students. In too many cases there just isn't enough time in the semester system of schools. In addition, our class length and frequency of changing from discipline to discipline puts undo strain on memory and learning skills. Moving from English, to math, to science, to history in four hours or less is not environmentally sound in the learning process. Just because that is how it has been doesn't mean it works, and please don't recall when you were in school. We know from research that our short term memory, frontal lobe, has the capacity of taking in three to seven new chunks of information before it overloads. As for synaptic learning we need anywhere from one to six hours to process that which we have learned, which explains the delay in time for our students to respond. As our brain functions in learning, it must recycle the used proteins so that further learning can happen. Learning sessions should be done in short spurts with activity time to digest the information before moving on. One step at a time, quality and assisting long term memory skills before introducing the next. And after the second, be sure to review the first before heading to the third. In fact we know that much happens in our learning when we sleep, which explains why when we wake the next morning we have a fresh idea on a taks we struggled with yesterday. Our hippocampus is most responsible for this occurrence. Limiting outside influences and pausing will influence learning in a positive way.
Coherence is how we connect what we are learning with how we learn. For example, global versus sequential, emotional versus bland, abstract versus concrete, reflective versus active, and novel versus familiar. Two concepts that encourage coherence are activating prior knowledge and using examples. In short it is all about the metaphors. We use the familiar to understand the unfamiliar.

Timing is about the rhythms of the body and the brain. I've used biorhythm software to determine my ups and downs on any given day or to predict my state of mind, body, and soul on a given day in the future. Very useful. This is based on the ultradian rhythms of the brain. Many physical and chemical things happen to the learner throughout the day because of the ultradian rhythms which play a key role in learning. For example researchers discovered that in one study the verbal cycle lasted 80 minutes while the spatial task lasted 96 minutes. As these cycles function throughout the day, learning is going to be different for each student at any given time of the day. So giving a final exam on a given day at a given time may not be the best for all students, only for those students on on that day and at that time. Another factor not to be ignored are the hormones. Some things we can do is to be tolerant and understanding. Provide a variety of activities in the class to accommodate both hemispheres of the brain. Moving around rather than staying in a sedentary position is helpful for amine acids. Scheduling is a serious matter and block scheduling provides adjustments to account for the ultradian rhythms. Modify methods of assessment so they aren't just a test.
Error correction should be done in a timely manner and within limits. We learn from our mistakes. Pavlov should come to mind or understanding what hot is when we touch a hot stove. To help the brain learn from its mistakes can be achieved with specific, concrete examples and hands on tasks. Also if the new task is somehow related to a familiar task then the new task will be incorporated well. The old adage of " tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them" will always work. Trial and error is also useful in learning from our mistakes. By trying out multiple methods to do something provides us with better understanding about the task from multiple perspectives. This is an example of nature. Nurture comes in consistent activities, opportunities to do, and feedback. When I provide feedback to my scholars, I'm sure not to overwhelm them and to concentrate on certain skills at a time.

Emotion state of mind of the student will determine success or not. Our emotional state is one of the most important regulators of learning and memory. Stress is one cause of a negative emotional state. Allowing or providing time and ways for the student to alleviate that stress through counseling or taking some time is useful before instruction begins. If the student is worried about or preoccupied with something else, instruction isn't going to happen. Let the student attend to the stress in a timely manner. Much of what will hinder learning will be chemical and will be fixed when the stress issue is resolved in some way. Positive emotional states are dependent on dopamine. Suggestions would be to take risks, provide excitement, demand some urgency, and always provide some pleasure in the tasks. Many years ago I read about a college professor who guaranteed all of his students would get an A in the class. The result was that all the students far exceeded their expectations and took risks, knowing mistakes would not penalize their grade. I tried this one semester in three ninth grade classes and found it very successful except for one student. the other 99 did far better then expected, took risks, experimented and discovered things that they would not have learned.

For my homework with the Circle, Bubble, and Tree Maps I will use the I am poetry, Habits of Mind, Awakening Genius, metaphors, and autobiographical work. Creating web pages is the ongoing activity for these maps.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Garden



The garden is a lush jungle. Someone has a bee hive nearby, too. Honey bees all over the Lacecaps. We are going to have lots of cherry tomatoes and pesto. The fire escape will be covered with Morning Glories.

An earlier version.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter Two

Chapter Two in Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind is "Preparing the Brain for School."

This chapter concentrates on the four stages of brain development: Conception to birth, birth to age two, two to five, 5 to the teen years. We are more aware of what happens in the fetus and should be very conscious of what should pregnant women should eat, do, and think during pregnancy.

The brain development from birth to the age of two has many parents worried that the right thing is being done. This of course is a fallacy. The need to concentrate on this time frame is that it builds scaffolding skills used in the rest of our lives. Also things like a second language may be easier now than later, later can happen. The key to this time is the scaffolding skills developed and learning skills are created too.

An area that teachers don't have a affect would be in the development of the emotional synapses between birth and two. Even though this is alterable later in life, the research is still out and a healthy emotional development at this stage will have an impact later in life. Sensory motor skills development at this stage is linked to later learning and learning problems. Children should be active at this time. Of course this is difficult for parents and for child care givers. What happens is the child spends too much time in a stationary place like a car seat, a high chair, in front of the television, or in a crib. In addition this is the time when hearing and sight skills are developing. It goes without saying the impact of food on brain development at any time in life is important and crucial in this stage. This time period belongs to the parents and parents should be better informed about brain development in this crucial time. The results here will help learning later and provide the teachers with good healthy working material in their class.

Infants appear to be display built in skills because they display a learned skill so quickly. The fact is they are learning. Children should be playing and interacting with their environment instead of watching television or playing video games exclusively. Reading to children has many effects such as emotional and developing good sensory skills in addition to learning how to read. Parents should be: reading to them, giving them time to learn and discover, providing simple toys, talking to them, and asking them questions. Further parents can help develop good social and emotional skills by providing opportunities for games and activities, role modeling, helping in peer interactions, and helping them be comfortable away from parents. Our children in schools aren't malnourished, they are ill nourished. Again so much does happen before they get to school, that we should be more cognizant of this stage from a more communal concept. In some cases, schools become a place where repair is the first course of action.

Once they get to school, this is where teachers become important and our knowledge of brain research becomes useful. By the time the child is five, it seems as if s/he is slowing down, but don't be fooled. The five five years are quick developmentally as they should be because so much is new. Now we see repetitive behavior and refinement of skills. As school begins so does the age of wonder for each child. This is a time when honesty, liberty, and hope develop along with understanding cause and effect and abstractions. There is a rigidness about habits. This may be a safety mechanism until they become more aware of choices and living with them.

The teen brain is a unique thing. Two important facts emerge in this time. Teenagers are under the control of their hormones and they need sleep. During these years the teenage brain is going through another major growth period similar to the infant brain. In this time more pruning is being done, remapping is happening, and new knowledge is pouring in all while the hormones are raging. Advice when dealing with teens is to be succinct, to model good behavior, be a coach, be understanding rather than judgmental, be tactful, cut them some slack, let them sleep, and communicate with them about sex, drugs, alcohol.

We already know that teen tastes drive the pop charts today. But, according to a new Emory University study, high schoolers may also be skilled at predicting pop hits - and flops - of the future. Neuroeconomist Gregory Berns, who directed the study, joins us to explain how teen brain scans could predict record sales. Listen:



The take away from this chapter is the amount of time humans need to interact with others in a positive and healthy way. Nutrition is crucial as is exercise at all levels. Understanding, love, and care are necessary to create good adults.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Reading - Chapter One


At our faculty conference yesterday we were given summer reading and homework. The text is Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind. I love this stuff and have written about the brain on some occasions in this blog: Left Brain Right Brain and The Teenage Brain. More recently at the end of April I suffered a TIA stroke. During my followup visit with my doctor, I saw the MRI images of my brain and where I had my stroke. Now I have more appreciation for this brain research and understand more about it as I was privy to my own brain and was able to look at its parts and see exactly how this research is conducted. The homework consists of doing weekly assignments that result in 7 Thinking Maps for our use next year.


As a teacher I'm in the business of improving the brain of my scholars, so it seems logical for me to be more cognizant of the brain. Now with the advancements in technology, we have more access to how the brain works and what we can do to stimulate and fortify key parts in the learning process. I have always been fascinated with my own power at the computer in my classroom. When I sit at the controlling computer, I can see my scholars working. I called this brain surgery because I could watch them edit, which is thinking. But that was as close as I was going to get, for now. Advanced technology like the MRI provide us tools to observe what happens to the brain during certain tasks thus enabling the educator to be more aware and purposeful in administering instruction. With the little I already know, I have been amazed at how this knowledge has enhanced my own teaching and in the end the learning of my scholars.

As I said, I love this kind of reading.

FACT: The Glia cell carries nutrients and speed repairs. They are more important than previously thought. Since there are 30-50 billion neurons in each brain the variation of 20-40% in each person's brain strongly supports differentiation in our teaching.

FACT: "The human brain has the largest area of uncommitted cortex (with no specific function identified so far) of any species on earth. (page 9)

FACT: "The most amazing new discovery about the brain might be that human beings have the capacity and the choice to be able to change our own brains. (page 10) Good argument in Nature vs Nurture.

FACT: "In summary, the brain is a dynamic, opportunistic, pattern-forming, self-organized system of systems." (page 13) Scientists conclude with differences that the brain cells die and are regenerated. The brain reorganizes usage areas depending upon usage. Research is constantly discovering just how this works, but they know it happens. This means the brain is reteachable and trainable constantly. Old dogs can learn new tricks, even if they don't want to.

FACT: The brain has two halves. There is constant communication between the two and within each side or lobe. The brain is constantly looking for and assigning or reassigning parts to perform or store. We have lots to learn about our brain.

So how does the brain learn?









This chart provides a mapping of the process by which we learn. In short as the brain learns "sparks" go off in the brain as the particular part affected is excited or stimulated. So these electrical sparks become chemical and then electrical again. The electrical charges are relative to the sodium and potassium present. The entire process of communication is called a synapse. During class there should be electrical thunderstorms going on in the brain. Learning is all about controlling the action in the synapse. The action is the synapse shows our learning process like when we make mistakes and then learn from them. "In short, learning happens at a micro level through the alteration of synaptic efficacy. Excited cells will excite other nearby cells. " (page 18) This is similar to Thomas Armstrong's claim in Awakening Genius

From the standpoint of education, genius means essentially "giving birth to the joy in learning." I'd like to suggest that this is the central task of all educators. It is the genius of the student that is the driving force behind all learning. Before educators take on any of the other important issues in learning, they must first have a thorough understanding of what lies at the core of each student's intrinsic motivation to learn, and that motivation originates in each student's genius.
What I take away from this chapter is that repetition of good habits, learning skills, and knowledge are important in the syntactical part of learning. Feedback in a timely manner is also important so the connections are repaired and the correct connection and communication between cells is made. The brain can relearn as old cells are lost and new cells are generated. The brain is a pliable and a teachable organ.


For my homework "Teaching the Brace Map," which explores the parts of the whole, I will use The Paragraph, VETY, the Poetry Fact Sheet, and the Fiction Fact Sheet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Article in Education Week


Katie Ash of Education week wrote about CyberEnglish that includes many of my friends.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Peace City Gardens

A lovely idea and sight to behold are the elaborate and very creative planters around some city trees on the upper west side, designed and built by Precious Costello of Peace City Gardens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who should be whom

At the end of a lovely school day, I was riding the number 1 train downtown. Some students got on at Lincoln Center, the usual stop for students from LaGuardia. I overheard two girls talking about their teacher. "She said we were to keep track of who is in love with who in the play."
The noise of sucking teeth was heard before her friend responded, "Yeah, what an idiot."
Giggling the first affirmed her friend's response, "Everyone knows it should be 'who is in love with whom' in the play."

A duet of giggles drifted away as they exited at Columbus Circle.

I chuckled to myself and wondered which play they were studying, Midsummer or As You Like It.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wonder Wheel

I saw a new application listed on the Google tools the other day, Wonder Wheel. I was doing a Google search of "metaphor" and when I pushed Wonder Wheel here is what I got:
To find Wonder Wheel, go to www.google.com and select WEB in upper left corner in Classic Google. On left see tools and scroll down the list until you will see Wonder Wheel. You may have to click "search more tools" to see Wonder Wheel. Have Fun, I did. This is a fine research tool.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From the Cockpit















This is the view of my classroom from my cockpit. I run my class from behind two computers. The computer on the left runs on Windows. I use it to maintain attendance and to view the scholars' work on their webpages as their work appears on the Internet. The screen is a blog that speaks to the scholars and allows me to view their published work. On the right computer, a Mac, I run Remote Desktop that allows me to view each scholar's computer. While each scholar works, I can observe what is being done and when necessary take control to help fix something. While I sit and observe, I am able to speak to each scholar about hir work. The scholars often request I take a look and provide feedback or help with a question. I do get up and walk around and sit near a student when this is necessary, but for the most part we like it best when I'm in the cockpit. They know I'm observing and when they wander off to a site that is not relevant to our work, I can intervene and suggest the scholar quickly return to the task or do it myself.

I call what I do sometimes, brain surgery, because I can actually watch their brains work as they write and edit. Perhaps my cockpit is the brain of CyberEnglish as the left side is a Windows operating system and the right side is a MAC. Talk about power and control in a classroom.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Royal West Indies Resort, TCI


Upon arriving at the Royal West Indies Resort, we saw a bike rack with colorful beach bikes. Since we were early and our room wasn't ready, we decided to take a bike ride to the grocery store, Graceway Gourmet. The store had everything we needed, rum; breakfast, lunch, and happy hour fixings; and suntan lotion rated 50 and 70. After buying our stores we headed back to the resort. I took a bike ride each day for exercise, to explore, and to shop.



Our room was ready. We were stunned at the beauty of the studio and of the size. It included a full kitchen, except a stove. The microwave and toaster were all we needed and the full-size refrigerator was ideal. Our studio was on the ground floor and our terrace overlooked the magnificent garden and the ocean. We were in the second building from the beach. We had a breakfast setup, but we used the terrace to eat. In addition we had two rattan chairs, one with a foot stool. We had a large screen tv with great cable (international fare: CBC for playoff hockey; ESPN Inter for world soccer; and baseball) as well as wireless internet to keep up with the royal wedding plans. We were set. We went to the beach.



The sand on the beach never got so hot we needed shoes. The sand was clean, soft, and beautiful. The beach ran for four miles to four miles to the left and to the right. It was a perfect walking beach as it provided exercise and views of other resorts. The best way to go was to the right past Club Med, a private resort, a new uninhabited resort, open land and then the Coral House, followed by four more miles of uninhabited land.

This was a lovely stretch for early morning runners, walkers, and sunset views. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen and walked. There were no hawkers selling things. Each beach offered the usual fare of para sail, banana boat rides, hobie cats, and the assorted water toys. On windy days the windsurfers came out and put on fantastic shows as they streaked around the water and soared through the air. The beach crew set us up with chairs and umbrellas, while the restaurant sent waiters to the beach on a regular schedule for those wanting food or drink. The walk to the left was more populated. A daily routine was established. I'd go to the beach take a walk, take a swim, set up the chairs, and return for breakfast. Chair were also established at the pool. We'd switch back and forth. Naps would be had at one of the two under the umbrella when the urge happened.



If the beach were too much for us, then we could retire to one of two pools. The first pool from the beach was next to the restaurant and was mainly peopled by young kids. Further on the meandering garden path was the Quiet Pool for readers, sleepers, and those seeking quiet. This zone was strictly enforced as noisy children were asked to leave if they couldn't respect the quiet zone. It also provided respite from the wind of the beach.

We ate dinners at the Pelican Bay Restaurant which was superb and the service was top notch. The highlight of the menu was the conch which was served many ways: as chowder, fritters, and grilled. Of course there was local catch of snapper and mahi mahi. In addition they had great jerk food as well as standard fare to accommodate every palate. The presentation was creative and inviting.



We discovered a black cat with white paws, tummy, and nose. He was sitting on our terrace the first morning. That night he strolled through our legs at dinner. We saw the cat off and on the next couple of days as he stopped for pets and a meow or two. Then we didn't see the cat for a couple of days. I bought some cat treats at the store and we left them on the terrace. The treats disappeared, but we didn't see him. We left some more out the next day and it too disappeared. Then on Friday evening, he appeared just before we were heading out to dinner. He walked right into the room. We fed him some treats which he ate from our hand. We gave him some water which he lapped up. He stayed in the studio when we went to dinner. After dinner, he was lying on the ground in the gazebo by the pool next to the restaurant. He meowed when he saw us and followed us home. He came into the studio for more treats, water, and pets. After he supped, he jumped up on the bed and found a place to sleep. He stayed the night and was gone when we woke. During breakfast he returned for his breakfast and then headed out to the jungle as we retired to the beach. On our last morning we saw him on the beach as we returned from our last swim to have breakfast before packing for our trip home. There was a sudden downpour while we ate breakfast and he came scurrying over, wet and meowing. We gave him the last bit of food, some water. As I dried him off he purred and fell asleep on my backpack. When it was time for me to pack it he simply got up, meowed and left.

We slept with the glass doors open and the screens closed except when the cat was here. The sound of the ocean was delightful and was very soothing as we went to sleep or woke in the middle of the night. Waking the sound of the ocean in the morning was heaven and far better than an alarm clock. It is amazing our internal clocks. We still woke early and went to sleep early. We began to use the sun as our clock. It was all about the sun, sand, and surf.



The gardens are stunning. They are perhaps one of the finest features of this resort. Considering the climate and the terrain the gardens here are magnificent. The gardening staff works tirelessly to maintain this idyllic scenery. The colors were rich, the aromas fragrant, and the designs creative.

One of delightful respites was the rain. It may have rained every day. The rain never disturbed our time. It rained sometimes when we were swimming and then just as suddenly stopped. It rained when we were lying on the beach and were about to take a dip to cool off. It rained at night or in the early morning. The rain never lasted very long. Sometimes the sun was out during the quick refreshing rain. Always the air was cooler and so fresh with that delightful aroma of clean.



The people who work at the resort are friendly, helpful, and delightful. While on the beach and it was time to take a dip, suddenly it would gently rain and cool us down and then just as suddenly stop and the sun would reemerge. On many occasions it would rain briefly as I was in the water. Most of the rain happened at night or early morning. It was always followed by a needed coolness and raised a lovely aroma.



This resort is one we will return to.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Holiday in Provinciales, Turks and Caicos

We will be on this glorious isle from Apr 16 to 26. We are staying at Royal West Indies Resort. The reviews are great.

View Larger Map

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poetry Month

A lovely writing metaphor was used by our principal to further explain again the idea of repetition by repeating the same thing over and over again in a lesson to be sure the students get it.

Since it is April, poetry month, a Shakespeare sonnet is another perfect example. He uses the three quatrains to say the same thing three different ways, so as to reach his audience. Guess how he uses the concluding rhyming couplet? Yup to say it yet again.

SONNET 1

William Shakespeare

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content.
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Inequality in Education

Obama's remark in NYC on Wednesday, April 6,
Describing education and education equality as the “civil rights issue of our time,” President Obama called Wednesday for a renewed effort to eliminate the achievement gap between African-American students and others.

reminded me of a research project conducted at Berkeley in 1975 involving the failing of Black students in calculus.

In that research project we learned about the importance of collaboration and working in groups. Schools haven't changed much since 1975, in spite of A Nation at Risk and all the follies of educational policy makers. Success always happens when a group of people get together and work collaboratively and equally. Education in this country has always been top down and not democratic, in spite of what John Dewey taught us. The same response to Sputnik has been repeated by Obama with STEM. What Obama and other educational policy makers seem to miss is product creation. Instead we continue to see more Multiple choice tests and very little pedagogical insight. Obviously our leaders learned nothing from that 1975 study about the solution to solving the reason blacks failed calculus in 1975.

CyberEnglish is such a course that transcends the limits of current educational policy by encouraging collaboration and being producers instead of consumers. Scholars in CyberEnglish go beyond the MC test. CyberEnglish addresses inequality and promotes democracy and the advancement of learning in the classroom in the 21st Century in spite of the continued presence of the 19th Century classroom in our educational policy today. What continues to confuse me about our educational policy is the lack of the use of technology. In every other industry in this country, technology has made great inroads and has affected major changes to the good. Despite all of this, education has yet to embrace technology in its practice. We have to stop thinking about how we were taught; we need to imagine how we should be taught and to begin practicing those ideas. CyberEnglish is such an example of how we should be taught.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Black is Out!!

Whew.

It doesn't matter why Cathy Black is out. The point is she is gone and good riddance. The real issue is why she was ever appointed in the first place. This is disgusting. One has to consider the number of deputy chancellors who have left since she took office. When will we learn that non educators make for bad education leaders?

This also speaks to the fall of Mayor Bloomberg and his very stubborn and arrogant ways of doing things. His forcing a third term was a bad idea and since then he has bumbled his way along.

So much for the children of NYC. What a total disaster this is for education in NYC. Public polls are one thing our leaders better listen to, just look to the Mideast to discover that mistake.

Now maybe we will stop seeing these business oriented people heading our schools, it doesn't work. We know this as we look at the failures of non educators in leadership of schools from Paige to Rhee and all the failures in between, including Cathy Black.

Even Walcott, although a better choice, is still not the best choice for chancellor. He, too, will have to go through the waivers. Let's do it right in the future Mr Mayor. Why can't you get this important job right?

Listen to Brian Lehrer discuss this, hear Mayor Bloomberg announce the change, and introduce our new chancellor, Dennis Walcott.



More conversation has been discouraging as some see Walcott as a competent replacement and even Canada's name has emerged. Boy have we lowered the standard of what would make a good chancellor. Think education and educational credentials, NOT business credentials. We have seen the failure of this tact over and over again across the country.

More from The Brian Lehrer Show a day later.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Teaching is about patience

The best teachers are the patient teachers. Those teachers who wait for an answer, rather than giving the answer to their question in less than five seconds. Patient teachers wait for the scholar to work through a writing assignment before doing it for them. Patience is a good quality all teachers should have, just as good parents have, and as our politicians should have about schools and even the budget. Like good cooking that takes time, so does good education. It is all about patience.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teachers aren't the problem

We have a major communications problem in this country about education as shown in this letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

It is a mystery why teachers fail to understand the public perception. They do not work a full day, they have significant time off during the day, they have extensive vacation time, they can be granted tenure and they have a retirement benefits package that is the envy of all except top corporate executives. Any additional activity, like being a coach, club leader or adviser, is generally compensated.

Now don’t get me wrong. The uniformed unions also have overreaching benefits that need renegotiation. But it is the teachers with whom the public has the greatest contact and who regularly whine about how poorly treated they are and demand raises from struggling taxpayers on whose shoulders their compensation falls.

It is high time they wake up and begin to understand that they do not exist in a vacuum and that their ivory towers need a dose of reality.

Huntington, N.Y., March 3, 2011

This writer and others who believe this don't get it. The misconception of the teacher is a serious matter. First of all the pay is far below a salary many other people would not tolerate. The benefits come because of the numbers of teachers who can negotiate a good deal in any area like health, transportation, because we have numbers. I don't know other professions that bring work home on a regular basis like teachers. For example, The National Council of Teachers of English recommend that a high school teacher spend at least 15 minutes grading each essay. Sometimes more time is needed, but let's work with fifteen minutes per essay. In NYC, high school English teachers teach 5 classes of on average 30 students per class. That's 150 students who each write an essay which then takes 37 and one half hours to assess. Now consider the quiz or two given, the homework, the test and other work that is needed to assess and we are talking a lot more then the 6 and one half hours we are in school. Many high school teachers spend another 6 hours a day assessing and then preparing for tomorrow's class. That's a twelve hour day. When other workers leave work they leave work, not teachers. If I made the money a corporate leader made, I'd have no problem, but I don't make that kind of money and that corporate worker wouldn't do my job. What the public doesn't understand about teaching is that being on the job is just half of our job. The other half happens after school, after work when we bring our work home that no other worker in this country does nor would it be tolerated by their family.Oftentimes I hear parents talking about their own children and the amount of work it takes. Now try that with 30 different children every hour of the school day.

Teachers don't make the school calendar. When they work extra hours as a coach or during a vacation, they should be compensated just as any other worker is with time and a half pay. Just try to get a doctor, a lawyer, a contractor, an accountant to do something else without compensation.

Oh, Mr Huntington, we understand the wrath of the public. Everyone hates their teachers. Perhaps the real mystery is that the public doesn't understand the teaching profession. They only see what they want to see. I do know teaching isn't for everyone, it takes a very special person. Now if it weren't for teachers where would we be?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Educational Autocrats in USA

I just had to laugh when I read a recent account In Education Week about the Teach for America 20th Anniversary in Washington.
Speakers, including Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, were asked to compare the fight for educational equity to the uprising in Egypt that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Both Canada and Klein are similar type autocrats as Mubarak. Canada doesn't see the value of the teacher union as being a check and balance set up to counter poor leadership. Klein has a record for attempts to union bust. In both cases, neither have shown themselves to be educational reformers as the article hinted. Canada runs his Zone with an iron fist and Klein was always a bully. There is no data that shows either men has been successful in their endeavors except from what we hear from them. The same kind of data, each would use to dismiss a teacher when used on them would find both men wanting.
The jury is still out on the effects of TFA, yet Duncan praised it: "U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised TFA for changing the face of public education in this nation." Even Hollywood with its movies can't advance the careers of Canada nor TFA as we see the data shows them producing SOSO results and nothing extraordinary to label them Superman or changers of education. The work of the everyday teachers who collaborate in a community are our super heroes. People like Canada, Klein, and Duncan show themselves as the autocrats they are when it comes to education.

Yes, we need a revolution, but not one led by the likes of Canada, Klein, Duncan, or others of their ilk. They have proven via the data, that they are misinformed and dangerous to the educational landscape. They are our dangerous autocrats.

The revolution we need in education is one that has fueled those in the Mideast, technology. In a changing world, especially one driven by technology, we continue to see leaders discuss education from the way they were taught, evaluate it from that same dismal vantage point, rather than discuss what it could be if we used technology. Autocrats, don't lke democracy, it is messy, and technology certainly makes things more democratic and messy at times. Also autocrats don't have the control they need to survive, because they lack vision. They possess power derived from deception and perpetrated by lies and/or fear.

As I said earlier, at first I laughed, then I stopped because of the irony in asking the wrong people at the wrong celebration, because they are our Mubarak. America is in a battle of its own that is similar to our breathen in the Mideast. Maybe Madison, Wisconsin is our Cairo.