Day 23 – #AprilBlogADay – Transparency

How transparent should our profession be?

This question is good. I’ll just take a stab at it, but…Disclaimer: I really don’t know.

Anyone of you reading this blog, knows lots of teachers who are transparent. They blog and tell the world about their hopes and dreams, successes and failures. I feel I’ve been quite transparent, but there are always a few things I hold back.

I know of some schools that are fairly transparent. They share hopes, dreams, and successes. They tend to skip the failures, though. They are constantly considering stakeholders. Perhaps they can’t be completely transparent or the parents and community may lose trust.

On the other hand, if those schools aren’t trustworthy, maybe the stakeholders should know. That is a reason for full disclosure and transparency.

Education–at a state and federal level–is not so transparent. Too many politicians involved, and I don’t believe they allow themselves to be transparent.

This lack of transparency reminds me of a story. When I was a new reading specialist, I attended some professional development and Title I meetings that were also new for me. I’ll never forget the meeting, in that spring of 2002 when a district leader was explaining the new education law, “No Child Left Behind.” There was chart after chart showing trajectory lines for each grade level. The line went from 2001, where our children scored in their last Stanford Achievement Tests, to 2014, when they would all score at the 100th percentile.

What? That’s what I thought. It’s a tiny bit like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, “where all the children are above average.” But this wasn’t that the children would all become above average, but they would all be in the 99th percentile.

I wanted to be transparent, and stand up and say, “The emperor is naked!” Yet, we all sat there and pretended he was wearing a lovely suit of clothes.

Well, over the years the scores did go up. We soon adopted a new test instead of the norm-referenced Stanford Achievement Test. We now had a criterion-referenced test, and theoretically all the children could get 100%, but, for various reasons, they didn’t.

Now, the laws have changed, but we still have high stakes testing, just with different names like SmarterBalanced, which I guess is neither, and PARCC. Maybe we should have been more transparent about high stakes testing when we first got the hint that they don’t assess anything worth assessing. Then we could have stopped paying testing companies to make more of them.

After this post, I still don’t know how transparent our profession should be. I would suggest that we trust the educators more than the politicians, because educators seem to have more clarity on that issue.

What do you think?

The Skill of Listening, Happy Earth Day, and Day 22 #AprilBlogADay

Listening, speaking, reading and writing = language and literacy.

I have been teaching English language learners for a little over a year now. It was a big change from teaching older native speakers English and social studies.

I teach lots of speaking, reading and writing, but I have been neglecting to teach listening as a skill. Usually, students practice listening to each other during show and tell, and to me when I’m talking or reading stories. They listen to and sing along with songs, but really I have not helped them to practice and have success in listening.

Thanks to the British Council and the U.S. State Department, we have excellent resources for learning to teach English! Face-to-face classes and workshops, webinars, online classes. I’m learning so much. (See at the end of this post just a few of the resources I got today.)

Today, however, I attended one of the best webinars. It was on teaching listening. I will be a better teacher tomorrow because of it. I just wanted to share the resources for other ELL teachers and anyone who wants to teach listening skills.  The webinar is led by Kevin McCaughey, a Regional English Language Officer in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was a great presentation with a wealth of practical activities, and beautifully designed for the Earth Day audience enjoying it today.

Here is the PDF article, “Practical Tips for Increasing Listening Practice Time,” if you’d rather read the content (but don’t miss Kevin’s warm delivery, and with singing too.)

Do you teach listening? How? To whom?

More Resources – Free ELT audio from Kevin McCaughey – Free, fun, natural and meaningful listening lessons from Todd Beuckens. Elllo on Twitter.
American English – “A Website for Teachers and Learners of English as a Foreign Language Abroad” by the US State Department

Day 21 – We Must Stop Pretending

This is a combo post. I couldn’t relate to the #AprilBlogADay topic today, so I am finishing up my 5 Ugly Falsehoods About Education, which I hope can be removed from my classroom.  And classrooms around the world, for that matter.

When it comes to education, we must stop pretending…

  1. That the teacher is the most important person in the room.
  2. That children should keep quiet, listen and sit still.
  3. That children will work harder for external rewards, than for the intrinsic value of learning what is important to them.
  4. That children who are obedient  and compliant are somehow better than the rebels.
  5. That a numerical grade is the best way to report the learning of a child.

Thanks for the inspiration from Scott McLeod, who started this challenge to #MakeSchoolDifferent, and from Joy Kirr, who tagged me.


Day 20 #AprilBlogADay – Now

What are you working on NOW? What are you trying to get better at?

True confessions! This is a bad time to ask this question because I’m mostly working on the basics, like trying to help students listen to each other and me. Spring fever has hit us hard. We still have seven weeks of school, yet I feel like teachers and students are tired and unruly, ready to be finished. I feel students were doing more learning and higher level listening, speaking, writing and reading in January than now.

So, I am working harder than ever, just trying to stay above water.

In fact, here’s a picture of me swimming.

Blue Blotch by Pixabay artist geralt

Topics for #AprilBlogADay.

Day 19 – #AprilBlogADay – Tech

Tech in the classroom – Should we? Why? How? 

Yes, of course we should use technology in the classroom. If we need it, we should use technology. Technology is great when it improves the way we get things done. Writing with pencils is definitely better than using a lead stylus on papyrus, a quill dipped in a bottle of ink, or chipping away at rocks to make a mark.

I wrote a post a couple years ago because I was asked by a junior higher, “Why do we join so many websites?”

Too Much Technology?” I asked in the post. After reflecting on it, though, I came to the conclusion that I was not asking too much of them. All of them needed practice and skill development to use the various tools in our classroom and online. The fact that digital natives still need practice to develop skills is reason enough to use technology in the classroom.

How we do technology in the classroom depends on our situation and what’s available. When I taught junior high in Iowa, we were blessed to have enough Mac Books for all the students. We used technology readily and regularly. Now I teach Kindergarten, so we don’t use technology like I used to. We do, however, have a Mimio board, and we blog to connect with pen pal friends in Iowa.  Oh, and we use pencils too.

Here’s another related post: “What Does Technology Have to Do With It?

Day 18 – #AprilBlogADay – Elevating

What small steps are you willing to take to elevate the profession?

I guess the major small step I can–and do–take is to be a role model to those around me. I try to model what I believe a passionate, hard-working teacher is. That’s easy really. We are what we are, and so people will look at how we act and speak about the profession. In my actions and conversations, I show my pride and joy in being a teacher.

Another way I can elevate the profession is by learning more and encouraging others to, as well. I love to learn, and I challenge myself to learn. Presently, I have two new teaching language learners courses I’ve signed up for. (Actually, I knew about them, and I was planning to sign up, so I just took a break from this blog post and signed up officially.) One of the classes starts tomorrow, and it’s free. Not too late to join if you’re interested. It’s Understanding Language by University of Southampton.

Day 17 – #AprilBlogADay – Thankful

TGIF – What are you thankful for on this Friday?

I am always thankful. If things are going well, I’m thankful for the good things. If things are disarrayed, I’m thankful it’s not worse.

This Friday I am thankful for my husband. My thoughts and words seem trite as I formulate them, but here is an example of my first hour in the morning with him. He wakes me up because he’s already up, so I don’t need an alarm clock. He brings me a cup of tea, perfectly sweetened and creamed. This morning, while I was getting ready, he also brought me a glass of water and a Sudafed. Quite often he brings me a bowl of cereal with milk and banana slices. That’s just one part of my day, but he’s always taking good care of me. He delights in serving others, and I’m around so often, I get the benefits. I’m very thankful for the gentle starts to my days.

I’m also thankful for Gallit Zvi. We have been working together on a project, and we were able to finish this week. I’m thankful for the easy way we communicate and how we have a variety of strengths between the two of us. I think we complement each other. When I’m with her in a GHO or in person, it’s easy and comfortable. It seems like we’ve known each other much longer than we really have.

I’m thankful that the friends we’re taking to the airport in 15 minutes are going to take things to mail to my daughters and to my KG class’s pen pals. That way they will arrive much sooner than if we mailed them from here.

And speaking of my girls, I’m very thankful that they have become grown up, talented, thoughtful, contributors to society. They are constantly in my head and heart.

And speaking of my kindergarteners, they are too cute, and they teach me new things every day, like how to count to ten in Arabic, for one. I’m thankful that I get to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience with them.

Day 16 – #AprilBlogADay PLN and PLC

Why are PLCs and PLNs important? Different? Contribute to school success?

My day starts early and is ending as some of you in North America are just getting started. I usually wait until evening to write my #AprilBlogADay post because I need to wait for the topic to come out. No excuses, it’s just that I don’t have very long for the idea to simmer!

Anyway, here is a quick PLN post before I sleep!

First of all, one of my dear friends, Sheri Edwards, has done a lovely post on PLN. For me, I think of them as synonymous, but Sheri and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach know more about it. I’ve also heard of Community of Practice (CofP) and Personal Learning Colllaborative (PLC) from them. It’s in Sheryl and Lani’s book, The Connected Educator. I think Sheri wrote a post about it, but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, that was a lot of words so far without saying much. I think I wrote this same post yesterday when I wrote about social media. My Personal (or Professional) Learning Network consists of people face-to-face and far away, those I’ve personally met and those I only know through social media. My personal learning network definitely contributes to school success, again I wrote yesterday about the many benefits for my classroom. This is a result of the connections I’ve made with educators far and near.

OK, that’s about it today. Chalk this one up for trying to stay the course in my #AprilBlogADay Challenge.

True both in schools and on Twitter