#AprilBlogADay to Continue

#EdBlogADayThis month I’ve enjoyed writing one blog post a day. I didn’t really think I’d be able to keep it up, but I have so far! Only five days to go.

We had a Twitter chat today and decided to keep this community of the #AprilBlogADay challenge going next month. We will continue it in May with another added option.

You can write a blog post a day, as we did in April.  Or, you can read and comment on someone else’s blog post each day. I will take the latter challenge.  It will be called the #EdBlogADay challenge.

You can join the Google+ Community.  
You can sign up on this Google Form.
Follow the hashtag #edblogaday in May. #AprilBlogADay in April

Day 24 – #AprilBlogADay #ILoveMySchoolBecause

I have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of teaching school around the world from where I came from and where I’ve always taught.

This past week I was a co-leader of a committee for Earth Day celebrations, which would kickoff our K-12 anti-littering and recycling campaign. It was my first time leading a committee here at my new school, and it was also the largest event that my partner and I had ever pulled off on our own or together.

Partners in Goodness

I love my school because we are Muslim, Christian, Hindu or other, but we respect each other and learn from each other. It is a special joy to be able to wish others an Eid Mubarak, and to have others wish me a Happy Easter, for instance.

I love my school because, though we speak many languages–Arabic and/or English in school–we manage to communicate. That was our experience as we planned for Earth Day. Teachers and parents were on our committee. Sometimes parts got lost without translation, but everyone managed to pull off a very large event with each doing their part, plus some. Actually, the whole staff was involved in one way or another.

Our School, Our Earth
Grades 6-8 put their handprints as a promise to save the earth.
We enjoyed a most elaborate and healthy “green” buffet.

The Earth is My Home, I Promise to Keep It Healthy and Beautiful.
Middle School Art Students Decorated

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

etseverywhere.com – Free ELT audio from Kevin McCaughey
elllo.org – 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