What looks best on paper… doesn’t always turn out best….

As a NFL fan, this time of year is the best time of year. The air-waves are full of pundits, sharing their opinions about how prospective players will perform in the “league”.Hope abounds for all teams future.  Pundits all project where many of the players will be drafted, based upon previous performance and combine results. Players get a paper rating based on all of the measurables the NFL or pundit values. Often players receive many different ratings from the pundits.  Teams complete their own ratings and select players based upon their criteria. Some players live up (or down) to their “paper” rating, while many surprise even the best scouts predictions, by not living up to expectations or exceeding them.

Education has now started playing this “rating” game. Test scores are used to predict how students will perform in their future. Teachers evaluations are now being based upon these scores. Predictions of outcomes are used to measure success, not true successes. This can be dangerous. Just ask the teams that drafted: Ryan Leaf, Charles Rodgers, Brian Bosworth, Tim Couch, etc. They received rave reviews after the draft but on the field the players faltered. Every classroom has at least one student who does well on the test but fails to produce on other class activities. These students might need help with social skills or task completion skills vital to being successful in life but not measured on tests.

On the other hand we have hidden gems, those that exceed the projected performance. Some students struggle on tests, but always produce great results on projects and participate in every way possible. Theses students cry when they receive poor test grades and ask for re-take and redo opportunities often. The NFL comparisons are Tom Brady (6th round pick) Shannon Sharpe (8th round) and Richard Dent (8th round) all pro-bowlers or future pro-bowler. They have the immeasurables.

Test have yet to be able to measure: determination, heart and will to succeed. Our students all have these traits to some extend or another. Education needs to remember that our students are so much more than a test score. What their paper states might look great or bad. Teachers need to help it improve but not make students feel it determines their future. Teachers need to remember what looks best on paper isn’t always best. Albert Einstein did not do well in school, but he turned out okay! The “Unabomber” did great in school, yet ended up a serial killer.

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Old becomes New at Bookstock 2014: Used Media and Book Sale

I was selected for this sponsored post by Hay There Social Media.  All opinions expressed are my own.

As a classroom teacher and parent, I am always looking for new editions to my media collection. Reading is essential for the development of anyone as a life long learner. New books bring new adventures, tails and discoveries into our lives. I became engaged in being a reader at a very young age by my parents. I remember having my mother and grandmother read to be before I could conquer the words. As I got older my parents dedicated “quiet” time each evening for 30 minutes for everyone to read. The Children’s Reading Association recommends that every child be read to or read for 20 minutes a day.  As I have grown to have children of my own, I do everything possible to pass the love and ritual of reading to my three children.

For me it has been hard to keep up with the cost of keeping a current collection of books for my students and children. My children always want new an exciting books to read. My students demand a variety of materials for them to use in class. Libraries are great to borrow books for a short while and try out in class. My children love to visit the library, but hate when it come time to return their new favorite title. Garage sales offer a few choices when looking for a less expensive alternative, but often leave me finding few treasures while expending way to much time looking. Here in Michigan we have an event that helps make others old books and media, become NEW for those that will use them, Bookstock. Not only is it a great way to find books and media to use, it serves as a fundraiser to help promote reading for all.

Bookstock Sale

So just what is Bookstock?

WHAT IS BOOKSTOCK?

Bookstock is an annual, non-profit used book and media sale. It is a highly visible event with thousands of shoppers.  All merchandise sold comes from donations and all workers and organizers are volunteers.  Proceeds from the sale, after deducting expenses, are donated to non-profit organizations. Merchandise remaining after the sale is donated to area non-profit organizations and schools.

WHEN AND WHERE DOES BOOKSTOCK TAKE PLACE?

Bookstock takes place April 27-May 4, 2014 at Laurel Park Place in Livonia, Michigan.

On Sunday, April 27, 8:15 a.m.-11:00 a.m., there is a Pre-Sale for which there is a $20 entrance fee.  After that, admission is free.

Hours are 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. on both Sundays.

Found on the web at http://www.bookstock.info/index.html

WHO COMPRISES BOOKSTOCK AND HOW DID IT BEGIN?

Bookstock is a project of the Detroit Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).  Because more than 600 volunteers are needed annually, a coalition of twelve organizations, including JCRC, work together to produce Bookstock. Each member organization of the Bookstock coalition maintains its own 501(c)(3) non-profit status and supports literacy and education in Detroit and the metropolitan area.

Bookstock is a reincarnation of the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, Detroit Chapter, Used Book Sales that were held in Detroit and Southfield annually over a forty-year period.

WHAT BENEFITS DOES BOOKSTOCK GENERATE?

Bookstock benefits the entire community by recycling gently used books and media and then offering them for sale at value prices.  Most books and media range in price from $1-$4, although there are “special selections” (more valuable books) at various price points.

In 12 years, Bookstock has donated just shy of $1,000,000 to non-profit organizations in Detroit and the metro area, including those comprising its coalition.  Additionally, Bookstock donates large quantities of unsold books to other non-profit organizations and schools.  For example, the Salvation Army receives the bulk of the remaining books and media.  Bookstock also underwrites a scholarship at the Wayne State University School of Library Science and supports the Bookstock Fund, a literacy fund that provides micro-grants to enhance literacy and learning in Detroit and the metro area.

WHAT ADDITIONAL SPECIAL EVENTS DOES BOOKSTOCK OFFER?

  • Bookstock’s Monday Madness, Monday, April 28, all day:  Each purchaser receives an envelope with varying prizes.  Prizes are randomly varied in each envelope but a single envelope could include gift cards, coupons and/or a giveaway.
  • Teacher Appreciation Night, Tuesday, April 29, 3:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.: Teachers with valid i.d.’s receive a 50% discount.
  • Bookstock B.E.S.T. Award, Tuesday, April 29, 5:00 p.m.:  The B.E.S.T. Award is given to the winners of a contest open to fourth grade students in the Detroit Public Schools based on submission of a one page essay about their favorite books. Five students, their teachers, and their schools all receive monetary awards.
  • Booksbuster Sale, Wednesday, April 30 and Thursday, May 1, 3:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.: For every three items purchased, a fourth one may be gotten for free (it must be the least expensive of the four chosen).
  • Half-Price Sale, Sunday, May 4, all day:  All books and media are half price.
  • Check out their Facebook page 

Hope you have the time to add to your collection and make the old become new again!

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Sitting on a park bench …

Spring, has begun to show her face here in Michigan, after a prolonged visit from old man winter. The snow has melted off the ball fields and the park paths are finally drying out.  Today, I took my five year old twins to t-ball practice in a near by park. As I sat on the park bench watching my children learn and quickly forget the finer points of fielding and hitting. I noticed that I was sitting surrounded by garbage. As my eyes surveyed the area where the adults were seated. Waste lay all around where we were sitting.  It seemed that garbage was all over the park, especially along the paths.

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Since I was just sitting watching my children at practice, I figured, WHY not help clean up the park? I started picking up trash. Carrying handfuls to the can nearby. As I deposited my first load, I noticed that the density of deposited trash has higher the closer to the can. Must have been plenty of near misses. As I picked up the random pieces of trash. A few parents gave me odd looks. A guy on the basketball court near by thanked me for throwing away his empty water bottle he left beside the path. I was hoping to lead some of the sedentary parents into an impromptu cleaning crew. Similarly to how this guy becomes a dance leader:

No such luck. Just a few odd looks. I forced my older son to help out, but no second follower was to be found. It made me sad. Park users gave looks as if it wasn’t their job to keep it clean.

This is similar to education. People see the needs of our students, but say, “Not my JOB!!” , or “IT is the schools’ and teachers’ job to education our students!” Educating the youth of the world is similar to taking care of the planet. THOSE that encounter opportunities to make a difference MUST tke action and make a difference. We can’t expect others to complete the job. They might not see the need. They might be too overwhelmed with other tasks to take care of the needs we see.

Similar attitudes exist all over society. I see it in my students when I ask them to help clean up. “I didn’t make the mess,” is quickly uttered out of their mouths. “I didn’t say you did, I just need your help cleaning,” is my reply. Society needs to work together and solve problems, not rely on someones title and job description to do so. When action is needed, Action MUST happen.

IF anything should be required curriculum in our schools, positive action of helping others has to top the list. So if you encounter me (or another) out doing good by clean up a park or helping others please be a second follower.

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Filed under Community Based, Personal

The needed struggle with change in education

Education is changing at a rapid pace. Over the last two years, my school district has made more changes than the previous 12 that I worked there. Schools are dealing with so many changes teachers heads are spinning.

  • Curriculum changes,
  • Legislative changes
  • Testing changes
  • Evaluation changes
  • Instructional methods changes
  • Technology Changes
  • and of course students changes

Many arguments say it is about time the outdated American educational system made some changes. Educators are trained to ask question, to seek information and find out the reasons changes are made. Highly Effective educators seek research data that supports a change in their instructional practice. ALL schools require data to support changes to be presented as part of school improvement plans.

Currently teachers feel enormous changes come from outside of the school district, based upon legislative agendas. The majority of this “legislative” change has little research and data supporting it. Teachers and Schools lobby to get more data and research but few are listening. Teachers feel threatened by these changes that they had little voice in making. Feeling defeated teachers start to put up walls, not wanting to listen to any ideas about change.

Education at the same time, is attempting to evolve into a better machine for the 21st century and beyond. Blended learning models, flipped classrooms, standards based grading and many other student centered changes are happening. Sadly,some teachers overwhelmed with change, resist the changes that they can. Teachers need to look at these changes carefully. DO they make learning improve in my classroom? Will they help my students become engaged and take ownership of their learning? IS it something my students need? (Are my students performing WELL now?) Are the results there or is it change for change sake?

Educators need to look at change in 3 ways:

1. Change you can’t control- Legislative change we can not do anything about once laws are passed. Sadly many legislators don’t listen to our voice on these issues. We can dwell on this change, just deal and move on. (Knowing we voiced our opinion when we could)

2. Changes where our students benefit-Research shows that my students will benefit. This is a change I have to make and invest time to make it happen in my classroom. This might mean I have to replace a current technique or instructional plan. This change might be hard work, but most things worth doing are hard work.

3. Change for change sake- IF a change shows no value to our students, it should not be made! Teachers have to be careful with all the educational jargon and “sales” pitches on new “programs”. It is always best to talk to teachers who are using the tool to hear first hand how it works and if it improves students’ learning. Remember that what works in one place, doesn’t always work in another. Look for data that shows repeated successes.

 

Change is an essential element in education. Without change, students would still be writing on chalkboards, watching film strips, and in one room school houses. Struggling with change, is natural. Educators must question changes to make sure it is what is best for their students.

We must remember not to fight the NEEDED change because we can, since we can’t fight the BAD legislative laws that change how schools operate. We have to remember to separate the political fights from our students’ classroom needs.

 Below is a link to an #mschat on Educational Change.

 

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Filed under Middle School Chat, Observations and Opinions

Is hitting a ball harder than educating a student?

This time of year has me thinking about baseball! The weather is slowly warming, plans begin to grow, and opening day is upon us in the Major Leagues. I have many fond memories of baseball growing up, playing with friends in open fields. Never fielding a full team but just the pleasure of pitching, hitting and throwing. Growing up my father put more emphasis on individual sports, “You want to play a sport that you can do by yourself” he would often share. Reminding us that we never had 18 kids to play a “proper” game in the neighbors yard. As I grew up, I did focus on other sports enjoying basketball, tennis and golf because playing them did not require a full squad of players. My father also place a greater value on knowledge than physical sports skills. Should I have spent more time learning to swing a bat?

This week Miguel Cabrera signed a record deal to play baseball, $292 million dollars for the next ten years. I am happy for him. He is probably the best baseball player of our time and in the discussion as being one of the best of all time. Miguel Cabrera is going to make roughly $50,000 per at bat for the next ten years with the Tigers. (If he averages 600 at bats per year.) That is about the average yearly salary for teachers in Michigan! WOW!! Over the course of this 10 year contract he will make enough to pay for 6000 teachers for a year. Well he is the best player in baseball right now, right!

Cabrera has a .321 career batting average, which is great for baseball (50th all time). This means he makes an out .679 of the time he makes an out! If a teacher in the classroom had .321 success average and .679 failure average, most school districts would find them ineffective. Yet in baseball this is one of the best ALL time? Is hitting a ball harder than educating a student? Education and teaching is undervalued in today’s society. Fans flock to “average” teams. Every school child aspires to be a professional  athlete at some point growing up. How can we make this happen for education and teaching?

If the current trends in education continue, our best students will not want to be educators.

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Filed under Community Based, Observations and Opinions

#MSchat 3-20-14 Engaging students with movement

We had a great chat tonight about how movement is necessary to help engage students. Who can sit for an entire class period? I can’t sit still for 15 minutes. Kim Campbell wrote a great article for AMLE  that the chat was based on. The day of a quiet classroom and students sitting neatly in rows is over! Schools need to plan for student movement if they are going to be successful. Below is the archive for the chat.

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Coding, Just do IT!!

When I first started hearing about coding on Twitter, I was intrigued. I remember when I was in school learning how to use Basic programming. “If this then that… ” and Go to Line XX” statements bring back frustrating memories of the green screens. I at first figured I needed to take a class to figure out how to program myself, then learn to teach it, then bring it into my middle school classroom. After hearing a few elementary teachers talk about coding clubs and coding in their classrooms, I figured I needed to get up to speed with coding so my students could experience it.  As I was checking out coding sites, I noticed that Code.org celebrated an anniversary and placed a version of the “flappy bird” came on their site. At the same time my 4th hour ten week “Maker” class was begging to try something new.

So, I took the plunge.  I worked through the code.org activities at night, teaching them the next day. My students were instantly engaged. Eager to make their own games. Being a group of diverse learners, some were done in minutes, while others took all class period. All ended up making a game. The learning that was happening in the classroom was astounding. Students were asking each other meaningful questions, trying different lines of code, failing and then fixing the fail. They were proud to share their games with classmates.

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Every seventh grade advisory class heard about our “games”. Students who took the class earlier in the year  complained that they did not get to code. We continued through the lessons on code.org until the students wanted freedom to make something on their own instead of using prescribed codes. We have since moved on to Scratch, which allows the students more freedom to create animated scenes and games. I am barely ahead of the students, often having to model problem solving skills on the fly to help them find success. We are learning to code as a class. The class has experts who even I go to with questions, because they go home and “play” with code to produce their desired results. A few students aren’t as engaged but they still are learning how to figure out code.

 

If you haven’t tried coding with your students, you should do it! I saw learning in the rawest form. We were learning as a class. Everyone wanted to complete the task. I now have students who are not enrolled in the class but e-mailing in the assignments to show what they have learned by following the class tasks list. Coding has lead to more engagement in authentic learning for my students. They are coming to class wanting to see what they can learn each and every day.

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Filed under Middle School Chat, School based