Feeling Unvalued


The media constantly buzzes with the news of how teachers and our schools are failing our students. Politicians bemoan the failings of schools offering up new legislative initiatives to “solve” our educational whoas. Society feels teachers suck!  Many who used to dream of going into the profession are choosing different career paths. Current teachers are all extremely dedicated, care deeply about students and their learning, but even some of them are looking for alternatives to staying in the classroom.


Teachers are valuable to our society. They make every other profession possible. In today’s society many tout their success forgetting how their school experiences molded them. Praising God, mom, dad, their hard work or luck for their success. Just listen to any athlete talk after winning a sporting event. Teachers take a back seat and are frequently forgotten at the end of a long journey to success.

When teacher advocate in efforts of elevating their profession, they are beaten down by society and government. Comments like “Teachers only work 9 months!” or “Those that can do and those that can’t teach” demean our profession. Legislative bodies meet when teachers teach allowing no time for them to give input of policies that regulate their profession. Teachers are constantly reminded that they have to be in teaching for outcomes not incomes. What about other service professions? Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists and Insurance companies? These profession seem to focus more on income than outcome these days! Nobody belittles their career choices constantly.

Teachers need to be valued! As concerned teachers raise their voices listen to them, show you care and hear them. This is how we will attract the best and brightest to the career that needs them!


Tricks and Tips for Effective Video-Based Learning

Video based learning

*Guest Blog Post by Ethan Miller

Videos are not just a source of entertainment anymore. In the past decade or so, video based learning has become one of the most preferred methods of online learning. Ever since the advent of social media, videos are accessible to anyone and everyone irrespective of their geographical location and the devices they use. With such a wide reach, it is not surprising that video based learning is ruling the e-learning market.


Let’s first take some time to understand what video-based learning is. It’s the process of gaining knowledge by watching an informative video. In video-based learning, the instructor puts together all the information that he/she wants to convey through audio-visual medium, in such a manner that it catches the attention of the audience. Be it recording yourself lecturing about a topic or explaining through enacting a scenario or just using plain text with voiceovers, these are all varied examples of video-based learning.    


Now let’s focus on what makes video based learning popular:  


  • Videos provide a great platform to convey information in a captivating manner with the help of audio-visual aids.
  • It also allows teachers and instructors to delve in deep on a particular topic without the fear of students losing interest.
  • Images and sounds have great impact on human minds, and thus it helps students to retain what they have learnt for a longer period of time.
  • One of the biggest plus points of video based learning is that it allows students to learn at their own pace. It is a big step towards personalized learning.



Now that we have seen why video-based learning is so big in the e-learning market, it’s time to discuss how to make video learning effective for students so that they can get more out of the entire process. The only key to effective video based learning is creating a video that powerfully drives the idea into the minds of its audience. So let’s focus on how one can create a powerful video lesson from scratch.


Here are a few tricks and tips on creating an effective video for successful video-based learning:


Pre-defined Goals

Video-based learning is a goal-driven method to learning. So before you create a video lesson, you need to be clear about what the end goal is. Once you have the answers to questions like what should students take away from this lesson or how this lesson is going to benefit students, you can focus on planning your video around the end objective.    


Unconventional Lesson plan

Creating a lesson plan around videos is rather different from what you would create for traditional classroom learning. As video gives you a wide range to explore and experiment with your lesson, don’t feel shy to add unconventional ideas in your lesson plan. Video-based learning gives instructors an opportunity to show different aspects of a lesson that are not possible to address in textbook style teaching. So chuck out the conventional lesson plan and go crazy with your video lesson.  


Short and Sweet

One of the problems with video based learning is that the video can meander into off page topics if the instructor doesn’t pay close attention. With so many cool things that you can incorporate in your video, it is quite easy for an instructor to digress into subjects that are not related to the main topic. And when a video lesson shifts its focus from the main topic at hand, it leads to the audience losing interest and thus dilutes the entire learning experience. Apart from the obvious drawback of losing out on the audience, lengthy videos take up more size and are difficult to upload or access from different devices. So, it is better keep it short and sweet.   


Voiceovers and Captions

One of the simplest tricks to make your video lesson way better is by adding voice-overs and captions to the video. It might sound like a very small addition to the video, but it does wonders to the overall quality of your video lesson. Voice-overs and captions make it simpler for your audience to understand better and also benefits students with hearing or visual impairments. However, one must understand when to use voice-overs in order to avoid overusing them. Captions and voice-over at right places can magically enhance the experience of video-based learning.     


Audio-Video Quality

It might sound very basic but a lot of instructors overlook the audio-video quality of the lesson. You might have created an amazing video lesson with interesting analysis but all the effort will go down the drain if your audio-video quality is not good. Watching a poor quality video is an instant turn off for the audience. So there needs to be great emphasis on creating a decent quality video with good quality sound to go with it. You don’t need a high end camera and audio mike to create an effective video. You can record a decent quality video on your cell phone camera and use voice recorders to get clear audio sans interference.     


Record Examples


Video lessons are not just meant to impart theoretical knowledge. They can be used to show practical applications as well. For example if you are teaching about how to use a software or an app, you can pepper your video lesson with practical examples by just recording the screen while you use the software/app. This gives your audience a clearer picture about the lesson and minimizes chances of making mistakes while they use the software in real life.  


Apart from the aforementioned tips, one can even use animation tools or get in touch with a graphic designer to add extra spark to your video lesson. Although animation is not everyone’s cup of tea, it adds additional value to your video lesson.


Even without animation, you can ensure an impactful video based learning by following the simple tips that I have mentioned above. I hope this article helps instructors and teachers who are new to the world of video based learning.  


  • Ethan is a dedicated private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor at various education portals. Apart from his passion for teaching, Ethan loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Ethan loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Ethan on FacebookTwitter and check out his blog on WordPress.



Testing Season


It is testing Season in Michigan. The M-Step started for 8th grade two weeks back as most students returned from spring break. School schedules are morphing regularly to fit the test in around continuing instruction. Students have mixed reactions to tests. Some want to see where they stand. Are they ahead or behind. Most who care, just want to be “better” than their friends. Others just see the tests as another rite of passage. They endure theses like enduring visits to the dentist. Still others just dread they testing days and the changes of schedule. Often getting physically ill just with the though of having to sit in front of the computer for an hour.


I hope every parent gives a similar message to their children as this principal! Tests are just a snapshot, a moment in time. Some students will succeed. Others will fail. The standardized tests schools give don’t focus on all the skills our students learn. Their focus is on rating students in a subject area against all the other students who take the test and a standard. Is everyone good at every subject? NO.

All students learn, but they learn differently and at different rates. Master of one subject or skill doesn’t mean a student will master them all. School need to focus on celebrating the diversity of learning. Our test outcomes focus on all students doing the same work. Students will master what they are passionate about! This passion leads to hard work. Some will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, painters, artists, actors or musicians. Do all these careers need to master the same skills?

Education is about learning how to learn and being exposed to a wide range of ideas. When this happens in time students will find their passions and blossom. Society can’t let test dampen students passions for learning. Let’s endure the testing season trying our best but remembering it is just a snapshot from the day it was taken. I wonder what all the CEO’s snapshots looked like when they were in school?

Life in the Middle: #ProudMIeducator


Anytime someone finds out I teach in a middle school, the responses are: “I couldn’t do that!” “You must be a saint!” or “God Bless You and thank you for what you do!”  Being a middle school teacher is a calling that many teachers fall into by chance rather than by choice. Once a teacher spends a year in the middle, they often never want to leave. Middle school students are no longer kids but not quite adults. They are eager sponges with attitudes, never afraid to ask a question in class but too timid to say hi at the grocery store. Teaching in the middle means no two days are the same. We learn to expect the unexpected.

During the past 16 years of teaching middle school, I have worked with the most giving, passionate staff. Teachers arrive early to tutor students in need. As the first bell rings teachers walk the hallways greeting students with smiles and high fives. Most middle school classrooms have wide ranges of student ability levels. Teachers tirelessly prepare to meet their students’ many needs. During lunch, students find refuge from the cafeteria in classrooms where tutoring and camaraderie are offered. When the final bell rings, the teacher’s day is not done, coaching or advising a club is on many teacher’s schedules. Then off to home to grade papers and plan for the next adventurous day in the middle. Middle school days are always full. Full of energy. Full of excitement. Full of Drama. Full of problems. Full of answers. It can be easy to get swallowed up by the middle school schedule. To be successful, a good supply of coffee and a positive support network is needed. I am a proud middle school educator.


My students are growing physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. They don’t all grow at the same time or at the same rate. It is a daily challenge to motive a classroom of 32 students growing in 32 different ways. A lesson that works second hour often won’t work third hour. Changing plans on the fly is necessary to meet the many needs in my classroom. Last week I found myself pulling supplies out of a cabinet to do a hands-on activity after students got confused reading about diffraction. Students ended up using a metal cooking tin to make waves bend around a rock.

March is Middle Level Education Month, all middle school teachers should be proud for making a difference in students’ lives daily. It may look different in each classroom but in the end we make students smile, laugh and feel good about learning. Be a Proud Michigan Educator like me. Proud for working hard everyday for our students.

Image from AMLE.org

#proudMIeducator is a Michigan Department of Education initiative that aims to acknowledge, elevate, and celebrate the work of great educators in the State of Michigan. This is a collaborative venture including any supporters in Michigan who want to celebrate our educators.

Celebrate Proud Michigan Educators – use #proudMIeducator to share your own stories!

Interested in writing a #proudMIeducator blog post or learning more about the campaign? Visit www.michigan.gov/proudMIeducator or contact Alaina Dague at daguea1@michigan.gov.

What would you do?


As class starts, I notice a couple of students in the back of the room focusing their attention to a yellow piece of paper. As a 4-minute video clip plays on the screen in the front of the classroom, I circle around to see what is diverting their attention. Incomplete math homework! Hmm, what should I do? I asked myself as I walked back to front of the classroom as the video wrapped up.

When I started teaching this behavior would have invoked anger in me. I would have quickly snatched up the papers and either ripped them up or passed them on to the assigning teacher to inflict a proper punishment. After 15 years in the classroom, I have realized this does not fix the issue of students focus or homework completion. What do most teachers do in this situation? I just want to make sure students didn’t miss the lesson on the periodic table. The video was an introduction to element groups. I felt it was engaging since Gallium is a pretty cool transition metal.


I had to make a quick decision. I asked the student to bring me their yellow papers and set them on my desk. I quietly shared my concern about missing the science lesson to finish math work. They both wanted to share excuses: “I didn’t feel well last night!” one exclaimed. I just asked them to return and focus on the task at hand. A bit later in class as students were working independently, I looked at their yellow math pages. I quickly noticed one student had no idea what they were doing and the other hadn’t shown any work. I called each of them up individually. First asking how they arrived at their answers to the first question. Neither one of the students could explain how to do the work. Both shared how they were confused with the assignment. One explained that he was ill the previous night the other confessed that sports practice obligations were taking precedence to his school work. Know that their math class was after lunch, I offered the the opportunity to complete the work during our lunch hour. Both students welcomed the invitation.

At lunch, we talked through the math equations. It seemed that students were not recognizing how to set up the ratio equations to properly solve them. After working through a few examples I made up about sports. Each of them independently worked through the 6 question assignment from the math teacher. As I checked over their work giving them high fives for success. “I though you were going to call my dad!” one exclaimed as he thanked me at the end of the lunch period and headed to math class with work completed in hand.

School needs to be a safe place! Even for those that make mistakes, forget to do their homework or are just plain lazy. Teachers need to focus on the individual students needs giving them time if needed to finish. Sure it is frustrating to have students focused on other classes in mine. I bubble of anger rises in my chest when I see students who seem to waste their time and never seem to have work completed. Does expressing this anger help these students? Not usually. Next time you encounter a similar situation, think about how you would like to be treated!

Opportunity #Oneword2017


  1. a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.
    “we may see increased opportunities for export”

(from: Google)

As I sit down this evening before returning to the classroom for the new year one word weights heavily in my mind: Opportunity. In my 45 years of life numerous opportunities have presented themselves. At 12 I attended Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama. A few years later, I attended a boarding school in Connecticut. Opportunities have presented themselves in many ways. Travel, connections and experiences. As I shopped for Christmas gifts for my 3 children: Opportunity was in mind. Opportunities to spend time with family, to travel and experience life. During break as Griffin and I spent quality time together scouting out locations for his upcoming 13th birthday, he stated that he felt lucky to have the opportunity to spend time with me. As the conversation progressed Griffin shared that his friends did not spend time with their fathers and mostly sat at home watching TV and playing video games. Sad, that their circumstances don’t make it possible for them to do ‘something”!

Do my students have similar opportunities? Over the years of asking “What did you do over break?” I know the most frequent answer is “Nothing” or “Sleep!” Sure breaks are a time for rest but also an opportunity for more. Students might have opportunities in their lives but choose not to take advantage of them. As a teacher I need to model how to see opportunities and create a mindset that makes students comfortable in taking the risk of following opportunities.

I hope to spend 2017 exposing my students to as many opportunities as I can. Opportunities to: Grow, Explore, Discover, Create, Connect and Learn. I vow not to restrict my students’ opportunities and to create as many for them as possible!


Legislators hear our voices!


Education is a hot topic in politics. Legislators run on platforms that promise improving schools and educational outcomes. Often these platforms go against the experts in the fields opinions. The teacher’s unions have long been the voice of teachers, but lately unions have lost the ability to be seen as non-partisan.  Legislators feel unions work solely for their own benefit not for the best interests of students. This is an attack on teacher’s voices. Classroom teachers’ voices need to be heard by legislative bodies.

Does the legislature make changes to insurance programs without testimony from insurance providers? Do they consider changes to medical laws without consulting doctors? Highway funding proposals without listening to engineers? The answers is a resounding NO to these questions. WHY then does our legislative body act on educational policy without hearing teachers’ voices?

It is almost structurally impossible for teachers to testify on educational policy let alone be heard. The legislature bodies are in session only during the school year. Meeting Tuesday to Thursday while school is in session. All school holidays seem to match up with legislative recesses. State boards of education typically only meet during the day while schools are in session too. SO, if a teacher was to take a day off to possibly share their expertise by testifying on legislation about their chosen profession, the first concern from most legislators is “Why aren’t you in your classroom?”

Instead of listening to teachers, the ones who are on the front line of education everyday, the bulk of testimony on education legislation is from “Think Tanks”. Think Tanks might have great ideas in theory but educators can testify how they might see theory put into practice. No wonder teachers feel disgruntled with their profession. A first step might be treating teachers like professionals, listening to their voices and showing them their value.

All states need legislation that mandates classroom teacher testimony on all legislation that impacts the classrooms. The teacher’s voice should be equal to if not greater than that from those not in the classrooms. All educational policies need to have hearings where classroom educators can attend without taking their day off from work. This would make the education committees meet during nights, weekends and summers. I hope to see draft legislation soon in Michigan that allows teachers equal voice.

Working hard to make sure teachers are inspiring the youth of tomorrow.