Show The Value Of Schools

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Recently I noticed the following Walmart ad:

This ad is Walmart’s thank you to all of its associates for all the extras they do. While I watched the advertisement I wondered why communities didn’t create ads like this about their schools?

Schools are incredible assets to their communities. I just think about our middle school with 800 students, we make a difference every day. Each month our staff and students contribute to the larger community around us. Since school started our students have: raised money for fire victims, collected food and clothing for the poor, completed highway clean ups and raised funds for those in need. All of these efforts come from formal school activities run by student council or National Junior Honor Society.

There are non-formal activities going on in our school that make a difference. Students have taken on voluntary jobs to help out in the school office or in classrooms. Teachers show up early, give up lunch or stay late to help students with academic or personal needs. Every day schools make a difference, yet few of these stories show up on the news.

Schools do so much more than academics, they teach students to be positive contributors to society. Students are often introduced to the ideas of philanthropy in schools. Schools need to be celebrated for all they contribute to our communities! Our government repeatedly spends tax dollars to make us feel good about the programs it provides. It might be time to spend some of this money to show all the incredible things our schools are doing!

If Walmart can do it why can’t the State of Michigan or the US Department of Education? One outlet that does a great job doing this is the School News Network out of Kent County Michigan. Maybe this network should be state wide!

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Keep ending up in Silos

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One of the reasons I became engaged in twitter chats in 2011 was to break down silos in education. On twitter all views are welcome, the audience weighs the views on their merit rather than looking at who or where the ideas come from. Twitter was a tool that leveled the playing field. A student’s ideas carried was equal to a school superintendent’s ideas. Twitter chats had diverse groups of participants and ideas were freely shared and debated.

As we fast forward 7 years to 2018 the twitter chat landscape and mentality has changed vastly. While there are still some broad chats like #michED, #mschat and #edchat there seems to be a huge surge in audience specific chats. Whether they are administrator chats, building chats or book chats. There are very specific chats now that maintain narrow focuses. Some districts have used twitter chats to replace parts of staff meetings with leaders posting questions and monitoring responses. It appears we are retreating to the comfort and easy organization of the silos.

Looking around the education landscape most organization seem narrow in focus. There are leadership organization, technology organization and subject specific organization. Most conferences seem to focus on one of these areas as well. This structure seems to rebuild the silos that education should be breaking down.  Few organization like AMLE  have a broad focus.  AMLE focuses on all aspects of teaching in the middle level.

If education is going to be transformed, the silos need to go. Twitter, conferences and organizations supporting education need a broad scope and inclusive conversations. All teachers need to be talking about reading, math, social studies and science instruction because they all relate. Sure teachers should specialize into the areas of interest but they all need to be aware of how their content connects to others. Time for educators to be on same page and stop meeting in isolation.

Our world is one where ALL content areas come at us at once. A job rarely focuses on one content area or speciality area. Students need to see the natural connections. Best way to do this is make sure all educators are on the same page and have similar training.

Let’s stop building silos. Time to bust them down.

#10FeaturedTeachers

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I opened an e-mail today from the “We Are Teachers” organization talking about a social media campaign called #10FeaturedTeachers.  In theory it sounds like a great idea. Teachers share their students needs and if they are lucky a donor might send them a $50 Amazon gift card. The We Are Teachers sight has funding to reward 100 teachers by Christmas. A few celebrities are joining in on the campaign started by Ed Roste. It is great to see teachers get recognized and feel supported by the community at large.

Do we have a #10featureddoctors, #10featuredlawyers, #10featured- any profession campaign?

Let’s look a little closer. First the average teachers spends $500 on classroom supplies, so these 100 get a 10% back as a reward for taking part in this campaign. In Michigan alone there are over 100,000 teachers that could partake. So, if every teacher in the state participated only 0.1% of the teachers got this bonus back for helping out their students in their classroom. This doesn’t even include all the employees that help around our classrooms like para-professions, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and administrators who also spend out of pocket funds to make sure our students have what they need. Like this story of a custodian helping out students with clothing. Every school has staff who spend out of their pockets to help out students.

This speaks to a larger issue. Schools need funding to provide our students the experiences they need. Social media campaigns, prizes and grants help continue to foster the inequities in our educational system by creating ” haves” and “have nots”. It is time schools have the funding to give staff budgets to help fulfill our students needs.

This all makes me think about the story I hear on the radio this morning about Chase Daniel who has only thrown 78 passes in NFL games but has made over 34 million dollars during his career. Makes one think all about our priorities!

 

Please Fund schools so our students can EXPERIENCE the WORLD at its BEST!

#AMLE2018 Looking Forward

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The school year is still fresh. Hot sumer days are still fresh on my mind. Building relationships is still the focus in the classroom (Well honestly it always is). One date is creeping up on my calendar, The Annual Conference for the Association of Middle Level Educators. I am excited to connect with other middle level educators who know how to connect with the Fortnite Generation, flipping bottles along side their students as they Dab to their success! The conference is jammed pack full of sessions by teachers sharing methods that work in their classrooms. Here are a few key ideas to remember as you get ready for #AMLE2018 in Orlando.

  1. Slow down– Don’t rush from moment to moment but just live in the moment. It will be over way to fast if you rush. Make all connections meaningful. Learn in the moment and don’t worry about the getting to the next moment.
  2. Use the AMLE App–  Everything you need can be found in the APP. Sessions, maps and hand-outs. The AMLE app is designed to make your experience simple. No need to carry around a large program. You can preview sessions and see all materials that will be handed out. Great for before, during and after the conference. I love having access to all the presenter contact info and resources in one handy tool, sure beats looking through all your hand written notes.
  3. Connect– The most valuable experience I have found at conferences is the connections I have made. Sure the presentations are great but it is so much more valuable to be able to discuss teaching practices with others from around the world. I have learned from so many incredible educators I talk to in the hallways at AMLE conferences. Smile, say Hi and invite others to join you. Most attendees are alone looking for others and make connections. We don’t want our students eating alone or feeling left out; let’s make sure educators model this at AMLE.
  4. Share out- Most educators are never lucky enough to attend a national conference. Find ways to share your learning. I blog and tweet during conferences to make my learning visible. Hopefully this is part of your practice. It allows you to reflect on your learning and hold yourself accountable. #AMLE2018 will be a trending hashtag on twitter during the conference, tell your school to follow along.

 

With AMLE18 only a month away, start planning now. Download the app, pick sessions, make connections. I hope to see you there! Please stop me in the hallways and say Hi, if I don’t first!

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Dear Middle School Student –

Dear Middle School Student-

These years in middle school will be the best of times and worse of times.

Smile often.

You will be experiencing all of the emotions humans can experience (some of which you have never felt before).

Every event will seem life changing.

These years will transform you from a grade school kid to a confident high school student. These changes will be hard but are necessary.

There will be days you fall flat on your face in failure, just remember to get up so that the next day you can glisten in the light of success.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the moments. Take one day at a time.

Be true to yourself!

Don’t change to impress your friends, change because you want to change. Your friends will always be there when you need them.

Listen to your parents and teachers advice. They speak from experience and believe in you!

Speak up when you have convictions so your voice is heard.

Listen to others so you can hear their point of view.

Be kind and courageous.

Remember you matter!

And You will survive!

Thank YOU for Being YOU!

Love A Middle School Teacher!

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Compliance vs Engagement

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from https://educationcloset.com/2016/06/14/engagement-vs-compliance/

Teachers endlessly debate compliance vs engagement. Twitter is full of quick takes on the topic focusing on how students need to be engaged not compliant. Arguments are made that make it seem like compliance is a bad thing in education. Yes, most teachers goal is engagement or a level of empowering students, but without compliance it can never be achieved.

The compliance naysayers often focus on strict classroom management techniques for their examples of compliance. Sit in assigned seats, arranged in rows, be quiet, do everything I say. Does this style of teacher work for today’s learners? Some but probably not too many. Military style compliance classrooms aren’t the norm now (sure seemed to be when I was a child). Many classrooms are moving to flexible seating with a culture of learning as a community. Classrooms do need students to comply with school rules and expectations. Students need to learn the procedures for choosing a seat and when the teachers voice has to be heard. Without simple levels of compliance students will be engaged only in their desires, not the class’s learning targets.

Might the lack of compliance be one of the issues hindering education today? Students are so engaged with social media, sports, Fortnite and their personal agendas that they fail to comply with the educational goals of their school. Lack of compliance is modeled all over in our society. Just turn on the news, everyday their is a story about non-compliance, where someone is engaged in their own agenda.

Successful teachers know the balance that is needed between compliance and engagement. Focusing on classroom procedures and expectations first and then moving to more engagement style tasks once students show they can comply with expectations. Many activities start of as compliance and move towards engagement after students show they can follow the expectations. Many teachers use choral response activities to help model for students how they can learn concepts. Like this one

 

Students can learn from compliance. Compliance is a skill that every employer desires. Compliance is needed in our society.  Education should focus on the balance between compliance and engagement. Without compliance the engagement can be misguided and unfocused!

School Our Students Deserve

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By all current assessments our school systems needs a make over. Schools have remained stagnate for the past hundred years as humans have rapidly advanced. Schools have failed to keep up with the innovations and advancements that have happened around them. It is time we adapt schools to their surroundings.

Our current school structure is absolute. Our high school students deserve schools without a bell schedule, built more like a modern library or bookstore. Schools need large gathering areas for students to meet, collaborate and socialize. Surrounding the large community space should be smaller gathering rooms and offices for instructors. Instead of having a set schedule of classes set to a bell schedule. Students can work like most offices with a flex schedule, attending labs and lectures as needed. Handing in assignments digitally. Teachers would use their offices to meet with individual students, small meeting rooms for groups projects and a few classrooms to schedule large group instruction. A classroom management system can be used for students to schedule their meeting times with instructors. The building could be open from 7 AM till 7 PM and students would be able to come and go as needed. School should go year round to allow students to keep learning. If students feel they need a break then they can take on, returning when ready to work.

Currently schools function as a holding cell for students while parents are at work. Students currently come and go as they please for doctor’s appointments, vacations sports and when sick. Our current structure is failing our students and families. Students miss so much instruction time, schools need a system that is more flexible allowing students to learn at their own pace with no penalty for absences.  In this flexible structure, grade levels would be eliminated.  Students would focus on learning standards and receive credit for mastering standards working at their own pace.  Students would have the flexibility to pick their learning pathway that focuses on their interests and career paths.

Teachers would be able to create their schedules to fit their daily needs and districts would not need to hire substitute teachers. Classroom management can be handled by asking any students not meeting expectations to go home for the day and return when they are ready to learn.

It is time to create the schools our students deserve, ending the school day care centers we currently run.

Lets get to work and make it happen!