Image From: BoredPanda.com

Nine o’clock  Sunday morning a notification goes off on my cell phone.  Amy, my wife, picks up my phone to see what the buzz was about while I was readying breakfast for our 3 children. Was it an emergency? Was it an invite for an outing during the day? Was it Grandma asking us to attend church with here?  NO,  a work colleague had sent our building staff a survey to take by Wednesday to plan a parent engagement night for our school.  Amy threw my phone down on the table with disgust:”Why is your work ALWAYS budding into family time?”  A teacher working at 9 AM on a Sunday morning? Yes, this is the teacher’s life. So much work that even the day of rest gets compromised to check things off the to do list.

Teachers are overload with work, left with little time to check things off their “to do” lists. Often when teachers find time they use it for much needed unwinding and family time than to dive into new needed tasks. Teachers show up for their days early and work late into the evenings focusing on lessons plans and feedback. We worry about our students and spend time focused on relationships. Our jobs are full of activity and stress. Kaye Wiggins writes that teaching is one of the top three stressful careers.

There is this SUPERTEACHER myth advocated by education reformers that many believe. If teachers just gave more time, students will achieve. How much time can educators give? Most educators have families that they need to have time to support.  Educators are overloaded! It would be great if education was like many other professions, where time was flexible and work stayed at work.

To reform education, one might start by unloading the teachers, so they can FOCUS on their jobs of educating students.

Where have all the subs gone?


Thursday morning our staff received a urgent plea from our principal, “We are short 4 substitute teachers for Friday. The district has spent precious funds to send our Language Arts department to a conference. We need teachers to volunteer their preparation time to make it happen.” Our staff knows the drill most of them volunteered their valuable time to make the day run smoothly. Sadly this is all to frequent a story for teachers. Teacher preparation time is valuable. It allows for collaboration and planning to occur. The rest of the day is spend in front of our students teaching. Where have all the subs gone?


Billboards and yard signs are all over Michigan, yet there remains a shortage of substitute teachers. When I started teaching sixteen years ago, subs were abundant. Rarely was there a shortage. Most teachers would never have to give up their preparation time for the entire year. So far during the first five weeks of school, I have given up 3 prep periods and I have heard of teachers giving up as many as 5 prep periods. This is an unacceptable rate to be loosing preparation time. If the shortage continues the lack of subs will have a huge impact on student learning.

Schools need subs for a variety of reasons. Teachers get sick and have doctors appoints just like anyone else, can’t just leave the classes unattended. School districts also have to provide professional development and staff trainings as mandated by state law. Every teachers needs to be offered 30 hours of professional development per year.

Friday was a rough day for our teachers and students. Not only were preparation times lost, the few subs that our school could obtain were inferior. One sub was so bad our principal had to send him home in the middle of the day. Our schools deserve better. Our administrators and teachers should not have to worry about subs to start everyday. I know teachers who show up to work sick because they don’t want to be a burden to fellow staff if a sub can not be found.

Where is the administrative, parent and media outrage? When will our legislators address this issue? Probably never sadly. The responses I see some people asking why subs are need in the first place.

The time is NOW to address this issue. Subs are needed in every school district. Heck some school districts still have open full time positions. If you have a day or two free during the week sign up to be a sub, it will change our students lives!




#michED Team presenting at MACUL 2014 
Michigan Department of Education is launching #proudMIeducator initiative this week  “that aims to acknowledge, elevate, and celebrate the work of great educators in the State of Michigan.” This is a great idea, we need to celebrate the great work of all educators. Don’t many educators already do this on social media? Well as a matter of fact they do. In 2012 a group of educators started a community call #michED , I became a part of this grassroots group pretty soon after it started. Educators have been sharing positive stories and celebrating our success on social media for years. Michigan Department of Education is just catching up. Is this a sign of how long it takes change and innovations to enter the main stream?

Michigan has been a  great state for teachers. Home to Michigan State University, University of Michigan and many other great teaching colleges. Our schools have been top notch but in decline of late, mainly due to funding issues and failing infrastructures. Teachers do need to be elevated and celebrated more. Is a social media campaign going to improve education while drawing the best and brightest into the field? The jury is out on this one.

Michigan Educators are proud. Proud of our jobs. Proud of our schools. Proud to be innovators. Proud to inspire youth everyday. Proud to be helping educate the future of our state, but we are also tired. Tired of over crowded rooms. Tired of crumbing school infrastructure. Tired of being blamed for the societies flaws. Tired of no substitute teachers when we are sick. Just plain tired.

To elevate the teaching profession in Michigan it is going to take great efforts by all involved. Using the #proudMIeducator or #michED hashtags is a start. Where do we need to go from here? First and foremost we need a legislature that listens to the educators, treating them like experts. Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is heading down the right road, hopefully they will join up with the already established #michED community. MDE should attend all of the state’s educational conferences talking about how they are working to elevate teachers. MDE should encourage all legislators to get into teachers classrooms and see the greatness that occurs. What if we promoted education and educators like we do tourism? Can you say Education Week?  I can’t wait to see what the future holds, we can’t go anywhere but up!


but we focus on test scores!


My students come to class hungry

not knowing where the next meal comes from

but we focus on test scores.

My students come to class tired

They have not had a full night’s rest

but we focus on test scores.

My students come to class anxious

living in fear of violence and abuse

but we focus on test scores.

My students come to class unfocused

so much uncertainty in their world who could

but we focus on test scores.

My students come to class sick

no insurance to help cure their ills

but we focus on test scores.

My students DON’T come to class

having to care for siblings at home while parents work

but we focus on test scores.

My focus will be my students

Maybe if our school reforms focused on students and not their test scores we could really fix education. Schools are but a reflection of the ills in our society. When we truly value education and educators we might find the solution!


Real Choice Needed


As I drove to set up my classroom this morning, I passed a brand new charter academy with a beautiful campus and two billboards advertising neighboring district schools. Educational choices are abundant like picking a brand of potato chips at the store.   Similar to picking chips are the school choices a REAL choice? or just choices based upon the brand names? My kids have long sense realized that the store brands taste the same as national brands. Aren’t mosts schools the same?

Of course schools have different physical facilities and staffs. The content taught and methods used in schools are predominantly the same. When picking a charter school or school of choice it is more about the marketing campaigns, Zip codes and facilities than about educational choice. Districts and charters are competing for students. Money is being spent on advertising and “shiny” upgrades instead of going into the classrooms to improve learning. Instead of collaborating to offer students real choices in their education, districts are fighting for every last student. It is time to stop the cannibalization of schools! It is time for collaboration.

3 steps to improve choice:

  1. Charters need to offer something different working in conjunction with public school around them. Student populations are very diverse, one method of instruction does not fit every students. Charters should be offering this alternative. If school district offers traditional instruction then charters should offer Project based, flipped or blended options (Some do this now). This way when districts encounter students that are struggling alternative teach methods can be offered and students moved to proper fitting school.
  2. End open school of choice. Too often parents move from school to school based on zip code. This will allow all the funds used for marketing to be redirected into classrooms. Did you know some larger districts employ entire marketing departments?
  3. Encourage neighboring districts to collaborate and establish smaller alternative learning path schools. Many districts are doing these now with Career and Technical Education. Wouldn’t it be great to offer more students a similar choice? Just think if districts offered up a project based or blended high school or middle school option.

Without this coordinated collaboration districts will continue to drain their limited resources fighting for students. Charters will pop up offering no real choice in places corporations see the ability to make money. It works best when we all get better together.

5 Popular Trends in Online Higher Education


*Guest Blog Post by Ethan Miller

5 Popular Trends in Online Higher Education

I understood the importance of education at a very young age. My father ensured that he made me realize that how privileged I was to attend schools and to have an opportunity to pursue college education. My father had to give up his higher education dreams as his family couldn’t afford to send him half away across the country for college. And the circumstances were such that he couldn’t leave his remote town either. He was a self-made man and it was his emphasis on education that has got me so far in life.

When I think of it, I believe that my father would have loved to be growing up in present times as education is easily accessible to everyone irrespective of their financial situation and geographic location. With the advancement of internet and technology, not just our teaching methods have transformed but also our classrooms have been transported online. Thanks to e-learning, education is available just a click away to anyone who wants it. Online Learning industry is growing rapidly, and more and more students are preferring to opt for online courses as it allows them to experience classroom learning by sitting at home.

While some might argue that it can’t match the conventional teaching practices, I think it’s biggest advantage is that it gives education opportunities to students in the remotest parts of the world. Many colleges and universities have started offering online courses.  While the world is still skeptical about e-learning and is trying to figure out how online higher education works, I bring you 5 popular trends in online education that underlines the effectiveness of online programs:


  • Gamification: One of the emerging trends in online higher Education (also my personal favorite) is gamification, which taps on the competitive nature of students and attempts to make learning a fun filled experience. Education based videogames have already proved to be useful in helping school students learn concepts of math, history and geography etc. Gamification has transformed my ESL classrooms as students spend more time in fun reward-based projects than writing long often boring essays. Taking a cue from MineCraftEdu, many colleges have started to gamify their online courses through video games, simulators and online activities that help students to understand the concepts by applying them in practical situations. Few online MBA courses provide their online students with a simulator platform that allows them to run a company and justify their decisions in front of virtual board members. The primary idea of gamification is adding fun elements to dry subject topics in order to improve the level of student understanding.    


  • Synchronous Instruction: One of the drawbacks of online education is said to be the lack of classroom experience and socializing with other students. The growing trend of Synchronous Instruction in online learning can put an end to this problem. Synchronous Instruction transports the whole classroom experience online by allowing students to interact with professors and other students through live video streaming, podcasts etc. Also known as real-time instruction, it facilitates face to face discussion between professors and students. It makes the students feel involved in the subject, take part in discussions, ask questions and get instant feedback. Few online college courses have started to use Synchronous Instruction for creating mock drills and simulating real life experiences like pitching ideas to the clients by hiring actors to play as clients in order to help the online students gain hands on experience before they go out in the real world.     


  • Asynchronous Instruction: Considered to be the anti-thesis of synchronous instruction, asynchronous learning is considered to be the torchbearer of personalized learning in online education. Asynchronous instruction involves professors sharing lessons, study material, notes, presentations etc. through email and other doc sharing platforms that can be accessed by students at their convenience. It allows students to study and learn at their own pace, something that is considered almost impossible in synchronous instruction and conventional classroom setup. Students, who are shy or introvert, enjoy asynchronous learning as it gives them chance to manage the pace of learning as well as gives them a platform to discuss their problems and shortcomings with professors in private. It also helps the professors to gauge a student’s understanding of the subject with ease. Asynchronous Instruction has been there since the advent of online education, but it is popular even today thanks to its scope of personalized learning.  


  • Competency-Based Learning: Inspired from project-based learning that has become popular in schools these days, competency-based learning seems to be a trend that is catching up in e-learning community. In competency-based learning, students’ understanding is not measured by tests or exams but through practical application of the concepts in a project. Irrespective of the field of study, many online college courses have embraced competency-based learning that requires students to complete a project in order to demonstrate their competency on a particular topic. This helps students to think out of the box and understand the practical application of concepts of a subject. If the students fail to demonstrate their competency and fall short in their projects, then the end goal is revised and student continues to learn until they have mastered all the competencies.  It focuses on mastering a topic rather than abstract learning, allowing students to set the pace of their learning. This makes competency-based learning a new pioneer in online personalized learning.


  • Social Media Learning: Understanding the influence of social media on student community, Social Media Learning is an emerging branch of online education that taps the fun, addictive potential of social media.  From creating Facebook groups for online discussion of subject topics to using blogging tools for submitting assignments, Social Media Learning is catching up in popularity. Professors in many universities are sharing their instructional videos in Facebook and YouTube and are facilitating an online flipped classroom where students share their understanding of the topic, and engage in discussion through video live streaming sessions. Coupled with synchronous or asynchronous instruction, Social Media Learning can be the next big thing in e-learning industry.

With the advent of these useful e-learning trends, and hopefully many more to come in next few years, I can positively say that online learning is here to stay!

  • 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.

Honoring Time


“It must be nice having summer off!” Rick exclaimed as he climbed into the passenger seat of my car. “Sure” was my quick response as I put the car in drive as we headed downtown to the 1 pm start of a Thursday Detroit Tigers game. “Hold it a minute, Rick, aren’t you working right now? Must be nice to work from anywhere with flex time.” Rick along with 4 others in my car were technically working on this afternoon. I was the only one with the summer “off”. All jobs are different and honor time differently. Many of my friends work in the corporate world having the flexibility to go to sporting events or other outings as long as their jobs get done. Often these outings are done in conjunction with work. As they are jealous of my “free” summer, I envy their working conditions that honor their time. A teacher’s day is very different than any other professions. My previous blogs: “A Teacher’s Day” and “7 Hour work day and summer free must be the life” talk about how a teachers work is different than other careers.

How can the educational system honor teachers’ time? It is critical for us in education to answer this question. As other careers create flexible conditions that honor employees time, the education field appears less and less desirable. Millennials desire a work-life balance. Does our current system allow for this balance?

During the school year, teachers teach during normal school hours. Then they are often expected to attend meetings and other school functions outside of the school day. While still creating lesson plans and grading student work during their evenings. Many teachers end up putting in 50 to 60 hours a week and sometimes more. Teaching pay is not growing at the same rate as other college graduates, but pay alone won’t keep them from quitting. Our educational system needs to change so it honors teachers time! How?

Some suggestions:

  1. Remove mandated number of school days and hours. Focus instead on student learning.
  2. Build time into the school day for lesson planning, feedback and meetings. Many educational systems around the world have figured this out. The US is lagging behind here.
  3. Allow more flexibility in the scheduling of school hours. Why do schools start so early? Couldn’t teachers design their schedules in conjunction with schools?

Education is an inflexible profession because society views the education system as daycare. Schools are used as babysitters for kids while adults work. We need to end this notion and fix our educational system.

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