While at the dentist yesterday, a school calendar conversation occurred. It began when I walked in, the hygienist asked where my kids were. Their district went back January 2 and where I work doesn’t start back until January 7. “It must be nice to have a few days at home without kids?” was her quick retort. “Yes and No” was my quick reply. Yes because I have a list of things to do, and wouldn’t mind time to relax and binge Netflix alone. No because the family couldn’t spend time travel this week and my kids district will have a week off in February when I will have to work. Before making me open up for the cleaning she noted: “School calendars are confusing, never seem to match all up especially once kids hit college.” She was right, our county has here in Michigan has 21 school districts all with their own calendars. It can get confusing.
While in getting my teeth cleaned it is hard to have a conversation. The hygienist asked why districts didn’t have a common calendar. I mumble local control as she scrapped my teeth. The discussion was mainly one-sided as she finished up my cleaning. Once finished, she asked my opinion of “year-round” or “balanced” calendar schools. As a teacher and a parent I am in favor a shift to a more balanced calendar. The dentist walked into this conversation and stated he felt it would be beneficial to learning. Some schools who have shifted have seen the benefits.
“If there are benefits why not make the change?” asked the hygienist. Well it is complicated. Small changes in calendars upset communities this would be a huge one. If all 21 don’t agree on the change, the districts that make the change run a risk of loosing students (school of choice out of district/ which means funding) if parents do “like” the change. Choice and funding laws restrict districts from making some changes. The dentist added that he read of a western state making the change and the communities were in upset for a few years before adjusting and seeing the benefits. The conversation ended as I left the appointment.
Education needs some major philosophical shifts to improve for our students. These shifts can’t happen if the put jobs and even district’s existence into jeopardy. Hopefully Michigan (and other states) will change fund mechanism and laws that help districts positively shift for their students. The NEA recently did a research summary of year round education. It seems like a shift schools need!
In efforts to hold schools and educators accountable we have moved towards a standardized testing culture. They are easy to grade and allow students to be ranked and sorted neatly into ability groups. Where has this gotten us? As a country the United States has been viewed as a declining country for K-12 education system. Do we have a full engaged generation of learners? Hard to tell but I would argue YES we do, but they are learning what, where and how they desire.
My friend Ben Rimes shared this video yesterday:
It led us to have a discussion about: What if assessments looked this way? Ben’s personal reflection can be found on his blog. Watching this video, I see joyful passion as a individual attempts to make something meaningful to them. Our current assessment system has tons of rigor but lacks the joy and meaning to our students. Does Blanks’ task have rigor? For sure, but he is also driven to complete the task through his passion for music.
How this would look? I haven’t figured it all out yet, but in this day and age where many colleges are dropping standardized test scores as a requirement for admission, why should states require them K-12?
Employers want students who can make thing. Our assessment programs should be portfolios of work accumulated over time with feedback adjustments not numerical rankings from a few hours of testing. Students should find their passions in schools not dread test days. Gone should be the days where 50% of a student’s grade comes from cramming for a final. Time for students to walk out of HS with tangible passion projects that SHOW what they know!
My focus for 2019 will be on the moment.
Live in the Moment.
Enjoy the moment.
Focus on the Moment.
Seize the Moment.
I hope to focus on all the positive moments. Stop worrying about what happened in the past or will happen in the future. The moment is now! It is where learning happens. When we lose track of the moment joy and fun are lost! I have to work hard to remember that I am teaching students who only focus on the moment. I want them to realize that the learning will impact their future. My lessons will be more effective if I can make students realize the value of their learning in that moment! When we don’t focus on today, the past is just a memory and the future will not be impacted by it.
The moment is now, to carpe diem!
My previous #oneword posts on Time, Opportunity, and Advocate.
Thanks for giving me a moment of your time to take the opportunity to advocate on behalf of my students.
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!
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.
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!