Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tackling student apathy: Teachers can do only so much - parents must play role in children's education

We can’t truly address the issues facing schools until we make a serious effort to tackle issues of parental involvement, student apathy and poverty.

Many of the students struggling in schools lack parental involvement at home. They do not have the structure and discipline at home needed to be a successful student. These students struggle with organization and time management skills needed to complete assignments in a timely manner.

Our staff consistently contacts the homes of struggling learners to see if the parents are accessing their child’s grades on line. Unfortunately, many are not for various reasons — or excuses.

Many parents are not able to be home with their child because of work or other commitments. They may feel that their child’s education is a low priority in their life. If a parent acts like education is unimportant at home, or if he or she is unable to help the child become a successful student, the child tends to become apathetic toward education.

Apathetic students do not pursue due dates or appreciate the significance of obtaining an education. They simply don’t care. They may be overwhelmed with the class assignments, their home life, or other commitments in and out of school. Parents of these students either make their choices for them or are not involved enough.

After speaking to colleagues about this problem, we determined that student apathy could be caused by a lack of connection between the student and the classroom or the teacher. We should support our students with their extracurricular activities, and show that we’re excited about their passions. In order to avoid apathy building among students, educators need to ask students about their passions and goals.

Because there is a relationship between economic advantage and student performance, students of disadvantaged households are more likely to develop feelings of apathy. This is a major problem facing our institution, especially as 20% of American children are living in poverty.

The high level of achievement required of all students — including students of poverty — places a lot of pressure on schools. Our school, for example, provides students of poverty with a free or reduced priced breakfast and lunch in order to improve their health and nutrition, which can in turn enhance their learning. We also provide free tutoring to at-risk students after school and during the summer. If the student’s family cannot afford a field trip or an educational resource, our school will cover the cost. Our school also offers free counseling to students and families in need of guidance through social workers.

One of the biggest challenges I face in my job is number of students in my classroom. Since state funding for schools has been cut, our class size limits have been lifted. This makes it more difficult to give each student the individual attention he or she needs and deserves.

I have donated numerous hours of my time to help my students before or after class, especially if they return to homes where their parents do not help them with homework.

However, there’s only so much we as educators can do — policymakers must focus on addressing these issues of poverty and apathy in order for all students to be successful.

One thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing. It is an unfair measure of student achievement and misinforms the public. Test results do not take into account socioeconomic issues that affect students’ education. Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education.

A child’s education begins at home with their parents and continues in the classroom. When a child does begin school, parents need to be there for support and encouragement. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teacher unions matter!

It is important to be a Michigan Education Association member. I have been a member for the past six years. Our communities need an organization that will challenge school budget cuts, stand up for students, and inform the public on the status of bills in the legislature.

The E-Newsletters, MEA Voice Magazine, and other communications keep members alert! We continue to challenge educational issues such as charter school accountability, "toxic testing", and teacher retention.

We have benefitted immensely from belonging to MEA. My colleagues and I feel part of something greater than us. MEA membership inspires loyalty, participation, and camaraderie.

Being a part of the MEA has positively impacted education in our district. Teachers encourage parent involvement in order to improve student attitudes toward school, promote the development of social skills, and maintain a challenging academic environment.

The MEA is extremely important to the work we do. It provides support for teachers. This allows us to focus our attention, passion, and talents on building relationships and educating our students, rather than worrying about other outside issues affecting schools. My work as a teacher makes my life meaningful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Action should be taken to stop decline in reading proficiency

It is disappointing to see that reading proficiency is down among students in Michigan. Lower-income students continue to be at-risk. The ability to read at a proficient level is critical for success in all core-subject areas. Interventions must be available in schools for persistently low-performing students.
Michigan’s educators and parents can improve reading proficiency by working together to support learning. Reading aloud to children at an early age is essential for their language development. According to the Michigan Department of Education, “the earlier in a child’s educational process parent involvement begins, the more powerful the effects”. Michigan legislators should consider policies that hold educators and parents accountable in order to improve reading proficiency and overall performance across the 

The Oakland Press Letter to the Editor - February 4, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Teacher Appreciation

I know Teacher Appreciation Week has past, but I still wanted to take a moment to recognize one of the many educators who had a positive influence on my life. Before retirement, Tom Davis was an exceptional health and physical education teacher at Lamphere High School in Madison Heights.

In addition to teaching full-time, he also coached the cross country and track teams. He taught his athletes techniques for cross-training and weightlifting in addition to proper nutrition.

He encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me with my struggles, and celebrated my successes. He cared about me, my learning, my life, and he wanted me to find happiness within myself in order for me to be capable of helping others.

Tom Davis inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Open Letter to My Students

What are your goals and dreams for your life? I am here to inspire you to learn from everything you do, explore your curiosities, support you with your struggles, and celebrate your successes.

I care about you, your learning, your life, and I want you to find happiness within yourself in order for you to be capable of helping others. I have made some mistakes pursuing my life goals and dreams.  

It is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. Failure is a fundamental part of life. We not only learn from our own mistakes, but we also learn from the failures of others. There are "potholes" everywhere.

I encourage you to keep being awesome, passionate, and motivated in order to develop your confidence. Stay focused on the right things in school. Think in the affirmative rather than the negative.

My message is meant to help redirect you to a better path and make it over the "potholes". I want your life to have purpose and direction with the strength to keep going in the face of adversity.

My message is meant to recharge your battery. You will need a fully charged battery to make it in this world on your own. Get your sleep. Your going to need some energy.

We need to finish this school year strong together. The end of the school year is always the most difficult because of "summer fever". Stay organized and focused. I appreciate your hard work.

I am someone in your life who is in your corner at the time you are considering giving up on school. No one is designed to be a failure. I believe in you. Focus on your goals and dreams for motivation.

My message is just what you need to hear at this point in your life. Everyone can be unmotivated at times in their life. It's natural. Sometimes, we just need a hand to get out of a slump. I can be your hand.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teachers can best learn from other teachers

Teachers need to keep up with the forward progress of education, the developments in research, and the latest classroom approaches in order to improve student achievement. 

Since educators need to learn in a social context, classroom teaching must be more than a private practice. Educators need opportunities to develop professionally in a supportive environment. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) provide an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn from each other in order to meet the diverse needs and learning styles of students. When teachers are exposed to different teaching styles or strategies by watching other teachers teach, it is possible that their teaching style can evolve. 

However, it is not possible to learn from others if no one is willing to share, collaborate, or communicate. Teachers can learn something about their own classrooms by sharing their daily activities with colleagues and by reflecting on the teaching practice at conferences, workshops, and meetings. Blogs and social media allow teachers to tell the story of their classroom in such a way that it triggers reflection, inspires others, and advances teaching. The school culture needs to support the sharing and learning among teachers that mirrors the classroom climate.   

Featured in The Oakland Press - May 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The importance of blended learning to modern education

Blended learning is merely something that the elite and innovative educators do in order to meet the diverse needs of students. The numerous online resources available can create a classroom that extends beyond normal school hours. This provides students with more flexible opportunities for peer interaction, learning the content, and developing technology skills. Blending the online and in-person environments is really the best of both worlds because students receive the benefit of face-to-face interaction with more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

Blended learning in the classroom consists of a combination of online learning using simulations, videos, and forums in addition to small group differentiated instruction facilitated by the teacher. These instructional methods are appealing to digital natives. Blended learning can support instruction in all grades and subject areas to "increase educational productivity by accelerating the rate of learning" (U.S. Department of Education). This can play a key role in preparing students for our digital world.