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.   

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.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The role of standardized testing

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. 

The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty, which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers which students are achieving and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.

However, tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the evaluating, rating, and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. 

There are socioeconomic issues such as the inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas, which can have an impact on student achievement and test results. 

Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes. 

Standardized tests can be used to observe changes in student test scores over a year in order to inform the public of an improvement or decline in student achievement. 

The standardized tests can also be used as a tool to compare certain schools within the same district because they are similar in socioeconomics. 

However, one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing. 

Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education. 

The goal of using data produced by standardized tests is to extract a correlation between the knowledge of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher. 

However, there is not a reliable learning assessment resource available to measure the different impact of each. 

Besides the effectiveness of the teacher, the knowledge of the student is also affected by social factors such as student apathy, peer relations, poverty, and parent involvement. 

Standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can be counterproductive and dehumanizing.  

Published in the Oakland Press Open Opinion Forum on April 12, 2014 and April 20, 2014.

Published in the Macomb Daily Open Opinion Forum on April 20, 2014. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Teachers Can Contend with Setbacks in Education

Teachers can best respond to the challenges, demands, and setbacks in education by taking on leadership responsibilities within their department, school, or district. However, it is also important to ignore some of the setbacks and just move on with what your doing in order to avoid frustration. Putting up walls to block out all the negativity can help teachers maintain their focus on educating students. Teachers can be proactive in the face of educational adversity by developing resiliency through maintaining a well-balanced life with positive attitudes and social relationships.

'Speed Bumps' in education can provide a helpful feedback loop to inform the teaching practice in areas such as reform initiatives, strategic planning, and professional development. Teachers respond the same way to setbacks inside of the classroom as they do with stumbling blocks at a larger scale. They want to make sense of the setbacks in order to improve student achievement. Teachers can deal with difficulties in education and endure the challenges they face without allowing disruptions to student learning.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Technology Can Help Teachers “Ignite Learning” in the Classroom

Technology can help teachers “Ignite Learning” in the classroom by promoting literacy development and critical thinking. I use video clips from Discovery Education, Safari Montage, Khan Academy, TeacherTube, and Vimeo to engage students. I facilitate the use of the Internet in order to conduct research and collaborate with classmates. Students enjoy their time posting comments to a blog or on the social media site, Edmodo.

This technology captivates students and makes them desire to learn more about the content. Using technology with project-based learning provides multiple opportunities for students to innovate and construct their own understanding. The ability to communicate and create is what sparks learning. “Kids these days” are just wired to operate in a digital environment, which enables them to take control of their education. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Educators Can Encourage Students to Take ‘Risks’ in their Learning

Educators can create a classroom environment that invites students to take part in the learning activities by promoting personal responsibility within a welcoming atmosphere. Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom and cared for by the teacher. Educators need to talk with students and understand their feelings in order to encourage them to make strides in their learning. Classrooms can be a place where it is acceptable to be incorrect when attempting to comprehend lessons.  

Teachers can create a space where students feel safe to raise their hand, ask questions, or contribute ideas in a discussion by planning lessons that involve many opportunities for personal interaction. Placing students in a position to experience growth and see it as a direct result of their effort can be accomplished in the classroom by providing them with the support they need in order to become competent. Students can be directed toward a growth mindset about their own learning when teachers show them that it is effort that makes people smart and motivation that makes people successful. Educators can encourage students to take the necessary risks so that they can realize their own potential in learning by providing ample opportunities for practice.   


Monday, February 24, 2014

The Five Top Lessons I Have Learned in My Position in Public Education

1. Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents, and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.

2. Be Open-Minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make.

3. Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all of the negativity.

4. Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.

5. Always want to learn. Weather it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.