I remember it distinctly. My parents, in reference to their involvement in the church's Vacation School, expressed their distaste for calling the participants kids. Kids are baby goats, you understand, and it is degrading to refer to children by such a derogatory term.
I get it. I was a child myself. To think that children could be labeled by the same name as a baby goat! Just imagine. Didn't those people understand that goats are noisy, filthy creatures that chew on everything in sight?
On second thought, that actually kind of explains things, doesn't it?
But now they've gone too far! They're no longer calling children kids; now they're calling them kiddos. And it doesn't make sense. Why add the extra syllable? It certainly doesn't save time to call them that, so I suspect that people are just trying to be cute...or should I say cutesy?
How do things like this spread? My own children's teachers, from kindergarten to sixth grade, call them kiddos, and don't think I'm not tracking it. How long will it last? Into junior high? High school?
I guess it could be more worser: they could be calling them kiddies instead.
But again, I ask you, Why? Why add the extra o? Do we do that to other words? We don't call them childos or boyos and girlos, do we? Of course not. Kiddos sounds more like a breakfast cereal of which mothers would disapprove. Kid-Os cereal would most definitely have bits of chocolate and marshmallows.
You see, that's what we do to these students. We give them sugar instead of vitamins. I would much rather their own answers to me be robust and full of lasting energy, not empty fat. Just think about it. Words mean something, and if we're just saying it out of habit and to be silly and cute, that alone is good reason for cutting it out of our vocabulary. How can we show more respect to our students?
At the same time, I hear teachers in videos calling their prodigies young scholars instead. Honestly, I'd rather hear kiddo than young scholar. It's not sugary, but it does seem forced. Fake. And it's sure to get some behind-the-back razzing from students. Others refer to their four- and five-year-olds as kinders and littles, which is more than a little cutesy for my taste.
While we're at it, won't you please stop referring to your husbands as hubs on the Facebook.
What do you call your children? Have you given it conscious thought? Or do you do so strictly out of habit?
You know that shelf that sits beside the register - the one that calls your name out loud when you're standing there in line behind some guy with coupons that won't scan properly and the clerk has to call a manager to say magic words over the computer? You know that shelf? It practically hands candy to your child as you wait. The headlines of the tabloids appeal to your curiosity.
That shelf wasn't placed there because they ran out of space elsewhere in the store. It was put there to - wait for it - make the store money. I know! Unbelievable, right? The next thing you know, I'll be making some wild claim that casinos are only in business to scam you out of your savings. If I'm going to make such crazy statements, you might as well stop reading now.
Actually, there's an application to the ways in which our school boards and curriculum committees adopt materials, and more importantly there's an application to the ways in which teachers make purchases.
I like to think I put a lot of thought into how I spend money provided to me from the school's PTA or from district funds. I wonder if districts do the same. After all, someone paid, donated, or reluctantly gave up their money so we could spend it effectively.
But we like those shiny things on the impulse shelves, don't we? One person with buying power can spend thousands of tax dollars on a flashy software system that will streamline curriculum delivery.
Teachers - especially elementary teachers - impulse buy more than Lucy Ricardo in a haberdashery. See something at a teacher store? Buy it. Find a flashy interweb subscription? Click Add to Cart. Or search hour after hour on Teachers Pay Teachers to find something cutesy that may or may not fully address RI4.6 (secret code for something about reading comprehension) only to find yourself nickel and diming your family into bankruptcy.
Pretty soon, you have notebooks full of worksheets, which is just the thing you were probably trying to avoid in the first place. In fact, there were probably some worksheets in your file cabinet that would have worked just fine for the same purpose.
I don't know why they do it. By that, I mean I don't know why they do it without putting much thought into it. I guess teachers just make too much money; we have so much cash readily available that we can afford to throw it any bulletin board border salesman who peddles his cart onto our lane. Added to that is that, often, it's not our own money we're spending.
Sometimes we make mistakes with our purchases - it happens more often than we would like to admit - but we need to do better. Just because we work for the government doesn't mean we should burn money like the bank is on fire. That tabloid you just bought may not benefit you after all.
I hereby declare that our fourth grade classroom is officially ready to activity...and here's your preview.
In the first photo below, you will find the door to our room,guarded by two file cabinets full of papers and junk that I rarely go through. Move to the right in that picture, and you'll see a storage closet. Beside that are more storage cabinets, which sit above our cloak racks (I like to call them that as it reminds me of my own elementary teachers way back in the 20th Century.). In the far right corner is our sink. Blocking the sink in this picture is Mission Control.
More visible in the second photo, Mission Control is my home base. It consists of a small computer desk, a table, and a rolling wood shelf. This year, I have situated Mission Control at a 45-degree angle to everything else in the room in order to facilitate more direct access to the SMART Board. In front of the interactive board is our carpeted stage (with storage below). The stage and the SMART Board provide us with an excellent area for direct and explicit instruction. Students come to this area with chairs, or they sit on the floor. To the right of the stage is a rolling cart that can hold demonstrations materials or notes as the teacher teaches.
The third photo is the first view people have when they enter the room. Two large windows rest on the far wall at each end of the room, with tables below them which hold school supplies. Between the windows are our main book shelves. We have six tables at which students sit for the majority of their working time. Students also have access to the floor, sitting on the floor at the stage, or they may stand at a taller table, visible in the foreground of this picture.
The last photo here is our dry-erase board. Between two bulletin boards are three more of our six working tables. At the top of the white board (in the left half) are some papers that can be written on with light (when the room lights are extinguished. Above the board are fluorescent papers that can shine under black light.
We attempt to find the antecedent for undesirable behavior. That is, we try to find what started or what causes the behavior. We're looking for the trigger. The smoking gun. The origin story. The prequel to our student's current status.
And someone in the conversation inevitably says, "The problem begins at home, with parents, and we can't do anything about that."
End of conversation.
That's it? That's the end? We just throw our hands up and surrender?
But I do not believe this is a mic-drop moment.
There are a couple of points to be made here.
First, I believe it is more than a family problem. To point the finger back at ourselves, I think education is a part of this problem. I am under the opinion that we have created some of the issues that we see in front of us every day in our schools. Not only are we so worried about legal issues that we often fail to effectively connect with our pupils, but we also tend to be so nurturing ourselves that we take responsibilities away from parents. Out of concern that I will be offensive with my comments, I should probably stop right there. Suffice it to say that if we don't allow students to feel some of the pains that come with irresponsibility, they are destined to repeat the same irresponsibilities.
Second, I believe that we do affect home life. If we wave the white flag and claim that we are doomed, then we are doomed. To failure. Since when do we, touters of Growth Mindset, give up? Dare I say, that makes us hypocrites. Even if what we believe is true, we must still believe that we affect a future home life.
Those kids listen to you. Those of us teachers who are also parents know this fact of life: a kid will often believe a teacher before he believes his mom or dad. That doesn't mean we try to undo the principles of the family at hand, but it does mean that we do our best to instill positive behaviors that will enhance our society. I know, for example, that many parents are not giving their children adequate training in using good manners - saying thank you, excuse me or I'm sorry, looking people in the eyes, offering a firm shake of the hand. Regardless, we can easily enhance our students' futures by providing them with behaviors that will raise their level of employability. Future families will be improved if we can infuse them with a behavior model that includes consideration for the people around them.
So, dear teacher, stop believing you can't change them without parental support. You're selling yourself short if you believe what you do is futile.
All Four Stars is yet another book that apparently saw enough success that the author decided to write at least two more as "sequels", the latest of which is scheduled to be released in July.
I really enjoyed the opening scene in this book. It was packed with physical humor as 11-year-old Gladys attempted to cook like a professional chef...with her dad's welding torch. From that scene, the author developed an interesting premise - where Gladys submits an entry for a major newspaper's writing contest. When her entry to the contest is placed in the wrong pile, it is mistaken as the cover letter of a job applicant. I liked the concept, but I ended up giving the story less than four stars in the area of development.
First of all, let me explain that I am tired of characters swearing in children's television and in young adult novels. When Gladys continues to express, Oh fudge, when things go wrong, I know what she means. The euphemism is completely unnecessary.
Second, the plot points in this story happen more than a little coincidentally for me. It's a little too convenient for the plot that things occur in the way they do, and when they do, I can't help but roll my eyes. In fact, author Tara Dairman takes great leaps to make things work out for her story - taking readers the long way around just to explain how this all connected. At one point, I found myself yearning for it to happen quicker.
Finally, I do not like the way that Dairman seems to disregard the character's safety in the big city. Because Gladys is so deceptive of her parents, she places herself into a situation that could be very dangerous, alone in the middle of New York City. Because they do not find out about her deception, the reader is never shown the consequences of her actions. Further, another family, when it comes down to it, abandons Gladys in the restroom of a Broadway show - again with no negative consequences whatsoever. I felt that the deceptions, the sneaking around, and the scheming were not needed for the story. Gladys could have conducted herself "above board" the whole time, and things would have turned out the same - or - Gladys could have found herself in some darker situations, and readers would have received the added theme of personal survival in the urban jungle.
I do everything I can to make my classroom - my instruction, my methods, my presentation, my class - special. I think many of my students, their parents, and my peers would agree that even if things aren't always the best, at least I make the effort.
And we really are special in our class. Our appearance is unique. The ambience is unique. The seating arrangement is unlike what I've seen everywhere else in the school.
We're engaged in learning. We don't give up. We smile. We are passionate and encouraging. And there are are surprises all the time. In a word, our class is special.
So I have a problem with referring to Music, Media Skills, Physical Education, and Art, collectively, as Specials (capitalized). No, I'm not saying these classes shouldn't or can't be special, too, but I'm not going to refer to them as a capitalized set, just for the sake of convenience.
We're special in our core classroom. Math is special. Reading is special. History, Science, and all of the ancillary core subjects are special, too. Saying that these other classes are Specials implies, to me, that they are elevated in some way to a higher status than my own. I'm too passionate about my students and their core learning to allow them to think that our homeroom class is not special, and I will not apologize for trying to make IT the most special part of their days.
Mathstakes - or Math Mistakes - are an attempt to encourage students to find and correct mistakes. Most are introduced with a visual prompt, but there is no other word prompt outside of the visual. In addressing the visual, learners must first find, or construct, what they believe the problem. They must then figure out what was done in the visual to solve the given problem. The problem and solution are always provided in the visual.
After this, learners are charged with the task of determining whether the solution is appropriate. If so, they must defend it; if not, they must explain - or teach - a better process.
Here we go again, folks.
Teaching in a U.S. public school, these days, has its demands. As a matter of fact, some of those demands are, well, demanding; by demanding I mean borderline unreasonable or downright unreasonable. Many educators find themselves cutting corners on record keeping, shirking their planning responsibilities, and giving it only a percentage of what they've got. Making it home in time to collapse on the couch for the evening becomes a nightly destination and aspiration.
And then comes another mandate. Something else on the plate. An extra duty. Another meeting during planning period. Another meeting after school. Another document to transfer data to (Isn't that the same data you entered into yet another document, last week?).
And somebody say it: It is what it is.
Is that supposed to make it feel better? The lost time with my family, going home after sunset, no time for a sit-down meal? Oh well, LOL, it is what it is. That makes it all right, doesn't it? Just accept it as one of those and other duties on your contract. They've got you, and you can't do anything about it. Even if it doesn't make sense. Even at the expense of your health, both mental and physical. You didn't need your sanity anyway!
It is what it is. Does that explain everything? Suddenly what was unreasonable gets done, sans dissension of any kind, because someone says:
"It's research based."
"This isn't coming from me, but from my administrator."
"This isn't coming from us, but from central administration."
"This isn't coming from us, but from the state."
"We have to do this, because we're a Title One school."
"We're bound to do this because of a special grant."
As if saying these things makes something make sense. As if saying these things proves the worth of a particular activity.
It is what it is.
Wouldn't any person in authority want to surround himself/herself with people who couldn't ask questions, people who aren't willing to respectfully dissent? What kind of leader surrounds himself/herself with sycophants? Friends, that's a recipe for failure. With such, said leader will find that those in his/her entourage will willingly throw the leader under the proverbial bus.
Any healthy organization will welcome questions and challenges to the status quo, and yet if the puppies only roll over and expose their bellies, while panting for their master's affections and Attaboys, the status quo will not ever be achieved. No one trusts anyone.
And that's where It is what it is gets you.
It is what it is.
I ask, Does not mean it has to be what it is? Can't it become what it isn't? Why can't it be better than it is?
It is what it is. Then we may never escape mediocrity. Boo.
Today, a great expansion is taking place. One of our top educational platforms, ClassDojo, is launching a big addition to its free service. We already know about ClassDojo's conduct tracking and its ability to bridge the gap between teachers and parents. Today, students can also walk on that bridge. I have finally been authorized by the app team to reveal this expansion.
With a quick iPad reading of a class QR code, students may now safely communicate with their parents about activities in the classroom. They may post pictures, text, and videos of their projects, thus keeping a digital portfolio of their work.
ClassDojo calls this new feature Student Story, and it should fit well with the already popular Class Story in which the teacher can do likewise to all parents who have signed up for the secure service.
As the ClassDojo mentor for Cecil Floyd Elementary and a teacher who is constantly on the lookout for user-friendly and meaningful tools for the our classroom, I can certainly appreciate the ethics of the ClassDojo app team. Behind the scenes is a team of people who are constantly searching for ways to support the education process. They not only lookout for their own app, but they look to include and promote the latest educational research and innovations. This team challenges its mentors and teachers around the world to always lean into the wind and push forward.
If you are an educator, whether your school subscribes to packaged discipline programs and positive behavior response systems, ClassDojo has a place in your classroom and your school.
We use music in our classroom. It plays in the background during much of our independent and group work, and it plays in the foreground during certain lessons and celebrations. Music keeps us on task, and there are times when it purposefully attempts to distract us (which I won't go into right now)
Really, I do.
I learned to read early, and I learned to read well. I do not remember how I learned it, but I learned it. When my parents played Rook or Bridge with their friends, I often found myself being called into the dining room to read out loud. I read fluently with feeling, but I never struggled with the process.
What's more is that I enjoyed reading. When mom worked at the YMCA, we would take side trips to the public library, next door, to check out a dozen books a week. In the first grade, I charted 480 books, still taking second place behind my academic nemesis, Jim Bill (who read 518).
Yes, I still remember the numbers.
I also remember adults having conversations about the importance of reading - how students must read in every subject.
I get it! I really do. Kids need to learn how to read.
But as a veteran teacher entering my 27th year in the profession, I also understand the dangers of literacy paralysis. If you've not heard that term, it's because I just made it up; I hope it catches on. To get a clear picture of literacy paralysis imagine a deer in the headlights of a car on a remote, two-lane. Said deer becomes paralyzed in the bright lights, standing numbly and and stiffly with no intention of moving.
I know that happens with children, as well. We cast our literacy lights on them, pounding them with comprehension instruction, small group mini-lessons, guided reading, reading logs, and programs that intend to turn their deficiencies around (180 degrees). We take them out to give them instruction in a smaller classroom, and we push extra teachers into the regular classroom to give them more personal attention.
We host literacy nights, we invite special guests into our rooms to read to the class, and we design cutesy bulletin boards (all stolen from Pinterest boards). He work with our students to identify theme, text structure, main ideas, supporting details, figurative language, and every aspect of both fiction and nonfiction.
In short, we drown those poor kids in literacy. No wonder they stare at us and still read less than 100 words a minute (let alone understand what they are reading).
Why exactly do we do that? When kids are drowning in water, we don't throw more water in the pool, do we?
And while we're at it, why do we - the experts in our classrooms - buy in so easily to what George Lucas and Bill Gates want us to do. If those two had their ways, every class would be the same. We need to understand the difference between research and a response to research. Especially in the area of literacy.
I just finished an invitation-only viewing of a documentary entitled Most Likely to Succeed, in which two ends of the educational spectrum were laid bare. On one end, the 100+ year industrial model of schools was shown to routinely fit our students and teachers in boxes where they were controlled by bells and by which end of the hall they were on. Every day was the same. Every teacher taught his/her subject in isolation of all other subjects.
And students lost their spirits.
On the other end of the spectrum, teachers facilitated classes in which students were allowed to collaborate, plan, build, and display projects. Shy students found their voices. Confident students were permitted to make mistakes, miss deadlines, and learn to do better the next time.
And then I read an Edutopia article about all the things teachers do wrong in teaching literacy, written of course by a know-it-all university professor and self-proclaimed literacy expert. In this article, unlike the Most Likely to Succeed documentary, there were no solutions offered - only criticism of past practices.
Both sources challenge the status quo, but only one - the documentary - attempts to improve upon things. Instead of turning every classroom into a small-literacy-groups-and-learning-centers model, Most Likely to Succeed focuses on a school that trusts teachers with full autonomy (total freedom and no standardized instruction or assessments). In this school subjects were interwoven and as a result learning was vibrant, engaging, and interesting. The soft skills (I really dislike that term.) of communication and respect were nurtured. Schedules were thrown out the window in order to allow students the freedom to explore and learn with fidelity.
On one hand, Edutopia believes every student must learn the same things in the same ways, while the documentarians lean more toward autonomy and professionalism. Edutopia appears bent on reducing students to data points and number crunching, while Most Likely to Succeed builds on relationships and responsibilities.
The comparison is correctly described by one of the experts in the documentary:
"Education is a complex human system. It's about people. And people are natural creatures; we are organic creatures. You know, we grow, and we evolve, and we change. And if you have an industrial metaphor in your head, then you're led into the sort of language that we now use, and that's standardization.
I do not want to bore my students with any single subject - especially literacy - and yet the system keeps pushing me to spend more of my day isolating this subject than any other. The last thing I want to do is see a student in the headlights, completely discouraged from reading. When that happens - when that student doesn't want to read - every subject requiring reading (every subject) suffers. Instead, I want each student to want to read more. That requires my encouragement/motivation. That's done with the blending of content and subject areas.
I'm not ignoring the fact that students must learn to read.
I am not denying the concept that literacy is important.
It's just that students are motivated to read more when they have a purpose outside of literacy, when they want to know something, when they are interested, when they are immersed. The vast majority are not motivated to improve their reading for the sake of improved reading skills; again, they must have a purpose outside of literacy.
Yet those greedy textbook companies and the bureaucracies that support them want us to read and subscribe to their programs down to every scripted tittle, without consideration of the teacher's professional judgment and personality, the student and teacher relationship, or the need for purpose. Do so, and you will not only waste your students time, you will suffocate their spirits.
Even the title sounds a bit like one of those eccentric stories: Sisterhood of the Traveling Fried Green Joy Luck Tomato Pants. Not exactly my cup of tea. As "the man" starts coming down on the main character and her community, I wondered which I would root for. I know I would not want my neighbors to clutter up their yard with junk, even if the junk was called folk art, and yet I certainly understand the concept of freedom and limited government.
The book left me a little dissatisfied and empty:
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