Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anyone who has visited classrooms can “feel” a classroom that is working, for both the teacher and the students. However, some classrooms only work for the teacher. That might have been appropriate a century ago, but will not work today. Equally, some only work for the students, which greatly reduces productivity and can approach chaos.

When most of us were children, the classroom was a place with rows of desks. We worked quietly on one thing at a time all together until the class was finished and then we moved to another lesson. Children were quiet and well-behaved. It worked for most of us. If it didn’t work, higher authorities took over. That child sat in the principal’s office, missing important instruction. Generally, the parents supported the school. Many of those incidents and a host of parent conferences later, the child either succumbed to the authority until the age of 16 or was sent to a more structured environment. Either of those paths could easily lead to juvenile delinquency. As my own father threatened several times, the “bad girls’ reform school” was always an option. Interesting name….reform school. They vowed to reform the child.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We all realize how much work we have to do……..that we need to figure out what makes a classroom exceptional. Certainly if we could determine what it is that makes a classroom exceptional, we could train our teachers and move forward. As we fall farther and farther behind our global neighbors, we need to use this information to solve the problems that plague our schools. Why are there so many students that are disengaged with school? Unconnected kids…dysfunctional families…..the list is long. Yet some states, some countries, are doing a better job than others. Let me first say that our teachers’ unions are not helping us or our students. In some parts of the country, actual crimes are committed when a teacher does not follow “the party line.” If the USA wants to become competitive with its overseas neighbors, we must have change and the unions favor the status-quo.

Everywhere we look, parents, teachers and administrators are feeling the stress of NCLB. Students of all ages, even our youngest, who may not be able to name the feeling, are acting stressed. We need to sit back and ask ourselves if this is conducive to a positive learning climate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What makes a Classroom Work? the 21st Century

As a teacher who retired as an elementary school principal, I have had the opportunity to look around and listen to educators everywhere. I have also visited classrooms…many classrooms….and seen those that are working and those that are not. For many years, I have been puzzled and have attempted to put in writing what “works.” I am defining this not only as what works for kids, but also what works for educators and parents.

It is a sad time for public education. The workload of school personnel has increased dramatically, as we add and add to responsibilities of the classroom teacher, leaving little time for reflection. Just as we add new strategies and techniques, we need to help teachers understand what they can let go. All of this requires time….something that is not present in the “180-day six-hour workday.” Schools need to set aside time to answer these questions:

Are we reaching our students – are they engaged?

Are we doing important work or just covering stuff?

What new strategies and techniques do we need to integrate into the curriculum?

What can we “teach less of?”