Thursday, January 3, 2013

Can School Kids Teach Congress Something?

I saw this cartoon on Facebook and just had to share it.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, I don't really have to say anything else, do I?  Enjoy and tell me what you think.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Texas Legislature Will Not Be Good to Education in 2013

Anyone who thinks that the Texas Legislature is going to restore the deficits they stuck to the Texas public school system is merely fooling themselves. All you have to do is look at who controls the political process in Texas to know that there will be more dark days ahead. Yes, that's right. I am a Texan and I am not a Democrat and I am calling out the Republican Party. Let me go even farther. I grew up a Republican and I have voted Republican in almost every election since I turned 18. This year, I chose to vote Independent. I simply cannot vote for someone who represents being the enemy of public schools everywhere and I couldn't vote for a man who continues to lay the blame for his lackluster presidency on George W. Bush.

I am going to state this quickly and simply. Republicans do not want our educational system to succeed. They would love to go to a voucher system or charter school system that pays teachers less and cuts programs for students. The best way to do that is to continue to put budgetary hardships on school districts. They argue that private schools and charter schools out perform public schools but they fail to understand that they also do not educate everyone the way that public schools do. If private schools were forced to take every kid regardless of disability, apathetic parents, or criminal background I think they would fare no better than any other district.

I hope I am wrong but I do believe that the Texas legislature will play their political games and tell everyone that they are being fiscally prudent. Yeah right.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why Become a Teacher

A lot is written about why you should become a teacher. Maybe you want to teach because of the influence a teacher made on your life or you decided that teaching would be an ideal career that perfectly fits with having children. Teachers usually have the same holidays that their children have so that could enter into why you want to be a teacher. Another reason may be that you want to help shape a new generation of children. Whatever the reason, becoming a teacher is something that should not be taken lightly.

When you decide to become a teacher, it is very important to keep your overriding reason in mind right up until you try to get a job upon graduation and even farther. I say this because you will probably be asked what your teaching philosophy is. One of the best primers on writing a teaching philosophy states that it should consist of four parts. I am not going to cover the first three parts in this blog. I will cover it in another post, but the fourth part of your philosophy should consist of why. Why is teaching important to you? This is an area where you need to emphasize what may be your most grandiose ideas of why you wanted to become a teacher.

Will you inspire your students? How? Why is it so important that you touch the lives of your students? How will you reach even the most unreachable? These are all things you really need to know and place as priorities as you start out on your adventure to become a teacher and, then, keep these priorities after you become one. Finally, it is very important to reach back and remember why you became a teacher on those days when discouragement creeps in and you start to doubt why you entered the teaching profession in the first place. I promise. Those days will be numerous and those teachers who have a real philosophy of teaching and remember it are the ones who usually stay with it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaching is So Much More Than Teaching

I read an article the other day about teachers and how their job has turned into so much more than it used to be. I have to agree. To the uninformed, a teacher's job is pretty straightforward. It is about instruction. All teachers do is teach the content that is already prescribed by state mandated curriculum guides. Right? No, sorry, it is so much more.

A teacher's main job is about instruction, but in today's world, a teacher is forced to be so much more. Kids come to school in so many varying conditions that teachers become counselors, nurses, social workers, advocates, and much more. It would be great if a teacher could stand in front of a group of kids and just teach, but that fairy tale no longer exists.

There are kids who enter the classroom with so much baggage that teaching them is next to impossible until the child's needs are met. Some kids have not had anything to eat, some were up all night listening to mom and dad fight, others may have witnessed or, worse yet, been a target of abuse themselves. Some kids hit the door intent on hurting others. Others might be in disarray because they don't have the medicine that usually helps them focus because mom could not afford it until later. Then, there is the constant threat of a child who may turn violent and has even shown a knack for doing so, but cannot be expelled because of laws that protect them until they do something crazy like bring a gun or knife to school. That makes a teacher a sort of security guard in addition to everything else they do.

The article I read stated that almost one-third of all teachers, not just new ones, have plans on leaving the profession in the next five years. Is it any wonder? Teachers jobs are dependent on the performance of their students on ridiculous standardized tests that force them to teach to a test instead of teaching skills that develop students into lifelong learners. They do this in spite of all the obstacles that a rapidly changing society throws at them and with students who often come to them without having even their most basic needs met at home.

It's true that happiness in a job is often equated to success and success for a teacher, according to the administration and the state department, is tied completely to a single test that is becoming more difficult to succeed on due to higher scores needed to succeed each year. Administration and the state department do not see the success the teacher had in reaching that child who could not sit still for five minutes or the fact that the teacher got the angry child to open up and eventually calm down enough to make friends with classmates he only wanted to fight a few weeks earlier. They don't see the teacher figuring how to get the child who cannot focus, because mom can't afford medicine, to attend to a lesson and to quit being such a distraction to the rest of the class.

Teachers do so much more than teach. Unless you have ever been faced with the almost impossible job of "succeeding" when the odds are stacked so high against you, then you could never understand, but teachers do and I thank them for trying. Teachers succeed in more ways than they often will ever know. Make sure to thank your child's teacher. Sometimes that is all they need to keep going.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Teacher Disatisfaction, Making Sense of the Metlife Survey of the American Teacher

MetLife published its most recent “Survey of the American Teacher” a couple of weeks ago. It was a survey done of 1001 teachers nationwide who were surveyed over the telephone between October 14 and November 10, 2011. They found some basic surprises. One of the most dramatic was that teacher dissatisfaction with their jobs has fallen a full 15% in the last two years. Only 44% of all teachers are satisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest number in over two decades. Two years ago, 17% of teachers felt that they were likely to leave the profession. In 2011, 29% of all teachers state they are likely going to leave the profession.

In light of all the budgetary problems in schools all across the nation, teachers do not feel as secure in their jobs. Two years ago, only 8% of all teachers felt that their jobs were not secure. Now, 34% of all teachers say that their jobs are not secure. Could this be because of the economic climate? More than likely, yes. A total of 76% of all teachers surveyed said that their district's budget decreased in the last year and 66% of the teachers claim that their district laid off teachers or other staff.

Add to the above statistics that teachers no longer feel that they are in control of the education they present to their students due to state mandated standardized testing and you can see the roots of dissatisfaction. Teachers are required to teach to a test instead of teaching real skills nowadays as seen in other posts I have made on this blog. Could this be why teachers are so pessimistic? Surprisingly, more teachers (43%) than parents (39%) are pessimistic that the level of student achievement will be better 5 years from now.

Teachers are also worried about budget cuts decreasing the amount of social services that their students need. A total of 64% of teachers claim that the levels of social services have dropped and 35% of them state that many of their students are coming to school hungry. Try getting a child to succeed on a test when they are hungry and when other basic needs are not met.

Yes, the economic downturn that has hit society as a whole has brought much more pessimism to a field that needs optimistic people. These levels of pessimism will result in the teaching field losing some of the best and brightest. We can only hope that the new crop of teachers will be able to look past the pessimism and hang on until the economy recovers, if it ever does.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Visually Impaired Students Qualify for Free Bookshare Account

There is a website that all teachers who have a visually impaired student need to see. It is called Bookshare and it is an absolute must for any student who qualifies as visually impaired. Bookshare offers over 134,000 digital books, textbooks, periodicals, assistive technology tools and teacher recommended reading lists to people who are visually impaired. The great thing is that Bookshare is free for all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities. As of today, there are over 150,000 students in the United States who are being served by Bookshare.

Bookshare is the largest online library of accessible reading materials for people with print disabilities. A person with a visual impairment may not be able to read using their eyes, but there are numerous devices that will read books to them. I had one student who had a visual impairment. He was not blind but he could no longer read because of a disease that made his eyes move rapidly. He described reading as if you being in a jeep riding across a very bumpy and rocky road while someone is behind you jerking your shoulders back and forth. He said it is almost impossible to read because he could not focus on a single word, much less a group of words. The sad thing is that he was a near grade level reader before the disease starting taking his eye sight.

We had an iPad in the classroom and used it with Bookshare to open the world of reading back up to him. There is an app called Read2Go. It ties in with Bookshare so that he can download books. Each book is read orally to him. Here is the great thing about it. We had all of his textbooks, the local newspaper, and even the Bible on it.

There are qualification requirements to be met and you will have to go to the Bookshare site to see how to get your student qualified. Look, visually disabled people deserve the same access that non-disabled people have to print media. Bookshare gives that to them. I never had any problem finding any book that this student wanted on Bookshare. It is amazing how much Bookshare gave back to this student's quality of living. Here is the link to Bookshare. Check it out. It is one of the best accommodations I have ever found for any of my students.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Five Finger Rule and More for Determining the Reading Level of a Book

I wrote this article at Hubpages about how to determine the reading level of a book using the five finger rule. Hubpages took all of my posts down because I offended them in a completely unrelated article. This article was one of the most popular ones I had and I think it is a shame that it can no longer be viewed. Because of that, I felt it was necessary to move it over to my blog. I hope it helps you if you need a fast and easy way to determine the reading level of a book.

How To Quickly Determine the Reading Level of A Book

Many books list the reading level of the book right on the cover and even tell you what age children it is appropriate for. Other books have the information you are looking for near the barcode on the back cover. But, what do you do to determine the reading level of a book if the information is not listed?

Many teachers use a method of leveling a book on the spot.

There are many methods that teachers have been using in their own classroom to determine if a book is an appropriate book for that certain child. Leveling a book on the spot is usually done to see if it fits a certain child.

The "five finger rule" is an easy way to level a book for an individual child. Open the book up to a random page and have the child start reading. Every time the child makes a mistake, hold up one finger. When the child makes five mistakes before getting to the end of the page, this book is above their reading level. A mistake can be not knowing a word or even leaving the word out.

The reason the methods like the "5 finger rule" have been around and continue to be used is because they apply book leveling to an individual child, which only makes sense. All the book levels in the world won't do you any good if that child can't pick up the book and read it.

Another method is to go through about 5 pages of the book and see if you can find 20 vocabulary words that a child does not know. If you can find 20 or more words, this book is over their head and should not be read at this time.

There's millions of different ways to check, at a glance, if a child should read a certain book. The examples I have given so far mainly gravitate around fluency. But comprehension should not be ignored, because, ultimately, it is what matters most.

Many people have the child read to them out of the book and check for fluency when reading. The problem with this method is that they may not comprehend the book at all. Many students are excellent word callers but do not comprehend what they are reading and others read very slow but comprehend everything. Be careful using this as a quick way to determine the reading level of a book.

Having a child read to you for fluency and then doing a comprehension check will only work if you have a knowledge of the book and that can be hard when you have many students interested in many different topics.

You can use the Internet to find reading levels of books too. The Teacher Book Wizard by Scholastic is a good source. It lists the levels of hundreds of books.

The Fry Readability Formula uses a graph and can be found at Wikipedia. It is a good way to also find a level of a book and should be checked out, but if you want to find a quick way to determine the reading level of a book and you do not have time to use the Internet, I suggest you use the "Five Finger Method"

I hope this was helpful and that you can get some good out of it.