Wednesday, March 30, 2011

5 Things to Make You "Smarterer" Than Us

It is hard to believe that what this post's title suggests is even possible, but just a short time ago the Underground had only a limited knowledge of what was happening everywhere across this great country. Then we started a blog. Look at us now. Frightening huh?

In an effort to foster similar growth among our "audience"(both of you) we'd like to recommend a few things worth reading(Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet). We will periodically begin sharing links to readings and subjects we feel would be informative or interesting.(everything our own posts are not) Enjoy!

The Answer Sheet- Valerie Strauss is my idol. It won't take long when you read her stuff to realize why.

This article from Dissent Magazine (which is pretty far left)summarizes concerns with those driving reform agendas. Whether it is Michelle Rhee, CNN's Education contributor Steve Perry, NBCs Education Nation, or a simple state mandate beware what lies behind the curtain.

"Tested"-An article that addresses some the issues with over-reliance on standardized testing .

Are Schools Necessary?-Yikes! We obviously feel they are but it helps to listen to those with different viewpoints from your own.

Harlem Children's Zone-The well documented effort in NYC and some less well known insights exploring the efforts of Geoffrey Canada(that deserve to be applauded but maybe not copied eveywhere).

These are just a start. Feel free to share others in the comments section.

In the NBC television series "Cheers", the bar was located underground...coincidence?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Good and The Bad of Republican Education Policy

This week brings news from two states regarding a Governor's involvement in education. In Wisconsin, the debate rages on while one must wonder if the rest of the nation really cares any longer. What was the news of the day in the midst of a Senate Democrat walk-out and Republican union-busting activity has been relegated to page two. But in the aftermath of this debacle, more attention turns to Governor Walker's treatment of public education in his budget. Reports claim that Walker's cuts to education are about to greatly cripple the state's system. His cuts go so deep in fact that many voters are starting to wonder if they really got what they bargained for.

I think the important lesson to the rest of the nation sounds a bit like the "sheep in wolves clothing" story. When facing tough economic times, politicians find it easy to sway public opinion and scapegoat large groups of people. This is where Walker started in Wisconsin. Once the mandate of the populace is given, the true nature of the ideologues shines through. Walker and many of his ilk are flatly anti- anything public.

I've grown just as frustrated as many with wasteful spending in the public arena, but the public must be wise about whether our politicians truly aim to limit public spending or if their true motive is a basic distrust of all things public. When we put people like this in power because we grow tired of hard earned money being drained by public waste, we should stay mindful that we do not send to the statehouse individuals whose primary mission will be systematic dismantling of the public system, education or otherwise.

Our own Republican governor, Bob McDonnell recently made a wise decision and gave a hopeful statement in doing so. Opposing a bill to mandate greater time for children in Physical Education was likely unpopular for many. In today's climate, a push for more physical activity for children easily gained steam in Richmond. McDonnell rightly recognized the financial burden this mandate would place on already cash-strapped school districts. I hope the reader does not lose the irony that the very reason physical education has taken a hit in the state in the first place is due to state and federal policies that focus so intently on math and reading test scores.

I'm not opposed to more Physical Education, in fact, the bill was a great idea. That has become part of the problem with public education. People often fail to recognize when the great idea can potentially become the worst practice. Schools should provide adequate Physical Education, but Richmond could more efficiently accomplish this by changing educational priorities instead of placing an additional mandate on schools.

We try to stay above the political fray at the Teaching Underground, but personally, I've been equally disappointed with both Democrat and Republican education policy of the last ten years. Regardless of the source, I think the following quote by McDonnell may be the smartest thing I've heard from a politician regarding education in quite some time:

“I am a strong proponent of the importance of exercise for our young people. My wife, Maureen, has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity, and promoting preventative [health care], one of her chief issues as Virginia’s first lady. However, we should not attempt to achieve important goals by disproportionately placing the burden of implementation on others. While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.”

*** a little update--
I wrote this piece two days ago, and we were a little apprehensive about getting political here.  I've read several pieces and reactions to Gov. McDonnel's veto and see that education and politics mix like, well, like nothing, they just don't go well together.  It seems that liberals are ready to attack anything Republican and conservatives are poised to strike at anything Democratic.  No wonder we feel so "stuck in the middle." 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle With You

I read an encouraging article today in our local Charlottesville newspaper, The Daily Progress titled "Expert Seeks Deeper Education Reforms." Dr. Pedro Noguera from New York University believes that we place too much effort trying to get students passing scores on standardized tests. Noguera also says, "we have found ways to insure that with the right strategies we can educate all kinds of people.” I appreciate the use of "strategies" versus "strategy."

I certainly appreciate Dr. Noguera's point of view, but to paraphrase a quote from a previous post, "we're drowning here and he's describing the water." A few solutions are hinted in this talk. He states “the people who make policies have never been educators and they simply don't understand, and even when they see it firsthand, they still don't understand what it takes to get young people excited about learning.”

I agree, but would also add that I don't understand what it takes to get an urban New Yorker or a rural Georgian excited about learning. I'm confident that given the right support and a little experience I could learn quickly, but the expert on exciting these young people about learning are the students themselves, their parents and caregivers, and the teachers who interact with them daily. Until the power to inform educational policy shifts from the distant politician and insulated departments of education to the stakeholders most invested in public education real education reform will not be realized.

The article closes with another quote from Noguera, “when you have students entering high school and reading on a third-grade level that is not a high school problem... that's a systemic problem.” We have learned in various disciplines that system problems have system answers. Top down reform cannot fix a systematic problem. In a hierarchical system, the actors at the top have too much vested to entertain significant change at the top level. What we end up with are myriad changes at the bottom of the pyramid which still support the unchanging structures at the top.

Where does this lead? As a teacher, the title of this post is addressed to my students. We are stuck in the middle together. Academics and educational experts know what quality education looks like and they expect us to deliver. Politicians and district and state level administrators expect us to meet standard measurements of performance delivered in the form of test scores and pass rates. This means that I live in two realities, with my students. We balance the demands of both, but more and more, the weight on the side of standardized testing grows and grows.

Here in the classroom, we are stuck, in the middle. The article referenced above stuck out because it is proof for me that people understand what we need in public education. Yet still, schools and teachers are torn between serving two masters. One master says test scores are the only metric we care about and the other says focus on learning that matters and not the tests. (Someone wise had something to say about serving two masters.)

That's the end of the post, but I can't create a title like this without giving proper credit, so here's a little Stealer's Wheel for your Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When Chuck Talks...Everybody listens.

As we continue our own quest for one million hits we, like the two guys in the commercial, find ourselves on Chuck Norris' radar, a bad place to be.

The difference here is we are not running. So what does Walker Texas Ranger have against public schools? Apparently a lot. In between his late night appearances pushing the total gym and commercials cashing in on his tough guy martial arts past he writes a conservative blog. Though he'd have to admit his pales in its social and cultural impact when judged against the Underground. (After all we feature an award winning writer and one who went 16 for 16 on day 2 of the NCAA tourney)

Mr. Norris recently wrote a series of three posts getting himself on board the school-bashing bandwagon and then he presented some "solutions". If you've seen his movies you know he's good at bashing. The first post titled Stalin Style Public Education begins with "I love teachers. I really do. And I'm certain that, truth be known, most are overworked and underpaid. No one is certainly getting rich from teaching kids. I applaud the hard-working teachers across this land." Such disclaimers are common and usually followed by a bunch of things teachers know are not true. Most of what comes next is a rant about the evil impact of public unions and how competition and charter schools can fix everything.

While the unions are a separate issue, Charter Schools are potentially part of improvement and many do a great job. But growing research points out they are not all they are cracked up to be and anyone who thinks they can be replicated everywhere to educate every child in our nation is a bit naive. Why students aren't getting the knowledge and skills is more complex than "schools are failing" which is at least part of it. Some schools need fixing but skillful selection of facts allows for almost any argument to appear true. This is no different. If I were not so busy in the midst of my coaching season and time allowed I would insert a careful and artfully crafted counter to each point he makes. Please go find this yourself. Its out there you just don't hear it much in the media. What concerns me more is how Mr. Norris points to what he terms the real cause for the suppression of Charters, a Stalin style organized effort to control. Stalin...Really? Good plot in a film, not so good in real life.

In the second post I learned I was an employee at a Progressive Indoctrination Camp. I've seen this one, our hero breaks the guys out of holding cells then blows up the camp. What chaps my rump here is he quotes my idol and neighbor Thomas Jefferson. Pardon me Mr. Norris but I was raised in Albemarle County within sight of Jefferson's home and his legacy belongs to me! I almost got a job at Monticello, even if it was only driving a bus from the parking lot to his house. I agree with you here if you summon the Jeffersonian idea that federal power should be limited, especially when it comes to education reform where the Feds complicated things in a well meaning effort. I almost find it funny how so many throw Jefferson up as a champion for their ideas. I am no expert in his legacy but I'm fairly certain many in Mr Jefferson's time and since would characterize many of his ideas as rather "liberal".

He chose to found a PUBLIC University after all and a darn good one. The use of his words followed by some big vocabulary that I will admit having to look up, in order to argue that schools now indoctrinate our kids with secular and "radical" ideas like tolerance and a more global approach to education went a little far right for me.  I wonder if Chuck would find the recent effort by our state's Attorney General to quiet ideas from one of UVA's professors equally as troubling? I do wish Chuck would go give our AG a figurative kick in the head, or elsewhere. I also wonder if those leaning far right are aware of Jefferson's Bible and would embrace one of the nation's greatest men so publicly on his unorthodox exploration of faith. Teaching kids is funny sometimes since they seem to care more about our political leaning than we as teachers do. When asked if I am democrat or republican I'll respond either by saying "both" or "I am an American". So what about labeling schools progressive? Schools certainly are progressive when they act as a mechanism for social change as they did under the GI Bill or during desegregation. Were those bad things? To view progressivism as contrary to conservative values and then label schools as progressivism indoctrination camps where kids are locked in and reprogrammed is a big leap, even for Chuck Norris.

If I was to pick a Jefferson quote about education I'd take it from his 1796 letter to James Madison "Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of the due degree of liberty". I am not sure the approach Mr. Norris supports will really help the common people or just serve as a way for those with enough means to get their money back out of the system. This post is additionally bothersome since it begins with a series of headlines that serve to further bloody the nose of public education, a tactic that no Texas Ranger I know would choose. I am all about giving our kids a strong set of values and morals but will stop short of calling for bible lessons by teachers. I will stick to teaching about it. Jefferson made efforts to try and keep his personal views on God to himself and I'll follow his lead.

The last post Indoctrination Camps Part II shares some ideas on how to make things better and like a lot of Norris sequels, it falls a bit short. To keep him from showing up at my house and punching me I will say I agree with him for the most part here. Much of what he has here sounds good. Parental involvement and increased communication help. But these thoughts show an overt distrust of our schools. I am dismayed at the lack of trust and understanding that teaching is in fact a profession. I am actually capable of navigating the delicate world of teaching others children about things like religion and evolution. I am not perfect and can only do my best. One thing I can promise is that I want what is best for the kids I teach, all of them. To claim that I or others want all kids locked into our walls so we can spin ideas into their heads...really?

"Indoctrination" is a funny concept and one worth exploring later maybe but for now let me state clearly, the schools I know do not seek to promote or discourage any views consistent with those of individuals living in an open and free society. Sure I've heard kids say some pretty outrageous things and usually only respond by reminding them about respect, tolerance and the ideas in our Constitution. This document and a nation were built upon the shoulders and ideas of great men. As maligned as these figures have becomes in recent years for their personal or other flaws(Jefferson as a case in point), they managed to create the greatest nation to ever exist on Earth. In the decades since that time we managed to create a national education system which I think while needing continuous improvement, deserves credit and consideration before being dismantled. It is one of the few things that it can be legitimately argued does indeed serve the common good.

Chuck Norris is a good guy who represents all that makes America great. Standing up for what is right, defending the helpless, and teaching countless people how to roundhouse kick, but he is a bit off base here. I am not a Stalinist. I am a teacher. My hope is that I will never have to fight Chuck Norris or anyone for that matter but if that's what it takes to get people to listen to level headed and moderate voices in education reform, then I am not running.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Measuring Value

Last week, my son had the pleasure of taking his fifth grade writing SOL (standards of Learning) test. He spent a little time worrying about the writing section the night before and I tried to comfort him by saying “writing is a genetic thing; this should be a breeze for you.” He replied by saying, “what if I take after mom?”

I really wanted to tell him not to worry because in reality his score on this test means nothing whatsoever to him or his future; there is no consequence for failure, at least for my son. This is troubling, because there are serious consequences for his school and teachers if pass rates are not adequate. Imagine that, a system that holds teachers and schools accountable on a metric that means nothing to a student.

I grow more disappointed in the education of my children as I witness the focus on math and language arts instruction increasing to the detriment of other subjects. My fifth grade son spends nearly as many hours per week in school on math and language arts as he does on every other activity combined, including lunch. He attends an excellent school and his teachers are exceptional, but this is the result of flawed educational policy. With accreditation depending on student performance in these two areas, schools have little choice but narrow their focus on these subjects until they are certain their students (who are not accountable for the outcome) will earn a passing score.

This will only get worse when the state of Virginia jumps on the “value-added” bandwagon and representatives in Richmond consider “growth-model” legislation tying teacher evaluations to student standardized testing results.

In our race for accountability to guarantee qualified teachers and quality schools, we have made a terrible mistake:

We have begun to value what is easily measured and we’ve stopped measuring what is valuable!

Several years ago, I dropped my son off at school and watched his P.E. teacher assist him out of the car and into the building. In those few seconds, I learned perhaps the greatest teaching lesson of my career. When I leave my children at the schoolhouse door, more than anything else in the world I want them to be surrounded by loving, nurturing adults who I can trust to have their best interests at heart.

I do not want my son’s fifth grade teacher to earn an evaluation of exceptional or adequate because his standardized math test grades increased two points from last year to this year. I do not want my daughter's third grade teacher deemed unsatisfactory because her students did not manage to show growth on the standardized language arts testing over second grade. I want to commend them for making my children enjoy learning and encouraging them to take their lessons out of the classroom and into their world.

Let’s stop valuing what is easily measured and do the hard work of measuring what is truly valuable for our children.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Still Learning

I've learned a great deal in the last week or so. I've learned that when you are up 10pts with :45 secs to go, the game is not over, ask any UVA fan...if you can find one right now. I've learned that people making huge decisions concerning our state standardized tests don't really seem to think letting teachers and parents know about or even see these tests is that important. I've learned yes you can in fact teach in almost total darkness. I've learned that despite the concerns we have as teachers about the future of our schools and kids, some people out there still want to join up. I've learned that there is a great deal going on in the world. Some of these events make you smile, some make you scratch your head and some make you cry. Being a teacher can allow you(or cause you) to experience all of these emotions, sometimes simultaneously.

Thinking about the piece of the world I spend so much time in I was reminded of an old SNL skit on teaching a history class.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Metaphor for Education

In order to understand the debate occurring in education it might help to simplify things for those less familiar with the interplay between various groups. To accomplish this the Underground will use the comedic genius of Sid and Marty Kroft to clarify the complex dynamics. They were carefully chosen after a rigorous and exhaustive search of kids shows we watched growing up. Selected because they clearly had meaning beyond what was apparent(like many reforms). If you follow this logic then you might fit in well in the higher echelons of policy decisions that affect education.

This post might at first appear to be senseless and merely an effort to make fun of a very serious issue. But we are serious, a boy was shipwrecked after all. That charge could be leveled at our last 30 posts actually and this one includes embedded video, which by default makes it appear to have substance, like the evening news. This addition helps it appeal to the masses(AKA the 5 people who read our blog, two of which are our wives). Enjoy.

HR PufNStuf

Jimmy(the poor shipwrecked boy)-Might represent all the students and teachers trying desperately to navigate the trends and changes affecting the system in which we learn and operate. I think there's like 2.1 million teachers in the US and we are not all bad...but Jimmy appears along for the ride. Not even wearing a vest. Sad really.

Freddy(the talking flute)-Connects to the prize of the ideal education, with you for life and invaluable, like a good friend. He might also connect to how we are judged against other nations, a constant temptation. bbut they are not us and we are not them.

H.R. Pufnstuf(the "helpful" dragon)-At first might appear to be those pushing for reform but it could be any level headed parent, teacher, administrator or official who recognizes the need for logical and well thought out improvement.

The Boat-The enchanting lure of immediate and quick reforms. But beware once you are in it is hard to get out and when you head into stormy seas the refrain of "can't do a little cause you can't do enough" will never be more true.

The Rescue Rangers-OK we're not sure what they represent but we like them better than Michelle Rhee.

Witchiepoo(the evil witch who started all this)- Maybe its 1983's Nation at Risk or No Child Left Behind or a complacent educational system, but something got all this hulabaloo started. If everyone agrees we can do better then why are so many of us with direct ties to teaching so concerned about where we are now headed? Witchie plays an integral role and the best connection today would be Scott Walker.

Orson Vulture, Seymour Spider, and Stupid Bat- These are the edupreneur, venture philanthropist, high level administrative minion, non teaching reformers who come up with great ideas than in practice never seem to work out and when they don't, we get blamed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Moral Turpitude, and $1.2 Million

As Charlie Sheen publicly self-destructs I suspect that few people are looking for meaning among the carnage and mayhem. It is perhaps painfully apparent by now that the man is not well and the attention it garners from mainstream media and general public is both frightening and sad. The consumption of celebrity and its coverage by formerly more scrupulous corporations links nicely with my distrust of edupreneurial reform in education. Tiger blood, smoking(something) and climbing with a machete are all ill advised. How come no one listens when just about every teacher I know rants about ill advised reforms? Just a thought.

Sheen was fired and the cited cause was "Moral Turpitude". After the cursory web search for clarification of what is loosely defined as "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals" this seems like something we might all perhaps be guilty of under another person's interpretation. I'll go out on a limb and say this firing was warranted. Sheen is off the deep end and it is sad. A man who has struggled with addiction also has a great deal of talent and certainly those that care deeply for him and maybe that qualifies all those who watch and google search for the latest as guilty of the same charge as him in some voyeuristic way.

What if one of us teachers showed up for work on a bender and spouted on and on about the benfeits of complete liberation from social norms? Would it take this long to fire us? If we ranted to our "audience" about our movement and threw some truth torpedoes of our own the reaction would be different. Our profession has its share of oddballs and folks that wear fedoras but we are amazingly normal most of the time. Our stream of consciousness is filtered in the classroom. Just imagine if we actually said what we thought, not always a good idea in any type of relationship. As my kids enter the classroom talking about the latest twist in this erratic unraveling I try to point out that it is captivating on one hand, but it is also sad. We expect teachers to hold themselves to a higher standard and rightfully so since they work with our kids. We are not perfect but I'm continually impressed so few of us meltdown. If non-teachers knew of all the crazy stuff we endure, maybe they'd lay off a bit.

I'll reluctantly admit to having a laugh at Sheen's expense but I wanted to point out something which connects that was not so funny. The man made $1.2 million an episode! I am one of "2,300 employees who work every day to inspire, nurture and develop today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders and inventors" and on this blog we have detailed ad nauseum the issues with unfunded federal mandates (I didn't write that by the way and would prefer to be described simply as a teacher, sponsor and coach). According to our division's 2011-2012 budget cycle documents, the entire amount we receive from the the federal government totals about 2% of the budget or $2.8 million dollars. That's it. Keep in mind it will take me more than 56 years to earn that much so I totally understand how much that is. But with all the stuff the feds throw our way that's all we get in return? Perhaps we can take something from Charlie Sheen and say to heck with everything and say and do what we want. As a teacher I'll just stick with "Just Say No."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How to Not Be a Terrible Teacher

OK so that title apparently got your attention. The picture helps as well(this is too easy). In that sense we at the Underground are as traffic hungry as some media outlets but much more ethical in our quest to attract readers. Since you were unfortunate enough to find your way here you might as well read a bit.

When I was new to the job I should have been let go. In fact, I was...three separate times, when I received my reduction in force letter(RIF). For reasons I still cannot fully explain I kept coming back for more and was rehired each August. During that time a more experienced teacher once said to me "Get better or get out." OK...I made that line up but I wish someone had said it. Because that's kinda how I feel today. Despite what seems a coordinated and organized effort to demoralize America's teachers we stick around. And despite what you hear, many of the problems in our schools can't be just written off to "bad" teachers. Certainly a nebulous and political charged label in today's climate. The "good" teachers, the people I respect the most at my school, share a common trait, a continual desire to improve things and do better. So how does one go from surviving as a new teacher to really growing as a professional? Admitting I have much growing left to do, this is not a discussion of the growth-model value-added data driven edujargon reform currently proposed and supported by individuals who will never ask about what I have learned in teaching. Take it or leave it, here's some advice:

PERSONALITY MATTERS-A great deal of research tries to point out that in fact anyone can be a good teacher...and at least in principle I agree. I also believe strongly that as in any profession, when you expand the pool of people you hire, you also acquire those less able to perform. Like most places of employment, we've got those that work hard and make things better, and well, then we've got those that don't. One factor in that is personality. Teaching high school is unique. In how many other jobs do you interact with a hundred or more people(ones you see regularly) in more than just a minimal way? There are a few that come to mind and with them I know personality matters. Many other jobs involve very limited and simple interactions. In teaching you engage with many more folks in greater depth.

STEAL-The old re-inventing the wheel line still applies. While flashy PowerPoints and technology integration contribute, in most subjects it is still about content and basic lesson. White boards and markers work as well as a Promethean board. Why can't people get that? The digital age has ushered in many changes and as schools go 1 to 1with computers, I hope people recognize how that could potentially complicate what might otherwise be simple. Computers are great, until they start designing and building themselves. Yikes. I digress. Older teachers have more stuff, so steal from them! Resources, ideas, unit plans, etc. I did in fact have a more experienced teacher once tell me "teaching is sharing". That stuck with me. Remember to give and take.

KIDS BEFORE CONTENT- Remember you are teaching people, connect to them and make them matter. You never know when something you say can change the direction of a day or even a life. Smiley faces, positive comments, casual conversation before class all help create connections. Think about their lives and reach out(not on facebook), maybe even try to make their experience a positive one....

ARRIVE EARLY, LEAVE LATE-This is pretty much the norm but you need to put in the legwork to succeed. Yeah your family and relationship will suffer but hey you are a teacher...stop complaining. No one one in a position to do anything about it seems to care.

DO SOMETHING BESIDES SITTING IN THE CLASSROOM-Find other ways to get involved, sponsor stuff, coach, stand in the hall, volunteer. Speaking and Interacting with kids in a different setting can be as rewarding as anything else you do.

FIGURE OUT WAYS TO DO SOMETHING BETTER-Reflect and do things better in the future. You don't need data to accomplish this. I know for a fact that my 1st period classes might get short changed because it is the first time I attempt to do stuff. When 4th period rolls around my delivery is polished and fluid. I've worked out the kinks. Practice makes perfect.

ASK KIDS FOR FEEDBACK-They are brutally honest. If they all say you stink. You probably do. Consider appealing to their interests and changing up to something that works.

INVOLVE PARENTS-Parents are your best ally or worst enemy and sometimes both. Which would you prefer? E-mail updates about the class can go a long way in helping people feel connected. Include what the class has been doing, upcoming assignments and even some info about the school as a whole. It only takes a few minutes I get more thanks for this than just about anything else.

SOMETIMES YOU MIGHT HAVE TO PUNT-Don't be scared to use a movie once in a while. Use that time to grade or get ready. Just be sure you make the movie useful and relevant or the kids will see right through the effort. Another way of saying this is some teachers make the mistake of feeling like they need to be up in front "teaching" for things to get done. Mix it up.

RED DOTS MEAN SOMETHING-Grading is not always a science and there isn't a rubric for everything. When listening to a song you know within the first 10 secs whether something is good and student responses can be much the same. Once you realize its good...Use red dots. Provide the needed feedback and move on. Example: 1 essay x 140 students x 5 mins each essay = 11+ hours of grading. Good luck with that.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS-You may work really hard and still not be any good. Welcome aboard!

TREAT STUDENTS LIKE THEY ARE YOUR KIDS-They are the most precious thing in the world to someone. Most young teachers don't yet have kids. Imagine entrusting your kid to someone else you barely know. You have to live up to that responsibility

BE A LEADER-Schools need competent, concerned and involved people or all the those that bash our schools will be proven right.

STAY MOTIVATED BY MOTIVATING OTHERS-There are few professions where each and every day so many depend on you. No you are not a pilot, nurse, surgeon, soldier or saint. But you are important. Find ways to make that mean something each and every day. Easier said than done. But fear not, for now most systems still have this thing called summer. :) Then you can just call your friends and gloat.

AVOID BURNOUT-Worry about and focus on one of the few things you can actually "control", your classroom, Don't worry about all the other stuff. If it deals with education don't watch too much news, read too much of the paper, attend too many meetings or read too many blogs(except this one).

In appreciation for our low morale we at the Teacher Underground are considering a series of posts to lighten the mood.

In the meantime share some of the tips those of you out there have picked up?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Diane Ravitch on the Daily Show

Twice in the same week, John Stewart and the Daily Show address education issues.  This time by interviewing Diane Ravitch.  Nothing new from her in this interview, but it's great to see her arguments reaching a wider audience outside of the education world.  It is also great to see a national television show cover this side of education.  It's just under ten minutes, but a great watch.  Let us know what you think.  My favorite quote, "but they get to go to the dentist."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Daily Show Takes on Teachers

You know you've made the big time when John Stewart targets you.  I would love to see more attention to school and teacher issues in the media, but so few people are willing to move any deeper into the conversation than pointing the finger at the easy solution.  Here's John Stewart's take:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why Data-Informed Trumps Data-Driven

Plot, characters, and setting, the three primary qualities of a story; but imagine a story with only a setting. Well, you no longer have a story, we call that a painting. Data-driven decision-making runs the risk of turning one element of effective education into the primary element and in the process, turning beautiful stories of educational success into static pictures of moments in time.

Data is the setting in our story of education. Within this setting, the characters (students, teachers, parents, etc.) create the plot in their daily interactions. To call for an end to “data-driven decision-making” is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Data is the constant, the solid ground; data takes the guesswork out of what we do. However, focusing on the data to the exclusion of all other elements of our story does not advance the cause of effective education for our students.