One of the greatest gifts that you can give to another human-being is the gift of listening. How we all long to be heard, so much so, that we talk on the phone, text, email, blog, tweet, participate in chat rooms, sign, write, and type all in an effort to say that we are here and that we matter. With all that talking, texting, signing and blogging going on I would like to remind you that one the greatest
gifts that you can give to another human-being is the gift of listening.

Teachers are lucky enough to work in environments where they are actually face to face with other human-beings for a good part of their work day. I most humbly request that you not let the administrative responsibilities of the job allow you to squander this great opportunity. I ask that you put the book down, step away from the chalkboard and focus on the student in front of you.

It is important to be present when students talk to you. Listen with your whole being. Maintain eye contact, use appropriate body langauge, ask questions and respond to what is being said. You will be surprised how valuable a little time and attention is to the student that you are communicating with.

Whether the student is five years old or eighteen years old, they will appreciate being heard. A little time, everyday, to every student allows you to get to know the student and allows the student to get to know you.

By listening, you confirm that the student is here and you confirm that they matter. Infact, when you take the time to listen, really listen, you can discover the hopes, dreams, and fears of a child and just might discover the key that unlocks their passion for learning.

Have you listened to your students today? You just might be the only person that listens to them all day.

As a Elementary Education student, part of my training requires me to have field experiences in several school systems so that I have a well rounded view of what is happening in classrooms throughout the community. Of my two field experiences, the second experience has had the most profound effect on me to date. That is because of the challenging circumstances surrounding my host teacher.

Once a week, for seven weeks, I experienced what is was like to teach in a struggling inner-city school. I say struggling because most of the students performed below the state average on most standardized tests and the teacher was struggling to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The most accurate way that I can describe what I witnessed during my weekly visits to the school is to say that my host teacher taught “in spite of”. She taught in spite of numerous interruptions by students, who engaged in conversations that had nothing to do with the lesson being taught. She taught in spite of some students who answered questions with answers that had nothing to do with with the subject at hand. She taught in spite of some students engaged on their cell phones. She taught in spite of some students who randomly called out during the lesson. She taught in spite of some students who failed to cooperate with her requests. She taught in spite of the lack of support from the administration when she followed protocol for disciplinary action.

At times the frustration showed on her face but never in her voice. Never in her mannerisms. Never in her behavior toward the students. She knew that the tangents and negative behaviors were cries for attention or their way of saying that the did not understand so she was always respectful and caring in her response to them.

Although students tested her commitment to them by their sometimes disrptive behavior, she always passed with flying colors by keeping their well-being and learning as the focus. It is my hope that I will be as committed to my students as she was to hers and that my focus will always be on their well-being and their success no matter what challenges may confront me.

85 schools in the district of Philadelphia for the 2008-09 schools year are considered to be under-performing according to the school (AYP) Adequate Yearly Progress Yet instead of closing down the schools reforming and possiblity even hiring new and qualified teachers and faculty, for 45 days students attending any of the 85 schools in Philadelphia are now required to attend what the district is referring to summer enrichment in order for them to continue onto the next grade level.  However, I think what the district neglects to recognize is that there are already programs setup specifically in the summer that these specific students can attend. In particular a  summer enrichment program called Philadelphia Freedom Schools. Here the students learn math, reading and writing  from 9 a.m to 12 p.m and then from 1 p.m to 3 p.m. the students are also being enriched through art forms including things like cooking, arts and crafts, karate, salsa dance, etc. Yet, instead of the district of Philadelphia requiring for those students to attend this programs, some schools would prefer for their students to sit inside of a classroom for six  hours like prisoners with no outside interaction with others. This sounds more like prison than school to me and must be stopped. If schools are created for the students then why are we as a community allowing for the districts to dictate what is best for our students? Let’s wake up people!http://www.phila.k12.pa.us/announcements/under_performing.html

In a speech during his bid for president, now President Barack Obama referred to a “young teacher” at Dodge Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago, who addressed him.

“She spoke about what she called “These Kids Syndrome”–the tendency to explain away the shortcomings and failures of our education system by saying that “these kids can’t learn”; or “these kids don’t want to learn” or “these kids are just too far behind.” And after awhile, “these kids” become somebody else’s problem. And this teacher looked at me and said, “When I hear that term it drives me nuts. They’re not ‘these kids.’ They’re our kids. All of them.”

I have heard the phrases “these kids can’t learn”, “these kids don’t want to learn”, and “these kids are just too far behind” flow from the mouths of some educators and parents and into the ears, hearts and minds of anyone willing to listen as easily as water flows from the mouths of rivers and rush downstream and over falls into great waters waiting below. I suspect that these statements may have developed out of frustration from a great many well intentioned people who truly desired to make a difference in the lives of children but found that the road to making a difference could be long and riddled with obstacles.

Instead of throwing up your hands in frustration and joining the choir of nay sayers, who blame the very people that they initially desired to help, open your mind, ask questions, roll up your sleeves, and seek the answers. Do the hard work that is necessary in helping another human-being to fulfill their promise.

Replace “these kids can’t learn” with “How can I help you to learn?”, then listen for the answer. Next replace “these kids don’t want to learn” with “How can I get you interested in learning?”, and listen for the answer. Finally, replace “these kids are just too far behind” with “How do I get you up to speed?”, and again, listen for the answer.

Human-beings are individuals so the answer may differ a bit from child to child. This is a process that requires time, patience, and flexibility. However, if you are diligent and you continue to ask questions and listen for the answers, you will start to notice patterns that will allow you to reach and help many children over time. After all, “They’re not these kids. They’re our kids. All of them.”

 

This video is very moving to me as a person who cares about the education of urban students. The students of Baltimore, Maryland are protesting their under funded education system. Real students tell of the hardships they face in their school and education because of the lack of funding. What you may ask is the allocation of funding for public schools? Porperty taxes! This makes no sense what so ever. The children that live in poor communities with low property taxes have less funding. The children that live in wealthier communities have a way better quality of education as well as school. The way funding is allocated is very outdated- it is very hard to believe that this is still acceptable. The students in urban and inner city schools that already face numerous hardships and bad odds are only given worse odds due to their lack of funding in their education.

The inequalities that exist because of the way schools are funded is endless. School integration of whites and African Americans was thought to change the inequalitites that were once so noticable. Now, people tend to see but not really realize the effects that these inequalities are having in present day society. This is amazing to me as someone who believes that urban students should have the same education as students in suburbs.

Former President Bush put the No Child Left Behind Act into law. This creates a set standard for ALL STUDENTS in America’s public school system. The results of standardized tests allocate government funding to the schools and if the scores are bad no funding. WHAT?  How are we suppose to improve our nations must hardships schools in urban environments if we are going to punish them by taking away funding? Government funding needs to be put into the schools in need and not the schools that get the funding from higher property taxed areas.

 

This is a great interactive interview type speech by Thomas Sowell that address what has become of the public education system in America. This video is a must watch for any person involved in public education.

Sowell believes that funding, even though may play a part, is not the main factor for the inequalities that exist in our public school system. Standardized testing as well as other testing scores are based on performance. What is performance suppose to be compared to? Why is this the case all all children perform differently and not the same as another? Performance based assessment is ineqaulity when comparing schools from different socialeconomic status.

Grades, yup there important, but how does a teacher decide who gets the B, C +, or A-. Teachers hold so much power in our education system as they rate the performance on their students. The grading system differs from teacher to teacher as well as school to school. How is this grading system equal or legitamate?

Sowell discusses the “teacher shuffel” in America.  It is cheaper for schools to keep moving teachers to different schools than to down right fire them. These bad teachers goes down the list of schools and end up in urban and inner city schools. Why are we having bad teachers teach our students in America that need the most help in their quality of education??? There is no reason for bad teachers to stay in the public school system period.

Another point that Sowell talks about is our American Universities, which he calls ‘International Univeristies’. Our nation’s universities are so well known around the world that it attracts numerous foreign students. But, our universities, wanting to be equal, accept alot of international students which leaves less spots for American students to the point it is very hard to even get into them. We are not investing in post-secondary public education in a way that supports are nation’s future. Our public school system all in all needs a total restructuring that hopfully the Obama administration can make happen.

 

 The No Child Left Behind Act is one of the most controversial topics and laws in current public school education. Do you know this act really involves? Do you know what real educators think of No Child Left Behind?

This video provides real educators inputs on No Child Left Behind. Basically, they do not like it and I do not blame them. Support for this act as been deminishing over the last few years since more and more details about the act have been assessed and criticized. How can this act of standardized and high stakes testing eliminate the achievement gab by it goals of 2014? The statistics show that this goal is not going to be reached.

But, is anyone thinking of the effects that these tests and ways of learning will impact students? NO. I know that I did not grow up learning to a test and using process of elimination to find all my answers that counted. Children need to use critical thinking and creativity not just learn elimiation process for an exam. These children will not be able to apply what they learned in school to real life as real life is not eliminating choices and filling in the most correct answer. How easy but boring would our society be? Our society would definatly not be ahead as the top powerhouse nation of the world if are society was mimicted by the ways we test our students. This whole process is messed up, we should be teaching our students to use their minds and not hinder their capacity of learning.

No Child Left Behind involves each school to report their scores in 37 categories. Each of these categories must be meet for the school to have the passing title. This is not how we should judge our students and schools as passing and failing. Teachers in this video want people of America to wake up and realize that education and learning in not done through filling in bubbles on an exam.