Friday, January 29, 2016

Let's Reflect: honestly

F’s, N’s, Retention Letters and the Art of Reflection.
OK, here it goes my friends, we need an action plan, and perhaps for some, a CALL TO ACTION NOW!
It was very eye opening to read the Progress Reports last week. I was actually shocked to see the high number of F’s, and N’s. From an administrative and former teacher viewpoint, this means that WE, as a school are failing our students, the students are not failing.
Do you regularly practice the art of HONEST reflection? If not, you must make this a regular part of your day. We can not teach the way we were taught, nor can we act complacently and expect the students and parents make the change. It must come from us, as the educators on the forefront.
If you are truly honest and reflecting on your own teaching practice, you must constantly be able to make adjustments. If many students are failing, this must be a red flag and change needs to be immediate and perhaps drastic!
Too much irrelevant homework? Are you searching for compliance, learning or content? Homework doesn’t teach, you do.
Are there too many assignments or projects that have not been thoroughly instructed on?
Is there RTI? small group work? before school lab work?
Are you teaching WITH technology, or letting technology run your classroom?
That quiet kid in the corner? Have you ever actually spoken to him? Do you know his story?
The child you send out of class all the time? Have you visited his/her home? Do you KNOW them? Connect... With...All...Students.
Whatever the reason, we need to reflect. Even if all of your students are HIGH Achievers and perfect angels. That can become higher and more angelic!
As a school, we need to act now, with depth, complexity, and reality. Students are here every day for 5 to 6.5 hours per day. Every minute MUST count! Whether it is instruction, play, or group activities.
What do you need from me?

After all, they are ALL students of ours, no one stands alone.

Let’s do this together, with fidelity, now.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Spelling Bees, Tests, Homework....why? why? why?

Spelling contests have gone on for hundreds of years, but from what I can find, the first documented case of an actual spelling bee called such was in 1825. The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925 and the winning word was “gladiolus”, spelled by 11 year-old Frank Neuhauser. Wow. Nice job Frank.

Where has this gotten us? ESPN? TV? Commercials? Better Spellers?
Uhhhh, not sure about that.
As an Elementary School administrator, the idea of Spelling tests, spelling lists, spelling bees, spelling in alpha order, spelling word sorts and spelling homework drive me crazy. What is this doing for most students? Well, frustrating them, driving them to hate it, become anxious..the list goes on. It sure isn’t a #kidsfirst or #KidsDeservIt way of teaching.
As is the case with many things we see in education, it is hard to change our ways. Even our best teachers seem to rely on an “old trick” or a program that has been well outdated since before Truman was President.

Imagine this: 20 Spelling Words on Monday, Alphabetize them on Tuesday, Write a sentence with them on Wednesday and Thursday let’s mix them up and have the students unscramble them. All this leads up to the exciting pinnacle of Friday’s Spelling Test! yesss!
Monday rolls around and you see in BIG RED PEN -15, or -13. So, what about the kids that continue to get 5 out of 20 and have never improved? What is this doing for his/her confidence, ego, psyche, and self esteem? uhhh crushing it, destroying it and blowing it out of the water. At least change the grade to a +5...let’s show them there is hope.This practice MUST CHANGE!

Speaking to my school admin #PLN, teachers, students, and parents, I have concluded that there is no relevance for this practice anymore. It rewards only the Uber-memorizers!
What about our Dyslexics, struggling students, NON MEMORIZERS, and our most typical children? They all suffer.
I see it everyday; anxiety, frustration, lack of drive and confidence. Really? Is this what we need our students to feel?
How about some morphology, some Greek and Latin Roots, and some common spelling rules?
Let’s give them the rules, guidelines and tools to learn and understand spelling and you know what? Let them use a computer, Chromebook or iPad for the rest? Why not?

There is also a new tool that I just heard about. It's called Spell Check!
Ever heard of it? If not, try to Google it, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of information on it.

So, here: Let’s do this; make spelling homework something extra for the student that has already memorized the New Oxford Dictionary! Yes, let's keep pushing that kiddo, maybe he/she rocks at spelling and memorization and it will help drive them to places never seen before...we want that!
But for the rest of our kiddos?
Buh bye spelling words, tests, lists, sorts, bees, alpha all.  
Instead, let's let STUDENTS code, play, make, create, do robotics, chess, or just about anything that drives interest, is #kidsfirst, #eduepic. Why? because #KidsDeservIt!