Billions of people across the world are enjoying the Olympics this month. While it is definitely entertaining, and awe-inspiring to watch these super-humans compete, does the world have its priorities right? When do we publicly celebrate academic competitors, or spend millions on advertising the newest books? Do students think learning is cool? ... If not, they should! Students who have the academic skills to be successful in college are also more likely to keep their athletic scholarship (if they earn one), and students who complete a four year degree are more likely to have a job than their peers who do not. If the United States wants to invest in their future, we need to make sure that we are putting as much energy into education as we put into athletics - at the Olympic level, and in our kids youth leagues. Lets always strive for excellence when it comes to the education of our students, so that we can once again earn gold, or at least a bronze in academics. ... My favorite commercial during the Olympics has been the Target commercial that shows students celebrating acceptance into college (see the bottom right video). They have their priorities right! To learn more about how you can get involved in education reform, and making sure that the USA is doing all it can to give our students the best education possible check out StudentsFirst or Stand for Children.
This month we are celebrating the accomplishments of athletes in the Olympics, but how does the USA rank in education?
I started off the summer reading a book that was recommended to me by one of my best friends, also a teacher, called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. This book is not just a "feel good" book, but a realistic, sociological study of "how various societies define and maintain happiness today". It was a very interesting read, and one I would also recommend. Rubin has a new book coming out in September that I am looking forward to. Until then I am enjoying her blog that she posts on several days a week, http://happiness-project.com/.
Next I devoured, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, also known as Kelly Kapur (sp?) on the TV sitcom, The Office. I laughed out loud a lot, and constantly read excerpts to my husband, Joey, that I found hilarious.
After some light reading, I caught up on two educational books that I had been meaning to read for the past couple of months. First, Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teacher for America. Her book, A Change to Make History, summarizes what she believes to be the essentials in the battle to shrink our achievement gap in America. She admits that Teach for America is not perfect, but that it does do somethings exceptionally well. In fact, notable Teach for America alum include Michelle Rhee (founder of The New Teacher Project, former Chancellor DC Public Schools, and current founder/CEO of the reform group, StudentsFirst), Kaya Henderson (current Chancellor of the DC Public Schools), and the founders of the Knowledge is Power Programs (KIPP), Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. Her list goes on... and her suggestions, and the urgency at which we must tackle this atrocity also go on. By the end of the book, one feels propelled to do whatever it takes to improve American schools, and to make sure that all students regardless of their background receive an excellent education.
Finally, I am reading Focus, by Mike Schmoker, his newest book reinforcing "best practices" and the KISS rule. (Keep it simple stupid.) He acknowledges that we are in a new era that requires new skills, but he also remind educators and administrators, and everyone in between, that we need to FOCUS, on what is most important. He warns us to not be distracted by "innovative technology, or the newest program" but instead to FOCUS on "what we teach, how we teach, and authentic literacy". I like where he is going, and how he proposes we get there, but how do I convince my colleagues that what I think "we should teach, how I teach, and what I believe is authentic literacy" is what THEY should be doing, too. Everyone has a different interpretation, and different expectations - how do we make content, instruction, and literacy common without infringing on a teachers freedom?
Share with me what you have been reading!
I am an 10.5 (9.5 years teaching middle school, 1 year in higher ed) year teacher in Bozeman, Montana. I was in "survival mode" my first two and a half years teaching. Since my third year, teaching has become "manageable" - I can manage my classroom, I can manage my grading, and I am still managing to improve, and try new things. Now I want to become "transformative". I want to thrive, and help my students and my educational communities transform from good to GREAT! This blog will share my thoughts and ideas as I become "transformative".