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The teaching of children should not be sacrificed in favor of paperwork - ever!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Teaching to the Test

It's testing time again and the argument over whether or not we should be teaching to the test rages on. It's funny - we've always taught to a test as teachers. Usually we teach either to the test(s) provided in our boxed curriculum or we teach to the test we create on our own. When would-be teachers are taught how to plan a lesson, they are instructed to come up with the assessment first before developing the actual lesson. If that's not teaching to the test, I don't know what is.

In one week I witnessed two separate instances of teaching to the test that made sense to me. In preparation for the state test that students take (or opt out of), my own son, an 8th grader at the time, ran himself through a computerized preparation for the math portion. It's a good thing too. He was presented with problems that he doesn't remember encountering in the classroom. And that concerned me. This concern wasn't rooted in the fear that he wasn't taught what he needed to succeed on the state test, but that he wasn't taught what we all agreed he should learn by this point.

Recently, I witnessed a student intern that I supervise conduct a lesson with third graders about geometric shapes. She'd reviewed the previous results of the state test that her students had taken and discovered a gaping hole in their learning. Good teachers see the holes. Great teachers make it a point to fill them. She did just that. Not because she wanted to improve her school's overall scores, but to make sure her third graders were prepared to move on to fourth grade math.

The best part was that her lesson was creative, engaging, and took into account the various learning styles of her students. She didn't have to sacrifice the art of teaching to serve the skill of teaching. I was quite proud.

Medical interns are taught to succeed on the medical board exams. Law students are taught to pass the bar exam. Their standards are high and we all benefit when they aspire to them. Teaching is no different. Those who are not interested in meeting or exceeding standards might want to question why they're teaching.

It's time to move past doing just the bare minimum to get by and recapture the ideal of quality. What we give to our children they will grow up and then give to the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

5 Questions Tired Teachers Need to Ask

It's never to late to set new goals. It may be April, but from what I can tell, teachers are tired. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what you really need. Do you need more sleep? Maybe you want to eliminate behavior problems in your classroom. Maybe you need to find more time for your family. Have you taken on too many responsibilities and aren't doing any of them well? Are you having difficulty finding time just for yourself? Take time to identify what hinders you from finding rest and renewal. There may be a variety of obstacles, but if you had to choose the one hindering you the most, what would it be?

Emotions can get in the way of your quest for rest. One way to approach the problem objectively is to define it succinctly after you've identified it. For example, use this phrase: "In what ways might I?" The following questions may help you:

  • In what ways might I carve out quiet time during the school day?
  • In what ways might I get home earlier to my family each night?
  • In what ways might I regain a sense of peace with students in my classroom?
  • In what ways might I keep in better contact with parents?
  • In what ways might I build more positive relationships with colleagues?
Put into words your goals for rest using this format. You may find more than one thing is bothering you. Can you identify each as being a mind, body, or spirit need or desire? If you have more than one, keep in mind it's more effective to work on one at a time. Prioritize your goals.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Yours, Mine and Our Children: Students on the Autism Spectrum (ASD)

The Autism Society provides a free resource guide for teachers called Building Our Future: Educating Students on the Spectrum that offers a great overview of the needs of students at all ages who are on the Autism spectrum. Autism is the third most common developmental disability (following intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy). It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the United States today have autism.

What does this mean to those of us who prepare future teachers?

Students with Autism are served most often in a general education classroom setting. Therefore, every new teacher we prepare will be working with students with autism during their student teaching and later as a beginning teacher. In what ways are we preparing them for this eventuality? One of the best things we can do is point students in the right direction and offer them resources that will help them hit the ground running when they begin to teach. This resource guide provided by The Autism Society is a great place to start.

Here are just a few highlights from this important resource:
  • What Autism is and is NOT
  • According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), how should students with Autism be served in schools
  • Key Elements to create an appropriate educational environment for students with ASD
  • 20 Suggestions to help you make learning easier for students with autism
  • Addressing behavior issues
  • Making adaptations to make learning easier for students with ASD
  • Resources for more information

Many of the suggestions to work with students with ASD are good practice for every teacher. For example, the following suggestions will create a positive learning environment for every child and should be promoted throughout teacher preparation:
  • Extend a welcoming environment
  • Develop predictable routines
  • Use visuals
  • Build on areas of strengths and interests
  • Use creative strategies
  • Empower the student to be an active participant

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have gone “mainstream” at this point. Yes, students with ASD are in our classrooms, but ASD doesn't disappear when a student graduates from high school. We have a number of students on the spectrum in the college environment as well. The more we know, the better able we will be to meet the needs of all students.

For more information about Autism, visit The Autism Society for valuable information, free resources and networking.