Posts Tagged ‘Public schools’

5 Ways to Identify a Great Teacher

September 4, 2013

 

great

 

Courtesy of Deborah Chang

1. Great teachers are not superheroes; they are everyday heroes.
Teachers should not be expected to work miracles in miserable conditions. They are everyday heroes who want to be working sustainably and joyfully every day. Robert Hawke, a principal-in-residence at Achievement First, puts it eloquently when he says, “Teachers are also mothers, and husbands, and people who need to go grocery shopping and would occasionally like to spend some time volunteering at church or — gasp — reading. Yes, we should expect that they do their jobs the best they can and yes, this job requires much more than eight hours per day, but they won’t be able to continue doing these things beyond a couple of years if we also expect them to put their outside-of-their-job lives completely on hold.”

2. Great teachers are not saviors; they are inspirers.
Children are strong, magnificent human beings who are not waiting to be rescued, they are bursting to grow. Children also come from families and communities with strengths, culture, and knowledge that great teachers affirm, learn from, and celebrate. Great teachers do not swoop into children’s lives thinking that they have all the answers. Instead, great teachers inspire children to draw on their own strengths, interests, and communities to accomplish great things.

3. Great teachers are not magicians; they are practitioners.
The work great teachers accomplish — whether it is teaching a first grader how to read, conducting a middle school orchestra in a masterful rendition of a challenging piece, or helping a high school senior land his first internship — is the very opposite of illusion. What great teachers do to accomplish that work should be on display, deconstructed, and shared to improve everyone’s practice. Books like The Skillful Teacher and online networks like Classroom 2.0 are a more accurate depiction of the skills great teachers work to hone over years than movies like Stand and Deliver, which, while enjoyable, show very little in the way of good instruction.

4. Great teachers are not interchangeable; they are individuals.
Teachers have strengths and weaknesses, preferences and interests. A teacher who thrives in one particular situation might not thrive in another. Teachers are most successful and happy when they work in the subject, school, context, and communities that best fit them. Questions we need to ask when we talk about teachers include:

    • What kinds of schools do teachers work in? What are the schools’ systems for planning, instruction, and discipline?

 

    • What kind of professional relationships are supported by their schools? How are teachers expected to interact with administrators and with one another?

 

    • What are the cultural and economic backgrounds of their students and their students’ families?

 

  • What are the teacher’s responsibilities? Review their actual task lists and calendars to see just how different specific schedules and those specific tasks are across schools, subjects, grades, and districts.

5. Great teachers are not lone rangers, they are team builders.
Behind every great teacher, is a great mentor, and behind every great teacher who loves teaching, is a great team. Great teachers are a product of other great teachers who have built them up. They are hard to find in schools with dysfunctional adult cultures because when the adult culture is bad, teachers leave. And, while good teachers do amazing things in their own classrooms, great teachers extend their influence by partnering with the people most important to their students lives, whether they are siblings, parents, grandparents, coaches, or other teachers. Great teachers do not work alone.

Bottom line, it’s dangerous and destructive to talk about great teachers like they are superheroes, saviors, magicians, interchangeable, or lone rangers. Narratives like these prevent us from dealing adequately with real issues, such as the need to make teaching more sustainable, financially and psychologically, and the challenge of evaluating teachers amidst a great variety of different contexts. Practice recognizing and counteracting these narratives when you come across them, the teacher in your life will thank you for it.

 

Click on the link to read Principal Rewards Students for Reaching Reading Goals

Click on the link to read Proof that Teachers Care

Click on the link to read The Short Video You MUST Watch!

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Meet the Armless Math Teacher

 

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The Absence of Male Teachers in Public Schools

April 5, 2012

I always wanted to teach at a public school. I liked the idea of trying to help students from low-income families.

During my University training I worked at one such school. I witnessed some very heartbreaking stories. One child had just lost her father (he was shot during a botched drug deal), whilst another was forced to live with her grandparents while her parents underwent drug rehabilitation. While I realise none of this is new, it was extremely fulfilling for me to provide good humour and a helping hand to those that have had to endure a great deal of hardships.

But there was one problem with this dream of mine – nobody would give me a job!

I applied for 30 Public School positions over the summer and none of these possibilities turned into a job offer. Nobody in the State system was prepared to take me on. Sitting in the job interview, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was leapfrogged because of my gender. I know it seems rich for a male to cry sexism, but the selection panel was nearly always all female and on walking around schools, I noticed that nearly all the teachers were female. In the name of a close-knit staff dynamic, it wouldn’t have been such an easy proposition to disturb the status quo and invite a male into the staff room inner sanctum.

Instead, I took up a Private school position (for a lot less pay).

That’s why I am not surprised to read that male teachers are more likely to be working in the Private school system:

AUSTRALIA’S public schools are in the grip of a man drought.

But it’s raining men in the non-government sector, where the number of male teachers has grown 25 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the number of male teachers has dropped 2 per cent at the nation’s public schools, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.

Schools have struggled to attract male teachers to the female-dominated profession.

Teachers can earn more money in the non-government sector but there can also be more demands outside school hours, such as Saturday sport.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities said the national trend was reflected at the state’s schools but they also had a very low resignation rate.

Last year there were 15,274 male teachers at public schools, representing about 27 per cent of teaching staff.

In 2001, male teachers made up about 31 per cent. There were 9734 male teachers in the non-government sector – about 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. In 2001, male teachers represented 23 per cent.

A department spokesman said strategies were in place to recruit more male teachers but quality was more important than gender.

I agree that quality is more important than gender. However, I’m not sure how well we measure quality teachers in the first place.

Pitting Private vs Public Schools is Bad for Education

February 22, 2012

The fallout of the Gonski Report into educational spending has resulted in the typically predictable bashing of private schools. There is a misguided notion that by funding private schools, Governments are robbing the needs of struggling public schools.

This is simply not the case.

I stand by my remarks from last year:

The continued debate between private and public school funding tires me out. I am a big believer of a well-funded (i.e. wisely funded) public school sector as well as a thriving private school sector. There is no reason why parents can’t be given choice and why supporting private schools must come at the expense of quality public education.

This is where the “Moneyball” analogy fits in.

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. Oakland is severely restricted due to the lowest salary constraints in baseball. Winning means beating teams with much better infrastructure and player payment capacities. Billy is presented with the unenviable task of finding a winning team with the miniscule budget offered. Together with a Harvard economics major, a system is devised that uses statistical data to analyse and value players they pick for the team.

Public schools need to take the same approach. Just like the big baseball teams of the time, plenty of money is spent on public schools, but much of it is wasted money. I look at education in a very traditional way. Whilst it is ideal to have the best sporting fields, technologies and building designs, none of these ingredients has been proven to be essential for teaching and learning the curriculum. The school across the road may be able to give each child their own i-Pad, but that shouldn’t explain a marked difference in maths, science or english results. A teacher should be able to deliver on the curriculum with or without such devices.

Whilst many get worked up when Governments subsidise private schools, there is a good reason why they do it.

1. It takes billions off the budget bottom line. This saves Governments money, resulting in reduced taxes and smaller class sizes in public schools.

2. It allows private schools to lower their fees. This is crucial for parents who are by no means wealthy, but are prepared to scrimp and save (and sometimes take on multiple jobs and a second mortgage) to get their children into private schools. These people should be commended. They work long hours, weekends, give up overseas travel and big screen TV’s, just to give their kids the best education possible. Government subsidies allow that to happen.

In Australia, the Government gives $13,000 to every public school per student. Private schools get $5,000. Factor in to the equation that many private schools are not elite schools with truck loads of money and resources (I work in such a private school, where I earn considerably less than a public school teacher), and you realise that the subsidy shouldn’t detract from a thriving public education system.

By constantly drawing attention to private schools, we risk bringing the private school system down to the public level. What we should be doing instead is trying to get the public school system improved to the level where it gives its private school equivalent a run for its money. That way, you have a private school that sets the bar for top quality education and a public school system that is structured to be able to go toe-to-toe with them based on prudent spending, good decision-making and a workforce of supported and fairly paid teachers.

The Education Version of “Moneyball”

December 23, 2011

The continued debate between private and public school funding tires me out. I am a big believer of a well-funded (i.e. wisely funded) public school sector as well as a thriving private school sector. There is no reason why parents can’t be given choice and why supporting private schools must come at the expense of quality public education.

This is where the “Moneyball” analogy fits in.

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. Oakland is severly restricted due to the lowest salary constraints in baseball. Winning means beating teams with much better infrastructure and player payment capacities. Billy is presented with the unenviable task of finding a winning team with the miniscule budget offered. Together with a Harvard economics major, a system is devised that uses statistical data to analyse and value players they pick for the team.

Public schools need to take the same approach. Just like the big baseball teams of the time, plenty of money is spent on public schools, but much of it is wasted money. I look at education in a very traditional way. Whilst it is ideal to have the best sporting fields, technologies and building designs, none of these ingredients has been proven to be essential for teaching and learning the curriculum. The school across the road may be able to give each child their own i-Pad, but that shouldn’t explain a marked difference in maths, science or english results. A teacher should be able to deliver on the curriculum with or without such devices.

Whilst many get worked up when Governments subsidise private schools, there is a good reason why they do it.

1. It takes billions off the budget bottom line. This saves Governments money, resulting in reduced taxes and smaller class sizes in public schools.

2. It allows private schools to lower their fees. This is crucial for parents who are by no means wealthy, but are prepared to scrimp and save (and sometimes take on multiple jobs and a second mortgage) to get their children into private schools. These people should be commended. They work long hours, weekends, give up overseas travel and big screen TV’s, just to give their kids the best education possible. Government subsidies allow that to happen.

In Australia, the Government gives $13,000 to every public school per student. Private schools get $5,000. Factor in to the equation that many private schools are not elite schools with truck loads of money and resources (I work in such a private school, where I earn considerably less than a public school teacher), and you realise that the subsidy shouldn’t detract from a thriving public education system.

By constantly drawing attention to private schools, we risk bringing the private school system down to the public level. What we should be doing instead is trying to get the public school system improved to the level where it gives its private school equivalent a run for its money. That way, you have a private school that sets the bar for top quality education and a public school system that is structured to be able to go toe-to-toe with them based on prudent spending, good decision-making and a workforce of supported and fairly paid teachers.

Education Reform Not Political Stunts

September 1, 2011

Florida State Senator, Gary Siplin has got his priorities right.  Instead of concentrating on education reform he turns his attention to the pressing matter of saggy pants:

In an effort to pass Florida’s new “Pull Your Pants Up”  law, State Senator Gary Siplin showed up to Orlando schools on the first day of classes to hand belts to students whose pants sagged.

“We want our kids to believe they’re going to college, and part of that is an attitude, and part of that is being dressed professionally,” Siplin said.

Some may feel that this is a worthy cause, but what it actually does is hide some important challenges facing Florida schools:

Florida’s public-school revenue per student and spending per $1000 of personal income usually rank in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. states.  Average teacher salaries rank near the middle of U.S. states.

Florida public schools have consistently ranked in the bottom 25 percent of many national surveys and average test-score rankings before allowances for race are made. 

If Mr. Siplin wants to do something real and meaningful with belts, I suggest he “Ban the Belts” by passing a law that bans corporal punishment in Florida schools.  A 2008 paper  revealed that Florida had 7,185 students hit in the name of teacher discipline.

I have been aquainted with some brilliant teachers from Florida through writing this blog.  They are decicated and committed to providing quality education.  They look beyond appearances and fight for the best outcomes for their students.  They have far more pressing priorities than baggy pants.

Perhaps Mr. Siplin should forget about lifting pants and instead concentrate on lifting his game.

 


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