Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

The Difficulty of Going Back to School for Bullied Students

August 12, 2015



It’s time to commence with another school year. Spare a thought for the trepidation faced by students harassed for having disabilities.

The following is a great piece on this very issue written by Chester Goad courtesy of The Huffington Post:


Typically going back to school means seeing old friends and making new connections, and while most kids are nervous about going back to school, some kids are actually terrified.

Research suggests that between 150,000-200,000 students are bullied in our schools every day. Many school systems have even added hotlines and “Student Resource Officers” (SRO’s) who can help identify and prevent bullying. Still bullying happens, and statistics show that students with disabilities are more at risk. In fact, anyone who looks different, acts different, or believes something different from whatever is the local cultural norm is a target.

Not only do students with disabilities sometimes look different from non-disabled peers, but students with certain disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia also learn differently, and students who learn differently often receive additional resources or extra help which can bring unwanted attention from potential bullies.

Growing up is hard but growing up with a disability brings a different set of challenges. Social stigma, misunderstandings, or lack of awareness affect the learning environment when educators, parents, and other students aren’t paying attention. What does all this mean?

It means families should talk more. It means we must be more intentional in our efforts to address the problem without causing more trouble for the kids who are prone to be bullied, and without arming bullies with information that makes them wise enough to avoid intervention. Yes, it’s that complicated.

In 2013, the increasing number of students with disabilities being bullied prompted the U.S. Department of Education to release a “Dear Colleague Letter” reminding schools of their responsibility to provide a bully-free education, and to implement specific strategies to effectively prevent or stop bullying of all students, but especially those with disabilities.

Parents of students with disabilities or any sort of difference should be vigilant and listen to their kids when they’re discussing school. Pay attention to changes in behavior, especially aggression and meltdowns. If your instinct tells you there may be an issue with bullying, talk with teachers or other adults and ask about changes in behavior or attitude. It’s a challenge for us as parents not to want to handle things completely on our own, but parents should avoid confronting others about bullying until they have all the information, and it’s best to leave the confrontation part to the school. Discuss the issues with teachers or administration. They may be able to give you valuable insight before you talk with the other parents or take your concerns to a different level.

Some adults are inclined to let bullying go assuming that kids will just “work it out,” and some students do work out one-time incidences, but sadly, true bullying involves a pattern of inappropriate behavior and when left alone can worsen circumstances for everyone involved. In some instances, students may truly not understand that their actions are being perceived as bullying. They may simply be seeking attention. However, in other situations they know exactly what they’re doing. Parents should never just “let it go” or trust the situation to work itself out.

Talk to your kids, and listen. Listen to what they’re saying, and to what they’re not saying.

Student suicide rates are on the rise. Quick, proactive communication and education is key, and could save lives.

The best way to prevent students from becoming bullying statistics is to know your students and their disabilities, understand the law, encourage peer intervention (because intervention by peers is considered the most powerful deterrent to bullying), and to foster open positive relationships between parents and schools.

Going back to school is always going to be a little nerve wracking. Kids will always worry about classes, friendships, and keeping up with the latest fads. But they should never have to worry for their safety.




Click on the link to read my post on What This Teacher is Accused of Doing to an Autistic Boy

Click on the link to read my post on School is the Place to Make Better Connections with Our Disabled

Click on the link to read my post on Dreams Come True When People Show they Care

Click on the link to read my post on Hitchens: Dyslexia is NOT a Disease. It is an Excuse For Bad Teachers!

9 Characteristics of a Great Teacher According to Parents

May 12, 2014


teacher quality


This list of of characteristics that great teachers possess prove that parents are extremely perceptive when it comes to assessing teacher quality.


1. They teach self-confidence.

“My daughter has gone from being shy and lacking self-confidence to being brave enough to teach a math class to her peers. She is shining and thriving and is excited about school every morning.” — Christine Sulek-Popov

2. They’ve got it covered.

“I know that my children are well looked after at school and I don’t have to worry because you will let me know if there is a problem.” — Erin Marsee Irby

3. They make kids feel special.

“My child feels like he belongs!” — Sherri Kellock

4. They know every child is different.

“You don’t compare his skill set to the other [kids in his class]. He is an individual and he’s treated as such.” — Athena Albin

5. Their commitment is unparalleled.

“My kids’ teachers are amazing. All 3 of them. They’ve brought my son out of his shell, they’re teaching my daughter how to be a leader, and they spend countless hours outside of the school time working on homework, fundraising, organizing class outings, and continuing to upgrade their skills all so they can be even better teachers than they already are.” — Jane Brewer

6. They have parents’ backs.

“My daughter had so many opportunities to see how valuable helping her peers can be, and you’re helping reinforce my lessons to her that there is joy in service.” — Debbie Vigh

7. They’re fair.

“My son is accepted for who he is. And you make the playing field even for everyone!” — Gayle Stroud

8. They’re always raising the bar.

“My daughter has grown in ways I never could have imagined. I’ve seen her flourish in areas I struggle in.” — Shaunna Glaspey

9. They generally rock.

“My son loves going to school everyday. You make him feel safe, loved, and included. It may be hard for you to see (since he is so shy) but he loves spending his day in your care.” — Jennifer O’Donnell Snell


Click on the link to read 9 Secrets for Raising Happy Children

Click on the link to read Brilliant Prank Photos Show Parenting at its Worst

Click on the link to read Little Girl’s Delightful “Brake Up” Note

Click on the link to read 9 Truths About Children and Dinnertime

Click on the link to read The Most Original Way to Pull Out Your Child’s Tooth Out (Video)

Click on the link to read Father Carries His Disabled Son 9 Miles to School Every Day

Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

May 15, 2012

A few weeks ago I sought to have an interview with Australia’s Education Minister regarding the upcoming NAPLAN standardised tests. I am still waiting for a reply.

Luckily, I came across his op/ed piece over the weekend, where he tries to allay the fears of the parenting community and make a case for these highly pressured, incredibly unpopular series of tests.

In his piece, he claims that:

Parents and the community should rest assured that the NAPLAN tests are simply a way of measuring how our students and our schools are performing in the three key areas of reading, writing and numeracy. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I assure you Mr. Garrett that parents of 8-years olds subjected to 4 rigorous exams in 3 days understand that these tests represent much more than just a simple way of measuring child progress.

There is nothing in any of the tests that students need to learn above and beyond what is already being taught in the classroom, namely the curriculum.

I am not sure that is true. Whilst my students are expected to write persuasive essays, there is no mention of persuasive writing in the Grade 3 curriculum.

By measuring how our students are performing as they progress through school, we can get a clear national picture, for the first time, of where we need to be directing extra attention and resources.

This is just spin. This implies that these tests exist to help direct the Government in regards to spending and programs. There is no evidence of any Governmental response whether it be financial or a simple change of priorities based on the yearly NAPLAN results. Instead, the outcome of the NAPLAN is designed to expose failing schools, inept teachers and anything and everything that can divert attention from a Government good at measuring performance but poor at performing themselves.

It needs to be made clear to schools and teachers that excessive test practising ahead of NAPLAN is unnecessary. While it helps to be familiar with the structure of the tests, carrying out endless practices should not be encouraged. NAPLAN matters, but it is not the be all and end all.

Unnecessary to whom? If you and your staff were to be tested on the performance of your portfolio wouldn’t you take the time to prepare? When a class gets appraised, so does the teacher. Are we meant to sit back and watch 8-years old kids sit for their first formal exams without preparing them for the kinds of questions and scenarios they are likely to encounter?

Mr. Garett, your opinion piece tries to win over parents, yet it completely deviates from the very issue that parents are most concerned about. Parents do not like seeing their young children exposed to so much pressure. They don’t like to see their children who may currently enjoy learning, subjected to such a negative learning experience.

Today, one of my students was so frightened by the prospect of these exams that he was reluctant to get in the car. We are talking about a child that loves learning.

I have no problem with High School children being tested. But 3rd Graders? Is it really worth it?


Parents Urged to do the Job of a Teacher

March 1, 2012

It is my belief that the job of a parent is to parent and the job of the teacher is to teach. Sure it’s wonderful when parents take it upon themselves to help reinforce skills taught in class. I am always appreciative of parents that spare some time to revise concepts covered during the school day. But essentially, I am paid to ensure that the parents can spend textbook-free quality time with their children. This is in my view essential to maximising the relationship of child and parent. Children often show a reluctance to work through school material with their parents and parents often get very anxious when trying to get their children to concentrate and listen to their explanations.

It is my job to see it that parents are free to spend time with their children without having to go through the ordeal of maths and science work. That’s what they pay me for.

But unfortunately, it seems that we are not doing a good enough job. It seems as if parents have often been given little choice but to try to fill in the gaps we have left behind. You hear too many stories of parents frantically trying to complete their own childs’ homework, sometimes struggling to work out the answers themselves:

A quarter of parents in Reading admit that helping their children with homework leads to family arguments, according to a survey.

Research by tuition provider Explore Learning also showed 9.2 per cent rarely helped their children with homework with more than two thirds struggling when they did.

Maths confuses parents the most with 41.2 per cent of parents finding the subject hard to grasp compared to the 11.1 per cent of parents who find English difficult.

Nationally, nearly a third of parents admitted homework had caused friction in the family with Reading not straying far from the average when it came to struggling in maths and English.

It’s time we let parents bond with their children instead of getting them to do our dirty work. Homework, if administered at all, should be revision of concepts covered in the class. If the children are not capable of doing it independently it shouldn’t have been given to them in the first place.

YouTube To Get the Respect of the Educational Community

December 14, 2011

Two weeks I wrote about one of the most underrated learning tools in modern education. I call YouTube underrated because not only is it not given enough credit for being a valuable resource but it is blocked in many schools.

I wrote:

YouTube is the modern-day instructive tool. It clearly and carefully teaches people practical skills in language they can understand. It plays the part of teacher.

At the moment I am teaching my 5th Graders about finding the lowest common denominator before adding and subtracting fractions. As a test, before writing this blog post, I typed some key words into a YouTube search and came up with many fine online tutorials on this very skill that kids can readily access.  It shouldn’t replace the teacher, but it can certainly help a child pick up a concept.

In the space of 2 weeks YouTube has announced that it will introduce its YouTube for Schools, allowing students to access the site without being exposed to inappropriate material:

After making some changes on its home page UI, Youtube now plans to foray into education. To help the cause of spreading education, Youtube plans to unveil a new tool for teachers as well as students.

Youtube for schools is a new idea to introduce collaborative education as head of Youtube Angela Lin says,” This is a technical solution to allow schools that normally restrict access to YouTube to gain access to it.”

Youtube’s official blog post also suggested that teachers have been looking up to leveraging the Youtube platform to access a huge database of knowledge in form of educational videos. But the bone in the throat was those other videos related to entertainment would distract students. This was the main reason behind schools restricting Youtube videos. However, the educational value of Youtube videos in visually interactive learning was much wider in horizon. Thus, Youtube introduced a new platform for learning.

This is a great coup for students and teachers. Well done YouTube!


Do You Remember When Learning Wasn’t About the Test?

November 14, 2011

Students across Australia, and dare I say it worldwide, are sick of constantly being graded.  Gone are the days when a child can learn to love a given subject through observation, experience, discussion and self-evaluation.  Now every learning focus leads to the ultimate test of nerve – a test.

Standardised tests have absolutely ruined the enjoyment of learning.  They reinforce a pecking order which is not beneficial for children.  The constant grading of children make kids who try hard but struggle to perform, feel dumb and useless.  It has taken over classrooms, with teachers too worried about the implications of their class doing badly to teach the curriculum the way it was designed to be taught.  Instead, they are forced to teach to the tests.  This involves months of practice exams.  How inspiring!

Our children deserve better.  They deserve to go to school without having to constantly sit for preparation tests followed by real tests followed by another set of preparation tests etc.  They deserve to have their education untainted by political point scorers.

I love the backflip contained in the first paragraph of a recent editorial in the L.A. Times:

The high-stakes measurement of student progress through annual standardized tests has, in many classrooms, restricted creativity, innovation and individuality. It has emphasized the skills involved in taking multiple-choice tests over those of researching, analyzing, experimenting and writing, the tools that students are more likely to need to be great thinkers, excellent university students and valued employees. But, by pressuring schools to raise achievement, it also has ensured that more students reach high school able to read books more sophisticated than those by Dr. Seuss — which, sad to say, was a major problem a decade ago — and tackle algebra by ninth grade.

Once you have taken the “creativity, innovation and individuality” out of education there is no “but”.  There is no good way of rationalising those vital missing ingredients.

Sure it’s good to have data on the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms.  Of course, assessments are a staple of education.  But these dry, monotonous, pressure-ridden tests can get too much for kids looking for more enjoyable ways of learning.

If these tests have as I suspect, a negative effect on our students’ enjoyment of learning and self-esteem, is it really worth persevering with?

Teachers Who Can’t Engage Should Give Up

July 19, 2011

I am bewildered by the lack of thought and emphasis on engaging lesson content in education.  A few months ago I wrote about the latest trend to hit Australian shores – “Direct Instruction”.  Teachers are given a script and instructed to stick to it at all times.  The script tells them when to pause, what to repeat and what to leave out.  Direct Instruction is being used for teaching maths and spelling in classroom across Australia.  It was designed, in my belief, to ensure that all teachers covered the curriculum regardless of their abilities.

Only trouble is … it is a boring way to teach and a boring way to learn.

Why can’t Maths, English, Science etc. be taught in an interesting and lively manner?  Why does it have to be reduced to a talkfest or an excuse for an endless cycle of worksheets?  If it’s so important to know, why can’t it be taught in a fun way?

Thank goodness for Professor John Hattie:

PROFESSOR John Hattie of Melbourne University drew the wrath of many when he told teachers to ”just shut up”.

In fact, Hattie is supported by a considerable body of research; for instance, North American writers Lorna M. Earl and Andy Hargreaves, who observed lessons no more interesting than watching a haircut in progress. Researchers talk of students drowning in a sea of teacher ”blah”.

The difficulty is that so many people consider themselves experts on schools because they once attended one.

Long-winded accounts of subject matter may have once worked for teachers but young people these days are different from those of the previous century. Their attention spans are shorter, a product, perhaps, of constantly changing multimedia stimuli. They expect – indeed, demand – to be entertained.

Their world is high-tech and their attention is rarely captured by drab or monotonous presentations, which makes engaging in learning one of the chief tasks and difficulties of the modern educator.

The emphasis in schools has changed from teaching to learning and, quite rightly, the critical issue for a teacher is not the quality of their own narrative teaching but rather what their students are learning.

For them to learn effectively, and particularly to master the skills of ongoing learning, of processing apparently limitless information and of developing discernment, they need to be active, not passive, learners.

They need to be ”doers” who can find and process information, rather than just listeners.

Hattie is right: if teachers talk their students into oblivion, the teachers’ knowledge on display might be impressive but what the students gain in terms of content, skills and wisdom will be limited.

Good teachers certainly explain work clearly and test their students’ understanding with strategic questioning. They are masters of content, passionate and excited about their subject, convey a deep interest in their students as people, set high expectations, imbue their students with the confidence to succeed and give students feedback so they know how to improve.

Depending upon their subject, they utilise a wide variety of teaching strategies, working with mind and hand, desk-based and experiential learning, books and screens and also sometimes make their own products.

To read the rest of this brilliantly conceived article, please follow this link.


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