Urban Ed: Lots of Problems, Not a Lot of Solutions

Guest blogger Jonathan Plucker from Indiana University recommends a book for Education Week’s Straight Up blog.  I will be adding this one to my list, without a doubt.

Matthew Tully’s Searching for Hope: Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America (Indiana University Press) … is the best book I’ve read about urban education in years, certainly one of the best I’ve ever read.

Tully is a columnist for the Indianapolis Star and spent an entire school year in Manuel High School, a depressingly typical school in a poor neighborhood, with all the normal problems faced by struggling urban schools in poor neighborhoods. [He] was given nearly unlimited access to the school and its educators and students, and he wrote frequent columns for the newspaper throughout the 2009-2010 school year, and the book is pulled from those columns and experiences ….Tully draws the reader into his experience quickly, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his observations as he works his way through the school year. […]

[T]he aspect of the book that is perhaps most important is that people care. Tully recounts the immediate, positive response whenever, for example, he mentioned a particular student who didn’t have enough to eat each day, bags of food would be dropped off at the school the next day. Those reactions—relatively small community responses to desperate needs—gave me perhaps the greatest sense of hope. People do care about these apparently hopeless situations, and perhaps these small acts can help tide us over while we struggle to find the big solutions to the overwhelming problems of urban poverty and education.


U.S. students need new way of learning science

Via Earthsky.org, a report from Michigan State University:

American students need a dramatically new approach to improve how they learn science, says a noted group of scientists and educators led by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt.

After six years of work, the group has proposed a solution. The 8+1 Science concept calls for a radical overhaul in K-12 schools that moves away from memorizing scientific facts and focuses on helping students understand eight fundamental science concepts. The “plus one” is the importance of inquiry, the practice of asking why things happen around us – and a fundamental part of science.

“Now is the time to rethink how we teach science,” said Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor of statistics and education. “What we are proposing through 8+1 Science is a new way of thinking about and teaching science, not a new set of science standards. It supports basic concepts included in most sets of state standards currently in use and complements standards-based education reform efforts.” […]

The 8+1 concepts were derived from two basic questions: What are things made of and how do systems interact and change? The eight concepts are: atoms, cells, radiation, systems change, forces, energy, conservation of mass and energy, and variation. […]

“The natural world seems to operate through these laws and concepts, but when it comes to schooling we don’t teach children these laws and then show how these apply in different situations,” Schmidt said.


Sharing Knowledge and Supplies in Retirement

What do you do with all those great resources you’ve gathered over your teaching career when you decide to leave the profession (either through retirement, as the article suggests, or through career moves which leave the classroom behind)?  Judy McKee at NSTA Reports has some great ideas that you may not have thought of:

Every year, millions of teachers across the country shell out their own hard-earned cash to acquire supplies and resources. They create lessons, bulletin boards, and handmade gadgets. Though they often find it difficult to part with these things at retirement, they hope to pass gently used items to others who will give them new life and value. […]

“Our experience and teaching wisdom far outshadows what we do with our materials.” That makes the process of parting with our collection bittersweet. After all, these things represent the lessons and countless meaningful interactions with students that gave significance to our teaching lives. No wonder it’s difficult to let them go.

A former colleague, the wonderful Fannie J., is a huge fan of sharing her teacher treasures (accumulated throughout her 35+ year teaching career) with her fellow teachers, especially the newbies.

(Photos are from the blog Thingamababy.com, from a post detailing the amazing haul the parent/educator/blogger had recently found at a retiring teacher’s garage sale.)


5 Tell-Tale Signs You’re Becoming a Teacher Leader

Marsha Ratzel, a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, shares her insights for the Teacher Leaders Network.

How do you know you’re ready to become a teacher leader? Will a trusted colleague tap you on the shoulder and say, “It’s time!”? Do you have to get so frustrated by something that you simply must speak up and work toward a solution? Maybe—but sometimes the signs are subtler. Here are a few things that may signal that you’re on the road to becoming a teacher leader:

Sign #1: You wish you had an impact beyond your classroom.
If you find yourself yearning to take an idea beyond your classroom, you’re probably ready to become a leader. […]

Sign #2: Colleagues often ask you for advice.
Are you a go-to teacher? … Guess what? You probably have what it takes to lead. […]

Sign #3: You “think big” about problems.
When others are complaining, you’re imagining solutions. You can see ways that the system can change to help you and your colleagues to better serve students. […]

Sign #4: You want to take new teachers under your wing.
You watch new teachers at your school and think, “Wow, I’ve been there and wished someone would help me out.” … You’ve probably offered advice and informal support to at least one new teacher. […]

Sign #5: You always want to know more!
You are afflicted with lifelong learning. What you know about the profession isn’t enough—you are eager to dig deeper into pedagogical strategies and/or your content area. […]