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A few weeks ago, Ryan mentioned he the only male primary teacher in his school. My theory (in his comments section) was that in several countries (like in India) teacher pay is graded by class taught, with those teaching higher classes getting better pay. Moreover, teaching a higher class may have a longer, or more strenuous work-day. The two facts combined with the traditional role of the man as the primary bread earner results in men choosing to teach higher classes (or alternately, the long hours keep some women off this vocation).

 

Now it seems that part of the reason may be attributed to a selection bias. It seems that the stereotype of the male sexual offender is making men are less attractive to school Boards and Administrators an/or making teaching in elementary school less attractive to qualified male teachers.

A Wall Street Journal article has more:

Are we teaching children that men are out to hurt them? The answer, on many fronts, is yes. Child advocate John Walsh advises parents to never hire a male babysitter. Airlines are placing unaccompanied minors with female passengers rather than male passengers. Soccer leagues are telling male coaches not to touch players.

Child-welfare groups say these are necessary precautions, given that most predators are male. But fathers’ rights activists and educators now argue that an inflated predator panic is damaging men’s relationships with kids. Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all, which partly explains why many youth groups can’t find male leaders, and why just 9% of elementary-school teachers are male, down from 18% in 1981.

I’m not sure I agree with the reasoning here. I feel it may be a selection in favour of women not a selection against men that leads to the skewed percentage of male elementary-school teachers. You can however, read the entire story here.

Further Reading (click on numbers)

#1 Sex Offender Alert: Know when a Sex Offender moves into your area (Couldn’t help noticing that all the offenders profiled on this page were male!

#2: Men’s Awareness: A blog that showcases several examples to flout the male sex offender stereotype

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carnival of education

Welcome to the Carnival !

I am honoured to host the Carnival of Education, now in its 133rd avatar. Thanks Ed! It’s been quite an exercise, but I’ve tried my best to make it fun by including everything that was submitted to me and organising it into categories.

 

Thanks to all those who contributed and took the time to fill up the survey questionnaire I sent out. I am including the results at the end of the post post.

 

Next week’s carnival will be hosted by Matt Tabor. Mail him at mktabor@gmail.com by 11pm EST on Tuesday, August 29, 2007 or else use this handy submission form. Thanks to Lennie for last week’s carnival.

Hang on now for Here we Go!

 

Leading Schools

The first chapter of Freakonomics, a huge bestseller (read a superintendent’s post on it here) talks about how incentive govern economics. Incentives are it says, simple means to urge people to do more of a good thing and less of a bad one, they are bullets, levers and keys: tiny objects with astonishing power to change a situation. Dave Johnston brings Economics into school with a post on why School Districts Need the Right Incentives.

Teacher Salaries have always been a huge source of debate. Paying his employees well is a must for every Leader. IB a Math Teacher presents a comparison between US and Finnish (the country consistently ranked #1 in OECD surveys on student achievement) teacher salaries. After you read this, you may be surprised to find out that several Indian teachers are paid between 20-25% of what teachers in the US are (adjusted for exchange rates and purchasing power).

In an article that will shock every school leader, I was surprised to learn that 1 out of 8 children in US schools are on retalin, a drug that impacts behavior, cognition, appetite, and stress and can have negative impact on the brain major impact in adulthood. Lennie contends that Ritalin is used in Government Schools to modify the behavior of students to make them fit into the one-size-fits all systems that these schools employ.

This post was not written for teachers or administrators in school, but can help all of us. Phil presents 13 Steps to be Productive saying”Ever wonder why some people are so productive all of the time while other people never accomplish anything?” I’m sure Christian over at Think: Lab was reading- I wonder how he finds the time to write several quality posts a day!

 

Oh My God, This Cannot be Happening

Is that a Bird? Superman? No its an Elementary School Principal! Jo Scott-Coe introduces us to a Principal who thinks that spending a day on the roof may encourage teachers to get better ‘fodder for lessons’ Head over to School Performance Anxiety–No More Gimmicks! for some Laughs!

I’m putting this post right under the one about our Fiddler-on-the-Roof Principal above, because it talks about a stand taken by the British Univeristy and College Union that’s equally stupid and egregious (or both). Read Darren’s post about the boycott of Israeli Universities here.

 

In the Classroom

Here is one thing that you would not believe closes achievement gaps. Getting children to Chew Gum in Class! A teacher was persuaded to do this even when when the policy strictly prohibits it because it (brace yourselves) helps the children think. I’d have put it in the ‘crazies’ section above if it weren’t for the teacher’s concern for her student’s achievement that made her break the rules and try it.

Asking questions is at the heart of a learning organisation and learning classrooms. Joanne Jacobs suggests that it might be the best way to go when teaching History (which she says is way better as a theatre for the higher reaches Bloom’s Taxonomy than Social Studies).

Several kids trip on word problems because they can’t translate the question being asked into a mathematiucal equation. What does it mean to find two-thirds of six they ask? If your kids are have trouble with this and more, read Denise’s post on Pre-algebra problem solving tools. The comment on the post (and maths problem) with the 3 salesman is worth a read too: its a variant of a classic problem that foxes most at first go.

A teacher’s influence can last a life time. Sometimes it is due to a negative incident that leaves a lasting impression. That’s what Ms.Teacher wrote when she submitted her post to the carnival. Check out her very readable reflections over in her post, The Influence of Teachers

Giftedness is a concept and term that most Educators love to use. Jeremy. in his excellent Conceptions of Giftedness, in light of DVD finding informs us that unfortunately, most of these educators may not agree or know what giftedness means. He presents an overview of scholarly definitions and a series of links to a recent finding that instructional videos aren’t effective in teaching language skills to infants.

Ever wonder why teachers in NYC are so psychotic? (!??!) Head over and check with Dr. Homeslice who’s surprised by the keywords that have driven traffic to his site.

 

Back to School after the summer?

Summer means Teacher Development. Carnival newbie Jennie, who’s just endured this version of Teacher Hell and is probably happy to get back to school, wonders why so many seminars are scheduled when Conferences are what really get the teachers going.

Joel, who’s become a bit of a 10-Tips and 7-Ways-To-Do-Things Guru, presents The Twelve Days of Teaching – a series of articles that may be be interesting to read before you start teaching again.

You may also want to consider visiting a wiki set up by Dan Myer to help you get prepared for a new term of teaching (this is not a carnival contribution, I’ve added it).

If you are a new teacher or are advising one this year, it would be helpful to read Graycie’s e-mail exchange with a New Teacher that has some excellent tips and the Right Wing Professor low-down on getting it right the first time around.

Ms. T talks about engaging lower-income and minority families in the school this year, using her dismay over the poor-attendance at her school’s recent back-to-school Open House as a context.

Former Wilmington Mayor Jim Sills shares her concern as he claims that “absence of parental participation plans (meaning budgeted finances and assigned personnel) has contributed to African-American and low-income parents (a) not feeling any “significant sense of ownership” of public schools, and (b) having low levels of parental participation in Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. Unfortunately, we are left with a very large contingent of low-income parents, who feel ill equipped to give their children sufficient personal support in school settings.” Hube thinks that Sill’s enthusiasm may be misplaced and presents his own view on the subject in Once again: Teachers “not doing enough.

Best of luck to all of you starting the new school year! As you do so, read California Teacher Guy’s rather humorous poem on what he didn’t do last summer and Why He Is Rested and Ready to Go.

 

Grading

The best thing about blogs is sometimes the open-source stuff that gets shared- the Science Goddess has put out a draft of her standards-based grading policy on her blog. She’d like your comments! Go have a look- its definitely worth a read as is the discussion developing on the post and this wiki set up by Eric, Repairman, Miss Profe, Exhausted Intern and others on Grading.

A few weeks ago, there was a debate about Austin Lampros and his resignation from a Manhattan School that was activated by a ruling that no student should be given less than 45% marks, irrespective of performance. Now, R.Pettinger, an economist from across the Atlantic presents Are British A Levels Getting Easier? where he examines how lowered standards have doubled the percentage of students getting an A on their national exams.

 

Achievement Gaps and Standardised Testing

Here’s a Quiz for you- the winner gets a Testing for Dummies Handbook. What could the passage below be referring to?

We implemented a national literacy strategy in primary schools, followed quite rapidly by numeracy using the same model: Large-scale reform driven from the top down; designing all the materials at the national level and training everybody in a cascade out; using the accountability system to publish results and school inspection to check that people were adopting better practices.”

NCLB did you say? Nope, it’s the British version that now been imported to the US Shores in Ohio. Read more about it at Middle Shool World

What causes achievement gaps? Race? Parental Income? IQ? Expectation? Parental Pressure? Chanman’s got the lowdown on his post Quotable Crap about the “Achievement Gap”

One person who doesn’t need to read Chanman’s post is Margaret Spellings who seems to have got it all figured out. In a recent statement she asked, “How do we close the achievement gap and prepare all children to succeed in the global economy? To me, the answer is clear—the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Building on the success of this landmark law will help ensure we keep our promise to have every child learning on grade level by 2014.” Read all about it over on EduWonk’s post The Spellings Report: Margaret Heads South!

 

What Schools can Learn from Businesses and Funding in Schools

At a (private) school I worked at, parents were customers and so were students. Fees were income. Annual Days were Marketing promotions and Parent Relations was under a Public Relations Department. I hated the terms but liked the premise. Nancy Flanagan gets into the details on what schools can learn from big business in Business as Usual while Jose Vilson says that “much of the relationships we have in the educational setting have scary similarities to politics, corporate or otherwise” in his review of the book 48 Laws of Power.

Bill Ferriter, who writes for the same network that Nancy does, also handles a similar issue- the question of Funding, Accountability and Donor Relations in Schools- all things we can learn from business about. His post, Just What is a Republic Anyway?, is in response toone on the DeHavilland Blog titled The Upside of Less Education Funding.

I humbly present another post on state funding for education, arguing that higher-ed subsidies that are keeping large numbers out of primary-school should be re-evaluated and maybe, done away with.

Staying with funding and money; Norm Scott presents Oh man, did your readers leave stuff out! that tells you where dues money goes in the largest local teacher union in the nation

 

Essential conversations with our children

What should we tell our children and what should we not? Presenting three articles that touch different angles on this- NYC Educator talks about discussions with children on homesexuality and sex. I present a post on the death of Adnan Patrawala a 16-year old student in Mumbai who’s death may have been abetted by Orkut, an incident that calls for a more careful exposure to social networking sites. To round up is Jeff’s post Putting them in a Bubble (this is not a carnival contribution, I’ve added it).

In India, several schools are attempting to bring in grandparents into schools- acknowledging that the contribution of these elders in the children’s education can be significant and that in Inidan families where generation stay together it’s important that the Elders are on board with the school their grandchild goes to. Dana talks about a British example where elders are encouraged to come to school and share experiences with kids and adds that this may be an implicit vote for homeschooling. Read about it on her post – Bringing intergenerational experiences to the schools.

Emilie Buchwald once said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” If you want to know what she meant or how to get there read 30+ Teacher’s post on Eleven Ways to Help Your Child Read Well.

WordMama writes a straight-from-the-heart letter to parents who may discover their child needs Special Education.

 

College

Got students or children going to college? Judy’s got some Health Tips, Pinyo talks about the 7 mistakes he made when he went to college, Robert provides you 5 tips on how to get that Calculator to function like a dream while Zantor provides tips on working smarter. If they still haven’t got the financing tied up, look at Robert has got tips on Scott’s post on 32 Weird Scholarships Almost Anyone Can Get.

 

Blogging about Teaching and Education

If you were inspired by Karl’s “Did you Know” Film and want the inside scoop on how Friedman’s World is Flat, Dan Pink’s A new Kind of Mind and speakers the NECC Conference collaborated to kickstart it in his head- go on over to Dr. Jan’s Blog to read The History of “Did You Know” with Karl Fisch and to listen to her podcast interview with him.

Almost 3 weeks after Scott McLeod posted his research on the Top EduBlogs, debate on its methodology and veracity rages on. I am enjoying the debate! You can too by reading Scott’s riposte to the suggestions, comments and questions raised.

We all know teaching can be tough and writing in the little time it leave you with can be tougher. So, when one shares experiences about it through writing on blogs, its frustrating when it gets you pilloried. Andrew, over in Britian, talks about his teaching and experience with blog critics at Just For The Record, I Don’t Hate The Kids

In a related post, Isabella Mori, a counsellor over in Vancouver, talks about her experiences with blogging about Education and Psychology as she debates the difference between blogging and research.

To round up the Carnival, Mister Teacher suggests that I should thank you all for reading and also Thank the custodians who make our teaching duties a lot easier and happier.

One last thing before we go. If, like me, you too wonder who contributes to the Carnival- you have your answers here. Of the 50 contributors to this Carnival, 30 returned my small survey form- I have included the analysis below.

 

 

USA Bloggers Dominate the Carnival of Education

50% are Teachers

50% have been blogging under a year

Blogging in Class is Alive and Well

 

All Contributors were also asked to send in the names of 2 blogs they read daily. Of the responses we received, Joanne Jacobs had the highest Readership (8 votes). Her blog was followed by The Education Wonks and EduWonk (Education Sector Blog) with 4 votes. California Teacher Guy, Weblogg-ed, Edspresso, Right on the Left Coast all got 2 votes each while Education Intelligence Agency, April May, College and Finance, NYC Educator, Principled Mom, NYC Public School Parents, AcademHack, EdWeek, Ms Whatsit, The Thinking Stick, Second Hand Thoughts, Eduholic (Teacher Magazine Blog), It Shouldn’t Happen to a Teacher, Homeschool Buzz, Why Homeschool, Tutor 2u, MathNotations, JD2718, Sicheii Yazhi, Repairkit, What It’s Like on the Inside and The Red Pencil got 1 vote each.

Hope you enjoyed the Carnival. You can access an archive of the previous carnivals here. Thank you all for reading!

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summer tulips

Over the last two summers, I have been closely watching a K-12 school in North India. I don’t work there, I happen to have visited it on many occasions and keep in close touch with the Principal. Some stats:

 

  • The school has an average fee of $20 a month.
  • For 93% of the children, English (the language of instruction in School) is not the language of instruction at home.
  • Disposable incomes at home are limited: enrollment is low in Summer Camps/Schedules- the often mentioned resistors to summer learning loss.
  • In most families, the children are first-generation learners; parents (by training or due to work) are unable to help create learning opportunities for the children.
  • Teaching Staff is underpaid, plans to get them to work for a part of the summer met with fierce resistance.
  • Many students are unable to engage constructively with work set for completion over the summer.

The school has noticed the Summer Learning Slide in a majority of students in almost all classes.

 

ouch! that hurt. kids and the summer learning slide

 (Above: Ouuch! That Hurt! Lots of Kids are academically hampered by the long summer)

What is the Summer Learning Slide? Here is an excerpt from the John Hopkins University website:

 

 

Research from the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University shows that teachers spend a good deal of time in the fall re- teaching skills that were lost during the summer. Students fall an average of almost 2.6 months behind in math skills, but for low-income children, the slide in reading is particularly harmful: They fall behind an average of two months in reading while their middle- income peers tend to make slight gains. By fifth grade, low-income children can be as much as 2.5 years behind in reading. And a recent study of Baltimore students by Johns Hopkins researchers showed that 65 percent of the achievement gap between poor and affluent children can be explained by unequal summer learning experiences during the elementary school years.

But all accounts, several of the children at this school are low-income. The management and some of us well-wishers have been trying to negotiate the summer learning slide and as one antidote, have been considering Year-Round Calendars.

 

Look at this comparison from an ASCD article:

 

traditional calendar v/s year round calendar for schools

 

At first glance, the idea seems worth exploring further:

 

1. Shorter, more frequent breaks mean less loss of learning, especially in the languages. Hence, it also means more time learning as teachers will have to spend less time ‘catching up’ as they would have to do after a longer break.

 

2. Children who need remedial help can be brought to speed over these breaks. In a traditional calendar with longer terms they may have fallen behind and would continue to fall even further behind without help.

 

3. On-going development for teachers can be more effective with more opportunities for feedback over the breaks following implementation of new ideas learnt during term-time.

 

It does mean that the kids would have to endure a hot summer at school for longer. Also, timing vacations with Daddy’s time away from work may be difficult if Little Joey goes to a school that follows a traditional calendar.

 

A poll run by ASCD last year asked the following question: What is the most effective way for schools to maintain student success over the summer?

 

Option                                                      Respondents Favouring

Go to a year-round calendar                                     39.11%

Summer school for lower achievers                         12.4%

Encourage enrichment (camp, hobbies)                 8.43%

Assign work (packets, projects)                             40.06%

We need your help on this one! Have you debated this in your school system? Does your School or District work on a Year Round Calendar? What are your own thoughts on this?

 

Further Reading:

 

#1: Prisoners No More: An Educational Leadership article that debates Year Round Schooling

#2: Summer Tips from Johns Hopkins

#3: Homepage of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins. They have some excellent resources.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Tulips by Jeandela via flickr.

2. Summer slide by Photoblog

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Two months ago I saw An Inconvenient Truth. It has been parodied and pilloried several times in the press, but it left me a message. Global warming is a reality and the ozone depletion is a cause for concern.

Today I finished reading Jeffrey Sachs’The End of Poverty as We Know It.” Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, ex-Adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is probably best known as the dapper economist who accompanies rocker Bono around the world trying to spread the message of fighting AIDS. His central message if “Extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time.” He argues that Poverty can be eradicated in 20 years.

I’m not an economist, but the book left me with many unanswered questions. The book starts of with promise. Sachs’ tells personal stories and weaves narratives about several countries together wonderfully as he explains how Globalisation and Interconnectedness are key and how economies are linked to Topography and Natural Resources. He makes a forceful case for Technology as the killer app for development economics and surprises you with some tidbits (African Governments being no more corrupt than others, the US being amongst the lowers contributors (as % of GDP) to Foreign Aid etc. He fashions a hypothesis that 0.7% of Annual National Incomes of the 22 wealthiest countries would eradicate poverty and tries valiantly but failingly to convince you.

In the end a nice book with a lot of information, some oft-mentioned plans, but no pathbreaking ideas.

But this post is not about Messers Gore and Sachs. When I think back about the ideas presented in these two books and films, I realise it’s not about government, corporations or non-profits. It is about you and me. It is about what we can do to make our world live longer, be happier, brighter and better. It is about making a small difference, one thing at a time, and the results will begin to show.

I sat down to make my list of 10 ways I would try and make a small difference to the world and its inhabitants:

1. I will try and Pay it Forward: You may have seen the movie (Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt). It’s about doing good for someone anonymously and starting a potential series of good deeds as receivers of anonymous good actions Pay it Forward by helping others in turn. I’ll let Trevor, the hero of the book and movie explain:

Trevor, 12-year-old hero, explains his idea to his mother and teacher: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.” He turns on the calculator, punches in a few numbers. “Then it sort of spreads out, see. To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?”

On the way back home this evening, I passed a toll plaza. I paid for the next three cars behind me. My first conscious attempt at Paying it Forward.

2. I will volunteer: I plan to devote one month of my time every two years. The last time I volunteered was in 2004 when I worked in Tsunami Affected Areas for 7 weeks- first on relief and then on rehabilitation. It was also the last time when I felt ‘connected to the Earth.’ The last time I saw ‘all of us as one’ for weeks at a stretch. I don’t know if these words will mean much, but anyone who has experienced trauma and calamity from this close will know what I am talking about.

Getting one month off in a block is difficult, so I will try and do this over several days in the 2 years, investing evenings and weekends.

3. I will Give to Soup Kitchens: Next time I am having a get-together at home, good food left over goes to feed the needy. (dial 1098 from a PNT line in India)

4. I will Conserve Electricity: My laptop is almost always on. My Television is always on Standby. I leave the geyser running for hours to have a 5-minute shower. I forget (sometimes) to turn off the lights after I leave a room. My bedroom is wired to put on 3 halogens at a time (no single bulb switches at all). My Air Conditioner consumes energy inefficiently (yes there is a comfortable, yet energy efficient temperature for ACs). All these actions make cost more money and spend more of the limited energy resources that we have. BTW if you were wondering: leaving appliances on standby consume 5% of maximum power.

I don’t know if I am prepared yet to be carbon-neural, but many schools, and all new Government funded schools in the UK are.

5. I will Avoid the Car if I Can Manage it: Good for health and good for the trees too!

6. I will Re-commit to the reason I became an Educator: Education is the way out of global poverty and out of global violence. Everyone from Adam Smith (“An instructed and intelligent people ..are more disposed to examine, and are more capable of seeing through the interested complaints of faction and sedition. The whole society is at risk when any segment of the population is poorly educated” – from his seminal “Wealth of Nations”) and my eight year old student Harleen (I feel happy when I am at school. If everyone went to school, they would be more smiley and a lot happier)

As Teachers we can help shape the world in brighter hues than we find it today. Every day, every class, every moment spent with a child can be used to fill in him a zest of life, a joy for living, a passion for learning.

I have decided to keep a regular journal, think, reflect and recommit every day to this profession.

7. I will Smile a Lot more: I am sure there is some Psychology paper somewhere that mentions a smiling person as being more attractive, happier, more confident and a delight to be around. I know when I see a smiling person on the street, I break into the biggest smile possible. I’d like to be that way most of the day.

8. I will be more Empathetic: I want to – Say Thank you more often. Send more cards (when was the last time you did?). Say Good Morning. Good Night too. Listen with Genuine Interest. Smile at the newsboy every morning. Buy flowers for home. Call an old teacher. Call an old friend. Answer and help anonymous people who make they way to my inbox I have the time. Give more pats on the back. Say well-done more often. Criticise less. Provide more support.

9. I will Vote: I am ashamed to say that I, like more than half of my countrymen in every election, do not vote. I plan to put this right the next time and only then criticise the government for the ills we find ourselves in.

10. I will revisit this list: Ideas that are written and not implemented are soon forgotten. I am going to tack this to my softboard to make sure I see (if even from the corner of my eye), this everyday. I will try and stick to this. Try not promise, for as Amitabh Bachchan, Indian movie superstar says in his film Sharaabi (The Alcoholic): “Vaade toot jaatein hain, Koshishein Kamiyaab ho Jaati hain” (Promises are broken but efforts often become successful).

I hope that by following this (and some other little things I have jotted down) I can make a small but significant change in my immediate environment and in the World (remember the Hummingbird effect?) I believe that “When we Change the World Changes” and that all of us should attempt to make, in our own little and special ways, this world a nicer place to be in. When that happens, transformation will take place.

As Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Robert Kennedy said this in an impassioned speech in Africa (these are also the last lines of Sachs’ book):

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence…. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”

Do you want to help? (click on the numbers to read)

#1. Visit the Earth Institute’s “How you Can Help” page

#2. Read about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; a report on Universal Primary Education

#3. Tips on Global Warming in the Classroom – educator resources from the Inconvenient Truth website (lesson plans, classroom activities, project ideas et al)

#4. More Educator Resources (including student grants of $500) by the Pay it Forward Foundation

#5. Listen to Imagine, by John Lennon (turn up those speakers!)

#6. How Happy is the World? A map of the world with different shades for countries based on their Happiness Index (UN Data)

#7. Try Blackle.com – It’s the Old Google in New Black Clothes. Apparently booting white pages takes more out of your PC, a black Google page would save the world 750 MW of power. (Thanks Krishnan!)

#8. This one is my favourite: If you haven’t read Desiderata, read it. The best advice on a happier, more fulfilling life I’ve come across.

 

10 things to do

This image above is from the Inconvenient Truth Website (but you knew that!)

How will you change the world? Let me know! I would love to hear what you think.

Are you an Educator? Maybe you use a similar discussion in your classroom?

Read our latests posts here or leave a comment!

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number-of-students-beaten-in-school.jpg

Data from India. Source: The Telegraph

Think of it another way. If you have two kids, it is highly probable that one of them will be beaten while at school.

I don’t know whether the numbers looked at all strata of society and whether the percentage represents number of school going children beaten every school-year or number of children beaten over the course of their school going years.

I don’t think I care. These numbers are terrible in either event.

Further reading:

#1. School children electrocuted in Hyderabad as punishment

 

#2. Factbook on Corporal Education in India (snippet from Delhi School Education Rules, 1973: Rules for caning in schools in the Delhi area of India – if a cane is used, it is supposed to be applied to the palm of the hand, max. 10 strokes)

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This one is a rant.

If you had a student who missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam, what would you do?

I would have probably:

a) Checked with the administrative department on news from home the first time she skipped class.

b) The second time it happened, I would call home.

c) The third time, I would write and inform the Principal.

I wonder if any of these steps were taken by Austin Lampros, Mathematics Teacher in Manhattan when his student Indira Fernandez careened of-course at the Arts & Technology High School.

If he did, what did the school authorities do about it?

Truancy Superhero

Whatever the case may be, I was shocked to read in the New York Times article this morning that the student in question, who had been failed by Mr. Lampros was given perimission to take the exam separately after being coached by another maths teacher for 2 days. After her aggregate score still fell below the pass mark, Mr. Lampros decision was over-ruled and the student promoted by the Principal. Apparently the school has a poliy that all students who turn up for even one class in the term get a minimum of 45 marks (of 100) when 65 are needed to pass.

Mr. Lampros quit.

What it worth it?

I don’t know. The student still graduated. The school still goes on unaffected. Hopefully he will find employment in native Michigan, but knowing the rather conservative administration of schools, I don’t see many jumping enthusiastically to have him working on their team.

Was it the appropriate thing to do?

Maybe. If he had indeed done Steps 1, 2 and 3 I mention above and has reason to believe that Ms. Fernandez’s absences were better categorized under truancy than illness, I can see why he was disillusioned.

Would I do it?

I would have probably brought the walls down if someone skipped 11 of the 14 tests I gave. Matters probably would not have come to head. But assuming Mr. Lampros did create his share of noise and the student was passed only to keep graduation rates soaring, I’d have to side with him. It would probably be the honourable and loyal thing to stick with the school and try and change things from the inside but lets be realists. As rookie teachers, none of us would have had the clout that early in our careers.

Frankly, I could not have worked under a head who I felt had compromised on the reasons for which we become teachers.

If change is what was important, I’d say Mr. Lampros has made a useful first step by talking to the press.

What’s my view on the action taken by the Principal?

This one action has probably seriously jeopardized the culture of the school, plunged the respects students had for her, made the other teachers feel a little distanced from their jobs and seriously undermined the confidence and the will-power of Ms. Fernandez who may never learn to take responsibility for her actions.

If the Principal may be in duress (low graduation rates may mean less money or no job) – the policy makers and boards deserve a swift kick in the pants.

If the Principal did this to cover her own inadequacies in not having discovered Miss Fernansez’s prolonged absences earlier, she is the one who should have quit.

Chivalry notwithstanding, maybe even received the aforementioned kick in the pants.

This is the kind of thing that gets my goat. What do you think? Let me know by writing in the comments section. Thanks.

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(Image courtesy: Comics Reporter)

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Aside: (Don’t forget to read our post on Sexual Harassment in Schools here)

In July 2005, I was to travel to the UK. Then day before I was to leave the London blasts happened.

A few days ago, the day Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister, blasts rattled London yet again.

Security was raised to ‘Critical’ status and again reams of newsprint were devoted to finer intelligence gathering, national security and a consequence of this, a loss of privacy. Fingerprinting of citizens has been debated around the world since 9/11 happened six years ago, and to date remains unimplementable because of the huge public outcry against it.

I was surprised then to know that in the UK, increased security, lower ID costs and quicker queues in libraries and canteens have been driving a nation-wide finger-printing exercise at schools, in many cases, withour parental consent. Schools have been implementing this, led by governmental mandate and subsidy carrots.

 

big brother is watching you

I want to point you to a post on this by Jonathan Calder who writes:

 

“Schools maintain databases (mirrored on government servers) store 300 bytes of data that form a map of each child’s fingerprint. So you can see the danger that children’s data will be stolen or haunt them years later.”

and

 

“… they are silent on parental consent. Many of the 3,500 schools took prints without consent. Children as young as five have had their dabs taken on the pretext of a game of spies.”

 

Two different worlds in the same country. Weird.

Further Reading: Have a look at “Leave the Kids Alone” – a UK website against government fingerprinting in schools. They present comprehensive data, though, quite obviously it has a strong anti-fingerprinting bias.

They rally against fingerprinting for the common reasons: irreversible identity theft and children losing value of their ‘identity’.

A YouTube video on their site calls Fingerprinting a Social Control Experiment- very Orwellian, very 1984. A little grave for my taste, but worth a watch.

 

 

As far as I am concerned, I wonder why fingerprinting is necessary at all- at least for cutting queues and issuing library books. Why can’t the school just use plain smart cards? Provide incentive for keeping the cards safe (and lowering re-issue hassle) by tagging a high cost for a duplicate card.

However, if fingerprinting were to come to ID and some men in robes turned up to ID my kids, i’d probably say yes. After all, the next time they travel to the Unites States, Uncle Sam will ID them anyway. Better our government then theirs.

(image courtesy: rit.edu)

 

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