Parent Back to School (Curriculum) Night

Although, I am much more comfortable speaking in front of students, the “back-to-school-curriculum-nights” where you have to talk to parents has become a little easier.

My cohort and I focused less on the details of the curriculum, but more on the importance of how each child is different, and how we try and help each child achieve to their own maximum potential. We also focused on how important it is for these kids to reach this goal as a team and learn to solve problems together.

At all ages in elementary school, kids’ social and emotional well being must come first. They have to feel they are in a safe enough environment to take risks, fail once in a while, and learn from those mistakes. They also have to learn that they can learn together, by working together, interacting, and lifting each other up.

Our job on curriculum night is not only to announce the curriculum to the parents (they can read those), but to convince them that their children are going to be nurtured, safe, and happy first. As teachers, like parents, we invest a lot of emotional labor. Most teachers usually refer to their class by saying, “My kids _______.”

I think our job at curriculum night is to make sure parents understand that we are on the same team, and that we all want what’s in their child’s best interest. We may not always agree, but we strive to help these kids grow and flourish. I hope we managed to do some of that tonight.


Study: Teacher Bonuses Don’t Improve Test Scores : NPR

Study: Teacher Bonuses Don’t Improve Test Scores : NPR.

If you look at the recent studies behind motivation, the results of this study shouldn’t be surprising. As long as teachers (or other professionals) are being paid enough, the old factory model of bonuses doesn’t seem to be working as well in todays world.

This is true in business, where you see people laid off or given bonuses based on how well they did in a particular quarter, resulting in the long- term vision of the company being hindered.

Caring and believing in what you do and the people you do it with (be it colleagues or students) lead to growth. And that growth should not solely be measured by test scores. They are a quick way to collect data, but should be used with other measuring tools.

It Begins

Today, the teachers finally had access to the new school building to set up their classrooms. Honestly, I was excited and overwhelmed. At this point, we can’t put up anything on the walls yet, but arranging the furniture, emptying boxes, and putting stuff away can cause momentary paralysis. Where to start?

Setting up a classroom is one of the things teachers begin to do about this time of year. It’s only day one, but I had to set mini goals just to put a dent into it. “Empty at least ten boxes,” my cohort and I told ourselves. We did much more than that and still, when I was done (see photo below), it looked like the room had hardly been touched. Oh well, round 2 tomorrow.

Are You Clever or Kind?

I struggle between the success of (being a Seattlite) and the evolution (disappearance) of independent bookstores. I’m in a zipcode where I can order groceries delivered to my door by Amazon or use their new Amazon Tote program (free delivery by their own trucks and you don’t need their $25 minimum for free shipping). However you feel about and its founder Jeff Bezos, I think he gives a very meaningful speech at Princeton. Skip his introduction and being at about 6 minutes and 30 seconds for Jeff’s speech.

“Knowledge is the most democratic source of power.”

That was said by Alvin Toffler. Jumping back to the book the Third Teacher, 7th chapter is entitled Learning for All. Every child is different. Get to know them well and do it sooner rather than later. Words matter. “Universal Design is much better than “Accessoble Design.” Create an environment for all learners. I read a book by Lou Pepper (former CEO of WAMU -when it was doing alright) and he mentioned when all things are equal you hire for diversity. If your staff is mostly African American, and three candidates are all equally qualified, he suggested you hire the one that makes your company or organization more diverse. I guess the same is with admissions and schools. While there is a lot of debate on single gendered schools, or schools that test kids to get in, I feel lucky that we admit a wide variety. Teaching in an independent school makes it difficult to get lower income families, but with our generous financial aid, hopefully more will happen. There are still no families with two moms or two dads and much fewer people of color. Nonetheless, our school is trying and after all, it’s Seattle.

Breaking down social barriers, both in parents and students is a difficult task, but one that has many rewards. I’m not sure how independent schools do when lobbying polititians, but I may have to try for some iphones and kindles.

One thing our school does well is its commitment to service learning. A few posts back, I mentioned a few of my favorite outdoor spaces. Our school has taken on the task  of stewarding a part of a large park in Seattle. Little kids pull invasive plants like black berries, mulch fields, and plant trees. all the while having fun.

In the end school should feel like an extension of home.

Sorry for not posting links and pictures, but I’m fading and just wanted to get this out. Thanks.

Don’t Touch!

That’s perhaps words that children hear all too often. But really, children should touch as much as they can. By design, we use all our senses to discover new things and learn. Chapter 6 of The Third Teacher is titled “Realm of the Sensess. It’s ideas are as follows:

Number 58 is a great one. One of my colleagues loves taking off her shoes and I can only imagine with the new building and its radiant heat, there will be plenty of opportunity for that. People may give her a hard time about it, but I think soon many will follow her lead. We sometimes don’t recognize nor explore all of our senses.

I feel fortunate enough that we are going to have a garden of our own and that the kids will get to grow, graph, measure, and of course eat. This type of learning uses every sense.