Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our kids are our most precious resource....

First, I was written to by a woman who writes an excellent blog on colleges on line.  She asked me to peruse her blog and I did.  Much good information to high school students who are about to go to college as well as those already in college.  However, it also gave good information about colleges on-line.  I do think the future of college education may well be a combination of campus work as well as on-line courses.  Our lives are quite complex these days with family chores and responsibilities, work (with sometimes odd hours) and education.  How to manage all this is difficult at best.  So if you fit this window, take a look at  Stacy Young has much good information and advice.   ( 

I am forever wondering when we will get some good news on education.  Mr. Obama has been talking about the country about how we have to make teachers accountable and that unions must get in line.  Then I read that the District of Columbia has fired 276 teachers "who were not performing."  How sad.  But on the flip side, that school district in Rhode Island that had fired all of its high school teachers has hired them all back with the statement that the teachers have agreed to work harder and do tutorial work after school.    I wish I knew the whole story--something doesn't seem correct here.  

I know I have written about Linda Perlstein's very excellent book, Tested: One American School Struggles To Make The Grade  (copyright 2007).  While there are many variables in measuring how a school is doing, one has to measure the quality of the community, the desires of the local society, the morale of the teaching force, the support of the administration, particularly the principal and the support of the parents.  There are still other variables that need to be measured such as the up-to-dateness of the textbooks, the number of computers and technology available to the students and faculty, and the quality of the school itself.  I'll tell you what!  I will volunteer to "test" the Bellevue High Schools (all of them) and I bet I get a high test school from each of them. Why?  Because the community wants good schools, they want good teachers and respect them, and they have much in the way of technology.  Their school buildings are enjoyable to look at and to enter.  And I suspect in some cases they make the students design and create their own textbooks so that they can stay up-to-date.  But Bellevue has money and it passes bonds to support their schools.  You don't hear anyone in that city saying we need to "reform" our schools.  What you do hear is the realtors saying, "move here, we have good schools."

I'm sorry Mr. President but you are entirely wrong about how to address the educational needs in this country.  I'm sorry.  You graduated from a private (and exclusive ) school in Hawaii, you put your children in a private (and exclusive) school in Washington, DC and then you criticizes the K-12 schools for not doing their work.  Not cool.  Our teachers are working hard to teach our children.  

A lot of elementary schools do not have a suitable library for the kids to use.  When I started teaching fifth grade we had NO library.  Books were placed in the classrooms and each couple of months were taken back and exchanged with other rooms.  We did not have more then sixty books in the room.  So I talked the County Book Mobile to come to our school to serve the neighborhood and by chance my classroom.  I made arrangements that my class would come down at a certain time so as not to get in the way of adults who would be using the mobile library bus.  My kids thought this was the greatest thing--bringing them books to read.  And I being a con man at heart would check out not only books for me but I would select some young adult books that I thought looked interesting.  I remember one titled "The Blue Grotto,"  about a family on the isle of Capri which I enjoyed but had to share with the class as well. 

What we'd do when we got our books from the bus was to return back to our classroom and I had scheduled forty or fifty minutes of silent reading.  It gave the kids time to skim through the books or to actually start one of them.  I would walk around the classroom asking different kids what books they had chosen.  As a bunch they had a wide interest from motorcycles to pets to travels.  After about ten minutes or so, I stopped the class and ask some of them to share what books they had chosen.  You could hear a lot of.... "Can I borrow that when you're done?"  I enjoyed hearing about what they had as much as the other kids did as well.  Yes, I did borrow some of their books when they were done with them too.  Some had found interesting books.

I worried about the book mobile librarians (two) that we were taking too much of their time but they said this was their highlight of their week. The kids were excited and were looking forward to seeing them and it turned out in a number of cases, the librarians brought special books for some of my kids.  

But some years later when talking to some of my ex-students they mentioned that those book days with the book mobile were exciting times and that they learned to appreciate recreational reading.  Most of the reading in class was to "learn" something but this was one special time when you read for fun.  It made learning to read more valuable.  Wellwhatdoyouknow?  That's the Affective Domain.  A value.  

Having about sixty books in the classroom was not exciting.  My fast readers would be through that in no time.  A year or so after I had arranged for the book mobile to come to our school, the district built a library across from the office.  Not very large but useable.  And we hired a librarian who made sure we got the books back on time.  Somehow the excitement of the book mobile went missing.

My sincere thanks to the bookmobile librarians who helped teach my kids.  And to all those teachers who make learning exciting as well as making it a value to our children.  You're a great bunch of teachers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things to learn in the affective domain

In our last blog we agreed that learning to read was an essential skill for our young children.  It helps if Mom and/or Dad read to their children before they entered school....but still, learning to read is very important.  And learning to write is right up there too.  I've watched youngsters learn to print their name and the delight they have when they get one example that everyone can read. "That's Me!"  

Then there are numbers and what they mean.  Children have a sense of numbers when they come to school but we teachers have to get that concept organized and in a useable format.  Adding and subtracting is a skill that needs teaching.

But we have a lot of children now in the schools from foreign lands who do not speak English.  Most kids pick up a second language quickly and pretty soon sound like natives.  But English needs to taught to some children.  I was teaching music in an elementary school when a family from Italy came to our town.  Their Dad had come to work at Boeings.   They had six children, five of which entered the elementary school that I was teaching at.  The sixth grader could speak some English and became the de facto interpreter.  The chatter in the Teachers' room was that while the children were learning English, the teachers were learning a smattering of Italian.  

Except in Kindergarten.  That little guy was a holy terror.  He didn't listen and in general ran havoc through the room taking toys away from others, ripping paper up, turning chairs over and throwing things across the room.  I forgot the kindergarten teacher's name but she had lovely blond hair and she was in danger of losing that in bunches.  She was doing her best.  

Every so often this little squirt would start crying and his crying was at the top of his lunges.  He was loud!  You could hear him throughout the wing of that school when he cried and someone would have to go and get his sixth grade brother to come down and explain why he was crying.  This happened at least twice a day.

One day he had one of his special crying sprees and the Kindergarten teacher had had enough.  She took him by the hand and marched him to the school office.  She told me later that she had other children to teach and she was spending most of her time with "him."  She sat him on a chair in the outer office and left.

He continued to cry although not as loud.  But if anyone came into the office he'd let out another bellow at top volume.  Finally the secretary who had raised four children of her own had also had enough and got up and started to put the little tyke across her knee.  I suspect he knew what was about to happen for he suddenly said in English, "I be good.  I be good."  And he was.  He returned to the Kindergarten room and behaved quite well and he learned to speak English.  

But as we teach reading, the numbers, speaking, writing....oops, I forgot spelling.  If we're going to write words we should know how to spell them correctly wunt u tnk so??   But we teach other things in our schools besides cognition.  We teach community values--the affective domain.

Recently I read about a school that made a major effort to teach friendliness, helpfulness, being nice to others as a major goal of that school.  And if I remember correctly problems between the students dropped by over half.  Kids learned to get along...better?

In recent years I've heard from teachers in the elementary schools say that kids are more aggressive these days.  I think I have the answer why.  We now hire playground aids who supervise the playgrounds.  And I think they let a lot more aggressive behavior happen then when teachers were on playground duty.  I disliked playground duty as it meant that I didn't get my morning coffee break but I did understand the importance of "being on duty."  As I walked around my section of the playground, I'd spot some kids picking on another and just by walking over toward them would stop the unwanted behavior.  Those doing the picking on knew what good behavior was and would quit before I got there.  Sometimes you could do it just with a stare--the teacher would look over at some kids and frown and then everything would be okay.  But sometimes I had to break up a fight and I quickly learned not to ask who started it but to make both parties go to their room and sit down.  Probably unfair, but it also made an impression on the rest of the kids.  

Now a special announcement for this fall's beginning teachers   Learn to get angry or mad before you get angry or mad.  Yup.  When you're at home, go into the bathroom and look into the mirror and shout, "I DON'T WANT ANY MORE OF THIS, DO YOU HEAR!"  Really shout.  "I'VE HAD ENOUGH--NO MORE!" Do this several times.  Come on you can act.  Make it real.  And watch your face.  Make it look upset.  I want you to practice this for at least ten minutes.  And whatever you do, don't laugh.  I'm serious.  It is silly and you'll want to giggle or laugh but remain tough!

Then when something happens in class you'll have the behavior ready to go.  You'll surprise your self.  Also practice standing with your arms across your chest and just look--really stare.  That's another good technique.  Use this one with the words, "I'm waiting."  Say that softly.

Some of my colleagues in the academic world will say this might work with the elementary kids but not in high school.  I disagree.  When I was filling in for the high school music teacher who was ill, I bought a dozen or so batons from a music store for a couple of bucks.  They were cheap.  Made of bamboo, they were fairly long with a cork end to them.  I would be in the process of having the band play a particular passage and something would not go correctly and I would tell them how it should be played.  But band at eleven in the morning right before lunch is a hard one sometimes to get the kids attention.  And we'd play that particular section over and over.  Finally, I'd say in a loud voice, 'No. That is not correct!" and I crack the baton over the music stand and break it.  Very effective.  Then I would make a show of going into the office and getting a new baton.  The pause was good, for when I'd get back and raise the baton, and say, "same section" and we'd play it and it would be correct this time.   Later on I talk on how to focus would sometimes be worth my time with the older kids.  They were learning things beyond reading and writing. It's an attitude to learn. 

Thanks to all those teachers who ponce on poor student behavior before it gets out of hand.  Nice going...teach.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How Much is Nothing?

[First some housekeeping issues and an apology.  A couple of you wrote that you did not like the white on black background.  I was trying to emulate a blackboard type of presentation.  Apparently blackboards work best in classrooms and not on blogs.  But my apology is for the changing fonts that happens at times in the blogs.  I don't know what is causing it and at times I seem to not be able to fix it. I've looked at Google help section and it doesn't help me.  So for the moment, let us try a new setting and see how that goes.  Thanks for your patients]

If I remember correctly I was in a first grade classroom teaching some music to the kids and was attempting to show beats in a measure of a song.  Now that i think of it, I was probably over their head--too soon for this type of instruction.  But I remember explaining the beats and counting through several measures.  At one point I came to a rest and said that there is no music on a rest.  It is nothing.  A hand went up and someone asked me, "How much is a nothing?"  I had misspoken and implied that a rest was nothing when indeed it does have a value.  I don't remember how I got out of this mess but we ended up singing which is what they liked to do.

But I have thought of that question over the years.  "How much is nothing?"  I was enamored to find in an early philosophy class that there was quite a to-do when philosophers and mathematicians (not much difference between the two long ago) agreed that nothing had value and a place.  What an interesting concept.

I tell you this little tale by way of an introduction of a suggestion that along with learning to read we need to teach the numbers--from nothing to a gadzillion to our children.  It is another way to communicate which our children need to learn.  And many do learn elements of numbers.  "How old are you?  I'm five."  "No you may not have a fourth cookie!"  "When you're sixteen and that's final."  Yes, we do pass on the rudiments of numbers, counting, time, and some calculations before the child gets to school.  We need to teach our children at an early age the value of numbers and arithmetic.

LIke the teaching of reading, the teaching of numbers is the process of putting meaning to an abstraction.  What does the symbol "5" mean to a five year old?  That little one doesn't remember five distinct years but she/he has been told that they are "five" years old.  And we count on their fingers until we get to five and the pinky.  They can now make an association with one hand and their age when the question comes at them.  It is a beginning.

I propose that teaching reading and numbers (or arithmetic) should be the initial subjects taught to our children.  Both are abstractions that have to be taught by association unlike speaking and listening which are acquired by association alone.  We may need to teach new words to our kids but they first come to school with an established vocabulary already.

Hmmmm.  I'm making an assumption here that may not be correct.  What if a child comes to school and only knows Spanish.  Now what?  So I guess we have to first teach listening and speaking words and forming associations of what those words mean.  Major mistake in my thinking here.....

Okay, so now we have to teach reading, writing, numbers and arithmetic and speaking and listening in English.  There is good research that suggests that perhaps teaching in the family language at first is better for the child as they learn learning skills.  I've not had experience with that problem--all my kids spoke English, sometimes at the same time!

I tell my readers that there are a number of methods of teaching reading, each method touts itself as the proper way.  And believe me, I don't want to get into the quagmire of how to teach arithmetic.....although much of that discussion tends to be directed at the more advance subjects in mathematics.  I've already ticked off several professors of mathematics who favor either the rote method or the other method of discovery.   I hope you will bare with me and just agree that we need to teach our children some form of mathematics that will give them good confidence in later life.  Agree?

The more I write of what subject to teach our children, the more I want to thank the primary teachers (kindergarten, first and second grades) for the work that they do.  Amazing.  My life as a fourth and fifth grade teacher was made much easier because of the work of these primary teachers.  Thank you all.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Is The First Thing We Should Teach In A School?

Following John Dewey's thinking about how we transfer knowledge from one generation to another--from the older to the young, we might start at the very beginning and examine what should we teach our children?  Let's fantasy play like they do in sports.  Let's say you have five six year olds who have never had any schooling.  Perhaps you are home schooling for the neighborhood or maybe you're a teacher in a remote school somewheres.  Where do you start?

What should we teach our children first?  Reading comes to mind because with the knowledge of how to read one can then learn about other subjects.  I could teach farming or fishing but once learned we come to a stopping point.  We could learn music or painting but the same thing happens.  Once we achieve success in THAT subject we find our way stymied in other areas.  Arithmetic could be a beginning subject and lord knows one could study mathematics for years, but reading is a part of arithmetic as well so we're back to reading an the initial subject.  As a society we use reading as the tool to learn other subjects.  So how do we start to teach reading?

I would suspect most trained teachers would gather the flock around her and then would read a story.  Any childrens' story would do that has pictures.  I would hope that these five children have been read to at home by their parents or siblings.  But never-the-less,  the teacher needs to establish a reason for learning.  Why learn to read?  Perhaps to enjoy other books like the teacher just read, to be able to emulate the teacher, to feel smart.

Reading is primarily a cognitive objective (do you remember my discussion of the three types of objectives in learning?).  At first it is a skill to recognize those strange shapes called "letters."  But then the skill is to put those letters together to form "words."  And from words come sentences and from sentences comes paragraphs.  There are psycho-motor skills in reading--knowing how to hold a book, or be able to make our eyes go back to the beginning of the next sentence.  And there are affective objectives as well that one has to acquire--the feeling of satisfaction of completing a story or finding the right sign while traveling.  "I got it!"

There was a private school in Bellevue (Washington) that use to hire only teachers who could speak not only English but another language as well and that fifty percent of the students' learning had to be in that other language.  So one day one might teaching reading in English and the next day in French.  I've always wonder how that worked out.  The school maintained very small classes, ten to fifteen students per class so it might have worked out well.

I also wonder about learning to read on computer screens.  Have today's children who have had the advantage of computers in the home become faster learners?  I would love to study this some more.

Here is another interesting facet of learning how to read.  Let's take the letter "T".  Or the letter "t".  Or the letter "t". Or the letter "T".  My point being that the beginning learner has to understand (cognition) that the letter "T" comes in different sizes and shapes.  Have you ever seen a small child who suddenly understands this concept?  Oh my what a delight.  Then they want to point out every letter that is the same and different.  It is a beautiful thing to behold.....watching a child learn something.  This is what teachers live for.  And in the teacher's mind, she/he is already selecting the next objective needed in that learning sequence.  And we want to move that learning from "immediate memory" to "long term memory."  So we start...  "Do you remember what we learned yesterday?  Who can find a letter "T" on this page?"  And we move on.  Such little baby steps of learning until we reach the giant steps of Plato and Dewey.

So do we agree that learning to read should be among the first things we teach our children?   It is a good start.

And thanks to all those reading teachers who started so many of us on the exciting world of knowledge.  You have much patience and deserve our thanks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Special Announcement

Each summer the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers hold separate delegate conventions to plan lobbying efforts for the coming year.  They listen to speakers, hold panels and the best part, talk to other teachers.  The southern states tend to have the same representatives and state presidents year after year while the northern and western states have different teachers occupying the leadership roles.  

I was the co-chair of the NEA convention when it came to Seattle in 1964.  One of the traditions of the convention is that there was alway some local university or college where teachers could go after the convention to take classes and look to the future.  It was their vacation.  In 1964 we picked Western Washington State College (now university) to be that place.  That was my first introduction to this institution that resides in the far northwest of the State of Washington.  About an hour from the great cities of Seattle and Vancouver, BC, it is a beautiful place situated between the snow capped peak of Mount Baker and the enticing San Juan and Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea (look it up).  Don't come.

The (Paul) Woodring College of Education (WWU) has the honor of having Dr. Lorraine Kasprisin, professor of education in Foundations.  She is a wonderful colleague and a good friend who has her own blog titled: The Journal of Educational Controversy (goto:  She left a message on this blog that she had just published Diane Ravitch's speech to this year's NEA convention.  I just read it.  Professor Ravitch and I have been on opposite sides of the educational forums for years but I have to admit with this speech, we're on the same page.  

Both Lorraine Kasprisin and Diane Ravitch are better writers than I am but we all agree that K-12 teachers are a backbone of American society.  I hope you will read the more recent blog in The Journal of Educational controversy.  It's good.

And thanks to Lorraine for ever pushing me to learn and understand.  You're a great teacher.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Teaching our Children--a Continuation

Two articles this week that have me thinking--perhaps more then they should. The first article was written Michael Winerip and was published in the New York Times (July 11, 2010), entitled, A Chosen Few are Teaching For America. In an informative piece, Winerip reports that a number of graduates from prestigious universities are NOT being chosen to become a teacher in the Teach for America program.  One rejected graduate had to settle for her second choice, a Fullbright scholarship.  Another rejection will be going the University of Virginia's Law School.  Apparently, being accepted to Teach for America is harder than being accepted to an Ivy League grad school.

Now as far as my limited inquiries (not research) have gone, most if not all of the people accepted for Teach for America are not education majors.  Their goals seem to be business, law, international relations and politics.  I do not have firm data on this last bit of information.  But I was looking to see how many of those accepted wanted to be a teacher.  I found nothing to support this concept.  I did sense that the beginning salary of a teacher in those districts that Teach for America had a program was an inducement, about $45,000 dollars for a beginning salary.  Also it may be an inducement to have this type of work experience on your resume.  

Winerip writes, "Research indicates that generally, the more experienced teachers are, the better their students perform, and several studies have criticized Teach for America's turnover rate."

Okay, I'm miffed.  Why is it if you come from an Ivy League School it is assumed that you will be a superior teacher?  And how does this improve education in general?  What is Teach for America trying to prove?  That anyone can be a teacher?  I don't think so.

One of the areas that education majors have to take, learn and understand is the curriculum.  Yes, you can teach elements of physics to a kindergarten child but it must, must be in a manner that that child can understand.  On the flip side, you can teach physics to a high school science class as well but in an entirely different manner.  We have two entirely different organisms that we're dealing with--one a five or six year old just learning to learn and the other, a fifteen, sixteen or seventeen year old who knows they are sophisticated and smart and have little idea of what physics is about.  This is what an education major starts to learn--how to approach learners.  

The problem with Teach for American is that they are giving the people they accept two years of on the job training.  I don't want that for my K-12 students! They deserve better.  They deserve a teacher from an accredited College of Education.  Education graduates have an understanding of what we need to teach our children and maybe have some idea of how to get started teach the curriculum on day one.  That is the classroom I want my grandchildren in.....

I'm still in a pondering mode on the second article by Nick Anderson of the Washington Post.  The article is entitled, "Gates Foundation puts its stamp on education,"  [disclaimer: I have met Bill Gates once--liked his book about the future.  I also met Bill Gates Sr., had a discussion with him about principals and technology.  Very small man.  I like him.]  The problem as I see it is that money and lots of it can bring us to strange places.  

At the moment the Gates' Foundation is giving money to school districts and schools with an eye to evaluating teachers and effectiveness.  They have a formula for this evaluation of looking 40 percent student evaluations, 30 percent principal evaluation and 30 percent peer evaluations.  I'm not on board as yet.  I think we need to also have some sort of evaluation of the community in which this school resides.  This formula will work in Bellevue where Mr. Gates, Jr. lives.  But I doubt if it would work in a small farming community where there is basically a very low tax base.  I don't think it will work.

But something in Mr. Anderson's article did catch my eye.  The Gates Foundation is giving money to support the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the so-called unions.  Yes, there are strings attached to the money but what a break through....   I have long contended that the unions (I prefer to call them associations as in the Washington Education Association) are not the problem and not the cause of poor evaluations of the schools.  I may be wrong here about those schools that are under the control of a mayor as in New York City.  I have not studied this to any degree but my sense is this is another ball game entirely.  

I was once the president of a local education association.  Maybe three hundred teachers in a small community outside of Seattle.  If I remember correctly, no one else wanted the job and I got it.  About ninety-five percent of the teachers were members of the association.  Mostly because they received teaching insurance from the state association and that they could become members of a credit union.  Banks didn't like teachers even though in my district the bank president was a member of the school board.  So here I am president of the teachers' association.  What was my job?  

My first step was to go see the superintendent.  He had hired me several years earlier as a music teacher.  We were friends.  Not close but friends never-the-less.  I told him that I was the new president--he congratulated me and said what were we going to do this year?  I mentioned that I would like to improve the education of our students.  He liked the goal and proceeded to outline a possible plan of what the school board might do, what his office might and could do, and what the teachers' association might do.  We tweaked it a bit and I bought it.  We shook hands and proceeded to get started.  He wanted somethings and I wanted somethings.  My wants were a pay raise--we hadn't had one is several years.  But I also wanted to see more effort of cooperation between schools so that we would be all on the same page so to speak in our curriculum.  So the association started a number of curriculum committees to address what we were teaching and where it fit into the curriculum.  The teachers were happy with this push and although it was an added task many were happy with it.  They didn't know at the time about the proposed pay raise--that would come later.  We essentially organized our curriculum and presented it to the school board who was quite satisfied with the project.  The pay raise went though without a negative vote.  It was a win-win year.  Unions or Associations don't have to be opponents.

By the way, the five or so percent of the teachers that were not members of the education association were for the most part new teachers who could not afford the membership dues.  Beginning pay was low enough and they were struggling for the most part.  There were a few teachers who didn't join just because they never joined anything.  You get those in any profession.

So I applaud the Gates Foundation for this effort to support education associations.  Smart move.  I'm still not a fan of the teacher evaluation program though...  As usual I think just supporting what we have and encouraging the teachers (and associations) will produce the biggest gains in education for students.

Yes, yes, next time more on the curriculum.  It is a tough subject.

Many thanks to all those teachers who serve on curriculum committees, school policy committees and the like.  It comes out of your hide but you do it anyway for the betterment of children.  Thanks.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What skills and knowledge does the child of the 21st Century need?

One of the things that has bothered me these past number of years is the use of the word "reform".  The dictionary states that reform is the "changes in something to improve it."  But one of the things that bothers me is that the word "reform" implies that something is bad or broken.  I have to agree that in many instances the public education has not done its job.  We have minorities, the poor, and recent immigrants not getting a fair shake in education.  But then I think, "many of all our kids in schools are not getting a fair shake."  Schools that need repair and some that are just plain old and need to be replaced.  And many schools do not have enough books, textbooks, supplies, and teacher's desks.  

I know, given our economy today it is very hard for politicians to fund the public schools.  It bothers me.  The rich folk in our society are quietly sending their children to private schools--those schools apparently are doing well.  I have not done any research into the health of private schools but I have not read in the journals and on the web of any private schools having financial troubles.  

But, on the whole, I think a definition of reform ought to include "to get back to normal."  Most uses of the word "reform" tend to suggest ways of saving money when it comes to public education.   Pity.  John Dewey states that one purpose of education of the young is to advance society.  If all  of us old timers die off and we will in time, someone has to carry the burden of knowledge forward and that burden will fall on our children.  It is my opinion that "improving education will improve society."  How come you're not shocked at my statement?  You know me that well, eh?  Dewey thinks so as well.

So we return to the question of what our children should learn.  I've already cautioned that if return to the "traditional" schooling of the past, we will be endangered of throwing out the new of today.  How much of the new technologies should we be teaching?  And how much of it will be outdated before we get to teach it?  Fun stuff.

Here is a conundrum for you.  At my college of education at a regional university my department of Instructional Technology debated how to teach the computer.  OR were we really teaching software?   And in the state that has Microsoft headquarters do we teach Apple software?  I have heard teachers say they have to use Microsoft software because the Superintendent is afraid if they are using Apple software, the district might not be eligible for Microsoft grants.  Which software should we teach?  Both?  Now the problem becomes how much theory as apposed to practical stuff.  I glad to say my department decided to teach all software regardless of who produced it and to point out to our wanna-be teachers what constitutes a good software program.  The theory would have to wait until they the teachers had enough background to formulate their own theories.  

I think one of the biggest problems facing teachers is the use of Facebook, Twitter, e-mails,  Skype and whatever else came out this morning to bedazzle us.  

When e-mail was first developing--it hadn't yet become the necessity as it is today, a local radio show host e-mailed a teacher in one of our local schools and was indigent that the e-mail was not answered that day!  Indeed, it was not answered for several days.  But we heard about that on the radio.  "That's the trouble with schools today--teachers don't answer their e-mails."  I wondered at the time how many e-mails that teacher got each day?  As a high school teacher she might have gotten a number from each class she taught.  If she has classes of twenty students, can we assume eight from each class might ask a question about an assignment or just wanted to "talk" to the teacher?  Let's say, five classes times eight is forty e-mails each day.  But you also have papers to grade and lessons to prepare.  Now let us add to this mix some e-mails from parents and a radio show host.  I am concerned.  How can we handle this in public education?  

I did a radio show for two years.  Half hour on parenting.  Actually it turned out mostly about the education of raising kids.  It was hard work.  I couldn't be late as I might be to a class.  Radio starts on time and HAS to go for the length of time scheduled.  But after the show was over I had time to think, to answer phone calls, to prepare for the next day show.  It wasn't the continued pressure of teaching.  I was upset with the talk show host about e-mails.  But it is a continued problem for teachers.

Mike Rose, who is a professor (by the way, he is one of the more erudite and common sense writers in education.  I like him) at UCLA who is looking into the skills and knowledge necessary for the "Twenty first century" finds that many of our skills are really really old ones restated.  Rose points out that Aristotle promoting "evaluating sources and synthesizing information."  We want that today, don't we.  

We'll continue to look at what our children should learn in future blogs.  It is a complex but fascinating study.

Sort of an after thought here--I see another advantage to having students communicate by digital form.  When we receive the message we don't know if that person is black, white, yellow, pink or blue, do we?  What a thought.....delightful.  

My best to all those teachers who are taking the time to respond to their students by e-mail.  What a hard working bunch of teachers you are.  Thanks.