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.