"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Random Thoughts on the Occasion of My 10th Blogoversary

...which is tomorrow.

Here are some random thoughts about learning, education, and other things...with a few quotes sprinkled throughout. FWIW...
  • "Lazy" students are most likely students who have given up. If there's one argument in favor of investing more in early-child education and early intervention, then this is it. It's much easier to keep a child going with successful experiences than to get a child to "restart" after they have failed and given up.
  • Misbehavior is often a cover up for academic difficulties. It's much easier to choose to be a behavior problem than it is to accept that learning is difficult and risk being labeled as "stupid."
  • Despite the chronological gap between the students I taught in 1975-1976 and the students I taught in 2015-2016, the needs of the children were the same. They wanted – and want – to learn, to be accepted for who they are, and to be loved.
  • Reflective teachers never stop learning. I have never considered myself a "master teacher" because I recognize my own inabilities and weaknesses. I don't believe that I ever "mastered" teaching. Each day there were things I could have done better.
  • "...it is the struggle itself that is most important...It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards..." – Data in The Offspring


  • Criticism is worthwhile. Ask trusted colleagues for it, then accept it and use it to improve.
  • "For years we’ve been told from Wall Street entrepreneurs that we don’t need more money for these inner-city schools, we just need the same management techniques that they use on Wall Street. They say, “You can’t throw money at this problem.” But they are the ones who pull their kids out of the public school system and put them in Exeter and Andover, which now costs about $50,000 a year, or the people who live in the rich suburbs who spend $24,000 on their public schools, almost twice as much as children in New York. They say you can’t throw money at the problem, but I say it seems to work for their kids." – Jonathan Kozol An Interview with Educator and Activist Jonathan Kozol
  • Every student can learn. However, expecting that every student will learn the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way, is unreasonable. Human beings don't grow on a set schedule. We all didn't learn to walk on the 3,000 day of life and not everyone will learn to read in First Grade Kindergarten. Those who expect uniformity in child development should stay out of the classroom. Those who demand uniformity in student achievement should keep their policies out of public education. Students are not widgets. Education is not a business.


  • Every student is different. The strength of a classroom is in the diversity of its students. One way for humans to outgrow the damaging tribalism which has been responsible for most of the wars in human history is to bring together our children to play and learn.  We should celebrate and encourage infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
  • "When people have said 'poverty is no excuse,' my response has been, 'Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'" – Gerald Bracey, Parents, Poverty and Achieving in School
  • It's well established that children need a safe place in order to learn. No one can learn if they're afraid. The same goes for the adults in school. Teachers need a safe place to teach. Bullies don't belong in the classroom, the school office, or the central office.
  • Things I miss in today's schools: cursive writing, typewriters, card catalogues, and paper based reference materials (aka World Book Encyclopedia).
  • "Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride...When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle." – Jim Langford in The Cub Fan's Guide to Life, 1984


  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children...It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” – 1983 Commission on Reading. Reading aloud is more important than standardized tests, test-prep, work sheets, homework, book reports, flash cards...
  • Teachers, you won't be able to "finally get caught up" until the end of the school year. There's too much to do and not enough time to do it. Until a better way comes to American education, teachers will have to accept that fact and prioritize.
  • Teachers, there won't be enough money for public education until the American people, through their leaders, give it a higher priority. It's the future of the nation. Public school students are the future leaders of the country. We're a nation of selfish, shortsighted people only thinking about "mine" and "now." We need to invest in our future...in public education.
  • If you retain a student in grade you're increasing to 60% the chance that he will drop out. Obviously no teacher can force a student to learn, but we need to reach students before they fail. Students need early intervention, wraparound services, and attention to the causes of their learning problems, rather than the reaction of retention. Policy makers can help by funding Pre-K education, early intervention programs, and support services. Which child isn't worth the money?
  • "Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" – Isaac Asimov
  • My first students are now adults in their late 40s. I can see how they impact the community. Teachers, quite literally, have the future of the nation in their classrooms. Today's difficult student might one day make a contribution to national defense, the national economy, or an advancement in medicine.


  • "History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less-developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference might be, the results are invariably disastrous." – Picard in Symbiosis
  • One's skill as a teacher, while important, is secondary to one's ability to understand and relate to children. My greatest successes as a teacher were with those students whose hearts I was able to touch. My greatest failure – and one stands out more than all the rest – was with the student I couldn't reach because I couldn't relate to him.
  • Technology is not "the answer." It's a tool. The same goes for educational trends like...brain training, phonics vs. whole language, multi-graded classrooms, project-based learning, and new math. Those techniques and concepts, and others like them, might be helpful for some students some times, but they are just tools. I'm more and more convinced that the "answer" is found in the relationship between teacher and student.
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