On Views of Education: Vol. 2 – Change

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As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. A person described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was the voice in the wilderness. I spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. You may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own so I’ve numbered them only for reference.

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Today’s Topic: Educational Change
1) Change is a journey, not a blueprint. Change is loaded with uncertainty, difficulties, and excitement. Change is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy. In the difficult times of change, three keys are necessary to keep the process moving toward the vision: the presence of a vision, support, and encouragement. Because education reacts to immediate needs, it has a long tradition of short sidedness, education lacks the long-term commitment that is necessary to implement change. So let’s embrace following further behind society.

2) I’m not pro-teacher, not pro-student, not pro-community, and for God’s sake not pro-administrator … but I am pro-outcomes and pro-processes that leads to benefits for the students and society. Thus the mismatch: producing an early 20th century product for a 21st century world.

3) Change is difficult. Some will refuse to travel the journey, yet others will reverse course along the way, which also means some will not survive – yet the strongest, the committed will arrive to establish a new way.

4) The body of knowledge continues to grow, but school processes remain relatively unchanged.

5) Society’s It-Was-Good-Enough-For-Me Club will prevent change from occurring, so pseudo-reform will occur to create an illusion of change rather than change itself.

6) At best, reform has simply been a “tinkering” of the old system; whereas restructuring involves overhauling the existing system to establish a new operating structure.

7) Given the amount of change needed, the educational system would be best served by shutting down for a year to reorganize and retool.

8) Change is more than a determining if we are going to have a Homeroom period or not. After all, the best reason for not having one is to put it back in place down the road.

Previous posts in the series

Reform

On Views of Education: Vol 1 – Reform

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As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. One person once described me as the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was often the voice in the wilderness. I often spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. Readers may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own, so I numbered them only for reference.

Today’s Topic: Reform
1) Schools are still using an industrial age model in an attempt to prepare students for a rapidly changing future. By keeping this model, schools are racing against each other to see who has the most souped-up Model T. Yet, some districts have been successful at placing a Corvette body on the outside to give it a better appearance … but it’s still a Model T.

2) Teaching 21st Century skills in an early 20th Century model is simply impossible. How can the educational system change when it spend so much time and effort promoting how well it’s doing? Understanding change is one thing, but showing a belief through actions is another. My prediction? Education will continue on the path of illusion because too much inertia exists.

3) The need for educational change is well documented. Ways to change are well documented. Forward-thinking approaches challenging the status quo are well documented. Reason why change doesn’t occur are well documented? Now is the time for significant change to begin …. so, why don’t we? Oh, resistance to change is also well documented.

4) At best, reform has simply been a “tinkering” of the old system; whereas restructuring involves overhauling the existing system to establish a new operating structure.

5) A simple five-part plan: 1) Develop the desired outcomes based on societal needs, not established curriculum 2) developed a competency-based mastery-approach to evaluation, 3) focus the curriculum to meet those outcomes, 4) restructure the school day and the school calendar, and 5) make the student and their parents responsible for their actions and choices.

6) A mission statement is 1) a guiding principle for all decision-making in an effective organization, and 2) a requirement for accreditation. Which is worse? a) lack of a mission statement or b) failure to implement the existing mission statement.

On Cursive: To Be or Not To Be

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This past fall, our local-weekly newspaper posed this question: Should school continue to teach cursive writing? Why or why not? Fortunately, they published many responses, to which I found a certain amount of amusement. Here you go, but the comments in italics are my responses.

Yes! Because it is necessary! (… and examples for necessary are?)

The teaching of cursive handwriting and reading has been in school since Abraham Lincoln wrote on a coal shovel in a one-room log cabin school. It not only teaches young students how to write, but how to read handwriting. (Yes … and using slide rules and an abacus have a chance of returning to schools. At least we don’t have to bring back the Algebra problem of determining what time do you have to be at the train station to pick up two friends arriving on different trains that left at different times and traveled at different speeds over different distances … oops …  that problem probably still exists!)

They should continue to teach it for the sole fact that someone will have to interpret old documents in the future. (Alright, interpreting hieroglyphics and ancient Hebrew still have a place, thus should be required for high school graduation.)

Yes because cursive writing is beneficial to learning and integrating communication between the two hemisphere. (Thank you Mr. Learning Theory & Cognitive Learning Expert because we now know that printing, typing, or keyboarding notes does not influence learning because of a lack of communication between cerebral hemispheres.)

Bare minimum, teach them how to sign their name for forms requiring signatures. My sixth-grader is clueless on that. (Although you are open to the idea, are you saying that printing is not acceptable signature on a formal document?)

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Time spent on teaching cursive could be used to educate children on other matters, such as grammar. (Say that it ain’t so!)

They (the students) will need to know it someday, and they will be smarter for it. (I don’t know when, but when it comes, the light bulb will serve as a reminder to thank schools for it.)

No, dumb them down some more. Then we will have total government and corporate control. (Thank you Sean Hannity enthusiast, and please, never attend a public forum on education …. now turn on the radio because it’s time Rush Limbaugh.)

Cursive is not yet obsolete, so we should keep teaching it. Perhaps we could eliminate Roman numerals instead. (How then will future generations understand the Super Bowl?)

A personal finance class should be mandatory for all high schoolers to graduate. (Thank you for your direct and insightful response to the question.)

Flashbacks: On Education

I spent many years as a teacher, and I pride myself on being reformed minded and a contrarian . Enjoy these perspectives from my Flashbacks … and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On Golden Amber

My first year of teaching served as my first exposure to many things – including students with learning disabilities (LD).

I recall a discussion with a staff member who assisted LD students at one of the other buildings when she told me these students are very capable of college, but they just have a learning handicap. Being fresh out of college, my mindset was probably very stereotypical, so I took in the information while actually doubting the statement’s validity.

Several years later, a new LD teacher started working with my students. She worked very hard for them – and they were having success. Because they were in the general class, I’m sure I retained the stereotype.

As the school grew, staffing increased – including LD – and that is when I met Bette. Somewhere along the way, I had an LD student in my college prep class. I admit having a mindset that she was misplaced, and primarily there due to the advocacy of her proactive mother. The end of the school year was odd as I felt the proactive Mom used me in her bout with the school administration. On graduation night, proactive mother told me I was a good teacher – but I only accepted her compliment in words, but not in my mind and heart.

Fast forward a few years as our department changed the science curriculum to have no tracking – that is, no differentiation between college prep and general students for at least 3 years, so classes would have students with a variety of academic skills and abilities. Enter Bette as she was to work with the LD students in my classes.

Because I had more than a few of Bette’s students, she was in my classroom one or two periods a day. We developed a few alternative strategies and she always kept me well-informed. Through Bette, and my willingness to adapt, I was beginning to learn about what LD really meant.

Amber was a freshman and an LD student – simply a very nice young person who academically struggled. She, and much because of Bette’s work, she passed the course with Cs and Ds. Amber was in my class again as a senior – a biology class with many college prep students. Bette kept me informed, but she was not involved on a daily basis as she was three years prior.

A major test was approaching and Bette told me that Amber knew her material very well. By this time, I truly understand that Amber’s LD was writing – and that she would struggle answering essay questions. Simply put, as her mind sprinted, her fingers crawled – thus words that came from her pen took directions that were unrelated to the question asked.

I decided to test her orally – not just by asking her the questions orally, but in a conversation. Bette approved, Amber agreed, and wow – she delivered answers full of substance.

I recall Amber getting an A on that test, and I believe she earned an A for the last quarter because I finally understood what it meant to be LD. The last time I saw her, she was working in a pizza place, but that was more than 10 years ago.

I doubt if she ever went to any post-high school education. To be honest, I’m not even sure how much success she had in the work world. Nevertheless, for me, Amber is golden because she taught me a powerful lesson – one that took me over 20 years to learn – thus I finally understand that what that LD teacher told me during my first year. Because of Amber and Bette, I finally understood and trusted the role of the staff member assisting LD students, thus I worked as closely as possible with them for that time forward.

As for Bette, we continued to have a positive work relationship, and then she retired. She may read this with a smile – and, she knows that I wonder about what if I would have done something different with the one student having the proactive mother.

On A to Z

a-z-2013Someone declared April as A-to-Z Challenge Month. Sure, the challenge’s intent is to have a separate post for each letter, but hey – I have a streak of independence.

With 1,167 posts before this one, why not use my archives to meet the challenge? After all, even frequent readers aren’t aware of some of the posts.

Therefore, I present A Frank Angle’s A-to-Z. Visit as many as you like, because as in my tradition, there is something for all …. so hopefully you’ll visit at least one.

AFAa2zBadgeA is for Acquaintance – People that were not in my graduation class: set 1 and set 2

B is for Ballroom – … and ballroom dance delivers benefits

C is for Cruising – We like cruising, so start your trip with a click

D is for Dinner Group – … We hosted a night of Chopped

E is for Education Reform – Although the need is obvious, here are the obstacles

F is for Frank – Yep, that’s my name, but these are the All-Time Franks in baseball

G is for God and Government – I must say that this post about the separation of church and state is pretty darn good

H is for Handbells – It takes many bells to make one instrument

I is for Italian – I’m 100% Italian heritage, and Ellis Island is an important place

J is for Joys – To whatever give you joy, but for some of us, it’s reliving the cartoons of our youth, and here is where the series started, which led to the first honoree

K is for Knowledge – What do you know about supersonic kangaroos?

L is for LearnerLearning should never stop

M is for Moderate – This early post defines an independent moderate, thus shows why neither party wants me … well, except for my vote

N is for News – Staying informed is important, but there is something more biased than the media

O is for Ohio River – A story from my hometown on a river during my youth.

P is for Politics – I wrote this shortly after the 2008 election, but before the Tea Party’s emergence (which is what makes this post interesting)

Q is for Quantum – Actually, this past post was On a Quantum Thought

R is for Recipes – I’m sort of a Foodie, so try Cranberry Sausage Spaghetti or my own spaghetti sauce that offers a little crunch

S is for Science – Like sports, science has players, plays, rules, and boundaries

T is for Trieste – A beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea that is the place of my birth

U is for Universe – The universe is vast and inspiring, and this post includes one of my absolute favorite videos

V is for Victory – The raised arm created an unexpected moment in college

W is for Wonders – There are many wonders in our world, and let’s not forget Fibonacci, Pi, and Tau

X is for X-Factor – and one X-factor in life is forgiveness

Y is for Why because I can – This is the first main post about the religion-science interchange; now there are 44, plus here is the very first post

Z is for Zinfandel – I enjoy a wide spectrum of wines, especially reds, but zins were the first to capture my fancy – and cheers to the wine group at church

AAA+++ Bonus for the bloggers on my sidebar and on the More Bloggers page, for as without them and you, I wouldn’t be here, so try to visiting someone soon that you don’t know, and tell them I sent you.

Addendum: To learn more about the A Frank Angle A-to-Z Challenge, click here.

On Education: Texas GOP Style

Sometime one stumbles across a treasure trove of information in one link – and that recently happened to me as I found the Texas Republican Party platform. Below are a few excerpts from this document regarding education. (My italicized comments follow in parentheses.)

Keep in mind that future governors, Congressional representatives and senators, and maybe even a presidential candidates may be on the committee. Hmmmmm … Enjoy and be enlightened.

Basic Standards – We favor improving the quality of education for all students, including those with special needs. We support a return to the traditional basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and citizenship with sufficient discipline to ensure learning and quality educational assessment. (In other words, the hell with science.)

Controversial Theories – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind. (Not only the hell with science, we only care what the Supreme Court says when they agree with us.)

Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas. (We can beat kids that deserve it.)

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. (Duh! Critical-thinking skills are not required to think like a Texan because Texans from Texas blood are genetically given that gift. Besides, we are the higher order.)

Textbook Review – Until such time as all texts are required to be approved by the SBOE, each ISD that uses non-SBOE approved instructional materials must verify them as factually and historically correct. Also the ISD board must hold a public hearing on such materials, protect citizen’s right of petition and require compliance with TEC and legislative intent. Local ISD boards must maintain the same standards as the SBOE. (Attention textbook companies – adjust accuracy for the Texas viewpoint.)

Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings. (Yep, the Founding Fathers were very clear and in agreement – and if you don’t believe we know what they meant, just ask us.)

Meanwhile, about that border fence, I do have a good idea.