I just wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of our page on Netvibes. It is an aggregator, and I use it all the time - daily. My Netvibes page has tabs for 21st Century Schools, The Global Classroom, the Food and Culture Project, Great Blogs, Web 2.0 Tools, two Wallwishers (this is a great tool to use with your class), and a special tab just for the work of Michael Wesch - if you don't know about him, you should!
On the 21st Century Schools tab there are easy links to our web site, our blog, our workshop schedule, our Twitterstream is there, and there is a comment wall. The Global Classrooms tab is where I keep links to all the groups I belong to; otherwise I would probably forget them for periods of time. But I can go to this page every day and be reminded that I need to check on them and perhaps add to the conversation. I really enjoy Netvibes because it is a place where I can keep track of all my most important pages - all on one page! By the way, I learned about it from Michael Wesch.
If you have time, please watch his videos. Some of them are long, but they are so worth it. I've watched the longer ones multiple times - taking notes.
This is the other film I meant to add to this blog on September 6 when I posted information about the other film I am recommending, Race to Nowhere (see post below).
When I first saw these two film trailers I was very excited about both of them. I recommended them in my newsletter, on my web site, on the Food and Culture web site, and on this blog. Like many people I am passionate about education and about what is best for students, teachers, parents, and society.
Recently I became aware of some rather hostile reactions to this movie trailer and the film; one was a blog post written by an individual, another was an announcement by an organization, Rethinking Schools. They are launching a major campaign against the film; the name of their campaign is "NOT Waiting for Superman". Rethinking Schools editor, Stan Karp, had the opportunity to view the film prior to its release to the general public, and so he does have a remarkable advantage over me - I have only seen the trailer.
The critics are claiming the the film is about the bashing of public schools and teachers, that it is anti-union, and that it is supporting privitization of education, charter school and increased testing. Mr. Karp's interpretation is that the film accuses educators of just "waiting for Superman" to come and fix things instead of working toward excellence.
I am anxious to see the whole film, because I would agree with Mr. Karp that educators should not be bashed or accused of doing nothing. However, I do believe that there are many teachers in the classrooms and principals on campuses who should be working in some other field than education. And I do believe that our schools are failing our children and our society. But the so-called "reforms" that have been put into place during the past ten years are completely wrong; and I will agree with Mr. Karp that these "reforms" are NOT based upon what we know about how children develop, about how learning happens and about what teaching is. The problem is not all the teachers and principals, it is the system which has been created by policy makers who really do not know what they are doing. I believe they have good intentions, but their actions are wrong, and they have destroyed our educational system. "Education" and "teaching" have been replaced with testing and measuring.
I know of no other way to describe some of these reforms other than "insane" and "cruel"; for example, one school district is implementing a new policy this year. They have decided that it's time for their 4-year-olds to "hit the books" harder! They will now be in class for 8 hours a day - with no nap - and only one 20-minute recess! See the article, No Naps for These Kids.
I have a slightly different perspective on the issue of charter schools, and I will be sharing those thoughts in this blog.
I have continued to develop the main Food and Culture site - in between other projects - and it is looking better every day. I began writing a new Introduction for the project yesterday and soon realized that it could actually become a book. There are so many significant connections, and each is wide and deep. Yesterday I got off on a tangent of discussing globalization and economics, from the jumping off place of McDonaldization and Cocacolonization; those topics lead into issues ranging from mass marketing, cultural homogenization, labor, social justice. . . I stopped there and deleted some of it, as that will have to go into a separate page or document.
Don’t let me give you the impression that this is the only focus for the project.As the saying goes, there is something for everyone!Other areas in this project which were derived from the main theme, Food and Culture, are outlined as Issues and Themes.We will be adding suggestions for Big Questions for each theme;these can guide the individual class projects and collaborative explorations.
Teachers are invited to look them over, to select one or more they feel would be a good fit for their students, or to come up with another issue/theme (this list is certainly not all inclusive of significant possibilities).We are asking that each participating class contribute to the overall final project outcomes through these minimum requirements – submitting recipes, photos, artwork and essays to the Global Kids Cookbook;submitting at least 3 student-produced videos; and that teachers submit recommendations for at least three titles in children’s literature written by authors from their country.The goal is to have a Global Children’s Literature database which will be online and available to everyone.
I am anxious to have many teachers and students involved in this project.We do need people to sign up as early as possible so that we can organize connections for classrooms to collaborate, and you will need some time to start thinking about how you want to participate and do some preparation.
I believe very passionately in what I do, and I am absolutely certain that the kind of curriculum and instruction I promote are what are best for students. I am equally certain that the way the current, mainstream educational system is organized and run is bad for students. Teachers are being asked to do the impossible when students are changing class every 55 minutes (7 or 8 classes per day), and teachers are responsible for 120 students. It is ludicrous to think that threatening teachers and pressuring them for higher test scores - without providing them the context and support for success - is the answer.
When I was in the classroom I usually had a self-contained class. That way I could arrange our daily schedule to fit our needs. I had no "gifted and talented" students. They were regular ed, some special ed, and one year there was a boy who had been failed/held back the year before and had been recommended for placement in the class for the emotionally disturbed (that was my dear Drew, whom I will never forget), about half the students came from homes where Spanish was spoken, about half the students were from very poor homes, some with serious problems (financial, emotional, legal). Because I implemented curriculum that was structured similarly to the Food and Culture project, and provided support and had very high expectations ALL the students excelled. There were virtually no behavioral problems (some with Drew, but he made enormous, spectacular progress that year), and although it was not my sole purpose or goal, it turned out that my class achieved higher scores on their standardized tests than any of the classes in the school - including the GT classes!
By the way, the principal did not heed the recommendation to place Drew in the ED class; instead he placed him in my classroom because he knew that was the best place for Drew. And it was.
This documentary film, Race to Nowhere, opens in Los Angeles and NYC on September 10 for one week. See their web site where you can read impressive reviews, access resources, and arrange to have a screening of the film in your community - or at your school.
HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)
Ken Robinson read this quote at the end of his last talk at TED. He reminds us that we should not tread on the dreams of our students. And we surely have been doing that, collectively, as part of the national educational system.
Please see the next post related to the state of education today.
This new blog is being created as a result of finding a great blog. I loved the design as well as the content. It introduced me to Weebly, which is a tool for creating web sites and blogs. It has beautiful design templates and fantastic pictures for your use.
The inspirational, fabulous web site belongs to Steven Weber, the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools in Hillsborough, NC. I have to admit that I loved the look of Steven's web site and blog so much that I am giving him the ultimate compliment - I am using the same template for this blog! I hope Steven doesn't mind!
It wasn't just the design of Steven's web site that caught my eye, it was the content and his use of blogging. Although I have known about blogging for years, and I've even had a blog (to which I rarely posted anything), I don't think I really understood how blogs could be useful to me. So many blogs I had seen were what I considered to be irrelevant; they were boring, had no ascertainable purpose, and were, in a word - junk.
Something about Steven's blog served the purpose of causing an Aha! moment for me. Now, rather than trying to put everything I think about and learn onto my web site, I see that I have the perfect avenue for sharing new insights, new resources, current events and most of all, develop a collaboration with others.
I have much to share, and am anxious to start writing. Just as soon as I make some updates to my web site and get a newsletter out!