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Hearing More Teacher Voices and More About Teacher Voices

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Today let’s celebrate that we’re hearing more teacher voices and more about teacher voices. Read Alexa W.C. Lee-Hassan’s fine piece on using comic books to teach reading and tolerance. And then friend Kevin Hodgson’s essay, “Advocating Advocacy: Raising Voices to Make Change” in the journal Knowledge Quest, in which he highlights the necessity for teachers to speak out publicly on the extremely controversial education policies challenging their work and children’s meaningful learning.

Hodgson highlights Meenoo Rami and me as advocates for advocacy, and quotes a teacher who wrote a piece for his local newspaper. But perhaps like so many teachers, he’s still a bit shy about his own role, not mentioning that it was he who began the partnership with his local newspaper to publish those monthly teacher op-ed pieces. It’s he who inspired me.

A note on the sparseness of my recent blog posts: I’m working on a new book on teaching and learning with action civics — through which students research issues in their school or community and take action to address them. I want to help teachers to guide students in using their voices to influence public policy and become active, responsible citizens now — not just in the future. This leaves less time for blogging. But the purpose is really the same as teachersspeakup.com . So please don’t abandon this blog when you haven’t heard from me in a while!

Fall Action for Teacher Voice in Chicago

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9/11/14  I’m extremely pleased to be contributing to fall action for teacher voice in Chicago — the Chicago Sun Times  teacher essay series that I have organized, will continue through the fall, under the series title, “Fall Semester.” To see all the essays written throughout the summer, simply go to the Sun-Times website, and search “Summer School Teacher Essays”.

Meanwhile, life grew pretty busy and I’m only now alerting people to the latest essays:

  • Let CPS Counselors Do Their Jobs” by Kristy Brooks, published 8/30 — an expose of how the “case manager” role given most elementary school counselors takes up all their time so they can do any counseling with kids
  • When Kids Connect They Learn More” by Phillip Cantor, published 9/10 — explaining how all the faculty at his high school collaborate to learn about and address students’ social-emotional challenges

Now, people: I need more essays! If you are a teacher in Chicago or the Chicago metro area, we want to hear your voice. Essays are maximum 600 words, should provide a vivid picture of some important aspect of teaching and learning and present a strong argument for why and how it should be supported.

Here are the guidelines for writing an essay.

Contact me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net for more detailed information.

The Flood of Testing in Kindergarten

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Just out today in the Chicago Sun-Times teacher essay series is Tammy Haggerty Jones’ well-documented piece on the flood of testing in kindergarten. Is this really how Americans believe very young children should be schooled? Is this how we help them grow and achieve new abilities at home? And does the public really understand how the tsunami of tests is washing over the young people they so love? And will teachers everywhere just go along with this?

Who does not doubt that this is destructive and pointless? I want to know that more and more teachers, parents, and policy-makers are speaking out and acting to change the direction of “reform” in this country. We can’t just moan only to our colleagues. I’ll keep doing what I can to help get our voices heard by a wider audience.

True Teacher Growth vs a Mechanized Model

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In this week’s Chicago Sun-Times teacher essay, John Paulett explains the difference between true teacher growth vs a mechanized model that corporate-minded reformers advocate. This Golden Apple winning teacher and teaching coach describes his realization that classroom “tricks” and strategies work only when they are integrated with the personal style of the teacher. We’d guess that this applies to students as well.

This explanation is especially relevant at the moment, as news columnists and commentators are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon of labeling teacher education programs and teachers in general as inadequate. They’re spurred by the attention to Elizabeth Green’s writings in the New York Times. And while she may have some excellent ideas, her book title, Building a Better Teacher suggests a mechanical approach that she herself may not intend, but the pundits like it.

So as usual, I’m urging readers of this blog to not only spread the word about John Paulett’s essay, but add your voice to the conversation. Otherwise the public and policy-makers will never get it.

Great Discussion on Teachers Speaking to the Public

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I hope you’ll read the great discussion on teachers speaking to the public, started by Peter Smagorinsky. Peter is the outspoken education prof at the U. of Georgia who writes essays about education issues and portraits of great Georgia teachers, that are published on the blog of a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We could all learn from his example. Just think how we could boost attitudes toward public education and counter the widespread anti-public-education propaganda if news media everywhere were regularly receiving and publishing such pieces. (I know, I just keep harping on this).

Peter’s opening salvo on this is on the blog, Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care. If you belong to NCTE you can also read it on the NCTE Spokesperson’s Network.

SO READ IT AND ACT!

More Teachers Step Up to Tell The Public Their Story

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It’s exciting to see more teachers step up to tell the public their story. The latest piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, by Chicago 4th grade teacher Rana Khan, was not recruited by me for the teacher essay series. Instead, this thoughtful teachers was inspired by the writers who have already been published to add her own voice.

At first I felt a little pang of jealousy — “Wait, this is MY project!” But no, it’s not. Teachers everywhere need to speak out and not wait for my urging.

And if we have been able to get a big-city paper like the Sun-Times to do this, how many other newspapers and online news media are out there that would give teachers the voice that the wider public needs to hear? This needs to be not just a small project by one campaigner like me, but a flood of testimony about the value of public education.

Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay Series Marches On

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I’m more than pleased to let everyone know that the Chicago Sun Times teacher essay series marches on with a great piece about a thoughtful teacher finding her way as she tries out in-depth, experiential learning and student collaboration. It appeared Saturday morning, July 12 in the Web edition of the paper.

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ON THESE ARTICLES, ESPECIALLY TO FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT EDUCATORS.

And I deeply hope that these articles inspire teachers elsewhere to work on setting up similar publication opportunities that connect thoughtful teachers to the wider public and policy-makers, rather than only blogging on sites seen mainly by other educators. Let me know about similar efforts you are trying so we can support one another.

Latest Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay

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Hooray! The latest Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay is now up on the web edition and will appear in the Sunday July 6th print version. Jean Klasovsky explains how Restorative Justice (see explanation in this link) can strength school climate and reduce suspensions through peer councils that steer students to fix problems they’ve caused instead of simply punishing them. The zero-tolerance route, as Jean smartly points out, means that the punishment for missing class is to miss more class — which in turn increases the drop-out rate. You can also see Jean’s recent TEDx talk on this issue on YouTube.

JUST A REMINDER TO OUR BLOG FOLLOWERS AND FRIENDS: MORE TEACHER ESSAYS ARE NEEDED. THERE ARE JUST ENOUGH IN THE PIPELINE TO GET US THROUGH MID-AUGUST. THIS IS A GREAT CHANCE TO BRING THOUGHTFUL TEACHER VOICES TO THE PUBLIC AND DECISION-MAKERS, MANY OF WHOM DO NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND THE NATURE AND VALUE OF OUR WORK.

Contact me here or at stv.zemelman@comcast.net to learn the details, submit an essay, or recommend an articulate teacher-writer.

 

Educator Voices in the Washington Post

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It’s good to see educator voices in the Washington Post — Peter Smagorinsky, of the University of Georgia and retired school superintendent Jim Arnold — speaking out to explain to the public how the tens of millions of dollars being spent on standardized testing could further kids’ learning much more if it were spent on re-hiring teachers and providing the materials and facilities that schools need.

If they can use their voices, so can the rest of us!

Sun Times Teacher Essay on Kindergarten Complexities

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OK everyone! Let’s celebrate and share the second Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay on Kindergarten Complexities, by Mia Valdez Quellhorst. It’s in the newspaper’s Sunday June 22nd edition and on their website under “Other Views.” What a great way to help the public understand that teaching kindergarten is serious work that requires real skill and deep knowledge of child development, and makes a difference in children’s future success in school and life.

Watch for the next teacher-written essay on a timely education issue, which should appear on or about July 3rd. They’ll be published about every two weeks.

And please, Chicago-area teachers: I will need more teacher-written pieces, to keep this series going, so contact me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net .