Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The evolution of the teacher

The evolution of the teacher…
So what is the role of a teacher?  The role of a teacher has certainly evolved over the years and now, perhaps more than ever, that role is in question?  In the 15th Century a teacher helped children to read and write and of course to understand the bible.  The upper class, mostly royals and those in living in monasteries, were privy to formal education.   In the 17th century scientist and educator John Amos Comenius disseminated a reformed system of universal education that was widely used in Europe.  Ivan Betskoy (an educational advisor to Catherine II) proposed to educate young Russians of both sexes in state boarding schools, aimed at creating "a new race of men".  There was an increasing academic interest in education and the first attempts to create what might be considered academic rationales for teaching methods.  This led, in the 1770s, to the establishment of the first chair of pedagogy at the University of Halle in Germany.
The first American schools in the thirteen original colonies opened in the 17th century. Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States.   All the New England colonies required towns to set up schools, and many did so. In 1642 the Massachusetts Bay Colony made "proper" education compulsory; other New England colonies followed.  The larger towns in New England opened grammar schools, the forerunner of the modern high school.  The most famous was the Boston Latin School, which is still in operation as a public high school.  Schools became part of the community
As formal education developed, so did the role of the teacher.  The teacher was at the center of most formal education.  Early schools were limited to one room and one teacher.  That teacher was charged with supervising, educating, and disciplining the entire student body.  Reading was taught from books like the bible and math was rudimentary and basic.  In the 17th century, the schoolbooks were brought over from England. By 1690, Boston publishers were reprinting the English Protestant Tutor under the title of The New England Primer. The "blue backed speller" of Noah Webster was by far the most common textbook from the 1790s until 1836, when the McGuffey Readers appeared. Both series emphasized civic duty and morality, and sold tens of millions of copies nationwide. 
Formal curriculum did not exist, and teaching was done according to what the town needed.  The school system remained largely private and unorganized until the 1840s. Public schools were always under local control, with no federal role, and little state role. The 1840 census indicated that of the 3.68 million children between the ages of five and fifteen, about 55% attended primary schools and academies.      Teaching young students was not perceived as an end goal for educated people.
 Adults became teachers without any particular skill except sometimes in the topic they were teaching. The checking of credentials was left to the local school boards, who were mainly interested in the efficient use of limited taxes. This started to change with the introduction of two-year normal schools starting in 1823. By the end of the 19th century, most teachers of elementary schools were trained in this fashion.  As education became more formal, so did the training of teachers.  Teachers organized themselves during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1917, the National Education Association (NEA) was reorganized to better mobilize and represent teachers and educational staff.
During the 60’s teachers also assumed the role of disciplinarian.  Tales of “the paddle” instilled fear into students, allowing teachers to better control their classroom.  This image carried a lot of weight in the public’s perception as teachers were seen to have an important role in raising a child.  The “portrayal” of teachers in movies was always an older man or woman with rimmed glasses and an ever present scowl and swinging a yard stick.  “Corporal Punishment” was eventually banned and the image of the teacher would be changed forever.
The image of a teacher, and the power they once held, was lost.  Now teaching was simply another career.  The apathetic public now sees teachers as lazy, greedy, and covetous.  The public’s perception is fueled by media reports of sexual encounters, “greedy” strikes, and demands for higher pay.  The public thinks that teachers work short hours, have summers off, and do very little work.  What the public does not see is the preparation time, the long hours grading papers and the developmental education. 
If we do not change to the public’s perception of what a teacher is, teachers will continue to leave the profession in droves.  While most teachers do not do it for the money, paying teachers appropriately will help.  While money may help, regaining the public’s respect is the key.  This can be accomplished in different ways.   
First and foremost, we must remove ourselves from the front pages.  We need to stop performing immoral acts with our students and regain the moral character of the profession.  Second, we must work with the public and reinstall the community feel of our schools.  Accentuate the positive; create webpages to show off the good that our schools are doing to.   Invite the neighbors into our schools to show off the pride.
In the 18th Century, schools were seen as an important part of the community.  It was where the children learned the skills needed to support the community.  Nothing has changed.  School is still where our children learn the skills needed to support the community.  It has been placed on our shoulders, we as educators, are responsible for rebuilding the image.  Let’s get to work!      

Friday, August 23, 2013


Where did we go wrong?  Where has respect gone?  Can we ever get it back?  Can we change enough to make an impact?


As a parent, as a male, as an American, I am appalled at the behavior recently exposed in the headlines.  A visitor to our country is ruthlessly gunned down by a group of untethered thugs and a World War II hero is beaten and left for dead.  Yet the headline on MSNBC website reads “Might as Well Just Die”: Transgender Prisoners Go to Extremes for Sex Change”.  As most American’s sleep, the country is falling apart from the inside out.


Theories abound as to why we have de-gradated so far.  Some blame the lack of jobs, some blame education, and some blame society.  Ultimately it is the degradation of the American Family that is to blame.  Well over 50% of our children live in mixed, blended, or single parent households.  Even those in “traditional” families, both parents often work.  The result is our children are left unsupervised for long periods of time.  We leave it up to society to teach our children morals and correct behavior, while the parents slave away at minimum wage jobs.  Too tired to “parent” these children are left to fend for themselves. 


Our schools are no help.  Underfunded and under staffed our schools barely have time for those students that excel, much less those that struggle.  Cities are laying off teachers at a record pace, yet oblivious to current events our President promises Head-Start Pre-K for all and promotes the hiring of 500,000 new Science and Math Teachers.  Amazing new technology is being developed, yet most schools cannot afford it.  What happened to the “wired classrooms” promised by our government?  So where can a child turn?


How about to the church?  Well how about not!  Churches have chosen to take sides as well.  Leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton preach racial division picking and choosing causes to champion based off of their potential to line their pockets.  Marches, protest, and boycotts were promoted when a want-to-be thug was killed while beating a “white-Mexican Cracker”, yet an innocent 89 year old war hero is beaten to death and “no comment”.    


Where can a child go?  Where can they go to learn about respect?  Who will teach them moral behavior?  Unfortunately there are not many places a child can go.  This is the failure of my generation.  We took too much for granted and fell asleep at the wheel.  We did away with Corporal Punishment.  We gave kids trophies win or lose.  We made it too easy to advance through schools.  We made it too easy for people to get, and stay on welfare.  We handed out disability payments like they were candy.  We vanquished the American Dream with the housing crisis.  We, the nameless generation, made this mess.  Now we must suffer the consequences.  We no longer honor hard work; it is the cheaters that get a head.  If we want to correct our errs, we have a lot of work to do, and it must start with a long hard look in the mirror.


Do you truly want change?  Do you want our country to succeed?  I challenge you to make a difference.  Don’t allow you neighbor’s children to call you by your first name!  Make them call you Mr. or Mrs.  Tell them to make eye contact with you when they speak to you.  Tell them to use Sir or Ma’am when addressing you.  Teach them to respect each other, teach them to respect elders, teach them proper behavior.  


Why is it a man who dug himself out of poverty to become a world renowned surgeon (Dr. Ben Carter) is called an Uncle Tom?   We should honor and praise people like Dr. Carter.  Our younger generation cares more about Jay-Z and Beyonce.  Why do we allow derogatory comments towards women, gays, and various religious groups?   We should be appalled when the word “bitch” is spoken towards another human being.  We have grown too accustom to putting each other down and the result is that our children fell it is acceptable behavior.  Take a stance; make a promise to correct someone if they use foul language towards another.  It is about respect!


Take a second tonight, close your eyes and put yourself in the eyes of Christopher Lane’s family.  They will never be able to see their son, their friend, their companion again.  Now think about Delbert Belton, a man, a hero, that survived the invasion of Okinawa, only to beaten like a stray dog in the country he fought so bravely to defend.   Now think about the 15 other people that were murdered during that moment.  Make a pledge; make a statement, MAKE A DIFERENCE!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New ways of learning...

The power and the importance of play...this is an amazing video that gets right to the root of how our youngest generation learns.  So much going on in this video that hits home.  Every educator should watch this one.  

Back to School!

So I was not able to secure a full time teaching position, at least not yet, so I am doing the next best thing, I am taking courses to enrich my teaching abilities.  I am attending Eastern Florida (formerly Brevard Community College) and my declared major is Computer Technology.  I am taking two courses in residence and two courses online.    I am taking Speech and Intro to Micro-Computer Technology in residence and Keyboarding and Intro to Computers online. 


My first class, Intro to Micro-Computers, was Monday.  I was early to the class and I did what I always do, and scoped out the class.  The instructor claims to have 40 years of computer experience, so I look forward to gaining some valuable knowledge thru her tutelage.  I am one of the oldest in the class, but not THE oldest.  There is a nice balance of young and old in the class which should lead to some interesting dialog throughout the class. 


The class began with the instructor professing her distain for cell phones.  She does not want cell phones to be seen much less used.  She also does not want students using the computers while she is lecturing.  This is interesting being this is a computer class, and will no doubt require interaction with the computer later down the line.  One serious omission I noticed was that the instructor failed to do any type of ice-breaker.  The class simply proceeded after her introduction.  Ice Breakers, especially during a college class, serve to break the tension and help bring the class together.  I am not sure if this was an intentional calculation or if it was something she forgot about.  In either case, hope she corrects the omission in the next class.


The instructor definitely uses a teacher centered approach and relies solely on lecture for instruction.  I understand this is a college class where the dynamic is different from an Elementary School Class, however at least make an attempt to involve the class.  As the class proceeded you could almost feel the oxygen flowing out of the class.  While discipline will not be an issue, as we are all adults, class participation will become an issue.  There are 25 minds in this class, gaining information from each student will help with the classroom dynamic.


The course itself seems to be interesting and will cover the finer points of the MS Office 2013 programs.  The course s run through Pearson Labs and done almost exclusively online.  You submit your work for grading through a web based program.  I am honestly looking forward to proceeding and hope to be able to share some of the tips I learn. 


Next class is Speech tonight…can’t wait!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Is our formal, upper level education system part of the problem?

Took some time off, but I'm back now inspired and ready to move ahead!

Inspired by all the technology for education I have discovered through Twitter and social media, I decided to take a college course titled “Introduction to Technology for Teachers”.  While hind sight is always 20/20, I should have looked into the class a little more before attending.

I anticipated being introduced to things like Class Dojo, Live Folders, Google Plus, or even Twitter. To my dismay the course included nothing of the kind.  I was taught about Power Point, how to build a newsletter and a teacher webpage.  I was introduced to Web Quest and C-Palms, but nothing new.  This college level course really did nothing for me, and I was sadly disappointed.  This class failed to introduce me to anything I would call extremely useful.   

The failure of this class leads me to poses a question;  Is our formal, upper level education system part of the problem?  I took this college level course in hopes of being introduced to revolutionary new products and programs to help me in the classroom.  Instead I was shown the finer points of programs that have been in use for a decade.   So then, how can educators be expected to be “cutting edge” when our formal education systems haven’t caught up yet?

While pondering that question, I have another for you; it is the responsibility of primary educators to prepare our children for college and beyond, shouldn’t our colleges provide educators with the best tools available to do this?  In my class I was shown how to use Power Point.  Don’t get me wrong, I learned some new things about the program, but I feel Power Point is yesterday’s news.  So where do we turn to get up-to-date?

Personally I have learned more from links provided by those I follow on Twitter.  I have been introduced to some amazing programs such as Remind 101, Class Dojo, and We Video (along with countless others) through links on Twitter.  I have watched videos about using Green Screens to make videos, and sharing Google Docs through contacts on Twitter.  In my one month on Twitter (for free) I have learned more than in my 12 week class (that I paid $325 for).

Our education system is at a crossroads.  We must learn to adapt to the changing world.  We have technology available to us that we would have never dreamed of ten years ago.  Technology will continue to improve and will not wait for our education system to catch-up.  Refuse to accept the status quo!  If your administrators give you grief, show them technology’s potential.   Get ahead of the curve, your students will thank you for it.  Many fear that educators will, in the very near future, no longer be required.  Children can (and will) learn everything they need to know in the comfort of their own home through the internet.  Is that what is best?  Is that what we want? 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sequestration Effects: 59 Percent of Districts Cut Professional Development

While the article blames sequestration, it is actually unabated spending over the last decade that has cause the funding shortages...

Sequestration Effects: 59 Percent of Districts Cut Professional Development

Not claming up...PART 1

Well it does not look like I will be getting a permanent teaching position this year, but that’s OK, it is simply a stumbling block along the path.  On the bright side I have lots of time to develop things like lesson plans.

Feeding off my daughter’s love of marine biology, I began my focus in the marine area.  I found a wonderful website (Coast Website) that has preformatted lesson plans for many different areas of science.  On the Coast Website, I found a lesson plan that involves observing clams.  The lesson has students observing live clams in different sediments such as mud, rock, sand, and silt. 

While the lesson plan is very in-depth and well written I would like to enhance it a little.  More to come...