Cory Roush

Dissonance and tension plus reflection and resolution equal intellectual growth

Read This: On the Practice of Education

The following is an excerpt of an article written by Mallory Baches, in which she coherently described what I've been frustrated with in recent years regarding education reform, teacher evaluation systems, and society's attitude towards the teaching profession in general. You should definitely read the rest on Medium.

My degree is in architecture, and I'm a certified planner... At parties or gatherings, when I describe what I do, I refer to it as my practice. I am a certified professional, and society rewards that fact by deeming me a practitioner, no different in status from law or medicine or engineering or accountancy. I 'practice' my profession… I continue the work of perfecting my craft.

We certainly never refer to professional teachers as “practitioners.” We want perfection from them, while treating them as if they are capable of anything but. If you bother to look, the conflict is appallingly evident.

We hold teachers to a standard that very few of us could ever adhere to ourselves. In my line of work, that would be like saying that every place I design and help develop *had* to lead every citizen that came in contact with it to thrive. Think about that, the next time you are driving from home to work to the store…how many buildings that you come across stir your spirit? How many neighborhoods or communities that you pass through even *seem* to be places where you would thrive, never mind whether you actually *would* thrive there should you invest your life there? Much of our cities are filled with junk buildings.

More "data" is the last thing colleges of education need

When President Obama was still settling in to his first term in the Oval Office, Education Secretary Arne Duncan had harsh criticism for teacher preparation programs. Because of their low overhead and high enrollment, Duncan expressed his concern that these programs were “cash cows”. “By almost any standard,” he said, “many if not most of [these programs] are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” One such standard could be a 2006 report by Arthur Levine, a former president of Columbia University’s own Teachers College, which found that 58% of alumni claimed that they were not adequately prepared to teach. (Missing from that report was any data pulled from faculty or alumni of Teachers College; Levine claimed it was to eliminate any appearance of bias, although it seems biased to not put an institution you presided over for 12 years under the same microscope as the rest of the nation’s colleges.) In the ongoing debate between whether or not teaching is a profession (like medicine) or a craft (like journalism), Levine has historically been on the side of those who favor more time in a college classroom or laboratory school and less time in the trenches. A 2011 op-ed written in the Washington Post hinted at the kind of reform that will sound familiar to those who read this week’s news from the White House:

“These programs should be evaluated primarily on the basis of outcomes —student learning in a particular teacher’s class compared to the classes of that teacher’s peers. A generation ago, we simply did not have this sort of data. Now we do, and it is incumbent on us to use it.”

Duncan and Obama appear to agree — a cornerstone of their plan is to encourage states to create, maintain, and rely on a database of high-quality teacher education programs when deciding how to distribute federal financial aid to prospective teachers. If these databases are anything like the ones Levine and Duncan envison, they will undoubtedly rely on the results of teacher evaluation systems. The same teacher evaluation systems which are increasingly dependent on student’s standardized test scores, of course. And that’s why this plan is just more of the same.

If colleges are going to be rated on their effectiveness based on graduate’s performance in the classroom, how can that performance be weighted so heavily upon an equation with so many unpredictable variables? An Ivy League school might churn out some great teachers who end up in some of the lowest-performing schools in the nation. When those teacher’s test scores come back and their “peers” who ended up just down the road in a wealthy suburban school are celebrating huge gains, is the conclusion really to be made that one teacher or another was prepared more adequately? The achievement gap (this time between the teachers rather than the students) will probably be the least wide in low-quality programs; high enrollment and a bar set too low might result in medicore or ineffective teachers that end up in mediocre or ineffective schools, but when compared to each other, there might not be such an obvious difference in their post-graduation performance.

Unlike Arne Duncan, I did graduate from one of those “cash cows”, and in many ways I would agree with him if asked whether or not my alma mater prepared me for the realities of a 21st-century classroom. The fact of the matter is, teaching is both a profession and a craft. All of the theory and the hypothetical lesson plans in the world cannot prepare you for the unpredictability of a public school. Each student is different. Each student’s family is different. Each student’s previous educational background and attitude towards education is different. And that’s the fundamental reason why the solution to failing teacher education programs can’t be solved in the same way that we are fixing failing schools— just knowing that you are failing is not enough!

My prediction for the outcome of this proposal, if there is one, is that colleges will actually end up doing less to prepare their graduates to teach in diverse and challenging classroom environments, because in order to protect their status or ranking, colleges will want fewer of their graduates to end up teaching in those classrooms. Teach for America and other alternative routes to teaching certification will not be so disdained among those who train future teachers in a traditional four-year program, because the schools that TFA serves are “risky”. Meanwhile, those colleges that already attract the best and the brightest and send their graduates into thriving school districts in wealthy regions will delight in seeing how well those teacher’s students score on the tests that they are disproportionately prepared for. More of the same, more of the same.

Update: In a New York Times article published Friday, Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University’s education department warned about the risk of judging a prep program’s effectiveness based upon the performance of their graduates in heterogeneous classrooms, and said things more eloquently than I could:

“If we evaluated doctors based on that kind of measure, nobody would train AIDS physicians. They’d all train pediatricians who worked in the suburbs where kids are pretty healthy to begin with.”

(Waiting for) Superman Returns

In 2010, battle lines were drawn between two groups of people with the same exact goal — making it possible for the “un-teachable” to be taught all that they needed to learn to succeed — but with very different views on how it should be done. One camp was represented by outspoken leaders like Michelle RheeGeoffrey Canada, and Salman Khan and given national spotlight by Davis Guggenheim and Participant Media’s documentary Waiting for Superman. But the other side was less visible, and their voices were drowned out by celebrities like Oprah and Bill and Melinda Gates, a fact that was particularly frustrating because they were the actual subjects of the debate: teachers.

Public education in America had not been rocked nearly this hard since Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and so it was about time to have a national conversation about how best to reach our students in the 21st century and beyond. But NCLB had the side-effect of taking almost all autonomy away from districts and schools and giving control of the curriculum and most other details of the school day to statehouses and the Department of Education. The Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative further distanced teachers and students from the decision-making process. And as Waiting for Superman, the Khan Academy, Scott Walker, and the iPad rose to prominence in the booming education industry, it seemed like the public needed to agree on one thing: teachers were irresponsible, unaccountable for their performance, capable of being replaced by a computer screen, and fearful of losing out on those glorious benefits that come with being a teacher (summer vacations and hardened protections against being unnecessarily fired, not sleepless nights and afternoons, evenings, and weekends spent calling parents, planning for the next day, and crunching student assessment data in order to comply with state and federal regulations).

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Flypaper, or the column without a unique title at this time

Throughout the week, I often find myself reading something and thinking, "Gosh, I wish I had someone who cared enough about this to share my interest and enthusiasm!" (I'm often surrounded by 9 year-olds or colleagues who are equally burned out by the end of the school day and can't form complete sentences. And I'm counting myself in that group.)

But rather than keep all of this inside my head, I'm borrowing an idea I found in the latest incarnation of The New Republic: Flypaper, where various editors and contributors share random tidbits of information they found while reading books, newspapers, magazines, etc. in each issue. The point is to share the things I've been reading and to get some comments out of my head so that I don't have to keep bothering my parents (or dog) with them.

On second thought, it sounds like the better idea would be to get some friends. But that takes time, and clipping some articles into Evernote and dropping them onto my blog seems like it'd be easier. Without any further ado, here's my Flypaper...

Why you hate the sound of your voice, from NBCNews.com:

“When [someone] listens to a recording of their voice speaking, the bone-conducted pathway that they consider part of their ‘normal’ voice is eliminated, and they hear only the air-conducted component in unfamiliar isolation—what everybody else actually hears,” says Dr. Chris Chang, an otolaryngologist at Fauquier Ear, Nose & Throat Consultants in Warrenton, Virginia.

An ironic start to this series, as I'm certain there are a few people within earshot who also hate the sound of my voice. But I've been recording some of my students reading aloud and playing it back for them, and it's a joy to see them struggle to understand why they sound so silly.

Chinese education: The truth behind the boasts, from BusinessWeek.com:

While my students are stumped by the unfamiliar voice coming from the MP3 players in their hands, their Chinese counterparts are supposedly crafting rockets, hologram projectors, and laser-firing satellites to be placed on Jupiter when they figure out how to land there and colonize it. But if pundits and CEOs want to claim that the rest of the world is outpacing us in math and science and the Chinese are the only ones who know how to fix a broken education system, you might want to share this nugget of truth:

The reality is China’s students receive educations of greatly varying quality. Their parents often pay a lot for it, depending on where they live [...] The annual education expenditure per middle school student in 2010 in Beijing totaled 20,023 yuan, more than six times the 3,204 yuan spent in the poor province of Guizhou.

Rural families pay up to 2,000 yuan annually in education costs [...] To secure desks near the teacher, families pay 300 yuan per month, says Liao Ran, who runs programs in Asia combating graft for Berlin-based Transparency International. While a few years ago the youngest students almost all went to school, now as many as 900,000 6- to 8-year-olds drop out every year.

Gather round, the "economists" are going to teach us how to teach

I've always been a fan of the authors of Freakonomics, and probably still will be a fan after reading this article. In this case, they're really just the messengers and we can't blame them for what the wealthy education reformers are probably going to do with this information. In the meantime, though, let's read a summary of one of their recent studies and look at how the editors of The Atlantic are already interpreting things.

Since it's a subject of economics (or freakonomics, whatever the difference is) and it involves education, I'm sure you can guess that it involves incentive-based learning. The latest study repeats what we already know is true - when you give students rewards, they perform a task better - but it's the Atlantic editor's conclusion that really tears me up. Just look at the headline:

 

Look at the cute little kids! Don't they just look like the kinds of children eager to wake up every morning to go to school and... wait a second, what's that tagline?

"The case for putting $20 bills on the desk of every standardized test taker."

Can I stop here? Can we all stop here, please?

Incentives work. We know this. It's human nature. We also know that in many cases, it works insofar as you get a certain behavior to exhibit itself but no long-lasting habit is formed. Think about your current jobs, with their paychecks and perks. It's great, right? If I told you that in two weeks, the paychecks would stop coming and you'd have to pay for your own dental insurance, but still keep working for me, would you keep that job? Maybe for a day or two, but then it'd eat away at you that you're volunteering to do a job that you got paid handsomely for just days before.

So tell me, Derek Thompson, business editor for The Atlantic... If my goal as a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher is to take a bright young child and build a lifetime love for learning, do you really think I should give them all $80/hour to try to do better on a test?

My (least) favorite part is when Derek points out one of public education's really troubling issues. Hold on tight, everyone, it's a doozie:

The trouble for many schools is that the incentive structure is set up so that teachers focus more than their students on standardized tests.

Don't bother checking to see that you read it correctly. The problem with our schools and their current incentive-based learning structures (which isn't even as awful as it could be) are that they focus too much on the students, not on the tests.

Derek, I thought you were kidding. I really, really, REALLY wanted this to be a joke. But I got all the way to the end of your article and this was all that I found:

... it's here, in under-served school districts, where the lessons of attention might be the most lucrative for the country. If we can buy their attention today, we'll all be richer for it.

I don't know about all of the readers of this blog, but I can assure you, Derek Thompson, that I did not choose to become a teacher so that I could hand out dollar bills to 3rd graders, beg them to score high on a standardized-test, and then wait patiently for the results to come back so that we can prove to the rest of the world that we've succeeded at educating the future generations of America.

Stick to real economics, and let us find innovative ways to raise student achievement without your filthy dollar bills.

Parents "Duped" by "Progressive" School Ran by Celebrities

I'm not going to say much about this article. Primarily because everyone involved got exactly what was coming to them (with the slight exception of the children who were too young to have a say in the decision) and also because the last thing this story needs is to be blown out of proportion and attached to the progressive movement in education.

The main lesson to be taken from this story is as follows: if you're paying $32,000 a year to send your child to a school created by members of a Vegas entertainment group known for the ground-breaking idea to cover themselves from head to toe in blue paint... you shouldn't be surprised when your child fails to gain anything from their time spent there.

If you're paying all that money and your children's principals are trained in anything but education, and those school administrators don't believe in the importance of books and structured classroom time (don't jump to any conclusions, I'm simply stating that 6-7 hours of "play time!" is not good for anyone)... you shouldn't be surprised when they can't read.

As with everything in life these days, there exists a wide spectrum of ways to solve every problem. Just try to avoid the extremes. No one expects you to send your child to a school where they will spend 7 hours circling answers on a multiple-choice test. But don't associate the Blue School or any of its like to a progressive education. We believe in books... that should say enough for itself, right?

Like It Or Not, Your 10-Year Olds Will Be Using Facebook

Photograph by Christopher Meder/iStockphoto.I've tried to stay out of the brouhaha regarding Facebook's proposal to allow children younger than 13 to begin joining the site. Anyone who knows me can probably guess that I'm going to side with the children's ability to learn and adapt to this new technology, rather than just assuming that their primary activity of choice will be to connect with pedophiles and terrorists and wreak havoc across the world. But then I fell for this link-bait from Slate and had to respond in some way.

This is the long and short of it: with or without systems in place, kids are going to join Facebook long before they are legally allowed to.

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Enhanced eBooks and Their Role in Early Reading

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a leading organization studying the ways in which 21st-century technology can help (and potentially harm) early learning, recently released the findings of a study on the divide between print books, ebooks, and "enhanced" ebooks, their flashy, attention-grabbing counterparts. Ignoring the misleading headline (the problem isn't whether or not children benefit more from print books rather than ebooks) the study is a great look at how we have to be careful when we add glitz and glamor to the materials we use in pre-K and elementary classrooms.

To sum up the results, the ebooks containing animations, video clips, sound, etc. were less beneficial to adults and children reading together. As you can imagine, reading these ebooks is fun and if your goal is to get a child to become interested in the process of reading, they're great! I've seen a few of the classic childrens books ported over to iPads and other tablets and they look and sound awesome... in many cases, they are the physical representations of the details I would add to a story as I was reading it. My imagination at work, brought to life on the screen. But that's part of the problem... the study found that content-related actions between the child and their reading partner decreased, and the focus quickly became the moving parts themselves.

This shouldn't be surprising to anyone, but I don't think the alarms need to be raised just yet. For one reason, any book in the hands of children is better than no book at all. Two, teachers and parents just need to think about their objectives when choosing between print and ebooks. If you're having a tough time dragging a child away from the television, it's quite possible that your "boring" childrens book isn't going to get any attention. But when that book becomes somewhat similar to what they are looking for in television and video games, you're pulling children closer to the ultimate goal of getting them to read something.

The study looks to move on to identifying what elements of enhanced ebooks are the most distracting, as well as which elements actually are beneficial to both engagement AND comprehension.

Don't Bother Reading the Instruction Manual

This is the actual manual that came with a copy of one of my all-time favorite video games, Earthbound. Coming in at approximately 100 pages, the book itself was bigger than the cartridge and the box that it came in, which was a rarity at the time. But as I was reminiscing with friends this past weekend, I started thinking about those manuals that came with video games and computer games in the late 80s and all the way through the 90s. They were treasures, almost as fun to read and pore through as the games themselves. I remember fondly sitting in the car on the way back from Blockbuster, flipping through those booklets to figure out how I was going to spend the next few days enjoying the game I was bringing home.

And then, for a variety of reasons, those manuals started shrinking. It wasn't that video games became less complex - a casual gamer in the 90s might argue that a manual the size of the one that came with Earthbound is necessary for most of the video games they see "hardcore" gamers playing nowadays - but the information contained within them became integrated into the games themselves. When processing power was limited and you could only pack so many hours of gameplay into a cartridge, publishers didn't want to spend the first half hour of a video game explaining the premise and the controls. You were usually thrown headfirst into the game.

In fact, players of the original Super Mario Bros. game are usually shocked to find out, years later, the true backstory of the game.

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The Malleable World

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you are to just live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again. 

Quoting Steve Jobs and showing clips from one of his many video interviews seems to be one of the best ways to garner attention on the Internet, but I promise that's not my primary intent in embedding this video here. Instead, I wanted to use it to lead into the most important thing that teachers (and anyone responsible for the growth, development, and education of young children across the world) need to remember: we need to promote the understanding that the world is malleable. It can always be changed.

If you don't agree, I completely understand why. Life is tough and there are some tragedies that haven't been avoided and may never be eliminated. But I will never forgive you for being the kind of person that stands in the way of any young boy or girl who naively believes that everything around them can, and should be, improved for the better.

My Thoughts on Being a "Delayed Adolescent"

I've read a lot of articles in the last few weeks that seem like they were written for the express purpose of making me feel like less of a sub-human being and more like a... future valued-member-of-society-who-just-hasn't-been-given-the-chance-to-shine. This New York Times article is the latest in this series and fortunately could not come at a better time:

Just when parents thought they might finally be free of their children, many of this year’s college graduates will pick up their degrees — and move back home. Even those who don’t may continue to live off the parental dole...

But this is not necessarily the nightmare scenario it’s made out to be. Our research shows that the closer bonds between young adults and their parents should be celebrated, and do not necessarily compromise the independence of the next generation.

Phew, I really needed that. The writer goes on to explain that my parents' generation, when faced with the trials of graduating high school and college and being dumped out into a society rife with unemployment and uncertainty, depended on the advice (for better or for worse) of their own peers. You can see how that'd quickly cause some problems, most of which I'm sure could never be attributed to any of the late 20th century's social uprisings. But my generation, on the other hand, retains a symbiotic relationship with our parents and guardians that may not be the worst thing that could happen to us.

A personal example. This week, I discovered that my income (or complete lack of any, considering that I haven't had a job since February) wasn't going to raise my cash-on-hand up above this coming month's expenses... the credit card companies were going to be asking for my hard-saved money and when they pried it away from me, I was going to be left with, uh... less than enough for my countless expenses (food).

25 years ago (or with the mindset that "I can take on the world all by myself, I don't need anyone's help!") I might have closed my eyes and randomly picked one of my three credit cards to carry over a balance, leading to increased debt. And just like those Comcast commercials, this simple decision would have led me to joining a gang, losing an arm, and missing my chance to become a blackbelt in karate.

But instead, I called my mom! And 15 minutes later (and with a small, but generous, loan) I had a plan for how I'd stay afloat for another few weeks. Now I can pursue my dreams of martial arts glory.

In closing, a large part of the world doesn't see any problem with this. Many cultures actually expect children to live with their parents into adulthood and someday support them. Other countries are faced with the actual need for children to contribute to their parents' income and well-being... at least in America we have the choice, and I don't think it's one that we should be ashamed of having.

Got a Budget Surplus? Raises for Everyone!

As I said yesterday, giving kids access to fun games that teach them math is not going to solve any of education's big problems... because access to fun educational games is not one of education's big problems! But what is?

From the Washington Post:

But as their budgets begin to improve, boards now face choices about spending increases: Should they raise salaries, lower class sizes or restore programs that had been cut?

Several local boards have opted this year for pay increases, in response to demands from teachers and other employees whose salaries had stagnated.

And so what priorities were left on the cutting room floor? Restoring arts programs, pre-kindergarten and other early intervention programs, summer-school, and decreasing class sizes. (One concerned father expressed worry that his daughter's kindergarten class would max out at 25 students this coming year, which probably sounds like a dream scenario for leagues of kindergarten teachers across the nation.)

The Prince William County district has been pressured in recent years to make budget cuts, and decided this spring to push the limits of its middle and high school class sizes in order to find some extra money. But the money saved, where did it go? Raises for its employees:

'This year the priority was keeping pace with salaries around the region,' said Philip Kavits, a spokesman for Prince William schools. 'We don’t want to lose people.'

On behalf of countless unemployed teachers across America, I think I can safely say that you'd be able to find a few people to take the spots of those who left because teaching just wasn't paying them enough.

Yes, Let's Encourage Big Business to Further Influence Public Education

Ugh, Fast Company. When I saw this headline, I expected that a trip to The Onion was in order. I hadn't heard the news of AT&T's investment in educational games yet, but I was certain that this article was lampooning whatever decision had actually been made in an AT&T boardroom somewhere.

But I was wrong, and this article was dead serious. The authors, Judah Schiller and Christine Arena, are the founders of AIKO, an "intelligent agency" (no, seriously, their website states their intelligence right in the header) that basically consults with large corporations seeking to improve their public image by taking on causes important to their customers. In this case, they chose to pat AT&T on the back for giving a grant to GameDesk, a nonprofit/startup focusing on educational games for children. A disclaimer on the article also notes that GameDesk is one of AIKO's flagship partners. Just sayin'.

My beef, so you know, is not with GameDesk (or the larger goal of AIKO). My problem is with Schiller and Arena taking a relatively small example of corporate philanthropy, raising it up in significance above a "tried and true" donation to the United Way (apparently as long as kids are playing games, they won't be worried about their parents' unemployment and their inequitable access to healthcare), and then giving AT&T executives all the credit for disrupting education. Furthermore, we're supposed to believe that other companies should follow this trend and start giving more money to so-called disruptors in education.

Can we all start to agree that the problem with our public education system has nothing to do with games?

I may be especially cranky these days, but this just reeks of the same "investments" and "innovation" that companies like Apple, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson are bringing to the table these days. All of which end in huge profits for those companies and fodder for articles about how ebooks and tablets are going to ensure that every child graduates high school and competes with China lives a happy, successful life.

Educators know best the realities of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and it can be applied to organizations and communities just as easily as it can be applied to individual lives. Until our basic needs are met (by combatting rising inequity between minorities in schools, widespread budget cuts to districts, and a baffling disrespect for teachers and education professionals in the media) we can't even begin to ponder the ways that games and tablets are going to revolutionize education. Apple doesn't profit from hiring more teachers, and Pearson's massive testing centers actually benefit from a populace who believes the people teaching their children need to be vetted better. So remind me again why we should be looking to those companies for the secret solution to our problems?

The answer to my question comes from another one of Schiller and Arena's blog posts earlier this year:

We expect to see many more companies invest deeply in education, not simply as a cause du jour, but as a means of innovation and marketplace survival.

Want a Teaching License? Just Pay Pearson!

A generous and forward-thinking company has finally stepped forward to help colleges and universities weed out those prospective teachers who just shouldn't make the cut... and it's Pearson, the company known for every textbook and basal reader not published by Scholastic, McGraw-Hill, or Cengage! They've offered to take on one of the most important roles that university faculty play in preparing students to become education professionals, the process of approving graduates for licensure.

Colleges (including Ohio University, which I'll get to in a moment) have already begun field-testing this system in the last year or two, but it's in the news now because instructors and student teachers at the University of Massachusetts are choosing to opt-out of sending their portfolios and final reports to a company best known in 2012 for introducing children across America to the story of a talking pineapple and other ridiculously unfair and biased test questions. (Pearson has since stated that its tests are valid and reliable. As always, it's the student's fault for not recognizing the moral of a story in which a group of animals inexplicably eat a pineapple because it doesn't have sleeves or something. I'm just as lost as everyone else.) I sure hope the 15-billion dollar company can maintain a profit in 2012.

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Valve's Corporate Culture Could Teach Us a Few Things About Education

Educators can learn a lot from video games without ever delving into the controversial subject of gamification. Instead, we can look at the hiring practices and corporate culture of the companies that create these games to realize that we are preparing students to work for companies that don't want anything to do with them.

Valve is a video game development company based out of Washington, and they are the geniuses behind some of the most critically-acclaimed games in the last decade, including the Half-Life series and the mind-bending puzzle/platformer Portal. They are also responsible for up to 70% of the digital market for games with their Steam service, packed with more than 1500 games.

Needless to say, they're a successful company. And if they continue to make money and grow, they're going to need employees... but not just any employees, according to a handbook written for new hires that leaked onto the Internet this weekend.

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Get the Fear Out of Your Classroom!

Given the assignment of indoctrinating a thousand kids at a time, the embattled school administrator reaches for the most effective tool available. Given that the assigned output of school is compliant citizens, the shortcut for achieving this output was fear.

Love him or hate him for his no-holds-barred approach to delivering the truth about the public education system (and I've been reminded several times that he is not an educator but a businessman), Seth Godin does have the masterful ability to make you think long and hard about your attitudes towards life's most important institutions. His most hated adversary is the lizard brain, his catch-all explanation for why humans are fearful of anything that could result in discomfort.

His latest book, a short but powerful read titled Stop Stealing Dreams focuses entirely on education, undoubtedly a result of legions of educators begging him to elaborate on the points he made previously in books like Linchpin relating to school.

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Promoting a Growth Mindset Should Be Priority One

I've written about my own personal growth mindset before, the belief that most human qualities - intelligence, some elements of personality, work ethic, self-concept, etc. - can be improved (or, on a less positive note, degrade). It's my opinion that this is the only way that one can hope to live a happy, productive life.

An article in Wired magazine backs me up on this and then takes the idea one step further, to a point where it becomes apparent that the growth mindset is essential for teachers to nurture in their students.

Jonah Lehrer explains:

The question at the heart of the paper is simple: Why are some people so much more effective at learning from their mistakes? After all, everybody screws up. The important part is what happens next. Do we ignore the mistake, brushing it aside for the sake of our self-confidence? Or do we investigate the error, seeking to learn from the snafu?

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Piling On: Teachers Hate Creativity, Supposedly

A study published in 1995 is being dragged out of storage to create all new incendiary headlines for the upcoming weeks, which will undoubtedly prove once again that teachers are awful. Right?

The study itself is not at fault, of course (and rarely is). I did take issue with the researchers putting teachers in the uncomfortable position of actually choosing their favorite and least favorite students and describing them. Sure, we all play favorites, but I'm already wary of these teachers' disposition toward education if they can readily name their least favorite student in the classroom. I'm willing to bet that you'll find little Johnny in the back of the classroom, possibly facing the opposite direction of his classmates and working on uncompleted homework from the day before. But I'll get back to the point.

The results of the first part of the study showed that these teachers described their least favorite students as more creative (as defined by a list of characteristics deemed creative). Their most favorite students, on the other hand, were described as less creative.

At this point, the study could go in a few different ways, analyzing the elements of the classroom and our nation's schools that might lead to such results.

But that's not what the headlines are going to say.

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The First Sign That You Are a 21st Century Teacher...

People love buzzwords. I suppose that makes sense, given the defintion of the word, but each year it seems like every professional field gets a whole new batch of them. Politicians love to spew them in 30 second soundbites, and corporations are always eager to add new and exciting words to their marketing campaigns (see: artisan-baked everything, including potato chips and pizza). And for those of us who are interested in the latest technology news, you're probably familiar with Web 2.0, gamification, content discovery, and 4G, 5G, and LTE wireless access. If it gets people interested in what you are trying to sell, where's the harm?

It's fine if you choose to eat more Domino's pizza just because you think it's suddenly more healthy for you. Go right ahead and subscribe to the belief that any discontent with the ever-widening gap between the upper and lower class in America is socialist thinking. And please, spend a few hundred bucks more on a smartphone that you think is going to download YouTube videos faster than yours does now. There's no long-term harm in any of that, besides alienating your more liberal relatives during the holiday season.

The field of education, however, needs to avoid adding any more buzzwords to its repertoire. And if there's one buzzword that really rubs me the wrong way, it's this one: 21st century learning.

How do you know that you are a 21st century teacher? Simple.

You live in the 21st century, and are a teacher.

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My Philosophy of Education

As one of my last assignments before I begin student teaching in the fall, I was asked to revise the philosophy of education that I submitted when I entered the program in 2009. I dusted it off (digital dust collects faster than real dust, you know) and started thinking about how it has changed in two years. In 2009 I was young(er) and (more) naive than I am now and I felt that the purpose of education was less about the individual child and their development, and more about the strength and quality of the students a school pumps out into the community. That's not entirely a bad thing - in fostering all domains of development in children, we are basically ensuring that they leave our classroom and go out into the world with strength, resiliency, self-respect, and a compassion for others that transcends all society-driven barriers between us. But it's not the only reason that we teach. Effective teachers are able to bring a classroom's test scores up a few points on average, and if they're lucky, they'll get by without any conflicts with the families of their students. Effective teachers look at a full classroom and see several distinct groups forming, often based on ability, age, and sociability. Effective teachers don't harm children and they aren't bad teachers. But they could do better. And I want to do better.

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