Posts Tagged ‘back to school’

How many times have you heard “Research shows that…”

I saw my first “Back to School” commercial yesterday (July 26) and the How Soon is Too Soon question popped in my mind. Here in SWOntario we don’t start school until September 4th. I digress.

This ad claims that “laboratory tests, over the last few years,” have shown that babies fit in better during those awkward pre-teen and teen years after drinking cola.

Hmmmm…..my math isn’t that bad.

Be careful when you quote, listen to, claim and read research that might strengthen your point. Read critically, question, seek further resources and by golly make sure the math adds up. When it does it makes a world of difference. When the math doesn’t add up we lose the trust we are building in the public education system. As Douglas Reeves says “It makes us all look bad.”

Do you still:

  • have spelling tests?
  • “do” calendar?
  • work in isolation?
  • say “they mark too easy” when referring to colleagues whose students excel?
  • give a student a grade a week later, a month later, never?
  • think a grade is feedback?
  • ban handheld devices in your classroom?
  • show movies on the SmartBoard?
  • believe social media is a fad?
  • believe the best learning environment is a quiet one?
  • demand (parents) or give worksheets (plural) for homework?
  • say “respect must be earned?”
  • use the sentence “the problem with kids these days…”
  • blame the teacher, the administrator, the parents, the students, the school district or rock and roll music…etc.

Now, do you know what the research says about these practises? Does it align with your thinking or challenge your thinking?

It is time to learn something new. Step out of the comfort zone and into the learning zone, the risk zone. Take a learning stance. Find new research. Heck, develop your own research out of an inquiry.

This school year, abandon a practise that you are hearing questioned more and more. Replace it with something new, something different, something from a colleague or even “scarier” a colleague’s blog! Something that makes the kids say…”What has gotten into Mr. Cowper?!? This guy wants us to Tweet our learning? OMG He has changed! He is CRAZEE!”

Yup…there it is. The magic word. Change. Do you believe they used to allow ads like the one above in magazines? They also used to smoke on airplanes, have back seats, with no seatbelts, the size of Montana, give children bottles of ink and a fountain pen? My gosh…the Principal used to use a strap to teach learnin’!

“They” is actually we. We have segregated our schools, isolated our most vulnerable students away from schools, assimilated the culture out of our students and myriads of other draconian practises that kept us from being true learning institutions. Institutions with a culture where the most important learning was about ourselves, about our interconnectedness with the earth with each other (our kids) and about learning.

This year connect. Research shows that, good or bad, the greatest and most impactful aspect of a student’s life (no matter the grade) is their teacher. Connect with them. Learn with them. Know them.

And have fun doing it. (I know Ms Rotundi, I am never supposed to start a sentence, let alone a paragraph, with a grammatical conjunction.)

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After seeing the first back to school commercial on the tele in mid July I said to myself, self, get over it. I am now singing “It is the most wonderful time of the year. . .” in the shower in the morning. Why the change? Because my 5 year old daughter can’t wait. Tonight she had a fashion show for Tricia (my wife) and I of all the new outfits that Grandma bought her. She is beyond excited. After a very successful year in junior kindergarten she can’t wait. Friends, crafts, reading, writing and maths. She loves it all. Her favorite this summer though was being a young scientist and “doing lots of spearmints.” Okay so we have a ways to go on the phonemes. Her vocabulary is excellent though, just ask her, she will tell you confidently that her Principal father has to be much more “responsibler” than the vice principal a man she knows as her uncle.

Our public school system does wonders and miracles for children that still, after 12 years in the business, leaves me with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart for our future. Former Director of Education (now the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Student Achievement Officer of the Ministry of Education of Ontario) reiterated it again last week at our district’s summer conference, Vision to Pratice, when she stated “Our job is to guide, lead and support students to their most richly imagined future.”  My daughter feels that that is exactly what happens to her in school.  Zoë believes, as I do, that a teacher’s job is to help her learn to become a jazz dancing princess who has the biggest garden in town and plays professional soccer and cares for animals while helping her life partner raise the family.   A teacher’s job is not impossible.  In fact, teachers are the only reason that everything is possible.  It is teachers that make kids of all ages believe they are going to be a silver screen star, a child psychologist, an electrical engineer, an astronaut, a one legged high jumper (Thanks J.H.), or an elementary school Principal.

Teachers ,in my book , are miracle workers.  They face challenges everyday and are faced with impossible odds and leverage that with the small goal of simply making the world a better place, continuing democracy, protecting (or “fortecting” as my daughter says) the weak, sick and poor.  I mean, how much more “responsibler” can you get.  Teachers, take care of my daughters dreams please. They are sacred to humanity and to her Mama and Daddy.

God bless you teachers,  and all educators,  have a great year.

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