Education Opinion

A year in Review

By LeaderTalk Contributor — December 28, 2010 6 min read
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This is the time of year that causes people to reflect on the accomplishments they have achieved, the difficulties they have overcome, and the areas for growth both personally and, perhaps, professionally. Therefore, we thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the blogs we submitted for 2010 and look at where we were, where we are, and where we may be going in the educational field.

“2014: A Space Odyssey...Sort of.”
2014 may look different because of the adoption of National Core Standards and a whole new testing methodology. We might now leave “no child behind,” but how we educate, assess, and determine what that looks like will shift dramatically over the upcoming years.

“Have You Heard of the Google?”
Our district now has a full Google implementation throughout the district. It has changed how the administration, teachers, and students communicate and collaborate. With the use of Google Apps as well as other cloud computing services, we are currently considering eliminating our network in five years time! That would have been unheard of and totally dismissed even a few short months ago. Our faculty’s buy in has made it a topic that is now on the table.

“Batting Now for Your School District...”
Finding a teaching position is challenging in today’s bleak job market. This blog dealt with the hiring process, specifically, leave replacement positions. If you are a recent grad or have lost your position as teacher or administrator, do not look past leave replacement positions. A leave replacement position may lead to full-time employment!

“It Isn’t A Homework Assignment Until Someone Cries... and It Doesn’t Have to be the Student!”
Recently, another issue related to homework was brought to our attention. This time, it was a concern that a parent had over the lack of writing that takes place at home. There are several valid reasons why most of the writing at the secondary level takes place within the school day; however, the issue reminded us of the continuing homework saga--how much is too much, how much is too little, how much of it is busy work, and how much of it is effective. The homework debate is one that continues and requires more research on the part of educators.

“Turning of the Tide”
Assessment design has really taken shape over the last few months. 48 states are now part of PARCC and all states are adopting the National Core Standards in the upcoming years. This will allow for more unified curriculum across the nation; furthermore, in many states we will be moving to four tests a year in ELA and Math in grades 3 - 11. Most states are adopting this regiment of testing in 2014. If you are in the field, you need to become aware of the changes and what it means to you as a professional

“Summer Vacation”
Gladwell’s book Outliers provides some insight into summer vacation and the impact it has American education. What Gladwell offers readers is an explanation for why American education suffers in comparison to China, Japan, and South Korea--the “rice-growing societies” where the educational culture is based on the culture of rice paddies which demand hard and steady work almost year-round. Students in the US are in school approximately 180 days a year compared to South Korea’s 220 and Japan’s 243. Additionally, students in “rice-growing sociities” are in school for more hours per day than in the US. Gladwell also writes about the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) school in the Bronx where students spend 50 to 60 percent more time in school than the typical student in America. KIPP schools’ success rates are attributed to this increase in time spent both in school and out of school, where students are expected to complete additional school work on their own time. .
More hours spent in school and studying after school may have a significant impact on student success, and it could be the answer to many of the problems in the system, today. Establishing a culture that supports such a change would be a challenge; however, it may be worth considering, if, in the end, our students will be better prepared for life beyond the classroom.

“Top Teachers”
Teacher observations and evaluations continue to be a hot topic in education. Some districts including ours use the Danielson Framework, which is one model to implement for quality teacher observations. Due to its collaborative nature, the Danielson model allows teachers to select areas of focus for the administrator collect evidence around during the observation. It also allows the administrator to identify areas for growth. While the model is not fool-proof and some teachers may still put on a “dog and pony show” while being observed, it does provide a fair and effective framework in place of narrative observations where teachers are in the dark about what the administrator is looking for during an observation.

“Are You Ready for This?”
There is a substantial gap that exists between what teacher prep programs offer their students and what the needs are for 21c K - 12 education. Over the next few years, the gap will only become greater unless higher ed and K - 12 educators collaborate to create practical curricula that addresses teaching for our children today. It can no longer be acceptable, for new teachers especially, to enter schools with the same mental models that were instilled in them because of their own education. Students in primary and secondary schools need teachers who know that teaching does not start at 9am and end at 3pm; teachers who are willing to spend hours on their weekends and after school developing lessons and assessments that meet the needs of the diverse learners; teachers who have both emotional and mental intelligence to establish positive learning environments in their classrooms and create successful learning experiences for all--yes--ALL of their students.
Teaching is not easy. It is not about summer vacation. It is not about ego. It is not about having “good hours.” It is also not enough to go into teaching just because you “love children.”
Teaching is hard work. It is about life-long learning, current and best practices, flexibility, understanding, and compassion. It is about reflection. Most importantly, It is about never giving up on a child.

“Job Readiness...Part Deux”
After spending years in college studying educational theories and teaching methodologies, you think you know everything you need to know in order to be a successful educator. The tools you bring with you to your first district are certainly valuable; however, you still have plenty to learn! Some districts require new staff members to attend an orientation that will provide you with important information about the district’s history, its mission, goals and initiatives. If your district does not offer an orientation, do as much research of your own as you can by searching on the Internet, reading the annual school report cards, and asking questions.

“First Place Teacher: Do You Have What It Takes to be a Gold Medal Winner?”
The job market is tough these days, and teaching positions are limited. The suggestions made in this blog will put you at an advantage when applying for jobs. Unfortunately, due to the budget cuts, many districts are not in a position to increase staffing, even if more staffing may be necessary. For all the new graduates and teachers who have lost their jobs... stay current in the world of education by reading journals and articles, and, think positive thoughts! A job is in the stars for you for 2011!

Concluding Thoughts
As we look forward to another exciting year in education, what do you believe are the hot topics? What do you think will get you hired? What are the obstacles that stand in your way to becoming the best teacher or administrator possible?

We would also like to thank all of you for reading the blog over the last year. Your thoughts, insights, and dialogue has helped both of us think more deeply about our profession. We hope to bring you even better blog entries in 2011. Happy New Year!!

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.