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Showing posts from January, 2017

Place, Not Race -- Part 1

If you work in public education--specifically secondary education--you know now that it's the time when students' plans are solidified for the fall. College acceptance, deferment, and rejection letters are arriving, and students are starting to get their financial aid packages from universities.

I remember being in high school and how the process was so new to me. I was a first-generation college graduate, and my dad didn't know much about the process other than applying. (Applying to college was actually how I convinced him to get high speed internet; until then, we had dial-up, and I couldn't get the applications to load.)

I knew I had to fill out the FAFSA because my counselors told me to. I knew I had to check for deadlines because my counselors told me to. The list goes on and on of topics and deadlines that I heard from others about. I knew little about the expected family contribution (EFC); I just knew that my dad couldn't help much when it came to paying f…

"Flush with Cash"

I took some time this morning to read President Trump's inauguration speech yesterday. I was at school during the day and unable to watch it, but I still feel it's important to take the time to read and be aware, even if I disagree with someone.

In his speech, President Trump said this: "... an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge..."

And it's that part of his speech in particular that I take offense to.

To make that claim about schools in America--and particularly those in Michigan--is false.

I am a teacher. I serve on a board of education in another district. And I can tell you that neither district is "flush with cash." Year after year these districts have had to make difficult budget cuts, often balanced by the sacrifices made by employee groups.

When I hear rhetoric that districts should do more with less, that really means they should cut salaries and benefits. Anyone even re…

The Law That Started It All

After DeVos' hearing yesterday, I continued doing research about the secretary of education. And I stumbled upon the law that actually created the department here.

I've taken the liberty to bold some parts below:

SEC. 102. The Congress declares that the establishment of a Department of Education is in the public interest, will promote the general welfare of the United States, will help ensure that education issues receive proper treatment at the Federal level, and will enable the Federal Government to coordinate its education activities more effectively. Therefore, the purposes of this Act are--(1) to strengthen the Federal commitment to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;(4) to promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information(7) to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress, and the public.  Some of the abo…

Past Secretaries of Education

After last night's hearing with nominee DeVos, I decided to research past education secretaries. Senator Alexander talked a lot about "precedent" when it came to procedures regarding the HELP Committee.

Let us remember that the first education secretary was appointed in 1979. That's the same year that Congress created the department under Jimmy Carter. This is also the same department that Ronald Reagan promised to abolish.

Even the first education secretary had experience in government. Shirley M. Hufstedler was both a federal and state appeals court judge. I'm going to say that because of that experience, she's probably familiar with law and how laws work. As we saw last night, when Betsy DeVos was redirected a question because her answer implied that states could choose to implement federal law or not, she might need a refresher.

Then we had Terrel Bell, who was a high school teacher, bus driver, and served in the Marines. Again, a long list of public serv…

Ineffective Practices

I've been reading Mike Schmoker's Results Now the past few days. It's been a great reminder for the start of this year about the urgent, important work that classroom teachers undertake daily and also a reality check that the smallest changes can bring about big results. And when I say "smallest changes," I really do mean that. He doesn't argue for anything radical in this book, unless you consider making sure success criteria is clear to students by showing strong examples of what they ultimately are expected to do, giving descriptive and specific feedback, or having kids actually read and write in school.

Throughout the book, Schmoker calls for a "coherent curriculum" and the opening of our classrooms to scrutiny and feedback. It's this quote that really has had me thinking for days:

'To put the need in perspective: we would be properly outraged if administrators routinely failed to show up for appointments with parents, or if most teachers…

Letter to the Editor Regarding DeVos

***Update:  At the time this letter was read at Monday’s board meeting, the hearing regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education was still scheduled for Wednesday, January 11. Later that evening, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions postponed the hearing until January 17 at 5:00 PM.

This is a letter to the editor that I will submit for the January 12 edition of the Belleville-Area Independent. 
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To the Editor:
This week marks a defining moment for public education in the United States. On Wednesday, January 11, a hearing will have taken place regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education.
During the past few board meetings, I have expressed my concerns publicly about Mrs. DeVos’ appointment to the top education post, and I reiterate those same concerns here. I have contacted Senator Stabenow and Peter’s offices, and they both have now expressed their concerns regarding this appointment and have vowed to…

Try to Understand People

I recently finished reading Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People, a book originally published in 1936 and filled with much wisdom that remains true today. While a lot of the supporting anecdotes are from the past, the overarching idea remains the same. I could sum this entire book up with a lesson from R.J. Palacio's Wonder: "If you have to choose between being right or being kind, choose kind."

In my interactions with kids, with adults, or even with my wife, I'm taking this book to heart. Language matters, and the reminders in this book of how we communicate and send messages to others are important. The book doesn't call for large, substantive shifts in our habits. This can all be accomplished by slowing down and appreciating the interaction between humans.

For me, I'm thinking of three specific "moves" that I can start to make today:

Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. The only way to get the bes…

Ghost: A Review

I just finished reading Jason Reynolds' Ghost, a National Book Award finalist for Young People's Literature this past year. At first I was hesitant. I typically don't read middle grade novels because many of my students view them as immature, even if I try to really sell them on the title. Even Reynolds' When I Was the Greatest, a book I paired with Night and had a great discussion with him during NCTE15 about, wasn't picked as much as I wanted it to be during literature circle selections.

I think part of that reluctance to pick up his books is that Reynolds crafts characters that are real. He doesn't have them do outlandish things. When he crafts a person, he includes the ordinary, the mundane. And that's what makes his realistic fiction so, well, real. The ordinary is perfectly okay in reading. And I'd argue that's essential if we really want books to function as mirrors for our kids.

In Ghost, Castle, the main character, is real. He loves his mom …

2017 Word of the Year: Listen

This post was inspired by my friend Beth's post about her word for 2017: hope. If you haven't read her post, check it out here. She argues that we have to earn our hope by working for it every day. 
I just finished taking TTI Success Insight's TriMetrix HD, an assessment provided through Wayne RESA's Aspiring Administrator Academy that participants were warned may provide some difficult to digest information about our habits, beliefs, and priorities. While reading my results this morning, this summary of some of my habits hit home:

Kevin may lose interest in what others are saying if they ramble or don't speak to the point. His active mind is already moving ahead.

After sitting in my chair and thinking about all the times that others talk to me and I'm already envisioning their ideas in my head or thinking about how I think about my responses before a person's even finished, I know that this is something I can work on. 
My word to guide 2017? Listen. It sho…