Thinking About Education

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. ~Socrates

The Carrots and Sticks of PBIS

  “PBIS” stands for Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. This is one of the groundswell initiatives moving through the schools in our area right now. It’s hard to argue with its premise: let’s focus ourselves on promoting good behavior rather than on punishing bad behavior. Let’s celebrate victories not wallow in failures. Let’s be positive, not negative. Sounds good on the surface. If you look at research about motivating human behavior, however, we.. Read More

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” ― Daniel H. Pink

  Autonomy. This is a vital characteristic of a satisfying human life. As interdependent as we and other creatures of the earth are in our communal and global ecosystems, each healthy life system is also organized around some principle. As humans, for example, we make choices, we determine what we will or will not do, or how we will relate to the larger system of which we are a part. According to Daniel.. Read More

“Learning is the only thing for you.” ~T. H. White, The Once and Future King

  “It is one of our greatest experiences, as advanced educators, to know the motivational content of our subjects, and to deliberately inspire our students with the love of content that they would have been unlikely ever to have known without our teaching. It is the special opportunity for grammar teachers to show students why grammar is beautiful and fun, and it is the special privilege of the calculus teacher to show students.. Read More

Grading Practices Today

  Here are the general grading practices across subject areas that are widespread in my area today. I heard from a teacher in Austin, Texas, who verified that such practices are widespread there as well. 1. Teachers assign no grade lower than a 60 to any student, for any assignment. This includes giving a 60 when the student attempts no work at all. 2. For students who do not do well on a.. Read More

First Do No Harm: The Damage of Low Expectations

I had a student once, let’s call her Leah.  She was a transfer during the first few weeks of school. We were alerted that she had some “problems.” I always begin the year with a study of word stems, and expect students to learn certain common roots, prefixes, and suffixes because then they have a base for understanding thousands of words. They memorize 10 or 15 at a time—a list like this one:.. Read More

This Calls for an Investigation…or Does It?

  Principals are trained in all kinds of legal matters including how to conduct investigations. I left one such training asking about how this would be applicable or appropriate for elementary schoolchildren. I didn’t get an answer. But I guess if we are going to conduct investigations, we should know how to do it well. And, as I think about it, students can get into serious fist-fights and that sort of thing, requiring.. Read More

“Elementary, My Dear Watson”

  Sherlock Holmes was definitely in his element when he was solving crimes: passionate, engaged, using his natural ability and skills to the maximum. That is why we so enjoy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Ken Robinson has talked and written a good deal about the “element,” that place where a person thrives as a creative individual (see for example, his book The Element). Not everyone finds his or her element, but it.. Read More

Collaboration Does Not Mean Conformity

Teachers are being told that their PLC (professional learning community) is not functioning properly if an administrator “walks through” their classrooms on any given day and s/he doesn’t see the same things going on in all classrooms. Teachers are also being told that disagreeing with initiatives/ideas handed down from somewhere above is a sign of “not being a team player.” These are disturbing signs as they indicate a confusion of collaboration with conformity… Read More

Communion of Subjects

There has been some sad news in the papers lately in our community. Teachers who had a passion for a particular subject and had built a curriculum over the years, becoming expert in their content and methods, are involuntarily being moved to different schools and assigned to teaching new subjects. This is unfortunate on many levels. It is unfortunate for the students who will no longer benefit from the expertise and passion of.. Read More

“Texts” vs. “Books”

One of the interesting things you notice if you’ve been in education a long time is how the language we use shows how we have shifted our thinking. I couldn’t help noticing a few years back when I was having a discussion with colleagues about literature that I was the only one referring to “books” instead of “texts.”  There was something definitely too clinical to me about calling a book a “text.” “Text” reminded.. Read More

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