Teachers have been under attack lately and reports say teacher morale is at an all-time low.
Bam Education Radio created the Bammy Awards for Education Excellence last year to help spread the word about the good, talented, hard-working child-centered people who work in education including janitors, superintendents, teachers, principals, school nurses, education professors, education commentators, education reporters and more.
The Bammy Award
The Bammy Awards are presented at a black-tie event in Washington, D.C. I was privileged to attend last year’s ceremony as one of a group of 25 bloggers representing the 100 selected for Educator Voice recognition. It was fun to see friends and colleagues all dressed up even if I never felt fully comfortable with the idea of the ceremony.
Educators are generally very hesitant, even loathe, to toot our own horns. We even tend to shy away from recognition by others. This has to change. We have to tell our own stories because no one else is going to do it for us.
I am nominated for a Bammy Award in the school librarian category. I’m honored and humbled, especially when I see the others nominated in the category. I hope you will take some time to read the nominations and cast votes in some of the categories.
Please help spread the word that there are some great educators out there who need some recognition and support.
3 Comments | Contemporary Issues, Education, Library, Philosophy, Policy, Teachers, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged: Bammy Award, black-tie, Education, Educators, empathy, K through 12, recognition, School Librarian, School nursing, teacher | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
Winding Road Ahead (Photo credit: nathangibbs)
I’m writing about guns more than education these days. I wish I could feel I don’t have to.
The Second Amendment grants American citizens the right to bear arms. There might be some discussion about whether it’s a requirement that they be in a “well-regulated militia,” but I’ll concede for now that it isn’t.
The position many gun advocates and the National Rifle Association have taken is that there is no limit on the right of American citizens to bear arms.
But there are limits, and ones the NRA, probably supports.
Taken at its word the 2nd Amendment grants the right to own any kind of arms, even nuclear arms. Despite that, we have agreed as a society, with no dissent that I’m aware of, that private citizens should not own nuclear arms and have made it illegal to do so.
Unless I am mistaken (it has been known to happen frequently, according to my wife), it is also illegal for American citizens to own fully automatic weapons.
We have also decided that mentally ill people and convicted felons should not own arms. Our efforts to prevent those people from getting arms might not be particularly effective for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t change the intent.
Since there is some limit on the 2nd Amendment it is reasonable to ask if there might a need for other limits. The discussion we should be having as a nation is whether there are other limits we want to impose. There may not be, but not because the Second Amendment precludes it.
There may be very good reasons why additional gun restrictions are not a good idea, or there might be reasons for enacting some limits. I don’t know for sure. What I know is that a lot of children are getting killed by bullets fired from guns. I’m not talking about the mass murder in Connecticut or any other mass shooting. I am talking about the large number of children killed by bullets fired from guns every month all across the nation.
Universal mental health and criminal record checks before anyone can buy a gun should be a given. Any legitimate, sane, non-criminal gun purchaser should have nothing to fear from this, they will get their guns, eventually.
Guns should be secured when left at home, and that security should be robust. In a neighboring town two guns were stolen when the safe containing them was taken during a break-in. That safe either was not heavy enough or should have been bolted to the floor or some other strong anchor. Failure to secure weapons left at home should be a crime. That idea has nothing at all to do with the Second Amendment but might keep guns out of the hands of some criminals.
Some gun-owning friends say that laws allowing people to carry guns, concealed or openly, reduce crime. It is something that is very hard to prove, not because it may not be true but because it is very difficult to prove a negative effect.
Carry laws, whether concealed or open, might protect the individual carrying but will not prevent those scores of murdered children. I don’t know what will prevent those murders, but my instinct tells me that making it more difficult for everyone to get a gun might have some effect.
In all honesty, I am skeptical about the general safety of carry laws. Today, on Gun Appreciation Day, five people were shot accidentally at Gun Appreciation events, two of them at a safety checkpoint at a Gun Appreciation event.
That sort of thing does not inspire confidence that gun owners can be trusted to carry their guns safely.
3 Comments | Contemporary Issues, Ethics, Family, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged: Gun, National Rifle Association, Policy, Second Amendment, United States, US Constitution, violence | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
In my last post I told the story of how Angela Maiers told me that I matter. Angela’s “You Matter” campaign is catching on and people are encouraging each other to tell people that they matter.
My mother and father taught me that while words can have tremendous power and volume, actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to tell people they matter and a wholly different thing to show people they matter.
Today I had the privilege to help serve food to some people who needed it and realized they are many, many ways to show others that they matter.
Photo by Jersey JJ via Flikr
Every Sunday one of the local churches serves dinner to anyone who needs it. Tonight we served about three dozen people spiral ham, collard greens, sweet potato and mixed vegetables. We served juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soda. The excellent local French bakery donates desert every week and this time it was delicious chocolate cupcakes with butter-cream swirl icing and Halloween themed sugar cookies. We had plenty of food and everyone got as much as they wanted.
Lots of churches, synagogues, mosques and community groups also serve meals to those in need, and all of it tells people that they matter. Excellent, but this group goes a little further.
This church enlists volunteers from other churches and other religions to participate in providing table service, cut flowers on every clothed table, all signs that our customers, and that’s what we call them, matter.
All that is very nice, but what really makes this a good experience, a mattering experience for volunteer and customer, is conversation. We talk to each other, we listen to each other. We try to get to know the people we work with and the people we serve.
They are not mouths, they are people. Complex people. People who are, and want to be acknowledged, as being more than needy. They are, and want to be acknowledged, as being part of our community. And that is what we try very hard to do.
And it feels good.
All that is great.
But tonight I had an insight. I had a realization. Not earth shattering, not transformative, but an insight nonetheless.
What I realized is that by telling and showing people that they matter, I come to matter to them.
That is why doing good feels so good; because showing someone else that they matter reaffirms that I matter. The more I can show people they matter the more I matter and the more I matter the more I can show people they matter.
Apparently that ham wasn’t the only thing spiraling tonight.
2 Comments | Contemporary Issues, Equity, Ethics, Family, language, Philosophy | Tagged: "you matter", empathy, recognition | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
I used to be very shy. VERY shy. Then Angela Maiers showed me that I matter.
It was three years ago at a major technology education conference in Washington, DC. I thought of it again this weekend because I was in DC with Angela for the first Bammy Awards for Excellence in Education.
The NECC was my first education conference and it is a huge one. Five days and tens of thousands of people. I had been on Twitter for a few months and had made some soft connections; I’d had some conversations with people and I knew a few names. At that time my handle was @spedteacher, being shy I used my job at the time instead of my name as a moniker. I was a very small presence despite my large size.
In many ways the NECC was a huge step for me. I had not yet met anyone I knew through Twitter face-to-face and I was in awe of the knowledge, the experience and expertise of the people I followed there. I was learning so much and wanted to learn more. I always want to learn more. Curiosity is my driving force. So I decided to go to NECC.
Attending NECC was an expensive proposition. Registration is a few hundred dollars; DC hotels were not cheep and were at a premium, especially those within walking distance of the convention center. When a teacher from upstate NY, who I didn’t even know through Twitter, contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to share my hotel room so we could both cut our expenses I only hesitated for a moment before agreeing. Fortunately, Ryan Wassink and I got along well.
One of the features of the NECC is what they call a Bloggers Cafe where people gather to write their blogs, chat with others and generally just process the huge amount of information being presented. In this instance the cafe was a collection of small tables and cushioned benches and couches of different heights. I would go there and sit off away from anyone else. I was VERY shy.
One afternoon I got to the cafe and it was fairly empty, I sat on a bench leaning my back against the side of the empty couch next to it. I did not yet have this blog so I was on Twitter looking at tweets about the sessions I was not able to attend. Some people came and the cafe began to fill up. There was an interesting conversation going on behind me and I was listening intently. At one point I turned around to see who these people were and as soon as I did this very pretty woman looked at me and said, “You’re spedteacher!”
That woman was Angela Maiers. Angela is an award-winning educator, speaker, consultant and professional trainer known for her work in literacy, leadership and global communications. She is a big deal. She recognized me. And she introduced me to everyone else in the conversation. Then Angela asked me what my take was on the topic.
I have no idea what the topic was, but I will never forget that Angela thought what I had to say mattered.
Angela has been telling people that they matter for a long time. She talks about it, she writes about it, and she lives it.
I’m writing this to tell you that you matter, and I’m writing this to tell Angela how she mattered to me. Angela recently started a group on Facebook called Choose2Matter. She, and it, have helped me change my teaching this year.
I’m telling my students that they matter. It started the first time I saw them and played them this message (make sure your sound is on, then click the play button!)
There are geniuses here!
I asked them to tell me about the kind of genius they are. Engagement was instantaneous. They all wanted to make a Voki and tell their message about the kind of genius they are and how they matter.Everyone got right to work, thinking, writing planning.
All except one small girl who just sat there staring at her paper. I went to her, knelt to her level and asked if she was okay. She nodded yes. I asked if she was having difficulty writing. She nodded yes. I said, “you’re very shy, aren’t you?” She nodded yes. I told her to whisper in my ear the problem she was having.
She leaned over, cupped her hands around my ear and softly said, “I don’t know what kind of genius I am.”
I whispered back, “I don’t know you yet so I don’t know and can’t tell you what kind of genius you are, but my first job this year is to help you discover it for yourself and learn how to show it to the world.”
Thank you, Angela.
1 Comment | Assessment, Education, language, Learning, Library, Media, Philosophy, Students, Teachers, Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: "you matter", AngelaMaiers, classroom, Education, empathy, friends, Learning, Middle school, NECC, Sixth grade, student, teacher, Technology, twitter, Voki, words | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
Saturday evening I sat in a darkened theater, wearing a tuxedo for the first time in almost 40 years, for the first presentations of what might be annual awards for excellence in education.
I am sitting among a group of education bloggers who will be called up on stage and recognized for our work.We’re being treated like movie stars, photographed and video interviewed on the red carpet on our way into the Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
As much fun as it is to see people I have come to know, respect and learn with all dressed up, the men handsome and the women beautiful in our finery, this feels weird, bizarre and more than a little uncomfortable.
That this feels so strange is precisely what is wrong with the Bammy Awards for Excellence in Education — that it is so outlandish for educators to get red carpet treatment, hear kind words and receive weighty trophies. We have become far more used to being blamed, attacked, criticized, sniped-at and otherwise vilified.
The Bammy Awards are a calculated response to the cynical, damaging and dangerous negative images of teachers and other educators being presented to the public.
In the process of recognizing exceptional teachers, administrators, school maintenance managers, education reporters and school nurses the Bammy Awards ask a challenging and important question: What would happen if we treated teachers with the same high regard we give to entertainers, sport stars and other celebrities?
What would happen, how would things change, if we showed teachers appreciation, respect, perhaps even admiration for their work, their experience and their dedication instead of treating them with contempt.
What would happen if we built educators up instead of tearing them down; what if we helped teachers feel good bout themselves instead of causing them to question their choice to teach in the first place.
What would change if we recognized the professionalism of teachers the way they do in Finland and Singapore?
5 Comments | Contemporary Issues, Education, Leadership, Learning, Philosophy, Policy, Teachers, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged: Arena Stage, Education, Education reform, Educators, empathy, recognition, School nursing, teacher, Teaching | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
English: Looking northeast across Lex and 91st at 92nd Street Y. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes you get more than you pay for.
That is certainly the case with the #140edu conference next week at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan where, if you are a teacher or student, $1.40 buys you two days of ideas, inspiration, conversation and connection with some of the more thoughtful, challenging, and engaging educators who have used social media in their classrooms or individual learning.
I should warn you, these are long days. Both of them, July 31 and August 1, start at 8:30AM and run until 5:45PM, with only 45 minutes for lunch, but don’t worry. You don’t have to sit and listen to it all. You can get up, walk out, go to the networking room or step outside, then go back for more. Trust me, you will need to do this because your head will explode if you don’t.
Just plan to be back in the hall by 11:50AM on the first day. That’s when I’ll be talking about How to Make Dropping Out of School Work for You. I don’t want to go into my whole talk here, but the thesis is that one can get an equivalent or better education using social media as one can by attending high school. I have no idea how I got included with the otherwise distinguished list of educators presenting here, but I did. Please come and disagree with me. Educators can register here for just $1.40 for the two days (you can disagree with a lot of people and make the conference even more cost effective if you like).
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you do go, and I hope you will, please come and say hello. I’ll be the one with the exploded head.
2 Comments | Accessibility, Assessment, Behavior, Contemporary Issues, Curriculum, Disability, Education, Equity, Ethics, Leadership, Learning, Parents, Philosophy, Policy, Politics, Students, Teachers, Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized, Unions | Tagged: communication, context, Education, Learning, New York, twitter, words | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
American westward expansion is idealized in Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1861). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has always been paradox to me that teachers face demands to teach differentially to address learning individualities but only standardized assessment seems to count.
Perhaps there is some confusion. Some people, even some education officials and legislators, seem to think ‘standardized’ refers to holding students to standards, possibly even high ones.
That is not the case.
Standardized just means everyone takes the same test, not for the benefit of students, individually or collectively, but to make it easier for politicians and the media to rank states and districts competitively and mislead parents to think that there is some educational validity to those rankings.
There is not.
Our education system is broken. Taxpayers want to buy an Aston Martin but at Dodge Dart prices. Politicians want to brag or criticize without understanding what they are talking about.
Everyone admires Finland and Singapore but no one wants to make the same investment they make in teacher preparation, ongoing training and providing time for collaboration and reflection. No one seems to care that despite all the wonderful schooling students in Singapore and Finland get, and despite the fact that all those students and their families have adequate housing and healthcare, immigrants still come here, not there, for opportunities for better lives.
That, my friends, is our greatest national asset and its a pity that so few of our leaders are either able to recognize that or willing to acknowledge it.
CATTLE DRIVE - NARA - 543787 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We suffer from a failure of leadership. It is not a Democrat problem. It is not a Republican problem. It is a national problem, a continuing and deepening of the long-running fantasy narration of rugged individualism in which we tell ourselves that it is the poor’s fault that they are poor, it is the teacher’s fault that education policies don’t work, and, at those times when crime is high, it is the policeman’s fault for eating donuts instead of battling crooks.
Perhaps someday each of us will take responsibility for the direction our nation is heading, take responsibility for our communities, our neighbors and ourselves. I’ll know when that happens because 90% of the eligible voters will cast ballots and show the politicians and policy makers that we really care. Perhaps then we can start addressing problems, trying to fix problems instead of cynically casting blame for them.
1 Comment | Assessment, Contemporary Issues, Education, Equity, Ethics, Leadership, Media, Philosophy, Policy, Politics, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged: Assessment, Democratic Party (United States), differentiation, Education, equity, Finland, Policy, Republican Party (United States), Singapore, Standardized test, United States | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
Deutsch: Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), politischer und spiritueller Führer von Indien. Ort unbekannt English: Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India. Location unknown. Français : Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), Guide politique et spirituel de l'Inde. Lieu inconnu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In its infinite wisdom, the New York State Education Department has increased the length of the state ELA and math tests by 50% this year. Now three days each instead of two.
They say that the increase is due to a need to field test questions for future exams based on the Common Core standards.
In other words, they are using our students, our children, as guinea pigs.
Any other field of science requires informed consent before experimenting on human subjects. I’ve never been asked if I consent to the state experimenting on my son. The state is either arrogantly flouting standard scientific procedure or they’re saying my son, and all the other students attending public schools in the state are not human.
Either way, they’re wrong.
I suspect that if asked, they’ll say that sending our children to public schools implies consent.
It is the same as saying that by taking our children to doctors we’re implying consent for them to be used in chemotherapy studies.
I’ve spent part of the past week, and part of a week in February, working in the library of the Ethical Culture School in Manhattan as part of the state-required internship for the MLS degree I am almost done with.
The students at the Ethical Culture School don’t take state tests. Their parents spend $38,000 a year to buy out of them. Yes, somehow, their children get educated and everyone connected with their education knows precisely what each child is learning.
Not many of us can afford to spend $38,000 a year per child for an education that exempts them from state testing that has nothing to do with improving student learning and that also conducts experiments on those students. We have to find a different way to get our sons and daughters out of the grip of the edu-business of standardized exams.
I propose education civil disobedience. We should just keep our children home on testing days. Or if we must send them to school so we can work, teach them to refuse to take the exams.
Yes, it can have a disastrous effect on a school’s AYP if not enough students take the exam. If it happens in one school no one will notice.
If it happens in all the schools in a district people will begin to notice.
And if it happens in a lot of districts our educational leaders will have a decision to make.
They can try to enforce the laws and punish parents, students and schools for the boycott.
Or they can take their ball of data and go away.
At least for a while.
2 Comments | Assessment, Education, Ethics, Leadership, Learning, Parents, Philosophy, Policy, Science, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized | Tagged: Adequate Yearly Progress, Assessment, Common Core Standards, Education, Education reform, K through 12, New York State Education Department, Policy, Standardized test, student | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
I’ve done a lot of different things in my life and I ask a lot of questions.
Curiosity tears down walls (Photo credit: Rosa Say)
As a result, I know a lot of stuff. But no matter how much I know, there is far, far more that I do not know. There is so much that I don’t know.
Today my not knowing was repeatedly displayed to my students. Due to an unusually crowded evening schedule this week I am even more tired than usual, but that isn’t why I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Actually, I knew that I didn’t know; I just don’t know how much I don’t know.
Here are some of the things I didn’t know today: How prisoners give themselves tattoos; how audio tracks get attached to digital videos; and how to take the write-protection off a flash drive that somehow got write protected. Our tech guy also didn’t know that one; I didn’t ask him about the other two.
I can’t wait for opportunities to show my students how much I don’t know. Most of them think I’m pretty smart for an adult, but they’re between 11 and 14 years old, so they’re not surprised that I don’t know a lot of stuff.
They’re just surprised that I admit it.
Its been about 45 years since I was in middle school. Even though those were my favorite school years I still remember one teacher who, whenever one of us would ask a question he could not answer, would chastise us for not sticking to the lesson and for having too much curiosity.
Too much curiosity?
101 Uses for a Dead Cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It may have killed the cat – I remain a skeptic – but it is a wonderful thing for a human to have. My curiosity is what I like best about myself.
The best tool teachers have is curiosity, theirs and, especially, their students’. Its been about 15 months since I moved from being a classroom teacher to being the librarian in the same school. I’m working harder but enjoying it more. Today I finally figured out why: I don’t have a heavy, mandated curriculum, no scope and sequence, no texts, no tests and no timeline.
I have the freedom to go where a student’s curiosity takes us.
Sure, I have things I want to teach, but I get to allow the students’ interests, the students’ questions, their wonders and their curiosity determine when and how I teach those things. I get to let my students’ education be what mine has largely been, bottom up, driven by the learner’s curiosity and passions instead of the top-down pre-determined, marketplace-driven curriculum the rest of the teachers have to deliver.
I bet we could solve a lot of the dropout problem, raise academic achievement and reduce behavioral issues if we can only get the rest of the school to teach the way a good librarian, and even this one, does.
We’ve tried all the other ways. Isn’t it time to try something different?
4 Comments | Behavior, Curriculum, Education, Learning, Library, Philosophy, Policy, Students, Teachers, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged: curriculum, differentiation, Education, Education reform, K through 12, Learning, Middle school, school, student, teacher | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black
cover shot of Children of Paranoia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I work for a paranoid school district.
It doesn’t trust students.
It doesn’t trust teachers.
It doesn’t trust administrators.
It doesn’t trust parents.
It doesn’t trust the public.
It is afraid that students will learn things that aren’t in the curriculum.
It is afraid that students will learn things that haven’t been approved in advance.
It is afraid that its teachers are not capable of teaching responsible use of the internet.
It is afraid that its teachers are not capable of teaching responsible use of social media.
There is a lot of good educational content on YouTube and YouTube for Education.
It doesn’t let students access YouTube in school, not even YouTube for Education.
It doesn’t let teachers access YouTube in school, not even YouTube for Education.
It doesn’t let school administrators access YouTube in school, not even YouTube for Education.
It doesn’t let principals override the filters that prevent access to those and other useful websites.
This can only be because it does not trust us. Any of us.
It does not let students, teachers or school administrators access Facebook in school, even though there is a lot of educational content on Facebook.
Even though we are required to teach students how to use social media responsibly.
Soon we won’t even be able model social media use for students.
The City is going to ban teachers and students from interacting over Facebook.
It doesn’t trust us.
Not at all. I bet the City would love to figure out how to stop teachers and students from interacting in the supermarket, the Laundromat, the shopping mall.
Heck, they’d probably even like to find a way to keep us from interacting in the classroom. Everyone knows how much trouble we can get into there.
There is an old adage that says you should treat people the way you want them to be. If you want young people to act like adults, treat them that way. That’s what I try to do in my library.
But the NYCDOE treats me and my colleagues like little children.
They are illogical.
They are insulting.
Or am I being paranoid?
5 Comments | Accessibility, Behavior, Contemporary Issues, Curriculum, Education, Equity, Ethics, Leadership, Learning, Library, Media, Parents, Philosophy, Policy, Students, Teachers, Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: communication, curriculum, Education, Educators, Facebook, Google, K through 12, Learning, New York City, New York City Department of Education, NYC Department of Education, NYCDOE, Social media, student, teacher, YouTube | Permalink
Posted by Deven Black