Tag Archives: Teaching

Ten Common Myths About Teaching (via eSchool News)

A great article by eSchool News entitled “Ten Common Myths About Teaching.” We’ve all heard them, and we all know that they’re false.

1. Those who can’t do, teach.

“The one misconception I would like to clarify is around the phrase, ‘Those who can cannot do, teach.’ While many educators are active contributors to the particular area in which they have domain expertise (i.e. Science, Language Arts, History), K-12 educators … have committed themselves to developing skills in how to engage and foster growth of young people around the content and processes that comprise that area of expertise. It is the very special practitioner [who] makes a good educator; however, good educators need to have enough knowledge of their areas of expertise to cultivate excitement, curiosity, and spark the passion to commit to a vocation or avocation. Maybe a better phrase is, ‘Those who teach create those who do.’” —Michael Jay

“One of my favorites is, ‘Those who can’t, teach.’ Teachers must be well educated in their field of study, of course, but that is only the beginning. Teachers need much pedagogical preparation on topics including educational psychology, classroom management, assessment, curriculum instruction, communication skills, and budgeting. And that is all before a teacher steps into a classroom. The requirements for a qualified teacher include all of the skills needed for the 21st-century workplace.” —Mary Montag, teacher, St. Teresa’s Academy

2. A teacher’s day ends at 3 p.m.

“The main misconception that I would like to see corrected is the belief that we all quit work at 3:00. My work day usually extends to 8 or 9 p.m., and I have to work on the weekends. On the days that I do leave the building at 3 p.m., I am taking my work home with me.” —Anonymous

“I would love to clear up one misconception about teaching: that teachers have an easy job, working 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with summers and holidays off. The sad thing is that too many people become teachers for this very reason. The good teachers I know work before school starts and long after the students go home, and work all summer, too—taking classes and attending workshops to become a better teacher; working on developing activities, units, and lessons to help students learn better; and learning new skills to integrate technology into their classrooms.” —Pam Mackowski

3. Teachers get their summers off.

“Misconception: Teachers only work nine months of the year and get summers off, so the salaries they’re paid should reflect that.” —Carol K. Schmoock, assistant executive director of program services, Tennessee Education Association

“Contrary to popular belief, we do not have summers off. We spend them doing professional development and planning for the coming year—even more so if you are changing grade level or subject for the coming year. Also, we don’t stop working when that last bell rings—often we spend our evenings and weekends grading papers, planning lessons, and responding to parent eMails and phone calls.” —Susan J. Walton, computer teacher and technology coordinator, Academy of St. Adalbert, Ohio

4. If teachers are good at what they do, student grades and test scores will be good, too.

“The best teachers among us can never be identified by the performance of their students on tests. We should seek to find those teachers who instill in students a belief that they can and will be successful when they are confronted with challenges. Teachers who provide real-world challenges in which students can try, fail, and try again until they master a thing are teachers in the truest sense of the word. If a third grader scores 100 percent on a math test, the teacher has not necessarily taught [that student] a thing. It is the student who fails the test, yet subsequently finds a way to master the material, [who] has learned something. Let’s assume everyone has a lifetime of learning ahead of them and not judge based on how much or how little is left to learn.” —Todd Harris, director of technology, Copiague Public Schools

“A big misconception about teaching is that ‘a teacher’s job is to teach.’ In actual fact, one cannot teach anyone anything; for students [who are] motivated to learn, teachers can facilitate that learning. And teachers (facilitators) can provide an environment that is conducive to increased motivation to learn; but again, teachers cannot motivate learners … any more than they can teach unmotivated students.” —John Bennett, emeritus associate dean/professor, University of Connecticut

5. Teaching is easy, and anyone can do it.

“The major misconception that the general public has is that teaching is not a profession. We teachers must complete professional development and continuing education in order to maintain our licenses. Not only must we master pedagogical theory, but we also must put it into practice daily. I think that particularly the early childhood educators bear the brunt of this. Most outsiders to education see preschool and kindergarten as no more than playing games and glorified babysitting, when in reality the ‘play’ is used to develop social, motor, and other important life skills.” —Monica Wagner

“Last year I worked enough extra hours to add four more months of employment time. When you manage 20-30 students an hour, it is a 24/7 task. You don’t get a chance to go to the bathroom and hide for five minutes because you are having a bad day or someone yelled at you. Unlike the phone or the papers on your desk, I can’t leave my students unsupervised because everything they do, in my sight or out of my sight, I’m responsible for. You eat a 20-minute lunch while continuing to manage 20-30 students eating their 20-minute lunch. Many days, this will be the only time all day long you get to sit down—at least for a moment. You go hours, sometimes days without meaningful adult conversation during the day—no chance to gossip at the water cooler or the break room. There isn’t time or opportunity to sneak out on lunch break to let the service repairman in the house or drop off that bill payment, much less to make a doctor’s appointment or schedule a meeting. Teaching isn’t a job—it is a lifestyle—a calling, and those of us [who] do it and do it well can’t imagine doing anything else!” —Jennifer L. Kelly, M.Ed., NBCT-Literacy

“If I could change one idea about teachers, it would be the idea that teachers are inherently lazy. Teachers are the hardest working multitasks there are, next to parents. Actually, during business hours, we are the parents. We love the children, discipline the children, play with the children, and finally teach the children. Then we go home and do it all over again with our own families.” —Charlotte McNeary

“That our jobs are easy, as we only work with children—especially when it’s young children such as the kind I work with.” —Angela Achim, elementary art teacher, American International School of Bucharest

“The biggest myth about teaching is that someone coming directly from industry will be more capable because of his or her content knowledge. Those are the people who usually flop. Teaching requires much more than a knowledge of content; it requires passion and skill in working with children, engaging their interests, keeping them motivated, managing a classroom, and much more.” —Anonymous

6. Teachers are solely responsible for learning.

“Teachers alone are not responsible for your child’s learning. Parents need to play an active role [by] following up at home with study skills, health, nutrition, and reducing time spent watching TV and playing games!” —Lynette Jackson

“Parents believe it is a teacher’s job to teach everything to their children—from moral values to basic hygiene. It is my job to educate their children in a specific content area and to teach them how to use their minds and critically think. I am not their child’s best friend, nor am I a replacement for mom. I cannot raise their child for them.” —Michelle Turner

7. If you went to school, you know what teaching is.

“I think the most important one is that because you went to school, you understand teaching. I am not sure where this idea stems from; most people don’t feel that because they drive a car, they know everything there is to know about cars. But in education, it seems to be a common misconception that because you went to school, you know how to teach. We have policies and procedures made by people every day without any input from educational professionals, which just don’t make sense.” —Sherril Studley

8. Teachers are well-compensated for what they do.

“We all do not make $100,000 a year, and we are not retiring with $100,000 pensions; many of us work second and sometimes third jobs to help raise families.” —Patricia Swiatek

“People do not realize that many hours of preparation are required, not only to do our jobs but also to do them well. In fact, those hours take place [on] weekdays, weekends, and even during vacations. If you added up all of those hours, including our actual hours of teaching, many teachers are probably earning minimum wage or even less.” —Alene Model

“Teachers are not paid for the summer while they are off. Teachers are paid one amount for the number of days they work. Some have their pay checks [10] months a year, and others choose to have the amount divided by 12 so they are paid year long. It is not being paid for taking time off!” —Anonymous

“That college professors are well compensated and supported. The adjunct, or part-time/non-tenure-track, faculty population had grown from 3 percent of the teaching faculty nationwide in 1975 to 75 percent now—and to as much as 85 percent at community colleges. These faculty members, who number close to one million, are regularly denied access to basic, professional working conditions, including access to offices where they can meet with students, equipment with which to do their work, paid office hours, professional development, unemployment compensation, a living wage (most make under $20,000 per year for full-time work), benefits, and access to due process, like fair hiring and evaluation processes and protection against administrative retaliation. All of these conditions are essential to providing college students with a rigorous, high-quality education but are regularly denied to [adjunct faculty] while administrative costs and tuition at colleges have skyrocketed (see The Delta Cost Project). Most college students make more at their part-time jobs than their professors do working full-time hours. Burnout among college faculty is high.” —Maria Maisto, president, New Faculty Majority and executive director, The New Faculty Majority Foundation

9. Teachers aren’t as good as they used to be.

“One highly misconceived idea is that today’s teachers are not as dedicated to their work as teachers in other eras. I’ve watched teachers for five decades. We still have young teachers eager to work and who will give their all. My great worry is that because of the cutbacks in state and federal budgets, many of these teachers don’t have the opportunity to even begin their careers. In order to support themselves, they are moving on to any job they can find. Many will leave teaching altogether. The teachers in our charter school still show excitement each day and work long hours dealing with a difficult population to reach.” —Craig Frederickson

10. Teachers are all the same.

“That a statement about one teacher (or a select group of teachers) is a statement about all teachers.” —Holly Dilatush, adult educator

“Most damaging to student achievement: teachers are interchangeable widgets.” —Joni Johnson

Reflections of my week at ASL – I not only Survived… I Thrived!

So, this is our last day at the Learning Institute at the American School of London led by our esteemed leader Leah Treesh. It seems like the week has flown by! I can’t believe I’ve been in London for six days. We learned a lot, it was definitely an intensive workshop and, looking back, I have a lot that I can take home with me.

At most of these Ed Tech seminars and workshops, I find that I don’t take a lot of ‘doing’ skills back home with me. I’m already pretty tech savvy and pretty comfortable with gadgets, hardware, and software (even if I’ve never seen it before). However, I felt like this one was geared towards all levels of familiarity and I found myself working hard and learning new things on regular intervals. At no point did I think “Done it… seen it.” My favorite element of this week has been that we have developed practical rather than theoretical concepts – I have some real ways that I can implement this into the classroom, not just ideas that I need to develop later. The reality is, I’m not that creative – I can be a little a bit. So I’m much better equipped when I can see how this has been employed elsewhere and then tweak it to make my own.

By far, the most excited I have gotten has been about Digital Storytelling. I’ll reiterate from a previous post, while I knew what it was and that it was out there (and seen a couple of examples), I hadn’t really considered its practical applications in my classroom or curriculum. However, really playing with the concepts, developing a lesson plan, and collaborating with colleagues, I’ve gotten very excited about its potential in my lessons. I’ve already got a few points in the curriculum in which it can be readily implemented and developed.

The other key components that I think myself and the TVS team (Jane Cooper and Karen Arrington) will be bringing back with us is a rationale and justification of our technological needs in the future at TVS. I’m hoping that the three of us will soon have a platform to present our ideas and practical needs. Our staff, colleagues, and administrators have been so supportive that I’m confident they will be with us as we move forward.

Students – the Connected Learning Model

Tomorrow I present at TVS’s SummerSpark on the Connected Learning Model for Students. I’ve been wracking my brains and trying to organize my thoughts. I created a Prezi to guide my discussion – hoping that will keep me on task. I’ve got so many thoughts, it’s putting them together coherently that’s problematic.

Here are the main topics I’m planning to address:

Should Students Be Online & Involved in Social Media?

It’s a rather redundant topic. To be fair, this is like asking “Should the horse be outside of the barn?” when the door’s been open and it’s been wandering around the pasture for a few days. The internet isn’t a ‘fad’ and it’s not ‘the future,’ it’s the now. It’s like asking “Should students learn how to use a typewriter?”

What Are the Benefits?

When students are connected (via social media like twitter, wikis, facebook, etc), it facilitates communication, provides a platform for creativity, writing, and assessment skills. Can it be abused? Of course. You can use a hammer to bash in someone’s head, but it’s also really handy for hammering in nails.

What are the risks for students engaging online?

There are some very real and some more ‘perceived’ threats. The first one that comes to mind is online predators. The reality is that the risk from online predators is significantly smaller than we originally thought. Children seem to be quite savvy and understand the stranger in the darkness. The reality is that they are at greater risk driving in the car to school than they are in participating in Facebook or Twitter.

Another very real danger is cyber-bullying. It is a very true and sad reality that bullying, with the aid of social networking, cell phones, and other devices is on the rise. Children and, in some disturbing circumstances, parents have attacked teens online. The outcomes in some cases have been devastating. However, along with the rise of cyber-bullying, we’ve seen a counter-wave – the media, peers, and educators are aware of the problem and taking proactive stances to address it. My school is implementing the Olweus program, which includes a component that addresses online bullying behavior. Another more prominent force is the “It Gets Better” campaign, that has picked up support and interest.

Another key element, for both children and adults, is the production of digital fooprint – which can be positive or negative. Your digital footprint is your online self. Have you googled yourself lately? Try it, see what comes up. I try to keep on top of what I put out there. Teens are less likely to do so and ‘funny pictures’ or comments now aren’t so amusing when it shows up in a job interview.

Students are already on Social Media

Really, the decision isn’t ours – they’re already there. Students are on social media websites, it’s up to us as educators to help guide them to use them responsibly. One study found that 96% of students are already using Facebook. One-third of students report having their own blog (the majority of which update them at least once a week). Surprisingly, 59% of them report that they use social media for school related projects or to talk about school – I’m just going to pretend that none of that time is used to complain about class.

However, even though students are ahead on the curve, educators and teachers are not. The majority of school districts and administrators do not provide any type of direction or tools for students or educators to use. Most teachers are on their own in exploring this platform and face difficult navigation when it comes to interacting with their students online.

The reality is that this is a platform with which young people are comfortable. Most of them get their news via Facebook or Twitter. Before you jump all over that, I learned about the repeal of proposition 8 nearly twenty minutes before the formal announcement and the death of Osama bin Laden forty-five minutes before President Obama announced it on television. Let’s not forget watching the uprisings in Libya and Egypt rolling out before us via Social Media platforms. Their ease of use and intuitive interface provide such a low learning curve that almost anyone can self-teach and be up and using within minutes.

What barriers do we face using these platforms for education?

No one needs to convince me that social media is a powerful learning tool. However, that doesn’t belie the fact that there are numerous barriers to employing them in the classroom or even at home.

One key elements is parents. How do we convince parents to allow their child online? While most parents are okay with their child having a Facebook account or even a twitter, many are still nervous about ‘strangers’ online and the ‘stranger danger’ phenomenon still has many of them in death grips.

Another element is access – not all students have ready access to the internet at home. While few families do not have internet in the home, it does happen or, more commonly, it could be limited to one machine. Additionally, children may be in a home where parents limit access to the internet. I have had a few students whose parents only allowed them online when they were at home and present. Even those of us in the most privileged schools may also have limitations to access on our campuses. I’m a ‘floating’ teacher – most of my rooms did not have computers and the computer lab was not always available.

Another consideration, even if you have computer access, is web access. Most schools have some form of restriction placed on their network. My school’s network is so restrictive that if a vulgar word shows up in the comment of a news article, it can trigger the ‘porn’ barrier. Facebook and twitter are commonly barred as are many other sites that create and publish wikis, YouTube videos, and the like. Some of these are barred due to issues of bandwidth or abuse, some (like facebook) are barred because they’re viewed as a distraction (ignoring the fact that cell phones and proxy sites allow ready access). Some schools have no restrictions, but these are far and few between.

And another strong concern is the issue of monitoring. I know that I for one don’t like to think about what my students get away with now in the classroom (and I’m sure it’s far more than I would like to know). Twenty-five or more (sometimes a lot more) students in a classroom with computers, it can be a problematic classroom management issue. If you have children in your class that are prone to chat with their friends, pass notes, talk out of turn, etc, then they will be more than a handful if you give them access to a machine. However, many will excel and focus when allowed to pursue their passions in the classroom on a platform they find fun…

So, these are the highlights of my presentation. It’s primary objective is to introduce ideas and pitfalls with the hopes of provoking discussion and thought. If you have any thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

NPR – Teacher’s Voices

My friend and Colleague Daniel Schneider added his voice to an NPR podcast on public teaching in Arizona. Dan and I have worked together at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program. Check out the podcast interview here.

Social Media in the Classroom

Mobile Phones, laptops, email, facebook, twitter – most teachers shudder at the words and spend a good chunk of classroom time getting their students off of these networks and their eyes forward. However, a small (emphasis on the small) contingent of educators are employing these tools in the classroom in the form of back-channel talk – a way to get students (especially the quieter ones) involved in the discussion.

With Twitter and other microblogging platforms, teachers from elementary schools to universities are setting up what is known as a “backchannel” in their classes. The real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions (answered either by one another or the teacher) and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. Perhaps most importantly, if they are texting on-task, they are less likely to be texting about something else.

Part of the idea behind this is that students with these devices will be focused on using them for class, rather than to tune out. In this fascinating New York Times Article, you can read more about the use of social media in the classroom as well as the controversies surrounding this issue.