“Happy Thanksgiving.”   This is something I am sure we all hear often this time of year but does it really mean anything to anybody any more.    Just look around, the economy is in shambles, many people are without jobs, the government is divided, and the Dallas Cowboys lost!  Personally, I have a job that challenges me every day, a healthy growing family,  as well as tests and trials, so what should be my mindset on Thanksgiving?

When I look around me I don’t things are not always “black and white” when it comes to having a Thanksgiving mindset. This country has become accustomed to so much material wealth and prosperity that even in times of financial crisis we continue with many of the lifestyle habits that not only contradict a true Thanksgiving attitude but also contribute to the financial downturn.  Ironically, over the years we have moved further and further away from giving thanks on the day of Thanksgiving.  Think about it, what would Thanksgiving be these days without our fixation on turkey, football, gluttony,  and Black Friday?

Personally, I am tired of the cycle.  This year I am going to be thankful for my faith, family, friends, employment, health, and everything else that comes along with them even if it kills me. I refuse to fall into the trap of overeating and regretting it on the scale.  I refuse to be glued to the TV watching football while ignoring all of the family members sitting around me. I refuse to be influenced by the commercials and advertisements dead set on getting me to want more and buy more of the latest greatest gadgets.  I also refuse to continue wasting precious time away from what matters most in my life.  First I will strive to live a thankful week.  Then I will look forward to experiencing a thankful month.  Ultimately, I am going to try to avoid all of the things that have come to symbolize Thanksgiving.  Now I am not talking about the things we say this day represents, but the things that have come the represent Thanksgiving today.  Here is to really giving thanks on the day of Thanksgiving!

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African-Americans have made many advances socially in the 20th century, from segregated schools to an African-American president of the United States.  Through all of the great accomplishments of African-Americans over the years remain a vast educational and professional chasm to the field of science.

Here, in the 21st century, we continue to see a shortage of African-American science teachers, and consequently an extreme shortage of African-American students going into the hard science courses or science careers. Smaller proportions of African-American students tend to complete advanced science course compared with whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders. (National Science Board 2004)  As a concerned educator, I desired to change the status of black students in the field of science.

The first years of my professional experience as an educator were spent teaching physics and mathematics in the inner city with predominately low socioeconomic, African-American students.  My motivation for teaching in that environment came from my desire to make a difference in black students’ achievement in the hard sciences and to give them exposure without turning them away from careers in science or engineering.  Mostly, I wanted to let them know that it was okay to be an African-American and like science. From my personal accounts, I recognized an elevation in student attention but no significant increase in achievement.  I began to wonder if I was making any significant impact. This intrigued me deeply and inspired a study to examine the part a science teacher’s ethnicity impacts the motivation of African-American students to take courses in the hard sciences.  My intentions were to identify specific areas of influence African-American science teachers have on African-American science students.  In a future blog entry, I will share some of my findings and their implications.

 

Do you have a great math textbook? What makes it great? How does it address problem-solving?

In the video, Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, Dan highlights an ingenious way to add rigor to a typical math textbook based transforming key problem solving and critical thinking strategies from what is presented in your textbook. Actually, the principle behind Meyer’s methodology could be utilized in different courses to bolster a teacher’s classroom instruction. It is truly amazing what you can do with a little technology and carefully placed ambiguity.

Meyer’s video presents us with a bigger challenge. How can we change the learning culture of our students? If you are like me, you are getting pretty tired of lazy learners and dare I say, lazy teachers. Now I am not trying to point fingers or downplay the challenges many teachers experience when preparing for their students.  More than ever before, teachers have limited time and resources, and they have to prepare for students with diverse instructional needs.  Instead, Meyer’s video should be viewed as a challenge to how we approach problem-solving with our students.

From Haiti to America
If you were on planet earth this week, you have been exposed to the heart-wrenching devastation in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti. I can’t stop thinking about the agony and bewilderment those people are going through. I also can’t stop thinking about how foreign those experiences are to me here in America. Many Americans are watching a nation brought to their knees crying out for help on our HD flat screen televisions. Sure we are probably tearing up while trying to get involved in the aid effort after praying for the people. Or we may just be watching in utter amazement. Regardless of what we are doing, what should we be learning from this?

Taking Things for Granted
I have been really trying to wrap my brain around this question for the last two days. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so what can I learn from this? Could this just be an exercise in all peoples coming together as one human race to help out those in a time of need? I don’t think so. Could this be an opportunity to look at what I have in life and learn to appreciate it? Again, I don’t think so? So what could the lesson be? Why such devastation? Maybe the lesson here is to look at the how we spend our time. Yes, I said how we spend our time! Now hear me out on this. We are living in a materialistic world with an insatiable appetite for more wealth, goods, attention, and pleasure. Even when we think we are living modestly, when we compare ourselves to nations like Haiti, we are living the high life. It is time we start living each as though each day we breathe in peace, it is the most important day in our lives. We need to surround ourselves with the things that matter most and spend our time doing things that truly enrich the meaning of one’s life. Now I am sure the Haitian people did not think that their last day on earth would come so soon, but who really knows when it is their last day. So let’s walk away from this life-changing event with something that really means something. Let’s live each day like it could be our last and pursue those things that positively impact in this world.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Color Blindness
In today’s politically correct world, it is hard to call it like it is.  This is especially true when it comes to race and culture. The term “color blind” or the statement ” I don’t see race” is actually contributing to many of our racial problems today. We have to rise above the fear of ignorance and start becoming racially aware or culturally educated. This would allow us to recognize the God designed difference in the races as a good thing, not something of shame and regret.

So what does this have to do with reverse racism in schools? Well if we can not have the right perspective on who and what we are, how will we ever be able to recognize the hypocrisy and racial ignorance we perpetuate in our educational system today.  Far too often we simply let racial injustices go uncontested in the spirit of tolerance (often times this is code for fearfulness). I never realized how this way of thinking was actually a perversion of the true perspective of race. We also have to stop acting like racism is the same as prejudice. Every human being has prejudices, it is a part of human nature to make inferences or to develop beliefs before knowing. In fact, we have to learn how to go against the tendency to prejudge.  Racism, on the other hand, is totally different.  To develop racism takes a cocktail of ignorance, pain & frustration, confusion, and perversion.  No one race or ethnic group is immune to the destructive influence of racism. As long as we are human, there will be someone hating and trying to bring down another.  Let’s strive to truly open our minds to the pervasiveness of racist views throughout this world and seek real tolerance by asking God for the courage to confront the roots of these unjust views wherever they occur.

High Stakes Testing Culture

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, we have accomplished a lot. We have managed to learn how to analyze assessment data to determine trends. We have also learned how to break down objectives or learning standards into their most intricate parts. Most of all we have learned how to make ourselves feel good about our data.

Everybody is “data-driven” these days. But what does that really mean? There still exists a culture of assessment “I got ya”. Frankly, we are so focused on assessments that we have missed the whole boat on instruction. If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in assessments into quality instruction, we might actually have more accurate assessments. Now I realize having quality assessments can and should drive instruction, we just need to vary it a little.

Fundamental Questions

How can we, as school systems, transition from a culture assessment for accountability to one focused on students learning?  any of you may have experienced an educational system that has figured how the “game” of high stakes state testing.  The more intimately involved you are with teaching and learning the more repulsive the idea of playing with what state standards are taught and tested to merely make a school district look good.

I am ready to buck the system by actually teaching and assessing for student learning first.  I am not saying we should do away with summative assessments of learning.  I realize how necessary it is for every school system.  I would just like to see the focus put in the proper balance. Maybe we could even move toward looking at project-based work or performance-based assessments. In future posts, I will share some different strategies for assessing for learning.  In the meantime, I guess we will keep plowing away at making more new tests.

Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning

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