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Education Reform

How to Improve Teacher Preparation Programs for Aspiring Urban Educators

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How to Improve Teacher Preparation Programs for Aspiring Urban Educators

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When I first became an educator, I taught secondary Mathematics and Physics to high school students in the largest district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and in a much smaller school system in the suburbs.  I first worked with low-performing and economically disadvantaged students and later in an environment with all talented and gifted students.  Once I decided to move beyond the classroom and into a role as instructional coach, I began mentoring teachers and delivering professional development training.  With this background as both an urban educator and teacher leader, I had a close-up opportunity to see the problems that are pervasive in K-12 education.  Having served as a District administrator for 9 years, I now have a bird’s eye perspective of those problems as well as potential strategies for success, particularly, in an urban setting.

Education Reform

What is your 21st Century Professional Development Plan?

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What is your 21st Century Professional Development Plan?

The increasingly competitive global workforce of the 21st century has brought on the need for students and teachers to develop new skills and competencies in our educational systems. Given that the modern classroom is characterized by innovation and project-based context, schools should adopt teaching and learning methods that blend creative thinking skills and methods of instruction that integrate learning technologies into real-world contexts (Wan & Gut, 2011).  To this end, educators need to be prepared to serve students in the context of new expectations to meet the demands for a more skilled workforce.  Accordingly, professional development training for teachers should incorporate innovative methods that include relevant technology skills and practical experiences in the new classroom environment.  This suggests that teachers should also learn about innovative curricula that incorporate critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking, communication and collaboration, innovative use of knowledge, and financial literacy.

Personal Development

Learning anything this summer?

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Learning anything this summer?

sandy island

Summer is in full effect.  Swimming, family trips, and other leisure activities are also in full effect.  As a result, I am sure that professional learning is not ranked very high on the summer fun list for most teachers.  The funny thing is the summer presents the most optimal time for exploring very meaningful professional development ideas.  I have come to understand the value of the of a well-timed summer professional learning task, and I would like to solicit other educators for their ideas for teachers of various levels of experience.  Please comment below with a professional learning idea that you have benefited from and would like to share with others.

Personal Development

Summer Professional Development Idea #1

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Summer Professional Development Idea #1

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Are you the type of teacher who looks forward to summer professional development, or are you trying to avoid anything related to learning until you absolutely have to go to a training seminar? Chances are you are somewhere in the middle. If you find yourself looking for a relaxing yet meaningful way to grow professionally this summer, try these quick and easy activities

Write a book or article review
How often do you get the chance to really get engulfed in academic reading?  If you have ever had the urge to get to the heart of a troubling issue in education or simply have wanted to learn something new about your craft, the summer break is the perfect time to dive right in.  Even during the summer, our lives can be busy, but without the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day classroom and school activities, we can really take the time to dissect an academic topic at your leisure.  Make a list of the educational topics that pique your interest or get you on a soapbox the quickest.  Then, search for relevant journals, books, or research articles, and strive to make the complex plain.   Analyze the reading as though you were going to be responsible for supporting a new teacher on that topic.  Before long, you will discover just how much you can grow professionally from simply researching topics of your choice during the summer break.

Education Reform

Conditions for Change

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blackboard business chalkboard concept

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There have been many books and articles written on the theory of change but since we live a result oriented world, how do we practically get through it?  The world of education is not immune to the ever-growing pressure to change.  In fact, we may be at the very heart of it.  According to the latest Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, American students scored 32nd in math ability and 23rd in science achievement.  With more and more rankings, reports, and achievement data pointing to the fact that America’s educational system is in decline, one has to ask how can we turn it around.  Currently, the debate is center on education reform.  Some experts speak of the need for broad sweeping reform, while others lean toward shifting the focus to more economic growth and development.  Regardless of where you stand on reform, one thing rings true.  We have to change.  That is not to simplify the magnitude of the needed change.  After all, we have data supporting the need for change in our teacher recruitment & retention, curriculum focus, instructional practice, teacher evaluation, and assessment & accountability.  My goal with this blog post is to begin taking a look at the conditions needed for changing our instructional practices in the classroom.

We have to educate our way to a better economy. We have a 25 percent drop out rate in this country. We’re losing about a million children each year from our schools to the streets. That’s just economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable and we all have to work together and challenge the status quo.— Arne Duncan

When I am working with teachers to help them improve their effectiveness in the classroom it is easy to underestimate what conditions are necessary for change to take place.  In Jim Knights book Instructional Coaching, he describes two conditions necessary for ideas introduced to survive and be implemented. He states that  (1) the teacher must see that the new choice is more powerful than their current practice; and (2) the new choice must be easier for the teacher to implement.  In addition, I have noticed that when I have been successful at motivating a teacher to try a new practice, I was deliberate about how I demonstrated my support for them while provided implementation the new practice.   After ensuring the conditions for change are in place I had to have a realistic expectation about the time it takes for this process to take place.  Nothing can be taken for granted about the different backgrounds, experiences, and understanding of each individual teacher being asked to change.  Now, this is where the fun begins.