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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Valedictorians don't change the world

Research on the accomplishments of valedictorians and salutatorians show us a different kind of success than many would think.  This article followed 81 valedictorians and salutatorians through their career.  While major percentages of these former students have very successful and impressive careers, they don't typically become Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.  Their work doesn't change the world it's found to typically be more conventional and mundane then inventive and innovative.

That makes sense.  They are used to complying with school rules and doing what they are told by teachers.  They are not used to thinking outside the box, stirring the pot so to speak, to create change. In comparison Elon Musk has had plenty of failures   but his innovations (Tesla, Space X, SolarCity) are elevating his goal to change the world and placed him on Forbes list of the world's most powerful people.  One of his more recent inventions are roofing and window systems that act as solar cells, if that becomes affordable, energy companies will have serious competition.

Jobs, of course, dropped out of college and started Apple Computer and Pixar.  The point here is that our country is not the most powerful county on the planet because of raising compliant and duty bound valedictorians, but rather innovative and creative people the likes of Jobs and Musk.

So how do we encourage more innovation and creativity?  Stop giving A's for being a good student.  Grade on true accomplishments, not compliance.  Accelerate learning for those who already know the current topics.  But most of all encourage risk taking. If a student fails at homework assignments multiple times, yet at the end shows mastery of the subject, reward the growth, don't penalize the practice.  In our standards based system, that is the goal we should set for all students.  Struggle with content, master it, and then move on.  Marks on report cards (not grades) that reflect the eventual success in the subject are more meaningful than averaged grades that penalize the early struggles

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fidget Spinners are just TOYS

The biggest fad among our youngsters these days appears to be these strange wobbling 3 pronged ball bearings called a Fidget Spinner.  Some companies have been touting their calming abilities and pushing these things as "theraputic" and a health intervention for those with ADHD or Autism.

While there is anecdotal stories of kids who watch their widget rotate at enormous circular velocity, there are no scientific studies actually showing any benefits to them.  Unless you call being mildly amused a benefit.  Time Magazine attacks the bad science and brings normalcy to the discussion in this article.

I know that some teachers have made rules in how to play with your fidget spinner in the classroom, eager to see the benefits on students' short attention spans.  I would suggest we find other ways to engage our students.  Relevant and real world curriculum, creating relationships and allowing whole body movement in classrooms works much better.  I'm excited to see further transition to alternative seating experiments as they have a much greater chance of improving student attention than rotating toys on your thumbs.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Appreciate a teacher!

This has been Teacher appreciation week.  Always a good time to reflect on the teaching profession.  I love it whenever someone rolls out this quote by Child pyschologist and educator Haim Ginott   who wrote 

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in my classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” 
How we treat students inevitably shapes the people they become. That is our real legacy. It's an awesome responsibility and tremendous opportunity, and our best chance to prove that education matters!

Thanks to Education Matters for offering it up on his blog.

It is also happens to be National School Board Appreciation Month.  With all of our meetings and policy reading that is going on the next 14 months at NFV, we really need to show gratitude and appreciation for the hard VOLUNTEER work put in by school board members everywhere.