Tag: teachers

I Don’t Give Grades, Students Earn Them


My favorite teacher movie is The Emperor’s Club. Kevin Kline plays Mr. Hundert, who inspires his students to learn the great principles of history. Mr. Hundert makes no apology for the hard work it will take to master the subject. And the teacher has high expectations for his students as well as himself. But I think the down-deep reason I resonate with The Emperor’s Club is that education is meant to be rigorous.

Perhaps Mr. Hundert’s ideal is behind the two questions, I ask my students to ask themselves. In each of my college syllabi, the questions are posed: (1) What do I want out of this course? And (2) What am I willing to do, to get what I want out of this course? If students decide to go to college because they want a degree, then the result of their work is theirs alone. Students decide how important the class is. Students are responsible for the work they do. Students account for what they produce in a class. Students earn the grades they receive. Students oversee their own learning.

And here is a story you won’t soon forget. I used to hate my students. I know. That sounds very harsh. But hear me out. I never had an education course before I started teaching and had no idea what to expect. I thought students would hang on my every word. Ha! Nothing could be or is further from the truth. But here is the thing. I discovered that my responsibility was to do the best teaching I could do. I surely failed many times. But the next lesson was a life-changer in my second year of teaching. It dawned on me that once the teaching was given, the student was responsible for the learning.

This week on The Learning Curve, guest cohosts Charlie Chieppo and Alisha Searcy join Dr. David Steiner for a wide-ranging discussion about the importance of education as a means of transmitting enduring wisdom to young people. Dr. Steiner discusses differences in K-12 education between the U.S. and the U.K., explores how schools of education may be contributing to the decline of K-12 education, reflects on the politicization of U.S. history and civics education, and talks about what states, governors, and state legislatures can do to lead systemic academic improvements. Dr. Steiner concludes the interview with a reading from his new book A Nation at Thought: Restoring Wisdom in America’s Schools.

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My fourth-grade teacher infamously said to my mom during a parent-teacher conference, “Mark is bright, not brilliant.” That phrase, “bright not brilliant,” has been lodged in the core of my person ever since. I see it every day. In my teaching. In my writing. In my learning. In myself.  But any lack I feel in […]

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What Were We Thinking Allowing Government Workers to Unionize?


It’s not exactly breaking news that America’s public schools are failing academically.

There have been encouraging stories of charter schools and other schools of choice successfully raising achievement levels for underprivileged students previously deemed uneducable.

But our schools are still producing a generation of students lacking basic computational or literacy skills, much less an understanding of government, culture, or science. That is, unless you count gender ideology and slanted anti-American interpretations of history.

A Turning Point in My Life


Students from the past write to me from time to time, rehearsing a fond event they remember most. Here is one example of a student memory that should cause a smile, and perhaps create a lesson. In the student’s own words:

One of my favorite memories from your high school sophomore class begins with you assigning us to interpret the worldview of a song of our choosing. As a joke (because I took nothing seriously and fancied myself so incredibly funny), I picked Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” thinking I’d gamed the system by choosing something apolitical and comically benign. When I received your grading of my interpretation, I was surprised to see that you took me seriously. You’d told me I’d made a good choice and wrote some critiques about how I could have said a little more here and there about the song’s message.

It was then that a light bulb went on. I realized you believed “When You Wish Upon a Star” communicated a serious message. I realized your belief was correct. I realized something I’d thought communicated nothing, had in fact, preached a very meaningful message. I realized there was no such thing as benign media; everything is preaching something. It was a serious turning point in my life. To this day, I can’t say the words, “authorial intent” without thinking of you.

Teachers and the Abuse of Power


If you were born in the 1950s or earlier, your parents likely taught you that teachers were to be obeyed and respected. (You may have even learned that lesson if you were born later than the 1950s.) If you got into trouble with the teacher, you knew you were in deep trouble with mom and dad. (I was a good kid, so I didn’t have to bear the wrath of an angry parent.) The teachers were in the right, and you would lose your TV privileges or be grounded.

More than those rules, teachers were often viewed as caring and compassionate human beings; after all, they were entrusted with educating our children to prepare them for life. I have my own favorite teachers who more than fulfilled that promise, and many of you may have had your own special educators.

Join Jim and Greg as they encourage Republicans like Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Sears to continue to push against the Democrat’s radical education agenda and speculate that the left’s decision to insist upon controversial subjects in classrooms will culminate in a ‘Red Wave’ in November. They also scratch their heads at a floundering Biden administration that seems unable to find a way to curb the rising inflation. And after lambasting Tulsi Gabbard for putting her political career before her constituents in the 2020 presidential race, Hawaii Rep. Kai Kahele has not shown up on Capitol Hill since January.

After noting Sen. Schumer’s latest failure to kill the filibuster, Jim and Greg serve up three crazy martinis! First, they hammer the Chicago Teachers Union for refusing to teach in-person over the Omicron case numbers. They also unload on the Virginia Department of Transportation for continuing an ugly governmental trend of admitting a major problem but insisting that nothing could have been done better in response to the traffic nightmare on I-95. And their heads are spinning as the CDC releases absurdly burdensome recommendations for fighting COVID and that private employers are following the mandates and firing people while nothing happens to unvaccinated federal employees.

Join Jim and Greg as they discuss even more revelations from the New York nursing home scandal and former Cuomo staffers admitting that working for the governor was like being in a cult. Jim fumes as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan refuses to accept the Johnson & Johnson vaccines and also because many states and school districts are not keeping track of how many teachers are getting vaccinated. They react to revelations that Barack Obama tried to talk Joe Biden out of running for president in 2020 and they get a kick out of learning the candidate Obama seems to have preferred.

Who is the Fellow in the Field of Flowers? Hiding in Plain Sight


Teachers have been revealed more fully to many parents as radical leftist propagandists, party cadre members rather than the supposedly noble public servants politicians of all stripes venerate. The left is starting to notice and worry that their education allies are overplaying their hand here as the left’s black uniformed militia is on streets across the country. One story jumped out at me in Texas, not because of the teacher and selected student comments, but because of what was not said but shown. I invited others to look at the same picture. We were partially right, but the final answer was: Every Election Matters.

In mid August, the Rutherford County schools told parent not to monitor their children’s virtual classrooms. The administrators lied that this was about protecting privacy of other students, a clear fiction. Everyone knows this was about trying to intimidate parents into not collecting evidence of the ideological poison being poured into their children’s minds. We were treated a week before that to a teacher in another state musing on Twitter about losing the ability to conceal what he was doing in class from parents and saying that he had always had kids agree to keep it from parents. That is a giant red flag.

Why Teachers Think About Quitting


Yesterday was the first day of school and I thought about quitting for most of it. Mostly I’m just relieved it’s Saturday today.

I work at a small independent Catholic school. Our admin decided that we would reopen for in-person instruction (which is clearly preferable to remote for all the obvious reasons), but offer a remote option to students who preferred to stay home — “hybrid” instruction. Leave it to admin to give it a name that makes it sound like it’s a perfected model. Herein lies the problem. Our school’s remote experience last spring worked pretty well mostly because everyone was remote at the same time so there was no balancing act required, at least for school.

Rob Long is in for Jim today.  Join Rob and Greg as they welcome encouraging news about a coronavirus vaccine.  They also unload on the United Teachers Los Angeles union for wanting Medicare for All, a moratorium on new charter schools, a wealth tax, and defunding of police before they’re comfortable going back into the classroom.  And they have fun with the most predictable news of 2020…John Kasich will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention.

I’m an Educator Who Disagrees with Teacher Walkouts


This is a post from my blog that I wrote back in 2018 when the “Red for Ed” frenzy, to increase Arizona’s education funding, was happening.

I’m an educator with a different perspective from what you probably see in the media regarding Red for Ed protests. I worked in public schools for 12 years, as an afterschool provider, teacher, administrator and more. I’ve taught in three states and don’t claim to be an expert in everything education, but I have my experiences, and don’t agree with what’s happening. Let me explain.

1. We chose to be teachers and knew it didn’t pay much. Most of us don’t pick this field for the money, but we are accountable for our choices. You can easily research pay scales, benefits, etc. for districts and states. We do our searching, make our choice and sign the contract. I had a professor spend an entire class explaining how he supported his family on a meager teacher’s salary, with sacrifices, but he made it work, and encouraged us to really ponder this before moving on in the program.

The Bad Guys? Part 2


For most of my life, Johnny Lawrence was a bad guy. The student leader of the Cobra Kai dojo in 1984’s The Karate Kid was my generation’s bully prototype. But that all changed last year when YouTube produced a continuation of the franchise centered on Johnny called Cobra Kai. The show is far from great (I skim through several sections in each episode), but I keep watching because I’ve been impressed with how the writers managed to cast Johnny in an entirely different light.

The show depicts an older Johnny as he scrapes up enough cash to reopen his old dojo. Just as he begins to have some success, Daniel Larusso – now a successful business owner – becomes a bully to Johnny, using his fame and influence to smash the upstart business before it can take root in the community.

After only two episodes, I found myself rooting for Johnny and his new Cobras against Daniel, and Daniel’s thoroughly unlikable new protege.

The Hidden Costs of the LA Teachers Strike


The recent teachers strike in Los Angeles was resolved on terms that have generally been regarded as a victory for the teachers against the embattled Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The LAUSD is financially strapped because of ever heavier pension obligations for retired teachers and high operating expenses. Nonetheless, the LAUSD capitulated to the demands of the teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It agreed to a 6% pay raise for the teachers to be phased in over two years, and class size was reduced by two students per class. The District also vowed to beef up its employee base by hiring 300 nurses, 82 librarians, and 17 counselors by 2020.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti, who has higher political ambitions, crowed: “When we see a problem, we fix it.” AFT President Randi Weingarten noted optimistically, “Everything teachers are demanding would strengthen public schools.” Going out on strike, she said, was about “ensuring that all public schools have the conditions they need for student success.” But those remarks, as Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal notes, must be taken with a large gain of salt, for self-interest offers a better explanation of the AFT’s strategy than its supposed altruism. The AFT thought that its gambit was worthwhile for its members, but a closer look at the settlement shows that in the long-run, the union teachers got less than they hoped for, while everyone else lost big time.

The initial sticking point is the interim costs—none of which are recoverable—that stemmed from the shutdown of the school system for six days. The teachers took a big salary hit—about $2,250 in wage losses per teacher, or three percent of salary. The District lost around $100 million because state funding is tightly tied to the days that students are in school. The teachers were willing to roll the dice because they thought that their losses would be offset by long-term gains, but that outcome depends on their political ability to persuade the California legislature to raise taxes to fund the expensive settlement, which given the state’s tricky financial condition is far from certain.

The Power of Words: ‘I Can’t Get Enough Words!’


My older cousin Rosetta was off to college when I was still in knickers. My aunt said she was brilliant, finishing high school and college early. She went on to teach school in New Jersey for thirty years. I only saw her on holidays and a few vacations at her dad’s cottage in Butler, PA.

We recently began to talk by phone after all these years. She still has the same musical voice. Even on a serious topic, she sounds melodic. Her voice is clear and concise, no stutters, sputters or slang, and it’s also a link to the familiar. When I hear it, our deceased relatives pop up in my mind, laughing around a feast of turkey, stuffed cabbage and homemade pumpkin pie, or the sound of cards being shuffled, knocking on the table and the scent of cherry pipe tobacco.

One year she came for a holiday dinner. Her hair was long and blonde, and she wore a dark blue velvet mini-dress. “Hi Uncle Will and Aunt Mary!” she exclaimed. I was dressed in fringed bell bottom jeans, a silly t-shirt and wore a floppy yellow hat with a peace sign to hide my pimply 7th grade face. My Uncle Al practically boxed my ears upon arrival. A devout Catholic, he hollered that the “peace sign” was the cross upside down, a mockery! Those ‘words’ delivered a verbal punch. I quickly yanked my hat off embarrassed, but all I remember thinking was, I want to grow up looking like Rosetta.

The Teachers Are Revolting


Last week, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin gave each Oklahoma public school teacher a massive 15 to 18 percent pay raise funded by the largest tax increase in state history. To show their appreciation, teachers went on strike demanding even more money. Today, 200 Oklahoma school districts are shut down, with students going uneducated and parents scrambling for daycare.

Similar protests have been taking place in Kentucky, Arizona, and West Virginia. What do all these states have in common? Republicans hold the governorship and both legislative chambers. But it’s totally non-partisan and for the children … or something.

West Virginia teachers kicked off the protests with a two-week strike last month. The state government gave them a 5 percent raise to get them back to work.

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Liberals love public schools and willingly send their children to them. They love public school teachers, and lament that they are so underpaid. But these teachers whom they love, and to whom they entrust their children five days a week, are really very dangerous and unstable! Once given a gun, who knows what they would […]

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