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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who Needs School?

By Brooks Elms

The founders of The Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts, in the late 1960s asked the question: "Who needs school?" Their answer is that school prepares children to become productive members of society-essentially, to be good citizens. Then they asked, "How do we meet that objective? If we could re-start from scratch, or adapt from any known model, what are the social mechanisms we'd choose to best serve the children in meeting this goal?" Those founders quickly threw out the commonly accepted adult-centered approach, and instead moved forward with a democratically run mini-community where the kids follow their passions all day, and collaborate in the creation of rules to protect the individual's pursuit of happiness.

The result, after the first 40 years, is much like they envisioned. Because students create their own unique curriculum, and rules to protect individual liberty, the students tend to be more responsible as adult citizens. They've felt and wielded power at a very young age (even 4 year olds vote to hire or fire a teacher) so they've got palpable experience with the good and bad consequences of large stakes community decision-making. Plus, they also do learn the basic reading, writing and math skills that are so strongly stressed in traditional school, although at Sudbury Valley, they're learned organically, as tools to further their knowledge in their passion projects.

For the children in the industrialized nations growing up in the Information Age, this child-centered model fits perfectly. It's like the world-wide-web personified. The Industrial Era Factory Style learning approach, still deeply entrenched in the mainstream as we begin the 21st century, served its purpose well-enough for decades when the bulk of students we're headed to factories for life. But it's a new world. Even back in the 60's Bob Dylan observed with biting sarcasm that "After twenty years of schoolin' they put you on the day shift." The system needed change back then, and now with the Sudbury model's proven effectiveness after four decades, the change is picking up its pace.

The Sudbury Valley Model has been featured on CBS's "60 minutes," and on the front cover of "Psychology Today." Representatives from hundreds of like-minded alternative schools flock to education conferences every year. There have been several documentaries about the model, and I, myself wrote and directed a fiction film inspired by the model entitled "Schooled."

I believe the reason for the surge in popularity has to do with the reality that we now live in an economy devoid of job security. People have to prove the value of their services over and over for their rest of their lives. And without passion driving that life-long re-invention process, how successful can new adults be when faced with harrowing market conditions and brutal competitors? Just as adults create their own lives within the laws of the land, so do the students in this model, making them far more prepared for productive Information Age citizenship. Another way to look at it is to see that there are many different ways kids learn, so the different schools that exist today-including home schooling-cater to these different ways of learning. These different ways of learning lead to a more "trade-orientated," or "customer service orientated" mindset. How do I serve the customer (and my community) as efficiently as possible? Passion facilitates this.

While the common fear about this education model is that kids will grow up lazy, in actuality, it's the opposite. Driven by desire, these new adults have spent their whole childhood very aware of balancing personal ambition with community accountability standards. They work because they want to. When they fall short of goals, they use their well-honed innovation skills to come up with new solutions. They don't rely on imposed structure to guide them. They don't waste time rebelling against "The Man." They simply create their own structure and solve problems, no matter how the marketplace shifts and re-shifts, because that's what they've always done.

This Information Age education is particularly valuable in a place like the movie business. Nobody needs a degree for anything in Hollywood. The question is: Can you do the job? People get known for their work (and lack of work) and their reputation fuels the next step of their career. While other industries are less extreme than Hollywood's hyper-volatility -- they're not that different. These days, every market hums with volatility and so it's vital that our schools meet these new needs of our future generations.

(c) 2008, Brooks Elms All rights reserved. Reprint rights granted so long as article and by-line are published intact and with all links made live. (

About Author:

Brooks Elms fiercely writes, directs and produces films, winning awards and thrilling audiences around the globe for the last 20 years. His latest film, "Schooled" is like "Kid Nation" meets "Dead Poets Society" and it fundamentally changes the way people think about education:

Diversity In The Classroom

By Lisa J Smith

I was talking with a friend last week about the private school that her 2 boys attended & she informed me that she had withdrawn them at the end of last school year and they now attended public school. When I asked what brought about the change, she told me "The teachers at their previous school told them (when doing are projects) 'We only color the people in our pictures peach.' " My friend, a forward thinking intelligent mom, told her children to follow the rules at school but while at home, she encouraged her children to do artwork and to color their people all different shades because as she put it "The world is full of people of all different colors."

This got me to thinking. When we take our children to school, we assume that we are placing them in the very best care. We believe that the teachers that interact with them on a daily basis are teaching them about equality and being open-minded when in reality, that may not be the case. Teachers are human and bring with them into the classroom, their own set of prejudices. How so we know that they aren't passing them on to our children?

A culturally literate teacher can make all the difference when working with children on the concepts of diversity & racial tolerance. An educator that celebrates differences helps to increase students' self-esteem and self-worth and helps to teach children about these differences in a non-judgmental way. Unfortunately, there are some schools, administration and teachers who fall short of this mark.

What should we as parents be on the lookout for? How can we tell is our child's teacher is ready to take on this open-minded way of teaching?

1. Look for signs in their classroom: Do they have pictures, quotes or artwork representing all cultures and populations?

2. Check out their teaching style: Do they encourage healthy, open discussions and questions about cultural perspectives and topics?

3. Examine the school curriculum: Do the lesson plans fit all types of students? Does it focus on one particular gender, race or religion more than another?

4. Ask the students: 45% of all children in the US are ethnic minorities. Do they feel excluded? Do they feel safe sharing things about themselves in the classroom?

5. Take a look at your child's homework or text books: Are there units or chapters devoted to all ethnicities? Do they look at History or social issues from different cultural perspectives?

Most teachers are good people trying to do their jobs in the best way possible; dealing with school overcrowding, budget cuts and the like. If your child's classroom does not answer with a resounding "yes!" to the above questions, you don't have to make a rush to pull them from school. These are merely suggestions for the optimal learning for our children and if your child's school or teacher can provide even just a few of the suggestions, they are better off for them.

We should of course, be teaching children morals and their belief system at home, but with teachers having a large influence over behavior for a good portion of their day, we do have some cause for concern if they are teaching things that we don't want them to learn. The world is made up of students of all different colors, shapes, and sizes and we need to find educators that encourage communication about differences while demonstrating that these differences do not equate to any one group or person being better than any other. We should be concerned when our teachers tell our children to "only color people peach" and we should applaud those that inspire, motivate and empower children of all colors. (

About Author:

Lisa Smith has a BA in psychology, & is the Owner of Regionz Kidz a multi-cultural infant and toddler clothing line with ethnically diverse characters and designs. She publishes a blog on the Regionz Kidz website that features articles about cultural diversity and children & she is a guest blogger on several other websites and blogs relating to parenting and children's issues. She is also a monthly contributor to Educated Mommy Magazine. You can contact Lisa directly at:

Honesty and Dishonesty Through Handwriting Analysis

By Joel Engel

In order to determine dishonesty in one's handwriting, the ability to recognize honesty is a prerequisite.


In general, the handwriting of honest people has clarity, simplicity and a firm, straight base line. You can see this by taking a ruler and placing it under the middle-zone letters-they are all equidistant from the ruler. When the base line is straight (and certain other factors are not present), we find an individual who does not go to pieces if something unexpected occurs. He is composed, not easily upset, straight thinking, and honest.

The more open the ovals are, the more talkative the writer is. When these letters are a regular feature of someone's writing, he can be said to be both open and honest. However, if there were no oval letters closed, it would be best not to tell the writer any secrets-he may have difficulty keeping them.

If the body of the writing is similar to that of the signature, we see an essentially honest and straightforward individual-one that is not trying to impress others or play a false part. When the signature varies from the body of the writing, graphologists first analyze the body of the writing, to discover what the writer really is. Then they check that against the signature to get an impression of the writer's persona-the role he is trying to play.


Although there are many indicators of dishonesty, which can be identified through one's handwriting, graphologists always rely upon three signs.

*The sinuous base line.

He is inconsistent, prey to mood swings. It is difficult for him to hold a job or perform any function-requiring steadiness.

*Oval shaped letters, which are open at the bottom). This reflects deceitfulness and hypocrisy.

*Figures that can be mistaken for others, reveals lack of clarity in money matters.

When any one of these three signs are found in one's writing, a question mark arises to the graphologist concerning the writer's veracity. Two signs are considered as evidence.

It must be pointed out that the professional graphologist only relies upon these factors when: a) they are significantly repeated

and b) this is the writer's natural handwriting.

A person's illegible signature does not admit of any complimentary interpretation. For how much trust can be placed in a document if the signature that is to prove the signer's determination to carry out his promises cannot be deciphered? In a sense, an illegible signature annuls the document it pretends to put in force.

In contrast, the illegible hand of doctors, for instance, is part of their professional pride and secretiveness; they do not want the layman to understand their notes obviously reserved for other doctors or pharmacists. As this is not the doctor's natural handwriting, it certainly is not an indicator of dishonesty; it is to protect his patient.

Psychopathology in Handwriting

The Habitual Liar

The technique of lying, it seems, has at least three ways of achieving its ends. In the liar's presentation of the story,

l. one (essential) part is simply left out;

2. one (essential) part is left out and a freely invented part is substituted for it;

3. one (essential) part is left out and the gap is filled with chitchat, or meaningless or vague tales. In all three ways, the liar tries carefully not to appear as such; his story and approach must not arouse suspicion.

(Essentially, the habitual liar, as a social type, is unwilling to communicate frankly; he will not express himself without indirection or hesitation.) In writing, the liar's techniques remain the same. While the first letters of words look clear and often are written with great care (to deceive us and to draw our attention away from that part of the word where the lie "resides"), the body of the word behind that first letter is,

1. Incomplete: one or more letters are left out ("ad" instead of "and," "Thanki" instead of "Thanking," "neived" instead of "received," "sicenly" instead of "sin¬cerely"),


2. One or several letters are replaced by letters that do not belong there ("eacl" instead of "each," "mucl" instead of "much," "costme" instead of "continue"),


3. One letter is left out and instead there is a thread ("fr-" instead of' "from,") or something that looks like a letter but is not ("ar-y" instead of "army").

The above samples are taken from one message, written by a habitual liar.

The Pathological Liar

These two seemingly different handwritings were written by one person, a pathological liar. She executed this writing for the doctor who had her under his care, in order to show "how clever she was." From the standpoint of graphology, these handwritings are identical with the exception of the slant; neither contains a basic characteristic that the other lacks.

The pathological liar, to be sure, is not merely a person who tells many lies. He is almost completely identified with the false roles he unconsciously assumes. Consequently, he will characteristically show two or more different styles of writing, rather than merely the slips of the "habitual liar." Such shifting of style is the clue to pathology, which the graphologist can discover. (

About Author
Joel Engel is the author of "Handwriting Analysis Self-Taught" (Penguin Books)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Extra funds for further education

by BBC News

Universities and colleges in Scotland struggling under their current funding deal are to receive an extra £20m in government funding.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop set out the package, which will come on top of £10m pledged in January.

The minister had previously promised to make universities a funding priority after being criticised for their spending review allocation of £263m.

Labour said the funding was "too little too late".

The additional £20m was welcomed by Scottish universities and colleges.

Ms Hyslop claimed the extra resources would allow colleges to further invest in priority areas.

We understand the difficulties higher education institutions face in the final year of the current pay deal
Fiona Hyslop
Education Secretary

She said: "For Scotland's colleges this will provide additional funding for priorities such as supporting young people who need more choices and more chances, articulation, and innovative approaches to learning delivery.

"We also understand the difficulties higher education institutions face in the final year of the current pay deal."

Colleges and universities will remain a priority for any additional funding that becomes available in the future years of the spending review, she added.

The additional £20m will see £10m go to universities and £10m go to colleges.

Convener of Universities Scotland, Sir Muir Russell, said the announcement was an "encouraging" signal from the government.

"This goes a very long way to addressing the cost pressures the university sector will face in 2008-09," he said.

Howard McKenzie, acting chief executive of the Association of Scottish Colleges (ASC), added: "We are delighted to see a further £10m coming into our sector which is working hard to improve learning and skills in Scotland. This additional investment is most welcome."

However, Richard Baker, Labour's higher education spokesman, said the extra funds were "too little too late to address a crisis of the SNP's own making".

Beginning Instruments - Leasing or Rent-to-own

by: George Fetter

Parenthood is a continuous series of new experiences that often create confusion as parents negotiate unfamiliar territory. Finding an instrument for their child is often one of those experiences. The decision to buy an instrument from a chain discount store or over the internet rather than getting one from an established music dealer is confusing for most adults. After all, a trumpet is a trumpet, a violin is a violin in the novice’s mind. If the decision is to secure the instrument from a music dealer another problem often presents itself as the parent shops for the best value, do they lease or rent?

Over the twenty-five years I have headed the school service department I have often been asked, “What is the difference, between renting and leasing an instrument?” These terms are often used interchangeably and this adds to the confusion. It can be bit like, “Who’s on first?” The difference between leasing and renting an instrument is not so subtle when it comes to parents’ wallets.

Simply put, when a parent leases an instrument they are paying to use the instrument for a fixed number of months and then either turn it in at the end of the contract period or extend the contract period without applying any or little of the lease fees to the purchase of the instrument if the parent eventually decides to purchase one for the child. The contract period may include a significant down payment and interest fees followed by monthly payments similar to a car lease plan. This forces the parent into a decision after the initial lease period, should they buy an instrument or continue paying into a lease plan that is not building equity? If they do decide to buy, they may be faced with another three years of payments. This can foster increased drop-out rates from the first year to the second and beyond.

With a rental plan (generally called a rent-to-own plan), parents pay an initial contract fee usually equal to the first month’s rent and continue monthly payments which apply to the eventual purchase of the instrument minus any maintenance fees. Some rental fees may include a carrying charge of some sort based on the unpaid principal. Generally, rent-to-own contracts include a discount on the unpaid balance if the parent wants to pay off the contract early. A rent-to-own contract may be terminated at any time. An added feature of many rent-to-own contracts is the ability to apply a percentage of the equity in the first instrument toward a better instrument (100% with Marshall Music). The advantages to this plan are:

· Payments are building equity toward the eventual purchase of the instrument

· Parents are not forced to make a decision at the end of a specified contract date

· Parents can save on the total price of the instrument if they choose to pay off the balance early

· Parents have an incentive to buy a better instrument for their child since a percentage of the investment in the beginning instrument can be applied to a step-up instrument

· Reduces drop-outs since there is not a cut-off date for the contract

Leasing an instrument can appear to be a better deal to parents since they generally carry lower monthly lease fees due to a higher initial first payment, but after doing the math you will find leasing is more expensive, especially if the parent decides to purchase an instrument after the first year and realizes all those payments will not apply to the purchase of an instrument.

The advantage of a lease plan for the music dealer is it saves capital. By recycling the same instrument through the lease plan year after year there is a reduced need for inventory and the dealer can recoup his investment in an instrument several times. If the parent does decide to buy an instrument at the end of the lease (say nine months) the parent is starting all over again and the dealer has nine months of payments and the initial lease fee in the asset column.

At first look a lease agreement might appear attractive to a parent who is concerned with committing to a rent-to-buy contract that will take 28-36 months to purchase the instrument for a child who is, “Trying band or orchestra for a year.” After all, they only have to sign a nine month to year lease, put down an initial payment with smaller monthly payments than the rental plan. The reality is, for the majority of those whose child will continue in the program, parents are better off with the rental plan because the payments they make in the first year are applied to the purchase of the instrument. In addition, should the child decide to discontinue in the program prior to the instrument being paid off the parent can opt out of the contract at any time with no penalty.

When it comes to providing an instrument for the beginning student, purchasing from a discount chain, leasing or rent-to-own, the answer to, “Who’s on first,” is rent-to-own. It is in the best financial interest of the consumer. It provides a quality instrument that is gaining equity which can also be carried over to a step-up instrument for the advancing student musician.

Inspire Not Require

by: William W. Gourley

We face many challenges as teachers of student and amateur ensembles; encouraging solo and ensemble participation, chamber ensemble performance, pep band participation or getting the students or ensemble members to practice.

Societal behavior has changed over the past thirty years. Requiring students to engage in activities outside of the full ensemble and to practice is alien to the way we function as a society today. The autocratic methods of Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karian and Bobby Knight, have been replaced by the nurturing leadership styles of Neme Jarvi, Leonard Slatkin and Coach Krzyzewski. Few students or adults will accept edicts from the podium to satisfy the wants of a conductor. They need to want to fulfill their individual needs. Intimidation is out, motivation is in.

Let’s look at the difference between inspiring and requiring. This is the art of getting people to want to meet your expectations rather than demanding they meet them.

When someone is required to do something the reason for accomplishing the goal is to avoid a negative consequence, a reduced grade for example. Granted, getting a better grade or a higher salary may be rewarding but the reward is dependent on being denied something if they do not fulfill the requirement.

To inspire someone to accomplish something the individual must experience joy in the attainment of the goal. The teacher needs to create situations that reward appropriate behaviors to create a desire to achieve in the student.


Many people consider grades a great motivator and a majority of students respond to this method. “Just tell me what I have to do to get an A.” While this may be a fairly effective method to get students to learn scales, music and show-up for performances we must ask ourselves if it will encourage the student to want to sign-up for the class next year once the stimulation (the grade) is no longer relevant.

In an ideal world we would not need the extrinsic motivation of grades to encourage students to learn but we all know this is a dynamic tool in motivation but it is a carrot-and-stick mentality. If we create a grading system that rewards or penalizes based on just skill acquisition and showing-up we are encouraging learning by requiring students to meet a specific set of criteria to make the grade. We are waving around quite a big stick relying on intimidation (no show, no scale, no grade) to make them do what we want them to. This does not foster a very inspiring learning environment and does not encourage students to become more accomplished on the instrument or sign-up for your class for next year.

A grading system that offers a variety of ways to make the grade while still encouraging musical growth will be more inspiring since they have more carrots from which to choose and avoid the stick. An example of this might be:

  • Daily preparation, materials and music 25%
  • Tests 25%
  • Performances 40%

· Extra-credit add x% to final grade

    • Private lessons on your instrument 10%
    • Piano lessons 5%
    • Participate in solo & ensemble festival 5%
    • Pep bad or jazz band 5%
    • Prepare a solo for director (3 minutes) 5%
    • Write a report 3%
    • Community performance 2%
    • Attend a concert 2%

The basic areas of this grading system rely on required elements to achieve the goal of creating independent musicians. The extra-credit areas offer other incentives to achieve, in part, that same goal.

Another consideration in grading to inspire students is to award full credit for mastery of the tested item. For example, in my beginning classes an A was awarded if the student had zero to one mistake on an eight measure exercise. This might vary depending on difficulty, length, etc. If a student had two to three mistakes (again, depending on length and difficulty) the student received a B. However, both grades received the same amount of points toward the marking period grade. Exceptional performance (zero mistakes) often warranted a bonus a bonus point or star.

One can argue the need to achieve perfection in performance. I agree that is our ideal but I have yet to hear a flawless live performance from any professional ensemble and definitely not from the student and amateur ensembles I have conducted. By allowing a student to receive full credit for a B performance we let them know there is room for improvement but they still did a commendable job. This enhances practicing by students who may feel no matter how much they practice they just can’t get to the A level so why bother.


For the overwhelming majority of us pumping iron in the gym, shooting free-throws over and over, spending hours on the putting green or practicing chip shots is not what we long to do. We want to smack the ball down the fairway, make the basket, block or serve that becomes the big play that produces the cheers from the stands. That, ‘love to practice’ mentality is reserved for the greatest in their sport who relish the toil in anonymity that will lead to greatness.

Band and orchestra students are no different from their counterparts in athletics. Few of them enjoy the tedious repetition required to master technical facility or improved tone or articulation. They joined to play Hot Cross Buns, not practice Hot Cross Buns.

We have all agonized over the continual growing distractions for students that deter them from practicing. Video games, cable TV, hockey or soccer leagues, equestrian teams, IM-ing and text messaging at the speed of light on their iPhone; leave precious little time-let alone incentive-for practicing the chromatic scale.

Encouraging practice is a major concern especially in beginning students. We need to set realistic achievable goals for young students. Requiring students to practice thirty minutes a day will more than likely create a situation where the majority of students will miss a day at some point and then become discouraged at receiving a lesser grade.

Setting up a more realistic expectation of 80-100 minutes a week or 4 five times a week for twenty minutes offers a more easily realized expectation. To encourage more practice offer extra-credit or bonus points for additional practice in increments of 15 minutes or so. This allows students to practice three times for thirty minutes and still receive full credit. When the student realizes how quickly he can get in the time he is inspired to practice.

Another issue regarding practice is if a student is not meeting practice expectations but is able to play the material at an acceptable A or B level, why should his grade suffer because he is only putting in 30 or 40 minutes a week, if that? I recall a classmate of mine in college who could get more done in the practice room in thirty minutes than the rest of us could in two hours and he still played circles around all of us.

By adjusting your grading policy to allow students who can adequately keep up with minimum practice to get the “good grade” along with opportunities for the less gifted musician to earn the grade through increased practice cards you can inspire both students.


The need to have objective criteria for grading necessitates we incorporate regular testing. There are things we can do to mitigate the negative effects.

Beginning students:

  • Beginning students can be encouraged by a few simple strategies. Allow the students to choose individually what they want to be tested on. Tell them they will be tested on any exercise they choose on page eight. One may choose Hot Cross Buns, another Mary Has a Little Lamb and another may select the two note exercise.
  • After a month of choosing from anything, begin to narrow the choices to a specified group of two to four exercises. This could be their choice of three exercises you want to target. The students still get a choice but you get to focus the testing on more productive material.
  • A month later begin testing a specific exercise along with any of their choosing. You may want to test a technical exercise that you specify and let them choose anything else from the page. This allows students to exercise some control of their destiny and encourages practice.
  • In the fourth month you can begin testing anything of your choice from the week’s assignment. This can be from an entire page or from several selected exercises. It is still a good idea to allow students to select another exercise in addition to your choice.
  • Always assign the test material a week ahead and go over it each day in class to reinforce the concepts and guide students to help them succeed.
  • If a student does not get an A or B on the original testing allow them to retest the material even if it takes months to get it. As you review these exercises monitor the students who have not mastered them. If they are performing them well enough with the ensemble give them the grade.

Intermediate and Advanced students:

  • Assign test material two weeks in advance and review it regularly.
  • If you go “down the line” initially select material that even the least accomplished student can perform. This will build confidence and inspire the students to prepare material that is more difficult once they enjoy the feeling of succeeding in this stressful situation.
  • As with beginners allow them to retest material. We can’t expect all students to achieve at the same speed but they all need to ultimately have the skills necessary to perform the music.
  • Even at this level, (especially intermediate) allowing the student to select from a variety of material can encourage them to practice and want to succeed.

Play it again…and again…and…

It seems that we often think it is forbidden to continue to play an exercise that we originally studied months prior. Beginning classes often have a significant portion (20-30%) of the students who may not master a specific technical study and you don’t want to bog the class down by staying with it. This fosters an environment where the students who had difficulty with the exercise never master it and begin to feel band or orchestra is too difficult.

If you include the various technical exercises and concepts in your warm-up the students who originally had difficulty with a particular exercise will eventually master it. You don’t need to play these everyday. Incorporate them on a rotation hitting them every three class periods.

You can help inspire students by monitoring those who didn’t master the exercise or concept. When they can play it recognize their accomplishment. Eventually over 95% of the class will master the exercise. It may take a couple of months or more but this gradually eliminates or at last diminishes the stigma of failure by creating an inspiring environment where students always have a chance to “win”.

Recognize achievement

One of the most effective and easiest ways to inspire students is through immediate recognition of achievement. This can be especially effective with less proficient students. It can be as simple as praising some improvement and giving a bonus check in your grade book.

Students who have been the least responsive in your class can be turned on by a simple bonus star on a wall chart or as involved as a phone call to the parent praising any aspect of improvement in their child. Rather than requiring them to have all their materials or having correct posture, reward those who do. Gradually, faster than you may think, the class will want to earn the recognition through praise instead of fear of admonition. Instead of requiring them to sit properly, you inspire them.

Granted, this is a subtle distinction. To earn the recognition the student must meet your expectations but you are not demanding (requiring) it, you are encouraging those who do. The more the student is recognized for appropriate practices from bringing equipment to performance the more he will want to achieve the appropriate practices.

Good, Better, That’s It

Too often we spend the majority of the class or rehearsal time correcting. Calling attention to key signatures, rhythmic interpretation, style, volume, attacks, releases and the list goes on. By comparison we spend precious little time on what’s correct. Obviously these are important issues for a successful performance but it isn’t very inspiring when everything the student does is wrong.

Making a positive comment about first, telling the student what is good and then offering suggestions for improvement will create a more inspired student.

  • Good-“John, that was excellent tone. I can tell you are using great breath support.”
  • Better – “Now, if you can hold out the dotted half note for a full three counts instead of two that will be terrific.”
  • That’s It – “John, great sound, rhythm and style. Can you do that again?” Or, “That’s it. That’s a great ensemble sound. Let’s play that again.”

The, “That’s It,” opportunity is too often missed. How is the student or ensemble ever going to know what we are looking for if we never identify when it’s right? There is nothing more inspiring than getting it right and we need to seize on these opportunities to reinforce the teaching to encourage the student to seek more of those, “Aha,” moments.

In today’s “Wanna Be” society we need to adjust our teaching methods from “Hafta Be. We want to be the next American Idle, or star quarterback. Not many of us are happy having to pursue our parents’ careers. The autocratic method may produce satisfactory results but at what cost. It fosters drop-outs and a negative environment. If we can inspire our students to want to be better players we can enhance retention and enjoy teaching in a better environment, thereby inspiring ourselves as well as our students.

Teacher Ed. Community Striving to Interpret Candidate ‘Dispositions’

By Vaishali Honawar

“Dispositions” has been one of the most controversial words in teacher education since the beginning of this decade. Now, a position paperRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader from the leading advocacy group for the nation’s teacher colleges is calling for an open and critical conversation on the meaning and uses of the term.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education first added dispositions to its standards in 2000. But criticism has since swirled endlessly around the political interpretations of the word, as well as the difficulties faced by teacher colleges in addressing and assessing teacher-candidates’ dispositions.

NCATE, which changed its definition of dispositions last year in response to some of those concerns, now defines professional dispositions as “professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and nonverbal behaviors as educators interact with students, families, colleagues, and communities.” The definition focuses on two dispositions in particular that it expects teachercandidates to demonstrate: fairness and the belief that all students can learn.

But there still is a need for more discussion to clarify the complexity of the term for professionals and policymakers, some say.

“We are not at a point where we are absolutely certain about anything in relation to this,” said Mary Diez, the dean of graduate studies at Alverno College in Milwaukee and the chairwoman of a task force set up by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education that drafted the paper.

A Struggle

The position paper, which will be included in a book on the topic to be released next year, was discussed at AACTE’s annual conference last month. It points out that some schools of education “struggle with a fair, just, and effective assessment of dispositional development.”

“Clearly, an expanded, open, and critical conversation about the meaning and uses of dispositions is still needed,” write the authors, who compare the interpretation of the term by educators and policymakers to the proverb of the six blind men and the elephant they encounter for the first time. As each man “observes” the elephant from his particular experience, each comes away with a different idea of what an elephant must be like.

“There is a lack of a clear definition in the way [dispositions] are operationalized in the colleges of education,” said Holly Thornton, an education professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., who has extensively studied the topic.

“It does tend to be the nature of dispositions. It is not something concrete that you can touch or see. … Sometimes, institutions reduce it to something easy to document and measure, like behavior, or a good sense of humor,” Ms. Thornton added.

“While we all know what [dispositions] are, they are difficult to define to people’s satisfaction,” said M. Mark Wasicsko, a professor of education at Kentucky State University in Highland Heights and the director of the National Network for the Study of Educator Dispositions, which holds an annual conference on the topic.

Mr.Wasicsko’s group advocates a definition of dispositions around core concepts, including a positive view of oneself and of one’s students, and the ability to put people first. Aspiring teachers, for instance, respond in writing to a human-relations incident or classroom observations. That approach reveals candidates’ perceptions of themselves in relation to others and the greater world and also an insight into dispositions.

Ms. Thornton includes that model among four she describes in a 2006 paper as being among the most widely used by teacher colleges as a result of NCATE requirements. Each model, she says, has its strengths and flaws. Besides the self-reflection model supported by Mr.Wasicsko’s group, another, for instance, uses a collection of checklists, rating scales, and guidelines correlated to national and state standards. A third one is built around teacher professional characteristics and behaviors such as attendance, work ethic, and punctuality. The fourth model addresses the mismatch between teachers’ and students’ backgrounds, experiences, and languages, and the resulting attitudes of teachers.

‘Taking Responsibility’

Alverno College, often cited as a model, began as far back as 1972 to require candidates to demonstrate eight abilities in order to graduate from the Roman Catholic institution. The abilities are a combination of components including skill, behavior, knowledge, values, and dispositions, and include communication, analysis, social interaction, effective citizenship, and global perspective. Candidates are assessed in those abilities throughout their course of study.

Candidates, said Ms. Diez, need not only demonstrate knowledge of content matter and skills, but also show that they are able to reach out to all students. “It is less a checkoff and more a process of taking responsibility for what a teacher needs to do morally and help students learn,” she said.

Most teacher colleges today are grappling with how to address dispositions, Ms. Diez said. While “in less good situations” some colleges might, for instance, just have a behavior or character checklist, in others the assessment of dispositions is well integrated into every aspect of the program.

Besides the difficulties in actually addressing and assessing dispositions, teacher colleges have had to deal with accusations of political screening by some teachercandidates as well as observers.

In a 2005 paper, William Damon, a professor of education at Stanford University, wrote that NCATE “intended the term ‘dispositions’ to signify ‘beliefs and attitudes’ that reflect a particular stance toward moral issues large and small.”

He warned that unless assessment for accreditation was based on clearly defined principles rather than “the fuzzy intuitions of whoever happens to be in charge of the process at any one time,” the assessment process could be used to eliminate anyone who didn’t pass certain political litmus tests and to indoctrinate those who were afraid of being eliminated.

Teacher colleges that have used dispositions as a reason for expelling candidates have found themselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit. In 2006, for instance, a student released from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., over his views favoring corporal punishment and a rigid instructional approach was reinstated by a court.

Responding to criticisms from Mr. Damon and others, NCATE last year took out the term “social justice” when it revised its definition of dispositions.

NCATE’s new definition was also changed to make implementation a little clearer to teacher colleges. “We expect institutions to carry out assessment of candidates to reveal … that teacher-candidates are fair to all children,” said Arthur E. Wise, the accrediting group’s president. “We do say we wish to see evidence about this in behavior and in expressed attitudes and values.”

Consensus Emerging

Both Mr.Wise and Mr.Wasicsko of the National Network for the Study of Educator Dispositions say consensus has been building in the field over addressing the topic.

According to Mr. Wise, that shared thinking is enshrined in the two dispositions that the new NCATE definition requires teacher candidates to demonstrate.

Mr. Wasicsko says he, too, has observed unification around the core concepts his group espouses. “There’s a lot of coming together in the last two years at the [network’s] national symposium. I’ve started seeing people homing in on those concepts,” he said.

Even non-NCATE institutions are focusing on dispositions.

Other experts say, however, that there still is need for more research- based evidence on the topic. Although they credit NCATE for turning the spotlight on the topic by including dispositions in its standards, they also warn that a theoretical approach to dispositions is not the way to go.

Ms. Thornton proposes arriving at an understanding of dispositions through research, such as time spent studying schools and which teacher dispositions affect student learning.

“A lot of time has not been focused on studying this. We just don’t have a common research base. There hasn’t been an essential focus on what [dispositions] mean,” she said. “People use that term loosely, and personally.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Phonics vs. Whole Word: Excellent New Book Explains A Lot

by: BruceDPrice

I have been studying the Reading Wars (phonics vs. Whole Word) for several years. The crime mystery of the century, if you ask me.

One thing that makes research difficult is that educators in the USA slip around in secrecy. Remember, they’re embracing philosophies, and promoting policies, that nobody ever voted on or even discussed in public. If you look back over the last 100 years, you’ll see a sludge of bad ideas that seem to bob in on the tide. John Dewey set the tone around 1900 with his decision to transform the country’s educational system in a clandestine manner by taking control of the ed schools, and using them to indoctrinate successive waves of new teachers.

A new book reveals that developments in England were similar but more overt. The Labour Party, often in power, was shamelessly Socialist and pushed a philosophy called Progressivism. One goal was egalitarianism any way they could get it. One tactic was to dumb down the schools, and the chief weapon there was Whole Word. In short, the UK story is our story but made visible. This story is spelled out in a wonderful book called “The Great Reading Disaster” by two remarkable women, Mona McNee and Alice Coleman.

If you’re curious about the details of the reading wars and the ed wars, this is a must-read.

I just learned of this book (published in 2007) about two weeks after I’d finished a new article called “The War Against Reading” (#30 on My piece is about the US, not the UK; it’s an historical essay, not a book. Still, it’s remarkably parallel in tone and conclusion. The difference is that I’m often tiptoeing around because I can’t always be 100% sure that X did Y for Z reason. Our educators don’t have mea culpa moments. I make a circumstantial case that our top educators really were trying to dumb down the country with their wrong-headed ideas. Phonics had to be driven out, Whole Word had to be made king. Social engineering went amuck, and now we have 50,000,000 functional illiterates.

McNee and Coleman don’t have to tiptoe. Everything is more out in the open. The dumb ideas are official government policies. Predictably, the situation there got even worse than here.

I’ll just mention two of the book’s main recommendations: every last scrap of Whole Word must be eliminated (including the mixed bag called Balanced Literacy); and the ed schools should be closed as the authors admit they can’t imagine how they can be reformed, so entrenched are the bad ideas!

Here are two particularly lovely quotes: “The real villains were not the victimized teachers who carried out the intellectual child abuse but the training establishments that brainwashed them into doing so.”

“Deweyism is inherently self-contradictory. For all his talk of child-centeredness, he really aimed to sacrifice children’s individuality to the group...While he derided the traditional authority he wanted to replace, he did not hesitate to incorporate more intense authority of his own.”

I have a review of this excellent book on, if you want more details.

YouTube Postscript: I find that even well-educated people have little understanding of why Whole Word is sinister. I am always looking for clever ways to explain this quickly. I created two graphic videos for YouTube titled “Phonics vs. Whole Word” and “Phonics vs. Whole Word--Take 2.” Together they require only about 8 minutes. Then you’ll know!

About the Author

Bruce Deitrick Price's main site is, now up to 50,000 words of original content. Many articles deal with reading wars, ed wars, and efficiency in teaching.

Teaching Skills

LANGUAGE TEACHING SKILLS: Teaching skill is a specific task. Particularly, teaching to blind children its very valuable and very specific task. Language appears when actions begin to be represented symbolically. Its importance is found in the teaching skills which develop during the first two years. Once a child has the ability to represent reality through thought, language and cognition become closely intertwined. The child's ability to acquire new concepts depends upon her ability to express her ideas clearly, ask questions, and comprehend the given answer.

Economically disadvantaged children have smaller vocabularies than their middle-class peers because lack of meaningful experiences. A visually impaired or blind child may also have a smaller vocabulary for the same reason. It may use words or phrases it hears without really understanding the meaning. It may have difficulty to recognise pronouns: you, me, he, she, and it. It may have difficulty relating the sequence of events,.

For that reason, in teaching skills parents and specialists need to be aware of the power of language and experience in helping to develop the child's reasoning abilities and her understanding of the world. Vocabulary is an important part in new teaching skills which is taught. Family "talk time" is important to develop the social functions of language, as well as expanding the child's knowledge. Modelling correct sentence structure provides examples of rules for the child to follow. Reading to the child at an early age promotes a love of books which can open worlds of experience and information generally inaccessible to the visually impaired or blind child.

Socialization teaching skills Socialization is the growing relationship between the child and the world. It begins in infancy with the awareness of "I - you." A visually impaired child and his mother may have difficulty bonding because of its lack of eye contact or a social smile. In addition, some children are tactually defensive and do not like to be held or cuddled. These problems can inhibit the parent and create an environment with less social interaction for the child. Parents need a great deal of support and encouragement to deal with these issues, as well as the grief and loss they are experiencing for the success development of teaching skills.At an older age, the child may be noticeably "different" in a group of children because he is unaware of the group dynamics operating. His body language may not be the same as that of his peers.It is sometimes difficult for a parent to separate from the visually impaired child and "allow" the child the independence to attend a preschool -- particularly one with sighted peers. However, early experience in a group setting can be very beneficial for the visually impaired child, especially if the child has no siblings who are close in age.

Some of the teaching skills in this section refer to the Compensatory teaching Skills section. Many visually impaired children will develop the social skills learned visually without additional teaching. Most blind children will require a little extra help.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quality Public Education

By Karen Hoeve

In 2004 Forbes magazine ranked Raleigh, North Carolina's Wake County Public School System ( WCPSS ), third in the nation for "Best Education in the Biggest Cities". It's no wonder, as Greater Raleigh is able to provide superior education opportunities in both public and private settings. WCPSS is a national leader on the education front. The school system boasts a solid high school graduation rate, great access to educational resources, and affordability in housing. All these factors, combined with it's amazing programming make for an undeniably strong school system.

If you are moving to the Greater Raleigh area and want to know about specific WCPSS programming, read on:

K-12: The Formative Years

Committed to excellence, The Board of Education has adopted an ambitious goal. They aim to have 95 percent of WCPSS students in grades three through 12, at or above grade level by the end of this year! Such ambitious goals are indicative of a forward thinking and committed board, who are dedicated to providing the best education and ensuring that positive growth continues.

Parents in this area have a wide variety of educational options. There are many traditional public schools and also numerous private and special-needs schools. WCPSS offers over 20 programs in the district with 51 magnet schools. The award winning magnet school program provides creative approaches for teachers to reach students and to meet different student's individual learning styles and needs. Magnet schools in the area, have been especially recognized with awards such as the United States Magnet School of Excellence of award and the Magnet School of Distinction award.

Recently the district received a portion of a 2.3 million dollar grant to open a health and life science themed high school aimed at developing students for both higher education and jobs in biotechnology and health care. Students at these schools will have the opportunity to participate in internship programs and will have access to community college and university level courses. There's other grant funding in place which comes from the New Schools Project, an 11 million dollar grant that will create more than 100 new and redesigned high schools across the state.

Post- Secondary: Superior Education at Your Doorstep!

North Carolina State University, as one of the nation's top research universities, is a great example of one the best post secondary options in Raleigh. Home to BTEC, The Golden LEAF Biomanfacturing Training and Education Center, this University is committed to providing a highly trained, industry-focused workforce. Dedicated to pursue "innovation in action", NCSU partner's with business's, industry and government with a focus to collectively create innovative products and research.

The region's community colleges also offer solid programs for those wishing to pursue technical, or specialized training in particular sectors of the workforce.

North Carolina community college is focused on biotechnology training to provide a highly trained workforce for the estimated 125,000 residents of NC who will be employed in this sector by 2025.

Wake Technical Community College is a leader in biological and chemical technology programs. They also offer North Carolina's only community college lab facility for industrial pharmaceutical technology. As a state leader providing over 20% of all industry training offered by community colleges in the state, Wake Tech serves as a catalyst for economic growth and development. This exceptional community college assists thousands of businesses with its superior Small Business Center and New and Expanding Industry Program.

It is easy to see why Raleigh, North Carolina boasts one of America's most educated workforces. If education is important to you and your family, consider Raleigh, North Carolina as a smart option for a solid future.


NLP improving Accelerated Learning

By Rintu Basu

Accelerated Learning involves three fundamental elements. Firstly there is emotional or state control, the second is self beliefs and the third is the tools and techniques. Generally accelerated learning deals with tools and techniques. The tools and techniques are only really effective if you deal with the negative emotions and limiting beliefs. This article will talk aboutthe first of these elements and how you can use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to make a dramatic change to your learning ability.

State control in a learning context is about two general challenges. The first is about being in the perfect studying state. The second is about dealing with the emotional baggage left from less than perfect schooling.

Many school systems work with a narrow bandwidth of study styles. If this did not agree with you at the time you might be left with some emotional baggage from the experience. Think about aged six being humiliated in front of teachers and your peers about reading. The emotional baggage may manifest later as a fear of delivering training, going on study programmes or reading new books.

Some schooling has a focus on getting things right or wrong with only one answer being the ‘right’ answer. There is a right way to answer exam questions and if you don't follow that process specifically you have the wrong answer. In a competitive environment there are winners and losers, perhaps some children may have lost at the time and after they have grown up, they are still holding on to the emotional charge. It is useful when embarking on a programme of study that you get rid of all of the negative experiences that you may have experienced at school.

Another is caused by having too much energy, excitement and enthusiasm to concentrate on getting the job done.

It is necessary to get the perfect state for your practice and study subjects. The state you need to practice stage routines with your rock band would be completely different to writing sociology essays for example.

Whether calm concentration or high energy is necessary Neuro Linguistic Programming has a collection of techniques to get you there. If you have negative emotions towards learning a particular subject Neuro Linguistic Programming has tools to help you release them. As you can see this is an important device.

NLP is based on modelling how people use their minds and process information. On a good NLP Practitioner Programme you will learn the techniques to build your own study process so you can learn faster than you ever have before. For example using Anchoring, an NLP tool you can build the perfect study state for any particular subject and access it any time you want. NLP Training Courses are geared to give you the methodology to be able to do this and much more.

Going on an NLP Practitioner Course will make a big difference to your study skills. Once you have dealt with unwanted emotions NLP will show you how to change limiting beliefs as well as how you process information the most efficiently. From doing this you will be studying more efficiently regardless of the huge number of accelerated learning techniques you will also study on a good NLP Practitioner Course.


Student loan company settles with FTC over data mishandling

by: Dan Kaplan

A student loan company has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges it did not offer reliable security for its customers' personal information.

San Diego-based Goal Financial has experienced a number of data-security shortfalls, according to the FTC, including the unauthorized transfer of more than 7,000 files of consumer information to third parties and the sale of surplus hard drives that still contained the personal records of 34,000 consumers.

The FTC said in a Tuesday statement that Goal Financial violated agency rules that require organizations to assess the risks related to data handling, restrict access to certain information, deploy a comprehensive information security program, provide employee training and ensure partners comply with data-protection rules.

In addition, the loan company broke FTC privacy regulations by offering a “false and misleading” privacy policy that incorrectly told customers their data was being protected through “reasonable and appropriate measures.”

Richard Taylor, who is listed on the company website as Goal Financial's chief marketing officer, told on Thursday that he is “vaguely” connected with the company and unable to comment on the settlement.

A call to Goal Financial's main customer service number yielded an answering machine, and, according to the site, the company is no longer accepting loan applications due to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

Under a consent order with the FTC, Goal Financial must implement an IT security program to include administrative, technical and physical safeguards. In addition, the company is required to undergo a security audit every two years for the next decade.

According to the FTC, this is the 17th time the agency has pursued charges against a company alleged to have lax information security measures in place.

6 Steps to Encourage Your Children to Get That Homework Done

by Stephanie Foster

As the school year takes off, the homework battle begins anew for many parents. Kids don't always want to spend hours on homework when they get out of school, when there are friends to see, games to play and shows to watch.

For many parents, this is a nightly battle. They have to check to be sure that the homework is done every night, or even just about have to stand over their child to make sure the work gets done. It's hard on both parties.

Life gets much easier when you find ways to motivate your children to get their homework done. For many families, motivation works far better than punishment.

1. Set a regular homework time. This may need to be somewhat flexible to cope with outside activities, but should be as regular as possible. This time should be free from television and other distractions.

2. Consider a reward system. You can reward completion of homework within a given time, finishing homework without being reminded, or whatever suits your family. Talk over what would be a good reward, and change the rewards as the need for motivation changes.

3. Back up rewards. This is especially important if homework has been a problem. Successful completion gets a rewards; working too slowly or refusing to finish means the loss of a privilege.

4. Know how often to give rewards. Especially as your homework routine gets established, rewards should not need to be given daily. You can have your child work all week toward a reward on the weekend, for example.

5. Follow through. It doesn't matter how your child resists a new routine, you need to keep it up. Children know when they can talk their way out of something. If you can stick to the new routine, they will adopt it. A few days of battles over homework, even if the battles are severe, are better than month after month of battles over homework.

6. Be there for your child. Kids often have questions about their homework. While you want them to understand how to do the work, you can help them understand what the question is really asking or show them how to follow the examples to answer a problem. Doing all the work or even most of it limits how much your child is really learning.

Choosing the right reward can help. Extra TV time is fun for your child, as is extra video game time, but time spent as a family is the best reward. A family game night, trip to the park or museum, and so forth, make for great rewards that your child can build toward.

About the Author

Stephanie Foster runs as a resource for stay at home moms. She offers more time management tips for stay at home moms at her site.

Goodwyn's Teaching Notes

by Kate Marie Ryan


The eight week placement at Glendowie College has literally flown by with little time until now for proper reflection on the progress I have made as a student teacher. Goodwyn's article notes that the teaching cycle comprises of planning, teaching and evaluating. I aim to focus this particular entry on these three areas, combining the influence of my four associates within each area.

Goodwyn notes that the planning stage is all about what the student teacher already knows. It is also about the selection of the range of possibilities that have been observed or recommended. Easily this has affected the level of ease or difficulty I have found in planning my lessons.

For my junior English class I was given free reign of teaching a poetry unit. No framing was given except that I had to incorporate classical forms such as ballads or sonnets. As poetry is one of my favourite texts I found I could bring into the planning my own resources (including those accumulated on the course) and background knowledge. This made the planning stage much easier and I received a great deal of enjoyment out of it. My associate proved helpful in the earlier stages of planning by lending me her folder for stimulus and recommended good websites for reference. The Head of English also lent me a resource and encouraged me to challenge the accelerate class with Year 11 texts such as Browning.

Meanwhile the senior English class was tackling Achievement Standard 3.4 with the visual text of 'O Brother Where Art Thou'. Luckily I was familiar with the film and also a teaching unit had been purchased by the school which helped guide my planning. Unfortunately due to time constraints of getting through the material prior to exams I was only able to teach four lessons with this class. The lessons I prepared focused on character and theme. My associate assisted me by suggesting possible tasks such as splitting the class into groups and completing individual character studies which were then presented to the rest of the class.

As I am familiar with close reading film and also poetry texts I found the planning for these classes enjoyable and less intensive as for my other two classes, media and drama.

The planning stage is definitely made easier if one knows what they are teaching! Unfortunately my knowledge of the development of the documentary genre was zilch and I had to complete some quick study over the weekends prior so I felt confident enough to teach the material to the students the following week. Without visual resources to back up my explanations of the modes of documentary I felt the planning for these lessons extremely challenging. Especially as it was quite dull material on technological developments. I felt that given more time to become acquainted with the material I could possibly have come up with better planned lessons that would engage the students more. Instead they were left with a jigsaw activity, a cloze activity and a group matching activity which ended up being quite confusing. My associate was helpful in the earlier stages by lending me her NCEA booklet on Media which was a great springboard to use. The remaining of my material came from past lecture notes I found over the internet. Unfortunately due to training and other commitments my associate was unable to see most of my teaching of the genre documentary so all of my planning was done independently and I hoped for the best! The other area where I was less familiar with the content was within my drama class. I hadn't observed many lessons so was unfamiliar with the group dynamics and capabilities of the students. Most of my planning was pitched for a more confident class so it ended up being a constant struggle to keep them motivated and their confidence levels up. My associate had not given me a framework with which to work from so from a planning point of view I found this quite a challenge! Perhaps I should have consulted her more at an earlier stage however it proved difficult to find time together to discuss the issues I was having with planning. Michelle Hesketh on the other hand was most helpful during this time in allowing me to see the wood for the trees and I managed to plan a heroes unit with relatively positive outcomes.

Throughout my placement I feel that my planning has progressed considerably. During the first half of my placement I began writing word-for-word scripts, however I have now moved away from these and treat the lesson plans more like a 'blueprint' of what 'should happen'. Throughout the whole placement I have used the GRAPES method in planning (with the exception of drama which has instead been adapted to suit the nature of the subject) which I have found an invaluable structure to use. Earlier on I found that my pace was either too fast or too slow and rarely did it match the timing I had on my plans. Flexibility and awareness of how long activities take has therefore been the key to planning progress here. I also found that I was often planning the night before I had a lesson which proved unhelpful as I was unable to obtain feedback from my associate prior to lessons. In this respect my lessons were done entirely independently with little associate guidance in the planning stages however their feedback proved valuable during teaching and evaluation stages.

My first teaching experience still remains a bit of a blur as I was so nervous and it went so fast. I taught a lesson on listening which coincidently by the end of the lesson was as far from quiet and listening as we could get! My first teaching lesson had been learnt. Lay down the ground rules for absolute quiet and respect for those who are speaking! I quickly developed styles to suit the levels I was teaching. No surprises that the junior classes required much more discipline, repetition and explanation than the senior classes. I had many lessons that I would come out of on an absolute high and then also lessons where I couldn't wait for that bell to go to get me out of there! My senior English class was difficult to teach due to the fact that at times my associate remained the 'teacher' during my lessons. This left me feeling slightly un-empowered when it came to classroom management and gaining respect, however overall the experience and her advice was still invaluable. During the teaching stages I feel I progressed in terms of my instructions for activities and also in the developing knowledge of when not to get sidetracked or roped into silly behaviour.

The evaluation period I feel was one of the crucial areas to my development over the eight week placement. Secondary English Magazine writes that an invaluable role associates' play is that of monitoring and developing the student teachers own reflection on their own teaching. I found that my junior English associate was especially effective in this way. Usually I would take onboard the feedback, both verbal and written, that she would give me at the end of each lesson. I would then go away and jot down some of my own ideas and general reflection on the lesson. Her observations of my teaching isolated a problem with my questioning right at the beginning. I was asking open ended questions to the whole class and not getting any feedback. I changed this to asking open ended questions to specific students by using their names, especially those sitting down the back, to ensure that they remained on task and engaged. This is a technique I also picked up for the other classes. Simple but effective. Her feedback was often positive even when I felt that things had not gone so well. For example when I gave them a task that I thought was too easy for them, she noted that everyone was still engaged and doing it, which showed that learning must have been happening. This was particularly valuable in boosting my confidence which at the time was feeling fragile. My other associates gave both verbal and written feedback although I feel that when they were pointing out where I had gone wrong it would have been useful to discuss how things could have been done alternatively. All of my associates were especially positive about my rapport with the students and noted that this was the first milestone to achieve.

Goals set for self development after each lesson focussed on getting the timing right and ensuring closure for each class. In drama I set myself a goal surrounding the behavioural management aspect which I incorporated into the lesson plans. For example splitting up a troublesome group at the beginning of the lesson and also thinking of ways to make it safer for the more 'geekier' of the class so they were free from being taunted. Overall during the last eight weeks I have learnt to become less reliant on word-for-word scripts and more flexible and aware as to what is happening in the classroom. I feel that I have still much to learn regarding how long some tasks take and also about when and how to pull in the reigns when running out of time. I also feel that I need to set more time aside for reflection of each lesson so I can fully evaluate if the intended learning outcomes were achieved.

My goals for next placement will be firstly where possible to plan my lessons earlier so that my associate will have the opportunity to feed into the planning stages. I feel that I lacked this guidance at Glendowie. Consequently I had been planning tasks to unrealistic learning expectations and timing. Secondly the next goal will be to dedicate myself to learn the names of every student I teach. Not knowing names, especially in drama, has proved disrespectful to the students and has made teaching them much more difficult than it needed to be. By knowing names right at the start I feel I will have a better chance of receiving respect and therefore of achieving learning objectives. Thirdly, I would like to really focus on my timing. I need to find ways of quickening the pace of the lesson so the students are constantly challenged and given deadlines to keep to. They should leave that class feeling like they have accomplished something phenomenal rather than mucked around for an hour. My fourth goal is to incorporate multilevel tasking. As my classes at Glendowie were mostly accelerated I found that they were all relatively on the same level. I realise this is not the case for most classes so once I have my built my confidence on planning and evaluating I would like to do start looking at including multitasking into my lesson plans.

My eight week placement seemed to be in the constant throws of assessment with essays, practical assignments or exam revision. The material taught has been Year 9 poetry, Year 13 visual text and Year 12 media genre. Ideally I would now like to have the opportunity to teach either Shakespeare or an extended text such as a novel at either a junior or senior level. I would also like the opportunity to teach a year 11 class as I think it would be invaluable to note the behavioural shift from Year 10 and Year 11.

Phil Norman notes in Secondary English Magazine that it is important to communicate to student teachers the 'enduring enthusiasm and optimism about teaching itself'. If nothing else the one main thing I have gained from this placement is the knowledge that I have made the right decision to shift into teaching. Everyone one of my associates thoroughly love their jobs and this has been reflected through the respect their students have for them. It has been an inspiration to teach these students and although the planning and evaluating stages still need some work the prospect of having one's own class next year to develop and inspire learning is an exciting and challenging one!

About the Author

Kate Marie Ryan is a Secondary School Teacher of English and Drama. Born in New Zealand, she has lived in Australia, America, Italy and the United Kingdom. She holds a degree in Communication Studies and after working several years in the UK within Theatre, Journalism and Public Relations industries, she returned to New Zealand to complete a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary). She currently teaches and resides in Sydney, Australia

A Look at Enriching the Prison Educational Program

By Linda A. Beam

Correctional educators constantly strive to become more effective when teaching students. Seeking new ideas or striving for newer and better retention techniques are constant issues faced by a correctional educator. The basic content of the curriculum for the Adult Basic Education (ABE/GED) student is math, reading, and language. From my point of view, teaching only these ‘basic needs’ and nothing else puts a strain between educators and students. As a correctional educator, I teach the basics but also move my students beyond these. Correctional educators need to ignite their students’ curiosity and encourage motivation. Through thought provoking, instructional but fun-to-do lessons, boredom will lessen or diminish. The outcome will be continuous gains, improvement on tests, and most importantly, a successful reintegration into the community.

A research project did a study on factors in instruction that could possibly lead to increased reading and writing and to doing higher levels of learning outside of the classroom.[i] The article explained that through the use of authentic activities in instruction, which focuses on newspapers, magazines, letters, etc., the students increased the level of reading and writing. The study argues that instruction should be drawn from the actual lives of adult students.

The article also states that drawing on life experiences would be limited in a correctional setting, but teachers can be creative and can produce these ‘authentic activity’ materials. I agree that authentic activities as defined can increase interests. For example, when I use the News for You, a teaching supplement published by New Readers Press, my students really get involved with it.[ii] This is like a petite newspaper with lots of current news. I am in agreement that these so-called ‘authentic materials’ described in the study are limited in a correctional environment. However, I see a more difficult process in asking an inmate to draw upon his life experiences as the study reveals. Trying to teach resident students by drawing upon their life experiences is not easy; it is complicated for these students. Life experiences for most resident students are not bursting with enough variety. Judy Woods (2002) stated that “Teaching is not filling a bucket. It is lighting a fire.”[iii] I feel that in order to light a fire, there must be fuel in the bucket. Most resident students do not have this fuel, because their buckets do not contain enough of life experiences. Definitely, if life experiences for the resident students had been fully rounded, there would be no problem. Besides, the life experiences of most of the resident students are nothing more than street fights, trashy low-income housing, and many times difficult-life experiences. It would be difficult for any student to get enthused over such a past as the one mentioned. If correctional educators want to focus curriculum on real life experiences, then as one, I feel the need to give the resident students a chance to savor and view life in a different way by introducing some rich experiences. Through enriching the curriculum, correctional educators can supplement the resident students’ lives with activities upon which to draw. Ultimately, filling their buckets with fuel.

By enriching the curriculum taught at correctional facilities, lessons can explode into new experiences for many students. Enrichment of the prison educational program can be done through many avenues; however, I will expand upon only three main strategies. Sometimes, educators feel that being inventive or getting access to different instructional materials is not as easy as the click of a button. What I have included in this article are plans that spurred inexpressible interest in my students. Through this article I will assist educators to explore and develop curricula that will stimulate interests in their students. These unique units-of-fun goad the minds of the students and keep them wanting and waiting for more. Ultimately, it will fill their minds with wonderful thought-provoking experiences and enhance life memories.

HOW? Firstly, capitalize on specific hobbies whether it is the teachers’ or the students’. Hobbies are loaded with countless learning potential. Secondly, use multicultural activities so that the students’ minds can incorporate a better understanding of how important it is to learn about cultures. Understanding cultural studies is probably foreign to many resident students. In many instances, the closest some resident students get to know about cultural differences is from eating at Chinese restaurants. Thirdly, produce learning modules that I call ‘conglomerates’ from which to teach by. Conglomerates are, in a geological sense, clusters of different materials such as pebbles and gravel cemented together into a rock. Used in the same way are the educational conglomerates: different materials cemented together into a solid learning module.

The first activity might be a real challenge, taking into consideration the environment. It is mirrored after the show-and-tell technique. I utilize my hobbies. Of course, drawing upon the student’s hobbies also works. Of my show-and-tell schemes, two projects were the more successful. The first was on the subject matter of rocks and minerals. Being a rock hound since youth and after getting permission from security (a must when working in corrections), I loaded up a carrier with many different rocks and brought them into class. The students were greatly impacted and mesmerized by all the different colored rocks and minerals and the diverse shapes. After letting the students view and touch the rocks, I randomly picked up certain rocks and talked about them. Many students knew nothing about rocks and minerals. I asked my students if they were aware that a rock could float or knew that crystals grew inside some rocks called geodes. The knack of the rock and mineral adventure is to cite examples of rocks and minerals that are UNIQUE in nature.

Unique, bizarre rocks act as magnets and draw the students into the learning module. My first choices of rocks to talk about were pyrite (fool’s gold), geode (hidden crystals inside), mica (transparent layers), pumice (a rock that floats), fluorite (a crystal always found growing in a diamond-shape), and others. In addition to the discussion, handouts were used with the lesson. One handout was on mineral uses and another defined the three main groups of rocks. For the last handout, the student was to choose one rock that was interesting to them and describe why it was interesting. After choosing the rock, they were asked to describe the rock on paper. Each student was instructed to do research on his stone. The class enjoyed the final handout the most. In finalizing this activity, the students were given a chance to show their selected rock and to tell the class about its secret. Words cannot describe the curiosity or passion of the students. This activity furthered their knowledge in life's miracles and furthered their experiences.

The second activity I used in my classroom was a mini-cultural event, the culture of the Native American Indian. The outcomes of teaching about cultures lend to the students' recognition of diverse cultural groups and to a better interaction and appreciation for people with different views. I introduced the lesson by using the words of a poet, who stated that “All the colors are tied.” [iv] I explained that given any nationality today, they are one of these four colors: black, brown, white, and yellow. Being born half Native American and being active in the Indian community, I had many things I could bring into the classroom. I packed up an assortment of items: some regalia (outfits), jewelry, pipes, and fans. Again, with working in corrections, permission must be given for many of these things. These items were on display for the students to see as they entered into the classroom.

Because Native American regalia are colorful and very artsy, the students went straight up to the items upon entrance. They were drawn to and excited about the display. Many students had never been exposed to Indian things at such a close proximity. After the students sat down, I discussed the high probability of half the students sitting in the room having some percentage of Indian. I talked about how many Americans stereotype Indians, caused by watching too much television. I related to the students that by knowing about different cultures is to understand about cultures. I spoke on the present life of Native Americans and how they are just like everyone else with the same feelings and the same problems.

Next, I randomly picked different items from the display and discussed the importance or history of them. One item I chose was the Cherokee Tear Dress. I pointed out that it was sewn together from material that was torn into strips to make the dress plus it was called a Tear Dress in reference to the Trail of Tears that Cherokees were made to endure.

In order to make provisions for addressing diversity even more; I talked a little about the history of the Native American people, which is different from what is taught. I stated that according to Kentucky history, no Indians lived here; they only hunted here. However, research had been done on Kentucky Indians and found documented proof that Indians not only hunted in Kentucky but also lived here. Next, I mentioned several books for them to read if interested in knowing more about the Native American culture.

To build more exposure to the Indian culture, I disclosed that some items on display had great significance to the Native American; one such item is the pipe. The pipe is very sacred to the Sioux. It is one of their sacred objects used in their ceremonies. The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman is that she gave the Pipe Ceremony to the Sioux. I communicated to the class that this legend is still told; however, all tribes have variations in their beliefs. One variation is that the Cherokee people believe the tobacco is considered sacred. The pipe, to the Cherokee people, is merely a tool for holding the sacred tobacco. I stated that the significance of the pipe is different from tribe to tribe. The students were very surprised to know there are many differences among Native Americans.

To finalize my lesson on Native Americans, I addressed Native American jewelry. I revealed that jewelry is considered just as significant and is one of the most beautiful items of Native Americans. I talked about symbols in the beads on the jewelry and the fans. To give students the idea of the symbols, I showed one item with a seven-sided star. I explained that the Cherokees use the seven-sided star as a motif in much of their jewelry items, and that this star represents the seven clans of the tribe. This little presentation gave them a glimpse into the creativity, the history, and the diversity of the Native people.

Following the lesson plan, the resident students' enthusiasms peaked as they embarked on their assignment. The students were assigned to read a handout on the Treaty of New Echota, 1835, which is a government document. It disclosed information about the Removal Act signed by the president, Andrew Jackson. The handout revealed information about the many Indians who were removed by force and driven to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. And how that after five years, Cherokee Chiefs signed a treaty in New Echota, the Cherokee capital, giving up claims to their homelands. The students read about the many Cherokee people who died in the journey to the new land. The students learned that this forced walk became known as the Trail of Tears. After reading the handout and discussing it, the students indicated that they were more endeavored to become aware of the different cultures.

The final activity to be used in the classroom is achieved by using a conglomerate. In a conglomerate, you can use many different media to create one teaching module. My choices of media to present my lesson were stamps, posters, and dolls from my hobbies. Most people do not know the wealth of information hidden in hobbies. I chose these because they were different in character than both the rocks and the Indian culture. It could be a new experience for those who had no prior concept about stamps or dolls. I explained that they needed to be aware that stamps are more than mere objects for mailing packages and letters. Plus, they needed to know that dolls are more then mere objects for kids to play with.

As an introduction to my conglomerate, I began revealing the facts about stamps and dolls. I stated that many students, as well as the population in general, have no idea of the historical nature to be learned from dolls. I reported that certain dolls can provide a peek into the past while others can tell us about the historical events happening in the periods when the doll was produced. Additionally, I communicated to the class that dolls were used in advertisements. They advertised for the war (G.I. Joe), for the rise in the motion pictures (character doll such as Shirley Temple), or for promoting a business (Aunt Jemima rag doll). I explained that dolls reflected the history of nations and countries in many ways. This concept of learning about our past through dolls is foreign to most people.

In addition to learning history from dolls, I stated that you could learn about costumes. Many dolls are dressed in national costumes of various countries. Dolls are also dressed in traditional costumes; for example, the Eskimo dolls are made from sealskin and whalebone. Many traditional costumes have symbols painted on them that have meaning for the tribes and tribal families. I explained that doll costumes are shown during special festivals in Japan. These festivals were celebrations as well as a time to display family dolls that had been handed down for generations.[v] Through the dolls, Japanese children learned about their country’s culture and the history of their ancestors. The students listened intently as the meaning of dolls poured forth.

I explained to the students that stamps, like dolls, can also teach about the history of a country or specialize in showing specific things such as birds, dinosaurs, rare ancient cars, and ships to name only a few. Stamps also portray famous men and women such as Benjamin Franklin or the Queen of England. I commented that a stamp could provide us with a look into art and its artists. I revealed that stamps could take us on trips to foreign places. They can tell us about our past events.

My conglomerate was of dolls, posters, and stamps that were symbolic of the effects that World War II had on women. Setting up the conglomerate is fun and important to the lesson. The display sets the mood and lends a peek into the discussion. The posters used in the conglomerate were Rosie the Riveter Poster: World War II and Girl He Left Behind. The stamps used were Japanese stamp of Blue-eyed Dolls, Rosie the Riveter, and Gold Star Mothers. The dolls merged all the items into a single unit. The dolls on display were Madame Alexander’s Rosie the Riveter and Vogue's WAVE-ette. Put together into one unit, this conglomerate was a very powerful resource to teach about how World War II affected American women.

To describe the posters on view, they both displayed a Rosie the Riveter character. The Rosie the Riveter poster displayed Rosie flexing her arm muscle with the words, “We Can Do It!” towards the top. The Girl He Left Behind poster shows Rosie holding a wrench and with a soldier silhouette in the sky. Below Rosie are the words, “The Girl He Left Behind is Still Behind Him. She’s a WOW.” These posters showed American women hard at work in defense of their spouses and their country.

My introduction was a discussion on how wars changed things. I talked about how that before World War II, most women took care of the children and stayed at home. However, this war brought many changes. The American men were leaving and this created many job vacancies. I asked the class if they had heard of Rosie the Riveter. I was surprised that no one knew of or heard of her. I discussed of whom she symbolized and how she became the symbol for the millions of women who worked in America during World War II. I commented that Rosie the Riveter was created as a campaign to employ women in the workforce. Women were needed to fill vacant job positions and to fill jobs created by the demands of wartime. Therefore, Rosie the Riveter was a fictitious person created by the government to help fill these jobs. I commented that in particular, the Rosie the Riveter character was on display just about everywhere and on everything. Rosie had rosy cheeks, wore work clothes, and handled factory machinery.

Another important fact that was discussed was that all nations during wartime, including the United States, used propaganda strategies to promote patriotism. I explained that besides radio broadcasting and motion pictures, posters were used for propaganda purposes. I pointed out that numerous posters for advertising women's roles were created. These posters were utilized to promote the armed forces, the working woman, and the women in support. It was a widespread campaign technique to promote the war. The posters displayed in America at this time were pictures of WAVES, of WACS, of Rosie the Riveter, and many other posters of the WWII women, and they were a big success. I revealed that during WWII, the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) were established. I talked about the opportunities that opened up for women. The students were enthusiastically scanning all the items on display throughout my discussion.

For more background and history, I discussed that during this time, dolls played a powerful role in shaping America's future. I explained that dolls were used as another advertising technique for WWII efforts. I explained there were many doll icons of WWII that inspired patriotism. The WAVES and WACS directors previewed a doll in its uniform and both directors stated that this doll was “most important” to the war effort. As a motivator, I showed the class an old ad of Vogue's war dolls. In Vogue’s ad which pictured the WAVE and WAC dolls, it reported, “In keeping with the fast-moving American picture of today, Vogue dolls are designed to express America-on-the-March-to-Victory.”[vi] On display coupled with the posters was the Vogue WAVE-ette doll in her replica of the uniforms worn by the women’s branches of the armed services. The WAVE-ette doll wears Navy cotton coat adorned with brass buttons and the WAVE insignia on the cap. This doll symbolized the fact that women could now enlist in the military.

Madame Alexander, I explained, also made dolls that honored these wartime moments. I reported that one of the most important dolls created by Madame Alexander was none other than Rosie the Riveter. On display and included with the doll were a lunch box and a small poster of Rosie with the words “We Can Do It”. Rosie wore a red bandanna around her head and a blue work uniform. These heroic dolls and posters were used to encourage women to leave their domestic life and to go to work outside of the home to show their support to their husbands and to the war efforts. I explained that it was a proud time for women so it is no shock that North America actually prospered during WWII while other nations suffered major hardships and widespread destruction.

The next step was to focus attention on the stamps. As an introduction to one stamp in particular, I discussed the history of the American Blue-eyed dolls. Before WWII there was tension between Japan and the United States, I explained that American children sent dolls to the children in Japan as a sign of goodwill and peace. These dolls were known as the American Blue-eyed dolls. They were welcomed and distributed throughout Japan. Their name was based on a popular song entitled “Blue-eyed Doll” by Ujo Noguchi.[vii] Unfortunately, when the war broke out in 1941, the ill treatment of Japanese enemy aliens (immigrants) here in America[viii] But, in 1989, Japan issued a stamp to commemorate the Blue-eyed Dolls. This was the stamp on display showing a drawing of the doll that was destroyed. Giving reference to this stamp highlighted an even more extensive background on the effects that wartime had on women across the world. and the confinement of them in the relocation camps, resulted in Japanese officials ordering the American Blue-eyed dolls to be destroyed. Japanese women, faced with the torment of taking a doll from their children, were ordered to destroy the doll. I discussed that despite the order, many Japanese women and teachers hid and preserved the dolls and about 300 out of about 12,000 dolls were saved from this terrible destruction.

There were other stamps on display that portrayed the patriotism of women. I pointed to the Gold Star Mothers stamp and explained that it was issued to commemorate mothers who had lost a child in WWII. It was for those mothers who sacrificed their loved ones; it was a commemoration. The other stamp I had on display was the Women Support America in World War II stamp showing Rosie the Riveter. The label read, “Millions of women join war effort, 1942.”[ix] I reported that according to the publication by the U.S. Postal Service, “The women who answered their country’s call …forever changed women’s roles in the American labor market.”[x] Within each discussion, the major concepts were built in a sequential fashion. As one of the follow-up activities used for this conglomerate, I asked the students to write, in their own words, a summary of what they learned new from the lesson.

Using conglomerates like this one helped to teach resident students and to give these students an advantage. It developed curiosity and encouraged motivation through the use of visual aids. The visual aids were plentiful and geared the discussion to the projected outcome. These educational conglomerates and the other educational options were utilized to conclude that correctional educators can, indeed, provide the life experiences in which are lacking in many of the resident students. Again, I argue that as a correctional educator, I feel the need to supplement the basic studies with a thought provoking, instructional fun-to-do lesson such as described above that will enrich minds and improve re-integration back into the community.

About the Author

About the Author

By Linda A. Beam

2928 Hillsboro Road

Campbellsburg, KY 40011

(502) 532-6453

Associate Professor

KCTCS/LaGrange Education Center