Sunday, July 10, 2016

Are the Best Teachers Really at the Best Schools?

Here's the question: Are the good teachers at the best schools, or are they good teachers because they are at the best schools? What would happen if they went to bad schools?

We hear this a lot in education these days. That the teachers that are the best and most experienced are at the best schools. Are they really? Does the school make you a good teacher? Can it make you a bad teacher?

Here's what we do know. That many of the most experienced teachers who have a choice, choose the better schools and classes. I know this first hand. As a new teacher in high school, I did not even have my own room. I traveled. Yup, I had a cart to keep my world belongings on. While other teachers had a bit of break, I was trying hard to wheel myself through hundreds of students trying to make my next class. The first and last minutes of every class I taught were not good. I had to unpack, get organized, then do the reverse. And many times the teacher in whose classroom I was would stick around. Not a good situation. I also taught all freshmen classes. Not having your own room really made things bad. If you think you can be the same great teacher while traveling, well more power to you. The teachers' "lounge" was where I had to grade and regroup. Needless to say, I took a lot of work home.

Did teachers who had been there a while have to travel? Of course not! They earned their own room. They also taught AP or upper level classes. Most of them were small classes and full of the brightest (read: well-behaved, most focused) students. Not only was I set up to fail, but my students were also set up. Sticking a new teacher with the worst possible teaching situation and students, seemed to be the norm. Nobody cared. Nobody ever thought to say, "Hey! Maybe we need the more experienced teachers doing the hard classes." There's this hierarchy that has been going on for ages. Older teachers get the best jobs and assignments. Newer teachers are always thrown to the wolves. Why not? If given a choice, why would you choose the worst?

Please note this does not go on 100% of the time. But I do know that some newer teachers are handpicked for the best schools. They know people. So it can depend on who you know.

So that leads to the first question. Do those new teachers put in the best schools instantly become good teachers? Why not? They have the best teaching situation. The same might be said for veteran teachers as well. They thrive at good schools. They get rewarded with being at great schools.

So what happens to the lousy schools? They seem to get the majority of inexperienced teachers. When they get a little tenure, they move on if given the choice. Why would they stay?

So maybe, just maybe, we only think the best teachers are at the best schools because they have all the advantages to become one. If all 30 of your students read at grade level, how much easier is it for you to teach? Do extra things? Thrive? Be a stress-free teacher? Who wouldn't love it!

Now take someone else. They are a brand new teacher. They get put in a school that is in desperate need of repairs. No White students. No parental involvement. 90% of your kids can't even read two grades below grade level. You think that's an easy assignment? You work hard, get your students up a grade level, and you are still looked upon as a failure. You have to deal with discipline problems constantly. Students have little decent materials to work with.

And the cycle goes on and on.

Why do we not start doing the reverse? If a teacher really is great and experienced, why are we not stuffing our lousy schools with them? Put their skills to good use!

Or maybe that's not going to make a difference. Perhaps a great teacher who gets results......owes it all to the school and environment they are in.

We don't think the teachers at good schools would put up with being moved. Yes, I know this first hand. Once a teacher is in a dream job, they aint movin'!

And that could be the heart of the problem.

> Checkout: Good games to play in the classroom.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eagle Cam in Washington DC

Your students might love to watch the eagles hatching and being raised on the eagle cam. It is one of the best we have see, and it is in the news now. Take a look by going to:
It is very fast and looks like it is in HD. Very clear picture streaming.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free College is Possible

Bernie Sanders has made a lot out of proposing to make college not only cheaper, but free. Many are realizing this would cost way too much money, and money that's not there. The question remains, is free college actually possible? It may be surprising to learn, but the answer is yes!

How could this be possible? We will look at a state like California and do some needed adjustments to who and where this college education would actually be, "free."

First, California taxpayers already send billions, between 4 and 6 billion to be exact, to colleges. That's a big chunk of cash right there. Then toss in the federal loan program. It takes billions to implement. There is money out there that is being spent on college students.

When you say it is impossible, remember this: We full fund and make "free," thirteen years of public school education. Education is free, for the most part, for kindergarten to 12th grade. So it would not seem to be a stretch to add four more years. But there would be a catch.

First off, it seems to be cheaper to fund four years of high school than four years of college. At least that what colleges tell us. So colleges would have to do a whole lot of cost cutting to make it cheaper. But it would be doable. And you could not fund everyone who wants to go to college. That means there would need to be a cutoff point.

That last point should not be a problem. Only 40% of those that start college finish in four years. We actually should start to NOT encourage all students to go to college. It's just not worth it, or they do not have it in them. That needs to stop now.

Here are the steps we would need to take to make college free.

  • Set up bare-bones colleges. Only academics, nothing else. The cost of running the college needs to be pared down. Students must choose this type of college to be funded fully.
  • Only fully fund students who finish in the top 20% of their high school class. We need to start betting on potential winners. If others want to go, they will need to pay.
  • Stop telling all students they must go to college.
  • Get businesses who need college graduates to start paying some of the costs.
  • If students drop out or don't graduate with a degree, they will be expected to pay back the cost.
This scenario is not forced on anyone. Any college has the right to recruit students as the big private and public ones do now. Students can choose to go wherever they want. But if they want a free-ride, and they make the cut, they are all welcomed in the free college program.

Obviously this would not be for everyone. The options available now would still be there. We also must insist that all colleges start thinking about using their endowments and cutting the costs of administration and salaries. If students start going to "free" colleges, the big names will need to lower the cost of their tuition.

>> Help for kindergarten teachers!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Teachers and Restroom Breaks

Bathroom breaks. How many teachers fret over students asking and taking bathroom breaks?
Guess's no problem for even an inexperienced teacher if they realize one thing: Restroom breaks are a nonissue.

Too many teachers stress out over small things. Restroom passes are one of those. So, if you are a teacher and wondering how to make restroom breaks go away, here are some tips.

First, you really need to check with the school and district to see what their policy is. They may not even have one and leave it to the logic of the teacher. Logic. That's how to tackle the dreaded restroom break.

If a child is under the age of 7, they should probably be allowed to go whenever they want. Why get some mad parent ranting at you for Johnny or Susie wetting their pants? No reason. Children of that age are no yet out to game the system. They will not just make a game of it. More on that later.

Upper elementary is when restroom breaks become iffy. But again, use some logic. Sure, they are still young enough to have some potty problems. Again, no big deal. This is the age when rules for breaks becomes an issue. And they may try and game the system. Do not make the rules written. Any written rule is probably not enforceable all the time, so why write one? (You should not have written rules anyway, see below.) Let logic take over. If you have never made restroom breaks an issue, or even mentioned it, chances are, your students won't either. But 8 to 12 year olds are now big enough and well potty trained. Stress going to the restroom before school, during recess, and at lunch. They go then, most will never need to go later. Stress this at each break! Also mention that you will not allow anyone to go to the restroom 15 minutes after recess or lunch ends.

Also, you will not allow students to go 10 minutes before the bell rings. So what does that leave? Guess what? About 30 minutes of classroom "potty time." That's not a very big window. And use this trick. When someone asks to go, say you will let them, but in 5 minutes. Chances are, if they really have to go, they will ask in 5 minutes. If not, they will forget about it. Tell them you won't allow a student to go until 5 minutes has passed since last student went. Again, these are unwritten but you have told them over time. Soon they will get the picture. You seem to let students go whenever they want, and, they know to relieve themselves at the breaks. It's now a nonissue.

Here's more teacher logic. Befoer school recess, lunch, and maybe 2 more recesses or PE during the day. That's almost 5 times a day for a child to use the restroom. Why should they even need to when in class?

Upper grades, like middle and high school, same technique. Most middle schoolers and high schoolers are not in class more than 45-55 minutes. Same rules as above.

If you do not allow students to EVER use the restroom, they will think it's unfair and game the system. You can even have a timer for time to be gone. Maybe even allow each student one(1) restroom break each month.

Sure, emergencies happen. Any teacher should be able to tell when a student has a real emergency. I hate to admit it, but maybe girls get more of a break.

If you don't make restroom breaks an issue, the students won't either.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Teacher Survey

How well does your school inform and help teachers?
Please take our teacher survey at

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teacher Motivation

A lot can be said for motivating your students. You sure want them to be in your classroom eager and ready to learn. But how about teachers? Do you nee a little motivation? Many of us do! So let's get started on being a motivated teacher!

Think about your job as a teacher. You have perhaps the most important job in the world: Educating young people who will be the next generation of leaders. Isn't that enough motivation right there? The child you teach may be President someday. Or a famous actor, rock star, or win a Nobel Prize. Wouldn't it be great to be remembered as making a difference? The next group of leaders starts with you, a teacher!

How many people are relying on you? Every part of society from your student's families, to the neighborhood, to your city, to your state, to your country. Everyone is relying on YOU to successfully teach their children. Be determined to not let them down.

You chose to be a teacher. You stepped into the classroom. Why? Just to go through the motions? To be the best, you have to teach YOUR best!

You can raise the expectations at your school. If you are looked upon as a great teacher, you lift up the school as well. The reputation of a school starts with the teacher in the classroom. Are you going to be the teacher that people can say is why the school is great, or why the school is lousy?

School improvement begins and ends with the teachers.

It might not seem like it on some days, but you are making a difference each and every day. Is that difference good, or is it bad? Are you bettering your students and school, or are you adding fuel to the fire of poor performance?

Pat yourself on he back. You might want others to recognize you, but let's be honest. Many teachers think they have a thankless job. Well give yourself some credit! Be proud that you chose the best job in the world. Celebrate your accomplishments on a daily basis. Pat yourself on the back at the end of each day for what you have done!  We want our students to have intrinsic rewards. Well, so should we!

Pump up your fellow teachers. As you spread a little cheer around the campus, others cannot help but be lifted up. Raise the spirits of other teachers, and you raise the spirit of the profession.

Now, you might want to go to the top. That is, ask your principal and district officials if possible, what can be done to make teacher's jobs better, and recognize them. Have a teacher of the month. Special parking place. Have students make cards for teachers. Free coffee in the break room? It would not cost much to drop off a teacher care kit each once in a extra pencils, markers, paper, etc. Ask the PTA to do some sort of teacher appreciation. Get a few teachers together and brainstorm.

In the end, you have to be motivated on your own to be determined to be the best teacher ever. What are you waiting for?

>> How to motivate students.

>> Teacher Jobs


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Schools need alternatives to college readiness

Not every student will go to college. Not every student will need college. Every student does need a high school diploma.

About 66% of high school grads go to some sort of college. That does sound like a large number, but let's dig deeper/

Only about half who enroll in a 4 year college are still there a few years later. So that 66% figure above seemingly drops in half.

How about the drop out rate? It is somewhere between 13% and 7%, depending on race.

This means that literally millions of kids each year either do not start college, or finish.

Are we making it more difficult for the average student to want to finish high school if we continue to push college? College degrees vary in giving the earner a career, and certainly add to their debt load. College is just not practical for many of our students. So why do we keep pushing it?

There are careers that we need that do not require a college degree. They need training, even on the job. These careers go from plumbers, electricians, carpenters, to food and service industry. We need trained people to do millions of jobs daily. Judging by the local freeways and highways, we sure need a lot of truck drivers.

Those jobs mentioned above do need some sort of technical training. Wouldn't it be great if we offered that in high school? Having a way to funnel our students to good paying careers right out of high school? Billions of dollars is spent in trying to prepare our students for a 4 year university, leaving out a good chunk of our student bodies. I would be discouraged if I were not sold on college. I would feel like I am being told I have no future.

We do our students a disservice by not giving them options. We need to start partnering with good technical schools and junior colleges that offer needed programs. No, we are not talking about useless ripoff "colleges" that con students in, take their money, then close. We are talking about good jobs that are needed now. Construction workers, truck drivers, LVNs, and other medical professions like respiratory therapist.

When we graduate kids that have no future, or worse, allow them to drop out, we are putting society at risk. We now have lots of young people without futures. Let's give them one.

This will have to start at the state level, perhaps federal. It will take money and program development. We as educators need to get the ball rolling by talking to our school board and elected officials across the board.

>> Search jobs for teachers here.