Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why Does Poverty Affect Student Learning-Part 2

Do you know a "Sam"? 

After a long day of school, twelve year old Sam walked to the elementary school to pick up her brother, Tim.  Sam was responsible for making sure they both got home since their mother had to work and then go school after her shift at McDonald's.

Before school, Sam was in charge of getting Tim up and making sure he arrived at school since mom had to sleep before going to work.  Then Sam walked the few blocks to her middle school.  The extra time that it took to get him ready and walk him to school meant that Sam often missed out on the free breakfast that was served.  She was used to going hungry, so it wasn't the end of the world.

I am blogging over at The Gavit Educator.  Read the rest of this post there.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Thoughts on Being a Failure

You failed.  You've been teaching for how long and your scores look like this?  Good grief.  These thoughts echoed in my mind as I looked at the scores that were sent to the entire school.  It showed the Constellation Community students as having the lowest scores on an assessment.  This was an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position for me.  I felt embarrassed and wanted to make excuses.  I felt the spirit of competition rising up in me and thoughts about how I could have higher scores than the other teachers started playing in my mind. (I'm being 100% transparent here.  This is tougher than I thought it would be!) Finally, I said ENOUGH!  The other teachers are more than colleagues.  They are my friends, and we all work really hard.  We shouldn't be competing with one another.   We should work together to make sure all of our students succeed.  After all these years, I had failed, and I knew something needed to change.


Failure, as defined by this dictionary, is a lack of success.  As I write this post, I think about my sweet Naomi, who tries and fails so many times on a daily basis.  She's two years old, and through failure, learning takes place.

Naomi painting at Bellaboo's

I think about how I failed to get back into shape after Naomi was born and through that, I learned some different things I could do to once again be healthy.  (Whew! It was tough for me, a former athlete, to be so out of shape...  and then those darn calories sewed my clothes too tight!)

Image retrieved from http://www.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/152264-Calories-Joke.jpg
I think about how when I started my journey into photography, my images were less than stellar, and through photography education, they are now so much better. 

Image a long time ago, before I learned anything about photography

My sister and her family, many years ago

And now, years later after learning from those who know so much more than me
My sweet Naomi at Bellaboo's last week (Yep-kind of obsessed with her.)

So why can't this same concept be applied to education?  In this article, Walters, a social workers says,“We learn to succeed as human beings by failing. If you’ve never failed because someone’s buffered your fall, then the essential problem-solving skill you need for academics, jobs and relationships isn’t being developed. We learn lessons through mistakes and continue to do so as adults.”

As teachers, we strive to be the best.  We want the best students, the highest test scores, and the best, most organized classrooms.  We want the highest scores on our teacher evaluations and when we see that we are doing better than others, we feel a little better about ourselves.  (Umm, yeah--speaking from experience here...)  I humbly submit that this needs to change.  We need to eliminate the spirit of competition and work together  so that we can all be successful.  

I was able to talk to other teachers about what they were doing and tweak some of the things that were taking place in my own classroom.  I completed some observations and got some fresh ideas about what I could do differently.  I was forced out of my comfort zone to find some answers as to what I could do to improve student achievement, and by collaborating with others, I saw tremendous growth with my students. This never would have happened if I hadn't failed.  

And so, through my failure, I succeeded.

In what ways have you failed?  How has that led to success? 

I'm blogging over at The Gavit Educator this summer.  This post, and other great posts by teachers from my school can be found  here.