Summer Reading

The Prompt: What have you learned, or participated in, this summer that has made you a better educator and that you may (or will) apply this coming school year as you work with students and staff?

As a constant reader, this summer, as usual, I stepped away from the normal educational books. Unfortunately, I read everything like it is related to school. So Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are was no exception. I could rave on and on about the book and how we are on the verge of a social science breakthrough because of big data. Instead, I will want to point out a couple of things that will affect at our schools.

  1. Surveys are completely fallible. So many times we ask teachers, students, and parents to take surveys and treat the results as gospel truth. The best results are anonymous surveys taken in a room alone with conditions to encourage honesty. He also points out that very often teens like to mess with surveys citing an adoption study with inaccurate reporting of adoption. He suggests that we are truthful in our Google searches, but elsewhere we may not be. The big takeaway is to think about how and who you are giving surveys to.
  2.  Social Media and other companies are doing massive studies to make their product even more addictive. It fascinated me that we are constantly being tested to see which change encourages us to click, play long or stay on the app. With this in mind, we need to be cognizant of how we spend our time. We also need to make our student aware the companies doing.
  3. Do not compare our insides (Google Searches) with others outsides (social media presence).  He laid out a clear case how we are honest when we are searching, but we are framing and creating a reality on social media. This is one to that we need to discuss openly and honestly with our students. I’ve become a pro at framing pictures so you don’t see the chaos behind my children smiling faces. Teachers are not necessarily tweeting about the mundane parts of the job instead we hear about amazing successes.  

So dear readers, do not panic if you did not follow the typical summer learning plan. Learning can come from anywhere.





The Problem with TV High School

I really am not much of TV watcher, but I do love Gilmore Girls. I own them all and tend to rewatch them often. I was recently watching season three, and a particular series of scenes really agitated me. During the second half of the season, Jess starts skipping school and working instead. When he finally went to buy his prom tickets, he was sent to principal’s office. There he found out that he was not graduating and had to repeat the year again. The principal in a disdainful tone said, “You mean the nine warning slips we gave you weren’t enough? All the meetings that I tried to set up between you and your guidance counselor, between you and me that you blew off, that wasn’t warning enough?”

Obviously, this is TV, and the Jess needed to leave, but I am bugged how the school was portrayed. This is how a school should work then or now.  So below is how I view how the school would function as a Professional Learning Community.

Stars Hollow High

  • Jess’s teachers use the PLC process and notice through formative assessments that he has mastered the standards quickly. As teachers plan their lessons, they start to discuss how to extend the lesson to challenge Jess and other students.
  • During the intervention period, Jess has a wide variety of extension opportunities as well as time to read his current book.
  • The counselor knows that he was in three different schools last year and informs his teachers about the impact on academics this could cause.
  • Jess is flagged by the data system to be discussed at the next Student Intervention Team meeting because he has missed five days unexcused. The team puts in place an intervention and monitors it. He will continue to be on the agenda if the intervention is not enough.
  • The school does not allow Jess to make decisions like skipping meeting that would impact his adulthood. They stop at nothing to make sure that Jess succeeds.
  • If Jess decides to leave town to chase down his father, the school makes sure that there is a plan for credit recovery.

As I lay out how a school would function, I wonder how many Jess’s are in our schools now. Does their school believe that ALL kids can learn and their actions prove it or does their school function like the TV show?  Every student deserves the later because the consequences are dire for the student otherwise.