The Famous Magician Who Made School Curriculum Disappear -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- January 28, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

January 28, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

Teachers Empowered in Higher-Performing Countries

A pair of recently released studies shows how high-performing education systems -- such as those in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and British Columbia -- empower teachers to conduct action research in order to improve student learning and teachers' practice. Shanghai's teacher development system includes a 13-level career ladder, in-service training and development, and opportunities to conduct and publish research on new practices they employ. In these countries,"professional learning is central to their jobs. It's not an add-on. It is not something done on Friday afternoons or a few days at the end of the school year," according to one report from the National Center on Education and the Economy



Nancy Veatch (@veatch_nancy), who teaches fifth and sixth grade at Bend Elementary School in Cottonwood, Calif., is Adjunct Faculty in the School of Education at California State University, Chico, and is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the United States Department of Education. She has seen the profession from a variety of angles: as a teacher, as a teacher on special assignment, and as a faculty member in a teacher prep program. She calls teachers to action to help lift up the teaching profession, which is the foundation of Acting Secretary John King’s speech Supporting America's Educators to Expand Opportunity that he delivered in Philadelphia last week.    


Snowing? Meet Your Class Online

When we were kids, snow days meant sleeping late and building snowmen. For this generation, though, some schools are taking a different approach. In some districts where students are supplied devices, students are logging in to pick up right where they left off. Other schools are sending home snow day activities and classwork to prevent students from forgetting what they've learned. Meanwhile, with the recent East Coast storm, kids got creative on Twitter trying to trick weather stations and friends into thinking school was cancelled (Washington Post).

Bronx Student-Debaters Star in Must-Watch Documentary


If you like stories of student success, you've got to watch this short documentary of a high school debate team from the Bronx that picks up trophies wherever they go from The GuardianThey hope their victories will be rewarded with hefty college scholarships, as has been the case for some of their predecessors. 

Teacher: America Doesn't Care About Our Poorest Schools

"As a nation, we’re nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we’re ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding," laments Teacher of the Year finalist Nate Bowling. His powerful words shed light on America's dilemma that the conditions of the poorest, largely minority schools fail to stir appropriate outrage in the public.


Magician Teller Made Curriculum Disappear in His First Teaching Gig 40 Years Ago

Before joining partner Penn in the magic business, entertainer Teller taught high school Latin in New Jersey for six years. He tossed the textbooks and created Latin readers for his students and recalled engaging them with a love for his subject and his students. In an interview in The Atlantic, he finds similarities between teaching and performing: "The first job of a teacher is to make the student fall in love with the subject. That doesn’t have to be done by waving your arms and prancing around the classroom; there’s all sorts of ways to go at it."

Schools Weigh Policies, Bathrooms for Transgender Students

In a society where more than 50 percent of transgender youth attempt suicide before they turn 20, a war is being waged over who is allowed to use which bathroom in public schools. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education weighed in on an ongoing case in Illinois where a transgender student was denied access to the girls' locker room. Meanwhile, The New York Daily News covers current cases involving transgender students in Virginia and New York and Rethinking Schools magazine shares the steps a New York City school took to welcome transgender students

students with cell phones

What Research Says on Classroom Tech

Does switching out a computer for a pencil help improve student learning? In a posting, Wisconsin principal Matt Renwick offers three important considerations when using technology and closes with this Haiku: 

Use technology. 
Not too much, at home and school.
Mostly for learning.

Harvard, Yale Among Colleges Taking Pledge to Value Applicants' Ethics, Not Just Their Academic Achievements

A group of college admissions officers and deans from around the country coauthored a new report acknowledging the competitive, achievement-driven nature of today's college admissions and pledging to change. They've agreed to place high value on students' community service efforts and redefine academic achievement in ways that level the playing field and alleviate some of the current achievement pressure. See their recommendations and who signed on here

Project Looks at Which Texts Are Assigned Most in College

A team from a group called the Open Syllabus Project reviewed 1 million college course syllabi and identified the most common texts. What they found is what's old is still relevant: Plato, Marx, Aristotle, Machiavelli are still in style. Speaking of style, William Strunk's writing guide The Elements of Style appears in the most syllabi, according to the study. Visit the project's website to filter by state or by institution to compare what's taught at Harvard to what's on the syllabi at your local community college. 


Last week we asked you about teacher retention. You said: 

  • "Don't ever lose the reason you became a teacher. It should be what drives you to be a better one every day." - William Gollihar, Teacher, Texas
  • "Be fun. Ask yourself: Would you want to be in your own classroom? Make school an event worth coming to each and every day." - Kara Welty, Teacher, Missouri 
  • "Teachers with high morale recruit teachers with high morale, leading to lower turnover and better teaching." - Eric Cameron, Teacher, Teacher, Minnesota

This week, we wonder: What would help you feel empowered?

Tweet your answer to us @TeacherEdition. 

Another Advantage for Pretty People: Better Grades

A recent study shows that in addition to earning more money and garnering more trust from others, pretty people get better grades too. The study's authors compared students' class grades to ratings of their physical attractiveness, as judged by outside observers. Sure enough, better-looking women earned higher grades, yet when the same students took online courses, where nobody knows how someone looks, the benefit of being pretty disappeared (Kamenetz, NPR). 


Different Ways to Spend School Day 100

Most schools all over the country have been in session 100 days this week, and elementary schoolers are celebrating the occasion in all sorts of ways. TeacherPop has culled 17 ideas from Pinterest on how your class might mark the milestone, including illustrations of what students will look like at age 100, fun worksheets and  cool crafts.  

Resources to Use

T&L2016The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards invites all educators to attend the 10th anniversary celebration of the Teaching & Learning Conference on March 11-12 in Washington, D.C. Dedicated to founder Ron Thorpe and his vision of a profession where accomplished teaching is the norm, T&L2016 will bring some of the best minds together to advance the teaching profession in a bold new way. 

Designing a PD Program the Works. Former Teaching American History Grant project director, Kerry Dunne, who is now the director of History and Social Studies for Boston Public Schools, looks at motivating factors when considering what kind of professional development to pursue (ASCD).   

What We Heard from Educators This Week


5. "How come I only hear 'college isn't for everyone' in less affluent communities?" (Principal, Pennsylvania)

4. "We have to get so many reading minutes in, so many math minutes in, our kids are so artistic, but we're forced to be a math and reading school" (Principal, South Dakota).

3. "I spent an entire year as a quasi-AP. If I had that kind of prep as a teacher, it would've helped my students" (Principal, New York).

2. On why she stays at a "low-performing" school: "I stay here because I teach here" (Teacher, New Mexico).

1. "I truly feel like they are listening to the teachers" (Teacher, Louisiana).