'My Students Shouldn't Have to Keep Burying Their Friends' -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- April 21, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

April 21, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

ED to Announce 2016 Honorees in Celebration of Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day tomorrow, Secretary John King will announce the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awards and Postsecondary Sustainability AwardsThe list of 2016 honorees and a report highlighting each winner will be posted online. The awards honor schools, districts, and higher education institutions that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and offer environmental education.



Teachers around the country worry about "covering all the content" in their overflowing curriculum binders. But at Redtail Ridge Elementary in Savage, Minn., teachers decided that instead of adding an environmental theme on top of what they were already doing, they wanted to integrate an active, outdoor learning component into existing lessons. Over the last four years, their students have outperformed the state average on science exams, all while snowshoeing, replenishing bird feeders, and managing an efficient waste-dispersal program. In this entry on our Homeroom blog, Sara Aker and Susan Schnackenberg, a fifth grade teacher and a kindergarten teacher respectively, reflect on why the environmental theme works

In This Kinesthetic Classroom, Everyone's Moving All Day


At one South Carolina elementary school, the 28 fifth graders sit at specially outfitted kinesthetic desks: some pedal bikes, some use climbers, some swivel, others sway back and forth. Almost everyone in the class is moving all day long -- even the teacher. One Charleston County administrator says more movement equals better grades, better behavior, and better bodies (LinkedIn).  

First-Generation Students Become Next-Generation Scientists

InvenTeam science fair winners

President Obama hosted his sixth and final White House Science Fair, welcoming student competitors and winners from a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. The President established the tradition of a science fair in 2010 to help honor and inspire students in STEM. This year, first-generation New York City students at Baruch College Campus High School had the opportunity to present their subway vacuum cleaner to the president and Secretary John King. Find out more about their journeys that took them from knowing little or no English to joining the L-MIT Baruch InvenTeam to the White House in this Homeroom blog

Stories From States and Districts That Cut Back on Testing

Last week, Secretary John King visited Tulsa (Okla.) Public Schools to hear how the district eliminated more than 72 hours of testing from their students' year in line with President Obama's release of a set of principles for smarter assessment practices in public schools (Eger, Tulsa World). Now ED has released case studies from several states and districts that have reclaimed learning time by cutting unnecessary tests

Obama, Curry Star in Fun Video About Value of Mentors


President Obama critiques NBA virtuoso Stephen Curry's resume, schools him in Connect Four, and gives him some pointers on his jump shot in a fun video promoting mentorship. A voiceover intones at the end: "You don't need to be an NBA star or the President of the United States to be someone's hero." And if your mentee has political or athletic aspirations, well, you never know. 

'My Students Shouldn't Have to Keep Burying Their Friends'

A New Orleans assistant principal considers the toll gun violence has taken on her students across her 14 years of teaching there. She reflects on how long the mourning process is for an 18-year-old taken too soon and shares her first thought when the news reports a shooting or a murder: "I hope I don't know this person. I hope this is not one of mine." (TheTrace.org)

Former Teacher Inspires Kids As SuperCyclingMan


Former British elementary school teacher Will Hodgson read  a book about superheroes to his class one day. After that, he decided to be a superhero himself. Hodgson is now biking around the world in a red cape and blue tights. He visits schools and asks students to share their dreams. Now $19,000 and one year into his goal of raising money for charity, Hodgson is showing no signs of slowing down (Geller, APlus.com). 

Stanford Prof. Stops Lecturing, Students Learn More

Nobel Laureate and Stanford University Professor Carl Wieman dropped the lecture format from his class in favor of active learning methods. The result? His course failure rate fell by 12 percent and test performance went up by half. Now he wonders why other professors don't make the same change. The physics professor hypothesizes that it has something to do with the fact that universities aren't that concerned with the quality of their teaching, and thereby continue to practice outdated teaching methods that he equates to bloodletting in hospitals (Westervelt, NPR). 

Lessons Learned from Three First-Year Teachers

The Hechinger Report has spent the year following three first-year teachers who came into the profession with different training experiences. There's no shortage of metaphors to describe the sometimes 16-hour days these teachers endure -- fraternity hazing, jumping into the deep end, drowning -- and it'll probably bring about some nostalgic feelings for anyone who was a first-year teacher once upon a time. Some of the questions tackled in the three-part series include the relative value of different teacher-prep programs and the sustainability of the work (Mader).

Libraries Transforming from Quiet Places to Active Spaces


Libraries look different than they did when we were kids, and that's a good thing, according to a new campaign from the American Library Association, which wants to shift the perception of libraries from "just quiet places to research" to "centers of communities." An Instagram page set up by Education Week in celebration of National Library Week is soliciting photos from folks willing to #ShowUsYourLibrary. Very few show off their rows and rows of books; instead, they've got a mix of collaborative work spaces, MakerSpaces, bright displays, and much more. One of our favorites is the STEM Library Museum in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where students show off a whole bunch of "antiques" that'll make you feel old: typerwriters, switchboards, Pong, and telephone booths, where one student wondered, "How do you text in this?"

teachers on tv

Why Do Producers Make Teachers Look Bad On TV? 

Teachers are frustrated with the stark binary of portrayals of their career in popular media, polarized between the “clueless wag or inappropriate role model” and “saintly sages” tropes. Some are even worried that the portrayals negatively affected would-be teachers, while one retired middle-school teacher claimed that if workloads were accurately portrayed, “no one would become a teacher" (Rich, New York Times; Yacht, drawing).

Talented Black and Hispanic Students Often Undiscovered

Black third graders are half as likely as whites to be included in programs for the gifted, and the deficit is nearly as large for Hispanics. But when a large school district in Florida altered how it screened children, the number of black and Hispanic children identified as gifted doubled. Some new screening methods show there are fairer ways to identify gifted students (Dynarski, New York Times). NPR goes inside one Arizona district that is succeeding at identifying gifted Latino students, even ones who come in speaking no English at all


Believe They Can: 14-Year-Old Realizes What She Is Capable Of

"If you push somebody, they will start to see what they are capable of," says 14-year-old Kim, whose determination to succeed is partially the result of the dedicated staff at Perspectives Middle Academy in Chicago. Learn more in this video about the staff who are a part of the effort to close the Belief Gap, the gulf between what students can achieve and what others believe they can achieve (Education Post). 

What We Heard from Educators This Week

king at arts academy

5. "I teach here because I have the autonomy to ensure every student is able to chase their passion or interest" (Teacher, Nevada). 
4. "Teacher leadership is both a noun and a verb. It can be a title, but it's mostly the way we behave in our positions" (Teacher, New York).
3. "If you can Google the answer, then I didn't ask the right question. Challenge students to discover their own pathway to learning" (Teacher, Georgia).
2. "When I'm mad or sad, I would go to the library to get a book. You don't even need money to get a book. You just need a library card!" (Fifth Grader, New York) #LibrariesTransform
1. "We need to find a way to evaluate schools on how many electives students take, not just on student results from core classes" (Teacher, Nevada).