Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Answer Sheet - How to help African-American males in school: Treat them like gifted students

In education, so many times the ideas put forth in articles -- although good -- are a bit out of our reach and oftentimes out of touch with reality. Fortunately, this recent article from The Washington Post in a beaming exception.

One of our assistant principals shared this article with us last week before the Thanksgiving break, encouraging our responses and insight. 

After reading the article, one of my dear colleagues truly believes that we need to more directly involve students in our Staff Development Training with the teachers. She understands this would remove the students from a class but would still love to try to do this. For example, when doing classroom walk-throughs and informal observations, she suggests that we could pull a group of qualified students from an Advisory period, explain the concept and look-fors, and then pair the kids up with the groups of teachers and allow them to participate. Perhaps team leaders can put together a list of possible invitees, and each week we could invite a different group of students. Or, maybe one group of students could join us for a series of meetings on a particular topic and then rotate out when we change topics. Wouldn't it be interesting to see if these students observe the same things we do in the walk through? Wouldn't it be valuable for them to see us as learners? After all, student feedback can only help make us better teachers.
Personally, I know that our kids needs to see that learning is a continuing process.  We need to remind kids that we, as teachers, continue to grow as we teach – informally in school and formally through college classes. Kids need to be a part of classroom activities. We need to give them choices. We know the importance of student buy-in. However, having these students involved in our Professional Development classes, for me, would be difficult. I believe it would restrict discussion and limit what we could say. These are, after all, our children.
Teachers benefit from observations, whether by peers, department, or administration. I’m not so sure I feel comfortable, or that it’s appropriate, to have (other) kids evaluating my classroom or what I do with my students.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this important and thought-provoking article.
How to help African-American males in school: Treat them like gifted students
By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Yvette Jackson, chief executive officer of theNational Urban Alliance and former executive director of instruction and professional development for the New York City public schools.
By Yvette Jackson
I wanted to cry when I read about the 
recent widely publicized reportfrom the Council of Great City Schools about the underachievement of African-American males in our schools. Its findings bear repeating: African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys; their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower; and black men represented just 5 percent of college students in 2008.
When I was the executive director of instruction and professional development for the New York City Public Schools, I grew keenly aware of the challenges schools face in educating African-American males. For many reasons, far too many boys don’t get the support at home or in the community they need to thrive as adults. Instead, that job falls almost completely on their schools. And that means it comes down to their teachers.
Driven by the intense focus on accountability, schools and teachers used standardized test scores to help identify and address student weaknesses. Over time, these deficits began to define far too many students so that all we saw were their deficits – particularly for African-American males. As a result, we began losing sight of these young boys’ gifts and, as a consequence, stifled their talents.

As the report notes, it would be great to create national urgency around this issue and find more mentors for African-American males. But we have an army of educators in schools now who can help black males by doing for them what works for gifted students.
Teachers and schools can create activities that identify, affirm and build on student strengths. This can be done through student surveys, honest conversations and teacher professional development. We need to shift from remediation focused on weaknesses to mediation that develops strengths.
Damaging and pervasive chasms grow between teachers and students when teachers feel unprepared to meet the needs of students of color or economically disadvantaged students. Making cultural connections and strengthening teacher-student relationships are critical to making learning meaningful and relevant to students.
Finally, students must be enabled to be more active in their own education. Schools should give students opportunities to participate in teachers’ professional development aimed at enriching curriculum, improving teaching and expanding the range of materials students create.
In this way, student strengths will be illuminated. Teachers will get meaningful feedback on their instruction. Numerous ideas for creative classroom activities will be generated, and new bonds between teachers and students will develop. We must embrace a new approach to African-American males that focuses less on what they aren’t doing and builds on what they can and want to do as the path to improving their academic performance.
This is what a 6th-grade African-American boy from Newark, N.J., said recently when asked how it felt to lead his class in a lesson: “I got a lot of compliments from teachers saying that they think when I grow up I am going to be a very good teacher. I felt proud because it felt like I was doing very good. It was one of the best feelings that I had in life.”
Our schools and our teachers need to help more students grow up capable and confident. Students who don’t believe in themselves or who accept adults’ low expectations are one step closer to dropping out – or worse. Growing up to become a very good teacher is a destiny we can all support.

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