Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Should Parents Expect From Teachers in the 21st Century?

This an extract from a blog by Steve Wheeler Professor of Technology  University of Plymouth UK. An excellent blog to explore.

To read the full blog from Steve Wheeler.

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21st Century?

This is actually quite an interesting question and if we had had time to answer it, I would have said something along these lines:

The question acknowledges the direct interest parents have over their children's education, and reminds teachers of the need to keep parents informed of their children's progress. As a parent of three children who have now all left school (where has the time gone?), I know that I was always interested in what my kids had been getting up to in school, and what they had learnt. But I was also interested in the methods the teachers had employed to help my kids learn. That may have been because I am a teacher educator myself, and I have a professional interest. How many other parents who are non-educators actually think about the methods and tools teachers are using? Also, beyond the fact that the teachers of their children are qualified educators and have been police-checked, how much do parents want to know about teachers or the methods they use? What should parents expect of teachers in the 21st Century?

Apart from the surge in technology use, and the new skills teachers need to adopt, implement and harness new digital media and tools (a subject for another blogpost), I would argue that little has changed in our expectations of good educators.

In this post I'm not going to dwell on digital skills. Instead I'm going to focus on three essential things teachers need to practice, and without which children would be poorer.

The first thing parents should expect from teachers is their ability to inspire children to learn. This is vitally important. Yes, it helps that teachers are experts in their own subject areas, and it yes, it is important that teachers are organised and can maintain some kind of discipline in the classroom, but I would like to argue that the ability to inspire is more important that all of these. All teachers should aspire to be an inspirational catalyst for learning. Enthusiasm for learning, a passion for their subject and the ability to get kids excited about something new is vitally important in the shaping of young minds. You can't teach enthusiasm or passion, but it can certainly be infectious.

Another allied skill we should expect from teachers is an ability to understand the child's perspective. Good teachers have the ability to place themselves in the position of the child, and ask themselves, how would I have felt in that situation? This is the basis of good pedagogy, and was referred to by Jean Piaget as 'decentering'. Many of us, as we grow older, tend to forget the experiences we had when we were in school. Intuitive teachers understand what kids experience and know how to maximise those experiences. They know how to tap into the sense of wonder a child has when she sees something new for the first time. They recognise the importance of the need to touch or taste, to directly feel and relish a new experience and the desire to question, to experiment and to ask 'what if...?' These are manifestations of childhood all teachers should remember. Good teachers recognise that children need this kind of experimental space to learn.

Parents should also expect teachers to give creative freedom to children. Although teachers are hard pressed for time, the very best know the importance of play and can create playful learning spaces. Children have great imagination, but until it is given the opportunity to be expressed outwardly, it is difficult to share or celebrate. The best teachers do not always insist on the 'right answer' or the correct way to do something. They don't dismiss children who offer outlandish ideas or alternative suggestions. Sure, children needs some facts and rules, but they also need to be able to question those facts and find out what happens if someone does break those rules. Children should be free to make mistakes without fear of punishment, and should be able to express themselves creatively and explore their world in safety.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Korean Middle Schoolers Visit Howard County

Yesterday, I had an opportunity, along with my son and daughter, to eat lunch with 24 middle schoolers who are visiting from Iksan, South Korea. Again this year, students were selected by the local school system in Iksan to travel to Howard County to improve their English and learn more about American culture.

The students have been taking rigorous classes at Ellicott Mills Middle School, where they spend five days a week in a five-hour English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class. They work on reading, writing, listening and pronunciation. Korean is not spoken in the class. This year there has been more of an emphasis on writing.

The experience is not cheap. The trip costs approximately $6,000 for each student. But parents in South Korea believe the program is worth it. In Korea, mastery of English can determine a promotion, the type of college a student attends or the chances of international travel.
The three-week program mixes classroom instruction and field trips. Last week the students went to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian and the South Korean Embassy. This week the students are scheduled to tour the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and the Goddard Space Flight Center. The students have also taken tours of the Howard County police station and fire department, which are not permitted in South Korea.

We had such a great experience meeting the students yesterday. They were friendly and very interested in talking to us. My daughter said, "It was so cool to meet students just like me, but from so far away." Cassie was so excited to be asked for her email address and plans to keep in contact with a couple of students she met.

Six years ago, the Korean Embassy and the Washington Youth Foundation picked Howard County as the site for the program because of the area's growing Korean population, its top-rated school system and suburban atmosphere. Howard County's reputation in Korea has grown through Web sites that promote the county, articles in Korean newspapers and word-of-mouth endorsements, according to Hyung-chul Choi, education director for the Korean Embassy.

South Korean students aren't the only ones participating in an exchange this summer. Several Howard County educators will leave for South Korea this weekend to help conduct professional development activities with South Korean teachers. This is the program I participated in last summer.  It is an awesome opportunity...a life changing experience.

A special shout-out to Mr. Jung for coordinating this exchange program with our very own Ms. Kim. 

Source: John-John Williams, 2009

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Standards of Mathematical Practice

Love these...

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Older students might, depending on the context of the problem, transform algebraic expressions or change the viewing window on their graphing calculator to get the information they need. Mathematically proficient students can explain correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for regularity or trends. Younger students might rely on using concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. They make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements to explore the truth of their conjectures. They are able to analyze situations by breaking them into cases, and can recognize and use counterexamples. They justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. They reason inductively about data, making plausible arguments that take into account the context from which the data arose. Mathematically proficient students are also able to compare the effectiveness of two plausible arguments, distinguish correct logic or reasoning from that which is flawed, and—if there is a flaw in an argument—explain what it is. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Later, students learn to determine domains to which an argument applies. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

4. Model with mathematics.

Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. In early grades, this might be as simple as writing an addition equation to describe a situation. In middle grades, a student might apply proportional reasoning to plan a school event or analyze a problem in the community. By high school, a student might use geometry to solve a design problem or use a function to describe how one quantity of interest depends on another. Mathematically proficient students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.

Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful, recognizing both the insight to be gained and their limitations. For example, mathematically proficient high school students analyze graphs of functions and solutions generated using a graphing calculator. They detect possible errors by strategically using estimation and other mathematical knowledge. When making mathematical models, they know that technology can enable them to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.

6. Attend to precision.

Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.

7. Look for and make use of structure.

Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have. Later, students will see 7 × 8 equals the well remembered 7 × 5 + 7 × 3, in preparation for learning about the distributive property. In the expression x2 + 9x + 14, older students can see the 14 as 2 × 7 and the 9 as 2 + 7. They recognize the significance of an existing line in a geometric figure and can use the strategy of drawing an auxiliary line for solving problems. They also can step back for an overview and shift perspective. They can see complicated things, such as some algebraic expressions, as single objects or as being composed of several objects. For example, they can see 5 – 3(xy)2 as 5 minus a positive number times a square and use that to realize that its value cannot be more than 5 for any real numbers x and y.

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Mathematically proficient students notice if calculations are repeated, and look both for general methods and for shortcuts. Upper elementary students might notice when dividing 25 by 11 that they are repeating the same calculations over and over again, and conclude they have a repeating decimal. By paying attention to the calculation of slope as they repeatedly check whether points are on the line through (1, 2) with slope 3, middle school students might abstract the equation (y – 2)/(x – 1) = 3. Noticing the regularity in the way terms cancel when expanding (x – 1)(x + 1), (x – 1)(x2 + x + 1), and (x – 1)(x3 + x2 + x + 1) might lead them to the general formula for the sum of a geometric series. As they work to solve a problem, mathematically proficient students maintain oversight of the process, while attending to the details. They continually evaluate the reasonableness of their intermediate results.


Educator Effectiveness Academy

My team and I just finished attending a three-day Educator Effectiveness Academy hosted by the Maryland State Department of Education in Anne Arundel County. We heard from curriculum experts and other leaders from MSDE about the MCCSC. During the academy we  were given the opportunity to disect the MCCSC standards, ask questions and provide feedback on certain aspects of the common core structure and design.

I want to thank our master teachers for doing a good job facilitating activities which were designed to help us begin to think about the new MCCSC standards, their implications on teacher training and student achievement and how this information will be shared with teachers this year. 

We learned a lot. However, our introductory training has generated many questions that don't seem to have answers yet. Some of our questions included:

What will be the assessment limits?

Why aren't the structures of the mathematics, English/Reading Language Arts and STEM standards formatted in the same manner?

How do you start teaching these new standards in the middle school when students have not been exposed to the elementary core content building blocks?

How do you balance the need to introduce and begin implementing the new MCCSC standards while at the same time being held accountable to teach the old curriculum that is assessed by the MSA? 

Where will the money come from to support the purchase of technology in order for students to take online tests?

Since the common core doesn't spiral the content in mathematics from year to year, what do you do to help to remediate a child who is below grade level?

While we had many questions, we are excited about the direction we are heading as a state. It reminded me of a quote...

Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.

Mark Victor Hansen

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Reading at WLMS

Thanks to our Reading Team Leader, Mrs. Warner, we are sponsoring our second annual summer reading program. This summer, we are focusing on 10 titles from the Howard County Library’s summer reading list. Here are the details:
  • To view the titles to read, visit the WLMS Reading Blog at: 
  • Read the books and to write your reviews of the books.
  • Turn in your book reviews to your reading teacher on the first day of school in August.
  • For each book you read and write a review of, you will be entered into a drawing for fabulous prizes, such as iTunes gift cards, Monster Golf passes, AMC movie passes, and more!
  • Write two reviews and you will be invited to attend an ice cream party in September!
  • Get reading!
Just a few to consider: 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Educator Effectiveness Academy

This coming week, a team of teachers from Wilde lake Middle School and I will be traveling to Arundel High School to participate in one of the eleven Educator Effectiveness Academies being held this summer in the state of Maryland. All public schools in Maryland were required to identify a team of teachers this past spring who would attend this grassroots professional development program to begin the transition to the Common Core. This will be the state's official kick-off to the next wave of school reform that has been championed by President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan and developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor's Association. The academies are designed to help educators begin to understand the new Common Core State Standards, which are the foundation for the new Maryland Common Core State Curriculum. 

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, STEM, and English Language Arts (ELA); Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (“the Standards”) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school. They are designed to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are meant to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

The Standards set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) and Mathematics, but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, problem solve and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines. Literacy standards for grade 6 and above are predicated on teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects using their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields. It is important to note that the 6–12 literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are not meant to replace content standards in those areas but rather to supplement them.

The newly adopted standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century. Indeed, the skills and understandings students are expected to demonstrate have wide applicability outside the classroom or workplace. Students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature. They are able to problem-solve using a variety of methods and demontrate critical thinking skills. They habitually perform the critical reading necessary to pick carefully through the staggering amount of information available today in print and digitally. They actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews. They reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic. In short, students who meet the Standards develop the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.  (Source: modified from

I am looking forward to attending the Educator Effectiveness Academy and learning more about the common core. In particular, I am interested in developing a greater knowledge of the Common Core State Standards and the Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics and English Language Arts, understanding the relationship between Maryland’s vision of STEM and the Curriculum Frameworks, and beginning to create our school's transition plan that will guide our staff in preparing to implement the changes that will be necessary.

It is exciting work!

Stay tuned...I plan to share more when I learn more.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

The ultimate measure
of a person
is not
where they stand
in moments of
comfort and convenience,
in moments of
challenge and controversy.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where ever you are celebrating today and tonight...I hope you are with people you love!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ben Underwood -How a Blind Teen Sees With Sound

I was amazed by this young man and this video. His approach to life -No fear- is inspiring to me.

As I was doing research to find out more about Ben Underwood, I discovered that Ben he died in 2009 from complications of the cancer that had been attacking his body since he was 2-yrs old.

While this is beyond tragic, I believe it is amazing how we can still learn from Ben long after his death thanks to the power of youtube and the internet.

For Burmese refugees, English lessons at work build school ties

(Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST) - Esther Khai, right, takes part in an English lesson.

By Robert Samuels, Published: June 30

Laurel Conran filled a two-inch binder with vocabulary sheets for a class she offers Burmese refugees who work in a Howard County warehouse. The first lesson was on basic introductions, the second on American holidays. By Lesson 6, the topic was health insurance.

For this elementary school teacher, there is a compelling reason to volunteer as an English instructor for the region’s burgeoning Burmese refu­gee community: If you teach the parents, it helps you teach their children. She also has built bridges in other ways.

Driving to class one June day, Conran passed the Countryside Fellowship Church in Savage, where she has prayed with the parents. Then she passed two apartment complexes, where she has buzzed many of their doorbells.

“And do you see this hill in front of us?’’ Conran asked. “That’s where many of them walk to get to work.”

The hill leads to Coastal Sunbelt Produce, a fruit and vegetable distributor. This year, the company and Bollman Bridge Elementary School forged a learning partnership. Conran, who teaches English for speakers of other languages at the school in Savage-Guilford, now does the same for the company at lunchtime.

Most of the refugees work on assembly lines in a building cooled to temperatures in the 40s. Wearing skull caps and heavy jackets, they chop fruit, package it, seal it.

Conran walked into the cafeteria, filled with the aroma of curry dishes. About two dozen Burmese workers, mostly parents, were huddled in small groups around an English speaker, who was practicing with them how to call in sick for work.

Conran’s teaching partner hugged her. When the lessons started in May, the partner spoke no English.

“What is your name?” Conran asked.

“My name is Fam Chua.’’

“What is your job?”

Fam Chua furrowed her eyebrows, then said: “I . . . make . . . salsa.”

To read more of this Washington Post article, click here:

Way to go Laurel!  Great article!