Book Review: Best Practice

I wrote a blog post a few months ago about my frustration with the term “best practice” in education and how I feel like the more appropriate term we should be using is “better practices.” While I was writing it, I noticed a book on my shelf that I had inherited from a retired school leader and realised that I should actually read the book if I want to be honest in my critique of this ubiquitous term in education.

The book, of course, was Best Practice: Today’s Standards for Teaching & Learning in America’s Schools (3rd edition)  by Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde. I emphasise that this is the third edition because the authors have since released a fourth edition that, I presume (based on the brief description), updates the text to reflect the era of Common Core State Standards, technology integration, and other aspects of teaching and learning in the 21st Century. However, my copy is the third edition, published in 2005 and focusing heaving on the hodgepodge of learning standards different professional organisations had released in contrast to the largely-absent standards at the state level.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Continue reading Book Review: Best Practice

In Defense of Kindness

Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing an interesting trend within my Twitter professional learning network (PLN). Now, before I get into this trend, I think it is worth observing that my PLN has been very carefully created to surround me with diverse voices, experiences, and backgrounds. This is because the one thing I absolutely do not want to do is stick myself inside an echo chamber. As a result, there are people I am connected with who are going to disagree with me and with whom I am going to disagree. (Not all of us and not all of the time, of course.)

So, on to the trend. I am not sure when it started, nor do I know where it started. I do not know how long it has been out there nor do I even know why it is seeming to gather speed. I only know that I have been noticing it more and more and it has left me with an uneasy feeling. This morning I think I finally figured out why it has left me feeling uneasy, and that is why I am writing right now.

The trend doesn’t have a formal name, nor is it an actual movement (that I know of), but I have come to think of it as “anti-kindness.” Continue reading In Defense of Kindness

Forging Meaningful Bonds Online

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where my parents were both willing and able to be early adopters of new technology. We may not have been the first to use something, but we were often the first in our neighbourhood and among those in our social circles. For example, America Online released its commercial online network service in 1991 and by 1993 it was in our home. As soon as I turned 13, I was given my own profile with AOL and have been an avid online community participant ever since.

Perhaps this is I was so irritated when I read this quote from a recent New York Times op-ed piece by Daniel Dolgicer: “Office rituals — small talk in the kitchenette, drinks after work — exist for good reason. They elevate the spirit; dare I say, they make people feel included, and loved. Meaningful bonds just cannot be made over Zoom.” Continue reading Forging Meaningful Bonds Online

On Textbooks and Diverse Perspectives

I recently posed a question on Twitter about the implications of a curriculum series that had white authors, white consultants, and a mostly white team of reviewers. (There was one indigenous reviewer and one black reviewer.) In response, I was told by several educators that we should just ditch the textbook entirely, as if that will solve the problem. I’ve been thinking about this response and have realised why it is problematic to me. Continue reading On Textbooks and Diverse Perspectives

In Defense Of Old Books

I love reading. If you don’t know this about me, I can only assume that we have never met or interacted in any way. Because I really, truly, deeply love reading.

I also love reading alot, but that’s another issue.

There are certain times that I cannot read: driving, riding my bike, walking my dog, doing laundry, cooking, etc. However, I can listen to audio and this is why I have gotten into education podcasts over the past few years. (This post isn’t actually about podcasts, though.)

A podcast I recently started listening to is The Staffroom Podcast with Chey Chaney and Pav Wander. Whenever I start a new podcast, I always start at the very beginning and listen to the entire series. I have just finished the sixth episode, which is what prompted this post about reading. Continue reading In Defense Of Old Books

All Tied Up – The Windsor Knot

I learned how to tie a necktie when I was eight years old by following a simple diagram in my Wolf Cub Scout Book. The book did not give a name for the knot. All it said was “Learn to tie a necktie.”

The weird thing is that I didn’t actually tie a tie this way, ever. The knot in the diagram is known as the Four-in-Hand. I read that diagram and added a few extra steps and inadvertently taught myself how to tie the Windsor Knot, instead.
Continue reading All Tied Up – The Windsor Knot

Book Review: The New Art and Science of Teaching Art and Music

[NOTE: This post was written for MiddleWeb, a site dedicated to teaching and learning in the middle grades. This is my eleventh book review for them. They provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I will share the link to the review on their site once it goes live.]

Is teaching a science? Is teaching an art? Dr. Robert J. Marzano, cofounder and chief academic officer of Marzano Resources, first sought to settle this debate with his seminal work, The Art and Science of Teaching, in which he declared that teaching is not an art or a science but rather both. Ten years later, armed with new research, he greatly expanded this work and released it as The New Art and Science of Teaching. Three years later, Dr. Marzano is back again, this time with Mark Onuscheck, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment and Jonathan Grice, director of fine arts, both with Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois. Together they have developed what will surely become the go-to resource for planning, designing, implementing, and assessing the teaching of art and music, using the New Art and Science of Teaching framework.

Continue reading Book Review: The New Art and Science of Teaching Art and Music

All Tied Up – The Vidalia Knot

Stephen Covey, author of the acclaimed bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, taught that we ought to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Henry B. Eyring, a business professor and educational administrator, once shared this advice he received from a mentor: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” Former President Barack Obama said, “Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.”

I share these quotes as examples of what others have taught about the importance of looking beyond the surface when we are interacting with others. We should be careful to make sure we are not assuming that our first impression is correct simply because it is our first impression. Rather, we need to look deeper. Maybe that first impression is correct; maybe it is not. The only way to know is to examine all the information and ask the necessary questions.

That, to me, is what the Vidalia Knot is all about:  the layers and depth and complexity of life that make things interesting and also challenging.

Continue reading All Tied Up – The Vidalia Knot

Why I Chose Education

One of the most common questions job candidates are asked in interviews is something along the lines of this:

“Why do you want to do this job?”

In the past, my answer has often been pretty typical, I think of most prospective educators: the excitement of being involved in the learning process, the love of working with young people, the challenges and opportunities each day presents, forging relationships and making connections, etc.

This morning I heard a different version of this question. It was this:

“Why did you choose to become an educator?”

As considered my experiences, I realised that my answer may not be what others expect. Continue reading Why I Chose Education