Education Issues April, 2012

 

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Last month, education made the news daily. At this time of year, school districts are winding down and gearing up at the same time. Educators are finding it hard to keep motivated in the face of declining support from state governments for our profession. Parents are celebrating their children’s college acceptance letters while wondering where the tuition money will come from.

These controversial education issues weighed on me last month. It’s not an easy time to be a parent or an educator. I think it’s time to start thinking like Einstein, and come up with some new solutions, don’t you? What do you think about schools using advertising to increase revenue, computerized teaching, grading systems, and the cost of college? Just follow the link to read the full articles – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On school advertising: Imagine walking into your child’s school and seeing the expected: a lunchroom with folding tables and bench seats, a stage, the office doors, a lost and found box, lockers, classrooms, and a blacktop with basketball courts.

Now imagine your child’s school with a lunchroom advertising on the tables endorsing eating habits and nutrition, a stage with offers for drama education, office doors advertising organizational skills, classrooms endorsing local services, and a blacktop with banners on school safety.

Many public schools today, searching for innovative funding sources, are considering advertising on their campus. Should schools allow ads on school grounds?

On computerized teaching: It’s an educator’s worst nightmare: technology. I’m not talking about the common, everyday kinds of technology that our students carry in their pockets, or we use to read our emails.

I’m talking about the kind of technology that is replacing teachers.

In Virginia Tech’s largest classroom teachers are not required. Can teachers really be replaced by computers?

On grading practices: How does a student know when a teacher likes them? How does a teacher show they like a student? These were the questions I grappled with this week with a freshman AVID student.

While making my rounds in the classroom, I overheard him saying, “Why does she hate me so much? She never gives me 100% on my work. She doesn’t think my answers are good enough. She says other people’s questions are better than mine.” As I walked up and stood behind him, he sensed my presence and stopped. Do you think simply completing a school assignment should earn an “A”?

On the cost of a college education: When I entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1987 as an English major, I really wasn’t thinking about the high cost of education. Tuition was under $2,000 per year; add in books and living expenses and I still wasn’t coming close to what today’s students face. In 2011, tuition costs were up to $12,834 for California residents, and $35,712 for out-of-state students.

Two senior UC Davis students working as tutors in my public school classroom report they will graduate with $14,000 and $20,000 in student loans, despite having entered college with scholarships and their work study jobs.

Something is wrong with this system. What if we did something crazy, and offered free UC tuition?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Learning Through Community Service

How do our kids learn about the world? Do they read the newspaper? Listen to the radio? Travel outside their hometown?

 I’m raising my children in the same university town where I grew up. It’s very safe, educated, liberal and has excellent schools. We take advantage of the healthy environment, youth activities, and culture that comes with living in a college town.

But I remember when I graduated from high school here and moved to the ‘city’ back in the 80s, I felt that I had broken through a glass bubble. My eyes were opened in a way that I’m sure is common to most college freshmen, but I quickly realized that there was a HUGE world that I had simply never been exposed to.

One of the dangers of raising kids in a community like mine is an unconscious, and sometimes conscious, sense of entitlement. That is terrifying to me. While my husband and I are both well educated, we chose professions of service, not salary. We try to teach our children about the value of our Earth, the value of a dollar, and the value of a human being as our highest values.

Last weekend, after the campus Picnic Day celebration, we packed up garbage bags, water and layered on sunscreen and headed to our local arboretum to clean up after the crowds. As we walked along the creek we were pleasantly surprised that the grounds were nearly litter free.

To my surprise and delight, my son urged us to move a new location where we could actually find garbage.

We weren’t disappointed with our next stop-Community Park offered a huge selection. Despite the heat, we hunted for debris big and small.

When we’d filled our bags and added a broken down chair, we declared ourselves done. As we hopped on our bikes and headed home, my son chattered with delight the entire way about what we’d done. Not only did he return with an beat up, ratty old ball as a souvenir, but he also learned that even a kid can serve his world through small acts in his community.

I think that’s a step in the right direction towards bursting the bubble, don’t you?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Take a Trip To My New Blog: travels with mamawolfe

“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.” 

— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Oh, I hate to be ordinary.

In three months I will be taking off on a new adventure to the other side of the world…Indonesia. This has been in the works for over a year, ever since I applied for and received a government fellowship to study global education.

Just a few days ago I received my foreboding travel itinerary, which requires nearly 48 hours of travel time to make over 8,800 miles from California to Jakarta. The thought of a 14+ plane flight kinda freaks me out, actually.

And the thought of leaving my children for two entire weeks…terrifying.

As the countdown begins, I’ve embarked on a new blogging adventure, travels with mamawolfe. I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for mamawolfe, but I know that there will be plenty of stories to tell and images to share as I take flight.

Come travel with me! I promise to share it all with you!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Homework Help for Teens

We’ve all been there. The progress report cards arrive and grades are not what we expected. Or, we check online and cannot figure out why there are so many zeroes where there should be numbers!

Are you tired of feeling the weight of your child’s homework? Are you done arguing and ready to start making a change in the way your teen does school?

If this is happening to your family right now, relax and try these five tips to get your teen back on track. I’ve tested them on my own students and children, and know they work!

1. Take a deep breath and let your teen talk. Kids want their parents to hear their side of the story. Listen as they tell you what they think is going on. Try to stay quiet and not interrupt – just nod your head until they’re done. They know you’re disappointed.

If you’re ready for more homework help tips, click here to read more on Yahoo!Shine.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Opportunity Knocks?

Shortly after I posted this photo on Facebook I received a phone message from my mother.  She’s not a Facebook user, but became concerned after my younger brother alerted her that something might be wrong, since I posted a big red sign on my wall.

At first I had no clue what she was talking about.  I figured it was just a glitch in her understanding about Facebook.  Suddenly it dawned on me what they were worried about, and I reassured her that everything was OK.

Only, it’s not really OK.

These are difficult times for many Americans.  For teachers and students, it’s getting nearly impossible.

My school district is attempting to balance their deficit budget by laying off employees.  They’re threatening to furlough teachers again, which means at least a 5% pay cut next year.  Districts have met their March 15 layoff notification date ‘over notifying’ teachers, administrators and counselors in preparation for the state budget ‘worst case scenario’.

These people are me and my friends, my colleagues, and your child’s teachers, vice principals and counselors.  They are the people who run the after school programs children turn to for enrichment and support.  They are the teachers who used to make it easier for kids to have smaller class sizes and take elective classes that provide an alternative to core academic classes.   They are the elementary school teachers who create a stable foundation for the rest of your child’s education.

So yes, these are difficult times for me to go to work each day, wondering what my job will look like next year, what my school will look like, and what my son and his friends can expect to find as they end years of anticipation for junior high life.  These are difficult times for my daughter and her friends as they see the end of their high school years and now look forward to skyrocketing college tuition and challenging admission processes.

These are difficult times to see highly qualified professionals being released from their service.  These are difficult times to answer the probing questions from my students.  These are difficult times when I find myself questioning my 21-year career in education, and wondering how much longer it will last.

So I’m sorry, Mom.  It’s difficult to explain this sometimes.  It’s really difficult to see the opportunity here, but I’m trying.

I hope it makes you feel better to know that when I walk into my class each day, I smile.  That part is not difficult at all.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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