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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our
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August 29, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Back to school in the Blackboard Jungle
An Oscar-nominated take on teaching in NYC, and one of Sidney Poitier’s early films.
August 26, 2008
Words of wisdom for teachers from around the web
What does NBA player Tim Duncan have to do with teaching? ##http://thejosevilson.com/blog/2008/08/05/a-letter-to-a-new-nyc-teaching-fellow/##It's all about the poker face, says Jose Vilson.## The start of school is fast-approaching, and teachers around the "edusphere" are offering advice to newbies. Here in NYC, Jose Vilson writes a sharp, good-humored letter to new Teaching Fellows, advising them to be humble, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, observe other teachers, keep emotions in check, and stay out of school politics. Coach Brown, starting his eighth year in California, says it's all about doing what's best for kids, and this takes hard work, preparation, finding your own style of teaching, and knowing how to pick your battles. Don't waste your students' time, he warns: Students are some of the best judges of good teaching that exist. 95% of all students actually want to learn. They tell you in means that are not typical but will tell you immediately if you are doing it "wrong". ...However, students will always have a positive response to work they find meaningful. Jamie Huston, a high school literature teacher in Las Vegas, offers 50 Things New Teachers Need to Know.
August 26, 2008
New strategy for middle school engagement: iPods for all
iPod Touch by ##http://flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/##Mike Rohde## Looks like I was born too soon — my middle school is considering giving an iPod touch to…
August 25, 2008
Department of Education welcomes teachers
<em>The PS 22 Chorus performing last year at the Tribute WTC Museum. Courtesy of ##http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com##PS 22 Chorus##</em> "A week from tomorrow, the games begin," Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience of a few hundred teachers at a welcome event this morning at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Speaking of New York City students as "my kids," Klein encouraged teachers to "teach them well and they will do well on these exams." In addition to speeches by Klein, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and others, the event featured performances by city students, including the music of the PS 22 chorus from Staten Island, double dutch by Stan's Pepper Steppers, and foxtrot, swing, and mambo by the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company. Pointing to the accomplishments of his fifth grade choristers, music teacher and chorus director Gregg Breinberg told the audience, "I know many of you are entering the profession, and I just want to tell you — reach, reach, reach." Other speakers echoed that message of high expectations for students — and for oneself as a teacher. "Quite frankly, we don't have room for so-so teachers, we don't have room for that mediocrity in our schools," Deputy Chancellor Marcia Lyles said. She recalled the way her sixth grade teacher made each child feel like her favorite. Lyles honored 33 teachers chosen for the Gotham Graduates Give Back Award, a $1,000 prize given to select teachers who graduated from New York City public schools.
August 22, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: School Day
A little rock’n’roll as summer comes to a close……
August 21, 2008
How do you decide what’s developmentally appropriate?
How do you know when something is developmentally appropriate? asks the Science Goddess. My first thought was, I'll bet Daniel T. Willingham has addressed this one. Willingham, from the University of Virginia, writes a regular column in American Educator called "Ask the Cognitive Scientist," and sure enough, his column this summer asks, "What is developmentally appropriate practice?" Willingham writes that research has disproved some key assumptions behind the "developmentally appropriate" concept. The problem is that cognitive development does not seem amenable to a simple descriptive set of principles that teachers can use to guide their instruction. Far from proceeding in discrete stages with pervasive effects, cognitive development appears to be quite variable--depending on the child, the task, even the day (since children may solve a problem correctly one day and incorrectly the next).
August 21, 2008
An interactive whiteboard for the DIY teacher
(And really, what other kind of teacher is there?) Via DC Education Blog, instructions for making your own interactive whiteboard using a Wiimote, an…
August 21, 2008
More resources for creating a safe, productive school environment
With the start of the school year fast approaching, and the list of "persistently dangerous" schools released yesterday by the state, student behavior is on the mind of many educators and parents. New and returning teachers alike plan procedures and systems to help their students focus on learning, and many wonder how they will be supported as they try to create a positive classroom environment. Class rules, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindah/113841605/##LindaH##</em> In response to last week's post about restorative justice, a reader sent me a link to the Dignity In Schools website, which includes an annotated list of resources for schools that want to implement strong, positive behavior management systems, improve family involvement, and make schools safer. Worth a look; I could imagine whole schools or grade teams coming together to study and implement some of these ideas.
August 20, 2008
Wanted: An urban planning activist-educator for LivableStreets.com
Anyone who’s spent time observing children watch “Sesame Street” or “Blue’s Clues” knows that kids enjoy learning most when topics are made fun for…
August 15, 2008
Restorative justice: An alternative method to make schools safer?
Yesterday's Student Safety Act rally brings to light the need to explore alternatives to policing for making schools safer. Few would dispute the need for school safety agents to handle the most serious incidents of violence, but what options exist for resolving the low-level incidents that characterize many school environments and make students feel unsafe on a day-to-day basis? Could school safety agents and others in schools play a different role in resolving conflicts? Finally, how can schools prevent problems and resolve underlying issues? This post takes a look at one possibility — expect more in coming weeks. What is restorative justice? An article about restorative justice in Rethinking Schools describes what happened when a student who broke a window at Humanities Prep in Manhattan went before the school's "Fairness Committee": During that session, the members of the committee found out that the day before he broke the window, his family received notice that they were being kicked out of their shelter and had no place to go. While this did not fully excuse his actions, we were able to discuss more fully and fairly what the consequences should be, as well as discuss more constructive ways to deal with anger. We jointly decided that he needed to give back to the school community in some way. Knowing that it would be ridiculous to ask a student who was homeless to pay for the window, we all agreed he would help answer the phone after school for a month. In the meantime, his advisor and the school social worker were able to reach out to his family and offer support. If the fairness committee had been a systematic, rigid mechanism, we would not have been able to brainstorm these solutions. "Restorative justice" refers to interventions like that conference that facilitate discussion among the offending student, those harmed by his or her actions, and others with significant relationships to either the victim or offender, such as family members. The process seeks to make the offender aware of the harm he or she has caused, take responsibility for it, and try to repair that harm to the extent possible by making reparation to the victim or community.
August 13, 2008
Online student-teacher friendships: pedagogically sound or just too risky?
Research shows that when teachers develop personal connections with their students, often by sharing information about their personal experiences and feelings, their…
August 11, 2008
Texting: the next big thing in balanced literacy? j/k!
Forget safety or motivation – the real reason to give a child a cell phone is to promote literacy. Newsweek reports that…
August 8, 2008
Manhattan Free School bringing “democratic” education to the East Village this fall
Brooklyn Free School on YouTube. The new private schools mentioned in this week’s Times article about growing demand for private school kindergarten spots all…
August 7, 2008
On using models, drafts, and peer critiques in the classroom…
I think people are afraid of candor with kids because they feel like they don’t want to fight with them; they don’t want to hurt their feelings; they don’t want to step on them. I think that’s a big mistake. I don’t think clarity and candor means meanness or hurting kids’ feelings. If you can be very specific about what’s working in a piece of work and equally specific about what’s weak, it’s a gift to the student who created it. So says Ron Berger in a thought-provoking interview in UnBoxed, "a journal of reflections on purpose, practice and policy in education" published by the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. Berger, of Expeditionary Learning Schools, thinks student projects should be organized around the concept of "crafting beautiful work," with the teacher using models of excellent work, peer critiques like those practiced in writing and art workshops for adults, and multiple drafts to help students create something truly masterful. Berger says that his ideas were informed by his experiences in the arts and architecture: As a self-employed carpenter I designed homes and additions, and you would never do blueprints for anything without an incredible amount of critique from the homeowners, from engineers, from other builders, from architects. That process of many different iterations of the project and many improvements along the way was the ethic of what we did. And that ethic, of being a craftsman and carpenter and trying to do things really well, certainly spilled over into my sense of what a classroom should be.
July 29, 2008
Children’s literature controversies, then & now…
I was very interested to learn from last week's New Yorker that some of the first public libraries for children were right here in New York City; the first in 1896 at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, followed in the early 1900s by a Central Children's Room at the New York Public Library and children's programs at the NYPL branch libraries. Anne Carroll Moore, who founded the Children's Library at Pratt and went on to run the Department of Works for Children at NYPL, also reviewed children's books, playing a decisive role in creating and shaping the field of children's literature. E.B. White and his wife, Katharine White, who wrote reviews for the New Yorker, tussled with Moore over what was appropriate for and appealling to children.
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