Philosophy of Education at a School

The Academy will prepare elementary school students for rigorous secondary studies through exceptional foreign language programs, outstanding academics, and rich extracurricular activities. Its innovative interdisciplinary programs will instill within its graduates a global perspective.

Based on a pressing community need as described by local parents and community leadership, the Academy will prepare students in grades K-6 for both knowledge-based careers and lives as members of a democratic society through classwork that emphasizes global awareness and continual enrollment in foreign language classes.

This is the philosophy of education of a charter school. I took the above from a website and removed the name, but honestly is it any different from most schools? Are they really saying anything?

Rigorous – a word without a clear meaning

Outstanding academics – has anyone really believed that schools would skimp on the academics?

Rich extracurricular activities – I love how this is a bonus in charter schools, but an extra available for cutting in public schools.

Prepare students for knowledge based careers; lives as members of a democratic society; and global awareness (through foreign language) – I think this is part of the mission statement of every school in the country.

When we think philosophy of education why are we thinking content? Why don’t we think of method of delivering content? Especially at a charter school.

Try this for a philosophy at your school – We will meet our mission blah, blah, blah, all the stuff above, through classrooms that emphasize student independence, project based learning, critical thinking, measured through informal formative measures daily. Graded through student portfolios.

Or perhaps that is too liberal and wishy-washy. Your school would rather emphasize a back to the basics curriculum. – We will meet our mission blah, blah, blah, all the stuff above, through strict classroom discipline, expert content delivery, measured through objective testing, and graded through accomplishment.

Now which school would you like to send your child too? Better yet rewrite a school philosophy that works for you.


School Reform

School reform. The idea pushed by some is that we can rate teachers by effectiveness those measured as least effective are to be fired and replaced with effective teachers.

First question: How do you rate the effectiveness of teachers? Value added measurements has been proposed, but of course is statistically inaccurate. Principals of course could observe and rate teachers. That has been done for years and as it turns out upwards of 90% of all teachers are rated effective. At first glance, this sounds wrong, until you realize that while a teacher may be the most influential person in a child’s educational life that influence only goes so far.

Second question: How do we find better teachers? Are the students who get the highest grades the best? Are those with the most content knowledge the best?

Third question: If we replace 10% of the teachers this year and scores don’t improve do we replace 10% again next year? Do we give the new teachers a grace period to learn how to teach?

Really, this whole thing has been an excuse to show this clip from Torchwood?

Keeping Kids Safe

Do we keep our children too safe?

Not long ago I wrote a post about a teacher who was fired for posting a picture on Facebook. Not only was she fired, but I had a few friends mention that they thought it was pretty gutsy of me to repost the picture.

I get what they are saying. As public educators, we are held to higher standards than the general public. We need to recognize that much of our public lives are going to have to be G rated.

On the other hand, I am an adult and at least part of my life has adult situations. This blog, for instance, is not meant for kids. Instead, it is written for an audience of teachers. My kids have no wish to read this blog, but I wouldn’t dream of blocking it. I wouldn’t post a picture of myself in a compromising position, but I feel it is appropriate to use someone else’s digital citizenship mistake to encourage discussion. However, that is not the point I want to make today.

Last week we had a great discussion about teenagers and the internet. This particular teenager had some extra difficulties, but what was most amazing is how many of the warning signs she exhibited could so easily have been mistaken for normal behavior. Take an hour and watch the video if you haven’t yet.

Suddenly, I see digital literacy and digital citizenship not only as important subjects for students to learn, (How many promising careers, college scholarships, or relationship have been seriously damaged by posting the wrong things online?) but now it can be as touchy as teaching health to middle students. I can protect my students from most outside threats, but how to I protect them from themselves? It is both the reason for teaching digital skills and the danger.

He Grabbed her Breast; She Posted it to Facebook

Laraine Cook, was fired as girls basketball coach at Pocatello High School  Her fiance Tom Harrison, a football coach at the same high school was reprimanded. All because of this picture. breastAccording to Huffington Post, she was fired because she posted the photo. So here are my questions:

  • Can the picture be that offensive if a national website is posting it?
  • Yes, teachers are held to a higher standard than the average person, but is this too far or not far enough?
  • Do you think the school district was right in firing her?
  • Should her fiance been fired also?
  • Is the school actually being sexist?
  • Yes, she is a role model for young girls, must role models always be virginal?
  • He is a role model for young boys, is he being held to that same standard?
  • As an educator myself should I get into trouble for re-posting this picture?
  • Who is the girl in the back? Should she get into trouble also?

Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to be Tough

Originally Joanne Lipman, wrote the article Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results. I was not impressed, as I feel motivating students can be done more effectively through finding and stimulating a students intrinsic motivations.

Nancy Flannigan responded with a great article in Education Week, Gettin’ Tough! Or Not.

I think she responded better than I could have. However, A friend in G+ asked me to expand a bit and so I did. While I am not so sure I want to reveal my inadequacies as a teacher to the general public, sometimes I think that is a good thing to do.

Debbie Morrison asked, “do you think parents object to teachers’ methods seen as heavy handed?”

My answer:

I would, as a parent, pull my child from a classroom like that.

My philosophy is that people who use those tactics don’t know better or believe they are useful motivational methods.

It is true that I have in the past, and occasionally still do, use some form of coercion to get the students to follow my directions. Nothing along the lines of what this music teacher had done, never name calling or poking with a pencil. I have, however, found myself leaning toward a student and raising my voice. (A subconscious use of size and authority to intimidate)

Always, always, always after having lost composure like that I have regretted it and realized that if I had kept calm I could have found a better solution that did not involve me forcing a student to follow MY rules.

I like to think of it as being “smarter” than the students. I’m the teacher and I planned the events of the day, I should also plan for students choosing not to follow my plan.

In the end I think of these methods of student management as the beginning form of violence. And that leads me to one of my favorite quotes, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” spoken by Salvor Hardin a  character in Isaac Asimov’s book Foundation.

I don’t feel I am an incompetent teacher and thus I should not have to resort to these methods. Of course I always add a bit of my own to the end and that is “Not everyone is competent all the time”

Crush Their Spirits

LinkedIn has a new Inspiration Index (The LinkedIn Inspiration Index #InspirationIndex)

All it is, is a simple slider. You set where you feel your level of inspiration lies.

I’m an educator and my experience and particular position allows me a fair amount of innovation in my work. I feel this inspires me. I sometimes see kids learning cool stuff, sometimes I see teachers doing amazing things. Other times I get stuck planning or doing paperwork. But even then it isn’t always drudgery (sometimes lesson planning is very creative).

What bothers me is this:

What do we do to uninspire young men?

What do we do to uninspire young men?
Screencapture from on 7/30/2013

Not only that but after women come of age there is a dramatic fall in their inspiration.

Screencapture from 7/30/2013

Screencapture from 7/30/2013

Are we crushing the spirits of our boys in school and just trusting that the real word will do the same for our girls? Should we have to wait until our 70′s to start feeling inspired again?

Yeah I know it isn’t an unbiased poll, but it does bring up questions about quality of life, education, and socialization.

Tough School


I have known for a long time that public schools, especially the ones in Chicago are doing a better job than most people give them credit for.


Like this post from four years ago. “many students feel safer in their classrooms than outside of them. ”


Today I finished listening to part two of a This American Life broadcast about Harper High School.


HarperHS_ServiceDay_Aug1_2011_JBarr (31)

HarperHS_ServiceDay_Aug1_2011_JBarr (31) (Photo credit: cityyear)


Did you watch “Waiting for Superman”? I didn’t, I figured it for a bunch of propagandist crap. These teachers though; these teachers, councilors, principals, security guards, they are superman. For the children of this school they might just be the only thing standing between them and the abyss.



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