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Voice of Experience

Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! classroom moment in the Education World Voice of Experience column.

Creating a Better World
Felicia Arnold reflects on the mandate of the 60s. Did the baby boomers in fact make this a better world?

Could I Pass the Haberman "Star Teacher" Test?
Martin Haberman's research reveals that not just anyone can or should teach in high-poverty schools. Brenda Dyck decided to see if she has what it takes! She took Haberman's "Star Teacher" test, and now she shares the results.

The Mentor as Learner: Classroom Veterans Stand to Learn a Thing of Two from Student Teachers
Educator Arnold Pulda reflects on a couple of mentoring experiences. The first was a pretty dismal failure, but his second attempt at mentoring a student teacher taught him a thing or two about teaching. Included: Why two such different experiences?

Readiness Differentiation: Daring to Get Back on My Bike
Max Fischer compares his first steps at creating a differentiated classroom to learning to ride a bike. Differentiating without drawing attention to students' ability levels has been the biggest challenge.

Do You Have What It Takes to Teach in a High-Poverty School?
If better teaching causes more learning, is it ethical for excellent teachers to refuse to teach in high-poverty schools? Brenda Dyck ponders this sticky question. Plus! Take a "test" to learn if you have what it takes to teach in a high-poverty setting.

Those Who Can, Do TEACH!
Max Fischer recently attended a local Chamber of Commerce meeting. The evening's motivational speaker got Max thinking about how successful businesses people and successful teachers have much more in common than either of them might think.

Can We Teach Social Conscience?
Brenda Dyck examines whether social conscience is caught or taught. She shares how a recent project about homelessness helped reshape some -- but not all -- of her students' mental models.

Adjusting to Accountability
Has the No Child Left Behind Act changed how you teach? Educator Max Fischer says it has affected what and how he teaches. NCLB's emphasis on testing means he has to pace his teaching differently. He's changed the format of the tests he creates for students too.

Learning to Cope With Larger Classes
Max Fischer reflects on the difficulty of dealing with significant increases in class size. The inclination might be to become "the sage on a stage," but Fischer hasn't given up on strategies and best practices mastered during his national board experience.

Advice for Future Teachers: Five Questions to Consider
A former sixth-grade student recently approached Max Fischer. After teaching at the college level, Fischer's former student was considering a transition to teaching in a public high school. Included: Five questions to consider before making the switch.

Add Literature -- and Life -- to Content Instruction
Max Fischer bemoans his sterilized history text. Were it not for that text, however, he might not have been forced to "discover" the value of bringing quality literature into his history classroom. Included: Sources of quality literature.

Me? A Teacher-Researcher?
Brenda Dyck examines the place teacher-research has in the classroom and how it can develop into a kind of "dance" between students, teachers, and learning. Included: Web sites to help teachers learn more about becoming teacher-researchers.

The Italian Adventures of an "Average, Every-Day Teacher"
Educator Brenda Dyck shares news of a recent 3-day journey to Rome where she was treated like royalty as she took home an international award. Dyck shares her fairytale adventure -- one all teachers should experience! -- in this Voice of Experience essay.ith the principal. Included: Five commonsense tips.

When You Disagree With the Principal, Don't Stew in Your "Whine"
Teachers and principals don't always agree. In this week's Voice of Experience, Max Fischer offers a refresher course on handling disagreements with the principal. Included: Five commonsense tips.

Power Words: Using Positive Words to Energize Your Students
In the classroom, positive reinforcement is easier to talk about than it is to carry out. Brenda Dyck shares a classroom tradition that celebrates the uniqueness and potential of each child. "What I See in You" time is one of the most special times in her classroom.

The "Art" of Comprehension
If it wasn't for Howard Gardner's multiple-intelligence theory, educator Max Fischer might never have seen how art can be used to increase student comprehension of content reading material. Included: Ideas for using pictographs, storyboards, graphic organizers.

Without Professionalism, It Could Always Be Worse
Thirty-year educator Max Fischer reflects on these trying times in education. When he gets to grousing, he tries to remember that things could always be worse...

About Stephen... and Fresh Starts
The promise of a successful year is the hope of every student and teacher. Educator Brenda Dyck shares the story of Stephen and ponders the importance of offering a fresh start to every student who enters her classroom.

Professional Development: Following Your Own Lead
As schools move full-tilt towards a professional development model more attuned to collegial school-wide goals, educator Brenda Dyck explores the need to balance that model with one that recognizes the professional goals of individual teachers.

When Students Rock the Boat, I'm the "Master and Commander" of My Classroom
Max Fischer has learned about dealing with student outbursts and insubordination. Past experience has taught him to remain calm in a storm; to be "Master and Commander" of his emotions. Included: Tips for keeping control when the classroom "ship" is sinking.

Education Conferences: Goin' It Alone
Budget cuts are forcing many teachers into the uncomfortable position of attending educational conferences on their own. Educator Brenda Dyck shares how going solo to a conference can be frightening -- and unexpectedly enjoyable.

Teamwork Counts (A Lot!)
Max Fischer draws parallels between his days as a high school football player and his role on a team responsible for creating an IEP that will get to the bottom of a student's learning issues. In both cases, teamwork is key; no room exists for prima donnas.

Is Differentiation the Answer to the Tracking Debate?
As Max Fischer tries to transform his classroom into the "differentiated" model experts describe, he's confronting some roadblocks. Is it possible to achieve the model, he wonders? How much different will his classroom look a year from now?

Log On to a Blog
Emerging online communication tools have the potential to unleash a new level of creative thought in the classroom. Educator Brenda Dyck shares her recent experiences with an online journaling tool called a blog. Included: Blogging resources.

Another Look at "No Child Left Behind" (Year Two)
Max Fischer takes another look at No Child Left Behind. He updates his initial reactions -- published a year ago -- and takes a close look at the positive impacts the law has had in his own district and classroom. Included: Join a discussion about NCLB's "positives."

Gaga Over Google: Photo Images Bring Lessons to Life
You probably know about the Google search tool, but have you made use of Google's image search engine? Max Fischer thinks Google's image library is a virtual goldmine. Included: Ideas for using Google's image search tool to bring lessons to life.

Poetry Writing: A Comprehension Tool Across the Curriculum
Educator Max Fischer's most recent Aha! moment came when he let students use poetry to demonstrate their comprehension of the history curriculum. Now Fischer has one more tool for engaging students, one more tool for his growing "bag of tricks."

Tackling Big Projects: No Wonder Students Get Frustrated!
Have you ever wondered why some students begin project work with a bang that soon fizzles out? Brenda Dyck has been working on a grad course; that experience has helped her reflect on the role emotions play in student -- and adult -- learning projects.

Meat and Potatoes vs. Souffl (or My Great In-Service Adventure)
Educator max Fischer recently presented three different in-service sessions in a single day. In this Voice essay, he reflects on the planning and outcomes of those presentations, and encourages others to give doing an in-service a try!

Student-Centered Learning: The First Steps Are the Hardest Ones
Educator Melba Smithwick never had much difficulty adopting new ideas. But when a principal encouraged her to give students more say in their learning, Smithwick hesitated. Included: Smithwick shares those first, tentative steps.

No-Grade Assignments Open Up Student-Teacher Communication
Educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on the enormous influence teachers have on the kids they teach -- if channels of communication remain open. Providing opportunities for student expression -- with no strings (no grades!) attached -- is a key to opening those communication lines.

Some Classroom "Dilemmas" Are Beneficial
Max Fischer shares his experiences using moral dilemmas to bring classroom lessons to life. Discussions of dilemmas tied to his curriculum challenge students to think critically as they reflect on history. Dilemmas teach many other skills too.

Three Differences Between Teaching and Administration
Educator Arnold Pulda reflects on his move from the classroom to administration. There are big differences, he says, but the most important thing administrators need to know is that they can never -- must never -- forget where they came from.

Most Direct Route to Parents Is an E-Line
Educator Max Fischer has been doing a little independent research on the effectiveness of phone calls, written progress reports, and e-mail in raising student achievement. Which communication method do you think he and his teaching teammates found to be most effective?

"I Never Knew I Could Be A Hero": Thoughts on Service Learning
To educator Kathie Marshall, service learning is an effective strategy for engaging students' interest in the curriculum and in their community. She offers ideas and resources for implementing service learning in any classroom on a shoestring budget.

Downshifting: Teaching (for Understanding) in a Lower Gear
An expanding curriculum and high-stakes testing drives many teachers to just "cover the curriculum." Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on the place "slow teaching" has in a speed-teaching world. Included: A lesson Mrs. Miller taught me in second grade.

Planning for a Substitute Was Never This Easy
Unhappy with inconsistent results and lousy reports from substitutes, educator Bob Brems came up with a new strategy for his planned days off. He turns over the teaching reins to one of his students. Included: Tips for planning for student-as-teacher days.

The Importance of Mentors, or What I Learned from Harold
Max Fischer remembers Harold, the teacher next door when Max was a first-year teacher. That was long before formalized mentor programs were the norm. Fischer shares what he learned from Harold and from his own experiences mentoring new teachers.

Where Have All the Staff Rooms Gone?
As working lunches become the norm in schools, educator Brenda Dyck reflects on a time when the staff room was the hub of the teaching community. Included: Ideas for improving social networks and teaming in your school.

Searching
For Voices

Care to reflect on a classroom experience that opened your eyes? We are always looking for educators like you who are willing to share their "Voice of Experience." If you would like to write about an Aha! classroom moment -- one that caused you to reflect on and improve your classroom teaching practices -- click here to learn more.

Making a Difference Is What It's All About
Educator Max Fischer reflects on a turning point in his career. He didn't realize what teaching was all about until his eighth year in the profession. No wonder so many young teachers leave before they have five years under their belts!

Teacher -- Alias Telementor
Opportunity is often difficult to recognize and it frequently takes the form of an interruption or additional work. This week, Brenda Dyck shares a teaching opportunity that opened her eyes to the potential we have to influence students via the Internet.

Viable Unions Depend on You
When Max Fischer was a new teacher he shied away from the teacher union. Today, he is vice president of his local. It is with good reason -- a handful of good reasons, as a matter of fact -- that he says he will always be an active member.

Pop Fiction No Match For Classic Literature
Educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on the growing trend of assigning pop fiction in place of the classics; many teachers do it to keep students happy. Modenbach suggests that teaching classic literature is worth the extra effort on students' and teachers' parts.

Classroom Instruction -- It's About the Journey, Not Racing to the Finish
The No Child Left Behind Act and achievement tests that test the entire wide curriculum require teachers like Max Fischer to get control of the curriculum; to examine how best to create learning experiences that make important concepts memorable.

Put On Your (Six) Thinking Hats!
Want to move your students' thinking from the predictable to the profound? Educator Brenda Dyck describes a powerful thinking tool that will help students approach problem solving in innovative ways.

Video Time Machine Engages Students, Energizes Curriculum
Teacher Max Fischer uses his video time machine -- a VCR with snippets of movies that offer teachable moments -- to bring Ancient Rome and other parts of his history curriculum to life. Included: Guidelines for selecting video clips.

Your Professional Development: Let Your Fingers Do the Walking!
Many teachers, taking ownership of their own professional development, have found innovative and cost-efficient ways to improve classroom practices. Educator Brenda Dyck uncovers a number of exciting online resources to assist and support teachers.

Curb Cheating With Prevention Strategies
Educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on changes she has seen in students' attitudes toward cheating. Included: The ounce-of-prevention strategies she uses to curb the potential for cheating.

Taming the Three T's
The anonymous quote Hold a tight rein over the three T's -- thought, temper and tongue -- and you will have few regrets got Max Fischer thinking about what happens when teachers let go of their control of any of the three.

Surprised By Reading -- Confessions of a Math Teacher
Time pressures and accountability have caused many educators to cut back on -- or cut out -- reading aloud to students. Teacher Brenda Dyck reflects on the power of reading aloud. Included: Resources to help teachers re-establish read-alouds.

Teachers' "Antennae" Help Them Better Understand At-Risk Students
Educator Kathie Marshall makes an extra effort to know the "whole student," including outside issues that affect student performance. She shares strategies -- including informal inventories and letter-writing -- that help to open up teacher-student communication.

"Fabulous Friday" Sparks Creativity and Learning
Would this new lesson help teacher Susan Lovelace make the leap from the sage's stage? Or would it fall flat on its face? The learning and creativity Lovelace saw -- and the confidence boost it gave students -- made "Fabulous Friday" the ultimate literature lesson.

Tips of Welcoming Parent Volunteers Into Your Classroom
Educator Peggy Cramer reflects on her use of parent volunteers in the classroom. Teachers who don't take advantage of parents as a resource are missing out, she says. Included: A volunteer invitation letter, activities, tips, more.

Advance Planning: A Valuable Lesson I Learned From the Loch Ness Monster
Peggy Levins learned a valuable lesson from the Loch Ness Monster. Now, each year, Levins takes time at the start of the year to do some advance planning. Included: Tips for planning ahead that will give you time to teach the curriculum without sacrificing the fun.

A New Spin On Back-to-School Night
As educators re-examine the purpose, relevance, and appeal of Back-to-School Night, Brenda Dyck describes a new model where students take the lead and adults step back and follow. Included: Ideas for planning a student-led Back-to-School Night.

Rules Are Back in Style
Ron Clarks's best-selling book, The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules..., has educator Brenda Dyck reflecting on the resurgence of classroom rules. Included: Tips, Web resources for personalizing your classroom rules.

Alleviating Appraisal Anxiety: Lessons Learned from 29 Years of Evaluations
Max Fischer has taught for 29 years, but he still gets a little nervous each time he is observed! Over the years, however, Fischer has learned a lot about reducing anxiety during observation and appraisal time.

Summer: Time to Regenerate
People who joke about teachers having summers off are clueless! In this week's Voice of Experience essay, Max Fischer reflects on the key role summertime plays in restoring tattered psyches, reviving tired lessons, and regenerating passion.

Of "No Child Left Behind" and Blueberries
Max Fischer has worked for a year under the shadow of the No Child Left Behind Act. Now he feels the need to react, to point out what's really needed in order to "leave no child behind." It's all about blueberries!

How to Keep the Fire Burning (Or Lessons Learned from Edith, the Kids, and "the Fear")
In this week's Voice of Experience essay, Max Fischer shares how, after almost 30 years as a classroom teacher, he keeps things fresh -- for himself and for his students. Where does he get his inspiration? He says it comes from the students, "the Fear," and Edith!

Connecting Our Students to Their Past -- A World War I Project
With so few veterans of WWI still alive, who will make sure the world remembers? Brenda Dyck shares how primary and secondary resources became the vehicle for connecting her students to some of history's most important lessons.

It's Quittin' Time!
Some teachers seem to give up on teaching earlier and earlier each year. Teacher Brenda Dyck looks at ways to keep students learning until the last minute of the last day. Included: Ideas for making the last few days of school more meaningful.

Make Time to Teach: Ten Tools for Reducing Paperwork
What happens when paperwork starts to crowd out time with students? Is there a way to streamline the forms that can take over a teacher's life? Educator Brenda Dyck has found ten online tools that help her reduce paperwork and give her more time to teach.

Finding "New Cheese" Requires Adjustment To Change
So many education mandates fail because they lack the teeth to move teachers' "cheese." Will the No Child Left Behind Act be different? Educator Max Fischer has high hopes that NCLB has the teeth to support teachers and bring about real change for students.

Handling Parent Complaints -- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Seasoned teachers will recognize all three types of parents -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- described in this week's Voice essay. Less seasoned teachers will learn from educator Max Fischer's thoughts about how to handle all types of parent complaints.

Revisiting Walden Pond in 2003
If your students were to head for a modern-day Walden Pond, what would they take with them? Kathleen Modenbach shares an activity that helped her students grasp Thoreau's sacrifices and appreciate his work. Included: Cross-curricular activities extend the lesson.

Written Communication: An Educator's Calling Card
Today -- with the proliferation of e-mail, classroom Web pages, and newsletters -- a teacher's writing ability is more important than ever. Max Fischer wonders What do your written communications with parents say about you? Included: Writing tips.

When Molding Minds Gets Messy
The war in Iraq has educator Brenda Dyck probing the heavy responsibilities that go along with shaping -- without bias -- the minds of students. Included: Resources to help teachers facilitate discussions that can help students reach their own conclusions about the war.

Looking At Your Students in the Future Tense
Brenda Dyck reflects on a night spent watching some of her former students perform before an audience. She wonders how she might have missed some of the potential she saw realized in them. Plus: Links to articles that shed light on the middle school years.

Back from the Iditarod: Teaching Is a Lot Like Mushing!
Educator Jeanie Olson is home from her trip to the 2003 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. As she reflects on her Alaskan adventure, she sees quite a few similarities between the skills it takes to be a dog sled musher and a classroom teacher!

Middle Schools Are Getting a Bum Rap
A recent USA Today news story took a few swipes at middle schools. In this weeks Voice essay, educator Max Fischer defends the middle school concept against its critics and nay-sayers. Included: Five components of a successful middle school.

Service Projects Help Students Find Their Voices
Educator Brenda Dyck describes a service project in which her middle school students participated. She reflects on how she might be able to take the passion and energy they demonstrated for that project and apply it to the prescribed curriculum.

Choice -- The Ultimate Tool for Engaging and Empowering Students
Educator Max Fischer recalls a childhood trip to East Germany. In 1966, life in that country stood in stark contrast to the freedom of choice he enjoyed in his life. Today, Fischer provides his students with choices in projects, writing assignments, and tests. Choice is "the avenue to empowerment," Fischer says.

Student Disinterest: Is it Curable?
What happens when students "check out" of the learning process? Is it an educator's job to re-engage them? If so, how can that be accomplished? This week, educator Brenda Dyck reflects on some ways to tackle the sticky problem of student disinterest.

The Power of Written Praise
Being roused from a sound sleep by a parent can be a rude awakening. But in one case it got educator Max Fischer reflecting about the power of written praise to raise student achievement. Included: Six reasons to put praise for students in writing!

Seeing is Believing -- Harnessing Online Video Clips to Enhance Learning
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on the Net as a valuable source of video that brings history to life for her students. For students of the video- and technology-age, seeing is believing! Included: Dyck recommends great sources of online video!

The Schoolhouse Rocks: Using Music to Engage Learning
Educator Max Fischer reflects on the first time he used pop music lyrics in the classroom. Since then Fischer has found many ways to introduce music -- from the Rolling Stones to Steve Martin -- to achieve learning objectives. Included: Tips for getting started.

A Poetry Slam Cures the Blahs
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on how she uses a poetry-slam event to focus her students. She shares how they took this 1980s art form and turned it into an opportunity to connect with their peers and teachers. Included: Benchmarks for student presentations.

"No Child Left Behind" Places Premium on Reading Instruction in Content Areas
Every teacher is a teacher of reading, and the No Child Left Behind Act is about to make that more obvious than ever! But what about teachers who haven't had a reading course since their undergrad days? Included: Strategies for teaching reading in the content areas!

Chess, Anyone? -- Chess As an Essential Teaching Tool
Educator Brenda Dyck contemplates whether smart kids play chess or chess makes kids smart as she considers the integration of chess into the curriculum. Included: Links to resources and research about the impact of chess on students' skills, thinking and organizational abilities, and self-esteem.

Wouldn't It Be Nice to Have a Computer Lab With Working Computers?
Educator Kathleen Modenbach wonders why so little money in the budget is devoted to maintaining the large investment schools have made in computer technology. But Modenbach is making the best of the situation Included: Modenbach finds a silver lining!

Voice of Experience: Teaching Religion in Public Schools: Removing the Angst
Do you run from any mention of religion in your public school classroom? How do you escape that during this month of holy celebrations? Educator Max Fischer has been thinking about this issue, and his thoughts might help relieve some of your angst.

Fighting 1960s Mental Models of the Perfect Classroom -- and the Perfect Mom
Brenda Dyck reflects on her mental models of the 1960's classroom and 1960's mom. Those models still haunt her from time to time, even though she knows they won't prepare her students -- or her own kids -- for the world they will face.

Handling Difficult Students: Lessons from Mrs. G
Educator Perri Gibbons pays tribute to teacher Deb Graudins, whose measured, consistent approach with the most challenging students -- and her genuine care for them -- wins respect from students and colleagues alike. It's an approach all educators can learn from.

In Search of National Board Certification: One Teacher's Perspective
Considering a bid for National Board Certification? Educator Max Fischer shares his experience. It was the most challenging -- and rewarding -- teaching exercise of his career. Included: Fischer's tips.

Your Students -- No Two Are Alike
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on how she focuses the first weeks of instruction on helping students become familiar with their learning strengths. Surveys and activities help students learn which intelligences they favor. These beginning-of-the-year activities will be revisited throughout the school year.

What I've Learned About Cultivating Parent Involvement
Educator Max Fischer has found that successful teaching often hinges on employing a wide variety of instructional methods to meet student needs. In this Voice of Experience essay, Fischer reflects on how getting parents involved in their students' education also requires a variety of approaches.

Driven By Data: What It's Like to Teach in the Age of Accountability
Brenda Dyck reflects on how collecting data has become an essential part of teaching. But data collection often can become such an obsession that it actually gets in the way of student learning. Included: Eight questions to help determine if data gathering will be worth the effort.

Lessons Learned from Howard Gardner and the TV Remote Control
This week, educator Max Fischer's first days in a middle school classroom -- after years at the elementary level -- were eye-openers. Would he ever be able to reach the students whose "deadpan stares, wet-noodle postures, and other lethargic body language screamed Go ahead, make me learn! I dare you!'"?

Reaching the Hard-to-Reach Student
This week, educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on her summer "vacation." Like most teachers, summer is a time to reflect on the school year just ended and come up with new ideas for improving learning in the year ahead. Modenbach has been thinking a lot about how she might do a better job of reaching her hard-to-reach students.

Yearlong Themes Spur Learning and Fun!
In this week's Voice of Experience column, educator Cindy Farnum shares her thoughts about using a yearlong theme to motivate students and create fun in the classroom. She shares a bunch of ideas from her "plant-astic" plant theme and seeks your help with her latest theme idea.

Teachers As Writers: Have You Been Thinking About Publishing Your Best Lessons?
This week, educator Max Fischer shares his experience as an author of classroom activities and lesson plans. Since 1991, Fischer has published nine books.

American Teachers: A Strength Exposed
On this September 11, educator Brenda Dyck looked back at how teachers on the MiddleWeb teacher listserv reacted to the events of a year before. President Bush was right, she concludes, when he said America's teachers were among the heroes of 9/11.

Back-to-School Survivor Day Offers Lessons About Quality Learning
Brenda Dyck recounts how her school's administrators used the Survivor TV show as a theme to strengthen teams, build camaraderie, present challenges -- and teach a few lessons about how to create a quality classroom environment for students!

Weighted Grading Can Work
Max Fischer shares his approach to grading, which takes into account all elements of his students' performance. It's a weighted system that Fischer believes truly reflects the needs of his students -- and it has the support of parents too. "No grading procedure completely shields a teacher from parental criticism," writes Fischer. "Yet, weighted grading categories offer teachers the opportunity to tailor their assessment practices to the skills they believe are most critical to student success within their classroom."

Inclusion Can Work -- Without Too Much Work!
Educator Janice Robertson shares how she looks forward to integrating special needs students into her sixth grade science classes. That was not always the case, though! The simple modifications she made to her usual teaching practices benefit all the students in her classes.

In Classroom, Computers Often Yield More Glitz Than Guts
Brenda Dyck reflects on how, in our zeal to integrate the most up-to-date technology in our classroom, we can settle for more "glitz than guts." Dyck suggests that the main goal of educators should be to move past a focus on the technology tools themselves to how those tools can be used to help students construct new knowledge and deeper understandings.

School Uniform Rules Conceal Students' Unique Identities (NOT!)
Educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on school uniform regulations at her school and on the ways in which students there have managed to circumvent those rules -- at least temporarily!

Telecollaborative Project Develops Compassion, Global Awareness
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on the power of telecollaborative learning in the lives of middle school students. These intercultural exchanges, Dyck observes, have the potential to move middle school students from complacency to compassion.

Maybe It's Time to Reform Demands We Put on Educators
Need a little inspiration? The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, has granted Education World permission to reprint "Maybe It's Time to Reform Demands We Put on Educators," by columnist David Waters. It first appeared February 21, 2001, in Waters's Faith Matters column.

Students Can Care and Comfort
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on a recent surprise. Middle school students are known for their self-absorption and apparent inability to nurture the adults in their lives. The recent death of a teacher's father, however, spurred a genuine and caring reaction from students. Recognizing this as an encouraging sign, Dyck reflects on the value of surrounding young people with adults who model care and service, an association that may ultimately equip students to take on the role of peer-comforters themselves.

Make Sure Your Contributions Really Count When Planning New Schools
Former school superintendent Ted Merritt reflects on his current work as a school planner. Envisioning classroom spaces is not always easy for teachers, so Merritt uses a couple of tools to help teachers think outside the box.

Becoming a Wired Teacher
Brenda Dyck discusses a "wired teachers" group she led in her school. Dyck was granted release time to work with teachers who signed on to be part of the group, and group members have cheered one another on to tech success. "I have a suspicion that the next time our principal asks for volunteers to join our 'wired teachers' group, we may have an onslaught response!" writes Dyck in this week's Voice of Experience.

Candy Conflict: Rules, Nutrition, and Money Clash
Kathleen Modenbach writes about how the administration in her school turned off the candy machines during lunch periods -- then turned around and gave school clubs the right to sell candy at that time. Funny -- selling candy creates potential conflicts with school rules. Not so funny because teachers have to deal with sugar highs and sugar lows. "Can the candy!" Modenbach says.

Peer Assessment Teaches Students How to Think
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on how her students have evaluated their own work and the work of others. "On several occasions, I had to remind myself that I was having a serious discussion about assessment with a group of 13-year-olds!" she writes.

Students Reach for the 'Skylights' of Learning
Educator Brenda Dyck writes in the voice of her students about her efforts to challenge them to use more thinking skills at the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy. She helps students see how those skills require a strong foundation as she builds their awareness of high-level thinking.

Time to Teach
Sue Palmer reflects on the standards (or targets) movement in the United Kingdom. "How had we let statistics become more important than children?" Palmer wonders. She has created a Web site to support her campaign to improve the quality of British primary education by returning decisions about curriculum to the professionals -- the teachers -- who know best!

Stand By Me: Using Teacher Listservs to Collaborate With Other Educators
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on the power of educator listservs. "Using the Internet, we communicate regularly, support one another unconditionally, celebrate one another's teaching successes, and mentor one another in spite of the obstacles of global separation."

Digging Beneath the Surface of Assessment
Educator Brenda Dyck reflects on a recent study that she tried to mimic with her own students. The study used students' drawings of themselves in test-taking situations to gather information about how the students feel about math, tests, and themselves. Now that Dyck has collected the data, the most important question remains: How will she use this information to create positive math experiences for her students?

Teaching With Heart
Brenda Dyck reflects on a struggling teacher with whom she is working. That work has led her to consider the common characteristics possessed by the best teachers she has observed. It's not about personality, says Dyck. Among the traits she has observed in memorable teachers are that they have a true zeal for teaching and a desire to relate to their students. But how can teachers maintain that zeal and make that connection?

Using Art to Reach and Teach
Kathleen Modenbach reflects on how art projects can be a great bridge between some students and difficult content. Modenbach recalls how an art project constructed around Romeo and Juliet spurred one special education student to ask "Did Shakespeare write anything else?" Wow!

Tossing and Turning at Test Time
Brenda Dyck reflects on the stresses of testing time in her school. Maybe you will relate to her thoughts in this week's Voice of Experience essay, which Dyck subtitles "Sleepless in Calgary"!

Portfolio Assessment: Benefits Outweigh Extra-Work Fears
Educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on her use of a streamlined writing portfolio assessment that was beneficial to her and her students -- and didn't mean a lot of extra work for her!

High Standards and Achievement Hallmark of Paideia Approach
Principal Les Potter looks back on his years at an inner-city school that adopted the Paideia approach to teaching and learning. In these days of high standards, accountability, and a focus on student achievement, Potter says, Paideia is an approach that warrants consideration.

Fragile in February
Brenda Dyck reflects on the February doldrums -- the kids have lousy attitudes and the teachers are discouraged -- and how she snaps herself out of them.

Retired Teachers Have Much to Offer
Retired teacher Joann Eldridge discusses how a new "legacy teacher" program in Worcester, Massachusetts, is the perfect vehicle for her to share 30 years of teaching experience.

Each Student Is Someone's Special Child
Teacher Brenda Dyck reflects on the perspective that parenting brings to her teaching.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now
School counselor Barbara Muller-Ackerman talks with her professional colleagues about the things they know now that they wish they had known when they started their counseling careers.

Professional Organizations Can Make a World of Difference!
In recognition of National School Counseling Week (February 4-8), school counselor Barbara Muller-Ackerman shares with us what her professional colleagues say about the value of membership in professional organizations.

Teachers Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends -- and Critics!
Teacher Ted Nellen reflects on a decision he made to publish his student-scholars' work on the Web. In doing so, he opened himself up to education critics -- but that was just the response Nellen wanted!

Curious to the Core
Brenda Dyck reflects on how curious learners can be ostracized by peers and the importance of finding strategies to rebuild those communication lines.

In Teaching, Older Is Sometimes Better
Arnold Pulda says he's a successful teacher because he started teaching later in life!

Learning Made Simple
Brenda Dyck reflects on how she came to the revelation that simplifying classroom procedures and directions was key to meeting more of her students' learning needs.

The Business of Learning: More Than Meets the Eye
Brenda Dyck expresses her amazement at being asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement -- and shares what she learned as a result. Could you be next?

Mission Impossible: The Search for the Perfect Electronic Grade Book!
Teacher Kathleen Housley searched the planet for an electronic grade book to meet her needs!

Teachers' Free Labor, Out-of-Pocket Expenses Aid School Systems
Teacher Kathleen Modenbach reflects on the free labor and out-of-pocket expense teachers willingly give. In what other profession is that the case?

Professional Conferences Reflect, Restore Passion
Brenda Dyck reflects on the importance of teacher conferences -- where educators by the hundreds share great ideas, best practices, and their passion for teaching!

The Little Reading Cafe
Brenda Dyck shares a silent-reading time plan that works!

Math Class: A Time to Stand and Deliver
Brenda Dyck didn't like math much when she was growing up. Today, Dyck teaches math! How did that come to be?

Ban Bake Sales for Books!
Teacher Rich Henderson rails against school fund-raisers!

Learning in the Dark: Building My First Web Project and Web Page
Teacher Brenda Dyck reflects on creating her first telecollaborative project -- and a Web page to go with it!

Poetry Is for Real People Like Me
Kathleen Modenbach reflects on the day a student shared a personal poem about attempted suicide.

September 11, 2001: A Personal View Just Blocks from the Attack
Ted Nellen, who lives in the shadow of the World Trade Center, shares his personal perspective on September 11.

I Found My 'Teacher Voice' and Transformed My Classroom
Arnold Pulda reflects on how a bout with cancer precipitated his transition from a "drill sergeant" who barked orders at his students to a quieter, gentler Dr. Pulda.

Homework: A Place for Rousing Reform
Brenda Dyck reflects on a year of shapeshifting -- a year in which she and her colleagues (begrudgingly, at first) came to a new understanding about the value and relevance of homework assignments.

Standards and High-Stakes Tests: Apples and Oranges
Ted Nellen has a go at high-stakes tests. Too often, high-stakes tests are used as the primary assessment tool for students, even for teachers and schools, Nellen says. He goes on to make a case for Webfolios as a much better tool for assessing students and schools than tests could ever be!

Technology in the Classroom: Games or Learning Tools?
Kathleen Housley bristles at those who see computers in the classroom as nothing more than game consoles. Housley reflects on what her fourth graders accomplished last year with the computers in her classroom. "Game consoles? Baloney!" Housley concludes.

The Gift of Time: Benefits of Teacher Sabbaticals
Kathleen Modenbach faces the end of a sabbatical year and her imminent return to the classroom. Sure we're in the midst of a teacher shortage, but the benefits of giving teachers sabbatical leave far outweigh the drawbacks, Modenbach says.

And We Shall Morph Again!
As she starts a new teaching job, Brenda Dyck reflects on all the times she has had to morph as an educator. She has transformed from a by-the-book early elementary teacher to a tech-savvy teacher of middle school gifted students. Change can be a good thing, Dyck concludes.

In My Opinion: Student Techies Keep Computers Running
Educational technology innovator Ted Nellen discusses the benefits schools can realize when they train students to both use and maintain classroom computers.

Golden Nuggets: Seven Tips for Technology Success
Dr. Bruce Whitehead is the principal of Hellgate Intermediate School and an associate professor at the University of Montana. He designed and implemented a model for classroom technology centers that earned him the National Distinguished Principals Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. In this article, Whitehead shares "seven golden nuggets" -- seven tips to help ensure the success of your school's technology implementation plans. This article is reprinted by permission of Bruce Whitehead.

Asleep on the Job: Reflections on the Sixth Grade Sleepover
Her yearly Grade-Six Sleepover prompts Brenda Dyck to consider how incorporating fun and humor into teaching may help create memorable learning experiences.

Catching Up With Our Bodies: Reflections on Teacher Burnout
Does teaching consume your life? In this candid reflection, Brenda Dyck describes the signs of teachers consumed by the job. Have you experienced some of the signs of burnout Dyck describes? Read what a teacher whose mind and body are in sync might look like.

Maybe It's Time to Reform Demands We Put on Educator
Need a little inspiration? The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, has granted Education World permission to reprint "Maybe It's Time to Reform Demands We Put on Educators," by columnist David Waters.

In My Opinion: The Filter Is Bad for Education
Educational technology innovator Ted Nellen reacts to reports that the majority of Americans favor filtering Internet access in schools.

A Teacher's Influence Is Often Lasting
Attending the funeral of a former teacher prompted freelance writer Kristen Spruill to reflect on lessons learned from all of the special teachers at her junior high school. This moving editorial, first published last August in the Raleigh News & Observer, is "chicken soup" for any teacher's soul!