Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Discussion with a first year teacher around marks

Recently, I had a discussion with a first year teacher after 4 months of teaching in her first year, here is how it went:
Her: I’m scared I not going to have enough summative assessments at the end of this year.
Me: How many is enough?
Her: I went around to other teachers and discussed and the general consensus is around 25-30 if I averaged it out.  Some teachers had even given 50.
Me: Do these other teachers teach the same exact students you do?
Her: No, they teach different courses and different subject
Me:  How do the students of other classes and teachers of different subjects have anything to do with your students?
Her: Then who should I be asking?
Me: your students, ask them how important is having 30 assessments, would you prefer less assessment of higher quality or more of lower quality?  We must understand that the more grades we give students, the more we lower the value of everything we have graded to far.
her: Dave, don’t we give more summative assessments to allow for students to have more chances in achieving the best grade possible.
Me: So it sounds as if this strategy has nothing to do with learning.  It sounds as if we are giving more assessments to allow students to get the best score in the “Game” of school.
We then engaged in a discussion around the meaning of assessment and marks.  She started from a belief that there is an actual number of summative assessments which she is required to have for each student.  I hope I showed how wrong this belief was!  Teachers never should have a goal of the number of summative assessments to give students, and in fact we should be aspiring to have zero summative assessments throughout the course and start moving to entirely formative assessments.  The only summative assessment which should occur is at the end of the course, only under the assumption that no more learning can occur.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Facts and Myths of traditional learning in schools

It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instructions have not completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry – Albert Einstein
From “Breaking Free from myths about teaching and learning” by Allison Zmuda, we learn about various myths and facts about learning in the traditional classroom, and my synopsis:
Myth: The rules of this classroom and subject area are determined by each teacher:
This is false as the push for meeting provincial (and state) standards increase, the autonomy of the individual teacher decreases.  Collaboration is being used to enforce compliance as well as standardizing the rules of each classroom.  For learning to be meaningful it must stem from personal experiences, current issues from students, as well as address the personal attributes of each student.  This cannot be achieved by blanket policies which affect all.
Fact: What the teacher wants me to say is more important than what I want to say:
This is truly a sad fact about our education system.  It is entirely summed up by a student who said:
It’s easy to take what the teacher says and regurgitate it without even thinking about what was said, and it’s how we’ve been taught to learn.  When I set out to write a paragraph, I actually thought I should ask my teacher to spell out what he wanted me to write… If I tried to challenge my teacher, all it would take is a little bit of him pushing back to make me drop my argument and look like a deer in the headlights, even if I had a decent argument.  Now that I know how passive I’ve been, I’m ready to make some changes in my learning style.
 Students need to have opinions in classes, and the teachers need to be cognisant of these ideas.
Fact: The point of an assignment is to get it done so that it’s off the to-do list:
In our schools, too many students are feeling overwhelmed to get the assigned readings complete, answer the repetitive math questions, study for the Biology exam and still have time to pursue to their own interests outside of school.  One student has even said
Most students just do the assignment because there is not time to really study it.  We don’t really get a chance to go further into the parts of the topic we are studying that aren’t part of the curriculum because we have already moved to a whole new topic.
We, as educators, must be aware that for students to complete all their “homework” they must take shortcuts and thus truly never understand the material at a deeper level.
Myth: I feel proud of myself only if I receive a good grade:
Students are using grades to truly sort themselves among their friends and classmates.  I believe all teachers have heard comments such as:
I got an F on this exam, but that is ok because I am not good at it.
I got a B like I always do, so I am doing fine.
No one is getting an A, so makes sense that I am not getting one either.
Grades and other extrinsic rewards are actually limiting the potential success of students.  Students are actually seeing the grade as an indicator as to how well they are playing the game of school.  As we push for improving learning we must move away from using grades to motivate students.  Students are proud of the product of their education not the mark they receive on how well they have manipulated their education
Myth: Speed is synonymous with intelligence:
Too many times we are pushing students to complete tasks at a speed which is unnatural to their own learning.  We are stripping education of passion and interest and replacing it with efficiency.  This can be seen in math classes when we teach “math tricks” and justify it by “this is the fastest way to get to the answer”.  Other educators validate this idea of rushing to complete the course due to the amount of material that is needed to be covered in a short amount of time.  The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams and complete the overwhelming curriculum is making it quite difficult for teachers to accept alternate views of learning, instruction using discovery methods, and taking time to allow for each student to deeply understand a topic before moving on.

More myths and facts exist, and I encourage all to read the book…WOW!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the teaching to which I aspire to

I would truly allow each student to be an individual. To allow students to guide, not only their learning, but as well as their assessment. Students will no longer be "passengers on a fast bus down a lone highway" but instead "participants on a field trip to a field of their choosing" .  Top down mandated policies focused on increasing test scores would be replaced with guidelines, created by and with teachers, to allow for deeper learning. Teacher PD will always be encouraged as the work teachers do outside of school is just as important as the work they do inside the school.  

Outcomes will no longer be delivered in the hundreds, where each is extremely specific, but come in few general outcomes. This will allow for teacher autonomy in classes and allow for learning to be focused around the needs, wants, aspirations, and goals of each student instead of the goals of the system.

Technology, with unfilitered access, will be used in classrooms to create engagement around learning instead of being implemented to trick students in completing mundane tasks.  The goals of each class will be around meaningful questions instead of repeptive answers.

Teaching will be around one single absolute goal; lighting fires of interest and curiosity in each student of the school.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Food Chemistry - Enhancing Learning

Jeff Lerouge is a fellow colleague at my school, one damn good foods teacher, and another teacher who is challenging the idea of using worksheets to teach material.    His twitter is is here @jlerouge, his blog is found here Jeff's blog.

Before, he used to teach different ideas through worksheets, and here is how he is educating students now:  GOOD JOB!

Jeff start with:

What's the big idea? Why did we do this? Did you learn something today?

We've been learning about the pigments found in vegetables and how other ingredients can affect the color of vegetables. We have also been learning about how those same ingredients can have an impact on the texture of vegetables. To gain a better understanding about what we've been talking about, we decided we needed to experiment with the actual pigments and ingredients. What we've really done is do a science experiment and made some observations that helps us make conclusions.

We started with four different vegetables that represent the four colors of pigments found in fruits and vegetables:
  • carrots (orange)
  • cauliflower (white)
  • broccoli (green)
  • red cabbage (red/blue)
We then subjected each vegetable to four "treatments" against a control (boiled in plain water):
  • salt
  • baking soda (alkali)
  • lemon juice (acid)
  • sugar
After the experiment we came to some conclusions which supported what we learned in theory. It helped so see, touch, taste and smell - enhanced understanding. Here's what we learned:
  • the orange pigments in carrots are very stable and are not greatly affected by acid or alkali
  • adding sugar made our vegetables firm
  • adding acid made the cauliflower stay white and kept the cabbage purple - good result
  • adding acid turned the broccoli and unappealing olive green color - bad result
  • baking soda made all of the vegetables mushy - bad result
  • baking soda turned the red cabbage an unnatural blue green color - bad result
  • baking soda turned the cauliflower an unappealing yellow color
On the same day, we also learned about different kinds of rice not by reading about them, but by cooking 10 different varieties and tasting them all. We cooked a number of whole grain rices, something many students who usually eat minute rice or white rice were not used to, especially the different in texture. Students learned that this difference in texture is from the bran layer being present on the grains.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Student guiding his own learning

Below is an example of how a parent allowed his child to guide the learning.  Good job Mr. Hansen!!

My 3rd grade son is deep into multiplication right now and our discussion about groups of things and multiplication eventually led to factors. And while he was pondering how many numbers can be multiplied together to get 12 or 16, he asked a very good question. He asked me "How come there isn't a division table?" and he went on to say "We could make a division table and sell it!"

I explained to him that division tables do not exist because once you put the numbers down the sides, the majority of the inside is empty because most numbers are not (evenly) divisible by the other numbers. I told him that when we do division mentally we actually use the multiplication facts in reverse, as we did with addition. But I could see in his eyes that my explanation didn't phase him much and he was still dreaming of selling millions of division tables to other 3rd graders. So I said "Let's make a division table!" Big smile.

So I opened a spreadsheet and we started making our table. I said to him "let's just go up to 20 for now and we can expand it later", otherwise we would be there for hours if we went all the way to 144 on both edges. So I numbered the rows and columns from 1 to 20 and then like a game of battleship I started calling off the rows and columns and waiting on him for the quotient, or as is the case in the majority of cells, his response "it doesn't divide".

It took less time than I imagined before he saw the light as to why it is difficult to make a good division table. Maybe it was all the dead ends with him responding "it doesn't divide", but he realized that most of the cells are empty and when you are talking about "whole" division you are actually talking about knowing which combinations of numbers are divisible in the first place which is essentially the multiplication table. But something neat happened. He noticed the diagonal of 1's (you can't really miss that) but then he spotted the 2's, so we studied that for a bit and I started coloring the 1's, then the 2's and then the 3's and so forth so that he could see how they each repeat and form a line. And then I pointed out that there were some numbers with no quotients at all, except for 1 and themselves. I colored those red and pointed out that every now and then those patterns of 2's and 3's and 4's line up in such a fashion that they skip a number entirely, we call those primes. They aren't divisible by any number, except 1 and themselves.

In the end (actually there is no end to this) I told him that what we are doing is turning the multiplication table inside out and if we go in and count all of the filled in cells there will be 144 of them (assuming we did the whole table), one for every entry in the multiplication table. You will find all of the 2's and 3's and 4's and so forth but spread out in a 144x144 table, instead of a 12x12 table.

Our division table is here...

It was a very productive evening to say the least

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More on Differentiated Assessment

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a dad teach his son how to ride a bike.  The son had a helmet on, elbow pads, and training wheels on the bike.  As the dad put his son on the bike, he walked behind his son as the son rode the bike in circles in the parking lot.
Just recently, I witnessed the same father and son in the school’s parking lot and this time the training wheels were off.  The dad continued to walk behind the son and the son completed the same circles.  At one point the son fell over and the dad quickly picked him up and put him back on the bike immediately.  After about 10 minutes, where the son did not fall once, the dad stopped walking behind the child and the child started to do more complex paths on his bike.
This is how assessment should be!
It would be ridiculous to mandate that all fathers must spend exactly 10 minutes of time with their child until they stop walking behind them; as each child will require a different amount of time to learn the skill. 
It would be ludicrous to allow a son to write a multiple choice test where, if he scored over 50% (even though he wrote it is ok to play in traffic on a bicycle), the father would let him ride alone as the son “passed the test”, since the son doesn’t understand all the safety issues of riding a bike.
It would be unfortunate if all fathers were required to purchase the same bicycle since not every child is the same height, or has the lower body lengths.
Yet all of these ideas are allowed in schools, why is that?
I wonder what school would look like if instead of holding teachers accountable with mandated common assessment we instead allowed teachers to teach students “how to ride a bike”?
I believe, students would learn the skills at a deeper level before moving on, they could learn at their own pace, and each “test” would be different for each student.
Still not convinced?  Reflect on this picture as it represents the traditional testing model of students.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why we should not have set deadlines in school.

I wonder what school would look like if we didn’t have set timelines or completion dates for the assessments of students.

This is the thought I wanted to address this year in one of my classes.  Instead of having set dates for exams, and a set timeline for project dates, I created a learning environment that is conducive for the needs of every single student in my class.

Let’s first look at the problem of having a timeline for when students must demonstrate their knowledge.

Usually, a teacher makes their year plan around the goal of covering all the outcomes of the course.  This teacher must make predictions on how long it will take to cover each individual outcome, which is usually based upon previous years and other students.  Test dates are then inserted strategically throughout the year to determine when it is best for the class to demonstrate their knowledge.  The problem….the teacher is worrying about the class not the individual students.

I have heard teachers say they teach at a pace such that the “average students” can follow, and my assessment dates are around when the “average student” should be able to demonstrate knowledge.  By definition then we are actually pleasing no one!  Half of the students will feel this day comes too late as they have already learned the material and could demonstrate it classes ago, while the other half believes that the pace is too quick, and they will need more classes until they are comfortable demonstrating the material.  Once again, it is very unlikely that we are meeting the needs of any student by trying to meet the needs of the “average student”.

How have I changed this?

I teach on the same timeline and give students an assessment similar to this.  DA with Derivatives , but instead of taking 3 days for the test (1-2 days for review then the 3rd to administer the exam) I provide the student with 1-2 days to complete the assessment.  Students who understand the material quickly are able to work on the assessment ahead of time and complete it immediately, while students who need more time can use as much time as possible.  There is no set date for completion. 

What if a student gets behind?

My first comment would be “Behind what?”  Some teachers have this notion that the pace of the class is the pace every student should be learning at, but does this make sense?  Remember these unit plans are created before even meeting our students, so how can we make a plan that addresses the individual student?  Saying that, if a student is not demonstrating the material at an acceptable standard at a time which you feel is detrimental to learning other outcomes, then instead of giving a bad mark and moving on I sit down with this student at lunch, or after school, and ensure this student learns the material.  Is it not our job to educate students?  By giving a test, and saying “sorry you haven’t learned everything, but I am moving on anyways” is actually not completing our job. 

As teachers we must remember, our class sizes may be large and diverse but this is due to the fact that many individual students are making up this group and our assessment style should not be created to meet the needs of the “average student” but the “individual student”.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One day without mandated outcomes

I was recently involved in a session about creativity in the classroom.  The presenter brought forth the fallacies with common and traditional assessment.  After lots of discussion, case studies, videos, and examples of alternate assessment and instruction the session ended.

First off, I have to say that the staff that participated was amazing!  The open minds, deep conversations and already exemplary teaching styles were quite evident.  However, nothing made me more amazed than the comment the principal said at the end of the session.  After the applause to the presenter, the thank yous and handshakes the principal stood up, looked at his staff and said:

“Imagine if you were driving down the highway in a brand new 2011 Mustang.  The cops have all been called away from the road, the deer have been contained, and all other drivers are giving you the full road to explore and try out this new car”

“Ummm…ok” said a teacher in the crowd

The principal paused then started again

“Now let’s take this to a classroom.  One day next week, let’s pretend there are no final exams, no unit tests, no marks to update, no mandated curriculum, and no one from Alberta Education to tell you what to teach.  Take one day and let your students explore their own learning.  Using the taught strategies in this session, open the “learning” doors for students and just let them discover something that as meaning to them”.

If hugging was socially acceptable I would have given this administrator the biggest one ever.  Driving home, I thought of “What would schools look like if all administrators gave this chance to their teachers?  What if every day was this special day?  What if the needs of the students overpowered the needs to teach the curriculum?

I hope all his staff follow through with his directive and truly allow for authentic and autonomous learning to occur, if only for one day.

Awesome job Mr. Principal, I have found another individual who I would feel honored to call my boss!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Challenge to Educators

This week, I was inspired by NBC's "The Office" to take up a challenge in the mindset around Halloween.  Near the end of the episode title "Spooked", the boss makes the following comment:
Fear places an interesting role in our lives.  How dare we let it motivate us?  How dare we let it into our decision-making, our livelihood, into our relationships?  It's funny isn't it?  We take a day a year to dress up in costume to celebrate fear?
I found myself thinking about this cartoon.

Too many times, I have heard of educators thinking of an innovative way to change instruction, assessment, engagement, classroom management, and so on, but are too scared of the outcome.  This idea never gets implemented and the success (or failure) of it is never experienced.  Educators are left thinking, "What if....?" 

I challenge you, and myself, in Novemeber to take a "new idea", that may have been sitting on the shelf collecting dust, and try it out!  The outcome could be very suprising...of course you could end up with a day of failure, but then again you could experience one day of great success.  Remember, as illustrated by this 4 minute video below creativity starts with a belief.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Simplifying Radicals with Go-Fish

Here is how I am going to attempt to allow my students to discover why and how to rewrite radicals.

Thank you  to for the inspiration.

Simplifying Radicals With Go-Fish

1)      In groups of 3 or 4, take a deck of cards and remove all the jokers and face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) from the deck.  For this activity ignore the suits of the cards.

2)      Deal out all the cards, one at time, to each person.

3)      Fill out the chart as follows:

a.       Write down the square root of the product of all your cards, as an exact number.  (Aces = 1)

b.      Write the decimal approximation, to 2 decimal places

4)      Put your pairs together, and keep the single cards separate.

5)      Fill out the chart as follows:

a.       The product of each pair. (IE if you have 2 3s and 2 4s, you would multiply 3 by 4)

b.      The square root of the product of the single cards, as an exact number.

6)      Multiply the product of the pairs, to the square root of the remaining cards, and round to 2 decimal places.

7)      Repeat for 10 hands.

8)      Answer the questions on the back page.

9)  Explain, why both ways are giving you the same decimal values.


Jason was dealt a four card hand which consisted of an 8, 3, 5, and another 8.  He filled in the first row and shown.

Hand Number
Square root of the Product
Decimal, to 2 decimal places
Product of the pairs.
Square root of the remaining cards
Product of the pairs and root of the remaining cards










Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Short Treatise on Education

Here is guest post from a great collegue Kenton Biffert

Short Treatise on Education

Over this past summer I've been meditating and researching and discussing education and schooling. When we look at this new vision of Alberta Education in the Inspiring Education document, we as teachers need to be focused on developing our students to be creative, critical thinkers, communicators, ethical, leaders, and seekers. A tall order. Of course the question arises: can we do this within the curriculum we are held accountable to? Another question arises: can we do this within the current framework of schooling as we know it. I would venture a possible yes to the first question and a definite no to the second. I believe we need to begin to rethink and teach outside this square box called a school or a classroom or a desk in order to deliver the order our government and society look to us for. Before I jump into some changes that I believe, with some guts, can be made ñ I need to wax philosophical for a moment.

A couple items disturb me as a teacher when I look at the system I teach in. First is the disturbing fact that our students are not seekers. There are exceptions of course, but even within those exceptions, these exceptions remain passive consumers of the information and it is a rare gem to find an active contributor. A seeker. It is human nature to want to know. This is what separates us from the animals and what throws a beautiful wrench into the secular theory of evolution. It is a gift. An animal at night, after eating and surviving lays down to rest and sleeps. A man at night, after eating and surviving lays down to rest and wonders (Iím quoting a Canadian philosopher here, but I canít remember his name). So, how is it I ask that our students lose their desire to know. To seek. How is it that they become so such passive learners (simply tell me how to do it and Iíll do it) vs. active learners (donít tell me how to do it, Iíll figure it out and ask for help when I need it)?

This leads to my second disconcertion: is our current system of compulsory, mass schooling a type of communism? Think about this for a moment. Indulge me. Communism fails. Why? It goes against human nature. It tries to make everyone equal, diminishes differences and trumps initiative. Could we also be doing this in our compulsory schooling system? Do we not as teachers have to teach to the lowest common denominator the same curriculum to every student despite their personal interests and then demand that they take tests (standardized or not) that are essentially meaningless to them? Could it be, that in our efforts to educate our students we uneducate them ñ deseeker them?

And this leads to my third thought on education: are kids really dumber than they were 100 years ago or are we dumbing them down? Yikes. Crazy question. I read recently in John Taylor Gattoís book Weapons of Mass Instruction that 130 years ago grade 5 students were studying Shakesphere. That prior to WWI the literacy rate in the US was 98%. This was before compulsory schooling was forced (sometimes at gunpoint) on the common people. Over the next six decades the literacy rate fell to 73% (mid 70ís) and rose back up to 83% (2004) for whites and 60% for blacks. Literacy in this case was a proficient grade 4 reading level. Hmmm… one would think that with the astronomical amount of money poured into this schooling system to teach kids that weíd see an increase. Maybe the compulsory schooling, curriculum, and modes of learning kill initiative…

Lastly, my question is specific to Catholic Education. Last year I wrote an email to various members of our board and administration in regards to recent surveys stating that students graduating from public schools are not a whole different in their views on faith and morality than Catholic students. The question would be obviously, how can we send students through 13 years of Catholic education and they graduate questioning the existence of God, having little knowledge of their faith, little to no relationship with Christ, and a secular view of morality? There would seem to be little reason for Catholic education to exist if this remains the case.

Alright ñ enough with the skepticism that has kept me up at night seeking answers and driving me into a dissonance as I try to find my own place as a teacher in this system. How about some solutions. I believe in the Inspiring Education document and the vision they have our students. What can we do at St. Martin de Porres to help bring this to fruition? The following are a list of suggestions (some Iím sure will raise hairs), but all are worth some discussion.

1. Have specialists teach the subjects that they specialize in. (this assumes that with a specialization there is a passion). If we have a teacher that is brilliant at teaching math and loves math and brings math alive for the students, then why are they not teaching math to more grades than a homeroom? Passionate, inspiring teachers increase student achievement. (see Increasing Student Achievement in Writing by Kenton E. Biffert) Why are we so concerned about our grade 3-5 students having consistency with the same teacher? I think a case could be made for K-2 in having less teachers in the classroom… maybe…

2. Multigenerational classes. Having students live 13 years of their lives with other students the same age for the formative years of their lives is unnatural. It is unhealthy. Having all the grade 4ís together simply makes teaching curriculum easier on the teacher ñ but is not necessarily best for the students. (If this is too much to swallow, maybe we could look at having multigenerational classes ñ combining grades into groups for art, music and drama as an example).

3. More minutes dedicated to LA by shaving off minutes from the other subjects. We have subjects (French, drama, math, science, social, health, art, music, religion) and we have the tools of learning (LA). LA is a tool of learning for for the most part one cannot engage effectively in any of the other subjects without a proficient grasp of literacy.

4. Parental involvement at the decision making level. Compulsory schooling is pulling apart the family. Parents take their children at age 5/6 and place them in the hands of someone they barely know and with other children raised by parents they donít know and leave them there to learn a curriculum that they barely know. (hmmm… maybe this is why the family unit seems to be less and less cohesive…). One way to combat this is to find ways to bring parents back into being the primary educators of their children. They know their children better than we do and thus should be a part of the decision making process regarding decisions about their children. One could scream ëbut teachers are the experts!í I would yell back, "Bull." One does not need a B.Ed. to teach. I have learned an infinite amount from my father who is blind with a grade 5 education ñ more than I learned in my whole B.Ed. degree. We need to empower, encourage and motivate the parents to take a larger role in the education of their students.

5. Include more time for play by adding an afternoon recess. Finland has a 15 min. recess after every 45 min. class. Retention will be more. Engagement will increase. Achievement will thus increase.

6. No movies. Watching movies results in passivity. The brain ceases to fire on so many accounts that philosophers have said watching television as close one can get to losing their personhood. We are commissioned to facilitate the development of seekers ñ not pacifiers. Further, to read a novel and engage oneís imagination and then to watch a movie about the novel simply erases all that work one did with the imagination and replaces it with some directorís artistic impression of the book. A waste of great imagination. Further again, movies should not be used as entertainment or babysitting or as rewards for good behavior. We have a gym, creative minds, and Iím sure as teachers we can come up with alternatives.

- side note on technology: we need to teach students that technology is not out there to make us consumers, voyeurs or amusement addicts. This is when it gets dangerous. Technology can be a tool to help us become stronger communicators and to help make others lives better. This is our focus.

7.  Reject standardized testing (gr. 3 PATís). Now I realize we canít do this formally, but our parents sure can. There is nothing to be gained by putting a grade 3 students through the rigours of PATís. They are meaningless to them. They have no bearing on their lives. They are a detriment. We can educate parents that they have the right to refuse to have their kids take the PATís. This should be done. See for some more info. Standardized testing is done for political reasons and economic reasons. It is not done for the best of the child.

8. Guarantee our parents that our students are getting a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day as organized by the school. This is our mandate. This is regardless of the weather. We would also need to sit down as a staff and look at defining DPA. Does sitting on a desk and throwing a ball back and forth constitute DPA as an example. We need to set some standards for ourselves.

9. Scheduled class time outside. Research is proving more and more that spending time in nature and learning in the context of nature increases our studentís creativity (amoung many other aspects). We need to be teaching in a real, lived, experienced, hands-on environment and less simulated digital environments. Read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv for a great wake up call.

10. Relook at how we teach boys. As a female dominated staff and profession we need to look at how to teach boys. Boys need competition ñ grade 5 basketball should be keeping score so that there are winners and losers. Separate the boys and girls in phys. Ed in the upper elementary. We need to as a staff do some professional reading on boy development in the early years. Dr. Leonard Saxís book Boys Adrift addresses how boys are taught in the school system and the results are lower achievement and high incidents of assigning medications.

11. Micromanage less. I know this sounds scary. When dealing with the masses it is far easier if they are all helpless. However, we need to be developing leaders, and ëself-directed learnersí (Inspiring Education). So how can we micromanage less?

- Understand that getting hurt is a part of life and not the end of the world. In fact a ton of learning comes from getting hurt. Ex: As a kid I touched a hot iron to see how hot it was. I burnt my finger. Iíve never touched one since. Allowing the boys some leeway on the playground/gym to explore their physicality is an example of this. This is how boys learn.

- Find times to have the grade 4/5ís line up in a line less. They can be self-governed at age 10 and 11 if we expect that of them. Treating them like they are in kindergarten so we can maintain unnatural level of control keeps them helpless and dependent.

- Teach in such a way that the student must discover first. Our students are trained to do the opposite so this would be a painful process. For example: Rather than teaching students how to do long division first, I could have them try to come up with a system of division first and then teach the lesson. Or even begin math class having the students read their text and figure out how to do long division via the instructions in the text. The goal would be to make the students less dependent on me to have to teach them how to do things, and more independent in their abilities to figure things out.

12. Get a hill built on our playground so the kids can play on it in both the winter and spring and fall. Hills provide tons of play and hours of fun ñ which in turn, of course, will effect their affect as they jump back into classes.

13. Plant some trees and build a rock garden and make a forested area in our playground. This could include mud and we could nurture a small ecosystem with frogs and bugs. Yes this would mean that kids would come into the school muddy. Yes, this would mean the janitors or us teachers or the students would have to do a bit more clean up. The pay off according to Richard Louv is well worth it as time in nature develops creativity, balance, agility and fitness.

14. Medicate last. See Boys Adrift for the stats on how most of the students on ADHD medication are boys. He suggests that most of the boys donít actually have ADHD. The meds would help any student with or without ADHD to focus better. We need to be more cognizant of where boys are developmentally and maybe they arenít ready to sit in a desk to learn to read and write yet.

15. Use the fine arts more more more. The more I read on integration of drama in the arts the more I understand the absolute necessity of having the arts and engaging the right brain in our classrooms. As Sir Ken Robinson suggests ñ it is the arts that develop creativity and creativity is going to be the necessary skill these students need 30 years from now.

16. Find a time to do practice meditational prayer for 12min. per day as a class or as a school. See How God Changes your Brain for details. In a nutshell, students will increase their retention levels by 10% at 12 min./day. This in addition to the relaxation effects it has on those students who come to school with high anxiety.

17. Inculturate Catholicity. Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal wrote a book Truth or Tolerance. He discusses in here how to make the Christian message stick with this generation. We no longer live in a Catholic culture, but a highly sexualized, highly technological, highly materialistic, highly morally relativistic society. The first step in helping our students live authentic Catholic lives in this society is of course to present them with the truth as given to the Catholic Church via Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. (This assumes that we as teachers are knowledgeable enough to do this). This of course is not enough. We then actualize the faith. We must make the Catholic faith applicable to their lives. Then we must inculturate the faith. We must develop a Catholic culture. Their faith must become cultural, a part of their every day lives. Habitual. Ritual. Then faith can become permanent. See the Pontifical Biblical Commissionís The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church for an entire section on actualizing and inculturating.

18. Pray. Protestant private schools get together in the morning before school and have a devotional time. Gateway is an example. Each staff takes a turn taking a passage of scripture and giving the staff a little something to meditate on. Then the staff prays together for the students in their school. Change in our students begins with prayer.

I will end here. Prayer seems like an appropriate place to finish off this short dissertation. These are some possible answers, and with much discussion we can come up with many answers to help us develop students into seekers, leaders, ethical individuals, authentic Catholics, and communicators. We can find ways to work within a system that by its nature has been making students consumers, helpless, and dummied down. Change takes work. Guts. Passion. Compassion. We can do it.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Jerry Maguire

Kenton E. Biffert MEd