Waiting for high expectations. That’s what all the good teachers and good schools featured in the “Waiting for …” excellence in education documentary had in common. We can all agree on that.
Waiting for world class standards. Good schools are based on curricular models AND instructional models that are demonstrated to yield results.
Waiting for there to be good teachers in every classroom. Waiting for every child to have access to the curricular models and teachers who will inspire them to be all they can be.
Waiting for accountability.
I feel a little like Geoffrey Canada says he felt when he realized he couldn’t turn the problems with education around as easily as he had hoped the day he started teaching. After a 40+ year career in education, and having made a positive difference in the lives of lots of children, I had still lost hope. It wasn’t enough. As one parent had said to me, “It felt a little like building a beach, one grain of sand at a time.”
This movie both rekindles my hope and exacerbates my worry. Why did I exit the movie crying? Because Bianca, Daisy, Anthony and the other children in the movie each represent so many children like them. I was crying tears for the children whose stories had just touched my heart, but moreover for all the children without guaranteed options.
We are asked to act. Beyond what I am already doing in taking my WCATY message to the next generations through children’s books and parenting support, I resolve to take these steps:
- I join the team of concerned citizens who will work with Kaleem Caire and the Madison Urban League toward the goal of opening a top notch school for boys who are not making it in the system – Madison Prep.
- I pledge to share my background in instructional philosophies and models that go beyond world class curriculum in setting the stage for excellence in education, i.e., my message to Madison Prep is the same as it was to Madison Country Day School: World class curriculum is great, but it is just the base. Individual pacing and relevancy, high expectations, inspiring teaching, supported learning, accountability … these must all be added to the curricular base.
- I will continue to establish mentor programs and/or work as a mentor when that is the best choice for making a difference. In particular, as I left the movie theater, I thought, “Madison Prep, if it is over-subscribed as I expect it will be, will have the same problem as the great schools in the movie that were portrayed as using a lottery system of selection. Maybe what we need are mentors for all the children who DON’T get selected.” Maybe the students and parents of the students who do get selected could become a part of the mentor team. This is an idea that excites me. We’ll see where it goes.
Posted in Core elements of learning and being smart, Early Learning, Excellence in education, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, High expectations, It's Good to Be Smart, Parenting for academic success, Passion in teaching and learning, Role models, school models, Serious learning, Smart is cool, The chance to learn, Waiting for Superman
Tagged academically minded, accountability, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, educational excellence, high expectations, life-long learning, mentors, parent alert, passionate learners, passionate teachers, poor smart kids, school models, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, Waiting for Superman
I hate to think of myself as a pessimist, but I have been feeling that, as a country, we were doomed to a bleak future. Because of partisan politics, the economy, crime? All of these are among the many reasons to be concerned, but the underlying factor for me is our broken education system. In 1983 the problems were clearly outlined in a book presented by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, entitled A Nation At Risk. Our children were already falling in international comparisons of student achievement. But we were going to fix it, right? Wrong. Today, the statistics that are quoted are worse: 25th out of 30 developed or industrialized countries in math, 21st in science, and 11th in literacy. Doomed is not too strong a word.
Then along came a documentary film: Waiting for Superman. The movie hasn’t come to Madison, and I intend to see it as soon as it does. But I don’t need to see it to have a glimmer of hope. Oprah had two shows devoted to it in one week, Meet the Press devoted half their Sunday morning hour to it, the news hours are covering it, the talk shows are talking it. A seemingly sincere dialogue has begun. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan called it “A Rosa Parks Movie” because, he said, “the country is compelled to act.” Maybe he’s right. I hope he’s right.
I say go Newark; go Washington D.C.; go Detroit; go New York City! Leaders from these cities have been featured on the shows I’ve seen over the past few days, and I applaud their intentions to act. I join the Madison Urban League in its goals to turn around dismal statistics regarding graduation rates here for children of color. I await news of commitments in community after community, state after state. As in New Jersey may our Democratic and Republican leaders join forces in saying, “Yes, we have some great teachers, but that’s not enough. Every child deserves an excellent education. Every child deserves rigor in the curriculum. Every child’s dreams should be heard and encouraged. And we’re going to work TOGETHER to make it happen.”
Posted in Core elements of learning and being smart, Excellence in education, High expectations, Parenting for academic success, Passion in teaching and learning, school models, Serious learning, The chance to learn
Tagged academically minded, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, life-long learning, parent alert, raising smart children, school models, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, smartness across diverse populations, Waiting for Superman
Several of you asked that I extend the offer of buy one, get half off the second Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart. For two reasons, I will continue that Grandparent’s Day special through September 30. First, it’s because you asked. Second, it’s because I care about learning and now, as school starts, is a great time to support it in a special way.
In July, David Brooks wrote a column in The New York Times regarding the value of books to disadvantaged children versus the advantages of participating in an Internet/games-based culture. Researchers from the University of Tennessee showed that children who read just 12 books over the summer did just as well upon the return to school as they would have had they attended summer school. Research from 27 countries showed that kids who grew up in homes with 500 or more books in them did better in school and stayed in school longer than children from families with fewer books. The final conclusion, though, was that the real debate was not books versus Internet, but how to build an Internet-based culture that would attract people to serious learning.
My concern is about serious learning. My concern is about giving positive reinforcement to children who engage in serious learning. To use a cliché, it takes a village to raise a child. Grandmas are key players in the village structure. For my “Start of the 2010-1011 School Year Special,” please still go to the “Contact Ellie Books” page for order details. And, buy one book for $10, with the second – for another child in the family or community – being just $5 through September 30.
"What if you were the lion in the zoo?"
Posted in Children's Books, Early Learning, Excellence in education, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, Serious learning, Special Book Offer, The chance to learn, Young Children
Tagged academically minded, ages 0-7, back-to-school book special, be smart, Buy now, children's picture books, grandparent alert, learning to read, life-long learning, parent alert, pre-k to 2nd grade learners, raising smart children, reading with your little one, serious learning, whimsical pictures attract children