Category Archives: Education Simplified

A Carousel of Spanish

One of the beauties of being married to a Hispanic man is that I’ve gotten to learn about his culture through his eyes.

I had grown up in Miami before I met him so Spanish was all around me. Many of my friends were Cuban, but they wanted to be “American” and most of them were already losing their handle on their language, creating what we know now as Spanglish.

He, on the other hand, came from Venezuela, which at the time was nothing like what you see on the news now, but there was enough violence that moving to the United States was a dream come true for his family who had seen victims of shootings on the street and who had been robbed of their gifts for Christmas.

His father is a journalist and was offered a job with a major news organization so they took the opportunity and ended up in New York.

I met him after he’d moved to Miami because his father was working at El Nuevo Herald by then.

And, after all of the years of living in Miami, studying Spanish and hearing Spanish, I couldn’t speak it.

But, he introduced me to the Telenovela: A wickedly colorful version of what we “Americans” call Soap Operas.

I had seen my friend’s grandparents watching them but the crying and screaming freaked me out.

Until he showed me “Carrusel de Ninos,” a telenovela about children who attend school and their relationships with each other. It was the children’s carousel.

It was simple enough that I could understand what was happening and hear the Spanish language delivered by children.

Within the confines of this little school, you would laugh and cry and the language would live and breathe inside of you.

There were the rich and the poor. There were the outcasts and the popular kids. There were the mean and the nice kids. Everything related to you and yet you learned about their culture also.

My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, showed me it because it was a good show, not because he wanted me to learn the language.

I watched it for the same reason.

So, when the thought occurred to me that I could actually learn how to speak Spanish from this, it didn’t feel like I had to work very hard at it.

The children expressed themselves with their bodies and expressions as much as through the language itself.

How Did It Change My Approach to Spanish?

When I ordered food, I would ask for the item in Spanish more often.

“Dos empanadas de carne por favor.”

When I listened to Spanish I understood more.

Sientete aqui really became Sit here but I didn’t need to stop and translate it into English like so many have to do.

Mostly, though, I just felt at ease with the language.

Por qué siempre hacemos aprendizaje tan difícil.

So, I ask you: Why do we make learning so difficult?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/carousel/”>Carousel</a&gt;

Advertisements

Upward

I can finally hear the trees speaking to me again. It’s been a while.

After a school year that seemed relentlessly long, there’s nothing I’d hate more than to talk about this school year. I don’t want to give any advice about reading, questions types, testing, and, please, don’t ask about writing, in particular, essays.

I’m looking up.

I’m disconnecting from what supposedly defines me. Not from my phone, computer, or TV, although that’s some of it, not from electricity in any way, but I’m disconnecting from school.

So I’m going to give myself a break from thinking about reading assignments, reading comprehension, required reading, homework, grading, everything in connection with traditional, structured, life-draining education.

What a relief!

I woke up last week and it was 6 a.m. Normally I’m up at 5:30 getting ready to take my daughter to school then returning to get ready for teaching and take my son to school.

But I didn’t have to, so I looked at the time and went back to sleep.

After I woke and became instinctively lazier, I took a walk.

I noticed the trees and how many brilliant flowers were blooming. I’m physically looking up, up, seeing the branches sway and the petals drop. My neck pain is at a minimum because I’m not hunching over a computer or over stacks of papers.

Tree (1)

The trees spoke to me. They waved and winked as I approached them. Orange petals floated over my pathway, welcoming me to life, the best kind of life.

My heart opened.

Now when I look around me, I see my children relaxed, smiling more, looking healthier and happier than, well, than in the last several months.

I see my house, messy, but home just the same.

I breathe a whole lot slower, deeper, calmer.

My feet don’t hurt. 

No headaches!

No students to reprimand. No screeching noises. No nothing.

I see me.

Content.

No responsibilities.

Relieved.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/relieved/”>Relieved</a&gt;

No Homework. An Argument in the Social Media Circus.

The first time my son heard the word “Homework” he screamed, ran to his bedroom, slammed the door and locked it.

He was three years old and his older sister decided it was time he got some homework too so she told him she was going to give him homework. That’s when the screaming began.

What does it really mean when schools, teachers, and advocates cry, no homework?

no-homework-jpg

We’ve all either been there or seen it. Seemingly endless hours of homework awaiting you. The desire to turn away from it burns so fiercely that you actually shove it to the side and watch TV instead. Maybe you just go outside and play games or just lie there on the ground thinking of creative ways to get out of ever having to do it at all.

As a parent and a teacher, I always feel conflicted about any subject involving homework.

On the one hand, I’ve been up until midnight, helping my child finish homework because the teacher never even taught the lesson assigned for homework. I know this because the teacher admitted it as if it was perfectly acceptable to do such a thing.

On the other, I’ve considered the whole idea of assigning nothing for homework and I do that but only sometimes. However, the bottom line remains that there isn’t enough time in the classroom to reinforce and cover everything. The other problem that now exists involves social media and electronics.

You see, savvy parents and teachers know something very important about homework. Without it, our children won’t read books, and they certainly won’t relinquish the highly addictive realm of electronics. In fact, most children become so lost in this world that it’s almost a losing battle to try and take it away from them.

Homework fixes that fast.

Parents and teachers who are truly honest with themselves know this.

So when I look at all the books and arguments that pundits such as Andy Khon make against homework, I really do sympathize with the argument for no homework, but I can’t agree.

The real problem is teachers who don’t support children or give them a chance to make up work. The real problem is an educational system that doesn’t understand a child’s life may be very difficult so too much homework won’t help them.

Andy Khon makes some good points about just how disconcerting the system is.

However, without homework, children lose too much.

So, what then is homework for?

  1. They need to read and not just in school. Without reading assignments, many parents just won’t encourage children to read. They’re too busy and tired, so it’s very easy to just allow them to play video games or play on their iPad—where they watch endless hours of YouTube, which can be valuable and can also be a bottomless pit of nonsense, some of it shocking depending on the perspective.
  2. They need reinforcement. There are a few ways teachers know how well their students understood the material taught in class. One very valuable tool is homework. Through that, I can help them better understand vocabulary or concepts that I thought they understood but didn’t.
  3. They need training. They are growing so fast that soon they will need to set aside time to study for quizzes and tests. How do they learn to do this? By getting bad grades? Or, by doing some homework? It’s the same thing.
  4. They need opportunities. If handled the right way, students use homework to raise their grades and learn creatively through projects and guided assignments that help them flourish.

Social media has a way of making us believe ideas are great momentarily. We like it. We share it. We reblog it. We repeat it. We follow it.

When, in reality, all these naysayers had to do homework to be able to write and speak the way they do. Many of them don’t have to grapple with the day-to-day problems parents, who work until late at night and can’t spend time with their children, have to deal with.

Argument

If teachers and parents work together, homework actually benefits children and helps them grow and become better in every subject, which in turn helps them find their purpose in life, whatever that may be.

What’s your argument?

Distracted by Distractions

Watching students test has become an obsession for me, as a teacher and as a mom. I first began studying The Test about 10 years ago.

I had always held a deep disdain for even the mention of the word “test” while plowing through my school years. I hated tests because I’d shut down and perform poorly on tests. This happened after an encounter with a terrible test at a young age. So, I began to loathe testing.

mctest

It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I felt compelled to study and ultimately understand the process of taking a test. After all, teachers have to create tests so I needed to know exactly how I should start, so I searched different websites dedicated to teaching educators how to create tests.

I began with multiple choice questions and answers because those were the kinds of test items that made no sense to me. I rarely understood why my answer was wrong when teachers reviewed answers with my classes.

The reviews usually consisted of teachers ticking off the right answers and only explaining one or two in a very matter of fact way, as if to say, “Don’t you dare question the logic of the test.”

So, I never did. I only questioned my intelligence, which meant I thought I was an idiot. Until now.

The first question I had

was why in the hell am I creating a multiple choice test anyway? Where did the damn thing come from?

The Washington Post has a great article about the origins of the multiple choice test. The writer also adds some background information about how educators assess students and questions the validity of the act of testing at all. It’s definitely worth the read. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111301007.html

According to The Washington Post, an educator named Frederick J. Kelly, the Dean of Education at the University of Kansas, created the first multiple-choice test in 1914. From that point on, that style of testing mushroomed into what we find students struggling over throughout their educational life.

So when I sat down to research the very idea of creating the multiple choice tests, I found a mountain of information on the subject. So much information, that I really had to sift through it quickly or I could’ve been reading for months nonstop.

The most surprising and most valuable information was the method of using a distractor in the multiple-choice answers.

Ironically enough, the word “distraction” has become the 21st century go-to word to describe everything associated with everything electronic and has young students drowning in schools.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a student test nowadays, you’d see very quickly how and why students often struggle with standardized tests. First, they see a paper with words on it and cringe. If it’s on the computer, they won’t cringe but that doesn’t mean they’ll concentrate on the material being presented to them, especially if it requires reading.

Most unsuccessful students seem to skim or scan whatever they’re reading and answer the questions by returning to the text to search for answers, which means that they’ve most likely missed the main point of the passage, which then throws off their answers to just about everything.

They end up with low scores and are left feeling stupid, anxious, and defeated.

They go home and become more addicted to the distractions that help them to feel confident, happy, and friendly—gaming and social media.

These are the distractions that reward them. The test drains them. And, we, parents and teachers, feel twice as frustrated and confused.

However, by observing this, every year I don’t begin my multiple choice creations with distractors. I begin my journey with my own brand of distractions.

And it works.

Written by Lisa Chesser

This post and others to follow will focus on teaching and helping children succeed in school. I’m working on a book that will have more details on sifting through the minds of children in order to help them find success in a system that often destroys their ability to succeed.

Distractor Rationale

http://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/tmrs/tmrs_rg/distractor_rationales.pdf

The Zika Monster

Everywhere you turn, you hear a buzzing sound–that high-pitched synchronicity peeling through your eardrum deep into the dead of night.

That’s me.

Every night.

Even when there’s nothing really there.

I had planned to begin this blog post by focusing solely on education because I’m trying so hard to stick to the just to that topic of which I’ve dedicated my last 10 years of life to, but I just can’t do it.

See, I live in Florida, in particular Miami.

Miami is all over the news along with the earthquake in Italy and the campaign for the presidency.

In Miami, however, the Zika virus has dominated the attention of everyone.

Walking the campus on the first day of school, I saw students wearing long sleeves and smelling like Off. I just smiled and asked, “How are you today?”

Normally, I’d get an “OK” or a “Really tired” or even a “Super happy” every once in a while. But, this time, I just got “Hot.”

I felt their pain as a parent and a teacher. I knew somewhere my own children reeked of Off, so I just rolled my eyes at myself.

What is Zika?

The virus delivers flu-like symptoms, lots of achiness, and a rash. Pregnant women seem to be the worst victims because of the possible effects on the fetus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people don’t usually get sick enough to even go to the hospital.

But, everyone here has already begun to panic. I received several texts telling me to use the strongest repellent possible and every time I look on Facebook, someone’s posting something about Zika. They really love giant, digitally enhanced photos of the mosquitoes with rounded, red bellies.

zika1

Of course, though, it’s the news that always sends us into a frenzy—talking, stressing, watching, then spraying ourselves with dangerous chemicals, rarely leaving the house, but when we do we smell like mosquito spray and we’re sweating in our long-sleeve shirts and pants.

Then, as a parent, we start to worry about our children.

We contemplate insane questions such as Should I send them to school? Should I demand that they don’t participate in P.E.? Should I send them with a can of bug spray so they can re-apply it like sunscreen? Should I keep them from playing sports?

An even more pressing question for many parents especially in Miami might be Should I have my child switch schools to an area deemed “less contaminated”?

Propaganda?

We begin obsessing, only to find that we all could be infected with Zika because we all might not even show signs of the virus let alone be tested for it.

And, we all know that’s the truth down deep inside, behind our collective, paranoid mindset and the media’s ability to control that.

We should take control of our situation and dismiss the rest of the jolts of information once we know what we need to know. At least, that’s what I plan to do.

Out of all the news reports and speculation on the virus, I just read a post that reveals the insanity we are experiencing around the world and over here in Miami.

The post Propaganda Machine Takes Aim at Zika Virus compares the media coverage and viewer reaction to the bird flu and Ebola. It also breaks down the facts into digestible chunks so you understand what’s really going on as opposed to panicking.

I consider myself a fairly logical person, but I’m emotional when it comes to my children, just like most parents. That’s why it’s so important to remember that monsters live mostly in our heads.

Written by Lisa Chesser

Tapping into Anger, Hitler Youth

Youth
The eyes spill anger, the kind that festers.

Love turns to hate so quickly.

There’s a sort of hell inside a young mind. I see it every day at school and all the time at home. It’s the conflict inside all of us, but as an adult, we master it.

We live. We learn. We stop hurting so much over small problems. Most of us work on ourselves. The youth or young people seem to us to have everything while at the same time to lack the essential appreciation of that everything.

They desire too much and can’t control that desire. Some even acquire a collection of iPhones, iPads, and video games that startles the onlooker, the elder who never had anything.

They indulge in outrageous behaviors such as cutting or bullying.

They love too much, screaming and crying for a singer or rock band.

Some adults have the audacity to act the same way. And, all of it makes sense. After all, the young know how to live. Sometimes it even works to our advantage because we harness the energy level they have and use it to invigorate our lives, not harm them.

Some adults, however, know how to just be:  to live without the need to return to the youth mindset.

But, what is it about youth, that age where you’re maybe 14 and you realize that you have a period and/or hair all over your body so you grapple with ways to cope with it? You go from insecure to almost good enough.

A teenage girl might struggle with body image and find a way to control it by exercising more and improving the way she looks in the mirror and to others.

But, the events that led to her struggle damaged her so much so that her hatred for herself and others lingers. No, it festers.

What is it that makes the youth hate so much? Hate everyone they love. Hate everything about themselves. Hate the most beautiful and pleasant moments in life. Then, what is it that makes them lash out—try to destroy themselves or those around them?

I often think of Hitler Youth when I see this in a tween or teen.

He must’ve known just how angry they were and simply gave them permission, encouraged them, to act on their rage.

Read more about this in The Mindset of the Hitler-Jugend by Kyle Frabotta
June 2004.

 

Does money matter for teachers?

People used to ask me, “What do you do?”

I’d say, “I’m a Publications Specialist.” Before that I’d say, “I’m an editor, writer, graphic artist, or copy editor.” They’d nod and smile in approval and ask more questions about it. I felt respected.

Now, when people ask that question, I say, “I’m a teacher.” Their eyes pop open, sometimes there’s a gasp or a grunt or even a hiss with a dramatic “Ouch” at the end. I was startled that at first. I stopped wanting to answer people. I avoided the question when we were meeting people. Sometimes I even told my husband that I would just say I’m a writer and editor because I still am so I’m not lying or anything. I’d just leave out what I do the majority of the time throughout the year.

But, I couldn’t avoid it completely. So as I started answering that question more and more, I realized people just felt sorry for me when I said I was a teacher and it didn’t have to be bad. So, I’d laugh and grunt with them. I’d agree and then unload my frustrations on them. It felt kind of good considering that I needed counseling after all the rough weeks of teaching.

However, the underlying problem of telling people that I am a teacher never seemed to change.

There’s a tangible lack of respect for teachers. We are jokes. We are servants. We are babysitters. We can’t do anything else. We are burps in a person’s life that they’d like to forget about.

Or, we are honored for being so special that we work for scraps thrown from the dinner table and educate the children who will someday rule over all of us and either save or destroy the world. This latter “honored” reaction, I’ve found, happens a lot less than the other negative ones.

Somewhere, far, far away

According to an article in The Guardian, How the job of teachers compares around the world, there’s respect for Chinese teachers and teachers in Finland receive the monetary rewards that make teaching worthwhile and transform it into a respected, even sought-after profession.

So, yes, asking “Does money matter to teachers?” is a loaded question, I know. Many teachers would say, “Sit down and let’s talk for at least two weeks about why teachers absolutely need to be paid more.” Still others would say, “It’s not about the money.”

Despite either reaction, let’s just say this, teachers deserve more money based on the fact that they work endless hours and hold the world’s future in their hands. And, of course, I’m talking about the good ones. Those who look like they’ve been through WW III after the first week of school and lug stacks of papers back and forth from the school to their homes.

There was a video I watched about a year ago about applying to a demanding job.

People who were applying for jobs were asked by their potential employers to do what moms do without knowing that it was actually a list of tasks that every mom does. And, we all know moms don’t get paid for what they do. The people interviewing for the jobs were horrified and immediately rejected the jobs. In the end, when they were told that they were really applying for the job that all moms do, their faces changed to a knowing, a deep appreciation, a realization that only mothers do something so insanely valuable for no pay whatsoever.

I would argue that good teachers come close to that idea. Is it the same? Absolutely not, just the same idea.

To say we as teachers don’t work for the money is quite true. To say we shouldn’t demand more pay is not fair and ridiculous.

Dedication

We don’t work for the money because we’re paid nothing compared to the amount of hours we put into it. We grade stacks of papers at home throughout the week—if we are good teachers. We chase students around about homework, classwork, quizzes, and tests. We counsel them when they make mistakes and think they can’t go on. We care for them like they’re our own children. Then, we send them home to hopefully do homework, study, and sleep. We start over the next day even if we know they stayed up late playing video games and didn’t do homework.

Given that we are a world that runs on money, teachers need it not only to survive but to hope for more, to fuel their own fire if they’re giving so much of their energies to teaching.

It’s a profession with very raw, concrete value; yet, it’s treated as a volunteer opportunity offering little respect. Why would anyone with an ounce of respect want to teach or even continue to teach then?

We wouldn’t. In fact, any teacher worth their salt and willing to be honest will tell you that he or she contemplated leaving more than once. Many teachers make other plans and go as far as to pack their materials, but they remember their students, their lessons, the challenges that made them better human beings, and they think of the future without dedicated teachers.

We don’t do it for the money, but that’s precisely why teachers, good, hardworking, dedicated teachers, should be paid as much as any professional and respected equally or even more.

What’s interesting though, is that as a writer, editor, graphic artist, and publications specialist, I started out getting paid significantly less than an average public school teacher yet I got a whole lot more respect.