Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stop Beating up on Teachers!

It doesn't help our children!

I'm so tired of being kicked around in the media, by politicians and just by random people who think they know something about education. Everyone thinks because they went to school, they know something about teaching. If you go to a concert, does that mean you know how to play an instrument? If you go to a play, does that mean you know how to act?  As a teacher, I also try to be a learner, but it isn't quite as easy to go the other way. A lot goes on behind the scenes.

I started my education career in 1993 as a sixth grade teacher in a suburban public school. I did that for 7 years. Since then I have worked with inner city girls for a non profit educational research center, traveled the country doing technology professional development for an educational software company, written and edited for a textbook developer, went back into public schools (K-12) as a technology integration specialist, and for the last three years I have worked in a private school as the Director of Academic Technology.  I've learned a lot about education.

Here are a few things I know about teachers.

1. We don't do it for the money - After almost 20 years in the field, with an Ivy league undergraduate degree, a Master's degree plus 60 additional graduate credits, I still make less money than a first year associate at a major law firm (in Boston).

2. We work really hard all year long - We stand on our feet for most of the day, get limited bathroom breaks, have rare access to a computer or phone, are exposed to a lot of daily noise and energy, have to be "on" for many hours in a row and take a lot of work home with us every night. Yes we get a lot of vacation time, but we need it desperately!

3. We work best when we collaborate - We need to give incentives to the great teachers to share their knowledge and expertise, so that all students benefit. Merit pay makes no sense if it pits teachers against each other. New teachers learn from experienced teachers.  If we make teachers competitive, children suffer.

4. Unions aren't the problem - It's the evaluation and professional development systems that matter. Administrations and parental involvement make a huge difference. There are plenty of districts without unions that suffer from low achievement and plenty of districts with strong unions that turn out fabulously educated kis.

5. Teachers need your respect - If you keep bashing teachers, no one is going to want to become one! Why should our students respect us, if no one else does?

I've been so frustrated lately. I just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening!

What do you know about teachers?

Monday, March 14, 2011

EdCamp Boston Tickets Going Fast

May 7th, 2011
Tickets are FREE
This event will SELL OUT! 

As I write this there are only 31 tickets left to what is sure to be an amazing event. 

I am one of the organizers of Boston's first Edcamp. The idea originated in Philly last year. Since then, there have been Edcamps all over the country. Dan Callahan, one of the original organizers has since moved to Boston and he along with Greg Kulowiec, Karen Janowski. Larry Fliegelman, Laura D'Elia, Steve Guditus and me are helping to put this together. If you haven't been to an unconference before, now is your chance. It is an event that comes together out of the interests of the attendees. The sessions will be created by the people who attend.  We have some wonderful sponsors who have stepped up to pay for food, door prizes, coffee and t-shirts, asking only for recognition in return.

Sign up soon! I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My TEDxNYED Revelation, Takeaways and a Suggestion

I just returned from New York City where I had the privilege to attend my first TEDxNYed conference.  I was fortunate to combine this event with a visit to see family and an old friend. Overall it was a great weekend. 
The View
First I would like to complement the organizers of this conference for doing an amazing job. I was greeted by friendly faces when I arrived, guided to the correct floor and provided with delicious snacks and lunch. The venue was beautiful, comfortable and had incredible views of Manhattan and of the ground zero construction. The speakers were well chosen, stayed on schedule and were introduced in thoughtful and funny ways.
Ground Zero
My Revelation:

TED is actually a TV show with a studio audience. 

I had the opportunity to be part of that audience. It was exciting to be there. I got to meet some people face-to-face for the first time and re-connect with some old friends. But the lack of interaction was difficult for me. Interaction is what keeps me going. Twitter helped with that, but it wasn't really enough for me. Plus, I discovered later on that I wasn't even suposed to have my laptop open (Oops - I didn't see the sign until the last session).

Content wise there were some good messages.  A lot of what people said wasn't new to me, but it suddenly came to me, I'm not really the audience! These videos will be viewed by many many people.  That is the brilliant aspect of TED. I am thrilled that the messages that so many of us have been talking, Tweeting and blogging about will get out through a different medium. Everything we do can make a difference for someone.


  • From Alan November: Who owns the learning?
  • From Homa Tavangar: We are more plugged in, but are we more connected? We have a universal understanding of what it takes to be a good friend. A global citizen is a good friend to the world.
  • From Lucy Gray: Connect Now! Practice professional generosity for the benefit our children.
  • From Gary Stager: Young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity. Less us, more them!
  • From Heidi Hayes Jacobs: We can do dumb things with SMART boards. We don't need re-form, we need new-form. We need new types of teachers. We need to be a new kind of teacher. 
  • From Luyen Chou: We can change education by changing the assessments.
  • From Morley: If you are feeling helpless, help someone.

In such a short period of time with one talk right after another it is hard to process what you are hearing. I am thankful I can go back and watch the videos to see what I missed.

A Suggestion:
What if we had half the number of speakers and 10 minutes of discussion in the room after each talk? That might be the best of both worlds!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Thank you for your interest in and application for the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Class of 2011.  We received a record number of applications and were pleased and encouraged with the high quality of applicants. We can't begin to describe the difficulty we had selecting the new Class of 2011. 
Unfortunately, your application was not selected for this year's program.
After a full day of anticipation and waiting, at about 5pm last night I was finally informed that I will not be a part of the ADE class of 2011. Knowing that  Chris Betcher, blogger and podcaster extraordinaire, also was not accepted helped to greatly reduce the sting of this rejection, however it never feels good to get the no vote.

I often say that if you aren't failing, you aren't really trying. I still believe that is true. I'm sad I didn't make it, but I'm glad I tried. It was fun to make the video and I do believe I gave it my full effort.  The wise words my network had to offer also softened the blow.

 Chris Betcher 

@ From Cool Runnings, "A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without one, you'll never be enough *with* one.

 David Jakes 
To all of you who didnt make the  class, let that be motivation for learning more, being more, and never giving up.

I have also been thinking about why I applied. I have to admit to some ADA, GCT jealousy. Not having any letters to put after my name makes me feel a little left out of the club. So many people I respect in my field have these marks of approval appending their bios. Does this make me less legitimate because I don't? Does this make me worse at my job? Maybe not in reality, but I have to own up to the envy.

Dan Callahan tweeted this in the wake of hearing about our ADA results:

 Dan Callahan 

@ @ @ I roam the open fields of the world untethered by corporate certificates. I am a Certified Free Range Educator

As an educator, what role should corporations play in my professional life? As much as I love Apple and Google products, why should they be certifying me? Should it not be the other way around? Should Apple and Google be applying to us for our stamp of approval?

In case you are interested, here is the video I made for my ADA application: