In chapter 6, Wagner discusses a unique school called High Tech High which operates a handful of schools throughout San Diego county. Wagner discusses how successful the school is and how the school has managed to become a leader and trend setter in an ever advancing digital and technological age. This is a school which is truly ushering in the dawn of a new era in education. Wagner notes that over 80% percent of students who graduate from High Tech High go on to leading colleges such as Stanford. What is it about the way the school works though that is so progressive? Well, everything! You will not find multiple choice exams or true or false questions at high tech high. You wont find students mindlessly memorizing answers out of an outdated text book. And you definitely wont find students who “hate” to be at school. What will you find here? Project based learning, students getting involved with what THEY are passionate about, and students connecting with leading and advanced professionals and organizations. The opportunities kiddos get at this school are immense. This school really thinks outside of the “sand box”! I can attest for this personally. While completing my undergraduate work at CSUSM, I was able to mentor a group of students at High Tech High in San Marcos and helped guide them through an amazing project they were working on in a world history class. This project inspired students to learn about historic events such as the Holocaust and to then discover that there are still major human rights violations occurring all over the world today including genocide. The group I worked with ended up getting in touch with an organization that works to prevent child sex trafficking. Students learned that every year, hundreds of children are abducted from the US and taken into Mexico and Central America and forced into sex trafficking. The experiences these students got while working on this project was first hand and extremely real and personal. These students where being exposed to and mastering what Wagner calls the seven survival skills at this school. This includes inquiry, expression, critical thinking, collaboration, attentiveness, involvement, and reflection. High tech High really pushes students to master these 7 categories or skills. High Tech High as well as several other schools mentioned in this chapter all have common core principles for teaching and learning that really take them to the next level and push kiddos to excel and thrive.
Wagner starts chapter five by asking, “What does it take to bring out the best in young people today, both in school and in the workplace?” It seems that more and more kiddos today are unmotivated and lack a strong sense of work ethics. When kiddos are unmotivated and have poor ethics, it can be very difficult to bring the best out in them. This is a typical answer Wagner gets when discussing these issues with educators: “Young people today have no respect for authority. They talk to each other in class, as though the teacher wasn't even there. And if they get into trouble, their parents are all over me with phone calls and emails and even complaints to the school board. The problem with these kids is that many of them are growing up kind of spoiled. They have everything they could ever want or need – except some adult discipline in their lives.” It seems that employers are echoing these same concerns. But whats the issue? It seems that many kiddos are receiving the wrong type of help and motivation. Many students seem to be barked at or talked at when in trouble rather than talked to. It is rare for students to respond positively when yelled at. The key is positive encouragement and motivation through the “right kind of help”. Kids need adults who truly care about them and their interests. Peer mentors and coaches can really make the difference here. Kids need to be asked what they are interested in as well as what excites them when learning to make things relevant. With the decline of traditional authority and social values, there are less reasons why individuals will work to learn. The primary reason today is the “Pull” factor which incorporates interest, desire, and passion. When people find their passion, thats when you will see them work hard. Too often when I was in school, I would ask teachers the point of a lesson or activity and I would get answers like “because” or “it will make you smart”... what a cop out. Answers like that turned me off from many classes and school in general. I feel that too many teachers today are still giving answers like these to students. Wagner has heard from experts that kids really thrive when they have thoughtful adult mentoring. The key word here is THOUGHTFUL. Many teachers today are not thoughtful whatsoever. I have witnessed teachers in schools all over San Diego who never lesson plan, put zero thought into student activities, and act like it is a burden for them to do their job. These are what I call toxic teachers. We wonder why students don't care? Well I believe that it starts from the top down and too many teachers have failed students and thus pushing them to become disenfranchised.
Want a job at Google? You may be intrigued to find out what the senior vice president of people operations looks for when considering employees to hire for Google. Thomas Friedman of The Times interviewed Lazlo Brock to find out just exactly what Google looks for. The first thing that Lazlo had to say was that they think that GPA's and test scores are worthless as criteria for hiring. “For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.” Google wants “doers” it seems. He goes on to say that they also want leaders and that of the traditional sense.
Google wants leaders who can rise to the occasion when faced with a situation. They also want someone who can relinquish power when necessary. They do not want a “ball hog” so to speak. They want team players. This reminds me of the motto that Principal Chuck Hoover of Murray High in Vista CA believes in and that is to always “LEAD” . By LEAD Mr. Hoover means to Listen more than you talk, Encourage more than you dictate, Anticipate more than you react, Don't be the smartest person in the room. This seems in line with standards at Google. Finally Google believes that these are trends you will see grow across all fields. “And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”
So whats the one thing we should all take away from this? I believe we should always remember that “Its all in the attitude dude”!
Week 5 Reflection, "A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned"
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a high school student looks like? Many people assume they know including administrators and faculty. However, to understand someone you really need to walk a mile in their shoes. It turns out that a veteran teacher turned coach came to this very conclusion and decided to shadow two students for two days.
This article came out in October of 2014 and the coach starts by saying “I made a huge mistake”. By this she means that she wish she would not have waited so long , 14 years, to shadow a student. The teacher now realizes that she thinks that this is something that all teachers should do during their first year of teaching or sooner. The teacher began this assignment per the request of her principal to fulfill requirements under this teachers new position as a “learning coach” for the school. The teacher was advised to go to every class each student had and to do every activity the students did including taking notes, completing worksheets, as well as tests.
This is the schedule as follows:
“My class schedules for the day (Note: we have a block schedule; not all classes meet each day): The schedule that day for the 10th grade student: 7:45 – 9:15: Geometry 9:30 – 10:55: Spanish II 10:55 – 11:40: Lunch 11:45 – 1:10: World History 1:25 – 2:45: Integrated Science The schedule that day for the 12th grade student: 7:45 – 9:15: Math 9:30 – 10:55: Chemistry 10:55 – 11:40: Lunch 11:45 – 1:10: English 1:25 – 2:45: Business”
There were many key takeaways at the end of the day. One of the first key things this teacher learned was just how LONG the student's day was. Students also sit for the majority of the day and do not move around that much. Sitting all day can be actually be very exhausting. The teacher in this case says she could barely make it through the day and was constantly yawning. But what can be done about this? Here are the teachers suggestions:
“mandatory stretch halfway through the class • put a Nerf basketball hoop on the back of my door and encourage kids to play in the first and final minutes of class • build in a hands-on, move-around activity into every single class day. Yes, we would sacrifice some content to do this – that’s fine. I was so tired by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective.”
Another key takeaway that this teacher had was that students are forced to passively listen to instruction for 90% of their day. It became clear that teachers are talking far too much. Students need to be engaged more with student centered learning. This is key to advanced learning and real world/ practical learning. I believe that classes should be 50% instructional and 50% student centered. Here are some final takeaway this teacher discovered based on this issue:
“Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.) • set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done. End of story. I can go on and on. I love to hear myself talk. I often cannot shut up. This is not really conducive to my students’ learning, however much I might enjoy it. • Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed. This is my biggest regret right now – not starting every class this way. I am imagining all the misunderstandings, the engagement, the enthusiasm, the collaborative skills, and the autonomy we missed out on because I didn’t begin every class with fifteen or twenty minutes of this.”
It is clear to me that we are beginning to enter a new era in education, a long over due one. Many of the issues mentioned in this article actually pushed myself to give up on traditional high school when I was a kiddo. I hated school for the very reasons mentioned in this article so I called it quits and finished high school in a continuation school. Kids need to have activities during the day in each class where they can actively participate with one another rather than being barked at all day. I had a rather crazy high school experience.... Thats for another post though!
“If the goal is to improve student learning, and that is the only goal that really matter, the first problem that you have to work on is to improve teaching and coaching teachers” (Wagner 128). Currently there are evaluative systems in place for teachers required by state laws. However, Wagner notes that these are basically a joke and a “hoop jumping exercise”(Wagner 129). Teachers value a wide range of different aspects when it comes to lessons. Educators are spread out to thin on the issue. “Classroom walls need to be transparent and teachers should do learning walks together and talk about what they see.” I think this is very important. The school I am currently working at, Valley High in Escondido is ahead of the game on this one. Last week I had 6 teachers and 6 administartors visit my classroom in two groups in two different periods. At the end of the day several teachers were impressed by several aspects of my lesson and asked how I used certain technological elements! Teachers need to network and collaborate with each other. This involves sharing amazing lessons, websites, documents, technology, etc… It also involves how beginning teachers are taught in credential programs. I feel so fortunate to be part of the CSUSM credential program. They are miles ahead of the rest when it comes to preparing student teachers for a career in a 21st century classroom. I have seen others at various school sites that are getting their credential through programs such as National University online, and I must say that I am not impressed when I talk to these people about education. CSUSM has pushed me to think about the current state of education in ways that I did not know exist. I also feel that I am mastering how to create lessons and units that are aligned with common core standards and that engage students and prepare them for college and life outside of the classroom. Educators that have been in the field for a while need to learn to accept change and realize as Wagner says that it is all about improving student education. I hate hearing from educators that Common Core is the new “fad” or “buzzword”. The era of drill and kill is over. I am excited and am anxious for Common Core standards to specifically be released for social studies / history.
It is clear that No Child Left Behind and standardized testing has been a big flop in America for years. The current system is focused on cramming facts down student’s throats in an effort to get them to memorize as much as possible. Not only does this turn many students off to education in a big way, it is becoming more and more evident that this is indeed an inferior way of teaching students and that there is much to be done. Wagner illuminates these issues and more in his book The Global Achievement Gap Chapter three. Every one of our 50 states in the US has had different standards and practices when it comes to educating our children. Every one of these states has been perpetuating obsolete notions of academic rigor (Wagner 125). Our education system in this country is severely outdated and in need of a drastic overhaul. “According to a recent study sponsored by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “80 percent of voters say that the things students need to learn today are different than 20 years ago. And almost nine in 10 voters (88 percent) believe 21st century skills can and should be part of the curriculum” (Wagner 125). If there is such agreement on these issues, then what is with the educational gridlock we are seeing all over the country? A big part of it has to do with political and financial issues. Wagner believes that financial conservatives are holding our states’ testing system hostage as well as possibly student futures (Wagner 125). As an educator just entering the field, I vow to embrace change and to engage students in meaningful lessons that will not only prepare them for college but also for life. It is the dawn of a new era in education. Which side are you on?
Simon Sinek gives a wonderful TED Talk regarding “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. He asks how are some people successful and some are not? How is Apple continually so much more innovative than there competition? How was MLK Jr. able to be so successful in the Civil Rights Movement when there where many others with the same concerns? Sinek believes that there is a pattern, which can explain things. Sinek has codified this pattern he says. He explains that it is very simple and refers to it as “The Golden Circle”. This circle has three layers with the inner most being “Why”, the next being “How”, and finally “What”. Sinek believes that all inspiring leaders have had similar thought processes, which push them to think from the inside out. For example, Apple creates their products with a belief of challenging the status quo; they then do this by creating products that are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Thus people do not buy what you do but how you do it. Dell made MP3 players at one point and were qualified to do so but guess what, no one bought them. “Thus the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe” (Sinek). So, can this ideology be carried over to education? By all means, YES! As an educator we should all first and foremost know why we “do” what we “do”. We need to rally around others who believe what we believe. If someone is doing something because it is what they believe in, they will do it and give blood sweat and tears to complete the job. Students can pick up whether or not a teacher is passionate and believes in and is sincere about why they are doing their job. Educators need to focus and remember why they started teaching and always keep that belief alive. Always remember, MLK Jr. said he had a “dream”, not a “plan”. This goes to show that he was focused on the “why”, not the “what”. “There are leaders and then there are those who lead” (Sinek).
Do you pay attention to your body language or that of others? Amy Cuddy discusses issues pertaining to body language in a very interesting TED talk. People at times can be very awkward sociably. Non-verbal language incorporates body language. Social scientists have long studied how body language can convey messages that we may not realize. Often people can make sweeping judgments based on body language. These can have a wide range of adverse affects. Body language can make or break a job interview, can make a person seem prude or uptight, and with educators it can help make or break the experience of a child in the classroom. Cuddy states that within 1 second, judgments of political campaign candidates faces, predict 70% of senate and gubbernational outcomes! (Cuddy). So it seems that the whole concept of not judging a “book” by its cover is something that many people are just not “wired” to do. In some fields, professionals are trained to have certain body language. For example, a judge is trained to have extremely limited expressions for various reasons. Teachers should be extremely mindful of their body language. As an educator who is just getting their feet wet, I understand how terrifying it can be to get up in front of a class of 40 students and try to teach. I remember being a nervous wreck my first few times out but I have always lived by the mentality of “faking it till you make it”. Amy Cuddy is also a strong advocate of this idea. If you “fake” something for long enough, you will eventually become it! It’s all about configuring your brain to cope in certain situations until you master them. This also means configuring your body language. The old saying practice makes perfect is very true. We just need to be aware of where we are and where we want to see ourselves as educators. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Teacher of the year? #TOTY
Here is a short Storify I created while reading the first two chapters of Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap, Enjoy! Click Button Below To View
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Caine’s Arcade is the brainchild of one young boy from East Los Angeles. Caine is addicted to games so naturally he built his own arcade. He started out by taping a tiny basketball hoop to a box and charging people a nickel to play his dad says. Over time the games started becoming more elaborate. For one dollar a customer can get four plays but for two dollars you can get a fun pass worth 500 passes. Eventually Caine made a fully functioning claw game. This has manifested to a small business that Caine operates on the weekends. Every game is made from cardboard. It is quite impressive! Not many people frequented Caine’s Arcade at first that was set up in front of his dad’s auto parts store but finally someone gave it a shot and realized the ingenuity and genius within this kid.
This was a man named Nirvan. Eventually Nirvan decided to take things to the next level and to make a short film about Caine and created a Facebook page for him announcing a surprise flash mob meeting at his arcade. Within an hour NBC news got word of it and then news hit the front page of Reddit! This is the power of social media in our digital world. It can unite people with a passion and a purpose. Eventually Caine arrived at his arcade to find a packed house of what seemed like nearly a hundred people. These were people rallying behind a good cause and a kid with a whole lot of love and passion to put out into this world. Now this has taken off to a whole new level. $240,000 has been raised for Caine’s scholarship fund and now over 100,000 kids take part in a global cardboard challenge inspired by Caine and his cardboard arcade. This helps to inspire young kids and to foster creativity. Kids are capable of the most amazing things when given opportunities and when they are believed in. Have you believed in someone lately?