TLN bloggers find fertile ground in May

Ariel Sacks (On the Shoulders of Giants), the newest (and youngest) blogger on the TLN website, draws connections between the recent controversy over police violence in New York City and her own inner-city classroom. “I want my students to believe that if they continue on in school and go to college, the world holds unlimited opportunities for them,” she says, “(but) how can my students not feel betrayed by this decision?”

Music teacher Nancy Flanagan (Teacher in a Strange Land), who once played a seventh grade math teacher in a pinch, reflects on the finding of a recent federal study that “research does not show conclusively which professional credentials demonstrate whether math teachers are effective in the classroom.” While she doesn’t find this reassuring, she was pleased to learn that the researchers placed a high value on pedagogical content knowledge – “knowing how to teach something, over and above simply knowing something.” So, why, now, this report in the New York Times questioning the value of hands-on math teaching strategies?

Renee Moore (TeachMoore) extends some conversation that began at the ASCD Inservice (aka Community) blog, spinning off a presentation at the Association’s annual conference. Author Allison Zmuda presented three common myths that haunt students when it comes to learning. “The one that seems to resonate the most with readers,” Renee writes, “was that students see learning that comes quickly as a sign of intelligence and learning that requires effort as a sign of their own lack of ability.” This agrees with her own experience, says Renee. “How many students (and not a few teachers) labor under the false notion that fast equals smart?”

Middle grades teacher Bill Ferriter (The Tempered Radical) has been puzzling over the extent to which his own classroom practices meet the developmental standards set out in the National Middle School Association’s “This We Believe” document. He’s especially concerned about a standard that reads, in part: “Young adolescents reveal growing capacity for thinking about how they learn, for considering multiple ideas, and for planning steps to carry out their own learning activities.” Has the quest for high scores on end-of-grade tests made that standard more difficult to achieve and “hurt pre-teens more than anyone else”?

In our group blog, TLN Teacher Voices, we’re pondering professionalism, in response to a comment by blogger Matt Johnston (“Going to the Mat”) that “teachers themselves have the power to change the perception of their occupation, from one where they don’t get the respect they demand and perhaps deserve, to one on par with the respect paid to doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers etc.” The consensus among TLNers: Teaching has a different history.