Category Archives: education

Corporal punishment in American schools in 2013

It happened as we were conducting practice walkthroughs during principal training. I was working with a group of administrators on gathering formative data on teacher instructional practices and, as we were making our way down the hallway, I overheard one principal say to another, “…after that smart @$$ comment, I turned to [name] and just said, ‘Whup ‘im.'”

I let out a half-laugh as I turned to him, not sure whether to be aghast or amused at the absurdity of joking about spanking a student. The moment I saw his face, however, I realized that he wasn’t joking. I’m sure several emotions were evident in my expression as the realization of what he was saying sunk in – disbelief, disgust, horror. Mentally recoiling, I managed to create space between us as we continued walking, giving one of the other principals a chance to come up alongside me and whisper, somewhat apologetically, “Corporal punishment is still legal in Texas.”

I have memories of classmates being called to the office for punishment that can only be categorized as child abuse, but I had naively assumed that those brutish practices had been discontinued in the ’80s. How wrong I was.

I recently told a co-worker this story and she, like me, found it difficult to fathom that this form of punishment was still legal. She forwarded data from The Center for Effective Discipline on frequency of corporal punishment by state (and those that have banned such practices). I’ll let the data speak for itself. I am especially dismayed to see that Colorado, my adopted home of 15 years that I consider to be such a role model for healthy living and innovative ideas, still hasn’t banned corporal punishment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is corporal punishment still legal in your state? Is it still a part of your school’s culture? How frequently is this happening in your world?


Educon 2013

Just some early thoughts as we get started with Educon

I kept pondering what the difference was – what was the “secret to the sauce” as I listened to SLA students give their tours yesterday. Here are a couple of differences that I noticed in these students that I don’t often see when I’m touring schools, especially high schools:

  1. Pride in their school, their work, their teachers, and their community,
  2. Humility in that their destiny ultimately lies within them, not what a teacher does for them,
  3. Awareness of a world beyond high school and their excitement in the role they will soon play in that world (or in some cases, are already playing).
  4. Engagement in their own work. Not once did I see rows of bored teenagers listen to a grown-up lecture.

I kept thinking back to the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd graders I taught in my Montessori classroom and the 6th graders I saw them become. SLA would have been a very natural progression for them. They would have loved the independent study, the focus on community, and the leadership roles they are expected to play.

So good to see. My question – can we replicate this on a large scale?


Post on the Evolving Role of Museums in Education

Met NYCYesterday, I posted about Urban Advantage Denver, a cooperation between metro area schools and our local museums to foster interest in science for middle school students.

I also posted on McREL’s blog, expanding on how museums could play a dynamic role in the growing interest in informal education. Is the fact that museums are focusing on their future role in education a signal that we are moving towards the fourth scenario described in The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020? Head over to the McREL blog and let me know your thoughts.

(Photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, 2008)


How Denver’s Museums Are Addressing Urban Education

dmnsIt wasn’t until I read Elizabeth Merritt’s  piece on Museums and the Future of Education (PDF) that I learned of Urban Advantage Denver, a program designed to improve science literacy among middle school students. A cooperation between the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (pictured), Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Zoo, and several metro area school districts, the program provides resources to educators to engage students in critical thinking and authentic learning.

In an upcoming blog post (UPDATE – here), I will write more about how I think partnerships such as Urban Advantage signal a shift towards informal learning models for students and the role that local organizations – such as museums – can play in that shift.


Pushing the (Digital) Envelope

20110925-092824.jpg I recently started working with a new client to help their teacher leaders become district trainers for one of our lines of work. They had previously worked with a colleague of mine with great success, but I knew that our two different presentation styles would be a shift for them.

My colleague had warned me, when I asked if I could simply create a Google site for the work, that the technology wasn’t readily available to do so and that I should come prepared with paper handouts and a flash key drive.

I struggled with the message that I was hearing: in spite of my role in helping schools to transition into 21st century learning environments, I should enable them to continue doing things in an expensive, time-consuming manner. I made a risky decision…I uploaded all documents onto a Google site and sent an email asking them to bring a laptop or iPad if available.

The first morning was dicey…one person had to take the documents from my flash key and run to the office to print them off. I started to question my doggedness. When we moved to the computer lab later in the day, I started to feel some hope.

By the second morning, however, everyone brought a device or borrowed a netbook from the cart that had been sitting in the room the entire time (!) The transformation was amazing…people were actively adjusting slides and adding notes as I was presenting. By the end of the day, they had finished products ready to use. My favorite moment came as I listened to two colleagues talk about their upcoming presentation:

“Should we provide handouts, you think?”

“No, (gesturing to her own pile of papers) it’ll just end up on a shelf somewhere. Let’s get them on the Google site and give them tools they can use right away.”

I’ve said this before…I love my job 🙂


Present Like Steve Jobs

I’ve really gotten into some reading to help me think about my presentations with teachers and how to make them more dynamic. I want to model what I’m talking about when I say that we as educators need to think about our 21st century “audience” and how to best engage them.

A couple of resources that I’ve really enjoyed include Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen.

I was planning on summarizing a great video that I watched called “Present like Steve Jobs,” but then I found this one from the same author, Carmine Gallo, that’s even better.

Two ways I plan to use this information: 1) to inform my own practice working with educators and 2) to share this information with teachers and see how they can apply these tips to their own teaching practice. We are all teaching an entirely different generation of learners and these eight practices can help us (me) think differently about getting my message across succinctly and elegantly.


A success story of internet safety

About a year ago, I worked with a teacher in Nevada to help him create a wiki for his 3rd grade students in which they would collaborate on state reports. I’ve kept tabs on the wiki and watched it grow tremendously.

A couple of days ago, I left a comment on the “Georgia” page, offering the student my Flickr pictures from my travels in Savannah, St. Simons, and Athens. I received the following email from the teacher today:

“Let me tell you a story: I wasn’t at school on Tuesday, so I didn’t have a chance to tell my students about the email I received from you on Monday. When I got home Tuesday evening and found your email that said that you had commented on the Georgia site, I decided to check it out. There was no comment at all. I thought that was strange, so I checked my bloglines account, which is the way I do a quick check on what the students have been doing on their reports. I found your comment and printed it off to bring to class today. This morning I talked to the class and found that the students had checked their comments yesterday, and when they found things from people they didn’t know they just deleted them. I explained who you were and showed them a copy of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” including the group picture at the back of the book. The class felt bad about it, and I gave the student who was working on Georgia a copy of your comment. While I thought it was kind of humorous, I was really impressed that they did delete the content, since it goes along with beware of strangers.”

I am SO proud of these students (and their teacher) for acting wisely given the situation. Now that they know who I am, I plan to go back and add a few comments to their wiki, but I love that there are these success stories out there to counterbalance some of the horror stories that get such attention.

Kudos to Gary & his class!