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Aug 10 2012

How many things wrong with this first day?

Today I noticed this tweet from TFA: This struck me, instantly, as a very unwise thing to say in a first day of school pep talk.  The link took me to this post by a very good new blogger. Since this was seen as worthy of tweeting to TFA’s 70,000 followers, many of which are…

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Jun 18 2012

The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching

I’ll take a break from my relentless critique of TFA to offer some teaching advice to the new corps members.  Having written two books of teaching advice, I was invited, a few months ago, to write a short article for Educational Leadership Magazine with the best advice I’d give to new teachers. I decided to…

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Aug 08 2011

@2011s My Framework: Teaching As … Teaching

I am writing this post as a favor to the 2011 CMs.  It is not your fault that TFA can justify to themselves that a few hours of student teaching experience with class sizes of 15 or less makes you ready to handle the responsibility of teaching the kids who need highly trained teachers the…

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Jul 03 2011

Tips On Being An Effective Teacher

Many people have been commenting that they’d like more helpful teaching advice and fewer angry rants from me.  When I started writing this blog, that was the main point, and most of my earlier posts were just that.  So what I’ve done is create a ‘category’ of teaching advice so new CMs can be more…

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After my first year of teaching, I developed some ideas to have a more successful second year.  They worked, and I began spreading the word, informally, for the next couple of years.  Then in 1995, I created a workshop about the importance of classroom management and about what it means to be a ‘real’ teacher. …

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Jun 22 2011

@2011s Can You Handle The Truth?

I believe that TFA does not think so, and I will use this post to explain what evidence I have for this claim and also speculate why that choose to underestimate you in this way. When I was growing up in the 1970s, I loved watching reruns of ‘The Brady Bunch’ a show about a…

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May 28 2011

My ‘Math In Movies and TV’ video montage

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to get TFA to improve that this blog might get a bit negative.  I forget that as one of the best math teachers in the country, I could sometimes use this as a forum to share some of my best math lessons. What got me to think…

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Many CMs have already passed their first days, and I’ve been reading some posts and cringing a bit when I read about how new teachers spend a lot of time right away with their ‘setting big goals’ / ‘investment’ speech. You can set big goals and you can work on getting your students ‘invested’ but…

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Jul 07 2010

Common teacher mistake #7

Common Teacher Mistake #7 — Overconfidence. This is one that particularly applies to new TFA teachers. I was a victim of this myself, back in the day, and the fact that it’s still a prominent issue makes me worry that TFA contributes to building that overconfidence. You know the famous Western movie cliche “It’s quiet…

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Mar 27 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part IX

Now that I’ve finished the entire book, including all the appendices, I’d like to make some conclusions and final reflections for any new teachers reading the book and especially for new TFA CMs. I think that one of the central themes of the book is that effective teachers know how to be efficient with the…

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Mar 26 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part VIII

I’ve just finished chapter 6, the final principle ‘Work Relentlessly.’ While I like most of the content of this chapter, I’ve got a few minor ‘improvements.’ TFA is still in the middle of a slow evolution of its philosophy of teacher training and teacher effectiveness. Sometimes it seems that they’re not quite sure if they…

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Mar 25 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part VII

Just finished chapter 5, ‘Continuously Increase Effectiveness,’ which I liked. It’s a very short 20 page chapter, which is very realistic. All teachers make mistakes. New teachers make a lot of them, but even experienced teachers do. Mistakes come from taking risks, and just like students learn from mistakes, so can teachers. When things don’t…

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Mar 24 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part VI

Chapter 4, ‘Execute Effectively’, is another very good chapter. Here is where readers learn that being an excellent teacher requires a lot of hard detail work. There’s the constant assessing of students during a lesson and then a lot of grading afterwards. I think a CM reading this will finally get a sense of what…

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Mar 23 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part V

Chapter 3 of Teaching as leadership is, surprisingly, quite good. Reading it made me even more frustrated about what happened in the first two chapters. It seems like chapter 3 is based on a completely different premise than the first two chapters. Chapters one and two seem to say, “Here are some practices we’ve found…

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Mar 22 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part IV

Chapter 2 begins with some first hand accounts by highly effective teachers describing what they do to ‘invest’ their students. Some of the practices of the hero teachers are kind of risky. For example, Kwame Griffith writes on page 54: I build strong relationships with my students, and they called my home nightly to talk…

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Is this ‘investment’ safe? One thing I want to make clear is that my goal here is not simply to ‘tear apart’ this book, magnifying small errors and ignoring any of its merit. I know this book is going to influence the decisions of many new teachers, so I’m actually on the lookout for good…

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The very first principle described in ‘Teaching As Leadership’ is ‘Set Big Goals.’ All effective teachers do this, they say, which I agree with. Implied is the converse that everyone who sets big goals will be an effective teacher or that many teachers who were not effective would have been more effective had they set…

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Mar 17 2010

‘Teaching As Leadership’ book critique Part I

Why the new TFA book could widen the achievement gap. I was excited to get my hands on the new TFA book ‘Teaching as leadership.’ For the past 19 years, I’ve been involved with TFA on many levels as a CM in 1991-1993, then eventually as an institute staff member in 1996. I’ve been a…

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Aug 30 2009

High Expectations? Not so fast.

High Expectations? Not so fast. I think one of the most dangerously misinterpreted pieces of advice given to new teachers is “You must have high expectations.” The idea is that students will rise to whatever your expectations are, no matter how high they are. This sentiment is promoted by movies like ‘Stand And Deliver’ and…

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Why managment ‘systems’ don’t work in middle or high school. By management ‘system,’ I mean some kind of incremental consequence ladder that you keep track of on a chart or with a clothespin that you, or the students, move to keep track of where each student is. When you were in middle or high school,…

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Jul 29 2009

Forced ‘investment’ is counterproductive

Forced ‘investment’ is counterproductive. For the past (almost 20) years, I’ve observed the changes in the TFA teacher training philosophy. When I started in 1991, they were all about ‘portfolios,’ which were popular in the early 90s, but you don’t hear a lot about them anymore since they were not very practical. After my 4th…

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Aug 03 2008

Common teacher mistake #6

Common teacher mistake #6 — Telling a misbehaving student that you are calling home. Calling parents is a great thing to do. Even for students whose parents don’t have a lot of control them, a parent call is still pretty annoying. In the beginning of the year, once I identify some distruptive students, I am…

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Is it better to succed at trying to be good or fail at trying to be great? This is a fundamental question that’s at the heart at my differences with TFA with regard to the training of the CMs. Looking over the curriculum and talking with CMs, I realize that TFA is holding up models…

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Jul 30 2008

Common teacher mistake #5

Common teacher mistake #5 — Making the first test too difficult. It’s important that all your students succeed on the first formal assessment. Even if you’ve conducted enough ‘informal’ assessments that they’ve convinced you that they’ve learned, the students need to convince themselves that they’ve learned, and for them that means success on a test.…

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Jul 27 2008

Common teacher mistake #4

Common teacher mistake #4: Too much enthusiasm on the first day. My first year, I was wrongly under the impression that my task on the first day was to ‘wow’ my class and get their attention. As good as this sounds at first, it’s the absolute wrong thing to do and here’s why: When you…

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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