So – just going to take a minute to brag on some amazing students from our school – and simultaneously give a shout out for their dedicated teacher!

Am also thinking on the value of high quality elective courses, problem solving/hands on learning, student-centered classrooms where students actively make decisions about their learning, program funding (necessary, after all) and all the things that can help make good things like this happen:

LA Unified students face off in healthful cooking contest

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We at Teaching Harry have been quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been thinking of the sorrow of December 14 or inspired by the many moving responses such as 27 Acts of Kindness (http://www.facebook.com/27Acts).  So much to be thoughtful about and thankful for in the new year, including you – thank you for continuing to follow us.  We wish you all a season full of peace and joy – and hope to hear from or see you in 2013.

 

 

Happy Holidays from Teaching Harry!

Best wishes,

Cathy and Becky

 

 

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Please make sure to vote today – and we hope you’ll think of kids and schools when you do!

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We recently received word from our editor at Palgrave Macmillan that Teaching Harry Potter is soon to be released in paperback!  We are incredibly excited!  Look for the book to be released in March 2013 – and keep tuning in here on Teaching Harry where we promise to keep you posted on all the latest release news.

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If you haven’t already read Michael Roth’s op ed “Learning as Freedom” from last Thursday’s (Sept. 6) New York Times, you should.  And not just because he draws heavily on John Dewey (my inner historian is completely geeking out), but because it’s about wanting a broader vision for students and learning – and because what he describes about ” . . . develop[ing] habits of mind that allow students to keep learning, even as they acquire skills to get things done” is not just food for thought for higher ed, but offers much for the debate about where and how best to employ testing and other mandates vs authentic and more interactive teaching and learning: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/opinion/john-deweys-vision-of-learning-as-freedom.html?_r=1

And if you’re really brave, I highly recommend taking on Dewey yourself, if you haven’t already.  Perhaps Chapter 5 “The Nature of Freedom” from Experience and Education.  Yeah, it was published in 1938 – but guaranteed, the argument resonates in the here and now.

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Hello All!  It’s been far too long, we know, but back to school season has reminded us to say hello and wish everyone involved with schools in some fashion an excellent start to the academic year.

The season is also a great time to find new inspiration – particularly given the deep budget cuts affecting public education – so we’d like to share a gem that reminds us of all that is possible with determination, energy and a lot of sheer will.  Please meet our friends at The Sustainability Workshop:    http://www.workshopschool.org/

My friend Matt along with some excellent colleagues, founded this project-based school in Philadelphia, with the cooperation of the school district.  The school is featured in a recent CNN piece that you can link to on the website.  It’s amazing work that says a lot about what can be done when centrally focused on effective resources that make a school work for the kids, and when a group is driven to hold to a truly broader vision of the educational experience and potential for urban students.  The small size and personalization of the school program (cooperatively designed by teachers and students) also provides a lot of food for thought about large urban high schools vs small schools and more individualized learning.  It’s also not a little refreshing that the school, the kids and their teachers are centrally highlighted in all informational media; as you move through the Workshop’s website, you feel like you get to know them and their work.  The focus on the students serves as a crucial reminder that in the end, regardless of the size of the school or who is involved with the school program, that school space is where “it” happens and therefore that space needs to be nurtured – carefully and deliberately.

So go take a look and get inspired – and to our friends at the Workshop:  ¡Bravo! and best wishes for an incredible year!

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Awhile back I wrote about some lovely allies in my quest to raise a cool girl in today’s princess pink world; if you need a refresher, here’s a quick link:

http://www.teachingharry.com/?p=109

My daughter is now a couple of years older, and given that, plus the fact that we here at Teaching Harry are also avid Hunger Games fans, you’ve got to know where I was this past Friday – daughter in tow complete with GIRL ON FIRE shirt.  Woot!  Besides loving the movie and celebrating the books, I found myself once again feeling so thankful that my daughter is growing up at a time when such courageous girl role models exist and it’s actually cool to like them.  If you read and you’re tech savvy and, alright, geeky! – there’s someone out there for you to relate to that is now more readily accessible because the world is also appreciating her.  And you know, that’s ok, because the world doesn’t often recognize spirited young women like this one.  Such appreciation is also very affirming for many who are at that tender age when they begin to define who they are for themselves.

So, to add to my list of thank you’s, I send an incredibly loud shout-out to Katniss Everdeen: self-reliant, smart, tough, perceptive, compassionate, brave, loyal, and most of all, true to herself.  Next stop: archery class!

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I realize I’m a few days behind on this, but did you catch Arne Duncan on Jon Stewart last Thursday?  Because seriously, following him was like the worst combination of rushed soundbites and circuitous, contradictory “logic.” Given, he’s been a big disappointment to a lot of educators, but seriously?  All props to Jon Stewart, though, who asked some pointed questions and pushed back (albeit politely) when Duncan avoided answering him, especially about the ramifications of the Race to the Top initiative.  Stewart’s mother, a teacher, obviously taught him well.

Here’s the link to the show’s clip as well as the extended interviews (not aired):

Jon Stewart interviews Arne Duncan

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UPDATE:  Our interview is now located in the archive section of Henry Jenkins’ site – select link for February 2012 and scroll down

Henry Jenkins recently interviewed us and all 3 parts are now currently posted on his blogsite:

henryjenkins.org

He asked us some great questions – we hope you’ll take a look!

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Interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/education/big-study-links-good-teachers-to-lasting-gain.html?_r=1&ref=education

Researchers have published a paper linking growth in a teacher’s student test scores, what we’ve come to call growth over time data, to a teacher’s lasting impact on students.  For example, more “effective” teachers (based on test data) are connected to classes of students with fewer teen pregnancies, greater college attendance and increased earnings as adults.  It’s a thought-provoking argument – and the research is both interesting and compelling.  I mean, I still question the objectivity of standardized tests, and still believe that there is much, much more to good teaching than test data.  But I also have to admit, that after being back in school and working with a large group of teachers, it makes sense to me.  I mean, the best teachers I know, including the 3 Teaching Harry Potter teachers, end up with students who generally have solid, consistent test scores for their particular demographic.  It’s not a given, there’s a great deal of work involved, but when I look at the data, there is a correlation.  In essence, it’s another aspect of the skill set they’ve worked to develop.  The issue here is whether their time couldn’t have been spent on something more authentic, but that’s a discussion for another day.

What I found most compelling about the article was not the correlation to scores, but the authors’ arguments about the importance of good teachers and the damage done to students who have low performing teachers year after year:

“Perhaps just as important, given the difficulty of finding, training and retaining outstanding teachers, is that the difference in long-term outcome between students who have average teachers and those with poor-performing ones is as significant as the difference between those who have excellent teachers and those with average ones, the study found.

In the aggregate, these differences are potentially enormous.

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

‘If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,’ said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors.”

Even if you consider the margin of error in the study, that’s an incredibly powerful statement, particularly when considered alongside current discussions of teacher seniority protection regardless of performance (using any measure), and issues with hiring and vetting teachers in large urban districts, who have to compete with suburban districts that offer higher pay and incentives.  It is indeed possible in high poverty districts for students to have multiple low performing teachers within a given year as well as over successive years.  While this injustice has served to empower many to work to improve the educational offerings for urban and/or high poverty school children, the above article provides a new look and increased urgency.

One wonders – will it resonate in any way that will help to bring significant change for both teacher professionalization and kids who desperately need, and deserve, better?

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