The “Curriculum



If you are lucky the curriculum will be written to include behavioral objectives.  If not, rewriting them in forms of behavioral objectives including means of measuring accomplishment is the first step.  The following is only one way this can be set up.  It identifies the objective, provides individualization, collaboration, measures progress towards completion and final completion.

Each student has an index card (or on a spread sheet) upon which they are checked for each behavioral objective.  I prefer the index card as they may be given the card, but if your school has or allows smart phones or ipads they would work too:

(Date,    John Doe,   Objective,    Activity,     %Completed,    Completed,    Comments).

I prefer using index cards and then entering completion in the grade book if required. 

Eighth grade and above I give the students a list of all the objectives and allow them to choose the order of addressing them.  I discuss and help them decide how they will demonstrate completion or proficiency.  In addition I recommend they form a group who will be working on the same objective.  I paper clip the index cards together for those working in a group together.  During the class period I circulate among the individual students and groups providing guidance in achieving the objective so that I can evaluate percentage of completion or those completed. I explain that it is not a competition 

If the school district requires a letter grade on the report card, we as a class decide how many objectives completed will translate to an “A”, “B”, “C” or “D”.  There is no “F”.  Some districts have a mandatory curriculum calendar so that if a student moves from one school to another he or she will be in the same place in the curriculum no matter which school they are attending.   They then use standardized tests based on that calendar.  If you find yourself in one of these districts you will pretty much need to disregard individualized instruction, collaboration, and measurement based on progress.  If you are a seasoned experienced teacher, you might be able to use this method and then teach to the district test.

Sometimes you need to identify a district mandate as asinine and work around it.  In one district the administrators went to a conference and heard about the use of “word walls” to teach vocabulary.  They then mandated their use district wide k through 12.  In this system there were ten words posted on the classroom wall per week and each day prescribed lessons were to be used to teach them.  These lessons were to be identified in the teacher’s lesson plans.  Money was spent to purchase nylon cloth “flags” with pockets where the words for the week were displayed.  Part of the teachers evaluation would be on the appearance of word walls in their lesson plans and use of the flags in their classrooms.

A good system for elementary grades, maybe.  A high school economics teacher pointed out that it would hardly work with his classes where there could be twenty new terms a week and there would not be enough time to implement this system and cover the curriculum.  He was told there would be no exceptions.  He put up his expensive nylon flag with each of ten of his vocabulary words in their slot.  He left those same words up until he was observed.  He taught those words as part of the lesson as directed.  After the observation he displayed ten new words in their pockets on the brightly colored nylon flag till his next observation.  Sometimes it is necessary to bend the rules in order to teach.  Unfortunately that’s the way it is, and you will need to choose between teaching and doing what the administration dictates.


New Teachers Part I


IMG_0715You’ve taken the education courses, content courses, psychology courses, statistics courses and ESOL courses.  You’ve completed the practice teaching.  You have your certifications.  You have your first position.  You’ve gone through new teacher orientation.  You have your curriculum guide.  You have your curriculum calendar.  You’ve made your lesson plans. 

Within a month you will find yourself tempted to teach the way you have been taught by your teachers.  This will be a continuing temptation throughout your career.  Why?

You are facing the dichotomy of using what you know about the learning process versus the school district’s curriculum and curriculum calendar.  For example, we know that effective concentration for the brightest is about twenty minutes, and your class period is sixty minutes.  You will have twenty five to thirty students whose abilities and life experiences range the full spectrum, but you will be expected to individualize instruction or PLP for each.  You will be expected to follow district wide dictates to be applied K through twelve when they are only appropriate for k through sixth.  You will face learning objectives that are obtuse and don’t define measurement.

To survive, you will be tempted to teach the way you were taught because the system you are working under is unchanged from when you were a student.  To obtain that “exceptional teacher” designation, you need to teach the way you were taught.  You will find yourself the square peg in the round hole screeching silently as you are forced to fit.

SOLUTIONS beginning in part II..

Live, Grow, and Prosper?

I understand how you can refuse abortions by this legislation, but please list the laws that allow a child to grow. Are we talking about food stamps, Medicaid, early child hood education, school funding, teacher education?

What laws do you have to enable them to prosper? A guaranteed living wage, universal medicine, free tuition, vocational training, and certified and trained teachers?

What is your state’s ranking in these areas? If your state is in the top 10%, help us in other states learn how to help a child grow and prosper.

If your state is not doing these things then you are plainly only interested in the fetus and not so much interested in the child that is born.

Common Core

I understand that they are standards.  I believe standards are a good thing.

What concerns me that as of yet no one had defined the goals of our public education system.  What do we think that every student in the United States should be able to do by the time they graduate?

Let’s take math.  Most school require at least four years of math. So are we talking about Year One is addition, Year Two is subtraction, Year Three is multiplication, and Year Four is division.  Seems like an awful long time to learn four skills.

Does everyone need algebra, trig, geometry, solid geometry, calculus, etc.?  I have justified algebra to all students by showing how it teaches logic and how I have used it in remodeling my house.  But a whole year?  And how do you justify graphing, x and y axis, and slope and slant?  I’m seventy-one years old, a college graduate and a teacher, and I have never found a practical use.

I can justify geometry for all students by showing students how to figure out how much paint they need for their room, car or bike.  But a whole year?  And how do you justify points, and lines, and tangents, and segments?I’m seventy-one years old, a college graduate and a teacher, and I have never found a practical use.

I took trig and calc and geometry and got my “A” but haven’t thought about them on a personal level other than when I have seen my students struggling.

So, my question to you is what should be our goal for every student when it comes to math?  Please share the question with everyone and share their responses.  There are a lot of frustrated students, parents and taxpayers wondering the same thing.

No Time Off For Good Behavior




In most, if not all, of the states in the United States education is mandatory for all children of a certain age. Generally, students between the ages of six and eighteen must be receiving education whether public, private or in the home.

They proceed year by year through the system grouped by age and having completed the previous year’s work in English, math, science and social studies. Because of the “promotion by age” process, the academic strengths and weaknesses of individuals cannot be addressed efficiently or at all. No matter how quickly a student masters the subject matter, they must complete twelve years of schooling, Ergo, twelve years with no time off for good behavior or for that matter chance of parole. No matter how hard you work in school, no matter how many extra courses you take, the bottom line for the ninety-nine percent of students is that they have to serve their twelve year sentence.

Stop sentencing our children to twelve years without the possibility of parole or even time off for good behavior.

Make education about competency not “doing their time”.

Think about all those times when you sat through a lesson that you already knew and were bored to tears.

Think about all those times when you could have used to go a little slower to get a lesson but couldn’t.

Think about all the time wasted when the teacher had to discipline fellow students who were bored and acted out.

Think about the highly motivated and talented students for whom there was no hope of advancement because they weren’t yet old enough yet to proceed to the next competency.

Think about the economic advantages.

Think about teachers teaching highly motivated students.

Think about the students who will benefit from their hard work by being able to complete school early and begin their careers.

Think about the parents who will have children who will want to go to school.

After you have thought this through, ask your board of education to justify their current method of promoting students. If they have no good justification, push for “true” competency based education; not competency based in name only.


The Secret to Finding Happiness

To introduce an experiment, I asked my students if anyone had found any money in the last month? Their ears perked up. They looked at me to see if they needed to call the principal because i had cracked up.

I asked again, an not a single student raised their hand.

Everyone wants happiness, but very few find it.  The reason is that they are not actively looking for happiness.  We are going to test this theory.

You assignment is to for the next week actively look for money.  Obviously, you may not steal it.  (I always point that out because for them it is not so obvious, and they would like to say that I told them to steal.)  Again I got the crazy looks.

In every class some students always find money.

Do you look for happiness?  Where do you look?  Do you look in the newspaper?  Do you look to your spouse?  Do you look to nature?  Do you look to a pet?

Where you look is not important.  What is important that you start to look and keep on looking.


Arthur C. Clark

said, “A teacher that can be replaced by a computer should be.”.

At first I was offended.  Then, I realized that he was talking about a teacher that was still using they paradigm that we as teachers are to fill our students with information like we were filling up a glass with water.

Teachers today must be mentors, guides, facilitators, and exploration leaders.  We must also be motivators.  This not the kind of motivation provided by giving out candy, or no homework passes.  This is the kind of motivation that comes from asking relevant and thought provoking qustions and projects.  These are the kind of questions and projects that piques children’s interes.  These are the kind of projects and questions that get them discussing and arguing enough among themselves  to send them to the computers and primary sources.  We cannot create the interest, but we can find that which interests them through what we have most to offer personal contact, interest and concern in, with, and about them.

As Arthur C. Clark also said, “If children have interest, education happens.