Coach G’s Teaching Tips has Moved to Education Week Teacher

September 3, 2010

I’m pleased to announce that, effective today, my blog is being hosted by Education Week Teacher. I hope you’ll follow me over there!

Coach G


Graduating vs Dropping Out: Any Difference?

August 7, 2010

The dropout rate at the high school I taught at in Chicago was over 50%. Yet what bothered me more than this was what happened to many students who graduated. Students who got into college but didn’t stay in. Or those who got jobs but couldn’t hold onto them. Seeing dropouts selling drugs on the street corner was disturbing. Seeing graduates doing it was devastating.

I bring this up because it’s time to think about classroom policies for the coming year. And I want to encourage you to do so with one goal in mind: creating a place where the messages students get from you are consistent with those they’ll get in college and the workplace. This is what I did from my third year on, and though I may not have put a dent in the dropout rate as a result, I did do my part to prepare students for the realities of future challenges. (I say this based on feedback from many students, including one who visited on a break from college and said, “Coach G, you ran your class more like a college class.”)    

I plan to share in future posts some of the specific ways I helped prepare students for college and work. But for now I just want to sell you on the premise here: that it is indeed imperative to align your policies with those of college and the workplace. And if you’re not sold from what I shared about my experience, read Martin Haberman’s article, Unemployment Training: The Ideology of Non-Work Learned in Urban Schools. Scratch that. Read it even if you are sold, since it’s hands-down the most provocative article on urban schools that I’ve ever read. A must-read for EVERY urban educator for sure and, I would argue, anyone who works with youth in any setting or has a passing interest in education.

More Twitter Touting

July 31, 2010

No, no one’s paying me to write a second straight post touting Twitter. I’m doing it for a few reasons. First, as a Twitter newbie, I’m discovering more each day about what a powerful PD tool it is for educators. The latest attraction for me: chat groups for specific target audiences—so far I’ve plugged in to groups for new teachers, math teachers, English teachers, science teachers, school administrators, and educators in general. And in each case I’ve benefited from others’ insights and resources, and in some cases shared a few of my own.

Reason #2 for writing this: a lot of teachers (people in general for that matter) are tentative when it comes to technology—me included. The beauty of Twitter, though, is it’s easy to use, and there are plenty of resources to help you get started, including First In Education’s recent blog post, A Guide to Using Twitter for Teachers.

Third, I want to clear up a misperception I’ve heard that joining Twitter carries the expectation that you have to bare your soul to the world. On the contrary, if you’re uncomfortable at first (or always) about putting your ideas out there, no problem. There’s no pressure to share, and in fact, just being an active “listener” will allow you to benefit from others’ tweets.

Fourth, Twitter has great potential as a classroom resource—check out the First in Education post I mentioned above for more on this. So there you have it, four reasons for twisting your arm to join Twitter. And oh yes, there’s a fifth: so that you can follow my tweets—I’m providing links on Twitter to provocative articles and practical resources that you won’t get if you only subscribe to my blog.

NTCAMP and Twitter Testimonial

July 25, 2010

Do you think of Twitter as a place for play-by-play personal exchanges rather than profound professional ones? Well, that’s what I thought as of a couple of weeks ago. But not any more, especially after my experience at New Teacher Camp (NTCAMP) in my hometown of Philadelphia yesterday, an event I’d have never known about if a buddy of mine hadn’t recently convinced me to give Twitter a shot. 

NTCAMPers came from across the U.S., and reflected a wide range of experience and expertise. But one thing everyone had in common: a desire to share and learn from each other. The result was one of the most productive and enjoyable conferences I’ve attended—way to go, Andrew Marcinek and others who organized this awesome event!

The highlight of the day for me was meeting so many driven yet selfless professionals. Friendly and fun too! I look forward to staying in touch through Twitter and future conferences. The breakout sessions were great too. I participated in a clever networking activity conducted by Shelley Krause, and a lively discussion led by Jason Bedell called  “Grades and Learning: Are They Mutually Exclusive?” I also facilitated a session (below), “Off-Task Time: Causes and Solutions,” where participants exchanged ideas for keeping students on task, and I shared a few too—including my tool belt and  train whistle.

Getting back to Twitter as a professional resource for educators, I’ve seen in just two weeks what an incredibly (if not incomparably) powerful tool it is for sharing ideas and resources. And, according to veteran tweeter and NTCAMP speaker, Jerry Blumengarten, if you’re looking for something but can’t find it, just send out a tweet, and you’ll have several suggestions in a matter of minutes. 

In short, Twitter is much more than a place for letting people know what you’re having for dinner, though you can always use it for that too (cereal for me tonight—too hot in Philly these days to cook). 





photos by Aungst, Gerald. copyright 2010.

New Teacher Camp Live Stream

July 23, 2010

Just letting those of you who can’t make tomorrow’s NTCAMP conference (see New Teacher Camp Notice) know that there’ll be a live stream of the event: Again, the list of topics won’t be finalized until tomorrow a.m., but I’m still planning to lead a discussion on maximizing on-task time. Tune in if you can.

Math Manipulatives That Require No Manipulation

July 22, 2010

A lot of schools send reading lists home with students for the summer, which is fantastic! But does your school also provide them resources for maintaining or sharpening their math skills over the summer? If not, and you can still get in touch with students, I highly recommend Utah State University’s National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM).

All NLVM activities are free, and are organized by the five major strands (Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis and Probability) within each of four grade level ranges (PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). And there’s a good balance between activities that target traditional math skills and those that involve critical thinking. 

Best of all, when it comes to student engagement, there’s no need to resort to manipulation with these manipulatives. NLVM is so fun that my own children (10 and 8) choose it over other popular (and less educational) kid websites (NLVM has an electronic version of the logic game Mastermind that my kids are especially hooked on).

And whether or not you’re able to connect students with NLVM this summer, I encourage you to play around with it as you prepare for the fall, since it’s a great supplemental resource for multiple purposes: remediation, reinforcement, and enrichment (perfect for early finishers if you have computers in your room). You can even incorporate it into your direct instruction if you have an LCD projector.

New Teacher Camp Notice

July 21, 2010

Short notice, but for those of you who’ll be in or around Philly this weekend, there’s a free conference for new teachers (veterans too!) called NTCAMP being held Saturday at Boys Latin Charter School that promises to be a great professional development and networking opportunity. I’ll be there, and plan to facilitate a discussion on maximizing instructional time. (I say “plan to” because NTCAMP uses an “unconference” format, where the agenda won’t be finalized until Saturday a.m.) And several other educators whose work I admire will also be attending/presenting. Visit the NTCAMP website for more info.