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On Teaching, Learning, and Everything In-Between

The mission of public schools should be inspiration not inculcation.

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How many of us remember feeling wonder and awe in our high school science classes? Who recalls when our biology teacher taught us how our very existence hinged on a happenstance whose statistical likelihood was so small it’s a miracle we’re even here to consider it? Or when our earth science teacher pointed out the innumerable variables at play in the solar system that make life on Earth possible?

Not many, I’m guessing.

Instead, what most people seem to remember of their high school science days are long lectures, endless notes, lists of vocabulary words with long definitions, and tests…

It’s not a popular idea, but testing students this spring might be what it finally takes to show how worthless the whole enterprise is.

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No one ever wants to give a standardized test in school. I can’t think of one colleague who rejoices in slapping that bubble sheet down in front of a kid. And the tears from an eight-year-old who can’t read yet? They can be heartbreaking.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden promised to end the use of standardized testing in our nation’s schools, much to the relief of educators. …

If we do our jobs right as parents and teachers, our children will remain resilient.

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Despite the heightened concern over insensitive images in children’s books, I think our youth will be okay.

That’s right, no matter how many Dr. Seuss and Curious George books they read — books written before America “woke” to the specter of racism lurking inside the pages of our beloved children’s classics— our kids will remain resilient. …

An empty classroom does not mean the students aren’t learning.

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It goes without saying that nobody wanted a pandemic.

Teachers above all know what it means when students are denied the meals, counseling, and other support services that schools provide. Schools are the beating hearts of many communities, not to mention their pride and joy. When a school is forced to shut down for any reason, many children will be left without a safe haven from their traumatic lives at home.

Still, I think it is a mistake to believe that the school building is some sacrosanct place where only…

Our future may depend on it.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a crisis in education. Whether it’s hybrid or virtual learning, schools have struggled to find a way to deliver the curriculum with consistency in these inconsistent times. By now it’s no secret that student engagement in online learning is frequently poor, attendance even more so.

When this pandemic ends, students will be warmly welcomed back by teachers eager to return to the business of teaching. But what will the learning environment look like? Will it be a resumption of the profound boredom, exhaustion and stress that Yale researchers reported in a 2020 nationwide survey

Understanding your value system can help you grow as a teacher

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I’ve been teaching special education in a public school for over fifteen years. Over that time, my teaching “style” has changed, as it should as one gains experience and knowledge of the craft. Teaching is a never-ending process of self-renewal. It’s a rookie mistake to think that one reaches some “golden age” of teaching perfection.

Teaching is a Life-Altering Enterprise

I’ve grown to realize that teaching is a big deal. I mean, sure, I realized it back when I started that this job was far more significant than the one I had in college selling gas and cigarettes at the corner store. …

In today’s digital age, they need these skills more than ever.

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In his 1972 classic A Demon-Haunted World, astronomer and writer Carl Sagan suggests new ideas should be met with rigorous skepticism until they can be proven to be scientifically sound. That is, evidence is required to prove the veracity of an idea, claim, or argument. And extraordinary claims, adds Sagan, demand extraordinary evidence.

Clearly, to cultivate a skeptical mind you need more than just a body of facts on a subject. For example, you might know that cosmologists now calculate there could be trillions of solar systems in our universe. …

The answer may be found in elementary school

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Pizzagate. Satanism. Pedophilia. Voter fraud. Lies, cheating … and murder. At some point, Democrats have been accused of all these evil doings and more by rabid Republicans who believe, with little or no evidence, that their political counterparts are up to their necks in Washington conspiracies.

But why are such outrageous claims so easy for some to believe? Why are some minds so gullible — and easily manipulated — into believing outlandish conspiracy theories?

To find the answer, I believe you have to go back to the earliest days of primary school.

Over the past fifteen years that I’ve been…

Dave Smith

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