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The Way We Teach Should Be the Way We See Ourselves

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Years ago, when I heard the retirement of the principal at the elementary school my children attended, I felt sad. He was a principal who really looked out for every child in his school. Now, it appears that I was simply selfish then. Brian Butler actually has a very important message for all educators to hear. Watching his webinar last night leaves me this impression. Much of what we teachers currently do inside our classroom does not often match how we see our own selves. I do not think we label teachers as "dumb" or "gifted". I do not think teachers think of themselves as individuals having a fixed amount of intelligence. Teachers talk with each other and learn from each other. Teachers practice discipline in their work. Lastly, teachers, I hope, prefer practices or strategies that work. Yet, in most classrooms teachers often do the opposite of these things. We label kids. We think intelligence is something we cannot nurture. We isolate ourselves. We forget the n

Parents' Say in Education

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Parents should be engaged in their children's education. Society, as a whole, must share the burden of preparing its youngest members for the future. In a democracy, we exercise this obligation through the ballot box. After all, education resides in the public sphere, and as a community, we all get to decide what is good for our children. Nevertheless, there are different points of view. For this reason, it is important to focus on non-negotiable values. And with schools, equity and inclusivity are non-negotiable. For the simple reason that public schools serve public needs, schools must cater to all children. Education like medicine should also be guided by research. Education like medicine should not be based on religion or opinions, but on evidence. There is a reason why a body of experts gets to decide whether to recommend a vaccine or not. Expertise, unfortunately, is not ubiquitous, and if such decisions are left to opinions, a deadlock is very likely, especially when a socie

Teachers Teach More than Math and Reading

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There is a growing enthusiasm for social emotional learning (SEL). It does make sense to focus not just on the academic side of education. Education must be holistic. The academic, social and emotional needs of a child must be met. Unfortunately, a greater recognition for the importance of SEL sometimes misses the fact that unlike academic goals, SEL is often caught and not taught. How a teacher treats his or her students dramatically affects the social and emotional well-being of a child. This beats any formal teaching of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. It is more about what we actually do and not what we say. Mashi Liyanage, a seventeen year old, writes in a blog an experience she always remembers from her 7th grade, "In my school life, there are many things that scare me. Getting punished for not doing homework, going late to the school, getting low marks on my exams and many more. But there is one thing

Equity Is Possible Without Sacrificing Excellence

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The class of 2025 of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County has greater diversity. By removing the admission fee and entrance examination, and introducing a more holistic view of applicants plus assigning slots to middle schools, we now have one in four students (25%) from economically disadvantaged homes. That is a marked improvement from 0.6% in the previous class. The grade point average of accepted students for the class of 2025 is 3.95, similar to previous classes. Equity is indeed possible without sacrificing excellence. Above copied from NBCWashington Equity being possible without doing away with excellence is surely an important lesson to be learned. However, there is an additional lesson that we should not miss. Albeit the class of 2025 is larger than previous classes, it is still evident that available slots still fall short of the number of students who wish to enter a special school for science and technology. The demand is great, which is

Facebook's Aim Is to Make Money and Not Raising Your Child

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Two years ago, there was a discussion on Intelligence Squared on whether Facebook is damaging society. Supporting this motion were Damian Collins, chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and Nina Schick, technology expert, and advisor to former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Against this motion were Dex Torricke-Barton, former head of executive communications for Facebook, and Ed Vaizey, former Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries (2010-2016). The discussion was chaired by Helen Lewis, staff writer on The Atlantic and former associate editor of the New Statesman. At the end of the discussion, the audience was asked to cast their votes and 60 percent agreed that Facebook is a menace to society. Above copied from Intelligence Squared Fast forward to present, our representatives on Capitol Hill are now asking the same question, but this time, there is an emphasis on how Facebook is affecting our children. In a Senate

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Not Even One Student from Mason District Schools

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In a recent newsletter, Mason District School Board Member Ricardy Anderson commented on the news of 214 high school students in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) being recognized as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship. Dr. Anderson wrote, "...I am concerned that none are from the comprehensive high schools in the Mason district. It’s imperative that staff identify the barriers that hinder performance and create a plan to promote more equitable representation from Falls Church, Justice and Annandale High Schools." Before questions regarding equity can be raised, it is useful to look at what is required to be recognized as a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship. The requirement is straightforward, to score in the top one percent on a test called PSAT. PSAT is a standardized test on reading, writing and language, and math. To become a semifinalist, one therefore has to be good at taking standardized tests. It is not a test for aptitude, intelligence or

Echoes from the Past

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Roughly fifteen years ago, an event was held at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC . The event was a discussion on a gloomy outlook on the current state of the Philippines then. Philippines president Arroyo just survived "Hello, Garci" with her allies in Congress succeeding in stopping her impeachment. A commentator for the event, Hazel McPerson, a professor of political science at George Mason University, stated that one of the reasons the Philippines finds itself in a quandary was a weak public educational system. Basic education in the Philippines has failed miserably that most poor children would miss out on benefits of a good government. That failure in education is so evident that we do not even know our history well enough to understand who we are and what we need to do in the present for future generations. History has a lot to tell us about the Philippines today. Unfortunately, we often look at Philippine history in segments and therefore miss the overarching lesson