Monthly Archives: July 2010

Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series | Linda Perlstein

“The Educated Reporter”

Linda Perlstein is currently the public editor for the Education Writers Association helping journalists improve coverage of schools and children. She is a former staff writer for the Washington Post and the author of two books, Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade and Not Much Just Chillin’:The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers.

Her blog can be found here: http://www.educatedreporter.com

Why did you start blogging?

As the public editor for the Education Writers Association, I coach reporters who are writing about education. To stay connected with all of our members I wrote a newsletter, but found that many of the things I wanted to share would be valued by a broader audience. So I started my blog, “The Educated Reporter”, back in September. One issue with a blog geared mostly to journalists is that blogs rely on comments. Most of my readers are journalists and reporters and by nature are very reluctant to comment publicly. Instead of comments on the blog, many of them send me private emails and comments through Facebook. So in a sense, there’s not as much public conversation in the blog as I’d like, but it’s nice to hear from my readers regardless. Plus, my blog is still new.

What would you like your readers to learn from reading your blog?

My main goal is for my readers to think differently about issues they see out there everyday. I feel like in the media, many of the same issues related to education are rehashed in the same language over and over again. I want to be able to highlight common mistakes that people make and hope it will help them become a better journalist.

What was your favorite story to work on?

The most interesting story I’ve worked on came from the time I spent in the middle school which I used in writing my book. But in general, working at the Washington Post gave me a lot of opportunities to come across interesting quirks or trends. Many of which I discovered before reading them elsewhere. It allowed me to think outside of the box. I worked on stories like the phenomenon of teachers teaching out of their field of  expertise or why there were no asian teachers teaching in a school with a majority of asian students. One story that sticks out was from this school system whose policy asked teachers to mix up the order they called attendance. This was so those with last names towards the end of the roster would feel discriminated. Once in a while a brief fun story like that was fun to work on.

In your recent article, “Nobody is writing about learning“, you speak of the lack of stories being shared about actual teaching. There are many education blogs written by teachers who ‘report’ from their classrooms and about their teaching experiences. Do you think these bloggers are the new reporters for education?

Just because journalists aren’t writing about it doesn’t mean the content isn’t out there. Teachers still need for journalists to process the same stories they’ve been covering because their work is presented to a much broader audience. At the same time, I think journalist would benefit from reading teacher blogs. These bloggers are having open conversations and probably wouldn’t talk to a reporter in the same manner. Though we come across a problem since these Edubloggers, for the most part, are  anonymous as a culture and community. We all need to start having honest conversation to learn on a greater scale. Nobody should have to hide.

What advice can you give those who want to write about education?

Most importantly, start at the ground level. Most journalists want to hear from the direct source of the story. They want to hear what’s going on in your classroom or what changes have been made in your schools. I think the public wants to hear from them too. The more honest and open you can be about what’s going on in your classroom the better.

This is part of Schoology’s Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series. The Schoology Team would like to thank all of the wonderful education bloggers who have participated in the series. For more information about Schoology and these bloggers, please contact Crystal Grandison, Schoology Community Manager, via email crystal@schoology.com.

Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series | Tom DeRosa

    “I Want to Teach Forever”

    Tom DeRosa started teaching 8th Grade U.S. History in 2003 as a Teach for Americacorps member in Rio Grande Valley of Texas. After completing his 2 year commitment, he took on the challenge teaching for the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) where he taught math (5th grade through Pre-Calculus). Since then he’s taught high school math at both district and public charter schools. Tom is the author of,”Ten Cheap Lessons: Easy, Engaging Ideas for Every Secondary Classroom“, and has just completed work on a new book entitled “Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job”.

    He currently works for JDEA Public Schools, a charter school organization in South Texas.

    His blog can be found here: http://www.teachforever.com

    How long have you been blogging for? Where did the concept of “TeachForever” come from?

    I Want to Teach Forever has been active for a little over 2 years. I had previously written private blogs for my family and friends to keep them updated with my life. Since I was teaching at the time in Southern Texas, which was considered one of the most challenging parts of the country, it was hard to explain exactly what I was dealing with in my classes to my family who lived in New Jersey. Most of my posts started out very negative and focused on everything going wrong in my classroom. I took some time off from blogging to separate myself from the frustration because I wasn’t helping myself as a teacher by complaining. I knew that when I started writing again, I wanted to only focus on the positive (i.e. sharing lesson plans, learning from classroom experiences, and teaching advice for teachers). With this as my main focus, it helped me become a better teacher and it forced me to write better. It was a great outlet.

    How do you come up with your topics to blog about?

    As I mentioned before, I started looking for the positive side of things, the inspirational moments. I wanted to share these moments and explain to others the reasons why I do what I do. I want to share my passion for teaching with everyone. I’m very good at creating engaging lesson plans, so this was one of the main things I felt compelled to share. I’m always reading so when I see something that’s helpful or harmful I’ll comment on it. I also find sharing links with other people is also very useful.

    How do you integrate technology in your classroom?

    Many of the schools I have taught at didn’t have quality, working technology available to them. There are plenty of tools that many teachers find useful that I don’t feel are needed (i.e. interactive whiteboard – to me it’s just another excuse for teachers to stand in front of the room. These tools do not involve or engage students). Because of the limited technology resources in my schools, I had to think of ways I could create lessons to engage my students without these special expensive classroom tools. And that’s what I did. Many of my blog posts share my perspective and lesson plans in hopes that teachers with similar limitations can learn and better their own classrooms.

    Why did you choose the title, “I Want to Teach Forever”?

    It actually came from an inspirational story from a student I taught at JJAEP. I had a student that had a tough time in school, so I tried to work with her to build up her confidence inside school, as well as help her with her issues outside of school. She was a kid that never said thank you or went out of her way to talk to anyone. At the end of the year, she wrote a poem about how I had inspired her. When I read this poem my reaction was exactly those words, “I want to teach forever”. That was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. I realized this is what I need to be doing; and that teaching is the greatest job I could have chosen.

    Do you keep in touch with your former students?

    As much as I can. For many of my students, technology isn’t easily accessible. As they get older and go to college I hope they’ll seek me out to update me how they are doing. The students that I do run into always are excited to tell me how they’re doing in class. I hear, ” I’m doing really good this year”, “I’m doing great in Pre-Calculus”, and “I got an A!”, with the hopes I’m going to respond with how proud of them I am and of course I couldn’t be more proud.

    To read more from Tom DeRosa and the impact he has had onn his former students read, “Joy and Triumph on Graduation Day

    Do you have a favorite memory from teaching?

    Yes. Of course I want my kids to do well, but I only put a certain amount of faith in the results of the standardized tests that we have to give to our students every year. Teaching at La Joya ISD had improved my teaching skills and I felt this would help my kids do much better. I knew we weren’t going to set any records, but I was hoping for a huge leap from the year before. When we finally got the test results, I couldn’t believe how well we did. We wound up doing better than I ever expected and had higher scores than all the other high schools in the district and beat the state average. It was hard to not break up when I was telling my kids this amazing news. I told them the results and how proud of them I was. They were so happy. I remember one kid in particular who didn’t even think she was going to pass the test going in. Not only did she pass the test, but she got commended the highest recognition she could have received on this test. I couldn’t have been prouder of my students. It was a completely fulfilling way to end a great year.

    As the author of, “Ten Cheap Lessons”, have you used many of the lessons you talk about in your book?

    I’ve used them all. I feel like part of the appeal of the book is that each of the ideas is classroom-tested. I don’t make a big deal of the book at school because I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging. I’m very proud of it though, and publishing it was a way for me to take my best lesson ideas and put it together into something useful for other teachers. One of my students recognized some of the lessons from my book after we had already done them in class and when she noticed that I had written and created these lessons, she was really impressed. In general, writing this book proved to me that I had the discipline to sit down and write something that can be useful to other educators. I just completed my second book about how to survive teaching. It’s a rough job and I’ve been through a lot. I think I have had a good perspective on how to make things in your classroom work and how to not get burnt out.

    This is part of Schoology’s Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series. The Schoology Team would like to thank all of the wonderful education bloggers who have participated in the series. For more information about Schoology and these bloggers, please contact Crystal Grandison, Schoology Community Manager, via email crystal@schoology.com.

Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series | Andrew Marcinek

“iTeach”

Andrew Marcinek is in his sixth year teaching English in the secondary level. He received his Bachelors of Science in communications and English literature from University of Miami, FL and completed his Masters in Secondary Education from Eastern University. As of this fall, Andrew will play a dual role as the Instructional Technology Specialist and AP English teacher at the Boys Latin Charter School of Philadelphia.

His blog can be found here: http://iteach20.blogspot.com

Why did you want to become a teacher?

Most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were teachers so I grew up surrounded by them. They seemed to really enjoy their work and I always felt education could always be better. In high school I had an appreciation for the English language so it only made sense to fall into that subject. I love the evolution of language and it’s easy for me to get excited about it. Getting to go to work everyday and present things I really enjoy is something you can’t trade in for anything.

Are you excited about your upcoming position as Instructional Technology Specialist?

Yes, it’s really exciting. I presented the idea to our administrator and  it was approved by our board. I will be starting this position in the fall. This upcoming year is going to be a lot of trial and error. My primary goal is to integrate different technologies in my school and synchronize them in classrooms with the support from my fellow teachers. I plan on being a supportive teacher and help everyone who wants my help. I’m a little nervous. Will there be challenges? Of course there will be. There are a lot of teachers who have been teaching a certain way for so many years. They aren’t exactly looking to change the way the teach. I’m willing to support their decisions and if they are open to integrating new technologies I will be there to help.

To leave feedback, comments, and suggestions for Andrew related to the position of Instructional Technology Specialist, please share here, “My EdTech Letter“.

How do you integrate technology into your classroom?

We work on collaborative project learning through a Wikispace, where they can work together in class on projects and homework. We were reading, “The Kite Runner”, at the end of the year and we set up the entire unit on our Wikispace. Students would come in with thought provoking questions and discussions and we’d sit at our computers finding the answers.  We also use a lot of fun new Google apps that are made for education. We use Google Timeline for many of our projects. I’ll give my class a question like, “What effects did the Soviet War have on the Afghan culture and tradition?”. They can then use Google Timeline to see and organize their criteria searches. They can break down by the information they find by months and look at what exactly happened during this time period. My kids find all the news articles from a particular day in history and get to learn from actual data. I want them to make their own discoveries so I don’t put any perimeters on how they find their information. This is a new type of learning where kids are given a menu of choices instead of step by step learning. This research/exploratory skill is something we all need in life and if we’re giving all these standardized tests it’s nice to know we can go off the beaten path.

Why did you start blogging?

I’ve been blogging since 2008. The school I was working for had the opportunity to apply for grants by explaining how they were going to use technology. We received the grant, as well as, a technology coach. Our coach recognized how much I loved working with technology so he latched onto me and helped me better my technology knowledge. I was able to learn different ways I could teach dynamic lessons and better my classes. Now I can present lessons and ideas and not feel afraid of technology in the classroom. And look at me now, I’ll be able to help my fellow educators with their education technology discoveries.

You recently attended and presented at EdCamp Philly. Can you explain what EdCamp is and what you learned from your experience?

EdCamp Philly is an unconference, where educators with similar goals come together for the day to talk about education. Everyone is involved and there are no scheduled presenters. I had never attended something like this before, but I knew many of the organizers and with my new position, as ITS, I have a lot of questions. I hosted a forum just to ask questions about being in this ITS position. Ten people showed up for my session. In our hour conversation, we shared ideas and challenges of what worked and what didn’t. I attended three other sessions that day where everyone participated and learned from each other. The next week in my class, I found that I used a lot of the new ideas I had learned while at EdCamp. It was a great experience. Since then, I’ve taken the same idea and have created NTCamp (New Teachers Camp), which follows the same unconference model as EdCamp but has a focus for new teachers. We already have 60 people signed up to attend and hope to have more to build everyones PLN. These new teachers don’t need to turn to their mentors, they have an entire PLN to support them.
To read more about Andrew’s experience at EdCamp Philly, read his post, “The Grassroots PD Movement

Do you have a favorite memory from teaching?

Back in 2008, the graduating class selected me to be a faculty speaker at their graduation. I found out in the beginning of April that I was going to be the speaker, but as May approached I still didn’t know what I was going to write. I asked my my kids what they wanted to hear on their last day of high school. Their response was, “We don’t want to hear what we always hear”. So I had to think of how to give something new to these kids who already have everything at their finger tips. I went with a personal story of a roller skating birthday party I had when I was younger. I didn’t like the idea of rolling skating, plus i was having a dual party with my cousin. I spent half the party falling everywhere and clinging to the wall. When I would skate for a few seconds away from the wall, I would fall down and fail, but always got back up. Simple story, but the idea of, “hey, failure happened”, and schools don’t preach that enough. It’s okay to fall and get up. It’s want makes our character and make us who we are. After delivering the speech I received tons of letters from my students of how much they loved my speech. Putting how nervous I was aside, it went better than I ever thought and was so happy that my message was heard by such a big audience.

Do you have a least favorite moment from teaching?

My first day of teaching. I planned out everything and of course like anyone hoped that everything was going to go smoothly. Walked into my classroom an began to teach. I talked really fast (I was a mess and freaked out)! My entire lesson lasted 15 minutes. All the questions I asked didn’t follow up with any questions so I had 30 minutes to kill and didn’t know what to do. It was torture! So I gave a writing assignment and made it to the bell. I finished my first class. I learned so much from that first day and now go by the idea of always planning. Always have a Plan B. After a first day like that I realized, “Wow, I need to think on my feet a lot” and be one step ahead of the students.

This is part of Schoology’s Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series. The Schoology Team would like to thank all of the wonderful education bloggers who have participated in the series. For more information about Schoology and these bloggers, please contact Crystal Grandison, Schoology Community Manager, via email crystal@schoology.com.