Thursday, March 16, 2017

What is NHS? or Working definitions for Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship and Service

These pillars represent components of both the Honor Society as well as the Junior National Honor Society for Middle School Students. Induction in these types of service organizations leads to deeper connections, positive influences, role models, and further depth in the entire educational experience we call School.

Speaking about these pillars helped me articulate their true meaning. Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship, and Service formulate the cornerstones of the application and acceptance process of the Society. They have deep, advanced ,and challenging definitions, but they might also be quite simple. Let’s investigate each term further.
Leadership carries many illustrations, quotes, quips, and little phrases to help us better explain what it means to be a leader. For our purposes, let’s say ”leadership” is doing the right thing, regardless. Acting with integrity, doing what is right, even if nobody else is doing it and taking the high road, even if nobody else follows.. Of course, it is nice to have “followers,” but they might not be right behind. Taking the high road often implies it is harder, more challenging, vacant or lonely--and probably even less traveled Regardless, do the right thing!
Scholarship carries an overtone of great study, perfect report cards, lots of book learning, but further exploration may lead to implications for all of us! For instance, if “scholarship” is doing things right, all the time, the rest of us can participate in scholarship by doing the best we can do in any and all endeavors. Academic avenues are not exclusive. We might do our jobs right, stack our boxes at work properly, work smarter, leave things better than found them, and not take those shortcuts. Our act of scholarship may not be doing the right thing, but doing things right! Some may even consider that management.
Citizenship is just being part of the team. We are all part of various groups, teams, clubs, cliques, as well as countries, cities, and states. Advocating for the entire community takes the focus off ourselves and onto the bigger group. Citizenship might be just as simple as advocating for the team! As a teammate, it could be giving it your all. As a friend, it might be acting as an UPSTANDER and not just a BYSTANDER. A student might behave better in class. Regardless of the group, each of us can act as a part of the team, participating, contributing, and bringing a positive attitude to encourage the betterment of everyone involved.
Finally, Service means making those around you comfortable. Friends, co-workers, parents, siblings, and classmates describe a few of the people we come in contact with throughout our day. Humbly placing others above ourselves, serving their needs and allowing them to pass through doors first are a few simple examples. A hostess, waiter, or concierge will foresee, plan for, and solve a customer’s need before the customer even realizes the deficiency. For instance, a good waitress will never let the tea disappear and have the glass rattle with ice.
Of course, these “soft skills” are only part of our overall purpose as educators. Yes we want to get our scores as high as possible, but not at the cost of these social skills so hard to measure! The Honor Society combines all four indicators and invites many students to apply, but only a portion actually achieve the status and gain induction into the society. Kudos to them.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Will a robot ever replace a teacher?

On the sound outside Seattle, brothers share a kayak ride. Shared experiences like these form the basis of influence. Shared experiences like these build trust. 
Shared experiences build relationships. 

Three considerations about education:
What is the curriculum?
Is it aligned with what’s tested?
Is the pedagogy (teaching) the best possible?

Teachers think in terms of these questions.  They guide our planning, discussions, professional development, and just about what we consider when building a daily lesson plan.

Initially, we must look at what we are teaching. We reframe the question in various perspectives: Do we teach what we want to teach? Do we just covering the basics? Do we delve deeper and look to truly investigate the content? Do we chase too many rabbits? Do we start on Page 1 of the textbook and head to the back? Cover to cover?  

Progressing, we look at the standards the state (DESE) publishes. When the state develops a test, they tell us what is going to be on the test. We then have to ask if our curriculum matches what they have published. We have to align our efforts to their scale and teach what is most important. We get some leeway and flexibility but our top focus is the Missouri Learning Standards.

Finally, we consider what we are actually doing in classrooms. Are we going from worksheet to worksheet? How engaged are our students? Do the materials look like they are from 1995 or are they current and fresh? Are we preparing students for a future that does not exist yet to solve problems that we don’t even know about yet?  

Often times, we are asked about the problems or issues in education. Seldom is there one problem but a myriad of issues to address before we can teach a child about meiosis or mitosis. Meals, hygiene, clean clothes, and safety influence the outcome and predict if a student will be able to work and participate in class, or will be too distracted to focus.  

Will we be able to ever replace a teacher with a robot? Only time will tell but for now, only teachers are sensitive enough to gather all the supporting data, process the facts, and then create a plan or the next step to address deficiencies - all while taking attendance, looking for pencils, prompting students to get to work, and collecting homework! True multi-tasking!