Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting Started With Graphics Calculators

A teacher does not need to be an expert in using these calculator before he/she uses it as a teaching aid in a lesson.You need only the basic essentials to begin with for each procedure you need to use.

Using an OHP unit with your calculator is a great way to begin. Then you have total control plus a class full of students just 'dying to help you out' if you press the wrong button. These calculators are becoming more user friendly as time goes on. The reason is simple. The calculator manufacturers see educational institutions as a growing market. If teachers can't use them easily then they will not use them.

Graphics Calculators, like computer software, are a very powerful tool for teachers. The advantage of these calculator over the computer is threefold - cost, portability and availability. By availability, I mean that Mathematics teachers have to compete with every other subject department for computer resources whereas Graphics Calculators are mostly but not only a Maths teacher's domain.

One of the great advantages of using these calculators is that you can develop an understanding of a topic, e.g. Statistics, Graphing or Quadratics with little or none of the algebra and physical computations you need when using the chalk and talk/pen on paper approach. The teacher can develop the understanding first with the Graphics Calculator before the pen on paper process is started. This calculator enables you to do many examples quickly and visually thus using the visual and frequency needs of each learner. As well, it is a great checking tool following a pen on paper example, e.g. after a student has drawn a graph in Calculus using the 'old' pen on paper approach.

The Graphics Calculator makers provide excellent manuals and other publications that provide other teaching ideas which will expand your usage of these powerful machines. Each manufacturer has a website with further ideas.

Like all things newly learnt, start off with a small chunk and then use the well proven learning techniques of frequency and recency to enhance the retention of what you have learnt.

Each time you try a new procedure with a class, practice first. Plan carefully and evaluate immediately after the event, noting errors and problems. Then do it again SOON. Keep refining your techniques and adding new ones to your repertoire.

One last important point to note is that students, especially boys, take to technology 'like ducks to water'. Therefore use their interest to create mentors for other students and yourself. Even use these students to demonstrate any new application you need to introduce into your program.

Remember the KISS principle, "Keep It Simple, Stupid" initially. That way, you will gain confidence in using Graphics Calculators and they will become, for you, a valuable teaching aid and a great learning tool for your students.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Which Should You Choose - Public Or Private

Most responsible parents will share a few common concerns when it comes to the well-being of their children. One of those concerns pertains to their children's education. We all want to be sure that our child is receiving the best possible education. Without a good, solid education it is impossible to succeed, especially given the circumstances the world finds itself in at the moment. A good education has never been more important or necessary than it is today.

The Big Question - Private Versus Public Schools, Which Is Better?

Most kids end up at public schools, but the number of parents who choose a private school education for their child (or children), is on the increase. Within the realm of private schools are the so-called parochial schools, or Christian schools. The average parent will enrol their child in a Christian private school because that is what they know. In other words, it aligns with their own personal beliefs, the way they view the world, and the community in which they live. That is all very well and good, but not all private parochial schools are created equal!

The truth is that it really does not matter whether you send your child to a private or to a public school, since children from both can, and do, fare well. There are many excellent public schools, staffed by caring and dedicated teachers. Choosing to send your child to one of the Christian schools however, will require you to weigh the options available to your child as a student of a particular school. However, one must also, in these uncertain economic times, take the cost of enrolment into account as well.

It is no secret that there are many parents who would prefer that their child attend a private rather than a public school. Unfortunately, the fact that tuition fees are usually very high prevents many children from receiving a private school education and opportunities. That said, parents should not be discouraged. Most schools that are private also provide financial advice and aid. Some provide other incentives, such as offering parents discounted tuition fees in exchange for their services at various events and functions, such as at fundraisers, for instance. Churches affiliated to Christian schools, such as would be the case with Catholic schools, also provide financial assistance.

Of course, your reasons for enrolling your child in a private school could include the fact that he or she has special needs. Some kids with special needs fare much better in the private school environment than they would do in the public school one. This is due in large part to the fact that in private institutions the student-teacher ratio is often smaller than would be the case in public schools. This affords the teacher more opportunity to work with the students individually.

Of course there are other equally viable reasons for choosing private schooling, not least of which is the fact that these schools are aligned with many of the top colleges. However, engaging your child in this decision is also important. Find out what their opinions are as well. Weigh your options and you are sure to find the right school for your child's needs. Remember, there is a lot of stiff competition for your child to deal with by the time they've completed their education. You want to be sure that they have every advantage available.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Parochial Schools Offer Top Quality Education And Opportunities

When one looks at the public school system one cannot help but wonder why they have not improved in the last fifty years or so, given the fact that they receive more financial assistance than ever before. However, one only has to look back into the past to see that the public school system has not improved. For instance, in 1930 they had a literacy rate of almost 90%, and they spent $876 making that happen. Today, as recently as in 2003, $7,000 was spent on each child. One would expect that the literacy rate would be just as high as it was in the 1930s, but in reality, it was as low as 50% in some schools. Something is clearly very wrong with the public education system.

It is news like this that convinces many parents to choose to send their child to one of the many private schools in the country. Let's face it; we need to ensure that our child has every advantage possible so as to be able to succeed. For those who are Catholic, Catholic schools are the obvious choice. These kinds of private schools are doing an excellent job of providing children with top quality education and great opportunities. Many private schools are also affiliated with some of the top colleges in the country, including the Ivy League ones, and so act as stepping-stones for the students that attend them.

While it is true that private schools are more expensive than public schools, one needs to put that into perspective. For instance, Catholic schools tend to charge tuition fees of around $4,500-$6,000 per student, per year. That is less than what a public school spends a year on educating one child, yet the private schools provide the better education, not to mention greater opportunities.

For more than four decades people have been attempting to remedy the problems faced by public schools. Many parents are beginning to feel that it is more than enough time. If the public school system has not been fixed yet, they reason, then clearly those running them are not up to the task of ensuring that children receive the best possible education. After all, they really do deserve nothing less.

For some the outlook appears to be very bleak, with not much hope of seeing the public school education system improving anytime soon, if ever. While the cost of enrolling your child in a private school might seem like a daunting prospect, you are not without options. For Catholic families Catholic schools are the obvious choice. These often provide financial assistance in some way, shape or form. The point of the matter is that financial aid can be found to help you pay for your child's education. It is important to investigate the options that are available to you. Discuss them with the schools you are interested in, and follow up on the leads that they provide.

Of course, one must take into account that there are public schools in our country that do strive to provide the best service they can to their students. Many are staffed by exceptionally dedicated individuals who seek to provide each child with a quality education. Unfortunately, for many, this is frustratingly impossible due to lack of funds and so on. In the end it is the children who suffer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is Speed the Real Killer on the Roads

In many countries road safety policy is built around the belief that speed is the number one factor in road accidents and laws are made to rigidly enforce the limits mostly by means of speed cameras. Such rigid enforcement may reduce a driver's responsibility to choose a correct speed according to the circumstances.

A learner driver asked why the standard urban speed limit in the United Kingdom is 30 miles per hour. This is an interesting question. Rates of progress relate to stopping distances so a road with junctions, bends and other hazards less than 23 metres apart would need to have a rate of progress where a car could stop safely within that distance, namely 30 miles per hour. As a road moves away from built up areas and hazards become situated further apart the available stopping distance increases and so the speed limit can increase in accordance.

The trouble here is that a constant rate of progress does not take into account random factors in the driving situation. It is a fact that most accidents take place below the posted speed limit. Again driving skills are being eroded as it is the decision taken on a reasonable speed which is a skill whereas simply obeying a speed limit is not. Learner drivers will actively increase speed along a busy road with parked cars and pedestrian activity simply because the enforcement sign makes it legal. They do not yet have the skills required to decide for themselves what a safe speed is and there is definite danger in simply obeying signs. This is common even among qualified motorists. Learners need to be taught to make their own decisions based on what is in front of them to control the level of danger.

Good laws which reflect society's attitudes usually achieve a high level of voluntary compliance. Speed laws certainly do not. When a motorist is fined for breaking speed limit laws there is not so much a feeling of guilt about breaking the law, more a sense of being unfairly judged. They have not been judged on the danger level of the driving but on an arbitrary speed limit enforced by a camera. This does nothing to promote respect for motoring law nor to help drivers in their own ability to make a decision or sense of responsibility. There is a feeling of entrapment as cameras are placed where a motorist is most likely to break the limit and not where it would be most dangerous to break it.

Upon being caught for exceeding the posted limit a motorist is given the choice of paying a fine and taking points on their license or attending a speed awareness course. From an instructor's perspective the second option is the better yet attendance is regarded with embarrassment by drivers rather than being seen as a learning opportunity. This is a dangerous attitude as it shows a poor view of driver education and yet it is education and responsible free thinking drivers who will make the road safer, not just arbitrary speed limits.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Road Tolling - Increasing the Cost of Driver Training

The existing road system is now riddled with potholes and in a general poor state of repair and vehicle numbers set to double over the next 25 years. The Local Government Association which represents local councils believes that road tolls are inevitable and may even consider pay as you drive road pricing schemes to raise much needed funds. The increase in traffic numbers could be considered good news by driving instructors as it ensures a reasonable number of potential clients for the future. As pupil numbers rise and fall with seasonal variations it is good to know that the long term future of pupil numbers is secure. On the other hand more traffic means more congestion which makes actual delivery of training difficult, especially for new learners, as well as keeping good time when travelling to reach clients.

The pricing for using certain roads is only a problem if an instructor cannot avoid use of that particular stretch of road. As these are mainly major connecting roads between cities it is doubtful that these will be included on test routes. These tolls are only an issue if an instructor lives in a rural area and needs to travel along them to work in a city. Paying this charge both ways day after day would prove expensive. These tolls may be paid for in advance through the internet or on mobile phones so there would not be toll booths which tend to increase journey times.

Much more serious would be the pay as you drive tolls which would require some form of surveillance device fitted to the vehicle. Driving instructors are very high mileage road users so the cost of this would be considerable. With fuel prices sky high there is no way an instructor could absorb these costs and would inevitably have to pass them on to pupils increasing the cost of lessons. It would be too complex to calculate the mileage for individual lessons so a blanket increase in price would be necessary. Road tax is to become more integrated with mileage so the more miles driven the more tax paid. Driving instructors have no choice but to drive to conduct their business so this would be a significant factor in the future pricing of lessons.

Money needs to be raised by the Government because more fuel efficient cars are leading to less fuel tax being paid leaving a hole in the budget. In order to maintain the road system it must attract private investment and obviously these investors would expect a good return from that investment. This income stream to pay back investors must come from road pricing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Best Option for My Child

Making the right decision for your child is, of course, crucial. Deciding which school to send your child is perhaps the most crucial decision of all. Most parents agonise over whether to 'put their child through' the 11+ process. My message is unrelenting and simple: If they are intelligent enough, then absolutely grammar schools are the best option.

The proviso of being 'intelligent enough' is an important one. 11+ preparation has, sadly, become a big business. I am aware of some people who teach students in groups of 20, and go from one group to another in a day. 11+ is big business. This is why it is important to try to hire a tutor with integrity, who will be honest enough to tell you, after a few months, whether or not your child is intelligent enough to, realistically, have a go at these tests.

Some poor students are coached for years for this exam. They have hours of lessons every week, and are taught, eventually, to offer the right answers in the right places. And this incredibly mechanical process can, occasionally, achieve success. But just think about what that child would then have to put up with over the next seven years of their education. They would struggle. They would, instinctively, know that they were out of place and above what their mind can take. So, to some parents I say: be careful what you wish for. If your child is not naturally bright, there does need to be a point where you accept that and look for better alternatives.

Beware of the private education alternative. Private schools do not differentiate between students who have ability and students who really do have quite specific educational needs. Just because you pay £15,000 a year for an education does not mean you are guaranteeing the very best education. You may well find your child has a teacher that has been languishing in private education for generations, and simply has not moved with educational changes. You may also find that your child is surrounded by students who misbehave, considerably. The only certain thing that you will find about students in private schools is, you have guessed it, money. But money, in education, does not bring you the best.
So, concerned parent; if there is that natural brightness there. If there is that 'something special', if there is a genuine amount of intelligence beyond the average child, then grammar school is certainly an option that I would recommend.

In my experience in life, you are what you are surrounded with. If your child is surrounded by like-minded intelligent young students who want to learn then it will quite clearly have an effect on the mind set of your child. The working ethos inside the class room is absolutely crucial. If parents were to enquire of the one thing that frustrates most teachers, it is the lack of desire to be successful in the classroom by a vast amount of state educated children. If there is no desire, what, truthfully, can teachers do? In actual fact, it is the lack of desire in young students today that appears to be the crucial instigator in poor behaviour. Grammar schools, by their very nature, will be full with students with desire. And that has to be good for your child! The desire to succeed in life is a wonderful attribute to have, and the more your child is surrounded with these kinds of students, the better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Boy Problem - Why Do Boys Struggle in Schools

Teachers are only too familiar with the 'boy friendly lesson'. It seems that you get that extra pat on the back if you ensure that the lesson appeals to boys in particular. It also appears that schools are absolutely addicted to solving the 'boy problem' in school. There is, admittedly, a problem with boys in school. But an investigation into why boys struggle in schools provides one clear answer: they are not mature enough to appreciate education. Schools, in a nut shell, need to make the relevance of school abundantly clear for boys: the message needs to be blunt and striking. Either mature or lose out.

Let's take group work. I am an advocate of group work with students, and feel that students learn a great deal from each other. However, when I often ask a class to work in groups there are two clear divisive groups: the mature, encouraging and proactive girls with the subdued, arms crossed and silent boys. Boys just do not want to know in situations like this.

Boys are also very keen to make others laugh. They risk detentions, failing exams and telling offs just to raise a laugh from children they probably never talk to outside of class. Why? Because they are rebelling against what they see as pointless lessons, in pointless days and pointless weeks that fill up pointless years.

Boys in particular are encouraged to escape in a world that is simply not there. From computer games to television programmes to songs, boys are offered a life that is so very appealing but that is also so very unrealistic. Boys may fantasise about becoming footballers, great army generals or gangsters. Are any of these attributes realistic or going to help forge a character that society can be proud of? Of course not. Do any of these attributes encourage maturity, logic and reason? Of course not. Then why are we surprised when boys do not have the maturity that they so badly need?

This point needs to be made very clear to boys. If they do not respond they are going to fail. If they do not mature they are going to fail. If they do not try to engage in lessons and assessments then they will be lost in the abyss that is the working world.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Preparing To Become Head Of Curriculum/Subject Department - Part A

Within five years of starting your teaching career, you will have decided that you want to remain a classroom teacher or you want to become a curriculum leader where you can have a more direct influence on what is happening in many classrooms. The aim of this and the next article is to give you some strategies to help prepare you to present yourself as a candidate for these positions.

I believe that there are six areas in which you should centre your preparation. This article will discuss the following two areas. (The others will be discussed in the second article).

1. In the classroom
2. Within the school

Many of the ideas I shall suggest may well be part and parcel of what you already do professionally. You will need to expand on them. The lists of ideas on each area are extensive. You will not be able to do them all at the same time. Here is where an action plan comes into play.

It is important to note here that your goals and action plan must be flexible and open to change. Review them often and keep an ongoing record of what you have achieved. Record everything you do and achieve in your personal annual diaries. Store old ones in a place which is easily accessible. You will be surprised how often you will need to refer to them in the future.

With regard to these two areas of your preparation, I have listed ideas for you to consider. Select those that your action plan and goals suggest should be priorities.

In The Classroom

• Create a folio of resources on all aspects of your teaching.

• Create a set of goals you have for each class you teach. Review them often and change where appropriate.

• Use as great a variety of teaching pedagogues as possible.

• Become proficient in using a wide variety of technology.

• Become proficient in using a wide variety of assessment tools that reflect your teaching pedagogues.

• Become proficient in using a wide variety of behaviour management tools.

• Develop a set of class rules that complement the school's behaviour management plan.

• Make the school administration aware of what you are doing. Invite them into your classroom to see what is happening. Ask them for feedback on how you are progressing.

• Find a mentor to help keep you 'on track' - one who can see you at work in the classroom.

Within The School

• Develop an understanding of how the whole school works.

• Involve yourself in all school activities.

• Accept organisational roles within the school, e.g. sport, camps, concerts, chess club, debating and academic contests.

• Accept leadership roles in the above areas.

• Accept leadership roles in curriculum areas within your class groups or the whole school.

• Contribute often to staff meeting discussions. Ask questions for clarification where necessary.

• Offer to mentor students and trainee teachers.

• Offer to become a Year (in high schools), or House Coordinator/Master/Mistress.

• Develop an understanding of whole school issues. As a Head of Curriculum, these issues will impinge on what you would like to do. Therefore, you need to be aware of them to help in your planning.

Make sure you keep a record of all that you do and achieve. Evaluate every new idea you try and look for ways to improve, add to and expand your professional skills. Here your professional diary is your greatest asset. It will have the evidence you will need to present when you go through the selection process.

The next article will look at how you can gain a whole school community appreciation of education and how to use your involvement outside your school life to enhance your skills and reputation to help make you an ideal candidate for a Head of Curriculum.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Preparing To Become Head Of Curriculum/Subject Department - Part B

If you are reading this second article on becoming a Head of Curriculum, then I believe you are seriously considering become a curriculum leader where you can have a more direct influence on what is happening in many classrooms. The aim of this second article is to give you more strategies to help prepare you to present yourself as a candidate for these positions. They are designed to expand your skills and experience to provide you with as good a background as is possible to do the job.

As mentioned in the first article, you need to create an action plan that includes each of the areas discussed below. You know your own strengths and weaknesses so create a set of development goals based on what areas you need to develop. These need to be the basis of your action plan. If you are not sure of your strengths and weakness, seek a professional mentor to guide you here. Remember to review your goals and action plan regularly and make changes, deletions and additions, as you feel necessary.

Below is the final list of four areas to consider in your preparation to become a Curriculum Coordinator.

1. Personal professional development

2. Outside school but within the educational community

3. Your curriculum vitae

4. Activities beyond the school community

Personal Professional Development

• Keep a diary of all professional development activities in which you have participated. Include all your professional reading.

• Continue to upgrade your tertiary qualifications.

• Seek a mentor for each area of personal expertise you wish to develop.

• Attend as many professional developmental activities in as many aspects of education as you are able.*

• Offer to be involved in planning these activities in your school.

• Suggest topics for professional development activities in your school.

• As you gain experience, you may wish to offer to present a session at one of these workshops.

• At these professional development activities, be prepared to ask questions and offer input from your own experience.

• Where money is allocated for personal professional development from the school budget, make sure you use it up every year.

• Seek activities that are linked to your goals.

*There are many organisations within the education community that provide opportunities besides those offered at your own school. They include:

(a) Your own educational authorities at the local as well as state level

(b) Subject associations. Primary and secondary teachers can benefit from joining these associations and attending their conferences

(c) Private providers associated with educational technology

(d) Universities who sometimes offer opportunities

(e) Teachers' unions

Outside School But Within The Educational Community

• Join your union and be an active member.

• Join appropriate subject associations.

• If you are involved in school sport, become involved in the district and state sporting bodies that organise sporting competitions beyond the normal school competitions. Here you will meet very dedicated people from whom you can learn much. Opportunities exist here to get organisational and leadership experience.

• Offer yourself as a candidate for department committees which look at curriculum change, moderation of school results/performance and other issues.

• Write articles for professional journals - be they for a subject association or your union.

• Keep a diary of your involvement in these organisations.

Activities Beyond The School Community

• Become involved in your local community to show you have a concern for local issues. This will be very important in country areas.

• In your CV, list skills or experience you have gained in the general community. You may be a Life Member of a club. You may have been a champion public speaker.

• Public organisations can give opportunities to develop leadership and organisational skills.

Your Curriculum Vitae

• Once you have been through the 'Job Description' for a Head of Curriculum, you will know the criteria used to select candidates for those positions. Then you can set up the sections in your Curriculum Vitae (CV) that link to those criteria.

• Your CV must be a document that is always in development.

• Do a draft CV as soon as possible.

• Update your CV annually, at least.

• When you are close to applying for a position as a Head of Curriculum, ask one or more of your mentors to edit your CV and make further suggestions.

• Ensure your CV shows you have an all-school perspective.

• Before you submit your CV or statement to the relevant authorities, do some research about the school to which you are applying. Make sure you address any special aspects of the school that your experience and expertise will enhance.

One final note: You are not going to use all these strategies. Select those that fit best into who you are. Pick the areas that you need the most development in and concentrate on those first.