Learning First Alliance

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My timing has never been the best; I first heard of teachers maintaining a “180 Blog” after I left the classroom to begin my administrative journey. But the allure of a blog where you upload one picture a day from your classroom was too strong, and thus my Admin180 blog was born in the summer of 2013. I was so excited “to be a “blogger” that I actually started posting more than two weeks before the school year started, using negative numbers to describe the days leading up to Day 1. ...

The National Education Association (NEA) is guided by the mantra “A Great Public School for Every Student,” while NEA Healthy Futures is committed to “Improving Schools, Improving Lives.” Each motto offers the vision of a society where all students have equal access and opportunity to lead successful lives. Unfortunately, the fact remains; the journey to achieving this success is mired by pitfalls and potholes that have permeated this society for far too long.

As a result, access and opportunity for all remains a mirage of hopes and dreams for many students; especially, for students of color. Why is this? Why in the 21st century are we still having the same conversations we have had in 18th, 19th, and 20th century? What is the stumbling block denying the “American Dream” for so many students? Two words—Institutional Racism. ...

Have you ever felt lonely, invisible or alone? Now imagine feeling that way every day. Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Too many of our young people suffer silently every day because they feel excluded, left out, or that they don’t belong.

Excessive feelings of social isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and depression and as a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and choose to hurt themselves or others.

The good news is that we can do something about this. Together we can create more inclusive and connected classrooms, schools and communities!

Sandy Hook Promise is asking schools across the country to join us February 8-12, 2016 for National Start With Hello Week. ...

I am an American mongrel. I have no clue when anyone in my family arrived in the United States. Given my blonde hair, pale skin, and blue eyes, I have long assumed that my roots lie in northern Europe. But I really don’t know.

One family history assembled by my late father records ancestors of my mother who lived in the northeast before the Revolutionary War, but that provides no detail about why they came or where they came from. Their last names were Drake and Parker so I assume they came from England. But my father believed that another branch of my mother’s family came from a Slavic country and that the family name was changed to York when they were processed through Ellis Island.

My dad also claimed that he had traced his own lineage on his father’s side to an indentured servant who arrived through the port at Charleston, S.C., in the late 1700s and that his mother’s parents were Cherokee Indians. (But my father was also quite a storyteller, so it’s anybody’s guess about the truth of any of this.) ...

We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child's education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging. ...

Two large concrete disks fitted with seats don’t attract much attention on the Brickyard at the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, N.C. When you sit on the seat in one of those disks and speak in a normal voice, sometimes even in a whisper, someone sitting in the seat in the other disk can hear you quite clearly, even though the two disks are hundreds of feet apart.

The disks are parabolic reflectors, which amplify and focus sound waves so no shouting is required in order to be heard.

It’s been years since I sat in one of those concrete disks, but I thought of that phenomenon over and over again as I read through the results of this year’s PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. A lot of what we learned from the poll is old news or at least not very surprising news: Testing is flunking with Americans, the public isn’t really behind the Common Core, Americans want the federal government to play a less active role in education, and lack of funding is the biggest problem facing local schools. Oh, and everybody thinks their own schools are better than everyone else’s schools. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing teachers posting pictures of their classrooms on Facebook, saying, “My classroom’s ready!” That takes me right back to my childhood, helping my mom prepare her classroom for the students in the waning days of August.

My mom taught second and third grade at Valley Cottage Elementary School. And I remember her ritual of using the days before Labor Day to ready her classroom for her students.

Of course, preparing the classroom — even back then — meant spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of her own pocket on supplies — just as her colleagues did and teachers do today.

When I was a kid, we were lucky to have a laundry room that housed the washer and dryer, of course, but also served as my mom’s office, filled with all the supplies she bought for her class. It was a treasure trove of books and paper and pens. ...

By Kevin Scott, Director of Member Engagement, ASCD

Last month, I wrote about the possibility of the final weeks of school being a spring board for the rest of the school year. I basically asked this question: “What if the bulk of the school year had the energy and excitement for students that we (parents and teachers) see once the state tests are over?” As the final weeks of summer wind down, I’m already thinking about what I, as a parent, want the 2015–16 school year to look like for my sons. And since everyone seems to be interested in lists, I created a list of my top five “wants.” 

1. Reduce Anxiety and Stress: Last year, my 6th grader struggled with reading and math. As a former teacher—and a former math struggler—I had to put my growth mindset hat away as my son and I tried to get to the root of the problem. We found a tutor who helps him and connects well with his learning style. When my parents had to do the same for me a couple of decades ago, it was a mismatch because the tutor and I didn’t gel. The connection between my son and his tutor, however, ultimately dissolved the argument about the value of math in general. It was almost cool for him to get some extra help. Having a tutor that my son respects and enjoys working with has greatly reduced the stress level in my house. In general, I want us all to be a little less stressed and take the actions to insure that happens ...

By Joshua P. Starr, Chief Executive Officer, PDK International

This year’s PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools marks a shift in both the poll and PDK International. As I assume leadership of the organization, I will build on PDK’s legacy while embracing opportunities to keep the organization at the center of the dialogue about how to ensure that every child in every classroom in America has in front of her or him the most qualified and professional teachers.

Realizing this goal requires comprehensive analysis, honest debate, and a willingness to look at old assumptions with new perspectives. And it requires the kind of trustworthy, independent data about public values that the PDK/Gallup poll provides. The data enable policy makers, leaders, educators, families, and communities to understand the issues before designing and implementing solutions. Toward that end, PDK International will, for the first time, convene thought leaders throughout the year to explore survey results, engage in deep dialogue about the issues, and develop a common understanding of their complexity. We hope our leaders and those who help them craft policy will recognize that the successful solutions we seek can only be the offspring of well-defined data and deeply understood problems. ...

By Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice-President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

When I was elected president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) in 2005, I thought my own story might help transform the relationship between teachers and administrators as well as improve the image of teachers in the community. I was a veteran middle school English teacher, and I’d been honored for my work. And I had been active in the SPFT as a political and community volunteer as well as the union’s professional representative on local and state committees.

I had also spent enough time in my classroom and in the city to know—and be bothered by—the dominant story told about public school teachers and our union by the mass media, a number of Minnesota legislators, and in many local communities. On a local TV station’s evening news show, a Minnesota Republican state senator, Richard Day, had even declared, “We all know Minneapolis and St. Paul schools suck.” In too many conversations, I got accused of failure unless I quickly told people about the awards I had won for creating a model English/language arts classroom and running a program for my colleagues on how to improve writing in middle schools. If local citizens, especially parents, could learn about our talent, our dedication, and our ideas, I was convinced their perceptions would change ...

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