Thoughts of a Budding Edupreneur

 “Online education is not an enemy of residential education, but rather an inspiring and liberating ally.”  –MIT President Susan Hockfield

 “Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.”- Eleanor Roosevelt (Johnson, 2011)

“The internet won’t change the way we chew gum.” –Warren Buffett (Johnson, 2011)

 

Today I spent a good deal of my time reflecting on what I want our learning service, www.gobelearning.com to be all about. I thought on what we truly hope to gain. I thought about my beliefs and my need to grow as an educator. I searched for answers and came up with more questions.

 Below is a list of thoughts/ questions as to Gobe Learning:

  • We do not intend to go “big.” Rather we intend to do well by our students, tutors and parents. How can I get this message across to prospective stakeholders?
  • We are inspired teachers, first. We are not hamstrung by quarterly reports, pensions, nor profit margins. How do we stay solvent?
  • Will we build a learning service that truly differentiates to fit the needs of each individual student?
  • Brooks Brothers charges what they do primarily due to impeccable dedication to service. What can we learn from the early days of Brooks Brothers?
  • How can we plan for service rather than for profit?
  • What are ways I can cultivate a sense of shared purpose among our tutor-partners?
  • How can I simplify the entire Gobe Learning experience from first click on our website to completion of a client’s learning module?
  • How can I make myself into an entrepreneur when becoming one has never before been a priority?
  • Master teachers are not run of the mill human beings. How can I support their creativity, passion and craftsmanship?
  • We are in the family business: How can we attract nice, responsible, trailblazing parents, students and tutors?
  • Now matter the venture, clients will seek value for money. How can we ensure a seamless learning experience that values customized instruction?
  • Parents are overwhelmed and a little terrified with so many learning options? How can Gobe earn parents’ trust with such a novel experiment?

Back to work for me. If you are intrigued with Gobe Learning, feel free to sign up for a free consultation here: http://www.gobelearning.com/why-choose-gobe-.html

Questions/Comments/Suggestions?

You may email the author: bmernin@gobelearning.com

 References:

Chandler, D. (2012, May 12). MIT and Harvard launch a ‘revolution in education’. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/edx-launched-0502.html

Johnson, L. (2011). Start it up: Why running your own business is easier than you think. London: Penguin.

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14 Steps to Make a Great School Even Better

Can we do better?

I have worked in some really amazing schools. This fact gives me optimism in my students’ future and the future of the planet.

Alas, the school year is over.  I have had the time to breath and reflect on how we as a learning community can do even better.  The following is a personal body of thought upon making elementary schools not only brain-friendly but “human-friendly.” 

  1. A focus on Project-Based Learning. Read about the benefits of project-based learning here
  2. Each student composes music. Read about the effects of music on the brain here.
  3. The Arts… every day. View an inspiring news report here
  4. Life skills are not expected, but taught. UNICEF defines life skills as “psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. They are loosely grouped into three  broad categories of skills: cognitive skills for analyzing and using information, personal skills for developing personal agency and managing oneself, and inter-personal skills for communicating and interacting effectively with others.”
  5. Neurology Training: Teachers have a basic understanding of how the brain works. One of my favorite brain books is here.
  6. Maker Culture: Students create, disassemble and reassemble their own technology. Check out Maker magazine here.
  7. Teach kids financial literacy. Read 10 Steps to Teaching Your Kids to Become Entrepreneurs here.
  8. Chess tournaments. Check out the effects of Chess on the child brain. Chess is the “anti-Ritalin.”
  9. Poetry Matters: Poetry is all over the school. Read about my poetry heroine here.
  10. Classes are smaller: Class size is 16 kids per class. From my experience, this is the ideal class size for teaching 21st century students.
  11. More planning time:Student workweek is 4.5-days. Teachers workweek is 5.5 days.
  12. Balanced curriculum decisions: Curriculum is developed by children, parents and staff
  13. Stress is confronted: The CDC report on the dangers of toxic stress on children here.
  14. A shift in professional development. I believe that teachers are to choose more of their own avenues for professional development.

 

13 Questions for Parents of Homeschoolers

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool (Photo credit: Simply Vicki)

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
Ray Bradbury

 After attending TEDxHK, I have thought a lot about teaching practices, and curriculum, During the conference, Dr. Jadis Blurton challenged me to think about what learning that is done at school could not be learned online. Blurton writes” the great need for educational reform is coinciding with technological solutions and innovations.” She spoke about the fact that in fifteen years time, “educational leaders in schools will not be controlling the reformation, “so we educators better think about the value we add as institutions and professionals.”

Each day, I think deeply about what value I am adding to my students’ lives. I occasionally wonder if I am better suited to teach students through online teaching sessions using SKYPE or Google Hangout.

With this in mind, What about the parents that have already decided to offer an education to their children from outside of the classroom? These parents can give teachers a body of knowledge and experience. I feel teaching professionals would be wise to listen to parents of homeschooled students.

Below is a list of questions that I have for parents of homeschool students:

  • Are you presently satisfied with your child’s academic growth?
  • What lessons do you want your child to learn that they do not learn in a regular school environment?
  • What are three things that you look for when making curriculum decisions?
  • What would you want in an ideal online teaching service?
  • What are your first thoughts when you think of an online school?
  • Is homeschooling convenient?
  • What help do you need?
  • How is each learning day structured?
  • How do you give social and emotional learning?
  • How do you collaborate with others?
  • What teaching tools are most effective?
  • Who are your educational mentors?

 

 

  • Could I speak with you online to discuss this issue further?      My SKYPE address is barrymernin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Education

education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

After reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology by Allan Collins and Richared Halverson, I am left with many more questions than answers. The following is a sample of my written notes from the margins of my copy. I highly recommend this book.

We have experienced the knowledge explosion. The dust settled. Can we evolve, adjust and survive?

Have computers extended the human mind beyond the limits of even the finest teachers?

Is technology disrupting local community building?

Are today’s schools mostly knowledge factories where one attempts to learn what “very esteemed thinkers” believe necessary to prosper?

Will we build schools that respect the students’ innate curiosity and need for solving real-life problems? Will we change only when we start losing our client base?

Will we create an environment where we celebrate failure as a sign of pure learning?

Will we allow students to roam freely between learning spaces? Will we trust students to take control of their own learning?

Can we create schools that create organizations and systems that enhance, rather than stifle, innovation?

Am I part of the problem?

Can we recognize and celebrate all that we are already doing to satisfy our students’ far-reaching demands?

Will we allow parents and students back into curriculum development and implementation?

Are we teaching all students successfully? Can we afford to let our students live a life of confinement until they leave high school?

Can we name and end the barriers of learning?

With improved educational leadership, can the need for classroom management be a thing of the past?

Can all teachers be allowed to inspire?

So many of my students are competitive, scared and lacking confidence. Am I allowing my kids to make the most of their time in the classroom?

Can we continue to teach curriculum that we know is out of sync with what students need to know?

Can we create a system that respects students right to question and investigate their own answers?

How much of my work day is bureaucracy of one form or the other?

Why is school attendance still compulsory? Why can’t kids learn from home?

Why are kids graded by age? Never, in the past year, have I been in a room filled with fellow forty-five year olds.

Why are teachers’ editions of textbooks still used in school?  Why is so much of the school day dedicated to tradition, behavior control and consistency?

How come students, parents and teachers do not write report cards collaboratively? Why aren’t all students on an Individualized Education Plan?

Why are Middle and High Schools such pressure cookers?

Can we accept that students are much more tech-savvy and more understanding of the adult world than we are wiling to believe?

Can we pay teachers to pursue their own personalized learning?

Can we allow for more project-based curriculum?

Can we accept that a culture of lifelong learning is what we all need to survive?

Can educational gaming and simulations become more of the day-to-day instruction and not a distraction to avoid at all costs?

Will alternative certificates and “badges” replace standard issue, high school diplomas?

Is High School already an anachronism?

Again, I urge all to read this book.  Your students will thank you.

Reference:

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York and London: Teachers College Press

  

Image from Google Images

Spring Breakdown

First day of Student Led Conferences are over and I am happy to report that the parents and children were generally very happy with the results. Alas, I have to admit that Spring is upon us and I am have to adjust my teaching practice to accommodate to my current situation. The students are all lovely children, however I need from time to time pause for off task behavior. I still will value their personalities. I just need to keep my sanity and offer a more brain friendly environment that does not interfere with my teaching philosophy.

The following is a body of thought on how I hope to make the necessary classroom management improvements. I hope they prove helpful:

  • Discussion- It is time for me to have a talk with the students about “March Madness” and how this time of the year brings out the hyperactivity in children. I will talk with them about it each morning for two weeks.
  • Smile (even more) I find that this helps.
  • “Let go of the reins.” The kids are more developed and independent than they were in August. I will give them their deserved space and choice.
  • Meditate at home. I tried to schedule this at school but I am simply too busy. Teachers will understand what I am talking about.
  •  Brain Rules: I will check my copy of Brain Rules by John Medina for tips on coping with stress.
  • Library visits:I will encourage more library visits and errands. ( This tip is from Dr. Michael Thompson) Watch this documentary video!
  • Ukulele/Chess Lessons– I may offer lunchtime uke and chess lessons in return for more engagement and class time focus.
  • Banana dance: Whenever the students are sitting too long, we do the “Banana Dance” Basically, we get up and dance as silly and stupidly as humanly possible. If the kids only knew I stole this idea from Chris Elliot.
  • Brain Breaks: These look encouraging.
  • Be happy. Keep your problems at home.
  • Inspirational Quotes: Last year, we had a kid bring in an  inspirational quote to share then post on the door. Amazing how this renews a sense of community.
  • Future Focused: I plan to constantly talk about their future.
  • Make note of our remaining days together. This will help them stay on task to get the most of their time left together.
  • Plan shorter intervals of teaching, longer intervals of student thinking.
  • Dojo: I usually abhor behavior reward systems but Dojo looks like it might work.
  • Watch Ken Robinson’s video at home: This animation is good as it gets in reminding me of the overwhelming amount of distractions in this generation of kids. I gain new insight each time.
  • Review the class agreements from the beginning of the year and let the kids make new ones.

 

Teachers; What do you do to combat boredom in the classroom?

Please share your thoughts. I am always looking for new ideas.

Related articles

Student Led Conference Week- A Letter to Parents

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”Lao Tzu

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dear Parents,

This is my favorite week of each school year and a somewhat notable week in the life of your child. This is the week of student led conferences (SLC).

I have just finished up my plans and we are a go for a marvelous week of learning. We will together celebrate social, academic and emotional growth in your child. I am proud of each student and I look forward to our continued learning.

We highly value differentiated instruction. That said, each child in our class is intelligent, thoughtful, witty, kind, caring, soulful, hardworking and optimistic.  Each is learning to lead and make a positive impact in society. All are reading and writing daily. This keeps me ever hopeful for their future.

My role during the conferences will be to facilitate the discussions between you and your child. I will also spend a little time with each of you conversing about the remaining school year and summer goals.

Each year at this time, I remind students to share their love of learning and not any particular test score. I remind them to share their personal growth and not their “rank” in the classroom. I remind them to celebrate all that they are. Please help your child in this endeavour.

Teaching, for me, is a sensitive and complex profession. It always has been. I work best when I remind myself that the students in my keep will remember little of my day-to-day instruction. Instead, they will remember the habits, both good and bad that I have taught them.  I am positive that I have instilled more good habits than bad and I am positive that your child has benefitted from our partnership. Your child is receiving a world-class, international school education

Enjoy your conversation with your child. Have a great week and see you at SLC.

Questions or comments are greatly appreciated.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html#gqxFdF4pTJIGKLth.99

So, You are About to Start Your Career in Teaching?

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So you are about to start a career in teaching?

First of all, let me offer an appreciation for what you are about to do. You are now of an exclusive breed of humanity.The decision to teach is still the most meaningful of my professional life. Teaching is a craft. I am still discovering its joys, perhaps more now than ever.

Alas, your first year will be a shock to your system. Below is a hybrid collection of thoughts from the Twitterverse and me for first-year teachers.

I am indebted to Serena Fan, Tracey Carvell, Becky Blair, Benjamin Hartman, Britt Pumphrey, and aflyontheclassroomwall.com for their advice. Please follow them on Twitter. You will be glad you did.

1.Observe others. Ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to try.

2.Understand that teaching is mentally exhausting. When I got home from my first day of student teaching, I fell asleep immediately and did not wake up until the next morning. I was still in my work clothes. I worked as a railroad construction worker during the previous summer. Teaching is FAR more demanding. It gets easier as you learn the ropes.

3.Focus on one area you want to be really good at. You can’t do everything the first year.

4.As a public school teacher, there are an infinite number of obstacles keeping you from doing your job effectively. Ignore them all.

5. Save everything that works well. Next year will be here before you know it.

6.Keep a journal of each day. Force yourself to write ten minutes a day. Research the work of Donald Graves. He will make your life easier.

7.You will need lots of help. Seek assistance from anyone that appears competent. Everyone in a school can offer you advice. Listen, filter, and trust your instincts.

8.Be gentle with the custodians. They will save your hide somewhere along the line.

9.Remember you teach children, not test taking machines. Get to know each as an individual & honor each voice.

10.Plan, plan, and plan. Structure your lessons similarly each day.

11.Take responsibility for the climate of your class, focus on one area at a time to improve, seek wisdom from the best teachers.

12. Read the curriculum guides. Some pretty smart folks developed these, generally speaking. Let the guides be your mentors.

13.Be a learner & know you have more to do than you have time, so you’ll have to choose. Also attend happy hours.

14. Save your voice. I lost mine by for a week in October. Never shout. Never speak conventionally when a whisper will do.

15.Ask for help/find a mentor/partner/someone you trust.

16.Keep your political views to yourself. I told my students about my anti-war stance during the first Gulf War and got into a bit of hot water. (Does anyone use the term” hot water” anymore?)

17.Embrace technology as a tool, but choose wisely. Do not allow technology to interfere with the learning process.

18. Enjoy every moment. You will create memories for a lifetime.

 

Feel free to contact me if you need any advice. I have seen it all in the elementary education classroom. 

Take care, do well and best of luck to you.

 

Barry Mernin