What are Teachers Waiting for?

book_start_it_up_CreamSlanted

Luke Johnson’s book, Start It Up: Why running your own business is easier than you think, is recommended reading for all edupreneurs.  Johnson’s plainspoken views and insights help me find the courage to move on with our little, Hong Kong learning service company. This book will most definitely be passed on to my fellow directors, starting tomorrow.

Below are a few tidbits, connections and realizations that I found most meaningful. Direct quotes from Johnson are in bold and italics:

  1. Eduprenuers are in the business of supporting families. There is no getting around this fact. We must embrace it, listen to our clients’ individual needs, and then act.
  2. Our company will be successful only when we give impeccable service unmatched anywhere else.
  3. I need to listen to my partners. I need to move even slower.
  4. “Intellectuals rarely make great leaders” Thankfully, no one will accuse me of being an intellectual!
  5. Startup entrepreneurs are rarely motivated my money. My sole reason for working on our project is to put good money into outstanding teachers’ pockets.
  6. Hire nice people. Finding excellent tutors has been the easiest part of the labyrinth of starting a learning service company. I am a firm believer that there are no better people in the world than professional teachers.
  7. “Everything has to be learned from scratch.” This is so true. I would add that everything takes twice as long to get done, than previously planned. That said; starting a business is not that difficult, in the grand scheme of things.
  8. there is no single gene for success I would add that there is no single gene that makes an effective teacher, either. The parallels between business and teaching are more clear with each passing day.
  9. Entrepreneurs have a mission and a skill that they have an overwhelming urge to pursue. I can begin to tell you how many hours we have put into this project. Our faith that families will love our service keeps us moving forward. Overwhelming is the perfect adjective in this instance.
  10. Do not go ahead if your spouse or partner is against it. My wife has been the backbone of our company. My partners’ spouses have been amazingly supportive, as well.
  11. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely affair, and that is one reason that I work with partners my entire business career.  The smartest move that I made was to go into this venture with fellow directors. I will not make as much money, perhaps, but it is entirely more fun when we make moves together.

I highly urge all fellow teachers looking to start their own business to read this book.

 

References:

 

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

The author is a founding director of www.Gobelearning.com Gobe Learning is a Limited Company based in Hong Kong.

 

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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

Making Language Learning Funner

Image from:google.hk

Image from:google.hk

Recently, I read Sandra Wilde’s Funner Grammar, Fresh Ways to Teach Usage, Language, and Writing Conventions, Grades 3-8. What a lovely little book. Wilde gives the teacher a rationale and respect in allowing for meaningful language study in the classroom. She spells out the fallacy of trying to use worksheets to teach grammar as “not only boring, but useless.” Instead, Wilde offers sound approaches to teaching the absorbing subject of linguistics.

What I love most about this book is the questions that Wilde asks. To wit: “Were your parents annoyed by anything about the way that you talked as a teenager?” “How many languages are there in the world?” “What is language?” What is the most complex language?” “The easiest?” “Will we all speak the same language someday?” These are far more perplexing and child-friendly than diagramming sentences.

I am also grateful for Wilde’s thoughtful unpacking of language and social justice. She provides that to discriminate and stigmatize according to how one speaks or writes, is narrow-minded, as well as foolish. She challenges teachers to stop correcting kid’s speech, instead accept, acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and richness of our contemporary communication. I took this to heart.

Wilde offers an alternative path to teaching children the importance, meaning, joys and beauty of language. It is chock full of lesson ideas that I cannot wait to try out on my fourth graders. Plus, Wilde offers a plethora of bibliographic choices for teachers to explore. Her Kid’s Guide to Citations and Reference Lists, alone, is worthy of appreciation.

Resources for further study:

Below is a sample of resources that Sandra Wilde recommends interested teachers and students of linguistics to explore:

1000 Languages: The worldwide history of living and lost tongues: London: Thames and Hudson

You are what you speak: Grammar grouches, language laws, and the politics of identity. New York: Delacorte Press.

The Language of Names. New York: Simon and Schuster

The infinite gift: How children learn and unlearn the languages of the world. New York: Scribner

Sequoyah: The Cherokee man who gave his people writing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Ox, house, stick: The history of our alphabet. Watertown MA: Charlesbridge

Alphabetical Order: How the alphabet began [Monde de alphabets]. New York: Viking.

So now what?

More than anything, I am grateful for this book. Wilde does not advocate banishing grammar teaching; rather she gives sensible, thought-provoking strategies towards approaching all things language. It is time well spent and one of the few “teacher books” that I will reread (perhaps, right away!). If you are a teacher or parent of a little one, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for your library or tablet.