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Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement

by Rich Karlgaard

Late BloomersI don’t think I have ever read an introduction as fascinating as Rich Karlgaard’s in Late Bloomers. With phrases like “trickle down societal madness for early achievement” he puts the reader into his world and his viewpoint. It’s not that he is opposed to the young people with scores of 800 on their SAT who create fantastic wealth in their early twenties. He does resent what our culture’s adoration of them does to the rest of us, those whose potential is downgraded because our star doesn’t rise at the same pace or shine as brightly. 

In Late Bloomers we are brought to an understanding of the history and psychology of the conveyer belt systems of education and business that have led us to the current sad state of affairs. Karlgaard explains how late bloomers struggle in this early achievement focused society and how society suffers for not valuing late bloomers. This book is replete with examples—J.K. Rowling, Einstein, and the author himself, to name a few—of late bloomers. It also carefully examines the available psychological research and what it tells us about late bloomers. A large portion of the book is devoted to sharing what late bloomers and society can do to make the whole system function more successfully.

As a teacher, I applaud Karlgaard’s revelation of the background of our harmful testing culture designed to create cogs in an industrial wheel. As a parent, I agree with his theories about development occurring in different ways and times for individuals. I am especially intrigued by the promotion of a “gap year” (or two) for young people, giving them extra time for brain development before they are expected to “adult.” I can see the need for viewing 18-25 as a stage of life when, for most, that important brain maturation in the prefrontal cortex is still in process.

The main body of the book is addressed to the late bloomer, which Karlgaard argues is most of us. It is full of research studies which interestingly support his advice to the late bloomer—how to survive in a world that disparages late blooming and how to, in fact, bloom despite a society that does not value late blooming. The introduction and first three chapters of this book should be required reading for every teacher, administrator, policy maker, business entrepreneur, parent, and concerned citizen. Did I leave anyone out? After that, most will want to finish the book. Especially the late bloomers out there, the ones who have not yet “found themselves” or met their full potential.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crown Publishing (Currency) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Self-Help, Education, Parenting

Notes: Rich Karlgaard, self-proclaimed late bloomer, is the publisher of Forbes Media, an author, and the founder of several businesses.

Publication:   April 16, 2019—Crown Publishing (Currency)

Memorable Lines:

Being seen as a potential late bloomer was once a mark of vitality, patience, and pluck. Nowadays, more and more, it is seen as a defect (there must be a reason you started slowly, after all) and a consolation prize. This is an awful trend, since it diminishes the very things that make us human—our experiences, our resilience, and our lifelong capacity to grow.

Just when we should be encouraging kids to dream big, take risks, and learn from life’s inevitable failures, we’re teaching them to live in terror of making the slightest mistake.

…social media has now become our most toxic cultural mirror.

Reducing education to test preparation jeopardizes the quality of curricula and the craft of teaching. It drains education of humanity.

The Writer Who Couldn’t Answer Standardized Test Questions About Her Own Work

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This article hits me hard on two levels. One is OVERTESTING! What are we doing when we contrive in standardized tests to create “gotcha” questions that the author of a work can not even answer? The other is a reader’s understanding of a piece. To comment on a work of literature is to bring your own background knowledge to the work. It should affect each reader in a different way. This is not to say that we cannot discuss the possible intended meaning by the author, but to claim authoritatively from a reading what another person thinks is hubris. My view of standardized tests is that you are right, KayCKay; just listen for the cha-ching echoing in the hallowed halls of learning.

KayCKay Book Reviews

Yesterday I posted a review of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories called The Cask of Amontillado. At the end of my review I commented that the story has been analyzed to death regarding the “meaning” of the story and what the story may signify or represent. My final comment was to wonder what Poe would say if we were able to ask him directly. My thought is that he would say it was just a story!

Today I saw an article about a poet that couldn’t answer standardized test questions about her own poems!

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The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

by Heather Won Tesoriero

The ClassHeather Won Tesoriero spent a year in Andy Bramante’s science research classroom. Andy, a former analytic chemist, left the corporate world to become a teacher, to make a difference. He and his students are award-winning, and The Class gives an in-depth look, not at what he does in his classroom as a model for cookie cutter programs across the nation, but at the teacher Andy and how he cares about his students and helps them be independent, creative thinkers in science and in their personal lives.

Andy’s students have to apply to be in his class which is centered around independent research and participation in multiple science fairs. Success in  the science fairs can result in prize monies and affect college admissions. Along the way, the students learn advanced science (often in multiple fields), self-discipline, how to use professional scientific instrumentation, research methodology, and presentation skills.

The students in The Class live in tony and highly competitive Greenwich, Connecticut. Most would be considered nerds and most, but certainly not all, are from upper-class families. Many are children of immigrants and those parents are highly motivated to see their children succeed. Many of these very intelligent teenagers are also talented in other areas such as athletics and music. They will all go to good colleges.

The Class is formatted according to the school year with chapters about various students and Andy as they move through the seasons. We read of the students’ personal struggles as teenagers as well as their attempts to find a topic for research and bring their project to fruition. It doesn’t take long to become engaged in their struggles and begin to root for a good outcome.

This book has widespread appeal partly because the author seems to be invested in the subjects of her writing and makes them come to life. I learned a lot about the current world of college admissions. I must admit that the science involved in many of the projects was beyond the scope of my science background, but was explained well. I recommend The Class and wish Andy and his students well in their future endeavors.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction (Adult), Science

Notes: 1. Some casual swearing throughout the book by both teacher and students.

2. The author made several snide slurs about the current presidency. Those remarks seem unnecessary and politically motivated. They are supposed to reflect conversations she heard, but they certainly seemed couched in her language, especially a disparaging comment about the First Lady. A writer selects what to share from the many words and events that pass before her. I think in this case she should have asked herself two questions as she put pen to paper: Is it necessary to tell my story? Is it kind?

Publication:   September 4, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)

Memorable Lines:

Andy would have it no other way. To him, the whole reason he got into the teaching business was to work side by side with kids, to develop the relationships and let the science unfurl in all of its glorious unpredictability.

“All day, we’re telling the kids, do this, read this, use this—and if you don’t, you fail. They need a space where it’s okay to fail.” —Nancy Shwartz, Cos Cob school librarian and creator of Maker Space, a place at her school where creativity is prized

“We’ve moved from education, teaching people how to think, to training, teaching people how to bark on time. And highly structured curriculum and even scripted curriculum in some places—the teacher reads the lesson. Those are not places where someone is being educated. It can’t be… Which is more valuable to the person and to the society? I can memorize something and give it back to you in an orderly fashion, even in a comprehensively well-expressed fashion. Or I can think. To me, it’s not even a call.” —Thomas Forget, Ph.D., professor and Andy’s mentor

How can New Mexico help its students?

_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_happy-kid-in-class-5184x3456_29015Education in New Mexico has gone from bad to worse. Teachers and, more importantly, students are suffering from bad decisions made at the state level by the Governor and her Secretary of Education, a non educator, cheered on by administrators at the school district level who fear retaliation if they stand up to the system. Teachers, in turn, fear from certain retribution (i.e. loss of job through inexplicably bad evaluations or being blackballed), if they hold their ground. The sweet children just do what they are told and suffer through overtesting and curriculum taught in a lockstep, one size fits all manner, while administrators claim that the “data driven instruction” will help students achieve higher levels. No, but it certainly wipes out individual initiative, creativity, and a love of learning. Oh, but the students do become better test takers!

Senator Tom Udall asked for my support for early childhood education on Facebook. Below is my response:
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Overtesting…and the beat goes on!

What are our children learning from the current obsession with testing?

standardized-test-cartoon-pictureSource: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2002

 

 

Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education?

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I have tried to stay away from anything that smacks of politics on social media during this election cycle. There is just so much negativity I can let into my life. I followed the issues. I voted. Now we are presented with an appointment that might unite the left and the right because parents, teachers, students, and many others are concerned about the state of education–the overtesting, Common Core State Standards, evaluations based on testing, and ridiculous administrative mandates.

I have done some research on Betsy DeVos and there is much I could say. Today I just want to focus on two things. First, her words. In a video I watched she made two very telling statements about initiatives she supports:

“[they] will empower educational entrepreneurs.”

“entrepreneurial spirit will prevail even in the industry of education.”

I find it troubling that she wants to empower an entrepreneurial spirit to prevail in education.  Big business is trying to take over education for their own profit and to dumb down the 99% so we are not educated enough to stand up for our constitutional rights. We need to get big business out of education.  The accumulating of wealth and warming a seat in the classroom do not qualify one to make educational decisions.

Even more troubling is the use of “industry” and “education” in the same sentence.  Our schools should not be industries; we should not make a profit off of them or produce worker bees for the powerful in our society. We are nurturing growing minds and bodies, and we should be creating opportunities for independent thinking–not that of the right or the left, independent. The goal of our efforts should be citizens with a moral and ethical compass who can find satisfying ways of supporting themselves and their families.

Second, her actions. These “education advocates” like DeVos are big money, big business people, and you can be sure that they have their own bottom line in sight with every decision. DeVos says she does not support Common Core. Just take a look at Jeb Bush’s pet project that she has been involved in for so many years as a board member and “education advocate”: ExcelinEd common core “toolkit.”

I retired after 34 years of teaching in the midst of this kind of nonsense, and I saw and experienced first hand the devastating effects it has on learning, creativity, and morale of students and teachers. Why would we continue down this same path, sacrificing our children, to line the pockets of the 1%?

The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: September 2016

Why should the arts still be important in education?

Pauline Hawkins

paint-brushesHow can we maximize the value of art and music in education and how can it be blended with more traditional subjects (math, science, history, etc.)?

I teach at a community college, and a professor there created an art therapy club for professors, adjunct, and staff. Nine people attended the first session where they colored with pens and painted with watercolors. Future sessions will consist of making jewelry, drawing, and using mixed media—all as therapy to help adults relieve a stressful week. This is brilliant; however, our primary and secondary children are going to school during a time when the arts are slowly being eliminated from their curriculum. I find this dichotomy painfully ridiculous.

Instead of answering the question this month, I’m going to ask a few of my own:

If schools embraced this idea of art therapy, would we have as many children and teens suffering from stress and…

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