Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wish List

What is on your wish list?

I'm wishing for an elementary school that has a philosophy similar to Chris Lehmann's high school.
Does it exist?  Could it succeed?

Would you like to work there?
Would you send your child to an elementary school like this?

Some people believe that elementary education is only preparation for middle school. At what age do we start teaching 'real life' instead of preperation?

The social and emotional components of the elementary eduction environment are 'real life'. Why can't core subjects be the same? Deeper understanding often comes from real-life experiences. Children of all ages learn best when the work they do is meaningful.  Yes, we have to teach the fundamentals.  Reading, writing, spelling, and the rest are all necessary skills; but there is so much more to education than worksheets and bubble tests. Core subjects can be taught in ways that young children find meaningful, but it's not easy.

My wish?  I wish for hands-on, real-life, and meaningful education experience for our elementary students.
I wish to be a guide that learns with them.
I wish for change.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Need My Teachers To Learn

Using Twitter is like panning for gold. There is a lot of sand and mud to sift through, but sometimes you find a nugget. Diana Dell led me to this video with her tweet this morning.

We need to prepare students for their future, not our past.

Is Skype blocked in your school? Are cell phones banned?

How are you preparing students for their future?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Film isn’t a media that I’m very attuned to

Last week I had to write a paper for my History class. The questions had to answer were not about dry facts, dates, and dead guys. My instructor asked my how I felt about some specific issues and why I feel the way I do.

Really? You want to know how I feel? My personal thoughts and feelings about historical events that happened during my lifetime?

The opening sentence of my paper was "Remember, you asked for it...".
My paper was far from politically correct. I gave heartfelt, emotional responses and received a grade of 99% . My professor said I did well passionately arguing my point of view.

The assignment reminded me of a video I've watched several times. Many find this clip inspirational. I thought my instructor might enjoy it, so I sent him a link to this video.

I was expecting to stimulate an interesting conversation with a college professor. I missed my mark completely. This is his response to the video:

"Hi Scott -- I just now went back and viewed the YouTube segment. Taylor Mali is a name new to me. I don’t think I grasped what his point was. Film isn’t a media that I’m very attuned to. – Cheers, (name deleted)"

I was speechless. Couldn't grasp the point? Not attuned to 'film'?


Granted, the teacher-turned-poet in the video is a little 'over the top', but how could you miss the point? I am reminded the we each have our own preferred learning style; and that some people are more specific than others.

Is this specific to college professors, or am I going to meet an elementary student with such a strong aversion to a particular form of media.
  • What if elementary student Johnny is 'not attuned to' print media?
  • Will the system allow Johnny learn in his preferred method?
  • How can Johnny be tested if he is 'not attuned' to print?
  • How will Johnny succeed in school?

Can he succeed at all with our current model of education?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You're Fired

I stumbled across this image today.

Scott McLeod makes a strong statement with this image. Do you agree?

The responses to the original posting are an interesting read.
You can find them here.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lessons from the Mountain

Lessons from the Mountain

I just returned from a one week training experience in the New Mexico Mountains. My wife and I attended training sessions at Philmont Scout Ranch; the Boy Scouts of America's national training center.

I attended the invitation only seminar to learn skills that will help me improve my local scout troop and my council's 2010 Jamboree troop. I achieved my initial objective and learned a great deal about scout troops. My wife learned some new skills in her class, and both of my children had a great time in their programs as well.

The most important things that I learned last week did not come from the printed materials, flip charts, or power points. My biggest 'take-away' came from networking with other scout leaders, staff members, and Boy Scouts that were coming off

Philmont Scout Ranch is a high-adventure facility where youth can experience mountain backpacking on treks of 10 days or more. I expected to see boys age 15 and above out hiking in the wilderness. I was surprised to see boys as young as 12 beaming as they completed their 10 day adventure.

I realize that I have been underestimating what boys in the early teens are capable of achieving. After a little reflection, I can see that the boys in my troop are capable of going on a 10 day/75mile adventure in the foothills of the Rockies. I intend to take them there as soon as I can get a reservation (about 2-3 years).

This learning experience makes me wonder how many children I haven’t helped as much as could have because of my expectations. Did the children I tutor learn as much possible? Did everyone in the classes in which I substitute teach reach their full potential? Have I been setting my sights too low?

I will remember this life lesson when I begin teaching full time in my own classroom. I will be sure to make every day a “mountain-top experience” for my students.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Your students want you to watch this

I spend almost every morning following the same old routine. My first 30 minutes of the day is spent with a few cups of coffee, my in-box, and my RSS reader. Sometimes I feel like a prospector panning for gold..... wading in the water, searching through the mud for a small flake of precious metal.

While still working on my first cup this morning,I found a nugget. One of my Diigo daily subscriptions contained a link from this blog post.

I wish my instructors, advisers, and administrators would watch this video.

You can be fairly sure that your students want you to see it.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Camping We Will Go....

It is that time of year again. Time for Boy Scout summer camp.

Summer camp is often the highlight of a boy's scouting career. The 7-day, 6-night adventure is the longest continuous outdoor activity for a large majority of scouts. Some advance to the high-adventure experiences: Philmont, Boundary Waters, or Jamboree; but summer camp is the pinnacle for most scouts.

My troop departs in less than 24 hours. Around 7AM, July 5, 2009 -Sagamore Council Troop 162 leaves for Maumee Scout Reservation in the Hoosier National Forrest.

Fun and adventure is awaiting the boys. The new scouts that have never been to long-term camp (half of them) are going to discover a new experience and learn new skills. The seasoned scouts are looking forward to earning badges, teaching the newbies, and having some fun. I enjoy watching the boys learn while they play.

What do I do at camp? I learn. I learn from the boys and the other leaders. I learn by teaching skills. I learn the most by watching the other leaders and how they interact with their troops, their peers, and the camp staff. Watching scout leaders in camp is like watching school teachers in their schools.

Some leaders are strict disciplinarians. The troops are almost run like military units, with the Scoutmaster as the boot camp drill instructor. Other 'leaders' let their troops run wild. Boy Scout units are designed to be 'boy led', but some of these troops are closer to Lord of the Flies than Lord Baden Powell. Some leaders, like some teachers, seem to have a magic touch.

The magic leaders lead without lecturing. Boys work as a team. Patrols work with other patrols. Older boys help the new boys. The leader is the resource center, the occasional, decision maker, and almost always the 'guide on the side' (often from a lounge chair near the coffee pot). The magic leaders are fun to watch. I learn the most at camp by watching them run their troops. A leader once told me leading children is like paddling a canoe down a river. The trick is learning how to steer while using the current to your advantage. I agree.

Scout leaders are very much like school teachers. Many are fair, some have no business working with children, and a few are spectacular and inspiring. I plan to learn a few things from all of them this week. I have no visions of a Norman Rockwell painting, but I expect to have a great time.

Tune in next week to read the review of our camping adventures.
I hope Ralph, Jack, and Piggy stay on their side of the island........

Saturday, June 27, 2009

#Hashtag Stew

I'm having some serious conference envy tonight.
Many of the people I follow on Twitter and Plurk are attending the NECC conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend. I am sitting in my study doing math homework as my friends, mentors, and heroes are having a fantastic time meeting face-to-face.
As a teacher in training, I am acutely aware of how much I could learn at a conference of this magnitude. Sadly, algebra and mock lesson plans must take precedence over F2F collaboration.

There is a bright side to staying home. I can watch all of the almost non-stop stream of information coming from NECC by using Tweetdeck and hashtags.

Here is a sample screen shot from my Tweetdeck screen.

I've found some fantastic new education and edtech folks to follow. I almost feel like the guy at the circus spinning plates on sticks. Adding people and answering direct messages before twetdeck updates and gives me more people to follow is almost as addictive as a video game.

Fire up Tweetdeck or any other twitter aggregation tool and follow #necc #necc09 #EBC09 #edubloggercon and see what you find. I found some new friends.

I should stop blogging and get back to writing lesson plans. See you at NECC..... in a year or two.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I could not find the words

Sometimes I just can't find the words to express my feelings.

When I watched this video I discovered on an Alec Couros blog post this week, I was moved.
No -more than that... I was moved, motivated, touched, and more. I felt inspired to comment, but I just couldn't find the words.

Fortunately, someone else wrote a response that comes close to how I feel about this video.

Thank you Scott Floyd for your response to this video and Alec's post.

Please take the time to watch the video and read the posts by Alec and Scott.
It will brighten your day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Slide to unlock.... at age 2

Photo Credit

Sometimes I am amazed at how flexible the human brain is.

I attended a 2nd birthday celebration for my nephew last week. The event went as most family birthdays usually do.... candles, cake, presents, happy children, grass stained pants, kool-aid stained faces, and an abundance of smiles.

As we were preparing to leave, my nephew got his hands on my brother's iPhone. I was afraid the birthday boy was going to damage the hand-held wonder. WOW, was I short-sighted. What followed was simply amazing.

The boy that had just turned 2 years old was able to unlock the phone, find his favorite song, and play it for me (dancing included). He then searched through several pages of photos to show me one of his favorites. I just stood there in amazement. I had no idea that a child that had just turned 2 was capable of operating such a complicated device.

The event lasted only minutes, but it has lead to hours of reflection.
  • What else is a 2 year old capable of that we have never imagined?
  • If a toddler can work an iPhone, what can a kindergarten student do with a laptop?
  • Are people of all ages capable of much more than we think?
  • Why do we prohibit the iPhones and similar technologies in schools?
  • What will the next generation be doing at their 2nd birthday parties?

I'm starting to know how my parents felt when my brother and I did some pretty cool stuff with our Commodore 64 a few (many) years ago.

Photo Credit

Where will it go from here? I can only imagine......

What are your visions of the future?
Feel free to leave a comment below.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finally livin' the life................the Second Life

Ever had a tool in your garage, basement, kitchen, or junk drawer that you knew nothing about? It could be useful and powerful...but you're just not sure how?

That is the way I was with Second Life. A potentially powerful tool that was also confusing and dangerous.

I've played around with virtual worlds in the past, but never found anything other than tweens and fiends. I had to experiment at night or with the door closed so that my children wold not be exposed the bad "adult behavior" that seems to happen whenever a group people meet sans identity. My initial experimentation with Second Life was no different. I felt like giving up, but many of my ed-techie friends kept singing (and tweeting) the praises of the alternate reality SL. I kept working on my avatar and trying to find value, but it was a slow process.

Yesterday things changed in my second life. I attended an online class at the ISTE headquarters. It was way over my head, but learned an incredible amount in a short period of time. The instructor and assistants were fantastic. I made a few friends, learned a few tricks, got help adjusting my avatar, and found some new clothes.

One of my new friends gave me some insight on avatars. She said that all men want to appear as themselves; all women want to look like Barbie. I don't think she is too far off. Here is the latest version of my virtual self:

Have you tried Second Life? It is worth a try if you haven't. There are many education related areas that can help you with your life-long learning.

Here is where you get started. ISTE island is a great place to get your feet wet. Yes, the learning curve is a bit steep, but it worth the climb to the top.

When you get there look me up. ScottShlehart Skytower is my SL name.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Laugh to keep from crying....

I ran across this comic strip today......

(click comic to view full size)

It made me ponder the paradox of technology in our schools.

My local school system is in the process of building a new middle school and remodeling the old high school and middle schools. The have a blog for the public and contractors to use.

Although the corporation office and the superintendent are making a great use of technology and the read-write web, the individual schools are a different story. The gatekeepers have blocked some of the most useful learning tools. Teachers and students have to find 'work-arounds' to access what they need. Substitute teachers have zero web access.

I hope that one day we all can look back on the above cartoon and laugh, "I remember when the useful parts of the internet used to be filtered."

It is hard to build the future when someone keeps locking the toolbox.

Link to original comic

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tattoos and memories and dead skin on trial...

I attended a middle school swim meet a few days ago. I was scanning the crowd of students looking for my son. As I looked over the mob of early teens, I spotted this:

A small tattoo of a star on the shoulder of an eighth grade girl.

I was speechless....then angry....and then concerned.

How did a 14 year old child get a tattoo? An illegal act by a tattoo shop? A permission statement by the girls parents? An in-home tattoo party? A mother-daughter bonding experience? No matter how it happened, the result is the same. The 14 year old girl has a permanent tattoo.

I see the tattoo as a visible reminder of how many activities leave a permanent mark. Your online presence gets colored with indelible ink every time you log on to the internet.

Are you coloring your personal image with ink you may regret someday?
Think before you post...

Photo Credit

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Kindergarten Science - Plants! | Mrs. Poulin's Blog

Mrs. Poulin posted a video of elementary students experiencing science 'up close and personal'.

It's worth watching. Please take a look.

Kindergarten Science - Plants! | Mrs. Poulin's Blog

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, February 20, 2009

Upside Down and Backwards

I was describing my decision to change careers to an old friend a few days ago. He stated that my choices were 'upside down and backwards' from the normal way of doing things.

My activities with web 2.0 appear to be backwards as well.

  • I discovered Twitter by listening to a podcast.
  • I then learned about Plurk from Twitter.
  • Blogs, RSS, and Google Reader soon replaced my daily newspaper.
  • I became involved with live webcasting at EdTechtalk.
  • Finally...I started a blog.

Just when I was starting to get the hang of it all, I found out that in October of 2008, blogging was declared dead by Wired magazine.

Did I spend all of my time and energy learning to use a medium that was dead or dying? No, I don't think so. Blogging appears to be alive and well. Blogging is still quite healthy in the education community.

How do you learn new skills? Do you follow the unwritten syllabus of society, or are you an upside down and backwards learner?

photo credit

Friday, February 13, 2009

Testing the Power of the PLN

Today I will explore the potential power of my network. I am in need of some assistance.
I have the opportunity to receive credit for one of my teaching field experiences. I have to provide artifacts and references that prove that I have 'what it takes' to be an elementary teacher. I have plenty of artifacts from the classroom. I have several letters of reference from teachers and administrators. I need to prove that I am a life-long learner.

I need references that support my claim that I am actively engaged in online professional development. Any other comments about my learning, collaboration, and communication skills are also welcome. If we have met online and you feel that I am displaying the habits of a life-long-learner, please take a moment to express your thoughts.

Email and blog replies are welcome. Snail mail on school letterhead would be a big plus.
Drop me a note and I'll send you my mailing address if you are so inclined to send a hard copy.

Thank you in advance to my PLN. By helping me 'test out' of one of my requirements, you are accelerating my journey toward my teaching credentials.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

They know where you are (if you tell them)

Google released a new add-on for Google Maps today.
It's named Latitude.
It installed quickly on my Windows Mobile device, and I had it up and running in under five minutes.

Here is Google's introduction video:

I've only had it running for a few minutes, but I can see exciting possibilities for this program.

Check it out. I'm going outside to play with my new toy :)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pick an Analogy...

Lately I've been reading about how web filtering in the school is doing a disservice to our children. Many people believe that blocking is a way to protect our children from all of the evils of the Internet. The 'walled garden' approach is favored by more than a few people.
Others believe that access that is completely free and unfiltered is the only way to teach digital citizenship. I believe the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes.

I have heard several creative ways of explaining why extreme filtering of the Internet in schools is not the best practice.
To paraphrase Wesley Fryer: We don't give a 16 year old the keys to a car and hope they can learn to drive on the public streets. Nobody would think of throwing a five year old into a swimming pool and hope that the child can swim. Why do people think it is appropriate to turn children loose on the Internet without teaching them the correct way to use it.

I agree with Mr. Fryer. Children need to be shown the correct and appropriate way to use the Internet.
I was listening to a broadcast on the EdTechTalk channel last week and ended up skyping in and discussing filtering with Doug Symington and a few others. Most of the people on the show and in the back channel discussion were in agreement about Internet filtering in schools. Teaching 21st century skills includes teaching how to use the Internet responsibly.

I read an article this morning in Edutopia that inspired me to write this blog. Kevin Honeycutt and Maria Knee are quoted in the article; and both offer some valuable insight on the topic. Please take a moment and read the article. The replies at the bottom of the page are quite enlightening.

I think that we should have some Internet filtering in schools, but I believe that the students and teachers should do the majority of the the filtering. We all have blacklists and whitelists of some kind on our personal computers. Why can't the entire school collaboratively build their own filter? I see the process of building a filter like this:
  • Known porn sites are blocked
  • Teachers and students are given access to the Internet
  • When inappropriate sites are discovered by students, a block request would be submitted to the IT department.
  • Teachers and administrators would have the power to place an immediate block on an inappropriate site.
  • A list (similar to a wiki) would be maintained to show who, when, and why a site was blocked.
  • Teachers would have the ability to override the filter.

Would this model work? Could we teach the students how to responsibly use the Internet? Could students build a filter that would be good for all grade levels in the school?
It would be an interesting experiment.

The bottom line:
Children leave school and go out into the real world. The Internet is unfiltered at home. Students need to know how to use this powerful tool responsibly.
We don't lock out the power saws in the shop class. We teach how to use the power tools safely and how to adjust the guards. We show our students how to create without doing damage to themselves or others.

We've been teaching responsibility in shop class for years. It's time to do the same in the computer lab.

Photo credit: swait-t on flicker. Link to original photo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Old team, new players, and current technology

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to purchase tickets to a Harlem Globetrotter game. The thought of attending the event brought back memories of watching Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal from the rug in front of our Quasar console television.

The event was held in a local college gymnasium. The sights and smells were just as I expected they would be. I watched the Globetrotters of today take the floor as the speakers played 'Sweet Georgia Brown"

As in years gone by, the 'trotters brought their opponents with them. I watched as the Washington Generals prepared to do battle with the mighty Globetrotters.

The Captain of the Globetrotters and the Coach of the Generals made a public wager before the game started. If the Generals won, the star Globetrotter would have to leave his team and play for the Generals. If the Globetrotters won, the Washington coach would have to dress in an embarrassing costume: a Tutu or a Hot Dog Suit.

The game progressed with the expected antics. Some new tricks were added, but many of the old favorites were played out on the court.

The part I found the most interesting was during half-time. The crowd was asked to vote on how the opposing coach should be publicly humiliated; either by tutu or silly suit. All the crowd had to do was vote.

It was enjoyable to be able to interact with the events on the court. Children everywhere were voting with their own phones or ones they begged from a parent. A good time was had by all.

The game progressed in the usual format. The generals lost and the crowd had fun.
How did the vote go? Not even close. Nobody wanted to see the coach in a tutu.

The event made me wonder how many creative ways there might be to use cell phones in education. A Google search for 'cell phone in education' returned over 40 million results.

How do you think we should use mobile phones in the education environment?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

You never know who may be watching.

I took a few minutes this morning to check my email, download some podcasts, and check my blog before I started on my homework. All was was going well until I clicked on the link to my statcounter page.

I was excited to see that there had been some new readers. I clicked the link that took me to the details page. This is what I found:

Host Name
IP Address165.138.239.15
CountryUnited States
ISPIndiana Department Of Education
Returning Visits0
Visit Length38 mins 12 secs

At first I was excited to see that a local person had found my blog. Then I read the name of the reader:

Indiana Department of Education

Wow! Somebody with a very local IP address that is connected with the Indiana DOE read my blog. Not just visited, but READ my blog. Their visit to my page lasted 38 minutes and 12 seconds; plenty of time to explore every post, comment and hyperlink.

What can be learned from this? There are several key points:
  • Your digital portfolio begins to form the instant you start posting content
  • Anybody may be reading your material
  • The things that you do today may affect your future in ways that you never imagined
  • Your digital footprints are not made in the shifting sands of time, they are made in concrete
What kind of footprints are you leaving in the quick-dry concrete of the internet?

You never know who may be watching....

Monday, January 19, 2009

On the fence

Originally uploaded by scottshelhart
I took my Boy Scouts out cross-country skiing yesterday. I took 80+ photos. Most were of the boys, but I did find time to take a few of the surroundings.

This is my favorite one of the day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning from the children

Children can teach us great life lessons if we just open up our eyes and watch.

What lessons can be seen in this clip?

  • Some things are worth doing more than once, just for the pure enjoyment.
  • It's not always about who wins.
  • Fun is where you find it.
  • Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

What do you see in this clip?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

TAG! You're it!

Microsoft released their version of a 2D bar code reader this week at CES.
The MS code looks very similar to a QR code, but the color MS code can hold much more data.

It keeps getting hype as an iPhone app, but I downloaded the Windows Mobile software and it works great. It's much lighter than the QR code reader i-nigma.

This article explains it well.
This link contains a good video about the tags.

The Microsoft Demo/Download page is

Is it practical? I'm not sure. Japan has been using QR codes for years. The same QR technology has been available in the US for a while, but never seemed to gain traction.

Do you think this will catch on?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seven Things You Don't Really Need to Know About Me

Linda Clinton tagged me for this meme. I guess this is my initiation into the blogosphere.

Here are the meme rules for my fellow bloggers:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

I am an Eagle Scout. I received my award in the spring of 1981. I went to the national BSA Jamboree that summer. It was the first year it was held at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. I will be going again with my son in 2010. I am currently a Cubmaster and Scoutmaster.

I have been a firefighter and EMT. The adrenaline rush was incredible when the call came in. I have crawled through burning buildings. I have see great feats of bravery by my fellow firefighters. I have picked up body parts with a shovel. I have held a stranger's hand while they died. One day I no longer felt the rush when the pager sounded the alarm. I hung up my boots and walked away.

I am a licensed ham radio operator. My call sign is KD9SR. I earned my first license in 1985. I can operate any mode I like, but I usually operate low power Morse Code. I enjoy the challenge.

I love my hot tub. It is outside on my deck. I love to go for a soak when its a clear night about 10 degrees F. Snowy nights are a close second. We don't use it much in the summer, but it's occupied 4 or 5 nights a week in the winter. Don't call me crazy until you have tried it.

I am married to my high school sweetie. We grew up in the same small Indiana town, but got together during a trip to Ohio. We each had a friend take us on a church trip to Cedar Point amusement park. Lisa and I connected during the trip in the fall of 1981 and have been together since then. I have plans of going back there for our 25th anniversary.

I ride a 1990 Honda Goldwing. We bought our current bike on eBay. The rig has a two seat sidecar so we can take both of our kids. Our first trip was to South Dakota t o see Mt. Rushmore. The four of us (without the dog) traveled 3000 miles in 9 days. One day I will take a bike trip along the outer perimeter of the lower 48 states. I have the route planned. It will take 6 weeks. Would you like to ride along? I'm planning on the summer of 2013.

I'm an amateur guitar player. I have built two guitars and a bass. I sing very well when nobody is around. I can't sing if adults are listening. I can play and sing all day for children. I take my acoustic guitar to school every time I sub in a K-3 classroom.

I thought this was going to be difficult. The hardest part was keeping the list at seven.

The people I tag are:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The first step...

I've been told that journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step.

I guess that's where I am now. At the suggestion (nagging) of a few friends, I have decided to experiment with a blog.

The theme of my blog is based on my journey toward my education degree. I guess the best place to start is with my philosophy of education. The following is my original philosophy I was required to write for one of my first year courses. I agonized over the content for weeks before submitting it. The grade I received was quite a surprise to me. I will reveal my grade at a later date.

{edit 01/04/09 My professor awarded me with an A+ on my philosophy statement. She said my paper was the first one she ever bestowed with such an honor. }

How would you grade my philosophy of education if you were my professor?

Philosophy of Education
My philosophy of education is a mixture of several influences and is difficult to label as one of the classic styles. My years in the workforce, my formal education, and my time in the elementary classroom have helped me form a unique perspective on education. I think my philosophy is best described as a mixture of old-school, high-tech, and holistic; with a bit of ethics and civics. My personal philosophy is that schools should not only teach strong academic skills, but should also provide instruction to help mold and develop the whole person, especially at the K-6 level.
The first objective of the school is to teach basic academics. Arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and rhetoric are as important today as they ever were. Students need to be able to perform the fundamentals of these subjects. Although being able to utilize a calculator, spread-sheet, or a spell checker are great skills, students need to be fluent in the basics. I have seen people fail in the workforce because they were ineffective without their electronic crutch. I have seen entry-level managers at a fortune 500 company that were incapable of writing a hand-written memo above a third grade level. I have seen engineers that could not make simple estimations. I have seen salesmen that could not calculate 25 percent off with a paper and pencil. In some ways academics are like sports; there is no substitute for being proficient in the fundamentals. We must ensure that our young students have the foundation they need for their futures.
Children learn in different ways. Some do better as passive listeners, some do best as active participants. Some are aural learners, some are visual learners, and some are hands-on learners. We must present the information in many different ways to have the best chance at reaching as many students as possible.
It is our duty as educators to light the fire of passion in our students. We must do our best to make every child excited about coming to school. We should try every day to guide our students to become life-long learners. Every child should be able to say they had a fun day at school every day. It is our job to provide the motivation to instill this attitude in our students. An old friend once gave me some advice that he said applied to almost anything. His advice was, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong”. I think this applies to teachers and students as well.
We should ensure that every child is has a continual challenge with frequent success. Success should be rewarded with things such as special classroom privileges, a new book, or points toward a field trip; not with trinkets or candy. We must teach our students that learning is something that is more valuable than a candy bar or a super-hero eraser. We must also teach them how to deal with occasional failures and how to learn from their mistakes.
Students should never find the school environment boring. Lesson plans need variety to keep young children excited. My ideal classroom would utilize a mixture of individual work, partner work, and group work. Students should have a blend of daily in-class work, daily homework, short-term projects, and long-term projects. There should be programs to supplement the standard curriculum. I believe that elementary schools should have a science club, math club, ham radio club, gardening club, art club etc. similar to middle and high schools. Technology should be utilized as not only as a teaching aide but also as a creative outlet. Today’s elementary students are capable making podcasts, vidcasts, blogs, and many other creative works if given the tools to work with.
Many of the children that will pass through our schools come from unconventional families. Our students often spend more time with us than they do with their primary caregivers. Many of these children do not have strong role models in their lives. It is the duty of the school faculty and staff to be outstanding role models for all of the students. We need to be of good moral character to show the children right from wrong. It is not enough to just say it; we have to live it. Good ethics and morals are not something that can be faked. Children have the ability to see through the facades we try to erect and see us for what we really are. We must be good people in order to teach them how to be good people.
Elementary students should be introduced to the basic fundamentals of a democratic society. The classroom environment should function as an age-appropriate model of the democratic process. We should also try to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in our students. My ideal classroom would start the day with the pledge of allegiance, national anthem, and a patriotic themed ‘this day in history’ fact. Children need to know that it is acceptable to have an opinion and to be passionate about it. Our students need to be taught that there are right and wrong ways to effect changes in their society.
The goal of elementary education is not to teach ‘the three R’s’, pass the standardized tests, and push them out the door to the next grade. We need to teach our students strong academic skills, strong social skills, and a solid moral foundation. We must take every opportunity to instill the love of learning into our students. They need to be kept excited and motivated. We need to help them want to succeed in school and in life. We must give them every opportunity to succeed by helping them become the best moral, ethical, inspired, and educated person they can become.

As I have progressed down the path of my journey I have learned new things and made edits to my philosophy statement. If this blog grows and develops as I think it will, my philosophy statement will become a living document. Maybe I'll make it a wiki or a Google document so I can go back and see all of the revisions I've made.

Well, I think this enough for my fist blog post. I originally planned to just dip my toes in to test the water.

I think I might have got more than a toe wet....... Photo by Kim Marius Flakstad

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