Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It turns our blogging regularly is a challenge.  That being said, I received a fellowship called Teachers for Global Classrooms granted by the Department of State and administered by a company called IREX.  Generically, it’s a watered down Fullbright.  That being said, it’s still pretty cool.  I get to go to an education symposium in Washington DC and a 2-3 week education trip in another country–all on the DoS dime.  Not too shabby.  I also get to participate in a graduate level class this semester to learn what it means to be globally competent as well as how to make global awareness a part of my classroom.  Neat stuff.

First, there’s a very interesting document by UNESCO.  I was moved by the attempt UNESCO made at detailing the tightrope educators–and really people-walk when clinging to their cultural norms while attempting to be a part of another culture.  Page 11 of the document states this, “The challenge for Intercultural Education is to establish and maintain the balance between conformity with its general guiding principles and the requirements of specific cultural contexts.”  This is a loaded statement…and one that requires additional time to unpack.

I’ll periodically post my global realizations as they occur…stay tuned…


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You mean, rich people got it wrong?

Check out this article–it’s a good one.  I’ve been saying this for a few years now.  Educating at-risk youth is more than a set of standards and “high expectations”.  It’s about being poor and all that goes with it.  How can can you learn when you just dodged a few bullets on the way to class, or, as I have personally experienced, the murder of a student announced over the PA.

I am glad to see that someone has initiated the real conversation.  Check it out…


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Universities are producing unprepared teachers…

…or so says the National Council on Teachers Quality.  Now, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, just the Executive Summary and it isn’t pretty.  But, really, it’s no surprise.  People seem to get angry at the “For-profit” univerisities as parasitic or downright fraudulent, yet no one criticizes large non-profit universities.  Why is it only a few universities are allowed to train teachers?  Why don’t student teachers get paid even though they must pay for tuition so one retired hack of a teacher can evaluate them once a semester?  I’m always skeptical of any research in the education industry, so the jury is out on this one…I’ll read some more and get back with an analysis.  Here’s the link to where you can download the study…click on the “download now” button in the top right…



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Navigating NGSS II

Here is where you can find the NGSS II standards http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards

I actually like how they have this organized. I recommend clicking on “Arranged by Disciplinary Core Ideas” (DCI) to find the topic that interests you at the correct grade level.  Pretty self-explanatory, I think.  After you highlight your grade level on the left, and the topic on the right, hit “search”.  The result pops up below and you may have scroll down to find the standard(s).  What pops up when you click the standard is the written description plus the other parts of the framework AND how they link to the ELA/ Literacry and Math Common Core state standards.  I see this website being used extensively in my future lesson planning sessions.  It copies and pastes fairly nicely too.

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Connections Conference, March 14, 2013

A colleague and I will be presenting at 9:30 a.m., in the Ruby Room, at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Il.  The title of our presentation is “STEM and the Common Core: A Literacy-based Framework for Instruction.”  Based on the room type and time slot we are pretty excited about this opportunity to share our framework which is in year two of development.

We hope to provide some tangible take-aways for audience members as well as invite participation during the presentation–one hour is very long to just sit there and listen to two short, stocky Irish guys wax eloquent about science and literacy.

As we tweak our presentation, one glaring insight is that, if one teaches anything using a STEM framework, you are just about guaranteed to meet many, if not all Common Core State Standards for science.  AND, if you buy into our literacy argument, you will have met most, if not all English and Math standards as well…pretty darned clever, if I say so myself…


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NGSS Common Core Standards–Draft

Here they are folks.  Really, it was not the easiest document to locate.  There is a 400 page document which I guess you could read, but I offer that the time you spent reading that document you will never get back (find it here to download).  The other document is the performance expectations–this is the one I do recommend you look over (save it here).  I actually like the layout even though it is hard to read at first.  All the info you  need is there to help you plan a lesson on a few pages.  High School starts on page 51.

I’ll reiterate that the common core is NOT a panacea for changing science education.  There seems to be some evidence (read about it here) that calls BS on the effect of standards.  I say who cares one way or the other.  The odds of the Core movement getting erased are low and my boss wants us to look them over.  So if my boss likes ‘em, I like ‘em.

Any teacher can look at these and say, “How the heck am I supposed to teach from these?”  And therein lies the rub–they do not help teachers teach on a daily basis.  The standards need to be unpacked so that they are teachable.  Unpacking is a son of a gun.  I took this graduate class at Northwestern and we unpacked the National standards for energy and tried to write a week long lesson plan that reflected our unpacking–took 4 of us 5 weeks to do it.  Not kidding.  And no, we didn’t suck at teaching, thank you very much.  The bottom line is that even with standards, there is still a tremendous amount of ambiguity for how to get there, the degree to which one actually learns the standard…check this one out on page 71, ”

Students who demonstrate understanding can: a. Construct and defend models and mathematical representations that show that over time the total energy within an isolated system is constant, including the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within the system. [Assessment Boundary: Computational accounting for energy in a system limited to systems of two or three components.]”

How does one teach to that standard?  What level of math representation?  Linear systems? Quadratic systems? What sub-topics are needed to meet this standard?

Is this done in one lesson?  Two?  Three?  A month?  A year?  How simple can the model be?  How complex?  If a student memorized the conservation of energy formula, is that good enough?

And that’s me just looking at one standard for a few moments.  We’ll now see a cottage industry of people saying they know how to implement the standards so if you pay them a few g’s they’ll come to your school and teach your teachers how to do this.

But, like I said, my boss wants me to do it, so I’m gonna do it.  Let’s just say I am realistic about the results.

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Back to school…

Yesterday was professional development and today is a half day with transfer kids and mostly freshman orientation.  The summer was…well…at least I started this blog.  June was amazing…July was hot and humid…August so far is pretty cool.

I am getting my classroom ready for a full day of class for the 2012-2013 school year.  I’ll be teaching 1 honors physics class, 2 conceptual physics classes, and 2 statistics class.  It’s the first time I’ll be teaching stats but I’m excited about it.  Actually, I am excited about this year in general.

I’ll be using this blog to update ya’all on the research our school’s literacy coach and I are conducting in my classroom.  We are developing a science literacy framework and are looking to publish our results.  Exciting indeed!

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Common Core Standards

Here is the location for where you can download the common core standards; you’ll need to scroll down a bit and there is a bunch of pdf you can download.  Here’s the site http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards

Right now, only Math and English are posted, science is not so I am a bit out of my area of expertise.  I do, however, have an engineering background and need only 1 more college class to earn my math endorsement which I will accomplish by November of this year (I hope!).  While you look over those standards, I’ll offer a thoughts/ questions about common core standards…please do not think for a moment they are the panacea for education reform.  All states already had similar type standards…how much did they vary from state to state?  Some might argue significantly…I am not one of those.  How are they going to be implemented? What does it mean to have a standard implemented?  Is there any way to evaluate performance of those standards?  What constitutes mastery of a standard?  Is mastery an A in the class or accomplishment/ meeting of that standard an A?

There are many more questions that’ll come up as you read these standards…

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Hello all!  This is the first entry in Emile’s Turbine–a blog about where policy ideas meet classroom implementation.  I am currently a high school science teacher and education researcher.  After combing over what seems to be an endless supply of education blogs, I decided to start my own because I saw blogs that covered a lot of topics within education or blogs that seemed to point to other blogs about education.  I consider myself a scientific person and have served as the data guy for each of the two schools I’ve taught in.  Having taught research at the graduate level, I am well aware of what studies have been published and more importantly how often they are misrepresented by both the media and policy makers.  Here at Emile’s Turbine, I will offer insight into current research or policy ideas and how they may affect teachers as they try to do their job.

Teaching is every bit an art as it is a science.  We need research to help teachers do their job but we cannot depend on research or policy to obviate the need for a free-thinking, trained, educated, and dedicated teacher.

So, tomorrow I’ll start an investigation into a hot topic–common core standards.


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