The Productivity of Your Classroom: How Business Has Infiltrated the Classroom

I believe that the debate over quality education and learning is a bunch of smaller debates that really consist of people going round and round in circles. In October, I wrote about the need for educational reform. One of the points that I touched on was the lack of teacher involvement in that discussion. In 2008, Jonathon Kozol wrote a book called, Letters to a Young Teacher. In this book, Kozol and his young teacher Francesca discuss the ‘business’ of education. Even though the book and its subjects are not part of the current education debate; the advice and knowledge of Kozol, along with the curiosity and desire to help her students – speaks to the topics and concerns of today.

In the book, Letters to a Young Teacher, Kozol discusses many topics and shares several stories about the problems facing the classroom and new teachers. One particular topic that fascinated me was how business-like education has become.

Kozol talks about the business terms that are part of the everyday language of schools; terms like, ‘productivity, on task, benchmarks, work, product, outcome, and results.’ He asks, “Where is the value in having these terms in the classroom?” Another educational writer, Alfie Kohn, remarks on how school is now a workplace, “When did it stop being about learning?”

Before reading that, I’ll admit that I not only used those terms, I indoctrinated my students with them. I taught them those words, explained the value, and pushed my students to be successful with them. Luckily, I realized what I was doing; and started to learn how to change. But how? And why? And what was I to do?

As a teacher, it is my job to teach and to educate my students. I am required to make sure they are engaged, aware, and used the lessons in the future and in more complex situations. Which comes down to, in the simplest form: work, tasks, and benchmarks. Ugh. Also, as a teacher, I told my students it was their ‘job’ to learn, that their ‘occupation’ was to be a student. Although I was hoping to have my class look at it as a positive, as a source of responsibility, motivation, and inspiration – now, well, now I feel as though it was a negative. To me, I thought that by engaging my students to let them know that they are really in control of how much and how they learn, that this could encourage them to be more involved, to want to participate more, and ultimately to learn more; to have the desire to learn more. Even though I still believe that my intentions were/are good, it was the way in which I brought it up with my students that was bad. And thus, one of the circling debates I have with myself and in education. ‘How do I get my students more involved with their learning, without them thinking that it is a job and that going to school is a business?’

I still don’t know the answer. Hmm.

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What I’m Reading – February 7th

Two week ago, I wrote about the lunch programs at public schools. Since then I found three additional resources that I felt needed to be shared.

Cooking with Kids

Although this may not deal specifically with school lunches, it does deal with the food that children eat. By getting families and their children more involved in the cooking process, they are more likely to try eating new and healthy foods. Unless of course you are Jaime Oliver trying to get a group of tikes from West Virginia to NOT eat MRM. (shudder, shudder).

Hunger Free Kids Act

I like supporting my government and politicans, really I do. Unfortunately, sometimes they’re just dumb. Luckily, this bill is not dumb. Woohoo! Not only is this a new bill/act to ensure that children don’t go hungry, it also is creating federal changes to the foods served in schools. No more ketchup is a vegetable. No more french fries as a vegetable. Seriously, I love fries as much as the next person, but no, I would not considered fried anything to constitute healthiness.

Getting Kids to Combat Obesity

Genius, this idea is genius. Again, a perfect example of putting the power in the hands of the people who it affects. Childhood obesity is frightening. So instead of talking at kids and their families, why not teach the children who this epidemic affects and have them find ways to make the change. Support their ideas and encourage them too. I know that they have the real heartbeat on what is happening, because DUH, they’re kids! I guarantee you, no overweight child wants to be told that they aren’t going to live as long as their parents are.

************************************* Other Interesting Reads *********************************
Teaching Tolerance Through Social Media

Teaching Tolerance always has an article that makes its way into my teaching. These two, from the most recent issue, are them. Social Media is everywhere in all that we do (hello blog). For our students, especially our high-schoolers and college kids, they have their finger on the latest. (That’s right little sisters and brothers – I mean you three). What could be smarter as an educator, and parent, then to immerse ourselves in what our students/kids are into? And then bring about positive teachings and changes. I especially liked the dialogue with the principal and guidance counselor who see all of this social media and networking as a positive way to break down barriers, not build up bigger and taller walls.
Online Learning
As my fascination with online learning grows, the resources and materials about it grows too. I like how that works out. Here’s a local article about it, and the opportunities that are available to Oregonians. Even though I haven’t formed my complete opinion yet, I’m looking at online schooling to be very similar to the concept of homeschooling. What do you think?

Healthy Vending Machines

Never to be one to turn down chips, or Doritos (wasn’t that Superbowl Doritos commercial funny?). I do like having healthier options. Furthermore, I believe that if our school-age learners are given healthier options, that they will take them too. Although this article is more focused on the business aspect of healthy vending machines, I’m putting my attention to the ‘health’ component. I just wonder if the students will too.

Newberry Medal Winners

Woohoo for books!

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Reaching Out to Educational Writers

This is another article from the new blog I am contributing to, Tchr2Tchr.

Reaching out, it’s what a teacher does every day. It doesn’t matter what you teach or who your students are, educators are always looking for ways to make that connection. Which is probably why there are over 300,000 users on Teachers Pay Teachers. We’re all just educators reaching out to make connections and help out other educators. And that’s exactly what we, Tchr 2 Tchr, want to do too.

And so, we are reaching out to you. Our members, viewers, colleagues, and friends.

Each Monday we are going to have a weekly article featuring a various area of education. And, to make this more of our blog, meaning our as all of TPT, we’d like to have you be a guest writer for the Tchr2Tchr blog.

So here are our parameters:

At least 100 words but not more than 500.

– That you are okay with knowing that we may need to edit

– Has to be on the subject, NOT just what products you have

– Seeing how you are writing the article you won’t be able to include a separate product; however, you will be able to include a link up to your TPT store, or website/blog of your choosing.

– It needs to be in at least 5 days prior to the post date, to give ample time to edit.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, please send an email to If you have a particular area you are interested in writing about, tell us that too – we will do our best to incorporate everyone!

Now get writing!!!

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Two Years Worth

Wow, so I know this may be tooting my own horn — but I’ve been blogging for two years now. I consider this to be quite an accomplish for two big reasons. One, I never would have thought of myself as a writer. I don’t have ADD per se, but I definitely like to be always on the move. And writing is more of a sitting still sort of action. Two, with all of the other activities and jobs I hold, I am impressed that I could actually find the time to read, research, and write anything at all – let alone for two years!

For those of you have been reading this for two years, I hope that you’ve enjoyed what I’ve put out there so far. And don’t go away just yet, because I have new ventures and projects and thoughts in my head just waiting to be written. And once I find a few minutes to breathe and sit down, I’ll be sure to get them on this blog.

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Elementary School Learning

Ahh elementary school. It’s the formal beginning of our education; the foundation upon which each child starts to learn. There are no more important years for our students, then that of their elementary years. And there is no time of greater growth in our learning.

For the most part, elementary school years consist of Kindergarten to Fifth grade. And with our students being so young, little kids to older children, there’s a great opportunity to integrate creativity into our day-to-day. One aspect of elementary school that I love the most is being able to do fun arts-focused activities; drawing/painting/coloring, acting out a play or reader’s theatre, dressing up as historical characters whilst doing re-enactments. Plus, I can take my science and social studies lessons out of the classroom. How many of you have explored your school campus to see the leaves, grasses, or trees? Or maybe you’ve had your students see how many different bugs they can find and then draw their own versions? Really, being an elementary school teacher allows for versatility in the learning; which is the appeal to educators.

As our students start their learning in Kindergarten, play is a huge element; and showing them that playing can also mean learning. Our 1st and 2nd graders are like little sponges soaking up that learning and everything it means to be in school. Their joy at knowing something is a wonder to see. For 3rd and 4th graders, it’s a different type of joy that we get to experience, we see their personalities develop, along side their strengths and weaknesses. As their teachers, we have the chance to encourage those strengths, and assist with their weaknesses. And our 5th graders, still so young, but like baby birds leaving the nest – they are ready to stretch their wings and find those new opportunities that await them in middle school.

Ahhh elementary school. The building blocks to our children’s education, the start of it all. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*This article was written by Rosshalde Pak, an admin for the Tchr2Tchr blog.

Here are a few resources that are specifically designed for elementary school classrooms. We’ve gone through and looked at them individually and highly recommend them for teachers.

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What I’m Reading – January 24th

Robot Rumble

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I really love when learning is creative. There’s been talk in the past two years about how the United States’ test scores for math and science are decreasing; and that less and less of our American students are studying these two broad topics in college. I don’t know exactly why that is happening, but I do like it when I see innovative ways to bring the focus back to real learning. Last weekend, here in Oregon, a competition was held to have kids make robots for an Intel challenge. I love it! Kids are jazzed about learning whilst learning and their interest is piqued. I don’t know an educator who doesn’t hope for that each day in their room.

President Obama’s Education Agenda

Ahhh, midterm elections are over — now is the time to care again…. I know, a rather cynical view for a teacher, but I’m just over how people – scratch that, how politicians – say that they care about kids and what’s happening in the classroom yet forget to make anything happen. And now that the 2012 presidential election is looming (really looming, it’s 2 years away) skeptics wonder if President Obama is going to mandate educational reform. My favorite part of the article was the end, in which a Rep. said that everyone in politics realizes that there are serious issues with NCLB…. Umm, duh, ask a teacher and they could have told you that BEFORE you put it into law.

Thursday Round Up Video

This is a quick, fun video advertising a new blog that I am helping to administrate for Teachers Pay Teachers. Give it a look-see…don’t forget to turn the sound on.

Tchr2Tchr Blog

And here is that blog. Teachers Pay Teachers, or TPT, is a resource that I have been utilizing for a while now. I enjoy seeing teachers be able to use a variety of resources; as well as connect with other educators. That being said, I’ve joined up with a smaller group within TPT to bring a blog that highlights several areas of education. Check it out — especially since I just wrote an article for it. :-)

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School Lunch Program

I can honestly say that I have never eaten a school lunch. No, wait…I did, one time, on the first day of 8th grade. I ate a hot dog, weird mashed potatoes, and a Del Monte fruit cup. It didn’t go well. And I can really truly say that I didn’t do it again. Which is one of the main reason I was fasicnated with a blog written by a teacher, who, everyday eats the school lunch and writes about it ( I really could not do that; even take away the fact that I’m a vegetarian – I really could not eat school lunch.

Something else that equally fascinated me was jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show that aired summer of last year. Now that I watched with committed devotion. Previously I had followed Jaime’s journey in England to change the way children ate there (and it wasn’t pretty), so I was very interested to see how the country’s unhealthiest city was going to take his input. Luckily it worked out. Although, I don’t know what was more terrifying, MRM or the kids who eagerly ate it. *shudder*

IT was these two programs combined with my frustration/fascination with what children are eating in school, until the age of 18, to write about it.

Like the current buzz and interest in educational reform, there is more dialogue happening that deals with school lunch. I actually don’t know where it started, truthfully I’m not that concerned. I am concerned about where the dialogue is going. Fed Up With Lunch blog was featured on the Today Show, First Lady Michelle Obama is crusading for home gardens and fresh fruits and vegetables; Michael Pollan, although not directly connected to the food movement in education is a popular advocate of eating better. Even health insurance companies are getting involved. And for good reason…no for an extremely important reason – the health of our children.

The fact that everyone has called lunchtime cafeteria food ‘mystery meat’ is a telling sign. The food that our children are consuming in school can hardly be called food. The amount of preservatives and artificial ingredients is enough to make any adult shriek. But, that isn’t enough. Statistics show that this generation of young children will be the first to not live longer than their parents. I’m frightened by that, and I don’t have any kids. When children eat one-two meals a day at school, we need to be demanding healthier options. And yes, the salad bar has been around for a while — yet why would you eat that when french fries and pizza are available every day as well? Why would you care about your health and weight as a kid or teenager? Education on why eating important is actually more important than providing the healthy options at school.

I know that for all school districts cost is the most important factor. I can’t believe that a Superintendent wants to serve colored milk and count it as healthy dairy, or use ketchup as a vegetable…. And I can’t believe that when you read this article and review some of the resources, that you won’t be moved to talk to your school about what your kids are eating.


Lunch News Story from the Today Show

* Rethinking Schools Articles

*Washington Post

Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution

Secret Teacher blog – Fed Up With School Lunch

Jaime Oliver on Oprah

Huffington Post

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Campaign for a Healthy Lifestyle

School Lunches

Taking Time to Eat

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What I’m Reading – January 18th

Oprah News

Anyone who says they don’t want to be Oprah is lying. She’s got it all, and heart. Even though I don’t have cable anymore, I still like to read up on the queen of daytime. I’d like to say that I am following in her footsteps, but my shoes are that cool.

An innovative classroom

I found this article after I had read the one about Khan Academy. The classroom is changing, it always is shifting a bit – but with modern technology creating new ways to teach – the change is more dramatic. I know that lessons on you tube aren’t a new concept; and that the way in which technology is being integrated into our lessons has grown (thanks to the cool cat teacher) – but this Wired article just sort of reinforced what I was already believed was going to happen.

Checking Out the Toy Aisle

As a game inventor, I was immediately drawn to this article. I know that it’s important for me to always be researching what is being sold in stores — but sometimes I just don’t have the time to do it. Since reading this article about Gerrik Johnson, I feel as though I have a reliable resource that can give me a better perspective with what’s hot in the toy stores.

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Teachers Pay Teachers: 4th grade quizzes

I’m part of several groups – but one that I really enjoy is Teachers Pay Teachers. I consider it to be similar to an ebay for teachers. I know that I’ve discussed it before, so I won’t repeat myself. Instead, to try and bring more attention to it, I’m going to do occasional write-ups on different sellers and their products.

This week, for giggles, I’m going to start with my profile.—Quizzes

When I was a fourth grade teacher, I created over a dozen vocabulary quizzes for my classes. Personally, I’ve always liked knowing what the bigger, four-dollar words mean, and I guess that spilled over into my teaching. And since the reading books didn’t do as much with vocab as I would have liked, I created these extra quizzes. They are all supplemental to what the Houghton-Mifflin books tested on. Check them out and see if you agree.

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What I’m Reading – January 11th

With the holidays and getting back to work – telling you what I was reading last week just wasn’t worth it. That’s mainly because — I didn’t read anything!

*Apps of the Year

This was fun to read, mainly because I am on of the 40 million people addicted to Angry Birds. Seriously addictive. I use some of the other apps as well, and am interested in others too. Like the ‘word lens’ – I heard it just translates Spanish and English; I was hoping it did more though. Or the photography app – that seems good too. I’m also very interested in apps, because I am hoping to turn my bingo board game into an app. So it’s important to read and research.

*Forbes, What & Who to Know

I’m always interested to see what I ‘need to know’ from magazines. More often than not, I didn’t really need to know about it. However, Forbes Magazine gave me something I did want to know about – Khan Academy. If you are like me, you’ve never heard of it either. Salman Khan creates classes and videos that he posts up on YouTube. They’re great. Plus, the videos and tutorials have become so popular that Bill Gates has provide a $1.4 million grant to allow Khan to continue his non-profit. As an educator, this is just so fantastic. Like the write up by Bruce Upbin says, I’m surprised we haven’t talked about this before.

- Mannheim Steamroller

I was very surprised to learn this about Mannheim Steamroller. Really, they dominate Christmas? I hadn’t realized that they are involved in every aspect of merchandising; and it’s all not holiday specific – more Mannheim Steamroller specific. I do like their holiday melodies, but there’s no way I would ever buy their hot sauce…

*Life-long Reading List

I love to read and I think it’s terribly important to read to children. I also feel a pressure to keep reading other books whilst in school. So I found this list to be right on. Could be a good one to share to kids.

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