I was writing this portion of my post earlier today, then ironically came across this video which connects much of my viewpoints that follow.
My takeaways from the educational field
Belief: Teacher recruiting programs are bringing real-world professionals to the education field and having a positive impact on students.
Fact: These teachers quickly leave the education field due to lack of quality professional development/support and continual budget cuts.
Hope: Teachers will take pay cuts, supply cuts, cuts in benefits, and cuts in public support and remain in what should be one of the most respected jobs in the world.
Fact: Qualified teachers are leaving the profession
Fact: Substitute teachers pay is being cut - My Westchester District cuts
Fact: Tutoring is one of the largest growing industries because of parents' declining trust in our education system.
"Tutoring is a $4 billion business, and that figure is rising. It has become a staple of the middle class, with millions of students in both public and private schools using one-on-one tutors as well as supplementary education centers like Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Kumon. Once an upper-class phenomenon, tutoring is now becoming so pervasive it is arguably changing the face of American education. While competitive pressures have never been greater for students, many educators say the change is also due to the No Child Left Behind law. The law, which requires schools identified as failing to provide tutoring, has proved to be a boon to the tutoring industry." (NPR.org)
Fact: Teachers are doing more work than ever to sustain students' interest and counteract the standardized test movement. The battle to cohesively merge differentiation and data driven standardized instruction is priority for teachers to have success and have administrative approval.
Goal: to prepare "each and every student for higher education and success in the 21st century".
Reality: each and every student is falling further and further behind the raised bar of expectations set globally.
"American students made modest gains in science and math, but still lag significantly behind their counterparts around the world...American students scored below the OECD average of 496. The countries outperforming the US include Finland – perennially a top-shower on PISA, along with Korea – Belgium, Estonia, Iceland,France, and the Slovak Republic, among others. US students scored higher than those in just five OECD countries: Greece, Israel, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico." (CSMonitor.com)
For the sake of our economic future, education desperately needs to be a larger part of the presidential debate and and beyond until the reality and facts match the hopes and dreams.
It's almost here, one of my favorite times of the year...no not groundhog day, it's Random Act of Kindness Week (Feb 13th-19th)! Where the possibilities are endless gratitude can be carried well beyond this designated week. I see it as a "reminder" week to reinvigorate and brainstorm new ways to help others in the most random yet beneficial ways.
One thing I'm going to make a concerted effort to do is give thank you cards to people whom impact your life indirectly. I've generated a list of potential recipients of your random act of thank you...the biggest thing is to keep it anonymous, then the power of the message won't be blurred, it becomes even stronger!
1. TEACHERS - of course, anytime and all the time teachers deserve a note of gratitude, especially during a post-holiday lull where a little anonymous card in their mailbox will give a boost that will last longer than you might think.
2. PARTY PLANNER - did they ever truly know how great a time you had?
3. CHILDREN - let them know, it might be the words of encouragement that sets them soaring.
4. PERSONAL TRAINER - thank them for the pain and suffering, yet rewarding experiences they've put you through!
5. ACCOUNTANT - do they know how much you understand the pressure they are under in managing your money?
6. REAL ESTATE AGENT - do they truly know how much you love your new place and how much of a help they were in the process?
7. FAVORITE SERVER - does he/she understand how much you value their customer service?
8. CO-WORKER that you haven't always agreed with, a small note could flip that mindset around and this year would be the best yet!
9. VETERANARIAN - tell them how you feel about the work they do for animals and how much that affects the families of those animals.
10. FACEBOOK FRIEND - randomly select one and send a note that powerfully impacts that person in the most positive way.
Possibilities are endless, it's in your hands.
Purchase Thank You maze cards here - Mazes of the Century Card Aisle
Service epitomizes who I am. Service is one thing I never want to stop doing. I always had a desire to help others, but the more I participate in events, organizations, and the education of others the more that desire grows.
There are so many avenues to serve, so many in need of our service. How can only 23% of high schoolers in Newark graduate without the service of others? It's not just Newark, and it's not just urban populations - there are students from all of our neighborhoods that could use a tutor or mentor to give them the ability to overcome what the educational system has not given them. City Year is an organization I was apart of and truly gained a larger appreciation for the effect service has on communities. Join an Americorps organization, tutoring company, or Big Brothers Big Sisters and start helping the kids in your town today.
Are you more interested in the environment or cleanliness of your surroundings? Many organizations are available to get out and put some nature in your life. Whether its freshening up old garden beds at the park, clearing trash and clutter from the vacant lot, starting a neighborhood compost, or painting a mural, these acts of service not only help facilitate change in a town, change in fellow citizens' attitudes, but also change in you. The impact beyond others but for you increases the more you get out and serve. You feel better about yourself because you are helping others, you are more active therefore healthier, but also you are serving with others and gaining friendships and relationships that impact your well-being for the long-term. The benefits are endless.
Making a long-term impact can begin in the political realm of service as well. Participating within your chosen political party's events, campaigns, rallys is an act of service with ramifications for many generations. Deal with the inequality of education, the need for more green space in your community, or funds for a cause you are passionate about through political service.
So many avenues of service are open and ready for you to drive down that road of giving back. Whether it's education, environmental, political, or one of the many other alternatives I have found that doing something you are passionate about makes service that much more rewarding. There are many in need of our efforts, let the ripple of service continue. What have you done to serve? How has service impacted you and others? Let's ALL serve ALL.
Here are a few sites I've come across recently and have taken many return trips back to as well. Let me know if you are a fan of any of these or if you find them useful.
This one is great in many ways for many different people. Whether you need cheap marketing for your business or have a personal task you need done, heck even if you want a funny, unusual gift this place has those options and more. Fiverr lets you hire people to complete tasks for $5 - fast and convenient, I'll definitely be back here.
With blogs, articles, and videos from the world's top thinkers this site definitely gets you thinking (outside the box). If you're looking for some real, substantial knowledge in this world of lackluster, over-hyped gossip then Big Think works. Big Think could also be great for teachers in the classroom, I could see many projects developing based on some of these article topics.
With a bombardment of travel sites to choose from, Hipmunk keeps things simple. Flight searches with an easily understood layout - enough said.
Summer Tomato is a blog with a unique perspective of food and health, from a science standpoint. Loaded with tips, tricks, recipes, and explanations behind it all - if you're looking for better ways to meet your New Year's resolutions check out this blog.
Also be sure to check out my new mazes, including a 2012 Calendar.
Mazes of the Century - personalized, mind-boggling mazes
This year as I was writing my New Year's Resolutions I created categories to ensure I was covering all aspects of my life and made sure I had one goal for each.
Professional (job, volunteering)
Educational (skill building, classes/learning)
Spiritual (mental lifestyle, religion, etc)
Financial (debt, goal purchase, donations)
FUN (play guitar, concert, sporting event, skydive, etc)
One thing I've learned through my many endeavors over the years is when goals are made, more is achieved. The more time spent deliberately creating specific goals, the likelihood of it being reached is greater. For those educators out there, we refer to them as S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Lots of you have written, or lack thereof, personal goals over the past few days in light of the new year. Go back and check to see if your goals are SMART.
SPECIFIC: answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why and you're well on your way to having a specific goal and meeting the first criteria of a SMART goal.
MEASURABLE: how are you going to know you have reached your goal? What does that look like? TIP: Break it down into monthly or weekly mini goals.
ATTAINABLE: find something you love to do, where's your passion? Exercising might not motivate you, but if you love playing basketball or swimming or yoga - focus your goal around your passions and they will become much more attainable.
REALISTIC: is your goal going to stretch your comfort zone, yet still within reach? Flying to the moon this year might be unrealistic but you could go to space camp, take astronomy classes, take flying lessons, etc.
TIMELY: motivation to accomplish a task increases when there's a deadline. Be specific about when you will reach your goal. TIP: All your goals shouldn't be year-long, make each goal different therefore you always have a deadline right around the corner. Ex: pay off student loan by may 15th, run 5k on august 21st, save $1200 for Christmas Vacation ($100 each month - small goals).
Here's one of mine:
I will learn to play 2 songs fluently on the Harmonica by June 1st by practicing at least one hour every weekend.
Specific? yes. Measurable? yes. Attainable? yes. Realistic? yes. Timely? yes.
Good Luck with your SMART goals - let me know your goals and progress!
For more details and examples of SMART goals check out these links:
Happy New Year! My 2012 Calendar is now available - use it to track your goals!