Teacher Improvement

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IF YOU WANT A BETTER SCHOOL, TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

Some people reject the idea that a school should be thought of as a business. Thinking of schools as a business apparently conjures up haunting images of greased-back hair, “market share”, and Enron. However, where there is the exchange of money for resources, there exists an institution that is influenced by the properties of a business, and any viable business knows that it should listen to its customers. In the business of school, the customers are the students (not the parents), but we usually do a pretty poor job of serving them. We spend a lot of time making the parents happy, the school boards happy, and the teachers happy, but the students who should be receiving the education often get put to the side as a secondary concern. This is problematic for (hopefully) obvious reasons.

There is one customer that is a product of American education to whom I think teachers should pay special attention. Her name is Jessica Mah. Her website states “Jessica started her first internet company at the age of 13, finished high school at the age of 15, and studied computer science at Berkeley. She is a member of the TED conference and has been featured in TechCrunch and Inc. Magazine for her work on internshipIN.com. She's now the founder and product architect of Indinero.com (a company that helps businesses manage finances).” So in case you missed it, she graduated from high school early and she continues to dominate college while ALSO running a successful business that she started. Is it just me or does anybody else think that this independence, entrepreneurial savvy, and desire to learn is something we should be striving to cultivate in our students?

When I run my own school (if I ever get around to it), I’m going to talk to people like Jessica. People like her are going to be the fundamental rudders that help steer the ship to uncharted lands. Instead of waiting for the day when I run my own school, I figured I would ask her some questions now, and she had some profound insights. Read more »

GENERALS ARE MADE IN BATTLE. TEACHERS ARE MADE IN THE CLASSROOM.

There is a “teacher crisis” in America because the number of people preparing to be teachers is significantly under the projected number of teachers that are needed. This is already true in math and science, where teachers with this skill set are highly sought after and given significant federal incentives (scholarships, loan forgiveness, etc.) to pursue this path. The question, then, is how to get more teachers into the field, and once you get them to pursue the field, how do you best prepare them?

One suggestion is to take people who already know something and have spent years in many different industries (business, government, law, etc.) and just get them into a classroom. These people already have the skill set, they already know content and even better, they know how this meaningful content can be used in the real world in which they worked. They have what many teachers do not have: experience with the application of knowledge. This experience is priceless.

But some people (usually professors in the Education Department of some University) don’t want these people to teach until they have taken 20 credit hours of pre-requisites and spent $30,000 on university classes. Furthermore, these people have a significant voice in the creation of licensing standards, and therefore, they are in a position to oppose non-standard routes to licensing.

This is a problem. Read more »

HOW TO DATE BEYONCE: A GUIDE TO BECOMING IRREPLACEABLE

As I was driving along on an epic road trip last week, the song “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce came on. Now I don’t jam to Beyonce that much, but as I was listening to the song, I realized that Beyonce was telling me a secret about how to never lose my job AND how to date her at the same time! Who knew Beyonce, besides being an excellent vocalist, also has some great career and relationship advice?

What was her advice, you ask? Read more »

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