Here’s a fun event that’s free for teachers:
Science Museum Oklahoma (SMO) is excited to announce a complimentary Otto VIP Night / Teacher Preview on Thursday, September 6, from 4 to 8 p.m.
“We are really looking forward to this year’s Otto VIP Night,” said Jacquelyn Musgrove, Communications Director, SMO. “This is a special night for the museum to share all the great things happening at SMO with our loyal members, as well as our Oklahoma educators.”
Beginning at 4 p.m., SMO members and teachers alike are invited to come explore and enjoy all that Science Museum Oklahoma has to offer. This special complimentary night is a way for SMO to say thank you to members and teachers for their ongoing support and to share what is coming up in the 2012/2013 school year. Guests will be treated to Science Live Show, a Planetarium Show and the IMAX Film, Tornado Alley in the Dome Theater. SMO will be providing free water, soda and popcorn as a part of this special event and there will be a full menu offered in Pavlov’s Café making this a perfect family night.
“We are very excited to host Oklahoma teachers here at SMO to showcase our exhibits that correlate to the common CORE,” said Jim Foster, Academic Networking Coordinator, SMO. “I look forward to welcoming teachers to this educational and entertaining evening.”
For more information about SMO, Otto VIP Night / Teacher Preview, please call 405-602-3760, or visit www.sciencemuseumok.org.
John Marshall kicked off their Great Expectations training this week. Here’s some info from Principal Aspasia Carlson:
We aim to be the first model secondary school in OK. We had a barbeque lunch, courtesy of JM staff on the grill and lots of good company! We had a fantastic day of learning!
How interesting is that? I plan to revisit this in a couple of weeks.
Last night I spotted Billie England at the Oklahoma City School Board meeting, and I was a little surprised to see her. Normally teachers don’t pop up at those meetings, so I was caught a little off-guard. Then, as the meeting wound up, I figured out why she was there. The John Marshall High School math teacher was being promoted. She was named an assistant principal of Jefferson Middle School. It was neat to see someone I met and interviewed move her way up the ranks. The last time I saw Billie, she was making kids run and laugh about algebra. Here’s the story I wrote about her:
“OK my babies, OK my darlings, OK my sweetie pies.”
John Marshall High School math teacher Billie England settles down her class and starts in on her lesson.
Students calculate volume on the marker board as part of a state test review. It’s a game England plays. Each corner of her room represents one of the multiple-choice answers on a state practice test. Students work the problem and then move to the corner they think represents the right answer. The class is almost always divided.
England weaves around the desks, peeking over students’ shoulders. She pats a few on the shoulder. Her goal is to call on or physically touch every kid every hour.
“Kids have a tendency to melt into the wall,” England said. “You can’t just let those kids go unnoticed.”
England wants her students to do well on state tests, but she also wants to prep them for life. Some of her students come from loving homes; others don’t. She works at John Marshall because she wants to help them.
“They need me,” England said. “I don’t know what to say. I guess I need them, too.”
Just as the students debated the answer to an equation, the bell rang.
“Clean it up,” she said. “Go away. Love you. See you Monday.”
I’ve watched this several times now, and I’m not going to lie: I get a little emotional. My daughter is only two years out from attending Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools created this video for their annual campaign. They go to many schools and interview all kinds of people – students, volunteers, teachers, administrators. I saw several faces I recognized from spending a week at John Marshall High School. One of those was Ashley Bahtahou. (You can see her at about 1:35 into the video.) I didn’t interview her, but I saw her so many times throughout the week. She’s one of those students who is involved in everything, and you can tell that she’s respected and admired by other students. She was phenomenal during track practice. She was fast, sure, but she was so encouraging of her other teammates. She’s a neat kid.
What she said in the video was so striking to me because it’s the same thing I’ve heard over and over from students and teachers throughout the district: our reputation doesn’t reflect reality. Set aside the reputation and whether you think it’s deserved. To me, the saddest thing is that those kids all know what the city thinks of them. They know what the community says about Oklahoma City Public Schools. Children shouldn’t feel like the world around them expects them to fail. They should feel like everyone expects them to succeed.
Thank you to John Marshall for sharing their fabulous photos with us from their May 10 graduation ceremony. Principal Aspasia Carlson said it was a wonderful night. Star Spencer and Southeast honor their graduates tonight, and a full list of Oklahoma City Public Schools graduation will be in The Oklahoman tomorrow.
Look at this fabulous young ladies and gentlemen. The leadership class from John Marshall High School made a trip to the Petroleum Club to have a lunch and learn all about etiquette. A majority of the students at John Marshall are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches. How was this exciting outing paid for? The John Marshall staff. They donated to the trip and sponsored students.
First of all, Sonic announces they’re giving you $4,000 for special projects. Then you find out Royal Ivey’s showing up with the checks. I’m pretty sure Friday was a great day at Wilson Elementary in Oklahoma City. Sonic funded seven classroom projects through its Limeades for Learning Program. The projects were posted through www.DonorsChoose.org. Here are the winners:
- Candice Pride: Power Play the Old Way to a Healthier Lifestyle ($573.08)
- Susan Bumgarner: Let’s Find Out About Everything! ($399.56)
- Cindy Riedl: Kindle a Fire for 21st Century Learning! ($601.40)
- Elizabeth Ejtehadi: Math Manipulatives Create Math Masters! ($468.45)
- Linda Baker: Kindle a Fire for 21st Century Math Students!! ($1,161.61)
- Gregory Eskridge: Teaching with Technology ($469.60)
- Deborah Brashier: Picture Our Possibilities ($287.48)
Teachers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa who are using technology in their classrooms in an innovative or unique way could land some extra cash this year for their student’s benefit.
Cox Communications announced today that it will provide $58,000 in competitive grants for teachers in public or private kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.
Educators can apply online here through the Cox Connects Innovation in Education program. Applications will be accepted through March 1.
According to the foundation, the awards will be dolled out in awards up to $2,500 each.
The application focuses on “classroom programs and curriculum that encourage and promote students’ ingenuity and imagination through the innovative use of technology.”
Thirty-four-year-old Brian Grimm, an English instructor at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, has been named Oklahoma’s 2010 Teacher of the Year.
I was honored to make this announcement this week before a standing-room-only audience of educators, friends and family members at the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City. Grimm repeatedly motioned “thumbs up” while accepting a “prize package” valued at more than $60,000.
The prizes from numerous, generous sponsors includes: Teacher of the Year trophy; $11,000 in cash awards and stipends; a laptop computer; a year’s lease of a Toyota Prius; thousands of dollars in Oklahoma college tuition fee waivers; a $500 credit toward a classroom makeover; specialized training; and software and computer equipment for the classroom.
As Teacher of the Year, Grimm will spend the next year as “Oklahoma’s Ambassador of Teaching” and will represent our state in the National
Teacher of the Year ceremony.
A native Oklahoman, Grimm attended school in Sapulpa before relocating to Texas with his family. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He credits his family’s influence as educators, and the mentoring of two college professors with his dedication to his profession. “I never considered anything but teaching,” he said.
Grimm returned to the Tulsa area in 2004, when he was employed at Will Rogers, a Title I school beset with problems common to urban schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
He says he was challenged to make the curriculum “relevant to kids with so much on their plates,” and credits his success and that of his students as a joint effort between school administrators, fellow teachers and district officials.
He admits his career as an educator was almost derailed by frustration and disillusionment. Nothing in his earlier experiences—teaching well prepared students in affluent schools—had prepared him for the students plagued with generational poverty he found at Will Rogers High.
After much thought and contemplation that first year at Will Rogers, Grimm became determined to reach deep in his educator’s toolbox to do whatever needed to reach his students and be an effective teacher. He hasn’t looked back since.
While Grimm says his message is simple, “You can do it!,” he says success with challenged students required him to think beyond traditional methods.
“In a contemporary classroom filled with students from diverse backgrounds…there is no particular formula, no exact equation for success,” he says. Teachers just need to “go to school every day and be prepared to try something new.”
I wholeheartedly agree, Mr. Grimm. Congratulations!
Why don’t our teachers stay: Providing the right learning conditions for new teachers
Today’s efforts to improve teaching and boost student achievement are almost exclusively focused on punitive measures or short-term cash incentives. While the classic motivators of fear and money may be effective for a little while, that is not the answer for long-term retention of our teachers. Many teachers feel called to do this job, so motivation is not what our new teachers need. They are motivated, but what is missing are working conditions that provide an opportunity for success.
Nationally, in the first five years of teaching more than 60 percent of teachers leave the profession. Research by the New Teacher Center suggests that the reason teachers leave the classroom is poor working conditions.
A teacher’s working conditions are a student’s learning conditions. If the environment is not conducive to effective teaching, it certainly is not conducive to effective learning.
If the quality of the teacher is the single most important determinant in a child’s success, we have to dedicate more time and resources to creating successful learning environments.
Poor working conditions that lead to attrition
• Large class sizes- Each student is an individual with different learning styles and talents. Teachers, especially our new teachers, need small class sizes that allow them to know and work with each student individually. Research conducted by the National Education Association has shown the positive benefits of being in small classes of 13-17 students in the early grades continued after students were placed in larger classes in secondary school. It is absolutely essential for our elementary students to receive the individual, specialized attention they need to create a foundation for success throughout their academic careers. With large classes, teachers cannot provide individual support. They also spend large amounts of time managing the classroom as opposed to engaging students in active learning. Large class sizes contribute to poor student achievement, thus lowering teacher satisfaction and contributing to increased turnover.
• Heavy workloads – In 2006, the average workload for a secondary teacher in the United States was five classes a day, teaching two different subjects. The more excessive the workload, the more problems new teachers will incur. On top of providing engaging and effective instruction to students during school hours, teachers go home and continue to work by grading papers and calling parents. In my small community of Tahlequah, I would end up holding a parent conference on the fly at the discount pharmacy or the local grocery store. People sometimes forget that you are a teacher 24-7. It is a very consuming job, especially paired with heavy workloads and no support.
• Insufficient resources and materials – The average teacher spends about $500 out-of-pocket a year on instructional materials, but the average first year teacher spends $700 out-of-pocket a year on classroom supplies. I recently heard a story of a parent who could not help her child with his homework because he was not allowed to bring his book home. The mother’s challenge was helping her child complete a math worksheet with no examples from the textbook. While she understood the information, the way she learned how to solve the problem and the way the teacher showed her son how to solve the problem was different. The mom was confusing the son and needed a textbook example to help. We have to have sufficient classroom supplies at a bare minimum, to help our teachers and parents educate our kids.
What can we do to provide working conditions conducive to teaching and learning?
• Provide extra support for new teachers- The sink or swim induction new teachers typically experience is causing our new teachers to drown. A high-quality, multi-year mentoring system helps provide the extra support new teachers need. The Oklahoma Education Association has partnered with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to create an intensive two-year mentor training program. A 2005 study by the New Teacher Center showed that retention can rise to nearly 90 percent, 30 percent above national retention rates, after implementing a rigorous instructional mentoring and induction program. Ensuring that there are dedicated resources to implement a quality, multi-year mentoring program should be the first step in a comprehensive and sustained effort to ensure Oklahoma’s most important educational resource, dedicated teachers, are available and able to help every child learn.
• Provide time to work collaboratively with colleagues- In strong professional learning communities, teachers help and support each other, develop innovative approaches to instruction and accept responsibility collectively for student achievement. However, the workplace culture and structure has to promote it. New teachers need time embedded in the workday to exchange ideas and solutions. New teachers cannot be isolated.
• Provide additional help to work with students and parents – Schools must provide extra support to students with additional needs and for teachers working with students with additional needs. School must try to create a culture of collective teacher responsibility for student achievement and provide comprehensive student support services. Nurturing school, family and community partnerships also creates multiple support systems for teachers and students.
- Becky Felts is president of the Oklahoma Education Association