Friday, September 14, 2007

Greetings to all Inspired Students, Teachers, and Schools!

My name is Mike Dalious, and I am a new member of Center for Inspired Teaching. I will be working this year to support the amazing efforts of Inspired Teaching's development team.

I just moved to DC to begin my graduate studies at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs in International Development and Global Health Studies. I am a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer, who served in Bolivia from 2004 to 2006. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, I attended Shippensburg University, graduating with a degree in Biotechnology. Ultimately, my goal is to improve access to health services to underprivileged communities in the developing world.

I am looking forward to learning more about the efforts made by Inspired Teaching and all of you in improving the quality of education here in Washington, DC.

I hope you enjoy reading this week's opportunities.


Opportunities for Students

School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents

Through January 1, 2008
National Archives, 7th St NW and Constitution Ave, NW
Metro: Green/Yellow lines, Archives

The Presidents of the 20th century were once boys struggling with their studies, teenagers trying to fit in, and young men deciding on a career. Journey back to the school days of the 20th-century Presidents through documents, artifacts, photos, and films from the collections of the National Archives' Presidential libraries. You may discover that you have something in common with these uncommon men.

McDonald’s College Expo

Saturday, September 29, 2007, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Historic Carnegie Library, 801 K St NW (across from Convention Center)
Metro: Green/Yellow lines, Mt Vernon Sq – Convention Center

The 2007 Expo will bring local, regional and national colleges and universities directly to high school students. Students will be able to “shop” for the college or university that best fits their needs while taking part in free educational seminars on everything from tips on applying for federal financial aid to dorm room decoration ideas. The expo has garnered support and endorsement from the Washington, DC Office of the Superintendent of Education, the Maryland State Department of Education, Virginia Department of Education, and the West Virginia Department of Education.

Opportunities for Teachers

Inspiration Awards
Recognizing and honoring the most improved schools in America

The College Board Inspiration Awards celebrate the extraordinary commitment of educators and communities to their students' futures. Despite sometimes overwhelming odds, these outstanding schools across America are taking remarkable steps to give their students the bright futures they deserve.

Each spring the College Board presents Inspiration Awards to three of America's most improved secondary schools. Award-winning schools are recognized for their outstanding college preparation programs and partnerships among teachers, parents, and community organizations. Through their dedication and commitment, these school communities have opened doors to higher education for students facing economic, social, and cultural barriers by:

* Improving their academic environment
* Helping a significant percentage of seniors realize the promise of higher education

Winning schools are selected by a panel of independent experts and are announced each April. Three winning schools receive $25,000; five schools receive $1,000 honorable mention awards.

Contact or go to College Board's site to find out more.

Opportunities for Schools and Communities

Learn about Learning Standards

District of Columbia Public Schools - Link here to learn about DC’s Learning Standards for Grades preK-12. If you want to know what’s happening in your protégé’s classes, take a look!

Harvard University announces that students from families earning less than $60,000 a year will pay no tuition

Starting in the 2007-2008 school year, Harvard University will cover the cost of tuition for students from families earning less than $60,000 a year. This is a part of a larger initiative to attract and retain "talented students from families of low and moderate income to attend Harvard." The initiative also covers "recruitment, admissions, and a summer academic program designed to prepare talented students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds for college." Harvard is also lessening the financial burden for students from families that earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. For more information visit, Harvard College Financial Aid Office's website or call (617) 495- 1581.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Making Better School Memories

Yesterday I was listening to the radio and a DJ started talking about what he remembered liking in school. “I don’t remember liking much of anything,” he said. “But nobody is supposed to like school.” “I liked recess, and lunch,” said his co-host.

Last week Aleta proposed a different take on school – one that might actually create positive memories that transcend the playground and lunchroom.

Today I offer some specific examples of what this new and improved school experience might actually look like.

1. "What if this year instead of worksheets and rote memorization, students experience exciting real-world projects that connect what they are learning to life outside of school."
For example, 4th graders explore a comprehensive unit about the neighborhood surrounding their school that involves every core subject:
  • Social Studies – students do historical research in the city archives at the MLK library and conduct interviews with people who live in the neighborhood.
  • Language Arts - students read old newspaper articles and write new ones about the neighborhood.
  • Math - students gather data and create graphs to chart population growth over the last decade.
  • Science – students study the flora and fauna of the neighborhood and perform experiments on air and water quality.
2. "What if this year instead of following class rules out of fear of punishment or because they seek a reward, students want to do the right thing because they feel valued as members of a learning community."
For example:
  • 9th graders in a history class are asked to create their own class-constitution setting the rules and expectations for the year.
  • Kindergarten students help to create a mural in the classroom depicting images of how they want to be treated by one another.
  • 5th graders learn a variety of conflict resolution strategies that they employ in their class, and – as a leadership opportunity – teach to students in lower grades.
3. "What if this year instead of predictable days that are always the same, students experience multiple approaches to instruction that embrace their varied learning styles, interests, and abilities."
For example, teaching something as basic as vocabulary can be done in a way that reaches every learner.
  • Instead of memorizing words simply by looking at them on flash cards students can create role-plays where they actually use the words in dialog.
  • Students can create picture dictionaries that access the visual learner’s need for images to make mental connections.
  • Students can play a variation on “charades” by using playdough to create tactile representations of the words.
  • Students can create physical exercises for each word that help them to remember what it means.
These ideas might seem far-fetched, or at the very least quite hard to do in our current educational environment – but they come from Inspired Teachers we’ve known over the past 12 years who are making this kind of teaching and learning happen every day.

If we reject complacency and willingness to follow the general trend of dull, repetitive, and scripted instruction that’s becoming the norm – we can change what’s happening in our schools.

The more we advocate for things to be different the easier it will be for them to become different.