Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you teach your students about college...in kindergarten?

The past several weeks I've been finishing up my final project for grad school. I am writing about introducing college to kindergarteners, because I think it's absolutely phenomenal!

When I started teaching, I really didn't think my kindergarteners could wrap their minds around college. In fact, for the first semester of school, I have to take a lot of time teaching my students about first grade. We work very hard to get ready for 1st grade, yet for a lot of students they have no idea what it is, because they don't have older siblings. I realized that to make 1st grade a motivator for my students, I had to make it easy for them to understand...so we've visited 1st grade classrooms and met 1st graders.

So if 1st grade is such a tricky topic to tackle, it stands to reason that college might be equally complicated. ...and yes, college is not exactly the easiest thing to explain to kindergarteners. It takes time for them to begin to understand what college is and why it's important, but it's so amazing to hear students talking about going to college (and even saving money for college!). This year I even had one student ask another student who was moving, "We'll still go to college together, right?"

Here are some important things to know about a college degree...

 From the KIPP College Completion Report (2011)
  • Regardless of income, only 30.6% of Americans between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine have completed college and earned a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Only 8.3% of students from low-income families have earned a bachelor’s degree by their mid-twenties. 
  • "High-achieving, high-income students are more than 2.5 times as likely to graduate college as high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds. Even the lowest performing students from high-income backgrounds graduate college at a higher rate than the highest-performing students from underserved communities." 

See the following diagram from the report...

From the College Board Education Pays Report (2010)
  • "The lifetime earnings gap between those with a high school education and those with a college degree is now estimated to be nearly $1 million. And the differential has been widening. In 2008, median earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees were 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates ($55,700 vs. $33,800)."
  • College graduates also are significantly less likely to live in households surviving on the Food Stamp Program, more likely to report being very satisfied with their jobs, and are less-likely to face health problems like obesity and smoking. 
  • Not only do college graduates pay taxes to federal, state, and local governments, those same governments benefit by spending less on programs, like Food Stamps and the National School Lunch Program, to support them. 
  • More money is spent on social support programs and incarceration for high school graduates than for college graduates, and volunteerism is higher among those with higher levels of education as well. 

From the Harvard Graduate School of Education Pathways to Prosperity Report (2011)
  • The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projected that between the years of 2008 and 2018, the U.S. economy will create nearly 47 million jobs
  • ...and it simultaneously projected that nearly two-thirds of the new jobs will need to be filled by workers with some form of post-secondary education.

The report from Harvard Grad School is super interesting as it explains that college degrees are not the end-all be-all for high school graduates. Lots of other options exist after high school, and the report explicitly discusses the fact that a college degree is not necessarily what students need to ultimately be successful, but post-secondary education is most certainly a must. 

...I'm still going to stick with college graduation as an end goal for my students, especially since they are in that bottom quartile, and so a college degree can open up doors for them that might never otherwise be possible. Regardless of the grade and/or class you teach, do you talk about college with your students and their families? Do you have fun ideas for teaching them about college? I'll have to post some of my ideas over the summer... :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

How much is too much?

Question: At what point does a teacher say, "I have too much stuff in my classroom"?

Answer: I'm not sure.

I am pretty sure I could stock an entire preschool. I just shipped 4 giant Fed Ex boxes to my new school.

...and then I took a 45 minute "break" to make an Excel spreadsheet of all the books on tape I have. (See previous posts about my slight OCD....) Conclusion? I have 60 sets of books on tape, totaling 298 books.

Granted I did not purchase a single one of those books, but still, that's quite a few! ...and those are just books on tape. I haven't even tried to catalogue all my other books, though I really should.

Anyway, I'm in love with all the books I have--I think a good classroom ought to have lots of books for students to read, because how can you learn to love reading without books?

However, I'm pretty sure I'm set for my career...here's hoping I never become a hoarder and/or clutterer! I gladly and proudly embrace my organizational skills as they ensure I will never be the person who holds on to things "just in case."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm moving?!

So I have clearly disappeared for quite a few weeks now. I've been very busy at school, and I had an amazing end of year celebration with my 20 phenomenal kinders and their parents. I am constantly floored by the wonderful families at my school, and I know I would not have made it through this year without them.

...Flash forward to a week and a half after school let out, and I have made a very tough decision to leave my school district. I'm moving to LA and will be teaching kindergarten there! :) I'm very very excited for the change, but the decision to leave my school was in no way an easy one to make.

A lot happened this year outside of my classroom that made school life a little difficult for me. Every day in my classroom, however, with my students, I felt so very proud. My students are of course why I teach, and I loved every minute with them! My class was filled with joy and learning, and I loved it!

Several things happened this past week in relation to my school site, and I made a choice to speak up at our school board meeting. I have been debating whether or not to share my comments here, and I decided I will post them below.  I want to emphasize that my comments were specific to actions taken by teachers at my school site, and so they are by no means reflective of my views of all teachers or all unions, rather just reflective of my personal experience.

What. A. Week. More to come as I embark on my move and transition to a new school. I still am heartbroken over leaving my students and their families, but I am excited for the new families and students I will get to meet.

...and last but not least, the comments I made to our school board:

I find myself almost at a loss for words tonight as I reflect on what is going on at my school. Last week, I watched 20 of the most wonderful five and six year olds leave my classroom readily prepared for 1st grade, and with all their families around, I felt a huge sense of pride. Our school is without a doubt blessed with a wonderful community of families, and as a result, I find myself even more bothered by what is happening at the site.

I would like to ask the Board to consider a few questions I have about the dissatisfaction that is being presented to you tonight:
How many parents have expressed dissatisfaction?
How many classified staff members have expressed their feelings?
How many teachers were actually asked to be here tonight? I personally was never informed of this meeting, and I would ask that you look at the teachers who are here tonight and also those that are not. We were not asked to be here, because we are working as a team to make this school better. We are not here for a reason.

A principal is a principal not just to his/her teachers but to the entire school community, parents, students, all staff, and so I again have to ask a question: Is this really a community petition or a discriminatory selection of teachers in front of you?

My job at the end of the day is to educate my students, to get them prepared for the next grade and for their successful futures, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I pay dues to a union that does not want me to be the best teacher I can be. When professional development is offered there’s always a question about whether or not it is within the contract hours, or participation in it is discouraged so as not to set precedent for others.

I am not proud to be in a district where my union dues go to foster a mentality that discourages thoughtful energy, where actions that should be made public are handled very covertly, and where at the end of the day, students are not put first. I work in a community of teachers who say when the bell rings, learning stops, and I find that unacceptable and very disconcerting. I thank you very much for your time, and I hope that tonight, and every night, decisions and discussions revolve around the best learning and opportunities for our students, as we have a responsibility to our students, and they deserve to be at the forefront of every conversation we as educators have.