K-12 Education

5 Things We Need to Teach in Our Classrooms

K-12 Teaching

Subjects like English, Science, and Mathematics are commonplace in American classrooms. These traditional subjects are important, but many of them don’t offer any value when it comes to life’s most useful lessons. Many people believe the classroom should incorporate some more practical subjects that can be employed long-term. Here are some topics that many students wish they had learned while in school:

Basic Finance

Most American K-12 schools don’t provide students with training in financial literacy. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t understand the basics about building credit scores, homeownership, investments, savings, insurance, or retirement and how these issues can impact their overall health and well-being. Many schools are advocating for more personal finance coursework and training to help curb some of these issues and ensure Americans are well-equipped to take control of their own financial destiny.

Tax Codes

Taxes are an inevitable part of life, but you’d be surprised to learn that the average American misses out on several thousand dollars of tax credits each year. Many Americans are uneducated when it comes to tax codes, and many can’t do their taxes without the aid of technology. As a result, most Americans won’t claim their full refund unless they enlist the assistance of a tax professional. A little training in this area can save great heartache and distress in the future.

Mental Health

Mental health issues have been a taboo topic for decades, especially in large parts of the black community. Unfortunately, the hush-hush nature of this subject has led to a debilitated society where those in need of help fail to seek it. Schools should invest in training that assists students with healthy coping mechanisms and encourages them to seek help when needed.

Time Management Techniques

Time management is important in both work and play. Many employers are looking for students who can balance the demands of home and work with ease. In today’s structured society, many students enter the real world with no concept of how to manage their own time. Courses in time management can be quite useful in curbing anxiety and propelling students to the next level.

Self-Defense Techniques

Self-defense techniques can be taught in a physical education class or a special elective and can be beneficial in the long-term. Physical safety is a no-brainer when it comes to an educational package, and many schools are opting to include this kind of coursework in their curriculum.

Today’s children have the most benefit in learning these principles early, and yet we are severely hindering them from being prepared for the future. Our education system should reinforce the skills and knowledge pertinent to a successful life, such as mental health awareness, cultural sensitivity, and financial stability. We owe it to our future generations to have all of the tools available to them from the beginning, not until it’s already too late.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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5 Benefits To Starting Your Child In K-12 Online Schooling

Traditional brick-and-mortar schools are not the only option for children. Online public schools offer the same opportunities for quality education as conventional schooling. One should consider some important phenomena before deciding against starting his or her child at an online public school. 

Your Child Can Learn at His or Her Own Pace

With traditional schooling, children learn with many classmates at the same time. Typically, in traditional public schools, children have little to no opportunities to work ahead if they understand the material, or to spend extra time on a lesson if they need more assistance. Students have to move on to the next lesson because that’s what the instructor is teaching the rest of the class.

Individual Attention from Teachers

Another aspect that makes online education different from traditional schools is the personal attention from teachers. A student can contact his or her teacher and establish a Skype meeting, send an email, or call the teacher at approved times. While the teacher is not face-to-face with the student, many ways exist to receive personalized attention for students in online education.

Preparing for Online College Courses

Another benefit of online public schooling is the preparation for college. Most colleges offer online courses to students, and enrolling children in an online public schools aids in preparing them for the online college courses. This format is wonderful for many people as it allows flexibility, but it can be difficult to adjust to in college. Starting your children in an online school when they are young will help them succeed in the online college courses they may take as adults.

Mass Customization and Optimization of Subjects

Online public schooling offers customization for students. Instead of going to school and sitting in classes with many students, they can choose when to do their homework or when to listen to the lessons. This allows them to optimize their learning potential for a schedule that works best for them.

Encouraging Open Environment for Virtual Classes

Virtual classes enable children to learn where they desire. If they can concentrate best while sitting outside or in a quiet space, they can use this environment to maximize their learning potential. Since it is online, they can attend school even if they are on vacation.

While many are hesitant to send their children to online public schooling, parents need to understand the many benefits of learning in an online environment. Online schools offer students the chance to prepare for online college courses and receive personalized attention from their teachers while they learn at their own pace. Online public schooling is not the answer for everyone, but many children excel in this format of education.

Education, in this age of information and misinformation, is going to be paramount to get right as a parent. And plenty of ways exist to do it, not just homeschooling; it’s just up to you to discern which is best for you and your child.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

References/Resources

https://thekindergartenconnection.com/how-to-homeschool-kindergarten/

https://teachingmama.org/10-benefits-to-homeschooling-your-preschooler/

https://www.connectionsacademy.com/online-school/k12-education   

https://www.businessinsider.com/why-kids-should-get-homeschooled-2016-8

 

Why Demanding Better Education is Paramount for Our Children

Young Children Ready For School

Arming a child with knowledge early in his or her life will position him or her for continued success. Not only does a great educational foundation provide the skills for a child to reach his or her greatest potential, but it also cultivates a better future society. Our children first learn the most from their parents, and they must lead by example to help the next generation. Parents know how significant their jobs are, but they can only do so much.

When deciding on a school for their children to attend, parents must devote serious attention to the quality of teachers and administrators at the institutions they consider for their children. Parents have a right to demand that schools create environments where students can thrive academically. Students will not, unfortunately, thrive academically in schools that don’t have effective teachers and administrators. Here are some phenomena to contemplate as you attempt to prepare your child for academic success.

Education in Early Life

It makes sense that investing in the education of a child builds a more prosperous and peaceful citizen. Those who have some kind of educational foundation are more likely to commit themselves to academic excellence and the notion of the life of the mind. A school system that continually challenges a student will lead him or her to see the value of lifelong learning. With a better education and more efficient ways of assessing our children’s abilities, more of them will feel valued. This will certainly lead to a more productive society. In children’s early learning, assist them in discovering their distinctive beliefs and worldviews. Early learning should be fostered by their own curiosity about the world, with lots of support, validation, and hints offered.

New Ways of Learning

As the saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” We need to focus on alternative means of assessing our children’s academic growth. If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, you know how mind-numbingly painful it is to stay focused and regurgitate all the information you were forced to memorize. Students need new ways of being evaluated, such as oral exams or presentations. Modern schools are becoming better at employing new methods and strategies of imparting new material. Observe the ways in which your own child responds to different methods of learning, such as visual, auditory, and tactile learning, and identify ways you can address his or her needs inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Education

Online schools are increasingly becoming attractive options for parents for their children’s education. Not only are college classes held online, but entire K-12 schools are now online. These types of organizations are especially advantageous for those who don’t have easy access to a school, or children who want to be homeschooled without having their parents as teachers. Online learning also has the benefit of being directed by the student’s own curiosity. Some K-12 online schools offer field trips and community resources that allow for social engagement and community learning, as well as an individualized pace.

Conclusion

Ensuring the next generation is equipped with the tools essential for educational success is our responsibility. With some sweeping educational reforms, we can empower our children to evolve in a society where they are ready to ameliorate it persistently. Parents should lead the effort to advocate for the educational reforms necessary to improving American public schools dramatically.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Need to Improve College Readiness

Black College Student

Although increasing the number of minority students in higher education is essential, we must ensure they are prepared for college when they enter.  Too many students are entering in colleges and universities across the nation unable to meet the academic challenges they face.  In efforts to ameliorate diversity in higher education, we have to devote more attention to improving the quality of education students receive before they enroll in college.  While it’s certainly vital for more minority students to enroll in college, we don’t want them to enroll without the proper preparation.  Serious efforts to boost the number of minority students in college will be purposeless if we don’t send them to college with the academic preparation essential to empowering them to stay in college.

In our education reform discourse, let us be mindful about how important it is for us to discuss the significance of college readiness for all students.  Take a look at this piece that vividly articulates the impact of college unpreparedness: Unprepared for College.

What needs to be done to help students to be better prepared for college?  What will it take to make college readiness a national priority?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Open Letter to School Administrators

Dear School Administrators:

When you’re observing and evaluating teachers in their classroom, it’s vital that they have all of the information about what you expect from them before you enter their classrooms.  If you haven’t done a good job of providing them with feedback, then you cannot expect them to be the type of teachers you consider to be effective teachers.  When you’re observing and evaluating teachers, they need direct instruction about what you expect from them in the classroom.  How can teachers do the jobs you expect for them to do when they never receive specific training on what you expect from them?

When you expect teachers to follow guidelines for a standards-based classroom, you cannot simply give them a standards-based classroom checklist and leave them to interpret the standards-based classroom checklist and expect them to be ready for you to come in and observe and evaluate their performance in the classroom. How silly is that?  When you do this, it seems like you are setting the teachers up for failure—either intentionally or unintentionally.

Be fair to teachers and give them all of the information, training, materials, equipment, and etc. they need to be effective teachers.  Before you begin grading teachers and asking them to grade themselves, how about you grade yourselves first.  When you begin to engage in critically assessing yourselves first, then you may discover just why your teachers are not performing to a level that meets your expectations.

Although it is vital for students to perform well on standardized tests, you have to place a stronger emphasis on giving teachers credit for the ways they motivate students to learn.  Many students would care less about a standardized test if they didn’t have teachers who are motivating them to care about the standardized test they have to take.  When people run into your offices telling you about what a teacher is doing and not doing, begin to question the value and credibility of person who is telling you something a teacher does or does not do that doesn’t have an impact on student motivation and student academic achievement.

Some of you need to stop hiding behind your desks and computers and address the teachers you truly have problems with, instead of sending out emails addressed to everyone, making it appear like you’re having problems with a great number of teachers when it’s really just several teachers.

Many teachers are doing a great job and really care about their students.  Be sure that you’re not doing things that will cause those teachers to leave the profession or your school.  You don’t want the good or great teachers to leave your school while the ones who are just there to get a check remain.  When you try to communicate to your teachers that you appreciate the job that they are doing, be sure that your words and actions evince that you truly mean what you’re attempting to communicate.

We all want the best for all of our students.  Therefore, since you’re the leaders of our schools, then make sure you’re doing all you can to empower your teachers to be the best they can be.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Creating an Active and Exciting Learning Environment

At some point, we all have been students—even though some have never received formal education.  Although some topics in every subject area cannot always be the most exciting topics to engage students with, teachers can find meaningful ways to engender an active, engaged, responsive, and fun classroom for their students—no matter if one teaches at the Pre-K – 12 or college level.  No one wants to be bored!  If you’re a teacher, you need to make it a serious priority for the majority of your lessons to include opportunities to have fun with your students.  Don’t let your classroom become more boring than watching paint dry.

Give your students opportunities to speak during your class.  The teacher shouldn’t be the only person who talks the entire class period.  Teachers, if you discover that you’re doing all of the talking in your classroom for more than 15 minutes at a time, then it should trigger in your mind that you need to get your students involved in your topic or topics of discussion immediately.  No one wants to listen to you talk forever and ever—your voice is not that attractive.  Some teachers like to talk the whole period.  Even if you’re discussing some highly complicated issues in your class, still don’t find yourself doing the majority of the speaking in your classroom.  It’s understandable for you to need to do the majority of the speaking in your classroom sometimes, but you shouldn’t make it a habit.

Did you have teachers at any level of the educational pipeline who would do all of the speaking in the classroom most of the time?

If you desire to have an active classroom where all of your students are engaged, then you cannot do all of the speaking.  Even if you’re a phenomenal speaker/lecturer, you need to offer your students opportunities to speak and participate in what you’re discussing.  Never forget that you’re not speaking to desks—there are living human beings occupying those desks.  If you want to be a good or great teacher, you must have an authentic concern for how your students perceive your teaching and classroom.  In no way does this mean you have to allow your students to solely determine how you teach and conduct your classroom.  However, the input of your students should be valued, especially if you claim to have a commitment to serving them.

You may think you’re such a great teacher, but if your students are bored out of their mind, you’re not going to reach them.  If you allow this to be the case, you can simply forget about how great of a teacher you think you are—the students will tune you out and focus on how many minutes they have left before they can leave your classroom. (Can you picture them counting down the minutes now?)  Don’t allow this type of relationship to develop between you and your students.  You don’t have to become friends with your students, but you should at least engage with them at some significant level.

A good or great teacher loves to listen to others.  Some people don’t ever want to listen to what you have to say—they’d rather just listen to themselves talk.  Academic instruction suffers when teachers only want to hear their voices.

Beyonce knows how vital listening is, which is ostensible through her song, “Listen.”  When you listen to her song, one of the dominant messages the song unveils is through listening to others you will gain greater insights about their innermost emotions and thoughts.

If your classroom is not an engaging and fun classroom, then you need to make changes to the way you operate it.  This might mean that you need to make significant changes.  Don’t get so consumed by your routine that you care more about the routine than the students who the routine is supposed to serve.  You may find that having a routine could be the very reason why your classroom is uninspiring.

Take some time to think about your classroom and the way you manage it to develop ways to ameliorate it.  Invest some time in ways to engage your students and increase participation.  You may find that you need to move yourself more out of the way to accomplish this.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pay K-12 Students for High Grades

If you really want to boost student academic achievement, schools should reward students with money for high grades. Now, you can get all sophisticated and deep with me about how this reflects commodification and reification, but the reality is money can be used as a serious vehicle for positively improving academic achievement. For many students who are not performing well academically, money can be the incentive that they need to work to ameliorate their grades. Schools can seek private money from various foundations and individuals to fund the effort of rewarding students for higher academic achievement. Students who make the Honor Roll should be paid. I often hear many parents say that it’s the job of their children to do their school work. Well, then, let’s pay those children when they make the Honor Roll for the good work that they do on their “job.”

For students coming from low-income homes, the money that they receive for high grades can help them to survive. If you want to see minority and low-income students have a greater incentive to close the academic achievement gap, pay them to close that academic achievement gap. You will see that achievement gap get smaller and smaller. We have to be willing to try innovative things to increase academic achievement in America. Don’t allow your lack of an open mind on what I’m saying in this piece to prevent you from seeing the potential of paying students for higher grades to be one thing that we can do to bolster academic achievement.

I’m not asserting that paying students for higher grades is the panacea for the academic achievement problems students are facing across the country. Of course, students need more than just money to improve their academic achievement, but I want us to consider how rewards (like money) can be powerful motivating forces in creating change. Many students can improve their grades if they change the way they view their grades. If they know that there is money attached to getting high grades, they are certainly more likely to work tremendously hard to achieve high grades.

Although I come from economically well off family, receiving money served as a strong influencing force that kept me making good grades. Therefore, if you have children who are already making good grades, having schools to pay them for making those good grades will help them to keep making good grades. Many students need to see some type of tangible and meaningful immediate reward for getting good grades. Money is tangible, meaningful, and immediate.

Many who oppose the idea of paying K-12 students for making high grades contend that it sends the wrong message to students because they become more focused on the money than learning. Well, if they are not focused on learning right now, then we need something to cause them to at least begin to think about improving their grades. When they start to think about improving their grades for the money, they will have to have some focus on learning because they must learn to get higher grades.

One of the greatest challenges we have in the K-12 educational pipeline today is ameliorating Black male academic achievement. Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline. Many Black male students in urban areas see that it’s easier to go make some money selling drugs than it is to go to school and do some homework that is not going to produce them some immediate money. They find that they cannot be concerned with thoughts about college in the future because they have to survive right now. Now, just imagine if we were able to tell these Black males that if they make high grades they can get paid for those grades. I am confident that many more of them would choose to become more engaged with their studies than with things that will lead them to incarceration.

Okay, let’s just say that my proposal to pay students for getting high grades does not dramatically improve academic achievement. That’s fine! We should be thankful for the students this proposal does help. What’s wrong with putting my proposal into action on a trial basis on a national level to see what happens. I really don’t see any serious harm that can be done by trying this out. Paying students for high grades just might be what we need to jumpstart academic achievement in this country!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison