17 December 2008

Kinda Sorta Snow Day

I'm going to be working from home today, due to snowy conditions elsewhere. When one has a 70-mile commute, even if one's home has no new snow and area roads are fine, knowing that wintry conditions exist for the majority of the drive is enough to sit out this particular dance.

I'll be working, mind you, which means that I can't distract myself with the links and sites below. As for you, however, rock on:

  • The New Examined Life in the Wall Street Journal tells the tale of those who track enormous amounts of personal data. Organized? Narcissistic? Anal-retentive? Introspective? You decide. The WSJ has even provided links to some sites that help support such habits, or you might try visiting The Quantified Self, which has "Tools for Knowing Your Own Mind and Body."
  • I've heard a lot of buzz about Malcolm Gladwell's recent article in The New Yorker: Most Likely to Succeed: How Do We Hire When We Can't Tell Who's Right for the Job? The article describes both teachers and football quarterbacks. Are there lessons here for schools? I'll have to find out later. I'm working today, remember?
  • Or maybe you want to check out Alfie Kohn's latest rant in Phi Delta Kappan? It's his view on Why Self-Discipline is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within. I don't always like what Alfie has to say (and am not sure if I do this time), but I do enjoy what he brings to the table for conversation about education. Perhaps you will, too.
  • And finally, there is Tattoo Santa. Head on over to play around and ink the big red guy. You have your choice of location on the body (be careful with the rollover for the lower back, cause you'll see Santa's crack), wording, and so forth. Make something new to post on your own site, create a unique image for your Christmas cards, or just use it to frighten neighbourhood children from your lawn. Fun for the whole family, indeed.

For those of you with a day to play, enjoy prowling the internet. Feel free to pass along any links I should also be distracted by...after 5 p.m., of course. :)

3 comments:

Jonathan M. Pratt said...

I found Gladwell's blog update in my reader this morning and made it a point to check out the article in the New Yorker. Thought provoking as usual. I'm a career-long private-school educator, and was hired at my first school based on my science background and enthusiasm for student learning. I haven't followed through with certification, mostly due to some ill-defined gut feeling that it didn't really mean much for me. I suppose at some point it would be nice to have the credential, but I agree with Gladwell's point that the process doesn't necessarily predict success in the setting for which it attempts to prepare. It's tough to avoid the knee-jerk against the idea of lowering standards across the board for hiring teachers, but I think if it's combined with better support, evaluation, performance-based salary, and culling of weak teachers ... it could be a plausible solution for improving the educational system.

The Science Goddess said...

The financial advisor process would be great except for one thing---we can't afford the time. We can't afford to experiment to see who (out of a cast of thousands) might be right for the classroom. Obviously the process we have now is not producing what we need, either.

I'm not sure what the solution needs to be, but I think the simplest answer is to be able to easily move bad teachers out of the profession. Perhaps that means withholding tenure until 5 years in. Perhaps it means contractual changes. But we could do a lot more for kids if the system was such that it didn't protect bad teachers.

Jonathan M. Pratt said...

I think Gladwell's point is that we actually are experimenting to see who is right for the classroom - we're just tricking ourselves into thinking that we aren't by putting up barriers like certification that don't actually predict success. I really liked the financial interviewer's first prompt - take me through your day. That'll be a great one to bring into prospective teacher interviews. I haven't ever worked in a system with tenure, but I agree that if it's something that can be attained, it needs to be delayed until there is a solid enough sense of whether the person is good in the classroom. I absolutely agree that we need to be more willing to do what it takes (which should absolutely include frequent training and evaluation) to get consistently under-performing teachers out of the classroom. The gains for the entire system - not just for student learning - could be significant.