Education Coffee Chat

Yesterday I had a great chat with fellow educator, Sherita Love. I met Sherita at Venture Cafe a couple of weeks ago where she put together a panel of other talented educators. This panel spoke about the education inequalities and in the area and what they were doing to examine and affect the problem.

The panel only was able to chat shortly because the audience felt they needed a forum to speak. We need to have roundtables here in St. Louis to talk about education and the awesome programs working to impact education. Sherita is making sure more forums for conversations are open, but people interested in chatting about education need to attend. The best collaborations and ideas can come out of the most unexpected places.

At our coffee chat, Sherita and I talked about some of the needs in the St. Louis area. We talked about assumptions, college readiness (& awareness), education diversity, parent advocacy, transition planning, volunteering, etc. We also talked about cool stuff happening around the St. Louis area to affect education. One such cool thing is the organization Sherita co-founded with another great educator: GLAMM. This is just one of the many cool projects and programs happening around the area. See how you can get involved!

There will be plenty of upcoming conversations about education happening in St. Louis. I’ll post about them here, but would love to see you there! Education is everyone’s right and everyone’s responsibility. Think about how you can make a change in someone’s education. It may be small to you, but huge to them.

Free Knowledge, Inquire Within

You use Wikipedia. But did you know it’s not just good for giving you fingertip access to factoids? The movement is much more than that. There are some pretty big goals.

Sometimes we take access to to quality, bias-free information for granted. Not everyone in the world has that luxury. But you can help make a change.

Get involved
Anyone can. You don’t have to be an expert or a jack-of-all-trades. You can start by cleaning up grammar on existing articles. Or take on bigger tasks.

If you haven’t watched the video above, do. It sounds so silly, but I get so excited when I think about how much information is given and received each day. What a gift! Donate today to give the gift of knowledge to everyone.

To find out more about all things wiki, come join me and others at the St. Louis Wiknic on July 10.

Focus on Education

Last week I read this Op-Ed piece Arne Duncan wrote for the Washington Post.  This morning during my commute, I was delighted to hear the upcoming Diane Rehm Show would focus on education discussion for the first hour of the program, and the guest list included Arne Duncan.  The topics included early start of high school, ranking of colleges and their rising cost, early childhood education, and education law.

My comments concerning the discussion are swayed by my firm beliefs regarding a right to education for all and education can benefit all people.

Early Start/Late Start High School
Research has shown starting later gives way to better minds, but where do activities, homework and after school jobs fit into a high school student’s life?  Perhaps start later, and offer sports earlier.  Jump start minds with some zero hour sports!  This is a time to mesh research about exercise and education.  Also, the bus debate will always make staggering the start and release times of schools necessary as long as we make busses the priority.  I think everyone would benefit from school starting no earlier than 8:30 or 9 am.  Being functional at 7 am is a feat for many of us – young, teen and adult.

College Cost and Ranking
The U.S. News and World Report College Rankings are a little swayed.  All of the information depends on how the colleges report it.  What is that joke about violent criminals and white bread? Statistics can be manufactured to show what is meant to show.  For argument’s sake, questions asked to the colleges are potentially interpreted differently by the individuals answering the questions.

The quote about community colleges having a low graduation rate frustrated me for several reasons.  First, some people go to community college with intentions of taking a few classes, but not completing a degree.  Second, some people attend community college with the intent of transferring to another college to complete their degree.  Finally, some people attend community college to test the water to see if they like college.  If not, that is not a fault of their own or the community college.  We should not be focused on production of graduates, but on providing a service to the community served.

Cost is a very passionate topic of mine.  I feel strongly that college is a right and all people should be able to go to college if they so choose.  Some people do fine without higher education, but even if their career does not require a higher degree, the student development in college can lead to a well rounded individual in society.  There should not be a person willing to attend where cost is the prohibiting factor.  No, perhaps not everyone could attend a private school, where costs are also outrageous, but attend some form of higher education regardless of economic class.

Early Childhood Education
Research has shown access to early childhood education can impact the success of students.  A point during the show  focused on assessment of teachers who are teaching students with and without early childhood education, and how students without early childhood education could negatively impact their evaluations.  Perhaps we need to move into a system that looks at growth of a student educationally over the year, instead of the whole population reaching certain standardized test goals.

Perhaps also focus government financial support for children receiving daycare assistance on facilities that provide a meaningful early childhood curriculum.

Education Law and Standardized Testing
At curriculum night for Kari’s school, one of the teachers mentioned the standardized tests were changed this year and the curriculum would be changing slightly to address that change. I remember filling in bubbles after bubbles on standardized tests when I was little.  This portion of the school year was dreadfully dull and I imagine so for other children.  There has to be another answer besides a standardized test philosophy.

Will we as a society figure this out? I hope so.

Communication is Key

Communication is key.

How often have we all heard that phrase?

Now let that phrase marinate.

Why is communication so key?  Communication is so important in our lives we even have a word for the times when communication goes awry.  Few of us master communication, and definitely not with everyone.  Why? Communication is always a transaction.  Verbal. Nonverbal. Always receiving.  Always responding.

I talk. You listen.

You talk. I listen.


One would hope.  In written word, this seems rational; however, once we get so fixated on what we are trying to say, we forget to listen.  I talk. You talk. No listen.

In reality, it’s not all about me.  And it’s not all about you.

One thing I have experienced in my role as a student recently is the propensity of everyone to talk in the classroom.  I left the classroom last night with my head reeling with questions not about the class topic, but human behavior.  We were to work on a group project.  After twenty of the thirty minutes assigned, two of the six were not budging.  They allowed their personal opinions to get in the way of the research and trends.  In the remaining 10 minutes, we debated, but came up with a good idea to present.  Someone presented, but only presented their opinions and pieces of the project they liked.  I was dashed that our project was not presented.  Especially when we all had good ideas.

Everyone is so concerned with being heard. It seems as though instead of listening actively, we are all so busy thinking about our response while the other person is talking, thus not actively listening or reflecting. We will only be intelligent as a society if we act like a society.  Collective knowledge benefits the whole community.

Collaboration is amazing.  It happens when communication is at least roughly effective.  Groups of people connect over common ideas, issues, etc. and create something.  Their minds come together to create!  Amazing!

Why are we all so hung up on our own ideas? Why are our experiences more important than those of others?

The Difference Between Telling and Imparting

Ever been in a classroom where you just cannot keep your eyes open?  We all have. Mine was American history my sophomore year of undergrad (Spring 2002).  No matter how much sleep I got or how fast I chugged that Coke, I couldn’t stay focused.  Two things about this struck me: first, I love history and school.  I feel lost without school and I am always eager to learn.  Second, other students were crashing too.  Eventually, the huge lecture class dwindled to fifteen alternating attendees, until test day, when the auditorium would fill up again.

Why was this?  Were we all just poor students?  We weren’t engaged.  The instructor would walk up to the middle of the stage, pull his textbook out of his bag, and proceed to read aloud the chapters we were to read for this class session.

There was only one class where I was strangely awake.  He was asking questions, and we were answering, discussing, and, low and behold, learning.

Engage them.  Discuss.  Activities.  Scenarios.  Something!