Teaching About Writing

Here is the link to a blog post on writing from the National Council of Teachers of English (http://blogs.ncte.org/index.php/2015/05/finished-and-edited-texts/). It sets up a series of guidelines for teaching writing in the context of English classes, including checklists for self-editing and other pointers for teachers.  There are also resources through the links to additional information and ideas.  If you teach English at any level, this is a great blog to follow.


Changing Things Around

For years, I have been blogging on education–or at least trying to keep up with what’s going on and sharing what I’ve learned.  For years, I’ve had two education-oriented sites: this one and another at dremiller.com called Eleanore’s Ramblings.  I’ve tried Blogger.com blogs for critiques on children’s books and other topics, and I found that I cannot maintain so many sites.  So  I basically stopped blogging altogether, except for a post here or there.

Part of stopping the blogging experience has had to do with a relatively mild depression, that came on me after various surgeries, each of which brought my activity level lower and lower.  Part of the stop was because of the malfunctioning computers or internet services over the years.  Another part was that I was simply overwhelmed by both the amount of information on education–good and bad–and government policies related to education that have been terribly depressing as well as irritating.  For example, I had high hopes for Arne Duncan when he became Secretary of Education on President Obama’s cabinet.  I had gotten the idea that he had a solid education background, and knew what he was talking about.  Later, I learned that his knowledge of education came from a summer study he did for a project at Yale(?) as an undergraduate, and that he had neither classroom nor educational experience related to education at all.  That accounted for some of the irrational topics he has discussed and the less rational projects he has supported and developed.

After a while, with the government clearly knowing less about education than the average houseplant, I lost interest in almost everything having to do with education in the US–and then outside the US.  So I realized that anything I had to say about education and learning would be of little or no help.  Once I moved to the Caribbean where my husband had accepted a position in a medical school, and I saw the mess that education is here (on a smaller scale but just as ridiculous and very corrupt), I lost all interest in the subject I studied through hundreds of graduate education credits from good universities, and which yielded me both a Master of Arts in Education and a doctorate in Educational Psychology.  The doctorate was not in the precise area I wanted to study, but that’s another story…

Anyway, I lost the will to do much about writing about education in any form.  Every now and then, I would get a serious energy surge, but truly, I had given up.  After all, what do I have to say that is of any importance to teaching and learning?  I am no longer an active teacher at any level–neither K-12 nor postsecondary level.  I am months away from official retirement–although I’ve been unofficially retired for almost ten years.  I used to keep up with new theories and techniques only to learn that the internet search engines–even the specialized educational and psychological databases–were concentrating on the past five years, and that special parameters needed to be entered to go back further.  Over and over I saw “new” theories of learning or “new” methodologies that I had already cycled through at least twice in 40 years.  And I began to wonder if there was a point to anything having to do with education.

Thus I came across the main reasons for my reluctance to blog on education and learning issues.

At one time, I was a computer programmer,working for major companies in the greater NYC area.  I was good at what I did, and knew every quirk of different models in the same hardware series of mainframes by IBM and DEC.  I knew that on one machine my code would have to have an extra line while on another that line would cause a program crash.  I knew the best logic to use on various machines for the most efficient results–and in different programming languages.  But over the years, although logic is still logic and works across all platforms, I got behind.  I would put off learning the quirks of a newer version of a programming language for a few months, only to learn when I returned to it that I had to start over because the internal circuitry acted just a little differently, or the language had been “upgraded.”  Before long, I was so far behind that I could no longer keep up with all the changes because I would have to start too far back and work forward–or suffer the consequences of wondering what the heck a new command meant or how it could be most efficiently used.

The reason for the programming explanation is that I had started this particular blog when I understood how to design the page and add new “buttons” or specific functions.  Each time I went to update the layout or change the format, I found I had less and less that I could do on my own, and I was unable to afford someone to help me create a site the way I wanted to.

Next, I wanted to add webinars to this site, but then reality hit.  Who wants to look at an old lady giving brief lectures and slotting in a diagram or picture here and there?  Besides, I hate make-up and the idea of having to return to putting it on every day was rather off-putting.  What I really need is someone to help me put a good site together for very little money, and people who do that–inexpensively–are almost impossible to come by.  As for finding someone here in the middle of the Caribbean–well, actually on the very edge of the Caribbean as our eastern-most coast borders on the Atlantic Ocean–is more difficult because the technology here is so far behind the times that I’ll never get what I want no matter how much I pay.  And money is still an issue.

I know there are “bundles” that I can buy and persons that I can hire from GoDaddy, where this site resides, even though I use WordPress.  I know that there are old books available on getting WordPress up and running in stunning and useful ways, but technology does not wait for an old woman to read up and practice.  Thus, it will take a while for me to get this site–as well as the sister professional site–up and running.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because this site will take me forever to make it into what I want it to be–to be a place to learn and exchange information, to host small webinars, to discuss innovative and “tried and true” teaching methods and techniques, to argue about new theories… But I will continue to work on that even as I resume blogging on this site.  I have made the decision to blog here once a week, on issues that relate not only to teachers, but also to parents/caregivers, education specialists in emotional and behavioral problems, various learning disabilities including reading problems, and, of course, autistic spectrum disorders.  Although I want to do as much as possible for free, the maintenance of this site will not be inexpensive, and I will monitize it with relevant books and teaching aids, as well as specialized workshops for schools, organizations, and care-givers.  Most of those will probably be on my professional site, http://www.emillereducation.com .  However, I want to keep as much free information and resources on this site as possible.

Please take the time to send me your ideas for what you would like to hear me blog about, as well as what you would like to see on my professional site.  All comments are welcome, even if I do not get back to you right away.  Appropriate responses will be added to the comments section, whether entered directly or through the contact form.

Next week I’ll be back with a blog post, as I will be writing here once a week.  I haven’t yet decided on a day, as I have been keeping myself very busy with new hobbies–I’m learning to draw and have progressed from sickly stick figures to decent drawing of subjects during the past five weeks; I finally got that DSLR camera  I’ve been asking my husband to give me as a gift for the past ten or fifteen years and am learning to use both the camera and its assortment of lenses, all of which need thorough learning to use properly and keep the images from blurring because of my hand tremors; I have started a business specializing in foundation garments that help us older adults stand a little straighter or look a bit thinner, along with dietary supplements that can help memory, weight loss, diabetes control (along with prescribed medications, of course), and other general health issues.  So I am keeping busy and finding myself with too few hours in the day to learn everything I want to explore, keep up with education news, keep up with news in general, and still find time to cook and eat.

So once a week–that will be the release parameter for this blog.  But I will make it worth your while if you come back to read it.  Nothing will be frivolous; techniques will be for immediate implementation (although for many suggestions you need to know that your own time will be needed to understand and implement it right, with the understanding that the first attempt will undoubtedly fail, or the set-up will take more time than you want to  spend, etc.–nothing good comes without some effort), theories will be explained for their benefits to the classroom and when and why to use different elements, inclusion techniques for special education students will be discussed, guest bloggers will be invited to contribute their knowledge, etc.

Please come back toward the middle of next week (about May 13, 2015) to check what’s new.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you…without you and your input, this little experiment in exchange of information regarding education and learning cannot succeed.

One last thing: Last month, I took my gajillionth class in writing at WordPress’ Bloggers U.  It was not a blogging course.  It was a course to develop writing skills. My posts can be found at a page called Eleanore’s Ramblings at http://www.dremiller.com and it will be dedicated to my progress in learning to write.  If you need ideas for yourself or your students–at any grade or postsecondary level–this is a decent place to start.  I will try to update any assignment where I failed to do so at the time with the prompt for the post as well as the “twist” that the facilitator wanted us to attempt. University level students who want to learn something about general writing are welcome to read the past twenty-something posts of assignments for that class as well as my continuing struggle with becoming a better writer.  I originally started taking such classes–usually paying big bucks to take them (this one was free and is offered at least twice a year) to help me report sensitively on special education students and clients being tested for learning problems.  Clinical reports are usually so–well, so clinical.  They generally consist of nothing but dull, insensitive, and largely head-ache producing facts; I wanted mine to have meaning while providing the same information in a readable format that could be understood by anyone who needed to read them. Before taking a number of writing classes, I would struggle for hours writing a single progress report on a single student to express what I wanted to say in a way that was positively structured and readable, including the negative behaviors or regressions without making the child sound like a basket case or sociopath.  Trying to write up 15 of such reports at the end of a week left me with little sleep, and the last reports were grumpier than I wanted them to be (so I never wrote the reports in the same order).  The classes have helped me to be able to say what I need to say about a child with reasonable efficiency and speed, and without sounding like a police report.  If you can’t take a formal class in writing for one reason or another, at least take the time to look at the prompts and twists, and the resulting “story.”  You will also learn far more about me than I ever thought I could share honestly with people I don’t know.  But that was part of the deal about taking the course and learning to write better.

Until next time,

Dr. Ellie, Ed.D.


Teachers and Self-imposed Limitations

Looking through my email today, I found the following blog post from My Island View:

This is the link to the article below:  Don’t Argue For Your Limitations

It discusses the fact that many teachers are afraid of learning to use technology in the classroom.

Don’t Argue For Your Limitations

by Tom Whitby @tomwhitby

Over the many years that I have been in education and around educators, I have never been able to understand why so many educators, so willingly and publicly, argue for their limitations. Why do they insist, as educators, on stating aloud, “ I don’t get technology and I am not going to start now”?

I taught many in-service courses to educators that required computer use. On many, many occasions educators sitting at their computers would say, “I can’t do this”. My response was simple but crude; I would turn off the computer of the person who had made that statement. After protestations about my action, I would explain that they had convinced me by their statements and attitude that they could not do the assigned task using the computer. I simply accepted their argument about their lack of ability to learn through technology. That was when the light bulb floating magically over their heads would light up. Actively trying and overcoming failures was the key to accomplishing the goal. They most often renewed their efforts after rebooting their computer.

Learning with or about technology for those who have not grown up with technology is an uncomfortable thing to do. It forces people to make mistakes and adjustments in order to learn. The idea of an educator making a mistake in regard to either teaching or in their own content area was something that could not be accepted according to most teacher preparation programs of the 20th century. That may be why so many people openly claim to be unable to “get it” when it comes to technology, rather than to bravely face the demons of discomfort.

Technology and tides stop for no man/woman. Technology that affects almost everything we do today is not going away. It will continue to evolve at even faster rates and have an even greater effect on the speed at which change takes place.

Educators today in addition to everything else they need to know must be digitally literate, because in the world in which their students will live, digital literacy will be essential to survive and more hopefully thrive.

A digitally literate educator is a relevant educator. Educators who are not digitally literate are not bad people. They may also be good teachers. However they may not be providing everything their students will need to meet their personal learning goals for their technology-driven world.

Educators do not need to argue for their limitations. There is no limit to the number of people, who for their own reasons, will do that for them, whether it is true or not. Ironically, politicians with their own multitude of shortcomings probably head that list of finger-pointers. Educators need to be aware of how the world has changed from the 20th century that has heavily influenced so many of our educators. Technology’s integration into learning is no longer a choice that educators have to make. Technology is with us to stay. As uncomfortable as it is, educators need to step up and stop making excuses for their digital illiteracy. Schools need to support professional development to get all educators up to speed on what they need to know. It will be an ongoing need since technology will continue to evolve. If we expect to better educate our kids, we must first better educate their educators.

Here is my response: 

No teacher should ever–ever–lose interest in learning something new. What’s the first thing we tell our students if they don’t understand something? “How are you going to learn if you don’t try?” Teachers should be modeling this behavior instead of fighting it.
Right now and for the next few years, I live on an island in the Caribbean–way off in the Netherlands Antilles–and hear the same comments from teachers who are basically being “encouraged” to learn to use technology. That they don’t understand it is not going to help them if they don’t learn about it, and with the many opportunities now being offered on the island for them to learn, there is just no excuse. As with everything in teaching and/or learning something new–and just like for the students–it is scary and uncomfortable at first. But soon it becomes easier as concepts and hands-on time is increased and comfort level grows. Fear of learning something new is not a good quality for a teacher to have. Students sense the anxiety and begin to take on the same anxieties and fear of learning.
This is something that occurs world-wide, not just on small islands. When I got into teaching it was for the sheer love of learning, and I was willing to learn as much from my students as I was from my professors and more experienced teachers. The question might not be why limit yourself so much as why did you become a teacher if you are not willing to grow?
Just sayin’…

What are YOUR views?