In today’s global market, it cannot be underestimated how valuable it is to be bilingual. Whether you grow up in a bilingual household or are fortunate enough to have learned a language while in school or abroad, you certainly have a leg up on many potential candidates in the workforce. Many school districts continue to debate over just how much foreign language education should be available to their students. As schools scramble to find appropriate funding for all departments, its easy to push foreign language education to upper levels of education, to the chagrin of many linguists.The earlier instruction starts, the more likely students will become fully proficient and capable of proper pronunciation. I know for me, having taken French since 6th grade, I am orally proficient but lack the skills to pronounce certain sounds correctly. (If you know French, you know how difficult it is to pronounce the “r”!) Not only does starting earlier increase potential for fluency, studying another language can benefit a student’s knowledge and use of English grammar, and studies show that it benefits overall academic performance. Kids in other nations start learning another language, if not multiple languages, at the age of 6, whereas most students in the USA start at around 14. If the States want to continue to compete globally, greater emphasis should be placed on foreign languages. It would only benefit us.For more information or to get involved, please visit: http://www.actfl.org/
Next week, April 11-17th, is National Library Week (as well as Environmental Education Week). If you’re not familiar with your local library, this might be a great time to check it out, or consider going to a few other libraries in your area that may be equally as interesting. If you’re a New Yorker, the new NYPL branch in Battery Park City is beautiful – and open on Sundays! Kicking off the week on Monday, April 12 is Oh D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read!), so I thought I’d suggest one of my favorite stories to share with your children and students.When I was about ten, my favorite novels was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. If you’re not familiar with the story, the main character is 11-year-old Claudia, feeling under appreciated by her parents runs away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and then discovers the secret behind one of the Michelangelo statues in the museum. This book has always remained close to my heart, and perhaps it is the reason I’ve grown to love the Met and art so much. It’s perfect for both boys and girls – since Claudia’s little brother, Jamie, plays a large role in the story. Considering how most of our modern young adult and children’s books are often of paranormal themes, it could be nice for parents and teachers alike to see children reading such a classic.What are your favorite books from childhood?For more information on National Library Week visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/pio/natlibraryweek/nlw.cfm
If there is anything cuter than a bunch of kids singing together, it’s probably only a bunch of kids singing one of my current favorite songs, “Lisztomania,” by the French band Phoenix. Or, maybe even cuter than that is a bunch of kids in an auditorium singing “The Eye of the Tiger.” The kids of PS 22 are getting a lot of media attention and celebrity support. This past March, the PS 22 Chorus was invited to perform for the NY Rangers and they were featured on ABC Nightline last July. I think the concept is brilliant and hopefully more schools will take a shot at the “modern” glee club idea.PS 22 Chorus "Lisztomania" on YouTubeI may be a bit behind, but the kids still deserve some credit. I can’t wait to see who else they cover!For more information, check out their blog at: http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com/
The Wall Street Journal this week ran a thoughtful article called “The 15 Money Rules Kids Should Learn.”My favorite entry:4. Good grades are expected and help around the house is simply the price of family life.Nice to see the WSJ point out, in an article about money, that not everything should be about money. Check out the full list here–seems like a good refresher course for some adults too.
April 11-17th will be National Environmental Education Week (or, EEWeek). With the ongoing debate over global warming and climate change, it may be a good way to help teach kids about our earth and what they can do to help out. As a kid, I remember going to the local nature center on field trips, assemblies where nature conservationists brought animals like skunks or hedgehogs, and even bird trainers came to show off their eagles’ tricks. Middle school biology consisted of going into the ponds and finding tadpoles, and elementary school was the time I saw the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly.Though curriculum and lesson plans have a lot of other requirements, it’s important to remind today’s kids of just how precious our environment truly is. Water and energy consumption in developed countries is astronomical, particularly in the U.S. Over 1.1 billion people in the world have inadequate access to clean water, for personal hygiene and consumption. As Americans, we often forget just how fortunate we are to have virtually limitless access, save for the drought periods that sporadically affect communities. Ask your kids, or students, to consider how much water they use. Ask them if they let the shower run for a bit longer or if they turn the faucet off while brushing their teeth. Every little action adds up.Energy awareness is equally as important. How much time does your child spend on their computer or in their room with the lights on? In terms of personal economics, parents could benefit from encouraging their children to spend more time outside playing than sitting indoors watching T.V. or playing video games. Spend a day outdoors with them and show them just how much they can accomplish. For parents with teenagers, remind them that carpooling is normally more cost efficient and helps reduce carbon emissions. Though one car won’t make a difference, their suggestion may be influential on their friends and the community as a whole. Recycling is still key and should be practiced in the home and classroom. If it takes bribery, tell your kids or students that for every bottle or can they collect, they have an opportunity to earn a little – ok, admittedly, very little - cash on the side.There are tons of nature and environment centers around the States, even for New Yorkers. Encourage parents to go to the local nature center and spend some time there with their kids. We all have to set an example for the future generations, and EE Week is a great place to start.For more information and resources on National Environmental Education Week, check out the official website at : http://www.eeweek.org/
So get this: there’s a species of jellyfish called turritopsis nutricula which is able to cycle backwards from its adult stage back into its first stage of life, and then grow back into an adult, over and over again–effectively making it immortal. Not a new discovery, but I just read about it over on Yahoo! Green and thought it was cool.
Having grown up in the suburbs, I know nothing about the struggles of parents and families in New York City, aside from what I read in the Times or see in the movies (think Nursery University, except for public schools). Just when New Yorkers thought that getting their kids into private schools, nursery schools included, was a struggle, now they have to face similar problems in putting their kids into nearby public schools. Between the 9/11 babyboom, the current economic downturn, and choices of many to forgo private school, NYC public schools are placing families on waitlists. Many families on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side are experiencing this problem, but it’s not limited to chic neighborhoods. In Corona, Queens, a predominantly immigrant and middle-class neighborhood, there are close to 120 students on the wait-list. It’s unlike that half these students will be actually put into the classroom, unless rezoning or new schools are put up. What’s the alternative? Home-schooling?Hopefully the Obama education reforms help New Yorkers find a suitable solution and start their educations on time. Or maybe private schools will reduce their rates? One can only hope!See the original article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/nyregion/24waiting.html?ref=education
Census Day is slowly creeping up on us. On April 1, the government wants to have as many questionnaires filled out as possible and this year, they hope to get kids involved as well, with work sheets and interactive games on the Census website.Consider tying the Census into your lesson plans in the upcoming weeks. It’s a good way to start teaching kids about the government and its roles in our society. At the very least, it could be instrumental in counting exercises.Find out more info here: http://www.census.gov/schools/
Obama has plans to reform the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act, which has been criticized over and over again for being ineffective and even destructive to the education system. Designed to help bridge the achievement gap and to provide better education for all children, the law has proved problematic for focusing too much on statistics and punishing schools by taking away funding rather than providing incentive to do well.Lately, the conversation has shifted. Now, teachers must be given rewards and greater incentive for job performance, to increase student success rates. The new law is equally as controversial as N.C.L.B., as critics consider it too ambitious and utopian.Obama plans to keep some parts of N.C.L.B., such as annual testing, but will consider things such as attendance and graduation rates, instead of determining success by a numbers game. The new tests will measure that there was a demonstrated academic growth rather than an achieved proficiency level, because it is unlikely that all students are starting on the same proficiency level to begin with. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, explains, “NCLB says that fifth-grade teacher who helps a student reading at a second-grade level reach a fourth-grade level, within one year, has this missed their goal. In fact, that teacher is an excellent teacher and should be applauded.”Teachers will be evaluated based on their performance in schools, in relation to these standards and will not be penalized for results if these results demonstrate academic growth. The idea, it seems, is to have children catch up at their own pace. The N.C.L.B. proficiency tests demanded the gaps be closed much more rapidly, whereas the new proposal would permit time. Further, it considers individual progress, which may be a better indicator for if the new standards are helping the students.The administration hopes to greatly reduce drop out rates and hopes to develop a system that would make it so every high school student graduates ready for college and/or a career. Unlike N.C.L.B., states will have to assume federally proposed academic standard, which may do wonders in some states, but states like Massachusetts, that have excellent and rigorous standards, are afraid that those approved federally may not even meet their current system. Though the program focuses on reading and math, states will be able to develop their own standards for other subjects and those can also be considered when schools are up for review.What seems to be stressed the most is the effort and the willingness to reform. There is no formula behind a great teacher, nor is there a formula to a great education. What is most important is that no child is left behind, and that somehow one of the reforms proposed prevents that. What will be the impacts on teachers and school administrators? Hopefully that answer is not too far delayed.The Blueprint, which is very much just that, can be found here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/blueprint.pdf