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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration

What are the characteristics of high performing schools?

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I am in the unique position of having several types of education jobs. I teach online graduate courses in educational technology to in-service teachers. I am a cohort facilitator for student teachers; and I am a part-time gifted teacher of elementary students at two different elementary schools that serve Kindergarten through 6th grade students. Out of the 16 elementary schools in my town, these two schools have some of the lowest end-of-year standardized test scores in the entire district; are composed of 85% to 90% Hispanic students; have a high percentage of English Language Learners; and all students on free or reduced lunch. These statistics present a dire picture, don’t they?

I tell my student teachers that when they enter new schools for possible employment, they should be able to see and feel the culture of the school almost immediately upon entering the front doors. Because of this belief, I decided to do a photo essay of the artifacts found on the hallway walls at the schools where I teach:

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Because of the variety of my jobs as well as being an active reader and contributor to social media, I do a lot of thinking and reading about the qualities of high performing schools. Again, the data shows that I work at very low performing schools, but how are intangibles measured? How are the following characteristics, which I see, hear, and feel at both of my schools, measured and quantified?

  • A positive school climate
  • A safe school climate
  • Dedicated teachers who love teaching and their students
  • Creative teachers
  • Students enjoyment of being at school and in learning
  • Student creativity and imagination
  • Lots of laughing and smiling students
  • The arts naturally integrated into content area learning
  • School walls filled with beautiful student artifacts

I wholeheartedly believe I am teaching in high performing schools.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 17, 2016 at 1:24 am

Best Education-Related Videos of 2013

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I love end of year “best of” lists.  My own list is what I found to be the most powerful education related videos of 2013. They all, in some way, address the mind, heart, and spirit of education.  Each touched me in some way to help illuminate the purpose and core of education.  They are in no particular order expect for the first one which is my number one choice and one that I believe all educators should be required to watch.

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Favorite Quote:

Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Favorite Quote:

Governments decide they know best and they’re going to tell you what to do. The trouble is that education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students. And if you remove their discretion, it stops working.

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Favorite Quote:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding.

Malala Yousafzai United Nations Speech 2013

Favorite Quote:

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.  Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Hackschooling makes me happy

Favorite Quote:

We don’t seem to make how to be healthy and happy a priority in our schools; it’s separate from schools, and for some kids it doesn’t exist at all, but what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based our education on the practice of being happy and healthy because that’s what it is: a practice, and a simple practice at that. … Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education? I just don’t get it.

If students designed their own schools…

Favorite Quote:

It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.

I think the more options we have in our schools, the more students we will help develop into the kind of citizens that we need and that it’s okay for you to need a little bit of a different approach from mine.

“To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful

Favorite Quote:

Why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
f–k off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data


I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers, and just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

Middle school football players execute life-changing play

Favorite Quote:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

So this one is for my generation.  The ones that found what they were looking for on Google, the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter, pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.This ones for my “failures” and “dropouts”  For my unemployed graduates. My shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams!! My world changers and dream chasers!!
Because purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate a world wide debate, but to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68.  We will not let an exam results decide our fate. Peace.

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

Favorite Quote:

You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living… You can either sit in your basement and wait, or you can get out there and do some crazy stuff… Life is just a bunch of beautiful moments, one right after the other…

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Favorite Quote:

This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there.

Landfill Harmonic Amazing and Inspirational

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Important Endings

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Tonight was the last night of our student teacher seminar.  We met once a week every Tuesday night for the past three months while they were student teaching. The seminars were virtual and synchronous with most students choosing to use webcams.  As such, we were able to share laughs and tears . . .

. . . see each others’ homes and children . . .

. . . and even enjoy one student’s new baby boy.

A sense of community was built.


I have blogged before about the importance of beginnings in Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content.  I also believe in the importance of endings, that it should be a celebration of community and providing inspiration for the future.  As such, the student teachers were asked to bring virtual treats to share during our last seminar.  These treats could take the form of an inspirational quote, video, picture, thought or final wishes.  What follows are some of the treats shared.

Videos Shared

I started off the seminar by sharing Jeremy K. Macdonald’s Soiree of Slides at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference  . . . a beautiful five minutes. Read more at Becoming an Unteacher: Do the Unexpected

Student watching the video . . .

There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. …

Teachers have one of the greatest responsibilities and because of that, one of the greatest gifts.

– Abraham Lincoln

Imagine being born without arms. No arms to wrap around a friend ; no hands to hold the ones you love; no fingers to experience touch ; no way to lift or carry things. How much more difficult would life be if you were living without arms and hands? Or what about legs? Imagine if instead of no arms, you had no legs. No ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand. Now put both of those scenarios together… no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that affect your everyday life?

The underlying point of this video is behavior and the discouraging factors dealing with our present-day behavioral situation.

A short video based on the Starfish story, with an inspirational message for all teachers to “Never give up”.

Quotes and Passages Shared

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. – Lily Tomlin

A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations. – Patricia Neal

Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. –  Eleanor Roosevelt

What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand. – Chinese Proverb

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go… – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

To teach is to touch lives forever. –  Anonymous

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. – John Dewey

A teacher affects eternity; he or she can never tell where his or her influence stops. – Henry B. Adams

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. – Gail Godwin

The people best qualified to run the world are to busy teaching school.

Nine tenths of education is encouragement. – Anatole Frank

I Am a Teacher – by Phillip Done

I read Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every year, and every year when Charlie finds the golden ticket and Charlotte dies, I cry.

I take slivers out of fingers and bad sports out of steal the bacon.  I know when a child has gum in his mouth even when he is not chewing.  I have sung “Happy Birthday” 657 times.

I hand over scissors with the handles up. My copies of The Velveteen Rabbit and Treasure Island are falling apart.  I can listen to one child talk about his birthday party and another talk about her sleepover and another talk about getting his stomach pumped last night – all at the same time.

I fix staplers that won’t staple and zippers that won’t zip, and I poke pins in the orange caps of glue bottles that will not pour.  I had out papers and pencils and stickers and envelopes for newly pulled teeth.  I know the difference between Austria and Australia.

I plan lessons while shaving, showering, driving, eating, and sleeping.  I plan lessons five minutes before the bell rings.  I know what time it is when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the nine.  I say the r in library.  I do not say the w in sword.

I put on Band-Aids and winter coats and school plays.  I know they will not understand the difference between your and you’re.  I know they will write to when it should be too.  I say “Cover your mouth,” after they have coughed on me.

I am a teacher.


Books Shared

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 28, 2012 at 3:08 am

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