Shame

Disclaimer:

This is not a political post. This is an “I am passionate about education and kids” post. I am an independent and selfish voter. Meaning I vote based on candidates views on issues important to my life and my family.

I was in my car the other day listening to the White House press briefing from Mick Mulvaney about the proposed budget cuts.

A photo by frank mckenna. unsplash.com/photos/EgB1uSU5tRA

As I was listening to the piece there came a point where I almost drove my vehicle off the road. Mulvaney was speaking about proposed cuts in the HUD Department by way of block grants being defunded.

Block grants are provided to states to fund programs such as school based free meal programs and other services to special citizen groups such as Meals on Wheels. The states decide how to use these block grants; so the federal government’s claim is that they technically are not defunding the programs – but rather the block grants. Spin zone.

Mulvaney said, “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, they’re helping kids do better in school.”

He went on to say, “The way we justified it was: these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”

My mind was blown. Clearly Mulvaney has never set foot in a public school where there are high numbers of students on free and reduced lunch.

Well… I have. I lead one of those schools. I see it every day.

When he spoke about “demonstrable evidence” – I am left to wonder what he is looking for? Did we (the United States) begin feeding students at school because we thought that it was going to increase test scores? (which there is research to back – but I digress)

How about the fact that regardless of test scores – there are students in this country that are fed by our federal government through their public school. For many, this may be the only meal that they get. We are looking at defunding this type of support – because there is no demonstrable evidence that shows it works!?

How about the real fact that millions of students are served each day through our school breakfast, lunch and after-school programs – their only source of food.

I ask Director Mulvaney to really think before he speaks. I would challenge him to visit any of the Title I schools in DC and speak with the students whose only source of food come from those schools. And, I recommend he brings Betsy DeVos along for the visit.

This is an issue that we need to challenge. I would recommend that you call your Representative and/or Senator to ask them to challenge this thinking.

To find your Senator or Representative please visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

To Director Mulvaney… #Shame.

Michael Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

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Michael Meechin is a high school principal, writer and speaker. Mike works with schools and districts by providing grassroots professional development, high impact speaking topics, and consulting services on education reform initiatives. For more information check out our Work, or Contact Us.

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Failure to Launch

Failure to launch… it’s a complex problem, that can end with catastrophic results.

I have been hooked on these space analogies lately because they seem to fit the education space so well. The concept of “failure to launch” is one that is so real for us in classrooms across this nation.

The disastrous results that are outlined so profoundly in the video above equate to the struggle that many educators, schools, districts, and administrators, like myself, deal with on the regular. #thestruggleisreal

Imagine with me for a moment that our students are the rocket. Schools and districts play the role of design, engineering, manufacture. States and the Federal Government, they are command and control.

When these systems do not work together…

141029045534-nasa-rocket-explodes-on-launch-virginia-00003006-story-top

Disaster.

Mars Ready

Are our systems aligned so that our students are Mars Ready?

I recently was speaking to a group of educators at the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida. During my talk I outlined, as I often do, that our students change by the second. They do that as a form of survival. The world around them changes so quickly that they are forced to adapt.

Sadly, one area that has greatest impact (and on in which they spend a great deal of time) on our children – schooling – has not really experienced major changes.

Lets look at recent history.

The United States launched the Space Shuttle Program into service in the early 1980s. Thousands of technological advancements took place in the decades that the program was in place. After the Program was shut down, private companies, driven by many young innovators, do things like this…

SpaceX… launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and landed that same first stage rocket back to Cape Canaveral less than 15 minutes later.

My question is – are our schools and districts using systems that are build up the future innovators that will take us to Mars? Or, are we on a path to “failure to launch”?

Is your school or district getting your students #MarsReady?

Our schools and districts need to reflect on how we engage kids; how we immerse them in technology rich, problem-based environments; how we align systems to avoid “failure to launch”.

At the surface, there are easy things that we can do. Like I shared with my friends at FETC we can begin exploring tools that can engage students and help us take them to higher levels.

Check out my 60 Instructional Technologies in 60 Minutes Master List here.

At deeper levels, these questions lead us to a path of reform. A path that will force us to reflect on how we do school.

A path that will prevent “failure to launch”?

Are our students #MarsReady?

mars_2445397b

And… will you help me get us there?

Michael Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

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Michael Meechin is a high school principal, writer and speaker. Mike works with schools and districts by providing grassroots professional development, high impact speaking topics, and consulting services on education reform initiatives. For more information check out our Work, or Contact Us.

Stop the Cycle

So, as I begin this post, I am still not really sure how I want to craft this entry. However, it has been weighing heavy on me.

I have worked my entire career in schools that serve students of low socioeconomic status and high minority rates. In my more recent role over the past few years in administration, I have spent that time in Title I schools exclusively. I am also a product of a very diverse public education in similar settings.

Public education as a whole is broken. Education is not on the radar of any politician in this country. Let me clarify, I mean really on the radar of any politician in this country. Talking about it from time to time does not cut it. Saying you want improved test scores when you would not last five seconds in front of a classroom full of school-aged children is an empty message.

Public education within underserved communities is even further broken. I have been there. I have been a leader in a building where less than 50% of students graduate on time. Those schools exist. Every day, students, teachers, and administrators serve in these schoolhouses. For many, the process is simply cyclical. Others may from time to time be impacted by a great leader and have a chance to turn it around.

For most, however, the cyclical land of missed opportunity continues day after day. Because I believe that education can set you free – this bothers me.

How will these schools succeed?

I have heard over the past couple of weeks several politicians spout off about school choice. School choice is not how these schools will succeed. It is clear that anyone that would suggest that as an answer does not understand the logistics of schooling. For example, students from low performing school F choose to go to high performing school A. But, high performing school A is at capacity and does not have any remaining seats. So, where do you go from there? Terrible idea.

How about we spend time and money in low performing schools? I caught this tweet over the weekend…

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How do we make this happen? As a school leader, I try to hire with a purpose. I make it plain that I need educators that want to be at my school. It is not easy, but I need them to want to be there. Highly effective educators and leaders are leaving low performing schools. As @tgrierisd tweeted, “we must stop this cycle”.

If you know any great educators looking to serve in low performing schools please reach out and connect with me. If you have best practices or other strategies about hiring highly effective educators in low performing schools please share them here on this post – I look forward to reading them.

Thank you to all of those who serve in low performing schools and stay committed to those students, schools and communities.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Teachin’ Ain’t Easy

This thing we do. It ain’t easy.

I am unapologetic about making that statement too.

I believe that education is what sets you free with every fiber of my being. The effective educator pours every thing that have into their students every day they are in the schoolhouse. I know this, because I see it every day in the classrooms of my teachers.

“Those who can’t do, teach.” Remember that.

It is actually quite the opposite. I meet potential candidates every year that are going to light up the world by dropping knowledge on wave after wave of students in their classroom. Those candidates often think that the profession is so easy… “I have a passion for “X” subject,” they say. Then you ask about the craft and they know nothing of the sort. I often know how these conversations end.

#Fail

You know, I was recently at a meeting with a high level District official who made a statement that was profound. He stated, “there are no more career teachers.” I was like – huh? At first, I though my hearing had gone – then I was overcome by anger. I took offense to that comment… great offense. I am a career educator. I am married to a career educator. Many members of my family, many of my friends are all career educators.

But, I thought, is he right?

Look, teaching’ ain’t easy. But, the answer is no. There are so many amazing career educators out there. My Twitter feed if full of passionate educators that live and breathe this craft that we call teaching. We, the career educators, constantly work at the art and the science of educating the masses. Many of us have devoted our lives to this. Many step into classrooms filled with students that are off grade level, have social/emotional issues, come from broken homes, and on and on and on.

These students need us. They need career educators. They need us to be there so they can go on to graduate and set themselves free of the chains that bound them. Education, and more importantly the career educator, has set them free.

We need career educators. I encourage you to talk to young people, talk to those students in your classrooms each day, talk to those potential career educators. We are the disciples for this profession and we need to encourage those that can do – to teach.

Reach out today and have that conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic… be sure to include me in on the conversation on Twitter @mikemeechin, #careereducator.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Guest Post: Unschooling

Jerry Obney is a high school Science teacher and a former colleague of mine. He does tremendous work in the classroom and connects with his students in ways that so align with my vision for teaching and learning. If you like his piece, please check Jerry out at his blog, or on the Twitter @jerryobney.


I fear the industrialized model of school has drained the creativity and innovation from our children.  When our children are young they have creativity, innate curiosity and the desire to learn.  It is not my belief that these qualities disappear throughout life but they become muted, softened and concealed by years of schooling.  The common practice of a reading passage, distribution of worksheets and a find and copy technique gets passed on from day to day in the doldrums of the classroom.  I see science teachers distributing a step by step procedure to a lab, while history teachers stand in front of a whiteboard passing off information of events that students have difficulty relating to.  I have spent a good portion of my career unschooling myself and I spend a good portion of my school year unschooling my students, getting past the idea of concrete timelines, letter grades and step by step directions.  It takes growing pains and frustration on the part of the students and the teacher.  “What do I do?”  “Where are the instructions?”  “Where do I find the answer?”  “Can I Google it?”  As a teacher of students I seek to tap into the childhood curiosity that exists in every student.  As William Butler Yeats once said, “education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

How do we light a fire?

Make the lesson relevant, create a community atmosphere that is safe and respectful, allow for self-discovery to take place, reinforce the discoveries with feedback, and allow the students to provide you with feedback. This type of lesson requires the instructor to do some unschooling of their own.  This idea inevitably leads to questions like, “how do I assess progress?”  “How do I assign a grade?”  “What if a student refuses to participate?”  When I hear these questions in my mind I try to stop myself and evaluate the core of my own questioning.  Am I falling into the industrialized trap?  Do I fear what my colleagues or administration may think if I do things differently?  If I believe in preparing students for real problems and real problem solving skills then why am I wavering when faced with these questions?  I felt discomfort at first, just as the students did, but these moments of discomfort lead to the most authentic types of growth.

What does the research say?

While the research does not specifically identify inquiry and problem-based learning as the most effective, it does suggest that it is a strategy that helps to close the achievement gap.   Nothing can produce better results than a positive relationship with students that takes care of Maslow’s Hierarchy, fosters a feeling of community and taps into the student’s natural curiosity.  According to John Hattie’s research there are two pieces that are imperative to make this style most effective.  Providing timely feedback and building positive relationships with each student will provide more positive learning outcomes.  The feedback piece for this style is very flexible and can be approached in a number of ways.  While students are working in their groups I spend every moment sitting with, discussing and listening to students as they exchange ideas and brainstorm ways to solve the problem.  The second piece, building positive relationships will build as you have these interactions in class, but must be backed with an authentic love for each of the students that are in your classroom.  Without love as the backdrop, the classroom cannot function to its fullest potential.

A Different Take on Transparency

In education we read, speak, receive PD about transparency and its place in our profession altogether too often. Now, having said that – I am all for transparency (check the blog title) in the public education system. In fact I would argue that it is imperative in our schools.

Today, however I want to write about a different take on transparency; a take that deals with how we put in place the leaders of our education systems across the nation. I would also propose a plan (that is being carried out in some districts) that requires transparency in the hiring process.

Superintendent positions often require community review of a candidate. My argument is that we need to replicate this process for school principals and assistant principals. Too often in the public education system it is about “who you know”… and in this business, where our commodity is children – we can not allow decisions to be made on who one knows.

The hiring process of school leadership must be transparent and open to members of the community that a school serves. I know that there are those out there that will argue for the sake of time. I would argue that we must find the time – and the time to take a stand and demand transparency in the hiring process at all levels is now.

School based leadership is essential to student, school and community success.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

It’s Been a While…

I apologize for that. Have you ever hit a run where you are just slammed? Well, that has been me. Work, parenthood, you know…

Well, I am happy to say that I am back. I also wanted to announce that I will also be contributing at the Cooperative Catalyst from time to time. I want to thank @dloitz for the opportunity. I hope that my readers will also check out some of the work at the Coop – there are some amazing conversations going on over there.

You can check out my first post at the Coop, by clicking here. My next Tranparent Curriculum will be coming up real soon. Thanks for reading.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

An Appeal.

This is an appeal.

Today the nationwide discussion is, and has been about accountability. Accountability for schools, for teachers, for students. Since the passage of NCLB, and ESEA before that – we have seen testing become the vehicle for how we assess accountability in public schools across the nation.

I am an educator in Florida, so let me give you a snapshot of how we do things (and to be honest you will not see much differ from state to state). A high school student in Florida has to pass a battery of end of course exams, FCAT tests (our state standardized test), and now the Post-Secondary Education Readiness Test (to prove college-readiness).

Can I ask a question? What happened to having faith in schools – so that at the end of thirteen years of school we knew that our students would be prepared to meet the world head on?

I am a history teacher by trade, so let’s look at the past of this great country and it’s educational trends. The World War I generation fought for peace and many also outlived the Great Depression. These men and women were lucky to have finished elementary school. World War II… only 50% of this generation held a high school diploma. Kids who attended school during World War II went on to serve in the Korean Conflict, or later the Vietnam War. These generations introduced the world to film, television, space, and the Moon. They overcame armed conflict many times, economic turmoil, a civil rights movement, and much more.

Do you know what these past generations did not face? A standardized test – at least not in the present form. They turned out doing just fine – people had faith in the schools and the education they received.

Today, we have more resources than we could imagine – but we have no faith in the system. We need to put in place a battery of tests in order to prove that a student in worthy of a high school diploma. (And let me fill you in on a little secret – the tests do not tell the measure of the contributions our students will make to this society.)

Shame on us.

In order to change the system we need to get serious about the system. Reform needs NOT be about testing and how much of it can we run a student through before they graduate. Reform needs to be about taking the profession seriously. Reform needs to be about ensuring that every school across this nation has a quality educator standing at the front of each and every classroom.

Enough is enough – it is time to take a stand. If you are a reformer, if you are an educator, if you are a parent, if you are a student – this is an appeal… start to get serious about the system. This country will be better for it.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Honesty.

I love American Idol. I hate to admit it, but I do.

One of my favorite parts of the show are the train wrecks who attempt to belt out Christina Aguilera at the top of their lungs. They think they’re great – and they’re not. When you think about it – it’s actually kind of cruel. People have not been truthful with these poor souls and they are allowed to embarrass themselves on national television. I sometimes wish someone had been honest with them.

Crazy part is this. This scenario is played out in schools all the time. We are allowing teachers to do the same thing that these wanna-be idols do. When you think about it – it’s actually kind of cruel. People have not been truthful with these poor souls and they allowed to embarrass themselves in front of our children. I sometimes wish someone had been honest with them.

I have had several arguments discussions over the past couple of months about having tough conversations with teachers. I know that these educators exist in most schools across the country and often times we are not honest with them. Why not?

When we’re talking reality television it’s at the expense of me laughing my ass off. When it is educators standing in front of a classroom it is at the expense of kids. That to me is unacceptable.

You see, I am a believer that not all people are cut out to be educators. I know first-hand that this profession requires a boatload of knowledge and skill to survive on a daily basis. When people don’t have it we need to be honest with them. We must remember that our capital is children.

As we head into a new year, be honest. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your colleagues – it is what our profession is in need of.

Remember… there is a lot at stake.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Hope.

So, I was battling the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season and popped into my local Apple store while perusing the mall. As I checked out – it got me to thinking about what I am calling the apple question.

What would Steve Jobs do [with education]?

This question came to me as I checked out with the Apple employee. I blinked and it was over. Apple [behind the tutelage of Steve Jobs] created something in their retail stores that all others should envy. The Apple employee checked me out using her iPhone – she swiped my debit card, emailed me my receipt and wished me a “Happy Holidays” as I ventured back out. It was a “whoa” moment for me.

Streamlined, efficient, purposeful, and amazing. Something that public education [for the most part] is not. So, what would Steve Jobs have done with public education?

If you are hoping for an answer in this post you are going to be disappointed. I do not have one. I just think it fun to think about having Steve Jobs as my superintendent – what things would have been different?

As I search for a purpose for this post I guess it is this… We need Steve Jobs’ in positions of power in public education. We need innovators who lead schools that when people visit and walk out the door – they have a “whoa” moment.

I guess that is all. I am working toward becoming that leader and I know that there are others out there as well. I read your work, I blog about you, I converse with you, and I work with you. So, at this time of year, here is to hope – that more innovative educators will take the lead in schools across the country and think to themselves – what would Steve Jobs do?

Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year.

More to come…

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed