Sunday, March 13, 2011

HEEDtweet : Who's TED?

...actually not a who but a what. TED is a non-profit that is committed to ideas worth spreading. They often spread these ideas through informative annual conferences. is a website featuring "worth-watching" speeches from the world's leading thinkers and doers.

Want an example?
Ok, let's look at something refreshing that relates to teaching! While looking for something completely unrelated a HEEDblog enthusiast came across this video of Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy on TED.

Who's Salman Khan?

A former hedge fund analyst who began posting math tutorials on YouTube. Six years later, he has posted more than 2.000 tutorials, which are viewed nearly 100,000 times around the world each day. Also, he quite his job at the hedge fund to create the Khan Academy.

Full bio here.

HEEDtweet: What do YOU think about teacher layoffs?

After discussing the current debate over (almost anything to do with) education, it can be hard to formulate your own objective view. If you've spoken with friends, family or someone riding the elevator with you regarding recent education-related chatter, many folks are focused on the improper treatment and/or hire-fire practices of teachers. The conversation will often include terms like LIFO, union, unfair and lazy.

Reading the excerpt below from a Washington Post article written by Joel Klein (the complete article can be read here) seemed to give all the attention teacher layoffs (and unions) are getting some shape. Even if you don't agree with everything Klein writes, at least the article gives you a (quiet) starting place to explore your own opinion.

Who is Joel Klein?
Joel Klein is both a former chancellor of New York public schools and current chief executive of News Corp.'s educational division.

These are his words:

As the debate rages over public unions and, in particular, over their role in school reform, an unfortunate dichotomy about America's teachers has emerged. On one side, unions and many teachers say that teachers are unfairly vilified, that they work incredibly hard under difficult circumstances and that they are underpaid. Critics, meanwhile, say that our education system is broken and that to fix it we need better teachers. They say that teachers today have protections and benefits not seen in the private sector - such as life tenure, lifetime pension and health benefits, and short workdays and workyears.

Both sides are right.

Teaching is incredibly hard, especially when dealing with children in high-poverty communities who come to school with enormous challenges. Many teachers work long hours, staying at school past 6 p.m., and then working at home grading papers and preparing lessons. Some teachers get outstanding results, even with our most challenged students. These are America's heroes, and they should be recognized as such. Sadly, they aren't.

On the other hand, there are also many teachers who work by the clock - they show up a minute before 8:30 and leave a minute after 3; when in school, they do the barest minimum. They get dreadful results with students and, if you spend time in their classrooms, as I have over the past eight years, it's painfully obvious that they belong in another line of work.

The problem is that our discussion too often fails to distinguish between these very different types of teachers, treating them all the same. This "group-think" not only pollutes the current public debate - either you're for or against teachers - it is also killing our opportunity to fix our schools. Any reform worth its name must start by recognizing that teachers are our most important educational asset. That's why we need to treat teaching as a profession, by supporting excellence, striving for constant improvement and ridding the system of poor performers.

Alas, we do none of this. Whether you are good or bad, work hard or don't, teach in a shortage area (such as math) or work in a highly challenged school, you get treated precisely the same: You have life tenure and generous lifetime health and pension benefits, and you get paid more money next year simply because of seniority.

Consider the fight over teacher layoffs. In many states, you must lay teachers off solely based on reverse seniority - last in, first out. That's nuts. Do you know anyone who would say "I want the most senior surgeon" rather than "I want the best surgeon"? Sure, experience matters. That's why, in baseball, the rookie of the year is almost never the most valuable player. But the rookie of the year is better than a whole lot of 10-year veterans, and every baseball team takes this into account when deciding its roster.