Home

Boulders in the stream

1 Comment

The only word I have left to sum it up is…”defeated”. It’s been three years in the making, so let me explain:

In 2014, I reevaluated my role as a traditional English teacher. In the text “Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era”, authors Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith discuss the history of our current educational framework. “In 1893, Charles Eliot of Harvard and the Committee of Ten partitioned the world into five distinct subject areas: math, science, English, history, and foreign languages. Over the last century, the meager changes we’ve made in pedagogy have revolved around refining these five departments into subclumps (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics), and assigning subclumps to grade levels. It’s shocking that the typical student day in 2015 is eerily similar to what it was at the beginning of the twentieth century.” That would be 123 years since the path to college preparedness had been created.

Since that time, all categories have been broken into subgroups, including in the West Fargo Public School District. Well, all except for English. Since the creation of my school district, students have had one path through English/Language Arts (ELA) toward graduation. That path is English I, English II, English III and English IV. It might be time for a change.

With the thought that post-secondary student success is the most important factor, English teachers at WFHS began to evaluate the possible options in 2015. (The following timeline reveals actual emails from WFHS English teachers and WFPS district officials, but names have been redacted.)

With the help of some colleagues, we proposed a diverse approach for students to gain standardized skills through various ELA courses. Since our state standards moved to a more skills-based format that focused on essential skills for post-secondary success, it made sense to reevaluate our English curriculum approach.

This conversation began prior to our April 1, 2015 PLC meeting date. The agenda for that meeting looked like this:

March 21 2015 PLC.png

After the meeting, an email was sent to colleagues regarding the final proposal for input on a more inclusive English curriculum that provided more options for students (sent April 2 2015):

April 2 2015

Since we are dealing with a large educational institution, it’s understandable that curriculum decisions would take time. In fact, our own superintendent quoted a text this past fall, “Inevitable” by Charles Schwann, which states “Public education is difficult to change.” The conversation died for an entire year, until it was brought up again in April 2016 (email sent April 20, 2016).

April 20 2016 edited.jpg

 

After many emails back and forth within our department, it resulted in a decision pushed to the next fall. (May 17 2016)

Actual May 17 2016 edited.png

 

After that Sept. meeting and prior to the Nov. 1 meeting, an agenda was sent that limited the options available to discuss.

Nov 1 2016

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 7.59.58 PM

It was after this meeting that the initial purpose behind this proposal became disoriented. Instead of focusing on curricular options for upperclassmen, officials leaned toward teachers to provide more literature options for students. This was considered despite the fact that the text Dr. Flowers cited from Schwartz this fall states, “Teacher preferences are important, but schools do not exist for adults, they exist for learners and learning.” 

Nov. 14 2016

Nov 14 2016

Since changes need to be proposed a year ahead of time, this would push the course change back another year to 2018-2019. The conversation stagnated after this, until I brought it up again this fall. However, after inquiring about possible ELA pathways for upperclassmen, the response was slightly simpler after another meeting.

Oct. 17 2017

oct 17 2017

So, in essence, I am defeated. It has been more than two years and nothing has changed. The only path to graduation for ELA students at WFPS will be English I, English II, English III, English IV Comp/English IV Lit. (For what it’s worth, this was the same path when I graduated high school almost 20 years ago.)

We still only allow students one path through ELA to graduation and that won’t change anytime soon in my school district. As Sir Ken Robinson states in his book “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education”: “In principle, the curriculum should shape the schedule. In practice, it often works the other way around.” Unfortunately, that has yet to happen where I work.

This image, which has appeared on numerous posts and blogs about education, pretty much sums it up:

change

Advertisements

We should all avoid categorizing students for clicks

Leave a comment

After reflecting on the reporting process of a local reporter regarding a story of a teacher’s social media comments, I am still uneasy.

I still have a hard time comprehending the rationale for publishing this story about a teacher’s tweets. The reporter provided a few possible reasons in his previous responses on social media: 1. to get her account shut down, 2. to appease an upset parent or 3. because she deserved it. By the way, none of these pass the journalistic integrity test. Seemingly as a response to my previous post, the Valley News Live reporter who covered the issue, Cornelius Hocker, had no problem explaining his rationale on his blog. Even though he declines to address his disregard for ethical, journalistic practices, it seems he has no problem sharing his feelings about me.

There is a lot of information to unpack in Mr. Hocker’s rationale, but the scariest fact is that he is using other, anonymous individuals on his public blog to attack the character of a public school teacher. Mr. Hocker admits that these are comments he received after publishing a poorly researched and one-sided “story.” This argument makes it difficult to use as justification for publishing in the first place, without conducting proper research.

Again, let me remind readers, I do not know the teacher in the news story even though we work in the same district. I am also not commenting on the actual messages. Instead, I’m evaluating the obvious omission of clear, journalistic integrity.

My primary concern about the disregard for ethical journalism practices is the precedent Mr. Hocker sets. This sets an example for all aggravated individuals who want vindication against a public educator or coach. In my career as a public school teacher, coach, adviser, etc., I’m sure there are people who have disagreed with my practices, misinterpreted my verbal or nonverbal responses or simply did not like me. Actually, I know there were – it’s one reason I was fired. I like to think I’m not that different from other teachers in this regard, but I could be wrong. When a “news” report can be published with simple hearsay from anonymous individuals, we have a major issue that makes public educators everywhere more vulnerable.

I am not licensed as a special needs teacher, but I work with a wide variety of special education and regular education students each day, similar to almost all teachers in a public school setting. As we always strive for inclusiveness in education, it is important to avoid differentiating between students with needs and regular education students. Mr. Hocker has made it clear on several occasions that this teacher’s area of instruction is a primary focus of the story.

The fact that Mr. Hocker uses the special education categorization to garner more attention to his story is disheartening.

Note: Mr. Hocker also uses an interesting choice of words with “busted” and “caught”. This should not be the approach when evaluating a private individual who is the subject of a news story stemming from anonymous sources.

In my opinion, if a person believes the teacher’s comments are not appropriate, they should be considered inappropriate for all students. Differentiating based on educational status is as dishonorable as publishing material received in an anonymous envelope without vetting that information.

If the comments are deserving of a news story, the fact she works with special needs students should not be the determining factor for making the tweets offensive. The reporter uses the special needs angle to increase clicks, not out of concern for any specific student. Actually, instead of referring to students, Mr. Hocker used appeasing a parent as rationale.

Using the special needs angle and connecting it to a single parent’s criticism of a special education teacher to make this more “clickable” reveals that he is operating outside the ethical boundaries for professional journalism.

I question whether the reaction would be the same without the emphasis on the instructional specialty. You’ve probably seen some of these memes posted on social media. There is an entire site dedicated to teacher memes. These memes are extremely popular and frequently shared. These memes express a light-hearted perspective on the daily struggles public school teachers face.

The issue then becomes a question of subjective interpretation. Without considering the instructional area of the teacher, are these memes any different than the comments made by the teacher? There are memes that address overbearing parents, annoying student habits, and other common struggles educators face. If a person considered the special education teacher’s comments inappropriate, it would be interesting to see how that same person would react to these memes.

As teachers, we strive for inclusion and equality within the classroom environment. It should be no different in the public sphere. If comments or observations are offensive to an individual because they refer to a specific grouping of individuals, it is a direct contradiction to the basic moral argument that person would make. All students should be considered equal in and out of the classroom. Promoting any group as superior or inferior, especially for the sole purpose of earning “clicks”, does a disservice to those who work so hard to defend the inclusive standard.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11-year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

Time for higher standards in local reporting

1 Comment

Disclaimer: This post evaluates a local media professional’s reporting practices with regard to a story on an area teacher. The teacher who is the subject of the reporting works in the same school district as me; however, I have never met this teacher. This is more a reflection on the disappointing reporting approach and should not be mistaken for my opinion on the teacher’s online comments.

My role as a teacher and media adviser provides me with a unique perspective as local and national media outlets cover educational issues or controversies. This week provided one of those opportunities.

A reporter, Cornelius Hocker, at Valley News Live “broke” a story that a special needs teacher published questionable, vague tweets about students without any discernible identifying factors. I put “broke” in quotes because Mr. Hocker was notified via an anonymous parent complaint, which is an entirely separate, but no less concerning of an issue.

The online public comments for this story (and the reporter’s comments directly to me) are disconcerting. Let me be clear, I’m not taking a position on the morality of the teacher’s social media comments. I take issue with the journalistic approach to this story and what it means for teachers everywhere.

First, let’s examine the journalistic approach. The reporter selected only tweets that fit the narrative for his story. He did not review the district policy or the teacher’s personnel file before publishing the story. (NOTE: He told me later that the policy was added to the online version of the story – incidentally after I linked it in the comments section online) He makes no mention in the story of trying to reach out to the teacher or even if the district has a comment. He simply says that “We reached out to WFPS; We made them aware of the situation.”

We all know that social media comments are public, even with private accounts. However, if comments are pulled out of context it could place a more negative light on the subject. Were there any posts that praised students?  The four published tweets Mr. Hocker focused on were published within a six month time period. For instance, this is another social media post from that same teacher:

Failure to provide context for the published tweets seems like an almost intentional attempt to shed as negative a light as possible on this individual. In fact, the reporter uses the fact that the teacher shut down the account as justification for the story.

IMG_3943

This contradicts all ethical considerations for professional journalists. The most important guideline, especially when dealing with private individuals, is the concept that journalists should minimize harm. This concept focuses on the idea that journalists should treat subjects, sources, colleagues and the public as people deserving of respect. It’s clear in the lack of research and context provided here, the reporter chose to sidestep this ethical standard. This single tweet from Mr. Hocker harshly critiquing the subject of his story shows his inability to meet this standard.

File_000

As a former media professional and current adviser to incoming journalists, I would hope community members would hold our media professionals to a higher standard.

In fact, if we take Mr. Hocker’s reporting approach and apply it to his own social media presence, we may find his official VNL (Valley News Live) Twitter account may violate his own company’s policy. Valley News Live is owned by Gray Television. In their handbook, they explain the importance of remaining objective with regard to partisan politics. It states:

“Gray’s image as a neutral and objective news organization is an indispensable journalistic attribute. The Company therefore expects that all employees will keep their personal political interests and affiliation separate and distinct from their employment with Gray and its affiliated stations. In addition, everyone involved in the production of news or editorial content must avoid situations that might be seen as compromising the integrity and impartiality that the employee, the employee’s news team, Gray’s stations, and Gray must maintain.”

For background, Mr. Hocker’s own blog, which appears to be from college, sheds some light on his political affiliation. Regarding a Fox news commentary program he states “I will never watch Fox News again.” Regarding the 2012 debates and former President Barack Obama he states, “My candidate, and President, misspoke on a few topics, but there is a difference between mixing up facts and completely changing your platform. I’m happy with how my President handled himself and I’m looking forward to the upcoming debates”

As a private blog from prior to his employment with Gray Television, these comments would not necessarily fall under the handbook guidelines. However, looking at Mr. Hocker’s official VNL Twitter timeline, partisan politics seems to appear

 

Mr. Hocker’s political allegiance is pretty clear through these messages from his professional VNL account. Whether it violates the Gray Television policy is not for me to decide, but a professional reporter overtly providing partisan opinions from a professional account should be concerning.

This apparent bias is especially concerning in the situation involving a public school employee. It is difficult to see this reporting as anything other than commentary when considering the reporter’s professional bias and lack of journalistic decency. This becomes even more disheartening considering the reporting stemmed from a single, anonymous, parent complaint.

As a public school teacher who interacts with hundreds of students each year and who has dealt with my share of parental concerns, I would hope professional media members would dig a little deeper before shedding a negative light on another professional. At a time when society is reevaluating effective reporting and public schools are under attack, there needs to be a higher ethical standard for which we all strive to achieve.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The art of balancing expression

Leave a comment

Given my history, readers can assume I am a strong believer in free speech and expression. In order to achieve growth and progress in education, there needs to be a balance between professional responsibility among teachers and educational policy. Unfortunately, in my district it seems as though the scales are increasingly becoming tipped toward personnel policy management.

This past summer, my district passed a new employee speech policy. The policy went into effect without much fanfare or publicity, which is another disappointing lack of transparency. The first line of the policy states “Speech made as a school district employee is not constitutionally protected.” The policy also includes “Speech made by staff in their official capacity as school district employees shall furthermore be in keeping with the district’s mission statement.” Incidentally, my district mission statement is “Educating today’s learners for tomorrow’s world.” Guidelines and policies governing employee speech are a necessity in today’s reality; however, these restrictions seem to not only be legally questionable, but also an effort to suppress employee expression to protect district liability.

The legality of the first statement in the policy is concerning. Supreme Court cases Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) and Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) reveal that this statement is inaccurate. In fact, the Tinker majority decision states “students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse door.” Overreaching statements stating employees are “not constitutionally protected”(and the last statement of the student publications policy) cause unnecessary self-censorship and result in an educational learning experience that fails to meet the district mission.

To complicate the speech restrictions, district officials also implemented a social media policy where it explains “… all West Fargo Public Schools social media accounts are a voice for the school district.” The social media requirements include creating the account with a district email and sharing the password with district officials. In addition to the security red flags, this system of communication is neither authentic nor meant to continue a conversation about improving the academic environment. If employees feel they can’t share their opinions openly and honestly in a public forum, any organization will struggle to improve.

In his book Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros encourages administrators and leaders to “create the conditions where innovation in education flourishes.” He adds “Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.” It’s important to remember that a “pile on” of restrictive policies can hurt teacher retention and prohibit innovative thinking from both students and teachers. Just as strict Internet filters limit a student’s ability to stretch his/her thinking via limiting resources, strict policies on employee speech prevent a free flow of ideas to assist with improvement of the overall educational experience.

My advocacy for student expression is directly related to my philosophy that students need to operate in an environment that will help them sharpen their citizenship skills and prepare them to be productive members of their future communities. In this same way, district administrators should foster expression among staff members to encourage fresh ideas and innovative changes. If staff members are leery of expressing their challenges on the status quo, creating a digital footprint or using controversial current events for class discussion, it only serves to weaken this citizenship standard and short-change our students.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

 

 

 

 

 

Value in transparency 

1 Comment

I have always been a firm believer in transparency. That’s probably what drew me to journalism early in my career. I believe in the role of the press to keep public entities accountable and always respected those organizations that operated with true transparency.

This is why scholastic journalism plays such an important role in today’s schools. Students are telling stories that some might consider controversial. These stories lead to a bigger dialogue on the issue covered. Last year, a student published a story about a student who had been bullied and sought freedom by transferring schools. Obviously, not terrific PR for the district, but an important issue to discuss. A local media outlet picked up the story and other students started stepping forward, feeling more courageous after seeing this young man’s bravery. It all began with the student press.

In August of 2015, North Dakota’s John Wall New Voices Act went into effect. It protects student journalists from being prevented from telling these stories. It also requires all school districts create a policy outlining their students’ press freedoms. Ironically, in 2008, before being terminated as newspaper adviser, I asked my district to create such a policy in order to provide transparent direction and guidelines. The legal counsel for the school board informed me that the district would prefer to not have a policy because they like the “flexibility” they currently have. That was disappointing to hear at the time, but made more sense after being removed. Transparency obviously was not valued at that time.

In late August of 2015, I offered to assist in the creation of the policy, figuring my years of experience and certifications in the area might help. I was informed the district is seeking input from its legal counsel (that’s right, same legal counsel from 2009) and the North Dakota School Board Association. A spokesperson told me they would seek input from district media advisers soon. A meeting was set with advisers and administrators for the end of October. We met and I voiced my concerns about the final line of the policy “The superintendent’s decision is binding.” I explained this seemed a little undemocratic and, while we currently have a superintendent who would remain objective, that might not always be the case. Afterall, the former superintendent was the primary factor in my removal in 2009. I was told these concerns would be discussed with the current superintendent. Unfortunately, I discovered that the student publications policy was officially adopted Sept. 29th, a month before we met. This was far from transparent.

I understand the district schedules meetings and evaluates policies based on a predetermined timeline. The disappointing factor in this scenario is the lack of clarity on what had already been accomplished. Failing to provide a clear picture of their policy direction should not be surpising for a district that has seven policies governing general public relations and only one policy governing organizational communication. If district leaders truly value professional input and advocate for teachers, they would reconsider the current organizational communication method.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The reality of transition

Leave a comment

Yesterday I was visiting with my wife, an instructional coach in the same district, about the difficult days leading up to the school year. Our three daughters are adjusting to different schedules, we are trying to prepare professionally all while trying to soak up the last summer days together. My wife, Tamara, eloquently calls it “the reality of transition.”

It reminded me of this:

august

This transition is made more difficult due to a documented lack of engagement in the profession. A “Fast Company” article by Brandon Busteed references a Gallup poll stating that 69 percent of educators are engaged in their work and “teachers are dead last among all professions Gallup studied in saying their ‘opinions count’ at work and their ‘supervisors create an open and trusting environment.'” With these numbers, it’s no wonder that almost three quarters of teachers dread the coming school year.

Teachers are not alone in the tumult of transition. This same Gallup poll found engagement drops dramatically among students as they progress through school. In elementary school, 76 percent of students feel engaged, while only 44 percent of high school students feel engaged. The lack of engagement among both teachers and students should alarm all educational professionals. It is hard to quantify the countless hours I spent modifying curriculum requirements to attempt a more engaging approach with students. Now I’m beginning to think we need to start reimagining the process, rather than enhancing the existing strategies.

In his TedX video “The Surprising Truth about Learning in Schools”, Will Richardson quotes author Seymour Sarason when describing the learning process. Sarason wrote “Productive learning is where the process engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning context is unproductive.” The term “productive learning” resonated with me. In my career, I have struggled to instrinsically motivate students to engage with my curriculum. I used to joke, “if I could solve student motivation issues, I would be rich.” I even went before ND English teachers and presented various tools to help students engage with curriculum. I now think I was searching for solutions within the prescribed curricular box.

While reading George Couros book “Innovator’s Mindset” he discussed the topic of engagement. He writes “Engagement is a good thing, but I’ve since learned that we must also empower students and equip them with the skills to learn. It is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them.” He uses this graphic from Bill Ferriter to clarify his message. 


Transitioning into the upcoming school year, I do not consider myself in the 69 percent of unengaged teachers (although that may have been true in the past). This is primarily because I’m in the process of reimagining my classroom. I’m hoping students will be surprised when they discover their student-centered English course is unlike anything they have experienced before. This will involve a student-centered approach where they will be managers of their own learning experience. It will involve professional community mentors to help students bridge that gap to their next steps. And it will involve authentic products for authentic, real-world audiences.

Late summer has a new feel in my household. My wife, in her new role as a coach, is excited to assist new teachers in their quest to provide the best possible instruction for their students. It is also the first time in years where I have been excited to get back into the classroom. I’m always searching for new strategies and philosophies to provide my students an advantage upon graduation. Offering opportunities for “productive learning” will provide the transforming transition I need, but more importantly my students deserve.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

The antsy time of year

1 Comment

We are two-thirds of the way through our school year. Usually, this is the time period in which students start to get antsy. Winter is dragging on, gray skies remain consistent and school breaks are rare. While that may be the case again this year, I also find myself becoming increasingly unsettled as the year progresses.

My uneasiness this year is a culmination of years of reflection on my classroom mission. My district has taken on new initiatives the past few years (as all districts do) to solve the well-documented, disconnected nature between high school graduates and work place preparedness. One emphasis has been allowing teachers to communicate with business professionals in the area, discussing the skills they most want to see in potential employees and focusing on the four C’s (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication). Another emphasis is more data-driven and focused on curriculum continuity and viability. We have aligned ELA curriculum to the ND Common Core State Standards and redesigned units to address possible gaps. We have created common unit assessments, focusing on what we believe to be the most important standards, and we are required to meet and discuss assessment results to evaluate our teaching effectiveness. The implementation of these two areas no doubt costs money and time. However, these initiatives are becoming increasingly  contradictory.

The research and literature discussing skill-building for today’s work force mostly addresses the same concept: schools are missing the most important factors for encouraging future success. In his book Why School?, Will Richardson argues that schools are becoming obsolete. He says we are still operating under an “old world” system when teachers and information were scarce, instead of the current abundance of information that is reality. He says we should be focusing on “preparing students to be learners, above all, who can successfully wield the abundance at their fingertips. It’s a kind of schooling that prepares students for the world they will live in, not the one in which most of us grew up.” Instead of creating “learners”, it feels like we are putting an emphasis on the most assessable skills, not the most important.

Earlier this year my team created a learning goal for students for the purpose of evaluating our own professional growth. Of course, like many districts across the country, it needed to fit the parameters of a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). We were told to look at the skills we value most at our grade level and attempt to build student growth. Here’s the problem, as a freshmen English team, we struggled to find ways to measure the most valuable skills we wanted students to attain. This struggle was multi-faceted: 1) the goal window consisted of 60 school days, or one-third of the year 2) we needed the assessment to be uniform and 3) it had to be an important skill set. As the graph below represents, the most important skills are the most difficult to assess, especially given the time parameters set forth by a SMART goal.

 

B7uNQ44CEAAvLC0

 

As a team, we settled on improving students’ comma usage to meet 80 percent proficiency according to a uniform scoring rubric. I can barely type it without getting bored. Ironically enough, an administrator rejected it and explained that “comma usage did not seem like something we have a passion for.” That is 100 percent correct. Unfortunately, all the areas we are passionate about are difficult to assess given the SMART goal parameters: critical thinking, resiliency, empathy, curiosity, creativity, etc. To appease the process, we broadened the goal and focused more on student growth than students reaching proficiency. It was still a “basic skill” on the “less important” side of the scale, but definitely easier to provide a uniform, viable assessment.

The process reminded me of a post from a couple of years ago by Dean Shareski (@shareski). He says I’m not anti-measurement. I’m anti- simple. It’s the same reason I hated SMART goals. When the concept was first introduced to me as a teacher it seemed to make sense.  You can’t improve what you can’t measure I was told. However, in all the years I was subjected to that idea, I don’t think I ever wrote one that I cared about. The moment I tried created a goal I realized it would be hard to measure. So instead I focused on writing goals that were easy to measure just to be able to say I had a SMART goal.” Like Shareski, I believe in accountability and student growth, but it should be more flexible to meet the needs of today’s learners. 

We need to align our purpose. We can’t continue to restrict student assessments to a simplified, out-dated system and expect to prepare them for an ever-changing employment environment of complexity and “abundance.” In his book, Richardson refers to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) definition of 21st Century Literacies. He argues that the majority of students today are graduating “illiterate” by these standards. It is hard to disagree when we are required to narrow our focus to meet a restricting criteria.

It won’t be as simple or cut and dry, but we should look at systems that evaluate today’s 21st Century literacies. This also means examining a self-directed professional development approach and a longer, messier process to measure professional effectiveness. In the end, it will allow us to evaluate whether we are really developing “learners”.  It will provide more meaningful results that will have an impact on student learning for years to come.

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at jpmurphy@west-fargo.k12.nd.us.

Older Entries