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Instructor at Bartlett High School & the Illinois Virtual School

I like the idea of this

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I like the idea of this article that we are responsible as teachers to help our students become better students. We don't need a national one size fits all program like NCLB, we need, in each of our classrooms, to try to get each of our kids from where they are, to what would be the next best step for them. The problem however with an article like this is that it is a bunch of bullet points, written so that somebody can publish something as an article, but it is not really a practical step-by-step "how to" program of how to actually do it. In flipping my two world history classes last semester, I experienced face-to-face time with students more than probably 99.9% of teachers in America, and I mean that literally. You cannot have a class structured in such a way to get more face time than what I had on a daily basis. My experience then, presents a practical limit of how far personalized education from a teacher to a class for about 32 students can be. So I can say with a fair amount of certainty after this experience that it's not possible to give each student what they need. I'm not talking theory now I'm talking about what I actually experienced in the classroom where I was from the beginning to the end of the period involved face-to-face with individual students. Some of my more challenged and lazier students would have just about needed a full-time one to one tutor to actually really make much advance. What a student is really lacking in a certain skill it's not something you're going to fix even if you spend 10 minutes every day with them. And if you do spend 10 minutes every day with them think of all the other students who are not being helped by you. So an article like this seems to be helpful toward helping us help students but my message would be we need to set much more humble goals based on the limitations of the current class sizes we have the most public schools. That is being responsible, practical - not a sellout or resignation of duty. Give me the article that will help me in the trenches to begin doing one or two things, the first baby steps. You can read about my journey with flipping at

Virtual School Coordinator, St. Lucie Public Schools

Enjoyed this post very much.

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Enjoyed this post very much. When students take charge of their learning, their experience is authentic. Educators need to focus on modeling to students how to be authentic learners and spend less time perfecting teaching methods. Our presence on the classroom stage has little value if our students are not engaged in learning now and for the future.
Love all of the comments to Ben's post as well!

Secondary School Principal - Saint Maur Int'l School - Yokohama, Japan

Ben, Thanks so much for

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Thanks so much for putting down your thoughts. I agree that we put far too much emphasis on 'quality teachers' while if we focus on creating 'quality learners' (I see this as students and adults modeling life-long learning) then we naturally develop as a learning community. Beyond your 5 keys listed above, I would add that we need to give opportunities to create resilience and adaptability as well as experimentation in risk-free environments where kids can learn at their own pace and fail without criticism. Rather failure is seen a crucial part of the learning process. I appreciate also that you've included technology tools and the (mind blowing - read with sarcasm) concept of 'find out how I could help each student'. It's really pretty simple when you think about it but it takes us all encouraging this student-centered paradigm shift consistently to get us to a tipping point where we will make a difference for the whole child in order to prepare them for their future.
Thanks again, Ben!
- Trent

Montessori Teacher primary years, Follows global educational movements

I hope your helpful points

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I hope your helpful points can encourage teachers to be a part of the process which creates great students. Your first few paragraphs highlight the huge current issue of disconnection of the teachers towards their students. Why? Teachers are constantly trying to put up with so many fronts that the most important one; to know each student's talent and personality , becomes unintentionally ignored.
Most of your wonderful suggestions can only come to play effectively if the school administration & the official culture allow teachers to "observe" their students more often in different scenarios. (your points: FIND OUT HOW I CAN HELP EACH STUDENT& FIND OUT WHAT THE STUDENTS WANT TO EXPLORE). As Piaget says: "What we see changes what we know. What we know changes what we see."
These observations can be recorded in the form of photos, shorthand, digital voice recorder or the classic and simple jot-down-my-notes in a small notebook with initials of the students on a separate page. A simple daily journal will help teachers to track their own ideas and observations as well as their students feedback and responses.
The teacher who "observes" more and talks less co-relates to your point of (SPEND LESS TIME DRILLING AND DRONING AND MORE TIME WITH HANDS-ON).
Dr. Montessori said in Education for the New World: “Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”
Thank you for allowing unlimited words for comments...

Ninth-Twelfth grade Chinese teacher from Highland Park, Illinois

Inspiring article. Thank you!

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Inspiring article.
Thank you! I am inspired and excited and would love to do what you advised. Is it possible for you to give me an example of a mini unit on how to do it?

Chairperson ~ PACE (Parents Advocating Challenge in Education)

I like the consistent

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I like the consistent emphasis on "authenticity": through connections, in situations they may encounter, in opportunities for exploration, goal-setting, and individualized learning. This level of engagement requires, and students most definitely merit,
teachers that are free to write and plan their own curriculum, to created individualized, student-directed goals, to build upon and nurture for growth student's strengths, and to assess growth and achievement in a meaningful way. There is no room for a cookie-cutter approach if true engagement and student-centered learning is the desired outcome.

Educational Consultant/Author, Southern California

Take the learning home.

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Take the learning home. Families and teachers joined together-nothing more dynamic than that. Maybe you could give further input on how to create that relationship with student's families in a future article.

Educator,Speaker, Coaching Students and Teachers towards Passion and Goals

Great points Ben. This is

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Great points Ben. This is exactly what I have been working on. I have been asking students what they expect to get out of their time in school. Encouraging them to have an expectation for a return on their investment of time and energy in school. I most recently asked them about their goal for 2014, how I can help them, and what they want to learn in 2014. Thanks for the post.

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