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Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?

A new policy in Memphis will take student reports into consideration when evaluating a teacher. But can kids recognize a good one?

My first year teaching in Compton, California, I asked some of my students who they thought was the meanest teacher in the school. The consensus was unanimous: "Ms. Wysinger is SO mean! She makes you do all your homework. If you don't, you miss your recess. And she's always giving quizzes. And you can't talk in her class." After a few minutes of venting, the students conceded, "Yeah, I guess she's cool sometimes." I spent lots of time in Ms. Wysinger's room learning from her because indeed, she was serious about teaching—and her students' grades and test scores were correspondingly phenomenal. So when I recently read about a new teacher evaluation plan approved for the Memphis Public Schools where student opinions will now count for five percent, I couldn't help but wonder how students would mark the no-nonsense teachers like her.

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Superb Idea: Have Students Role-Play the College Recruiting Process

It's not enough to tell kids to go to college. You have to invest them in the idea, too.

Teachers always tell students to "go to college" but if the kids don't know anybody who's actually gone, it can be pretty tough to sell them on voluntarily heading somewhere that seems unfamiliar and abstract. So Tobie Lynn Tranchina, a fourth-grade English as a Second Language teacher at Terrytown Elementary in suburban New Orleans, came up with a brilliant solution. She solicited college brochures and applications from a slew of schools and created an innovative project to familiarize her kids with college and invest them in continuing their education.

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Mock Slave Auctions: How Not to Teach Kids About America's History

When it come to educating kids about slavery, teachers should think twice about the appropriateness of their hands on learning activities.


When it comes to educating kids about the Civil War and slavery, teachers might want to think twice about the appropriateness of their experiential learning activities. According to the Washington Post, Jessica Boyle, a fourth grade teacher at Sewells Point Elementary School in Norfolk chose to teach a lesson on the Civil War by turning her classroom into a slave auction. Boyle segregated her students—black and mixed race students on one side of the room, and white students on the other. The teacher then had the white students, all around ten years old, play the role of slave master and take turns purchasing their black and biracial peers.

The incident came to light after parents, understandably, complained. The school's principal, Mary B. Wrushen, sent a letter home stating that although Boyle's "actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students." Wrushen said the lesson was not supported by the school or district and acknowledged that it "could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation."

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