Indiana Education Paired Texts

March 2017 – Indiana to lose $56 million in public school funding under Trump budget

September 2017 – Indiana receives $59 million grant to expand charter schools

September 2017 – Hoosier Virtual Academy, an online charter, to close in June

The DeVos DOE and Indiana education politics continue to lead the way in removing resources from public institutions to funnel them to charter programs.

Hoosier Virtual serves 1,800 students. It has been marked as a failing school on our state evaluation system for six years in a row. If this were a public institution, it would have been put under state oversight and continued to operate on an improvement plan. But, because it’s a charter program, it’s shuttering in June 2018. One of the school board members for Hoosier Virtual is a political appointee of Mike Pence to the Indiana State Board of Education.

I shared this under the #pairedtexts hashtag started by Jenn Binis. It’s great.

Wednesday, 28th, The dunces corner IMG_0400 flickr photo by tomylees shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

No, Today’s Students Don’t Learn Differently

If you’re working in instructional support (#edtech, instructional tech, learning support…whatever you want to call it) you’ve probably heard, “Today’s students just learn differently.”

No they don’t.

Writers will write. Storytellers will tell stories. Musicians will make music. Athletes will compete.

People have drives to be creative, curious, playful, impactful, relevant…

What’s different is the fact that school rams them through a system which actively works to standardize as much of the process as possible. We’ve built a system which prevents students from using the outlets available to show off their learning. By default, the system eliminates creative, playful, impactful work.

Today’s students don’t learn differently.

Standardized Test flickr photo by biologycorner shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

What I’m finding is that teachers, when shown methods and tools that give students opportunities to be creative, are surprised at how learning changes. As they struggle to characterize what’s happening, the easiest explanation is that today’s students are just “different.”

We fail to recognize that it doesn’t take a computer to allow students to engage. My job is to help teachers figure out how to get out of the way. The challenge is to make sure that teachers see instructional benefit in shifting practice with – or without – the technology in the classroom.

Featured image is Creative Playground flickr photo by Radoslav Minchev shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Sages and Lunatics: Danger in the Classroom

This is the second post in a series reflecting on John Spencer’s Sages and Lunatics

The machete was dangerous that day.

There is power that comes with learning. Ideas are born; worldviews are constructed. As we learn, we are forced to fit that new information into our existing perceptions and biases. As teachers, we have the ability to guide students and help them navigate and wield the power they gain. John uses the metaphor of a education being a machete: it can be a powerful tool as we explore and discover, but it can also be used to manipulate and destroy.

How often do we avoid the machete in our classrooms? Is it the role of the teacher to protect students from the danger that comes from learning?

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Nina Matthews Photography

I wonder how dangerous my classroom was. Mine may have been doubly dangerous because of chemicals and pointy tools, but physical danger is easier to deal with than emotional. I had safeguards and policies in place to protect students.

I fear that my classroom may not have been intellectually dangerous.

Did I avoid the machete because I was protecting my students? Or because I was protecting myself?

It has become easier to avoid the tough questions because they “aren’t within the scope of the course.” Standardization has fooled us into thinking that we don’t have time to cover eugenics, genetic modification of crops, and the commercialization of our diets. Why talk about abortion or birth defects? Topic avoidance in the interest of covering the standards is accepted when it should be reviled.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and is an educator’s curse. I try not to think about missed opportunities with students, but they stay fresh. I’ve learnt to be aware of danger and more receptive to the idea of running straight in. Rather than fearing the gray areas, I want to embrace them.

Sages and Lunatics: Teacher as Identity

This is the first post in a series reflecting on John Spencer’s Sages and Lunatics.

A report came out in early May with data showing college students saw teaching as one of the easiest majors to follow and said that teaching was the top profession for “average” people. In the wake of the report, there have been calls for more stringent teacher preparation, making certification tests harder, and encouraging alternative, more “rigorous” methods of teacher certification from the private sector.

Teachers are a strange breed. Heading into the job, we know that there will be long hours, little pay, and unfair expectations put on us and our students. Yet, we walk into the building every day, excited about the possibilities. I never considered teaching a “job.” It wasn’t just something I did to pay the bills.


John brings up an interesting idea in Sages: Perhaps we aren’t paid to teach. Perhaps we are paid so we can teach. (Actually, Brad the Philosopher brings it up, but John wrote it down).

I’ve written on this before, but even being out of the classroom for more than a year, I still jump to say I’m a teacher when asked what I do. It’s in my heart. I think about schools, curriculum, students, and instruction all. The. Time.

Is it possible that you are paid so that you can teach? In other words, you are a teacher. It’s who you are. You can’t avoid it.

I got to thinking, would you still teach if you didn’t get paid? In other words, if you could do nothing but teach while not worrying about bills or other financial constraints, would you commit your life to doing so?

Teachers – whether you know it or not – you are some of the most trusted people in society. Parents send their children to you every day for instruction, for nurturing, for support, and they do so often without ever meeting you face to face. Aside from the obvious problems with the reality of parent engagement, this is an incredible burden. I’m also left wondering how schools, how communities, would change if we look at teaching from the point of view of the trust they’ve put into us.

Yet we take this burden without question. We welcome the happy, the sad, the hungry, and the lonely without question. In our rooms, we see the children and we pour our hearts into them. The time we invest with each child every year is second only to their parents…how are you spending that time? Teaching isn’t a job. Teaching is a lifestyle.

My name is Brian E. Bennett, and I’m a teacher.

Fingerprint icon by Yaroslav Samoilov on The Noun Project CC BY 3.0

These are some of my favorite things…

favorite things and some other junk

CC by NC-SA by Brian Bennett

In a spinoff from the

Colorize It and Focus on One Color, I took a photo of my desk at home and then colorized some of my favorite things that surround me each day.

This also makes me think about how much junk I have on my desk. Maybe it’s time to make some strategic decisions and cut down on stuff I haven’t looked at it too long.

I did this pretty quickly in GIMP. I took the photo, duplicated the original and made the copied layer monochrome. Then, I applied a white layer mask and used the free select tool to get nice, crisp lines. I then filled those spaces with black to erase the mask and let the colors show through.

The thumbnail will take you to the full-res photo.

The Greatest Struggle, Part II

I’m trying to capture the small moments each day with short posts. I feel like I glaze over these moments too quickly and I lose out on one of the joys of teaching.

Today, I had a chance to work with a couple of girls really struggling with a concept. I rephrased, remediated, and gave new examples. The frustration was tangible and you could tell they were thinking harder than they’d been asked to in a while.

Then, it broke. The light bulbs went on and the got it. And I mean they got it.

Meaning gets lost in quick answers. I could have easily just told them what to do step-by-step, but at what cost? It is painful to watch and our instincts as teachers tell us to swoop in and save the day. Let the kids struggle sometimes. It’s worth the pain.