Rethink Tracking: A Shift to Educational Lanes

It seems educators are all too quick to jump on any sign of separating students who learn differently and call it “tracking.”

Rather than offhandedly dismissing ability-based grouping, we need to rethink the traditional concept of tracking and consider how we can best serve students of varying skill levels.

Tracking: The Dirty Word in Education
I have students in my ELA classes who read on levels ranging from third to tenth grade. My colleagues teaching on the 9th, 11th and 12th grade have a mixture of the same.

* “What if we put all the students reading on a 3rd to 5th grade reading level together,” one teacher suggested recently at a department meeting. “We’d be able to concentrate on reading strategies and vocabulary on the level they’re at.”

This logical suggestions was quickly met by the question:

* “But isn’t that tracking?” (Subtext: Tracking is evil and to be avoided at all costs).

Jumping the Track
I think the negative connotation that comes with tracking stems from the idea that once on a track, there’s no getting off of it. Perhaps we should instead think of lanes. Just because you are in a slower moving lane at one point of your journey down the highway, it’s not impossible to move to a quicker lane by signaling and waiting for the right opportunity. Classes could be thought of the same way. Students may spend some time in one lane, and then change lanes midway through the year or even the semester if they’re ready.

We have students who come to us from different countries speaking little English, but who are highly motivated. They begin in ELA classes which best support them as ELL’s but there is nothing that says that after a semester or a year, they can’t move into an ELA class with the rest of their cohort if they have the skills. Many have. Why do we treat students born in this country but with different sets of skills, differently?

A Shift to Educational Lanes
I’ve recently been to a few workshops around personal mastery learning. The idea is to create more opportunities in schools to meet the needs of each student as if the school were designed with her or him alone in mind. Students would meet with others in their same skill set or learning style, or interest group for a portion of the school day and work with students from other skill levels or styles at other times.

In this way, students shift lanes throughout the day, and are not stuck on one track per se. We all recognize that students learn at different paces and in different ways and yet the standard model of education today insists that they all be taught together in the same room at the same time, only with all the different levels and styles of learning offered at once. As utopian as this sounds, what happens more often than not is traffic. Students who could be moving quicker are held up. Students who need more attention are left behind.

There is a need to exist a variety of lanes in education today, where students have options and outlets to meet their learning levels, styles and interests. Similar to a college model where students select majors, students, at least on the high school level, should be given more options for changing lanes instead of either stalling on the track they’re in or rear ending the car in front of them.

A Few Words on Educators in Career Transition

Educators are people with Intestinal Fortitude. They are people with courage and perseverance to stand up in front of a group and speak to them with authority; not everyone can do that. Persistence, too, is a quality that is characteristic of Educators. They learn early in their profession that it is important not give up on people, but instead set clear goals and make every ounce of their energy available to others in order to help them reach those goals. Educators are also extraordinarily perceptive, trained to listen, to be sensitive to the reactions of others, and to gain feedback as to whether or not their message gets through. If the cliché is true that 90% of the problems of most businesses could be solved by better communication, then people with those skills would be in demand … and they are! You can find them leading programs within businesses and as public relations specialists and “change agents”.
Here are some other perspectives on Educators:

Educators are disciplined organizers who must learn early on in their careers to manage their time and that of others, wisely. Although their classroom hours may be structured for them, all that they do in the preparation and creation of new approaches and the monitoring, et al is performed in an unsupervised environment. This means that they have to set the structure themselves, on their own time, and maintain the discipline required to keep at it. Have you ever known an Educator who does not have strong scheduling, planning, time management and administrative skills? Just to be minimally effective requires careful planning as to course content, materials to be used, pace of learning, plus the optimum mix of role playing, testing, lecturing, drill, and more – very similar to project managers in business and industry.

Educators ARE project managers – and good ones too! They HAVE to be in order to get through the day, week and year. They are normally assigned duties beyond the classroom: Parent and teacher meetings; conferences; professional development workshops; associations meetings; coursework; and presiding over one or more student activities. It is left up to them to provide the organizational structure, goals, milestones for progress, and they are the final authority on matters that might be in dispute. At the same time, they have to understand group dynamics, build consensus, and enlist/enroll others to contribute so that they get the most out of the raw enthusiasm and talent that their students can bring to an activity. Too, it is they who see that things get done and the objectives are met, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute.

If an Educator fails to function well as an expert project manager and leader, the evidence is glaring and staring them in the face. A poor newspaper article, a yearbook that doesn’t come out on time, a junior prom that flops, an art show with unfinished projects, an archaeology club with no field trips… lack of results has immediate and harsh consequences. When you think about it, time after time and year after year, Educators as a group do turn in outstanding performances in these many roles they are asked to fill.

Educators are also creative professionals. They continually find new and refreshing ways to present material and make it interesting. They are adept at thinking on their feet, solving problems, taking on new challenges and managing “surprises” such as the audience that looks for inconsistencies in an attempt to trip them up if can – it makes news.

Educators are Public Relations, Communications and Community Affairs professionals as they are regularly involved with group and individual sessions with parents/providers/administrators/unions/board members… Often different aspects of the community are touched by Educators’ activities, thus tactful and carefully thought-out communications is a must. This has become especially critical in recent years as schools have been asked to take over more and more of the roles formerly filled by families and the community. For those who are creative and/or thrive on new challenges, it’s a jolt of adrenalin every day.

Educators are Counselors and Consultants. They are expected to provide the psychological and emotional support that many of their students AND families require. They also counsel and consult with each other. This requires the qualities of a good listener, advanced communications skills, a person who gets beyond the symptoms to the causes, a perceptive person who is supportive, compassionate and bold … all these come to the foreground in the Educators who function as counselor and consultant. And finally…

Educators are trainers, motivators and coaches too. They take bodies of information and then design and implement procedures to make sure that audiences (clients, classes, teams) absorb that information. But they do more: They teach people to think for themselves and to develop the skills they need to learn on their own. This creative group of leaders, public relations professionals, program managers and trainers instill a desire in their listeners to take an interest in the subject matter and to work hard at mastering it. When you consider that they do not always have a willing audience, and that the subject matter is not always of the greatest interest to the audience, their motivating feats can be appreciated more fully! They are what’s more, the ideal trainer.

Many formal Educators are General Managers who have started and run small businesses during the summer. It makes little difference whether it is a concession stand at the shore, a landscaping or house painting company, part ownership in a local restaurant; a summer camp, a basketball clinic or running tours for students. In any of these businesses, they learn what it means to meet a payroll and what cash flow and generating revenue are all about; and they learn to deal with the pressures involved in making a profit. They understand the importance of systems to control operations, costs and quality, and tat of good customer service … and “selling” too. They oversee operations, plan direction, serve as spokespersons, train and organize, recruit and motivate, and more. They know how to “act in the moment” and make adjustments when things aren’t going as planned. These Educators also understand logistics and supply chain and many other aspects fundamental to running a business. In general, they can do almost anything good managers of successful small to mid-size businesses can do, and accordingly, for all the Educators who have run or helped others run businesses, there are tens of thousands of potential employers, and that include just about every small and medium-sized business in the U.S.

There you have it … just a few words on Educators! Hopes this helps someone.

Yours truly!


Promote Your Coaching Classes With Promotional Pens

Are you into a teaching profession? If you have just started your coaching class you need some marketing techniques that can help you spread the word about your coaching classes. Education is soon becoming the most important thing around the world and millions of students around the world need some kind of help that would secure them in getting good grades. Hence, we can many coaching classes coming up around in every locality. If you are just one of the local institutions that offer education to school students you need a marketing tool that is simple and effective.

The best tool you can use for the marketing of your coaching classes is promotional pens because they are symbolic for education. Promotional pens are very effective when it comes to education institutions because you can claim it as the weapon that students can use to shape their future and also in shaping the world. The overall cost of promotional pens will not burn a hole in your wallet and therefore you can easily afford it. If your marketing budget is not high then promotional pens are best option that you have. However, you need to be very particular about the pens you are distributing.

If you are offering promotional items like pens to your students you need to ensure that the color and design of the pen matches with the color of your business logo. Hence, always go for simple designs which look elegant and attractive. You can get in touch with various pen suppliers in the market and discuss how you can use the best pens available in the market to lure more students. If the supplier is really experience he can provide you with some helpful tips that you can try out and see if that really makes any sense.

You can also go for simple pens with loop that students can wear in the neck. Such pens are ideal for students because they don’t need to carry them all along. They can wear the loop around their neck and that also works as a banner for your educational institution. On the other hand, if you are going gift these pens to students of higher classes then you can go for better quality pens that would make a lasting impression on students and their parents as well. Hence, you can make use of promotional gift items like pens and spread information about your coaching classes.