March 21st, 2012
02:27 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

The Salt Lake Tribune: Herbert vetoes sex-ed bill, says it constricts parental choice
Utah's governor has vetoed a bill that would mandate that public schools could either have abstinence-only sex education programs or no sex education program at all. The governor says the existing law, which gives parents the choice of whether their children receive sex education or not, is sufficient.

Education Week: Bridging Differences: The Lesson of Florida
Florida's legislature recently rejected a "parent trigger" bill that would have given parents the power to overhaul local public schools. Diane Ravitch says parents figured out that for-profit charter companies, not parents, would have been the real beneficiaries.

New York Times: Room for Debate: Make Sure Parents, not Companies, Have Power
When it comes to parent trigger laws, Amy Wilkins says parents need to be involved in the decisions setting up the new school as much as they were involved in dismantling the old one. School board members get perks while teachers lose jobs
Greenfield Union School District recently laid off 23 teachers. The school board said that it had cut the budget to the bone to lessen the impact on teachers, but some people think one more budget item should be eliminated – the elected board's $59,000 health care plan.

Edutopia: Create a Good Environment for Studying at Home
Psychologist Art Markman gives his advice for an effective studying environment. Markman says students need a consistent environment to truly develop their study habits.

March 21st, 2012
06:10 AM ET

My View: Helping students overcome their fear of the unknown

Courtesy Christine Rackowitz By Todd Rackowitz, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Todd Rackowitz teaches math in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. A National Board Certified Teacher since 2001, he is a member of his district’s mathematics leadership team as well as the Center for Teaching Quality’s team for Implementing Common Core Standards. You can follow Todd on Twitter @TRackowitz.

I have been teaching for 19 years and, like most teachers, have learned more from my experiences in the classroom than by any other means. As a new teacher, though, I had fewer resources to lean on. When I started my teaching career at a dropout prevention school, I drew on my experience of teaching swimming lessons during my summers in high school. I quickly learned that the students at this school weren’t at risk of dropping out because they hated school; they were at risk because of their fear of school. Like the group of swimmers I had taught years before, it wasn’t that they didn’t like the water; it’s that they were scared of it.

Below are some practices I learned from teaching swimming lessons that I have found useful when teaching at-risk students (and students who are just intimidated by math).

1. Let students be the experts.

To deal with young swimmers’ fear of water, for the first few days, I spent the one-hour lesson sitting with the 4- and 5-year-olds in the baby pool. We splashed, we played, but mostly, we talked. We talked about what they did the night before, what they had for dinner, what toys they liked and all sorts of stuff that interested them. Sometimes I would share what I knew about the topic, but for the most part, I listened and let them teach me about what they liked. They were the experts, and I was the student.

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Filed under: Practice • Teachers • Voices