As we celebrate World Teachers Day 2016, I want to thank my teaching colleagues around the world for daring to take on this extraordinary profession, for spending long hours honing a unique set of skills, for teaching generations to come how to mine their own capacities and for helping our young people forge a stronger, more resilient and problem-solving oriented world community.
As I look back on the years I spent teaching in the tribal lands of Zuni, New Mexico, in a rural schoolhouse in Brazil, in an overcrowded classroom in Egypt, at a central university in Jordan, and at an international school in Italy, I am awed by the degree of untapped resourcefulness that all my students possess. Despite the vastly diverse cultural backgrounds, economic classes, and social circumstances within which we teach, there is a common, extraordinary set of skills teachers must employ to draw out this resourcefulness and help develop a resilient, solution-oriented child.
The single most exciting aspect of teaching is watching self-discovery play out in front of you. It is that “ah ha” moment — that overjoyed “I get it!” expression of a student who has been struggling for weeks, but with a little encouragement now understands she has what it takes. It is that student who convinced himself he would never solve the problem, but who worked out a solution by himself with a bit of your guidance. As teachers, no matter where we are in the world, we help students tap into a trove of resourcefulness they don’t always know they have, and in doing so, we change young people’s perceptions of themselves and their own abilities forever.
So how does a math teacher in Houston, a geography teacher in Shanghai, or an art teacher in Madrid do this given the astonishing scope of social, cultural and economic differences they face within their classrooms? In short, our common teacher toolbox is wide-ranging. We have a shared experience in the skills we must hone. Teachers listen carefully and extract real meaning and intent. We assess deliberately and respond thoughtfully. We make an infinite number of decisions about each student and attribute next steps for them and subsequently for us. Teachers all over the world, no matter the language, the background, or the setting, spend years honing a particular set of skills aimed at drawing out our students’ resourcefulness.
The middle school teacher in Los Angeles, USA aims for that “ah ha!” moment the same way a high school teacher does in Lima, Peru or an elementary school teacher does in Johannesburg, South Africa. Indeed, we are people from many nations with a common purpose: We teach!
Claire Jellinek is a 2011 Teaching Ambassador Fellow. She currently teaches social studies at the American Overseas School in Rome, Italy, which she comes to after teaching and learning in Egypt and Jordan, as well on the Zuni Indian Reservation and in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Parents and families are a child’s first teachers, supporters, coaches, cheerleaders, tutors, confidantes, conspirators and advocates. They are the experts about their children and the authors of what they want for their future.
When it comes to school, however, families are sometimes left out of the discussion regarding the needs of their children in receiving the best education possible. Many parents can list examples of changes in their school that they didn’t know were coming or a policy that impacted them in a way no one considered before implementation. That’s why the Department of Education recently created the Family Ambassador. This new position acknowledges the important voice of parents in the development and implementation of education policy.
I’m proud and excited to serve as the inaugural Family Ambassador. I’m the mother of four active children and began my involvement with schools as a parent when my oldest entered kindergarten 13 years ago. I started out visiting her school for parent-teacher conferences and school information nights. Through the PTA, I became more involved and found my voice as an engaged parent in our large school system.
As a mother, a former teacher and an education advocate, I firmly believe that parents and family members raising children have the right and the responsibility to be engaged in their child’s education, to be supportive and informed, to ask questions and provide constructive input. It’s through partnering and building relationships between people who care for and educate children that we will be successful in ensuring there is equity, rigor, and thoughtfulness applied to an education that will prepare children for an enriching and productive future as they enter college or begin a career.
In the role of Family Ambassador, it’s my responsibility to present the voice of families in national discussions on education with respect and thought to the diversity of their needs. To inform my input, I need to hear from parents and families about their experiences, particularly those that are marginalized or, in general, simply less represented: our parents of color, non-English speakers and lower income families who often least have a voice. I’ll be working to increase families’ awareness around educational issues, with an eye to emphasizing the importance of early and ongoing literacy development and closing the achievement gap. There are numerous organizations and experts in the field and I anticipate collaborating with them, as well, to improve the efforts and knowledge about family engagement.
I invite fellow parents and families to join me in conversations and initiatives about education. I want to hear about issues important to families. Stay connected by signing up for the Parent Newsletter and reading our Homeroom blog. Stay tuned and keep an eye for opportunities to give voice to your concerns. Meet with me when I get a chance to come to your city or when we have an event in D.C. I can’t wait to talk to you!
Have a great school year!
Frances Frost is the U.S. Department of Education’s first Family Ambassador.
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“We need a hero!” is a recurring subject line in emails I receive from a popular contract cheating provider. In these emails, they beg me to become a “hero” by uploading my “study resources” to help others or by becoming a “tutor” to fulfill customer requests such as writing their “essay on relation between success and happiness” or completing for them “a basic rough draft for this topic”. This particular company pretends to help students “master” their classes, but a quick search of their site demonstrates that they are in the cheating business.
This is how such contract cheating providers operate. They make our students believe that if they engage with them, they are being kind and helpful because by “sharing and earning” they are providing “millions of study resources” and “homework help” to others in need. And, if they use the services, they are being smart, good students who will deliver what their professors want – a 10 page paper with 20 references by October 20th or a great performance on a final examination. Students may also believe that if they use these services, they will be able to deliver what their parents want (good grades) and what employers want (a degree).What is Driving our Students to Contract Cheating Providers?
The question for educational institutions is this – what is driving our students to contract cheating providers? The underlying reasons may be complex, shaped as they are by individual and situational factors, but perhaps at the heart of it, contract cheating providers deliver services that we do not—-“help” on their academic work 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. We know that our students often do not work on their assignments between 9-5, Monday-Friday, when our support services are available, so where else can they go for help.
Even if your institution does offer online services, 24-7, do your students know that and can they find them? We know that students Google to find things and when I When I Google “essay writing help”, the 7th hit is “strategies for essay writing” from Harvard’s Writing Center and the 25th hit is Purdue’s Owl site, but the rest of the hits are all possible contract cheating sites.
Here is an example of an ad your students would find in their “essay writing help” Google search:
And essay “help” is just the beginning. Many of these contract cheating companies or freelancers, will offer to take exams or entire courses for your students (whether online or in person):
The point is this – contract cheating providers exist, they exist to serve your students, and your students are using them. Brad Wolverton, in “The New Economy of Cheating” (Chronicle of Higher Education, August 28, 2016, subscription required), estimates that the annual revenue for one of the largest contract cheating providers is “in the millions”. The UK’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) “Plagiarism in Higher Education” (August 2016) report also posits that the industry is expansive, likely involving thousands of students every year.Should We Do Something about It?
So, should anything be done about contract cheating? Can anything be done?
The answer to both questions is a resounding yes!
First, we must do something about it. After all, this type of fraud perpetrated on the public, on employers, and on the government, could crash the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is built on education credentials, specifically who has the grades and certifications needed to fill the jobs that fuel the economy. If these grades and certifications are fraudulent, the jobs are filled by incompetent people at best, and ethically challenged people at worst.
Survey studies have found that people who cheat in school are more likely to cheat at work, and since the rates of cheating are high (as high as 41% in some studies), that means that at least 41% of those being hired have cheated in school. And since less than 1% of students at most schools are reported for cheating, that means that at least 40% of new graduates being hired have learned that cheating is a strategy for success, perhaps even for “excellence”. It would be an interesting study to interview the recently fired Wells Fargo employees, and their managers, to find out if they cheated in school.
If students are taking grants and loans from the government to pay others to do their work for them, then our taxpayer dollars are being squandered. The federal government seems to be concerned about the financial aid fraud allegedly perpetrated by for-profit educational institutions and some Attorney Generals are concerned about the alleged fraud of Trump University. But where is the moral outrage about the fraud perpetrated by these contract cheating providers and the students who use them?
We must do something about it.What Can We Do about It?
So, what do we do?
Here are some basic, good general recommendations for schools, colleges, and universities:
- Respond to cheating when it is detected in order to leverage it as a teachable moment and to ebb the normalizing of the practice.
- Support students with academic and language support services so they don’t feel the need to do business with these contract cheating providers. If possible, make your tutoring and support systems available 24 hours/day.
- Bolster your admissions processes to ensure that the students you are admitting have the pre-requisite skills and knowledge necessary to excel with integrity.
- Support faculty in revamping their classes to better align with the needs and realities of the 21st This means ending the banking model of education—we don’t run the bank of knowledge anymore, the internet does. Faculty need to be supported in using engaged learning pedagogies, alternative and authentic assessments, and linking these to solid learning objectives and integrity standards
- Employ methods to ensure that the people taking your classes or writing your exams are the same people enrolled in the class
The above are overarching recommendations.Join Us in Action on October 19th!
To learn more about contract cheating and what you can do about it, join the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) as we host an International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on October 19th, Carnegie’s Global Ethics Day.
On that day, we’ll release an Institutional Toolkit with more specific tips and ideas for preventing and detecting contract cheating. On that day, institutions around the world will educate their students and faculty about contract cheating, as well as participate in Whiteboard Declarations against contract cheating and share these declarations on social media using #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity.
Our actions on October 19th won’t change the world, but they might wake it up.
We need a hero!
Go to http://contractcheating.weebly.com and tell us you’ll join us on the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating.
Tricia Bertram Gallant, Ph.D.
Director, Academic Integrity Office
University of California, San Diego
Academic Integrity Office at UC San Diego
“Merhaba!” “Salaam! “¡Buenos días!” In my eleven years as a public school principal, greeting my students at the door as they start their school day is one of my greatest joys. It also serves an important purpose – setting a welcoming, warm environment in which each student is known and valued. In serving a range of English learners over the years, I have learned to keep five essential values at the core as I partner with teachers and parents to support our whole student body.
First, bilingualism is a gift and an asset. Helping students maintain their native language is crucial for helping them to develop their identity. We always encourage parents to support their children’s native language development, helping our students engage in complex discourse at home, while celebrating the linguistic assets our students bring to school each day.
Students who are English learners are English learners all day. The goal of identifying the needs of English learners is to allow them to fully access all of the academic offerings in our schools. Therefore, developing students’ speaking, reading, writing, listening, and academic language cannot be the sole responsibility of a language instruction teacher. All teachers need to integrate language development into their instruction and scaffolds that support students English language proficiency, bilingualism, and their application across content areas.
Language immersion programs are marvelous opportunities to both develop students’ native language literacy skills, boost academic achievement, and allow solely English-language speakers to become bilingual. Especially in communities with one dominant common language, such as Spanish, language immersion from the earliest grades can eliminate achievement gaps before the start.
English learner students who are dually- identified with specials needs, as well as those who have yet to be identified, require specific supports. Using culturally relevant assessment tools helps us tease out possible special needs from language development needs. Being proactive, particularly at the elementary level, requires that we are intentional and targeted in the kinds of scaffolds and explicit teaching we do. Using quality ESL data sources to observe trends and patterns to inform school-wide practices is an important administrative responsibility.
Above all, all students must have access all day to rigorous, rich, engaging learning opportunities that leverage their assets and interests. When our students and their families form strong relationships with the educators and know they will be challenged and developed to their fullest potential – regardless of their level of fluency in English – we can foster a path of academic and future success.
My job as a principal is to intentionally create and sustain positive, caring communities in which all my students and their families are welcomed and feel valued. When students feel safe, respected, and included – which is especially important for my English learner students – then we are all able to achieve maximum success.
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