Options in Educational Decision Making

Everyone needs make decisions all their life, so we think we know how. We do it daily: what to wear to school/work/social events; what to do in our spare or free time; when to spend or save money; which purchases are necessary or frivolous. We make decision about objects (cars, clothes, books, internets sites, etc.), situations (how to behave in various social settings) and abstractions or untouchables (care, love or concern about others and their perceptions or feelings about us).

The problem with decision making is that no one expressly teaches us how to make “good” or appropriate decisions. That is because decisions usually involve recognizing options or choices of a series of actions leading to a specific goal. Most decisions are routine: when, where and how to buy food, car repairs, clothing care, etc. We become lulled into security in our decision making process.

We become challenged with decision making when stress builds. Researchers found people perceive fewer choices or options available and that we tend to use traditional or habitual choices to make our decisions. Unfortunately, this means that novel solutions to problems will not be perceived, acknowledged or understood when the decision maker(s) is/are in crisis or under stress.

Education reform approaches are perfect examples of perceiving limited options for making decisions. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its replacement directives have an extremely narrow focus: all children must learn the same content at the same rate by using “scientifically researched” materials. Gone are the discretionary powers of observations that teacher have. Gone are experimental approaches or innovative materials or methods. Gone is information related to centuries of knowledge about child development and readiness skills. Gone is what has worked in the past. Now teachers must use what some university (or publisher’s underwritten) study has proved to be effective.

Educators must go through teacher preparation programs. Including an undergraduate degree and the professional training, that amounts to at least 4-5 years of college. Additionally, most states require that teachers earn a masters’ degree (1-2 years to complete) within a certain length of time. This means that educators know a lot, but they aren’t allowed to use what they’ve learned in their classrooms unless it comes packaged in “scientifically researched” materials.

The bottom line is that the knowledge and wisdom of teachers is ignored; yet they are responsible and accountable for decisions that others, usually non-educators, have made. The decision makers are relying on the traditional approaches, not innovation or creative options. By narrowing their views of the problems, they are excluding options that could work far better, more easily, and for far less money than they currently mandate.

Paper Crafting In Schools: Scrapbooking Concepts Used In The Educational System

Scrapbookers have a few benefits which they can experience during and after their scrapbooking and paper crafting activities. The first of these is included in artistic hobbies themselves; they give them a chance to flush through emotions and experiences which makes for better emotional health overtime. The second gift is they can perfect a certain set of skills through practice. And a third gift that scrapbooking gives can be seen as a collection: the ability to incorporate new lessons, new concepts and new and innovative thinking into other parts of their lives as a result of what took place during the scrapbooking.

For a practical example of the first concept, consider apparent scrapbooking a collection of family photos for hours at a time, dipping deep into the moments of flow where new thought enters and time suspends, and coming to some conclusion that is a “lightbulb” moment so to speak. Those insightful realizations which are likely to take place when the logical mind takes a break and the creative mind leads the wheel can be very helpful for the improvement of our lives especially in the realm of those things which we end up taking into our scrapbooking practices: family moments, individual goals and treasures and concepts which make us feel more alive.

Paper crafting in schools usually takes one of two forms. The second is similar to the first benefit above, where the creative mind leads scrapbookers to memorialize emotional events and the result brings a fulfilling feeling. Examples of this are the handmade Valentines, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards which many children are encouraged to make early on in their education.

The second way scrapbook concepts are traditionally used in schools is for learning purposes. Learning to spell through crafts is a practice used in schools by teachers who direct children to cut letters out from paper, to add them together, to make sounds and to rearrange the collection of them for words. Somewhere in the country there is teacher with several pieces of paper representing different animals and letters and a class being led to interpret these into words. Although we often see preschoolers using the scissors, the word cut outs and the collage of photos and letters to bridge new concepts with the attentiveness of creative work, the idea of crafting to solidify “left brain” concepts is not sectioned off strictly to early childhood education.

As middle-school students are urged to explore the meaning of collages through group projects which require poster board and symbolic representations of the main points of material they’ve been studying, and as middle and high school students are encouraged to make yearly science projects which combine a multitude of pictures, graphs and words to express thoughts, the main elements of scrapbooking in educational systems becomes more and more clear.

The reason we don’t stop scrapbooking at any age is simply what many in the educational system have figured out; we don’t just think in terns of sentences. We think in terms of symbols and pieces coming together. And we also find it easier to remember information when we progress through a project which allows us to play with those symbols and collect them as unifying concepts reinforcing the same idea.

Educational Innovation and Economic Stimulus

The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 fiscal year budget of $47.6 billion includes an allocation of $517 million dedicated to the Teacher Incentive Fund which rewards principals, teachers, and other school personnel who raise student achievement, close achievement gaps and work hard to staff schools.

School districts across the country will be competing for the billions of dollars on the line. They will showcase their great schools, exemplary teachers and innovative ideas. There’s no doubt that the stimulus money will be a boon for school reform. For years, school districts have shown that they have innovative ideas, but without proper funding those ideas never come to fruition.

Innovation and change should be energized with both an incentive and reward to replenish resources of ingenuity, commitment, and creativity. Only in public education is going the extra mile a donation expected of the dedicated few.

It is empowering to be recognized for turning gang infested schools from the strong hold of the socially impaired to havens where students can remediate themselves to academic achievement. Yes, placards and pats on the back feel good; but, they don’t buy anything. Why are educators the only missionaries who trek the roadways of the under-achievers –prodding them to the higher places with maybe a brief notation in the annual assessment of their deeds and misdeeds in the educational workplace?

When an inspired teacher or administrator makes the difference in average yearly attainment a reward is more than appropriate. It is fully earned for having the tools to enable the struggling student to complete a toolkit that is in ill repair.

Based on the state funding tables issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Colorado is expected to receive $33,845,209 in Recovery Act funding for schools identified for improvement, corrective action and restructuring under Title I. This money is expected to come into play this fall.

If past history is any indicator the incentive program will be a success. Programs such as the Absence Addiction Approach recognized by the National Interagency Drug Institute and the U.S. Department of Education helped an academically impaired high school move from low attendance and floundering graduation rates to turn around status celebrated by its principal winning recognition as Outstanding Individual In School and feted by the state’s governor. This turn around scenario was incentivized by outside funding. This shows what dynamic effects special funding can have.

The rewards reaped from the Teacher Incentive Fund will provide a tremendous opportunity for improving schools with hard work and innovation. The real winners though, will be the children.