I Always Want To Be A Teacher

I Always Want To Be A Teacher

by Nick Monzi

Last week, in a meeting with colleagues at my education-based nonprofit, a dedicated volunteer asked me a question that required more thought than I expected.

“How do you continue to learn about and evaluate your work?” she asked. “How are you sure that the change you hope to see in the world is going to be realized?”

One year ago, working predominantly as an educator, this would have been an easy answer for me.

“I look at the students’ eyes”, I would have said. “They show me understanding and engagement, confusion and frustration. They are the key to unveiling the impact that you are having as a teacher.”

I’ve always been a big believer in what Benjamin Zander calls “shining eyes”. They demonstrate commitment to the task at hand. They’re how I know that I am fostering passion in others, and in turn building a lifelong relationship between the learner and the learning. Through them, I see the building blocks of confidence and command of the students’ work.

As a nonprofit administrator, my answer changes. I do significantly value my life’s current project. Among many things, it affords the opportunity to provide access to unique and meaningful learning experiences for thousands of students. Our organization also works in association with NBA Cares and in tandem with many outstanding educators across the country. That is an unbelievably fun thing to wake up to each day. The one drawback is that I spend far less time as a practicing educator.

Under new circumstances, my response to the question that was originally posed reads a bit differently.

“I strive to always remain connected to the learning. I always want to be a teacher.”

For me, always being a teacher means that I maintain a strong understanding of what students need to succeed in the classroom, and in life. I am in touch with what frustrates them and what they believe to be relevant to their learning. It means that I never become what I dread as an educator — the person who tells teachers what they ought to be doing, without ever really doing it. The person who tells students what they should be learning, without ever giving thought to what makes them happy.

To this end, I remain committed to always being a teacher, as well as a learner. And I challenge every person to always strive for the same, regardless of age, occupation, or position in life. A commitment to the transfer of knowledge allows us to always seek opportunities to better ourselves through the expertise of others, and to share our own knowledge to improve the lives of those around us.

As I begin an ongoing discussion of the importance of partnerships and relationships across the education sector, I believe at my core that it is essential to never forget the power of the point of contact – between governments, organizations, individuals, and beyond. One positive, productive, and honest interaction can change a life, and in turn the world.

Advertisements

What inner city kids know about social media, and why we should listen

What inner city kids know about
social media, and why we should listen

Teenagers know a lot more about privacy than we
think, so what are they trying to tell us when they post?

I know which of my teenage students smokes weed in the park after class on Fridays, and which other students are with him. I know which ones are struggling with making friends in their first few weeks at college, and which ones aren’t. I know which of my students chafe against overly strict parents on a regular basis. I know which one spends every weekend in the hospital due to a chronic condition. I know which ones got arrested last night.

I know all these things because I follow them all on various social media services. And they know I know; this isn’t some kind of stolen glance into the online life of teenagers that no one is supposed to see. Contrary to popular belief among adults, these teenagers are not oblivious to privacy settings and do care a good amount about who can see what online. If anything, most of them have consciously chosen what they want to show to me and the rest of the world through social media. And what they’re telling us is who they are and what they need from us as mentors.

Are actual teachers—that is, those employed by the school system—tapped into this wealth of information from their students? Likely not. The teachers I know are often discouraged, and sometimes downright forbidden from, interacting with their students on social media. While these policies are in place to help protect both teachers and students from all manner of things, this wall of separation may be keeping teachers from truly knowing their students in a time when teens need a mentor more than ever.

Becoming Techie Teacher

First, I want to clear the air before I muddle it up again. I am not a professional teacher or instructor. In fact, teaching teenagers is not something I thought I would find myself doing at any point in my life. A lifelong nerd with limited patience, I’ve never considered myself particularly great at teaching other kinds of people—parents, siblings, friends, interns—and I’m painfully awkward with kids. I never planned on having children myself either, meaning I’d carefully constructed my adult life around the pretense that I would never be obligated to teach a young person how to do pretty much anything.

Which is why, when I found myself speaking in front of ~150 teenagers for six weeks this summer, it was unlike anything I’d ever done before. I had just become Editor-at-Large at online tech site Ars Technica, and before that, I’d put in time as a back-end web developer. Teaching wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of experience, but Smart Chicago Collaborative director and Everyblock cofounder Dan O’Neil convinced me to jump on board anyway. He was working on putting together the city’s first “Civic Innovation Summer,” a six-week summer program that would give these kids exposure to technology in ways they weren’t likely to get elsewhere.

But this is Chicago, and these students weren’t the soft, pampered teenagers from suburban high schools that have climbing walls in the gym and multiple symphony orchestras. (I went to a school like that myself—one that has churned out a number of journalists, Silicon Valley execs and engineers, and other talent that is fairly impressive for a public school.) No, our students were mostly Chicago Public School (CPS) kids from all over the city—you know, the ones who are facing school closures and have to rely on a temporary program called “Safe Passage” so they can navigate their way to school through various gang territories. For those who don’t know about Safe Passage, it is an official, CPS-sanctioned program that can barely hold onto its own staff due to shootings along the routes.

One of the goals behind Civic Innovation Summer was, in fact, violence reduction. Keeping wily teenagers off the streets during violent Chicago summers is always a priority for the city. But beyond that, our goal was to expose these kids to the different kinds of people who work in tech, and teach them about the kinds of things they could create in the future with a handful of tech skills. I’ve already written a bit about what we did during Civic Innovation Summer, but one of the things we did that seemed to resonate among students the most was bring in high-profile speakers of all colors, genders, and backgrounds to talk about their lives in technology and how they managed to get there.

This was especially important for students who, by their own admission, had no idea computer programmers could be fun people who actually had personalities and used services like RapGenius. They had no idea that people who grew up in single-parent homes and lived on food stamps could end up running their own startups. They didn’t realize women or people of color were much involved in the industry at all, or that there were plenty of other jobs that take advantage of tech skills, even if you don’t become a programmer.

We had hoped to give them the unique experience of having direct access to tech veterans—people who have been through the trenches, and could help mentor a few more young people into becoming technologists themselves. After a handful of lively talks, the students started following our staff and speakers on Twitter, and we started following them back.

They know more than we do about social media

The thing we didn’t expect was how much we would learn from the students in return. Going into the program, we figured the students would likely have access to smartphones—Android devices, in particular—but we held the popular opinion that they likely didn’t know a lot about privacy online. We prepared an entire four-hour session so we could go hands-on with the privacy controls on various social networks. We were convinced that students simply hadn’t been fully informed about how to control their privacy, and they would be better off in the electronic world once we showed them how to find the settings.

We were wrong—at least about the not knowing or caring part. What we adults learned during those six weeks was that these teenagers were extremely savvy with privacy on social media, sometimes to the point of bafflement. For example, did you know that many teens “delete” their Facebook accounts altogether every time the rest of us would just log out? They’re taking advantage of the fact that Facebook actually keeps much of your account information on its servers when you decide to “leave” the service, allowing them to stay under the radar from nosy friend, parent, or public searches while they’re not online. Their photos disappear and their status updates go on the down-low—at least until the next time they log back in by re-activating their accounts.

(As someone who had to sneak around her own parents to get online as a teenager, I had to admit to myself: this was genius.)

That’s just one example, but it’s my favorite one. When we tried to walk the students through the privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other services, the kids were outright bored. (This was not the case for other sessions I taught, such as one on getting started with HTML. That one ended up being wildly popular, especially among the girls in the class.) Instead, they told us they already knew how to do all those things; their real problems with social media came from password hacks that allowed others to hijack their accounts and be abusive to others while posing as them. The same problem that, let’s be honest, we all face.

I was a bit surprised. I had spent years writing social media privacy articles at Ars Technica for arguably some of the most technically savvy readers on the Internet, and my inbox was constantly bursting with messages from fully-grown adults who had never heard of nearly any privacy settings before. I was used to teaching people how to limit who sees their Facebook posts over and over for years. I had given an entire talk to an auditorium full of techies about how to keep themselves safe and under-the-radar online, and had crowds of people asking me questions afterwards.

I came from a world where everyone believes the kids are the ones who have no clue. Instead, the kids were the ones asking me why any person with a brain would let their phone attach a GPS location to a photograph’s EXIF file. (Public service announcement to The Olds™: you can turn that off.)

Is anyone listening?

Of course, not every single student knew everything there was to know about privacy online. But overall, I came away feeling like inner city high school students knew more about this area of tech than most adults. There is some recent data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that supports this theory.

Another recent Pew study shows that young adults are the most likely to take privacy-conscious steps online:

The lesson I learned is that they are, in general, quite careful and deliberate about what they post online for all to see. And they know we’re all watching; according to their exit surveys, most students were happy to hand over their Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/SnapChat names, saying they felt comfortable with adults learning more about the realities of their teenage lives.

Those realities were what put these students’ lives into perspective—for me and a number of other adults involved in Civic Innovation Summer.

That student who posts photos of questionable substances to Instagram is the same one who asks the most poignant questions in class—out of hundreds of students, he originally stood out to us because of his participation, as well as the business ideas he came up with during a session we held on startups. He also often goes on Twitter rants against America’s failed drug war and observes the effects of Chicago’s deep segregation on his friends. Sometimes I forget I’m following a teenager when I see his tweets fill my stream.

Another student, quiet and polite in class, revealed via social media that she’s been sleeping in the bathroom at school now that the semester has started—partly because she’s having a hard time making friends, and partly because doesn’t want to face her life at home. We had other students who would arrive hours early for class or stay for hours afterwards because, as they revealed on Twitter, they had nowhere else safe to be during that time.

What they’re telling us is what their lives are like when they’re not sitting in class, obediently scribbling notes or quietly falling asleep in the back. They’re telling us what their struggles are and, perhaps indirectly, what they could use help with in order to make it in one piece to adulthood. But is anyone listening?

Whether our teens will eventually regret the things they post online is the wrong debate to have—or at least, it’s a debate we should have later on. Instead, we should be asking ourselves why we, as a society, discourage the real teachers, counselors, and principals from seeing a full picture of what their students are up to and what can be done to help.

For example, teachers are often restricted from communicating with students over social media thanks to FERPA, which is meant to protect privacy regarding scores or other school-related things on unregulated channels. But teachers are also discouraged from following or interacting in other ways, too—a teacher “caught” following one student on Twitter but not another could be accused of playing favorites when grades come out later.

And teachers themselves are so scared of setting a bad example themselves online that they’re afraid any move they make to see what students are up to could get them fired. A former high school teacher friend of mine told me tales of being banned from posting photos with a drink in her hand—any kind of drink, even if it’s orange juice—because it could be misconstrued as promoting alcoholism, and another story about never talking about dice in any way because it could be seen as promoting gambling. “There are so many things that keep teachers’ hands tied that the risks associated with using social media isn’t worth it to most,” she told me. “Teachers are expected to live up to a standard that is impossible.”

In fact, two other teachers I spoke to from different schools said they faced similar restrictions, especially related to drinks in the hand. (All of the teachers preferred to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to discuss school policy.) And keeping those photos out of the public eye won’t necessarily help. Teacher Ashley Payne was forced to resign from her job after posting a photo of her apparently holding a glass of wine—and another with a glass of beer—to her private Facebook page during a trip to Europe, despite the fact that her school had no solid policy on such postings. Years later, her school district has now spelled things out further: teachers are banned from making social network connections with students except under school-sanctioned circumstances.

The result of such policies is a group of adults—those who are largely responsible for our kids’ intellectual development—plugging their ears and yelling “LA LA LA LA” when it comes to students on social media. That is a terrible thing, especially since social media is arguably the number one place we should look when we want to find out how our students are feeling, and where they need help.

Some researchers now argue that high schoolers with an adult mentor means a 50 percent greater likelihood of attending college—disadvantaged students are 100 percent more likely if they have an adult mentor. And that mentor doesn’t even have to do anything special: “Comments from study participants indicate that their mentors weren’t necessarily doing anything extraordinary, just being involved and treating the young person as an important human being,” Brigham Young University sociology professor Lance Erickson wrote of his study published in the journal Sociology of Education.

But only seven percent of disadvantaged students report having a mentoring relationship with a teacher, leaving so much potential on the table to connect with students who need mentors the most. Meanwhile, those students are tapping away on their phones, broadcasting their thoughts to everyone and no one as they try to progress into the next stage of their lives—mostly on their own.

“I just want to die. Please leave me the fuck alone,” tweeted one of my students recently, just before the school year started again. “Somebody to talk to would be nice.”

What Colleges Will Teach in 2025

What Colleges Will Teach in 2025
America must resolve the conflict between knowledge and know-how

By Jon Meacham

Reports on what supposedly educated Americans know—and more sensationally, don’t know—come along fairly regularly, each more depressing than the last.

A survey of recent college graduates commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and conducted by GfK Roper last year found that barely half knew that the U.S. Constitution ­establishes the separation of powers. Forty-­three percent failed to identify John Roberts as Chief Justice; 62% didn’t know the correct length of congressional terms of office.

Higher education has never been more expensive—or seemingly less demanding. According to the 2011 book Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, full-time students in 1961 devoted 40 hours per week to schoolwork and studying; by 2003 that had declined to 27 hours. And even those hours may not be all that effective: the book also notes that 36% of college graduates had not shown any significant cognitive gains over four years. According to data gathered by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, half of employers say they have trouble finding qualified recent college graduates to hire. Everybody has an opinion about what matters most. While Bill Gates worries about the dearth of engineering and science graduates, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences frets about the fate of the humanities.

Rising tuition costs, an underprepared workforce, an inhospitable climate for the humanities: each of these issues, among others, shapes arguments over higher education. True, polls suggest that most students are happy with their college experiences (if not their debt loads), elite institutions are thriving, U.S. research universities are the envy of the world, and a college degree remains the nation’s central cultural and economic credential. Yet it’s also undeniable that hand-­wringing about higher education is so common that it almost forms an academic discipline unto itself or should at least count as a varsity sport.

And so wring the hands of many parents, employers, academics and alumni in the fall of 2013 as the undergraduate class of 2017 begins its freshman year—and as parents of the class of 2025 contemplate the costs and benefits of college down the road. “Higher education is facing a real crisis of effectiveness,” says Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that supports traditional core curriculums and postgraduate assessment tests. At the TIME Summit on Higher Education on Sept. 20, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for more accountability in higher education through the development of a university ratings system—one that could include the earning power of an institution’s graduates as a factor.

At a time when virtually every state is implementing new Common Core standards to increase the amount of general knowledge in math and English that a typical public-school student must master in K-12, there is renewed interest in the perennial collegiate argument over what’s called either general education or, more colloquially, core curriculum. At issue is whether there are certain books one should read and certain facts one should know to be considered a truly educated person—or at least a truly educated college graduate.

At the heart of the debate between traditionalists (who love a core) and many academics (who prefer to teach more specialized courses and allow students more freedom to set their own curriculums) is a tension between two different questions about the purposes of college. There are those who insist that the key outcome lies in the answer to “What should every college graduate know?”—perhaps minimizing the chances that future surveys will show that poor John Roberts is less recognizable than Lady Gaga. Others ask, What should every college graduate know how to do?

Those three additional words contain multitudes. The prevailing contemporary vision, even in the liberal arts, emphasizes action: active thought, active expression, active preparation for lifelong learning. Engaging with a text or question, marshaling data and arguments and expressing oneself takes precedence over the acquisition of general knowledge.

A caveat: the debate we are discussing here is focused mainly on selective schools, public and private, where there seems to be a persistent unease among key constituencies—parents, trustees, alumni and most of all employers—about undergraduate curriculums. The last time these questions were in circulation was in the 1980s, the years in which Education Secretary Bill Bennett pushed for renewed emphasis on the humanities and Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago published The Closing of the American Mind, a best seller that argued, among other things, that the great books were being wrongly marginalized if not totally neglected by the modern university.

That debate reflected larger arguments about the country’s trend toward the right under Ronald Reagan. What’s driving the core-standards conversation now is the ambition to succeed in a global economy and the anxiety that American students are failing to do so. How does the country relieve those fears and produce a generation of graduates who will create wealth and jobs? It’s a question that’s fueling the Obama Administration’s push for a ratings system, and it’s a question that isn’t going away.

The Roots of the Core
From the founding of Harvard College in 1636 until the Civil War, American university education was mostly about sending pious and hopefully well-read gentlemen forth into the world. As Louis Menand, a Harvard English professor and literary critic, has written, what Americans think of as the university is of relatively recent vintage. In 1862 the Morrill Act created land-grant universities, broadening opportunities for those for whom college had been a virtual impossibility. Menand and other historians of collegiate curriculums note that at Harvard in 1869, Charles William Eliot became president and created a culture in which the bachelor’s degree became the key credential for ongoing professional education—a culture that came to shape the rest of the American academy. The 19th century also saw the rise of the great European research university; the German model of scholar-teachers who educated under­graduates while pursuing their own research interests moved across the Atlantic.

The notion that a student should graduate with a broad base of knowledge is, in Menand’s words, “the most modern part of the modern university.” It was only after World War I, in 1919, that Columbia College undertook a general-education course, called Contemporary Civilization. By reading classic texts—from Plato’s Republic to The Prince to the Declaration of Independence, with the Bible and Edmund Burke thrown in for good measure—and discussing them in the context of enduring issues in human society, every student was compelled to engage with ideas that formed the mainstream of the American mind. The impetus for the move reflected a larger social and cultural concern with assimilating the children of immigrants into American culture. Robert Maynard Hutchins adopted a similar approach at the University of Chicago. The courses were not about rote memorization; they were (and are) centered on reading followed by discussion. They were (and are) required of all students, something that set Columbia and Chicago apart from many other ­colleges—and still does.

World War II helped bring about the Harvard Report of 1945, an effort by America’s oldest college to provide a common cultural basis not only for its elite students but also for the rising middle class. Students were expected to read, for example, the great books. As the decades went by, however, the assumption that there was a given body of knowledge or a given set of authors that had to be learned or read came under cultural and academic attack. Who was to say what was great? Why not let teachers decide what to teach and students decide what to study?

There are many cultural reasons for opposing the core. For instance, faculties generally dislike being told what to do. (Doesn’t everyone?) The most intelligent argument against a core? That the freedom to choose one’s academic path will stoke one’s curiosity and fuel experimentation. At places like Vanderbilt University (where I am a visiting faculty member) the curriculum alters the Columbia approach in two ways. First, students choose specific courses that the university believes provide what chancellor Nicholas Zeppos calls “both foundational knowledge and critical thinking. In other words, we encourage more student growth and risk taking in electing how one builds that foundation.” Rather than mandate a specific set of general-­education courses, Vanderbilt asks undergraduates to meet distribution requirements, choosing classes in broadly defined fields including humanities and the creative arts, the history and culture of America, and international cultures. “So our approach,” says Zeppos, “allows for more exploration and risk taking.”

Knowledge itself changes, and not only in science and technology, where change is so rapid and self-evident. Appomattox will always have happened in April 1865, but one’s understanding of the causes, course and effects of the Civil War can shift. The prevailing academic culture puts more emphasis on developing a student’s ability to confront questions of interpretation by asking them more about why something occurred than when. But some raise reasonable concerns about this approach. “At prestigious schools, the majority of students come from strong backgrounds and will do well even without the core, but that is not the reality for all students,” says Poliakoff. “The core curriculum makes sure that all students develop the skills they need to be successful.”

So what to do?

A Question of Assessment
Page A1 of the Wall Street Journal ­often brings news that matters to America’s striving classes. One such story arrived this August. The headline “Are You Ready for the Post-College SAT?” was followed by a revealing subhead: Employers say they don’t trust grade-point ­averages. The piece explained the imminent arrival of an “SAT-like assessment that aims to cut through grade-point averages and judge students’ real value to employers.”

The Collegiate Learning Assessment, or CLA+, a voluntary test developed by a New York City–based nonprofit, the Council for Aid to Education, is to be administered to seniors at some 200 U.S. colleges and universities, including the University of Texas system and the ­liberal-arts St. John Fisher College near Rochester, N.Y., in an attempt to measure learning by asking critical-thinking questions. “Exit exams are an excellent idea because they are a quantifiable way of giving institutions and individuals the measure of the kind of progress they’re making,” says Poliakoff. And while an assessment like the CLA+ might help employers decide which students to hire, some argue that students and parents need more information to help choose a college. When Duncan told Time’s education summit about the ratings system envisioned by the Obama Administration, he described an approach that would take into account many metrics, including graduation rates, graduate earnings and a graduate’s student debt. The basic question, Duncan said, is this: “How many students at an institution graduate at a reasonable cost without a lot of debt and get a job in the field they choose?”

Fair enough, but none of this tests general knowledge. You don’t have to be able to identify, say, Albert Einstein or explain the difference between a stock and a bond. Critics of the CLA+ argue that institutions may be penalized for attracting strong students who score highly as freshmen and then just as highly as ­seniors—thus showing no growth. Others have even more fundamental problems with the idea of a universal test. “The idea of the CLA+ is to measure learning at various institutions and compare them,” says Watson Scott Swail, president and CEO of the Education Policy Institute. “I don’t think that’s technically possible with such a diverse system of higher education. That’s based on the fact that all the curriculums are different, textbooks are different, and you’re expecting to get some measure of—in a very generic way across all ­curriculums—how someone learns in one institution compared to another. All institutions are different, and all of their students are different.”

So why not make the diversity of American higher education an ally in allaying concerns about how much core knowledge college graduates take with them into the world? Why not honor the independence of each institution and encourage every college to create a required general-education comprehensive exam as a condition for graduation? Ask each department for a given number of questions that it believes every graduate, regardless of major, should be able to answer. Formulate essay questions that would test a student’s capacity to analyze and reason. In other words, take the initiative.

Yes, the departmental discussions about what an educated person should know about chemistry or Chinese or communism would be fraught and long. The good news, however, is that the debates would be illuminating, forcing academics to look to first principles, which is almost always a healthy exercise in any field. An institution might decide that such an assessment just isn’t for them, but it’s an idea worth exploring, for colleges could then control the process rather than cede that authority to yet another standardized national test.

What is heartening to those who believe in the value of a passing acquaintance with Homer and the Declaration of Independence and Jane Austen and Toni Morrison as well as basic scientific literacy is that there is little argument over the human and economic utility of a mind trained to make connections between seemingly disparate elements of reality. The college graduate who can think creatively is going to stand the greatest chance of not only doing well but doing some good too. As long as the liberal-arts tradition remains a foundation of the curriculum in even the most elective of collegiate systems, there is hope that graduates will be able to discuss the Gettysburg Address—in a job interview at Google.

A Guide To Student Loan Forgiveness And Repayment Options

A Guide To Student Loan Forgiveness And Repayment Options

By JOSEPH PISANI

NEW YORK — Wish you could make your student loans disappear?

Student loan forgiveness programs can make it happen, but there’s a problem.

“There needs to be more awareness about these programs,” says Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance at American Student Assistance, a nonprofit that helps borrowers manage their student debt.

So the organization released a student loan forgiveness guide earlier this year on its website. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government watchdog, released its own guide last month to bring attention to the programs.

The programs are not a quick fix. Instead, they enable borrowers to erase their remaining student debt after several years of payments. Most of the programs are tied to certain low-paid professions, such as teachers or public defenders, and have other restrictions. Here’s a snapshot of several options.

PUBLIC SERVICE PROGRAM

This program is for those who work in federal, state or local government jobs, or at a nonprofit that’s been designated as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The CFPB estimates that a quarter of the country’s workforce falls into those categories. Individuals must also have high student loan balances relative to their income.

The program works like this: anyone who makes 120 on-time monthly payments toward their student loans and works in a qualifying job for 10 years (they don’t have to be consecutive), can apply to have their remaining balance forgiven. The amount of the loans forgiven is not taxed, under current tax law.

Only those with federal Direct Loans will qualify for this program, but some loans, such as the Federal Family Education Loan (also known as FFEL) and the Perkins Loan can be consolidated into a Direct Loan. If you don’t know what type of federal loan you have, you can find out at nslds.ed.gov.

The program was established in 2007, so no one has received loan forgiveness yet. Those hoping to take advantage need to make sure their job qualifies with the Department of Education every year, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com. Save the paperwork and annual income forms, in case you need to later prove your eligibility.

The Department of Education offers more guidelines: . http://1.usa.gov/18sELJS

INCOME-BASED REPAYMENT

Under this program borrowers can qualify for reduced monthly payments, and after 25 years the remaining balance is forgiven. It is important to note that the forgiven amount is taxed as income, which means you will likely have to pay a sum to the IRS that’s lower than the amount forgiven.

The program is for those whose federal student loan debt is high relative their income and family size. Your lender will ultimately decide if you are qualified, but you can see if you would benefit from this program by using this online calculator: . http://1.usa.gov/1bIO1yw

There are other rules, such as which types of federal loans qualify. The Department of Education has a helpful tip sheet: . http://1.usa.gov/19JJVQA

PAY AS YOU EARN PLAN

Borrowers can apply to have their monthly payments reduced, and after 20 years of payments, the balance is forgiven. Any forgiven amounts are taxed as income. This program is for those with a high level of federal student loans compared to their income, and who took out their first federal student loan after Oct. 1, 2007.

Use the Department of Education’s online calculator to see if you qualify: . http://1.usa.gov/194F7V0

OTHER PROGRAMS

Depending on your job, you may be able to get help with your loans.

Teachers, for example, should see if they’re eligible for the teacher loan forgiveness program. They must work at a qualifying school for five consecutive years to receive up to $17,500 in forgiveness on certain federal loans. For more details see: . http://1.usa.gov/1bITqWq

American Student Assistance put a list together of over 60 programs. Some are based on type of job, others are state programs. You can see them here: . Some state programs even help with private loans. Mayotte of ASA recommends an Internet search to see if your state or job qualifies for some sort of student loan help. She says it’s important to ask your employers or human resources department if student loan help is available. She says more employers are refunding a part their employee’s student loan payments. http://bit.ly/15xGpNs

Mayotte also warns that borrowers shouldn’t take jobs just to have their student loans forgiven, or take out too much debt because they assume their debt will be forgiven. Many of the programs are budget based, there’s a possibility that some could disappear or not be around by the time you graduate, Mayotte says.

_____

MORE INFORMATION:

Public service loan forgiveness: http://1.usa.gov/18sELJS

Income-based repayment: http://1.usa.gov/19JJVQA

Pay as you earn plan: http://1.usa.gov/1h5MGzQ

Teacher loan forgiveness program: http://1.usa.gov/1bITqWq

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s guide: http://1.usa.gov/1as4UK8

American Student Assistance’s guide: http://bit.ly/15xGpNs

9 Things You Should Never Say To Teachers

9 Things You Should Never Say To Teachers
n-CRAZY-TEACHER-large570

by Rebecca Klein

It hasn’t been an easy go for teachers lately. In major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, thousands of teachers were laid off this past summer. Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina recently ended teacher tenure and eliminated extra pay for teachers with masters degrees.

Several weeks ago, blogger William E. White pointed out that during back-to-school season in America, “Cartoonists, comedians, pundits, and critics are out in force running down the teaching profession.” However, here at The Huffington Post, we are big fans of teachers, and we think it’s important to show appreciation for them even if mass culture and some state legislatures do not.

As the first weeks of school for many districts draw to a close, we are eager to show teachers what we do — and more importantly — do not think about them. In that vein, we have compiled a list of belittling phrases that you should NEVER say to teachers.

1. “Teaching sounds like such a sweet gig. I mean, you get summers off.”

As teacher bloggers around the Internet can attest, the idea that teachers get summers off is often nothing but a myth. During the summer, many educators teach summer school classes, participate in teacher training, earn advanced degrees and plan for the next year.

2. “I could so be a kindergarten teacher. It’s like babysitting, and I love finger-painting.”

Really? You’re fooling yourself if you think managing an entire class of children is anything like babysitting.

3. “It’s great that when you go home you have no more work to do while your students have to do homework.”

If only that were true. Try coming home and grading homework, working on the next day’s lesson plan, having conferences with teachers and filling out mountains of paperwork. According to a 2012 article in The Washington Post, teachers, on average, work 53 hours a week.

4. “So if you have students who are ‘X’ years old, does that mean you could have basically stopped going to school when you were that age?”

By that logic, couldn’t kids just teach other kids?

5. “It’s awesome that the point of teaching is to make a difference, but do you really think any of your students will remember you?

Do you remember your best teachers? Kids these days do, too.

6. “Don’t you just get to tell kids what you think all day?”

The role of the teacher is not to teach kids what to think, but how to think.

7. “If you get tenure, you pretty much can never get fired, right?”

Wrong. Tenure does not guarantee job security for life, it just requires that a teacher be given due process before being terminated. As noted in a National Education Association blog, “Tenure is about due process — not about guaranteeing jobs for life. And it’s not about protecting ‘bad’ teachers — it’s about protecting good teachers.”

8. “Can’t you just sit back and let the textbook teach for you?”

Teachers do get evaluated, you know.

9. “Do you have a lot more free time now that a lot of kids have private tutors?”

Tutors are meant to supplement. They are certainly no replacement for the real thing.

LA School iPad Security Breached In No Time By Students

LA School iPad Security
Breached In No Time By Students

LOS ANGELES — It took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their Los Angeles high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the Web and access social media sites.

The breach at Roosevelt High and two other LA schools has prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to halt a $1 billion program aimed at putting the devices in the hands of every student in the nation’s second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Times reported. The district also has banned home use of the iPads until further notice as officials look for ways to make sure students use the devices for school work only.

The actions come as school officials nationwide grapple with security measures for iPads and other devices as they introduce them to tech-savvy students.

“I’m guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices,” School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman wrote in a confidential memo to senior staff obtained by the Times. “I want to prevent a `runaway train’ scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the rollout.”

Roosevelt was among the first schools to distribute iPads as part of the district rollout. Its students initially were allowed to take home the Apple tablets, and they learned they could easily delete their personal profile information, giving them greater access to the iPads’ capabilities.

Westchester High and the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills also reported the problem, though in smaller numbers.

Roosevelt students began to tinker with the security software on the devices after “they took them home and they can’t do anything with them,” Alfredo Garcia, a senior at the school, told the Times.

Before long, students were on the Internet, sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, students told the newspaper.

The district said in a statement Wednesday that steps have been taken “to ensure it has 100 percent control over what is accessible” on the devices.

Potential precautions include permanently barring home use of the tablets and strengthening the security software that limits how the devices are used.

Zipperman suggested in the memo to senior staff that the district might want to delay distribution of the iPads.

When the technology breaches came to light Tuesday, Superintendent John Deasy “ordered a moratorium on allowing tablets to leave campus until the problem has been resolved,” the district statement said.

How to Avoid Battles Over Homework

How to Avoid Battles Over Homework

by Kenneth Barish, Ph.D.

For this back-to-school season, I would like to offer some advice about one of the most frequent problems presented to me in over 30 years of clinical practice: battles over homework. I have half-jokingly told many parents that if the schools of New York State no longer required homework, our children’s education would suffer (slightly). But, as a child psychologist, I would be out of business.

Many parents accept this conflict with their children as an unavoidable consequence of responsible parenting. These battles, however, rarely result in improved learning or performance in school. More often than not, battles over homework lead to vicious cycles of nagging by parents and avoidance or refusal by children, with no improvement in a child’s school performance — and certainly no progress toward what should be our ultimate goals: helping children enjoy learning and develop age-appropriate discipline and independence with respect to their schoolwork.

Before I present a plan for reducing homework battles, it is important to begin with this essential understanding:

The solution to the problem of homework always begins with an accurate diagnosis and a recognition of the demands placed on your child. Parents should never assume that a child who resists doing homework is “lazy.”

Every child whose parents or teachers report ongoing resistance to completing schoolwork or homework, and every child who, over an extended period of time, complains that he “hates school” or “hates reading” should be evaluated for the presence of an attention or learning disorder.

These children are not lazy. Your child may be anxious, frustrated, discouraged, distracted or angry — but this is not laziness. I frequently explain to parents that, as a psychologist, the word lazy is not in my dictionary. Lazy, at best, is a description, not an explanation.

For children with learning difficulties, doing their homework is like running with a sprained ankle. It is possible, although painful, and they will look for ways to avoid or postpone this painful and discouraging task.

A Homework Plan

Homework, like any constructive activity, involves moments of frustration, discouragement and anxiety. If you begin with some appreciation of your child’s frustration and discouragement, you will be better able to put in place a structure that helps him learn to work through his frustration — to develop increments of frustration tolerance and self-discipline.

I offer families who struggle with this problem a Homework Plan:

• Set aside a specified — and limited — time for homework. Establish, early in the evening, a homework hour.

• For most children, immediately after school is not the best time for homework. This is a time for sports, for music and drama, and free play.

• During the homework hour, all electronics are turned off — for the entire family.

• Work is done in a communal place, at the kitchen or dining room table. Contrary to older conventional wisdom, most elementary school children are able to work more much effectively in a common area, with an adult and even other children present, than in the “quiet” of their rooms.

• Parents may do their own “homework” during this time, but they are present and continually available to help, to offer encouragement, and to answer children’s questions. Your goal is to create, to the extent possible, a library atmosphere in your home, again, for a specified and limited period of time. Ideally, therefore, parents should not make or receive telephone calls during this hour. And when homework is done, there is time for play.

• Begin with a reasonable — a doable — amount of time set aside for homework. If your child is unable to work for 20 minutes, begin with 10 minutes. Then try 15 minutes the next week. Acknowledge every increment of effort, however small.

• Be positive and offer frequent encouragement. Make note of every improvement, not every mistake.

• Anticipate setbacks. After a difficult day, reset for the following day.

• Give them time. A child’s difficulty completing homework begins as a problem of frustration and discouragement, but it is then complicated by defiant attitudes and feelings of unfairness. A homework plan will begin to reduce these defiant attitudes, but this will not happen overnight.

Most families have found these suggestions helpful, especially for elementary school children. Establishing a homework hour allows parents to move away from a language of threats (“If you don’t… you won’t be able to…”) to a language of opportunities (“When” or “As soon as” you have finished… we’ll have a chance to…”).

Of course, for many hurried families, there are complications and potential glitches in implementing any homework plan. It is often difficult, with children’s many activities, to find a consistent time for homework. Some flexibility — some amendments to the plan — may be required. But we should not let the complications of scheduling or other competing demands deter us from establishing a reasonable homework routine.

6 Simple Ways to ‘Charge’ Your Brain

6 Simple Ways to ‘Charge’ Your Brain

Get up early

Going to bed and waking up early is the first rule. The brain works best is in the morning, according to a study conducted by researchers of the University of Sussex. For example, if you are taking a test or writing an exam, the results are more likely to be better by 5% before noon.

Chew gum

Chewing gum not only freshens breath , but also improves the functioning of the brain. Chewing increases the heart rate, which helps enrich the brain with oxygen and glucose. Saliva enhances the memory function, releasing insulin, which stimulates memory receptors in the brain cells.

Vitamin B

Vitamins B are very good for the brain function. Vitamin B6 enhances the long-term memory, and B1, B2 and B12 help produce and rebuild brain tissue. You can get B vitamins by adding chicken, oily fish and bananas to your diet.

Eat properly

Not only your stomach but your brain also suffers from malnutrition. “Eat little and often – it helps your body constantly maintain the desired level of energy”, says Carina Norris, the author of “You Are What You Eat”. “Large portions provide an important flow of blood to the stomach involved in the process of digestion, which means that there is an outflow of blood from the brain.”

Learn yet another language

This will not only help you during your next trip to another country, but will also maintain your brain in shape. According to a study at University College in London, learning the second foreign language changes the structure of the gray matter, which helps you process information. It’s like going to the gym – the more and better you train your body, the more muscle you have – so here the more languages ​​you know, the better the condition of the gray matter is.

Add herbs to your diet

Add rosemary shoots to your breakfast. This will improve blood flow to the brain and enhances the work of the brain and body in general. Rosemary is not the only herb that boosts cognitive function – the sage, for example, will help you concentrate better.

Christians, Can We Drop This ‘Creationism’ Thing Already?

Christians, Can We Drop This ‘Creationism’ Thing Already?

by David Michael McFarlane

Earlier this week, the Texas Board of Education held a public
hearing about the choice and use of textbooks in the classroom.

Boring stuff, right? Riveting for textbook publishers and educators, maybe, but for most Americans and even Texpats like me, this isn’t news.

It became news, of course, because the hearing resulted in a clash between proponents of evolution and young-earth creationists. Scientists argued to keep the same curriculum. A hodgepodge of Christians and Republicans demanded biology textbooks that taught a biblical creation perspective. And so CNN and every political blog in the country brandished photos and quotes from politicians, presenting the event as a real affront to education.

Whether or not anything comes of this, whether or not we’re just witnessing the last creationists in their death throes, I’m tired. This fight is old, older than the 1925 Scopes Trial. As a Christian and a Texan, I grew up on the front-line of the battle, and I’m ready for Christians to throw in their figurative guns (but literal too, while we’re at it) and surrender.

I say this as a person who takes his faith very seriously. Homeschooled till sixth grade, a graduate of a private Christian high school, I grew up among young-earth creationists. I’ll go ahead and confess that I was a young-earth creationist until college — which isn’t when I abandoned God and began worshiping Darwin. It’s just when I realized how little evolution affected my faith.

I’m tempted to say here that evolution doesn’t affect my faith at all. The mechanics of how life began and multiplied don’t alter my belief in God or view of God’s role in my life. If humans came about gradually through evolution or 6,000 years ago with a divine finger snap [Is that the assumption, creationists? Real question. The verses are a little hazy.], it doesn’t change the fact that I’m alive now; it doesn’t take away any existential angst.

But I need to admit that origins do affect my faith and my understanding of God — or misunderstanding, as it usually is. I believe in a God beyond the comprehension of the human mind, a divine presence immanent and active in this universe, operating within its laws, or perhaps even being its laws.

Evolution is a beautiful concept to me. Precious, single-cellular life originates on a harsh planet, persists against every elemental odd and procreates over billions of years into billions of distinct life forms, culminating in our present age. If this process reflects God, or is God as I’ve heard sometimes, I would say it reveals a patient, attentive and creative genius — if “genius” didn’t sound woefully inadequate to describe the divine. I would also say it reveals a much more complex and wonderful God than a literal reading of Genesis would allow, which was never the point of Genesis to begin with.

Having grown up in Texas, I know this fight is fought with good intentions. Christian parents worry their kids will abandon faith if the stories of Genesis are undermined. But having left Texas and worked with HIV+ children in Romania, befriended Haitian refugees and met survivors of the Kosovo War, I’ve faced global realities more hazardous to belief in a Christian God.

These are injustices worth combating. War, domestic abuse, and environmental degradation are true evils, and yet Christians are still arguing with biology professors, still founding private schools to avoid evolution. They’re fighting science and reason, which are losing battles to be sure, but I think they’re also fighting true Christian faith, which requires absolute humility when reckoning with the divine.

I can say with integrity, my faith is richer for my belief in evolution, not worse. So I’m asking, Christians, can we quit fighting this battle? Can we reevaluate what truly deserves protest and lobbying dollars? Can we abandon picket lines and consider what God looks like within science, not without it?

The College Degrees With The Highest Starting Salaries

The College Degrees With
The Highest Starting Salaries

by Susan Adams

 

A new salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)has some good news for the graduates of the class of 2013. Though many grads are still struggling to find work—an analysis commissioned by the Associated Press in April showed that more than half (53.6%) of new grads were jobless or underemployed—those who are working in their chosen fields are enjoying a 2.4% uptick in salaries from the previous year. Graduates in some majors like petroleum engineering are making close to six figures in their first jobs. According to NACE, that’s the top-paying bachelor’s degree with a salary of $96,200. The next two highest-paying majors are also engineering degrees:  computer engineering at $70,300 and chemical engineering at $66,900.

NACE released two tables this week showing earnings for 2013 graduates. A Bethlehem, PA non-profit, NACE links college placement offices with employers. Its employer members tend to be large companies, but for its salary surveys it goes beyond its members and combs through data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and a master set of data developed by a compensation measurement company called Job Search Intelligence. The data are reported by employers and they represent accepted salaries rather than offers. The latest data come from July 2013.

First, here is a table of the average starting salaries for the top-paying majors for the class of 2013. If a liberal arts college like Oberlin or Wesleyan, doesn’t have a major with the specific title, NACE uses a government measure called the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), says NACE’s employment information manager Andrea Koncz. Note that all of the majors are varying engineering degrees, aside from three: Computer Science, Management Information/Business, and Logistics/Materials Management.

Top-Paid Majors for Class of 2013 Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

NACE also released a more general table showing average salaries by discipline, and how those salaries have fared in the last year. Not surprisingly, given the high engineering salaries in the table above, engineering graduates are the best earners, at $62,100. That’s up 2.3% from the previous year. Business majors saw the greatest increase, 7.9%, to an average of $55,600.

Average Salaries By Discipline

One confusing fact when you look at the two tables: in the second chart, computer science salaries fell 2.5%, to $58,500, even though, in the first chart, grads with that degree are earning an average of $64,100. Koncz explains that in the more general table, NACE looked at all kinds of computer science degrees, including so-called “information sciences and systems.” Grads with those degrees aren’t doing as well as those who received diplomas in pure computer science B.A. programs.

Per usual, humanities and social science majors are faring the worst, with an average starting salary of $37,800. At least that’s up 2.6% from 2012. It’s interesting to note the breakdown within the humanities.  The biggest salary increases came for those who studied sociology, who are enjoying a 10.8% jump from 2012 to $37,000 and for criminal justice majors, who gained 8.1% to $34,800. The smallest increase went to social work majors, who had only 2.3% growth to $36,000. Students who studied visual and performing arts had a salary drop of 3% to $35,600 in 2013.

NACE includes two other interesting charts in its report. The top-paying industries and the businesses that are doing the most hiring. The industry that pays the most, by far, is “mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction,” at an average starting salary of $85,700. The next in line is “management of companies and enterprises,” at $57,500.

One note of hope for humanities grads: The industry that is hiring the most is “educational services,” which hired 452,700 new grads in 2013. The next top-hiring category is “professional, scientific and technical services,” which hired 305,500.

I admit I am preoccupied with humanities majors because that’s the field where I got my degree, at Brown, in an inter-disciplinary “concentration” as they call it there, in “law and society,” where I studied political science , sociology and philosophy. Also I have a 16-year-old college-bound son who only knows, broadly, that he wants to study humanities. I just hope he won’t be part of the 54% of new grads who wind up working at Starbucks and that he’ll find a position that pays more than the NACE chart suggests.