Ready for a quirky admission: I read Gawker, the slightly tawdry, pseudo-news site with the subtitle, “Today’s Gossip is Tomorrow’s News,” almost every night.

I know. I know. Gawker is nothing more than reality TV for the Web, and I’m probably frying brain cells every time that I waste my time there.

But a few weeks back, I stumbled across an article that actually has me thinking about our nation’s efforts to recruit and retain teachers.

Titled “Texas Kindergarten Teacher Ruins Christmas,” it tells the story of a teacher who outed Santa as a fraud to her 5-year-olds after one of her students drew Santa in the “real” section of an assignment that asked kids to sort objects into real and imaginary columns.

Now don’t get me wrong: I can’t BELIEVE that a kindergarten teacher would ever out Santa Claus. Sure, he’s not real. Sure, kids will eventually figure that out. (read more…)

classroom 2As part of my work this year, I’m trying to unpack and illustrate the idea of the needs-fulfilling classroom.

The needs-fulfilling classroom is a place in which both the teacher and students feel empowered to learn together and from one another. It is an inquiry-driven place. Students follow their own curiosities into content, and teachers follow their students into learning. Insomuch as the teacher “teaches,” she does so by observing students at mental play. By doing so, she learns how her students self-organize intellectually as well as socially.

How students behave — and what they create — when given the freedom to learn provides much more useful information to the teacher about her students and their learning than any set of monocultural, text-based assessments ever can.

Because the teacher in the needs-fulfilling classroom doesn’t deny students the opportunity to play with, remix, and/or — at times — ignore class content, she is better able to meet students other needs than a teacher in a traditional, needs-denying classroom can. (read more…)

FridaySmartBlog on Education has explored a wide range of topics since its launch in June — the standardized testing debate, technology innovation, professional development for teachers and much more.

We are privileged to work with great writers who bring you reliable, educator-focused content. We also are thankful for our readers who regularly read our blogs, share their thoughts and pass along posts they value to other professionals.

Here’s a look at our ten most-tweeted education posts of 2012.

1. Are kids really motivated by technology?

As a guy who delivers two-day #edtech workshops during my breaks from full-time classroom teaching, I’m often asked the same questions again and again: How can teachers use technology to motivate students? What digital tools do kids like best? (read more…)

2. What is a 21st-century teacher?

People toss around terms in education and attach the words “21st century” to appear cutting edge or on the front end of trending ideas. (read more…)

Scene: 1950s & 60s. UC Berkley. Laboratory of Dr. Mark Rosenzweig

Study: Environmental therapy and its effects on brain development and plasticity

Subjects: Rats

Environment: Mark Rosenzweig and his colleagues raised one group of rats in a sensory-limited environment. (Read as: Extreme deprivation. The human equivalent? Raising a child by leaving them under the stairwell.) Another group was raised in an “enriched environment.” (Read as: Caged with tunnels, ladders, wheels and other such “toys.” The human equivalent? Raising kids inside with stuff from the store.)

Findings: Rats in the “enriched environment” were more successful at navigating mazes than the rats in the “impoverished” environment. Essentially, they dominated at the rat equivalent of the IQ test.

Legacy: Because of his research, Dr. Rosenzweig is considered among the pioneers of modern neuroscience. More importantly though, he is considered practically a saint by people who want you to buy heaps of their products for your kids’ brains. (read more…)

I was extremely fortunate to be hired as a third-grade teacher fresh out of Penn State University in 2000 by principal Maureen Cheever at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Ill. Before I met her, I had never envisioned myself as a school principal. From the moment I joined the Hubbard Woods team, her leadership both inspired and pushed me to demand more of myself and those around me. I knew she had high expectations for me from the moment I walked into my role as a new and inexperienced teacher.

Cheever continues to be my living definition of a servant leader. Every day and above everything else, she found ways to put me in a position to be the best teacher I could be. She was invested in me and groomed me as an educator and leader. I vividly recall her spending her days visiting classrooms, giving credit to students, staff and parents and encouraging the best progressive education for our children. (read more…)