Welcome to HEI’s New Blog!

You'll find the best resources to become a better educator

Jon Platt is a Texas-born, award-winning writer. He is a graduate student in Baylor University's journalism program. Jon coordinates HEI's digital marketing. He lives in Waco, Texas with his Dalmatian, Penny.

Have you seen what social media looks like after a national tragedy or natural disaster? People from everywhere pour in to provide support and awareness.

I love that part of the Internet — the ability to make tribes out of common experience, the chance to connect with like-minded people and experience alternative opinions. That’s what we’re planning to do here at HEI Today. What excites me is we’re doing it for and with people like you!

What I learned about dyslexia from 33 years of teaching

This post is by Dana Ross Stanke. She is a Reading Interventionist, who lives and teaches in Waco, Texas.

I have been in a classroom in one capacity or another since 1971. (I prefer to think of myself as experienced as opposed to old.) For 33 years I have been a reading specialist, a Reading Recovery teacher, a reading coach, and a reading interventionist.  I’ve seen the reading pendulum swing from phonics to whole language to balanced literacy.  What hasn’t changed in all those years is that some children, no matter what reading program is thrown at them, have great difficulty learning to read and write.  My fascination and passion has always been with these particular children.

Being a teenager just isn’t fair!

God bless those of you who teach them.

    Journalism professor

    Robert F. Darden is a Professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University. His most recent books, Nothing But Love In God's Water: Volumes 1 & 2, are available on Amazon.

    Jazz historian, activist and author Nat Hentoff died January 7, 2016. Hentoff was an extraordinary chronicler of jazz and the men and women who created the music. He also wrote several novels, most notably two books for young adults, This School is Driving Me Crazy and Does This School Have Capital Punishment? They follow the misadventures of a fairly normal seventh grade boy and have the ring of authenticity about things like bullies, fitting in, and the inexplicable terrors of junior high. They’re not my favorite YA books – Hentoff is prone to preach from time to time – but they’re worth a read.

    Hentoff’s passing, though, also put me in mind of the YA novels that have stuck with me through the decades– Sarah, Plain and Tall, A Chance Wild Apple, Tuck Everlasting, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Ramona Quimby, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMN, A Smart Kid Like You, The Secret Garden, Jacob I Have Loved, and so many others. So much so, the next day I Netflixed the Disney movie version of one of the best, A Bridge to Terabithia (2007). If you haven’t read the original by the great Katherine Paterson (a Newbery Prize-winner in 1978), the movie is pretty darn close. Treat yourself.

    It’s the story of Jesse (played by Josh Hutcherson), a 5th grader with lots of problems: three bossy sisters, a brooding distant father (the great Robert Patrick), and a school full of bullies. Jesse escapes into his one love – art. Suddenly, there is a new kid in his class, Leslie (the heart-breakingly good AnnaSophia Robb), who has problems of her own (not the least of which is that she’s an outsider in this close-knit rural school). They become inseparable and, together, create the world of Terabithia.

    No spoilers here, but you will love this little movie. It is full of magic and love and courage and – because the real world isn’t Terabithia – tragedy.

    It also reminded me of the hardest time in my life and, from an informal poll of friends through the years, the hardest time in most people’s lives: junior high. From about 5th grade through 9th grade, nothing make sense. And your body and your emotions make the least sense of all. If you’re a guy, strange hormones are unexpectedly surging through your body. Girls become infinitely complex, unendingly mysterious alien life-forms. Teachers suddenly become authority figures. Someone has taken away recess. Mom and dad go from being your favorite people to slightly … embarrassing.

    I would never, ever want to be 10 or 12 or 14 again.  For the first time – I was experiencing adult emotions in a kid’s brain, and my kid’s body was turning into a teen-ager’s body. It was baffling. It was scary. And – geez louise – it’s just not fair! No one should have to endure all of that.

    After watching A Bridge to Terabithia (and yes, I cried – but it was a manly sort of tears), I was swept for time back into my own junior high days. As a Military Brat, I went to different schools in my fifth, sixth and seventh grade years. It was a long time ago, but through the fog of hazy memory, I remember a mostly upbeat kid with Coke-bottle glasses, buck teeth, and a crew cut reading voraciously, dreaming of playing first baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals, and torturously finding my way through this scary new world.

    I remember that the feelings I had at the time were as real to me then as they are now. First love! First loss! First bully! First argument with my parents! But because I was a kid, the adults in my life thought I was still feeling a kid’s emotions.

    A Bridge to Terabithia reminded me, yet again, that junior high kids really do feel. The loss of a friend or loved one is no less real because you’re only 11. The crazy-quilt of emotions, including something like love or infatuation, that follow when you meet That First Girl or That First Guy are no less real to the junior high kid who experiences them the first time.

    When our children went through those years, our emotions careened with theirs. During those days, they were a blur of long arms and longer legs, loveable one minute, infuriating the next. They couldn’t help it any more than I could have when I was that age. I wish I had been more understanding during my kids’ junior high years. Perhaps I will be when the grandkids turn that awful/wonderful age.

    God bless those of you who teach junior high. You’re doing God’s work. You may never meet a more confusing, enduring group of people in your life. But those who teach junior high year after year tell me it is worth it.

    10 things a teacher should consider when thinking about grad school

    President of HEI

    Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

    1. What program are you interested in and what college(s) offers that program?
    2. Fit for your future career dreams – Think about the long-term goals.  What is your dream job – select a master’s that prepares for that goal.  Make sure it is something you love.
    3. Support – The greatest barrier for most people returning to higher education is fear and takes many various forms.  The greatest tool for overcoming fear is information and support — support from family, friends, and the college you plan to attend.  Make sure that you have the support of the people in your life.  If you have a friend who is also considering graduate school, talk about enrolling together and supporting each other through the process.
    4. Affordability – be sure to chooses a graduate program that you can either afford, or that you will be able to make financial aid payments for once you graduate. A financial aid calculator can help estimate your payments after graduation.
    5. Fit for you schedule and lifestyle – Obviously a Tuesday/Thursday 11 a.m. class will not work for most full time worker schedules.  If it is not a fit for your schedule, you will be unlikely to finish.  Online courses can help make learning more flexible.  Weekend or evening options work better for folks working during the day. 
    6. Institutional accreditation – both academic and organizational accreditation is important.  Check to be sure your college of choice is both regionally accredited academically and recognized by your state certification/licensing body.
    7. High pass-rates for sitting for certification exams – Ask college what their pass rates are for the certification(s) you seek.
    8. Students are treated as valued individual and not a number – This should be somewhat evident in the early communications with your prospective colleges.  Are your calls returned promptly, are people glad to hear from you, are your questions answered thoroughly, are all the bases covered?
    9. Assisting graduating student with career advancement – is the college willing and able to help you with the hurdles to employment with:
      1. Letters of recommendation?
      2. Advice and networking?
      3. Problem solving and referrals?
    10. Is your college well thought of – ask current students and other professionals. If other people have had a good experience at a college and/or working with graduates of that college, chances are better that you will too.

    W.E.B. Du Bois’ advice to a young man

    And how it can live on in your classroom

      Journalism professor

      Robert F. Darden is a Professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University. His most recent books, Nothing But Love In God's Water: Volumes 1 & 2, are available on Amazon.

      My research into the roots of black sacred music as protest music repeatedly took me to the great African American writer, educator and leader, W.E.B. Du Bois.

      In his Autobiography, Du Boise closes with advice to his recently born great-grandson. Du Boise is 90 as he pens these words; his Autobiography was first published in the United States in 1968, five years after his death. It is remarkably appropriate for today, not just for May and June graduates, but for all of us: