Thursday, December 8, 2016

Map the Authors - repost

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pecha Kucha

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Shor - Empowering Education

Ira Shor defines "Empowering Education" as "a critical-democratic pedagogy for self and social change" (15). Shor is advocating for education to be more about preparing students for social change and to develop their own opinions about the world, rather than memorize information and recite it back to the teacher. From my own experience in high school, I was taught the value in respecting authority and memorizing what they said and spitting it back out at them for the test. I was never asked to think about society or the way the world works, and I was definitely never asked why I was at school. My high school was a public school with a lot of students who just did not care about school at all, but maybe if we had been given a voice within our own education it might have made a difference. I know that all throughout high school I constantly asked myself why I was being forced to go there day after day, and if only my teachers had taken the time to talk about that with me, I might have felt differently. Shor says, "education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn" (12) and my high school definitely stifled us and never let us question authority.

Shor talks about how teachers need to "challenge the standard syllabus" (12). I have been through class after class, even at Rhode Island College, where the teacher or professor has not once strayed from the syllabus given on the first day. There was no room for students to add anything or to challenge what the professor thought we should be doing every day. Shor explains that you can still stick to your syllabus but allow students to question you or to expand on any part of the syllabus they would like. Talking about things that actually matter to students and that are relevant in their outside lives, makes school much more engaging and worth while.

"Students in empowering classes should be expected to develop skills and knowledge as well as high expectations for themselves, their education, and their future" (Shor 16)

This video posted by DevEd, talks about the importance of relevant education and fits pretty well with the article by Shor 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Promising Practices Reflection

At the Promising Practices event on Saturday, November 5, 2016, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the conference. The key note speaker at the beginning was Robert Brooks who is a clinical psychologist, author and lecturer. At the beginning of the morning I was not sure what to expect out of this, and as soon as Mr. Brooks started speaking I was instantly engaged. He started off by telling us that his main choice in college was not psychology, that he had completed three years of a different degree before discovering psychology was what he truly wanted to do. I really appreciated him saying this because it helped me relate to him on a personal level. I too have switched around majors and will not be graduating in my expected four years, and he really helped me understand that there is nothing wrong with that. He has a very successful career today and was very inspirational to me in helping me accept the path I have chosen and know that it is right for me. One topic he talked about that really stuck out to me was the how important it is as an educator to be what he calls a "charismatic adult". He described these as people whom posses some of the following qualities: empathy, trust, connection, welcoming, problem solving, decision making, etc. I found this important to keep in mind as a future educator so that I am aware of how my actions and personality effect the children I am teaching and there success as students.

The workshop that stuck out the most to me was "Embedding Growth Mindset into Everyday Elementary School Lessons". This workshop was run by Sarah Hess (a teacher in Henry Barnard) and Makayla Calkins (an almost graduate of the FSEHD). The topic of growth mindset has always been important to me and has always been something I have strived to maintain. To relate this to my personal experiences, I thought about the activity I do called colorguard. Within this activity there are many challenges and you do not always get things the first time. Your instructors might ask you to do something you have never done before but you have to do it anyway. It is important to always maintain an open (or growth) mindset when approaching challenges like this, because if you approach it the opposite way with a closed mindset, the challenge will be almost impossible. So, the idea of growth mindset is definitely something I would like to incorporate into my classroom one day and this workshop gave me great resources on how to embed these lessons into the regular curriculum.

The idea of growth mindset can loosely connect to Lisa Delpit where she says that it is our responsibility to teach the rules and codes of power to our students, because without these rules and codes it is very hard for students to gain power. I believe that having a growth mindset is a code for gaining power in the world. Without this growth mindset, you are accepting that you have grown as much as you can in life and this is where you will stay forever. Successful people constantly are trying to better themselves and seeking ways to improve. I believe that if we did not teach this in schools early on, it will hold kids back from achieving more than they thought possible.

Here is a website that lists 30 different children's books you can use in your classroom while trying to teach children about growth mindset.

Here is a website of short inspirational videos that can be used to demonstrate growth mindset.

Lastly, here is an article that explains why it is okay to fail at something, as long as you are willing to try again.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Oakes - "Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take Another Route"

Throughout this entire article written by Jeannie Oakes, all I could think about was how true it was to my own middle school and high school experiences. This idea of "tracking" is that students who are known to be smarter are placed in "high-ability classrooms" while students who do not display clear signs of intelligence are placed in lower-ability classrooms. This means that the instruction within these classrooms differs immensely. The high-ability students are being challenged daily and being asked to use critical thinking skills in order to learn from each other and the real world. In the lower-ability classes the teachers spend more time on discipline and classroom etiquette, rather than critical thinking or classroom discussions. This results in worksheets, busy work, and allows more time for students to get left behind.

This was the exact system my middle school used. Each grade was divided into 4 or 5 different classes. The same students were in all of your classes and these classes were determined based on how your previous years teachers think you did academically. I was in the high-ability class and I had friends who were in the lower-ability class. This gave me plenty of opportunities to compare and contrast our assignments and figure out how these classes were divided. Although it was never explicitly said that there was a level difference between the classes, everyone knew. In my eighth grade English class, my class had a paper to write on one of the books we had read. The lower-level class read the same book but only ever read it in class when the teacher could read it to them, my class had to read it on our own, which allowed for more class discussion and therefore made our papers stronger. The lower-ability class had to write the same paper but theirs was required to be significantly shorter than ours, more like a summary of the book to make sure they understood what the book was about.

Transitioning into high school these classes did not change much. The higher-ability kids took the honors classes while every one else took College Prep classes or lower. I'm not sure how I feel about this method of instruction even after reading this article. I believe it is a good way to ensure that higher-level learners are achieving their full potential, but I think it is cutting the other students short without even giving them a chance. So, there are obvious flaws on the idea of "Tracking" because every student deserves the same learning opportunity. However, it becomes a fuzzy situation when you try to blend a classroom and then the higher-ability learners are not being challenged because the other students are struggling and vice versa.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kahne and Westheimer

In this article about service learning entitled, "In the Service of What? The Politics of Service Learning" authors Kahne and Westheimer highlight two completely different approaches to service learning. One method, used by a 12th grade history teacher named Mr. Johnson, had less guidelines and was more of a volunteer experience rather than giving of a service. Mr. Johnson explained his assignment by saying "students would interact with those less fortunate than themselves and would experience the excitement and joy of learning while using the community as a classroom". The projects students chose ranged from volunteering in a center for babies whose mothers were addicted to drugs, and another student simply ran errands for a local doctor. While both projects are effective and useful, these two students did not get the same experience out of their projects. This teacher required no extra reflection or assignments to go along with their service learning, so the student who ran errands for the doctor, was not actually learning about or helping those less fortunate than themselves. To me, this seems like a waste of time and a waste of an opportunity to really gain great experience from the real world.

In a second service learning assignment with a different teacher, Ms. Adams, had her students all do the same project together. This allowed the students to talk with their peers and share knowledge and experiences that can spark interesting and intellectual conversations amongst the seventh grade class. These students focused on the prominent issue of homelessness in America. The students actually learned in class about homelessness prior to their service learning and continued to write journals and reflections about things they saw in their service learning. This seems effective because it gets the students to actually participate and reflect on what they are doing and realize why it is important.

After reading this article, I thought about my own service learning experience in this class. I enjoy the fact that after we go into our service learning, we are required to write down journal entries to reflect on our experiences. These journals will be interesting to look back on after a few years of being a teacher to see if our experiences in the classroom still match up or if we are using any of the teaching techniques we first saw with this service learning project. The fact that a majority of us were placed in kindergarten classes gives us the chance to share stories and tips with our peers. With this particular service learning project, I do not feel as though I am really making a difference, I feel like I am merely observing the approaches to teaching and the kindergarten environment. I hope that in the future when I do service learning that I will get the chance to personally impact the life of a student or have that student impact my teaching career.