Tag Archives: education

The Muses Go To School

13 Mar

As part of our seminar and tech class, my group created an RSA-style video about the book The Muses Go To School.

I really enjoyed reading this book, because it emphasized a fact that I firmly believe: Teaching The Arts in school is a vital part of educating children. Not all children will grow up to be professional artists/actors/directors/poets/musicians etc… However, every single person (child) can benefit greatly from the inclusion of arts education throughout their schooling.

We made an RSA video to mirror the importance of art in schools – an artistic form of assessment for an artistic book!

Hope you enjoy!

Different Worlds

10 Mar

On Monday, I had the opportunity to sit in on two classrooms at the school where my mom works. This school is in a wealthier district, with only 10% of students qualifying for  free or reduced lunch.

There are some extreme differences, as well as similarities, between this school I visited, and the school where I am a teacher intern.

1: The building

The school in which I am a teacher intern was built in 1959. In 1989, it was “modernized” – I’m not sure what that entails, but I assume it included upgraded electrical systems and making the buildings safer. However, I’m sure someone who attended the school in the 70s would still recognize it.

The school I visited last week was completely rebuilt, from the ground up, in 2011. High-speed wireless internet, large classrooms (all about 1000 square feet), and interactive whiteboards in every classroom are just a few of the items listed on the district webpage.

2. The Students

As I mentioned above, only 10% of students at this school qualify for free or reduced lunch. I had some difficulty finding that information for my main placement school, but I believe it is between 45-55% of students – although some sources have that number as much higher.

The 3rd graders in my main placement and the 3rd graders in the class I visited are two very different groups of children. The class I visited is designated a “high achieving” or “gifted” class; students must score highly on several tests in order to qualify. The biggest difference I noticed was the amount of independent work given to students. I wonder, as I often do, if these students are able to work independently because of their ability levels, or because it has simply always been expected of them. It’s one of those chicken or the egg situations, I suppose – although I do believe that when we expect the best of our students, we receive their best.

3. The teacher/staff community

In this area, I saw virtually no difference. I sat in the staff room and ate lunch (with my mom) and chatted with teachers about school, teaching, and life in general. The conversation was hardly different than any one I usually have at lunch at my main placement. Teachers, aides, and other staff clearly love what they do, and work hard every day to make a difference in their students lives.

 

 

The best lesson

10 Feb

Teachers at several schools around Seattle have refused to administer the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test in the past few weeks.

The boycott initially began in December, with a few teachers at Garfield High stating that they would not administer the MAP test to their students, for a number of reasons. Two of the biggest reasons – it interferes with student learning and doesn’t give teachers any valuable information about their students. You can read a full petition presented by the Garfield teachers here, at change.org.

The administration has reacted cautiously, especially as teachers from many other schools have joined the boycott. Community support is varied, if one is to believe the comments on online news articles. (Which, to be honest, I usually skip. Too many people think they can hide behind their computers and spew hateful comments.)

But what’s the big deal? Why won’t teachers just sit down and administer this one test?

Because it’s not just this one test. The MAP is one test in a long list of tests that Seattle students must take over the course of the year. Regardless of what information is gleaned from these test scores, the more time students spend in testing, the less time they spend actually learning. The MAP test is conducted on the computer, which takes computer lab time from other students who could be learning things about technology, programming, etc… or even just the simple typing skills that everyone needs today. Many students don’t have access to computers other than at school.

Whether or not you agree with a boycott of the MAP test, it is exciting to see teachers coming together to try to improve the education system that they work in. PTSAs and parents and students are all supporting these teachers. Parents are writing letters to exempt their students from testing. Students are refusing to take the test, and voicing their support of the boycott.

This sentiment against mandatory, unnecessary testing is not unique to Seattle. Chicago teachers were told that the MAP was going to be used as part of their student-achievement based evaluation process. In case you forgot, that didn’t go so well, for any party involved. (Though the testing was just one thing on a list of teacher grievances that led to that strike.)

Teaching is not easy, teaching is not a job for those who “can’t do” – it’s a job for those who do, every day. These teachers are showing their students that they can make a difference, that they can stand up for what they believe in, and that they can be heard.

That’s the best lesson any teacher could hope to teach.

The Power of Please

3 Feb

We have a student who some might describe as “defiant.”

He refuses to follow directions. He won’t come to the carpet. He won’t complete his worksheets. He won’t do his homework. When told to do anything, he refuses, about half the time.

Friday, I was fed up with him. He was doing his math homework, with a pen, during independent reading time. I took a deep breath, and said, “Scotty, can you please put that away and get out a book?”

He looked at me, blinked, and put away his math, got out a book, and said “sorry.”

All because I said please? Maybe not, but I am nearly positive he would have ignored me had I given him another order to follow directions and get out a book.

Saying “Please” and “Thank You” is something we insist on teaching our children from an early age. However, teachers don’t do it. We give orders. Is it too much work to say “please” and “thank you?”

It’s so easy to to get in the mindset of “I am in charge, do what I say.”

“Line up.”

“Use a pencil.”

“Get a book.”

“Sit down.”

“Don’t talk.”

What does this teach our students? It teaches them that they have no power. It teaches them that they have no say in their own lives, no free will. It teaches them that we, the teachers, are in charge, and they are not. It teaches them that the person in charge can give orders. Can make demands. Doesn’t have to be polite.

When we, the teachers, enforce these ideas of unequal power, we prevent the creation of a democratic classroom.

What about when the teacher is white and the students are not? When we are educated and the parents are not? When we speak Standard English and our students do not?

It’s easy to say please and thank you. It’s easy and it’s powerful.

 

National Day of Service

20 Jan

In addition to being the day we celebrate the official beginning of our president’s second term, tomorrow, January 21, is also Martin Luther King, Jr Day. In 1994, congress designated MLK day as a “national day of service” – in an effort to “make it a day on, not a day off.” The spirit of the day is based on the belief of Dr King, that anyone can serve.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I would like to make an addition to Dr. King’s belief – you don’t need to be wealthy to serve. Many people believe that volunteering or otherwise helping a charitable organization is something that only the wealthy can afford to do. I believe it is something that all of us must do – we can’t afford not to.

Tomorrow, my day will mostly be spent working on homework and lesson planning, trying to get a little bit ahead, so maybe I won’t be behind by the end of the quarter. I’m going to be getting ready for my first official lesson observation, for a week of classes, and for taking on more teaching duties. Though I may not be working with an official volunteer work party, it is still service. Or rather, preparation for service.

In the past, I have spent MLK Day cleaning parks, serving pancakes, organizing toy drives, and building school gardens. In the future, I hope to do these things with my students. Yes, MLK Day is a federal holiday, which means no school. However, it also means that many of my students will be home alone – because many of their parents will still have to work. What better way to ensure my student’s safety than to organize a day of service? Maybe I will have to give extra credit. Maybe I will have to receive special permission from my principal, the district, and the parents. I am sure there will be hoops to jump through and paperwork to file.

It will be worth it.

Creating a sense of community responsibility and teamwork is a vital part of being a teacher. Working together on a service project of our own creation could be a powerful way to build towards these goals. Whether on and official Day of Service or not, teaching my students that they can have a positive impact on the world around them – that they indeed have that power – what textbook can teach that?

Here’s a video about the meaning of MLK Day of Service:

For more information about the National Day of Service, check out their website.

Thanks-Vember 7

7 Nov

I am thankful for my parents.

They are immensely supportive of me in all my crazy adventures. Most recently, they gave me and man-friend their old car, so we have two. This means, when he needs to go to work in South Seattle, and I need to go north, and we’re both sick and it’s raining, we don’t have to juggle schedules, take the bus, or ride a bike in the rain. We both try to avoid driving as much as possible, but sometimes, you just need a car. And now that worry is off our shoulders.

My parents taught me to care for others, to stand up for myself, and to focus on the important things in life. It’s not always easy to let criticism and anger slide off, but for the most part, other people’s opinions are not important. When I am angry at people, or hurt by someone’s judgement, I often ask myself – “What would Mom say? She’d probably tell me it’s not worth my time.”

My parents taught me the value of a dollar, and more importantly the value of a good friendship. They have friends from high school and earlier who they are still close to, and I hope I’m on my way to friendships with that kind of lasting power.

My parents taught me about love. They have been married for 44 years, together for 46. They were together through a war, through deaths of family and friends, through good times and through bad. My mom has often told me she’s married to her best friend, and I hope I will be able to say the same thing about my husband after 44 years. Sometimes they annoy each other, sometimes they get mad, but they always get through it.

My parents taught me the value of a good education. Whether or not I would go to college was never an issue – it was always assumed that I would, no matter what it took. If every child had parents (or a parent) like mine, teacher’s jobs would be a lot easier.

Thanks Mom and Dad, I love you.

Middle School, and a missing part of history

20 Oct

Guys, I love teaching in middle school so much.

Yesterday, my Dyad partner and I team-taught a 45 minute lesson in 7th grade humanities.

The students read and thoughtfully discussed four articles about the use of Native American imagery in sports mascots, as an introduction to their Native American Culture unit, which includes reading Sherman Alexie’s amazing young adult book, Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it. Alexie is a local author, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He writes mostly about life as a Native American in the modern world – his writing is amazingly powerful.)
Our lesson, which was suggested by our co-teacher, was thrown together at the last minute – on Wednesday she realized that our class was a day ahead of schedule, so asked us if we wanted to teach on Thursday. Considering we had about 12 hours to plan, I think our lesson went extremely well.

The articles we had the students read were a mix of local pieces about a recent recommendation by the Washington State Board of Education for schools to do away with Native American Mascots, opinion pieces about the use of Native American Mascots, and a piece from 2005 about the NCAA’s ban on “hostile or offensive” mascots and nicknames. If you’re interested, you can check them out:

Native American Mascots Challenged in Washington

Lose the Indian Mascots

NCAA American Indian Mascot Ban

Time to Rethink Native American Imagery
The discussion went really well – these 7th graders had some really great things to say. However, one student made a comment that surprised me: “When we think of racism, we think of slavery and how horrible that was – but nothing bad like that really happened to Native Americans so we don’t automatically think of racism being against them.”

I had to have him clarify his statement because I was confused – by 7th grade, students haven’t learned about The Trail Of Tears? About forcing Native children to attend boarding school to erase their “Indian-ness?” About the Indian Removal Act? Apparently not – and come to think of it, I’m not sure I knew about those things by 7th grade, either. The history of the systematic destruction of the native peoples of North America is missing from our education system. Why? Because we are embarrassed? Because it makes us look bad? Because it opposes the view of early America as a vast open wilderness, waiting for Americans to make it what it is today?

I was struck with the horrible thought that our lesson, though well planned and interesting, was actually irrelevant because these students were lacking the background to understand all the issues. If that is the case, where do we start? When do we start? How do we start?

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