Tag Archives: internship

No more theory, put it into practice.

15 Mar

I need a break. I can’t remember what I did this morning (which feels like three days ago), let alone what I blogged about five weeks ago. Thankfully, I have technology to do most of my remembering for me. I have been taking on more teaching responsibilities in the classroom this week, as well as pounding out and polishing up final papers for my teaching courses. I will be thrilled when the last paper is submitted and I can maybe sleep more than 5 hours or even go for a run.

This quarter has been a roller coaster. December was hard. It began with a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, on December 14. I sat down and cried, and found solace in a song. Later in December, I had a huge change in my life, and was lucky to discover people who truly care about me. I initially didn’t want to blog about it, but I found it was profoundly affecting my life – and I began to wonder about students who have trouble and changes at home, and how it affects their learning. So I shared. A little. I opened up my private life to the internet and made my thoughts public. It was hard, but I feel it is important to always remember that our students have a lot going on in their lives that they may not tell us about, but that can immensely impact their school life.

This quarter, I have been inspired by teachers who are not afraid to take a stance and to dive into the politics of education. The many teachers in Seattle who refused to administer the MAP test have been receiving national attention. I wrote a post about it, which prompted some interesting dialogue in the comments. Additionally, I have greatly enjoyed reading The Jose Vilson blog, and this post about white teachers teaching black history month was very striking. I commented that I often wondered about the “right way” to celebrate all of my students. He responded to me (and to the other commentors) with this post, giving some examples of what white teachers SHOULD (in his opinion) do to teach black history.

MAP testing is a hot topic, as one of my cohort-mates, For Whom The Bell Rings, wrote about a recent blog entry from our local weather guru, Cliff Mass. I commented with my own ideas, and the conversation that began in these blogs seeped out into the real world – our carpool, classrooms, and lunch times became sounding boards for ideas and arguments about this way of thinking. It’s just one example of how a blog post can create dialogue and push people’s thinking, on and off the internet.

So, there’s my blog reflection for Winter Quarter. In a week, full-time student teaching/co-teaching begins. We’ve learned the theory, crammed it into our heads, hoping something will stick. We’ve worked with fantastic educators and professionals, and even more fantastic (fantasticker? yeah.) students. Now we’ve got to put it into practice. Blogging isn’t required for the remainder of our program, but I think I would like to continue reflecting on my teaching on a blog, perhaps even collaborating with some of my cohort-mates.

Now, here I go on to the next assignment.

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.



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?

Screen Time

15 Oct

Last week’s post brought up some interesting discussion, both in blog-land and in class. My professor summed it up like this:

Talking about “too much technology” in schools is similar to talking about “too much paper in schools.” It’s a medium to use: a tool, not a subject.

If technology is used positively and in a well-managed way, then yes, it can be a great tool for teaching and learning. However, there is a large difference between passively staring at a screen and learning from a tool. This New York Times article from last fall discusses the “app gap” – the different types of screen time high- and low-income children are getting. The gist of it is, children from higher-income families spend time playing educational apps, while children from low-income families watch television.

So what does this mean? It means that some children – higher income children – are going to be prepared for a world where information is at their fingertips. A world where someone can go on a hike, discover an interesting plant, take a picture of it and immediately have information about the plant. A world where their curiosity can be sated instantaneously. Other children – low income children – are going to be prepared to be entertained and receive information passively (if at all). They will lack curiosity and the desire to learn new things.

Additionally, in my opinion, it means that children are spending far too much time in front of screens – nearly 2 hours a day watching TV or something similar, and less than a half hour a day reading or being read to. Even if children are watching “educational” television, they are sitting passively and not interacting. They might learn something, but only what the educational show is teaching – their curiosity isn’t piqued, their minds aren’t expanding, and they aren’t using the tools available to us in our modern technological world.

We have all this technology – and it’s obvious children are going to spend time with it, so the question is: What can we do with these awesome new learning tools?

A Study in Contrast

5 Oct

This was the first week of my Middle School placement, and I am struck by so many contrasting ideas and realities, I’m not really sure where my head is. Yes, I went from third grade to middle school; from 8-year-olds to 14-year-olds, but there is so much more to it than that. I went from a low-income school to a private school with tuition higher than mine. I went from a school where not all families have enough food, to one where each student has his or her own laptop.

The kind of teaching done at this private school is remarkable: teachers work together to create their curriculum, to suit the needs of the school and their students. Since private school are exempt from our state testing, the teachers are not teaching to a test, but instead teaching for content and understanding. Is this a better method of schooling? I am not sure yet, but I am forming opinions. The teachers not only have freedom from tests, they also have the resources available to do things like purchase several different class sets of textbooks, and draw their lessons from many different curricula.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, each student in their upper division (middle school) has their own laptop. I came from an elementary school with a set of 5-year old laptops per three classrooms. Students are mostly unfamiliar with technology beyond video games, and the idea of taking a computerized test is daunting for many of them. But, is it really better to have our children tied to technology? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for school-aged children. Should that limit include “educational” programs and homework?

I’m currently reading two books – Independence Days by Sharon Astyk and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. They are both about the importance of living our lives closer to nature. Sharon Astyk focuses on our food sources, and specifically in Independence Days, about storing and preserving local food so we rely less on the global industrial food complex, which she argues is unsustainable and too reliant on fossil fuels. (Her blog is a great read if you’re interested.) Richard Louv is the inspiration for the “No Child Left Inside” movement, who argues that children today suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder,” meaning they are disconnected from nature, instead focused on television, video games, and computers. He argues that this rise in technological addiction is directly linked to the rise in childhood obesity, depression, and attention disorders.

Both of these authors have my mind whirring and wheeling. I am having an extremely difficult time finding a balance between my belief that we need to live closer to nature, and my belief that children need access to current technologies in order to succeed in today’s world. If you can’t type or operate a computer, you will not get a job today – and what will it be like 10 years from now? However, the more we focus on technology, the less we seem to focus on the world around us.

Two years ago, I listened to this short segment on my local NPR station about an Outdoor-Only Kindergarten on Vashon Island, WA. It still sticks with me. It rains on Vashon, a lot, and yet these students don’t spend any time indoors. They are experiencing the world instead of reading about it. They are learning to interact with natural occurrences such as rain, mud puddles, and giant banana slugs.

Is there a happy medium between our increasingly tech-hungry world and living close to nature?


13 Sep

In 3rd grade, students learn cursive. Cursive? Cursive. I think I know what I need to practice.

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