Tag Archives: Seattle

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.

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Running

3 Mar
Photo credit: Danielle Walquist Lynch, via Flickr

Photo credit: Danielle Walquist Lynch, via Flickr

This morning, I woke up before the sun came up. I got dressed, put on my running shoes, and drove to Seattle Center. Then, I voluntarily ran 3.1 miles.

This is not something I ever thought I would do. Running seemed pointless. I didn’t understand why people would force themselves to do something so unpleasant. However, before I even finished the race, I found myself wondering when I would have a chance to do it again.

I ran with several of my friends from my teaching program, and since education is pretty much the only thing I think about at the moment, I very quickly began making connections between running and teaching, running and learning, running and the education system… You get the point

Learning: Many students think reading or math (or any other subject) is boring, pointless, and unpleasant. It may be painful at first. You may stumble. You may fall. But if you keep getting back up, and trying – you will get there.

Teaching: I was lucky enough to have awesome friends pushing me and keeping me going.I used iPhone apps and GPS trackers to motivate myself. As teachers, we have to either be those motivators, or find what works for our students. Sitting next to them giving encouragement, or finding a program that helps them learn – there are many paths to success, but all paths need support.

Education: Ten Thousand people showed up for this race. TEN THOUSAND. If ten thousand people can get up before 6am on a Sunday, park, gather, and run a carefully organized race course, then why can’t we make schools better? What can we learn from this?

shoes

The most important lesson I learned – don’t give up. When I started training, I couldn’t run a mile. Now, I can run 3. It feels great!

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.

Thanks-Vember 25

25 Nov

I’m thankful for sunny days, coffee shops, and wi-fi. I’m especially thankful for the ability to work at a coffee shop, on wi-fi, with my classmate, on our homework. We got a lot done today, and I’m feeling a little better about the next two weeks.

Thanks-Vember 24, Small Business Saturday

24 Nov

While the Friday after Thanksgiving is known for its retail over-load, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is known as “Small Business Saturday.” I learned yesterday that, ironically, Small Business Saturday was started by a large business – American Express.

A discussion of why small businesses are important could be a great introduction to an economics unit. Research could be done on the flow of money, on the number of small businesses in your community, and the impact these businesses have on local issues. A comparison between small local businesses and large national chains could also be an interesting classroom activity. Additionally, local business owners are often really excited to take part in school activities, from classroom visits to career nights.

There is a lot of great information out there, like this infographic from Business News Daily:

Today, I’m thankful for local businesses – most of my retail jobs were at these small, independent companies, and I’m glad there is an “official” day to celebrate them.

Thanks-vember 14: Seattle

14 Nov

Every morning I try to give myself 10-15 minutes with a cup of coffee and the online news. I usually end up reading a bit of The Seattle Times, a bit of NPR, and a bit of BBC World News. I don’t get a lot of down time, and I cherish this little moment of quiet before my day begins.

This morning, on the Seattle Times front page, I saw an article titled “Finland’s educational success story: Less testing, more trusting.” The article focuses on Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish Education Minister, and author of the book “Finnish Lessons: what can the world learn from educational change in Finland” (Teachers College Press, 2011).

So, why should we care about Finland? Well, in case you haven’t heard – Finland’s education system has been ranked at the top of the pack since 2000, when the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) was first introduced. Finnish students spend less time in the classroom than Americans, and yet they routinely score better in math, science, language, etc…

Pasi gave a free lecture this evening at The University of Washington, which I and another teacher-student attended. The first thing he said was “I’m not trying to convince you that Finland has the best education system in the world… because we couldn’t care less if we are the best.”

No, what they care about in Finland is providing each student with an education that best fits his or her needs. Pasi said that Finland’s goal is: “We want to have a school system where pupil’s success doesn’t depend on their home background.” That is, students can succeed regardless of their socioeconomic status. Remember, many studies have been done in the US “proving” that socioeconomic status is the number one indicator of a child’s ability to succeed in school. Finland threw that idea out the window.

The idea of the lecture was not to say “Finland is better than you” or “Here is how to make the US’s education system exactly like Finland’s,” but instead to point out some key differences, and perhaps how the US can improve education based on Finland’s ideas.

I would say that Pasi’s message was broken into two main points: equity and professionalism.

40 years ago, the Finnish government looked at their country, and at their education system, and knew that something needed to be fixed. They worked on creating equal footing for all students – on improving equity (the well-being of students, providing resources to those in need, etc…) and then worked on improving education. Students who aren’t fed breakfast can’t learn. Students who have to stay home to take care of their younger siblings can’t learn. These things needed to be fixed before the actual problem of school could be tackled.

Additionally, teachers are respected in Finland, on the same level as doctors and lawyers. In fact, it takes as much schooling to become a Finnish primary teacher as it does to become a lawyer or doctor. All teachers must have Master’s degrees, which usually takes about 6 years to obtain. The programs are not easy to get into – the University of Helsinki received about 2,000 applications last year and admitted 120 people to the program. Once these highly qualified teachers are in the classroom, they are given control over what they teach – there are no standardized tests, and loose curriculum standards that must be met.

Pasi shared a video with us, contrasting the high-pressure schools of South Korea (another top-scoring country) and the schools of Finland. I couldn’t find the South Korea part to share with you, but here is the section on Finland:

The lecture was recorded, and will be put up as a podcast on the UW Finnish Studies Webpage. I’ll post a link to it when it’s up.

What does this have to do with being thankful? I am thankful for the opportunity to attend events like this. I’m thankful to live in a city with a highly respected university which attracts speakers from all over the world. I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear about education systems in other countries. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to connect with my fellow teachers and discuss these new ideas.

Thanks-vember 8

8 Nov

I’m sleepy, so this is short, but I’ve got a double-thanks for you all.

1) I’m thankful for my Dyad partner, and the students we work with. I taught a 2-period block humanities class today, on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. It went really well, especially for my first time teaching a lesson on my own. Hooray! (I’m also thankful for my mentor teacher helping me plan, and for Sherman Alexie who wrote such an amazing book.)

2) I’m thankful for all the theatre in Seattle. I met my lovely man-friend in a show. I met most of my Seattle friends through theatre. And tonight we saw a free show, with many amazing actors, and blood, and gore, and Shakespeare. (Or at least, probably Shakespeare.) Greenstage, famous for their summer “Shakespeare in the Park” shows, also puts on what they call a “Hard Bard” show every year – Shakespeare (or one of his contemporaries), made ridiculously, over-the-top gory. There is a splash zone. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s amazing. This year’s Hard Bard show is Cardenio, which, even in it’s original form, is fairly over the top and messed up. If you’re into awesome, graphic, gory theatre, I highly recommend seeing the show.

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