EDM 310 Class Blog

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How the Educational System Literally Failed Me

At a very young age, I wanted to be a teacher, not because I had a teacher who warmed my heart or anything Hallmark-y like that, but to the contrary.
I started off as a problem child. I picked on other kids, I refused to share, I intentionally colored outside of the lines, I threw my lunch at other kids, I stuck my gum under the desk, I tattled all the time (only most of it was untrue), I shoved crayons up my nose, and I liked to whine. I was probably the kid that makes their teacher drink a couple glasses of wine at the end of the day when he or she gets home. Yet, I had one teacher in first grade who saw in me a gift for language and story-telling and who decided to put my fibbing and off-task writing to good purpose. When sent to the Above and Beyond class rather than the principal's office, a problem child flourished with new, innovative, creative, and collaborative projects that made me feel nurtured and intellectual.
A savvy, seasoned teacher saw that a problem child was more than that, she was bored.
That was probably my best year in elementary school and I remember it still. My parents are still friends with Miss Savvy and she remembers my marked improvement to this day.
The next year, my parents decided to send me to private school.
There were no special classes for special cases, only interventions. I was treated like a problem child again, mostly for talking too much, and instead of seeing that I was bored, the teacher only saw my poor grades in math and sent me to the specialist.
All the other kids made fun of me and said that I spoke out all the time because I was dumb.
The specialist didn't care to know that I tested gifted far beyond anyone in my grade in language, all she could focus on was my deficiency in math, one that I have yet to get over.
For the next two years, I was shuffled around and treated like a special case. My parents were advised to hold me back a grade. My mom said that she was outraged. I had once been a gifted student at my old school and if I needed to be held back it was because I wasn't receiving the instruction I needed or deserved.
The next year, my mom became my teacher. I was home-schooled for the next four years. My mom missed her calling to be a teacher to lots of other deserving children, and instead made me her sole pupil and her legacy as a teacher. She was the best teacher I ever had because she encouraged me to keep my head up with math, gave me one-on-one instruction rather than being expected to keep up with 25 other kids. And the best part was that she gave me plenty of time for the things I was passionate about. If I wanted to spend 25 extra minutes reading about the fall of Rome, I could do that and then make up my other projects later. I wasn't on a schedule to keep up with other kids. If it hadn't been for those years, her instruction, one-on-one time with the things that I was passionate about, I might never have been a thinker, a scholar, a writer, a history buff, or an English major.
The question is, are we "failing" kids by not letting them uncover what they are good at? By keeping them locked into a schedule and held to the same page as a bunch of other kids who are all learning differently. I simply don't think our education system is able to treat kids as individual cases and many of them get lost in the system.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My thoughts on Common Core and ACCRS

I challenge and welcome all current and future teachers to converse with me about this! These are just some of my thoughts, concerns, and predictions for the Common Core State Standards Initiative and Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.
1). I am getting more than fed up with state and federal control in the realm of Education. In a society where, now, nothing is private and everything is public, it just feels like "Big Brother" grasping for more control. Yes, the standards are somewhat basic and allow a lot of room for discrepancy, but I feel the lack of faith in teachers and administrators as well as the need for control are insulting. When will the government officially just absolve itself in an area where it has proven itself ignorant with failed initiatives like "Race to the Top" and "No Child Left Behind"? You would be hard-pressed to find a sober acquaintance who would tell you that these initiatives were successful. Even those who have no vested interest in education don't believe that these two programs were successful. If you would like further enlightenment, please visit Race To Nowhere to read more about the movement and to watch the trailer about a film that chronicles the failure of the Race to the Top program and also the problems behind America's achievement culture.
2). As I mentioned, and as many teaching practitioners and those preparing for the field are aware, the standards are not very in-depth. They are basic, allow for some discrepancy, and can be met in ways that the teacher may see fit. My concern is simple. With human nature being what it is, some teachers will accept what work their students can accomplish to meet what is required of them. What's the harm in that? The harm is that we will never excel as a nation of learners, scholars, thinkers, and doers if we don't push. I am by no means calling anyone out at the moment, but why say, "Child A has completed the college and career ready standards already and it's only October, guess he's just going to be bored for the rest of the year because Children B-S haven't met those standards yet." Who's to say that those children who naturally excel or exceed some or all of the standards can't shoot for the standards belonging to the next grade? Whoa! Slow down. This might cause some confusion with this intricate little system we have going and if you move something around the whole thing could just collapse like a game of Jenga!
Don't think I'm a rebel when I ask, "Why can't my 8th grade class try to accomplish 9th grade standards?" What's the harm in trying? Even if half the class gets there and half the class doesn't, don't you think they will have learned something just from giving it a shot? My concern is that if we just accept what we think they can accomplish within the standards marked out for them, what's the use in being an honors student? "Sorry, Josie, you're reading on a sixth grade level and the rest of your class is still on third so you're gonna have to stop reading so good." Maybe reading so WELL is her comfort from being terrible at Math. Which brings me to my next point...
3). To me, the standards attempt to confine, categorize and label students who are uniquely different, have different needs and will not fit into a check box or be confined to a level of learning. As a teacher, I would refuse to see them that way because every one of them is going to learn at a different level at a different time. Which brings me to...
4) Teaching to the test becomes inevitable. "Miss Houlihan, you have received several awards for having such an incredibly awesome and stimulating blog for your students to learn and collaborate as opposed to sitting and staring at you all day and pretending they understand what you're talking about, but their test scores don't indicate that all 34 of them met the College and Career Ready Standards. I'm going to have to meet with you about this. Serious action needs to occur." First year teacher Miss Houlihan gets discouraged, gets married, and never teaches again, even though she was creative and her kids loved her for it.
CLEARLY, this is a fictional, worst-case scenario, but how are we not encouraging teachers to make sure their kids do well on tests that don't accurately measure the subtle nuances of each one of their "abilities".
5) There is no logical reason why information regarding students' religious preferences, family history, political affiliations, possible behavioral problems, etc. The great thing about humanity is the great potential for growth. Why should a history of parental abuse or neglect, behavioral problems at a young age, what party a student felt an affinity for in middle school then changed his or her mind in college....why should these things potentially be held against a student? For one can see no other alternative, no positive outcome for this stacking of the cards against students. Is their permission asked for this collecting of information? Their parents' permission? Is this not a breach of privacy? As a teacher, should it make a difference in my instruction whether a child lives with foster parents, two dads, or a "traditional family"? This seems more like the government snooping around in the lives of its unknowing citizens than an initiative that will directly benefit educational instruction or the quality of a student's educational experience.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Living Literature

My ultimate dream is to educate and inspire others. That being said, I don't intend to spend my days at the front of the classroom. That may be an initial start, but I would like to take this time to outline the dream that I have to bring learners to loving Literature through another route. After seeing this ted talk video, Once Upon A School by Dave Eggers , I have been unable to remove the idea from my brain and it just keeps taunting me not to give up. The little Yoda in me keeps me going, advising me "Do or do not, there is no try." I can't just try to achieve something like this; either I give up, or I give it my best effort or there is no use taking on such a task. Too many future readers and writers stand to benefit, not me, from what I hope to accomplish.
1)."Diversifying the Portfolio"
 My first sentiment stems from the fact that enrollment is down at my institution. I didn't have to think hard to ponder why. I think that it would prove highly beneficial if people took educating more seriously. Those of us who have hopes of teaching or feel led to educate have respect for the institution deep in our hearts, but there are those people who were at the back of the line when personalities were being handed out. They don't take teachers and school systems seriously, they act like it's a joke. How can someone's life work be a joke?
To gain respect, (and to gain enrollment) I think it would be a good strategy to "diversify our portfolio." That's what my miserly Grandpa says about just about everything under the sun. One must give more variety into what is being projected and presented in order to attract "buyers." With that in mind, we need to offer more programs at the higher education level that focus on education in different aspects.
I know Education majors are shaking their heads, thinking I am talking about adding more classes. What I mean is that we need a more diverse range of programs offered other than just a degree to teach or counsel. We need to prepare more students to work in areas that promote education or work behind the scenes. Think marketing, lobbying, creating after school centers, making curriculum, experimenting with alternative methods of educating, etc. Some of these already happen to be careers for people with degrees in education, but I think more focus in our society and in our higher institutions needs to be on more than just the classroom. Education needs to offer more diverse career options to attract more people than what it already does.  As those of you who have taken EDM310 or are familiar with the class have already heard us preach, the role of education in the 21st century is attempting (at least at the local and individual classroom level) to shift to incorporate technology and 21st century learners, so the institutions that will shape views of education and teaching should do the same. EDM310 should not be the only classroom or place in an institution of higher learning where this is the general theme.
826 ad reading pillage before plunder what a blunder in cool colors and fonts

How cool is this? Can you imagine how excited kids would be to learn if schools had marketing like this?

2. "Living Literature"
As a child, I was obsessed with museums. I loved grand architecture, artifacts, hands-on labs, exploration, full-scale models, stories printed on the walls with larger-than-life images, narrated tours, picnic lunches, and especially gift shops. I seemed to learn more in a few hours than in a whole month at school.
I used to wonder, "why can't the classroom be just like a museum?"
First of all, because months of effort, planning, and fundraising goes into opening and curating an
Second, the downside would be that the grandiose effect of the museum would become all-too-familiar and be lost on us.
Why can't we at least attempt to make the classroom somewhat like a museum? Why can't we treat childhood (and even adult or adolescent) exploration as though it were paramount?
One reason why I recently changed my major from Secondary Education/Language Arts to simply English is that I have, to a small degree, given up hope of what I may accomplish in the public school classroom. I simply care too much. I do not deal with disappointment or disillusionment without becoming emotional, and I would hate to see all of my hard work and dreams simply never be realized. It is my conviction that I may get more accomplished by getting more degrees, having a politician boyfriend who can lobby for education reform for me (which Zak will aptly do :D), and to try to write and drum up as much social change as the talent and passion of one very petite individual can accomplish.
"Living Literature" is a placeholder title for a happy place I dream of accomplishing. At this fictional land, children are learning and so are their parents and teachers, walls are lined with full-size examples of what they are learning, difficult concepts are demonstrated or acted out (especially for special needs students and younger students), students are involved in voting on which concepts of the curriculum or subject matter they are most interested in seeing more of displayed, and parents and community members are involved in the whole process.
I see and hear of so many students who don't love to read because it isn't taught. It isn't something you teach, it's something you experience. That's what we need to do. We need students to experience reading and writing like they did at 826 Valencia. The experience needs to be extraordinary and creative, just as reading is. It would be really cool to give the opportunity to have their work read by up-and-coming writers and to work alongside a publishing company like Dave Eggers'. These experiences need to start at a younger age because many children are not receiving the remediation they need by the time they get to high school. They may develop bad habits in writing and grammar, and have little faith in their writing skills. As I tell people all the time, anyone can be a great writer! It takes years of practice and experimentation. Why not start our students off with this practice and love of literacy early?

students and hands-on experiences at 826 Valencia