Archive for August, 2009

Sample Narrative #2

Educat (ion)/(or) Philosophy

Since my very first day of kindergarten, I have changed as a student in dramatic ways. These changes reflect my maturing, learning, and adaptation to the social and academic world of public schooling. Throughout my academic career I have encountered many challenges; these challenges have helped me learn how to become more studious and motivated in my studies. Every setback has made me strive to do better.

Because of the strong mentors in my life now and years past I put a lot of effort into my studies to make them proud; thus far my hard work has paid off. From kindergarten, learning to tie my shoes, to my personal struggles and successes in high school, I hope that I can continue with my success in future semesters, here at the collegiate level, and later as an educator.

My whole life I have always loved helping people. It always seemed as if I was looking for someone to help. For example, I always had a friend who was going through a tough time and I was always the one that wanted to try and make it better. Another example that is more direct, Andrew, my cousin, has Down syndrome and he would be aggressive towards new people, but when I was with him I had a way of getting him to calm down in a way that no one else could. Ever since then I have enjoyed using my gift of patience and nurturing to help the mentally challenged enjoy recreation, learn, and make friends. It was after my experience with Andrew that I knew that I wanted to be a teacher for children with special needs.

Confidence I feel is the most important, yet most difficult, value a student can learn from a teacher, mentor, or group of peers. However confidence itself cannot be taught, it is a seed that must be planted by someone admired. My grandmother had originally planted this seed for me when I was young. This remarkable woman had seen me for who I really am and without passing judgment. She instilled values that my parents couldn’t, confidence being a major one. She made sure that I was doing everything I could to be the best student, athlete, friend, and role model. As confidence and motivation her main rules of life she made me the person I am today, and with her passing I felt it is my duty, as a prospective educator, to pass on the lessons she taught me to my future students. Because of her I want to do my very best in every aspect of my life. Right now the main aspect in my life is being a student.

With confidence everything that follows is positive. For me I did not excel in the classroom until I excelled within myself, becoming comfortable in my surroundings and in my own skin.  I struggled with confidence and being myself until my senior year of high school. My earlier years at Vernon Hills High School as well as middle and junior high school were tough for me because I had been made fun of excessively by my peers. I tried my best to ignore them, but eventually the pain they caused me soon came to the surface as an eating disorder. Freshman year of high school I was taken aside by a concerned health teacher who had noticed some mental and physical changes in me. Soon after a talk with my health teacher I sought help from counselors and doctors. My struggle with anorexia made me stronger and helped me realize who I really was and boosted my confidence tremendously. My new found confidence gave me to drive I needed to approach my teachers and ask questions, the motivation I needed to fully learn my material, and finally the courage to take risks with assignments and make them my own.

I believe that every teacher has their own niche; my niche will be my inviting classroom and my devotion to my students. My classroom will have bright colors and positive posters, just like my first grade teacher did. Her classroom was vibrant, and had a basketball theme inspired by Michael Jordan, her idol. All over the room she had posters with MJ quotes such as “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can not accept not trying”. I would like to have motivating posters in my classroom, maybe even that same Michael Jordan poster to remind me of past teachers who inspired me. My goal as an educator is to motivate my students to be the very best they can be. As a special education teacher, I realize that I will face different challenges than the general education teachers.

My intention as a prospective teacher is to not only make a positive impact on each and every student’s life, but to go beyond that and make a positive impact on the parents of my student’s lives. This I realize is difficult because often parents are not interested in they’re child’s academic career or have different plans for them then I, as a teacher, would. I will make a positive impact on the parents by working with them to create a goal that has both their objectives, the student’s IEP, and my personal goals, that as a teacher, I feel a student can accomplish. Although other teachers my find this far fetched. I disagree, because with in my experience parents are willing to work with the teacher, or in my case counselor, to do what is best for their child.  Last summer I worked as a counselor at a camp for children with special needs. The parents there were willing to work with the camp to help their children improve in different areas of development, specifically fitness. What I did as a counselor was work with the parents on a plan for their child that will hopefully improve the child’s desire to be active, we chose activities that the participant could do out side of camp to aid in their improvement. Overall the parents that I worked with were very willing to work with the camp to help their child succeed, because of my experience in working with parents. By doing this I feel that everyone will be pleased with what I am doing in the classroom. I believe that the best team is a parent and teacher team. Teachers with the help of parents can make huge steps in the right direction for a student, especially a student with special needs.

I plan to use my love for helping the mentally challenged, my perseverance, patience, and personal experiences to help the families of these students get everything they possibly can out of public education. ever since helping Andrew I have been motivated to be a special education teacher. I want to be that teacher who goes above and beyond and encourages my students to make and reach every goal they set. I believe that students have the ability to learn and grow in their own way, I want to be the teacher that helps them do that.

by Wendy Inman

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Sample Narrative #1

I talk too much. It is a known fact in my family that Danny is the athlete, Ryan is the brain, and I… talk too much. Throughout my life my inability to keep my mouth shut has had many positive and negative repercussions regarding my relationship with my teachers. In kindergarten I convinced my teacher that my family and I were moving to Africa on business. On the night of the parent-teacher conferences, she kindly asked my parents when we were leaving. My parents thought she was insane. I had no intention of lying to my teacher, I was just, talking. In third grade my teacher rearranged the desks after the second week of class. As the teacher called out seating assignments, I noticed that all of desks were in threes except for one lonely desk pushed flat against the wall. When it came to my name, my teacher looked down at me through her glasses and pointed at the desk against the wall. She said, “Paula, I can’t seat you in a group, you talk too much”. Surprise surprise. After that scarring third grade experience, I quickly learned how to channel my talkativeness into topics that were expectable for class.

I excelled in high school because there were several places where talking was expected of us, for example during a book discussion. When I talked too much in my sophomore English class during a presentation on 1984, the teacher asked me to join the speech and drama team. Shortly after, I found Stevenson Theater and was content there until I graduated and came to Illinois State. Theater, English, and Speech and Drama gave me an outlet for all of my pent up energy. In Acting 1, our first assignment was just to talk continuously for two straight minutes. I was home. It is strange to look back and realize how much relationships with teachers can change the outcome of your year. As a child I was punished for my creativity and social connections, where as in high school, these two qualities were deemed as the potential that lead me to succeed in several settings.

I would not consider myself the perfect student, clearly neither did my kindergarten or third grade teacher, but one thing I know I did right was to take the negative classroom experiences and use them to make the next experience positive. It is important as a student to be able to work the best you can to succeed in a given circumstance. When I sat down in that desk pushed up against the wall in third grade, I hung my head and cried. The next day I came in to school early and sat quietly until class started. I spoke only to answer questions and to say please and thank you. I may have asked to go to the bathroom once. Lo and Behold, by the end of the week I was moved back into a group with all my friends and I had learned an important lesson. You have to try your best to fulfill what is expected of you by your teacher in order to get the most out of your classroom experience. It is true that to this day I talk too much. All of you may have noticed. My grandmother told me just the other day that I would be perfect if I could only keep my mouth shut. And yet I think that my need to express my opinions is what has gotten me to where I am today. Those classes in High School that allowed me to grow and explore my abilities as a speaker and intellectual are the ones that I am now perusing professionally. As an English Education double major in Acting and a theater minor, I know that it is never a crime to talk too much, in fact, it is encouraged.

by Paula Nowak

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This class operates under the assumptions that the status quo system controlling urban education is flawed and needs change. Teachers and students working together can be the agents of that change, even while fulfilling day-to-day obligations.

Please remember to keep making regular posts to your blog responding to class readings and happenings. I’ve enjoyed reading the writer’s inventories immensely; that writing project changed some assumptions I was making about the your knowledge base regarding language. You can continue to use the 321 Response “micro paper” or write your own system of critical response.

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New York Times Debate: Education Degrees

The current system of basing teacher pay on degree level is outdated. It creates a self-serving market of advanced education degrees that serve as little more than hoop-jumping systems for teachers who could just as easily be mentored in house by on-staff master teachers until (we hope) they themselves become master teachers. Not much incentive exists for schools to have an in-house teacher training/mentoring system. Motivated teachers will also tend to stay “on top of the game” themselves, especially for their own content area, without needing a prod embedded into their job description.

While changing this system from awarding more teacher pay based on advanced degrees to an incentive system for classroom performance sounds ideal in theory, the fact remains that standardized testing is an equally fraught system. Standardized testing tries to fit the multiple pegs of today’s socioeconomically, linguistically, and culturally diverse student population into a single-shaped hole, the size of which is determined by the two-pronged power brokerage of government and corporate needs. It also tends toward a content-area coverage-model of education, rather than assuring students have gained the skill set to self-educate and continue to learn after school is over. It’s too prescriptive at the expense of dealing with the way things are in reality.

It’s easy to say we know a good teacher when we see one. We might even be able to codify the qualities of that good teacher in language. But the question remains how to evaluate teachers efficiently in a massive system? Heuristics ought to be used, but they are clumsier than algorithmic systems (like standardized tests).

The human factor of the teacher-student relationship gets left out of this debate too often. I am put in mind of an TV commercial for Angie’s List, a service-rating resource web site. The commercial tells of a heroic plumber who lets out the homeowner’s dog. What a great plumber, we are meant to think. Then again, if the plumber is not in business for himself, he might be fired for such an action in theory. This is the kind of dilemma I see as underlying this whole debate: Teacher X takes extra time with student Y. Teacher X is a good teacher. Teacher X takes time with student Y at the expense of students A-V and test scores plummet. Teacher X is a bad teacher. Can the system have it both ways? Or are we past the point of relationships mattering in the profession?

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The Writer’s Inventory is a brief series of questions that can help you track what you already know and think about composing texts and language. This is not a graded assignment and there are no wrong answers. Please be honest about what you think and know. Post this to your blog.

1.  Finish this statement: Good writing is…

2. Does the way you speak influence the way you write? Explain your answer.

3. Is it more important to you that writing (yours and others) is grammatically and stylistically correct or that it communicate relevant and insightful content?

4. Discuss this statement: There is one true, correct, standard version of written American English.

5. Can writing be taught? Explain your answer.

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New York Times Article

At last, the New York Times brings up the issue of ending textbooks, which in many disciplines can be out of date the minute they are printed on account of technology and research being so far ahead of and advancing so much more quickly than print culture can account for. I agree that textbook culture is in serious need of a digital makeover.

This article makes mention of a more technologically “nimble” youth culture, who do, in my practice, seem to require that their educational experience also come with some kind of entertainment value. Teachers have known for a long time that mixing sensory stimuli in their lessons makes students retain material better, and the move to digital resources can provide sound and image at a speed far exceeding textbooks.

The economic class divide is also accounted for in this article, noting that a conversion to all-digital learning environments and classroom resources will only serve to further separate poor students. On the other hand, it could lessen the divide between real-world, authentic information and what is taught in classrooms, which can often be years or decades out of date, for example, in science or technology.

I was troubled, however, by Orange County Superintendent William H. Habermehl’s comments about transforming the “brick-and-mortar, 30-students-to-1-teacher paradigm.” Hebermehl seems to think a digital revolution in textbooks can allow for “200 to 300 kids taking online courses.” If anything, I would think a digital revolution paradigm shift in education would allow for more individualized attention and lower teacher-to-student ratios, counter to what Habermehl is suggesting.

Habermehl continues by talking about content-area courses being put together in digital environments, taught by the “best teachers in the world.” I wonder why Habermehl dismisses the value of the  social interaction between teacher and student, as if a digital correspondence course is the answer. Digital tools and online classes can allow for connections (albeit different from f2f) between teachers and students that are not static, but this seems overlooked in the attempt to market a definitive digital course for a content area.

What is then, the key resource in an educational paradigm? Is it the teacher-student interaction and relationship, the textbook, digital tools, or something else?

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