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Archive for the ‘321 Response’ Category

One of the blogs I follow, The Journal of Education Controversy blog, has an interesting YouTube on the state of discipline in schools and how special populations are being removed from the school system and into the juvenile detention/prison system:

This new national trend reflects racial biases, new zero-tolrance rules about disciplinary problems in schools, and may reflect a trend in removing students who perform poorly on standardized test in the era of high-stakes testing.

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While my understanding from reading your blog posts and talking with attendees is that Rafe Esquith’s presentation on Monday night was great, I also heard about part of his presentation that troubled me.

Apparently, Esquith relates a story about bringing the Hobart Shakespeareans to the Empire State Building, and he leaves the group alone to do some task. He has cultivated politeness in his students, so they stand off to the side being well-behaved when they are approached by the ticket-taker who questions the children about their quietness and asks them what kinds of video games they like to play and the like.

The students respond that they don’t play video games, and the ticket-taker tells them they need to behave more like children, or something to that effect. Esquith, meanwhile, has overheard the conversation, and it gives him pause. He asks the students what they prefer: to play and behave like children or to behave politely as he instructs them, making sacrifices to do the things they do.

One of the students responds that they are happy to do what they do, and after all, that person was only a ticket-taker, and they did not want to end up like that.

When I heard this anecdote, I was admittedly shocked by the elitism cultivated in Esquith’s student(s). While I think Esquith’s achievements are grand, I also believe in the value of “regular” jobs, and don’t really buy into the prestige value of one job over another. That is to say, I’ve known restaurant bussers and dishwashers who work just as hard as, say, the president of the United States or teachers who work just as hard as, say, an NFL quarterback. The celebrity or salary of one versus another really doesn’t mean anything to me. In the scheme of things, each person might be said to fill their role equally well. I would never consciously cultivate that kind of attitude in students, especially if I knew they were “watching me all the time and needed a model.”

I’ve worked in plenty of low-status jobs in the retail and service sectors, and plenty of people have treated me (I hope unwittingly, but often suspected otherwise) like dirt. “He’s just a waiter,” they would say.  Or worse, they would try to take advantage of the server-customer social contract, complaining to take advantage of me because “the customer is always right,” expecting servers to be too stupid to see through their schemes and deceptions.

Too, despite our country’s alleged high valuation for education, there is also the adage “those who can’t do, teach,” implying, of course, that if teachers could do anything deemed valuable by US society (i.e. make money, accrue power, and buy stuff), then we would give up teaching to do it in a heartbeat. To me, this reveals a not-so-subtle conflict of interest between what we say we value and what we practice in truth.

This conflict of interest is not dissimilar from the attitude Esquith seems to be cultivating in his students and himself. He seems, in videos I’ve seen, to portray himself as a humble everyman, but egotistically tout every accomplishment and award. I’m not sure that dismissing the ticket-taker is reflective of the kind of values teachers should inspire in students, no matter how high their students’ test scores are or how brilliantly they can capture the emotions of MacBeth on the stage.

Did anyone else who attend take issue with this anecdote?

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Paulo Freire, ruminating on today's teaching in Eng. 101

I want to start by saying that, as a group, today’s class session far exceeded my expectations for this part of the project. I understood that the limitations imposed on each group were strict and imposing (10 min. to teach 20-35 pages of challenging material). On Thursday, I panicked somewhat after the workshop because I felt like I did not encourage enough experimentation or risk-taking in the group projects (which is something I value in this class), although I felt like Thursday’s workshop was helpful in getting some ideas out for what we all valued in teaching (from a student-centered perspective).

And I felt like the presentations today delivered on the assignment. The presentations blended delivering the material from the chapters each group was responsible for with interactive, multisensory activities that encouraged us to do some reflective thinking to make connections between Freire’s theoretical ideas and real situations.

Now that you’ve completed this part of the project, I would like you to do two things:

Summarize (y)our “reading” of the book in a blog post (200-300 words). In other words, what will you take away from Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed from today’s activities?

In a second blog post, respond to the different acts of teaching this assignment required, considering any of the following or going in your own direction:

  • What do you value as a teacher? (Think about last Thursday’s workshop discussion.)
  • Were you able to stay true to what you value in this project and still cover the material? If yes, how? If no, what parts of the assignment impeded your ability to teach how you would like (the difficulty of the material, taking a section of the book out of context, the group dynamic, time constraints, etc.)?
  • What did other groups do in their presentation, positive or negative, that stood out? Did you have any “a-ha moments” where another group did something you wish you would have thought of? In what ways could groups have improved? Did you have enough to base your “reading” of the book on?
  • Would you ever consider doing a read-group-share assignment like this one in your classes? Compare and contrast collaborative reading with your experience of reading texts independently.

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“At Columbia, Arne Duncan Calls Teacher Training ‘Mediocre'”

I actually agree with a great deal of what this article states. When I was teaching high school, the principal (who observed me once in four years, might I add) said that, since I was not certified to teach, I would need methods courses to improve my teaching. Most teachers I talked with, however, told me that methods courses are generally not effective in preparing teachers to be in the classroom.

I got plenty of practice teaching in different situations and venues during my time as a high school teacher, and I think my teaching improved tremendously because I took my job seriously and worked at developing my teaching style through a system of trial and error, self-reflection, self-analysis, and mentorship from teachers in the school I admired.

Unfortunately, the high school I taught at had neither a formal system of teacher mentoring in house nor a sustained system of qualitative analysis of a teacher’s work. Teachers themselves had to maintain professional development by doing tasks the school deemed appropriate, but many teachers viewed this as a hindrance rather than a sincere way to improve their teaching practice.

It always bothered me that the principal never observed me after my first year when I barely knew what I should do let alone why it would work. The principal was of the opinion that I would not be able to handle a classroom until I had undergone the certification process.

Since coming to ISU, I feel like I have a much better command of what I want to do in the classroom, how I want to do it, and why it is effective. Much of the information comes from five years of on-the-job training (more if you consider coaching to be teaching, which I do) measured against lots of pedagogical theory and scholarship. My road to becoming a teacher was a bit atypical, but like many people, I have been motivated by naysayers and nurturers alike to become an effective teacher.  I’m proud that I haven’t had to compromise my values or personality to teach.

Even though our class is not a methods class, I try to be cognizant that many of you will be educators, and the more space I can offer for each person to think about how they might go about teaching and practice composition-related tasks that will get you all there, the more successful this class will be, in my perspective. Is our class helping to prove Arne Duncan wrong? I hope so.

How do teachers learn best to be teachers?

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After seeing Nate’s visual text on school violence today and learning of the recent murder of honors student Derrion Albert of Chicago’s Fenger High School, I thought I would include some articles and a link the video of the melee. Be forewarned, the video is not easy to watch: awful, chaotic and horrifying.

Here are other articles pertaining to this incident:

These articles state that 34 Chicago students were killed last year. That’s more students than are in our class.

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I’m probably in the minority on this one, but since I’m an idealist, I would hope that Chicago would take the Olympic loss it suffered earlier today and turn it into a chance to work on things in the city. I mean, Chicago still has a school system that needs a great deal of work. Lots of urban projects need to be undertaken to rebuild crumbling neighborhoods. The CTA system needs to be revamped and updated.

I can’t help but think the influx of Olympic monies would have gone to the power barons in Chicago and not to the greater good. The homeless and poor would be shuffled away and hidden (more than they already are). The city would have built a disposable stadium and Olympic village, the former a waste and the later purported to be on the grounds of Bauhaus-inspired architecture, Michael Reese Hospital, worthy of being protected. Chicago would have spent billions on security measures in a post-911 society that could be better spent.

I have also heard talk of extending Lake Shore Drive into Evanston and filling in Chicago’s beaches, all of which would end up destroying part of the city I love just for the sake of sports. I happen to think that the Olympics don’t matter as much as they did when I was younger, in the denouement of the Cold War, and people do not seem to watch them as much.

The grandeur of hosting a world event, in my estimation, is not as important as taking care of things that need attention, democratically, in Chicago. So when the games are held in 2016 in Brazil, a worthy country to say the least, I’ll be glad to be unhappy about the games not coming to Chicago. Will you?

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NYT Article: Schools Look Abroad to Hire Teachers

UNESCO Education for All: 15 to 30 million more teacher needed worldwide

Is the United States overstepping its bounds by consuming too much of another precious global resource? I’m talking about teachers this time. According to the New York Times, 19,000 teachers are working in the US on temporary visas, and the number is on the rise.

On the other hand, UNESCO’s Education for All initiative hopes to train 15 to 30 million more teachers worldwide by 2015 (six years from now!) to achieve their goals.

Is the practice of hiring international teachers to work in inner city teaching jobs in the US really undermining the push for more teachers in third world, sub-Saharan nations?

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