On the water, Newport bridge

On the water, Newport bridge
My happy place

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Empowering Education

Critical Teaching for Social Change
Ira Shor

Maybe because its our last reading, or maybe because so much of what the author is saying just makes sense, either way its a reading that somewhat frustrated me. Its one of those, please practice what you preach ideas that comes to mind. "You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. "  I wonder if this is being done across the board. Are all teacher's trying this, or is it just being encouraged with the smarter students, the confident ones. "People are naturally curious. They are born learners. Education can either develop or stifle their inclination to ask why and to learn."  By encouraging students to question, it can help develop their intellectual growth and emotional growth.
What type of effects does it have if a child isn't encouraged? Is it long lasting? If one teacher in one year doesn't encourage, does that move with them to the next grade up? Will the student expect the same from each teacher? It takes one teacher to truly make a difference. To help a student thrive. "Many withdraw from intellectual work because they are told so much and asked to think and do so little. Rote drills drain their enthusiasm for intellectual life, as do short-answer exams and standardized tests. These familiar methods disable their intellects in a process I call endullment, the dulling of student's minds as a result of their non-participation." Well then, I ask... why. Why are standardized tests still in practice? It takes away so much time from the classroom and the teacher's spend so much teaching time preparing for them. When will we learn? This reminds me of one of our past readings from Oakes about tracking. Clearly standardized testing would help accomplish this. 
Shor states "From Dewey to Piaget to Freire, many educators have asserted that learning works best when it is an active, creative process." So with all the research showing this, and proving this, why do students have to go to separate schools like the Met in order to get these type of learning experiences? Why can't the public schools implement the same type of learning? "The typical classroom is framed by competition, marked by struggle between students (and often between teacher and students), and riddled by indicators of comparative achievement and worth."  My cousins son goes to the Met here in Newport. His hands on learning experiences and opportunities to participate far surpass anything the public high schools are doing. He is currently growing his own coral reefs in six separate fish tanks, He's received his diving certification and plans on taking what he's learned, going to college and working with oceanography in the Caribbean. What an accomplishment. He's 15. I'm not saying that public school students don't aspire to have a future or careers, but what I am saying is that the hands on learning he's had has truly developed into a love for learning and continuing. "There is now a good deal of research evidence to suggest that the more time and effort students invest in the learning process and the more intensely they engage in their own education, the greater will be their growth and achievement, their satisfaction with their educational experiences, and their persistence in college, and the more likely they are to continue their learning. "  

Points to discuss in class: If research shows the process in which children learn better, and grow, then why aren't we all teaching this way? Standardized tests suck. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tracking:Why Schools Need to Take Another Route


This reading about tracking in the classroom really hit me in the face. It made me question my job as a parent. Although an IEP protected my son's rights in the classroom, and provided him with services that he very much needed, I look back and feel that now, his experience in school wasn't as fulfilling or enriched as it could have been. He was always in an inclusion class, but after reading this piece, I realize that he had fewer opportunities than students in higher achievement classrooms. I remember words like "gifted" being used in his school, and I accepted it. Over the years, I saw other children doing certain projects from the gifted groups and thought, wow what a great hands on experience. I wonder why my son isn't doing that project? Forgive me, I'm not taking away the fact that he needed the IEP, but he always knew the teachers placed him figuratively as a child that didn't have the ability of others. Does an IEP automatically place that child in a group as someone without ability? Not all cases, but in this case, I feel yes. So, with that being said, I agree with many aspects of the reading. That tracking can in fact affect the quality of learning in the classroom. That the higher achieving students have more opportunities, higher confidence the way that teachers treat them, and an overall greater learning experience. "One fact about tracking is unequivocal: tracking leads to substantial differences in the day to day learning experiences students have in school. "  I wish I could turn the clock back and have a do-over. My sons education experience at the elementary level seemed to be more about goals, and IEP objectives, rather than maybe focusing on the things he could do, and build on that. I'm not saying every teacher was like this, but just imagine, art work being displayed in the hall ways every month of every year, and it took until fifth grade to finally see that teacher hang your child's work. An artist he is not, but just take a minute to think how this could've affected his confidence and self-esteem. He never really enjoyed school. Wow. I wonder why. "Students who need more time to learn appear to get less; those who have the most difficulty learning seem to have fewer of the best teachers."
So what are the alternatives? With such extreme differences in students abilities, and how they learn, how do we not track?? The reading also mentions how tracking can affect the average students as well. That teachers expect very little from them. "When classes are conducted this way, average students, too, are deprived of the best that schools have to offer. " Finding an alternative would require a huge change. I'm going to leave this with one last quote. There are so many I could've pulled from this reading. "Prevailing beliefs about the limits of ability are critical. Unless teachers and administrators believe and expect all students to learn well, they will be unlikely to create school and classroom conditions where students believe in their own ability and exert the effort it takes to succeed. How profound. 
Here is a link to the NEA about tracking.... a good read as well. http://www.nea.org/tools/16899.htm 
This subject was an eye opener, and tough to share. I'm not sure if my son would appreciate me connecting him to this assignment, but how could I not. Those of you who aren't parents, will understand some day. Those of you who are, I'm sure you can feel my frustration. As parents we try and do everything the best we can; what we feel is right as a true advocate for our child. 

Points to discuss in class... how can we avoid tracking? how can teachers see the true ability in a child when statistics are given to them about the child? 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

19th Annual Multicultural Conference

Promising Practices
Resilience Across The Board

Promising Practices was an experience I've never had before. I can't remember ever attending a conference like this. I had no expectations, but was overall impressed with the keynote speaker the most. Clearly Robert Brooks has done this many times he probably has lost count. He kept the audience engaged with slight humor, personal stories and points that made sense. I jotted down just a few things as I listened that stuck in my mind. The power of "mind sets" and the effect we can have on people, "paying it forward" and "connecting the dots backwards". The biggest question he asked for me anyway, was "How do I create a positive emotion in class to promote success in learning?" 
His answers were so obvious, yet not the route that most of us take. How you speak to your students using positive phrases, rather than negative, can help the students achieve a higher self esteem, and a greater capacity to learn. Below is a slide I took a picture of during his power point presentation. I choose this one, because it has so much meaning. I wanted to take more, but wasn't sure if I was supposed to and didn't want to disturb anyone.
Onto the workshops, The two that I chose were Embedding Growth Mindset in Everyday Elementary School Lessons and Healthy Lifestyles: Your Health, Your Choice. 
The first workshop was presented by a first grade teacher from Henry Barnard School. Describing two sets of mind sets that we can have. Open (growth) and Closed (fixed). The teacher explained to us the difference between the two, and how we want students to answer questions open minded. She then went on with passing out children's books for us to read in pairs. We had to read the book and then say whether or not the story was open minded or closed. It was interesting to see the results from each story. She the broke us into groups with a project. Building a tower out of marshmallows and spaghetti. Build the tallest tower she said. The experiment was to promote conversation and see how we tackled the task as small groups. Open minded, or closed. 
This is one of the handouts I received at this workshop. Examples of questions on how we should ask students, to keep them open minded. Below are some sites shared I thought I'd share on here as well.
The next workshop wasn't quite as engaging, or interactive at first, but just as informative. 
Healthy Lifestyles:Your Health, Your Choice, was about a new program developed by the State of RI for students with disabilities ranging from 14-24. It focuses on teaching children of this age how to have a healthy life style and how all aspects of life affect one another. From emotional health, to physical health this program teaches the kids how to be more independent. How independence will teach you new skills, give you spiritual growth and better social health. This program is great for students with disabilities who have already graduated and aren't going to college, but need to learn basic life skills to get them a job and create the independence they need for their next step in life. Here is a link to have a better understanding of the program. www.ripin.org
Overall I though Promising Practices was a well put together presentation, very informative and I got a lot from it. I just wish it wasn't on a Saturday! 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

This is the video I was talking about in class today, from just this past summer....