Category Archives: teaching

To Budget or not?? That is the Question

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Our class sizes are increasing, our budgets are shrinking, our teachers are being layed off, our sports and creative programs are diminishing, and the upper echelon of our educational system seem to be getting fat. What is going on?

This twisted, senseless, convoluted game of pass the buck needs to come to a screeching halt; and we need to attend to the importance of education-Our Students.  Our main purpose for becoming educators is to affectively teach, and scaffold upon knowledge, to enhance our students’ ability to achieve, and to build upon their dreams, and ambitions. What was once a system  that excelled beyond expectations with enthusiasm for the future;  has now become  shadowed with shame.

A greedy  attitude seems to have replaced the essence of what education truly means for our students-Learning, accomplishing, and their right as individuals to attain enduring understanding through differenting instruction in how they best learn. I am not merely talking about a greed in terms money-That’s simnple; I am also focusing on the greed for recognition of our school districts, concerning student academic test scores for national achievement; which leave so many of our students stranded, and fallen between the cracks due to their lack of understanding and skills or challenges with absorbing subject matter.

This is how it works..Teachers have now evoloved to become the tools for processing students to get them through school-they come in herds and they’re moved through in the same fashion. They are not focused on the positive outcomes of their students- A reflection of how they might affectively be teaching to make meaningful connections, but whether they are meeting the standards. Personally, I think that the ancient philosophers and great teachers of history’s past would be unamuzed.  Don’t get me wrong…I do believe in having some standards as “guides” for attaining objectives, when teaching our students, but not as a totalitarian type of law for students to meet those standards. The Standards can be good and serve well, to a point, but have gone too far. The Standards have become a twisted checklist to measure the success or failure of our young students; as well as a type of stringent archaic measure to check that as we teach those students we attend to those standards. It all boils down to those Standards and teachers, and school districts are measured in their success, by the fact that students are scoring well on their state exams…Crazy, right?

The problem is that nobody learns in the same manner, some students learn visually, some auditorally, some are verbal learners, some through kinesthic and experiential activities, some logically and intersting combinations of mannerisms that engage and connect students to understanding what they are taught; but it doesn’t mean that they’re failures when they can’t do math or understand aspects of literacy, it means that education in how it is being conducted is failing its students.  So why is this happening? Why has education become the fastfood chain of learning?  At what point will it be understood that without creative balance in strategies applied toward the teaching and learning process, effective learning will not take place, and kids will continue to fall behind.

What I am emphatically stating is that we have become over-standardized to the point that teachers now must teach with the cookie-cutter approach to meet the requirements and Standards of their school districts in their states-after all each district wants to be #1 in their standardized scoring across the board. There is very little room for creativity, and very little time to implement strategies – even when education makes a few suggestions ( They talk the talk, but they cannot fathom the walk).  Many teachers fear that if they do not stay on track with their deadlines, they will lose their jobs, as educators.  Educationally, it’s like a snake eating its tail; think about it.

Okay, I get that we need to go along with the program in a team effort, but the ramifications and consequences of over focusing on the standards in order for our students to pass the state tests are hurting our students, and the results of this are that many of our students, in fact, are being left far behind (not for the lack of their intelligence, but because they don’t connect with the academic approach in how they are being taught).  While this is happening, teachers are finding loopoles to sidestep the system, leaving their students to dangle in a web of educational deceipt, and as the system discovers the loopoles they are implementing more rigid senseless rules to cover the tracks.

Ideally, standards can be useful as suggestions to form a foundation from which to teach – this makes sense; however, as they are written, and people measured agaist them, it doesn’t work at all!  There is no time left for teaching wholly when the Standards are the law with which teachers must teach to.  Hello, we’re suppose to teach to our students, not the standards. Where is the joy in learning, with that kind of pressure?… And thus the teaching and learning processes in our education system are quickly becoming clones in a completely twisted mind-game of political correctness.  And this, my friends, hurts a huge population of our students, who do not have the capacity, skills, strategies, or make-up, to fit in the educational mold as written.

So, on they move along the conveyer belt of the education system – in a sort of “move them on and push them through” fashion.  Some may slip through the cracks, never to be identified for their talents or greatness, while others continue along their paths, as they fulfill their journeys toward success or not; perhaps because they understand how to adapt to fit in the mold of this system called education.

We really need to re-think the decisions we make in solving the problems of this system called education.  At this point of the game, one of the most important aspects of life – learning through education, and school- is turning it into a chaotic non-productive, self absorbed, egotistical greedy non-proactive power-hungry mess. Why? Because of decisions made to cut back on important programs, Suck out the academia that provides students with the ability to be innovative, depleat creativity, decrease teacher’s salaries, lay off teachers, increase class sizes, alleviate help and resources for struggling or challanged students…The list goes on. While at the top, the pockets of administrators are getting fat, and egos enlarged.  This is not the way to educate.  We need to transform education, increase funding to include our athletic, and arts, and music programs, increase creativity, and innovativeness in academia, and connect our students with enduring understanding.  We need to enhance education to draw our students into the joy of learning and becoming enriched, decrease the stern rigidness of the bylaws that govern the Standards which dictate the success and failure of our children/students, because as they are written and measured against, are very destructive to many student populations. Think about it.

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Student Teaching? Be Prepared

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I would like to reflect back to the first day that I met my fifth grade students, for my student teaching assignment. 
 
The very moment that I walked into the fifth grade classroom to introduce myself, before beginning my assignment, I felt nervous, about the manner in which I would be received by everyone, including the teacher. My stomach was knotting up, and I wanted to run in the opposite direction. Those first moments in the classroom can feel agonizing, but I survived, and so will you.  I remembered what a wise old owl (my mom) once told me, some years before. “Relax, breathe deep, and take ownership of the situation.” Oh yes, and above all “don’t sweat the small stuff, and by the way; it’s all small stuff’ “. 

I scanned the classroom, and then I replaced my anxious, nervous, kind of lost in the wilderness type of facial expression with my kind, comedic empowered expression, and said, “Wow, what a beautiful bunch of children.” They laughed and one of them blurted out, “Wait..until you get to know us a little; you’ll change your mind.”  I then smiled, and glanced back-making eye contact with all of them.  My thought at that moment, that very instant, was to let them know that I acknowledged them, and respectfully identified them as unique individuals.  I wanted them to feel comfortable with me, so I sarcastically joked back.  

I introduced myself and told the kids that I would be hanging around for about nine weeks.  I was due to begin my assignment, in this class, the following week, so I wanted to take the mystery out of what I would be doing in their class.  I explained that a student teacher is just like they are-a student.  I told them, “The difference is that I am learning how to teach”.   They seemed glad to hear that I could relate in some form to them, in being a student.  

I quickly familiarized myself with the energy between the students and the teacher.  Then, I intuitively took a brief moment to understand the teacher’s emotional position.  She seemed exhausted, and had no tolerance for distractiveness, or the sounds that wriggly fifth graders can make.  The students appeared apprehensive about her as their teacher.  I felt concerned about the dynamics of the classroom, but I smiled politely as I contemplated how I would make learning fun for them, and keep them engaged.

It is important to be aware of the dynamics of a classroom, and the personal boundaries of each individual. I took note of some of the diversities of the student population, of the students who had special needs, as well as the students who spoke another language.  I realized that differentiating lessons may play an important role in this classroom experience.  I then communicated my intentions as a guest in their classroom, and briefly let them know that  positive thinking was key to learning about a subject.  

As a student teacher, it is vital to have a grasp on your position as a guest in someone elses classroom.  I kept in mind that I am a visitor, and should never overstep my supervising teacher’s teaching boundaries. Communication is the key, so my teacher and I had a brief chat to familiarize ourselves with one another. We quickly talked about our teaching strategies. Our conversation was short and light.  Through this preliminary meeting we were able to briefly exchange ideas, share methodologies and discuss classroom management in approaching teaching her students.  We even laughed a little, to smooth out any possibilities of rough edges.  From our chat, my supervising teacher gained the understanding that I am very tolerant, and even-keeled.  Together as teachers, I felt that we would create a good balance for teaching her students, but above all I knew that from her vast experience as a teacher, I could gather a lot of information about teaching. 

My introduction proved to be rewarding.  As a result, I changed my anxiety to anticipation for my term with my new students.  On the same note I put my new students, and my supervising teacher at ease, about me.  

My advice to new student teachers is to take the mystery and anxiety out of the student teaching assignment.  Preview the classroom-take a quick glance of how everything is positioned.  Meet the teacher and discuss ideas and expectations that you each have for each other.  Schedule a time to review the textbooks to be used, and lessons to be taught.  Most important, introduce yourself to the students. Communicate your intentions as a teacher, and prepare them for your visit, before you begin your assignment.  Keep in mind that you are a guest, so review your classroom etiquette as a student teacher, with your professors.  Your success as a student teacher begins with your introduction.

ADD/ADHD in the Classroom

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Their thoughts do not seem to stop, and neither do their little bodies.  They  seem to keep on going, with an endless amount of energy.  Moving from one activity to another, when they can.  I am refering to children who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).  These students tend to have difficulty staying focused on anything for more than a few minutes, and they need constant attention.  They will aimlessly move around the classroom, and wiggle or squirm around in their seats when they have been sitting for too long, or aren’t directed. Why? Because it’s their nature to do so..  Talking out of turn, interrupting others, and being a disruptive distraction is not uncommon for them.  

Children with Attention Deficit Disorder have a tendency toward being disorganized, and leave trails of unfinished projects lying around.  Though they are most often, highly intelligent, have great imaginations, and leadership qualities; these bright beings tend to be their own worst enemy in school.  They’ll typically follow their whims, generate havoc, and create mischief.  Yes, these mindful, creative individuals often do get into trouble.  

Perhaps this may sound familiar to you.  Perhaps, you know of a child who has ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder).

The thoughts of kids with ADD/ADHD are created in hyper-power mode, and at times it is difficult to stop them, once they’re on a course.  They may seem to  grasp the jest of a lesson very quickly, or so they lead you to believe; but they wade through their classwork based on their own assumptions of what  they’re suppose to do, and commonly do not complete their work.  Often they do not fully understand what they need to do to accomplish their assignment successfully.  They have difficulty following instructions, and tend to be highly disorganized, and absent minded.  I have found that when I teach these students it is important to create goals, and follow though in keeping them; I do so by first teaching them how to create micro goals. For example, take out my folder, find a pencil, take out my planner and spend 3 minutes reviewing it, locate my classwork, spend 2 minutes organizing, answer the first question, and so on.  Once they begin to understand, create, and follow through with micro goals, they will begin to feel a sense of  accomplishment.   

These students  cannot stay focused on a conversation, let alone a class lecture or class discussion.  They simply cannot sit calmly focused on one topic for too long a period. They might be the class comedians, or the class social networkers, or they may even be the silent jesters.   Having ADD/ADHD does not always mean that a child will be an extrovert.  A child with ADD/ADHD could be an introvert, who finds distraction in creating covert mischief.  Funny as it may seem, these students can be very exhausting, for the teacher.  They endlessly need to be redirected and overseen, to make sure that they stay on task.  They are easily bored with mundane academics, and require diversity in classwork.  What is the best approach for these kids? Diversify. 

Whatever the scenario may be, these children have difficulty, emotionally controlling their distracting thoughts, and so they need to be in constant motion. Engaging in activities which involve kinesthetic movement as well as diversity can be a positive approach toward helping these children stay focused.  They noticeably thrive on a balanced menu of diversification, in how they are taught.  Lesson activities should be altered every twenty minutes or so, to guide them to stay tuned in.   One of many great ways to help kids refocus is through kinesthetic activities.  By facilitating interactive games that challenge students energetically, and keep their minds busy with memorable details, distractive students are more apt to pay attention.  Create enthusiasm for what you are teaching. Rotate a lesson to a later time in the day, and teach subject matte in shorter spurts.  Doing so, may lead to productive learning results.  When teachers diversify their lessons-shake it up a bit- kids seem to stay engaged and able to maintain more focused while lessons are being taught. 

A good habit to practice is to let students know how long they need to stay on a task-a lesson’s duration; and then stick close to that time frame.  Being consistent and time conscious teaches your students to understand and develop a respect for time frames, and gives them a sense of stability.  They will develop an enhanced awareness about the importance of staying on task if they know that you will stick to the structure of your time frame.   Inadvertently, they will understand that they need to remain absorbed in their activity for that duration of time.       

I have observed that children with ADD/ADHD  have a tremendous desire for attention, and my approach for connecting with these kids is to help them feel successful. Acknowledgement should be given, when they succeed at accomplishing a goal.  Reinforce their effort by congratulating them for their accomplishment.  Their reward will be in knowing that they did it.  Guide them to attain goals that are realistic.  Give them a task with guidelines to adhere to; however, let them know that you are open to suggestions and to to their ideas.  Utilizing their ideas will positively promote them to support their potential for facilitating, and accomplishing their goals successfully, and they will come to an understanding that they can succeed.

April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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