Tag Archives: students

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.

A Math Teacher A-Part From Most

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If any teacher’s name is worth mentioning, this one’s is; However, as a respect to his privacy, I will call him Mr. M.

Mr. M is a highly energetic middle school teacher, who seems dedicated to making math fun, for his students, by utilizing an interactive white board, and a great sense of humor.

Not too long ago, I was told about Mr. M’s math class, by my daughter.  “He’s great Mom. You have to see.” I contacted him via email, and asked if I could come into his class to observe it.  I always look forward to meeting teachers who positively engage their students through the use of innovative and appealing methodologies, and a great sense of humor. This teacher matched my criteria.

As I approached his class, he was there waiting to greet his students, as they entered the classroom. With his expectations set high for his students, he greeted them in a jovial manner, “Hello precious.” If they didn’t greet him with a good attitude, he had them start again.  I walked up to
him and introduced myself.  From the introduction, I could tell that this was not going to be an average observation.   His humor was set on high
volume, and as we entered the class he told me that I could sit at his desk, “Temporarily”.  Broadway Show tune melodies were playing through his classroom speakers, and I thought that it seemed like a great way to kick off a math class. His students entered quietly, and amongst them was my daughter.
They all sat at their seats and followed procedural routine of setting up, and getting to work until Mr. M began his lecture.

Mr. M’s personality was vivacious and he was definitely charismatic.  He had his expectations set high for his students and expected them to perform their best, as well as participate. That’s exactly what they did.  They were drawn to their teacher, and seemed to have high regard for him.  As his students settled down, and prepared to begin class, Mr. M turned off the music.  He grabbed an interactive white board and he began to write computations on the board.  He joked jovially, but with a very serious undertone, as he jotted down fractions in algebraic equations. He spent some time explaining the equation and then had his students jot down and solve the problems. As they solved the problems, he circulated around the classroom, all the while he told funny jokes and made sarcastic-tongue in cheek remarks.  For the most part I thought he was really quite funny.  However, it was his students’ reactions that caught my eye.  As I glanced around the class, I noticed that every student was focused on solving the problems that were jotted on the white board.  I took note that everyone was participating, and all of them wanted to prove that they could do it; they wanted to show their teacher their best effort.  He wanted his students to work out the problems—find the solutions before being told.  When they finished solving problems, the students would all shine their results toward their teacher-holding up their whiteboards to show the work.  Mr. M would take the time to acknowledge everyone’s result, as he circulated around the class.  He pointed to each student and said, “excellent, or close, or good job”.  He positively reinforced his students, and as he did he would make jokes with them.  He also told them to think out of the box-nice to hear.

After his lecture, he allowed the students to work on their homework, quietly.  He told me that he does not like to overwhelm them with homework.  While they worked quietly, he circulated around the room, answering any questions or concerns they may have had regarding their work.  I took a moment to
observe the classroom.  I laughed to myself when I looked around.  The entire class was decorated in a variety of t-shirts, in a variety of colors, including
tie-dye.  Each t-shirt had either a mathematical equation on it, or a saying having to do with math.

Mr. M is a great teacher.  He, himself, is an “out of the box” thinker, and presents math with humor. He is extremely aware of what is going on around him at all times.  If one of his students gets off track, he quickly makes a joke, or quick witted remark in response; and he is open to their reciprocation. He has an excellent rapport with his students, and because Mr. M has high expectations for his students, for their participation and etiquette,
they shine for him.

As his students finished their homework, they quietly cleaned up and waited patiently for others around them to finish.  When the bell rang, he wished them, “well and safety.” With that they collected their items, greeted him, and left.  As they left, the next group entered.  He was ready and set up to go again.

I greeted and thanked Mr. M for his time and energy in allowing me to hang out with them.  I enjoyed my observation.  I wish more teachers taught children with the same enthusiasm and vigor that Mr. M has.  He sets the right attitude for appealing and engaging his students.

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.

April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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April 19, 2010: Student Teaching – Learning the Ropes

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