I am currently blogging from my hotel room in Boston, MA after playing in my first game in the USA Hockey National Tournament.
(I’m not going to lie, that sounds really cool, doesn’t it?)
It was really difficult to say goodbye to my students yesterday. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in 8 short weeks. I felt like I really found myself in this placement and I had so much fun every day with each class. They did science and they learned and they loved it.
Since I could not be with my students today, I decided to record a video for them. It didn’t sit well with me that I was just going to up and leave without truly saying goodbye to my B day kids, so I recorded this video and had my CT show it in the beginning of class.
My CT emailed me this afternoon and told me that the kids loved the video. Apparently some even waved at the Smartboard when I said hello! I wish I could’ve Skyped into class, but I’m not entirely sure how I would have pulled off teaching in between shifts in my game this morning. I’m glad that my students enjoyed the video – it’s pretty powerful what you can accomplish with technology!
It really does amaze me when the most widespread idea we read about for fixing America’s schools is to “fire ineffective teachers.” This seems like the simplest answer to our problems. If we fire all the ‘bad’ teachers, then our kids will only have ‘good’ teachers and therefore will learn more. Problem solved!
This is the opinion of Mayor Jackson in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cleveland City School District has been under mayoral control for 13 years, but continues to be ranked as “academic watch” on the state’s school report cards. It makes me wonder what the state of the Rochester City Schools would be if the proposal for putting the schools under mayoral control had gone through two years ago. It seems backwards to be putting schools under the watch of a politician. Why not put more control in the hands of professionals – teachers that have studied educational theory and reflect constantly on their practice? Why not give students more control? Ater all, it is their education.
On my second day of my current student-teaching placement, I did a “Getting to Know You” survey. I distinctly remember one student writing down that he likes teachers who don’t treat him like a kid. Granted, he’s 11 and in 6th grade and still is a child, but he’s on to something here. Students want responsibility and they want their voices to be heard. Why not have a school that is run by student voice and student opinions? (Granted, teacher supervision and adult direction here would be critical, but providing a space where each student can be a leader in his or her own way seems like a ridiculously valuable life learning experience to me.)
Mayoral control does have some pros – the mayor’s job is to know what is right for his or her city. That being said, school districts should put trust in teachers. Teachers are entrusted every day with helping students learn content and life skills in a variety of classroom and outside-the-classroom situations. And lastly, both districts and teachers should trust students to gauge and guide their own learning. Students can do some pretty incredible things when given the reins.
It’s true: my kids are widely impressive. I kicked off my unit at the beginning of the week by telling the kids that we were going to look in depth at the behavior and structure of invertebrates using pill bugs and earthworms as models.
After a “Getting to Know You” session with the pill bugs, in which the students made observations about the animals and I twirled around the room pretending to be Julie Andrews, we started making testable questions using the format: “How does ________ affect pill bug behavior and show preference for ________?” I laid out the materials that students could use (vinegar, water, paper towels, black cardstock paper, and cat food) and told them to discuss with their groups what they would like to know about the behavior of these animals. That’s when I fell in love with inquiry again.
There’s something interesting that happens in a classroom when you let your students be free in what they want to learn. You anticipate the way they will do things. You figure that there will be a group that puts black paper on top of one of the sides of the animal behavior tray and another group that places it on the bottom of the tray and then asks for a piece of white computer paper too – you know, to make sure that the fact that the paper is there is not a variable too. You assume that the groups using cat food will just put cat food on one side and nothing on the other side to see if pill bugs will eat cat food.
You don’t assume that one group will come up with the idea to put dry cat food on one side and then wet cat food on the other.
And when you ask why, the group will tell you, “Well, you said we could use any of the materials as long as we considered our variables. So we did. It’s the same cat food, we just wet the food we put on one side.”
A group testing pill bug preference for wet or dry cat food
Superstars making observations
I just had to include this one because it's adorable
I am always amazed at the amount of “teacher-bashing” that goes on in our society, or even the number of teachers that have told me “don’t be a teacher.” This thought is further evidenced by this article: “Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits Low Point.”
I can see where they’re coming from. I can understand how teaching can be hard. I can understand how it can be frustrating. I can understand how a day can seem so long at school and then teachers must go home and grade papers or lesson plan even more. I can understand how it can seem overwhelming that the day seems to never end. I can understand how teachers are not always recognized for the work that they do, even though society trusts us with nurturing the minds of our next generation.
But then I remember where I’m coming from. I come from a school that taught me how to think. I’m coming from a master’s program that teaches us how to teach children how to think. I’m coming from working hard to get it done. I’m coming from following through on promises I make to students, like “You will get your work back the next day unless I tell you ahead of time.” I’m coming from rigorous planning, because if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
I’m coming from a love of science, from the understanding that the smallest change can have the biggest impact. I’m coming from fields and pastures and cows and gardening. I’m coming from “You’re a scientist every day because you make observations and you draw conclusions based on those observations.” I’m coming from a connection between science and literature. I’m coming from never wanting to stop learning how the world works.
I’m coming from a team. I’m coming from sacrificing everything I have and everything I am to help the team succeed. I’m coming from struggles. I’m coming from sharing those struggles and asking my team for help. I’m coming from a strong stance on being a listener. I’m coming from always wanting to be there for someone who needs someone to listen.
Everything that I’ve done in my life has lead me to this point. I’ve always meant to be a teacher, even when I didn’t know it. I am a teacher at my very core. I hope I never forget it.
For the duration of this week, I considered what I may post about the events at Chardon High School in Ohio on Monday morning. What could I possibly say in order to honor those who acted valiantly to make a situation less tragic than it could have been? What could I say to celebrate those who have since lost their lives?
I have no words. I could not say anything but “wow” when my mother described the scene that she drove through on her way to work that morning. I sat in shock when I watched the news that night and I listened in silence to Cleveland radio on my phone all afternoon. All school shootings are tragic but there is a disconnect until it happens at home. In your own community.
I have no words, but my 9th grade English teacher has written a poetic reflection on his blog – called McCamley’s Museyroom – that I encourage you to read. Mr. McCamley clearly states what I have been unable to articulate all week: “I reeled into automatic prayer, hoping that news of a death was wrong, that this horror had not befallen Chardon. At first, CNN had nothing, but Cleveland.com had snippets of news, and for the rest of the day I watched, crestfallen, at the somber coverage of the atrocity, as I had done with Columbine and Virginia Tech. But this was different. As ghastly as Columbine and Blacksburg had been, this was painful in its distant proximity. This was Chardon High School in Geauga County, a community from which we draw students and a school against whom we compete in athletics. Our community.”
Friends and families will gather at the funeral of Danny Parmertor tomorrow and the community will mourn the loss of the three high school students. Westboro Baptist Church members may picket the funeral tomorrow morning, but I pray that is simply a threat and not a reality. This weekend, as I plan and do my own homework, I will reflect on how I teach love every day, for there is too much hate in the world and students deserve to be happy.
I really like posting a “Fact of the Day” on the board, but sometimes I struggle with making sure that it connects to what we’re talking about in class. Mostly they end up being ‘random’ facts that have served as tangents and distractions rather than adding to our class discussion.
Never fear! I’ve found a book (in pdf format!) of cool science facts that could serve as a jumping-off point for class discussion for many of our innovative units.