Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Flight From Conversation
By Sherry Turkle
Anti-Teaching: Confronting The Crisis of Significance
By Michael Wesch

How do we make learning meaningful? How do we motivate our students to believe that their education is significant? Wesch believes that both teachers and students are to blame for the lack of significance. Teachers are teaching to the test and students are just working to get by. I have heard educators make that comment too many times  that some students are not cut out for school.Wesch changing "school" to "learning" hits you right between the eyes! What am I doing to inspire my students to be life long learners? How am I reaching all of my students? Wesch believes that developing good questioning skills is the key to higher learning and I agree. I know that inquiry based learning is the better way to learn. It teaches students to be accountable for their own learning.
I also agree with Wesch when he states that "When students recognize their own importance in helping to shape the future of this increasingly global, interconnected society, the significance problem fades away". Real-world interactions can provide motivation for students. A few years ago I did this project with my kids. We were learning about environmental issues. I had the students bring in some of their trash from home. It was September , and I told them that we were going to bury the trash and did it up before the ground froze and then in the spring. They brought in paper goods, cans, news papers,Dunkin Donuts coffee cups...to name a few. The students made predictions to which items would break down by late fall and what would be left by spring. Then we buried the trash. In the end they were amazed by how much trash was left. This project spiraled into many other projects, The students were interviewed in the local newspaper and they won an award from the Governor for their project.
This is how I wish that I could teach all of the time. I love when the bell rings and students say "That"s our bell? This class goes by so fast."

Even though I do appreciate technology, there are times when I don't like it. Of course I know that it is necessary in education, I use it almost on a daily basis in my classroom. However I do agree with Sherry Turkle that we as a society have become accustomed to being alone together. Every where you turn people are on their phones. My husband I and I were out to dinner the other night. We were sitting at the bar and another couple was sitting across from us. Almost the entire time that they were there, eating  and drinking they were both on their phones. I find this sad. I know that this is the case in many homes. People don't talk face to face. Cyber bullying is out of control. When our students were asked last year in the survey works survey how many times they text durring the school day the average was 96 times! The American Pediatric Association just this week came out with a warning statement to parents that kid should be limited to two hours a night on the computer. Too much technology can lead to too little communication in my opinion

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Literacy With an Attitude

The first chaper of Finn's book introduces us to his early experiences as a young teacher, teaching in a black neighborhood, on Chicago's south side. He talks about how he was chosen because of his "excellent classroom management skills" to teach the students with the lowest reading scores along with students behavior problems. Years later, he reflected on his teaching and came to the conclusion that he had taught these children not to take charge of their own lives or their own education, but to take orders.
I was from the working class and I knew how working class and poor kids related to authority. The expected people in authority to be authoritarian and I gave them what they expected.
When I read this excerpt I thought of Lisa Delpit when she states in her book, Other People's Children, that "Black children expect an authority figure to act with authority" For Finn, control and order were of the utmost importance. He agrees that learning was also occurring, but which type?
In chapter two of his book, Finn speaks about a study conducted by Jean Anyon. Anyon studied fifth grade classes in five public elementary school in New Jersey. The neighborhoods ranged from the top 1% income families to students from unskilled or semiskilled blue-collar families. All schools consisted of mostly white students with the same IQ range. The results were astounding. The students from the lowest income were not really expected to achieve, resulting in apathy, disrespect of authority and of each other. Anyon observed a dominant theme in each school. This one was resistance. The middle class schools dominant theme was possibility, that hard work would pay off. unfortunately, independent thinking and creativity were not encouraged. The affluent schools dominant theme was individualism. Independence and creativity were encouraged and the curriculum was connected to the real world. The elite schools dominant theme was excellence, to be the best. Anyon's studies conclude that the educations that schools provide almost mirror the students socioeconomic class and position in society.
When I started reading the prologue to this article I immediately thought of Jonathan Kozol. I was thinking of his books Savage Inequalities and then in chapter one Finn quotes Kozol. Another of the many excerpts from Kozol's book that aligns with Finns theory is a quote from a high school senior in Camden, New Jersey. She is a Cambodian student who goes to her guidance counselor to ask advice about college courses.
I went to my counselor he said, 'What do you want?', I said, 'I want to be a lawyer. I don't know what courses I should take.' He told me, 'No you cannot be a lawyer.' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Your English isn't good.' I said, 'I'm seventeen. I've been here in American four years. I want to be a lawyer.' He said, 'No you cannot be a lawyer Look for something else. Look for an easier job.'
After the last three week with NECAP testing and SLO testing, I have become very discouraged. I have never been discouraged by my students, nor am I now. I am discouraged because I feel that as an educator I am doing a disservice to my student. I do not feel that I am giving them the best education that I can.I m frustrated for the first time in my career and I do not have an answer. I found this video on TED of Kiran Bir Sethi. I know there is hope... through the children.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just wanted everyone know that Diane Ravitch will be speaking at URI tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:00.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Empowering Education
Critical Teaching for Social Change
by Ira Shor

Shor's article is about empowering students in their own education; to create student based inquiry curriculum. Instead, we have an education system too focused on testing. Shor believes in a co-created curriculum; a collaboration between student and teacher. Instead, too many public schools are teacher centered. "Drill and Kill" this creates passive learning. Inquiry based curriculum inspires learning. It provides a place where students learn to better apply what they have learned to the real world. Students are able to question their experience in school. Shor stresses the importance of participatory classrooms. If children have interest, education happens. "Students are people, whose voices are worth listening too, whose minds can carry the weight of the serious intellectual, whose thought and feeling can entertain, transforming self and society." A few years ago, I had a student that was concerned about how fast cars drove by our school in the morning and after school. The concern came from an incident where a fellow student had been hit by a car while in the cross walk. He came to me and asked me if he could conduct an experiment. He and I went out to the front of the school and timed how fast the cars would go by the school. We did this in the morning and in the after noon for a week. The next week, he got four orange cones and put them on both sides of the cross walk. We timed the cars again. The cars slowed down. This was all his idea, he planned the entire experiment. I was merely there to "supervise". We brought his results to our principle who in turn called the local newspaper. A reporter came and interviewed us. We now have a crossing guard posted in front of our school. 

Henry Giroux writes in his book: When Schools Become Dead Zones of Imagination, "at the core of the new reforms is a commitment to a pedagogy of stupidity and repression that is geared towards memorization, conformity, passivity and high stakes testing. Rather than create autonomous critic and civically engaged students. the reformers kill the imagination while depoliticizing all vestiges of teaching and learning." This quote reminded me of the frustrating, pointless testing our students have to endure. One of the middle schools in my city counted up all of the days that we test the students  a year. It totaled over 40 days. Last year, when I told one of my students he was going to take another SLO test, he looked at me and said, "Mrs. Colannino, are we ever going to do science again?"

Sir Ken Robinson expresses in this video the importance of creativity in education. With all of the testing that is done in public schools today, creativity and especially the arts, is going by the wayside. He states, and I agree, that creativity is just as important as literacy. The we squash creativity in children. That we actually educate children out of their creative capacity. It is important to cultivate creativity in our schools and to include multiple types of intelligences as we educate our children.