Greetings readers!

Please transport your self into a magical world of J.K. Rowling’s creation and revel in it’s awesomeness. Now remember those pages (or minutes for movie fans) that were painful to read because Dolores Umbridge made Harry’s and the readers life a living hell. We sat there smacking our heads because what she was saying and the things she was doing seemed so outlandish and ridiculous that they had to be fiction. While some were obviously just that, the punishing blood quill for instance, other things may not have been as outlandish as one might think. Please watch the clip below to gain some insight or for a memory refresher.

This clip is the first introduction the movie-goers had to Umbridge’s class and properly sets the stage for just about everyone to hate her. However, what I want to draw form this are these lines.

Dolores Umbridge: Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?
Hermione Granger: There’s nothing in here about using defensive spells.
Dolores Umbridge: Using spells? Ha ha! Well I can’t imagine why you would need to use spells in my classroom.
Ron Weasley: We’re not gonna use magic?
Dolores Umbridge: You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way.
Harry Potter: Well, what use is that? If we’re gonna be attacked it won’t be risk-free.
Dolores Umbridge: Students will raise their hands when they speak in my class.
Dolores Umbridge: It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.
Harry Potter: And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?
Dolores Umbridge: There is nothing out there, dear! Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?
Harry Potter: I don’t know, maybe, Lord Voldemort!

– IMDB Umbridge Quotes

These lines make any science teacher cringe because Dolores is basically stating that teaching never involves actual practice. She stands by that the best way for them to learn is to simply read off the page and summarize what they have read, but how is that fair or helpful to anyone? For those of you who have only seen the movies you may not know that is another such standoff in Umbridge’s class after the first. Hermione reads the entire book that Umbridge assigns and comes in the next day and refuses to read what she has already read over again and proves to Umbridge, through a series of questions, that she has indeed read the whole book. As is the character of most of the 5th book Harry yells and eventually gets more detention during the conversation.

Once Umbridge becomes High Inquisitor she starts her flurry of educational decrees or the interference of government with day-to-day operations of education.

First and foremost this action takes the control away from teachers. It eliminates their most powerful tool and that is the ability to creatively adapt their lessons so that students gain much more from them. Instead they have to follow a strict curriculum which must be approved to perfectly fit the model the government creates. Meanwhile these are all being tested through specific tests which are supposed to tell you everything about a students knowledge (similar to OWLs).

The final thing I will say on this subject is an opinion piece, specifically this article, as well as this meme.

Now after reading through this article, I will say there are things that may be over the edge but the main point is a good one. The moment you take the learn out of learning, you are restricting students to only reading which for many, myself included, does not help you learn as well as participating in the actual activity.

Until next time,

MJ

What does it mean to you to be an educator? Many teachers believe that the end all be all is to impart knowledge on the students in front of them. As Rita points out in this talk, in order for kids to learn they have to like you. The counter argument to this is quite obvious, ‘I don’t have to be a students friend in order to teach them’. While experts say the right balance is somewhere in between. Everyone has their own teaching style, and that style can fail and succeed in the same class in the same week. What that student really need is someone in their corner with unlimited patience, consistency and perseverance or a champion.

The American Psychological Association has an article here talks about the the cultivation and development of student relationships and how important they are to education. There are two drop downs in this article I want to highlight.

First is the Dos

Get to know and connect with each student

Make an effort to spend time individually with each student

Be aware of the explicit and implicit messages you are giving to your students

Create a positive climate

and Don’ts

(highlighted by)

Successful classrooms have more than a single goal

Work to develop relationships with difficult students

This section give quick action tips that can be implemented immediately without hesitation. The second section is the FAQ section or the frequently asked questions. This section has a long list of questions that get into a bit more unique set of circumstances than a normal school, for example how to evaluate teacher-student relationships,

How do you evaluate teacher-student relationships?

Several common and readily available instruments have been developed to assess teacher-student relationships. Although used primarily for research, these instruments can also serve as diagnostic tools to identify strengths and weakness in your own teaching. Some of these instruments rely on teacher reports of relationships, others are observationally-based measures of teacher-student interactions in the classroom, and yet others rely on students’ reports of their relationships with teachers. One particularly innovative technique to use with young children relies on children’s drawings of their teachers.

The development of this relationship can be extremely helpful to any classroom but it is crucial to not try to control too much of the students life or behavior. Students do not need a second set of parents telling them what to do they need to know just their expectations within the educators classroom to start, then they can move up from there. They need an educator who has a consistent set of expectations that require the student to act with dignity and professionalism in their classroom. This does not mean no fun can be had in the classroom, it just means the classroom should have it’s own set of expectations.

“Parents make decisions for their children based on what they know, what they feel will make them safe. And it is not our place [as educators] to say what they do is ‘wrong.’ It’s our place to say maybe we can add a set of rules that they don’t know about.” — Rita Pierson

Rita is hitting at a point that is becoming a bigger part of education, especially with the continuous integration of more and more technology into the classroom. Now more than ever it is important for educators and parents to work with each other not against. It is a teachers responsibility to keep the parent up to date about how the student is doing and is the parents responsibility to understand that the teacher has a certain set of expectations for their class. This working together allows the student to understand that when the educator speaks they have the full support of the parents. This will lead to more progress not just for the educator with the student but the student themselves because they are getting consistent feedback.

So why does it matter? What is the cost of youth not having someone to fight in their corner? There is actually two sides to this coin so lets start with the positive one….

With this support system in place youth always have someone they can turn to. There is always a ‘champion’ there to offer advice and give helpful information throughout the entire course of their schooling career. Without that support, youth can sometimes turn to places where the support is not beneficial in nature. This may result in some youth becoming a burden to society instead of functioning normally within it.

The negative side of the support system is that today there are many people who argue that too many children are babied nowadays. This means that it is more likely the children act like entitled brats who always want there way. It ends up being another thing that a ‘champion’ has to be careful of. Too much hand-holding and the youth may not be able to function as effectively as without the support. The simplest example I can give is how a teacher may answer questions. Instead of giving a student the exact answer you have to make them come to the correct conclusion with leading questions, like building blocks or scaffolding for those of you who are familiar with the term. If you just give the student the answer then they don’t end up learning anything. In the end, support can be good or bad but it has to be closely monitored and changed, depending on who the support is for.

Until next time,

MJ

Greetings readers,

Rarely do I endorse or read articles that just redundantly repeat stats to illustrate the same point but from time to time there is an article or resource which when read strikes a key with me and imprints on me, but not in the way you would expect. This article goes through the demographics within schools and within the United States in general to hit home the point that the aging white demographic is no longer the dominating presence within schools however it is the dominant presence within the administration of those schools.

But school leaders should bear in mind that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Brief “Age: 2000” (the most recent data available), the median age varied for different racial and ethnic groups:

  • Hispanic: median age twenty-six
  • Black: median age thirty
  • Asian: media age thirty-three
  • Non-Hispanic white: median age thirty-nine

…….in other words, the students in your schools—will continue to grow through 2030, according to Census Bureau projections, but will account for a smaller percentage of the total population.

Why should we be concerned with this? Because it changes education and the way that we should be educating. Not every person comes from the same background and education should be molded to match the student not the other way around. For example, if I am teaching a student who is not used to hearing a certain food called by a different name, any metaphor I use it for will be completely lost on them and will frustrate them because it may work for some other students.

Normally articles like this are meant to bring something to the attention of the public and are very repetitive, but that message is not what I took from this article. I took that a lot of the American public may be hesitant to admit that education needs changing because of the implications that that could have. It would mean that aging white America has to admit that it is failing and younger generations of various races may have better solutions. Now I am not saying it’s absolute or that that is the main reason, as this articles seems to pound home but there is no denying that it could definitely play a role. Given the state of current America and the recent developments in the government, I’m not sure they are ready to admit that.

Shout-out to you if you understood why there is a Pink Floyd cover above. Public schools are necessary for a functional and successful society and if we as graduated Americans are not allowing those in the actual k-12 system to be nourished no matter their background, then we are doing them an extreme disservice.

Here is another yet another angle to take a look at, positive bias. The video speaks about the teachers who encourage their students by perhaps awarding them with a grade that they did not necessarily deserve or not giving them complete enough feedback. This could possibly be contributing to the gap that is growing between minorities but again on a portion of the problem.

If the trend we discussed earlier in the article continues, different resources may be required for the education of a variety of different pupils. For those educators with more interest in the education of minority students go ahead and read this article. It discusses good strategies for helping out minorities within your our classroom. Many of the strategies can be implemented with all students but some, cultural/linguistic integration can really help those who feel out of place. Consider this quote….

“Educators’ role definitions in relation to the incorporation of minority students’ language and culture can be characterized along an “additive-subtractive” dimension.5 Educators who see their role as adding a second language and cultural affiliation to their students’ repertoire are likely to empower students more than those who see their role as replacing or subtracting students’ primary language and culture.” p.25

When considering this everyone must realize that when venturing into teaching you must be willing to adapt to whatever change comes you way and that first and foremost means empowering and including the students around you.

In case you didn’t guess, classes started back up. Expect more blogs to come with talks and short blurbs about that articles we read and my current take on the state of education in America.

Just another brick in the wall,

MJ

 

Greetings Readers,

Every classroom has a unique life of it’s own that changes and develops over time. It can change from everything the teacher is striving for to the antithesis of that in a split second. This comes from mainly the fact that every class is dealing with humans and none of us are anywhere near perfect. Although we have predictable patterns, they are only predictable because people are aware of situations going on in everyone’s life. When this is no longer true or we are behind the ball then problems can occur with clashing personalities. As has become increasingly evident in the recent weeks it is not fair for a teacher to expect a night and day difference between a students home and school life. Gee says…

“Learning does not work well when learners are forced to check their bodies at the school room door like guns in the old West. School learning is often about disembodied minds learning any context if decisions and actions.”

Education is in a constant state of flux on many different fronts and this quote kind of gets at that point. The constant battle between following and learning like drones versus free instruction and self-guided creative learning is a cause for many debates. Each generation has their own opinion on the subject but separate from that, it is important that each teacher generates their own opinion on the subject. Once the teacher decides their position they can then portray to their students what it is they expect from them. Another aspect of classroom atmosphere is the culture the school exists in. Countries expect different things out of their students just as other schools or teachers expect different things. The clarification of this expectation is the first step to creating a successful classroom.

To create the ‘community of learners’ that both of these authors are working towards you need the clarification mentioned above combined with involvement of almost every part of the student’s attention. Most importantly you need their curiosity because it captures them in a way that does not necessarily include school, which is powerful by itself. Gee’s concept of a disembodied mind takes on even more meaning when you realize that the mind is already sectioned based on what each person is interested in. The less interested someone is in the subject matter the less likely it is they will be engaged. What I’m trying to say is that a single minded education will not work for anyone.

Until next time,

MJ

 

“Educators cannot simply assume that students are competent in productive and mature literacy practices in digital context” (Mills 2016 p.87)

“The concept of multiliteracies is based on two key premises…: (1) the expanding variety of modes of communication and tools for meaning-making, including the mass media, multimedia, and electronic hypermedia; and (2) the growing importance of cultural and linguistic diversity as our communities become more globally connected” (Danzak  2011 p.129)

As we watch younger and younger children walk around with cellphones and other technology in their hands it is easy to assume that these same children are more knowledgeable about technology in general.  However, this is misleading.  While many students may be familiar with various modes of social media, their knowledge of technology is often limited.  New programs need to be explicitly explained.  Many people in the general public tend to be only literate enough to use it on a base level. The goal of educators should be to build on existing knowledge using prior experiences. This has been the approach for years but it has always been through different mediums not just technological communication. The importance of the multimodal communication reaches far beyond the classroom in fact it spans the entire world and possibly beyond. The global connectivity of the internet allows it to give birth to many different projects, this is what educators should nurture. The ability to connect with like-minded individuals and better yourself whether by teaching or learning from others. As is the case with many things in the world, there are potential drawbacks when it comes to open forums, but that does not mean they should be eliminated. This tool is too powerful an option to be overlooked. The internet has allowed mature learning communities to spring up all over the world and provide knowledge and enjoyment to millions. These communities often do not consist of highly technology capable people, just normal everyday people with a passion for learning. They used the knowledge at their disposal to find a way to grow their interest in whatever community they chose. Also, if they cannot figure out how to do something they are likely to turn to that community to find out if someone know how to do it. I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone has the capability to be multimodal through the use of the literacies they are learning. I pose to you a few questions to ponder.

  1. If you handed a person from the 19th century a smartphone what do you think the reaction would be to all the things they could access (if they didn’t break it)?

2. If given instructions from a peer (not walked through, but you were given a list) on how to construct and set up a computer or smart phone what do you think the results would be and how about the success rate?

Until next time,

MJ

Greetings blog readers,

This is a new beginning because we have started student teaching!!!!!!!!! This can only be described as interesting just from the minimal experiences I’ve had. On top of student teaching (only observation at this point) I am running an after school program at East High where the kids will be examining what type materials to build a ‘green’ bus stop out of. This will be my first experience with lesson planning for a select group of students and it’s a little daunting in total honesty. However, this does not mean that I am not excited for the chance to do this. I actually am quite excited for all of these experiences.

I’m going to rehash something I wrote for my seminar, specifically some of the experiences I had on my first day, it was painfully obvious that racial stereotypes were prominent when the kids were first seeing me. The most memorable instance was when I was asking them where I should go to get lunch around the school. The immediate response was ‘oh we don’t go no food that you would like around here’, to which I immediately responded ‘well how do you know that?’ They then told me that I didn’t like fried food and that I was too white to enjoy a pizza place nearby. I then ensured them that I quite enjoy fried food and I don’t define which restaurants I like by who walks in the door or who is making the food, and I liked pizza a lot.

I enjoyed the days I spent at my placement so far but it was a shock because I thought I was ready for anything. There is no level of preparation that can prepare you for the experience but this article helped so I’ll show you all.

Hope you all have wonderful weeks and I’ll talk to ya next week after the first week of STARS, and the 3rd week of classes and Student teaching observation.

Until next time,

MJ

 

At the beginning of this class we were introduced or reintroduced to the concept of scientific literacy. The second blog post I wrote for this class (this post here) talked about the concept and also touched on how everyone’s scientific method is different. So going back to that what has this class changed about my commitments to teaching scientific literacy and teaching science in general. Well as I sit here, I don’t know if much has changed. I am still committed to having a unique teaching style which helps as many people as possible. I think where I have changed is how I am going to approach teaching in general.

We were giving a chart in class that lists the 4 parts of integrating science and literacy as nature/culture of science, literacy practices, developing your identity as a teacher of scientifically literate learners, and doing science. These were things I thought about before because class, now I just consider them differently, I see them as challenges to my creative planning. My thought process starts with, ok how did I learn it? Then I think what worked about that and how can I improve it. This process is slightly short-sighted because it’s only my experience but it gives me a place to start. This class has evolved that thought process to considering the exact opposite of my preferred education because that education may work better for someone else. One person’s success is another persons failure.

So what do I want to do to instill scientific literacy into my students? I WANT TO TEACH THEM!! They deserve my best and all of my creativity otherwise I shouldn’t be a teacher. I need to keep an open mind about everything and be willing to adjust to every learning style. The 4 parts listed above are integral but the more important part is putting the student in a comfortable situation where they can experiment with each part. So my commitment is to students education about scientific literacy and in teaching them about it they would be more comfortable. Then, through more multimodal teaching and experimentation, I would idealistically develop their problem solving and discussion skills to have valuable insight into everything they can.

Until next time,

MJ

 

 

This week we presented our data and inquiry maps for our research that we have done over the past couple classes. James and I worked with solar panels and output measurement. Working with renewable energy is an interesting experience and all the research James and I did for the paper we wrote opened my eyes to some pretty cool things both locally and nationally. Locally in Rochester, Renewable Rochester has been around for awhile trying to help locals use cleaner energy, check out their website here http://renewablerochester.com/. They have been working with local companies and producers to try to clean up everything about Rochester’s energy.

Nationally the coolest thing we learned about was Project Sunroof. Of course this is a program by Google to help and promote solar power. Here’s an introduction video.

This is beyond convenient for anyone considering switching to solar power because it provides you with a fairly accurate estimate of availability and cost. The other 2 groups presented on variations of hydropower and its applications. Lets just say my knowledge of renewable energy has gone way up in the last few weeks. Most of the reading we have done has been focused on energy and it was cool to do some experimenting with one facet of energy.

The experience with this research and class felt a little rushed but was great all the same and now looking ahead to STARS (more on this in the future) I’m excited (maybe a little nervous) for what the future holds.

Until next time,

MJ

PS: Just gonna leave this here cause it’s stuck in my head…..