Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rhee's Reign

I recently read the article About Washington D.C. Superintendant, Michelle Rhee, from the November 26th Time Magazine entitled Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge:,9171,1862444,00.html I have mixed feelings about her approach. On the one hand, I am concerned that she is too focused on test scores. Education goes far outside of the classroom. What does the child do after school? Does the child feel safe at home? Does the child see success in his/her future? Does the child care about his/her education? What is going on outside of the classroom is just as important (and maybe more important) than what is going on inside the classroom. Are there any efforts going into working on those aspects in this reform?
On the other hand, progress can be gained through radical changes. She has the type of personality and drive to make those changes happen in a school system that desparately needs changes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Belated Thanksgiving

One of my professors was recently sharing something a student had written in her yearbook. The student praised her abilities as a teacher throughout his note and explained why she had made a difference in his school performance. This professor then shared that we as teachers will not always know when we are making a difference. This made me think about my teachers who made a huge impact on me. I never once said "thank you." I never told them that they made a difference to me and in me. I never told them that their classes gave me something to which I would look forward. When I think of these teachers, I remember their qualities. They were fair, consistent, they believed in me, they commanded respect, they were passionate about what they were teaching, they gave me a safe space to speak my mind, and they inspired me to become a teacher. I feel like seeking them out now, after all these years, to tell them what they gave me. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and the approching holiday season, I want to share that I am thankful for these memorable people, and I encourage you to seek out someone who has made a possitive difference in your life and tell that person what they have done for you. I would very much like to hear about it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Determining Intentions

I do not know if years of management have made me pessimistic about intentions or if I am rightfully questioning of people’s motivations. I think about this in terms of teaching in relation to one of my textbooks, Fires in the Bathroom: advice for teachers from high school students by Kathleen Cushman. This book is excellent in the sense that it gives you a view into the minds of teens with direct quotations from student surveys. As I read some of the quotes, I think, “Okay. That’s legitimate” and then I read the others and think, “You are saying that because you don’t know better yet” or "You are just trying to get your way." I know that as a future educator, I would never use such language or such a definite phrase with a student. . . but I know I will want to. I worry that I may hinder a student’s learning experience by not listening, but on the other hand, I worry that I will be subject to manipulation and that if some students gain and inch, they will keep pushing for miles. How can I always tell the difference between the student who sincerely wants to learn more and work harder from the student who wants the easy way out?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Religious Struggle

I am currently taking an Adolescent Development class. Thus far, I have been fascinated to find how much of the subject matter applies to my teenage self in various ways. At the time, I thought I was alone in my struggles, and since then, I have not thoroughly reflected on my experiences as part of the "adolescent experience." One such struggle was my struggle with religion. One of the books that I am reading for this class is reading is Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators by Michael J. Nakkula and Eric Toshalis.

I was reading a chapter about adolescents and religion and I was amazed by how well I related to it. The chapter discussed how attitudes towards religion change during adolescence as adolescence is a time of evaluating religion and existence. I was raised in a large catholic household. As a child, I followed the examples of my parents and older siblings in church. I would sit, stand, kneel, and fold my hands together in unison with those around me, never questioning what I was doing or why. I started asking those questions when I reached high school, however. At the time, it seemed like quite the struggle - going to church and religious classes every week expected to talk about my growth in faith. The whole time, I felt like I was drifting further and further away from the doctrines I was taught to follow.
In this chapter, the authors emphasized the importance of being open to talking about this struggle. While I feel I could relate my personal experience, I realize the sensitivity of this issue, especially in a public school setting. I did have an experience with one of my high school teachers bringing this struggle to light. After my biology teacher discussed the theory of Evolution, he said, "A student asked me once that if he believed in Evolution did that mean he didn't believe in God. That does not necessarily have to be the case. You see, something could have put that cell there. That is just something to keep in mind." No one in our class had posed that question, but he foresaw a potential for an internal battle. He wanted to give us some preemptive peace of mind. I hope I am able to have that same foresight with my future students.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama: teacher turned president

I just moved in with a roommate this past July. One of the many perks to having one of my lady pals as a roommie is that she gets the New York Times Magazine. Back in September, I asked her to hold off recyling the issue entitled It's All About Teaching. It only took me until November to get around to reading it. . . right after Barack Obama was elected as our President. Interestingly, the magazine contained an article entitled, Case Study: What Barack Obama's teaching methods tell us about what kind of president he might make. Author Alexandra Starr discusses Obama's ten-year teaching stint at the University of Chicago Law School. Starr quotes past students in this article. As I read through the opinions and perceptions of students, my feelings of joy about our president elect were heightened. Some of the thoughts that most resonated with me are below:

"a student in Obama's constitutional saw class in 2001. . . was impressed by his teacher's ability to see both sides of an argument" (77).

Obama taught a class that a previous student called "a catalyst to examine biases you might have developed throughout your own life" (79).

"Obama kept his own thoughts on the topics he was teaching mostly to himself" (79). This was emphasized as a former student recalled, "He is not good at wearing his opinions on his sleeve" (79).

I want the person who leads this country to possess the ability to see issues from multiple angles. I want the person who leads this country to force us to look at ourselves objectively. I want the person who leads this country to be unmovable in the face of adversity. Obama has shown these things in his teaching, and I think these will be transferred to his presidency.
This article inspired me to think about the qualities of my past teachers, and it made me think about the qualities I want to have as a teacher. What qualities do I need to be a good teacher and a good leader? What will my students say years from now?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Time

I first wanted to be a high school teacher when I was in high school. I had some remarkable teachers who made an impact on me when a lot of people could not as I was caught up in my turbulent teenage years. I hope to do the same for the students I will teach.

I drifted off my path during and after college. I focused on other subjects, and eventually thought I wanted to earn my PhD in Art History. After I graduated from college, I decided to take a year away from school to ensure that I was making the best choice for me. That year turned into eight, life happened, and now I find myself at the place I was when I was in high school - wanting to be a teacher. Now it is my time to work towards my goal. I am currently in a program which enables me to earn my Teaching Certificate and Masters in Education simultaneously. I look forward to the day when I will begin teaching.

I have started this blog to collaborate with some of the classmates in my program and make connections with current educators.