Saturday, October 10, 2009


I am really excited about the prospects of Ning. Thanks to everyone who contributed to making our class aware of it. I really like the idea of drawing in popular culture to teaching. At times, it seems daunting to fit popular culture in with all the standards we have to hit upon during our lessons. I am kind of worried that I will have to spend so much time teaching bits of information laid out by the standards that I won't be able to spend much time connecting what we have learned to the real world. In my subject, biology, there are so many terms and lower level concepts to learn. They are often hard to grasp for students because it can often seem like a foreign language. So, being able to creatively pull in all the standards and popular culture and high ordered thinking will be a major challenge. I wonder how much freedom teachers feel now with the standards reform and if they really are an explicit explanation of what has always been done or a an attempt to squeeze everything in during the year.  I am excited to see how everything can fit together in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cynicism and Apathy

I have begun to hear a common theme among teachers that worries me. Many note that cynicism and apathy exist in the profession, but I feel that is common theme in many professions. However, each profession has a different trigger for these feelings. It seems cynicism and apathy are often results of frustration. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines frustration as "a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs. To me, frustration is the desire for something you cannot have. It is feeling like you are banging your head against a wall, like an effective change can not occur. Frustration is a belief that you do not have the capabilities to influence your environment to attain desired results. " It seems if cynicism and apathy are a result of frustration, then we need to determine what it is that we as a profession want but are not getting.

Most teachers have an answer for this. I have often heard that teachers who still care spend so much time preparing, trying to creatively engage students, and giving so much of their time and energy to students who continue to fail. I commonly hear the expression, "you can only do so much," or, "you can bring a horse to water, but..." The problem is, it is our job to help students learn and learn how to learn. So, when teachers try as hard as they can using all the tools they have -theories, books, professional development programs, other teacher's resources- and still do not get the desired results, the finger is turned back on the teacher. But teachers do not know what else to do. There is a disconnect between ideals, effort, and results. I believe apathy is a way to protect yourself from the truth, to survive by not pointing any fingers. I believe cynicism is a way to live in a world that does not work as one would hope. It is a way to seperate oneself as a wise person is a world faulty world. It is a way to point the finger the away from oneself.

Either way, as we learned in elementary school, pointing fingers is bad. So, how do I plan to navigate a profession with cynicism and apathy. I need to take advantage of my time studying education to dig deep and determine exactly what my desires are in eduction. What do I feel the purpose is? How do I see the relationship between students and teachers, among students and teachers? What theory of learning do I believe in? Are these goals or beliefs specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or reasonable, believable, and have a realistic time frame? Finally, how do I create an action plan to arrive at these goals or have my students arrive at these goals? To address a plan of action, one must take stock of where things stand, where they came from, and potential future outcomes ripe with intended and unintended consequences.

The educational system is incredible complex. There are so many aspects to consider when assessing the state of our schools. I think, before I am thrust fully into that sphere, I really need to determine where I stand. I understand and highly value the ability to evolve with the new experience and situations I will face during my first year teaching. However, I think it is imperative to start carving out my own belief system so I have a firm footing my first few years. Although taking a stand before being an actual teacher may provide a skewed or biased point of observation based on incomplete information. That is always the case, though. Hopefully my optimistic attitude and natural affinity to finding the positive parts of things will help me along the way.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Inquiry Learning

I have been able to partake in a few inquiry labs with my mentor teacher this year. They have all been great experiences. I think it is very useful to have one in the beginning of the school year because it sets a precedent for the development of academic character while letting everyone in the classroom get to know each other. It is also an environment to reinforce a safe learning community- especially that there are no stupid questions and mistakes lead to greater learning. It is incredibly helpful to see the type of vocabulary students use, thought patterns, misconceptions, prior knowledge, and motivations an inquiry lab reveals. The hard part seems to be organizing it into small enough time chunks so that students are able to stay on topic, fully dive into the activity, but allow enough time to cover all the material. I think inquiry labs are a way for students to be engaged in an activity that helps develop both cognition and conceptual skills. I plan to continue to investigate these types of experiences are figure out how to use them effectively in my classes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cell Phones

Cell phones are becoming more and more common in the classroom, despite the best efforts by teachers and administrators. Some believe cell phones do not belong in classrooms because they are a source of distraction and a possible avenue for cheating. I believe cell phones are here to stay. The attempt to rid classrooms of cell phones is futile. So, rather than continue to fight a loosing battle, why not accept that cell phones are now a part of life and embrace their potential for use in the classroom? Liz has explained that more students have access to cell phones than Internet. Why not let students use technology in a technological age? Why not take advantage of a tool many students bring to class everyday? For example, poll everywhere option would be a great learning opportunity in the classroom. Also, many students use cell phones as a calendar. They should be able to use the tools they have and will probably have to use in life post-high school. As far as cheating and cell phones goes, it is an issue that is here to stay. Some students will try to use whatever they have to cheat. If it were accepted that students do have cell phones, teachers would know which students have cell phones. Therefore, on test day or days that cell phones are not required, the teacher can employ methods to ensure cell phones are not misused. For example, they could be put in a basket by the teacher’s desk. Or, hands are required on the desk during assessments. Cell phones are here to stay and I think it is time teachers and administrators use more common sense than authoritarian rules.