Sunday, September 28, 2008

In the time I have been keeping this blog my basic ideas have not changed, I still believe "Personal Responsibility" is the order of the day. I think it stands true fro every aspect of our society from the homeowner who borrowed to much to the loan officer who approved the homeowner for more than they could afford. From our leaders, teachers and police officers to the men, women and Children who spend their nights huddled together in shelters across America. The one thing we are missing in this great nation is personal responsibility.

Cultural and ethnic differences are a part of American society and have been since we gave the first small pox blanket to the Indians. We didn't start out on a good foot there but I believe for the most part we've made great strides in making a place for people to come here and live out their dreams. Is it harder for someone of a different background to come here and succeed? I don't think so, if we are truly rising above prejudices and teaching in a manner that asks a child to look within themselves to achieve what they want from life. Lead them and encourage them to reach levels never before thought possible, they will. If on the other hand we make excuses and exceptions for a child, force them to point out all the ways they are different, many of them will leave with a reduced sense of themselves. Let's be clear I am not saying a child shouldn't be proud of where they come from or that a child should shrug off their heritage for the sake of the accepted Anglo-Saxon traditions. I'm saying the choices to do so should be theirs, not part of some show in class so that the teacher can feel good about promoting differences. I truly think in a lot of cases this will do more harm than good, especially if a teacher is unfamiliar with the accepted practices of other ethnicity's. I think we as teachers should learn about other cultures if for no other reason to find out what drives them, what makes them tick. But we should do it to help lead those children in class, not to point out to the others in class how they are "Not like us".

Question : How will you become an effective multicultural teacher? What teaching methods will you use to guarantee you are effective with your students?

I think I've already covered this, but I plan to teach students, not cultures. I believe every student just wants to be treated the same, regardless of differences in background. People from all over the world come here to enjoy our freedoms and learn from us. While we have much to learn from them I think we do it without placing the onus on them to explain their views, beliefs or customs. Children are sometimes awful and pointing out additional differences will sometimes only make it harder on a student who may already be experiencing alienation from peers because of the obvious differences. My teaching method will be to expect greatness from each child. By setting the bar high, but making goals achievable, you set them up for success rather than failure. The most important thing to a middle school child I believe is self-confidence. And by giving them goals they may think are out of reach but encouraging them to try harder and do more and ensuring success you will build a foundation of success they will take with them throughout life.

My educational blog,, seems to cover a lot of topics about real world teaching. It is mostly observations she has made in teaching. From the need to adjust practices and teaching styles for a given class. She talks about her struggles to find time to go into deeper discussion with the class because of her need to stay on the basic vocabulary for the classes sake. It seems to me a real eye opener, in that, regardless of plans, regardless of want to, the kids in the class, and their abilities are going to dictate how much or how far a class delves into any one subject. Her solution to this one problem was to look outside herself and turn to technology. She found Quizlet,, which was created by a kid who had a hard time with his own vocab. It is now the most fun part of the day for the kids and they actually learn the material. This is an example of teachers thinking outside the box, realizing they may not have all the tools necessary and finding them for the sake of those she teaches. I hope to be able to admit I may not have all the answers and be willing to look outside for help, for my own sake and that of the kids.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My classroom

I'm now looking at my classroom and I'm seeing information everywhere. Not just the typical, map or globe on the wall, but also bookshelves with Newsweek, Time, and perhaps other periodicals students can draw information from, so they can compare and contrast some of the information their getting from me and the book with that of the world. We may have weekly assignments from these to force this exploration, and I include myself as I think I'll start each week with my own. I think I'll allow them to choose their subject or article for the week and do some in-class summaries. A couple of times we may do these as a group but mostly it will be a individual exercise. It seems to me the present is just as important as history and should be treated so. These after all are kids who are going to inherit the world in just a few years, they should know what is going on. In reality I feel fairly confident in my abilities so far, my only insecurity is in forming a syllabus.
My thoughts on this chapter are perhaps a bit skewed, while I think different learning styles are great, as well as teaching styles, it remains to be seen if they actually have an impact. I think the best teachers don't consciously do it. It just comes from experience and knowledge of how they learned it. I'm not saying it doesn't help certain students, but i think if you look at kids while talking with them and read the ques as to whether they get it or not, you should be able to adjust on the fly without having to determine which is going to help the most, or who learns which way or the other. Really I compare the styles test to the IQ tests as they have a place, but only as a guide, I don't think they'll ever replace experience or ability to read students emotions and actions.
There was alot of information on the boards this week, but it seems nearly everyone came to the same conclusion I did. The learning styles and teaching styles are great guides but unless you can make your class enjoyable and engaging you're just spinning your wheels and making alot of noise. We all know which "styles" we enjoyed as students its just a matter of being capable of duplicating it, and reaching as many as possible.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chapter 4: Age level characteristics

I had an Idea going in about the age level characteristics of middle school/ Jr. school students as I remember it so well myself and I also have a very good friend who has a set of twins in eighth grade. I've been talking a lot to him about the significant change in behaviors in the last couple years and specifically this year with his two thirteen year old girls. I've actually been somewhat of a help to him lately because of what i have been learning in this class, in fact just the other day they had an argument and one of them used the "you just don't know what it's like". Repeatedly she had used that one and my friend has tried to tell her he did and had been there. He said he could see her eyes unfocus and knew every time he sounded like Charlie Brown's mom to her. "Wah Wah Wah" and didn't know what to do. So I sent him a few of the links I had found for the student handbooks and told him to get her alone show her the links and explain he was trying to understand and also show her so she could understand that she's not the only one in the world who has ever felt this way. What do you know it worked. The communications they have enjoyed throughout their lives have been reopened and while she is still stressed and having somewhat of a hard time transitioning she understands that what she feels is normal and is trying to deal with it accordingly. My thoughts are they are going to have to stay on top of it and constantly encourage her to keep her from slipping back into the "Woh is me " attitude but I couldn't be more happy about the outcome because it seems I helped and I feel real good about that. It only makes me wish I could get done quicker so I can start helping other student, the whole experience will really help later on I believe.
As far as the text goes I was able to match up the behavior of my own kids with that of the text when it came to the early stages. This is why at least with the younger ones I think Piaget was on to something. Later on i really think that it's one of the "it depends on each child" type things. But as my children grow I'm open to changing that opinion. It remains to be seen. I'm really excited to see schools with the commitment to excellence in not only student performance academically but also with respect to society like the one Derik outlined in his handbook posting. Those are the types of schools who truly produce kids who are ready to succeed at the next level and make a difference. Regardless of whether that next level is work of college. What it's all about is producing and preparing students to making a difference.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Psychosocial and Cognitive Development

I personally think it is a mistake to stake too much on any one theory, (and a child's education qualifies as too much) because they are all just that: Theories. Any one outlined in the text could serve given the right situation, but none will help every child. This is where the judgment and close observation of the teacher becomes paramount. If a teacher given the knowledge they have attained over many years of schooling can make a qualified judgment on what will serve an individual child best, then regardless of source it is a success.

I think Vygotsky more so than the other theorists highlights the need for social interaction as a part of learning, if not the source of learning. I know from my experience that Middle school was my toughest challenge. So many things changed and without the safety net of social interactions to keep some sort of stability in my own life I think its quite possible i could have just given up. With my plans to teach this level, and to also teach a subject many find to be boring and without life, that being History, Vygotsky seems the logical choice. He correctly describes the teaching style that so many have a problem with when it comes to History. That being that it is just a bunch of facts and each year more facts are just added like pennies in a piggy bank. Vygotsky prescribes a solution to this in that a classroom should be set up to provide cognitive development using psychological tools that provide direction and Que the student to ask the next question rather than the teacher just giving more answers. Vygotsky just makes sense to me, in reading the text I realized I've been using some of the techniques described with my own children. In the case of math problems I use the (ZPD) with my six year old all the time and just give the hints as needed to boost her along.

I have two younger brothers who i spent many years trying to impart knowledge on, most of which consisted of what stuff of mine they could not touch. Although there were many disagreements and fights on this and anything else you can think of that brothers fight about. I almost think my brothers had a head start on life once i started school. They became familiar with concepts I was learning by osmosis. So much so that once they started school they had an easier time grasping it. I see much the same in my own kids, My three year old, Ava, idolizes her older sister, Ellie, and wants to do everything she does. Ava at two, knew the alphabet and could identify nearly all of the letters. She can also recognize some words when written out, such as the names of her siblings and parents. Perhaps I have an advantage here as my wife works in the social services field and is familiar with the Denver screening and tests the kids on a semi regular basis so we know exactly where they are most of the time and what we need to work on. In talking with her about it she uses Piaget and Erikson more in her work but she works with pre-k children and rarely has to go beyond the "Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt" stage of development.
In finding ways to use Vygotsky's theories in technology two distinct ways jump out. The first would be in using the computer itself as an expert peer. That is with the wealth of information available on the Internet nearly any subject is limitless in its depth and breadth of knowledge. Secondly it can be used to link students with more knowledgeable students and experts in their field of study. This would be more accurately described as scaffolding.
With my unwillingness to settle on any one view for every student I was particularly struck by Norah's post on the Montessori school, i haven't done a lot of research on the subject but feel if we as educators are willing to look outside the realm of accepted theories to ones that have been proven to work in practice it can only make us all better.