Student Teaching, Week One Impressions

February 10, 2010 at 8:17 pm (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

Some thoughts after my initial week of student teaching.

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Gettin’ My Vlog On- Day One

February 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

My initial impressions from my first day of student teaching.

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Trailers/Initial Impressions

December 7, 2009 at 4:47 am (Digital Humanities, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

I took a look at four of the trailers for internet “workshops” from the “Bridgin the Divide” conference. They can be found here:

The teasers/trailers varied in their approaches. “Little Kids, Big Possibilities,” for instance, more or less just showed some cool looking web 2.0 things that, I’m led to assume, were created by kids. A little intriguing, but perhaps too sparse to reel me in.

“Slippery Rocks and Hard Places” was a little different. This trailer hinted that there are 12 “critical bridges” in 21st Century learning. Though I don’t know quite what this means (how could I, it’s a 1 minute teaser), this trailer’s use of “vauge-specifics” (my own term) piqued my interest.

“A Peek for A Week” seemed to cover familiar ground, essentially saying that kids can do terrific things given a week of computer access and a creative teacher. I’m interested in what they actually did, but I’m skeptical it’ll be more stuff like “Wordle,” which, in my experience, is the stupidest waste of time teachers can use and still claim to be using new technology to reinvigorate the classroom. I hope there’s some more substance here.

Finally, the “Learning Confluence” trailer made it fairly easy to get the thrust of the workshop. The idea of an intense confluence of philosophy and practice between educational experts seems promising, if also a little dry.

At this point, I’m leaning towards attending the “Little Kids, Big Possibilities,” and “A Peek for A Week” workshops. Though I shared some skepticism about both of these choices above, I chose them because they focus on actual students doing things with technology. I’m really eager to see helpful ways teachers do this, and also eager to identify what I see as unhelpful or simply stupid technology (Wordle, for instance, holds no academic or learning value you that I can see–and I’m pretty artistic!).

I’m looking forward to it, and i’ll let you know my impressions.

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The Social Studies Classroom

November 9, 2009 at 1:10 am (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, , )

After a few months of carefully observing my CT’s methods and style in running a class, listen to this floating head explain two areas where he would do things differently in his own class.

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What About High School?

October 26, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Classroom Observations, Digital Humanities, Thoughts on the Profession) (, , )

A few classmates and I responded to youtube sensation “A Vision of Students Today” with a video of our own. I had a few technical problems because of the different Flip camera models, and some of our signs are kind of faint. We’ll have to work on that for next time. You live, you learn.

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Confidence and Lesson Plans

October 26, 2009 at 2:14 am (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

I wonder if the image I chose this week, below, applies to me?

confidenceI ask this because, a little over half way through my early field experience, I feel like I’m ready for the next step. Confidence is a good thing, I’m convinced, for an aspiring teacher to have. But hubris is not. If my confidence is based on reality and is keenly aware that I still have much to learn, than I’m happy. I hope I’m not like this kitten, who looks in the mirror and sees a lion.

And now, about lesson plans. This week we were to talk to our teachers about their expereince. Watch this video to see what I’ve been thinking about.

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Are We Saints?

October 19, 2009 at 1:58 am (Thoughts on the Profession) (, )


In my training as a pre-service teacher, I’ve noticed some funny things about the way teachers are viewed, and the way they view themselves. Like this iconic rendering of St. Nicholas, some teachers fancy themselves as righteous do-gooders, condescending to help hapless children in the holy cause of learning. Not that teaching, or learning, are somehow low pursuits. Clearly, they are not. But I’m sometimes frustrated with the way teachers can sometimes be viewed, and view themselves, as pious saviors to a community of children.

Certainly, this is not the only caricature of teachers that exists. Another common one is quite opposite. This other view of teachers can be summed up by the old adage: “those who can’t do, teach.” But as often as I hear this kind of talk, I hear another kind. It’s in the response from people when they hear you’re a teacher. You hear things like “Oh, that must be so rewarding!” or “wow, we really need more people like you in the world.” My personal favorite is the one teachers often say of themselves, the sanctimonious “teaching isn’t a job, it’s a vocation.”

Look, I don’t mean to denigrate the profession. Rather, I just want to preserve a little perspective. Certainly there are teachers to whom their job is a vocation. There are those truly talented teachers who want to change the world one student at a time, and do. But to suggest that all, or even most, of us fit such a description seems to me a ludicrous idea. Let’s be honest for a minute. There are a lot of teachers out there, particularly in the lower grades, that fall into teaching as a back up job. Or over-grown jocks who “teach” English so that they may follow their true love: coaching high school football.

I’m not self-loathing. In fact, I think I may even consider myself as a teacher who may have the gift and the desire to reach students with knowledge. But let’s leave off with all this saintly talk about ourselves. At the end of the day, any job can be a vocation, if one is both gifted in it and sets about his work with a higher ideal in view. And while we’re being honest, let’s also remember that we’d probably see a lot more people who truly have the calling if teachers had a higher status/income in our society. I’m all for a seriousness of purpose and heart-felt belief in our mission as teachers. But until we have more, and I mean *a lot* more, “good teachers,” I’ll remain embarrassed every time I hear the self-righteous babble about our vocation.

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My (sort of) Field Experience

September 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

What can you learn from class when you’re not there?

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Who is We?

September 7, 2009 at 1:01 am (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, , , , )

Day one at Chelsea Middle School,  in Lancashire County.

So far, so good, thought I, half way through second period. Not much to do so far, just lurking in the back, enjoying my second time through the lecture. The students, 7th graders, don’t seem too alarmed by my presence in the back of the classroom. They’re learning about westward expansion, and the teacher is going through a prepared narrative about Sooners claiming land in Oklahoma. Soon, if she does the same she did for the first period, she’ll transition into a game of bingo where the student’s vocab flashcards, organized 4 by 4, will be used as bingo placeholders. Candy is at stake. Serious business.

As far as professionalism goes, I’m doing well. I got a little sass from a female student who apparently likes UVA so much that she thinks I should leave the classroom. Otherwise, they’re respectful. The only serious problem I ran into was when a few of the kids started talking “Family Guy” before class started. I know the episode they’re talking about. Everything in me wants to chime in with a timely quotation. I refrain. Danger averted. Not that it would be necessarily wrong for a teacher to joke with his students like this, but as an intern on his first day, caution is the rule.

Bingo is underway by now. The teacher, Mrs. Chisholm, gives a description and asks for the historical figure who matches it. “Chief Joseph!” one cries. “No,” Mrs. Chisholm replies, “someone else?” “I know!” says Cassy. “Sitting Bull.” And she’s right. This launches Mrs. Chisholm into a little background on Sitting Bull.

Suddenly, it hits me. Every time she refers to some misdeed perpetrated by the federal government against the Indians, she refers to the culprits as “we.” I remember thinking twice about that in first period when she used the same expression, something like “and then we gave the Sioux a raw deal…” or “we gave some of the Native Americans whiskey and guns and in exchange they handed over Sitting Bull to us.” I dismissed it fairly easily in the first period. I’d say its a fairly accepted way to frame the discussion, though I’m sure there is some controversy surrounding her use of “we” since issues of historical guilt are by no means settled. But the interesting thing in this class is the relatively high number of minority students.


Even if one accepts the designation of “we” when describing some of the unpleasant acts perpetrated against the Indians, what do you do when there are several black and hispanic kids in the class? Sure, they’re Americans. But at the time of the Indians wars, blacks wouldn’t have had much agency in the federal government or as the primary settlers of Indian territory. Is it really appropraite to use “we” when teaching these kids? And if not, what about the fact that a lot of the white kids in the class may have descended from poor, rural Appalachians with little more interest in Western Plains Indians than a black sharecropper? And if you say that “we” is appropriate for the white kids but not the black kids, aren’t you really saying that whites are the only “actual” Americans, or at the very least that they run the show? If so, that poses a lot of questions about minority participation in our democracy. And where does that leave Mr. Obama?

I’m not positing a solution to this messy little bit of history. I suppose if it were my class I’d have to think long and hard about my use of “we” in any historical context. I’d like to hear a reasonable, thoughtful, and seasoned teacher weigh in on this for me. But that little word raises more than just questions about politically charged words used by the teacher. One also wonders, Should the kids be discussing issues like that in the classroom, rather than reviewing vocab on flashcards? That would certainly seem like a more hands-on way to think about history, a way to connect the past with their lives today. But would that be a good way to spend the time? Is the 7th grade level the time to start encouraging students to take on history in this way, or should we really be trying to give them the tools (strong vocab/basic knowledge) to pursue “real” history later? I’m not sure. I have more questions than answers.

Hey, I’ve only been in class one day.

See you

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Pandapas Pond

August 30, 2009 at 10:28 pm (Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

eggleston view

There’s always some skepticism, at least for a guy like me, inherent in any activity designed to bring one into honest reflection through group-building exercises. Such “canned” experiences, for better or for worse, immediately cause suspicion because, unlike “true” or “deep” moments of epiphany, our field trip, and, by extension, our experiences, weren’t purely organic. They didn’t just “pop up.”

I’d love to report that I’m a changed man, that I’ve been to the mountain top, and everything has changed because of it. I can’t. But, even more importantly, neither can I say that I haven’t learned. Indeed, as I reflected for this blog post I made a conenction that is just as important as anything we discussed at the pond. And the lesson is this: I am wrong to put such strict limits on important experiences.

What I mean is, as a pre-service teacher, why am I doubting the efficacy of a well-planned and “pre packaged” lesson designed to teach a point? I believe that I can reach students, indeed, impart critically important information, by skillful preparation. Why then should I doubt the ability of a different lesson, just because it took place outside and was designed to give us resources to craft a teaching metaphor? No, I don’t believe we can enforce a catharsis. But, upon reflection, I think that I renounce my smug inclination towards dismissal of activities like our field trip. This is an unexpected lesson for me, both personally and professionally.

(By way of disclaimer, I will add at this point that I didn’t have a bad attitude about the whole thing. I would describe my mood at the time as “happily skeptical”)

Now, about empowerment. This is another word I’m skeptical of, mostly because it seems like its always used by people who clearly don’t project power. But, obviously, the lesson I learned here speaks a lot to the concept of empowerment, or, as I prefer to say, confidence. Confidence, specifically in the teaching profession, is invaluable. This is true cheifly because at any given time you’re in a class with 25-30 merciless adolescents who can smell fear and taste blood in the water.

This asks the question: how can I build confidence? And one way is experience. I think our activity was designed to model that to some degree. The discussion after our hike was one of the things I liked most about our field trip because, as we were asked to create metaphors for our experience, my group came up with a statement praising the value of “faith” and “risk” in the profession. I think this kind of mindset, the willingness to take sensible risk, will pay big dividends in the experience/confidence department.

Finally, though I didn’t know it at the time, while we were meeting in the upper parking lot, a man walking his dog just across the street from where we were was stumbling across the bodies of two tech students. Clearly, since we didn’t know, this didn’t effect our experience at the time. But as I look back, given our proximity to the site of such evil, our carefree walk in the woods takes on a new, almost simple, light. I don’t know what this means, but I thought I should comment on it, since we’ve been encouraged to share “any other thought” we might have had.

See you next time.

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