Saturday, April 25, 2009


I have posted on several edubloggers' blogs throughout the course of the school year, and while I have not received any direct responses from the bloggers themselves as of yet, the act of posting in a professional forum has made me
a) aware of issues experienced by professionals in the field I am entering (such as how to develop "lifelong learning" in a class that only lasts a year, whether or not it is productive to think of students as "consumers" or "customers" – that was an interesting debate!, the utility of social networking in your classroom or as an educator outside of the classroom, and the pitfalls and benefits of tracking (or "ability grouping", one of the only "politically correct" terms that I take serious issue with, because I think that it's incorrect, if political!)),
b) think about how to communicate online in a way that is somewhere in between the informal posts I am used to making on Facebook and in personal emails and the more formal web correspondence I might have with a prospective employer or the parent of a student. I had to think about how to formulate my comments so they wouldn't sound like sterile or complex academic writing, but so they would be clear and complete, devoid of the webspeak and lowercase I am used to using in the majority of my online communication. Once I even decided not to respond to a blogger ( because I felt so upset by a number of his posts that I didn't think I could formulate a response that would be amiable and professional, much less productive.

All in all I've been invigorated by the conversations educators are having online–lucky for us there are a lot of interesting and thoughtful people posting out there (some of my favorites are Scott McCleod, Sue Waters and Graham Wegener). I've also enjoyed reading the poetry of a former MACer's students as he has implemented blogs as a presentation format in his middle school classroom. I'm going to continue to use this blog for my own professional development and networking, and hope to bring blogs into my future classroom if there are appropriate tech resources to do so.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Using Library of Congress Resources Liveblog

Igniting the Flames of Learning with Animation MACUL Workshop

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I've got a crush on

Yes, luckily no crush on teachers. I can imagine that might be awkward. But if you want to hear a clip from the song "I've Got a Crush on Teacher" by sixties girl group The Fawns, there's one available here. It details the angst of a girl who's got a crush on her high school teacher who does not return her affections (and won't, if he knows what's good for him!). Such a sad story of unrequited teen love.

That said, the point of my title is that I am enjoying teaching as much as I hoped and more than I expected. Who knew teenagers were so hilarious, and so great? I'm embarrassed to admit that the majority of my conversations outside the classroom are now about things that happen inside of it, even when it's not totally socially appropriate (like when I'm out for a drink with my roommates). It's just amazing the number of funny, poignant and profound things that happen and are said in a day inside an high school classroom. Usually, even when out on the town with my roommates, I can make whoever I'm talking to laugh about something I or one of my students said or did in front of the class, and if not, I can always crack myself up with a couple of stories.

The kids I get to teach amaze me regularly by being so open and thoughtful and honest. I think being around them so much has made me start to interact with the world a little differently because of it. Also, who knew that each kid would be so likeable? Even kids who I know I wouldn't have liked as a high school student impress me with the energy and personality they bring to the table. I'm sure in the future I'll have students I can't stand (I've heard that every teacher does), but right now I'm just in awe of the students I've got. I can't wait until May when I can devote the time I now spend on MAC assignments to planning and being even more fully in the classroom - the time I have spent after school with students this semester has been invaluable in figuring out how to teach them better and getting to know them as people with lives outside of school.

I'm also feeling really good about the ways in which I've grown personally and professionally in the last couple of months. The first few times I had to teach I felt so nervous that I made myself too nauseous to eat breakfast and my hands shook the entire time I was in the front of the class. I didn't have much confidence in my ability to plan or lead a lesson, or even in my knowledge of history. Over the last few months I have surprised myself a lot (mostly in good ways, sometimes in embarrassing ones, where I find myself saying things I never would have believed if you had told me a couple of years ago, mostly in regards to justifying why a student should do an assignment or sit and watch a movie). Even when I have been teaching in areas where I thought my content knowledge was not that deep, I have either been able to read up enough or pull bits of history from parts of my memory that I didn't know existed. Although I wouldn't say that I know how to teach at this point, I am satisfied with the amount of progress I have made student teaching thus far and have confidence that I'm on my way to becoming the kind of teacher I want to be. The learning curve is steep, but man is it worthwhile to make your way up it!

Lastly, I wanted to share something that Jeff Stanzler wrote in response to one of my posts about education philosophy. I was feeling particularly discouraged by the requirements of the program at the time, and was wondering whether teaching was something I was really cut out for (sorry English folks, that one's ending with a preposition). Since then I've frequently thought back to what Jeff said about "finding your own subjectivity," or what matters and works best for you as a person in a classroom. It casts teaching in a light that is much more exciting than the one I'd been seeing it in:

"In a perfect world there would be more time for that, maybe less for this, or maybe enough for everything. I'd like to get there, but whatever happens, you can't get away from the challenge of making *your* perfect world, or at least trying to reach for it even if you don't yet know quite what it is, or where to find it.
Agency brings its own complications, right? You've got to figure out what the answers are, and then figure it out again, and once more.
...and the cool thing is, they're going to pay YOU to figure all that out! Not a bad deal, eh??"

So, even if I have a year of subbing in my future (I'm tied to Ann Arbor) and the jobs aren't that plentiful at the moment, I'm glad that I'm heading into this endeavor of making a microcosm of my perfect world - what a daunting and inspiring challenge.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Education is an act of love, thus an act of courage.” Paolo Freire

A friend of mine who was a SMACer several years ago told me that Paolo Freire used to be included in MAC reading lists. A brief explanation of his philosphy is available here: Freire

Having spent around 20 hours on my text analysis, which I experienced to be a demoralizing and frustrating assignment with few practical applications, I am wondering why we don't spend a little time reading and talking about the more inspiring and motivating writing out there on education. Perhaps the accusations that the MAC program was too theoretical and not practical enough led to the cutting down of philosophy readings? Personally, I think I would have much more use for philosophy right now than just about anything else. At a time when I've heard many of my colleagues questioning their reasons for teaching, I don't think even strategies to help struggling readers will be a useful tool for making bright, creative, educated people into dedicated, effective teachers if we don't have a reason for developing that commitment, a larger purpose. Just as you have to be prepared to make a powerful argument to any high school student as to why they should spend hours of their youth studying your discipline, I think that we who are studying teaching need to be reassured, need rationalizations and justifications for spending the enormous amount of energy that teaching (not to mention this program!) requires.

So this is my call for a philosophy of education component to the MAC program. It would be nice if everyone entering this program was already totally committed and hooked, totally sure that our decision to pursue teaching is a step towards what we want out of life. But that's simply not the case. Like Eugenie mentioned in one of our Foundations classes, even out of the people who get master's degrees in education not many stay in teaching long. While some of us have come to this as a second career and/or have reflected deeply on the purpose of education, others of us are trying to find out whether this is a path we're willing to take, are learning as we go, and need some context for this big profession we're peering into this year. Obviously right now all of us are really in it, talking about how much we love our kids and what good strategies are for getting them involved, making sure they're getting the most out of us. But I would argue that we also need a rationale beyond a degree to continue beyond a degree. And I know that Dewey and hooks and Freire are keeping me in it much more than any substantive conversation assignment.

Here is Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed
or for those who are scared of reading something from a Marxist website :), here are some hooks quotes from Teaching to Transgress from a blog I've recently discovered.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Every child is curious, intelligent...

It was really affirming to hear Andrea, a former MAC student and now educator who spoke to our ed tech class yesterday, say that she never had a student who was not intelligent, curious, discerning or who didn't want to learn. I believe that this attitude is necessary for successful teaching, because otherwise your students will perceive that you don't respect them, and are teaching in bad faith. James Baldwin put it really well in the footnote of one of our recent readings:

"A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled. A child cannot be taught by anyone whose demand, essentially, is that the child repudiate this experience, and all that gives him sustenance."

I would even extend that to say that a child cannot be taught by someone who despises her classmates... growing up I always did pretty well in school and I would venture to say that most of my teachers liked me, but I was aware as anyone else of teachers who played favorites or were not there to serve all of the students. And I always went the extra mile for teachers who made it clear that they "loved their baddies," a turn of phrase one of my favorite English teachers used to use. It feels safer for the "good kids" as well as the "bad kids" to know that a teacher's caring isn't conditional, and that they are teaching in good faith.

Andrea also mentioned that "most students think that school is a waste of time because most of school IS a waste of time." She said that her sister, a high school dropout, and brother, who was a fifth year high school student, often felt that way. My boyfriend, my brother and I are very different kinds of students, too, and our differences have gotten me thinking a lot about how not to waste my very different students' time. I think it is worth noting that the three of us often responded best to the same teachers. I'd be interested to know what those of you reading this think successful teachers have in common, since it doesn't seem to be instructional strategies... :)

Resources for election 2.0

Jeff sent me the link to this edublog a while ago and I've been meaning to post it - for those of you in government classes especially I hope this will be useful!

Resources for election 2.0

When you think about it, this election will look (or should) like no other in the classroom.