Sometimes all it takes is a smile. I have found that kind words can make all the difference in the world for students who lack self-confidence. I believe in praising student's small achievements especially from those who don't have many. Giving positive feedback, being careful on word selection, and having conversations on how to improve is beneficial while complementing them on their accomplishments is something else I practice in my classroom.
I will also purposely call on students to answer questions that i know they already know the answer to and give opportunities for students who normally wouldn't speak up in class to talk about something they are interested in or know a lot about(i.e. sharks, dinosaurs, bey blades).
Open communication with parents, speech teacher, resource teacher and/or intervention teacher is very important for student success and for that student to know their is a team working together for them. In some cases I have even created modified work and assessments for students to see an immediate response that they are "smart" or they "can do it" to gain confidence. Lastly assigning buddies and/or doing partner and group work with academically strong students often gives students that lack confidence a friend to discuss ideas with and be a part of team that is presenting the "right" answer.
School wide we have a motivational speaker who comes and talks to our students about how great they are and teaches them chants on various topics like test taking skills and bullying. His name is Kevin Bracey if any one is interested.
Technology is a huge help when it comes to student confidence. Any educational video games that are engaging make learning fun for kids. My favorites are iRead, a reading program where students can earn badges, awards upgrade their avatar. ABCya that has math and language arts activities where students earn points. Imagine Learning is language program that takes students through new and exciting levels while building vocabulary.
The question of creativity being lost in today's teaching really made me think about my personal teaching practices in my classroom. I was able to take something away from each presenter that I plan to apply in someway to my students.
Unfortunately creativity and the arts aren't as valued as reading and math but as Sir Ken Robinson pointed out, "creativity is as important as literacy". There isn't much opportunity for students to draw, color, sing, dance or act because those programs are usually the first things to get cut from school primarily due to budget cuts or time restraints. I do believe that once an passion or talent is apparent during that musical recital or in class readers theater or the poster board presentation it then becomes the educators duty to push that student to bring it out.
John Seeley Brown's perspective of how beneficial collaborative study groups are reminds me of the saying, "there is no I in team". One of the main complaints I hear from 3-5 grade teachers is the lack of collaboration skills their students have. In the primary grades we do a lot of think-pair-share and discuss with your elbow partner etc. but there are no research projects and the majority of these students can't read so expecting 24 six and seven years olds to explore and work together with 1 teacher to help is a very difficult task, but from upper grade feedback and with Brown's confirmation I do realize more needs to be done due to the importance even if it is reviewing and practicing taking turns protocols and /or using respectful language to respond to peers.
I found Howard Gardner's 5 minds for the future a little scary especially when it came to the ethical mind set among young people today. It's like they know the difference between right and wrong and choose to wrong and even can justify and rationale why they themselves or others made that choice. I think the even more saddening part about it was there was no clear cut answer on how to change it. Gardner's advice was for educators to continue to create an environment that shows the example we want them to go into the outside world with. Our districts, Be Kind, Respectful, Responsible and safe pledge help reinforce such ideas to our students.
Intrinsic motivation is a very hard thing to discover in 20+ students and then try to implement strategies. I am honestly lucky if I can tap into 5 or 6 of my students. Although he had a wonderful presentation and I understood his point of incentives not working and causing more harm than good I really wish Dan Pink would have offered some ideas on how educators can support and encourage these motivations in our students.
Lastly, incorporating Mobley's insights to help my students think creatively I would like to 1) shift out of traditional methodologies by letting go of the old way teaching(assembly line) 2)explore how my students learn naturally rather than forcing learning that doesn't work for them 3) getting my brain to think outside the box so I can be an example to them to do the same 4) Reach out to staff and listen and share new ideas to try 5) encourage self-esteem and 6) don't make anyone feel bad giving an incorrect response by still giving positive feedback to all answers.
5 Key Elements
True Implementation of these policies would mean a significant change in education for all students. Of course all systems are flawed and I could definitely see several drafts before a final product was made on how to approach all these ideas and it would be several years before we would even begin to see results but ideally this is what is wanted and needed by educators, parents and students.
By genuinely preparing all students to be 21st century learners through the content and giving them the skills they will need in the workforce we have potentially resolved unemployment issues and jobs being offered overseas or many tech jobs being occupied by people working in the U.S. on visas.
Guaranteeing students are being taught by competent teachers and states, districts and schools being held accountable for student learning could give opportunity carefully observe data to make real changes for improvement instead creating fear of job loss and/or finding short cuts (i.e. The Texas Miracle).
Out of the all the elements I believe the one that focuses on equality is the most important. By spreading out the funding to make basic need changes like holes in floors/ walls; enough updated text books for every child and getting the "good teachers" just to name a few we are giving these students and the community a sense of pride in their school and their learning. Simple changes can give a hole new perspective to the education system in general.
What I believe would be the second most important element is on preparation, mentoring and professional development of teachers. With these supportive changes in the career the number of teachers that leave the profession within the first few years will decrease eliminating this revolving door effect that only breaks down student's self- esteem and self worth.
Lastly, the modified curriculum to meet the individual student's need and authentic assessments and offers the biggest amount of support to students. This positive environment gives them the sense of security in a genuine classroom community.
21st Century Teaching
As I read through the article, The Evolution of thought practice, I actually giggled some because I was able to see myself in each one of the stages. My first couple of years of teaching known as the Entry stage, I was totally scared of technology. I looked at it as another lesson I had to put together and it made me nervous. Almost all my lessons were direct instruction and it was very traditional. When I came to NVUSD I moved over to the Adoption stage because now my students were introduced to using technology because there were programs we had access to and about 4-6 iPads in the classroom. However, there was still very little work for me to do and they were only exposed to it. After being in this district for a year or two I learned to use the resources and tools and incorporate them into the teaching/learning that was already happening by including a routine in my daily lesson plans. Right now I feel as if I am in stage 4(Appropriation) because I now look for ways to use technology apps that include collaboration and exploration opportunities appropriate for first graders. With the help of this course by next school year I hope to be at the final stage of Innovation.
Unfortunately with every new bit of information I learn that excites me, every new page I read of The Flat World of Education, saddens me. Knowing how much I can teach and show my students to help prepare them in the process of being 21st century learners but also knowing so many children will never get that opportunity. Knowing that in 2019 there are still school districts that don't not only have access to technology they don't even have access to enough updated textbooks for their students or even the same teacher for more than 30 days. Knowing that minorities and the poor cannot compete on the same academic playing field as their peers leaving them with not even a chance to get the high paying technology jobs in the future is so unfair.
Typically we have early finishers because hand few students have found the assignment easy therefore they get through the work before the rest of the class leaving them with nothing else to do. The experienced teacher would prepare for this by having a worksheet or "early finishers packet" (busy work) or have routines in place such as a "May Do" or Quiet Activity" for these students to complete, usually unrelated to the topic or lesson. This is necessary because when these early finishers are done with their work they want something else to do and if it isn't engaging they either become a distraction to the rest of the class and their learning or a behavior problem.
Through my driving question, I plan to explore what can be done to reduce various behavior issues in my class when particularly, my advanced boys, have completed their assigned work by not just throwing addition empty work at them.
In researching articles related to my topic I found that internationally this is an issue as well. A study by Jane Marshall explores the oldest problem in education, the epidemic of ennui,(dissatisfaction/excitement, i.e- bored) of school among pupils in France considering its centrally controlled system appearing to be the foundation of other school problems.
Nationally is where most of my articles were centered. I found many other studies where teachers struggled in the classroom with teaching mixed ability students and how to incorporate differentiation towards advanced learners. One article that caught my attention was, "Juxtaposing mathematical extensions with cognitively loaded questions in the mathematics classroom", by various authors published by the University of Calgary. This article offered ideas of bonus questions after the initial assignment is completed still on the current lesson or topic to deepen students mathematical understanding. By simply extending what they are already doing it gives opportunity for more practice. Calling them bonus questions leads the students to believe the are continuing on with the classwork not doing anything extra or more because they finished early and it's okay if everyone doesn't get to it.
As far as districts I know data and numbers are important. If the amount of behavior related infractions are entered in SWISS such as referrals; suspensions; drop outs decrease and a noticeable positive increase with advanced learner's academics, districts get acknowledged by the state.
Finally school wide, ideally we would see classrooms with engaged students at all learning levels. Teachers with less time taken away from learning to deal with behavior issues, building a classroom community that respects all students learning among peers.
Technology in Classroom
It has been said over again that we cannot teach today's children the way we used to. Sitting in rows, taking out a 500 page textbook, reading a chapter then answering the odd number questions is out. It's almost like today's children need to point and click.
My daily practice includes 3 online programs. The first is a language arts program (iRead) where students K-2 create their own avatar and read their way from classroom to classroom earning badges along the way to upgrade their avatar until they complete the level. The next is math program that is set up like a video game (ST Math) where students K-5 are a penguin named Gigi that problem solves through exploration because there is no verbal or written language all while trying not loose 1 of the 3 lives given per level. The final website is actually an expansion of our Language Arts Curriculum (Benchmark) where my class can explore whole group or individual; read alouds, informational videos, sight word songs and or grammar/spelling games. Every opportunity I have to not teach "the old school" way I use.
I believe it's key for a district/school to invest in it's teachers. Through trainings, workshops, key note speakers and a descent salary the message is we care and we want the best for our teachers and our students. Another important part is access to technology. To move forward we must have the proper tools.
Darling- Hammond's Response
In response to Linda Darling-Hammond's first few chapters to The Flat World and Education I can't say that I am completely surprised because I don't think severe inequalities in our school system are new but the data and the numbers are I think what shocked me the most. In my educational experience I have had the opportunity to attend schools that didn't receive a lot of funding; had low test scores; the majority of students were minorities but then also attend schools with awards; rich kids driving new cars and new books for every class. I could say the same for my teaching experiences as well. I've had the best of both worlds and the differences are obvious. I like the fact that these issues are being addressed and discussed. They cannot be denied but we are still so far from action being taken place.
Unfortunately this isn't a quick fix. Historically there were positive jumps when federal funding and programs gave a lot of money and aid to those in need. Money talks! We also know good teachers(highly qualified)teach better. They are more successful. These teachers need good reason(incentives)to spread out and teach where they are really needed to make a difference.
The idea of the world becoming flat actually reverses everything we know about the world being round. The world is supposed to be this huge mystery that only a few would ever get to explore in its entirety but now it's like the mystery is gone. Everything you want to see, know, hear, taste, is just a simple click away. It's virtually easy to get to one place across the world to another, for most. As you can imagine many will get left behind and this book tells you exactly who they are.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.