Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Student Teaching, Stress, and The Daily Show (Sidwell Style)

So far, my student teaching experience has gone very well. All the students are nice, my cooperating teacher is extremely helpful, and I have even been allowed to already take the lead in teaching a couple of assignments. Really, there hasn't been anything negative to report about the experience so far. However, I can already tell that my schedule for the next few months is going to exhaust me.

There is the student teaching itself, which is basically a full time job I don't get paid for (I actually have to pay my college extra for tuition because it is extra credit hours). Then I have 3 classes to take 2 nights a week: one is a graduate class, and one is a class where I am putting together different pieces of my teaching portfolio every week. I also have to keep my part-time job because I am poor, and have bills to pay (I mainly work on the weekends, when I do have time off from student teaching). Finally, I have a wedding to plan with my fiance, who I am already seeing a lot less of due to my busy schedule (and we live together). Free-time, and regular sleeping hours will be rare, if existent at all.

Fortunately, there are things to help me with the stress. The Daily Show is one of them. Here is a link to a couple of web clips to an education related story: the Obama girl's first day of school.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reflections Upon Day One of Student Teaching

My first day of student teaching went really well. The teacher is great, the students are great, and everyone I have encountered so far has been very nice to me. It does turn out that I am working exclusively with severely disabled students. Every one of them is probably functioning at low level intellectual and cognitive functioning. The array of diagnoses, as best as I can tell, range from autistic to mentally retarded to visually impaired. The students are learning simple reading, math, and life skills. But they are very nice kids, and I look forward to working with each and every one of them.

In addition, my assigned teacher is as nice as can be. She is able to answer every question I have, rarely loses control when stressed, and already treats me like a colleague. In fact, I consider her to be the antithesis of my old boss at the preschool I worked at. She was very impatient, and felt children should be trained like dogs (she herself has admitted both things). The stark contrast between who I am working for then and now incredible.

I will say the only downside so far is getting used to the schedule. I am definitely not used to it yet, but I know I will have to get used to. This is something I am going to be doing for many years to come.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Student Teaching: First Day

I am both nervous and excited because in less than 2 hours, I begin my student teaching. For the next six weeks, I will be working with high school freshmen at one of my hometown's high school buildings. At the end of those six weeks, I will then student teach at an elementary school. Although I am earning my certification to work with students with mild disabilities, I believe I will be working with some students with more "severe" or "multiple" disabilities as well. I'll correct that if I am wrong though. I should also note that the teacher I am assigned to is someone I personally know, and is very nice. This should make things a little bit easier.

What do I hope for in the next 6-12 weeks? I hope to learn new skills, and gain insights as to what it will mean to become a good teacher of students with special needs. This includes learning more about the IEP process, which I am currently not as familiar with as I need to be. In addition, I hope to boost my confidence level that I will be able to become a teacher, and a good one at that. Although I know this is what I want to do for a career, I still have my doubts as to whether or not I will be an effective teacher in the end. The last teaching job I had as a preschool teacher was a nightmare where a) I never really had control over my students, and b) I was always arguing with my boss. Plus, I know several people who trained to become a teacher, but then changed their mind after horrible student teaching experiences. I will try not to fall into that pit that happens all to often to aspiring teachers. Rather, I hope to rise to the challenges that come before me, and to make a difference in the lives of the students.

While I was trying to fall asleep last night (earlier than I normally do), I did something I don't do that often: I prayed. I know it is strange thing for an agnostic to do so. But then again, as a Christian Agnostic, it is not that much of a stretch to pray. I may or may not be praying to someone or something, but it doesn't hurt to do it anyways. Anyways, I prayed not only for guidance and success in my student teaching experiences, but I also prayed that guidance will transfer over into everything else that is to come for me: marriage, the beginning of my teaching career, etc. As I mentioned in my last post, this is the biggest year of my life because it is the first year of the rest of my life in so many ways. And it all begins today. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009: It's Kind of a Big Deal

2009 will be a big year for me. I should be finishing my certification, probably my Masters (fingers crossed on both of those), hopefully finding a job as a special needs teacher somewhere in the state of Missouri, and getting married. Without doubt, this is going to be the biggest year of my life up to this point. And it all starts a week from today, when I start student teaching.

Above, I have temporarily changed my blog title to indicate my current teacher status (although the URL will stay the same). As I have said recently, my blog will probably turn into a journal, rather than a place to post and comment of headlines in the news. One of the most important aspects of education is tracking progress. I hope that, for the next 4-5 months, this blog will not only be a great outlet to blow off steam about my daily activities, but I also hope it will track my progress (or, God forbid, lack thereof) as a pre-service teacher. I also hope the accounts written in this blog can be a document that other education students can look upon for insight of what they might encounter in their student teaching experiences. From time to time, I do hope to write a little bit on what is going on in the news (education and otherwise). But don't expect a lot of that.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Alternet looks at the Bush legacy

Specifically, they count down "The Top 10 Most Awesomely Bad Moments of the Bush Presidency."  It's a pretty good list, except for the pithy, humorous comments.  The Bush legacy is one of death, destruction, and a loss of nation's integrity.  It is a sign of the WORST our country has to offer.  The problems this administration has left us will take many, many years to fix.  This isn't Best Week Ever on VH1.  Famous Bushisms aside, the legacy of the Bush administration is anything but funny.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

I hope everyone has had a good Christmas.  I have taken some time off from the blog to relax, as well as enjoy the company of friends and family.  I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know some things going on in my life.  First, I had a wonderful Christmas with my family.  The only thing that was missing from it was my fiance when she was visiting her family.  She is back now, and I can't wait for our wedding this summer.  Secondly, I am starting a new book The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.  Huffington Post is one of my favorite websites, and I am hoping I can learn a thing or two to improve my work on this blog.  

Finally, I will begin my student teaching here in a couple weeks.  I am not sure if I will have time to maintain the blog the way I have been.  While I will still post, it will probably be less commenting on stories in the news, and more keeping some type of journal of my day-to-day encounters as a student teacher.  I will spend six weeks working with 9th grade students, and another 6 weeks working with students in grades 3-5.  I am both nervous and excited about the upcoming weeks.  I look forward to sharing all of my experiences with you.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Facebook, Teacher Bullying, and Lawsuits

A girl who attended a Miami High School is suing her old school for suspending her for cyberbullying. Katherine Evans (now a college freshman) wrote about a teacher she didn't like on Facebook, and opened a forum for other students to complain about that same teacher. She is suing because she is afraid that the charge of cyberbullying will not get her into a good graduate school or get her a job. The ACLU is even stepping in to support her cause (for the sake of disclosure, I am a card carrying member). Her exact words on Facebook here as follows:

''Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I've ever met! To those select students who have had the displeasure of having Ms. Sarah Phelps, or simply knowing her and her insane antics: Here is the place to express your feelings of hatred.''

I understand there is freedom of speech, and there is really nothing wrong with students talking trash about teachers amongst other students (especially if it is, in fact, a bad teacher). But I also see the school board's point of view. It is one thing to trash talk a teacher, but to do it on something so public as Facebook is another thing. Maybe I am more sympathetic to the cause of the school because I worry that when I start teaching, some student who has a beef with me is going to write bad stuff about me all over the internet. But it is not like this is ever going to go away. Has anyone seen RateMyTeachers?

Perhaps Ms. Evans should not have been suspended, and she definitely shouldn't have been pulled out of her AP classes. But as to whether or not she won't get into a good grad school or not, let me just reassure her she will probably be ok. It was a relatively minor thing she did in high school, and she is now in college. All she needs to do is get good grades, and involve herself in some positive activities in college that will help out her resume (college clubs, internship, etc). A lawsuit isn't worth it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Craig Cunningham on Arne Duncan

He gives a generally positive, and well written review of Obama's Pick for SOE. He even gives some implications about what this means (maybe) for education in this country. Cunningham even predicts the next Chicago School Chief:

"1. NCLB will be drastically restructured to focus on supports for improvement rather than negative consequences for failure.

2. Opponents of charter schools have lost a huge battle. Their expansion will continue dramatically.

3. Urban school districts will receive special attention from Washington.

4. Washington will now begin to push a longer school day and longer school year, and the public will be gently pressured to force the unions to accept this without getting higher pay.

5. Funding for educational research will no longer be tied to ideological criteria such as "evidence-based" practices. Rather, research will be judged in terms of its likely benefit to generalized issues of educational practice.

6. The bowling alley in the White House will be replaced with a Basketball Court.

7. Barbara Eason-Watkins, who has been the quiet but effective and resolute Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public Schools for the past 6 years, will become Chicago Schools Chief. Barbara (who was also my boss for about 3 months before she took her current position) is smart, friendly, tireless, effective, and has deep experience at all levels of the system. Expect Eason-Watkins to make news within the next few years, most likely by saying things that no white man could say in that position. She may shake things up a bit in Chicago (which would be quite welcome)."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

George W Bush and the Free Market

For such a supporter of free market capitalism, it was funny to see Bush say the following:

"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system."

Response from Andrew Sullivan:

" . . . Just as he used torture to defend freedom. And occupied a country in order to liberate it."

Over the next few weeks up to the inauguration, I am going to do the best I can to look at the Bush legacy. I won't promise something everyday, but it is important to look at what our country has gone through, and what it looks like today after eight years of his presidency.

Time's Person of the Year: Barack Obama

As if it would be anybody else (click here for article).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Good Case for the Arne Duncan Pick

The Washington Post gives their support to Arne Duncan. The first two paragraphs essentially summarize my own ideas for why I am supportive of the Duncan pick, as of right now:

"IT WAS WIDELY expected that President-elect Barack Obama's choice of an education secretary would finally reveal which of the warring approaches to school reform he favors. Instead, his selection of Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan cheered both the disrupters and the incrementalists of education change. That could be a good sign for America's schools -- if Mr. Duncan is able to unite the two sides in support of meaningful improvements.

"In announcing his nomination of Mr. Duncan, Mr. Obama rejected the notion that there must be an either-or approach to making schools better. Both sides, he said, have good ideas and intentions, and he held out Mr. Duncan as someone not beholden to one ideology but capable of creating a new vision for the country's education system."

I have generally fallen on the Linda Darling-Hammond side of the Education Secretary debate (as opposed to the Michelle Rhee side). However, the more I think about it, the more I like the Arne Duncan pick because he really is a decent consensus candidate. He shows that people who aren't gung-ho reformistas in the school reform debate can still work to reform our public schools. Duncan has a lot to work on, so don't expect any miracles. But at the end of the day, Duncan is a high quality choice who seems very capable of handling the job.

Who Will Take Over at Chicago Public Schools?

Alexander Russo lists 4 potential names:

Scoping Out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I was surfing the web today, and I came across the some good stories and features on the Post-Dispatch website.

First, I found out there was an education blog at their website called The Grade. The following is a description of their blog:

"An blog on education in the St. Louis region, with a focus on efforts to improve student performance. Our team of reporters tackle a broad range of topics from school testing and charter schools, to discipline and bullying, while providing a forum discussion by parents, educators and readers."

Check out their most recent post on the Arne Duncan appointment.

Then it appears that the Missouri Supreme Court is letting the state keep control of the St. Louis Public School System.:

"The decision backs the appointment of a three-member governing board that has run Missouri’s largest school district since it lost accreditation in June 2007. Members of the elected school board have remained in office, but are mostly powerless."

Finally, the AP announced the 2008 All American Team in football. 1st Team picks consist of Jeremy Maclin (All Purpose Player) and Chase Cauffman (Tight End). We also have a third team player with Sean Witherspoon (Linebacker). GO TIGERS!!!

Substitute Teacher tells Kids that Santa isn't real

It happened to a class of 7 year olds in England. I know that being a substitute can be stressful, but what a dick.

Weingarten on Duncan

AFT's President likes Obama's Secretary of Education pick. I suppose that is a good sign.

Pros and Cons of Arne Duncan

A rundown of his record in Chicago from Alexander Russo:

"Strengths: ▪ Lasted seven years -- a lot longer than many predicted. ▪ State test scores have increased every year Duncan has been in office, according to the board of education. ▪ Duncan has by all accounts improved tremendously as a public speaker. ▪ Sends his daughter to a local public school. ▪ Strong supporter of community schools. ▪ Early critic of NCLB testing, tutoring, and transfer requirements ▪ Chicago participates in Roland Fryer "learn to earn" program. ▪ Tall, skinny, and with a funny name -- just like his soon-to-be-boss! ▪ Has more gray in his hair than it seems from this AP pic.

Weaknesses: ▪ Chicago has never been a finalist for the Broad education prize for urban school reform. ▪ Chicago ’s NAEP scores lag many other big city districts, according to TUDA. ▪ Failed to win substantial concessions from the Chicago Teachers Union in the last contract. ▪ Failed to expand the highly restrictive charter school cap for Chicago (30) . ▪ Renaissance 2010 disrupted the education of thousands of students in the early years esp. ▪ Duncan ’s reform efforts have failed to attract (or retain) white and middle-class families. ▪ Criticized by Blagojevich for only having offered free school bus rides in exchange for the Senate seat."

Arne Duncan: A Safe Choice

There couldn't be a better time to start writing on my blog after a week off from posting (sorry, I've been kind of busy). We now know who the next Secretary of Education is going to be: Chicago School Chief Arne Duncan.

And based on everything I have read about him so far, his choice seems to be about two things. First, he is a politically safe choice because he will most likely not upset either side of the current education reform debate. On the one hand, he is appealing to education "reformistas" because he is a big city school chancellor with a history of trying to reform schools, just like his old boss Paul Vallas (who is now in charge of New Orleans Public Schools) Also, his name isn't Linda Darling-Hammond.

On the other hand, he is at least partially appealing to the more traditional/teacher-friendly (for lack of a better term) side of the debate because he isn't as controversial as a Joel Klein or Michelle Rhee. In addition, Teacher Unions don't hate his guts. AFT head Randi Weingarten even says that Duncan "reaches out (to unions) to do things in a collaborative way."

The second thing his choice indicates is that, simply, Duncan is someone Obama can personally trust. He is from Hyde Park in Chicago, has worked with Obama over the years, and has even played basketball with him (in fact, Duncan apparently has a fairly nice basketball career). Just like other Presidents will pick people for their cabinets from back home (including our present Education Secretary), Obama has done the same thing.

I do have some concerns. While he is clearly a safe pick, is that all he is? Is the fact that he didn't pick either a Linda-Darling Hammond or a Michelle Rhee a sign that Obama wants to reach out to both sides of the education reform debate? Or is it just a sign that Obama wants a politically safe pick because education won't be that high of a priority? Plus, as good of a job as Duncan has done in Chicago, will that actually transfer over to a national level? Duncan was in charge of just one school district (even though it is a huge one), but will now be in charge of thousands of school districts in 50 states. Needles to say, it is harder to micromanage things.

Also, it would be nice to have an Education Secretary who has actually taught inside a class. Oh, well.

I personally would have preferred a Linda-Darling Hammond, but I am not opposed to Duncan as a choice. Maybe he is exactly what our education system needs. Let's give the guy a chance and see what he can do.
Picture comes from This Week in Education.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Call to Education Journalists

Alexander Russo calls out to education journalists to do their job regarding the potential new Education Secretary:

"Do your jobs, reporters and editors. Bug someone who was on the working committee into talking to you, or report that they won’t. Track down Wendy Kopp and ask her straight out what she thinks about Darling-Hammond or Duncan (or Rhee, for that matter). Look up campaign donation records and tell us what you find. FOIA some shit. Sending out a few emails and rehashing tired claims or old speeches just doesn’t cut it."

This is an interesting piece, and I am always in favor of journalists in any area "doing their jobs". And I love the "FOIA some shit" line. Just as interesting though is the comments section to this article which debates the necessity of Russo's suggestions.

For my own two cents in this debate, I feel that education journalists should be taken just as seriously as journalists in other fields, but they aren't. The reason it doesn't is that, sadly, education in general doesn't get taken as seriously as an issue as it should be. This is not to say that there aren't issues just as important, and even more important, than education (i.e. the economy, war) But if we valued education as much as we should, we would see just as much speculation about Education Secretary as we do about Secretary of State, Defense, and Treasury. Instead, the speculation is left to us who are wonks, experts, and education bloggers/journalists.

Speaking Tongues in Class

A girl spoke in tongues in a Mississippi High School, where she also spoke the names of several of her classmates and how they would die. Fundamentalist Christians do the darnedest things, don't they? Over at the Deadpan Ann blog, she lists the reasons why this story (and the reaction it caused) is stupid for so many reasons:

"1. The kids believed it.
2. They took Bibles to school to ward off the demon.
3. The student claimed God was speaking through her, and her mother says God is using her to speak to the kids at her school.
4. News reporters actually showed up, and this was aired on the nightly news.
5. The only point of controversy for the people of Pelahatchie was NOT which psych ward to send Lashundra Clanton too, or how long she should be suspended for disrupting class, no. The only thing people can think of to talk about? Whether it was God or the debble speaking."

By the way, I don't want to ridicule all religious people (there are very smart, rational individuals who worship and believe in God). However, we must point out the crazier, unhealthy examples, and expose them for what they are.

Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 Edublog Award Nominees

These awards are a good way to learn about new education blogs that exist. It is partially through looking at these awards that helped me get into education blogging.