Comic Strip/Field Observation #3

For my third and final comic, I described what I witnessed on my last visit to Laurel Lower School. During my last visit, the girls in the class all got to share a show and tell with the rest of the class. The students really enjoyed this activity because they were able to talk about their personal experiences. And without them even knowing, they were learning and developing better presentation skills. This part of the day, when the students had the chance to “show and tell”, kept the students engaged and allowed them to each express themselves and learn about each other. This leads to developing better relationships as well as each student feeling important and connected in the classroom. As I mentioned in one of my previous field observation write-ups the Laurel School District uses a weekly class schedule where the students rotate which elective class they attend. The first week I observed the second-grade students, art was the elective in which they went to, then the next time I visited the school they all went to gym, then finally finished with music. It was cool how I got to see each one of them and I think it is a fantastic way for the school to go about it. It gives the students a mix-up, so they don’t get tired of going to the same class for nine weeks straight. The students are able to learn a variety of different skill sets in a short amount of time. 

Another thing I noticed during my last visit was the amount of times students ask to use the restroom and/or complain about a headache or something that is bothering them. This reminded me of when we discussed the “ I believe you” section of The New Teacher Book. This section of the book was written by Michelle Stater Gunderson and she described how every morning, one of her students would complain that her head hurts. Michelle mentioned that she would talk to her student and tell her that she knows what is best for her and she will feel better if she tried participating. Later in the section, Michelle realized that she had been handling the situation poorly and should be more considerate and understanding of the student’s problems. The response to a student complaining about his or her problems should be “I believe you.” Mrs. Shwartz did a good job of this with her students. There were multiple occasions when a student in her class complained about something that was bothering them. Mrs. Shwartz always listened to what the students were saying and was able to support them and talk to them about it. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my time visiting Laurel Lower School. I got to experience what it is like teaching in an elementary school environment and what methods lead to being a successful teacher. Many of the things I observed during my time at Laurel directly correlated with what we learned in class this semester, including believing in your students and the proper way to respond to their issues they may express.

Comic Strip/Field Observation #2

For my second comic, I described what I saw at another one of my field observations at Laurel. What I saw during this visit directly correlates to something we discussed in class earlier this semester. We discussed how standardized testing is not a good way to assess students’ learning. We talked about how student performance when taking standardized tests can vary depending on how they are feeling that day, so it is not always an accurate way of determining whether or not the students are grasping what they are being taught. Mrs. Shwartz’s second graders had a reading period, after lunch, on one of the days of my visit. During this period, each individual student sat down with the teacher one-on-one to display their reading skills.  Each student was tasked with reading a page from a book and they were timed on how fast they were able to read it. This was the third time this year that each student had their one-on-ones. Mrs. Schwartz kept a record of each student’s time from their previous performances to see whether or not the student improved their time. I was able to watch two of the students complete their reading and they both were excited when they found out they improved their words per minute. This is a great way to assess students’ learning because the teacher spends time with each student and can adapt to each of their needs. The students also feel cared about and are more inclined to stay engaged because they are not in a big group setting. 

Something else that occurred during my visit that I displayed in my comic was students lining up to walk to their next class. One student asked if she could be the line leader for that day and another student responded by saying “… that’s not your job.” At first, I was confused by this, but Mrs. Shwartz later explained that each student is assigned a job every week. For example, a couple of the jobs are a line leader, the electrician (in charge of turning on and off the classroom lights, and the secretary (passes out papers). As we have talked about in class, it is important for students to find purpose in the classroom. By Mrs. Shwartz assigning students jobs, it allows the students to find their purpose, stay engaged, as well as teach them responsibility.

Below is my comic:

LX Blogpost #3

For our third and final learning experience, my group covered the assigned reading on pages 249-272 in The New Teacher Book. The reading focused on teachers finding ways to incorporate social justice in their classrooms along with school privatization, school funding, and teachers unions. The first section that we covered was titled “Moving Beyond the Classroom.” A quote from this section stated “We need more resources, better preparation and support, smaller classes, more effective partnerships with the communities we serve, and, especially in struggling communities, a vision of social change that can replace poverty and despair with progress and hope.” This is a great quote that makes you realize just showing up to school and teaching the required curriculum is not enough.  There are many social problems prevalent in every classroom and this section illustrates that teachers need to be activists in trying to help fix the problem. The school privatization section talked about how the government gives more money to private schools which hinder the public schools. This is clearly unfair since public schools need and deserve the same amount of financial support for the students’ education. This quote from the section displays how teachers can help to ensure they get what they deserve: “We must work with parents and communities to ensure that public schools are adequately and fairly funded. Affordable housing, healthcare for all, and living wage jobs are necessary so that our students and their families have the quality of life they deserve. As educators we should insist that our unions, the single largest organized voice for working people in this nation, take up social justice issues and make them a reality. It’s up to us to take the next steps.” The next section in the book talked about similar problems but focused on legal challenges. Legal challenges based on school funding are typically categorized as equity suits or adequacy suits. Equity suits are disparities in quality of education and resources between urban and suburban schools and for adequacy, the resources received are not enough to meet the needs or mandated levels of performance. The Why Teacher Unions Matter section also discussed some extremely important information. Teacher Unions make a huge difference in areas such as policy making and assisting individual teachers. Unions protect teachers from unfair layoffs and false accusations. They also offer conferences and workshops for teachers to work together and give a chance for educators to be heard.

The section I presented to class was the last section of the assigned reading titled “New Teachers Energize Their Union” This section focused on a school district with a very diverse student population but yet an administration staff and school board dominated by white men. Jasmine, Jay, and Gabriel were all new teachers advocating for this to change. They realized if they exercised their voices, and had good communication and engagement that they could be powerful together and create change. They wanted a better culture that was more transparent and inclusive. After several attempts and trying different methods they ended up only being able to elect one candidate of color. However, their process of organizing to support the campaigns of school board candidates of color led to deeper connections with the community. They realized that only one person of color being elected does not mean they aren’t powerful. They realized this big of a change takes time and needs sustained collective action. 

For the design of the learning experience we split the sections up amongst our group so we each were able to present. We also included a fun game in the middle of the presentation to keep the audience engaged and for them to see how important the fairness of school funding is. 

A reference I consulted for the learning experience was the NFL and the “Rooney Rule.” Just like the New Jersey School District in the “New Teachers Energize Their Union” section, the leadership positions in the NFL are dominated by white men. It is a problem that everyone who is familiar with the NFL recognizes and needs to be changed. Art Rooney, who is the Pittsburgh Steelers owner, was an advocate for changing this and was able to implement a rule that requires all teams to interview at least two women and two people of color before making the hiring decision. This is similar to what was discussed in The New Teacher Book in the sense that while it may take time to see real change, any and all social movements help.

Below is a link to my group’s presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/16PUNTsdAxxswbBgaxJ9VP7hnZFOGuKXR-mA8ToBUl5Q/edit#slide=id.p

Comic strip and field observation reflection #1

For my field observation, I was assigned to attend Laurel Lower School. Laurel Lower is an all girls, private school. The class I currently observe, is a second grade classroom led by the Teacher, Dora Schwartz. Miss Schwartz, who coincidentally is a John Carroll graduate, has been at Laurel for a couple of years now and loves teaching her second graders. Much of the learning that I have observed in their classroom is similar to what we discuss in our ED 100 class. 

The class of second graders has 10 students so it is very manageable for Miss Schwartz and makes for a great learning environment. Something that we have discussed in class is how an organized and well put together classroom contributes to students’ learning. We have often discussed the pros and cons of sitting in rows and columns versus having sections or circles. In the classroom I have been observing, the students sit in sections throughout the room. There are four different sections with three students at two of them and two students at the other two sections. I have noticed that the students thrive in this setting. Each student can easily see the front of the room where Miss Schwartz teaches, and the set-up invites participation from the students. Participation can often be a challenge for students, but Miss Schwartz does a great job of creating a safe and welcoming environment in which students feel comfortable participating. 

Since my visits occur from 12:30p.m.-2:30p.m., I get the pleasure to watch the students enjoy snack time. The students follow a daily schedule where snack time occurs at 1:15 in the afternoon. During this time students get a fifteen minute break to eat a snack and talk amongst their peers. I like how the Laurel School built this period into their curriculum because students, especially at a young age, can get tired and anxious from sitting and learning all day. 

Overall, I have had a great experience so far with observing the classroom at Laurel. Many of the things I see and the methods of how ideas are being taught are very similar to what we discuss in class. I am looking forward to my last two visits at the school. 

Current Connection #3 (LC 2)

For my group’s third current connection, we covered the readings from pages 212-229 in The New Teacher Book. This section discussed many important topics, but I put an emphasis on “What’s wrong with standardized tests” for my current connection. The book explained many different reasons why standardized testing should not judge students’ learning. A connecting article I found, called “The Negative Effects of Standardized Testing”, backed up the points made in The New Teacher Book

The New Teacher Book stated that standardized tests lead to teachers narrowing the curriculum and focus on teaching their students just what will be on the test. This clearly takes away from students’ learning and does not allow them to learn to their full potential. It also mentioned how standardized tests are not a valid way to measure students progress because scores can vary from day to day. Depending on the students’ emotional state and the testing conditions, students could perform better or worse on the test. 

Going along with the first point made about teachers narrowing the curriculum, “The Negative Effects of Standardized Testing Article” talked about a high school in Texas, Marshall High School, developing the no child left behind program. This program requires all students to pass a standardized test in order to pass the grade they are currently in. The article stated that the school would change their curriculum and the strategy for the way each teacher teaches if they were not seeing enough students pass the test. This is another clear example of schools focusing too much on standardized tests and causing extra stress and less education for students. 

The article developed into making another point for why standardized testing should not be required. The writer of the article talked about how they believe the success rate for schools standardized tests is based on socio-economic status. Wealthier school districts tend to have more success on standardized tests than school districts where a lot of students live in poverty. I agree with this theory because wealthy schools that have better and more resources contribute to students’ learning. The resources inside of schools can help prepare students for standardized tests. Because of this, standardized test results are a much better predictor of relative wealth in a community than it is of knowledge learned by the students.

I believe there are much better ways to track students’ learning than forcing them to, not only take, but pass standardized tests. Teachers can document students’ work to look for improvement and complete performance-based assessments for each student. These methods would be much more beneficial for students’ learning. This way, students will be able to grow and improve throughout the course of the year and will be able see what areas they excel in or need to work on. The New Teacher Book and The Negative Effects of Standardized Testing article both talked about many of the same ideas and share the same beliefs when it comes to standardized testing. 

Lx blogpost 3/24

For my group’s learning experience we were tasked with the readings from pages 165-188 in The New Teacher Book. Within this section of the book, it covered multiple topics that are extremely important. These topics include activism, relationships, school policies, and restorative justice. The first section on “How do I Stay in a Profession that is Trying to Push Me Out” talked about the teacher’s development from how he felt that no one could relate to his experience to him collaborating and building relationships with other teachers leading to him finding a larger purpose in what he does and bettering society. The “Dear White Teacher” section discussed racial issues in a classroom. In particular, the way white teachers fear disciplining students of color. Passing off disciplinary duties to another adult in the building just because a teacher might think they can relate to them better is not always the best option and can often backfire, making matters worse. Restorative justice was another major topic in this section of the book and one that our learning circle group chose to emphasize. The one section of the book talked about how the teacher pushed restorative justice to the side at first because her students were well behaved, but later on in the school year the students started getting in trouble and she knew just disciplining them would not be enough. The story eventually developed into the students understanding how important and helpful restorative justice practices are and were able to talk about the hard issues in a restorative justice circle. 

For the design of the learning experience, my learning circle created a powerpoint to share with the class. We all took one section from the book as our focus point and shared our learning and thoughts with the class. We were able to engage the class by handing out note cards and asking questions relative to the topics being discussed. We collected what the students had written on the note cards and shared some of the answers with the class. We found this as a good method to engage the class because they were able to think about the questions we asked and share their thoughts and ideas which contributed to the overall learning of the class. 

I was tasked with the Question/Answer section from the book which focused on restorative practices. The section discussed how teachers can fall prey to using a punitive approach when disciplining students. It discussed how restorative justice practices, like restorative justice circles, are a much more effective practice than a suspension or expulsion. The book stated “Restorative practices in schools are a non-prescriptive set of tools for building and maintaining healthy communities through the intentional creation of trusting relationships.” An example in the book was in some high schools, a teacher leading a class on restorative justice in which students were trained to lead the circles and resolve conflicts between offenders and victims. Discipling students by giving them detention or a suspension is never enough and actually takes away from their learning. Rather, the students need to talk about and understand the mistake they made so they can learn from it and grow as an individual. 

A reference I consulted for the learning experience was Central Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon. The school recognized the faults and inequities of the standard disciplinary system amongst schools and implemented restorative justice as a means of addressing student infractions.  David Shephard, the dean of student management at the school, now leads a restorative justice circle to handle major and minor issues that come up at the school. In the circle, all affected parties, including parents of the students, meet and discuss what happened. They then come up with a way to repair the harm. Much similar to as the book taught, this way of handling issues, helps support students and encourages growth and change.  

Below is a link to my learning circles PowerPoint:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/11_K_Ft0Ab4qESoT0BPIXbiIjKxk2yByoX-tSwEH4nUA/edit?usp=sharing

Current Connection #2 (LC2)

For my second current connection, I was assigned the reading pages 119-140 in The New Teacher Book. It discussed some very important topics including teaching about the border and Mexican immigration which is what I chose to do my connection on. The section in The New Teacher Book was titled “The Line Between Us” and it was written by Bill Bigelow. I connected Bigelow’s insights on border immigration to Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project from the University of Minnesota.

In the project lesson plans, three separate units address understanding the concept of immigration and refugees through immigrant families’ personal experiences. The first unit delves into why families feel the need to flee their home country.  What is their culture like in terms of government, health, education, and such important living conditions? It also explains how the families go about doing it.  What factors play into their decision to leave?  What is the process for actually taking the steps to leave?

The second unit addresses refugee and asylum systems. Done again through personal stories and experiences, teachers can give students real-life examples to help them understand what it’s like to flee a country and then find safety and stability in a new home. Much of unit 2 focuses on human rights so that students can empathize with refugees and try to imagine the differences between their lives and that of refugees.

The third unit addresses culture and identity formation. Students learn about culture, culture diffusion, and how those two things affect how people view themselves. This unit studies this topic both currently, as well as precedently, looking at other examples of cultural diffusion throughout history.

In each of the units, dynamic, interactive lessons are taught in order to help students understand and analyze immigration. This is precisely the kind of teaching Bigelow suggests in his article “The Line Between Us” in The New Teacher Book. He recommends using role playing, poetry, improvisations, etc to engage students more and make the lessons come to life.  In doing so, the lessons become more real and students are more likely to connect, understand, and empathize.  

In addition to using real life stories, the University of Minnesota incorporated these types of engaging techniques. For example, in Unit 2, there was a refugee role play activity where cards were shuffled and passed out to students. The cards had identities on them and once students read their cards, they took turns acting out the refugee’s experience. The cards stated what country they were fleeing from and why.  Once students read the scenario and acted it out, they then had to imagine what it would be like if they were the ones in that position.

The third step of this lesson was for students to write down a list of ten things they would take with them if they were suddenly forced to flee their country. 

While these types of lessons can be sad, even scary, especially to those students who may have actually experienced it or had family members who experienced it, it is necessary.  These types of livelier lessons are more beneficial to students because they are better able to comprehend the experience and why it occurs, more so than if they would just read about it in a textbook.  It is simply more engaging and easier to understand. It encourages empathy and a deeper look into themselves and their own culture(s). Teachers need to be cautious, however, when teaching this subject to make sure they don’t single anyone out. They need to make sure they are inclusive, supportive, and respectful. This can be a tricky subject to teach, but one that is most certainly worthy of attention. When done correctly and through careful lesson planning and implementation, it can be very effective for students.  

The University of Minnesota seemed to approach the teaching of immigration through the Immigrant Stories Project much in the same way Bigelow taught about Mexican immigration through his lessons in “The Line Between Us.”

current connection (LC2 makeup)

For my current connection, the assigned reading was pages thirty three to forty in The New Teacher Book. The reading was about getting your classroom together and discussed different and effective ways to do so as a teacher. The chapter was written by Bob Peterson who was a teacher himself. He explained that he wanted to create a home away from home for his students and was all in on them getting them engaged and learning as much as possible in his class. Bob learned a lot himself on how to become a better teacher and developed his own teaching style over time. What Bob believes helps get a classroom together is learning from others, asking hard questions, modeling, displaying educational posters, organizing the paper load and student materials, labeling, tracking student progress, and learning from doing. By applying these things to your classroom, you can successfully keep your students engaged and educate them to their fullest learning potential. 

The article I found to support my connection was titled 5s Techniques to Optimize Classroom Organization. The article was directed towards elementary school classrooms, but the same concepts apply in any classroom setting. Many of the same concepts that were discussed in The New Teacher Book were mentioned in the article as well. The article 5s Techniques to Optimize Classroom Organization recognized a problem and developed a strategy to solve it. The problem they found was students spending too much time to get their books and materials from the classroom bookshelf due to the classroom being unorganized. This was taking time away from the students learning and was an issue that had to be addressed. The article stated five methods to improve organization of the classroom. These methods are sorting, set in order, shining, standardizing, and sustain. The sorting method involved eliminating unnecessary items and clutter on bookshelves, tables and closets. Also, unnecessary paperwork was disposed of in this method just as Peterson limited the paper load in his classroom. The standardizing method involves labeling out spaces to identify them. Along with laying out class information, schedules, calendars and reminders for the students. This method was also apparent in Peterson’s classroom when he took time to label materials in order to keep them accessible and to encourage students to keep them orderly and safe. The sustain method in this article contains charting tasks for each student to complete for the classroom to stay organized. This is similar to Peterson tracking his students’ progress. In the article, the students’ progress is tracked by the chart in which the teacher has access to. 

I believe the ideas mentioned in both The New Teacher Book and in the article are great ways to help improve a learning environment. An organized classroom is essential for students to get the most out of their learning. It creates a safe and fun learning environment. An organized classroom will lead to the students being organized along with the elimination of stress. Students will be more comfortable and will be ready and willing to learn. 

Lx blogpost

For our learning experience, our group was assigned to read pages 74-93 in “The New Teacher Book.” This section talked about what is taught and what might not be taught in a school’s curriculum.  Throughout the chapter, we were exposed to the lack of discussion in one particular classroom about major issues and events in our country’s history including slavery and racism. Our learning circle chose to put an emphasis on social justice and how it can be brought into a classroom by a teacher. We believe that being a social justice teacher is important in all students’ learning. Even if the topics of slavery and racism are not in the curriculum or in the required textbook, teachers should take the time to implement those topics into the students learning, especially if the students are interested. They are awful but important occurrences that happened in our country’s history and students need to learn about them. All students deserve to know the full truth about our history, not just the good parts. 

The design of our learning experience included a google slides presentation that we shared with the class. We knew that getting the class engaged was our first priority, so we shared with the class four questions and a couple of meaningful quotes. Our classmates were given sticky notes to write down their answers to our questions and then we had them discuss with the entire class. For the quotes, we had our classmates discuss what they thought about the quotes in small groups. This was a great way for them to get the most out of the material we were teaching and kept them engaged throughout the entire presentation.

Each of us in the learning circle chose a specific section to focus on and present to the class. My part was The Presidents and the People They Enslaved. This part of the book was directly correlated to our overall topic, social injustice in school’s curriculum. As mentioned in the book, the 5th grade students were upset at the fact their textbooks did not give any information on some of the presidents being slave owners. The teacher saw how this made them feel and could tell they were intrigued to learn about it. The teacher allowed them to complete their own research on the topic. I believe this is a great thing to do as a teacher. He understood that this was a controversial yet important topic in our country’s history that sparked interest in the students. He felt it was necessary for his students to learn the full truth behind the presidents, so he found time and made sure to become a social justice leader. As future teachers, this is something we can look at and potentially apply to ourselves and how we teach our students. 

The New Teacher Book talked about how there are multiple ways for a teacher and students to become more educated on a topic, in this case the topic was social justice. If the curriculum in the school and given textbooks are ignoring important parts about our history, teachers and students have the ability to learn what they wish through historical societies, museums, libraries, and the internet which has plenty of databases and free online resources. All of these resources are extremely beneficial to one’s learning and we saw in the book that the fifth-grade students used external resources to their advantage and became more knowledgeable about the topic they were hoping to learn about.

below is a link to my group’s presentation:

Ed 100 Learning Experience – Google Slides

1st blog spot – Background

  1. What name do you prefer to be called? What are your preferred pronouns? – Jerry Volpe (he, his, him)
  2. Hometown and photograph of you (inserted in your blog so we can learn your name). I am from Pittsburgh, PA
  3. Grade level and subject(s) that you want to teach. – I am taking this class as an elective, but if I were to teach, it would be high school math.
  4. What are you into; what makes you special? Share a few “unique” aspects about yourself that would help our classroom community get to know you a bit. Are you on an athletic team? Sing in the choir?  Are you trying out for a play? Painting? What are you planning on doing this semester in your life that is noteworthy? – I enjoy watching and playing sports and also like to travel. I work at the Ben and Jerrys that is on campus.
  5. I want to know what matters most to you.  To this end, please share with the class a book, chapter, or article that is essential to your interests. (Include the reference to the reading and a few sentences about its significance to you). – My favorite book of all time is Unstoppable written by Tim Green. It is a football book about a kid who had a rough life by ultimately made it through and was able to succeed in the end.