It is Only the Beginning…

When I started this project, teaching still seemed like an abstract idea. Thrilling, yes, but somewhat untouchable. I have dreamed about being a teacher since I was a young child, and to finally be on the journey of starting that career is more than exciting. This blog has given me a chance to reflect on so many different aspects of my future life as a teacher. The importance of learning styles, personality uniqueness, technology integration in the classroom, recent local and national news concerning education and so on. It has been a fun adventure discovering new things and pondering old thoughts about this next step that I am beginning.

However, I must be honest about one thing. My motivation is to inspire others to discover what they are passionate about by living out my passion of teaching and I am excited to get started. But, what I really want to do is be the kind of teacher that I want my daughter to find every class she enters and as she pursues her education and life of learning. I met so many phenomenal teachers along my path, and I believe that is why I want to do what I want to do in the first place. There are men and women from all over the country that I have to thank for their sincere investment in my life and the inspiration they gave me with their example. I want students to walk into my classroom and know that I am that kind of teacher. That is the kind of teacher I want my daughter to know.

There are so many needs out there in students of all ages, and the task is significant to try to be there for them. But we must try. We must try everything we can as teachers to be what the world needs…people full of hope, integrity, passion and excellence. Every student is watching us to see if we believe in them. If we doubt them. If we like or dislike them. They are watching and their success is somewhat determined by the answer they come up with on their own.

I want my daughter to be proud of the teacher that I am. 

I want to be a teacher, a mentor, a counselor, a parent and a friend. I am not afraid to extend myself for those I have yet to meet, because there are so many that did it for me.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New Way of Learning: The Power of Technology and Hip Hop

Math just got more fun for elementary school and middle school students! These hip hop math renditions can be found all over YouTube and TeacherTube. The website www.multiplicationhiphopforkids.com is full of tracks with different styles like Michael Jackson, Kanye West and Lil Wayne that kids can choose from to learn different concepts. It is amazing what technology and media has done for learning for the next generation! Math just got way more fun :)

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is College for Everybody?

Recently, I read this article located here at EducationNews.org:  http://www.educationnews.org/educationnewstoday/90969.html. In this article, Bill Maxwell is making the argument that there needs to be a K-16 system instead of a K-12 system that combines secondary and post-secondary education. He argues that three out of five students at community colleges will take remedial classes, and only 25% of those who take those classes will graduate with any degree within eight years. These remedial classes consist of coursework relevant to middle school and high school material. While almost anyone can enroll in college to take college courses somewhere, is this a good approach to educating our people? Should there be more education required of people before they “graduate” from high school?

I think that this raises many important factors that are crucial when looking at education. First of all, the focus must be on the student from the beginning. If a student feels valued and has the resources they need for help at a young age, they have a greater chance of succeeding in the future. If they feel lost in math in grade 5, most likely grade 11 will not be much better and they will find themselves in those remedial math courses in college. This may discourage them and they may drop out. Much of this could be prevented if the time was taken to personally tutor that student and meet their personal and learning needs at a younger age. Is it simple? No. Can and should it be done? Yes.

I do think that community college is a great place for people to refresh their skills and if remedial classes are necessary, then she should be administered. Many adults head back to take classes at local colleges 10-20 years after graduating high school and may need refreshment in some areas. However, students moving on to college courses straight from high school should feel well-prepared and the need for remedial classes should be slim. There may be a specific subject someone struggles with, but overall they should hold the competency they need to be successful.

Overall, I’m not sure about extending the system to be K-16, but I do think more effort and energy needs to be put in to students while they are in secondary education so that they do not waste their money and resources heading to college unprepared. Teachers need to do their best to reach out and connect students to the material, as well as with tutors and outside of the classroom help if necessary.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Teach is to Learn Twice.

Ever wonder how teachers work up the energy to start a new class, new semester, or even new day full of lectures and projects? I do. I am genuinely excited to find out, but I can imagine the energy it will take on a daily basis to maintain the motivation that I feel now. This picture made me chuckle, and I think could probably describe how many teachers have felt during their career. A big thanks to all of them for getting out of bed and making a difference every day.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Online Colleges: Convenient and Progressive or Too Good to be True?

Online Colleges have swept the nation with commercials and internet advertising. They are available everywhere you look. Some have achieved solid reputations and name familiarity and others are small and local in the ‘market.’ I will not be discussing any school specifically in this blog (I included a video above from the University of Phoenix because it is one of the most recognizable online schools and wanted to give an example of their structure), but rather the concept and future of online technology concerning college.

College courses offered completely online is not a new concept. Since the evolution of the internet, it has been used as a tool in education. The idea of full online schools, however, has not been around all that long. The fact that someone can go online, never enter a classroom, and complete an Associates, Bachelors, Masters or PhD program is a crazy idea. It does make education more accessible to people who may never have another chance to experience college due to job hours or location.

Some of the benefits of online education can be the convenience of doing the program from a personal computer. Some colleges use e-books online, so you may never need to purchase a book. The hours are flexible and assignments are due on different days of the week. They can email their instructors at any time, and have a chance to be social with other people around the country online in classroom discussions. They can apply for financial aid at accredited schools, and can take out student loans for their online degree.

However, there are many setbacks to pursuing a degree completely online. First of all, online colleges are not like campus settings where they give tours of the campus to prospective students and encourage students to apply to more than one school. There is an intense pursuit of students to go to school online, because the admissions department is a sales department. The counselors get paid (or get to keep their jobs) if they meet certain numbers of enrollments and starts per semester/period. As you can imagine, this may lead many people to stretch the truth or outright lie to get someone to sign up. The teachers for strictly online colleges usually only have to have a Masters degree and some ‘work experience’ in their field ( which is more than relative). They do not have to work towards PhD’s to teach college courses. Also, since communication with instructors is only online, it can be difficult to reach them and know when they will get help or feedback. There are tutoring services available, but they are very limited in availability and run usually by fellow students.

Then there is the credibility to the degree that is still up for debate. Many people do not view a college degree from an online college as credible as one from a campus/major University. The accreditation of the school is extremely important in this case, because many online colleges have low/zero accreditation which means the degree is essentially useless. On top of this question is the cost of the degree. These schools cost double of what a community college credit would cost (at least) and almost twice as much as a public university. It is essentially attending a private, for-profit school that is going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars. For example, an Associates degree in Graphic Design from our local community college $2357/semester or $9428 total for tuition. That same degree from an online college in our community costs $4435/term (10 weeks) and is a total of 8 terms to equal $35,480 tuition for the same Associates degree.

And what is to be said about the quality of the education? Is there not some immeasurable value to experiencing the community and learning environment of a classroom for at least part of a degree? I think so. As a future teacher, I believe it is crucial to preserve the classroom. Many public universities are offering online classes now, but they are facilitated differently. The teacher is on-campus and students can come see them if they have questions. The cost is the same as taking a class in the classroom, and there is no concern about accreditation.

While there are some benefits to the online college format, I believe that these for-profit sales schools are too good to be true. From personal experience, I would take the collaboration of the classroom and technology any day.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New Way of Learning: Exchanging Cultures and Experiences

In a New York Times article (found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/education/10teacher.html?pagewanted=2&ref=education) Ms. Zheng is a teacher who is teaching Chinese language and culture. She is from China and in a three year program here in America teaching courses. She describes her difference of experiences from going to school in China and what she sees in American students today.

A few of the things that stood out to me about her story was the difference in learning styles. She has adjusted to that fact that many students do not understand the material, so teachers work their hardest to convey it to them. She says, “In China, if you teach the students and they don’t get it, that’s their problem. Here if they don’t get it, you teach it again.” There is an obviously different level of work that goes in to try to get a student to grasp something, even if they are distracted or seemingly incapable of doing so.

Another thing she mentioned was the difference in lifestyle for students in China versus here. She is shocked at how much students “party, drink and socialize” because in China, students just “study, study, study”. While I definitely think there should be fun and flexibility in learning, I can’t help but slightly admire the discipline and focus of these students in Asia.

An interesting story she tells is about a girl who brings her newborn baby to class (in high school). All of the girls friends are happy for her and excited. She said that while it was nice for them to treat her that way, she couldn’t believe that the girls were not more worried and focused on things like college and future success. There are definitely many ways that different priorities are had when it comes to these two different cultures.

I think it’s great that the United States is taking teachers from other cultures and bringing them here to teach. It is important our students get exposed to other cultures from a young age. Her story about an 8th grader wondering where France was and other students not being sure if it was in Europe was a tell-tale sign that we need to expand our learning adventures and horizons when it comes to education.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Classroom Climate: How Environment Can Change Learning Potential

Classroom climate can be defined as many things. Everything from the attitude that the teacher approaches the course with to the lighting and temperature in the room. Recently, a fellow student in class gave a presentation about climate in the classroom and it got me thinking about how many variables there really are in creating an ideal learning environment.

When you walk into a classroom that is at an extremely low temperature, that immediately creates a distraction. Students are more concerned about finding their sweatshirt or bundling up then learning any new material. On the flip side, too warm of a temperature can create a sense of lethargic tiredness that may make students want to nap more than participate in discussion. It is crucial to finding a balance that is comfortable and conducive to the class and teacher’s needs.

Another thing to consider is lighting. If a lecture is a 7:30 a.m. class, it will help to keep the lights on and make sure you have activities to keep students alert. Bright lights will keep students more aware and focused on learning versus comfort. The decorations on the wall should be used as assets to the room as well. They should be appropriate, lively and fun without being distracting or too flashy. There is a distinct balance of many variables that creates the tone of the classroom.

Finally, the teacher sets the stage for the climate of the classroom. Their attitude and presentation of themselves early on in the course will create an environment that students apply for the remainder of time of the class. Is the teacher open? Available with their time? Polite? Intelligent? Personal? Or do they seem closed off? Too busy? Distracted? Misguided? All of these variables contribute to what makes a teacher and how they shape their classroom.

There are many details to be managed concerning this issue, and it will be exciting to start this adventure when I begin to teach…

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Discovering Your Strengths as a Teacher

In my Leadership development courses in college, we talked a lot about the Gallups Strengthsfinder assessment and discovering your personal strengths. Everyone is uniquely wired in a way that brings a number of things to the table for their professions. In their job, personal life and relationships, your strengths (and weaknesses!) play a vital role in how you will contribute to those areas.

As a future teacher, I think it is crucial that teachers know their strengths and work to continuously develop them over time. Self-awareness and motivation must be represented by the teacher if they expect the classroom to have those attributes as well. The teacher is the leader of the classroom, and their emotional intelligence and personal awareness and key to their success in guiding their “followers”.

My personal top five strengths according to the assessment include the following: 1. Communication (hopefully that means I am going in the right field direction!) 2. Strategic. 3. Activator. 4. Woo. 5. Maximizer. So in a nutshell, I am an intentional communicator who purposefully motivates people and projects with my bold personality and expects the most out of myself and those around me. Oh, if only I felt that way every day. But deep inside, that describes my inner wiring to perfection. I know that I need to continue to develop my strengths so that they can best be utilized in the classroom.

It is also important to have your students recognize their unique gifts and qualities. I think that this assessment would be crucial to a Group Communication or Interpersonal Communication class, because we must understand one another to function together effectively. I want to make sure that I am being aware of what my students are feeling and how they are “designed”.

If everyone continues to work at developing their strengths, we will inspire generations of innovators and strong people who will make an impact that we can only dare to imagine.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The First One to Arrive and the Last to Leave

As I have been reflecting on what it will be like to be a teacher, I have realized how little I truly thought about my goal even while striving for it. I have pictured myself grading papers, teaching lectures, facilitating discussions and getting to know my students. But, I never really broke down the details of what it will mean to be an incredible teacher until taking this course.

A great teacher is dedicated and ready to start again the next day. It seems impossible that they can leave their work fully at the school, and they will carry the academic and personal burdens of their students with them each evening and until the next morning. Not only does it require dedication, but they must be intentional and organized with their classroom maintenance and leadership. Weaving through figuring out how to treat each student fairly, not pre-judging their abilities and being as available as possible for them to learn best. It’s a huge responsibility.

I don’t take it lightly that these things (and more!) will be required of me. I am excited to start the journey and enjoy wondering what types of successes and trials a life like this will bring.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Charter Schools: A New Way of Learning?

Charter Schools have been changing the way elementary and secondary education is taught for quite a few years. It offers a new type of learning, more personal focus on specific areas and more freedom in education for the teacher and student. Instead of a rigid schedule, they utilize flexibility to help the students achieve as much as they can.

When I was a Senior in high school, I was in a Charter School for one semester. I got to focus on World War II and prepare a presentation for the parents of the students in the school and the history instructors. I also wanted to focus on volunteering in the community and connected with great mentors who helped me pursue those opportunities. It was an incredible experience to get learn at my motivated pace and was a great way for me to finish my high school career.

This video above is from a successful Charter School established on the east coast that has become a very successful. They have become a model for diverse charter schools around the country and have a great story of growth. The personal focus on specific subjects and difficulties that the students have is getting them above state standards on their tests. Students who came in well below average are now thriving because of the holistic approach that teachers take towards their classrooms. It is a great model how students can achieve as much as teachers are willing to put into them.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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