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Group Project Reflection: 21st Century School. Week 16 (final) post

 

This past week in class we reviewed our final group project and presented to the class. It was a fun and interesting way to see how my classmates put together all of the important information we learned over the past 16 weeks and create a project that reflected their ideas of an ideal 21st century school. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the key skills of an effective 21st century school are 1) Traditional academic knowledge and skills: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics, 2) Authentic, real world application: The ability to apply what they learn in school to real life situations and 3) Broader competencies: critical thinking, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and creativity. (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century). It was interesting to me to notice that every group, in some way, felt that these skills were important to their 21st century school. The groups each focused on having authentic learning experiences so that students may take their education and apply it to life outside of the classroom. One group focused on the guiding principle of an eco-friendly school and classroom. I thought it was really cool that this class decided to do a year round school in order to support the garden they were tending. The use of gardening and farmers market can teach children in Middle school a lot about real world situations such as math, environmental science, marketing and management. It is also a really fun way for the students to interact with their community. Another school one group came up with was a secondary school that focused on elective classes that let students try out various vocational work. I also like the idea from one group to incorporate working a legitimate job during the 12th grade year as part of the curriculum. This gives students hands on experience and a chance to try out what they think they want to do when they graduate high school. Some other ideas groups came up with for their project that I really liked include hands-on, activity based learning, ongoing assessment, the removal of standardized tests (although, I do realize that as a public school, those tests do come with the territory, and are good for data collection), and fun and comfortable places to think and read within the classroom. Overall, it seemed that every group was interested in a progressive approach to education, an approach that engages students in the classroom through fun and creative projects and one that focused on the need to have an authentic curriculum that students can take with them after graduating at the high school level.

My group 21st century school was most definitely a progressive elementary school. Our school focused primarily on getting children involved and engaged with learning to propel them into the more academic oriented lessons of middle and high school. Here is the video we produced:

I felt as if the group project was a really fun and interesting way to present to our peers what we learned all semester, and the things we felt to be the most important as a teacher.  Each group had variations on what they wanted most out of their school, however it is clear to me that every one of them put time and effort into finding out what meant most to them.

The Foundations of American Education was an extremely informative and relevant course to my journey of becoming a teacher. I learned so much from this class and I know that I will take my newly found philosophy of education and continue to add and develop it as time passes and I learn about new ideas of education.  I am very happy that I was able to take this class during the first semester of my teaching program because it most certainly laid a strong foundation for me to build my own educational ideas upon and integrate one day into my own classroom.

Week 13 Blog Post: Curriculum and Instruction

 

 

In Virginia public schools teachers are required to adhere to the guidelines of instruction and curriculum, the Standards of Learning. SOL’s are usually tested at the end of the year or instructional semester and are cumulative and will include the material outlined by the State. thus severely shaping curriculum framework.  These series of instructional requirements are generally what tend to shape a guide curriculum framework within each individual class.  Public education in the United States may vary across state lines, however it seems as though many states have their own framework to stay within.  While it may be difficult for teachers to change up the kinds of curriculum and instruction due to such drawn lines, there is flexibility in the ways teachers deliver the required content—just because the state enforces material needed to be taught does not mean that teachers hands are bound by one set way to teach.  The beauty of studying curriculum and instruction is that there are many different types that can be more or less useful to teachers and schools across the United States depending on personal and professional preferences.

 Student-Centered

 Subject-Centered

 

Two types of curriculum our class textbook discussed are subject-centered and student-center approaches.

I’m sure both approaches are found intermingled throughout many schools around the country because of the nature of their philosophy.  Most proponents of subject centered approaches argue that subjects “present a logical basis for organizing and interpreting information, that teachers are trained as subject matter specialists, and that textbooks are other teaching materials are usually organized by subjects” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 434).  Subject-centered curriculums usually involve specific and distinct subjects such as Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  Instructional emphasis on subject center curriculum includes academic excellence through specialized knowledge and essential skills, along with academic rigor.  Subject centered curriculum is automatically integrated into public schools (in the case of this blog, Virginia schools) on the premise that SOL’s must be taught to prepare students to successfully pass the test, for fear of the child being held back, the school missing AYP or teachers losing their jobs.  It only seems logical that subject center curriculum, as long as there are standards of learning, will remain ingrained into the public school system.  Personally, I feel that dividing up curriculum into subjects is an effective way to organize lesson plans into coherent units, making it easier on the student and teacher to teach students in the classroom.  While I find subject centered curriculum and academic excellence extremely relevant and important to have in today’s public schools, I still feel a strong affinity towards student-centered curriculum.  A student-centered curriculum emphasizes student interests and need.  Implementers of student-center curricula generally believe that “when the interests and needs of learners were incorporated into the curriculum, students would e intrinsically motivated and learning would be more successful” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 437). Student-centered curricula emphasize student activities, student experiences, affective processes, democratic values, choice and freedom (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 444).  The overarching theme of student-centered approaches emphasize that students should have the freedom to have fun and learn about subjects they are interested in.  It makes perfect sense to me that the more interested you are in something, the more motivated one is to learn, and the more successful you are to be in that subject.  Student-centered approaches lay the opportunity for students to be genuinely interested in what they learn.

Personally, I find advantages to both subject and student-centered curricula.  I am an organized person by default so I like the structure that comes along with subject-oriented curriculum.  I think that it is still important to teach children the basic skills that come along with the main academics such as reading, writing, mathematics, and a general knowledge of the world.  These kinds of subjects will prepare students to think critically about the world around them while still maintaining structure in the classroom.  However, I see no problem with combining content-area materials that interests students.  There are many different ways a 21st century educator can teach his or her students.  Technology has opened up a world of possibilities including video chats, virtual tours, touch-interface technology and multimedia that students of today are interested in.  A good teacher can easily provide 3 or 4 choices of lessons for each student and incorporate relevant and authentic ties to the academic subjects they are learning.  If a teacher can make a student understand why academics are relevant to their lives and their future, students will naturally become more engaged in the classroom.  As a “to-be” elementary school teacher, I hope that I will be able to incorporate the two approaches.  I understand that there is to be struggle, but I am willing to risk it for the benefits of my students.

My main take away from last week’s class, in-class discussion, and reading is that there is no one “right” way to teach nor one “correct” way to develop curriculum and instruction.  There are advantages and disadvantages to every approach and a successful teacher should be able to test out new ideas they may have to curriculum and instruction approaches—knowing that teaching is a journey of its own that requires trial and error and reflective practices in order to prevail for your students.

 Reference

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

The changing purposes of American education: Week 12

Change. The 21st century has reshaped education and the way people look at the world around them.  The advances made in technology and globalization has most significantly shaped the 21st century society that we are looking at now.  Our world as we know it no more has only to do with the people closest in geography.  The advent of the Internet and other global technologies has made much easier to communicate with those around the world.  The changes brought about in society are not causing schools to become relevant as long as schools make the necessary changes in order to keep up with the changing times.  In my opinion, the only thing that will cause schools to fall out of favor is if they do not adapt to the changing environment.  Everything that we know generally adapts along with societal changes: the increase of the Internet brought about a global society, advances in computer science has changed they way scientists look as medicine, social networking has changed they way the average American citizen makes friends and communicates.   Everything adapts to their environment and schools should also in order to help children succeed in the 21st century. No longer is it adequate for the children of this world to be educated in order to excel on standardized tests or compete with other countries to be at the top of the education list.  Children now are in need of practices and useful skills they can utilize within the confines of the school but more importantly is authentic enough to use in real world situations.  The concept of the 21st century has forced educators (as it should) to reevaluate their curriculum and school framework to ensure that we are preparing our students to become successful in a global, technological advanced, competitive society.

The Center for Public Education conducts education research pertaining to relevant events in the education sphere.  Defining a 21st Century Education is one such report conducted by the center and it outlines many significant changes the 21st century has brought about and its impact on education in America.  The “at a glance” section focuses primarily of particular skills that are in demand for the 21st century citizen. This report has brought up forces that are changing the relevant skills needed to succeed in the world post-education.  Educators must consider:

  • Automation: Computers being substituted for humans; Increasing demand for skills that computers cannot do such as problem solving, complex communication and foundational educational skills such as math, reading, and writing
  • Globalization: Technological advances help companies send work to countries and people around the world where it can be completed most timely and cost effective. Globalization is forcing Americans to “offer not only strong traditional skills but also high levels of creativity and innovation in order to stay competitive.”
  • Corporate Change: Less hierarchy and more automation, more cooperation, and less stability. These changes bring about various skills required to succeed that can be taught at the school level: act independently, interpersonal communication skills, global literacy and the ability to learn new skills and strategies quickly and effectively
  • Demographics: Older and more diverse population, Must have the skills to deal with skills to function in a diverse society
  • Risk & Responsibilities: Job security, health care, and financial planning. (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century)

In my opinion, the most important aspect of this report is the section outlining the three types of learning that are important in order to prepare students to deal with the forces of the above mentioned 21st century:

  • Traditional academic knowledge and skills: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
  • Authentic, real world application: The ability to apply what they learn in school to real life situations
  • Broader competencies: critical thinking, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and creativity. (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century)

Interestingly enough, most of the above mentioned skills we discussed in class last week.  It seems to me that we are shifting towards a more traditional academic education, while adding progressive behaviors such as collaboration, creativity and real world learning into our educational system.  I believe that teachers must be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.

In congruence with chapter 13 in Foundations of Education, this report shows that the purposes of education are and should be influenced by social forces and educational philosophies and theories (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 429).  If there is on change in either social forces or philosophies, education will take a turn the purpose will change.  As seen throughout history education reflects relevant societal norms: Prehistoric society—perpetuating culture; Greek and Roman society—to develop civic responsibility; Medieval society—to develop religious knowledge and spread religious beliefs etc… (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 60-61). The only way to successfully emerge in the 21st century technological and global society is to also change the purposes of education: it is inevitable and necessary to do so.  Educators must begin now to build skill sets in their students that will help America stay competitive and land jobs in the future.  We must allow students to become collaborative and authentic learners. I feel that we should shift the weight of educational responsibility slightly from the teacher to the students to allow them to understand themselves what it means to live in a 21st century society.  Educators must also educate themselves to be a 21st century learner in order to utilize the skills in their classrooms. Our students must be aware of the changing society they are growing up in and our teachers need to teach them the skills so they may become successful.

References

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century

Providing an Equal Education Opportunity to ALL (Week 11)

Providing an equal education opportunity for each and every student can be, to say the least, challenging. There are many different types of learners and many obstacles that may make it difficult to reach out to every student, every time. In any given public school around the United States you can encounter children with disabilities, (speech disabled, mentally retarded, Autistic, orthopedically and visually impaired etc…) multicultural children, students growing up in single parent homes, low-achieving or at risk students, as well as high achieving or gifted students. Taking a step back and letting the reality of this sink in—it can be overwhelming as a teacher to plan accordingly, to meet every student’s individual educational needs.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act all students, regardless of their leaning ability or cultural background are to be assessed through standardized testing their competency in core academic areas such as Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics and Science. This means that even children with severe disabilities and varying levels of academic achievement are to be tested and assessed by the same standards. I believe that, regardless of my personal opinions about the Act and its effectiveness on educating children, this is an Act implemented by each state and needs to be taken seriously. Bringing me to my next point—how can we as teachers provide all the necessary instruction for different children of academic levels and children with disabilities? In my opinion, the answer is partially through differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is not providing different content for different types of students. It is a way to provide individualized and specific instruction of the same content area to varying levels and types of students.  By definition, differentiated instruction is “based on the premise that all students differ in how they learn, their personal strengths and weaknesses, their backgrounds and their interests…when differentiating instruction, teachers adjust the curriculum and classroom instruction to fit the student’s preferences.” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 537)

I think that differentiated instruction is a very useful way to teach students in the classroom and make the lesson as engaging, stimulating, and effective as possible to every student. Differentiated instruction does not have to be something overly complicated…it could be something as simple as giving students a choice between a book about Bears vs. Lions based on their interest, or as intricate as classifying students by their multiple intelligences and let the musical children sing a song, the visual children draw a picture, or the kinesthetic children to make a skit based on the content of the lesson. Resources such as Constructivism: Multiple IntelligencesLearning and Succeeding in a Caring Environment are wonderful to find quick and easy ways to cater instruction to various students. These are but many available resources out there to make teaching and learning fun and effective. Whatever the way a teacher changes up their lesson, it is vital to make sure that they are aware of the differences in the classroom. As a teacher, having the knowledge that each child has their own unique educational needs is the first step in ensuring that children are receiving an equal educational opportunity.

Another aspect of providing equal educational opportunities has to do with children having disabilities. In the typical public school, there are usually classrooms dedicated to students with various learning disabilities that are separate from the “general education” classroom. These rooms often have specialized teachers and instructors trained in the psychology and ways to manage and educate children with mild to severe learning disabilities. In order for each student classified as learning disable to receive the best equal education, they often go through individualized education programs or IEPs that include long-range and short-range goals. IEPs specify exactly what the child’s needs are and are also considered the cornerstone of a school’s efforts to help students with disabilities. These individualized education plans are helpful both to the teachers of special needs students as well as the general education teachers that may have them in their classroom. (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 398) The term used for the integration of students with disabilities into “regular” classrooms is called inclusion. Inclusion is defined as “educating students with disabilities in regular classrooms in their neighborhood schools, with collaborative support services as needed.” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 536) For schools that practice inclusion as an educational method to include every type of student in one classroom, it is crucial that differentiated instruction is implemented, as described above. It would be nearly impossible to teach the same content the same way when there is such diversity, especially when it may involve children with orthopedic and visual impairments.

It is with that thought in mind that I have come to appreciate and desire professional collaboration between special education teachers and general teachers within the school setting. For me, I will not be trained specifically to teach disabled students. Although I do have a disable family member with Autism and am aware of the complications and difficulties that may arise on a personal level, I want to be able to know how to effectively handle such obstacles as a professional. I think that collaboration among teachers and administrators is vital to ensuring learning disabled students are receiving equal education both in inclusion and disabled classrooms. It is through such collaboration and professional developmental classes and information that I will be able to help all of my diverse students. Providing an equal education opportunity to every student is challenging, however I welcome the opportunity it will give me as an educator to step out of my own comfort zone and effectively teach many kinds of students. It is important to recognize that there are differences between students in any given classroom and be prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone is getting the chance to learn.

 

Resources & Websites

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/constructivism/where/knoll/lap/latmultint.html

http://www.appomattox.k12.va.us/acps/attachments/6_6_12_dan_mulligan_handout.pdf

 

Student Achievement and the Diversity of Learning: Week 10

Diversity in occurs naturally in the school environment because of the many different students and teachers involved in school.  Many variables constitute diversity including race, gender, culture, and past experiences.  Because of this inevitable diversity of students, teachers, and faculty, the school setting is a place where one can learn to appreciate differences, but can also be a place of insecurity.  It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that every student feels comfortable in their learning environment and can take away valuable information from their peers.  A teacher can facilitate a safe learning environment by getting to know their students and encourage classroom discussion and the sharing of personal experiences.  A teacher must also be willing to open up themselves and their experiences to their students, while still maintaining the necessary professional teacher-student relationship.  If a student sees their teacher as someone interested in sharing their beliefs and learning from their students, a student will feel comfortable.  In my opinion, if a student feels comfortable in the classroom, the more willing and able they will be to learn, and the better they will do academically.   Unfortunately, some practices in the classroom can hinder student achievement and make students feel inferior to their peers regardless of their differences in culture, race, gender, and experiences.  Another aspect of diversity to consider is the diversity of the student as a learner.  Some students do better than others in school for many different reasons—some of them being that they have more family support or have a higher socioeconomic status with the ability to devote time to education.

This past week we discussed the pros and cons of homogeneous grouping and whether or not it perpetuated inequality of opportunity based on race or socioeconomic status. Homogeneous grouping by definition is “the practice of placing together students with similar achievement levels of ability” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 536).  Personally I see homogeneous grouping as potentially harmful to low-achieving students in the classroom. Homogenous grouping promotes low student self-confidence in their ability to learn and lead to low expectations by teachers. Homogeneous grouping does not benefit all students and leads to stereotypes of students in the low-achieving group as “slow”.  Also, separating the low-achieving students from the high achieving students can foster the belief that the students should be separated and that one is better than the other and that they are smarter than the rest. This impacts the lower placed students’ self confidence level in their own ability to learn and little is expected of them by teachers.  It is then important to consider the reasons why these students are doing poorly in school—it could be that they have little to no support from their families.  Personally, I see benefits to both homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping in the classroom.  Sometimes it is important for the teacher to be able to cater a lesson to aid struggling learners or to stimulate higher-level learners to keep them interested.  However, I feel that for teachers who utilize homogeneous grouping in their classrooms, they need to be constantly reevaluating and reassessing their students on a regular basis.  This reevaluation is vital to the students because everyone learns differently.  Some students might just need a little extra help at the beginning of the year in order to succeed academically.  The reevaluation, in my mind, also helps to prevent teachers from labeling their students as belonging to the “low-level group” vs. the “high-level group.”  If teachers begin labeling the students as low achievers, they may not be able to separate that view, and then have low expectations of the student’s ability to learn.

It is important for teachers and students both to recognize and appreciate the diversity of learning.  Homogeneous grouping can inadvertently lead to marginalization and stereotypes of learners that can hinder student achievement.  It is up to the teacher to learn about their students and meet their diverse learning skills.  If a teacher is able to look past differences and labels as well as their own preconceptions and ideas, they will be able to help their students achieve academic success.

Reference

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Teaching Respect and Diversity: Week 9

“The teacher captures that…that moment when the kid realizes that maybe, just maybe, educations the only way to liberate themselves” -Erin Gruwell

 

 

This week I realized something about education: socialization, the process of preparing persons for a social environment (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, 542), is something that will occur in my classroom.  Preparing students to deal with social aspects such as race, culture, and respect for others is important to the spectrum of knowledge children will gain in school.  A lot of what I teach my students will not necessarily come straight from a textbook; the importance of  diversity and respect is something children can learn from a text, however their own experiences greatly shape their understanding as well. Personally, knowing about these ideas and understanding the value of them come from my own experiences in my life. As a teacher, I will encounter many different kinds of students from many different backgrounds and I must find a way to get to understand my students on an individual level, as well as understand that I myself have a story to tell also.  My thoughts on learning about my students and their own personal lives outside of the classroom developed out of an own experience of mine in class last week.

Last week in class we had the opportunity to watch excerpts from the movie Freedom Writers, an uplifting and emotional story about Erin Gruwell, an ordinary teacher with a passion for educating students and making a difference in the world.  Erin Gruwell took a once seen impossible at-risk and racially, culturally, and socially diverse group of students and educated them about the world around them, inspiring them to recognize diversity as a positive and integral part of their lives.  After watching clips of this movie in class, I was surprised by how emotionally moved I was. Not necessarily because of the movie itself, but because of the message it gave to me as an upcoming educator.  This story is a story of hope, integrity, motivation, and a willingness to make a difference in a person’s life.  As someone who has always had the calling to be an educator, I firmly believe that education is vital to everyone in order to help bring awareness to many different aspects of life.  In my opinion, educating children about equality, respect, culture, and diversity is equally important as teaching them academic subjects.  It is with that belief in mind that I begun to think about my place in the world of education. How can I make a difference? How can I make sure that I an educating children to look at the world around them with open minds? What kinds of experiences in my own life will shape the kind of educator I will be? These questions and many more will be addressed and new ones made throughout my eventual profession as a teacher.

The very first thing that came to mind after viewing this movie was my own views and the household in which my beliefs were cultured.  Everyone has their own unique story to tell and experiences that shape that they are and how they act.  I know of some who grew up at home with both parents around, some who grew up with only their father, children who have been adopted, and children who grew up surrounded by negativity and bad role models.  No one experience or living arrangement is any better or worse off than the other, however it can significantly impact the way in which people perceive the world.  As an educator, and as Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers, I will need to be sensitive to my children’s needs in the classroom and recognize that every individual student has their own life, their own story to tell.  It is up to me as the teacher to ensure that their needs and the needs of their peers are taken into the utmost consideration.  Part of respecting my children in the classroom will be to teach them the value of diversity and learning about other points of view.  Sometimes I feel that people are too closed minded about their ideas—just like the students from the movie.  They were so wrapped up in their own points of view that controversy arose among students in the classroom over the fact that the students just didn’t know enough about one another.

As an educator, I will strive to teach my students about diversity and to respect and cherish it so that they may by enlightened by the insights gained from respecting and understanding differences.  This past week’s class has made me think much deeper about how important recognizing socialization, diversity, and culture in my own live and in the classrooms I will eventually be a part of.  I hope to be able to instill the passion in my students for learning and also shape them into responsible, caring, respectful adults so they may live fulfilling and honest lives.

 

Reference

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Legal Aspects of Education: Personal opinion in the Professional sphere of Education

Throughout all of my years as a student, from Preschool through the 12th grade, I always looked up to my teachers.  They were my role models—I wanted to be just like them.  In fact, my fourth grade teacher is the one person who inspired me to become a teacher myself and to help make a difference in other children’s lives.  In my opinion, along with being an educator a teacher should act as a positive role model for their students.  The actions of a teacher both inside and outside of the school environment shape teachers and define them both professionally and personally.  To me, a positive role model is one who respects others differences, appreciates multiple points of view, and acts with conservative behavior during and after school.  According to the textbook, “Teachers’ behaviors were closely scrutinized because communities believed they should be exemplars—that is, examples to their students of high moral standards and impeccable character…” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 269). “School district policies generally still require that teachers serve as positive role models.” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 270).  Although school policies vary from state to state, the issue of equality is and has always been a longstanding pillar upon which the United States and our Constitution was founded.  It is with those beliefs that I think a teacher should never discriminate against any particular group of students or people. 

When browsing the Internet for recent issues in education, I didn’t really know where my search would lead me.  Using the provided links, I was able to search through tons and tons of articles and the few articles that caught my attention had to do with the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression.

The first headline read: “New Jersey High School Teacher Posts Anti-Gay Entry on Facebook.”  Being the kind of person who looks up to teachers to set a positive example, I was a little bit unsettled by the headline.  Because many of the legal aspects of education have to do with what can and cannot be said and expressed in the public school setting, I read on.  In short, a New Jersey teacher, Viki Knox, posted anti-homosexual comments on her personal Facebook page in response to her school displaying a board recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History month.  She was quoted as posting: “homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation” and other comments regarding religion and homosexuality.  Also found on her Facebook were posts claiming that homosexuality was “against the nature and character of God” (Hu, 2011) and the school was “not the setting to promote, encourage, support and foster homosexuality.” (Hu, 2011)

In today’s day and age a huge equality movement in the United States has to do with preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, especially in the public sphere, and it is no wonder this story received a lot of attention.

My question is that, whether or not one agrees with this New Jersey teacher’s point of view, is it appropriate for her to post comments discriminating against a particular group of people as a public school teacher?  Was her form of personal expression allowed under the First Amendment or can it be considered against new anti-bullying and discrimination laws?  In the article, John Paragano, a lawyer and former member of the Union Township Committee questioned the teacher’s ability to adhere to the new anti-discrimination law http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcr/employ.html: “Teachers are at the forefront of that, enforcing that (anti-bullying/discrimination laws)…my concern is that if this teacher has these feelings, is she going to call out the bullying of a gay, lesbian and transgender person?” (Hu, 2011) Also quoted in the article was Edward Barocas (legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey): “Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her beliefs and comments are protected by the First Amendment” (Hu, 2011). Mr. Barocas added, “Because her postings raised questions about her conduct within school, the school district can and should investigate whether she is performing her job in accordance with school policies and the state’s Law Against Discrimination” (Hu, 2011).

In my personal opinion, I agree with the statement by Mr. Barocas. I do believe that every citizen of the United States is entitled to his or her own opinion—what matters is how these discriminatory comments affect a teacher’s ability to be effective teachers and positive role models in the school environment. I feel that any derogatory comments, whether virtual or verbal, made about any person, place, or idea can negatively impact a student in a teacher’s classroom.  It could potentially and inadvertently teach students that it is okay to discriminate—however there is a fine line between expressing freedom of speech and discriminatory actions.  These situations are extremely difficult to deal with and must be approached with a delicacy.  Personal opinions and beliefs are not what determine how Viki Knox will be punished (or not punished) because of her actions.  It is through past court cases and each individual school board’s policy that determine the consequences.

As far as the legality of the situation, whether or not this particular teacher can be terminated because of personal comments on Facebook can be determined by looking over past court decisions about teachers and their personal freedom of expression.  The court considers many factors when determining if an expression by a teacher is protected under the US Constitution: they consider “the effects on school operation, teacher performance, teacher-superior relationships, and coworkers as well as the appropriateness of the time, place, and manner of the teacher’s remarks” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 267).  According to the National School Boards Association, “misbehavior outside the school that reduces teachers’ capacity to serve as positive role models can justify reprimands or dismissals as long as rights to free speech and free association are not violated.” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 270).

While the outcome of this case has yet to be determined, it is my belief that administration and school officials responsible for the outcome of this situation will pay close attention to whether or not her comments affect her performance as a teacher. How the public reacts to this situation will probably also affect the consequences against Viki Knox.  Just today, Gay rights activists protested  New Jersey Union school board meeting urging them to take action against the teacher (see link to article here). What if one of her students was homosexual or transgendered? What if a colleague or a parent of one of her students was also of different sexual orientation? Would she be able to effectively and fairly respond to situations that may arise with someone who is homosexual?  The answers to those questions cannot ever be determined, however the most important thing to consider about this situation is how a teacher’s comments affect their students and their opportunity to have a good and well-rounded education.  I think the best way for a teacher to be an effective educator and positive role model to his or her students is by maintaining values of respect and acceptance while constantly keeping in mind that personal beliefs could potentially be scrutinized and action could be taken if they affect school operations and job performance.

 

References:

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Hu, Winnie. (2011, October 13). New Jersey High School Teacher Posts Anti-Gay Entry on Facebook. The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved October 16, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/nyregion/teachers-facebook-posts-against-homosexuality-are-questioned.html?_r=2&ref=education

http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcr/employ.html

http://www.aclu-nj.org/aboutus/leadership/

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/10/gay_rights_activists_to_protes.html

Funding of Public Education: Week 6

Prior to reading chapter 8 in the textbook, I never really though about how public education was financed or the various ways these schools could receive funding.  I never put into consideration that different students with more intense needs would require more money per student.  When I really begin to think about how ESL students require more funding for education, it makes sense that because more resources go into teaching these kids (Spanish-speaking teacher, ESL textbooks, and assessments) they would need more funding.  Also, certain school districts require more financial assistance than others—a poorer school district would need much more assistance than a wealthier district.  When I put into perspective how various schools and students require differing amounts of financial assistance at the public school level I was interested where the money would then come from.  I was also deeply concerned about the equality of the education students were getting district and state wide—is it fair that students from low income neighborhoods potentially receive a lesser education, all because of money?

I knew that the state primarily funded education but I didn’t really have a concrete idea about where all the money came from.  I have come to learn that funding for schools comes from either the local, state, or federal level and it varies from state to state.  Examples of local funding (amounts up to 44% of school expenditures) (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 237) would include property tax, fundraising campaigns, and exclusive property rights with companies.  The state also provides significant financial contributions to public education—according to the textbook, elementary and secondary education on average make up about 34% (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 240).  State aid comes from sales taxes and personal income taxes, however the aid varies greatly depending on what state a student is living in.  Some states have higher tax rates and therefore can contribute more money to fund educational institutions.  Federal education funding does not contribute as much to education as does the state and local board, however it has become more involved since the No Child Left Behind Act.  Federal funding has now become directly linked to how curriculum standards and how well each school and school district perform on standardized assessments.  If a state does not show yearly progress (adequate yearly progress, AYP) then their funding may be reduced or cut.  It is much easier now to see how many schools fall short of meeting the federal curriculum requirement.  As mentioned above, if a school district is from a poorer state or district, they will naturally have less funding to use towards education.  That funding can effect purchasing of textbooks, hiring more experienced teachers and specialized teachers (ESL & Special Education teachers), rebuilding infrastructure, and a school districts ability to properly teach its students.  If a school is facing hardships mentioned it is no surprise to me that they are having trouble meeting AYP as well.

Funding for public education is a complicated, tedious, and at many times frustrating endeavor for each level of funding, from the local, state, and federal government.  It is unfortunate to think that a child’s education can be directly correlated to how much money their school district has.  It is also unfortunate to see that the federal funding of public education is dependent on how well students perform on standardized assessment, yet each state differs greatly on how they fund education.  It seems unfair that education is mostly funded by the state, yet all states are financially at the mercy of federal standards.

In my opinion, I think that funding should go towards rebuilding run-down schools districts, the better training of teachers and pre-service teachers, and providing adequate resources for teaching children.  I think that the education of America’s youth is extremely important, as they will be the citizens of tomorrow.  I do not have all the knowledge to make radical opinions about how the state and federal government should regulate spending, but I would like to believe that the quality of education is taken into great consideration.  I think that funding is always going to be a complicated and controversial matter, however I feel as if it is going in the right direction.  With the revisions by the federal government by the Obama Administration, which includes reforming NCLB to more fully fund the law and bettering early childhood education, college and teacher recruitment (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 249), I have faith that states will begin to see improvement in funding of their schools and improvement in the quality of education for all.  The idea of public education was founded on the idea that every child should have the same opportunity to a wholesome education.  I hope that with budget reforms from the local, state, and federal level, no child will be denied the proper education due to inadequate funding.

 References

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Picture Image

http://milkyourmoney.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/piggy_bank.jpg

Special and Diverse Needs of Students: Week 5 Blog

The United States has always been known as a melting pot of populations and therefore also for its diverse community.  In today’s classroom, the average teacher will come across various coworkers, students, and parents.  The public school environment includes students of various races, cultures, social and economic classes, as well as many different learning styles and abilities.  No two students are alike in their learning styles and I believe that a teacher should use a variety of approaches when teaching material to their students. Among these different learning types are students who are known to have special needs. Special needs students suffer from many hardships in the classroom from behavioral, emotional, developmental and physical ailments.  These sorts of special needs children are extremely prevalent today and in my own personal life I am exposed to learning disabled children (my younger brother, Woody, is Autistic).  Many people I interact with on a daily basis, whether at work, at home, or at school almost always can relate to my family because they too have a family member suffering from disabilities or a close friend. Today pre-service education programs offer a wide variety of learning tracks so that one interested in teaching students with special needs can be educated on how to do so effectively and successfully.  Special Education is an extremely important aspect of the public school system because it helps these special needs students develop the necessary skills to grow and develop mentally, behaviorally, socially, and physically.

It is hard to imagine that once, not too long ago, the United States did not actively aid students in need.  One hundred years ago students with disabilities were not helped in a way that provided these students with the positive learning conditions and environments needed for them to succeed.  In 1975 the school atmosphere concerning disabled students began to change—policymakers created what is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA was an act of legislation in which all children with disabilities in the United States were guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (Ralabate and Foley 2003).   This was the first federal step to ensure that students with disabilities were not neglected in the school environment.  There have been revisions made to IDEA, most of which deal with how special needs individuals best learn in public classrooms.  Research showed that these students performed better in general education classrooms, and thus lawmakers felt it appropriate these students become integrated into general education curriculum. (Ralabate and Foley 2003).

With the implementation of IDEA and its many revisions to its legislation as well as intensive Special Education pre-service teacher education programs, it is obvious that today’s education is definitely gearing to support every kind of learner a teacher may come across in their diverse classroom.  From teachers specifically licensed to explicitly teach students with disabilities, to trained inclusion specialists or the general education teacher’s having a disabled student in their classroom, it is evident to me the importance of teaching towards different learning styles.  I think that although there are obstacles in the public school environment that may make it harder to help disabled students reach their full potential; the IDEA act has helped it come a long way.  There will always be areas of opportunities when it comes to teaching students with disabilities, however I truly believe we are on the right path as a country.

For my personal professional goals, so far I have decided to be a general curriculum elementary teacher—that is not to say, however, that I will not regularly interact with disabled students.  Part of this interaction is that I am educated on how to include these students into general curriculum.  As we discussed in class the past week, it is essential for there to be support within the schools for teachers.  Support could come from inclusion specialists, the principals, or other figures.  It is also necessary for there to by strong parental communication between the teacher and parent.  Whether the student is considered disabled or not, positive communication between the parent and teacher, in my opinion, will benefit the student by helping build a strong foundation upon which work ethic, academic achievement, and a positive learning environment can be built.  The ingredients of that foundation include strong administrative school structure, well-rounded educated teachers, diverse learning strategies, and parent communication.  Along with helpful legislation that made it illegal to deny students the right to a public education today’s learning environment is catering to an ever more diversifying population of the United States, and I plan to learn to address these differences in both my pre-service teacher education and classroom instruction.

Reference

Ralabate, Patti, and Beth Foley. “NEA – IDEA AND NCLB: Intersection of Access and Outcomes – Introduction.” NEA – NEA Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nea.org/home/18617.htm>

Idealism vs. Realism: Week 4 Reflection


The School of Athens

by Raphael

Center Left: Plato (pointing upward to the intellectual environemnt of the mind; Center Right Aristotle (pointing outward, a reflection of the objective reality)

 

Philosophy is integral to everyday life and in educational institutions.  Through understanding the etymology of the word philosophy, “philo” meaning love and “sophos” meaning wisdom one could define philosophy as the love of wisdom and knowledge.  A more basic and modern definition of philosophy can be found through the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary as being “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.”  Thinking of both explanations of philosophy, it is easy to see why it is so important to modern education.  Many of the modern-day American public school purposes are to teach students about the world around them through the core academic subject areas while also instilling a desire to learn. Personally, one of my chief goals as an elementary teacher is to instill a love and passion for learning in my students.  Through my own beliefs and the basic intellectual purpose of public schools, philosophy touches every aspect of education and should be considered at length.

Many differing philosophies have been developed over the years in regards to education and learning: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, and Postmodernism to name a few from our class textbook.  The first two philosophies, Idealism and Realism are to be analyzed for the purpose of my reflection.

Idealism, founded by ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428-347 BCE) in the context of education, begins with the belief that reality is spiritual or mental and unchanging and that knowing is the recall of latent ideas already existing (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 169) in the humans mind and spirit prior to birth.  For an idealist, the spiritual essence of humans give them the ability to think and feel, and therefore release suppressed knowledge in their minds.  Idealists believe that truth and values are universal, absolute, and eternal to all humans (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 169) and all whom are willing may achieve that intellectual development and knowledge.  Take an excerpt from The Parable of the Cave, a selection from Plato’s Republic, Book VII written by Socrates in the context of how idealism is influential to education:

“Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.”

It is through this excerpt I feel that Idealism and how it relates to education can be seen.  This passage reflects the idealist philosophy that the capacity of learning is already embodied within each human being and that knowing those innate ideas and achievement of intellectual enlightenment can occur when a person opens their mind’s eyes to the truth.  The allegory touched upon the harsh reality of learning and knowing the truth that it may be frightening at first to open your mind to the unknown.  Idealist would argue that yes knowing it is frightening at first (as it was for the people from the cave to have their eyes burned by the sunlight) however as you learn more and are exposed to the real world, knowing the truth becomes easier and easier.  According to the textbook in class, idealists believe that the “educational process of searching within for the truth is intended to stimulate students to create a broad, general, and unifying perspective of the universe.” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p.171)  Thinking of this idealist take on education while also considering what I believe to be the above-mentioned American public school’s purpose (teach students about the world around them through the core academic subject areas while also instilling a desire to learn) idealism can be integrated into the classroom easily.  The fundamental idealist philosophy is to open one’s mind to the unknown and through deep inward reflection and outward seeing knowing can be achieved.  In the classroom, I would implement this philosophy simply by asking children to express their feelings about a particular concept and be open and supportive of every student’s unique beliefs.

 

Realism stems from Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and is an educational philosophy asserting that reality is outside of our minds and not latent within one’s spiritual body or mind (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 173). In opposition of idealist thinkers, realists believe that there is a world made up of physical objects and that the human mind can know about the real world. According to realists, reality is objective and exists independently of us but we can know it (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 169).  For the purpose of this blog assignment, I am to consider this question from a realist perspective: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, would it make a noise?  Based on my understanding of realism, my answer would be “Yes.” A realist believes that learning occurs by making decisions based on knowing the concrete outside world.  A realist would claim that there would be no need to be next to a falling tree to know it makes a sound.  If one witnessed a tree falling in the forest, they would hear it hit the forest floor. Through inductive reasoning, one would argue that through scientific experimentation they listened to a tree fall ten times and each time it made a noise; If then, of the eleventh time the tree fell, they were not in the forest to witness it fall, it would still make a noise based on their previous observations.  A realist wouldn’t need to verify the truth that a sound was made by a falling tree because true reality exists separate from human perception.  Someone who has studied the noise falling trees make can conceptualize what the noise would sound like and know that it still made noise.

In the classroom, realist philosophy is always integrated through the studies of organized subjects such as history, science, english, mathematics, etc. A realist’s purpose of education is to “provide students with knowledge about the objective world in which they live, to prepare them to make rational decisions, informed by knowledge” (Ornstein, Levin, & Gutter, 2001, p. 175).  The public school classroom in the United States has had these mentioned core subjects integrated into curriculum early in its history.  Because the American classroom today still teaches these realist approved subjects, it will always be integrated into school.

In my opinion both Idealism and Realism are extremely important philosophies to be used in congruence in the classroom.  A realist education provides the framework of academic subjects to learn and a means for students to explore in their own minds the purpose and importance of each subject.  I believe that idealism is important to integrate into the classroom because it teaches students to make their own decisions and form personal, unique opinion.  After thinking about idealism and realism in the context of modern-day education, I hope to find a way to incorporate both philosophies into my classroom to shape my students into well-rounded learners.

 

References


Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Foundations of Education   (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/philosophy

The Parable of the Cave: A selection from Plato’s Repulblic, Book VII:  http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/Plato%27sCave.htm

Photos

http://geniussquared.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Plato-Socrates-Aristotle.png

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ball0888/firstxi/Images/schoolofathens.jpg