Friday, September 16, 2011

And So It Begins Again....

It's been a long 5 months or so since the last update.  This time around, there's Educational Psychology and Instructional Methods (lesson plans and basically how to teach).
Right now, I'm working on my first lesson plan (Quadratic equations for Algebra 2) and a paper about homework for psychology.  Already, there's some interesting things to read in articles that I've come across.
(Please keep in mind that I'm planning on being in a high school, so my posts will be aimed at that. They may be exceptions, but those will be explicitly stated.)

The recommended grading from one group of researches is:
50% - exams
30% - classwork
10% - homework
10% - assigned papers

Yet another group claims:
60% - tests/quizzes
15% - class participation
15% - written/oral projects
10% - notebook/homework

Neither of these state what grade levels they are aimed at; the article mentions elementary and secondary teachers.  It does say that test scores are a better indication of progress than homework or papers, which (as a student) I have to agree with.  While there are always the issue of people who cannot take tests well, homework or papers have more time to be fixed up and could be worked on in a group.
It also talks about how tests should not be weighted the same. Just because a midterm and a final make up 60%, it doesn't mean they are both 30%.  It mentions using standard deviation, but I would think a more traditional 'which should be worth more' approach would be just as valid.  If the final is cumulative, it should be worth more.  If not cumulative, then it's possible to be worth the same, in my opinion.

Despite me being a math major, it doesn't mean I like relative grades, or grading on a curve.  Most curves are designed to be symmetrical, with the highest number of grades being C's, and a smaller (but equal) amount of B's and D's and an even smaller (but still equal) number of A's and F's.  To me, that is not only a bad way to grade students (especially if they are in the C+ range or so in terms of a traditional 'absolute' grade but would end up with an F when weighted) but also disrupts the way a class is run.  There are very few winners, except the top few students.  Imagine an honors class, for example.  All students who are used to getting A's and possibly B's, suddenly getting C's or even F's.  Are they goofing off, skipping class, or not doing their work? Nope, they just didn't do as well as the other students.  Basing this idea off of how frustrated an honors student like me was angry I got a C+ in one class, I would have been devastated if that was weighted down to an F.

(All of the above data came from The Nature of Grading in The Clearing House, 1989, vol. 62 no. 8, pgs. 635-369)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Join the Circus of Life

The following is what a friend posted online. I thought it fitting and hope everyone finds it enlightening.

Being mixed is like a tightrope act where you're forced to balance in the middle because of opposition at either extreme. There's hostility on both ends, but I've come to notice it more coming from black females. I hear things like "oh, she thinks she's so cute because she's light skinned and has hair," or "Quit trying to be black." Really. I may be beautiful but I'm not arrogant. I don't see how my skin or hair gives me reason to be "uppity" considering I've spent plenty of time (in the past) wishing for longer, straighter hair same as the darker sisters out there. Maybe you would be more attractive if you spent less time being bitter and jealous and more time enjoying yourselves. When it comes to people, I don't care what they look like or how they dress as long as there's basic hygiene. I care about how they treat me, how I feel in their presence. And I'm not TRYING to be black. I AM black. Black is not about dark skin or nappy hair or junk in the trunk. Its a code written in my DNA that says I'm the seed of a plant with half its roots in the same soil as yours. So why can't we be civil? A lot of black girls also seem to be under the impression that I'm a doormat just because I prefer to defuse a situation rather than escalate it to something unnecessary. Repeat after me. Half black does NOT mean half assed. On a final note, its pointless to try to generalize based off of my race because I am not one or the other. I'm in the grey. I am [name removed], and you can't categorize an individual. Stop hating me, and start loving yourself.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Education is Not a Political Toy

Education is Politics - Ira Shor

Shor talks a lot about what we've already heard so much about: the educational system we have is a broken system that works more often for those who have social or economic blessings than minorities and other students.  Oakes is mentioned in the article as having done research that helped reinforce his points.

What it comes down to is us as teachers.  We are the only ones who can make a difference, since it seems obvious to me that the bureaucracy in charge of running public education and even those in colleges are not going to change their ideas and change how the curriculum is designed or how the school system as a whole is run.  There is a bright side for us educators: we are many.  We can teach our own version of the curriculum, use students' input to enhance the lessons, and make things relevant to them.  Students need teachers who understand that not everyone is comfortable/capable of acing standardized tests and not everyone can learn or even wants to learn by being lectured to.

We need students to question the world around them, not accept it blindly.  You have to ask yourself, did your school or perhaps a single teacher encourage you to ask questions and not take things for granted?  If so, then you've got an example of what to do.  If not, there are many resources available.

Teaching is not easy.  Making an environment where every feels comfortable, conveying the material so that everyone (regardless of disability or learning style) can understand, and everything else Shor talks about like having students participate, relating to life, and being multicultural sounds nightmarish to implement.  But that's what we have to try.  We are not alone.  "TOTAL PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS: 3,178,142" And that is just for public schools; it does not include Catholic, private, or charter schools.  That's a lot of teachers, and if they all got together, used some sort of communication and could share lesson plans, teaching strategies, and general advice, imagine what could be accomplished.  I realize that some teachers do network already. But if there was a move to network all teachers, the benefit would be incredible.

I know I ask this question a lot, but we're seeing more and more that has to be changed, and it's up to us.  Can we make a difference and change how the educational system is perceived?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breaking Glass

I've wanted to post this for a while now, but never got around to it.  I'm sure everyone remembers Dr. Bogad's example of people walking around with a pane of glass in front of them, only noticing it when something happens to scratch, blemish, or crack that glass.  My favorite song, Through Glass by Stone Sour, has a music video and lyrics that I think represent that.  When I first heard it, I thought it was a great song. And then I listened to it again and started to pick apart the lyrics and realized how they had a deeper meaning than I would have thought.

Corey Taylor, the singer/frontman of Stone Sour and Slipknot, wrote this song because he was sick of the artificiality that Hollywood was showcasing.
The above 2 links are quite short, I encourage you to read them.

I'm putting a few lines in bold that I think are particularly relevant.  The music video for this is very fitting, so I suggest watching it, rather than just listening and reading the lyrics at the same time.

Lyrics (c) Stone Sour

"Through Glass"

I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
Oh, god it feels like forever
But no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home sitting all alone inside your head

How do you feel? That is the question
But I forget.. you don't expect an easy answer
When something like a soul becomes
Initialized and folded up like paper dolls and little notes
You can't expect a bit of hope
So while you're outside looking in
Describing what you see
Remember what you're staring at is me

Cause I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
All I know is that it feels like forever
When no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home, sitting all alone inside your head

How much is real? So much to question
An epidemic of the mannequins

Contaminating everything
When thought came from the heart
It never did right from the start
Just listen to the noises
(Null and void instead of voices)
Before you tell yourself
It's just a different scene
Remember it's just different from what you've seen

I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
And all I know is that it feels like forever
When no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home, sitting all alone inside your head

And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That shine for you
And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That lie to you.. yeah-ah

I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
Oh, god it feels like forever
But no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home, sitting all alone inside your head

'Cause I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
All I know is that it feels like forever
But no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home, sitting all alone inside your heaaaaddd

And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That shine for you.. yeah-ah
And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That lie to you.. yeah-ah

And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That shine for you.. yeah-ah
And it's the starrrssss
The sttarrrsss
That lie to you.. yeah-ah yeah

Ohhhoh when the starrs
Ohhh oh when the starrrrs that liieee

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Of Dogs and Dead Bodies

Today was the Leslie Grinner talk about Twilight.   By the look of it, half the class or more was there.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was very interesting and there were high points with her humor.  It's been a while since I've seen (maybe a year?) or read them (2.5 years), so I was glad she did a brief summary at the beginning.  I had a laugh to myself because I cringed slightly when she mentioned that Billy was "wheelchair bound".

SCWAMP - what society values.  Delpit resides here, with the culture of power.  I was impressed with how many connections there were and how convincing Grinner's arguments were.  There was one other thing Grinner brought up that was a recurring theme in Twilight and a decreasing portion of society: virginity.  As she said, three males worked to protect her purity while Bella's mother already assumed her daughter was not so pure and Bella was working on losing her innocence.  I really like how she brought up Edward's lines about not having a soul and being a beast, yet he represents Christianity, and would consent to turning Bella into a soulless monster but not allow her to have sex with him until they married.

SCWAMP ties in with McIntosh's white privilege aspect as well.  The Quileute tribe does not have the same luxuries as the Cullens or even Bella, being on a reservation.  Another thing Grinner said that I liked was how Bella has friends of all races and is insanely attractive to them all because she "transcends race".  That phrase is extremely familiar and I can't think who/how it was used.  Of course, given how Dr. Bogad said she was influenced by Grinner, it might have been something class related. If anyone should be struck with an epiphany of where I might have heard it, I would love to hear it.  Her other point was how Laurent was singled out because of his color and accent -- being the only vampire to have either.  It make you wonder why Meyer included him in the story.  Why give him those characteristics instead of being another ordinary vampire?

The whole Twilight franchise is quickly becoming a part of our culture.  Yet because of this, it's a danger.  Our media savvy generation is growing up with Twilight.  Could it have the same effects as some of the other films we discussed from Christensen's article?  Make girls think it's okay to be whacked in the face because Emily was but stayed in the relationship?  Sneak into someone's house to watch them sleep?  Do life threatening stunts to hear someone's voice in your head?  Find a way to kill yourself because your lover is dead?  There maybe a few good themes in Twilight, but people subconsciously pick up on the 'bad things' and integrate them into their thoughts and expectations.

Overall, I really liked this.  If the opportunity came up to hear Leslie Grinner speak again, I would definitely make an attempt to go.

I'll leave off with some demotivationals and this this page.
(Demotivationals are not mine)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Down and Out

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by Christopher Kliewer

When I first saw "Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome", the first thing that popped in my mind was the title of this post.  It's actually a song by the rock band Tantric.  I think some of the lyrics could be applied.
There is actually a line in the reading that made me think of Delpit.  Did anyone else see it? Pg 72, "silenced: Dialogue".  Well, "disabled" people are kept away from the culture of power.  "dialogue of citizenship" is another one on page 73 that reads like Delpit.  And as Dr. Bogad mentioned, would we see these connections to Delpit as often or would we see connections to others we have read if she emphasized another person we have read instead?

Respect. Humility. Creative listening.  These three things are key to defining everyone around us as "precious and irreplaceable".  Respect is going downhill.  If you've had the misfortune of listening to teenagers, you've probably seen how they don't care about anyone other than themselves.

Shayne presents a model of teaching that we will hopefully all follow one day.  She manages to incorporate all the students unique skills and joys into the classroom and manages to measure their progress not against each other and the 'standards' but by their own individual progress.  And above all, she teaches us that you have to listen, like when she found Anne a job at the video rental store because that was something she loved.  If we as teachers can make the 'normally functioning' students work with those who might be considered disabled, they would see their strengths and that they should be recognized as being important and having their own ideas and abilities.  Also, when working later in life, no one would feel like people were 'dumb' or unable to do something because everyone knows they are all valuable members of the community.

There need to be more performance evaluations other than just the traditional worksheet and exams.  This helps not only those who might be 'disabled' but also those who get test anxiety.
It's interesting, because I'm writing this as I read, and I just came across the section that talks about including more than the logical mathematical thinking and linguistic capabilities.  Naturally, I agree.  Spatial-representation intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic knowledge, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence are all highly important in life and also in education when measuring performance.  This is the idea of multiple intelligences, something you might have learned about if you took a psychology class.

All being said, this article reminds me of the tracking article, in how we need to completely redo the educational system and reform how teachers teach.

Yet again, it seems we come to the inevitable question of: how can we fix this? Is it possible in the next few years or is this something that will change so slowly, it will only be our great-grandchildren who see our dream come true?

More Facebook Pages that apply to us:
"i don't care if you're black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor.
If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Simple as that.
- Eminem"

^ I have to agree. That's basically my policy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Literacy With An Attitude by Patrick Finn

One of the most interesting things Finn says in the beginning is straight from Delpit. "I didn't say to an
errant student, "What are you doing?" I said, "Stop that and get to work." No discussion. No openings for an argument."  However, he then destroys the image of him doing something good by saying that he kept things simple for everyone.  Yes, he had his little extra credit assignments, but he played down the entire class.  He does redeem himself though, and it just goes to show us that not everyone is perfect and, as Dr. Bogad has said, "you're going to screw things up. A lot."

Just a thought, it makes me wonder if there would have been as much resistance if those schools were mixed race.  Would the other students balance out the white resistance and want to learn?  Or are the teaching methods so bad that no one would really benefit?

"Eight of twenty students interviewed expressed antagonism toward "the rich," who they said were greedy, spoiled, and snobby. This is interesting in light of the fact that these students' family incomes were in the top 10 percent for the nation."  So, since they're not rich, who is? Just those at the very top, it appears.

It's interesting that 16/20 in the affluent school said they could make knowledge but only half of those in the elite school said they could.  Perhaps this represents their privilege that they do not have to do as much work and direct those underneath them when they join/command the workforce.

This ending quote from Finn is quite extraordinary: "And so I ask, "Those who are smartest and work hardest go furthest?" Who's kidding whom? When students begin school in such different systems, the odds are set for them. President Kennedy once said that he hoped that a person's chance to become president was not determined on the day he was baptized (referring to the fact that some said a Catholic could never become president). I'd like to hope that a child's expectations are not determined on the day she or he enters kindergarten, but it would be foolish to entertain such a hope unless there are some drastic changes made."

To me, this entire article could be a pitch straight from Delpit and McIntosh.  And Kozol gets a silent mention because Finn references him himself. Students in the lower schools are not being taught the rules and codes of power to do anything other than minimum wage labor jobs.  White privilege here is selective based on who your parents are (which would in turn dictate where you live), not your individual abilities.

This was an interesting article to read.  There are so many relevant and startling points made, for anyone but especially for us.  Finn's book could be looked at as a road map of how to make a difference.  Maybe our classroom can be that one to do group work and more student involved learning.  Even if it's only that one teacher in the school doing it, do you think it would help to make a difference?


On a completely unrelated note, I just found this page on Facebook.  Especially today, when there are more openly gay individuals, how does this work?
"Parent's don't let you spend the night of the opposite sex, but they let you spend the night at the same sex?? Do they want us to be gay?"
^ While the grammar and final remark aren't very good, it does make a good point.  If someone is a lesbian, would their parents let them sleep over at a female friend's house?

Another page:
See that boy doing his homework in homeroom? He couldn’t do it last night because he was too busy talking his best friend out of suicide. See that girl, with her face caked in make up? She’s bullied, she needs to feel beautiful. See him, the one who wears long sleeves everyday? He covers his arms to hide the scars. See her, with the cheap, hand-me-down clothes? Her family can’t afford food for half the month, let alone get brand names. I'm against bullying. Like if you are too.

Yet another:
A 15 year old girl holds her 1 year old son, people call her a slut. But no one knew she was raped at 13; make fun of someone for being fat, but you don't know that person has a serious medical condition that causes her to be fat. Call the old guy ugly, but you don't know if he got a serious face injury after serving the country or saving a life. Stop stereotyping and think before you start talking trash of others

Promise I'll stop now:
Today, I was shopping with my daughter.
I am 17, she is 2.
A woman came up and said;;
"its a shame to see young girls having kids. Poor thing, she will never have a good life."
I had no idea what to say. She was wrong, and I could not believe some stranger said that.
Then my daughter Charlie goes:
"I love my mommy"
The woman was stunned and walked away.

I lied:
the class b**tch jokingly asked a slightly overweight girl
"So, when are you due?"
The b*tch was speechless when the girl replied,
"I don't know, ask your boyfriend ;)"