Students in my first semester clinical practice had the benefit of two teachers to give support, instruction, help, and differentiation. There were 42 students in our 5th period class—too many students, for them and for us. There were so many desks that it was hard to move them around and spread out for group work. And, the class was so easily distracted that there were classroom management issues that a veteran teacher couldn’t even handle. In part, I think it’s harder when there are so many students crammed into a small space.
I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like to teach one hour classes and meet with every period, every day. My last teaching experience included a block schedule where we met with classes every other day for two hours at a time. For students who moved through classes in block or everyday schedule, there is likely a lack of consistency between teachers’ styles, lack of connection between material learned between classes, lack of understanding of the amount of homework assigned per class per night (by teachers), a lack of time to move around, exercise, and take a break, and it’s probably overwhelming and tiring.
I think my students would say the biggest change they would like to see in high school is time and choice. Imagine if high school was more like college, with more choice of classes, self-direction, a focus on workplace and technology (more online courses and focus), only having to attend classes once or twice a week, being able to choose times and dates that work for them and their family’s schedules, having more independent time, and being able to complete internships in work environments. They wouldn’t have to miss classes due to their sports or miss sports due to their classes. If they are ill, it’s easy to make up the work, and more.
experiences that match my own when reading Are
they Thinking or Shuffling? The
article focused on Miguel, but it could have been many students I know who are shuffling
between classes and the school year. I’ve seen teachers (and likely I’ve been
this teacher, too, as I mirror others and try to find my way) who “fight fires
of distraction,” then “call on students who raise their hands to volunteer
their correct answers.” After giving other students “time to copy the correct
answers” it’s clear that students in this kind of environment are being taught
to “hunt and copy, complete worksheets, and perform at the teacher’s call.” I
am also struck by “how hard teachers work to keep students on target to
complete tasks”…including myself. Often, students’ participation is reduced to
“listening, memorizing, and following directions.” (pg. 5)
I love the
suggestions to “let go of coverage; stick to big ideas and power standards; let
go of busywork in favor of tasks that promote understanding; let go of knowing
everything; focus on drawing students out; let go of tallying points; focus on
gathering data that documents understanding.” (p. 6) I plan to focus on
answering the following questions when I design activities and assessments,
“what will students be thinking about while they experience this task?” and “how
will this task show me that students understand?” and I’ll consider the big
ideas of “identity, perspective, creativity, voice, conflict, symbolism,
conventions, literature as a mirror, and writing as a record of human
When reading Students and Teachers Talk about School Reform
and Student Engagement, I agreed that there should not be “one size fits
all students or teachers" and to overcome that we’d need to “create a more
individualized and flexible learning experience." If “education is more
closely tailored to students’ individual interests, abilities, lifestyles, and
learning styles” they’ll be more engaged.
To do this,
teachers need to "tailor courses of study for students" and "customize
their teaching to the individual.” If "students create their own
education" (like that do at Evergreen College, http://www.evergreen.edu/academics.htm)" and schools “offered more
courses, gave students greater course choice (like college), “offered multiple
ways to assess student progress,” and “developed less rigid time frames for
graduation and advancement,”” students could progress at their own pace, including
the option of when to start their school day.”
I would like to
work with corporations, non-profits, and other groups to create "real-world
experience and interships" that will simulate or solve “real world issues
and create “critical thinking and creative problem solving.” Students who have "hands-on,
interdisciplinary, project-based, and interactive” education will likely be
engaged. I need to find "guest speakers, offer travel groups for domestic
and international travel, incorporate technology ." If at all possible, we
need to “connect students to nature and community” and find "adult mentors
to motivate and guide students."
change or teaching practice I could implement in response to what students say
they need and want would be to plan from what they will do instead of what I
will do. When I write my step-by-step instructions I think about it more from
what I need to do. I’ll start with the student side of things, instead of the
teacher side. I will also practice using creative design with my lesson
planning accounting for multiple representations of knowledge. And letting students
crawl, stumble and fall on their own instead of rushing in to rescue.
I would like to
give students alternative assessments that focus on skills and personality so
that they can better understand how to work with other people (such as DiSC/Myers
Briggs/interpersonal communication, etc.), I would like to have students help
me plan out the units based on their interests. I would like to assign students
to groups based on their interests where they teach each other or the class
(like Jigsaw, but with choice and interest). Students would need to understand
the education standards (let them in the back door). I would act like a
guidance counselor for each student.
My son’s school
sent home boxes for donations of coins. I asked my son if he wanted to fill up
the box with change. He said it was a scam. I asked him why and he said that he
didn’t want the money to go to Olive Garden (the sponsor). We discussed the
sponsorship and then I told him we could research the charity’s status on an
unbiased third-party website. We looked up the charity and it had terrible
reviews. My son is on his classroom and school student counsel. After he
learned that the charity was not very reputable, he couldn’t wait to share it
with the other students and the advisory teacher. I also helped him search for
an alternate charity he would want to support instead. It was his idea to email
his teacher and start this dialog. He said, “I can’t wait to go to school
tomorrow. Can you believe I actually want to go to school?” I want my classroom
to be like this for my students.
Source: Hoffer, W. Thinking, Not Shuffling, chapter 10, p. 140-151.
Source: Budig, G. and Heaps, A. (September 2012). Students and Teachers Talk About School Reform and Student Engagement , CollegeBoard Advocacy & Policy Center, Special Supplement to Kappan.