Chapter 3: Comparing My Testing Experiences with Wagner's Writings
Because I graduated as the class of 2000 I was lucky enough, I guess, to not have to take the exit exams. At least, I don't remember taking them. We took so many tests that they all kind of just blur together. High School wasn't very hard for me. I think I was just one of the lucky group that was able to play the game well. I fit into their cookie cutter and did well on the tests. My freshman year I participated in an all honors IB program called "Skull Island". Those of us that were in this IB program all had classes together and would only separate for our elective classes. The whole premise of this program was that we were stranded on an island and we had to figure out how to survive. We were often given scenarios that we had to overcome or provide a solution to using knowledge given to us in our courses. We still were given the traditional paper/pencil test in our classes, but there were lots of tasks and competencies we had to pass as well. Our final cumulative test was to build a shelter on campus and survive the day out there. This was probably the most engaged I was throughout my High School career. The school did not offer "Skull Island" for any year other than freshman. Throughout my other years in high school I focused on my love of science and my counselor even let me trade my elective courses for more science classes. I took tests well throughout my years, but I really could only tell you a hand full of things I remember learning and not just memorizing for the tests. In math I took the highest level that my school offered. I took four years of math instead of the required two. I remember being very challenged my senior year in statistics, but other than that is was just a numbers game to increase my GPA to what it needed to be for college. I lost sight of my goal towards the second semester of my senior year as some teenagers do, but I still graduated with a more than decent GPA. When I took my entrance exams for college I was place in remedial math. I was literally back to learning fractions again! What happened? I had taken almost full year off after high school, but I should still know my fractions! I struggled in college level Biology. I felt like I did not have the study and self discipline skills to compete with all these smart kids who were blowing up the curve. I suddenly went from the high achiever in high school to barely squeaking by in college. It took me the first year to get with the program and then I started to become a little more comfortable with huge lecture rooms and being 1 of 300. So was I college ready? Nobody took the time to ask. They assumed because I had the analytical test taking skills that I was fully prepared for what I needed to do in college, which is basically sink or swim. I love the idea of the College and Work Ready Assessment. Like the students interviewed in Wagner's book, I feel that if someone taught me those soft skills I would have been better prepared for college. The problem solving IB courses I took my freshman year are probably the most effective and affective classes I took in high school that prepared me for work, college, and citizenship.
Chapter 4: Comparing my Teacher Education to What Wagner describes.
When I first started looking for teacher credential programs I asked my friends and family what their experiences were like. They all said that they did course work that felt like they were jumping through hoops the entire year. For their clinical practice portions they were to observe half the semester and then take over the class for the second half of the semester. I asked them how they felt their first year and every single person I asked felt like they had been thrown to the wolves fully unprepared. The program at Cal State San Marcos still has hoops to ump through, however, because of the change in the model of clinical practice I feel that I have had more opportunity to get prepared for my own class. Wagner speaks of disgruntled teachers in the teachers lounge and I can definitely see that. Luckily I wasn't ever placed with someone who had completely given up on their administration. At CSUSM your "master teacher" is now called your cooperating teacher and you are asked to collaborate with each other when developing curriculum. It seemed to me that as Wagner described his journey, that is the one thing that he kept searching for with his colleagues, collaboration and willingness to learn and relearn the craft of teaching. I feel that this is imperative for all teachers no matter how many years you have been teaching. So far have been lucky to get a good credential program and placement schools that have encouraged teacher to teacher collaboration or at least professional development. I hope that my luck run into my job search, so that I can find a school that has the same values as my own.
According to many sources including Fortune Magazine, Google is one of the best companies on earth to work for, so how does one get in? The article How to Get a Job at Google by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York times speaks about an interview with Laszlo Bock of Google. Laszlo Bock is basically the guy who looks for new hires. The interviewer asked Laszlo what he looked for in potential employees. Lazlo lists the qualities that google feels are important in employees. What made the list? The ability to learn and re-learn, leadership skills, humility, collaboration, and adaptability. If I wasn't teaching my students these skills I will try to focus on these skills now. So what is missing from this list that one might have expected? There is no mention on GPA, degrees from Ivy League colleges, test scores, or even IQ numbers. My students would love to hear this. Even if someone doesn't want to work at Google it is nice to know that one of the most successful companies in the world doesn't necessarily care how well you do in a traditional school setting. At the same time it is sad that degrees don't really mean all that much anymore. My favorite line fro the interview would have to be Bock saying that colleges aren't making good on what they promise. I have not fully lost hope in colleges though, I just hope they start teaching our young adults for the current times and maybe looking at top companies like Google for suggestions.
I think every educator that finds themselves exhausted by the constant battle for reforming education in our country should watch this video. Ken Robinson breaks down what he means by changing education from the ground up as opposed to top down like the government has been doing for so long. I seems like everyone is buzzing about what's wrong with education, why education needs to change and they even specify what needs to change. There are very few examples of how to change education. I often find myself deflated by the idea of taking on this huge monster of political agendas and standardized tests that is our educational system. In the story of David and Goliath I would equate myself to a single thread on the cloak of David. Robinson gives us teachers a light at the end of the tunnel, this talk empowers me, the lowly science teacher to feel more like at least on of the rocks that David throws at Goliath. Robinson talks about taking things down to basics and the four purposes of public education. Of the four, he finds one above all else in that public education is done for personal reasons. At the core, humans are diverse and each needs to find their own niche, passion, and talent. Having a public education system helps individuals explore beyond their own backyard and to find themselves outside of their individual bubble. If you strip away all the bureaucracy of the education system you are left with two things, the teacher and the learner. This is what Ken Robinson means when he says lets get back to basics. Robison points out that children are born with the desire to learn and it is only after we start standardizing and "force feeding" them information that children start to resent learning. The government has yet to understand this personal relationship and that teaching is a very human act. Government has yet to understand that they can't hand down all these regulations, standardizing and accusations of incompetent teachers without hurting the art form that is teaching. Robinson likens this to "trying to improve medicine by vilifying the doctors and nurses."
So what should those of us do that want to see a change in education, but see it at as a waiting game for when everyone else (the higher ups) finally gets on board. I have heard mentioned various times throughout the course of my teacher education that we can't do anything at the highschool level until at least colleges change their way of thinking. The truth is that colleges are changing. Robinson claims that Harvard is very big on the flipped classroom and letting students learn collaboratively amongst themselves instead of listening to lectures in class. Robinson encourages the teachers, principals and superintendents to focus on their own "micro-climate". He reminds us that we are essentially in charge of how we educate our students. Robinson reminds us that great revolutions have happened from the people, from the ground up. That if we make a change to education in our own classrooms, within our departments, in our school sites, throughout our districts that eventually this way of thinking will spread. The way of thinking about what it looks like to be educated will spread to our colleges. Maybe a having a degree will start meaning something again. As the people of this country start to act differently, eventually the high level of government will catch on. Robinson gives us hope that the revolution has already started and that we just have to help spread the word. This is me, spreading the word of an educational revolution. Ken Robinson has empowered the individual teachers that feel deflated by the huge battle in front of them. It might sound like a clique, but knowledge really is power. Therefore as teachers we have a lot of power in each and every classroom, every single school day. We don't have to wait for things to change from the top down, we are educators, we create change from the ground up.
I have to say I'm not all that impressed with this article. After reading the comments I can see that it was able to elicit some emotions from readers. Some people were so glad to have read this, like they after reading the article had come to some soft of life changing event. You have people leaving comments claiming they would have not retired had they read this in time. On the other hand, you have people leaving comments basically calling the author overly empathetic and lazy. These critics are judging the author, saying that this lax way of thinking is what is wrong with the education system. I am glad it was written, but I can't say it affected me that much. Maybe it is because I have been a student for most of my life. College isn't much different, especially in your first two years where you are still forced to take classes you might not be interested in. I know what it is like to be one of three hundred being lectured at. I know what it feels like to not want to ask a question for fear of being ridiculed by the professor. Even when I would ask questions in those huge lesson halls, I was so stressed about asking the question that I couldn't even pay attention to the answer. I don't need a reminder of what it is like to be a student. In my class, I am aware of the importance of getting my students up and out of their seats. I know just from being a parent that sarcasm is never helpful and should be avoided if at all possible. I do like the idea of a sarcasm jar though. It has been said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, so I might just incorporate that into my class. Hopefully this article will reach those that have lost touch with what is happening on the other side of the classroom. It might be a great thing to have all teachers shadow a student like this at some point in their career and then again continuously throughout the years that they teach. Having this happen might also provide a system for feedback throughout the faculty on campus.
What can I say? I am becoming a Michael Wesch fan. With this video on the anthropology of YouTube, Wesch has made me a believer in the website. I have always thought of YouTube as a tool to get information, therefore YouTube and I have had a relationship that you might call one sided. I take what I need, I embed the video in my lesson and I leave. I don't subscribe; I don't watch channels, or leave comments on the videos. It wasn't until after seeing this video that I began to understand the human aspect and the culture of YouTube. I believe that is exactly Wesch's message here that it is a community. Just when people started saying that all we do is isolate ourselves in our houses and play video games or surf the web is when we started to see a way that the entire world could come together as a community. This YouTube culture emerged at a time when people were starting to feel like they wanted to connect with people even further then in text. With webcams, people can connect with an endless amount of people from the privacy of their own bedrooms. Wesch describes a couple of the phenomenon that come up with essentially speaking to yourself and at the same time potentially everyone in the world with internet access at the same time. In terms of learning and teaching, I think YouTube is a great way to see another's perspective or another way of explaining a concept. Students can see multiple viewpoints on a particular subject; suddenly the student goes from one teacher to theoretically millions of teachers. There is a lot of junk and drama on YouTube as well though. I would just say that there is a life lesson there that can be taught. Drama and junk can be found anywhere and students should learn the value of being a critical thinker and choosing their sources wisely. I was inspired by the ways that Wesch shows human connections and human movements in this video. It was very interesting to see the evolution of YouTube from a cultural perspective and Michael Wesch is such an unassuming and eloquent organizer of information that this video was a joy to watch and learn from. When thinking about application in my own classroom I would love to do a project where students raise awareness on a hot topic and put the video on YouTube. They could learn about digital citizenship while learning to take a stand and make a statement about important issues in the world today. I guess I will have to strengthen my relationship with YouTube myself so that I can practice what I teach. Maybe I will be staring into that tiny glass dot sooner that I had thought.
If you talk to any teacher that has been teaching for the past 20 years or more, you are bound to find the majority of them are desensitized to paradigms shifts in education. These educators are either on the front lines fighting Common Core or in the back of the class doing the same as they always have and just waiting passively for the next shift to come about. I was interested to hear that it isn't just the US that is desperately searching for a new education system for their children. It makes sense though, that everyone, everywhere are having to come up with a way to legitimize standardized education in light of the world's resources being at everyone's fingertips. Sir Ken Robinson points out that children today are challenging the purpose of having to go to school at all. That they are actually just in this opinion because now a days having a degree doesn't guarantee you the american dream. The problem as Robinson explains is that everyone's answer to this search for a new paradigm is to raise standards of education. Instead of this dime a dozen answer, Robinson asks us to consider promoting divergent thinking. This divergent thinking is defined by Robinson not as creativity, but as having many different answers and varied pathways to those answers. Education thus far has trained our students to having to know the "one true answer". This is oh so evident in my current classroom. We judge our teachers on how many of our student's know that one true answer. We judge our schools on how many students know the one true answer. This leaves us with a mob of sameness and zero growth. Nobody ever got anywhere with zero growth. I cannot speak for those teachers that have been jaded by going through so many of the "new and improved" ways of educating our students. I can only say that as a new teacher coming into the field in such an dynamic time, I am so excited that people like Sir Ken Robinson and his divergent thinking about education are speaking on the behalf my future students and my future career. I would be proud to be a teacher in Robinson's vision of educational growth.
Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able. A TEDx talk by Michael Wesch
I have never witnessed someone like Michael Wesch before seeing this Tedx talk from 2010. I have never seen a public speaker so acquiscent, unassuming, humble and ordinary deliver such a powerful, formulated, and downright poetic lecture. I agree with everything that Wesch says in his talk. With the "world on fire" as it is, there is this glimmer of hope shinning in the horizon called the internet. Wesch shows us how social media can save the world. What? But isn't social media the ultimate downfall of our children these days? Isn't it the biggest distraction for our teenagers and why they can't seem to get any homework done? Yes, probably, but social media and the shear ability to get things publicized and heard has brought the global community that much smaller and tighter knit. Wesch talks about how technology makes it easy to Connect, Organize, Share, Collect , Collaborate and Publish. Wesch shows us some of these advances and great works in his lecture. He tries to implement these things into his classroom whenever possible so that students stop asking the wrong questions like "what is going to be on the test", and start asking the right ones like "How can I connect, organize, share, collect collaborate, and publish ideas and works to tackle this world on fire ". When I was introduced to this lecture I was asked to think about what I could do in my classroom with asking my students to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate and publish. I know for absolute certainty that I will show this video to my students each and every year and the above image will hang in my classroom. I will ask my class how they want to incorporate these things into their learning and see where they take it. I can't wait to see what they come up with.
This video by Dr. White is about being either a resident or a visitor on the internet. Before this video I had only heard the terms "native or immigrant" to describe ones capabilities on the web. I think I like this new way of thinking better as it makes more sense than simply the younger generation just understand technology and older individuals don't. I have a lot of people in my immediate circle that wouldn't fit into those stereotypes. On Dr. White's continuum of resident/visitor, I would put myself somewhere in the middle. After all, this IS me blogging right now. I also have a website, both professional and for my classroom. I think EDSS 350 is forcing the issue of residency a little more than I would have done by myself, but I now have a twitter handle, linked-in profile, and Google+ circles to push me in the resident direction on the continuum. I definitely see the importance of having a separation between the personal and professional online residency activities. I make sure to keep online activities private, I am very aware of what I put online and that I am now considered a role model to more than just my three children.
After reading the extended essay "Why School" by Will Richardson, I can't help but feel a little bit deflated about common core and the projection of our education system. I can't help but feel like I am about to get thrown into the mouth of a huge, desperate ,money hungry, test obsessed, self-riotous monster that is America's education system. On the bright side, I do agree with Richardson's overall tenet that is a little more off the topic of common core. Richardson writes about school in this day in age needing to be less about what is testable (read: fund-able) and more about what the student needs to learn to be successful in today's technology based world.Schools today are the same as they were 50+ years ago. Schools were used to ready children to enter the factory jobs that were waiting for them. With today's world revolving more around technology and entrepreneurship, why would our schools still be set up in the same manner as before the invention of the personal computer? We live in a time where kids don't have to ask their teacher how to do something, they ask Google. The internet enables the student to learn from the bank of the world's knowledge rather the one individual at the front of the room. At first glance it might seem like Richardson is saying teachers and schools are unnecessary, but he clarifies that he is calling for a dramatic chance in the way teachers teach and not the eradication of them. In this extended essay Richardson claims that although most teenagers are capable of finding what they need on internet because we think of them as tech native, doesn't mean that they know how to decipher between good and bad resources. It would be the teachers job to help the students to learn the techniques of proper research and many other skills related to this "new" form of information gathering. I agree with this idea. My philosophy of teaching in general goes along with what Richardson is saying because I believe in teaching to the whole child. I believe in teaching the student the big ideas that will help them to make better, more informed choices in their lives. I don't give much value to what a student can regurgitate onto a test. That is why I thought I liked the Common Core, I thought it was all about analyzing information, critical thought and applying what you learned. Richardson makes his stance clear on the Common Core calling it a road to "vilify teachers" and "narrow". I do like what Richardson is saying about the overall goal of schooling being changed, but it is hard having these thoughts that how I learned in high school is no longer a valid way to teach. I sort of feel like David and Goliath at this point. It is comforting however that there are smart people like Will Richardson leading the way for this much needed reform in education.
Richardson talks about two ways in which we can reform the system to better suit the learning needs of the students today. The first is to teach what we teach, but with the use of technology. The second would be to change what we teach so that students have a better chance at excelling in the "real-world". Richardson goes on to describe what learning would look like if we went with the first option, with students learning from home online and no real educator merely uploading the lesson and running troubleshoot. I prefer the later choice where we are teaching students life lesson along side what subjects we are passionate about as teachers. We should definitely change what we teach to better suit what it means to be successful in today's world, but moreover we need to revamp this whole idea of high stakes testing. I get anxiety just thinking about how we even start that process, but I feel better that there are people like Richardson that are at least beginning the conversation.
Richardson speaks about 6 different unlearning/relearning ideas that teachers need to start thinking about in order to contribute to this reform of education. I think the easiest one to commit to is the sharing of my best practices. I have felt myself become prideful and almost Gollum-like when I come up with a good lesson. With all the time, sweat and tears that goes into building meaningful,engaging lessons from scratch it was hard for me, at first, to want to share "my precious" creations. I have decided that I will commit to this idea of sharing and gathering others' great works as well. Each and every kid deserves the best we teachers can give them. Looking at the bigger picture, we teachers are creating a better future each and every day in our classrooms. Why not share our best works to reach even more budding adults that will in turn better the world's society. Not to many people get a chance to shape the future like that.