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.