What Teacher Educators Don’t Teach You

 

I was exploring the website BAM! Radio for some helpful educational podcasts. I came across one titled “New Teachers: Three Things They Didn’t Teach You in Education School.” Any time I come across a title that has “new teachers” in it, I immediately click on it. Any tips I can get about becoming a teacher I read (or listen to), whether I plan to implement them in my own classroom or not. Thanks to the wonderful world of internet, there are truly endless resources out there for teachers, both old and new!

In this podcast, Dana Dunnan, author of Notes to a New Teacher, shared some of his thoughts and ideas for new teachers. He thought that he knew everything there possibly was to know about teaching, but as a new teacher he ran into some unknowns. Dunnan said he made a few mistakes when he began his teaching career. First, he thought he was too showy in his Stanford attire because he made people feel uncomfortable. I’m assuming that I will have a dress code at the school I will work for, so I’m not sure how often I’d be able to come to school decked out in my collegiate gear. Even so, I’ll keep his tip in mind since it’s never a good idea to make people uncomfortable, especially my new coworkers. Dunnan also said he didn’t join a teaching union right away, which he regrets big time. He suggests joining them right away, and then deciding later on whether or not it’s helpful for you. Lastly, Dunnan felt he got burnt out on teaching because he approached it with such a high level of energy. He compares teaching to a marathon, not a sprint. The school year is long and it’s important to maintain a certain level of energy throughout the entirety of the year.

Dunnan gave a couple of discipline tips, which included trying to anticipate the reaction you’d get out of a student when using a certain technique. Another tip was to let the student feel they have some sense of control over the situation and give them a choice between two consequences. This saves some of their dignity, according to Dunnan.

Dunnan highly suggests bringing in as many guests to your class as you can find. He found that walking up to someone and asking them to come talk to his students worked way better than sending a generic e-mail. The worst the person is going to do is say “No.”

A problem with teaching that Dunnan ran into was evaluations. The things evaluators come up are not always that helpful and do not always need to be implemented. Most of the time they suggest things because it is their job to come up with suggestions. Instead, the evaluators should help set reasonable expectations for teachers.

When asked about how to prepare for the first day of school, Dunnan suggested to instead look at the first couple days of school. The first couple of days is where the teacher has to set a lot of the routines and convey to the students the level of expectations. It is also crucial to give the students a sense of the culture of your classroom. There is a lot you may not have learned in school and you actually will learn more from the teachers who have been at that school for a while. I think it’s a great idea to start the year building strong relationships with coworkers and finding a few that will help you make your first year of teaching really successful.

I think that podcasts are definitely a great way of learning, but I don’t think it has the capacity to replace teachers and schools all together. I think there are ways to incorporate podcasts into the school setting as a supplement exercise. The convenience of them are very appealing, since you can listen to podcasts virtually anywhere. It’s also convenient for students to be able to listen to things over again, especially when working on homework or projects outside of school. I think podcasts would be an excellent resource for teachers to leave for substitutes. This ensures that a lesson is being taught in the way you anticipated. However, I think students of all ages need in class time with a teacher in order to fully grasp a concept. I find it easier to lose focus when just listening to a lesson, rather than actually watching someone talk. I am interested to learn more about podcasts and to see how exactly they are being used in different types of classrooms.

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Math Class Revamp

In this TedTalk, Dan Meyers gives his reasons for why he insists that the math curriculum needs updating. Meyers makes a lot of good points and seems to really know what he is talking about. I think his students are lucky to have him as teacher and I hope that there are more educators like him out there. Meyers believes that the way we teach math in the U.S. assumes that the students will remember it. Clearly that is not the case, as our math scores compared to other countries around the world are drastically low.

Meyers gave 5 points about why the way we teach math is hurting our students:

1. Lack of initiative

2. Lack of perseverance

3. Lack of retention

4. Aversion to world problems

5. Eagerness for formula

Meyers talked about how the way our math textbooks are set up are functionally equivalent to turning on Two and a Half Men and calling it a day. No problem worth solving is that simple. A student could read the entire textbook and think they learned math, when in reality they just learned how to decode the book. The way the text is setup is not practical for real life application. I completely agree with him on this. The problems in math textbooks are usually completely irrelevant to our lives. How are we supposed to find an interest and connect to something that has no impact on our life?

Meyers really tries to instill in students a belief that math makes sense of the world. To get them to believe that, he turns textbook problems into real world applications. Meyers said that “math serves the conversation. Conversation doesn’t serve the math.” He has students that feel intimidated by mathematical equations and will never join in on a conversation for the fear of misunderstanding. When Meyers turns the problems into real life activities, he gets students talking that never spoke up before. Using various forms of multimedia, he was able to turn a textbook problem about how much water it takes to fill up a tank, into actually having students watch a water tank get filled. He took away all the sub-steps that the textbook asked, and asked the simple question of “what matters here?” The funny thing Meyers pointed out was the fear of checking whether the tank filled up with the same amount of water that the answer key had listed in the back of the book. Did the practical add up to the answer key? I think this is a brilliant way of teaching students, because if they can see a problem come to life, then they will be able to make some sort of connection to it. If only there were ways to do this for every textbook problem!

By explaining math in ways like this, he found his students were no longer averse to world problems. Meyers suggests to use multimedia, ask the shortest question you can, let the students build the problem, and be less helpful. The textbook is helping us as teachers in all the wrong ways.

Meyers said that with our technologically advanced world, we have the tools to create a higher curriculum and he believes that people are hungry for this! With teachers like Dan Meyers, we should all insist on a better math curriculum.

Social Media Connects Us

For my ED554 Technology class, one of our assignments was to create a professional Twitter account (Follow me @MorganGraves37 !) I have been using my personal Twitter for about 4 years now, but I used it mainly to follow my friends and celebrities that I like. I use that account for more of an entertainment purpose and to see what my friends are up to.

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Almost everyone you can think of uses Twitter these days, especially educators! I was talking to my 4th grade elementary school teacher just the other day about twitter and social media and I was fascinated to learn that twitter had become a huge part of their curriculum. The elementary school just created their own account, and they use it to connect with parents and staff. It is a quick way to send out last minute information instantly. For example, the school will send out a tweet if a school event is cancelled due to poor weather. My teacher was also telling me that she uses it to keep her student’s families in the loop. She takes pictures of her students in the classroom or on field trips and tweets them out to her followers. This is a great way to keep parents informed about what exactly their children are doing while at school! I thought this was such a good way to incorporate technology into the classroom.

While browsing my twitter feed, I came across an account @WeAreTeachers that one of my classmates Emma had retweeted. That is the great thing about Twitter–it’s so easy to find new accounts to explore just by scrolling through your feed. We Are Teachers has their own website with fantastic resources for teachers! There are so many helpful tips and links on their website, but one I found particularly interesting was about Fairy Tales. As a future teacher it can be overwhelming to think of all the required lesson planning and on top of that, how to make those lessons creative. We Are Teachers posted an article called “Fairy Tales Gone Wild: 10 Creative Ways to Teach Fairy Tales.” This caught my eye, not necessarily because I have a strong interest in Fairy Tales, almost more for the opposite reason. Sure we have all read the classic fairy tales, but to come up with creative ways to teach them to students seems like a daunting task. Especially since the majority of fairy tales were written many many years ago, it may be hard to relate them to today’s youngest generation.

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We Are Teachers collected tips from teachers from across the country about how the best way to teach fractured fairy tales. They are super helpful, especially for new teachers like myself. They give ideas about how to introduce the lesson, what projects to include, what stories to read, and what discussions to have with students. At the end of the post they also include lists of fractured fairy tale stories to use! This post is just one example of the amazing resources they have for teachers. Without my twitter or blog, I may never have found out about this fantastic resource! I encourage you all to check out weareteachers.com and to follow them @WeAreTeachers on Twitter!

 

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Wordle!

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Today I used this awesome website called Wordle. It’s very simple to use and would be a great tool for teachers and students! You can either type in the words of your choice, or you can insert a URL and it will create this graphic out of words used! I chose to use my blog URL to make a Wordle. I think it turned out so cool! I think these images would look great to display around your classroom, especially since you can tailor it to your needs. A good idea would be to put the class rules in it, or the students names. It’s visually pleasing but informative as well. I highly recommend trying out this tool and making your own Wordle!

Extracurricular Empowerment: Reflection

Scott McLeod takes a different approach on the argument about technology and our youth. While most headlines we see referring to technology highlight the negative aspects, such as cyber bullying, sexting, and a cause of distractions, McLeod highlights the positive. It is easy to forget about all the good that stems from our youth interacting with technology, when we do hear about a lot of bad.

I believe that it is very important to focus on the positive effects that technology has, instead of dwelling on the negative. Of course, it is important to teach our children and students about internet safety and the dangers that come along with it. But that is not to say that we can’t embrace this revolution and show our pride in what our youth is dreaming up and making their reality.

The example in the video that McLeod focuses on is about a 9 year old girl named Martha, whose blog became famous for showing the poor food quality in her school lunches. Other young foodies from around the globe started sharing their photos and comparing what they were being served for lunch. Martha’s blog became such a hit that she was receiving feedback from the famous chef Jamie Oliver. The fact that the internet can connect so many different people that perhaps never would have met without it, is quite astonishing. Within days of her tweeting at Jamie Oliver, she received a signed copy of his book. Examples like this just prove how advanced our society has become. Our world has become a web of instantaneous connections.

Anyways, with Martha’s now famous blog, her school system decided to try and shut her down. The school board told her that she could no longer post pictures of her school lunches. This caused quite a stir, as it should have, and people around the world started advocating for her. After seeing the number of people fighting for Martha and her blog, the school board decided that instead of trying to censor her, they should look at what she’d advocating for. For once, adults were trying to understand what exactly kids are fighting for, and working with them, rather than shutting them down. In my opinion, this was groundbreaking. Martha began to use her platform to raise over $200,000 to help those in need. That is unbelievable! A 9 year old is capable of raising over $200,000 solely through the use of social media and technology. How can anyone believe that children should not have access to this powerful tool?

The point that McLeod tries to make is that if we want more of these children like Martha and the other examples he named, then we have to get rid of our fear and loosen our control and focus more on empowerment in school. Many of these great happenings are occurring outside of school, but it is important to utilize these skills in the classroom. As teachers and educators, we need to think of meaningful projects for our students to work on and give them the tools and access they need to succeed. Like McLeod said “Get out of their way and let them be amazing.” There is so much about technology that comes second nature to this new generation…so much that adults and teachers just can’t comprehend no matter how hard we try. We need to give students the platform to start, and watch them use their creative minds to create brilliant new ideas.

I think Scott has the right idea….What do you think about Scott’s take on technology?

#GenerationLike

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Frontlines “Generation Like” is a very interesting video and was truly eye opening for me. I consider myself very tech-savvy and I use all sorts of social media. However, I was completely unaware of the immense amount of time and thought that teens are putting in to establishing their online profiles. I use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but only to connect with people I actually know or have met in real life. I am wary about what I put on the Internet, because it is truly accessible by anybody around the world. It seems that teens these days were never told to be cautious of what they post, and instead do the opposite. They are now documenting every single part of their lives, whether it is through pictures, videos, or tweets.

Students are being introduced to new technology and social media at such a young age these days that it has become a new way of life. There are so many new terms used by young people surrounding social media, such as hashtag, selfie, tweet, and vlog, just to name a few. These are words that grab young peoples attention and are a part of their daily language. Like the video said, we are apart of a digital revolution that is here to stay. Children and teens are putting themselves out there for the world to see, and are expecting validation and attention in return. The video pointed out that social media gives them a sense of empowerment; it gives them a voice. There are things that could be said face-to-face that might get made fun of, but on the Internet, there is always at least one person that relates to it.

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It is important, that with all this new technology, for educators to try and understand this revolution and use it to their advantage. There are many ways to incorporate the new lingo into the classroom in a way that will enhance learning. Things like “hashtags” are relevant to their way of life, so using it in lessons and exercises can make it so students are engaged and interested to learn.  #learningcanbefun. The video pointed out that social media is all about sharing and collaboration. Kids are helping kids succeed all around the world. This can be used in the classroom as well. Similar to what we are doing in this 554 Tech class with our blogs, children can be using similar tactics. By following and sharing our classmate’s posts, we’re helping to expand their network. There are definitely ways of incorporating similar methods into the classrooms of children and teens.

“Generation Like” really gave us an inside look of the minds of the current teens around the world. We may not know what the next big thing is going to be, but we can fully believe that social media is not going anywhere. If anything, it will only keep getting bigger. As educators it is important to understand what and whom our students are interacting with in order to provide them with the best possible education. If we refuse to change our ways, then we are doing nothing but hindering the success of a brilliant generation.

I encourage all of you to check out Generation Like here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/