Thursday, February 25, 2010

A shocking experience

Yesterday I had a bit of an off day during my student-teaching experience. While trying to cram the metal prongs from a CD player's cord into a floor socket, I suddenly found shocked myself with several volts of unwelcome electricity. Not sure how many volts, but I am confident using the technical term "a lot."

It was such an odd sensation and so unexpected, that the jolt really threw me from my game plan. I collected myself and carried on ... then later in the day I found myself reading a fantastic music review/opinion I'd assigned as part of a media lesson.

"This is beautiful writing," I thought, "Here's a girl who is passionate about music, and her work is really, finally taking off now that she can express that passion."

... And I read on, and re-read, and then thought some more. I knew in my heart there was no way these words (which I wished I had written) came from her mind through her fingertips.

I dropped a few words from her paper into Google and quickly located her source, which she had used verbatim. We had an awkward but necessary talk about plagiarism, an issue about which I am ultra-sensitive having been twice wrongly accused by teachers in grade school. (Don't get me started).

In all, it was a strange day filled with small setbacks, where I learned to hold it together despite feeling everything was going wrong.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Semantics, technology, and differentiating instruction

I recently had a fascinating discussion with a veteran educator and principal about metrics, data-driven instruction, and coaxing teachers out of their comfort zones.

At the end of the day, it's about how students learn, not about how we prefer to teach, she explained. I couldn't agree more. That's why I incorporate technology so heavily into my lessons: Students are wired to learn differently than in the past.

The reality of learning is changing, like it or not. Even the meaning of words themselves is evolving: For our kids, words are something to click in order to reach more content - not necessarily something to be read and ingested to absorb meaning. This shift in semantics is profound, and needs to be understood by educators if we are to remain effective.

I'm not using technology because of the bells and whistles; I'm incorporating tech to provide more effective teaching, foster better communication with parents, and forge stronger collaboration among peers.

My formal, academic-ish philosophy of education can be found here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Managing class size

A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that "Fiscal Woes Push Up Class Size."

The article quotes a parent who claims we teachers are more often than not in the business of managing kids, not teaching them.

Hmm. My personal experience teaching diverse classes, and all grade levels, across the high school English spectrum is that yes - smaller class sizes are more manageable. But that's just common sense; kind of like my senior Lit class is easier to manage than my Freshman Language Arts class.

A good teacher doesn't sit back and complain about class size; rather, he or she faces reality and adapts. To parents concerned about managers versus educators, I'd suggest that's a false choice. The good teachers I'm fortunate to be training under effectively teach and manage their kids every single day.

Here's a lesson I taught yesterday, that kept my Freshman class of 30 kids busy, bell to bell.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Managing crisis situations

When I returned to school and began a career change from public relations to education, I found a challenging, life-changing job at the Interval Brotherhood Home - a substance abuse rehab center in downtown Akron, Ohio.

My position as a residential supervisor provided many opportunities to interact with a challenging clientele: IBH residents often find their way to the facility either before or after sentences in correctional facilities, mental health facilities, or stints on the tough streets of Akron.

One evening when I was working by myself, a very rare event, a client turned irrational and violent. I soon found myself managing the situation through interactions with center management, medical professionals, community mental health agencies and law enforcement - all while keeping a house of 30 men safe and calm.

Thankfully the incident was resolved without injury to any of the IBH residents including the struggling client, and I came away from the situation with a deepened appreciation for those on the front lines of crisis situations.

Reading List from the LEAD program

Here is a selection of authors and works I've read, written about and/or taught since undertaking the intensive LEAD program at Walsh University.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Business experience: A launchpad for success

Recently I was chatting with fellow clinical-stage education students, as we reflected on our classroom successes and challenges thus far. As I've done so many times throughout this education licensure process, I again gave thanks for my career in business.

The time I've spent as a recruiter, journalist and public relations professional has given me both general and specific tools for success: I've sharpened specific skills such as using technology for effective communication, and gained a better grip on the written word.

Generally speaking, I've honed many abilities central to success in both business and teaching:
Meeting deadlines, planning, communication, team building, leadership, and presence are all gifts from my time spent in corporate America.

I plan to put these skills to good use in education, as I remain committed to studying my new craft and calling with all of the energy I can generate.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Media studies

One of my favorite topics to teach is media studies: Currently I'm guiding a class of sophomores and juniors through a media analysis unit - fostering critical thinking about the media they consume.

A few areas of study for our thematic unit include:
  • analyzing cable and local news for quality of content and bias
  • studying the impact of social media
  • examining the changing role of journalists
  • the role of journalism in a democracy
I'm working to give my students the tools they need to be educated, savvy media consumers in today's age of total media saturation. To complete this lesson, together we're building a participatory blog/online forum, and the entire process is a real thrill as I put my communications degree and experience to work.

As much as I enjoy teaching literature like the unit on Elie Wiesel's Night my freshman class is currently undertaking, or examining the poetry of John Keats, it's media studies and mass communication/new media that hold my unwavering attention.

I've been a student of media since I read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neal Postman as a young man; I now hope to instill a similar passion for critically consuming media to my students.

Update 2.5.10: Was just on the ASCD's blog and I see a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation claiming kids between ages eight and 18 spend almost eight hours a day engaged with electronic devices such as computers, TVs and smart phones! The blog's author asks, "Do you help students manage their media intake?" Absolutely!

(Click here to view a lesson plan from this comprehensive unit)