Tag Archives: T2

Esquith on Peer Relations

I have learned that before I decide if a kid is truly special, I had better observe and listen to his peers. They are a much better judge of a child’s worth and potential than I. They are the ones who know if the child is nice to play with, easy to get along with, and honest and decent. As teachers or parents, we have a very limited view. Yes, we have a lot to say, but so do our children. (Esquith, 2008).

There is a riveting section of There are no shortcuts where the author describes three students of whom he was particularly fond.  That’s not the riveting part, of course, since Esquith is known for his charismatic, no-nonsense classrooms.  The riveting part is his description of how one of these students later went on to write a scathing criticism of their former teacher and his methods.  The vitriol in this one letter shattered Esquith, and he took quite some time to recover from the blows dealt him.

The portion germane to this week’s discussion in EDU6132 is how completely oblivious this gifted teacher was to the real events and the real character traits of students in his classroom.  The lesson I take from this chapter in the book is how poor a judge the teacher can be of the true peer dynamics going on in the classroom.  That’s the gist of the quote above.

What then is the teacher to do?  All that perhaps can be done is to recognize that a teacher will always see some of what they want to see in the classroom and ignore the rest.  As the quote above indicates, the teacher needs to corroborate any judgment of character with a students’ peers.

The other part I take from this story is the real inability any teacher has to make students like one another.  Respect is a pretty high bar when you see that one young adult in the classroom really does *not* want to be sitting at a table with this other young adult.  You can enforce positive peer relations through rules, but you can’t make a student like another.

Finally, Esquith relates that his class mission statement:  “Be nice, work hard.” was developed in direct response to this episode in his teaching career.  The quintessential statement embodies his hope not only for students and their academic growth but also their character development.  And that, of course is at the bottom of peer relations.  And although we will all fail, we need to see the way forward is growth.

I was no longer anguished about the [three students]; I was upset with myself for not having given them a chance to see a different type of human being. I did not want these children to be like everyone else, but I had never clearly shown them the possibility of a different kind of existence. I was upset because I had been a poor teacher. (Esquith, 2008).

References

Esquith, R. (2008).  There are no shortcuts.  Anchor Books.

This post is also here:
https://weisenfeldj.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/esquith-on-peer-relations/

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April 27 Journalizing

 

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Taking Sides

Issue 8:  Should School Discipline Policies Be Stricter and Include “Zero Tolerance” Provisions?

Yes
Public Agenda, from “Teaching Interrupted,”  Public Agenda.  (May 2004)

No
Russell Skiba, from “Zero Tolerance:  The Assumptions and the Facts,”  Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (Summer 2004)

“It’s almost unanimously accepted among teachers (97%) that a school neds a good discipline and behavior in order to flourish, and 78% of parents agree.”

“Lack of discipline in schools engenders other serious costs as well.  The findings in Teaching Interrupted reveal that problems with student discipline and behavior are driving substantial numbers of teachers out of the profession.”

[type summary of arguments here]

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I think the difficulty here will arise from the inability of one person or a limited number of people to carry out effective due process.  Emotions flare, time is tight, there are many observers, and so fairness is not often guaranteed.  For justice to be effective it needs to be swift.  Zero tolerance allows for sentencing to be quick and to not quibble over the level of involvement in the infraction of all parties.  I do not want to see a school bogged down in legal procedures, but I also do not the education process hindered by a relatively small percentage of those who need more intensive direction and attention.  As such I am probably leaning here towards the yes side.  There are a majority of students for which stricter policies are no issue.  There will be a few caught in the gray area that might have heretofore not been affected.  There are a few caught in the wrong that need to get a appropriate message.

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Issue 15:  Does Participation in Sports Provide Positive Benefits to Youth?

Yes
Jordan D. Metzl, and
Carol Shookhoff, from “The Benefits of Youth Sports,”  eNotAlone (2002).

No
Josephson Institute of Ethics, from “What Are Your Children Learning?  the Impact of High School Sports on the Values and Ethics of High School Athletes",”  Survey of High School Athletes, (February 2007).

[type summary of arguments here]

[type summary of arguments here]

Personal Opinion (before reading):  Anyone who has taken EDU6120 from Dr. Scheuermann knows how he feels (very PRO!) about athletics for students.  Thus I must tread lightly here!  But first, let me give some context.  I myself did not participate in school sports, at any level.  I became interested in cycling first in college and enjoyed a few years of regular activity.  I suppose the PRO side of this argument will posit that competition and teamwork, victory and defeat are lessons that students need to learn in life as well as in school.  Anyone who has ever been the “best” at something knows the elation of that achievement and the arduous path it took to get there.  It takes singlemindedness.  It takes dedication.  However, sports without academics is a powerful temptation as is academics without some sort of physical exercise.  No truly great athlete neglects their mind.  No academic genius can do so without some physical exertion or knowledge of self.  My only question is:  do we need to be so competitive at all levels of school sports?  Is there some other physical activity that does not compete with academics for students’ time?  There was also a recent study

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

 


Teaching to Change the World

Part IV:  Teaching for the Long Haul

Chapter 12:  Teaching to Change the World:  A Profession and a Hopeful Struggle

Personal Opinion (before reading):  This is the last chapter of the book and thus I expect it will be rife with powerful reflection and motivational quotes.  Teachers should be in the game for the long haul, and should go from strength to strength, from success and growth, to recognition and acclaim.  That does not happen in all cases, and the defection rate for new teachers is still significant.  Looking forward to reading the chapter to see if there are some antidotes or preventatives suggested for burnout and frustration.

Personal Opinion (after reading):

I love the quote from Judy Smith (pg 507)

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There was a cost moving from high tech to high school.  In corporate America, luxuries such as fabulous holiday parties and access to the latest technology seduced me for a while.  I love the fast pace, salary, travel, and interesting problem solving.  I learned about business, professionalism, and working with others.  All valuable.  However, that cost, when evaluated in heart and soul dollars, changes.  In high tech, we did not take much time to examine values, biases, and different cultures.  High tech didn’t teach me about human suffering and triumph at the same time.  High tech didn’t expose me to our children and to their critical role in our future and our democracy, or offer intellectual stimulation on history, literacy and politics.  High tech didn’t teach me to be a better human being.  Teach high school does.

This chapter does a good job of highlighting some coping mechanisms a teacher might use to survive in what is admitted by all to be a pathologically dysfunctional career.

 

At the end of the chapter there is a sidebar excerpt from an essay by Herb Kohl.  Here’s another excerpt that spoke to me from Kohl (

 

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[Bonus]  Chapter 10:  The Community:  Engaging with Families and Neighborhoods.

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I am adding this chapter since I believe this is a key topic, and I was impressed in our class on Diversity (EDU 6133) that we were asked to “throw in the kitchen sink” to get at how we might engage families and neighborhoods.  I think some creativity here is needed, and I am looking for some ideas.

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

April 20 Journalizing

 

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Taking Sides

Issue 17:  Is the Practice of Providing Accommodations to Children in Special Education a Good Idea?

Yes
MaryAnn Byrnes, from “Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:  Removing Barriers to Learning”.  National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin (2000)

No
James M. Kauffman,
Kathleen McGee, and
Michele Brigham, from “Enabling or Disabling?  Observations on Changes in Special Education,”  Phil Delta Kappan (April 2004)

Accommodations “can be used to create equal access, not excuses (p.317),” where an accommodation is defined as “an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability (p.317).”

“It all comes down to deciding what is important.  Think about assignment and expectations.  Think about the student’s disability.  If the combination creates a barrier, the accommodation removes it.  The accommodation does not release a student from participating or demonstrating knowledge.  It allows the student to participate equitably and demonstrate knowledge.  And isn’t that what school is about (p.323)?”

“The emphasis in special education has shifted away from normalization, independence and competence.  The result has been students’ dependence on whatever special programs, modifications, and accommodations are possible, particularly in general education settings.  The goal seems to have become the appearance of normalization without the expectation of competence (p.324).”

“The full inclusion movement did have some desirable outcomes.  It helped overcome some of the unnecessary removal of students with disabilities from general education.  However, the movement also has had some unintended negative consequences.  One of these is that special education has come to be viewed in very negative terms to be seen as second-class and discriminatory systems that does more harm than good.  Rather than being seen as helpful, as a way of creating opportunity, special education is often portrayed as a means of shunting students into dead-end programs and killing opportunity. (p.327)”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  Since we used a book by Kauffman in our class EDSP6644 Exceptional Learners, I am curious why he is on the on the “No” side here.  I think the point that will probably come out in this debate is the real value of any type of special treatment of the special needs  student, when we desire to show that they are capable of much more than we initially might expect of them.  Thus, I could see where accommodations become a crutch and prevent a truly equitable classroom.  Can’t wait to read this one.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I see now that Kauffman is not arguing against accommodations in principle, but he is arguing that this special ed system (like any system) can be abused. I think Byrnes side is a well-written summary of accommodations and the general process of IEP and 504.

Kauffman states:  “Like general education, special education must push students to become all they can be.  Special education must countenance neither the pretense of learning nor the avoidance of reasonable demands (p. 332).”

I think this is an good article to accompany the detracking chapter from Oakes & Lipton (2007).  I agree that special education cannot be a holding area for students of whome we have low expectations, or through inequities in the system have lost a sense of wonder and expectation themselves.

[BONUS]  Issue 14:  Does Homework Serve Useful Purposes?

Yes
Robert J. Marzano and
Debra J. Pickering, from “The Case for and against Homework”.  Educational Leadership (March 2007)

No
Diane W. Dunn, from “Homework Takes a Hit!”  Education World. (2005).

The authors quote Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.  Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement.  (p. 48).”

Although teachers across the K-12 spectrum commonly assign homework, research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels (p. 264).

Although research has established that the overall viability of homework as a tool to enhance student achievement, for the most part the research does not provide recommendations that are specific enough to help busy practitioners.  (p. 266).

Article is an interview with John Buell, co-author with Etta Kralovec of The End of Homework:  How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning  (Beacon Press, 2000).

“Buell:  We are not suggesting that students shouldn’t work hard or that there shouldn’t be rewards for hard work, but even work has its limits.  hard work is most effective when it is done in the context of appropriate support and assistance for that work. (pg 271).”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I am personally of the opinion that we might want to turn the model on its head.  Students should view lecture and content based media presentations or do reading at home, and then the class should come in and do exercises and problem solving together.  I wonder how many days of a teacher finding that the next day a student hadn’t viewed the content from the previous night, before launching into the problems that were to be covered that day.  The crushing load of mindless homework without some real learning or group work going on just seems problematic.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I remain convinced that homework is appropriate, that it should be taken seriously by the teacher, i.e. rich comments if not fully graded, and that it should complement the course and not be an afterthought in lesson planning.

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., & Patall, E.A. (2006).  Does homework improve academic achievement?  A synthesis of research, 1987-2003.  Review of Educational Research. 76(1). pp. 1-62

 

 


Teaching to Change the World

Chapter 7:  Classroom Management:  Caring, Respectful, and Democratic Relationships

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I think that if we hope to prepare students for full participation in a democratic society, we ought to practice democratic principles and processes in the classroom.  As far as caring goes, I do think that it is possible for those who understand a concept to help those who don’t yet understand.  I think that it is also good for a student to admire or recognize a good contribution from their fellow students, which is the basis of respect.

Personal Opinion (after reading):

[I didn’t have time to do this chapter justice, let me come back to it momentarily.]

Chapter 8:  Grouping, Tracking, and Categorical Programs:  Can Schools Teach All Students Well?

Personal Opinion (before reading):  It is essential that students learn that there are high standards and expectations of them at *every* level.  The minute you group or track without the express goal of bringing them up to the level of their peers or back on the cadence of the school, then you are shunting those students of on a siding and hoping they eventually go away (graduate).  Schools must raise all boats.  Schools must exercise creativity and resources to teach and keep students integrated.  The alternative is degrading of standards or degrading separation of students.  Neither of those alternatives are acceptable.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I was pleased to find ample support in this chapter of my theory that keeping students together allows the struggling student to strive to meet a high bar, and allows the proficient students to get even better by helping out their colleagues.  The quotes that spoke most powerfully in the chapter were the ones that reminded me that we want a society where all can contribute, and all can succeed and get better.  By building a segregated classroom (grouping, tracking, specializing) how do we expect anything different in society. 

Key Quotes

Spear-Swerling and Sternberg (1996) “believe that LD students and others would be better served if teachers and other learning specialists were allowed to address students’ specific cognitive difficulties, such as in reading, and not become distracted by labels (p. 305).”  I like this quote since it drives home that I as mathematics/science teacher need to master my curriculum and then strive consistently to differentiate those lessons for a diverse classroom.  That is the key first and foremost, labels help but this is the key.

“Homogeneous grouping is not necessarily good for high achievers, either.  In fact, students can become destructively competitive among a very small population of the highest-achieving students—particularly in classrooms that stress individual achievement and grades (p. 315).”  I found this quote as powerful as the case study that was reported from Rockville Centre School District in 1990 where the achievement gap was narrowed dramatically by detracking reform.  I think I will need many examples like this to be armed for parents and others that are inclined to oppose detracking.

Speaking of resistance…”if resistance to end tracking is not caused by racial attitudes, it is indisputable that most resistance has racial consequences (p. 316).”  That is the ugly underbelly of tracking, that students on color and traditionally marginalized populations are disproportionately represented in the tracked classrooms.

And finally I have another idea that I am thinking about pursuing which is asking my principal, school board, superintendent if one teacher could teach pretty much the same kids through a sequence of classes from arithmetic to algebra so that they were all on a track to get to calculus in high school.  I need to know what an innovation like that might be called, but it occurs to me that it has some real advantages.

Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Spear-Swerling, L. & Sternberg, R.J. (1996)  Off track:  when poor readers become learning disabled.  Boulder, CO:  Westview Press.

 

Some Final Items for EDU6133

Here are links to my Sample Lesson Plan Packet, and the Powerpoint for my Presentation in fulfillment of classroom requirements for EDU6133.

Showcase Lesson Packet (Lesson Justification, Lesson Plan, Unit Plan, Classroom and Student Characteristics)

Class Presentation (120 MB PowerPoint, has the movie in it)

Reflection: How does differentiating instruction address the goals of a transformative multicultural learning environment?

James A. Banks (2010) gives a summary of multicultural education thus.

Multicultural education is an idea stating that all students, regardless of the groups to which they belong, such as those related to gender, ethnicity, race, culture, language, social class, religion, or exceptionality, should experience educational equality in the schools. Some students, because of their particular characteristics, have a better chance to succeed in school as it is currently structured than students from other groups. Multicultural education is also a reform movement designed to bring about a transformation of the school so that students from both genders and from diverse cultural, language, and ethnic groups will have an equal chance to experience school success. Multicultural education views the school as a social system that consists of highly interrelated parts and variables. Therefore, in order to transform the school to bring about educational equality, all major components of the school must be substantially charged. A focus on any one variable in the school, such as the formalized curriculum, will not implement multicultural education. (Banks, 2010, p. 25)

To wit, a truly transformative multicultural learning environment is not achieved merely by changing a few lesson plans.  Instead, instruction must be thoroughly differentiated and attitudes and equity-favoring perceptions must spill over from the classroom so that even the whole school culture is changed.  In particular, this reflection examines how differentiated instruction (D.I.) addresses each of the dimensions of multicultural education, in Figure 1.4 below (Banks 2010, p. 23)

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As Banks notes, differentiated instruction is often and erroneously limited to just the content integration dimension of multicultural education.  Content integration is a necessary condition of realizing a transformative multicultural learning environment, but it is not sufficient.  The effective teacher daily differentiates instruction via creative content integration.

Differentiated instruction is essential in facilitating “the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, cultural,  gender and social-class groups (Banks, 2010).”  As teachers plan lessons that aim to challenge and maximize the performance of all students, the learning environment is powerfully transformed.  Equity pedagogy is crucial for achieving a truly multicultural education.  A teacher that believes this in their core philosophies:  that all children can learn, that all children can grow, that all children can contribute to society, that teacher is changing the world.

Knowledge construction is a dimension of multicultural education that also can be achieved through differentiating instruction.  In particular, by designing lessons and interactions that allow student to probe their “cultural assumptions, frames of reference, perspectives, and biases (Banks 2010)”, teachers help students build an understanding of other cultures. By creating space for these other voices the learning environment is transformed.

Through modifications of curricula and pedagogical methods, a student’s racial attitudes can be teased out.  This is the prejudice reduction component of multicultural education.  Here again a vigilant teacher can devise exercises which highlight points where biases are being brought to the table and help students work through them.

However, differentiated instruction does not alone build an empowering school culture.  To be sure differentiated instruction is a fundamental part of the school as social system that Banks (2010) describes in Figure 1.5.

Banks 1.5 De-Skewed

For example, it is clearly beyond the scope of an individual teacher to set school policy and politics, or build a counseling program, or foster overall community participation and input.  And it is especially true that differentiated instruction alone will not significantly change those school-wide characteristics.  However, instruction is still the backbone the school social system.  Differentiated instruction is a major part of teaching styles and strategies, formalized curriculum, instructional materials, and assessment and testing procedures, i.e. other foundational parts of the system.  Each teacher can lend their support to buliding an empowering school culture.

Finally, we have briefly examined the characteristics of multicultural education.  We have also discussed how direct instruction can serve to support most of those characteristics.  We have asserted that instructional methods can either move a given school closer to a transformative learning environment or farther away.  There is still work to be done outside the classroom at any given school, but differentiated instruction is a major factor toward reaching the goal of multicultural education.

References

Banks, J. A. (2010). Multicultural Education: Characteristics and Goals. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks, (Eds.). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (7th ed). NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Reflection: Political Correctness

A] What is important for us to recognize about being politically correct in our position as teacher?

After a brief survey of current and past usage of the term political correctness, I’m dismayed to see that there is little descriptive power left in the term. To be sure, there is polarizing power in the label, but it seems to be devoid of any of its original intent namely to denote

language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious belief, disability, and age-related contexts.  In current usage the term is primarily pejorative… (Wikipedia, 2011).

Most importantly a teacher today striving to be politically correct is inviting criticism.  I think that is warranted since this concept of “minimizing offense” is most curious and seems untenable for real teaching. Poole (1998) describes the positively stifling effect of such thinking.

I object to any form of political correctness–Left or Right–that attempts to limit deep and thoughtful examination of complex cultural issues. …Students become reticent at speaking out or taking positions on these issues for fear of alienating faculty or offending their colleagues.  (Poole, 1998)

In the interest of open discussion in the classroom, I would rather expose the closet white supremacist in the classroom who thinks Hitler was a dynamic leader, or the bigoted student who thinks it is "OK" to condone physical abuse of homosexuals, or the student who just naturally and uncritically assumes that boys are better than girls in school.  I would rather encounter those sentiments in open discussion, versus driving them further underground.  As long as the discussions were civil and conducted with respect, I would not try to censor them in an effort to be politically correct. 

That is not to say that I disagree that words have power, or that words belie potential action (Andrews, 1996).  On the contrary, it is out of respect for words, and recognition that words and concepts can change ,that I would allow discussion on potentially taboo subjects.  These discussions are uncomfortable, and as a white, privileged male, I cannot begin to grasp the breadth of sentiments deeply held, or their profound ugliness to certain segments of our diverse society.  However I would not wink at a euphemistic replacement for the offensive term.  My counterproposition to these beliefs would be the golden rule, that we fundamentally should treat others as we would like to be treated.  That equity combined with the power of free inquiry and free society will cause these ideas to fall flat under greater scrutiny. Muzzling them is not good for the classroom and not good for society.

Personally, I counter all hate speech with "love speech", namely the two greatest commandments. Jesus says: "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."

B] What are the negative aspects of being politically correct in our position as teacher?

As mentioned above, enforcing political correctness for ourselves as educators and students in the classroom tends to stifle dissent or differing opinion that could be instructional. In the realm of moral education Plantinga (1995) points out the inherent weakness of political correctness when it comes to values.

To be sure, the politically correct … are still willing to make moral judgments — but only of those who make moral judgments. They say things like this: “It is always wrong to make moral judgments (Midgely 1991).”

C] What is the difference between being politically correct and culturally sensitive?

Political correctness implies subscription to an orthodoxy, i.e. some agreement on what terms and concepts are most acceptable.  Political correctness can often come at the expense of plain or easily understandable speech.  In contrast, a person that is culturally sensitive is characterized by an openness and awareness of social, racial, ethnic and class issues.

According to Google labs, the term “culturally sensitive” is gaining more usage in print. While it has not supplanted the term politically correct from 1980-2008 it is occurring almost as frequently as “politically correct”, especially if “culturally sensitive” is combined with “culturally competent”.  See Exhibit A.

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Exhibit A.
Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer (2011)

 

References

Andrews, E. (1996). Cultural sensitivity and political correctness: The linguistic problem of naming. American Speech, 71(4), 389. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer. (2011) “politically correct” versus “culturally competent” versus “culturally sensitive”.  Retrieved January 20, 2011 from http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=politically+correct%2Cculturally+sensitive%2Cculturally+competent&year_start=1980&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=1

Midgely, M. (1991).  Can’t we make moral judgements?  (p. x) New York:  St. Martin’s Press.

Plantinga, C. (1995). Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. (pp. 100-101). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poole, D. L. (1998, August). Politically Correct or Culturally Competent?. Health & Social Work. p. 163. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Wikipedia. (2011). Political correctness.   Retrieved January 18, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

Hey Cohort, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and See You in Class!

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Week9 Reflection: Authentic Applications

While reading about Authentic Applications, a reflective assessment strategy, I was reminded of a science fair in which I participated as a grade school student.  The topic of my report was Solar Eclipses, and the event made such an impact on me at the time that I can remember clearly many minute details around the science fair and other exhibits that were there besides my own.  My own exhibit was comprised of a bright light, a globe, and a small foam ball mounted on a bent coat hanger.  I can remember the written report which I had made as well detailing all the notable total eclipses prior to that date.  In particular,  the 1974 total eclipse for Madagascar stands out in my mind (see table below).

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Thus, I believe I am proof that this assessment strategy, in my case a science fair, caused serious learnings and impressions that lasted far beyond the event.

Now to bring this assessment strategy forward and apply it to some of our readings this week, I can’t imagine a more powerful way to teach landmark Supreme Court cases then to re-enact them, in public, in a moot court style.  Students could be selected to portray the sides of the case as well as the justices.  They could be asked to review oral arguments for the case and to present or read them (in an interpretive/dramatic fashion if appropriate).

For instance, this week we were asked to read a couple of historic Supreme Court decisions:

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

One could imagine that a systematic analysis of the Decision and Dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) would be catalyst to a whole host of interesting conversations.  Not the least of which would be germane to current understanding of race relations in this country.  In choosing which parts of the decision to read or set forward in a public portrayal of the trial, a discussion of the merits of the argument would naturally come forth, and a lesson on how to read/write legal decisions would be in order.  This would have immense educational value.  Consider this from Justice Harlan in Dissent (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896)

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a State to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race.

What student would not find their hearts stirred upon reading this document, if not to read it publicly and with a fuller understanding and emotion?

Now consider Brown v. Board (1954), reading the court’s opinion written by Chief Justice Warren, where he comments on the extension of Plessy v. Ferguson which involved railroad conveyance to Brown v. Board which handled education thus:

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

Suddenly I could imagine the students in a classroom would realize that their very education is a right and a duty upon which the whole of free society rests.  Equality in that venture is of utmost importance.

References

Plessy v. Ferguson.  163 U.S. 537. (1896).  CornellLaw

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.  347 U.S. 483 (1954). CornellLaw

Ellis: Educational Challenges

Ellis (n.d.) describes the high calling in which educators find themselves .  I was intrigued to think about the contrast of education in a tribal, non-technological, knowledge-is-static society versus our current modern, fast-paced society.  Ultimately both societies ground their meaning from their shared past and traditions.  The challenge for the teacher in modern society is the increasing and sometimes conflicting demands being put on teachers.

From day-to-day, the teacher has information to impart, against a somewhat ominous background of standardized testing, or cynicism of colleagues.  However, the part that makes it the best use of my time, is the privilege and responsibility that educators have to shape society, one pupil at a time.  Ellis (n.d.) puts it this way:

The purpose of education, the role of the teacher, and society’s challenges all go hand in hand.  To be a teacher is to be a very important person in the process of human and social development.

That shaping of society is a common thread for educators between the tribal culture, and the modern age.  Both had to enculturate youth, both had to socialize youth.  This also means that the measure of success has been virtually the same from that age to this one, namely, do the pupils thus taught become engaged and productive partakers in their community life.

Ellis lists the functions of social education discussing the tensions that may arise between them.

  • transferring skills
  • transmitting values
  • preparation for vocation
  • caretaking of youth
  • peer group interactions

And finally, he discusses briefly the American Experiment, namely the duties and responsibilities of the teacher to relate founding principles of this country, and a notion of its exceptionalism.  That’s a loaded term, of course, but accurately encapsulates what it means to be American, out of the many cultures of the world that make us up, one, unique and different body.  That concept has given meaning to many before, and continues to inspire.

References

Ellis (n.d.) Educational Challenges.  retrieved from http://mountainlightschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/session-6-ellis-educational-challenges.pd

Garrett Keizer, No Place But Here, last paragraph from the chapter “Souls in Prison”

Dr Samuel Johnson 1709 - 84, John Opie RA

 

 

 

Opie’s portrait of Dr Johnson shows the brooding intensity and uncompromising directness of the celebrated lexicographer. His original compositions are seldom read these days, but his observations on life, his contemporaries and English literary have become gnomic and he occupies a central a position in the development of English literary criticism. He was also, of course, a superb conversationalist, and the members of his Club included some of the foremost figures of the mid-georgian intellegentsia, men such a Sir Joshua Reynolds and David Garrick.

 

Dr Samuel Johnson
1709 –84 
1783c.

John Opie RA 
1761 – 1807

image

Keizer, G. (1988). No Place But Here. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 159

Rosie, the Dutch Belt, of Brownington Vermont.

well not really, but at least a reasonable facsimile

A good read, left me wishing for more, or more of me left wishing for time to read it all again and be struck as I was the first time.

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