Alphabet flashcards from Ed-U-Cards, 1970s.
Do your remember in elementary school your teacher would give you vocabulary words on Monday then quiz you on Friday? Yeah, this is one of those books of word lists you got taught and drilled on. Somewhere, first graders did use typewriters, this wasn’t a spelling test with paper and pencil. The course was developed in 1968, and this is a 1986 edition…. shortly after the typewriters were starting to be replaced with Apple // computers.
Flashcards for learning German, 1950s. Achtung! And they felt compelled to make a language that’s a challenge enough to learn the syntax of even tougher by using a High German gothic font for the German text.
Here is an interesting article I came across in The Atlantic.
The story of a Teacher and how we portray our lives to others in the field. What are your thoughts?
I liked Devon. We were all first and second-year teachers in that seminar—peers, in theory—but my colleague Devon struck me as a cut above. I’d gripe about a classroom problem, and without judgment or rebuke, he’d outline a thoughtful, inventive solution, as if my blundering incompetence was perhaps a matter of personal taste, and he didn’t wish to impose his own sensibilities. When it fell upon us each to share a four-minute video of our teaching, I looked forward to Devon’s. I expected a model classroom, his students as pious and well-behaved as churchgoers.
Instead, the first half of Devon’s four-minute clip showed him fiddling with an overhead projector; in the second half, he was trotting blandly through homework corrections. The kids rocked side to side, listless. For all his genuine wisdom, Devon looked a little green, a little lost.
He looked, in short, like me.
Teachers self-promote. In that, we’re no different than everyone else: proudly framing our breakthroughs, hiding our blunders in locked drawers, forever perfecting our oral résumés. This isn’t all bad. My colleagues probably have more to learn from my good habits (like the way I use pair work) than my bad ones (like my sloppy system of homework corrections), so I might as well share what’s useful. In an often-frustrating profession, we’re nourished by tales of triumph. A little positivity is healthy.
But sometimes, the classrooms we describe bear little resemblance to the classrooms where we actually teach, and that gap serves no one.
Any honest discussion between teachers must begin with the understanding that each of us mingles the good with the bad. One student may experience the epiphany of a lifetime, while her neighbor drifts quietly off to sleep. In the classroom, it’s never pure gold or pure tin; we’re all muddled alloys.
I taught once alongside a first-year teacher, Lauren, who didn’t grasp this. As a result, she compared herself unfavorably to everyone else. Every Friday, when we adjourned to the bar down the street, she’d decry her own flaws, meticulously documenting her mistakes for us, castigating herself to no end. The kids liked her. The teachers liked her. From what I’d seen, she taught as well as any first-year could. But she saw her own shortcomings too vividly and couldn’t help reporting them to anyone who’d listen.
She was fired three months into the year. You talk enough dirt about yourself and people will start to believe it.
Omission is the nature of storytelling; describing a complex space—like a classroom—requires a certain amount of simplification. Most of us prefer to leave out the failures, the mishaps, the wrong turns. Some, perhaps as a defensive posture, do the opposite: Instead of overlooking their flaws and miscues, they dwell on them, as Lauren did. The result is that two classes, equally well taught, may come across like wine and vinegar, depending on how their stories are told.
Take the first year I taught psychology. I taught one section; my colleague Erin taught the other.
When I talked to Erin that semester, she’d glow about her class. Kids often approached her in the afternoons to follow up on questions, and to thank her for teaching their favorite course. Her students kept illustrated vocab journals totaling hundreds of words. They drew posters of neurons, crafted behaviorist training regimes, and designed imaginative “sixth senses” for the human body. Erin’s mentor teacher visited monthly and dubbed it an “amazing class” with “incredible teaching.”
Catch me in an honest mood, and I’ll admit that I bombed the semester. I lectured every day from text-filled overhead slides. Several of my strongest students told me that they hated the class and begged for alternative work. I wasted three weeks on a narrow, confining research assignment, demanding heavy work with little payoff. One student openly plagiarized another. I wound up failing several students who, in hindsight, I should have passed. Yet I know that this apparent train wreck of a class was, in truth, no worse than Erin’s.
That’s because I made Erin up. The two classes described above were the same class: mine. Each description is true, and neither, of course, is wholly honest.
I’m as guilty as anyone of distorting my teaching. When talking to other teachers, I often play up the progressive elements: Student-led discussions. Creative projects. Guided discovery activities. I mumble through the minor, inconvenient fact that my pedagogy is, at its core, deeply traditional. I let my walk and my talk drift apart. Not only does this thwart other teachers in their attempts to honestly evaluate my approach, but it blocks my own self-evaluation. I can’t grow properly unless I see my own work with eyes that are sympathetic, but clear and unyielding.
I had a private theme song my first year teaching: “Wear and Tear,” by Pete Yorn. It was my alarm in the mornings, my iPod jam on the commute home. The chorus ended with a simple line that spun through my head in idle moments and captured the essence of a year I spent making mistake after rookie mistake: Can I say what I do?
It’s no easy task for teachers. But I think we owe it, to ourselves if to no one else, to tell the most honest stories that we can. I’ll only advance as a teacher, and offer something of value to those around me, if I’m able to say what I do.
Source: The Atlantic
Share some feedback. What are your thoughts of the article?
“I weep for humanity.”
“Are you listening to yourself?”
What it’s like being a teacher.
Oh hey! We haven’t posted in a while but came across this great post for new teachers on Mashable. Check it out below!
When you’re facing a whole room full of bright-eyed students whose future is in your hands, it’s an empowering and totally terrifying feeling. Like any practice, it takes time and experience to learn your way around the classroom. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a few words of wisdom from experienced colleagues.
A few seasoned teachers at Math for America provided tips that first-time educators should know. But even seasoned teachers could benefit from these pieces of advice.
Be a well organized, fiercely boundaried, teacher-shaped version of you, but be yourself. They can smell a faker a mile away.
Because some days you are going to feel like the worst teacher on the planet. Some days that kid is going to get to you and you’re going to fly off the handle. Some days you are going to want to walk out the door and not come back into your classroom. Ever.
You are going to need to look at those moments that made you laugh, made you smile, made you so proud of them you felt like your heart was going to burst, and made you remember why you signed up to do this amazing, exhausting, fantastic job in the first place.
Seriously, don’t. Because that one time the whole year, where you actually need to yell to communicate emphasis, it needs to count.
Lesson planning will drain your mental energy. Students will drain your emotional energy. You’ll have to channel your physical energy somewhere. Take up running on the weekends or cycling in the afternoons. Yoga also works well, but taking up boxing may be more efficient.
One strategy to learn all of your students’ names is to use their names often in the first few days of class. The more you use their names, the easier it will be to memorize them all. After class, you can use a seating chart and rehearse which students sit at which tables/desks so that you will associate a desk with a name and a face. Teaching becomes easier when students feel comfortable in your classroom. (Obviously don’t make them too comfortable.)
Establish good sleep habits. There will always be something left undone at the end of a day. Make a list for the next day and let it go for the night. If you don’t sleep well, you will have the same amount of work the next day but it will be a lot more overwhelming.
You will need people to bounce ideas off of and to engage in meaningful discussion about pedagogy and classroom management with like-minded people in your situation. It has a few effects: a. It lets you know you are not alone, b. others can see what you cannot, c. collaboration is stimulating and d. someone else might pay for beer.
Nervous about the first day? That’s normal. First impressions are important, but what’s more valuable is how you reinforce your routines during the first few weeks (and months) of school. Choose routines that are short and easy to do. You’ll forget how to execute long routines when you are managing a room full of children.
Learning isn’t instant. Teach students that deep, meaningful learning takes time and effort. Tell them how long it took you to learn something like swimming, skiing, cooking, spear fishing, etc. Students often think that if they don’t learn something right away that they’re not “smart” enough.
Some students may test your nerves today. Don’t hold grudges; tomorrow those same students may be amazing in class. Though they made you angry yesterday, show them your smiles today. Smiling makes us all happier anywhere – it’s scientifically proven.
For the link to the full posting check out Mashable
Below is an article from The Mind Unleashed. Feel free to discuss in the comment section your thoughts!
Most school-aged children had the luxury of a two-week vacation over the winter holidays. Today, much to their chagrin (and probably their parents’ delight), they will be marching (In a straight line, please. Keep your hands to yourself!) back to school where they belong.
They will be back in the hallowed halls of learning, their ready brains poised to soak up education like the malleable little sponges that they are. Facts and numbers and grammar and literature and history and science being dumped continuously from now until Spring break into their minds, tamped down and packed together and ready to be regurgitated onto the test sheets required by state and federal governments for processing later in the year.
I’m cynical about compulsory education (and that might be stating it nicely).
Parents send their children to school with the best of intentions (even if one of those intentions is to get them out of their parents’ hair before someone loses their temper and permanent psychological damage is done which may take years of therapy to unravel). While parents would like to believe that their darling babies are seated in neat little rows behind neat little desks learning everything they need to be successful in life, they may not realize exactly what their children are learning during their long stints behind the closed doors of public education.
There’s a lot more being taught than the “Three Rs” That’s reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic in case you were wondering. That we are listing them as Rs is probably a commentary on the shortcomings of the system, but I digress.
There are other lessons that are taught in the public school system, and none of them will be found in the pages of textbooks or written across classroom whiteboards. Instead, these lessons are more subversive, taught through small interactions with teachers and other students, picked up through attitudes and environmental conditioning. They are lessons that may stick with your children long after they’ve forgotten state capitals and vocabulary words and the parts of a cell. (You know? The stuff they memorized just for those tests and then promptly forgot?)
What lessons? Here are just a few that most parents might not even realize (or if they do realize, don’t think to question. Maybe because of their own standard compulsory education).
1. Obedience to Authority. Blindly. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Arbitrary rules often run rampant in the classroom, but if the teacher (or principal or guidance counselor) demand it, even the child’s parents will probably back it up. This goes for dress codes, assigned seating, and how the students put their names on their papers.
My daughter told me about something that happened in one of her classes. The teacher asked the class to read a selection and then use a highlighter to mark important information. One of the students chose to underline rather than highlight. The teacher pushed the issue, insisting that she use the highlighter even though underlining achieved the same result for the student. So the child, in an obvious act of defiance with an “Ill show him” attitude (because she couldn’t respect an apparently arbitrary rule), highlighted the entire passage. Major trouble ensued with threats and lectures from the teacher about how she needed to “take her education more seriously.” (Translation: Don’t question my authority or your grades will suffer and then you won’t get into a good college or get a decent job and you’ll live the rest of your life a bum on the street… or something to that effect.)
The message is to do what you are told. The outcome isn’t important, but your obedience is.
2. Indifference. Student’s are conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to move from one task to the next when the bell rings. It doesn’t matter how interested in the current task they may be. It doesn’t matter if they are finished or not. It doesn’t matter if they are even remotely interested in the next task. When the bell rings, they are finished. They are expected to turn themselves on and off like light switches.
It’s a subtle message. But the bell system teaches children to not care too much, to not get too engaged. It teaches them that no work is worth finishing. Nothing is as important as the arbitrary class schedule. Drop whatever you are doing when the bell rings and move on. There is an amount of detachment and coolness that must be applied to every “learning experience” with the knowing that there is only 45 minutes to focus, no matter how engaging the subject.
The message is to not get too involved, to not care too much. There isn’t enough time for that.
3. Dependence and the Danger of Self-Motivation. Good students wait for the teacher to tell them what to do. (My daughter tells a tale of a fellow student who got in trouble with the teacher for reading chapters ahead of those specifically assigned in the class-required novel.) The message drilled into our children is to wait and follow directions. Someone with more training, someone more qualified to make decisions about your lives will do it for you. Don’t try to overtly or covertly attempt to make decisions for yourselves (I’m talking to you here, Highlighter Girl!). You aren’t qualified. Let someone else decide what you will learn, how you will learn, and when you will learn it. And if it doesn’t make the authority approved list, it is insignificant and unimportant. Follow directions. Do what you are told… and only what you are told.
Self-evaluation is also deemed unimportant and discouraged. Instead a person’s value and worth is determined by test scores, grades and report cards… all handed down by some third-party observers. Children are taught not to trust themselves, or to place personal value on their own achievements. Instead, they are taught to rely on the evaluation of certified and licensed officials. People need to wait to be told what they are worth. They need to depend on those in authority to tell them they are good and valued.
4. Acceptance of Surveillance. Even aside from the new security cameras being placed in schools across the country, there is no privacy in our public schools. Each student is watched by teachers and administrators and government entities. They are constantly tracked and compared through transcripts and test scores.
Students enjoy no private time. The amount of time between classes is kept to a minimum. Hallways are monitored by faculty. Lunch periods are kept short. Socializing in class is not permitted. Students are encouraged to spy on one another and to tattle, especially in the wake of huge anti-bullying campaigns. There is no time or space for independent or unapproved interaction. Everything is monitored and kept within the tight confines of approved behavior.
To make it worse, piles and piles of homework extend the hours of school surveillance well beyond official school hours. homework ensures that there is little free time to pursue unauthorized activities. Hours spent writing boring papers and drilling math problems and memorizing useless dates can’t be spent developing passions, or learning from parents, or lost in free thought. Homework is the long arm of the school system extended into what should be private time. It’s just another way that the schools influence, manage and direct the lives of their students.
The message is to just accept invasions of privacy. Pay no attention to Big Brother. He’s been watching you since preschool.
5. Truth Comes From Authority. The right answer is the one the teacher wants. That’s the answer that will be rewarded, the answer that will keep you from public ridicule, the answer that will get you passing grades and entrance into the future of conformists’ dreams. What the student thinks (Although, it’s probably safer if he or she doesn’t think at all) is irrelevant. Besides, schools aren’t set up to teach people HOW to think but rather WHAT to think.
My daughter was finishing up some Civics homework last semester when she asked for help with clarification of a question regarding the intended purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance. We discussed it for a few minutes and then I asked her, “So what is the right answer?” She responded, “By ‘the right answer’ do you mean what I think is the right answer, or do you mean the answer the teacher thinks is right?”
Now THAT is a tough choice to make. Follow your conscience? Or get good grades?
Enough classroom squashing of independent thought makes people afraid to think thoughts other than what authorities tell them are “right”.
All of these subversive lessons make large groups of children easy to manage. But the problem is that those easily managed children grow up to be easily managed groups of adults.
Although, I suppose that’s only a problem if you aren’t doing the managing…
Credit: The Mind Unleashed
Alice Jones Webb is a blogger, homeschooling mother of four, laundry sorter, black belt, nerd, free-thinker, obsessive recycler, closet goth, a bit of a rebel, but definitely not your typical soccer mom. You can usually find her buried under the laundry and also on her blog, Different Than Average where she blogs about bucking the status quo.
After yesterdays post, we have an email with an interesting article from Edutopia. I am a firm believer in mindfulness practices. Read below and let us know what you think!
Once in a while, a resource comes along that is so invaluable to our work as educators that I have to share it with you. Meena Srinivasan’s new book, Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom, is such a resource. It speaks to a yearning I hear across our country: a desire to teach and work in a way that is anchored in joy, emerging from compassion, and that is more humane and slower than the way we work now.
What Meena honestly and graciously offers in this easy-to-read book is a roadmap for this desire. She introduces a variety of mindfulness practices and then offers a wealth of resources for how to integrate these into our lives and classrooms. Anyone interested in implementing mindfulness in schools must read this book.
While the lesson plans could be very useful and the quotes from students bring their perspective into this discussion, it’s Meena’s story as an educator, embedded in this text, that I found most inspiring and that makes this book unique. From one of the first anecdotes she shares about how she realized that her mood was affecting her students, I was hooked. I could relate. I wanted to know what had happened to her, how she shifted that very common experience of being a stretched-too-thin, overwhelmed teacher into being something different. I wanted to know her story and the tools she had used. You’ll have to read the book to find out what they were.
In the meantime, I want to give you a taste of who Meena is and what her book is about through this interview I did with her. I’m hoping that it’ll further entice you into reading Teach, Breathe, Learn.
Elena Aguilar: Who did you write this book for? Who do you hope will read it?
Meena Srinivasan: This book is an offering of my heart and my hope is that it will provide tools, resources, and inspiration for anyone interested in bringing mindfulness into their life and the lives of young people. The book is filled with anecdotes and practices that illustrate both the power and the accessibility of the transformational practice of mindfulness. While the book is written from my point of view as an educator, its contents will be useful for anyone especially teachers, caregivers, and those working in educational settings.
How do you think mindfulness could be helpful to teachers and administrators?
The more we practice coming back to the present with kind awareness, the easier it actually is to be present – a vital quality for educators. Except for perhaps surgeons, teachers make more decisions during the course of the work day, and the demands of the classroom require us to be able to have simultaneously both expansive and focused attention.
Mindfulness enables us to connect deeply with ourselves so in turn we can authentically connect with others. Being a principal or a school leader can be a very lonely job and a mindfulness practice can be incredibly helpful with developing the strong relationships needed to successfully lead a school.
The concept of interdependence is foundational to how mindfulness is introduced in my book. Over the years I’ve found it very helpful to reflect on interdependence when working with teachers and colleagues to help us see that our school can only work with all of its multiple parts working smoothly. If one part of the system functions poorly, the whole body of the school is affected. Sometimes there can be challenges between different entities within schools, but if we can remember that without the administration, parents, staff, and students, our schools would not be able to function. We can approach our interactions with others in our community with more gratitude and understanding.
Tell me a story about the role mindfulness has played in your personal or professional life.
Mindfulness enables us to be more responsive and less reactive. My very first classroom moment was very powerful where I said, “Wow, this mindfulness stuff really works!” I was teaching an academic support class at an international middle school in New Delhi, India. My class had students from all over the world. They all had varying special needs and I was charged with supporting them all.
When I shared with my students that we were hiring an instructional assistant to help provide more support for our class, one of my beautiful American boys yelled, “I hope it’s not an Indian!” In that moment my heart sank. I was one of the few teachers of color at the international school and the only expat of Indian origin. I felt extremely hurt by his comment, and feelings of anger and sadness bubbled inside of me.
The pre-mindfulness me would have snapped at him that his comment was unacceptable, but now, because of my mindfulness practice, I engaged in emotional self-regulation. Recognizing my feelings as they arose within me, I paused and took a breath, and instead of shutting my student down I politely asked him why he didn’t want an Indian instructional assistant.
He explained that he found it very difficult to understand Indian accents and this made it hard for him to learn. As he spoke, I realized he had no intention of hurting my feelings as someone with an Indian heritage; instead I saw a young boy who had difficulty learning, a boy who hadn’t chosen to be in India, a boy who was brought there because of his father’s job – a boy who felt frustrated and needed my love and acknowledgment of his feelings. From that moment forward, I made it my policy to always engage my students in dialogue in order to really understand them. I realized that only when I understood them could I truly teach them.
Sometimes mindfulness in schools is discussed as a method to help kids focus so that they can be stronger students, as a way to have stronger academic skills. I’ve heard of teachers using what they call “mindfulness” to help kids prepare for taking tests. What do you think of this approach? Does it resonate with what you suggest in your book?
While it is true that mindfulness can create conditions for learning by helping students focus and self-regulate, this was definitely not my approach in sharing mindfulness with young people. Mindfulness is empowering because it helps us see that in every moment we have a choice; we can choose to be more skillful, and there are concrete strategies that can help us bring more peace, love, and joy into our lives.
If a reader was to take one action based on reading your book, what would you hope that would be?
The most valuable thing we can offer others is our own happiness. The action I hope readers will take after reading my book is to develop a personal mindfulness practice so they can cultivate and grow their own happiness. It’s not always what you teach but how you teach it, and the love and joy behind your teaching that is perhaps the strongest impression you will leave with your students.
Before we can share mindfulness with our students we need an experiential understanding of mindfulness from our own practice. Once we begin to develop our own practice, we will see how it impacts our classroom and our relationships with others. Mindfulness offers a way to tap into the resilience that is already inside us. We don’t need more time in our day to be mindful.Teach, Breathe, Learn is a practical guide for how to bring more awareness, love, and resilience into our daily lives.
If someone is curious about mindfulness and wishes to learn more, aside from reading your book, what do you recommend? Where could they start?
I would highly recommend attending a mindfulness retreat. There are a number of offerings all over the world. I would suggest reaching out to theMindfulness in Education Network list serve and detail what you are looking for in terms of length and geography and you will be surprised by how many options there are.
The reality of every teacher trying to make even a modest go at this profession is a life of almost constant stress, overwork and, at times, emotional exhaustion.
Anyone who enters the teaching profession thinking otherwise is in for a rude awakening.
So why am I griping? I chose this profession and I enjoy what I do.
Well, it is because a storm of new and increasingly unrealistic demands, coupled with a noticeable decline in support from many principals and parents, is contributing to a growing incidence of illness among teachers, including mental illness due to work-related stress.
I should note that teaching has not broken me. But it has broken the sanity and soul of some very motivated teachers I know.
Burn-out profession? A Saskatchewan study says almost 60 per cent of teachers face job stress. (Associated Press file photo)
“I think that the whole idea of teaching has changed in the last 15 to 20 years,” says Emily Noble, past-president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.
“People are dealing with more high-need students, with more multicultural issues and with no-fail policies.
"Teachers want to make a difference, but the supports are just not there.”
People outside of the profession are invariably shocked when I describe exactly what today’s teachers have to put up with.
There is a general understanding that things “are not the same as they once were.”
But many non-teachers still do not understand just how much the moral tone and foundational standards of public education have been compromised in recent years in the name of individual freedom, diversity and accommodation.
The idea of one lesson, one class has long disappeared.
What this has also meant for teachers is the progressive deterioration of authority over students and their issues, while the onus of responsibility and accountability, on us, remains very much the same.
These days, I can’t expect the student who disrupts class, bullies other students (or teachers) and vandalizes property to be disciplined effectively by school administrators.
I cannot set enforceable deadlines, deduct marks for poor spelling and grammar, or set the same tests for a growing cohort of “identified students” as this might harm their morale or ruin their willingness to consider college or university.
How much of a toll are these new demands and loss of control placing on teachers?
A recent study of urban teachers in Saskatchewan by professors Ron Martin and Rod Dolmage of the University of Regina found that 61 per cent had reported becoming ill due to work-related stress.
As well, almost 40 per cent of those surveyed had to take time off work because of stress.
Even more astonishing, though, was that 51 per cent of the teachers in this sample stated that, if they found a viable career alternative, they would leave teaching!
It was no surprise then when the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation stated in a recent health bulletin that “stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological conditions are the leading causes of workplace absences.”
In fact, the largest cost to the Saskatchewan teachers’ drug benefit plan were medications for depression and blood pressure (11 per cent of the total each).
Add to this the largely undocumented group of what I call the walking wounded, those teachers whose energy levels have been sapped so much by all the new administrative demands that they have little left over to give directly to their students.
I have occasionally heard it said that these increasing demands and stresses are a positive development because they will weed out those whose commitment to the profession may be problematic.
But in my experience, it has been the most highly motivated and committed teachers who undergo the most stress and who break down simply because they truly care for their students and, against the odds, try to deliver.
Mediocre teachers, it seems, have less of a problem in detaching their personal well-being from that of their students. And that is not just my view.
“Burnout is more common in the young, highly motivated, energetic, hard-working teacher,” says Prof. Martin. “The people who burn out are the people who pour everything into it without balance.”
Teachers, it should be said, are partly to blame for this problem.
The profession inherently breeds a culture of self-sacrifice and endurance, which often dissuades many from seeking help. The notion that teachers will “always pull through” seems to be assumed in the demands and directives of school administrators.
When I raise this issue with non-teachers, I often hear the mantra that things are tough all over and teachers should “just suck it up like the rest of us.”
Fine. I’m not unaware of what is going on in the so-called real world.
But the difference between what I do and the majority of other professions is that I deal directly with the growth, health, and transformation of human lives.
As a result there is a much more intimate link between my health and mental attitude and the health of my so-called clients than there is in many other professions.
Other grumpy, overworked Canadians may feel a modicum of satisfaction knowing that teachers, too, are increasingly succumbing to stress.
But will they still feel that way when their children start bringing these school problems home with them, because there is no teacher around for extra help with assignments or to coach the school team?
Yes, we have the summers “off.” And some are smart enough to use the time to unwind from all those long evenings marking papers, dealing with school issues and planning classes.
But many of us either work, teach summer school or take additional courses during the summer, all in the name of contributing more to our jobs and to those we are committed to. Some days you have to wonder why.