Category Archives: Education and Teaching

My Dysfunctional Relationship with Teaching

Note: I think this post will address the “length since last musing” question without any further explanation.

Shawn Sheehan, who was the 2016 State Teacher of the Year in Oklahoma, has often been quoted recently as saying that “Teaching in Oklahoma can feel like being in a dysfunctional relationship” (Source). I have been thinking about this a lot recently in terms of my own relationship to my chosen profession, but something happened last week that has intensified my thinking.

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The End of an Era

This morning (well, technically it was yesterday morning, but I just got off work not too long ago, and I haven’t slept yet, so to me it’s still today) I successfully defended my Master’s thesis. I’ve still got a couple more little things to do, but this was the last big hurdle; I’m definitely graduating this semester (basically, next week).

After I found out I passed, someone asked me how it felt to be done. I said, “Amazing!” or something of that sort, and in that moment, it was the absolute truth. After all, my current theme is “DreamCatcher,” and I’ve certainly been dreaming of this day for a long time; making it my reality is an amazing feeling.

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Baked Chicken and Scrambled Eggs: Assessment Testing Run Amuck

This is your brain on testing.

This is your brain on testing.

I’ve written before about how assessment testing in the workplace has altered my point of view on standardized testing in schools. To summarize, although I still think basing a student’s (or more to the point, that student’s teacher’s) entire future on one test taken on one day is, to put it mildly, insane, I am no longer able to base this belief on the idea that testing creates a completely artificial situation in school that is unrepresentative of what a high-school graduate will face in the workplace.

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Thinking and Knowing

Or, “You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop teaching!”

I tutor a lovely international student and her son on Sunday afternoons (naturally, this makes Sunday the highlight of my week). Today she and I had a really neat discussion about Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. I suggested she read it because many of the books she has read and enjoyed in English are more British, and I wanted to suggest something that is very American. We have also had discussions (began many months ago during a discussion of “The Grasshopper and the Ant”) about the Puritan Ethic, and I knew Arthur Miller’s commentary on life in Salem would provide insights into the Puritan Ethic that I was having trouble explaining. I’ve said for a long time that the Puritan Ethic is problematic for me, but it’s difficult to explain how it is problematic to someone who does not have the American version of that in his or her cultural consciousness.

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A Modest Proposal

In which I discuss a sensible, rational plan for making sure that teachers have enough instructional time to cover the standards required while simultaneously insuring that all required testing mandates are observed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about standardized testing over the last few weeks. Part of the impetus of this thinking is that the abundance of standardized testing was a big part of why I decided to leave common (K-12) education (despite the fact that I loved it more than any other job I’ve ever had), and it makes a good “short answer” when people ask why I don’t teach anymore. Of course, that’s far from the only answer, but most people don’t want to listen to an essay when they expected a one- or two-word answer. In a previous post, I discussed the ways in which preparing students to take standardized tests may not be quite as useless as most teachers claim, but I still don’t appreciate how much instructional time they require.

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Teaching and Learning in the Age of the Internet

One of the most interesting parts of returning to school after having taught is in watching my professors. Having spent four years on their side of the desk gives me an insight I don’t think I could have achieved any other way. Teaching is not something that can be explained, and it’s not something that can be understood without actually doing it. That experience has given me a unique perspective on my classes, and I know I’m learning more from observing my professors’ teaching styles than I am learning actual content in their classes.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not learning content – I’m learning a lot of content. I don’t even want to offer any examples, because the two classes I’m taking this semester are full to the brim of information that is new to me. It’s a credit to my professors that I’m able to absorb the new information as easily as I have been. What I find the most interesting, especially as it compares to my experiences ten years ago as an undergraduate, is the manner in which content is handled in the Internet Age.

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*Sigh* Here I Go Again…

The more things change, the more some things seem to stay the same – so much so that sometimes I wonder if I really am actually “growing up.” I seem to fall so easily into patterns and modes of thinking that I had really hoped I’d outgrown, and it’s really becoming disheartening.

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A Chicken-and-Egg Conundrum: Assessment Testing in the Workplace

Every time I hear any news about teachers and schools these days, everybody seems to be worried about standardized testing. Teachers and parents are upset because they feel that the strong emphasis on testing does not help students prepare for the Real World. As a teacher, and as a human being who is concerned for the future of this country, I strongly share their concern that testing is crowding learning out of education. I loathed taking time away from reading and writing to talk about how to take a multiple-guess test. However, recent events have caused me to begin a deeper consideration of the idea that life is not about filling in bubbles on a multiple-guess test. I am not for one instant arguing that filling in bubbles should be an important skill in life, but I am starting to think that it is, in fact, a valuable skill for a person to have.

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A Tale of Two Standards

or, Why I Don’t Despise Common Core.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards in common (K-12) education. Some teachers think it will revitalize the curriculum and return the focus to critical thinking and problem-solving. Other teachers criticize the “one size fits all” model and worry that the skills taught are not developmentally appropriate. Although I do share the concerns over age-appropriateness, there is one part of the CCSS that I think is crucial, and that I hope will remain a part of education in America even if the standards themselves are abandoned, and that is the (theoretical) universality.

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Education: What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know

There’s been a lot of talk in the anti-education-reform circles (specifically, within the Badass Teacher’s Association, which is on Facebook and elsewhere – I’m not going to link, because I’m still deciding what I think of them, in many ways) about letting the students themselves drive curricular decisions, rather than parents, teachers, or administrators. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately (I’m enjoying my summer job, but the mindless nature of running a cash register and stocking shelves does give me plenty of time to think). The main problem I have with it is that, to use a sports metaphor, a student needs a rudimentary understanding of the playing field before he or she is able to pick up a ball and run with it. What common or K-12 education, and even some of what post-secondary education does (or at least, what it tries to do) is to show students a little bit about a lot of things, so that they have some sense of the true scope of all the things they don’t know about.

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