I began my educational career as an instructional aid at the age of 19, I felt like I was working behind the scenes of a school. For five years I worked with great teachers, terrible teachers and teacher who seemed very jaded. The position gave me an opportunity to develop my teaching persona. A year long program does not provide nearly enough exposure and experience for most to decide if this career is truly what they want or if they are any good at it. For many, becoming a teacher is an idea, for some it fits while for others it does not. Teacher candidates should have experience working in the education field whether they teach English in other countries, work as instructional aids or as tutors. Unfortunately, for me, the five years I spent as an instructional aid are for the most part, overlooked. What I feel has proved most useful in my becoming a teacher is seen by other institutions as very much, irrelevant. Teaching is a feeling, an extension of someones personality and character. Once candidates have sufficient experience in the field of education, classes would be focused on tailoring their acquired knowledge into the creation of effective and engaging lessons.
Standardized tests give us a benchmark. The information we can gain from standardized tests can be easily interpreted and transformed into a measure of success and failure. This is great! So, then what is the issue with standardized tests? If we teach students, we will eventually have to test them on what we taught them, so when are we not in some way, teaching to the test? So the question should be, what are we teaching our students?" How many students graduate from high school today knowing how to solve algebra problems by rote, but do not understand math as a way of thinking about how to solve problems?" The issue is that success and failure are decided by a particular set of questions which are often times, questionable because they ask the wrong questions.
1. Wagner, Tony. Global Achievement Gap : Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--and What We Can Do about It. New York, NY, USA: Basic Books, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 22 February 2015. p.93
Carl Sagan is a renowned astronomer, philosopher and who knows what other titles we could give him. His commentary on astronomy and planet earth continues to influence earthlings long after his passing. As a history teacher, I believe it is important to provide a context from which history can be learned. For some reason, historians perpetuate the idea that we are the center of the universe. I begin my school year by showing this video to students. The video provides a perspective few have ever considered. The video provides an opportunity for students to understand how precious our history is, while at the same time gives us a chance to be critical of history through the lens earth as a pale blue dot in the vast Universe. We are all in this together, our history and our identity is not that of an American, German, Russian or Iranian, but it is that of an earthling.
The scene is taken from "Dead Poets Society" where the teacher Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) taught his students to think different, to seize the day (carpe diem) and to stand up for what is right. His character represents the teacher that I aspire to be like. As a teacher, Mr. Keating challenges students to think for themselves; one of his first assignments is for students to rip our pages from their textbook. His character's believes are echoed in many of today's education talks, students should discover information and formulate their own understanding as opposed to reading what someone else thinks. The film was released in 1989 yet the message could never be more relevant to teachers and students today. With the abundance of information available to our students, it is easy for students to "find the answer" which rarely leads to an enduring understanding.
How many points is this worth? How long does this paper need to be? What do we need to know for this test? Good questions mean students are engaged and thinking, whereas the questions above are a means to an end. We need to move our students from knowing a bunch of stuff, to being able to find, sort, analyze and ultimately criticize and create information and knowledge. The communication environments shape information production and consumption. Critical thinking is like setting up that filter or that barrier to the media blast that is hitting us. Michael Wesch believes we must go beyond critical thinking in this communication environment.
I have been a visitor to the world wide web for many years. Although I have had myspace and more recently a facebook, I utilized these platforms mostly as a visitor. Perhaps you could say I was a visitor who had a timeshare which I would occasionally serve as my residence. Recently though, I have become more of a resident, I have essentially upgraded from that timeshare to a home that I live in often. So what was my apprehension? I wanted to remain a visitor because I was concerned with my privacy and my appearance. I couldn't "see the point of flaunting myself in front of strangers." I did not see what having an online presence would do for me, I already had a network of people who more or less cared about me and I about them. Dave White and others like Neil deGrasse Tyson have commented on the issue and have created a new perspective from which I can view Twitter and other online spaces.
It can be easy to generalize the work ethic of a generation. Like generations before us, adults tend to view the younger generations as punks or misfits, and lacking proper work ethic. Look at how the younger generations of our past have almost always represented some sort of defiant counter culture. Is today's young generation an exception? Is there work ethic truly less than those who came before? Has technology made us weak, connected yet disconnected us all at the same time?
Everyone has an opinion about the current generation, Rob Freid a former teacher and principle; "In his most recent book, he describes how school is kind of a “game” for many students who are bored in classes and so give the adults only the minimum required to get a good grade, while craving opportunities to do more intellectual challenging or creative work"(1). Although this is agreeable, is this such a profound statement? Has not every generation felt this way? Didn't Spicoli immortalize this "workethicless" student in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
So what is different today? Kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers, that has not changed. Their interests on the other hand have changed. Many students no longer enjoy the outside world and instead close themselves off in an online world of twitter and instagram. In this world, if it is not moderated, laziness can manifest itself. Students today know that they can find information quickly using the internet; they will do so willingly. Tangible relationships and information are making way for superficial relationships and knowledge. That is saying that relationships and information gained through work and contact are being replaced by "followers" and "friends" and information that can be "goggled".
I have a hard time explaining my opinions on this, my brain hurts now, so comment if you can help clarify my own thoughts.
1. Wagner, Tony. Global Achievement Gap : Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--and What We Can Do about It. New York, NY, USA: Basic Books, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 7 February 2015. p.169