The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner provides insight into several “alternative” school systems. I connected most with the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (MeT). MeT understands that students are unique in the way they think, their interests and their abilities. Instead of tailoring a lesson to somehow meet each students various needs (which is very difficult and leaves “gaps”), MeT provides students with the opportunity to have an education that connects with them specifically.“Instead of having students take classes and maybe eventually figuring out what their interests are, we start with helping every students to find their interest and then build a learning plan around it” (Wagner, 232). This educational system is similar to what I understand of the German education system where students have a choice in their educational direction. Some students move on to trade schools while others move on to traditional colleges. The idea though is similar, give students a choice in their education and you consequently create a student who is interested and engaged in their education and their future.
The New York Times article, How to Get a Job at Google by Thomas L. Friedman provides insightful information on what employers are looking for in their employees. To summarize, employers like Google, seek out these five qualities in their employees; the first quality they look for is “general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q.” It is the ability open your mind and learn something new. The next quality is “leadership, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else?” Humility and ownership follow but with a twist, “It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in,” he said, to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others.” Lastly, “you need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.” In other words, big egos are usually followed by a kind of passion for something, but can you stifle that passions with humility or a “small ego” to accompany you “big ego”? I find the recent criticism of higher education fascinating, are colleges truly preparing students for the world.“Too many colleges,” Laszlo Bock added, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.” Dorms, fraternities, clubs and so on, do they not perpetuate adolescence? I believe I am trying to prepare my students for a career at Google, however, I find some students do not embrace these ideas. My greatest challenge is often motivating my students to care as much as I do about their future.
How to Get a Job at Google
Grant Wiggins tells about the experience and knowledge that a learning coach gained from spending one day in the shoes of a 10th and 12th grade student. The learning coach, also a fourteen year teacher, came away from the experience with a new perspective and thankfully, filled the rest of us in on this new found wisdom. The experience mimics what I believe students at my school are experiencing; not to say that there is an abundance of bad teachers at my school, on the contrary, but I think many great teachers have forgotten what it is like to be a student. Much like the learning coach explains, I often consider how hard I work; planning, preparing, monitoring, standing, walking throughout the classroom and so on, but forget that nearly six hour of constantly sitting can be equally exhausting for students. I imagine most schools operate in a manner similar to this, students sitting in desks listening “intently” to their teacher. Although many of these lectures and lesson are designed by teachers to be vivid and engaging (I myself); the students are often so lethargic from sitting for hours listening, that arguable no lecture, is vivid or engaging enough to lift students out of their stupor. I have always been inspired by Mr. Keating, I thought his portrayal in The Dead Poets Society was that of a muse on the stage, but for some reason, I never realized that his whole philosophy was not to be the muse on a stage. Mr. Keating implemented moments within his lessons to present ideas and concepts but which were always followed by his students doing something. I have begun to reassess my beliefs in what an engaging lesson really means. I am no longer a muse on the stage, once correctly planned, the lessons actually become easier for me as a teacher and somehow, I do less work. While I do less work, students become engaged in what they are doing because they are, doing, and not just listening resulting in learning as opposed to lethargy. Personally, I have always spoke about “learning happens from doing something”, but oddly, I have incorporated this idea less as a teacher than I had hoped; I just thought that my presentations were “so amazing”. Thankfully experiences like the one Grant Wiggins tells about, allow us as teachers to reflect upon our own practice in order to give our students the most meaningful experience possible. We play an important role as teachers of the young, lets make the best of our opportunity.
Grant Wiggins Article
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.