Blog #6- Religion in School

November 17, 2013

As a teacher, I feel that I might encounter some religious practices and celebrations within my classroom. I think that these occurrences may be amplified during times of crisis such as the aftermath of a school shooting or natural disaster. I feel as though some religious holidays may impact my classroom, as well as religious attire.

One thing that I think will happen in my classroom is prayer time for students. I’m not sure right now where I will be teaching in the future but perhaps if I teach in a region where Islam is practiced, I could have students that are required to pray at specific times during the day. I would respond to this by allowing that particular student, or group of students, to leave class during that time. Perhaps if I were in such a community, there would be a large enough population where a student could leave during this time period and go to a room within the school. Also, some students may practice Christianity and may be expected to pray before lunch. I would allow that student to pray and return to their business. I’m not aware of any other religion that requires specific times for praying during the day but I would excuse any student during a period if they need to pray. If it became a problem where the student was excused for a period of time and they were not praying but rather disturbing the class or other classes, I would contact the parent to make them aware of the behavior problem.

If a student needed to miss a day of school for a religious holiday, I would allow them to make up their work just as if they missed for illness. I would not excuse them from the work that they missed during this time, as everyone would be required to complete the same amount of work. This could potentially be a problem if, for example, parents felt that the schools should be closed on the holiday and therefore the student shouldn’t have to make up the work because the school should have been closed in the first place so that the student wouldn’t have to miss work.

During periods of distress students may be more inclined to express their religious views. As long as it doesn’t impact my classroom in a disruptive manner, I feel as though they should be allowed to pray and celebrate their religion. For example, if there is a death in the community students may want to pray about it. I wouldn’t participate but I wouldn’t discourage the prayer.

Lastly, religious attire might be something I would need to address in my classroom or school. During my primary and secondary year, I didn’t experience any problems with religious attire in the classroom. However, when I went to college, there was a considerable population of Muslim followers who wore hijabs to class. I absolutely agree that students who wear religious attire should be allowed to wear their garments. While in college, I attended a seminar about this issue and found that some professors felt that the hijabs were impacting the student’s work. I feel that as long as the student freely and willingly wears the hijab they should be allowed to do so. This may be a dress code violation in schools where students aren’t allowed to wear any head coverings. In these cases, I think that the dress code should be amended to allow students to wear their religious attire.

Categories: EDCI 506.

Blog #5- Year-round schooling

November 9, 2013

If I were offered a job in a year-round school, I would most likely accept the position. To be fair, at this point I might accept any teaching position because I’m very excited to start teaching on my own full-time. But in all seriousness, I would accept the position if I were still able to work ~190 days throughout the year.

My biggest concern about taking a teaching job is that I would work in a system that has multi-tracking. In such a school, students go to school year-round and are staggered in order to utilize the school to teach more students in a year. This worries me because, I feel like it would be easy for administrators to ask teachers to work an extra shift instead of having the 15 days off with their students. This would be problematic because it might cause me to burnout if I had to work completely year-round without having time to plan and take professional development courses. I am the type of person that would agree to work those extra days and then burnout midway through the year.

Another concern might be that teachers would have to revise lessons to make sure that they all fit into 45-day blocks. It would be really hard to teach a half of a unit then have the students go on break. They would forget some information this would cause the teacher to have to reteach. It might be helpful for projects; teachers could send projects home for students to complete during their break. I wonder if this is a typical practice or if it is something that is frowned upon because school districts want students to have a break without homework. I guess it would depend on the school setting.

With that being said, I think a year-round teaching position is good for many reasons. I think it would help teachers develop deeper lessons and have more time to reflect on struggles they may be having in classes. During a typical school year, teachers don’t have much time to reflect on their teaching strategies. Teachers see the students almost 4 months before they have time to catch a breather and analyze what’s going on in their classrooms. Given 15 days to recharge might allow them time to understand how a particular class perceives the information. For example, the teacher may be used to lecturing with notes on the board for the first 30 minutes of class then giving students a worksheet. However, the classes that they have in different year might prefer or need a more hands on classroom or technologically driven classroom. The teacher could potentially revamp her lessons in 15 days to add hands on lessons.

Another benefit would be that students have less time in between school years to forget information. Students would come into a new grade with only a month of time before one grade and the next. This might provide more accountability between teachers and promote more grade-to-grade communication between teachers.

Year-round schooling might be beneficial in the accountability testing structure too (not that I agree with over testing of students). Schools could schedule SOLs for a time period right before schools lets out for a break then when the scores are received they could review with that class the information that was missed. Then, perhaps, testing could be used as more of a teaching tool. Students could go over the results with the teacher that actually taught them the information. Of course, this would mean that schooling would have to be scheduled around testing in a way that students would be able to take tests before a break and stay with that teacher afterwards for another period of time. I’m not actually sure if this would work because then the content may be squished into a shorter period of time.

There might be some kinks in both the year-round schooling and typical schooling, but I believe that both have positive attributes as well. Also, I think it would be really nice to have 15 days vacation to look forward to every 45 days or so.

Categories: EDCI 506.

Blog #4- Budget

October 25, 2013

Dear Faculty, Staff, Parents, and Students,

 

Recently, due to economic difficulties, our school district has been faced with the complex task of cutting 20% of our budget. This is a devastating loss. Wonderland County Public Schools has been forced to make decisions about the fiscal budget. These decisions were not taken lightly. Many students will be affected by our lack of funds but we at Wonderland County Public Schools will prevail. Included in this document is a list of programs that will have to be modified or cut in order compensate for the direct loss of funds.

 

The first major cut will involve library resources. As many periodicals and journals are available online through websites and databases, the budget for periodicals and journals will be cut by 50%. In maintaining students’ access to resources we will not cut academic technology which will allow students the opportunity to access such resources available online. Some print sources will not be renewed for the 2014-2015 school year. This includes a cut to textbook adoption; Wonderland County Public Schools will cut the spending budget for new textbook by 80%. Although this may seem drastic, many teachers have expressed that they use many different resources besides the textbooks to deliver instruction. We expect the budget to be restored to a higher level next year and believe that all new textbooks can be held off during this fiscal year.

 

Next, field trip funds will be cut entirely for the 2014-2015 school year. This lack of hands-on instruction will be difficult, we believe that our faculty and staff are so creative and innovative that they will be able to find a way to supplement the lack of funding for field trips. This does not mean that schools will be unable to go on field trips. This cut just means that direct funds will not be available. Students and teachers alike will be able to come up with ways to raise funds to go on field trips.

 

One of the divisions that will be cut deeply by our shortage of funds will be Student Services. We have decided to maintain summer school, preschool special education, positive behavior support, and the Parent Resource Center. Some programs that will see cuts are athletic/recreation programs, student activity bus, and after-school programs. Once again, we believe in our staff and students and know that they will triumph. Athletic programs will not be able to buy such things as new jerseys and may have less staff members available to coach teams but with marketing of school games they may be able to make up for some of the cuts. The student activity bus, while very helpful for many students and parents, will be removed entirely for this year. We will revisit this as funds allow.

Unfortunately, tuition reimbursement for teachers will be cut by 50% and staff development will be cut by 60%. This was a difficult decision as we pride ourselves on our well-developed and educated staff. If funds become available, we will revisit the idea of reimbursing teachers for these expenditures. However, we found that it might be more helpful to maintain jobs for teachers rather than allow for reimbursement for some teachers and job cuts for others.

With that being said, we will not cut any teacher, instructional aide, maintenance, library, office, part-time employee, or custodial staff positions. We value each and every one of you. While this year will be tough, we want to preserve jobs although this does mean cuts in key areas. We know that Wonderland County Public Schools will overcome.

 

Regards,

 

Alisha Abrams

Superintendent

 


 

Points

20% cut

Protect instructional staff
Avoid layoffs of core content teachers*

10

10

Avoid layoffs of special subject teachers**

10

10

Avoid cuts to health benefits

6

6

Protect Staff
Teacher instructional aides

5

5

Full-time office staff

5

5

Part-time employees

3

3

Limit reductions to the library
Staff

3

3

Books

5

5

Periodicals/Journals

4

2

Protect Building Services
Custodial staff

3

3

Building repair and maintenance

4

4

Protect Learning Resources
Academic technology

5

5

Textbook adoption

5

2

Teacher Instructional Budget***

5

5

Field trips

5

0

Protect Faculty Services
Employee tuition reimbursement for college courses taken for license renewal or advanced degree

4

2

Staff development for teachers – workshops, support to attend conferences, etc.

5

3

Protect Student Services
Athletic/recreation programs

5

2

Student activity bus

2

0

Parent Resource Center

2

2

Positive behavior support

2

2

Preschool special education

3

3

Summer school

4

4

After-school programs

5

2

TOTAL

110

88

 

 

 

 

***This is a fictional school district and fictional plan.

Categories: EDCI 506.

Blog #3: The Story of American Education

September 14, 2013

To what extent did the American system of education succeed or fail at becoming the “great equalizer”?

The American system of education is a work in progress. As I was watching the video, “The History of American Education”, I kept thinking that with each group of folks that gained access to the schools in the United States there were still more groups that were waiting for admittance. The video shows the successes throughout the history of the American school system while also touching upon the many others that were unable to obtain the same level of education as others around them.

From the beginning, American schools were excluding certain groups of people. In order to actually equalize the country, everyone should have equal access to education. I believe we must understand, as a nation, that excluding people based on the religion, race, gender, financial status or any other factor does not create an equal society but rather underscores the idea.

In the video, some of the groups that were unable to obtain access to education in the beginning of our nation were slaves, women, and poor people. This left a great deal of the population unable to attend school at all. This automatically creates a gap amongst people within the nation. Thomas Jefferson believed that in order to maintain a democracy all citizens should be able to attend school yet many folks were left out of the citizen portion of his statement. People that were uneducated to some degree were left defenseless when their children reached the age of understanding; they were unable to educate their children. Meaning that the gaps increased.

Black Americans were unable to attend school. White Women were only able to attend for three years to prepare for marriage. Poor people didn’t have the means to send their children to school. These were all major problems. As these groups fought to obtain their right to an education, many others such as Irish immigrants were alienated at school for their religious beliefs. Native Americans were stripped of their identity and sent to school to learn an unfamiliar religion. Throughout history many groups have been ostracized from American education system. But is the American system of education “the great equalizer”?

I believe that the system is a “great equalizer” as people become more educated it creates a more equal society where everyone has the right and free access to learning. However, I believe there is still work to be done in order to pursue the objective. For example, many parts of our country have underperforming schools, should the location of home that children live in determine their degree or quality of education? I don’t believe so. There are still parts of the country where socioeconomic status has more impact on a child’s learning than their ability to interpret and comprehend information. In summary, I believe that the American system of education is a great foundation for equalizing the nation but there is a still work to be done to ensure that all students receive a quality education and equal access to the American Dream.

Categories: EDCI 506.

Blog #2- Professional Goals

September 8, 2013

My professional goals for the future, as an educator, are to focus on the learners that I have in my classroom and continue to adapt and grow in order to promote an innovative classroom environment. I would like to focus on fostering creativity in the classroom, promoting the use of technology amongst all students, and personalize learning so that each student is able to succeed.

I would like to stimulate creativity in the classroom. It is becoming more and more important that students utilize the information that they learn. Instead of passively learning say the state capitals of the United States, which is information that can be quickly found using the internet, it is important for students to understand why there are state capitals in the first place. Creativity in the classroom takes information a bit further perhaps by having students create a capital of an imaginary state in which they show why they put particular buildings close together, how they would setup a government in their location, and creating an interactive map of their city. In order to be able to do this task, students must first be armed with knowledge about state capitals, government, geography and more.

Technology is imperative to learning in a 21st century environment. Students must be able to utilize technology in order to be relevant in today’s world. Therefore one of my professional goals is to promote the use of technology in my classroom. I would like to use technology in innovative ways in order to keep up with the flow of information in the world. I want my students to learn to use technology effectively and be able to recognize the difference between quality information and biased information.

I would like to promote personalized learning for students in order to develop each student’s needs, interests, and goals. To do this I want to create a classroom, “that empowers every learner to take ownership of their learning, that emphasizes the learning of content and application of knowledge and skill to real world problems, that values the differences each learner brings to the learning experience, and that leverages rapidly changing learning environments by recognizing the possibilities they bring to maximize learning and engage learners” (Council of Chief School Officers, 2011). I believe it is important to develop personalized learning because there is so much information available through the Internet; it would be beneficial to capitalize on each students needs and interests to help them become the best they can be. When it comes down to it, the learners are why educators work in the first place. In order to make education work for all students it is important to figure out their personal needs and work with them. According to InTASC standard number 1, “The teacher understands how learners grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences” (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2011). Teachers should focus on creating challenging experiences for the particular learner.

In this post I have included my lofty goals for the future of my career but I would also like to touch on my pragmatic goals. I would like to foster a safe environment for my students in which they are actively involved in their education. I want to take continuing education classes to keep up with current knowledge in the special education field. I intend on learning about the lives of each and every one of my students, figuring out their likes and dislikes. I want to keep in touch with my students as well.  I hope to be involved in professional organizations and attend conferences in my subject area.

Coffman, T. (2013). Designing instruction for creative thinking. In Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students (19-34). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

 

Council of Chief State School Officers (2011). InTASC model core teaching standards: a resource for state dialogue. Retrieved from http://www.ccsso.org/documents/2011/intasc_model_core_teaching_standards_2011.pdf

Categories: EDCI 506.

Blog #1: Engaging Students for a New School Year

August 31, 2013

There are several experiences from my years in grade school and college that will influence how I engage with my students in my future classroom during the first week to create a community of learners. I’ve also talked to many teachers who have given me pointers about the beginning of the school years.

One bit of advice that a teacher friend recently mentioned to me was to never smile before winter break. Wow! That sounds a bit harsh. The teacher that told me about this is probably one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met so it really surprised me that she said something like that. I guess I gave her a surprised look because she went into an explanation about the motto. It basically means that for the first bit of school, teachers should be firm and stand their ground with students so that they understand their limitations. It actually makes a lot of sense to me probably because I had a similar experience with a teacher during high school.

My very first high school English class scared me. I walked in on the first day and although I can’t remember exactly what the teacher said, she pretty much told all of us students that she would throw away our papers if they didn’t have 1 inch margins, Times New Roman font, and perfectly constructed MLA format papers. I don’t think she ever threw away a paper all year; it was definitely a scare tactic.

I don’t believe that I will scare my students on the first day. Nonetheless, I do think that setting up a classroom management plan before the first day of class is important. Rules and regulations are important for a classroom and students need to understand these rules. However, I want to set up a warm and welcoming environment for my students. During my grade school years, I remember my teachers making us introduce ourselves but I don’t remember them sharing their life experiences with the class. It wasn’t until I reached college that professors began explaining their history, experiences, goals, and mistakes with the class. I remember my grade school teachers being very guarded about their lives outside of school.

When I become a teacher I would like to introduce myself and explain my journey. Although some students may be bored and seriously not care about my past, I feel as though others will understand that I am a person too instead of someone in an ivory tower.

Categories: EDCI 506.