Educational Policy & Practice
Educational Policy & Practice EDU 201
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Ila Krajcik IV
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Maggie Case Edu 201 1200 12 6 06 My Teaching Philosophy In my experience in public schools no two teachers are just alike Many teachers remind me of others but it is usually not difficult to point out the similarities and differences between two educators My educational philosophy is to have a very equal balance of essentialism and progressivism To focus on only one theory over the other would rob students of the opportunity to learn Students learn in all kinds of different ways so it is important that when teaching a subject the teacher evokes as many teaching styles as possible It is important to try new and different teaching strategies because a teacher never knows which lessons will fall into place with students There are however different elements of the third grade classroom that I believe should be handled with a traditional mindset similar to the viewpoints of authors like Hirsch and Popham Once a student reaches third grade it is time to mature and learn the proper way to behave in a classroom Learning to follow a set schedule learning from a classroom lecture and learning how to stay on task and behave are skills that need to develop in third grade in order for a child to have a successful academic career in the future Without a basic understanding of how to learn and behave in a traditional classroom students will suffer in imminent academic situations It is also important to make learning appealing for children especially in third grade The school work becomes more serious and it is crucial to provide motivation for students to instill in them a life long love of learning Fun interesting and creative activities are some progressive techniques that really draw students into the curriculum strategies that Dewey and Suskind really support A balance of things a child wants to learn and things a child needs to learn is something that a third grade teacher must address As a teacher it is important to remember that you will not be the only person instructing this child In addition to addressing the curriculum to your class you also have to prepare them to function in other teachers classrooms be they progressives or essentialists Located on Cherry Street of the downtown area of WinstonSalem The Downtown School is a magnet school in the WinstonSalem Forsyth County School District There is a lot of interest within the WinstonSalem community to attend The Downtown School every year they partake in a lottery system where they draw names of people who would like to attend the school in order to ll the spots they have available to new students The administration at Downtown along with the school district believed this to be the fairest way of choosing incoming students Usually after names are drawn to choose next years attending students the rest of the names are put on a waitlist The waitlist to get into Downtown holds over one hundred names The Downtown School requires that the families attending live or work within a three mile radius of the school and parents must be available to drop off their children at school every morning as well as pick them up1 Some of the regulations for going to The Downtown School have a tendency to be directed toward middleclass families parents also must have at least one hour of parental volunteer work a week per child The parental volunteer element of Downtown is also major factor in their successful test scores Because The Downtown School is difficult to get into students and families feel privileged to be a part of the school When people feel advantaged to be at The Downtown School it results in more dedicated parents the students are more motivated to come to school which in return 1 Janet Atkinson observation by author September 26 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC encourages the dedication of the teachers because they know they are appreciated2 High test scores at Downtown are in part a result of these requirements attracting a student body made up mostly of middle class students Downtown has had historically very good scores on their Student Performance NC School Report Card so it would be very important as a teacher at the Downtown to make sure my student s test scores were consistent with or better than the test scores of the school In the 20032004 school year for the NC School Report Card for The Downtown School reported that all 45 students in the third grade took the test In reading 911 percent of students scored at or above grade level at The Downtown School and in math greater than 95 percent scored at or above reading level For the school district of WinstonSalem Forsyth County the percentage of people who passed the reading test was 801 percent and for the math test 859 percent In the entire state of North Carolina the percentage of third graders who performed at or above grade level in reading was 822 percent and in math it was 88 percent3 The Downtown school s test scores are above both the district and the state which is a very positive place to be The main point of W James Popham s book America s Failing Schools is to uncover certain things about President Bush s No Child Left Behind Act Bush passed NCLB into law on January 8 2002 with the goal of 100 proficiency in public schools by 2014 In order to make this goal the government had to define proficiency and a means of measuring it Certain requirements had to be expected of schools in order to determine their proficiency These requirements come in the form of tests for all grade 2 Regina Wasserman observation by author September 19 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC 3 Education First NC School Report Cards httpwww ncreportcardsorgsrcschDetails j spPage 2amppSchC0de354amppLEACode340amppYear20032004 December 4 2006 levels A school that does not meet the annual required improvement levels in students test scores is labeled failing Popham thinks that NCLB is severely awed in this aspect Some schools that do not deserve this label undeservingly suffer from it while others schools do an unsatisfactory instructional job and are never labeled as failing When tests are not implemented correctly with the correct curriculum and content students education suffers Popham is a strong supporter of test taking but he realizes the aws in it and the weight they carry in the education of our nation s children4 I agree with Popham s statement of the importance of testing Students begin testing with the ABCs EndOfGrade tests in the third grade North Carolina students are required to complete these tests in grades three through eight So it is imperative as a third grade teacher to address the fundamentals of the testing process as well as the content of the curriculum that will be included on the ABCs EOGs Popham says NCLB is so dependent on the test performance of students it is imperative that the right tests be employed to implement the law With the right tests that is suitable with academic achievement assessments NCLB can accomplish great good With the wrong kinds of tests this potentially beneficial law will end up harming childreniand harming them seriously 5 I found this statement to be relatable to my cooperating teacher Mrs Wasserman She mentioned in my teacher interview that one of the most difficult challenges of being a teacher is keeping up to date with and adjusting to the constantly changing curriculum Teachers work towards the curriculum that their students will be tested on If the information put on the test is the information that teacher s are required to teach in order to achieve passing test scores than that 4 W James Popham America s Failing Schools How Parents and Teachers Can Cope with No Child Left Behind Boca Raton FL CRC Press 2005 xixvii 49 5 Popham 45 information is what the teachers will teach and focus on It is especially crucial on an elementary level that the information taught in classrooms provides a stable foundation for a child s education6 Through the testing as described in Popham a teacher must maintain a disciplined classroom that can focus and comprehend a test but in order to do well they also must have been exposed to a testing situation By subliminally exposing students to testing situations throughout the school year when it comes to being tested on the ABCs EOGs the students will be more at ease and more likely to succeed on the tests Some ways of doing this may be every morning during the morning math exercises a teacher reviews a problem with the class and looks at the problem solving strategies that one would use in a testing situation It is vital that the success of the students be the teacher s main goal meeting a test score requirement should not be what persuades a teacher to be with her students day after day they should be encouraged by the growth potential and progress that their students show on a day to day basis Sometimes success for a student does mean reaching that high achieving test score but other times the construction of the basic foundation of learning is what propels the continuation of the pursuit of knowledge that would be considered the ultimate success The majority of my observations at Downtown took place in the morning from about 900 to 1100 on Tuesdays and Thursday s Mornings in Mrs Wasserman s class were usually very structured Every morning she had the day s schedule written out on the front board and a student was assigned to erase each activity as they accomplished it Students entered the classroom put their coats and book bags away they did about five 6 Regina Wasserman interview by author November 27 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC or siX math problems along with the problem of the day If they still had time leftover they were allowed to play a board game get on the computers or do number of little activities around the room By 900 they were reviewing their morning math Mrs Wasserman sat at the overhead projector and called on students to go to the front of the room and work out the math problems on the white board When she started into the math lesson she instructed the students to take out their math books and turn to a certain page and she would begin the math lesson which usually began in lecture format Mrs Wasserman would write things on the board and call on students to encourage participation as well After the math lesson they would practice their newly learned math skills by doing practice problems in the book Sometimes the students were assigned to work together and other times they were supposed to practice on their own7 Hirsch s theory in The Schools We Need and Whv We Don t Have Them would probably be in agreement with Mrs Wasserman s morning routine Hirsch is very much an essentialist and believes that America needs traditional schools with traditional teachers that follow a clearly defined in depth curriculum Having a core curriculum will be the most effective and successful way of improving education in America s public schools Hirsch believes that lessons based mostly on a lecture format are the most effective means of relaying the core curriculum to the students Hirsch also argues that progressivism is the antiintellectual stating that the controlling theories and curricular incoherencies are preventing students from a highquality education The underprivileged students are the ones that Hirsch is concerned about in his book He believes that if they do not learn the discourse that they need to at home they will be 7 Regina Wasserman observation by the author September 19 2006 October 3 and 17 2006 November 2 l4 and 16 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC taught the cultural background they need in schools Hirsch is a supporter of standardized testing he believes that they are the best way to determine the knowledge the child has of the curriculum8 In my third grade classroom I believe it is important to incorporate traditionalism into the classroom I would not however teach everything in a traditional manner Teaching in a traditional manner is one way for a teacher to relay information in an effective manner but a traditional atmosphere is a way to incorporate the socialization of the students to the classroom ABCs EOGs are given in a traditional testing setting so the more comfortable a child is with the traditional structure the more likely they are to succeed on a test Students need to learn how to deal with a rich in content teacherto student lecture style classroom in third grade but that should only be a small part of their classroom time They still do not have the self discipline to sit still and comprehend and entire lecture For example Mrs Wasserman can stand in front of the class and lecture about multiplication and some kids will be able to follow and understand but those are the very high achieving kids that already know multiplication Other students play in their desks or do not pay attention It is not until Mrs Wasserman requires class participation that the class lights up again and you can really tell they are learning Elementary teachers have to make their lectures interesting and participatory in other words slightly progressive otherwise they will lose the interest of the class Teachers do their best to incorporate their own balance between different teaching techniques that effect different types of learners An elementary school teacher must use their knowledge of pedagogy to engage all types of learners in their lesson Concepts are 8 ED Hirsch Jr The Schools We Need and WhV We Don t Have Them New York Anchor Books a division of Random House Incl996 12 78 176179 229230 repeated regularly by the students and by the teacher to address the auditory learners in the classroom For instance when working on math problems Mrs Wasserman has two different students read the problem before she rereads it emphasizing the key phrases The class usually follows along in the text book or Mrs Wasserman writes things on the board for the visual learners For hands on learners Mrs Wasserman often calls on student to read aloud go to the front and write on the board the class uses some kind of handson manipulative to learn the subject or they do an activity to reinforce Mrs Wasserman s lesson In my interview with Mrs Wasserman she really stressed to me the importance of finding a balance in teaching techniques She also encouraged me to try new teaching techniques that can be learned through colleagues or workshops sometimes a new teaching style causes a subject or a lesson to really click with students who may not have understood the material before I would definitely take Mrs Wasserman s advice in teaching my own third grade classroom9 John Dewey s theory in his book The Child and the Curriculum is almost opposite of Hirsch s theory He has a much more progressive approach to education but he also believes that there should be a balance between what the child is interested in learning and what the curriculum says the child should learn Dewey s leans towards the progressive side with his ideas that curriculum can be related to the child as the child is interested in experiencing different things in their world He makes a progressive analogy between learning by experience and learning through lecture with going on a journey and using a map Dewey says that the map is no good without the journey I agree less with Dewey s progressive statements and more with Dewey s statements on 9 Regina Wasserman interview by author November 27 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC the balance between the child and the curriculum For instance he says Thus sects arise schools of opinion Each selects that set of conditions that appeals to it and then erects them into a complete and independent truth instead of treating them as a factor in a problem needing adjustment which speaks to my opinion on teaching students using both progressive and essentialist teachings One extreme or the other would be most harmful to a child s education10 Creating a balance in teaching techniques is so important especially in lling the gap between the test scores of Whites and the Blacks The largest achievement gap that can be found on the 20032004 NCLB report card is between Whites and Blacks the percentage of students passing both reading and math is greater than 95 percent for whites and 891 percent for blacks There were 67 whites who took the ABCs EOGs and 64 blacks that took the tests as well11 This gap is something that needs to be addressed at The Downtown School The existence of this gap is most likely due to sociocultural and not socioeconomic differences at The Downtown School There is little socio economic diversity at downtown but a lot of racial diversity A teacher s lessons should be interesting and relatable to all cultural backgrounds lessons should be rich in content and challenging to all different levels of learners On Friday Mr Wasserman does everything different The schedule is rearranged they learn in a new or different way there are more hands on activities field trips a special study or a special guest These are the days she would try out some of her new or teaching techniques that she may learn in various workshops and things like that 10 John Dewey The Child and the Curriculum Chicago and London The University of Chicago Press 1990 182185189198 11 Education First NC School Report Cards httpwwwncreportcardsorgsrcschDetails j spPage 2amppSchC0de354amppLEACode340amppYear20032004 December 4 2006 It is good to have a change at the end of the week it is refreshing and sometimes that new teaching techniques or handson activity really makes things fall into place for a student who maybe did not understand something before the other way she taught it12 Students achieve on many different levels at The Downtown School The third grade classroom that I observed had one black male who achieved below grade level and he was the only one in the class As far as the rest of the class went both the grade level and above grade level students were diverse but there were more whites in the above grade level group and more blacks in the grade level group In my observations of Mrs Wasserman s third grade class the more you challenge the children in the class the higher they will perform There are several very high achieving students in Mrs Wasserman s room performing one or two grade levels above their own and by having them in the classroom other students are challenged by them and learn from them At the Downtown school I would not support the tracking system The studenttostudent learning is a very positive element that should be embraced and the higher achieving students should not be filtered out In Ron Suskind s novel A Hope in the Unseen tracking is supported for Cedric Jennings the main character This novel is about Cedric Jennings a black male growing up in Washington DC He attends an innercity low performance high school where he is trying to succeed but the odds are against him Cedric s goal is to go to college He is very dedicated to his studies and participates in the Honors Program at his high school many of his peers do not approve of his academic success Being condemned by his peers only motivates Cedric to study harder Eventually Cedric is able to get into Brown 12 Regina Wasserman interview by author November 27 2006 The Downtown School WinstonSalem NC University where he faces a lot of challenges Once he was surrounded by other students who were at the top of their own classes he realized the large gap in opportunity between his own high school and their more advantaged high schools Cedric s social discourse and cultural background was completely different then his middle class peers who surrounded him at Brown This proved to be a difficult barrier to overcome especially in his more subjective courses Cedric eventually embraces his identity as an innercity kid as well as a successful academic student and seems to be truly happy13 In Cedric s case tracking was necessary The majority of his innercity school was low of a low socio economic class and Cedric was the minority in the school because he actually wanted to learn and go college If he was left in a classroom with the rest of his peers he would not be able to achieve as nearly as much as he did and even what he did achieve in high was not enough to really compete with some of his peers at Brown At The Downtown School however students are motivated to learn and tracking is beneficial to all student s learning A third grade teacher needs to have balance and versatility they have to willingly reach out to their students the ability to challenge all different achievement levels of students and they have to be able to promote lecture style learning as well as studentto student learning Be able to work with colleagues within your school learn new things know your students well talk to their teachers from last year the more background knowledge you have on your students the more effectively you can help them An important learning structure must be cemented in a third grade classroom through an equal amount of progressive and essentialist in uences 13 Ron Suskind A Hope in the Unseen New York Broadway Books 1998 1382