Education 225 - Handbook Entries Forum


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Forum purpose
Name:
Date: 2005-01-19 09:52:33
Link to this Comment: 12102

Dear Students,

Through this forum we will create a handbook on the theory and practice of extra-classroom teaching. Over the course of the semester, you will need to post three different texts to this forum and to read the postings of others. As explained in the syllabus, the first post will be early notes on a critical issue in tutoring and/or mentoring that you would like your entry to explore. The second post will be a draft of your entry. At this point, we will invite other practitioners to read and comment on the drafts, creating an opportunity for peer review. The third post will be the final handbook entry text; I will assemble and edit these to be "published", and hopefully of use to others, online. Reading others' texts is as important as posting your own. In this way we will be able to make use of the web as a collaborative space. Please remember to observe confidentiality and privacy in all of your statements on Serendip, as it is public.

Sincerely,
Alice


first entry
Name: Xuan-Shi,
Date: 2005-02-20 20:35:52
Link to this Comment: 13045

My proposed topic is "learning/knowing how to praise a learner." To encourage or motivate a child, we often use praises. At my placement, I have realized that it can be difficult to know what to praise a child about in his or her work, especially when I do not have sufficient knowledge on how to teach that subject (writing, in this instance). Knowing how to write and having an awareness of the difficulties one may encounter in the process of writing is different from teaching writing to a child, just as content knowledge is different from pedagogical content knowledge. On previous occasions, I have tried to increase my vocabulary of "praise words" beyond the usual clichés. Now, I question whether it is necessary to praise a child each time he or she shares a piece of work with me. Sometimes, we may be too anxious or eager to affirm a child. Consequently, we shower the child with general praises, which the child may perceive as insincere comments. What are the things a tutor should keep in mind while praising a child so that the child feels that the tutor is acknowledging his or her efforts/work? How should praises be interweaved with constructive feedback so that the child feels motivated to improve or revise his or her work? One may think that it is best to find something specific in the child’s work to praise him or her about. However, is it possible for the tutor to help a child praise his or her own work? How can a tutor teach children to appreciate one another’s work and provide encouragement and feedback to one another? Because how we praise a child may also affect his or her attitude towards learning (intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, performance/grades vs. learning), I feel that this is an issue that needs to be addressed explicitly.



Name: Elena
Date: 2005-02-21 20:47:49
Link to this Comment: 13079

My topic idea is 'learning how to be an effective classroom aide and what should classrooms aides be required to know?'. While I have been on-site so far I have met two classroom aides and one TSS who work in the same classroom at different points during the day, and each aide has their own way of doing things. Some seem effective while others seem to be problematic. I do not know what prior training each aide has, although I am fairly sure that training is required for the TSS. The other two aides have very differnt ways of dealing with both the students and the teacher. I am interested in this because I am now working in an aide like role and helping two students with their reading. To prepare myself I have gone over books that deal with teaching reading as well as read a book given to me by the classroom teacher I am working with, but I am not sure what more to do and if I have been doing the right things. Thus I would like to look into what makes a good class room aide and then go about working to become one.



Name: Rachel Fra
Date: 2005-02-22 23:25:10
Link to this Comment: 13148

I am exploring how I can allow for a student-centered classroom that will be productive and goal(s) of the teacher. How do you not completely lose control of the class? Do students still take you as teacher/tutor seriously because teaching and learning is not presented in the traditional format? How do you allow student learning to be about the students without the hierarchical structure of teacher-student? In every classroom or extra-classroom setting I make the effort to ask my students their personal and academic interests to engage them in the teaching material. The level of interest in the class allows knowledge to be transformative in both academic and social settings, a fusion of the two. And if students become engaged with the material how do I assess the learner and myself as the teacher? Students are socialized to believe teaching and learning is done in a specific traditional fashion restricted and limited to the classroom, I attempt to explore that and possibly effectively break that mind set down.



Name: Allison J.
Date: 2005-02-23 17:23:24
Link to this Comment: 13182

My proposed topic is the exploration of the impact of WHO is teaching WHOM. From the first day I started my placement the word “empowerment” was used not to describe the impact of the course material, but rather impact of the student teachers. Many parents as well as coordinators commented that it was beneficial for the students to have teachers “just like them.” I’d like to explore the importance of who is teaching and where. Does the race/gender/sexual orientation of the teacher matter to the student? Much of my teaching has been with students with backgrounds similar to mine and I have found it easier to get them to talk to me not only about school work but also about issues that may affect their school work. Is it appropriate to relate to students on personal levels? Does the importance of “role models” change depending on the students you are teaching? Does the importance of "role models" vary depending on the course material? Is this even important for the students, or is it more of an issue for the teachers and parents?


Teaching Adults
Name: Amie Clair
Date: 2005-02-23 20:22:59
Link to this Comment: 13191

I propose to discuss the differences in teaching adults vs. children. All the topics mentioned so far, including praise and student-centered classrooms take a different tone with adults because they are generally more aware of insincerity and what a teacher is trying to accomplish. Also the automatic power structure inherent in an older teacher-young student environment is levelled or even reversed when the students are adults. This topic could be important for anyone teaching continuing ed, adult language courses, teachers, museum attendees, citizenship courses, employee training, and probably many other situations.



Name: Christina
Date: 2005-02-24 07:58:09
Link to this Comment: 13201

The topic I plan on exploring deals with how extra-classroom teachers can assess the effectiveness of their own teaching. Most extra-classroom teachers, if not all, are in a very unique position when it comes to the assessment of their teaching quality. Unlike many professional educators, they are rarely in a situation where it is established that periodically someone else (whether it be the supervisor, the learners or another extra-classroom teacher) will assess their efforts. Often extra-classroom teachers do not know how their learner(s) is fairing grade-wise in school since they have started working with the learner, so extra-classroom teachers can not even indirectly gauge the effectiveness of their efforts that way. So all this indicates to me that it is primarily the duty of the extra-classroom teacher to assess herself. But how? What specific approaches are practical in what contexts? Also, which underlying theories about education and learning are most helpful when it comes to thinking about assessment and self-assessment? What are those theories’ limitations when applied to the field of extra-classroom teaching and how does one overcome them to still make the theory workable? I know that texts like Ethnographic Eyes provide some insight and direction on the topic of assessment but my real aim is to try my own hands at overcoming that gap between theory and real-world application.



Name: Heather Da
Date: 2005-02-24 11:50:05
Link to this Comment: 13207

In my placement we are exploring with a high school class different uses of language. The text we began with discussed the use of "Standard English" and "Black English." I am a white person, and all of the students are Black. When discussing this article, there was hesitation on all of our parts. We could not enter this article together. I didn't want to tell them how they speak, and it seemed like they were resistant to the term "Black English." I'm not sure exactly what my question is, but I would like to explore the issue of race within the classroom, especially the dynamic I am in. Does lack of shared experience mean that we will be unable to deeply explore these issues? Is there a way to turn this "diversity" into something productive?
Another issue that is coming up in my other, special ed, class is the different levels of ability. I bring a text to class, and ask for volunteers to read it because I don't want to embarass or humiliate those that aren't able to read or read as well. And the same half of the class volunteers. How do I get the other half of the class engaged without making them read publicly? I thought about breaking them up into groups and having them read to each other, but I'm not sure who would feel comfortable reading together, or if they would get the reading accomplished. I think having mixed-ability classrooms is important, but it is a hard thing to know how to do right.


Preliminary Notes for Handbook
Name: Caitlin O'
Date: 2005-02-24 12:09:17
Link to this Comment: 13208

The issue I am interested in exploring relates to the classroom as a forum and community for sharing. In her discussion of equitable teaching and learning as they relate to lanuage in the classroom, Linda Darling-Hammond suggests that "shared knowledge and experience is essential to the creation of equitable schools." The idea of the classroom as a community where the input of every individual is welcome and included extends to both students and teachers. How does a teacher's curriculum and pedagogical approach allow for sharing to occur? How can teachers work together as a community to share strategies that do and do not work to build community in the classroom? What keeps teachers from sharing with each other and does this in turn affect whether students share with each other? My limited experience as a student teacher has suggested to me that the more a teacher values input from other teachers (and learners), the harder the teacher will work to facilitate the same type of sharing community within the classroom. As I continue to explore the idea of sharing within and across communities, I hope I will develop a richer understanding of how sharing can be constructed in the classroom, who should initiate sharing, and the possible impact of sharing knowledge within a communutity.



Name: sky
Date: 2005-02-24 12:48:41
Link to this Comment: 13209

I would like to explore the question of engaging students who expect a traditional experience in a non-traditional learning environment. My placement is the unique and unusual intro physics lab here, and many of my students were (or are) uncomfortable with the change from a traditional classroom or science lab atmosphere to the vastly different, apparently chaotic set-up of our lab. How do we, as teachers, tutors, TA's or mentors, get the students to "buy into" the system when it isn't the system they expect? How do we engage learners in a situation that may be frighteningly new and strange? How do you convince a student who has spent up to sixteen years learning something like science in a particular way that not only is there another way to learn, but that it might be better? How do we get the students to take our lab seriously when it's not traditionally structured, not graded, not the amount of "work" they are used to? How do you actually use an emergent pedagogy, and get the students (especially the reluctant learners) to get involved enough for it to work? I have been asking myself this all semester, and talking to my students about what they think and how they feel about the lab. A lot of our class readings have touched on the philosophies behind the lab set-up, but I would like to know how it's put into practice.


Transmition of Community
Name: Becky
Date: 2005-02-26 11:16:33
Link to this Comment: 13233

Although I am still being drawn in other directions, I think I have finally chosen my topic! I would like to explore how academic communities (like our colleges) directly and indirectly transmit their communities, from their values to their standards to their "personalities".

What does it mean to "educate" someone in community standards and values? How much should/can a community dictate the shape of its incoming members and how much should/must it allow itself to be shaped by its evolving individual composition? Does/how does community support and education support academic learning? These are some of the quesitons I hope to explore...


role models
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-03-02 09:27:01
Link to this Comment: 13339

I would like to piggyback on Allison’s proposed topic because it speaks to my own thoughts about being an extra classroom teacher, and how I, as a woman of color, might positively (or negatively?) affect students in the classroom. Allison notes “I’d like to explore the importance of who is teaching and where. Does the race/gender/sexual orientation of the teacher matter to the student?” I hope to further explore and add to this discussion. I am particularly motivated by the words of Cherrie Moraga, who recently spoke at BMC and noted that there is a need for a new radical voice(s) for people of color especially when it comes to education.


On Becoming an Effective Praiser
Name: Xuan-Shi,
Date: 2005-03-24 00:29:45
Link to this Comment: 13953

As a tutor assisting first graders with their writing, one of the difficulties I have experienced is not knowing how and what to praise. In my fieldwork, I offered general praises for a variety of purposes: to encourage or motivate a child, to express admiration for a piece of work, to recognize a child's efforts, to draw a child's attention to the useful strategies that he or she used. Consequently, I felt it was necessary to expand my vocabulary of praises to go beyond the usual "good job" and "well done." I assumed that my praises would achieve their desired positive effect, and that the child would understand my intentions. In addition, I expected the child to beam with joy upon receiving praise and experience an elevation of self-confidence. I naively thought praise could only induce good feelings in the child. However, the children I have worked with led me to reexamine my ideas about praise. By speculating on the diverse ways in which my praises could have been interpreted by the recipient, I hope to underline some important considerations that would help tutors refine their skills in delivering effective praise.

On one occasion, my tutee rejected my praise about her writing. When I said, "You are getting good at this," Lena replied, "That's not true." I was taken aback by her blatant objection, which also made me feel like a liar. I expected the child to savor, rather than reject, my praise. I realized that if I had meant to acknowledge Lena's effort and provide encouragement, then my praise must be more specific, referring to particular aspects of the child's performance (Brophy, 275). If I had wanted Lena to be aware that she is showing improvement and making progress towards mastery, then my praise should contain these elements: the standards which I use to evaluate the child, the things she did that define or promote performing well and thus her attainment of those standards, and my expectations for the child in that particular context (Henderlong & Lepper, 786). For example, I could say to Lena, "I am glad that you remember to capitalize the first word of your sentence and leave a space after each word."

Because I did not know Lena well enough, I should not have alluded to her progress. Consequently, my praise was as an evaluation. Brophy proposes that one should praise children only when it is likely that they view their accomplishments as deserving of praise, or when they would recognize their performance when it is pointed out (276). Assuming that children are capable of appraising their accomplishments, Lena might view me as a tutor who has made a disingenuous attempt to make her feel good about herself, especially since she is aware that she does not write as easily and as well as others. In the long run, this could hurt my credibility with the child. Damon believes that children are also sensitive to empty flattery and like adults, they are capable of asking themselves these questions: "Why do people feel they need to make up things about me? What is wrong with me that people need to cover up? (74)" While my intentions were good, my praise might negatively impacted Lena’s confidence in her own ability.

If my remark were a sincere observation of her progress, then Lena's reply may reflect her existing view of herself as a writer. According to Henderlong & Lepper, children's response to praise may depend on whether the praise is consistent with their views and beliefs of themselves (779). If Lena held the belief that she is an incompetent writer, then she is likely to reject a praise intended to help enhance her confidence in writing. However, praise can still be effective if it is specific, genuine, and given sparingly (Henderlong & Lepper, 779). Clearly, it is important to examine one's motives for wanting to praise a child before delivering praise. As a tutor, I had viewed 'praise' as synonymous with 'affirm' and focused too heavily on the effect which I wished my praise would have on the child. Consequently, there is a discrepancy between my intended message for the child and the message conveyed by my praise.

While effective praise is beneficial, tutors must not be overly anxious to deliver praise, especially when they are still getting acquainted with the learner. Henderlong & Lepper explicate the importance of a learner's relationship with the educator, "[T]he same praise statement given in the context of a more conflict-ridden or less-secure relationship may be perceived as manipulative, controlling, or as a sign that the teacher feels sorry for the student" (779). I noticed that when Lena is working with her teacher, she seems to respond well to both general and specific praises. Lena's close relationship with her teacher might have also led the child to perceive the praises as genuine and helpful. When I first worked with Lena, I used praise to open conversations because I thought that would be a good way to build rapport with her. Lena, however, remained aloof and withdrawn. Therefore, it may useful for tutors to monitor how praise is being received by tutees in order to avoid giving empty praises.

A student, Bel, once came up to me with her journal to share a new story. While reading, I was actively searching for praiseworthy details. I responded, "Good job!" and praised the child about the content and her ability to write long sentences. There was an awkward moment when Bel looked up at me, as if expecting me to ramble on, and I thought to myself that I had run out of things to praise. With a shy smile, Bel said, "And I remember to leave a space between the sentences and put in the periods." Her simple remark helped me view the issue of praise from a different perspective. Bel wanted me to be the audience of her story, not a reader who assesses its merits. As a writer, she could recognize some of the things that she did well; she was probably more aware of her accomplishments. In a sense, my praise was unnecessary unless it conveyed that I enjoyed the story or admired her work.

More importantly, I realize that adults can help children "praise" their own work; my usage of the word "praise" conflicts with the conventional notion. Kanouse, Gumpert, & Canavan (1981) define praise to be "positive evaluations made by a person of another's products, performances, or attributes, where the evaluator presumes the validity of the standards on which the evaluation is based" (Henderlong & Lepper, 775). I feel, however, that regular praise could diminish a child's ownership of his or her work. Children may eventually measure the value of their work by the praises they receive. Consequently, they are motivated to put in their best efforts for the sake of receiving praise, not for the purpose of the task or the enjoyment they may derived from it (Persaud, 2004; Cleary, 1990).

Praise that is meant to convey competence, if not carefully offered, may also encourage children to compare their performance with their peers' (Henderlong & Lepper, 785). Children as young as 7 or 8 are capable of using normative information to draw inferences about their individual competence (Henderlong & Lepper, 785). Although social-comparison praise is more likely to negatively impact older children's intrinsic motivation and response to challenge (Henderlong & Lepper, 785), I feel that social-comparison praise may also affect younger children's developing perception of success. One should also be aware that children who receive continual praise may feel undue pressure to repeat their praiseworthy accomplishments (Cleary, 25). This could take the enjoyment and challenge out of learning and could hurt a child's subsequent performance.

Praise is often assumed to have positive effects on the recipient. Yet, we have seen how praise may have detrimental effects on children's view of their own ability, attitude towards learning, performance, and intrinsic motivation. Therefore, tutors should also help children to appreciate their work. After reading Bel's story, for example, I could have invited her to share the writing process: Did she enjoy writing the story, and why? Which is her favorite part of the story? Which did she think she has done well? Praise may be more informative and effective when it is given after one has solicited the child's opinion, especially when one does not already have a good gauge of the child's abilities.

Generally, one should praise children for both their effort and ability to perform well (Brophy, 276). Compared with children who are praised for effort, children praised for ability are more concerned with performance goals, tend to attribute their successes and failures to ability, and are less likely to persist at a task after experiencing failure (Henderlong & Lepper, 781). However, one should not overemphasize the amount of effort expended by the child to achieve success, as the child may interpret this as an indication of his or her lack of ability (Brophy, 276). Previously, I had not known how to add variety to my praises. Thus, I might have overpraised a child for his or her effort. According to Henderlong & Lepper, one should also praise children for other process-oriented factors as well, such as "the sorts of strategies, self-corrections, or thoughtful concentration underlying children’s achievements" (781). In my fieldwork, I found this advice to be useful and observed that children seem to respond well to such praises.

Brophy states, "[n]o teacher will be able to praise effectively on a continuing basis and yet simultaneously accomplish all the other tasks of teaching" because of the factors-time, focused attention, and effort to individualize comments—involved (277). I believe that this is where tutors could come in useful, especially if they work one-on-one with a child or with a small group of children. To become effective praisers, tutors must be conscious of their intentions before praising a learner, and thoughtful about the words they use. Effective praise, when offered at the right time in the right words, could serve to empower the learner.

Works Cited

Brophy, Jere. On Praising Effectively. The Elementary School Journal 81 (1981): 268-278.

Cleary, Linda M. The Fragile Inclination to Write: Praise and Criticism in the Classroom. The
English Journal 79 (1990): 22-28.

Damon, William. Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in America’s
Homes and Schools. New York: The Free Press, 1995. 74.

Henderlong, Jennifer, and Lepper, Mark R. The Effects of Praise on Children’s Intrinsic
Motivation: A Review and Synthesis. Psychological Bulletin 128 (2002): 774-795.

Persaud, Raj. Overdose of Praise Can be Toxic. The Times Educational Supplement 24 Sep.
2004: 20.


How can I deliver effective praise?

1. Before you praise a learner, be aware of your intentions for offering praise

2. Be thoughtful about the words you use to prevent miscommunication

3. Offer praise that is sincere and specific

4. Add variety to your praise

5. Acknowledge both the learner's effort and ability

6. Avoid praise that refers to progress unless you are familiar with the learner

7. Praise sparingly to avoid creating undue stress for the learner

8. Avoid social comparison when offering praise

9. Monitor how the learner is responding to praise

10. Balance praise with efforts to help the learner appreciate his or her own work


Agency
Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-03-24 08:55:58
Link to this Comment: 13962

My proposed topic idea involves the idea of agency and how an extra classroom teacher can figure out ways to obtain agency. This idea was prompted by my difficultly in obtaining agency at my placement. I discuss issues of what the “builders” of agency are and who gives agency to the extra classroom teacher. I hope in writing this paper I will provide solutions for myself and others.


Creating a Productive Space: A Guide for Extra Cla
Name: Allison J.
Date: 2005-03-24 10:18:46
Link to this Comment: 13967

A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image. ~Author Unknown

What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches. ~Karl Menninger

There are three good reasons to be a teacher - June, July, and August. ~Author Unknown

Creating the Productive Space: A Guide for Extra-Classroom Teachers
A goal that many teachers have is to ensure that their students can be independent thinkers. As a result, when the classroom is being structured, it is structured with the intentions of making a space in which students can ask questions and grow intellectually. However, when a student needs help, they are usually sent to us: extra-classroom teachers. We come in many forms: tutors, teaching assistants, mentors, extra-curricular activities leaders and share the goals of the teachers—to ensure students can think on their own. However, when you are an extra-classroom teacher, there are more constraints—time, knowledge of students, knowledge of material, etc. Yet it is still possible to create a space in which students can begin the process of self-learning.
Part I: Getting Started This is when you are just starting. You have been assigned to a great position as an extra-classroom teacher. However, where do you begin? How do you form your classroom culture?
Step One: Mapping Out Goals (Why are you there?) On my first day at M.A.S.T (Mentors As Student Teachers) I was excited. I had figured that the students would be just as excited as I was and I had a bunch of ideas as to what I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach such as discussions and reading/writing short stories. However, when I arrived, I was presented with a sheet of paper that outlined what I needed to teach and by what date. As well, the students weren’t exactly thrilled to be in a classroom on a Saturday morning. Whereas an experienced teacher may have a back up plan, I didn’t know what to do and ended up asking the same questions over and over again and letting the students out early. The issue was not that I didn’t know how to teach; rather I did not have any kind of concrete plan nor was I of the requirements of the program.
The little details that I forgot turned out to have a huge impact on my teaching. I learned that it is crucial that extra-classroom teachers come in with a plan. Of course, that plan must be open and flexible allowing adaptation to the students’ needs. However, with little time and usually an agenda given to you by another authority and the nature of the program under which you are teaching, having a plan will offer more structure during the time you work and allow things to move more efficiently and quickly. Essentially this is the logistical aspect of teaching that can be forgotten when you are caught up in the excitement of teaching.
Questions to consider: What are the goals of the program under which I am teaching? Is there some sort of a timeline to mark the progression of students? What am I bringing to the program that I can share with my students?
Step Two: Mapping Out Goals (You are there for the students) But all was not lost on the first day of M.A.S.T. when I had no clue of what to teach. A plus was that I got to know my students pretty well. Because I did not have a plan, I was able to talk casually with the students and get to know them in both academic and non academic settings: what are your favorite subjects? What do you like to do for fun? What is your favorite movie? What kind of writing have you done before? Do you like writing? Why/not?
While these questions may not seem very important, I found myself later on in my placement, reflecting on what I learned about them that first day. Many of the students did not enjoy writing, but wrote because they had to for classes. They enjoyed activities that allowed them to converse with one another but also allowed them to come up with new ideas for papers. These small pieces of their personalities showed me their attitudes towards writing—an attitude that would be a challenge to overcome if I ever wanted to get them to grow as writers and really grasp the material.
After I considered the nuts and bolts of my specific aims as an extra-classroom teacher, I was then able to reflect on the needs and ideas of the students. Most extra-classroom teachers receive small numbers of students in intimate settings. Use these to your advantage and get to know the students individually—it is time to especially consider their needs. All students come in with previous knowledge about many topics and often times that previous knowledge can make it difficult to pick up new information about what you are trying to teach. As well, students may have preconceived notions about your role as an extra-classroom teacher. You may be able to tell this by the questions they ask you or how they speak to you: how do they address you? Do they ask you questions about who you are? The answers to these may somewhat determine the role you have—are you there to give them answers? Check their homework? Be a friend? Once you recognize that you are ultimately there for the students, it is crucial to understand what they are looking for from you and the program.
Questions to consider: What are my students bringing to the classroom—culturally and other wise? What do my students want to get out of this program? How they define my role? How do they negotiate this? Where are my students in regards to the material they are supposed to learn? What resources can I provide that will help them?
Step Three: Confidence Combination A hard part of being an extra-classroom teacher is achieving the goals of the program yet ensuring that your students are learning at a comfortable pace and that their thoughts and ideas are being carefully considered. While logistical aspects of teaching such as time may seem like a major constraint, what usually holds extra-classroom teachers back are their own frustrations. Many of the students in M.A.S.T. share a background similar to mine which was helpful in terms of establishing a relationship with them. However, I found myself abusing this common background—I made judgments about them because of what I experienced when I was their age as opposed to asking them questions about their own thoughts and feelings. This often resulted in me not being able to teach the material affectively.
All judgments and doubts must be checked. As well, it must be realized that understanding of the material will not always come immediately—success does not always appear in the form of a right answer. What you are looking for is the ability for students to think on their own and come to the right answer as well as pick up skills that they will be able to use in the future. There should be competence inside and outside of the classroom.
Questions to consider: What are your expectations for your students? How do you view yourself as an extra-classroom teacher?
Part II: Examining Classroom Culture and Assessment As an extra-classroom teacher, it becomes easy to get into the flow of things: to not pay much attention to why you do the things you do on a regular basis. As well, when it comes to assessment, it may not be your responsibility to “test” the learner to see if he/she has learned something. However, both jobs are major responsibilities of a extra-classroom teacher as the nature the relationship you form will most likely be more casual and inevitably have an impact on how and what the student learns.
Step One: Making the Normal Unfamiliar It is difficult to examine classroom culture because many things that go into running a classroom (i.e. lesson plans, seating arrangements, etc) become habits—they are things that we do to get the job done. However, creating a classroom culture that allows students to begin (or continue) the process of being independent thinkers and learners requires questioning those “little things” that we do.
I had made a decision early on in M.A.S.T. that I would ask the students at the beginning of our sessions what they had learned in school about writing that they would like some help on. However, one session I forgot to ask this question and the students had a hard time understanding what I was teaching. Finally someone blurted out “But my teacher said don’t do that.” I hadn’t realized that I created a culture in which students reconciled different writing methods/ideas when I asked them what they had learned in school and explained them in the context of the classroom. I also learned the importance of incorporating their experiences into the classroom.
Other things such as where I placed seats or whom I paired with whom also influenced how they acted in class. Some students got used to working with each other so placing them in different groups altered the way they worked. How the students interact with each other and with you is an important dynamic.
Questions to consider: Are the students comfortable with one another? Are they asking questions? Are they working together? Am I asking them questions? Am I trying to learn from them?
Step Two: Making Assessments Depending on the nature of your position you may or may not be required to “test” your students to make sure they understand the material. However, regardless of the position, each extra-classroom teacher wants to make sure that not only do their students understand the material but also that they will be able to figure out the answers again on their own in the future as well as take whatever skills they have learned in the process and apply them on a regular basis. One of the most frustrating parts of M.A.S.T. is that I have very little say in the assessment: it is a final paper to be presented to the other students, parents, and coordinators of the program. However, what I do in order to assess whether or not my students understand the material, I have them do little writing exercises at the beginning of our sessions and let each other review them. I also review drafts of the papers and tell them there is a mistake in the paper, without telling them exactly what it is. Instead I tell them the type of mistake it is: spelling, punctuation, etc.
However, while I may be able to assess knowledge of material, it is still difficult to assess whether they will use and internalize the material. These things are difficult to assess as they cannot simply be written down. They require reflection on the part of the student and the teacher.
Questions to consider: Why is it necessary to assess their learning? What methods of assessment are appropriate for my students?
Part III: Reflection and Conclusion Asking students to give feedback can be a challenge in itself but it has enormous benefits. It allows you to not only see what the student is taking away from the sessions but also it is a chance to reflect on how you taught: what trends did you notice? What would you change? Teaching is a process that takes time to develop yet may change depending on who your students are. The key is to be constantly examining the space you have created.
The issues outlined above are very broad so that they can be applied as needed depending on where you are teaching and whom you are teaching. One question the ties all of these topics together is: What is my role as an extra-classroom teacher? This question has theoretical and logistical aspects from what an authority has told you your role is to how you view education and the process of learning. The key to creating a productive classroom culture is to ask questions and seek those answers not just from yourself, but also from your students.


Don
Name: Rachel Fra
Date: 2005-03-24 10:23:11
Link to this Comment: 13968

My personal learning and understandings have been informed and tainted by my cultural experiences which consequently reflect in what and how I choose to teach. As a tutor, I make it a necessity to first sit and informally speak with my tutees to gain insight of who they are as students and as people. I ask about their academic interests, the classes they are currently taking, their favorite and least favorite subjects, and their involvement in extracurricular activities. We then move into our “work out plan”, goals and expectations of our tutoring sessions that would serve to an enriching, productive and educational learning experience. Jerome* believes he is simply going through the motions of school, a traditional, and uniformed course of procedure, a concept that we will refer to as “doing school”. He recognizes that he has to go to school and complete the respective assignments but there is no yearning and enthusiasm to learn. Jerome wants to focus on his reading comprehension and writing. However, he does not enjoying reading and despises to have to put a pen to a sheet of paper. I recently introduced free writing to our sessions, a way to write without him conjuring the negative connotations associated when he thinks to write an essay. We begin with a free write exercise for strictly five minutes and the opportunity is available if he chooses to share. But today we I decided to begin with a focused free-write. As I explained the focused free write topic, Jerome interjects and says, “I don’t like doing this (free-writing), it is weird and it makes me feel like I’m stupid.” Jerome has long term goals and plans to attend college. How do I incorporate students’ cultural experiences in the class and encourage engagement beyond the task?
Culture is constructed in all settings. Schools are cultural contexts because they embody individual’s collective culture and identity. Students come into school with various aspects of cultures. In Ethnographic Eyes student-teachers observe individual experiences of the students but how does an ethnographer/teacher bring that back to the collective class? As a tutor I am not the observer but a participant in facilitating in the exchange of teaching and learning. So to say, Black students learn one way and that White students learn another is problematic. There is this belief that there is a shared experience between races but this is not completely true. Yes, Blacks may share the commonality of skin color but their culture and experiences are intervening factors that shape their values and perspectives. Classroom culture is co-constructed by student and teacher and varies from classroom to student. I am currently reflecting in the ways I define teaching and engagement through my cultural lens. Is engagement my definition of “interesting” and how is that then defining it for my students? How can I use various understandings of culture to foster engagement in learning beyond traditional academic settings but in all aspects of life with and for my students? “In order to engage in ethnographic events and observe from multiple perspectives, the student teachers had to challenge their own cultural assumption…” (21) Academic life and everything outside of that are often differentiated by my students as two separate entities that can and will not ever collide. How do I bring the cultural aspect of student as learner and also as an individual to possibly create meaningful learning? When weighing this matter of engagement, I consider the student-centered approach as a method to begin the process of student defined engagement. But is it safe to give the student a “teacher’s position”? Who has the responsibility for what? Allowing them to make decisions is that giving away authority, are students taking you seriously? The inconsistency of curriculum based learning is a consistent issue with students who want to be engaged and teacher who want to engage them. Even Jerome has expressed his unfamiliarity with the approach, “This is not how my real classes are taught.” Students have socialized and internalized a mental hierarchical structure of teacher and student.
I have a personal interest and investment in working with students of color particularly black males. At times, I make generalizations about their interests to hopefully “engage” the larger group. The young men I have worked with are from underserved neighborhood schools, violent stricken, crime ridden ghettos believed to have little admiration for academic success and legitimate social mobility or is this perhaps an assumption and stereotype I have placed on them. Hip-Hop music and culture is usually the first interest plug I attribute to my students. As an ethnographer/teacher, that is the observations I have made in past experience but how do I tailor an individualized experience to a new group and individual or is it necessary? I now find myself in this box that I grown to be comfortable in. Am I imposing or introducing unconventional concepts and methods of learning?
In my experience in trying to gauge and create engaging classrooms I have encountered that my students do not know what is that they want or consider educationally engaging and still be learning. I want to make this learning experience about their learning and not about my teaching. In chapter 8 of Ethnographic Eyes, Culture and Consciousness it speaks about the several perspectives in the classroom, cultural perspectives, multiple perspectives, member’s perspective, overtime perspective, language perspective, teaching perspective, and a learning perspective. My students’ academic and social lives do not need to be separate because they are on of the same. Explain. Such as they are other ways of being they are of being they are other ways of learning (20). Learning is not isolated and selective to a classroom but applied and practiced in life. As his tutor I want to give his learning a social dimension and this is the connection I wish for him to make sense for himself.



Name: Christina
Date: 2005-03-24 11:03:22
Link to this Comment: 13970

The Extra-Classroom Teacher and Self-Assessment

This section of the Handbook discusses how extra-classroom teachers can assess the effectiveness of their own teaching. It begins by examining the role of the extra-classroom teacher and then suggests a model that will help you to better understand that role in the context of self-assessment. It then explores three different types of assessment: the portfolio, audio or videotaping and self-reflective journals. I analyze their general suitability to the situations of most extra-classroom teachers, as well as how the strengths and weaknesses of the various assessments change depending on certain factors.
My exploration of extra-classroom teaching and self-assessment did not stem from one particular instance that occurred while I was acting as an extra-classroom teacher. Instead, it is a product of a gradual realization on the importance and necessity of the extra-classroom teacher to assess herself. To be perfectly honest, it was not until I took this course on “Empowering Learners” that I began to see self-assessment as a vehicle for improving student learning. I placed so much emphasis on evaluating the learning progress of the student(s), that I temporarily forgot the connection between student learning and the effectiveness of my teaching. Now I view self-assessment as the duty of all extra-classroom teachers who take their work seriously.

The Extra-Classroom Teacher
Most extra-classroom teachers, if not all, are in a very unique position when it comes to the assessment of their teaching quality. Unlike many professional educators, they are rarely in a situation where it is established- at least in theory- that periodically someone else (whether it be the supervisor, the learners or another extra-classroom teacher) will assess their efforts. Often extra-classroom teachers do not know how their learner(s) is fairing grade-wise in school, so extra-classroom teachers can not even indirectly gauge the effectiveness of their efforts the traditional way. So all this indicates to me that it is ultimately the duty of the extra-classroom teacher to assess herself. This duty is amplified by the fact that extra-classroom teachers are being increasingly relied upon to supplement the learning which occurs in the regular classroom.

Extra-Classroom Teacher as Self-Directed Learner
The model of the extra-classroom teacher as a “self-directed learner” I think is a helpful tool that allows the extra-classroom teacher to better conceptualize her role in the context of self-assessment (Costa and Kallick 9). According to Assessment Strategies for Self-Directed Learning, a self-directed learner is one who sees teaching “as an opportunity for continually improving student learning and the craft of teaching” (Costa and Kallick 10). And although the authors of that text apply the self-directed learner model only to professional teachers, it suits the extra-classroom teacher equally well and perhaps better since the responsibility of assessment mostly tends to fall on her shoulders alone. A self-directed learner never stops learning (Costa and Kallick 9). The self-directed learner as an extra-classroom teacher views each visit with her learner or learners as a “thought experiment” where everybody is learning (Costa and Kallick 11). She is always trying to improve her work by thinking about the best way to approach a problem or situation, by implementing that approach, by reflecting on the implemented approach to identify its strengths and weaknesses, and by making the adjustments she deems necessary, only to repeat the process again. She is constantly asking herself questions and re-thinking what she knows to be true. Thus the extra-classroom teacher’s duty to assess herself is a duty to be a self-directed learner.

Method One: The Portfolio
The portfolio is essentially a collection of various artifacts that is gradually compiled over the course of numerous teaching sessions. Through examination of its contents, portfolios provide extra-classroom teachers with a unique way to assess their teaching. Professional educators who create portfolios typically fill them with student work samples, lesson plans, course outlines, etc. But for many extra-classroom teachers, the portfolio may very well be impractical. Many extra-classroom teachers are in situations where their ability to acquire materials to make a substantive portfolio is restricted. In addition, many extra-classroom teachers, like most tutors, are in situations where it is not necessary or useful to the learners to form lesson plans or course outlines. As a result, the number, variety and quality of artifacts is restricted which can weaken the substance of the portfolio.

Method Two: Audio or Videotaping
Audio recordings and video cameras allow the extra-classroom teacher to give all of her undivided attention to the student(s), and then observe and reflect on the teaching session at a later point in time of her convenience. This type of self-assessment works for extra-classroom teachers of virtually any age group or number of students. These recordings enable her to examine the details of her teaching and thus change those details which she finds problematic for student learning. They also open up the opportunity for the teacher to invite others (another extra-classroom teacher, a supervisor, a friend who is a professional teacher) to give their input on the effectiveness of her teaching. While reviewing the tapes, remember to identify both the positive and negative aspect of one’s teaching and try not to focus on how one looks or sounds.
Now the video camera may very well generate distraction and feelings of awkwardness during the extra-classroom teaching session, especially if there is only one or a handful of learners. Therefore, the less distracting audio recorder will be better at capturing what the typical teaching session is like. In addition, video cameras are expensive and (for those, like myself, who are not technologically savvy) often times difficult to set up. But if some greatly value the ability to analyze both the audio and visual aspects of the teaching session and do not believe that the camera will be too distracting, then for them the video camera is ideal. However, the effectiveness of both types of recordings breaks down some in extra-classroom settings where the students and not the teacher are the center. In such cases, like a physics lab for example, the teacher must be willing to carry the recorder around with her as she visits different groups of students. Otherwise, the audio and video recorder will catch all types of interactions and not zone in on the teacher- student interactions.

Method Three: The Reflective Journal
Keeping a reflective journal is a type of self-assessment which works for virtually all extra-classroom teachers. They can be done regardless of the extra-classroom teacher’s experience, the age-group of the learners, the frequency of teaching sessions, the length of the teaching session, or how many students are being taught. They have no set form. Their only requirement is that the teacher reflects on her practice. What makes journals effective is that they help teachers solve problems in their practice by putting them in a position where they must articulate their teaching difficulties. By articulating these difficulties, teachers can then start to figure out how to overcome them by deciding what things need to be altered, rearranged, abandoned, or repeated. And the journals are always great to look back on to see how one’s teaching has evolved.

Summary
All extra-classroom teachers have a duty to assess their own teaching. But because of their unique role, some types of self-assessment are more practical for extra-classroom teachers than others. Self-reflective journals are practical for virtually all extra-classroom teachers while audio or videotaping and portfolios have their limitations. More work must be done in developing self-assessments that are appropriate for extra-classroom teachers, especially when one considers the increasingly important role they play in education.

Work Cited
Costa, Arthur L., and Bena Kallick. Assessment Strategies for Self-Directed Learning.
Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.


handbook entry
Name: emily schn
Date: 2005-03-24 11:55:37
Link to this Comment: 13975


handbook entry - really this time
Name: emily schn
Date: 2005-03-24 11:56:41
Link to this Comment: 13976

Emily Schneider-Krzys
March 23, 2005

Some notes for extra-classroom teachers on building relationships with, and learning from, classroom teachers.

the right attitude
It often seems like everyone is looking for someone to blame for the failures of urban schools. We hear in our education classes, read in the newspapers, and see on TV the awful conditions and the looming presence of a substantial achievement gap between white students and students of color and also urban/rural students and suburban students. This atmosphere makes it seem normal to go into a placement at a school looking for what’s going wrong. Personal experience often makes us turn a critical eye to specific aspects of our students’ lives. We compare their failures to our successes and seek the culprits who are perpetuating that difference. Some people blame parents, some blame entire communities, many blame the school system, the principals, or teachers, still others blame President Bush, or even modern society. However, although all these factors may significantly affect a student’s education, because the majority of our interaction is with the classroom teacher, it is often easy to point to that teacher’s practices as the source of student failure.
To be sure, you may not agree with every philosophy or classroom policy your teacher espouses. Nor is it likely that you will agree with every word he/she says. In some classrooms you might even want to plug your ears. However, pushing beyond those differences to see your teacher’s best practices and successes will ultimately be incredibly useful to you both as an extra-classroom teacher and a future educator.
It is vitally important when beginning a placement at any school/classroom to go in with the “right” attitude. Often I find that student-teachers enter a classroom with the idea that they are going to “save” the students. Student-teachers with traditionalist attitudes and student-teachers with progressive attitudes often both enter a classroom through what Linda Powell calls “a discourse of deficit”. Essentially, many student-teachers see only what they can impart to a classroom rather than looking for what that classroom – its students and its teacher – can teach them.
In many ways, there is no better resource for learning about teaching and yourself as a teacher than a position as an extra-classroom teacher/student-teacher. There is a vast amount to be learned from simply being in a classroom and absorbing how that environment functions. Remembering this fact when you enter a placement will help you to observe the many positive aspects of any classroom. Even attitudes and practices you initially see as negative will eventually help you to hone your own beliefs and ideals.

communication
Communicating with your classroom teacher regularly and efficiently is a necessary part of any classroom placement. Logistical questions such as when you should be there, which students you will be working with, what activities the teacher expects you to complete, what to wear, and many other small, but extremely important details should all be dealt with before entering a classroom. It is also important that you and your classroom teacher create a space for discussion within the semester in which you can check-in with each other about how the experience is working/could work better and (re)visit any unresolved issues of classroom management, practice, or vision. It is important that the guidelines for your communication with your classroom teacher be established at the beginning of your relationship. What works best - e-mail, cell phone, message at the main office? Where and how can the teacher contact you? When – at what time and it what situations - is it appropriate for you to contact the teacher?
It can also be extremely valuable to get to know your classroom teacher outside of the restricted context of the class you are working in. This can take place in the form of casual conversation or a more formal interview. Often these conversations will give you powerful insights into the motives behind the teacher’s teaching style/practices and also help you to think about your personal trajectory in the field of education. One of my team’s most rewarding experiences in their placement was learning about their classroom teacher’s professional history in the course of several interviews. Although working with Mr. Wilson had occasionally been a somewhat difficult experience for the student-teachers who were uncomfortable with his sometimes cynical attitude towards his students, learning about the personal depths of his commitment to his students and to education vastly shifted their opinion of him and their experience in his classroom.
Take the initiative to establish communication with your classroom teacher along both of these lines. Teachers have a billion things to remember and do each day; by being proactive in your communication with your classroom teacher you keep your presence in the classroom from becoming an extra burden. Keep in mind as well, that many teachers have not worked with an extra-classroom teacher before, or they may have worked with an education student from a different class or program than your own. Being honest and forthcoming about yourself and your needs – both personal and academic – will help your teacher get to know you and to assist you in becoming part of the class more smoothly.

asking for advice
Since many of us enter classroom placements as part of an education class, we often have a wealth of opportunities to reflect on questions about practice and theory within our college class’s curriculum. Many times it is more natural to work through problems and challenges with the professor of the class or in group problem-solving sessions with our peers. Because of this we often forget to recognize the classroom teacher as an incredibly well-informed resource. So often student-teachers (myself included) return from their placement and work in their college classes to resolve issues of practice. What do I do with the student in my group who isn’t participating? who doesn’t speak English? who won’t share? Even if the classroom teacher you are working with holds policies and practices very different from your own vision of education there are very few other people, besides the student him/herself, that can give you as much information on a student’s history, learning styles, abilities, and struggles than the classroom teacher who sees that student week after week and watches them read, write, and perform in school.
Even the most unpalatable of situations, where a classroom teacher responds to your inquiries with a comment such as, “He’s just a stupid kid…stupid and lazy,” can give you insight into the student’s social and academic barriers – even if that insight is that the student probably struggles to perform in that teacher’s classroom because of the teacher’s negativity. However, in my experience, these sort of awful situations are extremely rare – first, because most teachers are incredibly compassionate towards their students (why else would they stay in their profession?) and second, because teachers who welcome student-teachers into their classrooms generally have a more tempered understanding of their students’ struggles.

“fellow educators”
Mr. Wilson opened the folder I gave him containing the syllabi of each of his student-teachers’ classes and a letter of introduction from each of their professors. He read out loud the salutation written at the top of the enclosed letter. “Dear fellow educator”. “That’s nice, I like that,” he said, smiling. It seems like many teachers are often hungry for the type of intellectual inquiry into the theory and practice of education that they experienced either when in school themselves or see underlying their own classrooms. Having education students in their classroom often reawakens or stokes these interests. Considering your classroom teacher a “fellow educator” along with you and your professor and even, perhaps, all people working towards a better future for education is a powerful show of respect to your classroom teacher and a useful resource for you.
In her book, Reading Families: The Literate Lives of Urban Children, Catherine Compton-Lilly writes of her own research into the home literacy experiences of her students and the shattering of her assumptions about urban families. Compton-Lilly found that, contrary to common belief, in every home she visited parents had collected books for their children, constantly took part in learning activities such as reading to their child before bed or simply watching only educational television, and were highly committed to and interested in their children’s educations. Compton-Lilly found, among other conclusions, a distinct need to change public perception of urban parents and also the need to honor and accept them as informed co-educators of their children. Reading Families reminds us to examine the assumptions we hold about education and failure in this country and also to see education as a social process, which takes effort and commitment from all elements of a child’s life. There is much to be gained from moving past blame to accept and respect a child’s parents, fellow community members, and teachers as “fellow educators”.

co-learners
As student-teachers/extra-classroom teachers, we often have the opportunity to bring diverse materials into the classroom and try out a variety of (progressive) teaching techniques. It is important to share these ideas and materials with your classroom teacher. Fettered by standardized testing and scripted curricula, many teachers welcome student-teachers into their classroom to provide their students with material and learning experiences that are severely limited in today’s public school classrooms. Many teachers who would include “extraneous” poetry, music, and artistic projects in their classrooms often worry that they don’t have time to find appropriate and interesting materials for their students or are “out of touch” with kids today. Sharing your excitement for a writing/reading lesson taught entirely with hip-hop lyrics or a poetry writing project elicited by a Van Gogh painting with your classroom teacher will often become a meaningful trading of ideas between the two of you. Taking the initiative to share with your teacher your own ideas and educational practices will also give you a greater sense of agency in affecting the broader “system” of education.


Working with a classroom teacher in any school can and should be a powerful and useful experience for anyone interested in education. Some ways that I have found to insure that a placement experience is as meaningful and positive for me as possible are to enter the classroom with an open attitude, communicate with my classroom teacher, and build a relationship with him or her by asking for advice and considering him/her both a fellow educator and a co-learner. However, on any given day and in any given placement it is incredibly hard to remember to follow each of these guidelines that I have set for myself. Working in a classroom, whether you are there one day a week or everyday, is an often overwhelming and confusing experience. However, each time, I find I can take one more small step towards functioning as the type of student-teacher I know I could be and towards taking every opportunity for furthering my education that I have available to me. As a student of education I know that the learning and acquisition of knowledge is a slow and complex process that demands that I keep my ears and eyes open, be patient, and have hope. As a student-teacher, one who is learning and acquiring the knowledge and skills to be a teacher, I must demand the same of myself.


Team Teaching
Name: Caitlin O'
Date: 2005-03-24 12:39:25
Link to this Comment: 13978


Extra-classroom teaching is used to describe a broad range of teaching and learning environments, but often serves as a label to identify teaching that occurs outside of the regular classroom or as a way of describing a teaching and learning experience that extends beyond the scope of the regular classroom. The latter suggests that, while the teaching is taking place within a classroom, it is offering the learner an experience that extends beyond the scope of the regular classroom. This is done by inviting mentors, tutors, and other types of “teachers” into the classroom to provide learners with an opportunity to experiment with material and pedagogy not in the classroom curriculum.
This handbook invites extra-classroom teachers (whether teaching outside or within a regular school classroom) to explore the concept of extra-classroom team teaching. The ideas here are meant to expand the strategies used by extra-classroom teachers already involved in team teaching and to encourage extra-classroom teachers who have not yet been a part of a team of teachers to find a way to incorporate team teaching into their experience. I found it necessary to add to the discourse of collaboration among teachers and of creating communities of sharing based. This is based on my observation that urban teachers are often isolated and detached from other teachers and therefore continue the pervasive cycle of isolating and silencing learners in their classrooms. The methods I suggest in this handbook for effective team teaching are derived from my experience as an extra-classroom team teacher.
The circumstances of extra-classroom experiences are very different, but teaching teams can form in many different formats. It might be easier for extra-classroom teachers who are teaching within a program or system to already have a framework of team teaching in place, but this does not mean that an extra-classroom teacher currently teaching in isolation cannot find other teachers who are sharing a similar experience to collaborate with one another to create a team teaching community.
My first experience as a team teacher was as a student teacher in an urban high school. I was part of an initiative to build a relationship between students at my college and a local (urban) public high school. I was part of a group of students who were going to be leading (as a group) two ninth grade English classes once a week. The structure for team collaboration was already in place as eight student teachers joined efforts to create a curriculum for a writing project. The team of student teachers was energetic and optimistic, though our teaching experience was quite limited. The group often discussed challenges we were having in the classroom, but group dynamics were positive and encouraging; a support system existed that allowed the student teachers to communicate their concerns. It seemed that all the student teachers’ goals were similar and our teaching strategies, though very different, were cohesive within the classroom. However, my positive team teaching experience was significantly challenged the following semester when I again had the opportunity to teach in the same classroom but with different student teachers. I expected and assumed that the structure of the team of student teachers would be very similar to how it had been the first semester, but from the very first meeting I understood that it was going to be a very different collaborative process. From the beginning, the group struggled to communicate with one another, differed in their ideas about the material that should be presented to the students, and also held various perceptions about the role and importance of the team effort. I entered the second semester of collaboration with preconceived notions about how the team would function as a unit and my resistance to exploring other methods of collaboration hindered my ability to be an encouraging and supportive team member.
It might seem obvious that every extra-classroom teacher will bring to the table different (and sometimes opposing) goals and assumptions about their learners and about their roles as extra-classroom teachers. These various perceptions will pose a challenge for the team, but it will also be rewarding when every teacher’s perspective is welcomed and encouraged. However, less obvious is the understanding that every teacher will also have a different idea about the purpose and goal of the team teaching collaboration. Not every teacher will desire to put in the same amount of effort or expect the same outcome as a result of the collaboration. This becomes problematic when expectations are not communicated and addressed among team members. Therefore it is essential that extra-classroom teachers express their assumptions regarding how the team will function, make explicit their expectations for the group and its ability to serve the teaching and learning needs of the individual teacher, as well as define what each teacher finds valuable and helpful about working as a team teacher.
A discussion of assumptions and expectations might be accomplished in the first group meeting, creating a sturdy framework of support and open lines of communication that will persist throughout the team teaching experience. An effective method for introducing this type of discussion could entail having teachers individually write down their expectations/assumptions/needs for the team and create a list as a group that includes each teacher’s ideas that will frame how the group functions in the future. This could also take the form of an ongoing reevaluation of the evolving goals of the team, whether they take the form of individual goals or group expectations. The team might need to reassess whether there are assumptions that were not voiced in the beginning that merit discussion later in the collaborative process. Part of the way through the second semester, some of the student teachers in my group observed that a split was occurring within the group. This resulted from people missing meetings and consequently feeling as though their ideas and opinions were being excluded from the planned curriculum. This required the group as a whole to reexamine how we were functioning as individuals and as members of a group. A discussion revolving around what we thought was missing from the group as well as individual goals for the classroom was necessary and ultimately transformed how our group worked as a collaborative effort. The result was that the planning of the curriculum became less of a group effort and time in meetings became more of a space for getting feedback and offering input to other teachers regarding their lesson plans and interactions with students. While this might not have been how some of the teachers envisioned our team teaching, the reflection and reevaluation mid-semester allowed for a necessary change in the team teaching process that accommodated the expectations and needs of all the student teachers.
It is essential that group meetings allow time for reflective writing and discussion not only about the teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom, but also within the group of extra-classroom teachers. When all the members have voiced their assumptions and expectations, the group will be able to more effectively foster a team teaching dynamic that is honest and explicit, allowing for productive discussion and collaboration as a group unit. Additionally, it requires significant patience and flexibility to create an effective and productive team teaching experience. It will take an extraordinary amount of effort and flexibility to coordinate schedules and the sharing of materials. Patience will be critical when trying to balance opposing teaching strategies. But as I have learned in my own team teaching, the moments of conflict and challenge offer an opportunity to learn; if teachers can adapt the collaborative process to their relationships with colleagues, I am convinced that teachers will be able to initiate for their students a similar learning process founded on community effort and collaboration.


my draft
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-03-24 15:52:09
Link to this Comment: 13985

Extra-Classroom Teachers As Role Models

“Children…are in need of role models, and take them from all areas that are close at hand, whether mass media, parents, or their teachers.” Daniel Rose

I am a pre-service teacher/extra classroom teacher at a large public high school and am working with 9th Grade students on a project to help improve language choice in different settings such as school, home, or work. As a member of a team, I help facilitate discussions in small groups and work to improve communication, writing, and critical thinking skills that raises awareness in the students of the importance of appropriate communication for whatever circumstance they are in. The first afternoon I walked into the classroom and looked out to the sea of students, who did not look like me, I could not help but wonder how I might affect the lives of these 9th graders. Would our project help these students in the real world? Would they find their way into an institution of higher learning and begin the process of leaving the disparaged community in which the school resided in? Who are these students’ role models? As a student teacher, an extra classroom aide, how could I or anyone become a role model for these students?

I was a student in a large, urban public high school very similar to my placement and succeeded in graduating because I had been tracked into an honors program and was fortunate to have found role models in teachers and in extra curricular settings. What I found to be true then was that many students in urban schools, especially those with large concentrations of “minority” students, lacked role models in or out of the classroom. Today, the lack of role models is still evident as large numbers of “minority” students continue to struggle within large, urban, school systems. These students attempt to learn in schools that are deemed “failing”, with low graduation rates and expectations, and those who make it to college struggle even more. The lack of pre-college preparation means many do not earn their college degree.

Extra classroom teachers, pre-service teachers, and anyone who finds themselves in a position other than traditional teachers to young people are crucial in providing much needed role models to help students succeed in communities where every bit of encouragement, support, and guidance is appreciated. The classroom I work in has a great teacher though even she acknowledges the need for extra help in the classroom and I believe the presence of pre-service teachers benefit the young people.
Young people learn from their environments, and most spend the bulk of their time in school as students. Often extra classroom teachers are there to “provide instructional…support for classroom teachers… [they are] tutors…and help prepare materials for instruction.” (Occupational Handbook) College students, pre-service teachers, and/or volunteers often serve in these positions. There are very simple steps to taking an active part of being a role model, and the following will serve as a guideline to any extra classroom, extra curricular educator working with students.

Daniel Rose has written on role models in his article “The Potential of Role Model Education.” He examines the role of educators as role models with formal (and informal) education. He stresses that role models can “expose…groups to specific attitudes, lifestyles, and outlooks.” (Rose) He also stipulates that children often see teachers (and I will add extra classroom teachers) as important role models in par with parents. As an extra classroom teacher, perhaps you are yourself a student in college. Your experience as a young person might not be far off in your memory and can be extremely useful in relating to your students. Rose spoke of role models as mentors where the younger person not only learns from your experience but also by being inspired by you. (Rose)

Good Practices

What are some ways that extra classroom teachers can take an active role in being role models to their students? Some simple steps are:

1-Know your students. What is the surrounding community like? What are the demographics of the student body?

2-Talk to your students. Find out what their interests are and cultivate these interests. Ask them about where they see themselves in the near future. Always ask about dreams. All young people have dreams and you can help in addressing ways to achieve those dreams.

3-Do not assume that your students feel “disenfranchised” by their particular situation. Linda C. Powell describes the difference between the “discourse of deficit” and the “discourse of potential.” (Powell, 4) If you address young people with a discourse of deficit, you state that they are fortunate to be in the position they are in versus a discourse of potential where you highlight success as a possibility because of hard work.

4-Challenge yourself. Students of color are in particular need for role models in and out of the classroom. As a student teacher, extra classroom aide, or volunteer in a class, there are many ways for you to be a role model. If you are a person of color, your presence in front of the classroom has already made an impact on your students. However, you do not have to share your students’ racial/ethnic or economic background to be a positive role model. In my own experience, men and women from vastly different racial, socioeconomic situations have aided me in directing my studies, life choices, and in pursuing my dreams.

5-Encourage your community to become role models for all young people. The classroom is not the only place where young people can utilize strong role models. After school programs, community organizations, and youth groups are places where adults and others can be valuable in providing guidance to a young person.
In fact, organizations have already begun to address the need for role models in educational settings by outlining goals to help underserved students. For example, Washington State University has implemented a program for the Latino community in the state of Washington called “Latina/o Initiative for Development of Educational Renewal” and proclaims the need of its existence “by facilitating creation of a community culture in which people of all ages are psychologically and academically prepared to succeed in the university…” (Tri-Cities Latina/o Outreach) They state through their goals that schools should have educators that represent positive role models of people in their community to help replace existing stereotypes “with a positive construction of Latino identity.”

All people have the ability to provide encouragement, positive reinforcement, and guidelines for success to any student in need. Extra classroom teachers, tutors, teacher’s aides, pre-service teachers all have access to impressionable minds. Although our society strives on the individual and that person’s success, our society must change to encompass the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Being a role model to a young person who is in desperate need of positive reinforcements will benefit our future society in ways easily imagined. Role models, whether they are educators, community members, or others can be seen as welders, reinforcing life lessons in young people’s lives.

Works Cited:

Rethinking Schools Online. 22 March 2005

Fine, Powell, Wong (1997). Off White: Readings on Race, Power and Society. New York: Routeledge. BMC Bulkpack. Spring 2005

Darling-Hammond, Linda. Educating a Profession for Equitable Practice. BMC Bulkpack. Spring 2005

Rose, Daniel. The Potential of Role-Model Education. Infed. 22 March 2005


Ethnographic Bifocals
Name: MaryBeth C
Date: 2005-03-24 16:45:31
Link to this Comment: 13988

Several educational theorists have written on the importance of classroom observation in the instruction and engagement of students (see further reading). All of these theories operate under the supposition that effective teaching involves a synthesis of social, emotional and academic growth, as well as the recognition of these factors in the creation of a classroom culture and learning space. In Carolyn Frank’s Ethnographic Eyes, several student teachers engage in a system of ethnographic observation in their classrooms, a method that is apparent both inside and outside of their respective classrooms. This method, though insightful in many respects, can be somewhat short-sighted in scope and lacking in consideration of the realities of public schooling, sometimes further complicated in an urban setting.

THE TENETS OF ETHNOGRAPHIC VISION
Ethnography, put briefly, consists of a series of specialized observations of learner and their actions in the classroom environment. Frank’s work, however, takes this observation further and actually observes and becomes engaged in the home lives of her students. One of the key goals of this approach is to make these observations free from judgment, assumption or preemptive conclusion, as well as incorporating these understandings of learner/group/classroom dynamics into an active and personal engagement with the students. That is to say, it serves to allow teachers to become familiar with previously unfamiliar environments and to foster a personal rapport with the individual students.

In Carolyn Frank’s perception, ethnographic observation can include such activities as “notetaking/notemaking” and others that place ethnographic observation against the natural and often unconscious assumptions that are drawn from them. In a notetaking/notemaking exercise, an observer takes notes as objectively as possible of the students, their interaction, their environment and the like. Only after making such ethnographic observations can they extrapolate from these particular assumptions and suppositions based on that information. Like this exercise, the use of ethnography forces the observer to become aware of their assumptions and regard them as separate from their initial observations.

HOW ETHNOGRAPHY IS USEFUL IN THE EXTRA-CLASSROOM CONTEXT
In many ways, ethnography is inherently separate from the classroom culture, in that it requires that the observer “step back” from the shared culture and consider it in its holistic form. This paradigm raises the initial importance of the seemingly paradoxical notion of “ethnographic bifocals”. In Carolyn Frank’s ideal sense, the teacher can at moments become an almost pure ethnographer, a quite problematic assumption. With ethnographic “bifocals”, the teacher is, instead, engaged in an ethnographic discourse of observation and culture-analysis while still recognizing his or her placement within the culture. In this way, the teacher sets his or herself apart, if only for a moment, while still being aware of his or her influence in the form of presence and role in the culture of the classroom.

In a second understanding of the “bifocal” metaphor, it is both naïve and problematic to assume that the results of ethnographic inquiry will be entirely helpful, productive and positive. Frank’s book includes a description of a series of home visits conducted by the researchers. The researchers were teaching in a population largely composed of first-generation and immigrant students of Mexican and Latin American descent. The researchers were, in large part, well received in the homes of their students and found a great deal of cultural awareness and enrichment in their home visits. This is not and cannot always be the case. The observations of teachers will not be entirely positive, and thus, the teacher must retain and employ their sensitivities as a teacher and not an ethnographer in these instances. Ethnography can only take an educator so far.

ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERVIEWS
Carolyn Frank and her researchers are also interested in the role of ethnographic interviews in the classroom. Using a modified ethnographic interview, however, it seems that teachers and students can engage in a multi-faceted discourse that has several benefits, both for personal growth as well as a compliment to instruction and learning. The modified ethnographic interview can familiarize a teacher with a student on a personal and academic level, allowing him or her to identify social and learning difficulties and strengths, the diagnosis of which can contribute to the students’ success in the future. It is also important, then, that each student have a shared relationship with the teacher, as well as a unique one. The creation of these relationships are the most important function of ethnography.

In this way, ethnographic interviews are a means to an end (i.e. a better understanding of the students social and academic status, creation of a rapport), but also an end, in and of themselves. The very process of the interview is a learning tool, as well. The experience of completely individualized attention and a safe space for students to discuss their thoughts increases the effectiveness of the teacher’s methods. When the teacher is familiar with the students background and areas of strength and challenge, he or she can better adapt the planned curriculum to the individual needs of the students, as well as creating a comfortable space for learning. It is also key that these interviews gather information from the perspective of the student. Too often, teachers rely on the reports, grades and comments of other teachers and experts in place of actual engagement with the learner.

Put simply, the teacher must devise a way to see as a non-judgmental, ethnographic observer while simultaneously retaining the knowledge, experience and sensitivities of an educator. Ethnographic interviews are a lens for engaging and empowering learners, but should not be the only lens.



facilitation (draft, s.n.f.)
Name: susanna fa
Date: 2005-03-24 22:49:42
Link to this Comment: 13995

Encouraging Productive Discussion: Suggestions for Extra-Classroom Facilitators

Susanna Farahat
March 24, 2005


Learning from my experiences as an extra-classroom facilitator this semester, I am exploring a process by which we, as facilitators, can determine how best to be of service to our groups, given our specific extra-learning contexts. The following are a series of questions for the facilitator to ask herself, as well as some of insights, experiences, and struggles from my facilitation experiences this spring.

1) Assess your own role as a facilitator. Who are you in this group of people? Are you an expert? What do you bring to the group?

As a teaching assistant, there is little separation between me and my students, because we are all college students. The difference is that I have some degree of expertise because I am a senior in the department and I have taken the course that they are currently taking, and I received a positive assessment in the course.

This raises several issues. First, I have to examine my role in the classroom. My role is really that of an assistant facilitator, or a sub-facilitator. I step in if there is an essential point that people are missing or if the discussion leader is inactive, or if the class is being completely unresponsive, my goal is to purposefully promote discussion. One thing I have to do is try to build a comfortable environment in the group through affirming participation.
What I am most concerned with here is how to ask open questions that promote discussion, even guide discussion, but that are not “leading” in the sense of pushing my own agenda. The discussions for this course center around race, class, and gender. Ideally someone in my position should be both level-headed and very well informed, as well as somewhat detached from the situation, because these are not easy issues to discuss.

2) Assess the course realistically. What are the objectives of the course? How important is it to follow the course agenda closely? What structural constraints do you face as an extra-classroom facilitator? What can you expect from the students?
Determine the relationship between the explicit agenda for the course and the overall goal(s) of the course. If you are unsure of the supervising teacher's agenda, don't hesitate to ask.

In my case, using the discussion outline and questions to have a discussion of the text is the explicit agenda, while developing a greater understanding of the complexities of race, class and gender in the United States is the general course goal.

I am interested in asking questions which serve the needs of the learners, and which are also relevant to the subject matter at hand. As an extra-classroom teacher, I lack the authority to reject the day’s agenda in favor of completely embracing an “emergent pedagogies” approach to the classroom. However, I would like to foster a similarly thought-provoking, student-centered atmosphere among the members of my discussion group.

3) Make your priorities and expectations for the class explicit. This can be done either in an "emergent" kind of way, by asking the students for suggestions, or with more authority. With both groups I have facilitated, I have tried to do this, but my preliminary discussion starters have improved over time. Here are some that I have come up with and introduced as the course has progressed:

-Please feel comfortable contributing here. We will have better, more enjoyable discussion if we hear your voice.
-We are all struggling to understand these difficult concepts in good faith. This is a safe space for discussion, and everything said in discussion stays here.
-I see these discussions as an opportunity for us to engage more closely with the text at hand. I would prioritize an in-depth, substantive discussion over a more cursory coverage of the readings' details. Our discussions are chiefly productive in that we can seek links between these readings and our lives, and U.S. social structure today.

I realize that announcing where I'm coming from to the group is not a very emergent kind of approach to the classroom. It may, however, be as divergent from the guidelines provided by my professor as it can be. Ideally, I would prefer to take an emergent pedagogies approach and have the students come up with guidelines and priorities, but it could take up a significant amount of our already brief discussion period. While it might be worth it to me, I am almost positive that it would not be well-received by my professor. I may suggest to her that these kinds of goals and suggestions be put forth or come up with by the class at the start of each semester. As stated previously, as extra classroom teachers we need to work with our supervising teachers to create a course in keeping with the professor’s goals.


One experience which made me feel particularly strongly about becoming a more helpful facilitator involved a discussion of three texts I have read closely and had facilitated discussion on a year prior to this occasion. When I facilitated the discussion last year, I was also one of the students who constructed a sheet-long summary of the articles and the session’s discussion questions. This year, as the TA, I had no control over the summary information or the discussion that the students received. Were it typical for all students to have done close readings of each text before coming to class, this might not have made a difference. Realistically, though, most students have only read the articles superficially before coming to class, and rely on the summaries created by discussion leaders to fill in the gaps; the student-created summaries and questions play a vital role in shaping each week’s discussion.
As a TA/facilitator, I try to give up the power in the classroom to the discussion leader. Occasionally the discussion becomes one-sided. In this case, students had a pessimistic and oversimplified interpretation of texts I had seen as quite complex and progressive. As student after student reiterated this view, I felt the urge to present my position. The foremost draw that sociology holds for me is that it promotes discussion of issues which are critically relevant in contemporary society. I was torn then, between not wanting to push my own agenda, and risking the possibility that these students would take away a hopeless interpretation of several formative sociological texts in the study of race and class. Interestingly, the discussion leader for the day seemed relatively satisfied to allow the group to draw its own conclusions. Perhaps I should have been taking my cues from her.
I eventually decided to present my position, but I did make an effort to present it as my reading of the text, emphasizing that it was not the interpretation, but was an alternate view, ending with a question which was supposed to encourage debate. After my comment, the discussion leader noted that it was time to move on to discussion of the next reading. If the object of the session was to cover each of the texts in depth, she had correctly determined to have the group move on. The decision, though, may represent our fundamental disagreement regarding the course goals, or perhaps her own discomfort with my comment. Hopefully I did not make the mistake that the mentor in Herman and Mandell’s reading, From Teaching to Mentoring: Principles and Practice, Dialogue and Life in Adult Education, made with Kathy, alienating the group by ovrtly challenging beliefs dear to them (56-57). I felt defeated. I felt that as a TA, or a sub-facilitator, I had failed to ask the right question. I had failed to say something that would encourage discussion. One possibility is that because of my status as the TA, students who would normally have engaged in a more heated discussion of the text backed down. Another is that they took the point well, but did not feel that a response was necessary. A third possibility is that my question was so leading that students felt embarrassed by it. And of course, it may just have been out of respect for the discussion leader that students moved as a group to the next topic.
As I dissect this experience further, I notice several issues which are not necessarily specific to this event. Firstly, when is it appropriate for a teacher/facilitator to voice her own opinion to the group? Is it appropriate for this person to have an agenda at all, beyond that of the discussion leader? If the teacher/facilitator is to present her own views, how does she make it clear that her views are not necessarily the final word on the subject, to be copied down and memorized, but to be taken as a legitimate interpretation?

As I examine the literature on this subject, I seek experiences of facilitators and teachers who are grappling with the same issues that I am. I don’t necessarily need to focus on extra-classroom teachers, or on those who work with adults. But it would be good to get access to experiences of teachers/leaders/facilitators who promote difficult and challenging discussion. I want to know how they keep themselves composed, how they know when to push and when to pull back. I want to develop a bank of words and questions that can be applied in several situations, beyond the “so, what I’m hearing you say is…” which is a good start, and a good place for people to clarify and rethink what they are expressing. But I want to know how to include more members of the group. I know that you never “get” everyone, but I think that we can “get” more people.

I also question whose responsibility it is to have a good discussion. Is it the student’s responsibility to participate, to make a good discussion happen? Or, is it the job of the teacher/facilitator/TA to make the discussion accessible? How much should I be trying to open it up so that students who have not done the readings can still participate? Our professor does not call on people, which I think is mostly good, but I think that it would be helpful if we learned to say, “It looks like you might have something to say about this…” Such statements might remind students that they do have space to speak. As I explore these questions further, both through my fieldwork and through research, I hope to abstract the discussion to apply not only to TAs in college settings, but to other types of facilitators as well.



Name:
Date: 2005-03-24 23:51:08
Link to this Comment: 13997

Classroom Aides – how can they be most useful?

In this entry I will discuss strategies for classroom aides. I first discuss my own experiences as and aide in an elementary special education classroom and what I learned during the process. I will then discuss ways in which I think teachers and aides can make the class room experience beneficial for all.
Initially, I felt ill prepared because I did not know many of the phonics rules one would apply. Although I had taken a course on teaching reading and had reviewed the information before beginning my work with the students; I did not have much knowledge of specific phonics techniques. Thus when the students stumbled over words I did my best to break the word into fragments they could decode, but I was not sure that I always broke up the word correctly. When I noted this however, I got a book which discussed phonics and did my best to work on learning the phonics rules. When I discussed this concern with the teacher whose class I was assisting she recommended that I continue to work on my phonics skills more and she also promised to help me find information. She then explained to me that the young men with whom I was working knew all of the rules; however, they did not always apply them. Thus, although it helped for me to know the rules as well, the most helpful thing I could do was to remind the students to use the rules they knew.
During my early experience I also found that I did not remember much of what I learned in Geography and Science. I realized this when I was unable to answer questions that arose while reading the book. While reading a word builder (a book comprised of specific phonics skills) with a story that took place in Iceland, I first got confused about the difference between an iceberg and a glacier. I was also unable to show the students where Green Land and Ice Land appeared on the world map. In both of these instances the teacher was able to catch my mistake and clarify the information; however, I alone would not have been able to do this. Also given that the teacher is working with other students on a separate lesson I did not want to disrupt her too much. After this incident I made sure to review the material before I read it with the students so that I could prepare myself for any questions that they might ask. For example, before reading a book about four young people in a Karate club, I looked up the history of Karate as well ensured that I knew the location of various eastern countries mentioned throughout the text.
Another issue I initially faced was that the word builders I read with the students were usually about subjects that were boring and did not relate to the students’ lives. I asked the classroom teacher if I could look for texts that were more interesting for the students and she agreed that this would be fine as long as they were challenging. I reviewed some chapter books that were fairly challenging, but that were also interesting and contained characters with whom I hoped the students could relate. I feel that it is important for a reader to not only understand the text, but to also be drawn into reading it. I also feel that interest is a primary factor in learning not just to read but to enjoy reading. As I had hoped, when I introduced the students to one of the texts I had selected the students were more interested and they began to read with more enthusiasm. They often tried to figure out words themselves because they wanted to know what was going to happen. The students even requested homework so that they could continue to read the book outside of class.
After my experiences I began to question how one can be a successful classroom/instructional assistant. Initially I felt that although I may have been assisting the teacher while working with the students, I was not being as helpful as I wanted to be to the students. However, I worked on the areas where I felt I had weaknesses and regularly talked to the teacher I was working with. This allowed me to become a better classroom aide.
I would recommend that any teachers working with instructional aides make sure to ask what the aide is proficient in. For example, I am somewhat helpful with reading, but when it comes to geography I am at a complete loss, thus when I was asked to show the students where Greenland and Iceland was located I was unprepared. I would also recommend that teachers do not pair inexperienced aides with students with serious needs. I do not have to deal with this in my situation, but I can imagine that it would be frustrating for both the aide and the students. I also advise teachers to watch how the aide is doing, although I know this is difficult given that there are other students the teacher needs to be paying attention to. An example of a teacher supporting an aide is when my classroom teacher assisted me in both finding Iceland and Greenland and gave me a resource book that described the difference between a glacier and an iceberg so I was able to properly explain it to students.
I would advise instructional aides to first become as comfortable as they can with the subject they will be working on prior to entering the classroom. An example of this would be reviewing phonics. I would recommend that aides look at the materials they will be using with students and ensure that they know as much as they can about the given material. An example of this would be if I had read the story that dealt with Iceland in advance I could have looked it up on map prior to working with students. I also must stress that aides should ask their teachers for assistance if they feel they cannot handle something. An example of this is my discussion with my classroom teacher about my concerns regarding my abilities, she gave me encouragement and also promised to assist me in finding information that will help me hone my skills. Also, classroom aides should try to make the material as engaging and interesting for the students as possible.
In conclusion, I would say that the best way to be a helpful classroom/instructional aide would be to get training before entering the classroom. If one has training, I am sure that one will not face as many obstacles as I have. However, I am aware that this is not always possible. In these instances I suggest that one tries to find as much information as one can in advance. I either situation, with or without training, I advise one to continue working on one’s skills and striving to learn as much as one can from one’s successes and failures as an aide.



Name:
Date: 2005-03-24 23:51:09
Link to this Comment: 13998

Classroom Aides – how can they be most useful?

In this entry I will discuss strategies for classroom aides. I first discuss my own experiences as and aide in an elementary special education classroom and what I learned during the process. I will then discuss ways in which I think teachers and aides can make the class room experience beneficial for all.
Initially, I felt ill prepared because I did not know many of the phonics rules one would apply. Although I had taken a course on teaching reading and had reviewed the information before beginning my work with the students; I did not have much knowledge of specific phonics techniques. Thus when the students stumbled over words I did my best to break the word into fragments they could decode, but I was not sure that I always broke up the word correctly. When I noted this however, I got a book which discussed phonics and did my best to work on learning the phonics rules. When I discussed this concern with the teacher whose class I was assisting she recommended that I continue to work on my phonics skills more and she also promised to help me find information. She then explained to me that the young men with whom I was working knew all of the rules; however, they did not always apply them. Thus, although it helped for me to know the rules as well, the most helpful thing I could do was to remind the students to use the rules they knew.
During my early experience I also found that I did not remember much of what I learned in Geography and Science. I realized this when I was unable to answer questions that arose while reading the book. While reading a word builder (a book comprised of specific phonics skills) with a story that took place in Iceland, I first got confused about the difference between an iceberg and a glacier. I was also unable to show the students where Green Land and Ice Land appeared on the world map. In both of these instances the teacher was able to catch my mistake and clarify the information; however, I alone would not have been able to do this. Also given that the teacher is working with other students on a separate lesson I did not want to disrupt her too much. After this incident I made sure to review the material before I read it with the students so that I could prepare myself for any questions that they might ask. For example, before reading a book about four young people in a Karate club, I looked up the history of Karate as well ensured that I knew the location of various eastern countries mentioned throughout the text.
Another issue I initially faced was that the word builders I read with the students were usually about subjects that were boring and did not relate to the students’ lives. I asked the classroom teacher if I could look for texts that were more interesting for the students and she agreed that this would be fine as long as they were challenging. I reviewed some chapter books that were fairly challenging, but that were also interesting and contained characters with whom I hoped the students could relate. I feel that it is important for a reader to not only understand the text, but to also be drawn into reading it. I also feel that interest is a primary factor in learning not just to read but to enjoy reading. As I had hoped, when I introduced the students to one of the texts I had selected the students were more interested and they began to read with more enthusiasm. They often tried to figure out words themselves because they wanted to know what was going to happen. The students even requested homework so that they could continue to read the book outside of class.
After my experiences I began to question how one can be a successful classroom/instructional assistant. Initially I felt that although I may have been assisting the teacher while working with the students, I was not being as helpful as I wanted to be to the students. However, I worked on the areas where I felt I had weaknesses and regularly talked to the teacher I was working with. This allowed me to become a better classroom aide.
I would recommend that any teachers working with instructional aides make sure to ask what the aide is proficient in. For example, I am somewhat helpful with reading, but when it comes to geography I am at a complete loss, thus when I was asked to show the students where Greenland and Iceland was located I was unprepared. I would also recommend that teachers do not pair inexperienced aides with students with serious needs. I do not have to deal with this in my situation, but I can imagine that it would be frustrating for both the aide and the students. I also advise teachers to watch how the aide is doing, although I know this is difficult given that there are other students the teacher needs to be paying attention to. An example of a teacher supporting an aide is when my classroom teacher assisted me in both finding Iceland and Greenland and gave me a resource book that described the difference between a glacier and an iceberg so I was able to properly explain it to students.
I would advise instructional aides to first become as comfortable as they can with the subject they will be working on prior to entering the classroom. An example of this would be reviewing phonics. I would recommend that aides look at the materials they will be using with students and ensure that they know as much as they can about the given material. An example of this would be if I had read the story that dealt with Iceland in advance I could have looked it up on map prior to working with students. I also must stress that aides should ask their teachers for assistance if they feel they cannot handle something. An example of this is my discussion with my classroom teacher about my concerns regarding my abilities, she gave me encouragement and also promised to assist me in finding information that will help me hone my skills. Also, classroom aides should try to make the material as engaging and interesting for the students as possible.
In conclusion, I would say that the best way to be a helpful classroom/instructional aide would be to get training before entering the classroom. If one has training, I am sure that one will not face as many obstacles as I have. However, I am aware that this is not always possible. In these instances I suggest that one tries to find as much information as one can in advance. I either situation, with or without training, I advise one to continue working on one’s skills and striving to learn as much as one can from one’s successes and failures as an aide.


Class Room Aides - How Can They Be Most Useful
Name: Elena
Date: 2005-03-24 23:52:44
Link to this Comment: 13999

Classroom Aides – how can they be most useful?

In this entry I will discuss strategies for classroom aides. I first discuss my own experiences as and aide in an elementary special education classroom and what I learned during the process. I will then discuss ways in which I think teachers and aides can make the class room experience beneficial for all.

Initially, I felt ill prepared because I did not know many of the phonics rules one would apply. Although I had taken a course on teaching reading and had reviewed the information before beginning my work with the students; I did not have much knowledge of specific phonics techniques. Thus when the students stumbled over words I did my best to break the word into fragments they could decode, but I was not sure that I always broke up the word correctly. When I noted this however, I got a book which discussed phonics and did my best to work on learning the phonics rules. When I discussed this concern with the teacher whose class I was assisting she recommended that I continue to work on my phonics skills more and she also promised to help me find information. She then explained to me that the young men with whom I was working knew all of the rules; however, they did not always apply them. Thus, although it helped for me to know the rules as well, the most helpful thing I could do was to remind the students to use the rules they knew.

During my early experience I also found that I did not remember much of what I learned in Geography and Science. I realized this when I was unable to answer questions that arose while reading the book. While reading a word builder (a book comprised of specific phonics skills) with a story that took place in Iceland, I first got confused about the difference between an iceberg and a glacier. I was also unable to show the students where Green Land and Ice Land appeared on the world map. In both of these instances the teacher was able to catch my mistake and clarify the information; however, I alone would not have been able to do this. Also given that the teacher is working with other students on a separate lesson I did not want to disrupt her too much. After this incident I made sure to review the material before I read it with the students so that I could prepare myself for any questions that they might ask. For example, before reading a book about four young people in a Karate club, I looked up the history of Karate as well ensured that I knew the location of various eastern countries mentioned throughout the text.

Another issue I initially faced was that the word builders I read with the students were usually about subjects that were boring and did not relate to the students’ lives. I asked the classroom teacher if I could look for texts that were more interesting for the students and she agreed that this would be fine as long as they were challenging. I reviewed some chapter books that were fairly challenging, but that were also interesting and contained characters with whom I hoped the students could relate. I feel that it is important for a reader to not only understand the text, but to also be drawn into reading it. I also feel that interest is a primary factor in learning not just to read but to enjoy reading. As I had hoped, when I introduced the students to one of the texts I had selected the students were more interested and they began to read with more enthusiasm. They often tried to figure out words themselves because they wanted to know what was going to happen. The students even requested homework so that they could continue to read the book outside of class.

After my experiences I began to question how one can be a successful classroom/instructional assistant. Initially I felt that although I may have been assisting the teacher while working with the students, I was not being as helpful as I wanted to be to the students. However, I worked on the areas where I felt I had weaknesses and regularly talked to the teacher I was working with. This allowed me to become a better classroom aide.

I would recommend that any teachers working with instructional aides make sure to ask what the aide is proficient in. For example, I am somewhat helpful with reading, but when it comes to geography I am at a complete loss, thus when I was asked to show the students where Greenland and Iceland was located I was unprepared. I would also recommend that teachers do not pair inexperienced aides with students with serious needs. I do not have to deal with this in my situation, but I can imagine that it would be frustrating for both the aide and the students. I also advise teachers to watch how the aide is doing, although I know this is difficult given that there are other students the teacher needs to be paying attention to. An example of a teacher supporting an aide is when my classroom teacher assisted me in both finding Iceland and Greenland and gave me a resource book that described the difference between a glacier and an iceberg so I was able to properly explain it to students.

I would advise instructional aides to first become as comfortable as they can with the subject they will be working on prior to entering the classroom. An example of this would be reviewing phonics. I would recommend that aides look at the materials they will be using with students and ensure that they know as much as they can about the given material. An example of this would be if I had read the story that dealt with Iceland in advance I could have looked it up on map prior to working with students. I also must stress that aides should ask their teachers for assistance if they feel they cannot handle something. An example of this is my discussion with my classroom teacher about my concerns regarding my abilities, she gave me encouragement and also promised to assist me in finding information that will help me hone my skills. Also, classroom aides should try to make the material as engaging and interesting for the students as possible.

In conclusion, I would say that the best way to be a helpful classroom/instructional aide would be to get training before entering the classroom. If one has training, I am sure that one will not face as many obstacles as I have. However, I am aware that this is not always possible. In these instances I suggest that one tries to find as much information as one can in advance. I either situation, with or without training, I advise one to continue working on one’s skills and striving to learn as much as one can from one’s successes and failures as an aide.


(Formerly) Traditional Students in the Revolutiona
Name: sky stegal
Date: 2005-03-25 15:03:17
Link to this Comment: 14012

An Introduction to the Questions
Every revolutionary encounters resistance – it is part of what makes us revolutionaries. In the case of the extra-classroom teacher, however, the resistance can come from every direction, including the students. This may prove to be the biggest obstacle in creating and sustaining emergent, progressive, creative and yes, revolutionary learning environments. How does one convince a group of students who have been raised with and indoctrinated in a traditionally structured education system that an emergent or just an unusual system is legitimate? How do we, as extra-classroom teachers especially, redefine education to include and embrace situations which are far from the comfortable, traditional, teacher-oriented structures students may be used to?
As with any educational idea, the students must buy into the concept for it to work; however in the case of an emergent system this issue is magnified. Since the system requires more engagement and work form the students than the traditional pour-knowledge-into-the-vessel approach, the students must be engaged in making the new system work. They have to become part of the revolution, as it were. But how do we actually do that? How do we help empower and literally encourage our students to take the bold steps away from the comfortable pedagogy of “‘Horace’s Compromise’ – don’t ask too much of me and I won’t hassle you!” (Connolly, 4) and towards our goals?
A Few Examples
When Paul Grobstein set up his introductory biology class to follow an emergent and unusual pedagogical pattern, he expected a rebellion, or some kind of big reaction to the revolutionary steps he’d taken in changing his course. He didn’t get that kind of reaction – in fact the class got along rather well, considering how different it was from the traditional intro science courses his students had no doubt taken in high school. He explains it thus: “Students, as always, are quite wiling to follow the lead of teachers, so long as the teachers send clear and nonconflicting messages about what the educational experience is about” (Grobstein, 3).
I didn’t really understand what he meant until I spoke with Victor Donnay of our math department. He talked about making math classrooms into nontraditional learning environments and how hard that had been. He said specifically that in his case, an ounce of prevention had been worth more than a pound of cure, and that students did fine in an unusual classroom so long as they knew from the outset what they were doing and, perhaps more importantly, why they were doing it that way. Students need to know and understand the revolution they are being invited to take part in, and it surely helps to explain where these strange ideas have come from, and what they mean. Professor Donnay mentioned telling his students that “studies have shown” or that “research indicates” that the type of system he was using was more effective for learning, comprehension, and long-term retention of material. As long as the students understand the motivation behind what may seem like strange decisions, they are much more likely to engage themselves.
A Case Study
In my placement, in which the students are all college or post-college level students, we are faced with the very real challenge of legitimizing a system which frequently seems strange and perhaps pointless to the learners. Our lab is not graded, although lab notebooks are read and commented upon, and there is no take-home work in the form of a prelab or postlab assignment. Many of the traditional aspects of lab have been thrown out the window, so to speak, and the students were informed of this on the first day. While few of them expressed particular concern at that time, many students have come to me and to the instructor since then with criticisms of the structure and lack of grading policy in the lab. Many of our students are post-baccalaureates attempting to enter medical school, and several of them have expressed the opinion that three hours a week spent in a lab that does not technically affect their grade is a misuse of their time. Some students have also stated they feel they are not learning in lab, because of the lack of structure and follow-up assignments.
Once I noticed that this was a recurring problem, I began questioning students about their thoughts and feelings towards the lab, and what they thought could be done better. I observed that generally the students who complained that the lab was not graded were the same students who got extremely anxious around exams in all their classes, and who often placed greater emphasis on securing good grades and a “good” medical school placement than on understanding and being able to use and remember the conceptual material. On the other hand, I also questioned students who had never seemed worried that the lab was not graded, and their responses were overwhelmingly positive about it; they said it took off the pressure of performance and allowed them to explore wherever their curiosity led. These students also rarely seemed to worry about their classes – and indeed, one of them has already been accepted to the medical program of his choice.
What I found to be important was to understand the attitude of the students, individually and as a group. My students respond to our system better when they have a more relaxed view of their work in the college, and when they are more confident about their classroom grades. When I realized that, I offered to tutor some of the more stressed-out students. On the occasions when they have taken me up on this offer, I have had the opportunity to get to know them, to help them with their work, to ask them about their classes and labs, and to literally encourage them in the discipline – a student who feels more prepared for the test is going to look more kindly and with more enthusiasm at the laboratory system because he or she is less focused on the grade. I also try to take every opportunity in lab to discuss what aspects of the experiment relate to the class work, and especially how understanding the concepts will be helpful to them in their future classes and careers. Engaging a student in a discussion about digital logic has, on several occasions, led to conversation about how technological systems parallel the design of the human body, and the color perception lab often ends up with a debate about the human eye and brain, and why they work the way they do. Finding what makes my students sit up and get interested is a huge part of my job as a facilitator, and a joy in itself as well.
A Few Good Ideas
While there is no way to accurately predict how a group of students will react to a new, unusual, emergent, revolutionary pedagogy, there are some reliable ways to legitimize the system in the minds of your students. Especially important in required extra-classroom settings like a lab or T.A. session, legitimacy can mean the difference between struggling through a painful year of complaints and students who refuse to try to learn, and a year of hard work through the brilliant journey of understanding. This is not easy, by any means – no revolution ever is. But it is also not as hard as it may sound, because there are well-tried methods to smoothing the pathway:
• Explain, without condescension, what you are doing differently, and why. Your students probably more invested in their education than you are, and will often respond well to being involved in the pedagogical process. The trick is to do it as early as possible; not to let your students’ expectations outgrow your ability to change them.
• Get to know your students’ needs and motivations. Try not to assume you know what a student will be interested in based on his or her major or apparent future plans – some of the best lab experiences I have had with premed students did not involved medicine at all. Talk to your students informally, and get to know them as people and as learners.
• Offer to accommodate some of their expectations and/or needs. I help my students with their homework and answer questions that relate to quizzes and class work as much as to lab. They respect me more for it, because I clearly care about their priorities in learning, not just mine in teaching.
Is it a lot of work to engage students in a revolutionary system? Definitely. Is it worthwhile? I say, even more definitely. Research has shown that some pedagogies encourage more and deeper learning, and while taking bold steps away from less helpful, traditional systems is difficult and scary, the end result is exceptionally worthwhile.
(works cited to be added later; I don’t know how to do it right!)


Response to Chapter Drafts
Name: Alison Coo
Date: 2005-03-27 05:36:24
Link to this Comment: 14038

Thank you for the invitation to read these drafts of your handbook chapters. They represent a wide and interesting array of contexts and practices, and I was struck by how quickly and how deeply I felt able to enter each world evoked by the individual chapters. My sense is that these chapters could be of real interest and use to a wide variety of people. Very exciting! I comment here very briefly on each chapter as well as offer my impression of the handbook overall in hopes that my comments will help move both the individual chapters and the handbook as a whole forward.

What struck me in reading Lim’s draft is how tricky it is to use praise to good effect. I really appreciated the honesty, the specificity, and the insight in the discussion. I wondered as I was reading about (1) the possibility of asking students what they want you as a tutor to look for in their work and (2) the possibility of asking students what they think they are doing well (not necessarily in this order or at the same time). Both these strategies might give you as a tutor some insight into where the student is, what she feels confident or uncertain about, and when or what kind of praise might be appropriate. I wonder if it might make sense to organize the chapter around first the challenges, which are already so well explained with concrete examples, and then some strategies for creating a context in which praise can be effective (the list at the end could be integrated into the text and expanded upon).

What struck me in reading Allison’s chapter draft was how useful it is to identify key moments in a developing teacher/learner relationship and what can promote or hinder the pedagogical relationship at those key moments. It is not always clear to people when those moments are, and I was impressed with Allison’s perceptions. My recommendation is connected to this commendation: Might you draw out and summarize the key things you learned? You could not only list them but also elaborate a bit by reiterating when and why it might make sense make a particular choice (i.e., have a concrete plan).

What struck me in reading Rachel’s draft is the intersection of the notions of culture and engagement. This is a powerful area to explore. There is so much both assumed and explicit about each that warrants analysis and better understanding. I wonder if it might make sense to try to identify up front what engagement means to you, then move to an exploration of when your expectations or ideas about engagement clash with students’, and then address how your notions of engagement might interface with students’ cultural perspectives and experiences.

What struck me in reading Christine’s draft is that it practices what it preaches in powerful ways. It illustrates the process of self-assessment while it articulates and explains the importance of self-assessment. Nothing is more important in education than enacting yourself what you espouse. My recommendation is that you include some questions extra-classroom teachers could ask themselves as a way to engage in self-assessment. Perhaps that could be another method or maybe it could be more of an umbrella for the three categories—questions one could pose no matter what medium one was using to assess oneself.

What struck me in reading Emily’s draft is the usefulness of the various categories/subheadings. These are, it seems to me, issues that all teachers, in- or extra-classroom, must consider. Might it make sense for this chapter to include some more in-depth, concrete examples, as some of the other chapters do, to illustrate the important points identified in the categories?

What struck me in reading Caitlin’s draft is the importance of creating possibilities for dialogue, with team teaching as a case in point. The themes of communication, negotiation, and reflection, which are mentioned in some other chapters as well, are really foregrounded here. Might it make sense to present a somewhat clearer explanation of the challenges and possibilities of team teaching; these challenges and possibilities are addressed in the chapter, but they could be marked more clearly (maybe with subheadings) and perhaps expanded upon.

What struck me in reading Samantha’s chapter is the clarity of the recommendations for being a good role model. These are specific, thoughtful, and practical. What I would like to see more of in this chapter is a critical interrogation of what a role model is. In other words, what are the assumptions behind the notion? How might they exacerbate the feeling Samantha describes of seeing a group of students who do not look like her and wondering what she can model for them? How might the notion be clarified so that it can create a space for and invite engagement of various potential role models who might not consider themselves in this way?

What struck me in reading MaryBeth’s draft was the importance of considering the possible drawbacks as well as the benefits of ethnographic vision and practices in teaching. A critical and realistic look at theory is wiser than an uncritical acceptance of it. I recommend that MaryBeth ground this critical analysis in some particulars from the context in which she has been working. I’d like to read some examples of how an ethnographic lens or approach did or did not work, or could or probably wouldn’t work, given the particulars of the context.

What struck me in reading Susanna’s draft is the clarity with which it lays out, particularly in the first part, the steps one should take or the questions one should ask oneself. The steps or questions are open enough to apply across contexts but pointed enough to get at the heart of the role and responsibility one has as an extra-classroom teacher. I recommend that there be some framing of the chapter that articulates the importance of good discussion, and I’d like to see the latter part as clearly organized and explained as the first part.

What struck me in reading Elena’s draft was the powerful way in which she discerned lessons from her lived experiences. In other words, it is clear that she not only went through but also made good sense of – derived important lessons for the future from – the experiences she had. I recommend that the lessons be more clearly flagged, perhaps listed with subheadings, and elaborated on.

What struck me in reading Sky’s draft was the effectiveness of the different parts, often told as stories to illustrate. That narrative approach is compelling. What I recommend for this chapter is a more substantial/extensive introduction that addresses the whole notion of “revolutionary.” Why is this important, desirable, educative? Some theoretical grounding would make the examples even more powerful.

About the handbook as a whole:

I notice that a number of people identify assumptions and expectations they brought to the setting and work they describe. Might it make sense to include this as a feature across all chapters in the handbook? Since everyone has assumptions and expectations, identifying specific ones in each chapter could be a real service to readers of the handbook, both in the particulars of the assumptions and expectations and in the more general sense of modeling the process of making them explicit.

I wonder also if there are key lessons that people learned across contexts that could be generalized into a set of loose guidelines for extra-classroom teachers. Or maybe better would be to compose a set of questions that you think extra-classroom teachers need to consider based on the variety of your experiences. I am not recommending a uniform set of practices or prescriptions across contexts but rather issues to consider, such as “How do you get to know learners well and quickly enough to be effective?” “Why is it important to reflect on your own assumptions/practices as well as on learners’ progress?” “What is the nature of your relationship to the regular classroom teacher?”

Will the handbook have an introduction that explains the format as well as content? Such an introduction might help readers orient themselves and get the most out of the handbook. Depending on what all the chapters end up including, it might be useful to signal what kind of handbook this is, i.e., one that embeds guidelines for practice in narratives of lived experience.

What a pleasure to read this work-in-progress!

Alison


Begun!
Name:
Date: 2005-03-27 09:47:03
Link to this Comment: 14040

Hello everyone,
Alison, thank you so much for launching our review process with such rich, helpful, and illuminating commentary. I have been checking this forum with amazing frequency because I am so excited and curious to see how the dialogue with our review team will evolve.
Students, I am very happy that you have created drafts strong enough to "go public" with -- that you are finding ways to share your growing knowledge without needing to claim total expertise or mastery -- which would not make sense given the dynamic contexts and roles we are investigating.

Thanks, everyone.

Alice


Group 1: Suzie, Sky, Alison
Name: Xuan-Shi,
Date: 2005-03-27 12:42:44
Link to this Comment: 14046


Response to Suzie:
This is an interesting topic. It can be difficult to figure out what one's role is as a facilitator and you offered some helpful guidelines. I would like to understand what emergent pedagogy means to you in the context of a discussion because at times, you expressed doubts as to whether your work is adhering to the concept of emergent pedagogy. You went on to narrate and reflect on a thought-provoking experience. This is good stuff, but it may be helpful to organize that section by summarizing what were the main challenges. You also brought up some important questions with regards to facilitator control/intervention. It would be helpful for me as a reader to know your preliminary thoughts on these issues.

Response to Sky:
I enjoy reading your entry! It is clear and comprehensive, and I like your organization of the material. One suggestion: you wrote about helping students recognize how their understanding of the concepts they are learning now would be helpful to them in their future careers/classes. You may want to consider putting this point in the "A Few Good Ideas" section. Also, it would be helpful for me if you briefly explain how emergent pedagogy plays out at your placement. You provided a rich exposition about how you help students transition into a different learning environment by acknowledging the way they feel without making judgments on them and offering the support they might find beneficial. It may be useful to add this point into the "A Few Good Ideas" section as well.

Response to Alison:
I like the parts where you raise questions for tutors to ask of themselves, as well as your strong conclusion. Now that you have added in your personal experiences, I feel the entry is richer! You talked about being sensitive to students' "preconceived notions about your role as an extra-classroom teacher" and how these notions may "somewhat determine the role you have." I would be interested to hear more about your thoughts on this issue, especially in the light of the literacy readings we did last week. In your experience, how useful or has it been useful to be explicit about your role/authority as a tutor? When would be the ideal time to address this issue with students?


Good job everyone!


Responses to Handbook Drafts
Name: Christina
Date: 2005-03-28 21:59:33
Link to this Comment: 14119

Response to Caitlin:

First of all, let me begin by saying how much I love your topic. I feel that it is so easy and so tempting to overlook the cooperative potential of teaching. So thanks for bringing attention to this important issue! Also you write very clearly and communicate your ideas effectively. In addition, I really liked your idea about creating a list of teacher assumptions, needs, expectations, etc. at the very first meeting. There are two changes, or rather two additions however that you might want to make. First, it might be a good idea to explain a little more to the Handbook reader why team teaching is so important. I know that in your rough draft you wrote very compellingly about the need of team teaching, so you might want to incorporate some of that into your final draft. Since you (correctly) noted that team teaching requires lots of effort and patience, you are probably going to want to convince the reader as much as possible about its necessity and the rewards it will yield over the long-run, so the reader will be more willing to give team teaching the commitment it requires. Second, I would also like to hear your recommendations on how extra-classroom teachers and/or professional teachers might go about putting together a team. Should they float the idea by a site supervisor or a school principal? Or should they maybe first approach colleagues who they are amicable terms with and start from there? I have no clue myself but if you had any insights concerning this matter it might be useful to the interested reader. But overall I think you really wrote an informative and helpful draft.


review of handbook draft
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-03-29 09:31:37
Link to this Comment: 14133

review of Classroom Aides--How Can They Be Most Useful?
Elena, Your piece was very good at bringing together your experience in the classroom with great suggestions for making the most use of extra classroom aides. Particularly, the section on recommendations really extrapolates from experiences and frustrations all of us as extra classroom teachers have felt at one point.

In your piece you described some of the obstacles you faced in the classroom. I would have liked to have read more about what subjects exactly were being taught in the class. At first I thought the class was solely a “language arts” class and then you mentioned having to know geography. This was confusing to me. I liked that you wrote at length about how you took an active role in honing your skills and was worried that you underestimated your capabilities as an extra classroom aide, especially as stated in your last paragraph. Do you think/believe that most teachers and extra classroom aides know all of the work? Or, do you feel that this is necessary? Perhaps you want to emphasize the collaboration needed between the teacher and aide…?


review of handbook entry
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-03-29 09:50:30
Link to this Comment: 14134

review of Don't Let Formal Education Get in the Way of Learning

Rachel—You have alluded to a very important idea (I think) about the role of one’s culture and experiences and how they relate to experiences in the classroom. You ask some very important questions such as “How can I use various understandings of culture to foster engagement in learning beyond traditional academic settings” and “How do I bring the cultural aspect of student as learner and also as an individual?” I know that your extra classroom experience has been difficult and I did not realize these were some of the issues you were tackling.

My initial response to your entry is that I would like to see more elaboration on key concepts you present. In this entry you speak about a book we used in class (Ethnographic Eyes) and when I read this I wondered if you were writing in response to some of the material you read in this book. Also, it was great to read about some of the strategies you employed to engage your tutee, specifically the part where you wrote about free writing. Could you expand on what free writing means? What is engagement? I was not sure what that meant, and does engagement have to do with cultural assumptions? You have asked many questions in your entry and I wonder if in your next draft you will begin to answer these questions?


Handbook Responses to Samantha and Elena
Name: Rachel Fra
Date: 2005-03-29 10:18:58
Link to this Comment: 14135

Samantha,
I enjoyed your entry. Your points of practice are very useful and insightful. I am a little confused as to what you mean by "pre-service teacher". Maybe explain it. I would suggest that you bring in your definition of a role model and what you believe is your role as a role model constitutes though you are an extra classroom teacher and how that then fosters an empowering environment. And maybe bringing an experience/situation where you felt you needed to be or served as a role model and this will bring a personal understanding of the topic your exploring.

Helena,
I really like that you introduced your entry with your challenges as an extra classroom teacher and then how that dynamic works with the challenges of the students in the classroom. I know you speak about training before coming into the classroom but I think you should speak a little more in depth about the training you did not necessarily receive and how you made the situation work for both you and the students. Many student teachers are faced with the same obstacles but to read your entry and your experience they may be able to extract helpful bits and better their teaching and learning experience(s).

Which one is yours Rebecca?


Handbook Entry
Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-03-29 15:44:30
Link to this Comment: 14139

NOTE TO REVIEWERS: I apologize for the lateness of this posting. This is a work in progress. Especially, the sections that are italicized need more work. Thank you for your help.

Theory and Practice of Empowering Learning in Extra-Classroom Settings:
An Issue of Agency

I am an outsider. I do not know the classroom. I do not know the students and their procedures. The students and the teacher do not know who I am. I will only be assisting in the classroom for a couple of weeks. Will they allow me to help, in effect trust me? How can I successfully make it through this jungle of extra classroom teaching?
Agency. Once an extra classroom teacher obtains agency, these infamous insecurities and questions can begin to be resolved. However, what is agency? Agency is a difficult word to define. Agency is typically viewed as the condition of being in action or the approach of acting instrumentality. Yet, I believe agency has a more specific definition when applied to the agency that an extra classroom teacher can possess in an educational setting. Specifically, this type of agency is to have to respect and control of a classroom or several individuals, and to be trusted by the students and teacher to be a guide and helper of the classroom. Although the definition of agency may seem simple, obtaining agency in a classroom is certainly not an easy task. There are several major obstacles to gaining agency, trust, and respect.
One of the main obstacles to gaining agency is that, in general, an extra classroom teacher is far from a permanent fixture in the students’ lives. He/she is a temporary relationship. This creates numerous problems because, in effect, students sometimes feel as though they must create barriers so that they do not lose someone or something they care about.(QUOTE) However, this obstacle is possible to overcome with the use of trust. The reason for this is because students are more likely to allocate agency when a trusting relationship is formed. A trusting relationship involves having confidence and faith in another person and believing in the integrity, reliability, and character of him/her. This can be built with simple tasks such as explaining things, condemning sarcasm and destructive criticism, not giving up on pupils, promoting mutual respect or practically any encouraging gesture.
However, building a trusting relationship can be a task that takes a very long time. Therefore, forming realistic expectations about the relationship with students is important. Ideally, with an unlimited amount of time and few obstacles, the expectations for one’s extra classroom teaching should go beyond assisting with individual skills, such as fractions, into an approach for studying and furthermore, combining the individual skills into longer-term strategies in order to achieve a student’s goals. Moreover, extra classroom teaching would ideally involve encouraging students to think about their own thought processes and to become more analytical, while incorporating schoolwork into their lives outside of school, in effect making learning personal. However, in contrast, one’s expected responsibilities as an extra classroom teacher from the teacher and students are rarely the same. Responsibilities could include listening to children read, helping children understand new concepts, or even helping the teacher to record children's progress. Therefore, it can sometimes be beneficial to formulate these expectations and responsibilities with the ‘head teacher.’
Once these expectations and responsibilities are formed, there are many other simple approaches, which an extra classroom teacher can make. A first suggestion is simply to observe how the teacher functions and interacts with the students. Watch how the teacher obtains the students' attention and cooperation, and then imitate that. Observe what types of techniques the teacher uses for specific situations. This will mostly likely help increase ones’ level of agency with the class or individual student because the student(s) is familiar with these strategies and will be comfortable with the usage of them. Furthermore, try to utilize your cooperating teacher advice; he/she can be a valuable resource.
Another suggestion is, after becoming acquainted with the student(s), try to have the student(s) clearly understand the task and an overview of what he/she is learning. It is best to try not to teach isolated segments of content without showing how they link into the whole. This can be beneficial to increasing ones agency because if the student(s) is prepared and well familiar with the general overview, the student(s) are less likely to misbehave out of frustration and allocate trust. Additionally, try to make each lesson apply to the student(s). When the material is pertinent to one’s life, it is easier to understand and remember it, especially if the teacher is motivated and interested as well.
Depending upon an extra classroom teacher’s responsibilities, some are expected to prepare lessons for the class. If this is case, there are several basic approaches to how an extra classroom teacher can improve one’s agency in the creation of lesson plans. First, use a variety of approaches for both input and student presentation of work, including letting the students teach. This encourages the participation of students less able in reading and writing and allows students to develop creativity. In fact, any lesson plan that involves activity is good for the students’ learning because the students are actively engaged. When students are not sitting and listening, trust, communication, and agency is easier to accomplish.
(For the conclusion talk about consequences of no agency)


Peer Review
Name: Elena
Date: 2005-03-29 18:46:07
Link to this Comment: 14146

Samantha,
I really enjoyed your handbook entry draft on extra classroom teachers as role models. You touched on a topic that I feel is very important to youth, especially youth from the inner city. You did a great job describing your own initial experiences and questions when you entered your placement. I would be interested to know how you feel your mentors helped you in the past and how this frames how you enter a classroom. I especially liked the section where you described good practices to use. You may want to define the technical terms you use, such as ‘discourse of deficit’. Also, I was curious if you could provide a link to a website you could provide to the program at Washington State University, it sounded really interesting.

Rachel,
I felt that your handbook entry draft was well thought out, I really enjoyed reading it. I felt that your topic was very insightful and important. You had many good ideas and wonderful insights into how you interact with your students, Jerome in particular. I felt that your conclusion paragraph helped to pull together many of your points, you may want to move it to the beginning or add a short abstract. I did not fully understand what you meant by engagement, could you explain it a little more? I really enjoyed your description of your work with Jerome it is obvious that you have given your time working with him a lot of thought. It would be great if you would elaborate on you work with Jerome and how you feel this relates to culture of school or learning in general. I can really see your ideas forming in this draft.


handbook response
Name: Jody Cohen
Date: 2005-03-29 20:51:05
Link to this Comment: 14149

First, I want to say what an exciting project this is! In reading through a number of your selections, I am really struck by the usefulness of this evolving publication--for 'extra-classroom teachers' and also, in many instances, for teachers. Certainly, it will provide a resource for our students in Education and other classes who are taking up positions in a myriad of education-related roles.

Specifically, I want to comment for now on Caitlin's entry and Samantha's entry.

Caitlin, I really appreciate the way that you take on a subject that is complex, challenging, sometimes difficult, and deal so even-handedly and honestly with the issues. I like your suggestions about raising some key questions within teaching teams early on and then touching base periodically to check in about the collaborative work. I wonder what this entails in terms of commitment of time: Perhaps this work requires an upfront commitment of significant planning time, to include this kind of attention to group process. I also wonder about the role of the professor when this is tied to class(es) and also about the role of a student coordinator. What do you think?

Samantha, I like a lot your choice of role modeling as a focus, and I appreciate the way you consider the significance of the role model's identity in relation to students' identities. I'd like to hear more about what you think a role model is; what does it mean to relate to someone as a 'role model'?

I look forward to the continued evolution of this project!


review of handbook draft
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-03-30 11:39:55
Link to this Comment: 14162

Theory and Practice in Empowering Learning in Extra-Classroom Settings
An Issue of Agency

Rebecca--What a great topic to cover! Your opening truly draws the reader in and your topic is one we have all touched upon in our conversations in class in one form or another.

Are there examples you can use from your placement that highlight the suggestions you provide? Have you overcome the "Outsider" feelings you described in the beginning of your piece? You have three very strong suggestions to obtain agency in the classroom--Do you feel like any person could be an extra-classroom teacher or are there specific skills and traits needed?

This is shaping up nicely. I am curious to see what you write about consequences of no agency, and what readings or other sources you can cite.


Response to Christina
Name: Mary Lyon
Date: 2005-03-30 16:46:30
Link to this Comment: 14166

Response to Christina:

What a great topic! I think you’re absolutely right that sometimes teachers are so concerned with assessing their students that they don’t take time to evaluate their own effectiveness as a teacher. I thought the point you made about seeing “self-assessment as a vehicle for improving student learning” was very insightful and felt that you reflected on this important aspect of teaching very well in your draft.

I really liked the section that highlighted on the extra-classroom teacher as a “self-directed learner.” It is so important for teachers to remember that education in (and out of!) the classroom is a dynamic process that involves all the participants, student and teacher alike. I believe you are right that this model can be very beneficial to the extra-classroom teacher, who, like you said, has few, if any, external assessments. Her effectiveness as a teacher is dependent on what she is able to learn when she is with her student(s) and so, like you said, being aware of this fact can serve as an assessment tool.

You have some great ideas and I thought you did a good job explaining and articulating both their advantages and disadvantages. What I really appreciated about them (as a future teacher myself!) is their practicality and applicability. Being able to take the theory and give it substance and form that can then be adapted to the classroom is an extremely important skill. I especially thought your idea about carrying around a tape recorder was a great idea (and not just because I happen to be a physics lab TA!). One thing I wondered as I was reading this is how you might also involve the students. I suppose that might make it less of a “self-assessment,” but I think that talking to the students is an important way to gauge one’s effectiveness as a teacher. Asking students what lesson plans, projects, models, approaches, etc. worked and didn’t work provides insight into how they learn and allows the teacher the insight necessary to modify her lessons so that her students learn better. I think that this could be particularly effective for extra-classroom teachers, who are often working with a small group of students. A draw back of this approach is, like so many other methods, it will be largely dependent on the situation.

Great job with this! I really enjoyed reading your draft and can now say that I have some good, solid ideas for how I can evaluate my effectiveness as a physics TA. Thanks!


Peer Review
Name: Elena
Date: 2005-03-30 19:42:21
Link to this Comment: 14170

Rebecca,
This is a wonderful work in progress. I really like your topic of agency. I especially like the way you define what you mean by agency in the beginning of the handbook entry. I also like the way you give suggestions to promote agency of students, teachers and extra classroom teachers. I also felt that your section on trust was very important. You may want to add a short paragraph at the beginning that gives an abstract of what you plan to discuss. I would be interested to read about how your experiences on site led you to think about agency as well. This is an excellent draft.


Handbook Response to Rebecca
Name: Rachel Fra
Date: 2005-03-30 21:49:05
Link to this Comment: 14172

Great introduction to your topic. I like how you define agency from a personal and general lens. You also mention trust and that is not a concept that I usually associate with teaching and learning among teacher(s) and student(s)and that's a great area to explore. It would be interesting if you integrated experiences from your praxis site in how you arrived at this question of agency.


comments for Xuan-Shi, Allison, and sky (from susi
Name: susanna
Date: 2005-03-30 22:21:57
Link to this Comment: 14173

Xuan-Shi

Your entry really interested me, because it brought back a lot of things that I hadn’t really thought about since I was little. I was definitely one of those kids who was very sensitive to what I perceived as “fake” from adults, including praise. I particularly liked the idea that praise needs to be as specific as possible and the idea of helping students reflect on positive aspects of their own work. Your piece flows well—you do a good job of incorporating outside references and your fieldwork into the text. It sounds to me, though, that you are maybe too hard on yourself. These things are great to keep in mind, but your instinct—to praise—may not be one you should work against too hard.

Allison

Your introduction really resonated with me, because I have also learned (the hard way, of course) that plans are a key part of teaching. I liked the way you structured your entry overall, by dividing it into subsections. One thing that I would suggest to make it even more interesting is to add in slightly more from your field experiences. For example, in Step One, paragraph two, I think that the reader would benefit from added context for that anecdote.

sky

Your voice in this piece is very engaging! I appreciated your incorporation of your experiences as a TA. Also, your tips for extra-classroom teachers on encouraging support for non-traditional teaching methods are strong, but I would like to see them delve a bit deeper. Maybe using further outside references would help? Another question for you is, were you a student in this professor’s class? Were you already familiar with the less traditional/more emergent approach as a student before you were a TA? (I don’t know whether this would be relevant to your entry or not, but it is something I was wondering.)

I really enjoyed reading everyone's thoughtful and well-articulated thoughts!


Response to Susie
Name: Therese Be
Date: 2005-03-30 23:14:58
Link to this Comment: 14175

I think that you address some really important questions and concepts for us to ponder about extra-classroom facilitators. I read your piece from a number of different perspectives, as I have acted in the capacity of student discussion participant (coincidentally in the exact course you reference), as student discussion leader for a particular unit of that course, and now, as a teaching assistant/facilitator for another sociology course.

I first want to comment on the overall form/organization of your piece. I agree with Alison Cook-Sather's posting, in which she commented that the beginning of your draft is really clear and targeted, but that the second part might benefit from a more organized framework. You might find themes in your various insights and draw those out as headings, like, for example, "Grappling with the Issue of Discussion Control".

The first question you suggest a facilitator ask herself is totally essential. She must examine her positionality in the face of the group. I think that in addition to questioning her actual job duties, an important thing for a facilitator to consider is how she feels about her role, which contains some degree of authority. One of the things that I sometimes face as a teaching assistant, who is also a fellow student, is sort of a self-doubting attitude, or an insecurity in my role, which has some expectation of expertise attached to it. It can be intimidating when a student knows more than you do! So, negotiating these emotions and expectations within oneself is an important step.

One of the major themes that I see emerging in your piece, Susie, is the idea of control. Control in terms of how the facilitator makes the subject matter of the discussion relate to the agenda/purpose of the class, and then control in terms of how the facilitator manages participation of group members. Where is that fine line between guiding the discussion in a manner that sticks to the agenda but still encourages a free flow of ideas, and too forcefully pushing the discussion in a direction that might discourage a free flow of ideas? Where is that fine line between encouraging participation and then forcing participation, which might have the adverse effect of intimidating students into non-participation?

These are some tough questions, and I don't really know how to answer a lot of them, as I only have some really basic experience. I think that you have done a really good job of analyzing the pertinent questions, and if they cannot be answered, at least they can be considered.


hmmm...
Name: emily
Date: 2005-03-31 00:12:41
Link to this Comment: 14176

so here's the thing...i wrote down that i was supposed to review Rebecca, Heather, and Mary Beth's pieces. But Rachel and Elena reviewed Rebecca's piece. Which would suggest that I am not supposed to. I think I was a 4 but I could have been a 1, or anything really...anyone have any thoughts on whose papers I should read? I'm just going to read the ones I wrote down for now, but if I was supposed to read yours and I haven't please e-mail me and I will. i'm eschneid@hc. terrific. emily


review of entry
Name: emily
Date: 2005-03-31 01:26:22
Link to this Comment: 14177

Mary Beth - I really appreciate the way you were able to craft a moment of
"dissonance" for you in our reading of Carolyn Frank's book into this
interesting and critical handbook entry. I thought you did an excellent
job of distilling her book into very graspable summary type (and I use
summary in a completely good way here) introduction to ethnography for
your reader. I also found your use of headings extremely helpful.
However, it is here that I also see some cloudiness. I found that you
kind of bury your main point about how ethnographic eyes/bifocals may not
be useful under the heading "How Ethnography Is Useful in the Extra-Classroom Context." In your next draft I would suggest making your (central?) point about what doesn't work into a section of its own. Beyond that I think that using specific moments from your practice to illuminate your observations would also be very helpful. Thanks so much for helping me to read/apply this text in a new way! Emily


Handbook Response to Rachel's Entry
Name: Nikki H.
Date: 2005-03-31 02:51:31
Link to this Comment: 14180

Rachel-

From an outsider's perspective the issues and challenges you raise to yourself, and others regarding the creation and nurturing of engagement within the classroom is remarkable. From your entry I got the sense that you have an understanding of the classroom as it exists as a microcosm of the real world where social mores and understandings contribute to a greater academic experience, inside and outside of the many "classrooms" that exist. From this I enjoyed your question, "How does an ethnographer/teacher bring that back to the collective class?" This calls into question the use of the real world and social environments, as many are shaped by race, in the classroom. The quote you used brings the challenges you have for yourself to the forefront. I get the sense that you are looking for ways to deconstruct the hierarchical and binary structures that separate students and teachers. This deconstruction would result in students taking on the role of teaching teachers through their experiences and suggestions how to make the classroom a more engaging environment, whether it is a conscious effort or not. On the other hand, from this removal of strict barriers, comes a teacher that in essence becomes the student in learning from actual students how to foster an environment of true learning that does its best to fits each style of learning. Teachers take on an almost observer approach with in a best case scenario takes them from a level of superiority and meets the student where s/he is, and from that place grows with the student. So in this sense, I think your conclusions that learning does not exist just in the classroom, speaks also to something you wish to create and this is an even exchange of knowledge between thes teacher and student that puts both participants on the same playing field. Also, anecdotal use of Jerome would further strengthen this argument/assertion if his story continued throughout the entry. The reader meets him in the beginning and he sets up the "problem" for the reader, but we are not allowed to see how your challenges for yourself and the classroom affect him. In what ways do your thoughts translate to his progression? And if they did not work with him, why is that? In this sense, continuing the story of Jerome constructs a stronger argument whether the results work in your favor or not. So...GIVE US MORE JEROME!! Keep up the good work!


324bowchicka...302



Name: Rebecca Ka
Date: 2005-03-31 07:32:02
Link to this Comment: 14182

Hello Everyone-

I think there was some confusion on which Rebecca posted and who was supposed to respond. I am Rebecca Kaufman and I was not in the group with Samantha, Elena, and Rachel that is the other Rebecca (often called Becky). However, I do appreciate you all responding to my draft. I am sorry for this confusion. I was in Emily’s group and as of now, I only see her draft, so here is my response to Emily:

Emily,
This is a great draft! You have great ideas and really explain you ideas well. The ideas about having a “right” attitude, are a good reminder for me (and all other student- teachers)….thank you!! I have one main suggestion that I think would help improve this paper. Your title does clearly state what you plan to discuss, however, in the body of the essay I feel that is missing. Make sure you clearly state what you will be discussing so that the reading isn’t lost as to what the essay is about. I also want to mention that I really like how you had headings for your sections; this is helpful in guiding the reader along. Great job!



Name:
Date: 2005-03-31 10:20:14
Link to this Comment: 14186


Rachel Francois
Name: Rahel Ayal
Date: 2005-03-31 10:46:56
Link to this Comment: 14187

I think Rachel, makes some strong assertions as well as some complex questions for the reader. She successfully uses one of her students Jerome, as a method to further illustrate obstacles she identifies in public eduction. The piece deals with a lot of overarching questions, which makes reflecting on some issues more difficult. However, education and learning outside/beyond the classroom are not simple nor can one question strike at the core of the discussion necessary to address these issues.

I think as individuals who want to improve the current state of public education, we put too much pressure and responsiblity in the change we want to make. Rachel ideas' and questions are pertinent to the issues however, do not necessarily understand the scope of her current position as a tutor. There is only so much one can do. Since we are all growing intellecutals we need to understand that our efforts are going to evolve also. In the short term, I advise Rachel to utilize her position as a tutor as a resource in which she can encourage Jerome to become agents of their formal education and life-long learning. This can mean creating lessons or activites to draw from the academic work and provide the missing links to fully realize in a social and global context. I know this is not easy and there is not possible check list to make sure one is doing this right. Rachel has already illustrated deep thought, within this excerpt that exemplifies with a little more focus, she can continue to make the meaning impact for the rest of her time in her placement and address some of the overarching questions she presents.


Review of Handbook Entries for Emily and Rebecca
Name: MaryBeth C
Date: 2005-03-31 11:33:08
Link to this Comment: 14188

Please note, I am very sorry if I responded to the wrong Rebecca, and secondly, I was unable to find Heather's revised handbook entry, but instead I just found the paragraph description of the topic. It sounds like a promising topic and I would love to see the draft!

EMILY
I found many of the issues raised in this piece interesting. I think one tension that could also be addressed is the teacher's relative intentions when inviting a teacher/learner into their space. Having worked with many teachers, some view this invitation as an oppurtunity for a college student who has just studied education to come into a classroom and "see how it is done." With many of these teachers, praxis students/student teachers often encounter resistance from their teacher, and one could argue that this is rightfully so. Other teachers view their invitation into their classroom as an opportunity to engage with learners in a safe and supportive space with another "fellow educator." I think your piece is interesting and you raise many concerns that may not occur to a student teacher/praxis student when entering a classroom. I am reminded of our discussion of "classroom cultures" and how there are unique climates created by the interaction of teacher. learner and environment in every class. This seems vitally related to your topic, and is, perhaps something you could explore in addition to the scope of your piece. I particularly enjoyed some of the terminology, something that could indeed be very "empowering", such as dubbing all actors in the classroom "co-learners" as well as "fellow educators."

REBECCA
You discuss the challenges of being a temporary fixture in a class or with a group of students due to the nature of your program, but what are the benefits of your temporary status? What kinds of advantages do you have as being an outsider, a young person, an inexperienced educator, etc.? I think you, like Emily, raise some really key factors in your attitude, appearance and actions that are often overlooked by students in a similar position. In your fifth paragraph, you tackle the enormous issue of transfer and relating the material. Not only is this a massive issue in all of pedgogical theory, but it is a great point of agency (and maybe empowerment??) for the learner. This kind of engagement in the material and the application of it to other facets of life is a great source of active agency for a learner within their own education. I think this is tremendously relevant to your topic and you could explore it more. I really like that juxtaposition, too, of fomenting agency in students and teachers with some of the same practices. Let me know how it works out!


Response to Christina
Name: Caitlin O'
Date: 2005-03-31 12:15:30
Link to this Comment: 14190

Christina,
Your discussion of self-assessment for extra-classroom teachers is particularly poignant and useful for teachers who have little contact with the regular classroom. You very clearly introduce your topic and effectively address various methods of self-assessment that extra-classroom teachers can employ. Your discussion of the extra-classroom teacher as a "self-directed learner" is insightful - I love the idea of learning as an ongoing process, especially for the teacher. Each session with the student(s) is not only a lesson for the student but also for the teacher. I think it is potentially very easy for teachers to detach their effectiveness as a teacher from the performance of the student. However, you make it very clear that there are several self-assessment methods that will help the extra-classroom teacher improve their teaching to improve student learning. I am wondering if you can identify instances where a portfolio would work well, as I think this is a really great way to assess the teacher. I think the reflective journal shares similar characteristics with the portfolio; would it be useful to some teachers to combine these tools? I ask about the portfolio because I think the reflective journal has the potential to be subjective and I am wondering whether in some instances it might be helpful to reflect on a piece of student writing or a lesson plan as an introduction to a journal entry. Also, could you mention specific things that the extra-classroom can look/listen for when recording their sessions with students? Perhaps some explicit questions to think about might be useful. (Do I close my arms when the student is talking to me? Do I nod to reassure and encourage students when they seem unsure about answering a question? etc...)Also, any specific reflective journal ideas? Even though you want to keep this really open (which I think is a good idea) you might suggest something like a double-entry journal or focusing on one student's progress, just as ideas to get your reader thinking. I think you have a really great framework with which to work and you came up with helpful tools for self-assessment that I know I could use as an extra-classroom teacher. Great work!


xuan-shi, allison, and susie
Name: sky
Date: 2005-03-31 12:39:42
Link to this Comment: 14191

first of all, thank you all so much for your helpful advice and comments! i approached this piece of writing with a head full of ideas and more than a little confusion about them, and y'all have definitely helped me organize my thoughts so that my final draft will be excellent.
on to the important part:

Xuan-Shi: your entry is fascinating and very well-researched. you topic is something i've struggled with a lot myself, both in working with littler kids and with college-and-beyond students, and it's good to learn more about it. i especially like your alternative definition of praise, involving ownership and empowerment. i think it would help the reader (like me!) if you made your specific points a little more explicit - not necessarily to list things, but to make individual ideas really stand out.

Allison: i really like the structure of your piece, because i follow things much more easily when they're divided and headed. i dig your "questions to consider" because they bring each section to a specific and useful conclusion - it's easy to find "action steps" towards your goals when you have such pointed and straightforward questions to think about! i would love to have a little more context for some of the things you say, though (and i think others have mentioned this, too). tell us more about your thoughts and situations in your placement?

Susie: i love that you have several experiences to draw from in your placement, having been a student in the class and been a t.a. before. i think that really broadens your understanding of what's going on in the discussion group. your entry loses a little organization as it goes along, though, and in your case it's critical to present your observations (which are awesome!) and the thoughts you're having about them very clearly. fortunately, your piece starts well, so you know how to do it already!


Becky's topic
Name: Barbara Ha
Date: 2005-04-01 12:07:31
Link to this Comment: 14201

Dear Students,

I wish I had time to respond to all of your topics, because they all sound really wonderful! I'm impressed (although of course not surprised) by the obvious thought and care you have put into your work. I'm going to respond to Becky Strattan's topic because Alice said that she is the one who invited me in.

I notice that Becky's topic focuses on 2 things: ways that we help students to become familiar with the structural norms of our educational environments (requirements, etc.) and how we communicate to them the "culture" of the institution. Lots of this kind of description happens in Admissions offices, of course, and I think it's a main way that students choose schools with/for their kids. I want to point to something else about this process: when communities value "diversity" and seek to admit individuals whose backgrounds are very different from one another, then it would seem that community norms are under tremendous pressure as they seek to recreate themselves year after year - by bringing in people who may not feed directly into the institution's image of itself, and trying to find as wide a variety of experiences and perspectives as possible among your members. You build the community here by (in part) challenging community norms. How do you end up with a cohesive culture in the community, then? - and how does that culture reproduce itself year after year, with variations from time to time but also with come continuity? And if the community's dominant discourse is about valuing diversity, how do you produce and continually reproduce that value in the community? Campus leaders (UCAs, HAs, Customs people, etc.) would seem to be critical in this transmission process, as well as long-term, well-"socialized" faculty and staff who buy into the community values. One-on-one learning support relationships might also be key, because you have such a captive audience... the transmission of norms might be more direct.

I'm sure you'll do a great job with this, Becky! Enjoy the rest of the semester.

Barbara



Name: Rebecca Ka
Date: 2005-04-03 08:41:59
Link to this Comment: 14229

Hello Mary Beth-

This is a great draft. The topic that you selected is a great one. You do a great job of summarizing the text (Ethnographic Eyes) and analyzing Frank’s main points. Also, I really like the headings for each section. I have one main suggestion for you. I would recommend that you flesh out the last paragraph a little more. I would like to see you take a stab at how an extra classroom teacher can “devise a way to see as a non-judgmental, ethnographic observer while simultaneously retaining the knowledge, experience and sensitivities of an educator.” Maybe this could be accomplished by using your personal experience from your praxis of how you have tried to deal with this complicated issue. Great work!

-Rebecca


Heather's Handbook Entry
Name: Heather Da
Date: 2005-04-04 04:15:21
Link to this Comment: 14267

Teaching is SO Much More Than: Lesson Plans and Getting it Right The Complicated Reality of Emotions, Identity, and Emergent Learning In the classrooms that I am in as an extra-classroom teacher, the only thing I can say for sure is that I come away with more questions than answers. Things come up in the classroom that can not be expected, and as a teacher I respond the best way I know how. Students will often bring up issues which, if I took it and ran, I could not adequately address if I had an entire year with them. More importantly, I do not have the answer; there is no “right” way to respond. Often these things that come up leave me doubting my ability to connect with the students, and therefore my ability to offer them material that relates to their realities. But, while it is important for me to acknowledge the limitations of my knowledge and influence, it is imperative that I take the opportunity the students offer and engage in a dialogue which we can all genuinely learn from. For future extra-classroom teachers, I can offer a taste of these experiences and the questions that arose from them. I teach in two different English classes, one ninth grade and one combined 10th to 12th grade special education class. In the ninth grade I co-teach with three other college students, and we divide the class of over 30 students into 4 groups to work with them on lesson plans we devise on literacy and language choice. The special education classroom was a placement I had not planned on being as intensive as it is, but the first day I went to observe the classroom teacher told me that I could teach her class on Wednesday mornings. Although I have observed and interacted at various levels in numerous classrooms, this is the first time I have regularly taught a class from my own lesson plan. “He’s a fag!” The first time that I taught the class, I brought in a mini-chapter from “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” for them to read. The book is a memoir by a man who became quadriplegic after having a stroke, leaving him with the little more than ability to blink his left eye, which he did to communicate and to write his book. At one point in the chapter, he looks at his son who is visiting him in the hospital, and describes his sorrow and mourning over his lost ability to touch his son. After reading this, one of the students laughed and said, “He’s a fag!” What is the right thing to say/do in this situation? Of course I am offended, and have a negative gut reaction to his suggestion. My impulse is to reprimand him, to tell him not to use that offensive word. However, the truth is that he has provided an opportunity for learning for the entire class. While my bringing up “gay issues” or “sexuality” may have come across as inappropriate or irrelevant in the eyes of the students or other teachers, he provided me with a golden opportunity to address an issue in a way that is relevant to their lives. What I did do was basically to bring the topic back to the story. He obviously missed the point. The dad is not gay: he just misses touching his son. How could I have brought this topic into relevancy without taking it out of context, in a way that the students could feel unthreatened so that they could challenge their perceptions? Moreover, how can I distance myself enough from this issue so that the students don’t feel attacked, while staying true to my commitment to equality for GLBT people in the school and the world? How real/personal can I be with the students? Is addressing the issue straight-on too controversial to be useful? And, if I do “open the bag” to talking about the issue straight-on, how do I deal with the situation if it becomes overwhelmingly negative and I am the only one offering a gay-friendly opinion? Beyond, or perhaps underlying, the issue of homophobia is the issue of male affection. Obviously the fatherly affection expressed in the narrative was so unsettling or unacceptable or abnormal for the student that he had to distance himself from it. When one student did offer a more sympathetic opinion, he had to qualify that his gay friend was a girl “because,” as he said, “if a gay guy tried to talk to me, that would be unacceptable.” I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. There is obviously no one right answer, and I can’t erase homophobia or machismo within my classroom single-handedly, even if I worked at it all semester. But I can take the opportunity to challenge assumptions the best I know how. Question: How will you use potentially problematic or offensive subjects in the classroom and turn them into an opportunity for learning? “Oh-sorry! Caucasian people.” In one of the first classes I taught in the 9th grade classroom, the students read an excerpt from the article, “Nobody Mean More to Me Than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan,” which addressed through a true story “Black English” versus “Standard English,” and the power dynamics implicit in society’s use of language. After trying to engage the students, all of whom are African American (and I am a white woman), in a discussion about the article, one student said “It’s about black and white people.” Then she looked at me sheepishly and said, “Oh-Sorry. Caucasian people.” I made some kind of gesture to communicate that the term “white people” is fine by me, but it caught me off guard and I don’t know if I did a good job of making it a safe space, a space where they felt they could bring up race issues in front of me. How can I constructively address such an important issue which affects our lives and our world, while acknowledging my identity as a member of a historically oppressive group? How can I acknowledge my identity without making our differences seem insurmountable? Question: How will you bring up issues of race (and acknowledge them where they exist) in a way that addresses the students’ realities and identities, while maintaining a safe space where the students can feel safe to question social inequality and their own perceptions? How will you be an anti-racist role model for students? “What God do you serve?” Last week in the 9th grade English class, I brought in a piece of artwork by Barbara Kruger. She wrote many questions on top of an American flag, some of which were: Who is housed? Who is beyond the law? Who speaks? Who is silenced? Who prays loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last? I asked them why they thought she wrote those questions on top of an American flag, and then what they thought about the questions. Only three students were there, so it was a small group discussion. When we discussed the question, “Who prays loudest?” one girl said that in times of slavery, the slaves prayed the loudest. After the discussion fizzled a little, she asked me if she could ask me a question. Then she asked me, “What God do you serve?” I was suddenly put on the spot, about something which I had no preparation. I was so shocked that I looked around, almost looking for someone to intervene or thinking of something to say without quite answering her question. But no one was there to mediate except me, and I could not think of anything diplomatic to say. I said a bunch of “um-s” and then said, honestly, “I don’t know.” They proceeded to talk about different religions, about “agnostics” and “atheists.” And the student who asked me what God I serve was crossing the line of being preachy, saying, “I pray to the God in heaven, whereas other people pray to other Gods.” And when another student asked how she knew her God was right, she said that her God made things happen faster than if you were to pray to another God. Then another student asked her how she knew: had she tried? She suggested doing an experiment where for a year she would pray to a different God, and see how fast things happened. I was enjoying this conversation, and was very glad that they were discussing things that were obviously relevant to their everyday lives, and also rich with context and consequence. But, I did not know how to mediate the conversation productively. I let the conversation run pretty freely, except for jumping in to tell them that some people believe in more than one God. When the student became more “preachy,” I told them, as respectfully as I could, that there is no “right” belief, that we have to respect everyone’s beliefs, and then I told them the reason that “I don’t know” is because religion has caused a lot of violence and wars when people think that only they are right. The students seemed to understand this, and began to talk about war. I did not want to make this student question her faith. But, in an effort to maintain a space where all beliefs were welcome, I discouraged her from “teaching” the other students what she “knows,” and perhaps left her more unsure of her opinions. This conversation was not what I had planned. Although completely unexpected and unplanned for, it was both relevant and worthwhile. This is a teaching moment which I am sure happens often. How can I take the important experiences and perspectives of the students seriously, and encourage them to relate personally with texts, while maintaining a balance of subjects and opinions in the classroom so as to not silence anyone’s opinions? And, how much should I bring in my own beliefs and opinions? Question: How will you allow space for students to express themselves, including their beliefs, while maintaining safe space for different ways of living?


spacing?
Name: Heather Da
Date: 2005-04-04 04:17:05
Link to this Comment: 14268

sorry, I couldn't get my paragraphs to be separated
suggestions?


Adult Learners: The Promises of Voluntary Educatio
Name: Amie Clair
Date: 2005-04-04 14:38:29
Link to this Comment: 14276

Adult Learners
The Promises of Voluntary Education

Adults, in the legal sense, are people who have lived eighteen years. They are not required by the law to attend school. However, adults do not stop learning once they leave school anymore than they started when they entered it. This handbook chapter is written for adults learners who are serving in the capacity of an extra-classroom teacher for other adult learners. Since learning, even in formal settings, is no longer compulsory and automatic it is useful to think of the reasons that adults intentionally learn. The reasons that adults engage in learning impact what and how they learn. In order to effectively teach in a student-centered and empowering way an extra-classroom teacher must understand the motivations and goals of the learner. I will first look at a list of reasons that adults learn and then examine the implications of this for extra-classroom practice.

Reasons
1. To learn a specific skill.
examples: software use, home repair, resume writing, language proficiency

2. For entertainment or personal edification.
examples: guided tours of historic sites, museums, zoos, book signings

3. To maintain certification in a field
examples: Certified Public Accountant, Teaching License, Medical Practitioner License

4. To obtain a degree or admittance into a degree program, pass a test.
examples: Associates, Bachelors, Masters degree, GED, MCAT, GRE tests

5. To be regarded as a moral and/or powerful person.

6. To discern a vocation, gifts, or, skills.


These reasons are not separate, but overlap and intertwine in any given situation. In my experience all of these reasons can co-exist in one group of people ostensibly learning the same exact subject. I listed these reasons separately because they each carry expectations with them in an education setting. It is important for teachers to be aware of the expectations their students have of them. It is not necessary, however, for a teacher to try to fulfill these expectations to the letter. The contract with the student is that they will learn, not that their experience will be conducted in the way they expect it to happen. The relationship between teacher and student needs to be reflexive, where both learners understand the other’s expectations.

Learning is not only gaining new information, but is primarily organizing that information into a hierarchy of importance. This is what the National Resource Council describes as expertise in How People Learn. Learners with a certain objective in mind will rank information that seems to support their objective as more important. A visitor with an interest in architecture touring Independence Hall will ask different quetsions than another visitor interested in paintings. Similarly, an undergraduate student planning to apply to graduate school may study towards getting high grades on a test, while neglecting to internalize the course material. (Another Reasons Physics Students Learn by Rote).

The good news in this is that no teacher has to teach directly and specifically to each individual’s interests. Each student is going to draw out what they’re interested in from the breadth of knowledge available to them in a learning situation. The tour guide in the example above could give the same tour to two people with very different interests. Additionally, the tourists benefit from each others’ questions which they may find interesting though they hadn’t thought of them themselves. As an extra-classroom teacher I have found myself being both tour guide and fellow tourist. I have had to prepare myself well enough on a given topic to be ready for a variety of questions that I can either give answers to or suggest ways of finding answers. I prepare myself by thinking of my own questions and trying to anticipate questions that my students might ask. When I evaluate students work I try as much as possible to be a fellow tourist and make suggestions of further questions or perspectives the student might use. This turns evaluation from being just about right and wrong answers and towards a constructive framework of how to improve.

All learners build on what they already know. Some adult learners even have expertise in the field they are studying. Often the reasons for learning more about something come from some prior knowledge. For example, I met a student who had worked in Finance and was now preparing for Medical School to be a Physician. He brought with him not only Statistical Math skills but also a perspective that what he learned was not only for himself, but was so he could help others more effectively. The knowledge an adult learner brings into learning needs to be acknowledged not only as a starting point for further learning, but in a way that shows respect for what the learner has accomplished already. It is this previous knowledge a learner brings with her that blurs the roles of teacher and student, especially among adults. Adults all have varying areas of expertise and experience that place them alternatively in the role of a teacher and student. The extra-classroom teacher should be especially aware of her double-role of both teacher and student because mentoring and tutoring brings both adult learners together in a close relationship that allows them to each share their expertise more readily than in a classroom setting.

Most of the students I have taught as an extra-classroom teacher have been older than I.. Questions are often raised in my mind and theirs to my authority as a teacher. An understanding that we are both there to learn from each other has helped me build the necessary confidence and humility to teach students older than myself. One of the students in my class was even my teacher officially in another class that I took. I found it easier to work with her than with some other students because both of us had an understanding that our roles were impermanent and interchangeable.

Sometimes external pressures motivate adults to appear as if they were learning, with no real interest in learning at all. Some companies that sell specialized software offer a rebate to customers who participate in their on-line and telephone training classes. Sometimes customers take advantage of the fact that the only way to determine who participated in the course is to see whether they were connected. Actually participating in the training is not necessary to get the price rebate.

In a college setting, this ‘appearance of learning’ is most common with classes that are required for a program or degree. Sometimes students have no interest in the topic of the course and are only taking it because it is required. This is true of a few of the students I have worked with. Many times the course turns out to be more engaging and enjoyable than they expected. Other times they are not engaged and simply do the minimum required of them. Encouragement, clear expectations, and even sympathy are called for with people who do not want to learn. However, no one can be made to learn. The best a teacher can be sometimes is be a model of a learner who pushes herself beyond the minimum.


Response to Amie Claire's Handbook Entry
Name: Caitlin O'
Date: 2005-04-04 20:03:21
Link to this Comment: 14296

Amie Claire,
I think you have picked a very interesting topic concerning extra-classroom teachers who are charged with the responsibility of educating learners that are older than the teacher. It is a unique situation, certainly. I too, have experienced the initial anxiety that comes with such an experience and I think that you are right to advise other extra-classroom teachers in a similiar situation to go in with the attitude that the learning process is a two-way street; both student and teacher have something valuable to offer and something new to learn. I like how you acknowledge that every adult learner will bring to the table a different perspective and a rich knowledge base that will influece the interests and the direction of the learner. Your anecdotes are appropriate and really enhance your discussion; along with these, could you suggest some specific methods to assist extra-classroom teachers in adjusting to a situation where the teacher is younger than the learner? How does this situation affect power and authority relations? I think your discussion wanders a bit at the end; is there a way for you to better connect this to the beginning to make it more clear? I think you have addressed a topic that probably doesn't get much attention - I would love to read more about specific ways you made the extra-classroom teaching experience work as a younger teacher. Great discussion!


response to heather
Name: Emily
Date: 2005-04-04 23:00:40
Link to this Comment: 14302

heather - I have to begin by saying how overwhelmed I was by the honesty and realness of your piece. You articulated your stories so clearly that they were immediately familiar to me both in the moment of what I call "gasp" - that moment where you kind of catch your breath in surprise/anticipation/fear/? - and in the fallout after that moment where whatever happens happens. Your structure of giving a quote, contextualizing it, and then posing a question to your reader is excellent and incredibly incredibly useful. I found that I wanted to write those final questions across the top of each of my lesson plans forever. I liked so much the moments where you say "I don't know if I did a good job..." since that feeling too I think is so essential to the experience of an extra-classroom teacher. I'm sorry but I really have very little criticism that would help you to improve this piece...perhaps some sort of concluding paragraph would be usefull to tie together some of the themes you touch on. Also in your title you use the phrase "emergent learning" maybe you want to go back to this a little and flesh out that term and its relationship to these situations? thanks again heather, this was tremendously useful to me. emily


Comments for Caitlin
Name: Amie Clair
Date: 2005-04-04 23:29:39
Link to this Comment: 14305

Caitlin,

You have done a very good job at speaking out of your own experience. It seems that others after you could benefit greatly by taking your advice before beginning team teaching. I have a few content comments and a few grammar/organizational comments.

Content:
The opening paragraph explains what extra-classroom teaching is. It seems to me that this would be more fitting at the beginning of the entire handbook.

You say in the beginning that your entry is "to encourage extra-classroom teachers who have not yet been a part of a team of teachers to find a way to incorporate team teaching into their experience." This thread doesn't seem to be picked anywhere afterwards in your entry. I think that it is a good goal for your entry. I for one, could benefit from it, so I think you should be sure to include it in.

Could you explain the connection between problems you've seen with teachers in urban schools and your topic?

Could you give some specific examples of what kind of conflicts arise in team teaching, or, what a conversation about expectations would sound like?

Grammar/Organization:
The sentence "I found it necessary to add to the discourse of collaboration among teachers and of creating communities of sharing based." doesn't make sense.

Be careful in general with connecting words like "but" in the third paragraph, first sentence. A suggestion is to go through and highlight all of your transitions to be sure they make the most sense.

The third and fourth paragraphs currently tell two stories; the successful team teaching story, and then the unsuccessful team teaching story. The problem is that the paragraph break is in the middle of the unsuccessful team teaching story. I'd suggest moving it between the two stories.


Response to MB
Name:
Date: 2005-04-04 23:32:57
Link to this Comment: 14308

MB: (I still can't figure out how to make parapraphs, so I used lines to seperate)
________________________________________________________
I like how you describe “ethnography” in relation to education. It makes it seem much more concrete, which is important even for people who are familiar with the discourse.
________________________________________________________
“This is not and cannot always be the case. The observations of teachers will not be entirely positive, and thus, the teacher must retain and employ their sensitivities as a teacher and not an ethnographer in these instances. Ethnography can only take an educator so far.” It seems like you are criticizing ethnography because a teacher may learn something about a student which she cannot separate from her biases, which may negatively impact a teacher’s view of a student regardless of intent. Are you suggesting that teachers may be better educators without some kinds of knowledge of her students? (What knowledge would this be?) Or, are you suggesting that there is a better way to avoid negative perceptions of students, to separate assumption from perception?
________________________________________________________
“In a second understanding of the “bifocal” metaphor, it is both naïve and problematic to assume that the results of ethnographic inquiry will be entirely helpful, productive and positive.” How can we use your critique of it to inform what we can take from ethnography? You end saying that partial ethnographic interviews can be helpful if we don’t rely on them too much. It might be helpful to say what exactly we need to watch out for, what we need to be careful not to do or not to infer from ethnography.
_________________________________________________________
“Ethnography can only take an educator so far.” At first I am left wondering, “well, how far exactly?” But it seems like you answer this in the next section:
“The experience of completely individualized attention and a safe space for students to discuss their thoughts increases the effectiveness of the teacher’s methods. When the teacher is familiar with the students background and areas of strength and challenge, he or she can better adapt the planned curriculum to the individual needs of the students, as well as creating a comfortable space for learning. It is also key that these interviews gather information from the perspective of the student. Too often, teachers rely on the reports, grades and comments of other teachers and experts in place of actual engagement with the learner.” I like this part because it makes it clear how ethnography can help inform teaching.
___________________________________________________
You criticize ethnographic observation in the very beginning: “This method, though insightful in many respects, can be somewhat short-sighted in scope and lacking in consideration of the realities of public schooling, sometimes further complicated in an urban setting.” Then in the end you suggest that a modified ethnographic interview can be helpful to learn more about students. Does this suggestion address the reality of (urban) public school environments? If so, how is it better? How can it be done? (Do you have suggestions on how teachers make time or space for individual interviews with their students?)
_____________________________________________________
“It is also key that these interviews gather information from the perspective of the student.” Do you have suggestions on how a teacher can do this? What it made me think you are suggesting is that, rather than an interview that asks specific answer-able questions from the students, one in which the student leads the discussion. Maybe this is implicit? I think you should elaborate to make this clearer.
_________________________________________________
And, What do modified ethnographic interviews look like exactly? (How can I do that???)


Comments for Christina
Name: Amie Clair
Date: 2005-04-04 23:46:10
Link to this Comment: 14310

Christina,

You have a very clear structure to your entry. I'm going to work down it in forming my comments.

Introduction:
The first sentence is fantastic! Keep it.
In your first paragraph you give us a good overview of what you're going to talk about but a little too generally. I think you should go ahead and name the model "self-directed learner" at the outset. That's a really small detail though, and you might have good reasons for keeping it the way it is.

The Extra-Classroom Teacher: Maybe this section should be called "Why is assessment necessary?" or something similar.

Portfolio: Could there be a creative way to make a portfolio even if there aren't formal documents to collect? Maybe the teacher could analyze her journals or keep some other sort of list of plans tried and whether they were successful or not.

Audio or Videotaping: You mention direct feedback from a teacher or student who observes you. Maybe this should have a more prominent role in your entry. After all, it seems more possible than audio or videotaping to me. In the second paragraph, take out the word 'Now' that starts the sentence and start it "The video camera may very well generate . . ."

What seems to be missing from the entry as a whole is any of your own experience with using these forms of assessment. I really like the tone you set at the beginning about how you learned the importance of self-assessment. It's very convincing, and I'm left with the feeling that of course everyone should be doing this, why am I not? However, this personal experience doesn't come back in the list of kinds of assessment so they lack the voice of the authority that you so strongly start with. I realize you may not have tried all of them, but I know for a fact that you have at least kept a reflective journal.

Amie Claire



Name: Christina
Date: 2005-04-04 23:59:19
Link to this Comment: 14311

Amie Claire,

First of all, great topic. It is so pertinent especially at the college-level and yet, (at least from my experience) it seems to be so often overlooked. You also communicate your ideas very effectively. You really have a knack for highlighting the duality which lies at the heart of the role of the extra-classroom teacher (i.e., tour guide/fellow tourist, teacher/learner, confidence/humility). I think your strongest piece of advice in the entry is when you share that your conceptualization of yourself and presentation of yourself as a learner helped to overcome issues about authority which tend to arise with the education of adult learners. To make this entry even stronger however, I suggest that you offer ways that the extra-classroom teacher can “tease out” the expectations of his adult learners. I know you argue (and I agree) that the extra-classroom teacher does not have to directly address every single expectation held by each individual learner, but I do believe that the extra-classroom teacher should continually strive to be aware of as many of them as possible. And so by frequently updating his awareness of adult learners’ expectations, the extra-classroom teacher can at least be more certain that he is not unconsciously excluding the same sort of expectations over and over again.


Response to Emily
Name: Heather
Date: 2005-04-05 00:45:00
Link to this Comment: 14317

I really like how you have clear, specific advice for new extra-classroom teachers. The way that you title each paragraph really helps this clarity, and makes it easy for me to go back and remember what you said. The suggestions are so straight-forward that they seem obvious, but while reading I can definitely see myself in the problematic attitudes and wonder why I didn’t do things such as ask my teacher what the best way is to reach her. So, it is simple, but very educational in that I can relate it to my own experience, and even to specifics. I especially like how you end it, with acknowledging your own process/progress toward learning to be a student-teacher and teacher. I also really like how, even though this is very grounded in the specifics of being a student-teacher, you also make it apparent how all the suggestions will be beneficial to the longer goal of becoming a teacher. I like that, even though you make these things seem easy, in the end you acknowledge how hard it is to always keep them in mind.
_______________________________________
The only thing that I can think of that would add to this is more context. I don’t get a sense of who you are, why these things are important to you, or your experiences that led to these contextualized understandings. However, I am not sure if this is necessary. It is obviously very useful, and I would be careful not to add things that would take away from the clarity. Perhaps you could introduce yourself in an introduction, or give situated examples in another section(or separated at the end of each section).


Response to Rebecca
Name: Heather
Date: 2005-04-05 02:17:23
Link to this Comment: 14320

You offer a lot of great advice, from having a discussion with the teacher about each other’s expectations, to contextualizing content of a lesson in the students’ life and other work. The thing that I think would improve this piece the most would be to specify your suggestions in a specific setting, for a specific audience. I think the easiest way of doing this would be to talk from your experience. For instance, instead of saying, “if you are expected to prepare a lesson for this class, here are some suggestions,” try “When I prepared a lesson in this context, here are some things that were helpful for me to think about” Then I think you could try to generalize it by offering how it might be helpful to others in different situations, without feeling like you have to give advice to all extra-classroom teachers on how to gain agency in all situations (its too big a task!). I like your beginning, in that you are honest with the difficulties/obstacles of being an effective extra-classroom teacher. What was that like? And, how has your perception of obstacles changes the longer you’ve been there?
________________________________
So, for example, do you have an experience having a conversation with a teacher about expectations? Or, a situation where that would have been helpful?
________________________________
Do you have an example of interacting with students in a way that helped them trust you, and consequently helped you attain agency? (Where did you make this connection between student trust and teacher agency?)
________________________________
“Watch how the teacher obtains the students' attention and cooperation, and then imitate that. Observe what types of techniques the teacher uses for specific situations. This will mostly likely help increase ones’ level of agency with the class or individual student because the student(s) is familiar with these strategies and will be comfortable with the usage of them. Furthermore, try to utilize your cooperating teacher advice; he/she can be a valuable resource.”---Has imitating the teacher’s approach been useful for you? How so? Are there instances you can see where this wouldn’t be a good idea? Again, if you contextualize the advice, I think what you say will be more powerful. You can’t be an expert on what people should do in every situation, but what worked in your situation (or what didn’t). I don’t think you have to have the answer, or know what will “work” for other people. Hearing your experiences, what you or the teacher did, and how students responded, can offer other extra-classroom teachers insight.
________________________________
“Another suggestion is, after becoming acquainted with the student(s), try to have the student(s) clearly understand the task and an overview of what he/she is learning. It is best to try not to teach isolated segments of content without showing how they link into the whole. This can be beneficial to increasing ones agency because if the student(s) is prepared and well familiar with the general overview, the student(s) are less likely to misbehave out of frustration and allocate trust. Additionally, try to make each lesson apply to the student(s). When the material is pertinent to one’s life, it is easier to understand and remember it, especially if the teacher is motivated and interested as well.” ---This seems like good advice, but how do we take it in the context of trying to make our expectations as student-teachers realistic? It seems like, from the introduction, that one of your main points/questions for exploration, is how to be an effective extra-classroom teacher within the constraints of time and outsider status. I think you should stick to this question/issue. How did YOU, as you put it, “successfully (or not so successfully) make it through this jungle of extra classroom teaching?” The question that sticks out in my mind is: How did you gain students’ trust, and how did that help you gain agency in the classroom? Or, is there an instance you learned from, where some experience left you less trusted/respected, which could give us insight? Also, how did your interactions with the teacher improve or lessen your agency?


To Samantha
Name: Xuan-Shi,
Date: 2005-04-05 13:06:23
Link to this Comment: 14324


Samantha, I enjoy reading your entry. This is an interesting topic... I never really explicitly thought about how I may set myself up as role model for the children I work with. In your paper, you make references to several readings and offer some good suggestions---getting to know your students and talking to them, challenging yourself to act in ways that inspire hope, not making assumptions etc I think you did a fine job underlining the importance of being a role model and how one may become a role model, but I also feel that your piece lack some depth, i.e. I do not hear "you" in this piece. If you could add in your personal experience, this entry would be more powerful--let me elaborate. You seem to have grappled with this issue for sometime, asking yourself how you could be a role model for these students...I would love to hear more about your experience of consciously trying to be a role model, and whether or how some students have responded to your attempts to position yourself not only as a tutor but also as a role model. Perhaps this is unrelated to the topic, but which is a more influential role: being a role model or a mentor?


response to heather
Name: Jody Cohen
Date: 2005-04-05 20:33:54
Link to this Comment: 14334

Heather, I found this piece fresh, deep and so provocative. You vividly describe situations in which there is clearly no 'right answer,' and yet there are many ways to go, each with potential gains and also losses. The best we can do, your piece suggests, is to attend to what is going on, to our classrooms, our students, and also ourselves, and to continue to pose the questions that will take us more deeply into teaching and learning. And that's a lot. One thread that runs for me through these rich stories is the notion that so often we really don't know what students are thinking. What did that young woman mean when she asked what God you serve? What's going on behind or beneath the quick assumption that touch has sexual overtones? Listening is key, and yet, as you suggest, thoughtful intervention can also be key. You develop a structure of narrative and question that works beautifully. I'd suggest framing the piece as well, so as we enter we're brought into the arena of these kinds of stories and questions, and as we leave you guide us a bit in how to take this back to our own sites and lives. Thanks!


role-skepticism
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-05 23:51:18
Link to this Comment: 14337

Hello, learners/teachers/writers-and-thinkers-out-loud. Thanks to you all (especially to Samantha) for inviting me into the drafting-and-responding stage of your handbook-making; I feel privileged and excited to participate in this project, and look forward to reading the final version.

I've been thinking about teaching and learning, and re-thinking my teaching and learning, and revising my re-thinking about teaching and learning for decades now (you read this semester one of my more recent attempts--along with some colleagues--to write about our current notion of Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable – and Make it Productive. So that's where I'm coming from...

...when I say that (like Alison) I want Samantha to slow down and do some explaining first! Before you start describing all the ways to be a role model (all great ways, by the way) I need to be convinced why role-modeling is valuable in teaching-and-learning. I actually shiver @ that phrase, and both its parts:

I was myself a mother of young children while I was in graduate school. I had no role models for what I wanted to do--no successful professional women academics who were as serious about parenting as I was--and I lamented that fact for years, until a friend finally pointed out to me that, lacking role models, I had written my own script--and was probably freed to do so because I wasn't trying to follow someone else's. So, extrapolating from my own experience...

...I worry that, in trying to offer ourselves as role models, we can/could restrict the possibilities of our students' lives--for they will surely grow beyond the confines of ours (I think it's in The Peaceable Classroom that Mary Rose O'Reilley talks about rebellion being the job of youth--they are supposed to push against the roles we give them)...

...even when we are trying, as teachers of "emergent pedagogy," to be role models for the kinds of inquiry in which we want our students themselves to be engaged; even when, as evolvers of new intellectual communities, we are trying to model for our students not only a willingness but an enjoyment in multiple ways of learning ....

...we need to remember, as Cherrie Moraga also said, that the clan mentality can be (strategically) useful; but the identity of the clan must be malleable, open to shifting and changing. How to model that--that our students should not try to become like us, but *only* fully themselves--something new and never-yet-been? (How's that, Sky, as a way of thinking about revolution?)


p.s. re: resistance to being understood
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-04-06 07:50:49
Link to this Comment: 14340

...found the O'Reilley quote, along w/ another suggesting that, the more insistently we structure our classrooms, the more insistently resistance will be produced:

"The natural work of young people is to subvert and challenge the authority of teacher and parent, no matter how 'enlightened.' This is perhaps their primary learning experience. They are, in some strategic sense, the opposition" (Mary Rose O'Reilley, The Peaceable Classroom 68).

Patti Lather gives a similar account of student dislike of "being understood" by their elders and asks whether teachers' attempts to overcome such resistance are appropriate:

"'"You really hate an adult to understand you. That's the only thing you've got over them, the fact that you can mystify and worry them." Contemporary youth have cause to be wary of giving up their anonymity, of making their private and lived voices the object of public and pedagogical scrutiny.' To what extent is the pedagogy we construct in the name of liberation intrusive, invasive, pressured?" (Patti Lather, Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy With/In the Postmodern 143).


Thank You
Name: Alice
Date: 2005-04-06 12:22:37
Link to this Comment: 14350

Dear Students and Readers,

Thank you very much for all of the intelligence, caring, and attention you have given/are giving to this process. It is thrilling to witness how the handbook is growing and evolving, and how the public process of its composition is held and fostered by a wider community.

I can't wait for class tomorrow!

Best,
Alice


On Sky, Alice, and all for involved for inviting me to be a part of this project. It is a truly remarkable exploration of new ways of thinking/doing, of seeing what might be done with the web and using that to rethink education more broadly. No one who thinks there must be better ways to "educate" can fail to be greatly encouraged by the commitment and creativity of this work in progress. I very much look forward to its future incarnations, here as well as in the work you all go on to do in other classrooms that will inevitably, because of what you have done here, be increasingly and desireably committed to education as exploration.

As have others, I found Sky's draft entry compelling and rich with personal examples, and wanted, for those reasons, a bit more at the outset about what is "revolutionary". Maybe taking seriously the concept of "education as exploration", ie creating an environment not to most effectively convey particular pre-defined bodies of information and perspectives but rather to encourage students and teachers to work together to develop ways of thinking about things beyond those with which they start?

Sky has outlined a number of challenges with this approach, particulary from students, and suggested from his own experiences a number of useful ways of dealing with them. For my part, I'd downplay a bit the "studies have shown ..." approach, on the grounds that it is asking students to accept an authoritative posture that may not in fact be (it depends a lot on what is being assessed) and is, in any case, a posture that itself might be seen as not entirely consistent with the concern for helping students see their own curiousities/initiatives as a primary driver of the process. I'd be inclined instead to talk with students (as I do) about the pressures on them (and others) to think of education as a mastery/certification process, the ways they themselves know that inhibits effective learning, and the kinds of experiences they recall from their own lives (not necessarily in classrooms) when they learned most effectively.

"Explain what you are doing, and why" is indeed important in my experience. Even more so is being consistent in doing it. This has certainly been my accrued experience over the past several years, to the point where I have made such major accomodations as no longer using textbooks or having graded exams (cf Bio 202 for both explanation and other course particulars). This is, of course, not possible when one is providing extra-class support for some other educational enterprise but I'd favor pushing the spirit as far as possible with the notion that that would in turn impact positively on people responsible for the courses themselves.

"Get to know your students’ needs and motivations". PARTICULARLY the motivations, I'd say. It is starting where students are, wherEVER they are, not only in their needs but also in their motivations that is required for a genuinely exploratory classroom approach. In order to create an interesting/stimulating/challenging environment one has to take seriously that students should NOT be expected to be interested in what the teacher is interested in. Its the reachers role to find the student's interests that will engage them with the exploration.

"Is it a lot of work to engage students in a revolutionary system? Definitely. Is it worthwhile? I say, even more definitely". Amen and I would add that it is worthwhile not only for the students but for the teachers as well. An exploratory classroom is as much one that engages teachers as students, one that makes both want to be there for the sheer joy of both individual and shared discovery. And an engaged teacher of course makes for engaged students which in turn ...

Happy to be here both student and teacher, to have the opportunity to share discoveries. Thanks again to Sky and everyone else involved. Revolution is hard work, takes patience, but with that can be deeply satisfying.


Response to Amie Claire
Name: Allison J
Date: 2005-04-06 17:52:31
Link to this Comment: 14357

I really enjoyed reading your entry. Working wth adults is a serious topic that feel is often over looked simply because the students are "over the age of 18." Just because we reach a certain age does not mean we do not stop learning or that or educative process is less important. Your piece does a great job of illustrating this.

My suggestion would be to offer more practical/hands on approaches to working with adults. You offer us some insight into your experiences thus far working with adult learners, however, what steps are you taking to deal with some of the concerns you raise (i.e. am I an authority?). I would also explore those feelings of self doubt and your role--are you an authority in a sense that you have all of the answers, or in a sense that you can help them find the answers themselves?


Final Handbook Entry
Name:
Date: 2005-04-07 02:08:11
Link to this Comment: 14365

Extra-classroom teaching is used to describe a broad range of teaching and learning environments, but often serves as a label to identify teaching that occurs outside of the regular classroom or as a way of describing a teaching and learning experience that extends beyond the scope of the regular classroom. The latter suggests that, while the teaching is taking place within a classroom, it is offering the learner an experience that extends beyond the scope of the regular classroom. This is done by inviting mentors, tutors, and other types of “teachers” into the classroom to provide learners with an opportunity to experiment with material and pedagogy not included in the regular classroom curriculum.

An Introduction to the Importance of Team Teaching

I find it necessary to add to the discourse of collaboration among teachers and of creating communities of sharing based on my observation that urban teachers are often isolated and detached from other teachers and therefore continue the pervasive cycle of isolating and silencing learners in their classrooms. Before I ever entertained a discussion of team teaching for extra-classroom teachers, I began to reflect on my observations of the regular classroom teacher, Mr. Parker, at my first team teaching placement. I gathered from my conversations with Mr. Parker that he felt like he had little or no support from other teachers in the school and administration. Teachers did not take the time to talk with one another constructively about what they were teaching and how they teach it. Teachers in this urban public high school were left to deal with and solve teaching challenges on their own.
The more I thought about, and reflected on, the lack of a support system for teachers like Mr. Parker to express his frustration and get positive feedback from his colleagues, I realized an important connection between Mr. Parker’s isolation as a teacher and the way he conducted his ninth grade English class. The students completed their assignments individually and there was no process of peer revision or collaboration with other students. Because Mr. Parker felt isolated from the rest of the teachers and felt confined to the learning that took place within his classroom, he saw no need to give students the opportunity to share with one another, either. Sharing knowledge within a community of support was absent from Mr. Parker’s teaching pedagogy and consequently, it did not find its way into the students’ learning.
A community of sharing among teachers allows them to feel supported by other teachers in their quest to better serve the needs of their students. In an effective community of sharing, teachers feel comfortable acknowledging what they do not know without feeling embarrassed or vulnerable because it is assumed that everyone in the group faces challenges and also has knowledge to offer the group. Communication, honesty, and openness are key elements of team teaching because it allows each individual to contribute to the wealth of knowledge that is shared by the group. Sharing challenges and difficulties, as well as successful pedagogical strategies will allow teachers to more effectively evaluate pedagogical practices in school and provide a rich array of resources for teachers to use in classrooms.
How does team teaching affect students? Most obviously, if teachers are sharing ideas for successful teaching practices with one another, they will have a wider base of knowledge to bring to the classroom. A variety of pedagogical approaches will be available, and the teacher will have a resource to rely on when the teacher needs additional input or advice in effectively teaching students. Additionally, if a teacher is part of a community of sharing, that teacher is more likely to value the benefits of the support and knowledge that is created in such a community. The teacher who values collaboration, sharing, and peer-oriented learning will make the effort to create a similar community within their classroom. A community of sharing within the classroom allows students to feel safe sharing ideas, concerns, challenges, and successes with peers. Listening to others and respecting differences becomes important and useful in communities of sharing and members feel that the differences and challenges encountered are opportunities to expand learning and understanding. Students learn that their strengths and weaknesses are valuable and that every individual has knowledge to offer the other members of the community.
I have extended my initial observations and reflections of sharing and team teaching to the position of the extra-classroom teacher often the extra-classroom teacher is in the unique position of supporting and supplementing the instruction of the regular classroom teacher with slightly more flexibility concerning curriculum and teaching methods. This discussion invites extra-classroom teachers (whether teaching outside or within a regular school classroom) to explore the concept of extra-classroom team teaching. The ideas introduced here are meant to expand the strategies employed by extra-classroom teachers who are already involved in team teaching, as well as to encourage extra-classroom teachers who have not yet been a part of a team of teachers to find a way to incorporate team teaching into their experience. The methods I suggest in this handbook for effective team teaching are derived from my observations and experience as an extra-classroom team teacher.

Creating a Team

The circumstances of extra-classroom experiences are very different, but teaching teams can form in many different formats. It might be easier and more feasible for extra-classroom teachers who are teaching within a program or system to already have a framework of team teaching in place. But this does not mean that an extra-classroom teacher currently teaching in isolation cannot find other teachers who are sharing a similar experience to collaborate with one another to create a team teaching community. It is often helpful to have a student coordinator who acts a liaison between the team and program directors or regular classroom teachers. The student coordinator can be selected by the program director or classroom teacher, or can be elected by the team of extra-classroom teachers. The role of the student-coordinator is not meant to assume authority or control over the group, but rather to ensure direct contact and clear communication between the extra-classroom teachers and the regular classroom teachers, school principal, program director, and/or college professor. It is also useful for teachers, professors, and directors to be aware of the team teaching process. Periodic input from other experienced educators can be encouraging and extremely helpful for extra-classroom teachers who are interested in feedback about their teaching and team teaching dynamics and strategies.
Addressing Assumptions
My first experience as a team teacher was as a student teacher in an urban high school. As an initiative to build a relationship between students at my college and a local (urban) public high school, I was part of a group of students who were going to be leading (as a group) two ninth grade English classes once a week. With a student coordinator previously designated by the Education Department at my college, the structure for team collaboration was already in place as eight student teachers joined efforts to create a curriculum for a writing project. The team of student teachers was energetic and optimistic, though our previous teaching experience was quite limited. The group of student teachers often discussed challenges we were having in the classroom, but group dynamics were positive and encouraging; a support system existed that allowed the student teachers to communicate their concerns, frustrations, and successes. It seemed that the student teachers shared similar goals and our teaching strategies, though very different, were cohesive within the classroom. However, my positive team teaching experience was significantly challenged the following semester when I again had the opportunity to teach in the same classroom but with different student teachers. I expected and assumed that the structure of the team of student teachers would be very similar to how it had been the first semester, but from the very first meeting I understood that it was going to be a very different collaborative process. From the beginning, the group struggled to communicate with one another, differed in their ideas about the material that should be presented to the students, and also held various perceptions about the role and importance of the team effort. I entered the second semester of collaboration with preconceived notions about how the team would function as a unit and my resistance to exploring other methods of collaboration hindered my ability to be an encouraging and supportive team member.
It might seem obvious that every extra-classroom teacher will bring to the table different (and sometimes opposing) goals and assumptions about their learners and about their roles as extra-classroom teachers. These various perceptions pose a potential challenge for the team, but will result in a rewarding experience when every teacher’s perspective is welcomed and encouraged. Less obvious, however, is the understanding that every teacher will also have a different idea about the purpose and goal of the team teaching collaboration. Not every teacher will desire to put in the same amount of effort or expect the same outcome as a result of the collaboration. This becomes problematic when expectations are not communicated and addressed among team members. Therefore it is essential that extra-classroom teachers express their assumptions regarding how the team will function, make explicit their expectations for the group and its ability to serve the teaching and learning needs of the individual teacher, as well as define what each teacher finds valuable and helpful about working as a team teacher.

Valuing Conflict, Flexibility and Reflection

A discussion of assumptions and expectations might be accomplished in the first group meeting, creating a sturdy framework of support and open lines of communication that will persist throughout the team teaching experience. An effective method for introducing this type of discussion could entail having teachers individually write down their expectations/assumptions/needs for the team and create a list as a group that includes each teacher’s ideas as a way to frame how the group will function in the future. This could also take the form of an ongoing reevaluation of the evolving goals of the team, whether they take the form of individual goals or group expectations. The team might need to reassess whether there are assumptions that were not voiced in the beginning that merit discussion later in the collaborative process.
Part of the way through the second semester, some of the student teachers in my group observed that a split was occurring within the group. The division of the group was a result of people absent from meetings and consequently feeling as though their ideas and opinions were being excluded from the planned curriculum. This required the group as a whole to reexamine how we were functioning as individuals as well as members of a group. A discussion revolving around what we thought was missing from the group as well as individual goals for the classroom was necessary and ultimately transformed how our group worked as a collaborative effort. As a result, planning the curriculum became less of a group effort; instead, meetings became a time to receive feedback and offer input to other teachers regarding lesson plans and interactions with students. While this might not have been how some of the teachers originally envisioned our team teaching experience, the reflection and reevaluation mid-semester allowed for a necessary change in the team teaching process that accommodated the expectations and needs of all the student teachers and ultimately proved to be a positive and valuable experience for the student teachers.
It is essential that group meetings allow time for reflective writing and discussion not only about the teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom, but also within the group of extra-classroom teachers. When all the members have voiced their assumptions and expectations, the group will be able to more effectively foster a team teaching dynamic that is honest and explicit, allowing for productive discussion and collaboration as a group unit. Additionally, it requires significant patience and flexibility to create an effective and productive team teaching experience. It will take an extraordinary amount of effort and flexibility to coordinate schedules and the sharing of materials. Extra-classroom team teachers must be willing to contribute significant time and energy into the team teaching process. Patience will be critical when trying to balance opposing teaching strategies. Teachers must be committed and dedicated to the process of team teaching. The amount of time that must be invested in attending meetings, developing curriculum, and offering feedback to colleagues is significant. Conflicts and differences will arise, but as I have learned in my own team teaching, the moments of conflict and challenge offer an opportunity to learn; if teachers can adapt the collaborative process to their relationships with colleagues, I am convinced that teachers will be able to initiate for their students a similar learning process founded on community effort, sharing and collaboration.


Caitlin O'Keefe's Entry Above
Name: Caitlin
Date: 2005-04-07 02:09:13
Link to this Comment: 14366



Name:
Date: 2005-04-20 18:03:06
Link to this Comment: 14750

Test



Name: Becky
Date: 2005-04-20 23:16:41
Link to this Comment: 14758

Taking the Time

A CHILD ON ONE SIDE...
The thing that struck me most about Peter was his curiosity. Each of the twenty or so first graders I worked with engaged me and challenged me in a different way, but Peter was unique in his unfailing ability to amaze me.

My visits to Peter’s classroom, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, generally coincided with the class’s math time. I spent most of these hours working through math and time-telling games one-on-one with students at the classroom computer. Although each student had his or her own way of approaching the games, they all shared a common goal: to get as many correct answers as possible as quickly as possible. Well, all except for Peter.

Peter always seemed to know the right answers. Taking them as they came, he always found the games to be too simple. In one, the screen opened to a clock face with the hands set to twelve o’clock. To the left a question read something like “Johnny eats breakfast at nine-thirty. Where are the hands on the clock at nine-thirty?” Below the question, a small clock face displayed the correct placement of the hands. The students were supposed to reposition the hands on the large clock to match those on the small. Peter thought this was too silly! As he scrolled through the problems, he covered the small clock with his hand or asked me to cover it with mine. Even without the aid, he answered problem after problem correctly. After going through problems like this for some time, Peter began to wonder aloud what would happen if he answered questions wrong… And so he began repositioning the hands on the clock so that incorrect times were displayed. He enjoyed seeing how the computer responded to his “mistakes.” This sort of testing became a regular feature of our computer time—whenever a program failed to challenge Peter, he looked for ways to challenge it, exploring until he was visibly engaged.

One afternoon, I arrived in the classroom to find all of the students diligently coloring little paper pizzas. The classroom teacher explained to me that they were working on a lesson in fractions, and that the next step would be to cut the pies into halves, quarters, and eighths. I walked around the room, visiting with each child. When I came to Peter, he turned to me, absolutely beaming, and held up his creation: a mass of greens and blues and purples splattered all over the sauce and cheese and pepperonis and mushrooms. He explained how he had discovered that by layering colors on top of each other—blue over green, for example—he could create new colors. He was just about to test his theory on the effects of layering purple and green when the classroom teacher walked by and whisked the paper from the table. Pointing to the background of the shape, she asked Peter, “What color is cheese really?”
Peter looked confused as he answered, “Yellow.”
“Pepperoni?”
“Red.”
“Mushrooms?”
“Brown.”
The teacher walked to her desk with Peter’s pizza in hand, picked up a new, clean pizza, and walked back to Peter with it. “Color them what they really are.”

...A TEACHER ON THE OTHER
I was a sophomore in high school when I visited Peter’s classroom. Almost six years later, I am still, dramatic as it may sound, sincerely inspired when I think back to his drive to explore and his wonder at discovery. I am also still saddened and troubled when I recall how the classroom teacher responded to his unorthodox pizza coloring. At the time I was shocked, and a bit confused. After all, it was a lesson about fractions, wasn’t it? It wasn’t a lesson in the colors of pizza toppings, and besides, Peter clearly demonstrated that he knew what color each topping was. It certainly wasn’t a lesson on realism in art. Purplish-greenish-bluish pizzas divide into halves and quarters as well as “normal” pizzas do, don’t they? So why did the teacher insist that he “color inside the lines”? Clearly Peter was getting a more fulfilling, educational experience out of is own project.

Hold it, hold it. Clearly Peter was getting a more fulfilling, educational experience out of his own project? Who am I to talk? One of the problems with this story, I guess, is that it comes from a single perspective. It was clear to me that Peter was engaged in a rich learning experience as he colored his pizza, but was it really clear to the teacher? Probably not. I had just spent five minutes listening to him explain the theory behind his coloring practice. The classroom teacher, on the other hand, had just walked over and seen scribbles. Maybe she simply felt he wasn’t taking the assignment seriously enough, or maybe she had even announced before the project began that the students were to color their pizzas realistically and was reacting to Peter’s disregard for her instructions. I spent hours one-on-one with Peter. I recognized him as an outside-the-box learner, and I was excited to facilitate his wonder. The classroom teacher, on the other hand, had to divide each moment among 20-30 six- and seven-year-olds. It was possible that she had never really had the time or opportunity to recognize or engage Peter’s unique learning style. Or perhaps she had recognized it, but had found that it could become disruptive and, for the sake of her own sanity and maintaining the classroom order, had decided not to tolerate it. Often when I was working with other students, I would hear the teacher yelling Peter’s name or scolding him for one reason or another. In any case, it seems unfair for me to point an accusing finger at the teacher and say, “You did not see this child. You stifled this child. You damaged this child.” Yet I feel it’s true that the child was not seen, was stifled, and may even have been damaged.

I believe that in every classroom, regardless of size and composition, there is a way for teachers to really see their students, to recognize their individual needs, abilities, and curiosities. But I also recognize that finding a way to implement such individualized consideration in many large classrooms can be difficult and takes time, especially when a teacher is working alone. The help of an in-class aid or extraclassoom facilitator has a lot of potential to help free the teacher to take time to recognize students as individuals or at least to provide an alternative outlet for a child to receive such recognition and support. But, whether we’re talking classroom teacher, in-class helper, or extraclassroom facilitator the key really is taking the time recognize that we are dealing with individuals—large groups of them, often, it’s true, but still individuals—and that by addressing the group as a group, we necessarily make generalizations that do not hold true for and institute practices that are not the best for every or even necessarily any individual. We must recognize that when we try to translate these generalizations into interactions with individuals, we are making assumptions. We must seize every opportunity we can to combat those assumptions, to take the time to see and understand each unique learner.

BUILDING A BRIDGE STARTS WITH MAKING POSITIVE ASSUMPTIONS...
Most students at Haverford College live on the basic assumption that everyone adheres to the principles of our Honor Code—essentially, that we uphold the values of trust, concern, and respect in every aspect of our lives. Does everyone stick to the Code, every minute? Of course not. The very fact that we have Honor Council, perhaps even a code in the first place, points to a recognition that we are not perfect. And yet when we approach other students here, we approach them assuming that they will treat us with trust, concern, and respect, and assuming that they expect the same treatment from us. While this assumption may at times prove problematic, it is the very fact that we continue to act on this assumption that our community continues to function as it does. By giving students “the benefit of the doubt” and “assuming the best,” we encourage students to live up to that standard.

The sort of assumption that Peter’s teacher made is a very different sort from the sort that Haverford students make every day under the Code. The teacher’s assumption—that Peter was doing something bad, whatever made her believe this—was degrading; the assumptions Haverford students make—that their peers offer and deserve trust, concern, and respect—are empowering. This is probably largely because the teacher’s assumption was based on factors external to Peter—on the teacher’s own perception of what Peter was doing and why and/or on her own struggle to oversee a large group of children, perhaps, though this is an assumption on MY part—and not on careful consideration of what she knew of Peter or of the motivations Peter could have explained to her if she had only asked him to. When students assume that other students are adhering to the Code, their assumptions are based in a collective understanding: we all signed the Code and agreed to stick to it when we came here. The assumption, in this case, is based in some knowledge of where students are coming from. And it, too, like the teacher’s assumption of Peter’s motivations, breaks down when the reality of a student’s sentiments do not correspond to the Code.

But how can we make the sorts of assumptions that amount to trust and understanding and avoid making the sorts of assumptions that are unfounded and can hurt or alienate others and inhibit learning?

...AND THEN ACTIVELY SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND THE REALITY
I think it is extremely important for all of us to be aware of our own ignorance of others’ lives, personalities, learning styles, and motivations. We do not always know where those around us are coming from and rarely is it the same place from which we ourselves are coming. I think this is where our Code’s theory of “confrontation” (dialogue, really), in its idealized form, really comes in handy. This theory asks us to approach others directly with our concerns and to expect and accept others’ approaching us. Taking it a step further, it also asks us to take the time to confront our own assumptions, to enter a dialogue assuming that we don’t know the whole story, that our side isn’t the only side, and interested in and concerned with the other’s point of view. This can even translate to asking a first-grader why he is coloring a pizza purple and blue and green before demanding that he stop.


response to Emily's entry
Name: Nell Ander
Date: 2005-04-26 23:12:06
Link to this Comment: 14885

This project is an incredible contribution to the Praxis Program! What an amazing way to convey your expertise and lessons learned! I want to comment specifically on Emily’s entry.

“the right attitude”
I agree that students often tend to go into a placement looking for what’s wrong, as if they were consultants rather than learners. This is not only encouraged by the media, but by our own liberal arts educational system, which encourages analytical, critical thinking…There is a tendency for us to view fieldwork as a place to gather evidence, collect data, and formulate our ideas on how to fix the world. In Praxis courses, we ask students to engage rather than to critique.

“communication”
Creating a space between the student and the classroom teacher for discussion/checking in about how the experience is working is really important. In my opinion, it is the factor that has the most impact on the student’s learning from the classroom experience. This type of discussion seems to happen most easily when students are in the field for more than 3 hours per week or when there is a team leader who has a liaison role. It also happens more often when college students are paired with teachers who work with smaller numbers of students, such as reading specialists. (the fewer the students in the classroom, the more likely there will be time for such conversations)
However, students have also been able to have this type of conversation during the teacher’s prep time or lunch time. Recently, a student commented to me that at first she had been disappointed to find out that the first ½ hour of her scheduled fieldwork fell during the school lunch period. About halfway through the semester, she started sitting with the teachers for lunch, and now realizes that she learned more from the lunchtime conversations than through her experience in the classroom. What she learned from those conversations helped to provide a context for her observations and interactions in the classroom.

Ideally, the field coordinator should meet with each student and their field supervisor at least once during the semester to talk/reflect on the experience. In some of the Praxis classes, there have also been opportunities to bring the host teachers together with the class for an end-of-semester meeting, where the students share their learning from the course with the field supervisors.

“asking for advice” and “fellow educators”
I am so surprised how infrequently students ask for advice about their fieldwork (even when there is an assignment that directly relates to fieldwork). It has been my experience that the Praxis instructor can have a strong influence on the relationship between field supervisor/supervising teacher and the Praxis student. The “Dear fellow educators” letter we send to the supervising teachers is a good beginning to conveying a collegial message of respect. But the Praxis students themselves really need to see concrete evidence of the Praxis instructor’s respect for the knowledge, experience and opinions of the supervising teachers. Some of the things Praxis instructors can do to encourage the students to ask supervising teachers for advice:
1.Invite a few field supervisors to class as guest presenters.
2.Give assignments which structure interaction and conversation between the teacher and student. (example: interview the teacher about certain topics)
3.At the beginning of the semester, bring supervising teachers and Praxis students together as a group to go over course expectations and objectives. Its hard to organize this, but it really gets things off to a good start.

Emily, thanks again for your handbook entry, which will be incorporated into future Praxis orientation activities.





final handbook entry
Name: Samantha
Date: 2005-04-27 17:18:23
Link to this Comment: 14906


Extra-Classroom Teachers As Role Models

"Children…are in need of role models, and take them from all areas that are close at hand, whether mass media, parents, or their teachers." Daniel Rose

I am a pre-service teacher/extra classroom teacher at a large public high school and am working with 9th Grade students on a project to help improve language choice in different settings such as school, home, or work. As a member of a team, I help facilitate discussions in small groups and work to improve communication, writing, and critical thinking skills that raise awareness in the students of the importance of appropriate communication for whatever circumstance they are in. The first afternoon I walked into the classroom and looked out to the sea of students, who did not look like me, I could not help but wonder how I might affect the lives of these 9th graders. Would our project help these students in the real world? Would they find their way into an institution of higher learning and begin the process of leaving the disparaged community in which the school resides? Who are these students’ role models? As a student teacher, an extra classroom aide, how could I or anyone become a role model for these students?

I was a student in a large, urban public high school very similar to my placement and succeeded in graduating because I had been tracked into an honors program and was fortunate to have found role models in teachers and in extra curricular settings. These teachers, neighbors, and after-school program facilitators encouraged my love of words and writing, my intellectual curiosity, and my love of art and photography. Where my parents could not provide direction for me, these people found a way to reach me. Though these people served as my role models and mentors, what I found to be true then was that many students in urban schools, especially those with large concentrations of “minority” students, lacked role models in or out of the classroom.

Those of us in lower socioeconomic strata of society, particularly Latinas and African-Americans, continue to struggle with institutionalized racism and prejudice. Parents and guardians strive to achieve a better life but fight against a world that requires much more than hard work to succeed. Those who find a way up and out quickly leave communities that flounder from lack of education, cultural collateral, and guidance.

Today, the lack of role models is still evident as large numbers of "minority" students continue to struggle within large, urban, school systems. These students attempt to learn in schools that are deemed "failing", with low graduation rates and expectations, and those who make it to college struggle even more. The lack of pre-college preparation means many do not earn their college degree.

Extra classroom teachers, pre-service teachers, and anyone who finds themselves in a position other than traditional teachers to young people are crucial in providing much-needed role models to help students succeed in communities where every bit of encouragement, support, and guidance is appreciated. The classroom I work in has a great teacher though even she acknowledges the need for extra help in the classroom and I believe the presence of pre-service teachers (individuals still in the process of obtaining teaching credentials) benefits the young people.

Who and what exactly does it mean to be a role model? For me, a role model is an individual who acts as a guide; a person who uses their personal experience to inform and help direct the life of others in a positive light. This positive attitude is extremely important for young people and others who may feel that nothing positive happens or will happen in their life and need to hear and see how to achieve and succeed in spite of all that seems at odds in their lives. Role models possess qualities that we would like to have and emulate. They can be younger or older or your same age. As a student, my role models have run the gamut. A White male teacher encouraged and nurtured my love of writing and poetry. A Latina writer instilled in me the need for me to return to school and earn a college degree. My sister serves as a role model because she is a single mother of two children and is an entrepreneur and full-time student.

Young people learn from their environments, and most spend the bulk of their time in school as students. Often extra classroom teachers are there to “provide instructional…support for classroom teachers… [they are] tutors…and help prepare materials for instruction.” (Occupational Handbook) College students, pre-service teachers, and/or volunteers often serve in these positions. There are very simple steps to taking an active part of being a role model, and the following will serve as a guideline to any extra classroom, extra curricular educator working with students.

Daniel Rose (2005) has written on role models in his article “The Potential of Role Model Education.” He examines the role of educators as role models with formal (and informal) education. He stresses that role models can "expose…groups to specific attitudes, lifestyles, and outlooks." (Rose) He also stipulates that children often see teachers (and I will add extra classroom teachers) as important role models on par with parents. As an extra classroom teacher, perhaps you are yourself a student in college. Your experience as a young person might not be far off in your memory and can be extremely useful in relating to your students. Rose spoke of role models as mentors where the younger person not only learns from your experience but also by being inspired by you. (Rose)

When I asked the students in my placement who their role models were, they did not name superstars or sports personalities, but their mothers, aunts, and siblings. Many spoke of their family’s desire for them to finish high school. Only a few spoke of college as a goal. What happens if these student’s role models are not able to advise them on how educational attainment can help them move from their current socioeconomic status? This is where I hope that I, as a woman of color from a very similar socioeconomic background as these students, can be a guide to show these students there is hope and a possibility for all of their dreams.

Good Practices

What are some ways that extra classroom teachers can take an active role in being role models to their students? Some simple steps are:

1-Know your students. What is the surrounding community like? What are the demographics of the student body?

2-Talk to your students. Find out what their interests are and cultivate these interests. Ask them about where they see themselves in the near future. Always ask about dreams. All young people have dreams and you can help in addressing ways to achieve those dreams.

3-Do not assume that your students feel “disenfranchised” by their particular situation. Linda C. Powell describes the difference between the “discourse of deficit” and the “discourse of potential.” (Powell, 4) If you address young people with a discourse of deficit, you state that they are fortunate to be in the position they are in versus a discourse of potential where you highlight success as a possibility because of hard work and talent.

4-Challenge yourself. Students of color are in particular need for role models in and out of the classroom. As a student teacher, extra classroom aide, or volunteer in a class, there are many ways for you to be a role model. If you are a person of color, your presence in front of the classroom has already made an impact on your students. However, you do not have to share your students’ racial/ethnic or economic background to be a positive role model. In my own experience, men and women from vastly different racial, socioeconomic situations have aided me in directing my studies, life choices, and in pursuing my dreams.

5-Encourage your community to become role models for all young people. The classroom is not the only place where young people can utilize strong role models. After school programs, community organizations, and youth groups are places where adults and others can be valuable in providing guidance to a young person.

In fact, organizations have already begun to address the need for role models in educational settings by outlining goals to help underserved students. For example, Washington State University has implemented a program for the Latino community in the state of Washington called “Latina/o Initiative for Development of Educational Renewal” and proclaims the need of its existence “by facilitating creation of a community culture in which people of all ages are psychologically and academically prepared to succeed in the university…” (Tri-Cities Latina/o Outreach) They state through their goals that schools should have educators that represent positive role models of people in their community to help replace existing stereotypes “with a positive construction of Latino identity.”

All people have the ability to provide encouragement, positive reinforcement, and guidelines for success to any student in need. Extra classroom teachers, tutors, teacher’s aides, pre-service teachers all have access to impressionable minds. Although our society focuses on the individual and that person’s success, our society must change to encompass the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Being a role model to a young person who is in desperate need of positive reinforcements will benefit our future society in ways easily imagined. Role models, whether they are educators, community members, or others can be seen as welders melding their experience and education to reinforce life lessons in young people’s lives.


Works Cited:

Rethinking Schools Online. 22 March 2005

Fine, Powell, Wong (1997). Off White: Readings on Race, Power and Society. New York: Routeledge. BMC Bulkpack. Spring 2005

Rose, Daniel. The Potential of Role-Model Education. Infed. 22 March 2005

Washington State University Tri-Cities Latina/o Outreach 5 April 2005





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