Something I have been struggling with at my job in an elementary school is getting students to actually care about their work. Now it's a very low income school and in other classes of mine I have read many articles stating that low income students have a harder time understanding the importance of learning. All stereotypes aside, I've run into this issue almost every day in the classroom. I am not a student teacher, just an after school counselor who is there to help them with their homework and monitor silent reading time. Tim Prizinksy states that it's so important to have students reading every day, whether it be required text or just for fun. I couldn't agree more, but the question I raise is: but what if they just don't care? Don't care about their education, don't care about respecting their authorities, just seem to not have a care in the world about anything but themselves? I am well aware of all of their reading levels and academic history and those who just show a little interest in doing well in school are multiple grade levels ahead in their reading level. Many of them have a hard time filling out simple reading logs. In order to write, one must know how to read, right? And I feel like it is so important to express the importance of a students education especially in a language arts class early on in their academic careers. So my question is, how do we get to those who just don't care, who think we're being mean to them when we tell them to pick their head up off their desk and read the words that are on the page? As a teacher, I will have worlds more responsibility in the classroom than I do now, but I want to make sure I'm facilitating my students education as best as I can. I believe student led conferences are a good way of holding my future students accountable for their work, or lack there of, in front of their parents. Many parents believe that their kids can do no wrong and it's the system that has put them behind. But hearing from their child themselves about how their reading in the class is going and how they feel about the understanding they have on the material being taught would get through to parents much more than a quick email from a teacher. I'd hate to see students fall so behind because they simply don't understand and don't have the guts to ask for help.
Taking this class has really enhanced the way I think about teaching in general. I have learned that there are so many different ways to set up an effective system in my future Language Arts classrooms. Although my ideas aren't concrete, especially with one more semester of Education classes left to go, I have a foundation to build off of.
In all of my years of school, including university, I have never experienced a portfolio based grading system. I have also never experienced a checklist grade system. I always received a grade for everything I handed in to my teacher, even those assignments that I would now consider low stakes. This semester we all got to experience this system first hand. This was my least stressful class because of that. There was no fretting about what grade I was going to receive because of the checklist. There was no question about what the final letter grade goal was because of the portfolio. It really spoke to that old saying that the teacher doesn't give you a grade, YOU earn it.
Further, this type of system leaves space for doing plenty of reading and reflection. There is room to revise and improve work and there is time to read and hear other educators' thoughts, reflections, ideas, fails and successes. The readings really invoke independent thinking, and the class system really invokes independence period. I would love to try a similar class approach to the high school level once I become a teacher.
In the article “To Teach Effective Writing, Model Effective Writing”, published on the website Edutopia, it goes over a few strategies on how to teach effective writing to students. The suggestion that I found most interesting was that, as teachers, we need to be effective writers to teach effective writers. In order to be effective writers, teachers cannot stop writing formally once they graduate college. They have to continue working on their craft, which I agree with. Writing is a progressive progress that keeps getting better only if you practice writing. No one can write perfectly, and no one can stop writing and still maintain their writing skills. Gradually over time if you stop writing you will slowly lose your ability to write well. In order to maintain your writing skills, you have to keep on writing. One of the important steps we will teach our students in order to write effective is to practice writing. It would be hypocritical to tell your students to practice when the teachers are not doing it themselves. Teachers do not have to write scholarly articles, but they can find other means to write. Some suggestions the article gives for teachers to continue practice writing is to write blogs, articles or fictional stories. It is important to at least write something that will be read by others so you will get feedback because getting feedback is also important in improving writing skills.
As I sat down to write my teaching philosophy, I looked back on my own experience as an English student. When I started to think about the books I've read and the papers that I wrote about them, I realized that my high school English classes only exposed me to the classics. While I am happy that I've been exposed to those books such as The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn, I think that having the opportunity to read and write about contemporary books would have enhanced my education. If teachers are looking to discuss symbolism and themes in literature, those things aren't only found in the classics, they're in modern books as well. I think that by using contemporary books in the classroom, it takes away the stigma of those books being something boring that only has a place in the classroom. If teachers must teach the classics to meet standards, they could easily pair it with a more contemporary book set in the same period or about the same topic as a way let students compare the two. These two articles present valid arguments for why both classic and contemporary books should be used in classrooms:
I think that the classics are wonderfully written books that have a lot to show students, but I think that contemporary books are equally wonderful and deserve a place in the classroom.
by Elizabeth Rogers
Testing. All over the place, students claim to be bad test takers.
Students vocalize their stress over test taking with questions like, “What will be on the exam?”
What do we even study, especially in a language arts classroom when you have multiple novels, vocabulary, writing tips, etc?
And heaven help us if it’s not multiple choice.
From timed essays, multiple choice, short answer and more, testing places so much stress on students and teachers as well they try to prepare their students to do well on the exam.
While I could describe the anxiety of testing with a multitude of humorous memes, to get serious, what do we do about testing? Especially as writing and reading educators, we all have our own strong feelings about testing. Should it be used or not? As much as I am not a fan of testing, there is one point that must be talked about. In the society we live in, everything is testing centered. How did we get into college? We took a test. How do we become a teacher? We take a test. Even if a student doesn't want to go to college, many vocations now have a test after training that you must pass in order to begin the job. Everything we do is centered around our test performance. So as teachers, we must prepare our students for testing. So how do we do this, without “teaching to the test”? Many voiced their opinions in class about hating testing: then how do we prepare our students for a world where a test is how you succeed? And in an English classroom? Not saying that this idea of a test-focused society is a good or bad thing, but it is our reality. So...what do we do?
By Maggie Patton