Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Journey Begins...Finally

I have begun the coursework that will eventually, hopefully lead to a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. I am extremely excited right now. And I couldn't be doing this without the incredible support of my family. Based on how busy our lives become, I imagine I am in for a few of the days illustrated in the comic. But I've been proactive in protecting my family from this character by resigning many duties at work in order to keep some semblance of sanity. So far, everything is wonderful! And the following is my first reflection paper. Enjoy!

“I have some sad news for you,” I share with my students. I’m in costume, wearing a wig, flowery dress, cardigan sweater, and using a cane. “Your teacher, Ms. Gallagher, has been in an accident. I’m here as your sub. Today we are going to investigate observations and interpretations by looking at these bins of artifacts found in Ms. Gallagher’s home and office. To begin, please look at the artifacts in one bin with your group members and write down ten statements you believe to be true about Ms. Gallagher.”

And this is the introduction to the school year for my students. It is the day we begin building our community. It is the heart of our class climate. They are initially thrown by the role-play. They are excited about getting to know their teacher in such an unconventional way. They are confused by what this activity has to do with the world of science; after all, they are in a chemistry class.

Although there are dozens of subtle foundational reasons for doing this activity, one of the most constructive outcomes is that my students come to an adventurous conclusion by the end of the hour. No longer in costume or character, returning as their teacher to facilitate our analysis discussion, I share the following thoughts. “How many of you now have more questions about me, Ms. Gallagher, having gone through this activity than you had when you entered the room this morning?” All hands go up with a number of smiles. “As your teacher, I am NOT here to provide answers. I hope this activity has illustrated that I believe part of my responsibility is to instead provide you with opportunities, opportunities leading you to more to questions, opportunities to find your life experiences mysterious and intriguing and worthy of well-formulated questions. In short, you should have more questions in June than answers. I think we’re in for a wonderfully exciting time.” (Activity created by Spiro Bolos, modified for science.)

The night before I did this activity with my classes, I started the journey towards my PhD. I became the student. I am now at the other end of that very lesson. We have barely scratched the surface here in CI 574. How do I know? Because I already have a seemingly endless list of questions based on my readings by Schubert in CPPP. My first course reflection is in fact a series of questions, focused in three areas.

1. My curiosity of history and curriculum as a field:
a. Were any of the most influential educational reformers “just” teachers? Or is it a historical prerequisite to be a professor in order to have long-term impact on educational foundations? To be a part of the discussion?
b. Who are the most influential curricular specialists NOT written about or listened to? What were their thoughts? And why weren’t we listening?
c. What would teachers working during Dewey’s time have thought of him? Of Tyler? Of Spencer? Etc. Did teachers look up to them? Did they agree with their thoughts? Did teachers have time to discuss these things? How different was the actual schooling in comparison to what the curriculum experts had envisioned during those times?
d. Why is the teaching profession put on such a pedestal in other cultures, but is considered so lowly here? What started that?
e. Who would the academic community consider as the foremost expert on curriculum right now? Whose ideas should we be listening to? i.e., Who’s the next Dewey?
f. Who would the teaching community consider to be the foremost curricular expert right now? How many teachers could name five curricular specialists? We asked the question in class, “Who do we start with in terms of the history of curriculum?” I’d like to also know, “Who do we end with? And how did our path lead us here?”
g. What is worthwhile? What’s worth knowing, experiencing, doing, needing, being, becoming, overcoming, sharing, and contributing? (Questions in "g" formulated by William Schubert.)

2. My personal life:
a. Why didn’t I start this program ten years ago?! Ugghhh. I am so angry with myself for not starting earlier. I REALLY would like a full-time job working in the world of academia and teaching teachers and helping to improve schools. I miss thinking. I miss discussing. I miss hearing the big picture. I miss being in an environment where I matter, where my abilities are being challenged and employed.
b. How in the WORLD does Schubert know so much? There’s so much to read and absorb and process and question. I need a full-time job just to read everything I want to read! Where do I sign up?
c. How can I learn to read faster?
d. What would be the ONE book I should read above all else if I want to be truly inspired as a future curriculum specialist?
e. What is worthwhile? What’s worth knowing, experiencing, doing, needing, being, becoming, overcoming, sharing, and contributing? (Questions in "e" formulated by William Schubert.)

3. My professional life:
a. How have we allowed ourselves (the teaching community) to stray so far away from what is best for our students? Why isn’t there a revolution? There are so many teachers out there…
b. How do I study the damage we (teachers) cause in order to convince administrators and politicians (the policy-makers) that (putting it simply) we’re doing everything backwards?
c. Who do I talk to about planning the rest of my schooling? Life?
d. What is worthwhile? What’s worth knowing, experiencing, doing, needing, being, becoming, overcoming, sharing, and contributing? (Questions in "d" formulated by William Schubert.)

I am thrilled to be starting the process. I look forward to learning, thinking, discussing. I can’t wait to be a part of this full time. Above all, I would really love to be part of connecting practice with theory in a meaningful way…

The journey begins...

1 comment:

Nate said...

d. Why is the teaching profession put on such a pedestal . . .
----Teaching used to be on a much higher pedestal, but, at least in the US, the only way that people feel that they have control in any sort of political process is with local schools. They have little chance, as a single voter, to easily sway any larger political system.

e. Who would the academic community consider as . . .
----This is a tough question. Curriculum is in more of a flux now than ever. With brain research, we are first beginning to understand the specifics of how the brain learns, and its plasticity. Clearly, with computers, images, etc., learners of today are wired differently than learners of three decades ago. Read “Origins of the Mind” in the September 2009 Scientific American. With so much to know, we need to shift from someone who knows many widgets to someone who knows how to find and process widgets. Indeed, you must have a basic set of knowledge, but what that is proves to be elusive. Also, not all are capable of everything. We must help the individual attain THEIR best to properly function in a society that many current teachers cannot imagine, nor will see. There are those with interesting ideas such as Mislevy and Wilson.

f. Who would the teaching community consider . . .
----One needs to look closely at large grant proposals and awards for STEM education with the National Science Foundation. Interesting that there is nothing from the Department of Education. History of curriculum is ancient. There are some Babylonian texts that briefly talk of this. Maimonides in the late 1100’s also talks a little bit about this. There should be no one to end with. It is a vibrant and continually developing and changing field.

a. Why didn’t I start this program ten years ago?. . .
---Joan, this is a very personal matter. If you are a theist, then it was destined that you get experience under Swackhammer. If not, then there is no particular reason. You have matured and learned much in the last decade. The toll on little ones in your family is now much less than a decade ago.

c. How can I learn to read faster?
---This is NOT what you want. You want to comprehend and make connections faster. This is what is really important, not the mechanical reading.

e. What is worthwhile? What’s worth knowing, . . .
---This is value and culturally ladened. I do not think this can be done universally.

a. How have we allowed ourselves . . .
---Schools are still in the factory model of the 1950’s. Many teachers consider the book or what is given to them as the curriculum. Just like a worker in a factory.

d. What is worthwhile? What’s worth knowing, . . .
---How to think, how to process, how to derive new knowledge in a discipline, how to find data, and how to make a decision with incomplete or ill-structured information.