As we celebrate Banned Books Week in the library this week, the seventh grade students and I have had some great discussions about reading and the ultimate decision makers about materials purchased and held in a library. Just who can decide what we read, and should they have that power? Amidst these enlightened discussions regarding freedom of speech, I read an article regarding the banning of The Catcher in the Rye in a Florida School (“Martin County Mom Trying to Get Catcher in the Rye Banned from Classes“). What I found interesting was not the fact that a mother objected to her child reading a book with profanity. Frankly, that happens all the time, and as a librarian I have no issue with it. Parents, after all, are the primary educators of their children. But why do parents think they have the right to challenge what is being read by other students, or worse deny them the right to read those books? The books that are challenged and ultimately banned contain ideas that can inspire reflection and conversation from both a negative and positive standpoint. They can inspire exploration of ideas and moral stances. Without the exploration of this literature, personal philosophies may go unexamined.
Freedom of speech grants the freedom to explore many different ideas, even those that may be unpopular or unfamiliar. It is truly frightening to think individuals believe that they have the right to censor those ideas that they find offensive, to the detriment of the entire community. It is hard to believe that these actions continue in 2010.
Posted in Libraries, Reading | Tagged Banned Books, Censorship, Freedom of Speech | Leave a Comment »
After attending the Edutopia webinar, “Education Nation” amidst planning for the beginning of the school year, I was inspired by the idea that there are some classroom techniques and practices that must move from the realm of “nice to know” to “must do.” As an educator, I have been guilty of learning about new sources and methods, but have failed to completely integrate them into the classroom. Time has always been an issue. It has always been easier to fall back on what I’ve used in the past and use what is readily at hand.
But as the school year begins, I think it’s best to review my lessons and practices of the past school year and employ the philosophy of Re: Reflect, Reevaluate, and Reinvent.
- RE – flect: Think about the learning experience of students in my classroom. Am I challenging and engaging my students? How many assessments involved more than recall and regurgitation? How can I best assess their knowledge?
- RE – evaluate: What classroom projects and practices worked last year, creating an authentic learning experience for my students? Look at each unit, it’s construct, resources used, and assessment. Be brutal. What is worthwhile and worth keeping? What can be improved?
- RE – invent: Once the weaknesses in lessons have been pinpointed, I must have the courage to change them. I have to step out of the box and try something new –use a tool I’ve just learned about, or explore a different dimension of a topic. I’ll do my best to try to engage the students, rather than instruct them.
Now that I’m reinvigorated from the summer, I should have the energy to revise my methods. That is my goal for this year.
Posted in Education, Research, Technology | Tagged Education, Methodology, Pedagogy, teaching | Leave a Comment »
As I was speaking to students this week about next week’s plans, and how we’ll be finishing up before spring break, several students informed me that they would not be in school next week. The reasons varied: volleyball tournaments, trips to Florida for spring training, going to Mexico, and of course, Disneyworld. When I asked them if they realized how much work they would be missing, I mostly got shrugs and a generic chorus of implied “who cares.” But one response in particular really made an impression. One of the traveling students came up to me after class to apologize for his upcoming absence, but told me his parents didn’t think missing a couple of days of school would matter. Now, as a teacher who works hard every day to design lessons, to try to teach in innovative and meaningful ways, and to find assessments that truly gauge a student’s learning, I was offended by this comment. What exactly do parents think is happening in school each day? Is learning less important at the grade school level? And is there an assumption that students can learn this material without guidance or direct instruction? Is it also assumed that upon their return, they can possibly make up what they’ve missed? Unfortunately, a student’s vacation results in extra work for teachers: additional instruction time, the reteaching of lessons, notes and handouts, and redesign of make-up assessments. I had to shake my head in disbelief as I realized what is valued: anything but education or educators. And that is a sad realization.
Posted in Education | Tagged Educators Education Teachers | Leave a Comment »
Yesterday, because of a horrendous nor’easter, I was stranded in a commuter train for six hours, hoping to get home. It was exhausting and frustrating, and would have been much worse, had I not been traveling with a colleague. After finding a pen, and using the back of our theater tickets, we talked about lessons and future class plans. We worked on scenery and staging for our school musical, and even a little choreography (although we did get some strange looks from fellow passengers). We had to laugh about the absurdity of the situation — we had to be trapped in a commuter train outside of New York to have the time to work together, and collaborate the way we wish we could. If only planning time was made a priority by schools, so that teachers would have time to exchange ideas, and explore new, inventive ways to teach lessons. It is amazing how productive we can be when we have the time to bounce ideas off one another — time that we never have during the school day. I guess we were lucky to have been stranded — it gave use the opportunity to accomplish everything we wanted to. I have to thank Mother Nature and New Jersey Transit for that. Although next time, I’d rather not be tired, hungry, and thirsty to work my best.
Posted in collaboration, Education, Planning | Tagged collaboration, Education, Planning | 1 Comment »
Lately, we’ve talked a lot about the necessity for collaboration between educators. As a librarian, I’m especially interested in the topic, as I’ve come to realize that this collaboration truly produces the most authentic project based learning. Many teachers are reticent to embrace such collaboration, seeing a division between information use and subject-specific instruction. But as we all know, 21st century learning recognizes no such division. I had come to believe that the combination of the instructor’s age and lack of familiarity with technology was responsible for this resistance, but this week I was proven wrong by my students.
Eighth graders learned this week how to use GoogleDocs; specifically, the presentation creation feature. The idea was this: as a class, let’s create a slideshow about the Winter Olympics, based on research they’ve already done. To do this , they had to collaborate with classmates, agreeing on backgrounds that did not clash, similar fonts, the formatting of slides, and in what order to place the information. Students began to argue about the look of the presentation. More than one student took it upon himself to change the background of all the slides multiple times, resulting in raising the frustation level of the group. Once it was decided to put the slides in chronological order, students were surprised to see that classmates had moved their slides, often to the incorrect position. The results would have been comical, had they not pointed out the difficulty of collaboration, even amongst the young and tech-savvy. I found that group collaboration is hard, regardless of age and experience level, and that the lesson here was not what I intended — to teach the students to use a new tool — but how to work together. Our class next week was to spend time looking at our beautiful final product, but instead, we’ll look at the project from a different angle — why is working on it together better than doing it apart? We’ll spend most of our time discussing the difficulties they had working together, and how we can do better next time. Because, as all educators know, an intended lesson can often have an unexpected result. It was no longer about the use of a new tech tool. It became something totally different — that collaboration is difficult, but well-worth the effort. And this lesson is age and ability blind.
Posted in Education | Tagged collaboration, Education, teaching | Leave a Comment »