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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Once you leave the idealism of college, you encounter real life.

My school has a type of online forum where current students, alumni, and faculty/staff can post. It is mostly inhabited by students and alumni, though a few faculty members post occasionally.

For the past couple weeks, I have been reading a discussion going on between a group of alumni who are currently teachers in various states throughout the US.

One teacher, a graduate from several years ago, wrote the following after a particularly frustrating day:
"Hey undergrads, no matter how awesome and inspiring and cute ProfessorA and ProfessorB are, do NOT become teachers. I swear."

When I first read it, I laughed aloud. ProfessorA and ProfessorB are incredibly awesome and inspiring and cute. They make you want to plow past all the troubles that you know you will encounter and be that liberal-minded idealistic teacher that they are encouraging you to become.

But then after I stopped laughing and reread the quote, it made me feel really sad. Why is it that teachers are put in positions where they are made to feel so let down and pessimistic? I know most jobs are going to have days where it just doesn't really feel worth all the trouble. But lately, all the alumni posting in the forum have been sounding increasingly cynical about their effectiveness and value as a teacher. The testing, the lack of respect, the huge class sizes. The reality of it all is wrenching the "education student idealism" out of them.

I'm not entirely sure what the point I am trying to make is. I just know that it makes me feel sad to hear that conditions are so universally uncomfortable and problematic.

How would it affect us (the education students) if we heard more about those problems on a specific individual level? Of course, we all read Kozol, we read newspaper articles, we know there are problems out there. And we're in the education program because we want to fix it. We want to make it at least a little better for a few students. We want to be able to say that at least the students in our class will have a caring, supportive, enthusiastic teacher. But what happens if that's drained out of us by the opposition we face? Can we still be the teachers that ProfessorA and ProfessorB have encouraged us to be?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I like to make things more complicated for myself.

Interestingly enough, in order to do field work (observations, teaching of lessons, interviews, etc) of children in the public schools all you need to do is be in an education class. You do not need to fill out any other paperwork. But, in order to do any type of field work with the college pre-school, you need to go through the Institutional Review Board and get IRB approval. And send out parental permission forms. Even if your research question is only, "What formats of writing can pre-school children identify? What formats of writing can pre-school children create?" And your procedures include showing a pre-schooler four different formats of writing (for example, a formal letter, a newspaper article, an envelope, and a grocery list) and asking them to point to certain types, ("point to grocery list"). And then with another group of pre-schoolers asking them to create the different formats of writing, ("I am going to the grocery store. Write me a list of the food I need to buy when I go to the grocery store," or if they say they don't know how to do that, "you can just pretend to write").

My goal is just to observe what the pre-schoolers know about those different writing formats. There is no inherent risk involved and no deceiving of the participants. I should get IRB approval without much problem, but this all takes time. Time to write the proposal. Time to meet with a professor to go over the proposal. Time to wait for it to be returned. Time to meet with another professor create the permission forms. Time to wait for those to be returned.

What was only supposed to be a relatively informal observation/interview assignment is turning out to be a complicated research project for which I need IRB approval. None of the other students in my class are interviewing children from the pre-school, so they do not need to go through this process. Only me. I would almost feel special (and really, going through the IRB approval process is good experience...for something) if I didn't know that this would take up lots of extra time. Time which I don't actually have.

(I want to point out that I understand the importance of having research approved. I know that I'm not doing anything damaging to the kids, but rules and protocol must be followed. I'm cool with that. I'm just frustrated because I now need to plan out the entire series of observations ahead of time, which was not the goal of the assignment. I was supposed to plan out one observation, do it, and then develop the next one to answer questions about or enrich what I learned in the first one. I can't do that now. I need to specify the number of participants, the time required, all the specific questions I will ask, etc. Also, I have never filled out an IRB form alone, so the task is looking mighty daunting. And I'm afraid I'll get rejected and have to resubmit which will put me even more behind in my observations.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Purpose of an Education Blog?

I think I am going to reevaluate what I want to get out of writing in the education-type blog.

I read a lot of education blogs (see looonnnggg column at right).  I think they are all informative and fascinating in many ways, whether I agree with the writers, disagree with the writers, sympathize with their problems, or experience whatever other emotions which may be invoked by the stories the bloggers tell.

It is getting more and more difficult for me to ignore the fact that I read all this blogs when I participate in the discussions during my education classes.  There have been many times when I want to make a comment in class, tying something together with what I have read in others' blogs.  But I can't.  Because I have this page, and I have written things that I do not want my professors to see.  And if I say something, and they come online and find other education blogs, they may very well find mine too.  And that would be...problematic.

I'm going to think about it a little more.  I am going to try to write only about my thoughts/emotions/ideas about education and my program, without referring to my professors in ways that could be upsetting to them or incriminating for myself.

If that works, if that allows me to get out of this writing experience what I want to get out of it, I will continue to write in the more abstract way.  If I just feel the need to rant a little bit about my instructors, well...I'll figure something out.

Whatever I decide though, I'm still going to tell pre-school stories:

Little Girl (in a very quiet whisper and a conspiratorial tone, leaning in close to my ear ): I have to tell you a secret.  When I grow up, I'm going to be a superhero!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Professor quote of the day

Professor: "I can't play computer or video games until I get tenure. As soon as I get tenure though, I'm going to buy lots of video games."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Field Trip!

The educati0n dep@rtment at my school recently sponsored a trip to Big State University to listen to someone give a talk about their research involving education.

I went on this trip, along with a couple handfulls of other students and 3/4 of the professors from the educati0n dep@rtment at my school.  It was really exciting to be able to listen to this speaker - the speaker is someone who has written a fairly "famous" (depending on the circles you follow) book, and was clear and enjoyable to listen to.  I was expecting there to be other undergraduate students at this presentation, but the audience was comprised of graduate students and professors.  We were the only undergrads.  Before going to Big State University, I had not read the speaker's book and didn't know much about the research the speaker has done.  After viewing the presentation, I really want to read the book (and have checked it out of the library), and its follow up which is coming out some time next year.

While on the trip (we had about an hour of driving time to get to Big State University, and another hour of driving time to get back to my school) and at dinner afterwards (which the department payed for!) I feel that I got to know my professors better, as people, which was really nice.  Despite the fact that I will be a teacher myself within the next few years, I still sometimes forget that teachers and professors are people too.  They have their own lives and worries and do not devote their entire lives to their job.  Being able to spend a lot of leisurely non-classroom time with my professors allowed me to see them as not-professors, and allowed them to act as not-professors.  I already called all of these professors by their first names, instead of Professor -----.  And that certainly helped me to see them as real people in the past, but this extra step helped as well.

I'm really glad I was able to go on this trip.  In addition to the interesting speaker and the fun conversations with my professors and the other students, I also learned something very important.  Just like the students at my school, some of the professors may be incredibly intelligent but seriously lacking in any basic form of common sense.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What do you call your students?

If you are trying to get the attention of your entire class as a group, what do you call the students?  I've been thinking about this for a while.  Do you have something that you say when you are trying to get the attention of the entire class?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why I can only teach the 12 and other sect.

Today in one of my classes, a professor made a student cry.  The professor didn't do anything that should have made a 21-year-old college student cry.  I think the student was just having a bad day and a little bit of mild criticism in regards to a homework assignment along with frustration brought her to tears.

Instead of feeling bad for the student, I felt bad for the professor.  If the professor had been mean or cruel in some way, I wouldn't have thought about her feelings at provoking the student to tears.  But from what can tell about her, the professor is one of the kindest people I know and would never want to make a student cry, during class, in front of the other students.  She felt really badly about it and apologized (which is kind of a weird thing to do.  "I'm sorry I made you cry.") 

If a 1st grader starts crying, I'm on top of it.  If a 5th grader starts crying, I can deal with it.  But if a (for all intents and purposes) adult student began crying in the middle of my class, I think that I might freak out a little bit.

And that's one of the many, many reasons I plan to work with elementary-aged students.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My First Meme

I got tagged by The Science Goddess over at What It's Like on the Inside.  (My first time being tagged! Thanks!)

Here are the directions:
  • Go into your archives.
  • Find your 23rd post.
  • Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
  • Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
  • Tag five other people to do the same thing.
I was worried that I wouldn't have 23 posts, but I do.  (I actually have a few more than 23.)
My 23rd post only had three sentences.  The third sentence was:

"I had a whole conversation with him [one of my pre-schoolers] and his mother while holding nothing but the box of tampons."

While this moment was awkward, leesepea's note in my comments made me realize it could have been worse!

And, I'm not going to tag anyone - I don't remember who has already done this meme.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

And today at pre-school

Boy (with lots of excitement): Let's put the baby in the washing machine!

(He was referring to a doll house baby and doll house washing machine.)