Ed Reading: A Review of the New A.P. U.S. History Framework

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Lendol Calder, professor of History at Augustana College, leading thinker and writer on the teaching of History, member of my exclusive Club PLN and family friend, has published an excellent op-ed on the new College Board curriculum framework and test for A.P. U.S. History courses (APUSH). The piece was published in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, for which I’m certain you have a subscription. And if you do not, consider yourself judged!

In any case, before committing to an elementary education career, I was quite interested, as are most meandering History majors, in teaching social studies and history on the secondary level. Dr. Calder provided some guidance, pointing me in the direction of Bruce Lesh, the Stanford History Education Group, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts by Sam Wineburg and many other good authorities on teaching History who are listed here. In addition, I have collected some of my own social studies and history resources, my list on Twitter, my Google Drive folder and a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman newsletter. In spite of the lamentably limited opportunity to teach social studies on the primary level, my interest has not waned. I am determined to stay current on the best thinking and best practices in the field so that when the opportunity or instructional hours present themselves, I’ll be ready.

Below is a collection of notes and quotes from Dr. Calder’s piece, The Kids Are (Going To Be) Alright. Please keep in mind that I have very little context and expertise from which to judge Dr. Calder’s assessment of the new APUSH framework. I have not taught A.P. U.S. History, nor have I done a deep dive of the new standards. I did take A.P. U.S. by the venerable Dean C. Brink at Roosevelt High School in Seattle. And I did well enough on the APUSH test to earn college credit, which I used to save me some coin without regret. I am also biased towards agreeing with Dr. Calder. So, take my notes for what they are worth; a superficial exploration of a teaching interest.
The APUSH Kids Are (Going To Be) Alright

Dr. Calder starts out by making clear just how much the new APUSH framework has been politicized. And to be fair, unlike science (or maybe just like science), history has always been inherently political.

On the right:

The APUSH framework has been denounced by the Republican National Committee. It has been censured by school boards in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Carolina. APUSH has been threatened with defunding by lawmakers in Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Channeling the spirit of Nikita Khrushchev, conservatives believe the College Board’s history test makers are powerful and dangerous.

On the assumed left:

I’ve listened to professors questioning whether the new APUSH will deepen students’ knowledge or just put a College Board stamp of approval on continued ignorance…..There will be professors who say the test makers havespoiled everything,” deemphasizing content knowledge in order to promote mushy ‘thinking skills.’

I guess it takes the current lightning rod issue in education, namely testing, to have Americans up in arms over a subject we infamously ignore; history.

And if you don’t think there can be serious consequences for teachers and students when the politics of the culture wars enter the classroom, think again. Let me remind you of the most recent major U.S. curriculum scandal that grabbed headlines around the world; the banning of Tuscon’s Mexican-American Studies program. Check out Al Madrigal lampooning the ban for The Daily Show here.

In any case, Dr. Calder does not dismiss the APUSH concerns of either conservatives or liberals. Instead, he advocates for acknowledgement and engagement on the part of APUSH defenders, like himself.

The concerns of conservative critics should be welcomed and addressed. And especially in two places, I submit….

Many conservatives like to think of themselves as the party of reasoned deliberation as opposed to the Left’s alleged preference for indoctrination through political correctness. This means that by their own logic, conservatives have nothing to fear from a multi- perspectival history classroom, so long as the teacher doesnt put her thumb on the scale….

The answer – I should say, an answer – to concerns about how to bring coherence tothe APUSH course is to teach the conflicts.

To be coherent, courses need Big Questions. (emphasis added)

For Dr. Calder, the “Big Questions” in regards to the new APUSH framework are the following:

Are the revisions to AP History really changes for the better?

Will the new expectations of the exam make a difference in how teachers teach the course?
And can the new APUSH curriculum survive politicization in the rough and tumble of the culture wars?

The old APUSH model was based on coverage. Teachers were asked to generically introduce huge amounts of U.S. History dates, names, places, factoids and concepts. The complaints from students, secondary teachers and higher ed professors abound about the old “coverage” methodology. In fact, Dr. Calder and his History department colleagues at Augustana College do not accept APUSH test credits because of their founded concerns about the quality and meaningfulness of such a secondary history education.  

Thus, Dr. Calder seems to almost imply that nearly any change would’ve been a good change for the APUSH course and test. Nevertheless, he makes a strong case for the new APUSH framework, that it is not just any old change, but a thoughtful and meaningful one. The new framework drops the coverage model, picks up some research-based learning methods, encourages historical thinking, and gives a nod to what history professors expect of incoming high school graduates.

In the old course, history was one fact after another, a list of subjects to be familiar with. The new APUSH presents history as a murky domain of knowledge in which protocols and habits of mind are necessary to distinguish sense from nonsense and know anything about the past at all. The old test smelled like remember-ology. The new test measures how good one is with the intellectual discipline of history.

Dr. Calder thinks that the new methods and expectations for the APUSH will net serious results, not in small part because secondary social studies teachers are leading the push to improve history pedagogy. The bottom up reform from secondary to higher ed is reinvigorating history instruction in a new generation of academic historians and will, Dr. Calder argues, “work its way out and up to improve history education at all levels.” Indeed, even where history instruction is in need of serious professional development, the new APUSH framework simultaneously provides the guide and the incentive for stepping up to that challenge.

Last, Dr. Calder addresses the political sustainability of the new APUSH framework, a question which is extremely difficult to guess at in our current partisan political climate, but has some history to draw from.

Pushback from conservatives alarmed by the revised APUSH program triggers unpleasant memories of the mid-1990s “history wars.” When in 1994 Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch urged federal funding for voluntary national history standards, she called on UCLA’s National Center for History in the Schools to draft and circulate the proposed standards. In January 1995, after weeks of furious debate among historians, policy elites, and media commentators, the United States Senate voted 99–1 to reject the UCLA standards for presenting “a disproportionately pessimistic and misrepresentative picture of the American past.” No one wants to go there again.

But Dr. Calder doesn’t want the debate about what historical themes are important for us to learn in school, what meanings can be drawn from significant historical events, which historical events are, in fact, significant, and what patterns or continuity can be gleaned from a broad historical perspective. This is precisely why he advocates for engagement with both conservatives worried about anti-Americanism and history academics worried about instructional rigor. Both those debates revolve around what it is in U.S. History that is vital for us to know and think critically about. Thus, Dr. Calder point about teaching the debates.

…as in previous chapters of America’s history wars, disagreements over the new APUSH emerge from fundamental differences people have about the nature and purposes of history. These differences are not easily reconciled. Thus, our primary task as scholars, teachers, and citizens should, arguably, be to nurture the vibrancy of a dialogue that properly crosses ideologies, moralities, and pedagogies.

This call to arms of sorts, for history academics and secondary teachers, is so completely in line with Dr. Calder’s most salient point about how people learn best. There is a wonderful coherence between his point about teaching the debates and getting students to “do” history in order to learn it.

At least conservatives begin with a truth: that ideas matter, that the stories people tell have consequences. But defenders of coverage begin with a falsehood: that facts can be stored in the head like furniture in an attic, there to be pulled down some day when a situation calls for it. But that’s not how memory works. We remember what we do on a regular basis. If we want students to know who did what when, we must ask them to do something with that knowledge again and again.

Learning the relevant history of a past debate made current, or that never was settled, such is the nature of nearly all our culture wars debates, this is a compelling way to engage students in the doing of history.

______________________________________________________________

The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era / Volume 14 / Issue 03 / July 2015, pp 433-440

An Ed Tech Interview with ME!

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, who is going through a teacher preparation program, to respond to a series of questions about technology in my classroom. As a current English teacher in a South Korean elementary school it may surprise the rest of the world how little technology i see used everyday at my school. One-to-one, not a one. BYOD, nope. APCATBOTD, All Phones Collected At The Beginning Of The Day.

In fact, I did my own informal survey of several students in the 5th and 6th grade and not a single said they regularly used their smart phones as a learning tool. They all had smart phones, they all had data plans and access to the internet twenty-four-seven, yet it never occurred to them that the thing was anything more than an entertainment and communication tool. It was astonishing for a much ballyhooed techie country like South Korea.

I think my answers about the limited use of technology in the different classrooms I have worked in over the years will surprise no one. The common barriers are cliche at this point; lack of PD, device access, and access to integrated lessons that are at least enhanced, if not transformed, by technology. I’m working on it, I’m motivated to experiment, I’d love some good PD and, in the mean time, I’m improvising to leverage technology any chance I get. PLN, PLN, PLN!

Here is the transcript of my Ed Tech Interview:

At what school and grade level do you teach?  How many years of teaching experience do you have?

I teach 3rd through 6th grade English as a Foreign Language at Ansim Elementary in Yeosu, South Korea. I have about eight years teaching experience, in my own English classroom, as a bilingual instructional assistant at a Seattle public elementary school, teaching adults, children, in American and many countries abroad.


Have you had any opportunities for professional development to help integrate technology into the classroom?  If so, please describe.  If not, do you want to learn more about integrating technology?

While I was an instructional assistant with Seattle public schools, we were given our own iPads to support English language development in ELL students, along with math support. However, we were given no professional development support and we had to find our own apps to support learning and design our own ways to integrate the technology. It was an interesting experience in how much work it is to truly leverage technologies for learning and how easily they can become expensive paper weights without the proper training and time for prep.

While I was going through the Teach-Now program, there was more PD on how to integrate technology, of course. In my current school district in Korea, there does not seem to be any push to leverage technology in the classroom to support or enhance learning and therefore I have received zero tech PD here. I have tried to use the knowledge and practices I gained from the Teach-Now program to integrate the limited tech that I have in my classroom and even let the students use learning apps on my own smart phone sometimes.


Describe your classroom simply, highlighting the technology available to you.

I have a large flat screen monitor connected via HDMI cable to a computer. That’s about it. Students have their smart phones taken away from them at the beginning of the day. I teach a couple extra classes after school and try to utilize my students’ smart phones then, BYOD style.


What’s your motivation for using technology in the classroom?  

I particularly like the SAMR model for tech integration in the classroom. I think technology can have a motivating power over some students, it can facilitate collaboration and authentic learning via publishing or researching on the web with other students and experts in a field. It can also allow students to exercise their curiosity whenever and wherever they want if they know the tech tools and resources available to them on the web. Tech can also encourage and enhance parent-teacher communication and collaboration.


Which form of technology do you use the most?  Why?

I use Quizbean.com to create English vocabulary and target language mastery tests. I am planning a digital storytelling unit for 3rd and 4th grade to create stories collaboratively using StoryBird.com. I have used smart phones to look up and translate new words for students. I use ClassDojo for a visual class management system. I use them because they are free and effective in engaging my students.


What are some of the challenges of using technology in the classroom?

The limited hardware or devices I have available to me, the culture of tech integration for learning in my school and the students’ limited ideas about what a smart phone is for, ie games and texting friends. But most of all it’s the lack of identification and training on curriculum aligned technologies to support English literacy. This makes it so that I have to do all my own research on what technologies I want to use, how they work and how they would fit into a lesson and achieve what language objective.


Please provide a brief example of a lesson that went well and that integrated technology.  Why was it successful?

I have created learning centers in my extra classes, where students are working at different stations independently or in pairs, practicing a language acquisition target. The most popular center is the computer station where students independently take a quizbean.com quiz on new and old material that they need to master. Students love the visual elements of it, and the continually updated score that indicates their level of proficiency or mastery. They all want to get 100% and conquer the test.


Please provide an example of a lesson that integrated technology but it didn’t go well.  Why was it unsuccessful, or how could you improve it?

I can’t say that I have enough experience in experimenting with new technologies at this point to give an example of a lesson that fell flat. I hope to have that opportunity to fail with tech integration and learn from it and improve one day soon!


Do you have a tech coordinator at your school?  If so, what’s his/her role, and have you utilized those services?

No, we do not have a tech coordinator at my school. We have IT professionals, but no one who is in charge of integrating tech into the learning.

Ed Interview: Carmela Dellino

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1) Can you briefly describe your background in education and what your current position is?

I began my career in 1979 as a middle school English teacher. I taught for four years as a high school English teacher, after which I decided that I could best serve students and families as a school counselor. My school counseling career involved four years at a middle school and 13 years as a high school counselor. I then worked as a high school assistant principal in the same school at which I had been a counselor.

After years of being at my school and in many ways still consider the most rewarding work years of my life, I decided to leave secondary education and seek out an elementary school principal position. Admittedly, it was not hard to transition out of the high school AP role. What made it difficult was leaving the school community I had come to love. Since leaving my job as a counselor I really felt a void. I missed the “distance” I felt with kids and families, although most would not say that I was anything from “distant.” I was seeking a smaller school community, one that I could know really well and I also wanted to transition to a high poverty school. Throughout my educational experience, I found that what really fueled my soul was working with students and families who had been marginalized and who did not have all the benefits of privilege that others had. I also wanted to work in an elementary school so that I could support students and families before the gap was so wide and before students were feeling helpless and hopeless.

I served as the principal of a small, richly diverse elementary school principal in a highly impacted area of the City of Seattle. Wow! That was an amazing experience. After four years, I was asked to work as the Executive Director of Schools for the southwest region of Seattle.

I currently work for the City of Seattle as an Education and Leadership Consultant. In this capacity, I provide coaching, consulting and mentorship to Title 1 elementary schools in the city that are receiving Family and Education Levy dollars.

I guess that was not so brief.

2) What inspires you about the work you do at Roxhill?

What inspired me? Students, families and staff. What I came to learn on a daily basis was the power of resilience, determination, compassion, a shared vision and perhaps, most important, the innate capacity and ability of children and families to overcome massive barriers and to achieve at the highest level. What also inspired me was the staff that worked tirelessly with students and families so that they could grow and thrive at the highest of levels.

3) Can you share a story from your first year as an educator, counselor or principal that illustrates an important lesson or skill you think all first year teachers should know or have?

I remember seeing this question when I first read your email a long time ago and I thought to myself, how could I ever respond with just one story. My lessons learned have been many, from the very first year as a teacher, counselor and principal.

But, here’s what I remember:

Teacher: I was 23 years old and teaching HS kids who were 17 and 18. I wanted to show that I was in charge and not get walked all over, yet I really wanted them to “like” me. I remember using sarcasm with this one kid in my second period American Lit class. Well, to make a very long story short, I quickly learned that sarcasm and trying to be liked was anything but what I should be doing as a teacher. Sarcasm is hurtful. Sarcasm is mis-understood. Sarcasm is abusive. Sarcasm is anything but modeling compassion, understanding, “belief-in”, etc… I never was able to salvage a relationship with that student. I can see his face to this day.

Principal: Really, the story here has to do with Alejandra. Her first year at Roxhill, she would barely step into the school house doors. She did not feel it was her place to do so and she did not have the confidence in her own right and skill set of being a voice not only for her kids, but for all kids. I remember I saw her in the back parking lot and she was clearly fuming mad. I asked her what was wrong and she said she could not explain herself. I invited her into my office. At first she said no and then I said that I was there for her — to listen to what was going well and what was not going well. I tried to reassure her that we (me, teachers, the school) are not always right and that we make mistakes and if we have made a mistake, we need to hear about it and learn from it. I also said that she was an equal partner in her children’s education and that when we partner — truly partner – with parents, then our children will thrive. She came into my office. I learned of something a teacher had done that really upset her. The teacher had made a mistake and long story shortened, the problem was rectified. (Teacher did a great job of acknowledging that what she had said was a problem.)

From my first days and for every day that I was a principal at Roxhill, I learned the power of parents as partners in what we do at school. I also learned, experienced and re-affirmed what the great President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda said at Nelson Mandela’s funeral service:

Leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.”

4) How do you continue to develop as a professional? Where do you see your professional growth taking you?

I love this question — and struggle with the answer. In my current role, I find that I need to be very mindful to seek out professional development. I can read articles and go to conferences (actually, not so much), but the best PD for me involves processing the work with colleagues. I do not have a small group of educators (I learned a great deal from you from our conversations. You pushed and challenged my thinking!!) that I can talk with, bounce ideas off of. I have been reading as much as possible and listening and learning from the teachers and staff in the levy schools.

Where will my professional growth take me? Hopefully to be partners with teachers and administrators in the field in closing the gap and seeing students achieve at the highest level. I want to continually know more about school reform. What is working? Why does it work? How do you get there? What does it take? What are the key moves for school leaders? How do you support the school leaders in doing what needs to get done?

5) What kind of learning culture do you try to establish in your school and among your colleagues/staff?

I try to establish a sense of urgency that is nurtured with compassion, commitment, and careful and strategic efforts. Everyone in a school (staff, families, students, and even community members) should understand what we are striving to achieve. With this shared vision, everyone needs to work collaboratively to achieve that vision. Hopefully, what happens, is everyone feels our work has meaning and purpose; we feel inspired and supported to do the very challenging work ahead of them; we feel like we are partners in the thinking about what is happening in the school (even though as a school leader, you will be the final decision-maker), and we have fun doing it!

6) What are you currently reading for personal enjoyment? And what book would you recommend for a first year teacher?

I am currently reading Wonder and Unbroken for my personal reading pleasure. Asiya Werfa wants me to lead a book club with Wonder. I am excited to work with some of the students at Roxhill again! My mom loved the book Unbroken and I really want to read it for her. Also, my brother’s father-in-law was a prisoner of war in the same camp where this takes place in Japan, so besides the Italian connection, there is a family connection.

Two books: Creating Highly Motivating Classrooms for All Students: A Schoolwide Approach to Powerful Teaching with Diverse Learners by Margery Ginsberg and Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. There are many more, but those two are what I think of right now.

7) How do you gain institutional knowledge about a school, district or city office that you are tasked to lead? How do you join that community and learn about its history?

Another insightful and great question that comes with complex and yet simple answers. Listen, learn, and engage. All this implies that I am going to ask lots of questions and immerse myself in as much as I can. It will mean going to the local grocery store and hanging out with books and art supplies so that families can stop by to visit and I can meet all their family. Maybe they will sit with me as we read a book; maybe they will leave their child with me as we read a book; maybe they will just look at me and gradually come to trust that I care about them. I will go to the housing complexes in my area and one night a month, hold a time when I invite children to come to read and do projects associated with the reading. I will invite families to talk about their own experiences in school, what they hope for and want for their children (it is to be happy and successful) and what does the school need to do to help them. I will go to businesses, walk the neighborhood, talk to the local law enforcement, talk with social service agencies and parks, and church leaders.

My PLN Mind Map

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I created this Mind Map using the Mindmeister ‘add-on’ in Google Drive, so that it automatically saves in my G Drive. This PLN Mind Map was made a few weeks into my Teach-Now online certification program. Since then my Personal Learning Network (PLN) has grown. Below is a list of the additions to my PLN in the last nine to twelve months. If you would like to view my Mind Map online, go here.

I am still looking for a classroom to partner with internationally to do a Skype in the Classroom series. Since I am teaching in Korea I am looking for English-speaking classes and teachers that are in a similar time zone. That means American schools in Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines or SE Asia. Or, a classroom in Australia or New Zealand. If you know any teacher in those countries who might be interested, please connect us!

Ed Interview: Mike Popelka

1) Can you briefly describe your background in education and what your current position is?

I graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education.  I taught upper elementary in the Chicago Public Schools system, then worked for a couple of years as a kindergarten teacher at a social service center/childcare provider that fed students into the public school system.  I moved to Seattle and apprehensively took a job teaching middle school at a private school; I found that I loved interacting with the older students as much as I did the kindergarteners back in Chicago.  I was responsible for teaching 6-8th grade science, 6-8th grade writing, and 6th grade homeroom.  I learned a lot during these years, and I found that I had a rekindled love for science– especially biology and physics.

I spent some time teaching PE at a K-8 school in Seattle, then briefly lived in Des Moines, Iowa working as a K-5 intervention teacher in the Public schools.  When my family and I moved back to Seattle, I was hired as an interventionist at Roxhill Elementary and soon found my way back into the kindergarten classroom.  I’ve taught a lot of different subjects in several different schools in three different states.  It’s been an interesting career so far!

2) What inspires you about the work you do at Roxhill?

This is my fifth year teaching at Roxhill, and every day I feel fortunate to be at school.  Any teacher will, with 100% honesty, answer that they are inspired by the personal connections with students and their families.  I feel the same way.  Many of the students I work with come from less than ideal circumstances; 40% of our students are English Language Learners, 80% of students qualify for the free/reduced lunch program, and understanding the cultural differences that occur in the classroom can be challenging.  As a kindergarten teacher, I often have students enter my classroom with no academic skills and often very little ability to communicate.  I probably complain about the amount of effort it takes to build up the foundational skills required to succeed in school.  I find inspiration in that struggle, though—I love the fact that I work hard, my students work hard, and that after all the work we do students finish the year ready for the challenges to come.

One other thing that inspires me is the professionalism and dedication of the entire staff of the school.  I have never worked in a school where each member of the staff is so interested in improving their own skills and gaining new knowledge before coming to Roxhill.  We solve problems as a team and genuinely keep the best interests of the students and the community in mind.  Even the most veteran teachers on staff routinely implement new methods.  It’s rare that one finds a place where their co-workers are helpful and friendly; rarer still is a place where one enjoys going to after work functions with their coworkers.     

3) Can you share a story from your first year of teaching that illustrates an important lesson or skill you think all first year teachers should know or have?

I learned a lot of important lessons during my first year of teaching.  I was miserable, and after not having my contract renewed I almost left the profession.  I worked in Chicago at the time, and I felt unsupported, underprepared, and foolish.  I showed up to substitute teach in a three story, 1,000 student school one day mid-year and was (surprise!) immediately assigned to take over a fifth grade class with 33 students for the rest of the year.  I felt it would be a good way to prove myself and work my way into a job with the district.  Unfortunately, there were no curricular materials, my students brought knives to school on multiple occasions and threatened each other in the closets, a student who had previously tried to light his sleeping grandmother on fire threatened to kill me, police arrested a student with a backpack of full of loose marijuana, etc.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for teaching.

No other jobs in other fields were feasible (many teachers like myself have a pretty limited skill set for office work), so I reluctantly accepted another teaching gig and found that despite my own struggles in the classroom the previous year, the problems were not all my own fault.  I learned that my first year failure was not simply because of my ability to teach, it was the situation that exacerbated my inexperience.  The students at my new school were just as challenging, but with a very trying year under my belt, support from other teachers and administrators, and a professional environment where openness and honesty were valued   I was able to complete two very successful years of teaching.  I realized that I was definitely going to be okay—I had not thrown away piles of money on my elementary education degree.

4) How do you continue to develop as a professional? Where do you see your professional growth taking you?

I recently completed a graduate program that focused on environmental education, community, and inquiry based teaching methods.  The work I did in that program have continued to help me see new possibilities with teaching—especially in trying to incorporate as much student voice into my lessons as possible.

I also truly enjoy many of the professional development opportunities I’m lucky to have in my district and my school.  I usually try to sit in the front and find at least one thing—a “take away”, if you will—that will benefit my instruction.  I have served on many committees, including the building leadership team and on a team that helped bring many aspects of full-service community school ideals to Roxhill.  Finally, I continue to work as a cooperating teacher with the University of Washington.  I have had three student teachers during the past four years, and I enjoy learning from the students and their instructors at the college.

I am working toward being a versatile educator who runs a safe, nurturing, interesting classroom.  I feel that my professional development experiences contribute bit by bit to me becoming the teacher I want to be.  Hopefully I get there before I hit retirement age!  

5) What kind of learning culture do you try to establish within your classroom and among your colleagues?

The learning culture I value most is one of discovery, confidence, and humor.  In my classroom I enjoy finding unique activities for my students to undertake.  My classes have sung Louis Armstrong songs at school assemblies, monitored bird populations in the woods near school, and analyzed old Harold Lloyd films.  I enjoy leading lessons of discovery that I feel I am uniquely suited to teach.

As a colleague, I try to balance humor and professionalism.  I want teaching to be seen as a profession for professional people, and I pride myself in (usually) being able to back up what I’m doing with solid research and from a place of authority.  I enjoy goofing around, but I am confident that everyone knows that I do my job, I do it as well as I can, and I truly care about the outcomes of my students and school.

6) What are you currently reading for personal enjoyment? And what book would you recommend for a first year teacher?

I’m always reading about four books; this is a tricky question to answer.  Right now a “hard” book I’m reading is War and Peace by Tolstoy.  I think that Tolstoy is really amazing at painting visceral pictures of emotions, and I’m really enjoying discovering this book for the first time.  A professional book I’m reading is The Nature Principle by Richard Louv, a long book about the value of connecting students and communities to the nature around them.  As for some light reading, I’m going back through my collection of Iron Man comic books.  He’s been my favorite since I was about 11 years old; I still love rereading the stories.

I feel that a first year teacher should definitely read Steven Wolk’s book A Democratic Classroom.  I was assigned this book as an undergraduate elementary education student, and I reread it every couple of years.  The website of Heinemann, the book’s publisher, advertises it perfectly:  “In his call to reinvent teaching, Wolk argues for teacher who ask questions, challenge assumptions, respect children, and understand the enormous role they play in shaping minds and society”.

My 2015 Professional Development Plan

I have finished up my student-teaching clinical with Teach-Now and am in the process of applying for my K-6 teaching certificate from the Washington D.C. OSSE. In the mean time, while I am here in Korea teaching English I am going to have pursue my own professional development as an elementary classroom teacher via my Personal Learning Network, MOOC’s, and keeping up with the latest education research. I have tried to make each of my PD goals a SMART goal, therefore many have a specific deadline for implementation at some point in 2015.

Here is the link to my full PD Plan for 2015:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t-_parfMDI6mP-GR_idkJUYEo_6t1Pf8maKfvZFl3W0/edit?usp=sharing

I will list just a few of my top PD goals for the coming year below, along with some commentary on my progress where relevant.

Objective: Create and execute more student-centered lessons.

Action Step:

  • I am gathering student-centered materials and methods, experimenting with implementation, and will be giving a formal PD session at a teacher orientation of new foreign English teachers here in Korea.

Implementation:

  • As I research student-centered methods in more depth while I am teaching here in Korea, I will identify appropriate methods that I feel confident in implementing one-at-a-time, and integrate them into my lesson plans, routines and activities. My goal will be to implement two new student-centered activities in each grade level that I teach per month.

Objective: Deepen my understanding of math instruction pedagogy for elementary school students.

Action Steps:

  • I will have regular correspondence with my math mentor, University of Washington professor, Elham Kazemi.
  • I will complete the readings that have been assigned to me by my math mentor, Elham Kazemi.
  • I will take notes, ask questions, reach out to my PLN for further clarification and advice, and create a blog post about each math reading and my personal study in general.

Implementation:

  • I will have at least two blog posts about my math pedagogy investigation by July of 2015.
  • I will have more than 5 blog posts about math pedagogy and instructional methods a year from now.
  • I will observe at least 5 recorded math lessons and take copious notes in the next year.
  • I will note my preferences and pedagogical beliefs around math instruction, and make sure to create goals for my first year math instruction based on that research and understanding.

Objective: Investigate methods of teaching character in my classroom.

Action steps:

  • Take the Coursera MOOC “Teaching Character” with the instructor, David Levin, a KIPP schools co-founder. (I am currently in the middle of this six week MOOC. I am taking notes on the videos and getting a little behind on the assignments, but learning a lot, collecting many resources and strategies on character education.)
  • Read and blog my notes of Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed. (This is done, see the link.)
  • Identify further readings and professional development opportunities in this area. (From the David Levin MOOC I have discovered and saved to my reading list a number of good research articles on teaching character and its importance.)

Implementation:

  • I will create a student character self-assessment Google Form to be filled out at the beginning and end of the school by both students and their parents.
  • I will design community-building activities or a project that will emphasize the development of character strengths.
  • I will intentionally observe and note character strengths and weaknesses in my students and create a routine that facilitates regular one-on-one conferences or interactions with students in need of character support.

Objective: Develop my leadership capacity as a teacher, including in specific areas of education interest like Design In Schools, teaching character, student data management, global education, meetings and PD facilitation and collaboration.

Action Steps:

  • Watch, take notes and blog about the 2014 Global Education Conference sessions with education leaders that I admire.
  • Take IDEO “Design In Schools” MOOC in March of 2015.
  • Lead a professional development session for the new ESL teacher orientation here in Korea in April.
  • Execute a Skype in the Classroom lesson in Korea by August of 2015.

Implementation:

  • Be available to the principal in areas where you can advise and provide a level of expertise.
  • Participate and grow in my presence as an educator online, expand my Personal Learning Network, keep blogging, tweeting, and collaborating via the web.
  • Identify and cultivate a good, collaborative working relationship with a mentor teacher when I arrive at my first American school.

Global Ed Con 2014 Session Review

Escuela Nueva: Quality Education for Peace and Democracy

Vicky Colbert

Founder and Director

Javeriana University, Colombia

  • Local, rural innovation that has grown into a national model that impacts more than 20,000 schools
  • National policy in Vietnam, Zambia, Colombia,
  • What is Escuela Nueva?
    • The process of installing change
    • Guarantees access, quality and relevance of basic education
    • Public-private partnership, civil society to spur innovation, and government to provide and push the scale of change
    • Integrates a systemic and cost effective curriculum, in-service training and follow-up,
    • Administrative and community strategies for school success
  • What does Escuela Nueva promote?
    • Child-centered, active, participatory and cooperative learning
    • Different learning paces, flexible promotion mechanisms, the national curriculum has been made into modules of mastery so students can complete them at their own pace
    • A new role for teachers, facilitator, HOTS inducer, catalyst for thinking
    • Effective, experiential teacher training, that modeled the pedagogy in the classroom with the teachers, hands-on training
    • Collaboration and networking of teaching professionals
    • Strong school, family and community relationships, w/o a ton of meetings!
    • Emphasis on democratic behavior through student governments
    • New generation of self-paced, self-directed, reusable learning guides that incorporate both content and methodology (Flexible and personalized) The textbook, workbook and teacher’s guide all in one.
      • Learning Corners
      • Small group and pair dialoguing
      • Creating community maps to identify the relationship between the school and the child’s home
      • The lessons are relevant to families and their lives and are translated to the families through the children (similar to popular education?)

 

Five Escuela Nueva takeaways:

  1. Yes, it is possible to improve the quality of education and learning in the poorest schools
  2. More of the same is not enough – it requires a paradigm shift in pedagogy
  3. Find a systemic innovative approach
  4. Learning should go beyond just academic achievement, fostering social-competencies, 21st century skills, and peaceful democratic behaviors is equally important
  5. Technology triggers change, but a new pedagogy is indispensable for effective learning

 

  • While everything has changed over the years, the way we learn has not, “most educational reform have been administrative in nature, while pedagogy has not”

 

Similarities and Differences between Latin America Low-income schools

and US Title I schools

Similarities Differences
Rigid calendars and evaluation systems Emphasis on memorization, not comprehension
Weak school-community relationships Teacher-centered methods
Low self-esteem of children Insufficient learning time
Low academic achievement Emphasis on Pre-K-3 education
High drop-out or retention rates
Ineffective or inadequate teacher training, pre-service

The Escuela Nueva Comprehensive, Systemic Approach:

  1. Teachers had to be able to execute the pedagogy, the teaching and learning, even in the jungles of Colombia
  2. It had to be politically viable within a strong teacher union society, so the teachers had to be the actors and leaders for change
  3. The program had to be cost-effective or you could not have a large impact
  4. Rethink the classroom, the way of learning and the education system as a whole

Escuela Nueva model

Escuela Nueva Results:

  1. Comparative Study on Democratic Behavior in Guatemala showed that Escuela Nueva students more frequently took turns talking or participating in an activity, and also more frequently lead processes
  2. Enhances girl’s participation, self-esteem and leadership skills

“None of us alone is as smart as all of us together.” ~Francois Taddei, Descartes University

Vision: By 2018 Escuela Nueva desires to be a “global technical reference for active, cooperative and personalized learning” and they want to lead a “global movement” to improve lives via their educational model.

Urban Escuela Activa: They expanded their model to urban areas in 1988 when there was a rapid urbanization in Colombia

Escuela Nueva Learning Circles: A specialized program for displaced-migrant population in Colombia. In these schools the students need specialized services that are flexible and adaptable to their unique needs.

  • Community youth agents serve as tutors in the schools:

→ They serve groups of 10-15 multi-grade students in the Learning Circles

→ They also ensure sustainability for the teachers in these poor urban schools

that experience extremely high rates of teacher turnover