The Clendenin Fellowship and What’s Next

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I apologize to my close friends and family who might find this post as a bit of overkill, but I wanted to record in my blog a very monumental event/achievement that occurred this week that truly changes the dynamics of research and the completion of my doctoral degree.

I found out this past Wednesday, April 1st, that I was officially selected as the recipient of The Clendenin Fellowship at Kennesaw State University. Continue reading

We Are the 93%

Although I do not agree with all his points, an administrator in my state submitted a short essay to our local paper’s education blog that states many of the same things I believe as an educator and as a PBL activist. Mr. Arnold has submitted essays many times in the past to this blog, but this particular one spoke to me; hence, why I share it here with you.

Here is an excerpt:

“At its inception, public education was never intended to educate all children and the model of standardized curricula, standardized testing, standardized attendance requirements and standardized teaching methodology does not serve to meet the personalization so desperately needed to overcome the effects of poverty and low expectations.

Academic success was a matter of temperament, birth, race and the chance that somewhere along the way those that fit the mold, followed directions, modeled good behavior and did their homework would find a teacher, usually in the lower elementary grades, that took a personal interest in their success and achievement. The prospect of attending college was limited to a very small percentage of primarily white males. The belief that all children could learn was non-existent, and would have been seen as a waste of time, effort and money.”

You can read the entire article here, and I strongly suggest you do: blog post.

Food for Thought

I was reading another education blog and came across a contributor who quoted Jefferson. The quote resonated with me, so I thought I’d re-post it here for others to think about.

To give you some context, the contributor was using the quote in response to a recent study by the American Enterprise Institute/Heritage Foundation that stated that teacher’s are overpaid and over compensated once you add up salary and benefits in comparison with a teacher’s education level. The contributor points out the main flaw in the study is its blatant disregard for non-cognitive abilities such as motivating students, classroom management, and supporting students and rather focuses on only cognitive abilities such as test scores. No matter the political insinuations here, it is the quote that rings the most true to me:

“I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness… Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance” -Thomas Jefferson

Eerily prophetic isn’t it?

Breaking Bad Habits

Heads up! This is a bit of rant session.

As proud as I’ve been of our second year group of PBLers, I’ve come to find recently that I’m struggling to maintain my goodhearted nature around them. Now that a year has gone by and I’ve learned so much, starting up the ninth graders for their first PBL experience has been a grand success, but it has also brought to my attention just how many bad habits my tenth grade group has.

I’m in the midst of trying to break those bad habits. I don’t mind chaos in a classroom to a degree. I feel like there is a good energy to feed off of when students are being themselves and exploring new content; however, the truth is that within some of the chaos has come bad habits that I know will be hard to rectify with my veteran group. Allow me to put a disclaimer here that the majority of the students are doing great work and have great work habits, but we all know it only takes a few to worry us.

The number one habit that I’m trying to change for this semester is on completing various assignments ON TIME. We developed a poor habit last year of allowing some slack as both us and the students were figuring out from project to project how to complete assignments in a manner that always made sense. Due to this original design, it has become common practice for some students to not meet initial deadlines and to wait as long as possible before completing the work. This, of course, has to stop. The problem is I recognize that it is the culture that I allowed. I pride myself on my classroom management, but admittedly this will be a challenge for me this year. We have the new PBL group streamlined and firing on all cylinders, but as I said before, this only reveals the issues we have with our veteran group.

The solution seems simple. Hold students to a stringent deadline, check the work, and follow through with the appropriate grade. Still, I wonder what else can be done to break these bad habits and turn it into a real positive for the students. I’m certainly up to suggestions.

We are approaching the due date for the next round projects from both groups and it is clear that one group is more organized and on time than the other. Yet, I also know the latter group will produce some phenomenal results.

At the end of the day, the veteran group will get it done, and most will have done a great job. But I am always of the mindset that those who are a little lost need to be helped and taught how to break those bad habits. As stressful as this time of year can be at school, I am excited for the coming results of these projects from both groups. I just hope academically I can start working towards flipping those bad habits and trading them in for something a bit more streamlined. Then again, students aren’t streamlined.

It’s honestly what makes my job so interesting and worthwhile.

“Nothingness”

This is quite the mind-pressing, deep, and question-worthy poem I am sharing with you all today. This was sent to me by a colleague today, and I was immediately struck with the desire and need to share it.

“Nothingness”

by Aharon Amir

I woke up at night and my language was gone

No sign of language no writing no alphabet

nor symbol nor word in any tongue
and raw was my fear-like the terror perhaps

of a man flung from a treetop far above the ground

a shipwrecked person on a tide-engulfed sandbank

a pilot whose parachute would not open

or the fear of a stone in a bottomless pit

and the fright was unvoiced unlettered unuttered

and inarticulate O how inarticulate

and I was alone in the dark

a non-I in the all-pervading gloom

with no grasp no leaning point

everything stripped of everything
and the sound was speechless and voiceless

and I was naught and nothing

without even a gibbet to hang onto

without a single peg to hang onto

and I no longer knew who or what I was

and I was no more

–translated from the Hebrew by Abraham Birman

What do you think? Powerful isn’t it. I had never thought of how terrifying a world without language and expression through words would be, and I’ll admit that I became a bit anxious as I read this poem the first time. I believe this is a poem I will share with my students in the future. I have always stressed to them the importance of language and communication, but I don’t know if I could ever express it better than Mr. Amir.