To Track or Not to Track? Outcomes of Serving All Students in the Same Classroom

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Today is the first post in a short series about some of my favorite current and past colleagues reflecting on this past year’s teaching experiences. This first entry comes from Dr. Taylor Cross who shares insights gained from his recent research.

By Dr. Taylor Cross

“When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in ‘honors’ or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened…. Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like.”

When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in “honors” or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened. I don’t think at the time I really processed what that meant or why I was in those classes, but I knew generally that I was “smart” and that the other kids in my classes were also “smart”. In these classes the other kids were, for the most part, other kids whose parents went to college, like mine did. Their parents were the lawyers, business-owners, realtors, medical professionals, educators, etc., that kept our little town churning along. Most of these kids’ families weren’t originally from this small town, but had found their way to it by virtue of job placements.

Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like. The majority of these students’ families had lived in this area for generations, and the culture of many of them was native Appalachian. I was “sheltered” from these students because as a student who had shown academic promise, I was lumped with others like me. As a matter of fact, when I look back in my high school yearbook, I don’t recognize about half of the students I see because I never had classes with them, even though my school was very small.

This was my high school education experience. I was put in classes with other kids “like” me because it was perceived that putting us together would benefit us, and having the kids who were “unlike” us together would be right for them. This is also what the majority of schools across America do today with their core subjects to a large degree. They track their gifted and talented students together, and they group their average and struggling students together. Is this good? Is it a problem? Do these situations truly benefit the students who are separated from one another? These are complicated questions for which the answers can vary from context to context. Continue reading

Next Month: Teacher & Student Voice Series

I’m excited to announce (after a month long hiatus) two series that will be posted in tandem next month:

 

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While I will write a post as part the the ‘Eye Heart Teaching‘ series, most of the posts will be completed by guest writers–both students and teachers.

The ‘Student Voices: Intern Edition‘ series will include entries from my current internship students who are wrapping up their year as industry interns. They’ll reflect on their experiences, the benefits of interning, and may even critique the methods of the internship course itself.

The ‘Eye Heart Teaching‘ series will include entries from colleagues who will share everything from their recent research to evolving teaching and professional philosophies to sharing narratives about their favorite moments in their classrooms in 2017-18.

The first posts will be up by the first week of May. Stay tuned and be sure to share using the hashtag #EyeHeartTeaching and #StudentVoices

Updates: Developing the Work Force through Work Based Learning, Researching Peritext, & The Studio Reunion II Rescheduled (Finally)

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So it’s been a month.

The culmination of a busy season at work, being a dad, writing chapters for books, and conducting research really pushed blog posting to the very back of my to-do list. I have a few interesting pieces I hope to get up on the blog shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few updates in which I think a few of you might be interested. Continue reading

Teacher Innovation #10: “Innovation as Self: A Teacher Reflects on Innovation as a Pedagogical Philosophy Shift”

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Post #10 is from Dr. Kim Foster, a practicing ELA teacher with nearly a decade of classroom experience. I met Dr. Foster when we both started our doctoral studies in 2013 and from day one, she was both a good friend and someone who challenged my own intellectual aptitude as a graduate student. (I grew to be a better doc student because of her; although, she is too humble to agree to that.) Dr. Foster has my utmost respect and is the embodiment of what it means to foster (no pun intended) caring relationships in the classroom and to have a growth mindset. Her post reflects on her evolution in pedagogical philosophy and pedagogy in the classroom over the course of her career and particularly the last four years of research. Much like myself, Dr. Foster experienced a seismic shift in her pedagogical approach. If you want delve into culturally relevant pedagogy and a critical approach to teaching in the classroom, you do not want to miss reading this post. Even if you’re not a teacher, this post highlights how our best teachers grow and change student lives.

Previous Entries in the Series: Post #1 // Post #2 // Post #3 // Post #4 // Post #5 // Post #6 // Post #7 // Post #8 // Post #9

By Dr. Kim Foster

When Kyle asked me to participate in this “innovation” series, I immediately said yes because Kyle is awesome, and I love to write about my classroom. However, the more I pondered on my teaching, the more I concluded, “What I do in the classroom is really not that super innovative…what does it mean to be innovative?” Well, I googled it because that is how we find quick answers these days. Google claims that innovating is “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” As I mulled over my thoughts, what I determined is that my mindset as a teacher has been in a process of innovation for the past four years. In this post, I will share about an unanticipated shift in my pedagogical approach that came about when I started a doctoral program (how I met Kyle) to learn more about how to teach more effectively, and what I gained can not be quantified by insignificant numbers or qualified by mere words. I am the result of innovation, and I hope that all teachers can find encouragement in allowing yourself to be refined, revived, and renewed in ways that you may never know that you need. I start with a reminiscent scene from ten years ago during my student teaching; I then share a brief description of the knowledge that sparked my journey. I move to a reflection from my dissertation research; and I end with a reflection as I move into my tenth year of teaching. Continue reading

Zines and Identities Emerge: An Anecdotal Look at When Participation and Rhetoric Collide

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Students began turning in their mini-zines on Friday with more to come today. As mentioned in a previous post, I pointed my students in the direction of using their zines as a mode to express their knowledge of and use of rhetorical strategies. The early results are promising. While I do love using zines as a tool, they are ultimately merely a tool. What has been fun and exciting to watch unfold in the classroom is the overall enjoyment students have shown in the process, and specifically watching them show aspects of who they are that are so easy to hide or reserve for only a few. Identity is fluid and social as well as a part of a person that is multiplicitous and is in-process as well as embedded over time. Adolescence is an important moment in our lives when we explore our identity. My current research is in part looking for where the ELA classroom may serve as an important space in school for students to do this exploration while also a space that empowers them to act. What that action is cannot really be predicted with certainty, but I will venture to state that a student acting with a belief they are welcome to and encouraged to act is inspirational. I will also venture to state that a student choosing openly to not act, to resist or push against, is just as inspirational. Sounds complex, right? Inside today’s post, I share what my students have been up to so far with some anecdotal understandings I have of their process. Continue reading