Religion and Prayer in Schools

May 8th, 2013

“The role of religion and prayer in schools has always been controversial, and teachers are advised to neither encourage nor discourage religious observances.  As a teacher, what religious celebrations or practices might you encounter in your classroom?  How would you respond to these issues while maintaining your neutrality?”

This topic is such a controversial one, and something that I have thought about a lot. It is even a topic that I have attended a conference on since I think it is something that every teacher needs to explore for themselves. Once again with this topic I find myself in an interesting position for two reasons 1) I taught in a country where religion is more or less illegal and 2) I am religious and have very strong beliefs(and since this is my blog I think it is ok that I share that).

We live in a period of time where there is a clash of so many different religious practices. Not only do we live in a period of time, but geographically with Washington, DC, not far away there is a very strong chance that our classrooms will be extremely diverse. As a social studies teacher, part of my job is to create citizens of the United States. I want my students to be aware of current issues, including issues of religion. Now by making them aware, I will not be shoving my beliefs down their throats but I want them to know what beliefs are out there and that it is important for them to find purpose in life.

While I was in China, at times we found ourselves walking a fine line between what was ok to share in our classrooms and what was not ok for us to share with our students. The policy that we most often held to was that as long as we were not asking our students to believe what we believe that it was ok to share about various religious practices, etc. Something that made it a little easier to share about certain religious things in China was the fact that many Chinese see religion as a Cultural custom that Americans all participate in.

An example of how I introduced Christmas in China and how I would also introduce it in my class in America, was not only telling “The Christmas Story,” but sharing about the origins of Santa Claus, etc. In an American Classroom I would also discuss the other holidays that take place around that period since so many students observe other holidays. I want my students to know that they can feel free to express themselves in my classroom and I think that part of that will be having open and honest communication about different beliefs and ideas(including religion). As a social studies teacher, I want to prepare my students to be able to express, defend(civilly), and discuss their’s and others’ beliefs and the reasons behind them.

 

Budget Blog

May 7th, 2013

To Whom it May Concern:

Due to economic conditions the following budget cuts will be made in our district during the coming year. As the superintendent I felt it necessary to keep the same number of staff but I have made cuts in various areas. I have decided to keep all of our staff due to the fact that with the high student to teacher ratio decreasing teachers would place more of a burden on the remaining teachers. The only direct budget cut that teachers will experience is a slight cut in the budget for professional development, but there will still be tuition reimbursement for teachers so there is opportunity for more professional development through graduate courses.

The first area that will see budget cuts is the library. With the influx of technology I feel that it is not necessary to subscribe to many periodicals and journals. Students can research through the internet and with our technology budget staying the same this cut will be adequately covered. There will also be a cut in the number of books that we buy yearly since many of them can be found at the public library and with ebooks eliminating paper there is not as much of a push to have actual books in the library.

Building maintenance and custodial staff are crucial for the upkeep and cleanliness of our schools, so there will not be any cuts in that area. If we do not keep our schools in good shape it will require more money in the future to repair them.

The next area that will see budget cuts is learning resources. The adoption of new textbooks every year will no longer be a top priority, but a partial replacement of textbooks will be allowed. Textbook companies change their editions far too often and not much changes in many of our textbooks. Now I do not think that our students should be using textbooks that are 15 or 20 years old but a few years old is ok. Sadly the budget for field trips must be cut as well. Once again with the technology initiative, students are able to experience many hands-on experiences right in their classroom.

Finally, the area that will see the most cuts as well as the elimination of two services is Student Services. The programs to cut completely are the Activity Bus as well as the Parent Resource Center. The activity bus only offered limited drop off points and we did not think that it would be beneficial to keep it running. The Parent Resource Center is a great idea in theory but I feel through teacher maintained websites and PowerSchool that parents should be able to access the same information. There will also be cuts to after school programs and summer school. I feel that since we are keeping so many staff that instruction just be maximized upon during the school year.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It has been hard to make these decisions and I hope that you can be understanding of them.

Sincerely,

Ms. Carlson


Points

20% cut

Protect instructional staff
Avoid layoffs of core content teachers*

10

10
Avoid layoffs of special subject teachers**

10

10
Avoid cuts to health benefits

6

6
Protect Staff
Teacher instructional aides

5

5
Full-time office staff

5

5
Part-time employees

3

3
Limit reductions to the library
Staff

3

3
Books

5

2
Periodicals/Journals

4

2
Protect Building Services
Custodial staff

3

3
Building repair and maintenance

4

4
Protect Learning Resources
Academic technology

5

5
Textbook adoption

5

2
Teacher Instructional Budget***

5

5
Field trips

5

2
Protect Faculty Services
Employee tuition reimbursement

4

4
Staff development for teachers

5

3
Protect Student Services
Athletic/recreation programs

5

5
Student activity bus

2

0
Parent Resource Center

2

0
Positive behavior support

2

2
Preschool special education

3

2
Summer school

4

2
After-school programs

5

3

TOTAL

110

88

 

Would I accept a position on a year round school?

April 1st, 2013

If offered a position in a year round school would I accept?

If I was offered a position at year round school I do think that I would accept it for a variety of reasons. I think that there is a lot of value in educating students year round and I do not think that learning can only happen from August(or September) until May or June. I understand why people argue for long summer vacations and rest periods, but I also agree with the idea that teachers and students burn out easily. In the following paragraphs I am going to outline my three main reasons why I would accept a position at year round school.

Too much of a good thing…can be a bad thing

Growing up and even now as an adult school breaks have always been a little long for me. And as a future educator I really do not think that summer vacation needs to be two or even three months long. I think that a month long break(at the longest) is all that students and teachers need to recharge before heading back into the classroom. The classroom provides important stimulation for students and a routine of learning is important for them to absorb important concepts. I know that I am not the only student who becomes board with relaxing, learning presents challenges that drive students to want to learn and become active in their learning experience.

Why must we waste so much time on review?

I agree with the argument that review time would need to be significantly less if students were in school year round. Many concepts are taught in multiple grades any way since knowledge builds on itself. But natural review would be built into the curriculum if students were in school year round. I think that students would also feel less like they were trying to cram for exams since they would always be going over material. I also think that teachers would feel like they had more time to get through the material that they need to get through before SOLs or other tests.

Other nations do it, why don’t we?

In countries around the world, students attend year round schools so why don’t we as Americans require it of our students? I believe a huge part of this is because we live in an individualistic culture, and people think that they are entitled to certain privileges. If all schools in America decided to switch to year round schools I think there would be a significant amount of controversy. But I think if there was a slow shift that there would be a major value in it. I would like to think that my future students would be more capable of competing against foreign students if they were in school year round.

Conclusion

I do not think I would struggle very much with the switch to a year round school for my teaching career. With frequent breaks throughout the year, I would more often feel refreshed and less burned out. Students would not be as removed from the curriculum and they would be more competitive when it came to the international level. Not only that but I think year round schooling would take some of the laziness out of our classrooms.

 

IDNT Mini Projects Week #2

March 24th, 2013

This week’s mini projects continued to be helpful, and efficient ways to use technology. These technologies once again would be very easy to adapt for students’ use for different projects and assignments. For my mini projects this week I chose the timeline by Time Toast and the Google Trek. As far as the mini projects offered this week I thought that both of these would have good use in a social studies classroom.

Time Toast Timelines present material in a concise and clear way and allow for extra information to be linked. I like how you can choose multiple presentation styles. This would be a classic social studies classroom activity with a spin on it. This would be a great way once again for students to review dates for exams and see visually how one event leads to another. I do not always think that dates need to be obsessed over in a history classroom, but for the important dates I think that a Time Toast timeline would be a great way for students to learn.

For a while now I have thought that Google was going to take over the world and I think that Google Trek is further evidence of that. As a future educator, I love Google and all of the helpful products that they offer. Google Trek would be a great way for students to map out things. Or to create their own interpretation of something that they have learned in class. It would be VERY helpful for a geography unit and for when we are talking about current events. I know that some people despise Google, but I am so thankful for its helpfulness as an educator.

These mini projects have been very helpful and have opened my eyes to so many more technologies that I can use in my classroom. I think that the mini-projects is a great title for it since so many of these projects take such a short time to produce. I will be putting these to use in my future classroom.

IDNT 501 Mini Projects Week 1

March 17th, 2013

In recent weeks I have developed a comfort with the technology that we have been using. I am more confident when going to use a new technology. This week’s mini projects gave us an opportunity to explore several different technologies. They were all applicable for the classroom as teachers, they were also able to be used by our students to complete projects for themselves. I chose the Voki and the Wordle this week since I think that they would be helpful on a class website as well as for students to study and review.

The Voki is a great example of a telecollaborative activity. Students would be able to put their voice to material and then share it with their classmates and other students. I also like the idea of using the Voki on a class website to give instructions and introduce students to material. I would love to have a page on a US History 11 class website that had different Vokis for the different presidents. I think that students would have a lot of fun creating them and it would make for an easy way to submit the projects. I think that the strengths of telecollaborative activities are summed up well in Coffman’s book, “the telecollaborative activity facilitates active student participation from all students, regardless of location. In addition, it is meaningful and allows for hands-on participation and engagement from all students”(Coffman, 2013. p. 115).

I appreciated the Wordle activity because of its use in the analysis of different texts. As a social studies teacher, I will often be showing my students various documents. It will be hard at times to communicate some of the documents but Wordle will help students pull out various main ideas since it emphasizes words with high word counts. I also like that it makes a visual for students since I think that it would be helpful for students with different learning styles. Students that are visual learners would be able to remember text better if they were viewing Wordles throughout the course of learning new material.

These different mini projects help expose us to a variety of technologies and help us learn more about how we can involve our students in the classroom. I am excited to explore more in the coming weeks and add to my knowledge of technology in the classroom.

Coffman, T. (2013). Using Inquiry in the Classroom. (2 ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Education.

INDT Week 7

March 3rd, 2013

This week’s use of the Wallwisher technology might be my favorite thus far. In minutes I was able to create a discussion board which can be found here http://padlet.com/wall/JCEducation and have friends, family, and classmates post about a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately, homeschooling. I think that this tool would have great usage in my future classroom as a forum about different topics for students to discuss or just as a place to answer students questions. I chose to have my posts come up in a stream as opposed to stickies because I wanted something more symmetrical and orderly.

Not only could I set up walls for my future classroom but I think it would be a great way for students to set up their own walls and projects to be able to gain feedback from their classmates and the general public. I liked that there were options to change the privacy settings as well as the ability to moderate different comments. Sometimes technology can be overwhelming as I have mentioned in previous reflections but this was so easy to use and practical as well! I also think that because it is so easy to use that it provides an amount of efficiency that not all technology offers.

Students will retain much more of what they discover on their own to what they will learn from a teacher lecturing for hours. “As with any inquiry-oriented activity, your goal as the teacher is to engage your students with a ‘big idea’ question and then let them discover workable answers”(Coffman, 2013. p. 104). Through these types of walls and other telecollaborative activities students are able to engage with each other and the material more actively.

Coffman, T. (2013). Using Inquiry in the Classroom. (2 ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Education.

INDT Week 6: To Flip or Not to Flip

February 24th, 2013

More than anything else Flipping of classrooms reminds me of home educating students. As I watched the videos and descriptions of the methods used, I could not help but think of my own education growing up as a homeschooled student. The idea of constant application and the use of videos as lectures has become a popular movement among homeschoolers in the last two decades. I think that there is a lot of positives in the pedagogy of flipping a classroom including real world application, multi-student participation as well as opportunities for students to use a variety of different learning styles throughout their time in the classroom.

I think that some of the difficulties that flipping a classroom could present are classroom management, preparation time for teachers, and the transition from a tradition classroom to a flipped classroom. If videos from websites like Khan Academy are used I think that that would help teachers in preparation time therefore giving them more time to interact with their students and differentiate classroom time, etc. One of the other difficulties that I think a flipped classroom presents is the lack of preparation that it gives students for being in a college classroom. I think that it prepares them for the real world, but not necessarily for a lecture style college class.

I do not think that flipped classroom just consists of students watching lectures outside of class and doing worksheets during class. I think that class needs to be an interactive time in a flipped classroom. A time where students are applying knowledge to projects, discussions, and debates, a time when they can express themselves and demonstrate their understanding of the knowledge gained from lectures outside of class.

I think that this pedagogy still has some kinks that it needs to work out, especially for some classrooms. But I do appreciate its desire to make a more dynamic learning experiences for students and its use of technology in the classroom.

IDNT Week 5

February 17th, 2013

Using videos in the classroom is a great way to engage students in the curriculum. By using videos it peaks interest and is an efficient way to introduce new material. It can be difficult to find a video that uses the same “voice” that one might want to use the with the curriculum though which is why sites like Animoto are so beneficial. I found that by using Animoto I could add my own unique ideas and spin on the content that I was trying to introduce to my students. Through the use of music, words, and visuals one has more of an opportunity to serve various learning styles and use technology efficiently in the classroom.

I think that videos can be used all of the time in the classroom, from introducing new material, to reiterating a point, to reviewing for a test, by using videos educators are able to present material in a succinct way to hopefully help students remember it more effectively. Animoto and other similar sites could be used for student presentations as well. By giving students the option of creating a video, teachers give them an opportunity to express themselves in more unique ways.

Animoto was not only easy to use, its tools helped convey the message more easily and it provides educators with various tools to aid them in presenting material. I am excited to use Animoto again and recommend it to other educators.

IDNT Week 4

February 13th, 2013

This week is teaching me a lot about how much I still have to learn as a teacher, and how important it is to constantly be learning new things. I have always claimed to be a “life-long learner” and this week made sure that I was definitely learning new things. Oftentimes as teachers we are going to be stretched in new ways as we try to learn about the latest technology or techniques in teaching. I feel that it is important for us to learn how to do these things so that we can set our students up for success. Learning new things can be frustrating(as a teacher or as a student). As a student sometimes one comes up against a wall in learning. A place where you are not sure where to turn. It is in those moments that I know as a student I have to step back from the situation, take a deep breath, and look at the concept a different way. This is not always easy to do but I know for a fact that dealing with this over the last week will help me aid my students in the future.

As a teacher when students are learning new things we need to keep in mind that every student is not going to understand everything on the first try. They might not even understand everything on the fifth try and patience is extremely important. To be able to effectively use technology in the classroom with my students I know that I need to become more and more familiar with it so that I can provide support and input for them as I ask them to do projects and use technology in the classroom. Dr. Coffman was an encouragement in this since she helped me and gave me the needed support that I needed to be able to accomplish the assignments that I needed to do. I hope that I can provide my future students with similar support in my classroom.

IDNT Week 3 Copyright

February 10th, 2013

After a couple of frustrating searches I finally grasped what I needed to do with this assignment. I think that it was important for us to learn how to do this because as content area teachers we are often going to want to put together power points, assignments, and information for our students that contains images from the web. Prior to this assignment I did not know all of the different types of licenses for images on the web, I also was very thankful to discover Google Advanced Image Search because it so clearly allows you to be able to search for the types of images you are looking for, for your projects. I did most of my searches on google since I am most familiar with the interface. I searched “Building in Washington, DC, but then it did take me a little while to find an image that was listed under Public Domain. The following image is the one that I found that was listed under public domain. It is nice to know that it is free to use and that I do not have to worry about searching out the author, etc.

I feel that it is important as educators for us to be able to use these skills in the classroom since we want our students to be able to use similar search skills as well as to teach them not to plagiarize. Solomon and Schrum write, “In creating digital stories, students often include images created by others that are stored online”(Solomon & Schrum, 2011. p. 107) If my students are going to be using images stored online I want to make sure that they know how to filter through the results they will receive and to know how and if they can use specific images. I have always been a stickler about plagiarism, so I value the fact that we learned how to even properly give credit to authors of images and not just written works. I think that this tool will be extremely practical for me to use in my future classroom.

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2011). Web 2.0 how-to for educators. Eugene, OR: Intl Society for Technology in educ.DC Architecture