The schools our class created were certainly fun to envision.  As each group presented I found myself thinking, “wow what a great idea, it would be awesome to teach at a school that valued that”.  I loved the assessment portfolio Mary, Heather, and Ali came up with.  In their school technology rather than a sub-category was seamlessly integrated.  I liked how technology for them was less about the hardware tools and more about the networks.  Matt and Ed did a great job taking a stance on one focus: creativity.  I liked how they were not afraid to say that other areas would be neglected.  They took a stand and were not scared of stepping on any toes (say Math and Science) to provide the type of education they feel matters.  They also demanded application as tool for assessing understanding.   From the big group I liked how they paid special attention to learning differences.  They commented on inclusion classrooms and their assessment plan was focused on helping ALL students find success, a fundamental component of American education.

As different as the schools and presentations were, the common component was community.  All the schools recognized community involvement as a key to operational success.  After attending and completing the school board assignment it is painfully clear this is what is lacking in many of today’s public schools.   As each group discovered, designing the best school takes cooperation, compromise, and collective creativity.  Future schools will need this type of work not just from a select group of administrators but, for true buy-in and community ownership, input from all community members.  Initially I was quick to judge, “why should community members have a say in curriculum, learning environments, the school?   Should these decisions not rest solely in the hands of professionals?”  It is apparent to me now that just like in the classroom where students should have choice and voice in designing their learning to establish ownership and optimal success; the community too should have a choice and voice in the type of establishment their youngest members attend.  If these schools can in fact foster a sense of participation and belonging for all would that not be a wonderful thing!  Not to do the cheesy thing and bring this reflective blog back full circle but, in many ways this project reaffirms that first blog entry on Meiers and Jefferson’s thoughts regarding democratic schools and community citizens.

Initially, I knew to pay lipservice to the educational catch phrases of inclusive, student centered, Dewey progressive blah blah . It is apparent now after being charged with creating a 21st century school and gaining a better foundation of American education those phrases are tangible components that must be included in our future schools.  I feel better armed now to defend why these concepts actually matter and hope to push a little harder to make sure these ideals are put in place.  In the end that will be the best assessment of my understanding of this course……if I can go out and apply what I have learned.

Sink or Swim

December 1st, 2011

Living within the city limits of Fredericksburg has some serious perks.  One of the biggest in my opinion is FREE access to the Dixon Park Pool (thank you Delores Buffet!).  Like most pools this one is partitioned by a buoyed rope line that separates the shallow end from the deep end.  On any given day during the summer one will find assessment at its finest.  To receive access to the deep end one must wear a brightly colored wrist band.  This wrist band indicates that the swim test has been passed.  The swim test is a three hour multiple choice test with one free response section SIKE!  Lifeguards gauge if one can swim in the deep end or not by actually having one swim across the deep end.  “The heart of authentic assessment is realistic performance-based testing- asking students to use knowledge in real-world ways, with genuine purposes, audiences, and situational variables” (Wiggins,McTighe, 2006 p. 337).  Performance-based testing that evaluates transfer of knowledge or a skill is not always as clearly apparent to the assessor as simply swimming across the pool.  Crafting authentic assessment by recreating real-world performance tasks takes creativity and hard work on the part of the educator.  Quality assessment is paramount.  It must demand transfer and application, because without this how will educators actually gauge student understanding?

A growing trend in curriculum development stems from the goal of creating authentic assessment.  Grant Wiggins and Jay McTiche expert educators crafted a guide to developing worthwhile curriculum and assessment titled: Understanding by Design.  This model has been used by teachers for many years.  Dewey was all about goals (Dewey, 1938).  However, the specific UBD program is becoming very popular for teachers of students in all grades, disciplines, and abilities.   Generally speaking “Backward design is goal directed.  We aim for specific results and design backward from them accordingly.” (Wiggins, 56).  It begins then with Stage 1.  This is simply identifying the desired results.  Ultimately, what is the goal?  What does the student need to be able to do and understand?  This then dictates the evidence that is required and helps shape the assessment.  This is Stage 2.  Finally Stage 3 is the lesson and instruction that supports the assessment.  This simple formula is not rocket science, yet is so easy to stray from.  Backward design requires planning.  A teacher cannot just shoot from the hip each day and it is common knowledge planning takes time and effort.  Lessons are not planned daily, rather courses are designed with units that support the course goals.  Units are planned with lessons that support the unit goal.  Lessons are constructed with exercises that support the lesson goal.  This framework helps teachers avoid the temptation of marching through content with no particular goal aside from getting through it all.  It prevents teachers from crafting “mystery tests” that confuse and do not require application and/or transfer of knowledge or skills.  Assessment should be clear and transparent rather than a mystery .  Authentic assessment should aim to require innovation, doing, opportunity to refine, using a repertoire of knowledge and skills, and replicate real-world tasks (Wiggins, 154).  Amazingly, if assessment is crafted this way for each student evaluation, it is almost certain that various forms of assessment are used throughout the year catering to differentiated instruction.   This model also lends itself to teachers planning lessons that are more indirect in nature.  The UBD model assists assessors in finding their version of swimming across the deep end.

In my first years teaching and certainly even now as I planned courses, units, lessons, I sank often.   I bored my students to tears and was frustrated when students were not grasping desired outcomes.  I cringe thinking about my first years, but then again I was a baby thrown right on the other side of the buoyed line in the pool.  Though I knew a lot about my content I knew next to nothing about the art of education.  Fortunately, my lifeguard and mentor teacher was willing to work with me and indirectly teach me how to teach by giving me guided opportunity after guided opportunity.  Learning takes time and practice.  Mastery takes even more time (Maxwell Gladwell claims it takes 10,000 hours).  I am nowhere near mastery which is why this program at UMW is so exciting for me.  It provides the chance to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback.  With that said below is an assessment I crafted and used with my 9th grade World History class, PLEASE feel free comment!

Dewey, J. (2007). Criteria of experience. Experience and Education (pp. 1-2). New York: Touchstone by arrangement with Kappa Delta Pi.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Gaining clarity on our goals. Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., p. 56). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Glossary. Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., p. 337). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Thinking like an assessor. Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., pp. 153-155). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Welcome to FEUDtube!  A forum where enthusiastic and wonderful ninth graders have an opportunity to research, collaborate, and create with the goal of producing a 5-10 min reality sitcom.  You will be placed in groups and assigned a specific social class for either Europe or Japan.  You must then research and gain an understanding of that class and demonstrate your knowledge by applying it to a TV sitcom.  The collective sitcoms will assist in helping you grasp a comparative understanding of the social systems (specifically under feudalism) and then requires historical comparative skills gained from last unit to construct an essay comparing feudal Europe and Japan.

THE FINAL PRODUCT IS DUE ON DAY EIGHT after viewing the video’s you will write a comparative essay for feudal Europe and Japan.

This project will be completed in a series of stages with the following individuals:
The groups ended up selecting skits based off of The Office, MTV’s Made, Soap Operas, Oprah, Wife Swap, and MTV’s The Real World

Section 01:
European Knights/Nobility-4 students=Jonathan, Reese, Courtney, Ramesses
Japanese Samurai-5 students=Imani, Chris, Devin, Syd, Mary Rose

Section 02:
Japanese peasants-5 kids=Joe,Graham,Amanda, Emily, Will Har
European peasants 4 kids=Mary Gray, KariAnn, Tyler, Mike
Japanese Daimyo and traditional nobility and Court nobility= 4 kids=Mitchell, Matt, Ryan, Erika

Section 03:
merchants/artisan 4 kids=Daniel, Bella, Anne Douglas, Lauren
priests 4 kids= Simone, Will Ham, Aaron, Bryan
Women 4 kids=Dayton, Liz,Natalie, Blair

Part One:Research and Annotation Component-Individual Grade for each student HWK for Day Two and Day Three

You will complete this task twice.  Find at least two sources that are helpful in gaining an understanding of your topic.  Use the following rubric to help select USEFUL links.

Research based off Site Evaluation Rubric from previous projects (FA Greeklife):
_Authority: Who is the author? Are they qualified? Is the sponsor reputable? Can information about the sponsor be easily accessed? Look for header, URL, footer
_Accuracy: Is the information accurate? No web standards exist so you must ensure accuracy by testing against multiple sites. Is there an editor of the site? Is the site error free?
_Objectivity: Does the information show a minimum bias. What is the purpose?
_Currency: Is the page dated? When was the site last reviewed?
_Linkage: Is the page linked to other sites-networked so to speak
_Coverage: What topics are covered? Is this page found elsewhere? Does it have intrinsic value? How in-depth is the material? Do you need to narrow your search?

Then you will need to annotate your links using the rubric below as guidance.  This will be completed using DIIGO.

 Annotation :Rubric set off of parameters from a UNC’s annotated bib requirements.

  1. Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  2. Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  3. Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.

*** not required but might want to include: The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.  Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

Part Two Script/Storyboard: part two INDIVIDUAL and Due on 1:00 PM Sunday the 15th.

Your skit should meet the criteria listed below in addition to serving the goal of resulting in a 5-10 min skit.  (When rehearsed should take at least 5 min)

Summarize: Does your script in fact summarize the social element of your topic?
Thesis/Overall: Does your script have a general thesis and demonstrate an overall understanding of topic.  example: Clergy life was not so bad in fact it was pretty sweet . . . compared to the other classes.
Evidence: Did you incorporate your research and include specific pieces of information?
BAE: Did you use the best available evidence? Did you identify the main ideas?
Creativity in Script: Think about what it means to be creative and insightful in terms of your ideas and writing.  Is your script creative and insightful?
Part Three Script/Storyboard: Group and Due on by the end of Day 6

Once everyone has completed individual skits you will read through your group members skits between Sunday 1:00 PM and the start of your next class period.  Come prepared to vote and discuss which skit you think your group should follow through with. Using a google doc you will then work on completing ONE cohesive skit for the group.  Your skit should meet the criteria listed below in addition to serving the goal of resulting in a 5-10 min skit.  (When rehearsed should take at least 5 min)

Summarize: Does your script in fact summarize the social element of your topic?
Thesis/Overall: Does your script have a general thesis and demonstrate an overall understanding of topic.  example: Clergy life was not so bad in fact it was pretty sweet . . . compared to the other classes.
Evidence: Did you incorporate your research and include specific pieces of information?
BAE: Did you use the best available evidence? Did you identify the main ideas?
Creativity in Script: Think about what it means to be creative and insightful in terms of your ideas and writing.  Is your script creative and insightful?

Part Four:Collaboration Component-Throughout the Process This Evaluation is HWK on Day 8 due Day 9.
Grade based on average scores from peers and individual on the following categories

On a scale of 1-10 rate your individual level of input to the project
Explain what specifically you helped with

On a scale of 1-10 rate group member X’s level of input to the project

On a scale of 1-10 rate your groups ability to collaborate (total member involvement)
What challenges did you and your group face throughout the process of collaborating, cooperating with one another, and one complete final product?  What would you want to improve upon for future collaborative projects? What worked and should be incorporated again?

***We would like to encourage you to communicate with us if a group member is not pulling their weight during the process.

Part Four:Creativity and Overall Component
Creativity:  Think about what it means to be creative and insightful in terms of your ideas and writing.  Is your script and video creative and insightful?
Acting and Directing: Not expecting any Tom Hanks here but above Brittany Spears at a minimum: Know lines, has been edited, and follows the script.
Overall: Overall impact of the video and it’s coverage of the topic as stated in the criteria for the script.


Matter at Hand

November 14th, 2011

For schools to remain relevant in the 21st century first and foremost teachers need to remain relevant.  Relevant literally means according to Webster, “having significant and demonstratable bearing on the matter at hand”.  The debate then becomes what is the matter at hand.  What exactly does learning in the 21stcentury look like? What is globalization? Lifelong learning? Innovation? Creativity? etc. Do teachers really understand these concepts they are supposedly imparting on their students? How can schools assist in keeping teachers relevant in order to keep schools relevant?

For me the biggest question that encompasses so many of the rest of these is, “exactly what is 21st century learning?”  I feel it is best summarized in the picture below as well as in this link.  This visual below demonstrates the desired student outcomes and support systems and how they are connected.

 The first step as a teacher I believe then begins with the simple desire to make sense of it all.  I looked back at a response of mine from a professional development prompt (2008) to this question, “Do you have a full understanding of what 21st century learning is?”. This is what I said and still believe.  The root to beginning to fully understand 21st century learning is recognizing that this goal is almost unachievable.  This is because learning in the 21st century learning is far from static.  Once one “understands” 21st century learning it goes and changes again. Therefore I still believe in order for teachers to remain relevant they must constantly reflect on this topic and engage in continual learning for both personal and professional gain.  To understand the needs of our changing student population and their future, teachers must themselves remain engaged.  They cannot just agree with the rainbow above and call it a day.

During this same year long professional development course my group agreed with the Partnership for 21st Century Schools that creativity was one of those important matters of hand that we needed to understand to remain relevant (2011).   We decided for our group to define creativity for our school.  We came up with the idea that:

·         Creativity = divergent thinking

  • This has been a push for a century nearly (even the term “information age” and how it requires creativity)
  • Business is asking for it and basing business models on it, but educators still often put it on the bottom of the priority list
  • To be creative you must CREATE something (as opposed to absorbing and handing back)
  • This is in possibly in conflict with the push for disseminating content
  • How do we assess the creativity/creation?  (if lacking effort, if does not communicate the message)
  • Has the definition of the word “creativity” changed?  The act of creation requires more than just a product  –> it requires ORIGINALITY (thinking) behind the product 

 If we want our students to demonstrate creativity and originality teachers MUST model this.  It is imperative that teachers design curriculum and creative lessons that engage students in order for them to demonstrate this skill.  Traditional lessons may result in creative student work but creative lessons and assignments just seem to lend themselves to achieving a creative student outcome more consistently.  How can schools/educators engage students in meaningful learning?  First and foremost the learning needs to be meaningful to the individual student.  This can be accomplished via student centered learning.

Student centered learning inherently is more engaging for students.  However, this does not mean students are undirected. J.F. Rischard author of “Highnoon” describes the future as

“flatter, more network-like organizations, people won’t be merely information transmitters-they will be empowered assets, acting independently.  Yet leaders will retain an important role: not through controls and detailed instructions but by instilling the basic vision, values, and objectives into the organization and by holding employees to performance contracts.  Leaders will exercise real leadership, in other words.  As a result, such organizations will have a far more motivated base.” 

Teachers need to act as these leaders instilling basic vision, organizing, and holding students accountable.   This will translate into a more motivated and engaged student base.  Training teachers appropriately and providing them with the support they need to develop creative, clear, and challenging lessons is therefore imperative.  Professional development for teachers is the number one driving force in both keeping teachers/schools relevant and engaging students.

Examples of teachers that are striving for creativity, are remaining relevant, and help answer the “how it is done” question for me include:

So many great teachers out there…….one just has to do a little networking, reading, and learning.  The problem is finding time when teaching AHHHHH!  That is what makes going back to school so wonderful!


Bellanca, J. A., & Brandt, R. S. (2010). 21st century skills: rethinking how students learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Rischard, J. (2002). High noon: 20 global issues, 20 years to solve them. New York: Basic Books.

Trilling, B. (n.d.). The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from


Join a Community!

November 8th, 2011

I had the opportunity to work for Fredericksburg Academy for six years.  Over the course of that time I fulfilled several roles within the community.  First and foremost I was a teacher.  I taught AP World History, 9th grade world history, 10th grade world history, economics, government, contemporary global issues, and 8th grade US history (also a brief stint as an assistant elementary PE teacher my first two years).  For my last two years I acted as a Senior Exhibit coordinator managing students individual 18 month long projects.  I have coached field hockey and lacrosse and was co-sponsor of the honor council.  I was an academic advisor each year for approximately ten to fifteen students, and lead various student clubs including knitting, diplomacy, and rockband.  I have acted as curriculum coordinator for the history department, a strategic planner for the school, and history department head.  I mention all this to show just how quickly one can get caught up in “school”.   What can easily happen is all these extra-curriculars can detract and take time away from teachers having the opportunity to focus on their craft.  After getting home late from school then spending time with my family and starting homework the last thing I wanted to do was to pick up a book on differentiated instruction or research new resources.  I agree with our textbook that professional development is extremely beneficial, but finding how to fit it in was a struggle (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011).  What I discovered was you have to tackle it just like everything else in teaching, creatively.   For me that involved professional learning networks and summer programs.

I experienced two types of professional learning networks.  The first was the relationships I forged with veteran teachers at FA that willingly mentored me despite their own crazy schedules.  The second was an online community I was able to create.  Professional collaboration makes it so each day a teacher is not reinventing the wheel.  Creating quality working relationships with colleagues can be so rewarding and helpful in every way and advice for differentiated learning is no different.  During my fifth year teaching I had an extremely talented student that I wanted to ensure was being appropriately challenged.  By meeting with several fellow teachers we were able to develop an individualized plan for this student.  Without asking for assistance and their willingness to help this would not have been possible.  Online networks can be equally rewarding.  For secondary teachers joining an association within the discipline can tap teachers into a wealth of knowledge.  This includes different approaches to teaching content;  examples for world history include the APWH list serve and the World History Association.   Another online community that I established was through Powerful Learning Practices .  Here professional facilitators guided me in learning how to actually construct and create learning networks.  Through experiences like these teachers learn how to connect via twitter, facebook, blogs, wiki’s, nings etc.  The PLP experience taught me the lesson “ask and you shall receive”, as in if you have a question or concern pose it to your network and see what you get back.  I plan on using this strategy often when I return to the classroom.

Because teachers are extremely busy during the school year I found summer professional development programs to be extremely rewarding.  Professional development over the summer not only expanded my resource networks to teachers from different schools with unique ideas, but I found that seeking out these opportunities when I had the time to then implement them into my long term curriculum design was highly beneficial.  Reflecting throughout the year, requesting evaluations, and meeting with administrators to identify what holes might be apparent in ones teaching during the winter is key.  This allows ample time to sign up for a summer program that focuses on that particular weakness or area of desired improvement (and if you really work with administrators you might be able to get them to pay for itJ).

After my second son was born my husband and I decided it was best for our family that I should take a temporary step back from teaching.  What this opened up for me was a permanent summer!  A chance to really work on the gaps and holes in my instruction and design practices.  These include teaching to both gifted and disadvantaged students.   I am hoping that the masters program through UMW prepares me to work with various students by introducing new resources, expanding my networks, and demanding that I take this time to think about how I might handle new and challenging situations.  Since this is still my first semester in the program I look forward to taking classes specifically focused on teaching students of various abilities.  Participating in this program I believe to be the biggest step in preparing myself for a future diverse classroom.  I am so excited about joining this new community of learners!

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Historical and philosophical foundations. Foundations of education (11th ed., pp. Chapter 2: The teaching profession). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


Lessons from Canada and KIPP

November 1st, 2011

I grew up a military brat, moving often.  I attended international, catholic, public, and D.O.Ds schools.  If I add up all the schools I attended in my lifetime it totals 13 different schools.  Each school I attended had a unique student culture one my parents knew valued immensely.  When my family was stationed in Germany they discovered that the student culture at the high school my brother attended was not in line with what they were looking for.  There was little commitment to extracurricular activities other than junior ROTC. The majority of students enlisted right after graduation very few moving on to college.  With only a handful of officers (soldiers that have graduated from college) stationed in Bamberg, students were simply following in the path of their parents.  As a result my brother elected to travel an hour and a half one way which involved trains, buses, and walking just to attend a school with a different student culture.  Therein lies the problem with school culture.  My brother (and parents) elected to go somewhere else rather than attempt to go against or change the established culture.  Changing or creating a new culture or perception of behavior at a school is extremely challenging.  It takes ambitious leaders, dedicated teachers, willing students, and cooperative parents to pull off something of this magnitude.  Geoffrey Canada founder of Harlem Children Zone and KIPP founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg are fabulous models of individuals creating positive student culture, establishing supportive school environments, and recognizing and then applying lessons regarding class time and student achievement.

Geoffrey Canada recognized early on in his career that to create change in education was going to require creativity and determination.   Canada decided to tackle education in one of the most troubled places in the US, Harlem.  He believes that to make a true difference in student culture and behavior takes more than just changes at school, it takes adjusting the entire environment of the community.  He started his project by focusing on attacking problems associated with poverty in a one block area of Harlem.  Fourteen years later it has expanded to include 100 blocks and over 8,000 students (Time Magazine, 2011).  He firmly believes in supporting students with meals, before school care, after school extra-curricular activities, homework help, Saturday remedial help, dental, medical, really educating and helping the whole child (Harlem Children’s Zone inc., 2011).  He knows that the environment in Harlem for many of these kids is rough and therefore encourages students to spend as much time as possible at the Harlem Children’s Zone.  School starts literally before birth with parents attending classes, then daycare, pre-k, and then (if selected via lottery) Promise Academy Charter school.   Many students spend up to 10 hours a day at school and the “Results have been encouraging.  At Promise Academy II, 100 percent of the third-graders were at or above grade level on the 2008 statewide math test. At Promise Academy I, 97 percent of the third-graders were at or above grade level in math.”  ( Harlem Children’s Zone inc, 2011).

Below is a video clip of Canada discussing his model for creating a supportive environment.

YouTube Preview Image

Two former teach for America participants recognized the correlation of between class time and success.  Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg created two initial KIPP charter schools that utilize extended hours and care as the driving force reshaping school culture in trouble areas.  KIPP schools have extended day, week, and years.  Since 1994, 107 other KIPP schools have opened serving close to 32,000 primarily Latino and African American students (KIPP, 2011).  The results are staggering.    “Test scores are significant, but they are essentially an indicator of our students’ progress towards the ultimate goal: college. Nationally, 89% of students who completed eighth grade at KIPP five or more years ago have gone to college, as compared to community averages of fewer than 40 percent” (KIPP, 2011).   Both KIPP and Promise Academy use more class time and comment on the “joy factor” making learning fun and engaging to sustain students throughout the extended day.

Below is a clip outlining the story of KIPP

Both of these programs are excellent models of what educators can do to help close the achievement gap.  Even if not every approach they use can be incorporated into my future classroom what I know I can do is look at and consider the whole child.  Most importantly I will need to be what I have learned from my own school experience, flexible and adaptable so as to learn and incorporate the latest advancements in creating the most supportive environment I can.


Early Childhood. (n.d.). Harlem Children’s Zone. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from

Geoffrey Canada – The 2011 TIME 100 – TIME. (n.d.). Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – Retrieved November 1, 2011, from,28804,2066367_2066369_2066100,00.

Geoffrey Canada and Harlem’s New Renaissance – Video – (n.d.). Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – Retrieved November 1, 2011, from,,912685074001_2066549,00.html

KIPP FAQ. (n.d.). KIPP: Knowledge Is Power Program | Charter Schools. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from

Promise Academy Charter Schools. (n.d.). Harlem Children’s Zone. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from


Fingers Crossed

October 23rd, 2011

For six years I taught World History.  Fingers crossed, at the end of this licensure/masters program, and when my youngest son is ready for school I will hopefully have an opportunity to teach this wonderful subject again.  Everyone believes their subject is of the utmost importance and I am no exception.  World history provides excellent content for such habits of mind as creating and supporting arguments, understanding cause and effect, recognizing patters of continuity and change over time, comparative skills, contextualization, interpretation, and synthesis (AP College Board, 2011).    Jerry Bentley (2007), a leading professor in the field, states “world history is essential as a mode of study because it deepens the understanding of individual societies’ experiences by clarifying their relationships with other societies and by placing them in comparative perspective”.   He also believes the study of world history contributes to the development of good judgment and even wisdom.  For me however, the study of world history more than anything else offers up opportunity to understand and appreciate difference.

In an article in World History Connected, Jerry Bentley answered the question, why study history?   In this article Bentley presented the following argument that has come to serve as one of the biggest essential questions in my course, “both within and beyond our borders we cross paths with different peoples, encounter different values, and seek ways to deal with different forms of social organization.  How might we best conduct ourselves in a world of difference?” (2007). World history reveals that human interaction and dealing with difference is not a new plight.  The ancient Chinese, the Mongols, colonial Africa, present day Europe, once and still are multicultural societies.  “Furthermore, the study of world history goes beyond showing that human beings have been dealing successfully with difference for a very long time, and it goes beyond demonstrating that difference is not necessarily a frightful prospect”  (Bentley, 2007).  I am fortunate that the content I teach presents so many opportunities for students to investigate difference while simultaneously developing a stronger sense of identity.

World history as a subject will help my students delve into issues of difference but, it would be naïve of me to hope that the content alone would touch each of my students individually.  To engage students not only requires the content to be pertinent to that particular class (such as the Holocaust or Gang Violence was to the students in Freedom Writers) but, the teaching strategies must also be individualized enough to facilitate engagement.

I might not have a class as culturally, ethnically, or racially charged and diverse as Erin Gruell, however I can almost guarantee that one demographic similarity our classes will share is gender.   Unless one teaches in a same sex school theoretically any given public school class should be about 50% female, and 50% male.  However, where I was teaching this was not always the case.   At the end of each year I was tasked with recommending students for APUS history.  If each student is not ready for APUS then the call for deep reflection is at hand.  What I was finding was that some of my strongest students were boys however; some of weakest writers were almost always boys.  Therefore the class make up for the non US course was not equally gender split.  I run three times a week with the senior English teacher.  She has been an invaluable friend and mentor to me.  During the 2010-2011 school year her AP Literature class was all girls with one boy and her non-AP class was almost entirely boys.  It was becoming apparent that either the girls were just naturally smarter in the humanities or somehow as teachers we were not effectively reaching our boys.

With this observation, and being a mother of two boys I embarked on a quest to learn more about the development and learning styles of boys.  What I found first off was obviously girls are not naturally smarter than boys and that the problem was not so much with boys but, rather with education.  Initially I was able to find educational material in gender equity pertaining to girls.  In our book alone the gender roles section of Chapter 10 is predominantly on facilitating girls.  As I researched more (with the help of my mentor and friend), I realized just how different the learning styles can be between boys and girls, especially at a young age.  I learned how problematic ignoring these differences can be.   Books such as Raising Cain, Reviving Ophelia, The Wonder of Boys, Real Boys, and Why Gender Matters all spell out how differently male and female brains are wired as well as how differently the genders have learned to learn and interact with the world based on how society treats them (often according to gender).   The first task as a teacher is to try and understand some of these differences which I will continue to research and call attention to once I reenter the classroom.  William Pollack (1999), also offers several suggestions to teachers and administrators.  These include; boy-friendly subject matter, hands on learning opportunities, interactive teaching methods, group work, multi-media assignments, respecting the learning pace of every boy, experiment with same-sex classes, hire more male teachers, set up mentoring programs, provide and environment that at least during some parts of the day lends itself to boys (Pollack, 1999 pg 266-271). The English teacher being the amazing reflective teacher she is rewrote large portions of her curriculum to incorporate these strategies for her boy heavy class in an attempt to engage them in the humanities.  She selected new books, created more varied assignments, and established a respectful and trusting classroom environment.

Engaging students is paramount to student achievement.  It is therefore my priority and job as a teacher to engage my students in a way that respects them as individuals culturally, ethnically, and gender wise.  Yet also, challenges them to grow in order to enter our diverse society as productive adults.

Bentley, J. (2007). Why Study World History? World History Connected, 5(1). Retrieved October 23, 2011, from

Historical thinking skills. (n.d.). AP Central. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from

Kindlon, D. J., Thompson, M., & Barker, T. (1999). Thorns among roses: the struggle of young boys in early education. Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys (pp. 21-50). Chicago: Ballantine Books.

Pollack, W. S. (1998). Schools the blackboard jumble. Real boys: rescuing our sons from the myths of boyhood (pp. 266-271). New York: Random House.


Below is a video from a local school incorporating some of the suggestions made by Pollack.  Also raises the question about same sex education (still on the fence regarding this).

YouTube Preview Image


Thomas Jefferson held several fundamental beliefs.  He believed in schooling for all that that the government should play a role in this important societal task (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, 2011 p. chpt 5).  He also firmly believed in the seperation of church and state.  Recently, these two Jeffersonian tenants have come to a crossroads.  Since Lemon v Kurtzman (1971) and the three pronged test the law has attempted to keep separate religion and public schools (Ornstein, 2011, p chpt 9).  If  religious indoctrination of children is an educational goal of parents they must seek out private education through parochial schooling.  The question at hand is now not the role of religion in government supported schools but rather, what is the role of government in private religiously supported schools.

Since landmark cases starting with Pickering v Board of Education (1968) teacher rights were not protected by law (Ornstein, 2011, 9.1 overview).   Now rights infringement cases go to court and like Pickering set precedent for other similar situations.   Oral arguments, on October 5, 2011, were heard at the supreme court for the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  This particular case deals with the crossroads issue of both teacher rights and the question of the governments role in religious institutions and schools.

Cheryl Perich started teaching at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church School in 1999.  Over the course of her five years teaching at the school she had the opportunity to teach mostly secular subjects however, also integrated religion into her fourth grade curriculum.  During the 2004-2005 school year she went on disability and soon discovered she was suffering from narcolepsy.  After receiving treatment Perich was anxious to begin teaching again.  It was at this point that the school decided they were no longer interested in employing Perich and encouraged her to resign.  When Perich threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the school then fired her for insubordination.   Perich’s case was then picked up by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that has pursued her rights to the supreme court level (Totenberg, 2011).

Perich and her legal team claim that she can not be terminated due to her physical condition or for her desire to sue.  Those supporting the church are using a small exception in the law to justify their right to fire Perich.  Under the ministerial exception,  which “allows religious employers to avoid liability for discrimination when making employment decisions concerning employees who qualify as ministers” and “courts justify it by relying primarily on the Free Exercise Clause and its special solicitude for the church-minister relationship, 5 and many also recognize the exception to avoid entanglement concerns under the Establishment Clause” (Harvard Law Review, 2008).  This means that courts support this exception because it avoids the government becoming too involved with religion, going back to one of Jefferson’s tenants

The heart of this case therefore hinges on what qualifies one as minister.  As Chief Justice Roberts asks during the oral arguments “How do we decide who is covered under the ministerial exception and who is not?” “(Supreme Court Oral Argument transcript, 2011).  Hosanna-Tabernacle holds fast to the belief that anyone indoctrinating others is therefore a minister.  Mr. Laycock the lawyer representing the school explains, “she’s a  commissioned member of the church.  She holds an ecclesiastical office.  She teaches a religion class.” (Supreme Court Oral Arguments transcript, 2011).  This means then that because Perich taught religion she therefore is qualified as a minister of the church.  If she is a minister, the church has the authority to hire or fire her and any grievances must be settled by the church rather than a court of law.  This then prevents the government from protecting her rights as this issue should be decided by the church instead.

This sticking point will hold very important for determining what say governments have in parochial schools.  Up to this point under cases such as Farrington v Tokushige (1926), and Lemon v. Kurtsman the extent to which the government has a say in non-public schools has been a bit of a “legal muddle” (Ornstein, 2011 p. legal muddle).   Currently, “teachers, students in non public schools may not enjoy all the constitutional guarantees” of public schools.  If the court favors Ms. Petrich the government is making a statement on this muddle extending their jurisdiction and rights for teachers and students in the non-public educational sector.  If they favor the Lutheran school essentially all employees at parochial schools which educate close to 4.2 million students will not have the same rights as average citizens and teachers in public schools (Ornstein, 2011, p chpt 7).  Looking at this outcome from a  slippery slope perspective this can extend to a legal muddle of student rights in non-public schools as well.

Parochial teachers and religious employees wait patiently, until July 2012 when an outcome for Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is to be expected.

For more information please view video below.

YouTube Preview Image

Argument Transcripts. (n.d.). Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved October 16, 2011, from

Law Review. (2008). The Ministerial exception to title VII: the case for a deferential primary duties test. Harvard Law Review, May 2008, digital version. Retrieved October 16, 2011, from the Lexis Nexis database.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Chapter 5: Historical development of American education. Foundations of education (11th ed., p. Jefferson: Education for citizenship). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Chapter 9: Legal aspects of education . Foundations of education (11th ed., pp. Overview 9.1, religion and the schools). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Chapter 7: Governing and administering public education. Foundations of education (11th ed., p. Nonpublic schools). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Totenberg, N. (n.d.). Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of Parochial-School Teachers : NPR. NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Retrieved October 16, 2011, from

Totenberg, N. (n.d.). Supreme Court Considers Disabilities Act Dispute : NPR. NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Retrieved October 16, 2011, from



Boxtops Not Cutting It

October 9th, 2011

$520 billion is annually spent on education (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011).  This is a huge sum and with the current dropping in comparison to our global competitors many are curious as to where and for what this money is going toward.  With each American contributing to the public system either via property, income, or sales tax most feel they should have a say in how this money is best spent.  Creative minds are constantly reevaluating the school funding system and looking for new innovative ways to tackle this issue.  Boxtops and other programs are only a drop in the supportive bucket.  It will take a vast effort and several overhauling trends to resolve the problems associated with public school finance.

A big proportion of school funding comes from property taxes that bring a whole slew of problems including inequality, lack of elasticity, and susceptibility to recession (Ornstein, 2011).  Since the United States is currently in a recession that poses a rather large problem.  Profits from lotteries, like the ones in our state, go to support the schools however; this is not helping in fact only hurts in closing the socioeconomic gap in education.  Allowing schools to vie for contracts with commercial companies can help bring in new funds, but allows companies’ access to a vulnerable consumer: children.  Also some of the schools with the greatest financial needs and woes fail to win these commercial contracts (Ornstein, 2011).  Increasing state income tax to accommodate and make up the property tax difference can help bring in money to schools in an elastic and fair way especially when allocated via the weighted student plan way.

Increasing income tax through will certainly anger many Americans.  Only a fraction of the population actually has school age children.  Asking all to shoulder this burden will certainly come with complaint.  The elderly (a demographic that is growing) tend to be the most outspoken claiming this is not a benefit they will benefit from directly (Ornstein, 2011).  With the demographic shift of individuals marrying later and later and having fewer children less households actually have school age children.  Public schooling will not be something that many will willingly want to contribute to.  Even for families that have school age children some are not utilizing their locally assigned school that their income taxes go to support.   Only 73% of students attend their “free” local school.  The trend to select another option has boomed just since 1993.  Then 80% of students attended their publically assigned school, 11% attended a public school of choice, 7.5% a private church school, and 1.6% an independent school.  In 2007, the numbers look drastically different 15.5% now opt to attend a public school other than one assigned to them, 8.7% attend religiously affiliated schools, and 2.6% attend independent schools.  This means close to 25% of students are actually using the funds their parents pay in taxes to support their education (US Department of Education: Fast Facts, 2011).  With fewer families actually utilizing the public school gift, yet all contributing to support the system through taxes the interest in school finance is high.

With families desiring choices aside from local public schools new trends such as tax exemptions, vouchers, and charters have emerged.  As the popularity of these options continues to grow the concern is will more and more money be diverted from local public schools, especially those in greatest need, continuing the inequality cycle?  What type of student will then be left behind?  The goal of public education was to help create a more level playing field.  Therefore finical trends that undermine this purpose must be reevaluated and new creative solutions must take their place.

Legally it is the states responsibility to educate our students (Ornstein, 2011).  Local and state funds make up to bulk of school budgets with the federal government only contributing slightly.  This is a trend that needs to continue.   The more the federal government contributes the more of a right and say they have in schools.  I am against a national curriculum so I feel strongly that asking more from a national income tax perspective is a bad idea.  If schools are to retain their state and local identity then that is where the money should come from.  Montana is currently a great example of a state that is doing just that (US Department of Education: State Profiles, 2011).

As a teacher this issue concerns me greatly, but as parent even more so.  I obviously value education and want my children to receive a quality one.  Having choices in schools would be wonderful.  But, I recognize that even if my children do not attend a local public school it is important that I willingly invest in the local system.  My children will certainly, live, play, and work with the children that do attend the local “free” school.  Others need to be educated on the overall impact education has on our society in a direct way.  This is critical in raising the funds and support to maintain a public schools system that we all at least indirectly benefit from.


Fast Facts. (n.d.). National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved October 9, 2011, from

State Profiles Homepage (n.d.). National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved October 9, 2011, from

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Historical and philosophical foundations. Foundations of education (11th ed., pp. Chapter 8: Financing public education). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


Lifelines and Support

October 2nd, 2011

Teachers are expected to be renaissance men and women.  They are supposed to know it all and do it all.  Teachers are required to follow IDEA, NCLB, and other federal regs.  They must meet state and local standards.  They have a responsibility to their community, parents of students, and the students themselves to do the best job they can.  In my third and fourth years teaching I taught government, econ, AP World History, 9th grade world history, 10th grade world history, contemporary global issues-with a focus on intellectual property rights (yeah knew nothing about that before the course started), assisted with Honor Council, was a club leader  for the rock band (I don’t even play an instrument), was an academic and senior exhibit advisor, had diverse classrooms with students of various abilities, coached field hockey, participated in a year- long technology professional development course, oh and had a baby.  To say I was overwhelmed and drowning is an UNDERSTATEMENT!  Good teachers understand that the only way to stay afloat and survive in the teaching profession is to reach out for support.  This can come in several forms.

In both videos Foundations: Aligning Instruction with Federal Legislation and Parental Involvement and School Culture the main point made was the value and need of support.  Chris Colbuth-Hess when asked by a interning teacher about advise for how to approach federal regs in the classroom the response was seek help and support (2011).  A good teacher does not have to be an expert in everything and know all the answers, methods, and approaches.  What a good teacher needs is the ability to know when and who to ask for help when needed.  Schools often have specialist and experts at their disposal to assist in creating classroom that meet the needs of all their students.   Fellow experienced teachers that can act as mentors and provide insight into new strategies and methods for differentiated learning.  Some schools have instructional design experts that can help craft curriculum or instructional technology experts that can assist in integrating technology and the web into schools.  Teachers can turn to parents for support.  Involving parents is beneficial for both the adults and the students (2011).  Being aware of and then using the available resources and support is paramount in becoming a great teacher.  When I get back into the classroom I will establish from the start quality working relationships with colleagues, expand my online support network, and keep open lines of communication with administrators and parents.  Collaboration rather than isolation is the key to maximizing the outcomes for students and preventing teacher burn out.

When the financial and personal support is not available is when teachers and the system begin to drown.  One of the biggest fundamental problems with NCLB is the lack of support both finically via unfunded mandates and the lack of logistical assistance and training needed to implement the lofty goals of the program (Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, 2008).  Giving every single student the skills and content necessary to become “proficient” by 2014 requires more than just teachers.  An African proverb speaks to this concept, “It takes a whole village to raise a child”.  The village( ie the federal, state, and local govt) needs to support not only the children, but the teachers and schools that take up this responsibility.  With Obama’s recent Sept 23rd speech, he personally is stepping to remedy some of the problems with NCLB.  It will be interesting watching how this change in the law will affect schools in the immediate future.

Kaplan, A. (Director). (2011). Foundations: Aligning Instruction with Federal Legislation [Documentary]. United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Kaplan, A. (Director). (2011). Parental Involvement in School Culture [Documentary]. United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Governing and Administering Public Education. Foundations of education (11th ed., pp. Chapter  7). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


More specifically though I am concerned and passionate about support offered for creating viable 21st century learning.  Most administrators agree global education, 21st century learning, and integrating technology in the classroom are essential educational initiatives.  The Whitehouse, the administrative body for education in the United States clearly subscribes to these reforms.   “President Obama will reform America’s public schools to deliver a 21st Century education that will prepare all children for success in the new global workplace”.    The issue is no longer getting administrators to agree that schools need to be reformed to better prepare our youth for the rapidly changing world.  Rather, the issue is how to best implement these initiatives, in order to ensure new standards are in fact achieved.

How can administrators properly bring 21st century learning to their schools?   First schools must begin the process as Grant Wiggins suggests, with a backward design.   “The shift involves thinking a great deal, first, about the specific learnings sought, and the evidence of such learnings, before thinking about what we, as the teacher, will do or provide in teaching and learning activities” (McTighe & Wiggins 14).  Schools want their students to gain a true understanding of 21st century skills, but some fail to follow the Understanding by Design model when educating their own teachers.  Teachers must first have a clear articulate vision of what 21st skills actually are, and what an understanding of those skills will look like for students (Dede 51).  Schools cannot afford to skip this investigative step and move straight into hardware/software conversations without giving educators and teachers’ time to discover, define, and understand global education and 21st century learning.  Without this important phase, true understanding and achievement of these national initiatives is less likely to occur (Pearlman 117).

Teachers need to have the time, resources, and professional development opportunities, to investigate the critical essential questions of 21st century learning.  With secondary teachers having multiple preps and 25 student average class sizes, according the Spotsylvania County Annual Budget for 2011; teachers are busy planning, prepping, instructing, and grading (366). They have little time built into their schedules to improve their craft, keep tabs on the changing world and the needs of their students (Darling-Hammond 44).   When teachers can find time to delve into these essential questions, it is often in isolation of their colleagues, rather than collaborative in nature.  Ironically, collaborative learning is a critical component of the new proficiencies expected of students (Dede 53).   In order for this reform to be successful, time needs to be built into the school year for teachers to discuss these new initiatives in a more communal way.

Professional development is critical to properly implement global education.  Teachers, like their students, need to be given the opportunity to expand their world and network beyond the walls of their home school.  When teachers are able to model this type of learning for their students the implications are powerful (Hilt).   So much information and knowledge is available for teachers in the global community.  Budgets need to support this type of continuing education (VDOE 87).  An investment in our teachers is necessary to reform schools.

In addition to proper teacher development, instructional support in these goals is paramount.  Learning to build and create web 2.0 lessons such as wikis, blogs, nings, and voicethreads takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.  Appropriate resources and assistance should be provided if this level of integration is expected of teachers.    Public schools mandate that an instructional technology resource teacher must be provided for every 1,000 students (Spotsylvania Annual Budget 366).  This is not enough help for students and teachers alike.  Also with so few advance degree programs available in the field of instructional technology, standardization in the quality of instructional support is lacking.

While teaching six years in a 1:1 laptop school, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the issues that accompany implementing technology into the classroom.  My school, like many other schools, invested their resources in new tools and programs.  Purchasing the tools and technology, though important is only part of the solution to preparing students for the ever technologically advancing world.  Without a clear long term plan funds are often wasted.  Examples include purchases that are made that soon become obsolete, investing in programs that are available for free on the web, shortchanging the IT network with not enough access points rendering the internet unusable, and most importantly not properly training teachers in the use of these tools and technology.   According to Alan November author of Empowering Students with Technology, “ 21st Century learning does not mean giving every student a laptop without fundamentally changing our concept of curriculum, assessment, and the role of the teacher and learner” (276).  Without proper teacher training to accompany these tools, they are not being used in the most effective and efficient manner.   Using the laptop only for taking notes or creating Powerpoints falls short of 21st century goals.  November refers this type of laptop use as $2,000 pencils (277).  I witnessed students responding to weak curriculum design by loosing focus and motivation.  Laptops if not properly integrated into the curriculum are then a vehicle for distraction and soon develop a bad reputation, which can sour a budding web 2.0 program.  Students can also see right through technology used for the sake of technology. Teachers need training in how to shift their teaching and redesign their curriculum.

21st century learning has been described as an aim to empower students to become lifelong learners.  The best way to reach this goal and reform our schools is to empower our teachers to become lifelong learners themselves.  Administrators need to model the teaching philosophies that they expect their teachers to use by educating them through these same means.  Teachers need to be provided with the support to make conceptual changes to their curriculum.  Without this level of commitment to achieving these new educational initiatives these concepts are merely buzz words that schools can agree upon in theory, but not actually achieve.

Darling Hammond, Linda. “New Policies for 21st Century Demands.” Ed. James A. Bellanca

and Ronald S. Brandt. 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. 33-48. Print.


Dede, Chris. “Comparing Freameworks for 21st Century Skills.” Ed. James A. Bellanca and Ronald S. Brandt. 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. 51-73. Print.


Hilt, Lyn. “Principle 2.0: Becoming the Lead Learner.” Powerful Learning Practice | Virtual

Professional Development for 21st Century Educators | Online PD, Web 2.0 Tools, Free 21st Century Curriculum. WordPress, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 11 July 2011. <>.


November, Alan. “Technology Rich, Information Poor.” 21st Century Skills: Rethinking HowStudents Learn. By James A. Bellanca and Ronald S. Brandt. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. 275-82. Print.


Pearlman, Bob. “Designing New Learning Environments to Support 21st Century Skills.” Ed. James A. Bellanca and Ronald S. Brandt. 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. 117-24. Print.


United States. The White House. President. Presidential Issues on Education. By Barak H. Obama. The White House. Web. 11 July 2011. <>.


Virginia. Department of Education. Educational Technology Plan for Virginia: Essential Elements of ITC Literacy. VDOE. Web. 11 July 2011.>.


Virginia. Spotylvania County. School Board. FCS FY 2011 School Board’s Adopted Budget. Spotylvania County

Schools. Print.


Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. “Chapter 1: Backward Design.” Understanding by Design. 2nd ed. Upper

Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2006. 14. Print. Merrill Education/ASCD College Textbook Ser.








“Hey Mom, is that real?”

September 26th, 2011

According to Ornestein, idealist teachers have high intellectual expectations for their students and make it their goal to expose students to as much culture as possible(2011).  Like Plato describes in his Allegory of the Cave the goal of the teacher is to bring those (the student) out of the darkness and into the light (enlightenment).  This weekend I had a chance to act as an idealist teacher.  I dragged my family out of the “cave” ie Fredericksburg, and into the “light”, Washington D.C.  My husband and I had originally planned on going camping with our two small sons, but due to rain decided to immerse their feeble shadowed minds in D.C. culture by attending the National Book Festival, and visiting the Whitehouse plus the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  In theory these experiences should have brought out the latent knowledge in our three and one year olds little worlds.  This in conjunction with our Socratic questions should have produced some learning.  We went first to the Whitehouse and tried to explain to our three year old the concept of the president and more basically government.  These abstract concepts were certainly over his head, but he copied our model of asking questions by asking many of his own.  I asked him why he needed a leader?  Who was his leader? Who was mine? I then explained Obama was the top leader and he lived in the Whitehouse.   He then thought if Obama got to live in that fancy house, he asked “Where does God live, his house must be huge”?  This Socratic modeling can really lead to insightful questioning and the discovery of truth right……but before I could even answer his question he little mind had moved on to the question of why pigeons have wings.  Yes, learning was achieved.  We learned patience and he learned as well, but was the metaphysics and epistemology in line with idealism?

After the Whitehouse we went to the museum.  For anyone that has been inside this museum a huge African elephant is in the foyer.   My three year olds first question, “Mom is that real”?  What was I the supposedly idealist teacher suppose to say?  My answer, “touch it?”.  In essence I told him, you decide for yourself.  When reflecting on this weekend and the readings from class I realize I am not sold on idealism.   I firmly believe in the notion that reality exists outside our minds, and that knowledge is objective not latent.  That the best way to learn is to investigate, especially via our senses (Ornstein, 2011).  My three year old enjoyed the Natural History Museum because he could see, touch, examine, and relate to dinosaur bones and large stuffed mammals.  The only reason he was briefly interested in the leadership discussion from earlier in the day was we were looking at the Whitehouse and talking about leaders in his direct world.  In order to make sense of the discussion he needed to visualize what God’s home might look like.  That picture along with all his ideas are based entirely off of what he has seen and experienced in his life.  For my one year old with a maybe twenty word vocabulary, he walked away with two new words: button and giraffe.  Though the animals were only large stuffed taxidermy exhibits, for my sons they were real.   Real in the sense that they existed as objects they could make sense of and catalog in their minds.  Their world is one that is constructed through their experiences and it is my job as a teacher to make those meaningful.   My students and children need the skills and subject content to broaden their reality as much as possible.

With this said it should not come as a surprise that my thoughts regarding the tree in the woods fall more in line with the notion that without someone to actually hear the noise no sound is made.  It is the ear that makes the noise in fact sound.  What must be kept in mind if using realist logic is that the same then can be said for communication.  For communication to actually take place not only does the teacher have to transmit sound, but the listener must hear it and make sense of it.  Teachers need to keep this concept in mind that learning is a two way street.  Teachers must do more than just stand up and make noise.   The noise must be engaging, and comprehended by the student only then did communication and learning actually take place.   I hope that as a teacher and parent I can teach in a way that accomplishes true learning.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Historical and philosophical foundations. Foundations of education (11th ed., pp. Chapter 5 section: Idealism implications for today’s classroom teacher). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Ornstein, A. C., Levine, D. U., & Gutek, G. L. (2011). Historical and philosophical foundations. Foundations of education (11th ed., pp.Chapter 5 section: Realism). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.