Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Kellen Pluntke's Posts (2017)

The Importance of Organization

            Ever since people started talking about how to improve the education system, one thing that has always been talked about is “Is it more important to teach skills or content?”.  I think that there should be an equal balance of both, but one part of skills that I feel like are looked over in the classroom too often, is organization.  Organization is a skill that can not only make or break you as a student, but as a person too.

  I used to be terribly unorganized in school, and my grades were greatly impacted by it.  I changed my habits going in to the tenth grade, and my grades started to raise again.  This is because before I got organized, I had to focus a lot of my time and energy on finding the work that I needed to do, instead of using all of that time and energy on the work itself.  Luckily I had some people in my life that taught me how to be organized outside of school, but I know that there are plenty of students who go through their school years without ever learning how to truly be organized.  And if people aren’t taught how to be organized, I think it’s going to be a massive shock when they go into the working world without any of these skills, so it is very important for it to be taught in the classroom.

            There are tons of ways to teach organization, but not every way will stick with every student.  I believe that every advisory or homeroom class, whatever your school has, should teach different ways to keep students organized.  For example, they should teach a way to stay organized by means of an agenda, by means of technology like having an online planner, and by just helping students mentally organize and prioritize their work.  The only real way to see if students are staying organized, is graded notebook checks.  I almost hate saying that, because I don’t like them, but it is really the only way to get students organized, and I know it will help on the long run.

            This particular skill is very important at this time for high school students, because it is a skill that goes beyond the classroom.  Time management is also under the category of organization, and high school is arguably the busiest time in people’s lives, especially for student athletes.  Again, I was lucky enough to have learned this through some people in my life, so time management has never been too much of a problem, but I see that a lot of my peers are having that issue.  One way to teach this, is to teach kids how to properly use a planner, either on their mobile device, or on paper.

            Organization has been an issue for high school students for such a long time.  It is often one of the things that separates a good student from a great one.  It is a tough skill to teach, but through the right teaching methods, it can be so beneficial to the students.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Student Suspension and Detention

            Student punishment has always been one of the main issues in modern school systems today.  I personally have never been affected with punishments too severe to not just have been handled in the classroom, but I have many friends that have.  My main issue with punishments in school, is the system of out of school suspension.  I have talked to a few of my friends who have had out of school suspension, and it seems like the suspension just adds to the stress they had in the first place, and some admit that stress is the reason that they did what they did to get suspended.  This is why I believe that instead of having the kid stay out of school for a little, have the student sit down with their teachers and their administrators and just talk about what they can do to help the student, after all, that’s the main goal anyways.

            One other issue with the out of school suspension system, is that teachers are notified that one of their students has been suspended, but they are often not told for how long, and are never told why.  I think this is a major issue, because this is a huge inopportunity for teachers to help their students at a level beyond the standards.  Having this odd separation between the administrators, teachers and students makes the student feel more separated, which might cause more problems in the long run than making the situation more open from the beginning.

            If the administrators are worried about the safety of other students, I think that students should be taken out of their classes for a while, instead of school completely.  This way students will be at least doing something educational in this time, and it will not affect them in terms of their resumes when it comes to college.  Also, I don’t there should be a rubric, if you will, for suspension, but it should be on a complete case by case system.  Because again, the end goal is to help the student.  I feel like students are often sent home for very minor transgressions that would be better fixed in another way.

             One other problem I see with school punishments, is the lack of such for tardiness.  Students (including myself) are often late to school in the morning and are missing most of our first class, but the school never says anything.  Then out of nowhere you get detention on a Friday after school.  I think it would be a lot better if the administrators just talked to the student about why they aren’t getting there in time, and lay consequences down on a case by case basis.
            I see out of school suspension as a way of the school system just burying the problem, instead of fixing it.  When a student is out of school from an issue, it isn’t going to change that student as a person for when they come back, but just give them a rest to gather themselves.  This doesn’t mean that the problem is fixed, because from what I have seen, most the times the kids that get suspended don’t just get suspended once, it’s a reoccurring issue.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Keeping Students Focused

            Throughout the history of education, educators and administrators have tried to find ways to help students that have learning disabilities and other mental conditions.  There have been several inventions and techniques that can help this issue, but there are very few that don’t impair the learning for the rest of the class.  This is also a very relevant issue now, with the immergence of the “fidget spinner” and “fidget cubes”.  Both of these new products are very successful, but they have caused loads of controversy in the classroom, so I just thought I’d put my two cents into the issue.

            This is a very relevant problem to me personally, as I am a student that has been diagnosed with both inattentive ADHD and GAD (Generalized anxiety disorder).  There have been very few products to help anxiety, and the ones that do work, seem to annoy the students around me quite a lot, which is the main issue with the ever so popular fidget spinner.  If you aren’t familiar with the fidget spinner, it is basically a gyroscope that is made of a simple polymer and some ball bearings. You flick the spinner and it is meant to spin, which is supposed to calm people with ADHD.  The thing that has caused so much controversy with these however, is that they make noise, and they might not even provide the ability to focus on the lesson in class.  I myself had a fidget spinner, and it was absolutely great for keeping me less distracted, but it had me focusing on the spinner itself more than the lesson.  I think that these gadgets are probably better off looked as a small toy to pass time with.  Another issue with these products is that some can make noise which is a distraction for other students.  So overall this was a good idea to calm those students who suffer from various mental conditions and learning disabilities, but it isn’t very effective for students in class due to the distraction it creates. 

            Another product that has been released recently is the fidget cube.  This is just a simple cube with a good amount of options. Since a cube has six sides, this gadget utilizes all six sides to provide a different thing to fidget with.  For example, one side has a ball to spin around, and one of the other sides has a light switch like mechanism.  This product is a much better idea to help kids in the classroom, but in my personal experience, it doesn’t work.  I just didn’t find the fidget cube good enough to keep me focused in class like the spinner did. 

            So, with both of these products failing, there seems to be no “one size fits all” answer to this issue.  The only real way to help your students stay focused and interested in class, is to talk to your students individually.  This way every student will know that their teacher is open to new ideas to keep them focused.  One thing that helps me focus, is if I’m feeling out of it, I just go stand in the back of the room.  That seems to help me stay alert and attentive, and doesn’t cause an issue for any of the other students in the class.  In the end, it is the student’s responsibility to stay focused in class, but they should have every ability to do so.  Another thing that keeps me focused in class is music.  When I can’t keep my head straight on just one activity, I just put one of my earbuds in, and I find that I can do my work much more efficiently this way.  I encourage all teachers to be open to any means to maintain focus for every student.  I also encourage all students to talk to their teachers about what they do to stay focused in class.  Once this communication break is fixed, students will be much more attentive in class.

My "Shadowing" Experience

            A couple months back, I had the amazing experience to “shadow” a teacher at my high school.  All the #BowTieBoys were given this wonderful opportunity so we could see a small glimpse of what it is like to actually run a school, so we could see what improvements we think need to happen to benefit the students and teachers.  Some of us shadowed administrators and others (like myself), shadowed teachers of core subjects.  I decided to choose my math teacher from my freshman year that day, Mrs. Briles.  The reason I picked this teacher is because I always felt comfortable and productive in her class, and I genuinely think she is a wonderful teacher.  She also has a lot of classes to teach.  She teaches Algebra 2, BC Calculus, and on a completely separate note, an impact study hall class, which I will touch on later.  She taught each of her classes in a different way that seemed to fit the students in that class perfectly.

            Once I got to her classroom at 8 o’clock, we discussed what we think needs to change in the school system, and she brought up some very critical points that I had not thought of before.  When she asked what the goals of the #BowTieBoys are, one of the main things I told her about is our push for more student voice and input in the classroom.  Her view on this was similar to mine, but there are some difficulties with implementing student choice into class.  For example, she expressed that she barely has time as it is planning lessons, grading, and trying to spend at least some free time with her family.  It would add an immense amount of work to every teacher schedule if they tried to take in the voice of the students in each class to improve, and that is time that some teachers really don’t have.  We did talk about other ways that she uses student choice in the classroom that are more practical, and some of them are truly brilliant in my opinion.  In her Algebra 2 class, the way she uses student choice, is in the homework assignments.  Full homework packets are given out at the beginning of each unit, and every class after that, one of the worksheets is due.  But these aren’t like your typical high school math worksheets that are just tedious and repetitive, they are almost all different.  Along with that, each problem on the worksheet is given a point value.  The easier problems are usually one point, and the harder ones can be up to five.  All the students need to do, is do enough problems correctly to get to the point value they are assigned that night.  So for the easier topics, students may only need to do three problems a night.  This also solves the issue of teachers giving students an unhealthy, and even unhelpfully large load of homework.

            The next topic we discussed, is what principles her classroom is built of.  She said that she likes to keep an open and warm classroom built on trust and respect. The way her classroom is set up also matches the way she teaches.  Mrs. Briles is the most happy and energetic teacher I have ever had, and she wants her students to be the same way.  All questions are accepted and answered at any time, and no student is ever put down for not understanding the content.  She also has a good personal connection with her students, and frequently will walk by her students and talk individually about if they understand the material.  Review games like Kahoot are often played before quizzes and tests, which the kids love and seems to be very effective.

 Mrs. Briles is often open to technology use in class, but then again she brought up some issues with completely letting students use their technology whenever they want.  This issue is what we called the “One Percent Theory”. She said the reason she doesn’t want to completely open her class to tech, is that she knows that there is always going to be a small percentage of students who end up taking advantage of that system by distracting themselves and everyone else.  To fix this issue, she lets students use their technology when doing independent work in class, and when they are done with an assignment.

            The last topic we discussed is about student punishment.  We were talking about how some students have been suspended in our school’s past, and due to administrative policies, teachers are not allowed to know why a certain student has been suspended.  They are only notified that it has happened.  I believe that this is a mistake that should be fixed.  Any student who has been suspended for any reason most likely has some other things going on in their lives that are difficult, and they don’t know what to do with those feelings.  I think it is a huge connection building opportunity between student and teacher if teachers were told exactly why one of their students was suspended.  Instead of just coming back to school to the same thing, this way teachers could sit down and talk to that student, which could change their lives.  After all, school is about learning life skills just as much as subject based content.

            Right before her first class of the day (BC Calculus) started, Mrs. Briles expressed to me that she had one of the worst things that can happen to a teacher happen. She stayed up past midnight the night before to plan an engaging lesson for her calculus students, and then forgot to bring it to school.  It had been a very rough day and week for that matter for her, but when class started, she seemed to put all of that aside and give her students every ounce of energy she could.  This in my opinion, is one of the marks of a truly great teacher. Having the ability to push aside everything that is going on with you personally and still teach an amazing class is remarkable.  Even with her lesson plan at home, she delivered a great lesson that all the students seemed interested and engaged in.  I wish I could describe the use of some techniques she used in this class to explain the material to her students, but calculus is completely Greek to me, and I had almost no clue what was going on, given that I am three levels of math below this class.  The class mostly consisted of independent work and note taking, but all the students seemed to like it.  Mrs. Briles would go around to every student and make sure that they understand the material, and if not, she would describe how to do the concept in a different way. 
            The next block of the day was her impact study hall class.  Impact is a class run by Mrs. Briles that acts as a free period just like any other study hall.  However, what makes this study hall special is that every student in the class has either lost a family member due to an illness, or has a family member suffering with a severe illness.   All of these students get together every other day just like a regular study hall, but they have special privileges.  They can go to different schools to help with the special education programs.   Mrs. Briles told me the reason they do this, is that sometimes the best way to help yourself, is to help others.  This lesson was probably the biggest one I took from the whole day.  During this block, we talked about how teachers of core subjects can also help students like these, and other students with issues of their own, without making them feel vulnerable.  This is what is so beautiful about the impact though.  Before this day, I had no idea that a group like that even existed.  They aren’t pointed at, or made fun of.  They just band together to help others, even though all of them have had quite rough pasts.  The day I was there, some of the kids decided to go over to the local middle school to help their special needs classes, and the others just stayed and used their study hall period to do their work and talk.

            The last period of the day that I was with her, was her Algebra 2 class.  I took this class my freshman year and loved it.  For me as a student, math is probably my favorite subject, besides English, and Mrs. Briles did a great job teaching me that year.  The class had the same high energy teaching as her calculus class earlier in the day, but the way students worked was different.  There was more activities and chances for collaboration than there was for the calculus class.  The class started off with a math puzzle for a warm up, and once students completed that, they were allowed to either help others, or listen to music and use their phones.  Then she would go to every student to help them if they needed it, or just chat about whatever sport or activity they are a part of.  This is one of the most important things a teacher can do, because it shows your students that you actually care about them, and are there to help them.  Once every student completed their warm up, the notes started in the front.  This is what differed the most from her calculus class.  Instead of being more lecture based, it was very interactive.  Students were told to do problems together, and write their answers up on the board if they chose.  This is another great technique in my opinion.  Students get tired and bored if they are just sitting and listening, even the best students do.  Class wide activities can help students stay focused, especially when they seem to get out of focus.  She did not do this in the class I was shadowing, but when I had her last year, she would do projects like an around the room math treasure hunt, where the winner would get some sort of prize (gum, candy, snacks, etc.) for winning.  This use of positive reinforcement is a great way to keep students doing their work, and it also shows them a tangible reward for the hard work they have done. 

            Through the day of shadowing Mrs. Briles’ classes, I learned a lot about teaching strategies, had many discussions about school politics, and teachers lives when they either don’t have a class, or aren’t at school.  Teachers are very busy people, who generally have students’ best interests on their minds.  Students and teachers can work together to have the most productive and beneficial classes by leveraging student choice, rapport, and discussion.  I am so thankful that I got that opportunity to follow a teacher for a day.  The information I used will help me with my blogs, tweets, and presentations in the future. 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Comfortable Classrooms

            Inspiration, Intelligence, erudition, enlightenment, creativity.  These words are words commonly used to describe learning and are the qualities that all teachers strive to bring out of students.  Dark, Uncomfortable, Dull, Cramped, Closed, Confining.  These are words that students like myself use to describe the average high school classroom.  Students often base their judgement on their classes based on the atmosphere and ambience that it provides.  I believe that if you want your classroom to be a place for creativity and intelligence, then the classroom should physically show that.  It seems that one of the life lessons that many teachers try to get across to their students is impression management.  This is all about making yourself seem open, smart, and likeable to people within the first five minutes of meeting them.  The issue I see with the average classroom, is that it puts of a gloomy and dull vibe to students, which is the opposite of what you want the students themselves to be.

            One of my issues with public school today, is the drab and boring classrooms that my classes take place in.  Even if a teacher is very warm with their students, it will be hard for them to be the same if they are sitting in a room with cold metal and plastic desks, gray walls, and the occasional “motivational” poster.  It is vital for the productivity of students in class that they are comfortable, both physically and mentally.  I find it very frustrating that many English classes (which out of all the core subjects is the most creatively driven) the environment yields nothing but tired and uncomfortable kids. 

Would you rather work in a gray box, or in a place with options to choose from?  Every student learns differently and has individual needs that help them work.  Some students, like myself, work best in groups.  Some other students would feel either uncomfortable in a group, or distracted.  Therefore, I think that the arrangement of desks in the classroom needs to have some variation.  For example, if you have a classroom of 20 students, you could have four groups of four desks, and then four desks in the corners of the room for independent workers.  This set up will work in your class, but it needs to be free seating.  A shocking number of teachers still used assigned seating in high school.  That just makes students feel like they are being controlled by the teacher too much, which in turn makes them less likely to be open with their ideas and opinions in that class.

Another way to make the classroom more comfortable, is to simply put some amenities that you would find in your everyday home.  This idea came to life in 2 of my English classrooms in the last three years, and it was great.  We had couches, coffee machines, and coffee tables.  This made all the students in these classes feel like they were in their own homes.  One of the biggest objections to this idea, is that some educators believe that the comfortable setting will just distract students from their work in class, but from my experience it does the opposite.  When my teacher made this change, students seemed more connected, comfortable, productive, and overall happier. 

I know this isn’t a very practical idea for every classroom though, because most school systems do not have the budget to pull that off, but there are some cheaper alternatives to this.  For example, instead of couches and coffee machines, it could simply be bean bags in parts of the room, to add to the comfort.  Posters are also a good way to lighten up your class, but they shouldn’t just be simply space fillers.  They should be an active part of class, and maybe even tie into a lesson or two.  My history teacher does this perfectly.  He teachers his lessons with a laser pointer always, and a massive map that takes up the whole back wall of the room.  He will use that map and pointer to show the movement of people, or show imperial conquests.  In that same class, the rest of the wall space is filled with interesting posters that all tie into either a lesson or activity at some point in the year.  Another simple thing that can help your students feel more connected and comfortable, is to have a designated charging station for phones and electronics.  In my math class, we simply have cubbies in the back with an extension cord, so many people in the class can charge their phone at one time.  This also doubles as a way to prevent students from misusing their devices during class time.

But having an open classroom that encourages creativity is not going to immediately change with some objects being thrown in the room.  Teachers need to make sure they are making themselves appear very kind and personable with their students.  This will build on the connection between student and teacher, which you can read more about in my blog titled Building Real Rapport.  When teachers tie in some of their personal life experiences, they will make their students have more likely to be open personally with teachers, which will help their well-being overall.

Classrooms should be places that a warm and open to students, but in America it has diverted from that.  Classrooms now are boring gray boxes that seem to just drain the life out of the students in the class, and really have no positives.  With the addition of some simple household objects, and a kind personality from a teacher, the productivity of students in the class will skyrocket.

Classroom Collaboration: Discussions

              “Students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning” ( Homo sapiens are naturally a very social species, and I believe that students' social skills should be practiced and taught in school as well as content. After all, part of school is about teaching kids how to be functional adults. Too often teachers hold long lectures in their classrooms that students lose interest in very quickly. One positive way to get the same messages across to your students in an engaging manner is to make the classroom have more of a collaborative nature. The best way to go about making a collaborative classroom is by having more open discussion in class. Discussions can be a beautiful thing in the classroom if done correctly. They force students to actively think about the content that they are learning in class while incorporating that skill building component. Another great thing about discussion is that you can tie in real life issues and morality into the lesson. This will further increase the level of engagement of students in the lesson.

             As a student, I have always had a very difficult time staying focused in lectures and lessons that do not actively teach the content. It’s not that I am just bored and don’t care for that class but I just don’t find lectures particularly interesting, and I do not retain the information best from just listening to someone talk about it. I have talked to many of my fellow classmates and they feel the same way. It seems most students today need an active classroom with application to the real world in the lesson. In one of my classes, we have been reading off the promethean board for the last hour of class all year, and I would say 90% of the class had a very difficult time staying focused. Instead of just complaining, I and a few classmates talked to this teacher about bringing in some discussion about the text we were reading. The next class instead of just sitting through a a story shared to us, we were asked what we thought the morals of this particular story was, what lessons were taught, and if we agreed or disagreed with the author’s/narrator’s view. Almost immediately, students that did not regularly participate in class were saying some really great things, and a great discussion started about the philosophies of the story, and how it relates to issues today. “To accept the author's vision and thinking or reject it” (Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, 2013). I walked out of class that day still thinking about what was discussed in class, instead of being tired and bored, as did other students. The mark of a great class is not that the student leaves with answers, but that the student leaves with answers and more questions.

            Discussions need to have some framework however; it often fails when students are given absolutely no structure to stick to. This is one of the most common objections to teachers making their classrooms more collaborative is that students will end up going on tangents and then everyone will start talking about whatever they want. The role of the teacher in discussions is often debated. I believe that the teacher should carefully guide the discussion and act as a participant, without completely taking over. This is often the issue with Socratic seminars, teachers act as the boss of the conversation, and it shuts down the open feeling that discussions should provide. For example, the teacher should ask thought provoking questions that let students connect to their personal lives like “Is ‘live life in the now, and don’t worry about the future’ a good philosophy for high school students to live by?”. This way students can really think about how to use the information and lessons they are learning in their own lives.

            Students often think that teachers are on a level above them, instead of just people. Talking with your students in this manner will help reduce this difference in “class” if you will. If students feel that their teachers are working with them, as opposed to just supervising the work, they will feel more connected and open in class and will be more likely to contribute to the class more often. This connection will build rapport between student and teacher, which is a very important aspect of school, as you can read more about in my first blog post. This will also improve connections between students, which is a very important skill for students to learn.

            Collaboration and discussion is a great way to engage students efficiently, especially in reading. Having a discussion about a reading assignment gives students a reason to read what they are assigned. Also, students will be able to pick up on some things that other students might have seen that they missed, furthering their knowledge on the text. Instead of just asking your students to silently read in class, you should encourage them to share what they have gathered. This collaboration can make students look deeper into text than they might have before, because they can see why they should read.

            No student likes sitting in a dark, dull, lecture based class where they feel like their time and individuality is being wasted. School is supposed to be a place that brings students creativity to the surface, not keep it bottled up until a lecture is over. Having deep connected discussions with your students is one way to make them feel more connected and engaged in class. It creates collaboration, while teaching skills and content simultaneously. If a discussion is executed properly, students will leave with more knowledge, and will still be thinking about what they discussed.

Works Cited:

Freemana1, Scott, Sarah L. Eddya, Miles McDonougha, Michelle K. Smithb, Nnadozie Okoroafora, and And Hannah Jordta. "Scott Freeman." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Beers, G. Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013. Print.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Homework that Helps

            Homework has come to be one of, if not the most, stressful things that kids worry about today.  If you asked 100 high school students what stresses them out in school most, I guarantee that at least 75 of them would say homework.  It has come to the point that for some students, it has completely changed their view of public education from a place of learning, to a place that brings stress and anxiety.  There is a difference between busy work, and true practice.  This is one issue that some teachers face in school, and I want to offer my input on the problem.  I personally think homework should be comprised of thought-provoking questions that are an extension of the lesson in the previous class.  I feel that teachers too often hand out worksheets with questions that are simple one-word-answer questions.  Although that does help you “practice your skills” in that class, it most of the time is just purely repetitive and tedious. This causes students to be more stressed out and anxious over pointless work, and may negatively affect the students' views on that class.  Homework should be a short but thought-provoking assessment for students to further improve their skills in that class. 

One subject that is up for discussion about homework is the amount that is given to students.  In my experience, there is no right amount of homework to give.  It should not be excessively long, but it should be long enough to stimulate real thought on the subject.  I personally think that homework should just be a list of questions that expand on what was taught in class, and ask for synthesis to a real-life situation.  For example, we had one of these kinds of assignments in my Latin class.  A story was read to us about a wolf wrongly killing sheep, and were told to write about what morals were expressed through that story.  We were told to apply the moral of the story to the Roman empire, and to life today.  Many of the students who stay silent most of the class time started becoming a lot more engaged in the subject.  I still think that this assignment could have some more options that could leverage student choice, further advancing the amount of effort put into the work.  To make this happen, teachers could make two variations of every homework assignment that cover the topic and practice skills differently while making sure both assignments are similar in difficulty.  For example, one of them could ask questions that require the students to synthesize the homework to something else, acting as an extension.  The second one could be for the students who aren’t feeling ready enough to take it to that level, and need to practice the skills and content being taught in class.  Of course this doesn’t tailor to the needs of every kind of student in the class, but it still offers more student choice and personalization than the standard homework assignment.

 Real life application is very important to students today.  Students have a hard time staying engaged in class when they can’t see that what they are doing will ever be used in the outside world.  Every kid wants to learn, but they want to learn things that will help their lives outside of school. This concept of real life application should be added into every homework assignment.  For example, if you were learning about how to write a persuasive piece, a question could be to make a small magazine style advertisement about a product they made.  The product should have next to no requirements, therefore allowing student choice, and could be presented in the beginning of the next class.  This way multiple things are being practiced in one simple and easy activity.  Now, there are still some classes that the material is purely used in school, like Science and Math.  For these classes, a good way to show some practicality is to have some cross-subject connection with other subjects.  This happens naturally to an extent in science classes like physics and chemistry, but the math department seems to stick to itself.  Students would see more practicality in their math homework, if there were some questions in there that are also applicable to their science classes.

Collaboration is often frowned upon on homework assignments.  Letting students work together on their homework assignments does not hinder their concentration, but could help them understand the material more.  Instead of sitting hopeless and confused about the work, just waiting for the next class to ask questions, they could be asking their classmates.  Also, in the working field, it is very seldom that there is a project with no collaboration.  Students’ collaboration and cooperation on homework could teach them how to effectively work as a team, and improve their social skills.  This could also bring more ideas to the table, that one student did not think of, but the other did.  This could teach kids more ways to learn the content, and different ways to look at similar situations.  This collaboration on homework should not just be at home, but when they get back into class as well.

            A big issue I have with most homework assignments, is that after they are turned in to the teacher when they are due, they are not brought up again.  This makes the students that don’t do their homework think it doesn’t matter, and for the kids that do go above and beyond on their homework feel like all their hard work was a waste.  When homework is turned into class it should be discussed.  Referring to the concept of having two variations of every assignment, the kids that did the extension activity could discuss what they learned in their assignment with the rest of the class.  This would make the kids that did the assignment that was more about practicing their skills can still learn the concepts that the students who did the synthesis learned.  This discussion would make all the students in the class more connected, and make them feel that there was an actual point in doing the homework.

            Many students tend to argue that homework is boring and pointless, but I think that it can be very important.  Homework does not have to be either of those things, and one way to prevent that is to incorporate things that students do in their normal lives into their homework.  One way to do this is to make homework assignments that use technology.  For example, if students are learning about literary devices, they could be told to watch a movie or TV show and record one of every kind of literary device.  This way students can be learning in a way that is not tedious, or even boring for that matter.  Another way to use technology to improve homework assignments, is to tell them to tweet all the things that they learn in their homework.  Twitter is an amazing tool to bring into homework and the classroom if done correctly.  Twitter only allows 140 characters per post, which is what makes it so beautiful.  This causes students to be very concise when expressing what they have learned.  Another thing that makes twitter so great if used in this way, is all the students in the class will be able to see what the other students learned from the lessons, further extending the information retained.  If technology is incorporated into homework, it is also a fantastic way to let students practice their 21st century skills.  “21st century skills comprise both content knowledge and applied skills that today’s students need to master to thrive in a continually evolving world” (Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010).

            Homework is most important when reading.  Students need to know how to read and gather as much information as possible from text, because it is something they do without realizing it every day in their life.  The only way to learn how to read and gather information from reading, is from reading itself.  Deep reading is a very important thing that students will need to be close to masters at, for it is going to be very important in college, and in the rest of their lives.  “Our concern was that we still saw too many readers who plow through a book giving It little thought; too many readers who finish the page or the chapter and then, rather than express a thought, ask a question, or leap into the conversation, look up to the teacher and wait” (Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, 2013).  Too many students today just read their assignments quickly to get it out of the way, without actually having any deep thought about what they have read at all.  One way to fix this issue, is to have students discuss what they have read in their homework with each other in and out of the classroom, and make personal connections.  After all, one of the only things that make a reader feel like they like a text, is that they felt like they connected with it in some way or another.  Discussing the things that were in the text that connected personally in their lives could make students read deeper into the text, and retain the information from it more effectively. “Though some now say we shouldn’t spend time in classrooms encouraging students to make personal connections to a text, we think that meaning is created through those personal connections” (Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, 2013).  From what I have experienced in my 10th grade English class is that whenever a reading assignment is given, most students end up not even reading it.  One way to get more students to read, is to give them choice.  Instead of giving your students an assignment like “read the Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and record any events of satire”, give them a choice to find their own satirical works to take notes on.  This will create more real life connection to the text and what they are learning, and help them see the practicality of why they need to learn it.

            Homework is a very sore subject among most students, but it absolutely does not have to stay that way.  With the help of both student and teacher, homework can become what it is truly meant to be, practicing both skills and content in an engaging, simple, and thought provoking way.  If all those things are done correctly, it could completely change the view of school for many students.  Students thrive when they see they have choice, and know that what they are learning is up to date with modern technology, and relevant to their daily lives.  When homework is efficient and to the point, it will not just be busy work for students, but an opportunity for them to extend on what they learn in class, and share with their peers.  These changes will engage as many students as virtually possible, and create a more personalized system of education.

Works Cited:
Brooks-Young, Susan. Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010. Print. 

Beers, G. Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013. Print.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Building Real Rapport by Kellen Pluntke and Ryan Hur

One of the key components in a successful classroom is having a positive teacher-student relationship.  Having a positive relationship with your students will motivate them to do the best work they can, and keep all your students engaged throughout the school year. A student will do great work for a teacher that inspires them to work harder.  A teacher can affect how a student interacts and behaves in class just by having good rapport with them.  It is so important for kids’ mental health and future success that they know that people care about them. Since students spend almost more time in school than they do with their families, the care that teachers show is essential in their lives.  Teachers can never know what is going on in a student’s life until they truly get to know them.  Students’ personal lives can greatly affect their in-class performance, to the point where the students’ full potential could not even be realized.

            All this responsibly is not just on the teachers.  Students need to know that they can go to their teachers to talk about things, not just school issues. I (Kellen) have had my life changed by some of my teachers, because I finally decided to open up to all of them, and just let them know about what’s going on in my life.  I have personally struggled with a mental health issue – namely, anxiety - and this year school started to get very hard for me. Once I went in to every one of my teachers and opened up about these issues, I got nothing but support.  All of them talked to me about how they understood what I was going through and they said they would be more than happy to just talk to me about everything.  Ever since I decided to do that, school has improved so much in every way possible.  I started participating more in class, getting my work done, and my grades came back up to almost all A’s and B’s.  Teachers started making some small accommodations for me, just to make me a little more comfortable. For example, music is a big part of my life, and it is something that always calmed me down when I had anxiety issues.  I explained this to my teachers and they were completely open to letting me use music to aid my learning in class.  My classes did not change otherwise, and the workload wasn’t any easier, but since I knew that I had all my teachers on my side, I could do it.  I hope that every student going through personal issues in their life has the opportunity to open up to their teachers, but it is on them to do that.  Teachers however, still need to have an approachable “vibe” if you will.  I would not have been able to go to my teachers like that if I didn’t feel like they were going to take what I was saying positively.  The connections that I made with those teachers has given me my own support system, and it changed not just my school life, but my life all together.

            One thing that teachers can do to help the students feel more comfortable in their classes, is to incorporate modern technology into lessons. When doing this, technology should not take over the lesson, but simply add to it.  But integration of technology just for the point of bringing it into the classroom is a waste, it needs to complement the lessons that are already made, never the center of it.  Kids use social media all the time, and it can be used positively to help them and the world around them if done correctly.  For example, all the #bowtieboys try to keep our twitter accounts running with good tweets and research that support the topics we represent.  This same concept can be used in the classroom. “Educators need to recognize that these sites can be a place where teens learn social skills and practice improving interpersonal relationships” (Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010).  Social media is a great way for students to practice their 21st century skills, which are arguably some of the most important skills students can learn in school.  This integration of something that kids are comfortable with into the classroom will make kids feel more connected and engaged.

            A fantastic way to do this is to have students tweet things that they have learned from lessons, books, and discussions in class.  That way if all the students are not reading the same book, or having the same discussion, they can still see the main points and ideas brought on by those sources.  For example, if half the class is reading To Kill a Mockingbird, while the other half is reading A Tale of Two Cities, both groups can tweet about the main ideas and lessons they have learned from their book, and read about the lessons from the other groups book.  This will promote the students’ productive use of technology, while improving their online presence.  When both groups are finished with their books, a full-on twitter chat can be run by the teacher about what they have gathered from their book, and all students can say what they feel on the subject, and how it relates to issues in the world today.  The end twitter chat would act like a Socratic seminar, but is in text so it is easier for assessment. This would make social media “a place for groups of students to collaborate as they work on a group project” (Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010).    This idea, if done correctly, would teach students how to use social media effectively, incorporate technology in an effective way without taking away from the meaning of the lesson, and it has relevance to real world issues today.

Also, the addition of technology will make the content seem more relevant to students, which is a huge component to how engaged the students are in that lesson.  Everyone wants to learn, and when a student can see that what they are learning in class can help them in the real world, they will want to learn even more.  This simple method of integrating technology can help teachers maintain that positive “vibe” I mentioned earlier, which will make students feel more connected to their teachers.  This connection can make the student feel much closer to their teacher, thus making them more open to their teachers about personal issues.  
             I (Ryan) have been labeled a slacker by the vast majority of the teachers I’ve had in the past. They see me on the surface and disregard me as an unintelligent floater, who will never respect their class. These thoughts about me and students like me can play a major role in the way we perform in school. While the reason may very well be a lack of motivation or a lack of interest, lots of students have internal issues that are not easy to share, and may be prohibiting their success in school. I have lived with severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder my entire life. I have learned coping skills over the years yet, it can still happen and make it hard to pay attention and be present in class. If a teacher could act as a sponge to soak up everything I might need to get off my chest about something that could be causing an anxiety attack that can be the biggest factor in my performance in school. I am not a straight A student. I haven’t been all of my high school career. As teachers fail to make personal connections with me, I fail to see the point and meaning in the work I am assigned, and my grades suffer. I go home and I am berated by my parents. “We know you are smarter than this” they would say after seeing my pitiful grades. I go back to school and am greeted with a frown as I fail to turn in my homework yet again. Teachers see these things on the surface and turn me away as lazy and unmotivated, yet the small number of teachers I have made a connection with, I have worked unfathomably harder for them and shown them who Ryan Hur truly is.

            While I was reading The Greatest Catch, by Penny Kittle, she inspired me to think that teachers can make a deep and true connection with their students. Penny astoundingly proves that a connection with a student is fathomable, all it takes is a first step on the teacher’s side. An unspoken wall is naturally built between the teachers and the students as soon as they step foot in the classroom, it is up to the teacher to destroy that barrier. One of my favorite of the many heart wrenching stories she tells is about Russel. A boy who hasn’t had a father in the picture, and his mother works too much to have an impact in his life. This is the perfect example of a student who could benefit extraordinarily from a productive relationship with a teacher. Russel couldn’t read, therefore, the system failed him. Kittle pushed Russel to do the best he could, and it seemed as if he did, but due to the way standardized tests operate, the system didn’t see it that way. Nevertheless, the connection that he made with Kittle had an impact on his life. All a teacher needs to do is make a real reach into the student’s life. Ask them simple questions, and make them feel wanted, because maybe they don’t feel that way outside of a relationship you build with them.

            As students who both suffer from mental health issues, we know how important it is to have a positive connection with your teachers.  It is utterly important that students change their perception on teachers, from an inattentive figure that’s only purpose is to teach to the test, to a person who really can make a difference in their life.  When this connection is made, students will feel infinitely more pleased with their school experience, and be far more productive.  While using technology to ease this process along, students will start to feel more comfortable, and learn some great skills along the way. All it takes is a teacher who shows that they genuinely care about the work they do.  Students perform stupendously for teachers that they connect to, and are comfortable with. The relationship between a student and teacher effects a student’s quality of work, happiness in school, and makes school seem less stressful and much more manageable.

Works Cited:

Brooks-Young, Susan. Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010. Print.

Kittle, Penny. The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005. Print.

No comments:

Post a Comment