A few teaching journal entries...
August 24, 2009
Today is the first day of a new semester. Photo above is me visiting with professor in Jerusalem.
Photo above shows me leading a group of educators in the Pan African Literacy Conference in Tanzania. Such an amazing experience, and of course, I went on safari to see animals in their natural landscape. How much we can learn from travel and meeting others around the world.
I love beginning a new journal. I have quite a few going on at once: prayer journal, travel journal, calendar journal, art journal. Sometimes I combine several journals together. I find writing, doodling, sprinkling art throughout my journal pages gives me a strong sense of place. Plus a journal is a good place to capture ideas and feelings and maybe that next story I will write.
Today my Vietnamese friend Chi told me about her son’s first day at Barnett Junior High. He got to school before 6 a.m., because he was nervous and didn’t want to miss his sports class. She had transferred him from a different junior high, as she wants him to be very successful in school. Also he has private after school tutoring because she wants him to do well in all of his subjects. Wish I could meet him, to see what is happening to this Vietnamese boy. She works long hours, speaks very broken English, but has a determination for his success. I think he does too, but I would like to see him myself.
Why do parents push their children, in academics, or sports, or any area? Is there a perfect balance? In the long run, will Chi’s son outshine all others in his class? Will he be the valedictorian of his graduating class? What makes the oriental culture have this determination, as compared to other cultures? Will his teachers be as pushy as his mother?
This is my first week of classes as well, one of my favorite weeks, because I meet all the students. I’m slightly nervous, like Chi’s son, and I want to know their levels of determination as well. I love being a teacher. Yes, a professor is a teacher.
August 26, 2009
I read an interesting article on-line this morning in NYTimes about children and self-control and feeling guilt for wrong behavior. I thought how the researchers developed the design with a doll that broke accidently was quite clever. Here is the eaddress:
To help a child or teen or adult see that there is a way to make amends when one hurts someone else or causes harm is powerful. I will remember that and see how that adds to my philosophy of behavior. Reminds me somewhat of John Locke’s philosophy about good breeding and manners being more important than schooling.
September 7, 2009
I’m wondering how much we parents, teachers and principals allow students to discuss big issues these days? Is there time for discussion when there are as many benchmarks and tests to make time for, is another way to ask this. Of course, the downside to talking about big issues is that the issues that kids want to talk about may be worrisome or not comfortable topics of conversation: family life, how to make money, boyfriends/girlfriends, religion, spiritual beliefs. I’m convinced we ought to not be afraid of this, but I’m also convinced that it isn’t easy to allow what is said to be said. I think Courage to Teach touchstones help as much as anything - to allow wonder in the conversation when we disagree, to listen carefully, to allow silence to be there, to hold space and confidentiality as very important to the group. I have to think about this some more, how to integrate those touchstones of kind behavior into class dialogue of big issues.
October 6, 2009
I missed my philosophers tonight, but several were meeting together to study about Locke and the others. I have to ask the group, if they think study groups help them with philosophy? The point is to solidify some concepts, but a more important reason to get together is to verbalize opinions. What makes someone think the way he or she does? I have to remember to bring the touchstones paper to class. Better right it down.
Remembering everything, every detail is part of what teaching is. It is as if new memory trees have to grow in teachers‘ brains, so that the details of each day, each subject, each week, each test, each curriculum piece is held front and center and never forgotten. Not to mention the importance of remembering everything about every learner. I wonder if we could screen for memory ability in pre-teaching classes. What research project could I do to find out how important it is for a teacher to remember?
October 13, 2009
Dewey and his legacy are our topic of discussion tonight and regretfully, we will not have enough time to do Dewey appropriately. Plus I want to share Dr. Michael Sandel’s way of dealing with philosophy of politics and his book titled Justice, what’s the right thing to do? In fact, that could be required reading for next term. Have to think about that.
What I remember most about Dewey is his thinking about experience, and how that solidifies learning. I also like his thoughts on democracy, that it takes dialogue and rubbing shoulders together, to form community and consider what is best for the greater good. And for those who are left out - in fact, no one should be left out of the conversation. I’m sure he has influenced my own personal philosophy, for sure.
October 20, 2009
Today I was the “visiting author “for a group of 4th graders at Grapevine Elementary. I told them how I got my ideas and how I made myself write each night until midnight, and how the revisions were hard to do. What a fun bunch of kids - asked good questions. One question was how do books become popular? Another question was when I am “authorizing,” do I write on a computer or on a tablet or what?
Made me think about authorizing - and how we try our best to write coherent thoughts in the masters and doctoral programs. Or at least I encourage it. For me, writing is another mode of communication that I seek each day or at least every other day. I need to do a research study on this - wonder what the daily writing amount is for the average graduate student? Wonder where journal entries are on the list of writings? I’ll ask that next week - this week my philosophers are having a grand time writing answers to this 10 point quiz. What, that’s all - 10 points only? That much study for 10 points? 10 measly points? What is the reasoning on that idea? Did that come from any philosophy?
January 19, 2010
Is it 2010? What happened to last year already?! My philosophy regarding teaching continues to evolve. Example: What is the best way to determine a school’s curriculum? Do we leave it in the hands of local people - will their vision for their children prepare the kids for global lives? Maybe, maybe not. Do we leave the curriculum in the hands of national visionaries - would they see what is needed by kids in rural Texas as the same as those in San Francisco, CA? Maybe, maybe not.
I do wonder how much role our society plays in governing schools, or does the business model overwhelmingly find its way more and more into the way we teach? Do we have assembly lines as schools? I like to think not, that we value each child and teen as an individual.
On the graduate level, I have a strong belief that graduate students need less structure and more freedom to learn what interests them, but if given freedom, do they also break out of their caves (Plato) and learn new ways of thinking about education? How much do I, do they stay inside our caves? Lots to think about - makes me want to change one of the assignments into an independent assignment just as an experiment - lots of freedom in the choice, but structured to cause thinking in a whole different way for the student. Might change the book review one - will think on this, because my basic philosophy towards learning is to allow as much freedom as possible, and I think I don’t have much freedom in the syllabus of Edu 6302. On the other hand, I want my students to be strong in philosophical thinking. Will think about this for a few days.
January 25, 2010
The project will be called “Out of the Cave” which ties to the Allegory of the Cave that we will read next week. Independent and choice work to demonstrate how one comes out of the cave (maybe into another one!) as different approaches to an idea are considered. So, each student will take an education idea and explore the other sides to the idea. Book review could still be part of this project, or curriculum writing, or prepared speech. Worth 10 points still. The assignment could be written like this:
Independent “Out of the Cave” Project: Students choose a way to present their “walking around a philosophical idea” in class. This could be in the form of a book review, a short powerpoint, an expanded journal entry, set of interviews, a week’s curriculum plan for inviting learners to practice “doing philosophy.” Other ideas are dramatic reading, reader’s theatre, music, website design, writing a picture book to share.
The purpose is to explore the philosophical foundations around an educational idea or practice. Example: All school principals must have three years of teaching before entering the Principal Program at Wesleyan. Why? Think through all the sides of this philosophy. What negates this policy? What is positive about this policy? How would I present this policy to my colleagues, so that all sides are open to think about? This example seems maybe too simple. But might not be. No time to think about it now!
February 1, 2010
Breaking news: The federal law NCLB may change, and definitely the TAKS will change in 2011 - 2012. New test is called STAAR State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. What does this mean? If a student is not ready for academics, then what? First years scores are not going to be applied to a school’s rating, and the new state rating system will debut in 2013. Wonder what it would be like to have no tests for a year or two?
February 23, 2010
Snowy day, only we had so much more snow last week. I know students are worried about whether class will happen or not, but hopefully the moisture will abate, temperatures rise and life will go on. Glad I don’t live up north!
Tonight is our first quiz, and I am always excited to read the students’ answers to their questions.
I have been working on two research reports - one on gifted and talented readers, and one on social processes in diverse classrooms. Need to gather more sources and continue to look at data. Yesterday, I was encouraged to visit with Dr. Lui, a professor from USC, regarding Likert scales and how best to interpret.
My question for myself is why do I like to write? It is the hardest task, to do it write, and I still have so much to learn. I’ll think on this and maybe write more today.
April 10, 2010
This week we have presentations scheduled for University College Day 2010. For some people, presentations come naturally and are not difficult to do. For others, there is a bit of nervousness and fear about being in front of an adult audience. Teachers who daily direct “traffic” at their schools can be overwhelmed at speaking in front of an adult group. The only way to overcome this fear is to do it. Over and over. I used to have some fear, but now, mostly I am not too nervous. Guess it depends on the audience. If Queen Elizabeth were in the audience, I might be a bit shaky.
I am curious about how much we have learned regarding philosophy in the bigger picture of our districts, state, nation. Also, what is the global perspective? When we meet again, I hope we can explore big questions in the light of historical philosophers:
Universal education: All children deserve an education. Who, why? Yes, no?
Schools should be learner-centered. Who, why? Yes, no?
Teachers need education themselves. Who, why? Yes, no?
There should be a national curriculum. All children should learn the same thing. Who, why, yes, no?
There should not be a national curriculum. Yes, no?
There should be accountability in schools. Yes, no? Who, why?
Impoverished children should receive free lunch, breakfasts in school. Yes, no? Who, why?
What a group, state, nation thinks makes a big difference in schools. When we go to India, we will explore the same trends, to see what is thought about children there.
September 7, 2010
Another school year has begun, close on the heels of a dynamo summer. I enjoyed the experience of teaching 6 classes this summer, all graduate classes: Rdg 6320, Edu 6360, Rdg 6325, Edu 7609, and Edu 6357. A good question to ask is did my students learn as much as I did! Of course, our trip to India was the icing on the cake regarding learning experiences. We were pushed out of our comfort zones to new limits - food, people, climate, bus rides, religion, time zones, all gave us much to think about. We saw how people live outside of Ft. Worth, Texas! Go to my two web pages on INDIA to see photos of our time there.
Now that the fall 2010 semester has begun, I am responsible for two different groups studying philosophy of education- the new doctoral group and a very sharp master’s group, Edu 6302. If I have learned anything, I’ve learned that Socrates and Dewey, the great philosophers, were right about dialogue. THAT is the only way to flesh out ideas, to sort through what we think, to ponder out loud what is true or not. I am reminded again and again, to leave the lesson plan on the desk and to sit with my students for dialogue. Freire also said to blur the lines - mix up the roles of teacher and learner. We all learn and we all teach, and for me, he is right. There is an art to all of this - and I am thinking I want to explore the art of teaching more. The research I am doing with my colleagues regarding what teachers do in classrooms regarding dialogue makes me nuts! We aren’t seeing talk at all. We are seeing very focused teachers on very focused lessons for very focused tests. Wonder what Freire would say?
October 18, 2010
I had an opportunity to hear two colleagues debate the film “Waiting for Superman” today. Their opinions were that enough positives about public education were not shared, and since we three are PRO public education, then they were disappointed in the way the film went. Me too, but will wait until I see it for a full fledged opinion. That’s the nugget - everybody has an opinion about schools. I wonder if more films were made about schools, what would be the overall message. Wonder how to help the public understand the importance of public education? It takes really good teachers and really good parenting, enough money and enough reflective people to use that money to help kids gain skills and knowledge to succeed. And it takes kids wanting to learn and wanting to achieve, and in my opinion, the high drama of testing works against kids and their natural inclination to learn. So we have all the makings of a disaster.
Yet, there are thousands of successes every day. Many kids are excited about school and about their learning environments. That’s what needs research and movies - kids sharing what they like about school and about learning.
October 22, 2010
I like the numbers of this week and day: 10-22-10. The other day was auspicious: 10-20-10. I notice numbers frequently and add them, look at their patterns, see what they may mean. This is a field called numerology, and is kind of obscure and yet based on some Eastern philosophies. I have taught myself what I know, by reading books and ideas from the internet. Which is the point of my rambling - how often do we teach ourselves what we need to know?
I think that is what education is all about - to give learners tools for learning more, and those tools include academic tools, but more importantly dispositions of curiosity, determination, ability to search, ability to think and reason. It would seem that more activities that allow students to ponder out loud whatever they want to know, and then follow-up time for searching, reporting, sharing, writing, discovering would be useful. I guess this breaks down when a learner has NOTHING he or she wants to know. I find that hard to believe - I think everyone has something that they are curious about.
I think I’ll call this theory of learning, search and discover.
November 21, 2010
I have just been reading more about the kibbutz way of education in Israel, and I discovered something new. The MInistry of Education there selects a theme for each year, for all schools to study. Then the teachers’ and students’ subjects and projects around the country center around a theme, and for that reason, schools can collaborate together. I wonder if the government has the schools to “present” their projects nationally? I’ll have to read more. This intrigues mem and I wonder if it works. The other thing to remember about Israel is how small it is - in fact, the whole country is smaller than the U.S. Lake Michigan. Its coastline is about 170 miles long, and its longest point inland from north to south is 268 miles. Its width is 9 miles at its shortest point east to west and 71 miles at its most wide point. It is smaller than our New Jersey. Here are some maps that show the comparison size of Israel.
January 12, 2011 (1-12-11)
I am watching the memorial service at the University of Arizona, for the victims of the terrible shooting last week. I feel sad, but right now the service has the feel of a pep rally, which is kind of unusual for a memorial service. I am saddened about the deaths, and the shooting of the congresswoman, and also the terrible ordeal for the young man who did this. I am sorry for him and for his family - he appears to be so mentally ill. I am also saddened by the political climate of the nation - I really do think radio and TV and political folks do what they can to stir hatred rather than have a peaceful reflection. We don’t have to always agree, and we don’t have to censor people, but we do have to have civility as we deal with terrible issues and disagreements.
The other thing that I am feeling strongly about is more regulations around guns. I don’t think regular people need clips or automatics and I’m not sure even what those are, except why would anyone need a round or two or three of bullets to protect self or family? Police may and military folks may, but we don’t need such violent instruments in the citizenry.
What do these notions have to do with education? First we teachers have a duty to 1) find help, quick help, for students who are mentally ill. We much watch for signs for this, and keep in mind how to find help - VERY VERY VERY important. 2) We must help kids learn to express their views without violent anger. To learn how to discuss, share different views, learn to agree to disagree, and learn to see all views, without resorting to violence against those views that we disagree with. 3) Finally, we need to teach our students how to respect and honor a human life - that killing others is NOT OK, or even implying that killing others is NOT OK, as some political voices have implied in the last few months. It is NOT OK. We need to teach kindness, humility, wonder, how to get along.
I am hoping that much good comes from this tragedy. I am wanting blessings to fall n our teachers and students, our schools, our endeavors for peace, our nation’s mission to raise good citizens in a thriving democracy.
Oh my, President Obama’s speech was incredible.
March 8, 2011
I have not written as much this semester, because I have two other journals going - prayer journal and cancer journal. My chemo treatments each week last 4 hours or so, and that gives me time to write and think, which is a gift despite the hardship of treatment for cancer. My reflections on teaching have taken a back seat to my thinking about healing and getting well. Which makes me realize again that we teachers are human and go through all kinds of trials and tribulations: deaths, relationships, financial issues, sickness, issues with children and family, etc etc etc. Somehow a teacher is supposed to be super human and never show that these things matter.
I do believe that good teachers do the best they can with their daily responsibilities and plans for instruction, that they don’t let home life interfere with what MUST be done in the classroom. But it is also to be expected that there will be times when teachers are not 100% present - that their problems outside school may be very difficult. For me, the chemo is not totally keeping me from what I need to do at Wesleyan, and yet, I find that my mind is on my health lots more than I would like. It has moved to the center of my thinking instead of the edge.
When I went through this treatment before in 2001-2002 I was teaching 5th grade in Birdville as a sabbatical from the University. Every day I was up at 5:30, to be at school before 7:30 and ready to tackle the day with 23 5th graders (mostly boys). Most days went well, but I do remember that some days, we all needed an extra recess - they did, due to their boundless energy and I did, due to my lack of energy. Did we miss some valuable instruction? Probably. Did we miss some of the pages in our math or heath or English text? Probably. Did we all make it through the year alive and in one piece? Yes! What a year - I will never forget it and also I will never forget the extreme toll that it took on me - to work that hard and also feel that bad at the same time. I also taught two classes at night at Wesleyan. Just goes to show you can do ANYTHING for a short amount of time, and live to tell about it!
March 16, 2011
Spring Break! Whoever thought of the idea of spring break for schools (teachers, students, principals, staff) needs to have a statue erected in his or her honor! This is the best week to play, rest, clean out closets, put away “winter,” work in the garden, even get adjusted to the Daylight Savings time change. The only thing better would be to have a two week spring break, instead of one!
I love seeing the Lady Banks rose on our fence come to life with hundreds of tiny yellow roses and the irises slowly raise their purple and white blooms to the sky. The days are both chilly and warm, and paradox is everywhere. Dead leaves lie brown on top of the moist soil, yet tiny seedlings and shoots return out of the decay inside the soil. In fact, decay is critical for new growth.
Reminds me of my life as a teacher - what has decayed in me and dying a slow death is the need to think of new and better ways to teach. As fascinating as “new” can be and is, I am convinced that the time it takes to teach is more important than a new curriculum. Students can provide us with the curriculum and we can match what is needed with what they are interested in, given enough time - I am sure of this. My philosophy resonates with Frank Smith’s directions about teaching someone to read: follow his or her lead. Whatever he/she needs at the moment, teach it, do it. Then do the next thing. Follow the learner’s lead.
September 18, 2011
Our fall semester has begun and I can say that I am very pleased with the deep reflective abilities of my students in my classes. Maybe the reason is that all of these students are graduate students - either master’s or doctoral. Plus I am teaching a wonderful undergraduate student who has a strong reflection bent. His project is to do philosophy for children with a group of 3rd graders. Yea!!
I believe that reflection is what makes a good teacher - plus quick thinking as well. A teacher makes so many decisions each moment - and each lesson, and each hour, that he or she must think fast and have a strong philosophy about how to be and how to teach. No time for reflection in the middle of teaching. BUT, sometime, maybe on the drive home or drive to work, a teacher has to reflect on how it’s going, who is learning what, who needs extra attention or help, who is ready to fly. Even I must reflect at the university level about my learners. Is there engagement each time we meet? Do I challenge, yet make the work possible? Do I encourage their efforts as teachers and as students?
January 23, 2012
I have paid attention to the Republican debates, not because I am plannng to vote Republican - not at all. But I am interested in how the politicians philosophize about education, the poor, what to do about immigrants and how to run the government. Mostly, what I have noticed is that they are trying to collect votes, so they will say anything. Mr. Paul seems most fresh with his answers in the debates, even though I can't agree with his stands. Wonder what makes a politician a politician?? Why would anyone want to be charge of such a large enterprise as the United States?
In my book, President Obama has led as well as anyone could - even seems comfortable in the role (he is getting grayer daily). What helps is that he has a supporting wife, and his feet firmly planted in fatherhood. He seems to be a serious, but fun-loving, kind of guy. I like that he grew up in Hawaii AND Indonesia, and that he has a mixed race, multi-ethinic background. He certainly has had a rough go this first term - with multiple near national and international catastrophes to work through and a muleish Congress who will say no to anything he suggests. IN FACT, my opinion is that if the Congress would back his plans we might see improvement in all kinds of endeavors. (Is that a fact or opinion?!)
Education is where my ears really perk up in these debates. Watching any of the pols debate what goes on in a classroom is downright comical. If any could spend a year or two in the classroom of an ordinary teacher, we might see some new insights in Washington, for sure.
May 9, 2012
Where did the semester go? First, I was so involved in planning and delivering all the events of The Big Read, that time passed like a blur. Second, my garden took over my free time, which is fine! The mild winter and perfect spring rains have provided exactly what a flower and vegetable garden enjoy. As a consequence, both my community garden plots and my home gardens are producing flowers and potatoes and tomatoes and onions and herbs and lettuces actually worth eating! I took several pounds of produce to Mission Arlington the other day. Perfect conditions.
Reminds me of what it takes for a teacher to flourish, or a student to flourish. Conditions of learning mean that there is a wealth of material to use and a desire to learn and encouragement and facilitation. Good teachers, like deep rooted trees, thrive when conditions are good - they must thrive when conditions are not so good. Students are even more vulnerable to dry climate conditions. Their learning souls can wither and wilt, if not encouraged, if not watered with engaging soild. Some won't, of course - those are the resilient ones, amazing ones.
I'm thankful for the right weather this spring - just to remind me of what can be.
September 3, 2012 Labor Day
Even as I have worked around the house and played with Pip, I have been thinking about Tuesday night class, and how to explain a philosophy journal. Maybe this is the entry to write, what it is, how it works, how reflection works. For me, writing my thoughts helps me see them, and that is why I have this blog, and journals, and lists upon lists. I even have a bundle of prayer journals, that I have kept over the years. Same prayers mostly all the time!
Right now, I am thinking about The Tao of Teaching, a book by Greta Nagel. She has taken the Tao Te Ching and applied the wisdom to what must be done by wise teachers in classrooms, with all ages. "Reduce selfishness; have few desires" she applies to us teachers who do more than we need to, to make money, to stay busy, to even make extra work for ourselves at school. Instead she says to be mindful of adding pasttimes that overwhelm and keep us too busy. In fact, I'll read this to the group tomorrow evening, to see what they think. Sure speaks to me this Labor Day weekend. My life has been too busy. Gotta do less. Gotta do less. Gotta do less!
January 15, 2013
What makes the semesters go by so fast?! Time slowed down just a little today as my students and I retreated with the Courage to Teach retreat. Our theme was the bridges we cross, and the threads we follow - or maybe the bridges we are and the threads we are! Great discussion and personally, I needed to slow down to think. Especially about bridging my work and how to find more time for R and R. My sabbatical is a good place to start.
On the other hand, I want to make time for R and R and Work, all in the same time period. Maybe that is asking too much.
May 30, 2013
End of sabbatical, back to full time work as researcher, writer, director of program. Actually, I produced strong pieces during the free days of my sabbatical - several articles, one chapter, journal writing. And I gardened and traveled to Laguna Beach, California, and learned to make Julia Child's beef bourguignon. I'd say it was a good sabbatical, not long enough!
September 16, 2014
I've neglected my teaching journal writing, although elsewhere I have been prolific. Two chapters in professional books, several articles, dissertations guided, and four artsy journals to give me something to do with watercolor. But this space is about teaching, and what it means to me to teach. I've noticed that my energy rises when it is time for class - that the discussion with students gives me much to think about long after the class ends. I am so fortunate to teach with colleagues who care about students and with students who care about studies.
What does it mean to be a student of students - as Freire and Dewey suggest? Understanding the meanings below the words, understanding the life that my students lead are ways of studying my students. I want to do more of this, be concious of the actual observation. And I'll try to report back.
January 16, 2015
What happens when a teaching professor takes on leadership roles in the organization? First of all, there is no time to journal as much as I have journaled in the past. An entire year goes by without a reflected word. Not good, not good.
Second, whatever you do becomes a blur. My role as faculty chair-elect of the University and director of the Ed.D. program at my University has stripped me of my joyful days in being an amateur naturalist, a writer, a journal keeper and a reflector of teaching practice. This too shall pass! I believe I am holding on to all relationships that matter - my children, Dave, dogs, students. Fingers crossed, prayers written.
In the meantime the experiences of leading and directing and decision making are learning experiences that I value. I have captured some of the memories in my private journal. This year I am leading discussions on the required gun-carry measures for our Texas universities, faculty raises, and what it means to be a faculty emeritus. Holding space for all the discussions, discussants and extremely opinioned voices keeps me on edge and yet is a challenge. Looking forward to August 2016, when the role of faculty chair is over.
August 1, 2016
The two years of extreme leadership are over! Hallelujah! Back to extreme writing and extreme teaching, not that I ever left those duties and joys. If the work of leading the University faculty could hold a percentage, then it would be 110% of the week. If directing the Ed.D. program has its percentage, it would be another 125% of the week, so you can see how little time was left for teaching, writing, family, dogs, garden, ironing! Ha! The main wrinkles are under my eyes. There, done, moving down the road.