Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Site:

With the move eminent, I felt that it was important to combine all my "professional" (as in about my day job, not in pay) blogs into one.  So from now on, I'll be posting at Education, Philosophy and Technology.  Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Response to Why Gender Matters

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences

By Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

Reading Response

As I was reading the last chapter “Beyond Pink and Blue” in Why Gender Matters a couple of quotes struck me. Some matched with my experience, while others I questioned. None-the-less, Dr. Sax has provided an excellent starting point to reflect on the past 30 years in gender identity.

Quote #1

"We need to recognize that our society lost something in the process of dismantling opportunities for boys to learn from adult men in an all-male setting" (238-239)

I think this is absolutely true. All one needs to do is look at the rate of adults achieving post-high school degrees. From 1959 to 2009 males 18-19 years old enrollment in college increased 3 fold. Not bad, but not great when you consider that female enrollment increased by 450%. Women now are enrolled in college at a ratio of 6 to every 5 male students.[1] This is but one statistical example of the economic and societal impact of “dismantling the opportunities for boys.”

Quote #2

"Those kids will learn how to solder copper wire to metal posts, but a genuine connection between the generations is less likely to be established" (239)

This quote felt too much of an opinion without any support. Looking through the footnotes and the paragraph around this quote, I could not find any support. Dr. Sax was referring to robotics class being co-ed, and that this reduced the connection that students will feel to the older generation. I just did not see how this statement could reasonably be arrived at from his prior statements.

Quote #3

The all-boys setting "frees up boys from typecasting and stereotyping of what it means to be a male." (243)

Dr. Sax is quoting Rick Melvoin, the head of the Belmont Hill School, an all-boys school. I think to my experience, which one should not draw any generalizations from, but does not necessary match up with this quote, although I say that with a caveat. I went to a co-ed school, but participated in a number of sports, which were all male. In those situations, it was even more masculine, almost a hyper masculinity. It was with females that I participated with the literary magazine and explored poetry, the arts and politics, topics that I did not broach with males on the sports teams. But perhaps this just reinforces what the quote is saying: in a all-boys setting, sports and the arts are on a more equal setting than in a co-ed setting. None-the-less, I consider myself very fortunate to have attended a co-ed school setting, as I don’t think I would have had as broad of friends or experiences in a all-boys school.

Quote #4

They found at coed schools, you don't need to ask a dozen questions to predict the girl's self esteem. You have to ask only one question: "Do you think you're pretty?" (245 - 246)

In 1993, researchers asked this very question at both co-ed and single-gender schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At single-gender schools, appearance was only one of many factors that went into self esteem. Not so at co-ed schools, where it was appearance that was the defining characteristic of a young woman’s self esteem.

Ultimately, this solitary quote should be enough move us to action in reexamining gender roles in schools and in society. If women have some many more opportunities in school, business and society, why does appearance remain such a crucial issue? And in the United States, most young women do not have the opportunity to attend an all-girl school until college. The women answering this survey were middle school, a crucial time period in their development. The feminist movement was among many other things, a movement to allow women to succeed on merit, and yet our female children are coming of age in a culture where they feel they must be attractive to be valued. And that, simply put, is wrong.

Sax,Leonard, M.D., Ph.D.. Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About The Emerging Science of Sex Differences. New York City: Broadway Books, 2005.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division,
Education & Social Stratification Branch.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An amazing writing lesson with ELL students

Another Lesson Combining Metacognition, Writing, Speaking, & Listening by Larry Ferlazzo

"This week, after showing students a model of a persuasive essay, we had them write a short paragraph about a time they had to persuade someone to do something. In their paragraph, we asked them to use some of the key vocabulary words we had been learning (persuade, convince, reason, support, facts, etc.). Unlike the time I wrote about it before, this week students had to do more than just fill-in-the-blanks — they had to full construct their own paragraph. It’s a dry run for a more extensive persuasive essay they’ll be writing. We also took photos of students writing their paragraph, which we uploaded.

You can see and hear Bee’s example here. You can listen to Bryan, Mai Pa, and Payia. You can listen to many more here on our class blog.

The day after students recorded their paragraphs, we listened to them in the classroom. On small pieces of paper, after each one minute passage was played, all students needed to write what they liked about the recording, or describe the picture it made them see in their mind, or make a connection by writing what it made them remember (reading strategies we use and which we are also applying to listening activities). A student would then collect them all and give them to the student who spoke. While that was going, we would give specific feedback to the student (we’ve been working on pronouncing clearly and reading with “feeling”)."

This sounds like an amazing writing lesson. I definitely plan to take this model and use it with my students when I'm back to teaching.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I read this book over the past summer, and found myself discussing this book in my SEED class this month. While the book had little directly about education, it provides a lot of background knowledge of the experiences of asylum seekers.

On one level, you’ve got a book that puts a face on the struggles of asylum seekers. However, it might also make the struggles seem too big to solve. Here you have a country, Nigeria, that was supposedly peaceful, and yet you have some awful autrocracies occuring. Nigeria should be a country modernizing thanks to all oil, but instead that oil is leading to bloodshed and autrocracies.

Some might respond to this book by saying that the story is fictional and therefore some of scenes mentioned in the story are sensationalized. Some of the specific scenes might have been written to highlight certain aspects of each character, the situations in the story are all too real. Amnesty International has condemned the UK government for their detentions of asylum seekers. The violence in Nigeria is all too real.

As an educator, this book really encourages me to be more understanding of the asylum seekers in my own community. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have large groups of Somalian and Hmong immigrants, many of whom immigrated to escape similar situations as that that little bee faced. When the families struggle to adapt to the American education system this book provides perspective on what all they have had to struggle with. They have decided to leave their home to provide a safe environment for their family. They very well might not have wanted to leave, but were forced to by the violence. It's up to me as an educator to make their school experience on that celebrates their cultural experiences while at the same time preparing them for their new life in the United States.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Should we grade Parents? Not really

Huffington Post asks this question.

For me, I never think of a child from a challenging home life as needing that home life graded. I'm not sure what grading parents would do, nor how I would go about doing it as a teacher. And honestly, I've worked with very few parents, even ones that struggled to meet the needs of their child, that I couldn't find something that I thought they did well. So I think I couldn't support grading parents, as for too many parents, they are already wary to work with schools and teachers due to the parents own poor experiences in school. Worrying that they will be graded poorly will just increase their negative view of the school. While I think grades might make some parents more involved, for many, I think they will likely be turned off.

Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers To Grade Parents

Monday, January 31, 2011

Teach like a Champion looks like a good book

From the Huffington Post...

"The first is Doug Lemov's 2010 debut, Teach Like a Champion, a groundbreaking, controversial catalogue of 49 techniques "that put students on the path to college." Based primarily on thousands of hours of video and in-person observations of teachers who have helped their students dramatically raise scores on standardized tests (a metric Lemov calls "necessary but not sufficient"), the book is the most concrete, specific, and immediately actionable set of recommendations I've ever encountered as an educator. Those recommendations are also, often, shockingly simple and unglamorous -- from standing still while giving students directions (Technique 28: "Entry Routine") to ensuring that all students begin each class period with their materials out, ready to learn (Technique 33: "On Your Mark")."

Really interesting book, and I love that it's based on video and in person observations, rather than some writers idea of what worked in their own classroom. Very good looking book, and I have it reserved from my library.

How to Really Teach Like a Champion