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14 Apr 2013

Unprepared High Schoolers

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

For the longest time, I have heard so many incoming freshman, from multiple universities, complain about how ill-prepared they are entering college.  Many of the students who even come from schools that implement programs to help them with the transfer to higher level education.  Personally, from being in the Governor’s School, a program that allows students to complete college credit classes, I still felt that I wasn’t prepared for college.  The program is also supposed to help with time management.  I was greatly honored to be a part of the school, but I do not think it did its intended underlying job of preparing students for college.

Mississippi and Maine are two states that have debated on creating two different bills that will potentially aid in this problem.  According to the Huffington Post, “Lawmakers in Mississippi will likely vote on two bills this winter that would require public school districts to front the costs if their graduates require remedial courses in the state’s community colleges.”  The positive about this is that it will make the teachers push to ready themselves their students.  In reality, the school district administrators will be the ones to push their employees or the teachers to make changes.  The negative is that not all students will be prepared for the times ahead in college, however much more they are taught.

high-schools-may-have-to-_n_2576976.html

After watching this video, I am more convinced that what secondary schools are teaching doesn’t always work to prepare the youth for what they will encounter if accepted to college.  Many students have to complete college seminar classes where they are taught what to expect in school.  They are also given hints and tips that they can use to help themselves through certain facets of college that are troubling.  Overall they need and desire to simply put what they have learned into play when beginning a new chapter of life.  There needs to be something implemented for students to learn more about college, this program that Mississippi and Maine have began, may be a great answer.

 

31 Mar 2013

Physical Activity in Learning

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

The past few blogs have been about the different implementations of educational policy and why they usually wouldn’t work.  From the reasons why certain facets of conservative education have been lost, to why PBL will not work in all areas of education, there have been different posts about educational issues that are missing.  One part of schooling that usually doesn’t count as education is the physical aspect of learning.  Now-a-days the first things to go in schooling are the arts and physical education.  There is a huge need for keeping physical education in schooling for kids to learn.  Not only do we need physical education, but using interactive learning in the classroom keeps kids focused and alert, ready to learn more.

It has been proven study after study that having physical activity in the classroom and during physical education is advantageous.  For elementary students, its imperative that they get to go to recess or do some physical activity.  Many teachers punish students by taking away their recess time, or not letting them “play” for long when they are fidgety or misbehave in class.  Most of the time, this anxiousness that children posses is a need for them to move and interactive with one another.  Once they have exerted some energy, they will be calmer and more willing to learn.  Having this activity in the schools will also cut down on childhood obesity, which has been an increasingly larger problem throughout America.  As a result, it can also cut down on one of the nation’s top killers including: cancer, obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.  Also, by teaching important fundamentals in the classroom involving health, these kids will have building blocks to live a healthier lifestyle and learn to be better citizens.

There are many more advantages to having physical education in schools than just staying away from ailments, and this bulleted list from the CDC

  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.
  • Helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.
  • May help improve students’ academic performance, including
    • Academic achievement and grades
    • Academic behavior, such as time on task
    • Factors that influence academic achievement, such as concentration and attentiveness in the classroom

25 Mar 2013

Change for Pay

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

Respect is Earned

When most people think of teachers, they will always go back to their best teacher, their worst teacher, the most influential teacher in their life, and probably one or more they are still in contact with.  Teachers are more than just instructional leaders in a classroom, they should be life coaches, motivators, and people whom you can trust and confide in.  Personally, I think about three different teachers who were guides for me in life and had incredible teaching abilities.  I also think about how much I appreciated the over  time they put in, coming in to school early, always going the extra mile to do work after school, still being able to keep it together for the rest of the class.  With teachers like this who are willing to put themselves aside, to serve others around them, it amazes me that they are not paid more.  Now, I’m sure there are many out there who can think of a teacher whose inferior use of teaching skills and lack of effort really brings about emotions of disgust, but teachers are the ones who make a student’s success.

According to an article published in the Bloomberg Businessweek, “research confirms that teachers are crucially important to students’ success.”  Without good teachers, students won’t learn, so the only option for student success is to have good teachers.  So how do you get good teachers?  Just have them get their teaching license, maybe shadow a few classrooms and then throw them into the world?  This leads to great deal of people being able to begin teaching with little experience and knowledge of how to lead a classroom, which in turn leads to poor teaching.  However, most of the “cons” for why teachers shouldn’t have an increase in pay is because of the teachers who have poor scores, poor attitudes, and a lack of effort when it comes to molding young minds.  With the implementation of educational policy of the current years, teachers are having a great deal more on their plate to deal with.  They are being taught more in college with student teaching and have more technologies they must learn and teaching tools they must work with.  This in itself will weed out many teachers who are not completely dedicated to having their students’ success put first.  Teachers need a raise because most are doing an incredible job.  When teachers, as a whole, aren’t seen for doing a noteworthy job, they are one of the first jobs to be thought of to cut.  So, as you think about how that can be true, ask Rhode Island what happened.

 

20 Mar 2013

Drill n’ Kill Learning

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

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Watch this video for a better understanding of pros and cons for standardized testing.

Standardized testing is a highly debated topic throughout the public school system. These tests are used as an objective measure of student achievement. So what’s the problem with that? The problem is that these tests are minimal competency tests. They have been “dumbed down” to cater to students on the lower end of the GPA scale. Tweaking these tests so that more students will succeed on them is not helping to improve education in America. It is only giving us a false sense of improved knowledge. “Standardized testing has not improved student achievement. After NCLB passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to 31st place in 2009, with a similar drop in science and no change in reading.” These statistics prove that standardized testing is not helping to improve America’s public school systems.

 

On top of this, many teachers find themselves teaching material with the sole purpose of getting their students through these standardized tests. This narrows the window that teachers have to encourage creativity and critical thinking skills in the classroom. “”Teaching to the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” rote learning. A five-year University of Maryland study completed in 2007 found “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test'” since NCLB was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.” Unfortunately, teachers don’t have much wiggle room in the matter. They are judged by their students’ success rates on these tests so it’s their job on the line if they don’t teach with the goal in mind being standardized tests.

http://standardizedtests.procon.org/#did_you_know

I’m not trying to say that standardized testing should be completely dissolved from our school system, but I do believe that it should be changed. President Barack Obama never openly stated whether he was for or against standardized testing in the recent Presidential Election, but he did have ideas for change that had substance to them. He stated that, “Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we’ve said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well…” His view, and it’s one that I agree with, is that we shouldn’t get rid of standardized testing, but it also shouldn’t be holding as much weight as it does. There are more important things that students should be focused on learning. A classroom that isn’t teaching to these tests is more likely to help students develop critical thinking skills which will help them to be more successful in the real world and in high education institutions.

http://2012election.procon.org/view.answers.election.php?questionID=1723

 

10 Mar 2013

Discipline Among Policy

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

Dr. Shehu Raheem Adaramaja of the University of Ilorin in Nigeria, a very prominent and successful African university, has a very valid point on discipline when it comes to education.  He believes that “any society which is not disciplined cannot progress, so also undisciplined school is bound to fail.”  Discipline is needed for all facets of life, not matter the size or magnitude of the situation.  Education in particular should be a very structured system that is in dire need of discipline.  Without discipline, there can be too many distractions for others who are in pursuit of knowledge, ethical morals may not be taught, and a lack of respect will develop.

After conducting an interview with a teacher with almost 20 years of experience under her belt, it was clear that discipline is very much needed in the classroom.

“Without discipline, there will be no management in the classroom.  With a classroom that is full of students, having a distraction that is caused by one or two pupils, there is teaching time that is taken away from all.  For example, many students just want attention, although it may be negative attention.  If they are told not to do something, they will do it just to get attention.”

After asking her what type of discipline needs to be used, she gave me a few different styles and uses of how she controls her classroom. “Using praise and modeling as means of example are very good techniques”, she said.  Three different things I tell my students when they enter my classroom.

  • You are in control of yourself.
  • You know right from wrong.
  • I expect you to be respectful to everyone in the room.

Establishing guidelines for the students and trying to use positives as a source of this really helps.  Using a great deal of verbal praise really helps tone down misbehavior and is a good way to discipline in a positive way.  Being very personal with all students is key in having a very manageable classroom.

Now with her having said all this, I want to bring attention to a different way to discipline students.  Across the seas, over in the Asian countries there is more pressure put on youth are desire to obtain an education.  The difference with education here and education there is choice.  Most of the children in the poorer countries want to and absolutely desire to go to school and know the penalty for not only misbehaving, but failing.  In a Chinese educational blog based in Shanghai, there were descriptions of punishments for minor things that were quite surprising.

This is an excerpt from that blog:

“In February, a primary school boy named Taotao (not his real name) was attending basketball practice on a playing field being shared with a middle school running class. Mistaking Taotao for one of his students, the middle school sports teacher enquired as to why the boy was not running as instructed. When Taotao replied that he was not a middle school student, and did not know the teacher, he was pulled by the collar and kicked to the ground. After getting back up, the teacher slapped the boy’s face and again kicked him to the ground. More punitive action followed including a kick to the groin (Chinese press report here).

Taotao suffered facial injuries, minor concussion, hearing impairment and bruising, among others. The boy’s family received 8,000 RMB from the teacher to cover hospital expenses, and Taotao’s parents chose not to take the matter further. As a result, no further action was reported to have been taken to discipline the teacher involved.”

 

Finally, to bring this back to its intended purpose, where does this discipline fit in to our own educational policy.  If we are going to implement programs such as Project Based Learning to have technology, and to teach our students that they will be competing for jobs not only in their region but globally, shouldn’t we discipline them the same way?  Shouldn’t we be broadening their mindful horizons with the fact that gaining an education is a privilege and should be seen as such.  If children are being treated inhumanely in China, but still suffer and continue with their education, should we do the same here?  The simple answer is, of course not.  We do not live this way in our society, but the question needs to be asked.  Where do we draw the line when it comes to discipline in our schools?  What happened to the so called “good-ole-days” when kids were supposedly scolded and paddled and learned their lesson?  Some teachers are afraid to even tell a kid to sit down in class because of a potential law suit coming their way from a parent.

Now I’m not saying we need to bring the paddles back out and put kids in a closet to bring attention to a disciplinary problem, but I think some old school regulation is what schools and students need today.

24 Feb 2013

Problem Based Learning

Posted by Conner Freeland. 2 Comments

(Vachon, John. Library of Congress)

Project Based Learning or (PBL) is a 21st Century implementation in elementary and secondary schools.  This idea is to build projects for kids that are “central, not peripheral to the curriculum”  ( Thomas, J)  PBL also teaches children things that are outside of the curriculum, which I personally believe is a good thing.  However, with this criterion kids are made to present or complete projects that may not be at their learning level.  One of the leading problems with PBL is that it is not regionally specific.  The same policy is governing schools whether they be public, private, urban, or rural.  This is where there becomes a huge problem in dealing with one of PBL’s principal aspects, technology.

I had the pleasure of interviewing an educator from a Blue Ribbon Award winning elementary school, and I learned a great deal from their first year with the system.  This teacher, whom wanted to remain anonymous, said they did not agree with the system.  It doesn’t necessarily help the child with their learning.  According to this teacher’s first person experience PBL is cutting out some of the fundamentals that children need to base their education on.  Some teachers have gotten so caught up in actually doing the projects that they take an enormous amount of time away from children learning the basics.  Projects are positive things to do but teachers should not be made to feel that they are losing the class to these projects.

This teacher also emphasized how that another facet of PBL is to put the power of learning into the children’s hands.  This idea is good for high school kids or older middle school kids, however telling children to look up and learn certain things is a mistake.  Teachers are being taken out of actual education that kids actually need.  At the elementary level, more children need to be involved in simple academics such as reading, math, and writing.  The system is trying to teach them higher level thinking when their simple common sense isn’t being used enough.  Teachers are instructed to get creative as possible and use technology or anything that would be used in the work force.  The ipads, sony digital cameras, and ipods that are being used aren’t being used outside of the classroom for these kids.  The majority of the population in the rural area of this school will either go to community college, go into the work force, or not do anything after graduation.   Many of these kids will not even move very far from the region and more schools, if they are going to apply their scholastics to jobs, need to be relevant to jobs that will be open.

18 Feb 2013

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

My hometown community and the school system concern me a great deal in ways I cannot completely explain.  Like many others, I want to see them do well in their education, athletics, individual organizations, and extracurricular activities.  On the flip side, there are a handful of people who want to know what happens outside of those few acres of land     Educational policy is going to tear down more school systems before it will have a chance to build anything.  Too many people in the area are too worried with what the outsiders view on the school system is, instead of how the students view of themselves and how they view the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was raised and influenced by some incredible educators in secondary and other levels of education.  I would also like to say that these are my views and arguments, not the opinions of others who work in the school system.

The concern with the school system scares me because of the effect it already has, and is having, on the youth.  I understand at this point educational policy will be hard to change from the bottom-up, but I want to see it implemented in a way that fits the already placed system.  The often used quote of, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it” could apply, although I’ve heard one more fitting for this day in age.  A man very successful and talented at his craft once said, “If it’s not broke, break it”.  He saw that being complacent was a terrible and tragic fixation.  Now I will take his ideology further and say that, yes, maybe “fixing” an ideal is an answer, but how much do you change it?  What do you sacrifice in order to implement this new and improved way of thinking?

I want to analyze what students are really learning in schools and how it transfers to real life situations.  I want to know what they can take from the classrooms and apply it to what they will be doing.  I want to know what they can do on an Ipad and how being in a technologically savvy classroom aids their learning when they will most likely never have these items at home. I want explanations to why discipline is no longer prevalent in schools, and why the youth isn’t allowed to be who they want to be in a structured environment.   I want to see changes in policy where kids are put first, and not the standards of what school should be.

 

15 Feb 2013

Hello world!

Posted by Conner Freeland. No Comments

Growing up in the small rural county of Charlotte, Virginia, I’ve always wondered what the outside world was like.  I wanted to expand my knowledge, my culture, and everything about my being.  I played sports like many other high school kids my age, and was pretty good at football specifically.  Simply being a student-athlete wasn’t all I wanted to be, so I began to create who I am today.  I wanted to make changes in various ways and break molds.

I went on one very enlightening mission trip every year of my high school career and was able to see almost every state.  I still need to experience about seven now.  Playing drums for almost fifteen years now after being taught by, a combination of my brother and myself, has been inconceivably rewarding.  It is one of my loves and until I can no longer move, I will play percussion of all genres, countries, and types, and play it passionately.  I’ve been a leader and a follower, a teacher and a student, and influential in both positive and negative facets of life.

I currently am a junior at Longwood University and am pursuing a career in Kinesiology to be an athletic trainer one day.  I also am presently getting involved on campus and in various communities and plan to make a difference in more ways than one.