Saturday, February 7, 2015

Memo #3

From your fieldnotes/teacher research journal, share some of the insights and questions that came from writing for 10 minutes every day about what has been happening in your classroom (or various classrooms, in Chris' case).  You can share excerpts from different days or choose one day's entry to copy and paste here. 

Something that has come to mind for me, in thinking about how/why some kids resist schooling practices, is the impact of the new generation.  I have heard that businesses and colleges are changing their expectations and practices to meet the unique needs of millenials, but as far as I can tell, K-12 schools aren't taking them into consideration, and are just operating in a business-as-usual mode.  We spend a lot of time talking about how different cultures don't know the "hidden transcripts" of schooling, but I wonder if it isn't broader than this.  Just something to throw into the mix as you consider your research questions :).


  1. I'm not sure who Chris is..but we are definitely in the same boat in the fact that we teach in various classrooms! I have been writing field notes for the past few days and I am already seeing some trends in my classes and in my own observations and questions. I have been sitting down for 10 minutes at the very end of the school day, and if something really important happens earlier in the day I just take a note on my ipad and put it into the field notes after school. I think, for me, after school is a good time to reflect because the day is still fresh in my mind, yet I have also had a little bit of time to process the day's information. Here are my field notes from day 2 of my research:

    -Just ended the day with a Socratic Seminar on the idea of chivalry and whether is is alive and well in today's time (Sir Gawain is the text a well as other informational articles)
    -Good discussion
    -A student (Brianna) asked me how I score the seminar. I told her basically that I keep track of the number of times they speak, textual evidence they use, insight, etc. She said "So, if I cam prepared with three questions and only asked one, am I going to get points off?"
    -It was almost like she discounted the amazing insight the group had displayed by narrowing it down to JUST the grade she would get.
    -Had lunch duty--spoke to the principal about how our graduation rate is 95%--one of the top five graduation rates in the country. I'm forced to question this though. What does this really mean? Are we just passing these students or offering computer program based course makeups just to say they graduated??
    -Also spoke to the principal about how many AP and Honors courses we offer at West compared to private schools--again I'm reminded that it is all about the numbers and the grades.
    -My colleague had a meeting after school to defend her grading system to a parent whose child has a B- in her class. I'll have to ask her how it went tomorrow.
    -They were plowing the parking lot so I had to park in the student lot.
    -Not sure how I feel about on-demand assessments--tried giving one to my senior college prep class today on their outside reading books.

    Hopefully, I'm on the right track!

    In terms of the questions about "the unique skills of millenials," what are we talking about? Technology? I think part of the problem is that our students are way beyond us in terms of technology skills and intuition. Will this even out as newer teacher phase in?? Just a question...definitely not an answer.

    1. Hi Melissa, Chris is in the other class and I should have deleted his name here.
      I love your insights here. Some of this is out of your control, but how students "perceive" what is meaningful versus what grade they get is fascinating to me. I think it's part of the culture that values quantitative numbers of measurement instead of buy-in and engagement, which are that much harder to measure. Maybe a potential research question could be in the vein of "what are ways to support students valuing the process of learning instead of the performance?"

  2. In my field research, I primarily focus on one class, but I am comparing other classes during the day. I have been asking myself a lot of questions in my field notes, hoping to come up with conclusions to my hypothesis. I found that writing in a physical, paper-bound journal, is the best way to take my field notes. I found myself using my tablet for everything, but quickly realized my tablet is not as assessable to me during the school day. So, paper and pencil it is.

    Notes from: January 29, 2015

    -Students in L.C. are sitting in seats- some are changing seats every day, some every week. Assuming students are trying to find the best way to learn. This might be the trial period? Some sitting on top of desks with feet in the seat others sit by themselves up front. Many are sitting with people who will support (friends)

    -4 students are having difficulty with finding the best way they learn, some embracing new found freedom; some are asking why I am doing this. I am telling them “I am doing this because I want to treat you like college students in an environment that supports YOU. You have some control in the way you learn.”

    -All students in L.C. handed in their work from last class. Some are more likely to ask questions on a H.W. assignment they seem to be happier about asking questions and sharing (taking a risk).

    -Students in D.F. are not getting work completed, many have IEPs and 504s, two additional adults in room. Trying to establish the connection between students who cannot do work after it has been reduced to a few problems. Chunking is not working.

    -RTI meeting on 4 students, who are having most difficulty, need to figure out why this is happening. Students are now given the freedom to eat lunch together on Fridays, after a long discussion on behavior.
    Why are only ¼ of my students in advisory only complete with Community Service and their typed reflections?

    The questions about millenials about how they learn is a challenging question because there are so many variables that come into play as a teacher working in an urban/low poverty school. As a borderline millennial, I feel that technology plays a large role in our student’s education. I think K-12 schools, depending on the district, might be limited. For one, in an urban/low poverty we find that students are capable of using technology, but mostly students have the accessibility of mobile technologies (smartphones/tablets). Many students do not have computers in their homes. In a recent survey done in our own district, using SurveyWorks, many of our students who might have computers, do not have computers accessing the Internet. I feel that our school uses technology to the best of our ability, but cannot make learning happen outside of the classroom. When we do create lessons, it is standard paper and pencil because it is accessible to everyone. As a millennial teacher, I would love to go paperless, if and only if, the technology was available to everyone equally.

    Since PARCC testing is computer-based, I see a push for technology in the near future.

    1. Lots of great notes here, Ken! I'm always drawn to the tensions and things that are not working, and that's what TR is about, in that what's the point of researching what is going well? If chunking isn't working for a group of students, I wonder what else is going on. The community service is also interesting. Is it a lack of availability? Not seeing the value? Knowing that many of your kids may be in need, does asking them to do community service push them beyond real or imagined boundaries? Hmm...and I like your point about millenials. So much of the info about them is from a white, middle class perspective that makes lots of assumptions. Are millenials from under-resourced backgrounds really millenials? Is that term somehow related to privilege in ways that are not addressed by the ways it's being used in popular media these days?

  3. In my field notes this week, I am noticing that I am often writing more openly about moments when “my boys” (because all of those students I feel this struggle with are boys) are not meeting my expectations. They are moments that I assume they shouldn’t really have difficulty with, but nevertheless there is tension or some sort of resistance.

    In one case, a student was reading a novel behind his binder when the rest of the class was eagerly reading/performing our play. In another, a student shouted out a rude comment toward a peer. In a third example, one student’s behavior escalated when he didn’t reach a goal and get the reward he had wanted.

    Taking these field notes has made me face the reality that the first words out of my mouth to a student cannot be, “Take off your hat” or “Put the headphones away” if I want to develop a relationship with that student. Really, I don’t care about hats in school. But in not wanting to be seen as a pushover, I have resorted to petty things like hats in the hallways to assert my authority. And why is it that I feel like I need to assert my authority? Because I assume that the students’ acts of resistance are unnecessarily intentional. From my point of view, the students at my school are so privileged - racially, financially, culturally. They have so much support and access to so many resources that others do not. They have progressive teachers who are not glued to textbooks, but engage them in hands-on learning about real world problems with guest speakers and opportunities for exploration. I don’t understand why there is tension and resistance because, from what I know about the world, they have it so good.

    I assume that several “my boys” are not succeeding because they are not taking themselves or their opportunities for learning and growing seriously. I guess this is because one of my personal theories about education is that it is the way to a personal satisfaction and a better future. I believe that school can be enjoyable. I think that students should be able to see the value of school and have some sense of intrinsic motivation. I think that following rules that are reasonable is a part of being a respectful citizen in any setting.

    When theorizing about what I think a classroom community should be like, I say that I don’t think blind compliance is the answer. Respect is the goal. But what does respect look like (for students and for teachers)? What does “trying your best” look like? What happens when “trying your best” still doesn’t meet the predefined expectations? What can I do to show resistant students that I am on their side while still helping them acknowledge their privilege?

    But I know so much of this is wrapped up in my own experience with school - where I was excelled and enjoyed going each day. It’s hard to get out of my own assumptions. What is the counter-narrative here? What am I not seeing?

    1. Hi Brittany, I like that you are naming your assumptions here. Now, part of young adolescence is resistance to authority, right? No matter what your age and privilege, it's a time for kids to find their identities as individuals, and that might mean rebelling. Also, the kids don't have anything to compare their school experience to. To them, it's still school and keeping them from what they would rather be doing. As a lifelong "good girl" what are some ways you can look toward understanding those who perceive rules to be trifling and unfair? What are ways to establish mutual respect? And how do you support kids whose best isn't good enough...for you? All good avenues for exploration!

  4. I was waiting until Monday to comment, hoping that I'd have another journal entry, but no school today. I have two journal entries so far, so it is hard to see a pattern or summarize my experience so far. So I have decided to share my journal entry from Friday:

    Today A was really giddy. She was in a super pumped up mood and it was sorta enjoyable to see her not so gloomy. I asked her if everything was ok, I have seen this behavior when someones meds are off, but she just said she was feeling super happy. It made the class environment a little bit different then normal, and even her classmates noticed that she couldn't stop talking, she is usually very quiet. I have seen her like this one other time this year.

    Today was T's last day in class, he did not want to share that with his classmates. I talked with Steve about the transfer, he isn't too excited to have T in his class because he is worried about how the dynamics will change in his class. Right now his students work well together, and he is afraid that T will stir that up. I hope that this is a good transition, and that T is successful in his math class. When I spoke with him yesterday he did not have much or anything to say. I explained how I had talked with his mother and Steve about the transfer and how it was his decision to make, but that we were all on his side and wanted the best for him. The only thing he could squeeze out was that he wanted to make the move. I did most of the talking just because the silence was awkward. When he left he said in a very cheerful voice, bye Ms. Henderson. I wish that he felt more comfortable to open up and talk.

    1. interesting that your focus is on communication from kids. It looks like you are a careful observer of individuals and yourself, especially in noticing your discomfort with T. Keep going in this direction...

  5. Although I've only been taking field notes for a few days, I can't help but notice even the tiniest difference in myself during class time - I feel as if I am much more thoughtful and purposeful with my words, choices, and actions. Or maybe I'm just starting to notice things I say, think, and do because it's a crucial part of TR. The teacher is just as important a variable in each classroom as anything else.

    Here are some notes from Week One:

    -Finally started discussion on Narrative Writing (ironically). In talking with students about what this means, many of them know narrative elements and how they are used in stories.

    -introduced part of the documentary "The Lady In Number 6" - for the first time all year, every single student was completely enthralled, listening to Alice tell her story about living through the Holocaust (two years ago, she was the oldest living Holocaust survivor).

    -Covered a class that was part of a Day One presentation with a guest speaker, Gloria. Several students were rude, making wise-guy comments and joking about the topics of today's discussion - don't they realize how serious the issues of dating violence and sexual abuse are? Especially at their age?

    -Had to return a parent's phone call - no answer, no email back. Her son has been failing my class all year, and this is the first I've heard from her. I brought concerns to guidance, have had several discussions with the student, and tried contacting mom earlier in the year. Mom never got back to me or guidance regarding my concerns, did not show up to parent-teacher conferences, and left a message at the school earlier this week because she wants to talk about "helping her son improve his grade." GAH. That's what I've wanted to talk about for the past four months. Why doesn't he hand any work in? Why doesn't he write in his Writer's Notebook? Or his Reader's Notebook? Why doesn't he want to make connections with other students?

    -Starting to get frustrated with a particular student and his behavior/attitude. It seems that no matter how I try to convey my issues with his disrespect/laziness/efforts, he is unfazed. Might bring this up to the principal to see if a small chat from him might help.

    -Finally got five chromebooks for my classroom - now I have to decide how these can be used most effectively and purposefully. Perhaps I can set something up and allow each group one chromebook when we begin our Literature Circles for The Devil's Arithmetic.

    -In my walks around the building (since I don't have a full schedule every day), I notice that I tend to see the same handful of students always out and about - random class periods, random times of the day. They are either getting a drink, walking into/out of the bathroom, walking as slowly as they can, or trying to put their cell phones away before they think I notice they have it. Why do these particular students have such a difficult time making it through a 50-minute class period? A couple of them are students that are definitely not passing a single class - why is their priority to be OUT of the classroom versus IN the classroom, where they can be making efforts to improve their grades - where they might learn something?

    So, I'm still having a difficult time finding a focus for my research project. I woke up yesterday morning from a dream in which I had DEFINITELY thought of the greatest idea, ever. I knew it, even in my sleep. The only problem is that I now have no idea what that idea was. Hmmmm.

    1. Ha! I had to chuckle at your last comment. I'm sure it will come back to you. See my answer to Britt. As another "good girl" you might not understand why students rebel/choose to not partake. When asking about why kids are out of the classroom, if it's a place where they are failing, why the heck WOULD they want to be there? I know I don't like to be in places where I don't feel valued.

  6. Brian Crookes
    SED 562
    Memo #3

    I have three areas of concern in writing this memo.

    First – we had a major controversial behavior problem on Friday 1-30. Had to ask all students to leave based on what started as the behavior of one. Ended up needing administration intervention to reach common agreement. I was happily surprised to see the level in which I was supported in this.

    Second – Productivity in class seems extremely inconsistent, not sure why. Some days we produce lots and lots of excellent classwork, other days none at all, I am not sure what role my leadership plays in this phenomenon.

    Third – Special events, we have had a few, Yoga trip to AS220 was outstanding, students far exceeded my expectations. Cooking and mentoring with special needs students is a strong component, and students who are connected are doing very well, attendance and productivity

    I have been thinking a lot lately about the students I have in my program, and how they got there. I am feeling less like they randomly got lost in their individual academic careers, and more like they are similar in their revolt against the traditional pedagogy.

    My research questions so far:

    Behavior ignored/tolerated/managed differently in G2S that might lead to being excused from class in other rooms:
    -Unprepared for class
    -Out of seat
    -Disruptive behavior
    -Inappropriate use of technology
    -Dress code
    -Disrespectful to students/faculty

    Are these behaviors learned, as an effective way to protest traditional model?

    How are productivity and attendance related?

    What outside factors contribute to success in program both as a group and individually? What can I do to address these outside factors?

    Transitional skills-how to decrease frequency of question 1 for success beyond high school.


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