Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

Standard 1: Teacher leaders model ethical and moral behavior.

 

After 11 years of teaching, I realized I never really considered the why behind many of the practices I hold to be paramount in my classroom. Practices not related to my content area, or to the school where I teach; instead, practices directly related to the adolescents who sit in front of me every day. Practices like sharing stories of my years of growing up, or reading thought-provoking articles and discussing what this might mean to people individually, or writing thank you notes to each student throughout the year to thank them for unique qualities that make each student an individual, or exploring novels together – when I teach math.   There must be a reason why “Respect” is the only rule in my classroom, and why it is the only rule I have ever needed to have. There must be a reason why I strive to make sure each student in my classroom knows that I value each student as an individual, and that getting to know them, and helping them become better thinkers, inventors, creators, and learners is my number one priority each year. Throughout this course, I have been asked to consider what morals are: where they come from, why they matter, and what place they hold in today’s education system. From this self-examination, I have concluded that my values — my subconscious understandings of how the world works, and how people work best within it — drive every decision I make when I consider my vision of a classroom and my role in achieving that vision.

The process to come to this conclusion has been a journey, to say the least. The majority of the learning in this course came from reading multiple texts, creating discussion board posts in response to the texts, and then reading and responding to other’s posts on the same topics. This virtual discussion allowed us to consider our responses to the content and express it in ways that you don’t always have in a class that meets in person on a regular basis, and I value the chances I have to interact with people from multiple advanced degree education programs, not just the Teacher Leadership focus that my degree has. Additionally, we had to consider our own background and ethics, to determine where our individual moral framework came from and how it impacts us as educators.

The class began with an exploration of Christian ethics, which was a challenging start to the class. Although we ultimately focused on ethics and morality as it relates to educators, the first text challenged me to consider where my own beliefs and morals have come from. I found repeatedly that many of my basic beliefs that I have simply never considered the origin of have come from biblical principals. Although I am a Christian, I was not raised in the church, so this section of the course led me to really consider how I developed those ideals without a biblical background as a young child and how that can translate to students who are sitting in my classroom on a daily basis.

Next we read a text that focused on the history of how moral education has been handled in America. This was an interesting focus for me, and somewhat of a struggle because I don’t love history. However, I found that when it was related to something that I care very much about – educating children – that I was more interested in the topics of study. My take away from this section of the course was that the definition of moral education is going to be ever changing. As our world changes and our societies adapt, the definition of what is important, who is in charge of teaching it, and how to best teach it will continue to change. It is important, as educators, that we are aware of this, and continue to learn and grow as the world around us does.

The third text of study focused on how to help students find character and compassion and connection in the public school setting. This was written from the eyes of an educator without a connection to religion, but instead with a consideration of what our students need on a daily basis to feel like they have an emotional connection and support system within the public school. This book truly touched on what it means to be an educator to me – not just a math teacher. It is imperative that I continue to reach out and support my students, that I educate their entire person and not just their mathematical ability. There are certainly colleagues I have who would disagree, but this text really validated my belief in educating the whole child rather than just the subject matter of my classroom. One chapter of this book discussed joy, and how to teach and share joy with students. This was a really interesting chapter for me. First, the definition of joy provided by the author, “..a delight and gratitude in being alive” (Kessler, 2000, p.73). I realized I have never really thought about what joy means to me, or how I would define it, but I love that definition. Then the section about how teenagers often hide their joy was also quite thought provoking for me. I see this often; my students can share about things that went wrong, or injustice that has been done to them by their parents/peers/pets/etc., but they struggle to really celebrate and be thankful for what they have experienced and all that has gone right. Even though I am a math teacher, I can easily incorporate joy into my classroom. I always share events about my life with my students, and I often share events that went well or caused joy. I can easily do more of that. I can also take a little time to ask students what went well, or what they are thankful for. It is easy for me to take a bit of time to touch base with students and see how they are doing, and to encourage them to celebrate and be joyful. Even just greeting the class with music playing can be enough to create joy for some students.

Last, we studied a text that discusses how to take religion seriously regardless of the curriculum area. This book did not have a section on religion in the math classroom, which was disappointing to me, but did offer insight on how religion fits into education, and the role of the teacher.

This course gave me reason to pause and consider why I believe what I do and how that impacts my job as a public school teacher. I feel very strongly that my place as an educator remains in the public school classroom, and that my job is more than just teaching math to high school students. Being challenged to consider why that is, and how it fits in the broader idea of moral education as a whole was a unique experience for me. In the future, I plan to continue to research and learn about ways to teach the whole child, and how to support emotional and spiritual growth without it coming from a Christian perspective (as it is public school, and I have many students who have a different religious background).

Resources:

Bennett, C. A. (2014). Creating Cultures of Participation to Promote Mathematical

Discourse. Middle School Journal, 46 (2), 20-25.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality.

Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Haynes, C.C. & Nord, W.A. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Kessler, R. (2000). The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and

Character at School. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

McClellan, B.E. (1999). Moral Education in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Miller, R. & Pedro, J. (2006). Creating Respectful Classroom Environments. Early

Childhood Education Journal, 33 (5), 293-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10643-006-0091-1

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A., & Ortega, L. (2014). Inspiring Teachers:

Perspectives and Practices Summary Report. CfBT Education Trust.

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Research with Technology

This week our online class focused on researching a topic from our technology growth plan by working through the Big6 process. This is the first time I have been exposed to the Big6, although as I was working through, I found that I naturally work through this process as I tackle any large task. The first step is intentionally defining your task. For me, this meant I had to decide which aspect of my technology growth plan I was going to focus on. I opted to research about creating infographics; because that is the most student-centered activity that I am implementing, and therefore, is the one that is going to require the most work on my part to prepare for. Next, we went on a search for information, attempting to find the very best resources along the way. I discovered that, for this topic, my go-to search engine (google) was really the best for providing me with relevant resources. After we organized our links in an easy to access space (diigo), we then synthesized and evaluated as we put our work into an annotated bibliography.

This process was good for me to go through for several reasons. First, this forced me to really think about what I was trying to accomplish. I often get lost when I start researching different ideas online. One site links to another, and before I know it, I am 4 topics away from the one I was attempting to research. This is sometimes really great because I find ideas that I didn’t know I was looking for. Other times, this can be a problem because I lose to good resources I was discovering along the way. Second, this process had me thinking about how I could really use them. There were several sites that I found that I didn’t include because they just weren’t unique enough, or didn’t provide me with enough information. Although I learned from those sites, I just didn’t need to focus my time because they weren’t “the best of the best”. Lastly, summarizing the content and evaluating its effectiveness as it related to my classroom was a huge tool. Just like I learn a topic most clearly when I think about teaching it, when I have to summarize and considering a site’s usefulness the information becomes something I have a hard time forgetting.

Technology is invaluable in this process. I am from a generation that had to learn what a search engine is, but I did have computers and access to web searches from middle school on. The majority of my research in college took place in online databases with full text articles. I might have set foot in the actual library five times in four years of college. Without technology, I doubt I would have access to as many resources that are as up-to-date and pertinent, especially about using technology. I feel that things change so quickly, and new tools are introduced so regularly, that without a way to share them almost instantly, we would all be very behind.

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Digital Citizenship

My students use technology daily. They use technology for school, at home, for work, for social interactions, for reasons even they themselves are unsure of. In my research on digital citizenship this week, I found a fascinating PBS program entitled “digital_nation life on the virtual frontier”. While the entire program is 90 minutes, I think even the first chapter is an eye-opener for educators (and it is less than 9 minutes long, so you can fit it in, I promise!). Our students have grown up in a world where technology has always existed, and yet our society has been inventing the rules for our interactions with technology as we go. This has resulted in generations of students who aren’t quite sure what is and is not appropriate when interacting as a digital nation. As an educator, technology has made my job much easier and much harder. I have amazing resources at my fingertips, and can open my students’ eyes to where my curriculum fits in the world, but I have to teach and model appropriate practices as I go.

One way I can work to incorporate this in my classroom is by modeling appropriate email communications when I interact with my students, as well as parents and other educators. I can also provide explicit teaching and resources on this in my classroom. While researching this topic, I found three great resources for this (a ISTE article, a StoryboardThat activity, and an RIT handout). I teach 2 classes that are primarily 9th graders, 1 class that is primarily 12th graders, and 2 classes that are a mix of 9th – 11th grade students. While I think that the ability to communicate professionally using technology is a “must have” skill in their world, I don’t want to stop there. I would like to also teach students about their place in the digital world; how they can use their power to have a positive impact on others. I would like to put it all together to teach students how they can produce information that can be helpful for others, how they can do this in a way that respects copyright, and how they can present it in a professional manner. Coming up with ways to do this is a priority for me, as I realize that I have a long way to go when it comes to promoting digital citizenship in my classroom.

Haiku

Here is the activity embedded into Haiku and ready to go!

On a side note, in the process of completing the coursework this week, I was introduced to padlet.com. This is a site that allows multiple users to post comments, or virtual sticky notes, to a board that is visible to others who have the link to that particular padlet. I have been looking for better ways to let my students post their group work in a way that is accessible to others, and will allow me to sort responses by similar “big ideas”. This tool will let me do just that! I am going to try it out on Monday with my Algebra 1 students. I already have a “thought bubble” activity planned asking students to identify difficulties associated with solving a particular literal equation. I was able to put the prompt into a padlet board, and embed it into Haiku. I am going to ask students to work with their groups to identify the difficulties, as I was going to do before, but instead of just having students share out, I am going to ask students to post using their netbooks to the padlet. Then I can revisit it when everyone has completed the activity, and students in my 2nd period class will be able to see 6th period responses and vice versa. I am really excited to see how this activity ends up! I always love to find new ways to incorporate technology in a way that enriches and extends my classroom.

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