December 18, 2006

Rewards and Positive Reinforcement no good?

Posted in classroom management, education books at 9:36 pm by mrsmauck

I’ve been meditating on my classroom management style lately, as I get closer to heading into interviews, and as I read Pat Conroy’s entertaining, inspiring teacher memoir, The Water is Wide. Browsing some lists on Amazon the other day, I came across a classroom managment book called Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I had been trying to mesh the ideas Harry Wong proclaims to be so foolproof when it comes to controlling the kiddies’ behavior with what I’ve read in The Passionate Teacher about course content being the ultimate discipline tool. Punished by Rewards seems to contest one of Wong’s chief tenets: that positive reinforcement and rewards will get students to work hard. Here’s what I finally figured out about what I think about Wong: How do his procedures and systems encourage self-discipline? I think too often, they require a lot of organization on the part of the teacher, and a bunch of memorization and Pavlovian responses from students. Anyway, this book by Kohn says these three things are what truly make students motivated, disciplined, and respectful:

  1. Content, or curriculum.
  2. Collaboration.
  3. Choices.

I think I agree with this. I’m not going to establish elaborate reward systems before I begin teaching. I think I’ll do some sort of consequences chart for students to see what could result from behavior that disrupts learning, and then focus mostly on teaching the students in a way that is motivating and challenging and requires us to work as a team, while still allowing them to make choices that suit their talents and interests.

Conroy, by the way, is keeping me in stitches! I love how he is such a great example of all these modern educational theories like mulitiple intelligences and individualized instruction, while still calling the kids punks and saying “Bullcrap” when they tell him that a rattlesnake can eat a man. I just finished reading a section when he said one of his sacred tenets of education was that the teacher should always purvey an air of insanity and eccentricity to keep the kids on their toes. Hooray! It’s finally okay to be the nut I really am!


December 13, 2006

Too difficult for regular students?

Posted in curriculum, grad school at 6:20 pm by mrsmauck

Okay, teachers, I need your opinions: My Methods teacher said my lesson on McCarthyism would not be suited to regular classes (but instead to AP or GT kids), and docked me 5 points! I want you guys to tell me if this is too much for normal juniors in high school: I’ve copied the text from my intro PowerPoint on McCarthyism. FYI, students will construct/create McCarthyism museum exhibits as one of their final projects for this unit: there won’t be a test over McCarthyism, so this presentation is really to get an overall understanding for discussion of The Crucible as an allegory and to get ideas for the exhibit they will choose.

Slide 1:
A Very Proper Gander (humorous fable by James Thurber) in today’s world? (I used this as an opening activity)
* Racial profiling (chart from U.S. DOJ on number of black homicide offenders and number of whites)
* NSA Wiretapping
(Discuss judging based on appearances, the govt.’s rights to do so, post 9/11 world, etc.)

Slide 2:
Red Scare of 1950s
* “Are you now or were you ever a member of the Communist party?”
(Ask students what they think of when they hear the word communism: positive/negative? What does it mean?)
*Communism def.: a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.
*Flag symbolizes unity between agricultural and industrial workers.
(Discuss: this sounds like it could be good, yes? Who would not like this system? Who runs our government? Riiiight.)

Slide 3:
Second Red Scare: 1947-1957
* Cold War made U.S. extremely suspicious of Communists: Communist Party of the United States had 50,000 members in 1942.
*Senator Joseph McCarthy kick started anti-Communist fervor with a 1950 speech in which he proclaimed to have a list of more than 200 Communists working for the State Department.
*Alger Hiss, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg arrested for espionage, accused of being Soviet spies.
*Communism, though never illegal, became equal to treason to the United States.
*Anti-Communist “loyalty review boards” sprung up at all levels of government and for private companies.

Slide 4:
J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI
*Hoover developed his assignment to rid the country of disloyal radicals and leftists into the FBI.
*Distributed blind memoranda (anonymous documents) that indicated Communist loyalty through its “Responsibilities Program” to employers, often resulting in firing without any questions asked.
*Used many illegal practices in its pursuit of information (burglaries, wire-tappings, undercover operations.)
*COINTELPRO, a formal “dirty tricks” program, in which the FBI planted forged documents, leaked information to the press, called for IRS audits, etc. on organizations that were suspected of Communist or radical activity.
(Compare to NSA Wiretapping. Can the govt. do illegal things during times of war?)

Slide 5
House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)
*Investigated many German-American Nazis during WWII.
*Became especially associated with the investigation of Communists, particularly suspects in Hollywood. (1947)
*Hollywood Ten: First Amendment
*Supreme Court ruling: Defendants may Claim the Fifth, but if they waive that right and do talk, they must “name names.”
*McCarthy: “Fifth Amendment Communists”
(Discuss: Think for a moment about what you would do in this situation? Would you be willing to lose work and your reputation to save the names of your friends?)

Slide 6
Hollywood Blacklist
*The day after the Hollywood 10 were cited for contempt (Nov. 1947), the MPAA released a statement that none of the major studios would knowingly employ a Communist.
*Arthur Miller was one of the people on the blacklist.

Slide 7
Arthur Miller: A Communist?
*“I would never have found it believable, in the 50s or later, that with its thuggish self-righteousness and callous contempt for artists’ freedoms, that the Soviet way of controlling culture could be successfully exported to America.”
*He was subpoenaed by HUAC in 1956, and was cited for contempt for refusing to name names.
*Longtime friend and director Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront) was also called before HUAC, and under the threat that he would never work again, confessed and named names.
*Miller began thinking about the “red hunt” as a “witch hunt” and was inspired to write The Crucible.

From here, go into discussion of the setting of the Salem Witch Trials: assess their prior knowledge, see how they think this parallels McCarthyism. Introduce graphic organizer in which students will fill in parallels between McCarthyism and the events of The Crucible.

If I used this presentation with regular juniors or seniors, would it just go over their heads? My brother is a senior in high school, and he read The Crucible this year, and his teacher never once mentioned parallels to McCarthyism. I don’t see how you can do this! Please help me out.

December 6, 2006

Teaching Shakespeare, The Crucible

Posted in curriculum, grad school at 9:20 pm by mrsmauck

This is the last week of classes at Local U, and I gave a presentation on teaching Shakespeare Monday, and Wednesday, a lesson presentation from a unit plan I did for my Methods class titled *deep breath* “Personal freedom vs. Institutional control” (using The Crucible, McCarthyism projects, and YA novels The Chocolate War, After, and The Wave). Getting this unit ready was intense! Five weeks’ worth of discussion questions, daily plans, assignment sheets, rubrics, a test, a PowerPoint, etc.

My Methods teacher’s comment was that my lesson was very well-organized and I used questions very effectively with the students, but that a discussion on McCarthyism might be a bit over 11th graders’ heads. The lesson I presented was an intro to the unit: background on McCarthyism, introduction of themes, etc. What do you all think? Can you discuss The Crucible without discussing McCarthyism? I never learned about McCarthyism until I got to college, and then I found it fascinating, and for my teaching philosophy of forming critical thinkers, I think a unit on it is very appropriate. I tied in racial profiling after 9/11, NSA Wiretapping, and used a fable by James Thurber called “A Very Proper Gander” to introduce the ideas of policing your neighbors and a culture of fear and suspicion. What do you all real teachers think? Is this stuff too heavy for high schoolers? Or do they need it? How do you simplify it?

Dedicated reader, at your service

Posted in fun at 4:22 pm by mrsmauck

Here’s a fun quiz for all you English teacherly types; you’ll probably get similar results!

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
<a href=”What Kind of Reader Are You?
<a href=”Create Your Own Quiz

December 4, 2006


Posted in teacher certification, testing at 2:31 pm by mrsmauck

I got my results Friday from the English OSAT, and I passed! Whoop! 284 out of 300, so I wouldn’t say flying colors, but a comfortable margin. Riddle me this, though: How does one get a perfect score on the constructed response (essay question) and a 267 on the writing questions? I can write, but don’t know how to explain it? Hmmm… If only they would return your test booklet and answer sheet, with incorrect answers marked.