Sunday, April 28, 2013

Teacher Comments - Part 4

My Comment to John Spencer's Adventures in Pencil Integration Blog
Subject: Remember Pencil Quests?
  In this latest post Mr. John Spencer talks about a Pencil Quest that one of his sophomore teachers created and how different it was from what other teachers at that time were doing. It was a very simple game: follow your map to each site where a page is waiting, there you will answer the questions and go to the next site. When they began the game a "crazy part" took over because all of the kids, even though you were using a pencil and you could not follow a different map, were having fun. This teacher was teaching the same subject as others but did so in a way that made it exciting because he was not strapping them down to a desk but engaging them in the subject. Mr. John Spencer says that when he thinks back on those quests he gets a little embarrassed but at the same time you can feel his pride in his teacher for being a "Pioneer" for his generation of teachers. He ends by saying that even though his students love the concepts of their projects, blogs and pen pals he wonders when they look back what they will see as "quaint" like he did with the Pencil Quest.

  I told Mr. John Spencer that I too was proud of those teachers who were "different" in terms of their teaching styles because those were the ones that, while the lesson might have been simple or short, engraved it deeper than others. In my sophomore year of high school I moved during Christmas and had the chance to see two very different teachers, one from New York City and the other from Alabama, teach the same lesson of math. The first stayed with the concepts of the book, taught each lesson in order and we did lots, lots of worksheets over the weeks. But in Alabama the first day our teacher can in, wrote all the formulas on the board from the chapters and started singing on her guitar. The songs were simple because instead of saying the formulas we were singing them but even after all these years I still remember those songs. I told him that I wanted to be more like her, him and his teacher because they were different and students want more and do more than they might have in another teacher's room. I ending saying that I hope when it is my time that I never settle for what others are doing but instead show my students to keep moving forward and thanks him for all that he has done.

My Comment to John Spencer's Adventures in Pencil Integration Blog
Subject: The Con Academy 
  In this post Mr. John Spencer wrote about, in a very unusual and entertaining manner, the Khan Academy and their way of "flipping" a classroom. In this sense the class is divide into those who get the material, those who do not and those who wish to push further into the subject. They chose what worksheets they will do for class, how many and to "work at his or her level independently" of the teacher. When Mr. John Spencer was introduced to the man from this academy he did not like it because, while yes it would keep the students busy  it gave them too much freedom in what got done for the class and at what level. Mostly it was a stack of worksheets meant to keep the students free of any time that they would either be listing to the teacher or not doing any work. Mr. John Spencer found this pointless but the principal chose the Academy over the warnings and concerns of  a seasoned teacher. He ends saying that while the "con academy" was a free gift so was the Trojan Horse.

  I commented saying that I understood that he did not like a system that valued the "busy work" of students who might simply be working below their grade/skill level to make it easier on then over the teachings of a real teacher. I told him how every time I had to do it it felt as if the teacher did not care about us and just wanted us to be quite. I said that I liked it when I had the textbook on-line because I could easily look up information and still study if I had to leave my backpack at home while on a trip but I needed a teacher more. They are the reason why a child wants to learn or not and sending them to a school where they are asked "how much work would you like to do for your grade?" and not "I see that you can do better" makes them question if trying is worth it. I told him that I was sorry that the principal did not listen to him but maybe because he wrote this article that others will see it and begin to really question is this version of flipping a class is good or not for the students. 

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