Wednesday, December 9, 2015

field observation - final summative post

I truly enjoyed all of the field observations: Mayfield Middle School, Gearity Elementary School and Shaker Heights High School.  The ten hours I observed at Boulevard Elementary, however, was my favorite experience.  I came into John Carroll wanting to be a third grade teacher and my experience with Mrs. Fagan and her class just confirmed it.  I remember reading a chapter “Why Teach?” in the “Education Foundations” textbook.  I loved being around young students and watching them grow.  It is rewarding to explore with students, subject to subject.
                  During my field observation, I remembered doing that project in class, where we go to a location and just write down what we observed.  Through observation, I learned the art of awareness to help me approach the world as children do – with openness.  I have learned so much about what I would like to do and not do in my future classroom.  Technology was used in several classrooms that I had observed, which leads students to the future.  I want my classroom to be set up like Mrs. Fagan’s classroom, with encouraging posters and students’ artwork.  I want the students to be surrounded by crafts, puzzles, blocks and books.  I want every part of the room to be utilized for learning.  I want my lessons to be like Gearity’s preschool class, where the students learned by playing and through hands-on activities.  All of my observations had something to offer and is something I will take with me when I become a teacher.        

Gearity - Field Observation

I observed a preschool class at Gearity Elementary School.  The kids were adorable, however preschool is not the grade level I prefer.  I could tell the teacher loved her job.  She was very passionate and kind.  The students loved her.  The teacher and her students had their own handshake.  There was another lady in the classroom, as well, to assist the teacher.

The students sat in a circle on a piece of carpet, facing the teacher.  The class started off by singing a song about the weather.  The teacher picks a "meteorologist" to go to the window to tell everyone what the weather looks like outside.  Next, the students would have to go to the board and point to the letter that their name starts with.  The teacher then read to the students.

After that, it was all play.  There were different sections of the classroom for the children to play.  There was an art center for children to craft.  There was an area to give the plastic toys a "bath."  The literacy center had iPads, for the students to play games.  The blocks for building helps with fine motor skills.  Students were divided into different groups.  When I become a teacher, I would like to incorporate the hands-on activities in my class, with whatever I am teaching that day.  I never want my students to stop playing.  

Day 3 - Observation

I really liked how Mrs. Fagan did rotation.  She met with three small groups separately for math and reading.  This reminded me of the school in Finland that we had learned about.  While she was working with her small group, the other students would be working on something else, such as: spelling words, writing in cursive, word hunts, worksheets or activities on the laptop.  Before the next lesson starts, Mrs. Fagan tests the students.  The group is different each time, depending on the scores of the student's test.  The students that had difficulties with the test would have more practice problems with the teacher.  For the students that have mastered that lesson, Mrs. Fagan goes over new material to challenge them.  Like Ayers, Mrs. Fagan chose to use her desk as a worktable for her and her students.        

Mrs. Fagan is not a fan of the testing, but she does like the common core.  She told me the old way was too simplistic.  Now the students have to show how they figured out the problems and explain their answer.  She told me Shaker schools have a large amount of support and intervention.  In fact, an IB teacher worked firsthand with some of her students in her classroom.     

Mrs. Fagan had the class lesson on a Word document on the computer.  The document would transfer over to the Smart Board.  The students would sit on the carpeting, surrounding the Smart Board to go over the lesson.  Mrs. Fagan wrote problems on the board and the students would go up to the board to solve the problem.  The ten hours that I had spent in Mrs. Fagan’s classroom, I did not see her building bridges with the students.  Ayers always stressed the importance of teachers incorporating material that the students like and are interested in, too.  I liked that she did not use the banking concept in her teaching.  There were plenty of hands-on activities, rather than the teacher being a narrating subject and the student, a listening object. 

All of the students were very eager to learn.  When they knew the answer they would be so excited and raise their hand as high as possible, even if that meant standing up.  They would wave their hand anxiously in the air, hoping to be called on.  Ayers defined a great teacher as one who interacts with the students and draws energy and direction from them.  Mrs. Fagan did just that.  The teacher told me one of the students has behavior problems.  This reminded me of Ayers and "the people with the clipboards," who diagnose and label students.  Although I have not spent too much time with this student; to me, it just looked like he was excited to learn.  As I have learned in class, it is important to see beyond the problem child and recognize that he has a wide range of dimensions – some challenging, some hopeful.    

Day 2 - Observation

My next visit to Boulevard, Mrs. Fagan had a new student from China.  She hardly spoke English.  Mrs. Fagan also had a student in her class, who speaks mostly Arabic and another one, who just struggles with English in general.  Although these students are pulled out of the classroom for extra assistance, I feel like that is not enough.  The teacher does not have time to catch these students up on the material, without falling behind with the other students.  As I have learned in "Poor Teaching for Poor Children...", there are people who demand that the achievement gap be closed and to focus on the test scores.  The few students in these class are examples of why test scores are useless data.   

In Social Studies, Mrs. Fagan taught the students about the local government and the mayor.  The students learned about the city counsel and the community members, who are elected to help make decisions.  Petitions, government services and taxes were discussed.  The students work in groups on the computer to complete a "culture gram" or a worksheet on a certain country.  The group would find the country on the map, sketch the flag, find out the population, holidays, currency, language and the type of government the country has.      

In "Teaching in Comics," I remember the announcements kept going off throughout Ayers' class and Ayers' teaching kept getting interrupted by the voice over the speaker.  Although Mrs. Fagan did not damage the speaker like Ayers, she still participated in creative insubordination.  The principle kept calling her classroom phone about a student and kept interrupting her teaching.  Since so much time was spent on the phone and took away from her teaching, Mrs. Fagan decided to skip announcements.  Typically the students watch the announcements on a TV screen.  She originally had the TV set up and on, but when it was time for the announcements she shut the TV off and put it away. 

Day 1 - Observation

Boulevard Elementary School in Shaker Heights is where I spent my ten hours observing.  Shaker Heights is an IB school.  Instead of pulling gifted students from the class, an IB teacher comes into the class to assist.  I spent my time with Mrs. Fagan's third grade class.  I really enjoyed my stay and observing just confirmed that third grade is the grade I would like to teach.  On my first day of observation, I stayed six hours.  Staying start to finish allowed me to really see what life is like for a third grade teacher.   

The first thing that Mrs. Fagan and I did in the morning was go outside to greet all 23 of her students.  They were standing in a single-file line.  One by one, Mrs. Fagan shook each students' hand and said hello.  Some of the students hugged her.  One student in line looked really upset.  She noticed it instantly and, concerned, pulled him to the side to talk to him.

Once Mrs. Fagan and I brought the students to the classroom, the kids instantly knew what to do.  They put their backpacks, lunches and coats away in the coatroom, handed their homework in, put their books away in the proper bins and sat at their desk and read in silence until they were given the next steps.  The books they read were books of their choice.  Mrs. Fagan has been teaching for a little over ten years.  Her classroom is organized and well structured.  She times everything- each lesson, each assignment.  There were countdowns for everything, especially when she wanted the students back at their desk.  She has a poster board for class jobs, such as: line leader and ender, book organizer, paper passer, floor cleaner, messengers and library books.  Mrs. Fagan has many rules in her classroom, but still likes to joke around with her students.  She always addressed her students as, "friends."  Some of the rules were putting their pencils down when she talks.  If another student is speaking, all hands must be down.  It is obvious that she is well respected in her classroom.  There are sticks with each student’s name on it that Mrs. Fagan uses, to determine which student she will call on next.

Behavior coupons kept the students organized, quiet and on their best behavior.  If Mrs. Fagan noticed this behavior, the student could put their name on a coupon, which gets thrown into a bucket.  Every two weeks names are drawn to have lunch with her.  The more coupons the student has, the better the chances they have at winning lunch with the teacher.  While Mrs. Fagan’s students were at lunch and recess, I sat with another teacher, who was having lunch with a few of her students.  This teacher also utilizes the behavior coupons in her class.   There was a chapter about finding allies.  Mrs. Fagan and this teacher are friends and supporters of each other. 

 Just outside of Mrs. Fagan's classroom are pictures of each student.  The theme of Mrs. Fagan's classroom is, "How we organize ourselves."  It is an inquiry into the structure and functions of organizations.  The central idea of this theme is that individuals within the organization desire and seek out leadership.  There were shelves and shelves of books.  She had bins for classwork, bell work and homework.  Each student had their own mailbox, where Mrs. Fagan puts their graded homework assignments.  There were shelves of games, blocks, puzzles and crafts.  Along with the student's artwork and classwork, encouraging words and posters with quotes were hung up on the wall.  Some of the words included: "Challenge yourself," "respect," and "responsibility."  "Winners exceed expectations" is just one of the many posters on the classroom wall.  There is a coatroom off to the side.  In addition to two large computers, there was also a table with six mini computers, where students play math and reading games.    

The desks are grouped together in four groups of six.  Mrs. Fagan said she arranges the desks in this way because the students are all at different levels.  Groups are easier for the children to learn, rather than sitting individually, because the students could help each other out.  I learned from Ayers that a teacher’s classroom sends a message as soon as one walks through the door.  I liked that the desks were not in rows, facing the front, like a mini lecture hall.

Mrs. Fagan taught all subjects: social studies, language art and math.  All of the subjects were integrated together.  While I was there, the students completed an eight-minute math test, with dividers to prevent cheating.  I think tests are okay to see where a student is doing well and where a student needs more work, but I do not think it should be graded.  Mrs. Fagan went over a lesson on addition, subtraction and multiplication.  The students would solve problems with a variety of strategies, including: writing a number sentence, using counter chips and drawing a picture.  The students would be called on to go to the board and explain how they got the answer they did.  Whiteboards and markers were used to solve the problems.   

Next, the students worked in small groups on the laptops.  The students looked up historical figures, such as: Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Pei Lei, Cleopatra and Bill Clinton.  They researched characteristics and what made these people leaders.  The students completed a worksheet and filled out the figure’s attributes.  The solar system, presidents on coins and trees in the amazon are just some of the other topics of worksheets the students had worked on.  


The kids had recess and lunch.  Later, the students had library time.  Each student got to pick a couple of books to take home and read.  The librarian talked to the students about books and an author, Candace Fleming, who will be coming to Boulevard in April.  I got to know a lot of the students by spending the entire day with them.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Blog Post 10

I have learned so much from the exercises and readings that were needed to complete these blog posts.  I remember reading a quote in our Education Foundations textbook: “A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty, to the child who dreams beyond his or her circumstances.”  That quote has really stuck with me throughout my entries.  Through Ayers readings and my blog posts, it is important for me, as a future teacher, to continue to be an explorer, on a journey with my students.  As a result, another emerging theme is building bridges.   An emergent theme in my blog posts is teaching with creativity and passion, instead of just teaching to the test.  Teachers should listen, connect with their students and learn about their student’s interests.  What I believe now, is that observation inspires good teaching and it is needed to uncover a child’s point of view or understanding.  Doing so, will provide me with a new perspective and help me approach the world with openness.  Going through my posts, I understand that teachers need to see, rather than judge and dismiss.  I never realized how a classroom could set the tone for a teacher.  When I am a teacher, I would like to build a space, where students could explore and be themselves; a place where students’ differences and beliefs are celebrated.  A concern of mine throughout my blog is the banking concept of education.  I learned more about this after Freire’s readings.  Students are getting information deposited into them, with the lack of creativity, transformation and knowledge.  My blog posts discuss how knowledge emerges through invention and reinvention.  As a teacher, I want to encourage my students to think critically and be creative.  I understand that, in order to do this, I must not depend on anyone, but myself to be trained and retrained.  Greatness in teaching requires a serious encounter with autobiography.  Although standardized tests have been a main focus, I have learned that a test score does not define the teacher or the student -- Summerhill School is the perfect example of that.  As Ayers has stated, “Every student and teacher is an entire universe.  The relationship and interaction is what makes learning come to life.” 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Part 1: This I Believe Annotated Bibliography

Maria Rozum
November 10, 2015
EDU 100 – Dr. Shutkin
Part 1: This I Believe Annotated Bibliography

Gewertz, C.  (2015).  N.Y.C. school aims for ‘authentic,’ not standardized, tests.         Education Week, Volume 34, Issue 37.  Retrieved from

            East Side Community High School in Manhattan, New York has permission to use projects for graduation, rather than the state-mandated standardized test.  In order for students to graduate from this school, they must complete a combination of projects and oral presentations for each subject. Unlike standardized tests, the teachers that grade the projects are able to take students outside of the scope of their assignment.   Research presented in this article, shows the positive effects of having an authentic-learning environment.  This article is important because I believe in authentic learning, as opposed to test taking.  Authentic learning allows the student to explore, design, discuss and discover.  I am going to use East Side Community’s authentic testing method as an example in my essy.  I am not the only one that believes in this style of learning:  Staunch advocates of East Side's way of learning, and testing, argue that it builds not only content knowledge, but the skills to apply it to real-life situations, to make arguments and interpretations with it, and to present and defend it orally.”    

Gunzelman, B.  (2005, Spring).  Toxic testing: It’s time to reflect upon our current testing practices.  Education Horizon, Volume 83, Issue 3, 212-220.  Retrieved from

I believe that standardized tests are not the answer because we all have different learning styles.  A test cannot measure the true ability of a student’s learning.  The article provides a list of problems with the tests and provides an alternative method.  I think schools should try new methods for measuring students learning, as well as new approaches for evaluating teachers.  The article provides some background information on standardized tests and provides a description of the current understanding of them.  This article gives an example of authentic assessment, through the portfolio assessment, which is becoming more popular in schools.  These portfolios contain a collection of the student’s work and achievements.  This allows students to take responsibility for their learning and feel satisfaction with their accomplishments, rather than filling in bubbles on a test.  The portfolio assessment not only shows students learning, but also shows their strengths and weaknesses.  I agree with Deborah Meier that, "the increased use of standardized tests actually undermines student achievement and increases distrust of teachers, students, and our own judgments."  I will incorporate the portfolio assessments in my essay as another method for authentic assessment.   
Stevens, P.  (2013).  An examination of a teacher’s use of authentic assessment in an urban middle
school setting (Doctoral dissertation).  Retrieved from (3565244)

            This article describes what I believe and the change that I want to see in our schools: good instruction leads to authentic assessment.  This article will help me discuss what the problems are with standardized testing and my hopes for what authentic assessment could do for the students and teachers.  Alfie Kohn, an author and lecturer in education, believes that the educational system has taught the students and the teachers that giving the right answer is more important than thinking.  Instead of developing life-long thinking skills, learning now is more like cramming for a test.  This reminds me of Freire’s piece about teachers dumping information into a student’s head like a receptacle, rather than letting the student take part in the learning process through creativity.  As Kohn states, “In order to improve instruction, the focus must be on students‟ performance rather than on test scores; assessment then becomes meaningful and purposeful.”  The article is about promoting student learning by using alternative assessments.   It provides an overview of authentic assessment, as well as concepts and the validity of the assessments. 

Suskind, D.  (2015).  Living assessment passes the test.  Phi Delta Kappan.  Retrieved from:    

            The definition of a living assessment is an intertwined, interactive and instructive part of every student’s learning.  Teachers can delay a student’s growth, without even knowing it, by setting up unnecessary controls in the classroom.  These unnecessary controls or roadblocks include: writing to prompts, telling children what they will read, assigning grades in isolation, not partnership, teaching at students instead of learning beside them, and using grades to drive reports, not instruction. Intertwined assessment occurs on the spot, in exploratory moments.  Suskind explains that standardized tests are not necessary to understand a student’s level of learning development.  Instead of using a test, a teacher should go based on their reading, writing and creativity when working together.  I believe this is the best kind of assessment.  It is hands-on and not seen or announced, but filled within the energy and interactions of the students throughout the school day.  “Living assessment empowers children and teachers, reflects students’ emotional needs and learning levels, and inspires all of us to live a reflective practice of observation that evolves and innovates as it kicks classroom learning into new dimensions.”  This article reminded me of the hard times I have had with standardized testing.  I have had a lifetime of experiences and a certain learning style based off standardized tests.  This article is evidence that authentic assessment is the solution to the problem. 

Koh, K., & Ng, P., & Tan, C.  (2011).  Creating thinking schools through authentic assessment: the case in Singapore.  Springer Science + Business Media, LLC.  Retrieved from:*~hmac=206b87b3683b7cbefe914ea6f2ddc14cba97918ad8f27aa0d886c3df685e5e48

            This article encourages teachers to adopt authentic assessment in teaching and learning.  Doing so, will develop students’ learning.  The article uses Singapore’s schools, as an example of authentic teaching.  I will discuss Singapore’s authentic learning style and how the United States could benefit from this style, as well.  Rather than paper-and-pencil tests, the schools focus on authentic assessment, which concentrates on knowledge, critical thinking, creative thinking, innovative thinking and problem solving.  “Teachers are encouraged to expand their repertoire of teaching and learning strategies to include new and innovative pedagogies, communicate effectively, collaborate widely and solve problems reflectively.”  In Singapore, the schools that focus on authentic assessment, rather than conventional, are called Thinking Schools.  These Thinking Schools are struggling, however, with the authentic assessment, as the teachers do not feel prepared to teach in this new way.  The article also explains how to build teacher capacity by providing ongoing professional development with authentic assessments for teachers.  Throughout my paper, I will be discussing why I believe authentic assessment is best, compared to standardized tests.  Therefore, with the help of this article, I will discuss how teachers, like my future self, could prepare themselves for authentic assessment.