Our Enlightening Education (Rated R): Coming Soon to Schools Near You

I grew up in a fairly liberal area of the United States in an affluent suburb.  Many of my teachers, especially my senior year of high school, felt that watching R-rated movies would be beneficial to our education.  So in at least three of my classes, we spent the better part of a week watching R-rated movies in 45-minute segments for each class period.  My modern literature class watched two or three of these movies over the course of the semester.   Since I opted out of watching the movies, I spent those class periods in the library, reading books and watching other movies with similar themes in order to fill out my education.

51b0cc8d4ed0661933 Student alone in library

I believed then as I do now that I received a better education than my classmates.  Who really learned to think critically in those situations?  Who came to actually understand the themes of isolation and being ostracized? Who was required to take ownership of her education?  My classmates were always supportive; I had a good peer group who had grown up with me and who understood and defended my religious convictions and standards.  My teachers, on the other hand, were not so accommodating—of course they didn’t outright say, “Hannah, we think you’re backwards, old-fashioned, living in a naïve past, and without this critical cultural exposure you’ll probably bring shame to our whole community.”  They said something more like, “If any of you are uncomfortable watching this movie, we’ll find an alternate assignment for you.”  But in such a hollow way that you knew they didn’t expect any of their 18-year-old, legal adult students to actually leave.  So when I did, the raised eyebrows and the disengaged shrugs made their thoughts clear.

I think most of them were just perturbed that a student was exercising the right to an opinion contrary to the teacher’s.  In my refusal to watch the movies, I communicated that I didn’t approve of the way they were choosing to teach.  I can’t blame them for taking that personally—I would, too.  And then of course, after class, my friends would summarize for me what had happened in the film.  I could tell they were torn between wanting to validate the teacher’s choice and wanting to make me feel like I hadn’t actually missed out on too much.

Do I think there’s a place in education for controversial media and exposure to the grittier side of life? Definitely.  What would be the point of education if it merely reinforced the ideas we already accept? But such exposure must be handled with reason and balance if it is to enhance our education.  Perhaps watching Pan’s Labyrinth or V for Vendetta would have been an important stepping stone in my intellectual development, perhaps not—either way, at what cost? Do we sacrifice religious standards for the sake of education? Do we sacrifice educational pursuits for the sake of religion?  (Spoiler: I don’t think it’s a zero sum game AT ALL. I just like asking obnoxious questions sometimes.)

In my next post or two, I aim to explore some of the issues revolving around what I’ll call our “educational exposure.”  I hope you’ll contribute with your comments and stay tuned as we try to unravel some of these knots.  As always, thanks for reading!balance

A Meaningful Classroom Experience

By: Kristie Hinckley

This semester, I took MTHED 305: Basic Concepts of Math. In Unit 1 we learned about story problems. We focused first on addition and subtraction story problems and then on multiplication and division story problems. As we learned about how a student’s math understanding develops, we saw how different types of story problems could “stump” students and leave them puzzled. For example, one question read, “Susie found four seashells at the beach. Her sister gave her five more. How many seashells does Susie have now?” This question is an example of a “Join, Result Unknown” problem. It means that elements in the problem are added to a given set (join) and the sum of those two numbers is not given (result unknown). It is one of the question types that is easiest for students.Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 2.24.20 PM

We had two opportunities during this semester to go to Wasatch Elementary School and interview a student, using the story problems we wrote. The student was given paper and a pencil, along with some blocks. My partner and I asked the student our questions, starting with the easier story problems. As I read the problem, he picked out the numbers from the problem that he knew he had to work with and he would write them on his paper. It looked like this…

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 2.25.07 PMThen we got to the harder story problems, such as, “Claire had some stuffed animals. She donated two of them and had two left. How many stuffed animals did she start with?” Our first-grader said, “I don’t get it, you didn’t say a number.” We read the problem again. He wrote the number two on his paper with a question mark in front of it. He said, “Some? That makes no sense. That’s not a number word. I don’t get what ‘some’ means.”

It was absolutely fascinating to see how each students found the answer differently, just like we learned in the course. One student used her fingers, another directly modeled using blocks, and yet another did all the computations in his head. The purpose of this interview was to effectively test a child on his/her addition and subtraction skills, analyze the child’s response—including strategies used—and write a letter to the teacher to help him or her understand their students’ specific understanding of math concepts. I find that my experiences in the elementary school classrooms help me learn the most. Have you had any meaningful classroom experiences?


Image Courtesy of: gamesforhomeschool.com

“Smart”

By: Hannah Rackham

People want to feel “smart” and believe that they are “smart” and to some degree, everyone  wants other people to recognize and acknowledge that he or she is “smart.”  Oftentimes, even as early as elementary school, some people get labeled as “smart” while others may be labeled “athletic” or “musical” or “popular” as if somehow a person can’t fit into several categories.  Educational psychologist Howard Gardner proposed a theory about intelligence that encompasses several kinds of “smart” and therefore defines more people as “smart.”  This theory, known as multiple intelligence (MI) theory, revolutionizes the narrow way we think about ourselves and about our students.  Recently, for a final project, I investigated the subject a little further and found some interesting results.

In order to get a smattering of samples across the varying intelligences, I posted a link to a specific MI test on my Facebook page and asked my friends via cyberspace to help me out by taking four minutes to take the test and send me their results.  For a last-minute, rather half-baked idea the response was phenomenal!  Within 20 minutes, I had a dozen replies.  Over the next few hours, more than 30 people sent me their test results.  After the project was long done and presented, people were still sending me their scores.  One of my friends re-posted my link on her page because she was so excited about it.  In face-to-face conversations with friends since then I’ve learned that many of them took the test without sending in results. (I wasn’t offended since I had WAY more data than I needed or was expecting.)

Of course the results were interesting, but almost more intriguing to me was the fact that so many were eager to report.  People want to feel “smart” and have others recognize that they are “smart.” If I’d posted an IQ test of similar length, I doubt results would have flown in that fast.  IQ tests are based on comparison with others; MI tests are based on comparison with yourself.  IQ juxtaposes your strengths and weaknesses with others’ strengths and weaknesses.  MI juxtaposes your own relative strengths and weaknesses against each other. Somehow, for me at least (and likely for the 30+ people eager to share their test results with me), it’s easier to feel “smart” by focusing on internal rather than external competition.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Following are some of the results I found.  If you’re interested, here’s the link for this particular test.

http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks3/ict/multiple_int/questions/choose_lang.cfm

These are the profiles of my parents who have been married for 25 years.  The similar layout of where their strengths lie is interesting.

These are the profiles of my parents who have been married for 25 years. The similar layout of where their strengths lie is interesting.

 Another married couple, some friends of mine who are coming up on their 2nd anniversary, showed the same type of match.

Another married couple, some friends of mine who are coming up on their 2nd anniversary, showed the same type of match.

These profiles belong to a pair of sisters.  It’s interesting to think about the nurture/nature dichotomy in terms of MI theory--how much of our intelligences are native and how much are they developed by our environment?

These profiles belong to a pair of sisters. It’s interesting to think about the nurture/nature dichotomy in terms of MI theory–how much of our intelligences are native and how much are they developed by our environment?

The “Selfie” Generation

By: Annie Day

Throughout my time at this blog I have focused most of my writing on lesson plans for grades K–3. Today, I would like to discuss one of my favorite lesson plans for grades 4–6. I have found that an important way to engage older students is to incorporate media or use terms related to modern pop culture. This grabs that students’ attention and even gives the teacher some “cool” points. One example where I used this idea goes as follows.

I love art. The problem with teaching about art in the classroom is that students find the old masters a little dull. Because of this issue, I decided to up the participation through using the term “selfie”. You see, from Frida Khalo to Van Gogh, artists love to create self-portraits. Just like any good “selfie” or self-portrait, the subject of the work makes certain rhetorical moves in order to create a beautiful image. By making these connections, students are suddenly interested in the rhetorical moves that Van Gogh used in his self-portrait and they try to incorporate those methods into their own self-portraits or “selfies”. It was a smash hit in the classroom and really got the students interested in art.

Van Gogh's self-portrait painted in 1887.

Van Gogh’s self-portrait painted in 1887. Source: http://www.wikiart.org.

Frida Kahlo's self-portrait painted in 1941.

Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait painted in 1941. Source: http://www.wikiart.org.

This lesson plan brought the class joy and an increased interest in art. Don’t forget to have fun with the students. The more they are able to discuss their own ideas, the more engaged they will be!