Tag Archive | Group 1

How Do We Fix a “Broken” School?

For our last PLC, we watched another TED talk: “How to Lead a Broke school.” because we have found them to really helpful and motivating as future teachers. Linda Cliatt-Wayman did not disappoint and was very inspiring. Through the semester in our case studies, we have discussed a wide range in variety of schools from Urban to Rural, from wealthy and private, to poor and public. A school labeled “low-performing and persistently dangerous” school discussed in this TED talk was in Northern Philadelphia. She said, “For far too many schools, for kids who live in poverty, their schools are really not schools at all. But this can change.” (4:06ish)

From this talk, we discussed some ways we could implement some Wayman’s theories regardless of the school we’ll be teaching in.   Every morning on the announcements she would say, “And if no one has told you today, remember that I love you.” From this particular statement, we discussed how important it is to build meaningful relationships with our students. We may be the only support person they have, making it extra important to show by our actions and words of affirmation that we care. We connected to a teacher who recently went on “Ellen.” [TEACHER’S NAME] spends an hour every morning in her first grade classroom making sure all of her students have on clean clothes, have eaten breakfast, and are ready for the school day. MORE ABOUT TEACHER

Another theory of Wayman’s is lead. It sounds scary but the little changes they made around their school are easy ways for us to lead at our future (or current) schools. They assigned all students a locker, decorated every bulletin board in the school with inspirational sayings, cleaned the classrooms, and replaced old dull light bulbs with new ones. However, we discussed the other examples she used in her school may be harder to implement as teachers. One of them was the reconstruction of the school’s daily schedule. Wayman’s new schedule included all extracurricular activities, remediation, hours course, and counseling all during the school day. Her schedule allowed for those unable to stay after school because of transportation, job, or any other reason to participate. This is a huge issue we’ve discussed over the semester: access. Depending on where a student goes to school and how much money they have influence which activities (if any) they can participate.

Our group slogan Wayman used was “So what? Now What?” In their school, they use this phrase when trying to solve any problem. It’s a great way to get students of all ages, not just high schoolers, to examine the situation and use critical thinking to solve each problem they encounter without consciously doing so. Already in my Kindergarten classroom, they are using these basic questions to build homes for the three little pigs.

This video is generally a great example of how to be an effective leader in a school; however, it’s especially great to use when going into a “low-income” school. From out class, we’ve learned that as educators we can serve as catalysts for change in public school systems.

As we come to an end with our PLC, we’ve learned a lot about discussing and disagreeing with one another; however, it is difficult to gauge how our real PLCs will be. It would be helpful to have us plan a lesson as a PLC with the standards of Common core.

Our book, Rethinking Elementary Eduation, was overall a great book. As a group we felt some of the articles were not as productive as others.


The “New” Math of Common Core


This week our group read two stories about math in the elementary classroom. The articles were entitled “Percent as a Tool for Social Justice” and “I Thought This U.S. Place Was Supposed to be About Freedom.” Naturally our conversation turned toward the “new” way of teaching math in the classroom. Some of us taking Math 307 through the School of Ed have already begun dissecting the Common Core way of teaching math. From our knowledge, this “new” method really focuses on children’s holistic understandings of math and the belief that children should be able to understand why and how to solve a math problem instead of just using a simple algorithm.

An example of the “new” math we learned in Math 307 is the implementation of pictures into mathematical learning. Now many students use pictures to solve addition and subtraction problems and they use things such as strip diagrams, snap cubes, and number lines to represent the problems that they are working to solve. This is different from what we did in elementary school, which was simply solving problems with a universal mathematical algorithm and simply because the teacher said to solve it using that single method.

I found this article online that summarizes the changes to elementary school mathematics under the new Common Core standards. For us as a PLC the Common Core seems to be an enigma and is generally confusing because it so different from the way that we understand and learned math as a young student. This article really breaks down the new standards for Common Core for Kindergarten through third grade, relaying the old standards and comparing them to the new ones presented by the Common Core.

As I previously stated we believe from our learning of the Common Core methods that students are encouraged to know the why and the how behind their mathematical thinking and the article gives support to back this claim. “The math practices (in Common Core) are asking kids to explain their mathematical thinking, to represent their ideas and to make sense of other people’s ideas,” says Megan Franke, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The belief of these professionals is that children will be able to solve almost any math problem because they will know the background knowledge and thought processes that are behind the solution. Clearly this “new” math was created to help improve students understandings of the how and the why behind math problems and this will result in more confident students that know they can solve any problem they are faced with.

I Am Jazz – The Importance of Acceptance

Meet Jazz Jennings – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7gjICQ3kL4

Jazz Jennings is a transgender teenager from Florida. She has her own documentary TV show on TLC which follows her as she maneuvers life as a transgender youth and how it affects her and her family daily. Along with this, Jazz also has her own YouTube channel where she has been making videos about her life for a while. She is one of the youngest transgender females to speak publicly in history about transgender issues. Jazz identifies as being female, so I will refer to her as “she” throughout this post in order to respect her as an individual.

In our PLC group, we have read and talked about many issues involving acceptance in the classroom and the importance of teaching children that differences are okay and should be celebrated rather than ignored. More explicitly, we read an article titled “It’s OK to Be Neither,” which discusses teaching methods that support gender-variant children. It tells the story of a little girl named Allie who feels more comfortable wearing clothes and doing her hair in a way that generally would be associated with being a male. Because of this, however, people tended to refer to her as a boy, even though she wanted to be referred to as a girl, even though she may have resembled what a boy might look like. The children weren’t quite sure what to make of this situation and began to ask Allie somewhat incriminating questions about why she looked like a boy if she was actually a girl, and the teacher saw this as a great teachable moment for her class to talk about gender stereotypes.

The teacher knew that the first step she should make would be to broaden the students’ ideas about what was acceptable for boys and girls. She also pointed out little things that many teachers do daily and how they relate to gender stereotypes. For example, instead of saying “boys and girls” when referring to the class, she simply uses gender-neutral terms such as “children” or “students” so as not to alienate a particular child. All in all, Ms. Tempel wanted to teach her students that it’s okay to be different, along with bettering both hers and other teachers’ classrooms to become more sympathetic towards gender-variant children and the struggles that they deal with daily.

This article ties in with Jazz’s story because although Jazz identifies as a girl and is not necessarily gender-variant, transgender students go through many of the same challenges that Ms. Tempel illustrates in her article. Children don’t often understand such heavy topics as being transgender, particularly because adults don’t always take the time to explain just what it means to be transgender to such young children because they think the topic is a bit too mature for them. However, Jazz explains that even though she was born a male, she knew that she was a female from before she was even 6 years old. So, if Jazz can know that she is transgender at such a young age, don’t you think it’s important for other children at this age to understand what it’s like to be transgender or gender-variant, so as not to isolate children like Jazz? It’s definitely OK to be different, and it’s important to understand and accept these differences.

-Natalie D.

Information about Jazz – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_Jennings
Trailer for “I Am Jazz” – see link at top of page

For next week, we are watching the Ted Talk by Rita Pierson titled “Every Kid Needs a Champion”

Helping Students Deal with Emotional Discomfort and Experiences

This week, our PLC group read the second half of Part 1 in Rethinking Elementary Education. Each article was from a different teacher’s perspective describing experiences with children whom have/had emotional discomfort and/or experiences. Each article we read offered insight on how we could effectively respond and offer help to the student(s).

In Helping Students Deal with Anger, Kelley Salas encourages teachers to analyze and examine all possible environment influences on a child’s negative emotions. She used her own experience with her student, Michael to explain her argument. By examining all possible causes, she considered her own actions as a teacher and mentioned in trying different approaches that retrospectively, “I used the term ‘anger’ to describe strong emotional outbursts that may have had their origin in any number of emotions.” In our group, we thought this was very powerful and made us more cognizant of the different emotions children could be feeling and not jumping to conclusions.

The next article, Staying Past Wednesday by Kate Lyman was probably the most powerful for our group. When discussing the article, we were all surprised that the teachers were instructed not to talk to their students about the death of a fellow student. They were even given a deadline of when they school was going to move on and not “talk about it anymore.” pg. 29   We all found it important for all teachers to create an atmosphere where our students feel comfortable sharing all of their experiences and emotions. Then, making time and developing effective strategies for students to express them. We thought the way she had two of her students who had experienced losses to talk to each other in addition to writing a journal. However, we wondered whether this method of student-to-student comfort would work in older grades like high school.   In another class education class most of us are in we also learned that it’s important bring in the child’s home life into school because it’s such a huge part of them.

Unlike the other articles, 10 Ways to Move Beyond Bully Prevention gives a list of specific ways teachers or any person can help evolve the way we deal with bullying. The very first way on Lyn Brown’s list is “Stop labeling kids.” We talked about how obvious it is and makes so much sense but none of us realized that labeling students and children “bullies” is very problematic and perpetuates the cycle. We agreed that it’s very important to build coalition instead of promoting “bully prevention” because it will help all students realize their strengths and believe they are capable of good and not perpetually a “victim” or “bully.”

The last article we read for this past week was Bad Signs. We thought it was very similar to Staying Past Wednesday in that holding the expectation of students to always feel happy and in a good mood isn’t conducive for an effect classroom or learning environment. As a group we couldn’t believe that some of the example signs in the text actually existed such as the “no whining” sign. We agreed that we don’t want students to whine, but we want them to talk about their problems with us making the sign a barrier between those conversations. We thought that hanging up posters or different crafts students have created allows them to pay more attention and more invested in their classroom as a whole.

In our debriefing of the passages we read, we decided we really appreciate the book because it’s giving us specific ways to help the students in our classrooms. We agreed that we will probably keep this book close when we’re real teachers since it’s so helpful!


The reading we are doing/have done for this week is the first 3 passages of Chapter 2 (pg. 47-73)