Archive for August, 2010

The Genius of Marzano?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

All through my Education…education…we were given quotes by Marzano.  As a student, his ideas meant very little to me.  Somewhere along the line I picked up an attitude that Education classes were relatively worthless, and that nearly everything that you needed to know about teaching you picked up “in the field.”

Now, I am entering my 6th year as a professional educator.  My career originally built up more cinicism…, but as I matured as a teacher a good deal of that cinicism has burnt away.  I’ve learned that it is not “us” against “the administrators” or “us” against “the legislators”…   Everyone (with the exception of some bad apples) is working toward the same two goals:  To make the world better for their children…and to make it better for their temporary foster children:  the students who walk by them in the hallways, or sit in their classrooms, or even the ones who leave their well-chewed gum ‘neath the desks for the custodians to chip away at during the weeks of summer.

And now, with some measure of wisdom and experience under my belt, I find myself returning to Marzano.  I see a need, though, which his myriad books do not meet.  What we need are Marzano-CliffNotes.  As I read his research findings, I do what comes naturally–I boil it down into simple, applicable language (much better than my own blog-posts, I’m sure).  The theory, of course, is that this is the purpose of teachers conducting their own research and comparing it to the findings of others in the educational field–that they take the information and apply it in simple but well-informed ways in the classroom.  The problem is…when does this get done?

And then it hits me!  I suddenly realize that the whole purpose of “Understanding by Design” and “Learning Focused Strategies” and the like are to help teachers approach research findings in a simpler way.  (This epiphany is no doubt a simple one to have, and others may chuckle, but there is more).  Teachers, from DAY ONE (i.e., their education classes in university), have been conditioned to resist any results which have not come out of their own experiences or those of their peers.  If you have an Ed.D. and tell them (us) that “such and such has worked for three other states” then you’re already mostly doomed.  It is up to the few leaders among their peers who have not been beaten down entirely, yet, to grab ahold of the trend and (if it is given air, water, and time to grow) help it bear fruit.  The same approach works in the classroom–have students teach students, but guide them!  Facilitate their learning.  Likewise, have TEACHERS teach teachers.

The trick, of course, is finding teachers who have the time (or can put something aside to MAKE the time–usually a financial and/or family strain) to devote to these endeavors.  Almost invariably you (instead) get the following:

1) Extremely young teachers with little to no experience (meaning that they are not going to be very influencial when working with their older peers…not that their ideas and drive lack any validity)
2) Extremely old teachers who are nearing retirement (often the envy of many of their younger (or late-to-teaching) peers)   …or…
3) People who are not considered “genuine” or (inversely) are looked upon by their peers as being a bit “coo-ky”

What is the solution?  So far, from what I have seen, change must happen at the DEPARTMENT level.  This unit of cooperation is the key to success in bringing about any change.  With administrative backing and the necessary time to accomplish goals, meaningful change can take place.

Summer 2010 is ending

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

How do I know?  The last of my Conceptual Physics students for the summer are leaving.  They have just completed their final unit test of the year, and each has in turn either wished me a good rest of the summer, thanked me for the experience (for this I am grateful), or wished me well on our soon-to-be-born little baby boy (the thought of which always brings joy to me).  As with each course’s end, it is a bittersweet time.  This semester (almost?) every student was older than myself (an occurrence which will become more and more rare as time wears me away), and I have found myself taking as much away from the experience as they (I hope) have received, themselves.

Summer courses are an especially pleasant experience for a teacher.  At least, summer courses as an adjunct professor.  Somehow, my students always make the 4-hours and 10-minutes classes enjoyable (or am I short-changing myself, there?).  I rarely see a more appreciative group of students than those who attend classes “while beach weather lasts” (to quote my farewell poem from Summer 2009).  An instructor can safely plan a lesson for hours and know that, for the most part, little of that effort will fall by the wayside.  Creativity is awarded with grins and active participation!  I recall easily other teaching experiences where I felt that I had earned a dental degree (think: “tooth extraction”) by the end of a year.  During the 8+ hours a week that you see students in a summer class, you get to know them on a very satisfactory level in a short time.   An open teacher can learn more about a student in one night class than an entire week of parent-teacher conferences in secondary education.  This comes from the fact that you are now dealing with more adult minds.  Adults are less afraid of revealing who they are (they like themselves better, no doubt).  It is the job (’though the pay is intangible) of the secondary education teacher to help their students realize that they do not need to be ashamed of being different or unique–but rather that they need to embrace these qualities (and even publicize them).  This, too, brings joy to a teacher, but I must admit that the ease of communication between instructor and student at the post-secondary education level is what makes all the difference.  Both jobs are a labor of love, but one bears fruit sooner than the other.  Who is to say which laborer has done more to earn their wages?  Both are necessary.  But one plants, and another waters.