Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feedback to the mouth that helped feed you

Newark visits and Time

The trips to Newark are irreplaceable. I feel that is an essential component to the course. You can’t really teach about inner city education without giving an inside look at it in real time. I feel like I grew a great deal from even these brief visits. But while on brevity, I do have a beef with the course length. I realize this is the way it was set up as a shorter 4 week pre-session and we knew that coming into it, however I really feel like we were really short changed. It was just not enough time. There was so much “good stuff” and “heavy stuff” to digest that I think the time crunch of the class detracted from the students’ ability to reap the most benefits from it. The transforming power of a class like this begs a little more time. I think it could work as a 6-weeker.

Allowing us class time to work on the group website was a good move, especially when considering the short time for the course. Utilizing the ADP Center (and mentioning it in the syllabus as was done) is an important action, especially considering the use of technology in the course. I feel like the classrooms could have been booked and used more, or that laptops could have been reserved, particularly if not many students in the class had their own laptops. Fortunately, most of the class seemed to own them. I felt conflicted with the blogging activity, as a few students in class had also mentioned they felt. I knew it should be professional, but the urge to joke around and make it personal was hard to overcome, particularly when you feel like you’re creating something that is an “internet voice” that you want your personality to be tied into. Finding the balance was hard. I’m not even sure if I found it! At times I felt my writing was too long-winded, formal and flowery; and at other time I felt maybe I shouldn’t make a joke or personal comment, no matter if it seemed harmless.

Designating the blogging as a continuous activity throughout the course provided a nice progression and timeline – as long as we didn’t leave too many entries towards the end! I also feel the website activity was a good culmination for the course, especially after the school visitations. The school visitations were appropriate after initial introduction to the course, some readings, and discussion of assumptions, but if it were possible to schedule them a little earlier in the progression of the course (even just a few days earlier – late May) that would fit in better. Earlier would also be better for school visits around this time of the year as many field trips are scheduled and students/ faculty may not be around or they are gearing up to prepare for final exams.

The Annenburg Institute's "Promise of Urban Schools" made some important points and provide valuable key areas to keep in mind when looking at Inner City Education and reform. It was a dryer read but I think should be held onto to introduce the AEIOU concepts.
Although Bulman’s article on “Teachers in the ‘Hood” was long, I feel like it was an engaging read that connects something many students understand well – the movies and the media – to all the prevalent misconceptions about urban education. This one I would include. And in that vein, I think it would also be great to include something that explores how a teacher should teach differently (in terms of technique) – or should not teach differently in an urban district as compared to suburban and rural districts.

I also felt like due to the condensed time factor of the course that it was very difficult to keep up with all the readings, while blogging and working on other assignments as well. I do appreciate that the volume of readings was lowered or halted when we had another big thing going on, such as the cultural collage. At times I did not know there was a reading to be done for the next class; it did not seem clear when it was to be read by. I checked blackboard and would see nothing for a few days then would miss when a reading was posted (this was later on).

Dynamic teaching really helped with this course; I thought it was great (and I am not sucking up). A variety of teaching styles and methods were used. The round robin website evaluation activity was so engaging and interesting, so I definitely really appreciated that technique. It got us moving around the room, actively reading and evaluating other students’ work, thinking critically about how theirs/ours might be improved and what worked, and it was not stressful! (The only thing for me would be the time pressure to switch stations, haha). I liked the employment of Base groups in our website groups. These were students in the class that we knew we were in a group with from early on in the course and this way helped us to be able to connect to others and go to them for help/questions as well.

We had variety in class discussions and thought sharing on articles read, small group discussion, group work and individuals writing assumptions up on the board, some professor direct instruction (and I do think some is necessary), and group presentations of the cultural collage. Something I found really refreshing about this course is that I did not feel quite the same pressure to “perform!” as I have in past courses. This does not at all mean that we did not have a lot of work and learning to do, but that it was approached in a different way. Presentations were not “ohhh no, a PRESENTATION!” but more relaxed run throughs of what we were doing and what it meant to us. The alternate assessments used also provided for a more comfortable and better learning environment than “exams”.

The only thing I can think of to suggest at the moment is maybe more of a discussion on how to implement the techniques in different subject areas across the curriculum in the inner city. I realize that through our own critical thinking we can determine this ourselves, and that maybe it is something more for a methods course, but that would be the next step for me. Thank you for a productive, inspirational and eye opening course!

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