Learning Stuff…

LEARNING STUFF…everyday and all the time: learning, teaching, living

Do I Have a Goal? January 10, 2012

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 5:21 pm

So much has changed this year in my teaching life. And, to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about all of those changes. Changes in expectations, changes in class sizes, changes in supervisors are just a handful of the changes that have come with this new school year. I was telling a few of my colleagues yesterday that it truly feels as though this is my first year of teaching (again), and that unlike my first year, some aspects of my job seem much more stressful and overwhelming than they ever have before.Yet, at the same time, that seems so odd to even consider. Anything you do more than once you should be learning to do better and therefore it should become easier and less stressful, not harder and more stressful, shouldn’t it?

I have more class time (that should be a good thing right?), but have more things to juggle in that extra class time and more students to juggle with.  I’m sharing a class with another teacher (sounds perfect doesn’t it?), but that means having to constantly coordinate/discuss that class with no real extra planning time to do that.  I have a ton of more books in my classroom and the school book room (A dream come true, right?), but that means actually knowing all those  books students are picking up and reading well enough to gauge their understanding on a regular basis.

And, more often than not, I feel like I’m floundering…or I’m not meeting my own expectations, and I hate that feeling more than anything else I’ve mentioned.

And I don’t really have a goal for how to get myself out of that besides, “Just keep swimming,” and that’s not really a goal at all.

So I need a goal, because without one I seem to be swimming around in circles without really getting anywhere. Not drowning, but not getting where I need to go either.


A must read! July 2, 2009

Filed under: Education,food — Ms.M @ 9:26 am

Every once in awhile I come across blog articles that seem to so clearly put into words the thoughts that have been swimming around my brain, but that I have been unsuccessful in articulating. This guest post by William Farren on Change.org’s education blog, “Pharmer’s Market: The Cost of Producing ‘Successful’ Students”,definitely meets that criteria. To anyone who knows me, it has undoubtedly become obvious by now that my interest in education has had make room for my growing interest in food, agriculture, and the environment. This article nicely brings the two together. A must read. Here’s a sneak peek…

Our education systems, seeking efficiency through standardization and conformity end up creating students who, just like their agricultural counterparts, are no longer well-adapted to their environment. Michael Pollan reminds us that, “Most of the efficiencies in an industrial system are achieved through simplification: doing lots of the same thing over and over.” Like corn planted in a monoculture, removed from the diversity that protects it, or cattle fed an unnatural diet of corn, students today are fed a standardized diet of procedures and reproducible facts. This educational monoculture does nothing to nourish minds that have evolved to seek diversity, novelty and stimulation.


Paradigms June 3, 2009

Filed under: Education,Quotes — Ms.M @ 2:54 pm

“What we have in our heads is a theory of what the world is like, a theory that is the basis of all our perceptions and understanding of the world, the root of all learning, the source of all hopes and fears, motives and expectations, reasoning and creativity–if we can make sense of the world at all it is by interpreting our interactions with the world in the light of our theory. The theory is our shield against bewilderment.”

Understanding Reading by Frank Smith, p. 57


Fact meets Fiction June 1, 2009

Filed under: Books,Education,Video — Ms.M @ 7:39 am

A work of fiction that I have recently read, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, has as its back story the conflicts in Nigeria over oil, although no particular oil companies are mentioned in this particular book. It is the story of a young teenage girl who calls herself Little Bee and whose village is attacked by soldiers. Although she is able to escape, and become a refugee in London, her two years spent in a British detention center, and the horrific reminders of her past seem to follow her wherever she goes. These memories also follow the two British journalists (who naively enough were in Nigeria on holiday ) that she had once encountered on the Nigerian beaches of her homeland and now are her only hope for a future. It’s a tragic story which ends with at least some sense of hope for both Little Bee and her new family. There is, of course, a little more to it than that, but that is the main story line.

The book, although it is a work of fiction, is very much based on a reality that still exists, which seems to be where many of the best works of fiction come from. Clay Burrell of change.org recently posted a video about the Case against Shell, that reminded me of this, and I’ll share it here as well. It is reality meeting fiction and I recommend the book as well as the following video, which together may give some sense of the violence and injustice taking place which is inevitably tied to every one of us.


Aren’t we forgetting something? May 28, 2009

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 6:48 pm

This statement by the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just came through my google feed in response to the “Condition of Education” report for 2009:

“These findings clearly show the need for us to make college available to all young people and adults and the bottom line benefits of a higher education. Over the last three decades immediate college enrollment increased for all income levels, although we still need to help close the gap between those who need financial help and those who don’t. The enrollment gap between students from low- and high-income families shrunk by nearly 50 percent, which means more low-income students are accessing college. This is extremely encouraging, as they have the potential to lift families out of circumstances of poverty. The financial advantages provided by a college education are clear. Young people with a bachelor’s degree earn twice as much as those without a high school diploma, according to this research.”

Here is my issue with these sorts of statements, as great as they sound on paper. What happens, with our current system, if everyone actually does have access to higher education, doesn’t it change that whole scenario? The system seems to have been specifically designed to be selective. The reason a college education is a financial advantage in the long-term is because it isn’t open to everybody. The financial advantages are obviously tied to the ability to acquire higher paying jobs with a degree, but are there enough of those jobs to meet a higher demand? And is higher education really preparing people for the jobs of tomorrow?


open or closed? part II

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 3:57 pm

I was trying to think about what was missing with the opencourseware sites that are now available, besides their being very limited of course. And I know that the university itself doesn’t want to make these courses too open, allowing for interaction with professors for example, otherwise what would be the point in handing over the dough. But why can’t these spaces be more interactive than they currently are? What’s wrong with that?

I guess, in theory, anyone that wanted to could gather up a group of people who were all interested in one particular topic and use those resources to make the learning interactive, meeting in other spaces to discuss/share, but why can’t that be incorporated into the actual sites.  If expanding learning is really the goal, and if allowing the knowledge of these institutions to reach globally is the goal, than why not make it so anyone who finds these resources useful can at the same time interact with others who also find it useful, thereby increasing the chances that the learning may lead to something greater?


Open or closed? May 27, 2009

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 6:59 pm

Opencourseware isn’t a new idea, but I’m intrigued by it. And to be honest I’m a little confused by it as well.  Yale offers a few open courses with readings, syllabus, etc.  MIT has a large assortment in comparison, with graduate as well as undergrad courses. It seems like a dream come true. Everything is there but the actual classroom experience, contact with other students and the profs, all there for free, and not a penny spent! But why is it available is I guess what I don’t understand?

On MIT’s opencourseware site the school’s president has this to say about MIT’s decision to open up its courses to those outside of their institutional walls:

“The goal of advancing education around the world is shared by the MIT Faculty. Indeed, we owe the existence of OpenCourseWare to the foresight, dedication, and generosity of our faculty. In the year 2000, a faculty committee first proposed this bold and innovative idea, and since then, the vast majority of our faculty–over 90%–have voluntarily contributed their teaching materials for free and open publishing on OCW. MIT faculty are passionate about their teaching, and they are keen to see their work benefit global society.”

Yale’s site has this to say about their open course offerings:

“The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn…We hope the lectures and other course materials on this site will be a resource for critical thinking, creative imagination, and intellectual exploration.”

It does sound great, but it almost sounds too great. Maybe I’m being a tad cynical.  I’m curious to know how many people are actually taking advantage of these types of resources.

And it is a bit weird, to me only maybe, that an institution should on the one hand put up walls: tuition, admission requirements, etc, while on the other say that their mission/goal is to make learning available for the taking for all those who want it and open this sort of door…minus the degree credentials of course. What gives?

If these sites are usuful to you personally, then it doesn’t matter all that much though. Beats paying an arm and a leg.