Archive for the ‘book’ Tag

Math Teacher’s Book About Ed School Groupthink   2 comments

barry

How would you like to be a fly on the wall in a teacher education classroom?  What are colleges training teachers to teach today?  Is it legitimate education?

Barry Garelick, a California math teacher, has written a book (his introduction is below) based on his university teacher- education experiences,  and experiences as a student teacher.  Garelick used two pen names, “Huck Finn” and “John Dewey” –to avoid ruining his chance of obtaining a teaching credential at the time, and to avoid being blackballed from teaching because of differences in teaching philosophy.

The insightful and sometimes very funny chronicles show that the one-size-fits-all mentality displayed by Common Core starts before our children enter K-12 classrooms; it starts in the groupthink of teacher education schools.

Thanks, Barry.

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In Which I Explain Myself  Without Apology

 Guest post by Barry Garelick

I have written a book entitled “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn: A Look at Math Education from the Inside”.  It is a collection of letters that I wrote which chronicle my experiences in a math teaching methods class in Ed. school (using the name John Dewey) and my experiences student teaching (using the name Huck Finn).  I teach mathematics in California.  I have a degree in the subject and an intense interest in how it is taught.

When my daughter was in elementary school I saw things I didn’t like about the way she was being taught math.  I was also tutoring high school students in math and saw disturbing weaknesses in basic math skills.  This caused me to embark in research about what is going on in math education.  I decided that the way I could possibly make a difference was to teach mathematics in middle or high school.  In the fall of 2005, with six more years left until I could retire, I enrolled in education school.

By way of a short background, the debate over how math is best taught in K-12  (and which is known as the “math wars“) has been going on for many years, starting perhaps in the early part of the 20th century.  The education theory at the heart of the dispute can be traced to John Dewey, an early proponent of learning through discovery.  Fast forward to 1957 when Sputnik was launched and the New Math era began in earnest, which continued until the early 70’s.  Then came the “back to basics” movement, and in 1989 the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) came out with The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, also known as the NCTM standards. 

The NCTM’s view was that traditional teaching techniques were akin to “rote memorization” and that in order for students to truly learn mathematics, the subject must be taught “with understanding”.  Thus, process trumped contentShowing how students obtained the answer to a problem was more important than getting a right answer.  Open-ended ill-posed problems became the order for the day.  The prevailing education groupthink was (and still is) that teaching the mathematical procedures for particular types of problems was just more rote.  Such approaches didn’t teach students “higher order thinking skills”, “critical thinking” and many other terms that are part of the education establishment’s lexicon.

By the time I enrolled in Ed. school, I pretty much knew what I was in for.  I was well acquainted with the theories of teaching and learning which dominated the education establishment in general and education schools in particular. Nevertheless, I was surprised at what I heard when going through the candidate interviews, which was part of the application process.  Future teachers of science and math were herded in one group and given a brief talk by the coordinator of secondary education.  Among her opening remarks was the announcement that “The way math and science are taught today is probably not how you were taught when you were in school.”  A few sentences later, the coordinator, with index finger pointing to the ceiling for emphasis, said “Inquiry-based learning!”   Though a bit unnerved, I at least knew where I was.

All in all, my Ed. school experience had some redeeming features. Most of my teachers had taught in K-12, and had valuable advice about classroom management problems and some good common-sense approaches to teaching that didn’t rely on nausea-inducing theories.  Also, I learned how to make it sound like my approach to teaching was what was being taught. I learned to talk about discovery approaches and small group exercises—no one has to know that such techniques are not going to be your dominant teaching approach.   In short, since future teachers will be working in a bureaucracy that is often dictated by the groupthink of the education establishment, Ed. school serves the purpose of teaching survival techniques.

Sometime after I took my first course, I decided to write a series of letters documenting my experience in Ed. school, using the pseudonym of John Dewey.  There was a new education blog that had emerged called Edspresso, edited by a genial and talented young man named Ryan Boots. (Unfortunately, he left Edspresso several years ago).  I pitched the idea to him, asking him what he thought.  He responded almost immediately along the lines of “An Ed. school mole writing about his experiences?  When can you start?”

My series of letters for Edspresso covered mainly one class—the beginning math teaching methods class.  The letters proved to be very popular and many people left comments—some supportive, and some very angry.  I wrote the letters almost in real time—there was perhaps a one or two week delay between the letter I was writing and the events of a particular class.

As I progressed through the class, I noticed that while my views on teaching may have differed from that of the teacher (an adjunct professor who I refer to as Mr. NCTM), there were certain views that we shared in common.  We were both around the same age, and he had taught high school math for 30 years.  He had very good advice and it was clear that he liked me.  I came to the realization that though there were vast differences in teaching philosophies within the teaching profession, one had to work with fellow teachers as well as the people in power on a daily basis.  The trick would be to find a situation in which I could be loyal to how I believed math should be taught, and find that common bond with the other teachers and the administration that would allow us all to get along.

I decided to stop writing the letters when the math teaching methods class ended.  This was not only because of the time involved in writing them, but because of a fear that their continuation would ultimately lead someone to discover the identity of the author.  I didn’t want to ruin any chance of obtaining a teaching credential, nor to be blackballed from any teaching positions because of differences in teaching philosophy.

After several years, I had completed all my coursework and was ready to move on to student teaching.  I had a few months to go until retirement, and then could take on the commitment for the remaining task.  I felt that this phase called for a resurrection of John Dewey, but my initial draft of a letter seemed forced and the voice of Mr. Dewey no longer seemed appropriate.

Around that time, I had the good fortune to have seen a performance of Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.  Mr. Holbrook was 85, so I knew this might be my last chance to see him.  The performance lived up to everything I had heard about it, but one part of the evening stood out.  He did a reading from Huckleberry Finn that was extremely moving and convincing.  I heard the voice of a naive young boy commenting on rather serious matters over which he had no control, but about which he was beginning to form life-changing opinions.  I realized the next day that Huck Finn was the perfect choice for the author of the letters about student teaching, immersed in the polarized world of education, and drifting along the ideological, political and cultural divide.

I asked Katharine Beals who runs the blog “Out In Left Field” if she wouldn’t mind publishing some letters from Huck Finn about the process of becoming a math teacher.  She was excited about this and so I decided to give it a go.  I was grateful for her taking Huck in; she is known as “Miss Katharine” in the letters.  The name seemed to fit her quite well.

The first two Huck Finn letters are about a year apart, and then they follow the student teaching.  I couldn’t write those in real time since the teaching kept me rather busy, so I wrote the letters after I finished.  After another year I wrote six more episodes, this time looking at Huck’s experience as a substitute teacher.

I’m trying to think of something profound and moving to close with here and the best I could come up with was  “For anyone wanting to make a movie based on these letters, please don’t have me played by Matt Damon.” Actually, a comment I received on one of the Huck Finn letters from Niki Hayes, a former teacher and principal, is much better I think, so let me close with that and offer it to you as advice:

So you learned what teaching is about: The dispensing of content information so that kids don’t have to “struggle” repeatedly to understand it (which makes most humans turn off the learning switch) AND experiencing those wonderful young eyes that make you want to be a better teacher and person. You’ll always remember these kids because they were your first “tutors.” Let me assure you, there will be many more as you enter the special land of teaching.

My goal is to get this book to be required reading in math teaching methods classes at ed schools.  So if you know anyone in an Ed. school with influence, please tell them about this book.    -Barry Garelick

 “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn: A Look at Math Education from the Inside” is available on Amazon.  

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform   98 comments

Michelle Rhee: Putting Students Last

Countdown # 10:

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform

This is the first in a countdown series of introductions,  a list of the  Top Ten Scariest People Leading American Education. 

 

It’s so troubling to see local and state leaders put their trust –and our childrens’ minds– in the hands of people who openly work to destroy the great American tradition.

It’s been said –and I agree– that American liberties are being lost because of the strange coalition of three unlikely groups:  the well-intentioned, the slothful, and the subversive.

This series will focus on the third group, the subversive.

Watch the antics of the people who lead the educational philosophies of our nation.  Topping my list of educational subversives: Common Core architect/College Board President David Coleman; Common Core testing advisor  /Obama campaign advisor Linda Darling-Hammond; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Sir Michael Barber, who is CEA of Pearson Education; and Dept. of Education consultant Bill Ayers.

Today I will introduce Michelle Rhee, President of StudentsFirst.   She is a self-proclaimed radical left wing progressive   “change agent”.     This Harvard graduate, former chancellor of D.C. schools and White House darling is  rumored to be the logical replacement for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Her book, “Radical,” was published last month.

It is troubling to read about the scandal in which Rhee was accused and partially acknowledged the erasing by adults of wrong answers and correcting student tests dishonestly to make the scores appear higher than they really were.

And it is very troubling to see how little student learning really means to her.  From American Thinker:

“Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst, had gotten into a discussion with former teacher Robert Pondiscio, of the website Core Knowledge, about curriculum. Pondiscio had just finished listening to a speech Rhee gave at the Manhattan Institute on December 16, 2010, when he asked her if she could comment on the importance of curriculum.

Here’s the exchange:

Pondisco: “I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Rhee about my reform game -curriculum, teaching and learning…

“I know you have a lot on your plate,” I concluded. “But I’d urge you to at least keep curriculum in mind.”

“The last thing we’re going to do,” she replied with a chuckle, “is get wrapped up in curriculum battles.”

A stunning reply if you think about it.

The poster child for bare-knuckle reform, who moments earlier was urging her listeners to “embrace conflict,” has no stomach for a debate about what kids should learn in school.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/03/suspect_common_core_standards_linked_to_studentsfirst_former_board_members.html#.UUkTCyJvIaY.email#ixzz2O62fGLq3
Rhee has been criticized endlessly by a California teacher whose blog about absurd education reforms  includes posts decrying common core, data madness, and Michelle Rhee.  At that blog I also found this Dr. Seuss-styled satire –about Michelle Rhee.

Taking Back Childhood: Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige   Leave a comment

In a new Christian Post article, author and professor Dr. Nancy Carsson-Paige calls the Common Core Initiative “the most top-down thing I’ve ever heard of in education,” and adds, “It’s hard to believe, in a democratic country like this,  this could’ve actually happened.”

She feels that for the younger grades especially, Common Core is damaging.

“I’m very concerned about the harm that is created when you put inappropriate  expectations on a nation of young children, you give them all kinds of damaging  messages as well as increasingly eliminate their opportunities for healthy and  genuine learning,” Carlsson-Paige said.

Read the article:  http://www.christianpost.com/news/common-core-harms-kids-early-childhood-expert-says-91457/#TvqYwuATjTiZwZyT.99

Californians Against Common Core   13 comments

http://cuacc.org/

California Republicans and Democrats are coming together to fight a common problem: the Common Core takeover of education.

At the Californians United Against Common Core website (CUACC) you can purchase Orlean Koehle’s book, “Common Core: A Trojan Horse for Education Reform” and see the growing list of Californian individuals and organizations opposing the Obama-backed initiative:

Eagle Forum of California – Orlean Koehle, President
Eagle Forum of Long Beach – Jeanne Goodin, President
Eagle Forum of Sonoma County – Carol Pascoe, Vice President
Pacific Justice Institute – Brad Dacus, President
Pacific Research Institute – Lance T. Izumi
David Geer – City Council Member Modesto
Redding Tea Party – Erin Ryan
Angela Weinzinger – President of Travis Unified School Board
Rosa Koire – Director of postsustainabilityinstitute.org – democratsagainstUNAgenda21.com
Nina Pellegrini – Californians For Property Rights
Heather Gass – President CitizensTownHall.org and East Bay Tea Party

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