December 2008


There has been a discussion over at So You Want to Teach? (currently my favorite education blog) about Asperger’s and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) more generally. This is an issue that has struck a chord with me in recent weeks, so I was glad to see how other educators and parents have dealt with the education of autistic individuals.

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Timing is great sometimes: Just a mere two days after I posted my New Year’s resolution, Joel from So You Want to Teach? E-mailed me in regard to a project that he had hinted at on his blog.

The project: Blogging through student teaching in spring 2009.

Of course, I’m on board – how could I not be? This coincides perfectly with my own resolution, and now I have sort of a support system, as well as others who I can draw from. Hopefully, there will be plenty of other spring ’09 student teachers who will share their own experiences and thoughts from their placements. I now have a link to the right, so check back for more postings as the spring semester begins.

As I begin to think more about this new year, full of new things happening, I have decided to make a commitment for the upcoming year – well, at least the first part of it. I am going to attempt to blog every day of my student teaching, starting January 5 and extending through April (I’m unsure of the ending date at present). I will also make an effort to blog on my “off days” as well, but the base commitment will be to blog every day that I teach.

I fully recognize that this may be a difficult goal to keep – who has the time to blog every day? – but I’m convinced that blogging will be good for a number of reasons: 1) it will help me get my thoughts out in a relatively safe place, where I know I’m writing for me but within reasonable confines; 2) it will discipline me to reflect on my teaching every day I do it; and 3) it should help my writing, which is in constant need of cultivation. There are probably other good reasons – like being able to voice concerns with the student teaching experience in hopes that other teachers can commisserate and maybe even offer suggestions – but these will suffice.

It will also help boost the volume of this blog, which really needs more content.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be watching my boys a fair amount of time after school, probably, so it will be a challenge, but I need to keep up. If you have any advice or want to send encouragement, drop me a line.

Obama recently revealed his pick for Secretary of Education. Before the announcement was made, the primary two candidates were Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne (pronounced “arn-ee”) Duncan and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein; Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, Obama’s education advisor, was also mentioned as under consideration. Ultimately, Arne Duncan was Obama’s choice.

I have had some high hopes for Obama’s administration on education. I’m a strong opponent (as it seems most teachers are these days) of the way No Child Left Behind has impacted public schools across the country, and I have long wanted to see change happen regarding what seems to be a very poorly implemented act (at best). When I found out that Linda Darling-Hammond was under consideration, I was even more hopeful: Darling-Hammond has been very vocal about her opposition to NCLB, even though she acknowledges that the act has some good points (and myself and other teachers have said as much as well). After the announcement, I have been a little discouraged for the pick – Duncan played basketball with Obama on Election Day (Duncan played professionally in Australia), and he is one of many Chicagoans who will be filling the Cabinet of this new administration. That hits home for me, a native (non-Chicago) Illinoisan, who has seen what sort of influence Chicago cronyism has had on our state.

That’s of course not to say that Duncan is a bad pick, certainly; his credentials look good on paper, and he obviously brings a lot of esteem as a reformer. He is not, however, a reformer when it comes to NCLB – he basically supports the intention of the act, although he has called for more funding. (Whether or not that will be even remotely possible given the enormous federal deficit is another question entirely.) But he has his good points: he is very critical of funding methods for schools, which tend to advantage those who already have an economic advantage, and the situation in Chicago public schools seems to have improved during his tenure there. (You can read more about Duncan’s accomplishments here.)

But that’s enough of my opinion. Tell me what you think:

The semester has finally ended: despite being absolutely insane (see here – although I confess that it got better), it went very quickly, and I was sad to see it end for many reasons. The experience with freshmen comp was incredibly rewarding: I got to do some real teaching in an environment that I enjoyed, with students that were reasonably responsive, under a professor who I highly respect and with whom I share a very similar philosophy of teaching and learning (she was my instructor for a Contemplation Writing course, and we are both very reflective individuals); I was introduced to content that challenged me intellectually while helping to teach it (see here and here); and perhaps most importantly, I was able to cultivate meaningful relationships with students and found that I could interact very meaningfully with them on several levels – academically as well as personally; as an experienced college student (maybe too experienced – I’ve been at this undergrad thing for too long), and also someone who has lived through enough to provide wisdom for living. There were a few instances where I had the opportunity to talk to small groups of students in a more personal, intimate setting, and I was able to help some of them understand better ways to approach life and their education so as not to be unnecessarily frustrated. I hope it helps them – I truly care about their success, and I hope to check back in with the instructor next semester to follow up and see how some of them (the ones she will have in class for the subsequent course in the program) have fared as writers and as individuals.

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