Volume:9, Issue: 2

Sep. 30, 2017

In This Category
A Moral Education: Expanding Students’ Worldviews
Manus, Sarah G. [about]
As humans, we are called to challenge and learn from one another; asking difficult questions and wrestling with complex answers helps us grow as individuals, but more importantly, it leads us to improve the inequities that exist in both our immediate and global communities. Teachers—those who are often the first to challenge and inform young people of the world’s rules and customs—hold much power to nurture today’s youth into more tolerant, human-centered, and productive members of society. Because of this, I feel that teachers have a specific moral responsibility to inform their students about experiences beyond their own, as well as experiences that challenge their own.
Conflicting Demands on Teachers: Suggestions for Mitigating Effects on Students
Dooley, Kalah R. [about]
In today’s classrooms, teachers face pressure from multiple sources: national and local policies, school policies, colleagues, parents, and students. Some of these pressures lead to complications within the institute of the school system, while others more directly influence teacher practice, but all have an impact on classrooms. The most notable challenges that teachers face come from conflicting demands and ideals with which they have to contend. Among these conflicting demands are, (1) the simultaneous increase in standardization along with the call for differentiation; (2) participation in an increasingly multicultural world while schools continue to be mostly segregated; and (3) the commitment to cover certain amounts of content while stressing the importance of the depth of information taught. At the classroom level, teachers will be unable to address the institutional problems inherent in education, but can seek to mediate their effects on students through some of the ideas of thinkers like Pestalozzi, Sukhomlinsky, and Montessori.
Challenges for Modern Teachers in the Classroom
Hartley, Nicole D. [about]
Modern educators have many obstacles to work through with students in their classrooms. The biggest challenge for teachers today is the amount of conflicting views on what is most important for students in the classroom. There is pressure to connect with each student individually, differentiate for all needs, and prepare students for standardized testing while battling students’ reliance on social media and disinterest in the subject being presented. It seems impossible to reach all of these needs in the classroom. Bringing diversity into the classroom provides a greater opportunity for students to grow in their learning, but also brings challenges for teachers to reach all of those students. This is important for the educational community to be aware of these challenges. The combination of these stresses could lead to teacher burnout, especially a young teacher such as myself. I want to be aware of challenges that I will be presented with so I can find ways to adapt my strategies to be more effective. The following sections will highlight the main challenges I see for modern educators in the classroom.
Beyond the Single Story
Elder, Catherine J. [about]
The way we view the world is all too often based on our experiences and the stories, both written and told, that have been shared with us. They form our beliefs and shape our behaviors. The view of our world and the people who make up its diverse landscape are often developed in small circles by people who share our circles. This is how we can inadvertently view the world through a “single story.” In doing so, we naturally and naively create perceptions, stereotypes, beliefs and bias about those living outside our spheres. We grow and develop with a narrow lens and instinctively protect those that think and look as ourselves. We make heartfelt and thoughtful decisions on the wisdom of our narrowmindedness. I believe living this way as individuals denies oneself a richness of opportunity and experience. Living this way in democratic educational systems has long-term negative effects on all of humanity. Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian author, inspired my thoughts of this subject in her 2009“Danger of a Single Story,” TED Talk. In this talk, Adichie expresses how our limited stories and single perception of people can produce adverse results that are less than true. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” How is it that single stories have played out in my life and in my educational experience? Where are the opportunities for merging stories to come together so that the single story can be broadened and be a more complete depiction of humanity? Where in my “whiteness” have I been able to become more racially conscious? Borrowing the words of Adichie, “in this single story of mine, how was I to find the possibility of others to being similar to me in any way, how was I to find the possible feelings of a connection as human equals?”
Multiethnic Literature in the Progressive Classroom: A Descendant and Improvement on John Dewey’s Ideas
Perkins, Pat [about]
In many ways, the progressive era of education in the United States never ended. While the idea of child-centered schooling never took hold on a large basis in America, education in the 21st century has been centered around children and their needs. As schools become more of an agent of socialization for their students, they, especially teachers, have grown more knowledgeable about the lives of those students (Webb and Metha, 2017). Efforts to learn about students are not made in a vacuum; when given the flexibility to adapt curriculum and teaching methods to students’ needs, good teachers will do so. One way teachers of English-language arts can do this is to use readings that mirror the lives of their students. In multicultural classrooms, the literature students read should mirror the cultures they belong to. It should be child-centered, a critical component of the progressivism promoted by John Dewey in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Promoting Social Acceptance and Social Skills in The Classroom
Marvin, Erin N. [about]
Promoting social acceptance in the classroom has been brought to the forefront of education recently. Educators, parents, and communities are recognizing the need to broaden the education agenda to not only improve academic performance but also to enhances students’ social-emotional competence, character, health and civic engagement (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Many famous European educators from the past such as Johann Pestalozzi, Rudolf Steiner, Janusz Korczak and others were the forbearers of social learning and promoting social acceptance. The need to provide these skills is critical to promoting social acceptance in our communities and our society. Students with disabilities will need special attention in this particular area. Social-emotional competence and social skill development will promote social acceptance for not only students with disabilities but also all students in the classroom.
Improving Student Participation and Achievement Through Increased Teacher-Parent Communication: Implications for a Middle School Teacher
Reid, Carmen [about]
21st Century Teachers face numerous challenges in their classrooms. Every student that walks through our door is unique. They come from different cultures, different family structures, and different ideologies regarding academia. As educators, we have the challenge of acknowledging these differences and then finding a way to incorporate them into our classroom environment for its betterment. As Tolstoy observed, The best teacher is one that can instantly recognize what is bothering a student. This ability in turn gives a teacher the knowledge of the greatest possible number of methods; the ability to invent new methods; and above all-rather than the blind adherence to one method- the conviction that all methods are one sided, that the best possible method is the one that answers best of all the possible difficulties incurred by the student. This is not a method, but an art and a talent (Tolstoy, 2000).
Representation for Equity in Education: What Is Really Holding Students Back?
Folkins, Claire [about]
The importance of racial representation in organizations and institutions first became a reality to me when speaking with a friend of mine who works for a nonprofit youth outreach organization I also volunteer with. He, an African American male, was the only person of color on the team of volunteers at the time he first joined the organization. Although he felt a little out of place, he had friends on the team and valued the opportunity to provide a positive role model to students who related to him. He was satisfied to participate for the time, although he thought nothing more of his involvement. However, one year, he was at summer camp volunteering with the same organization when he heard one of their staff members speak. The speaker was a Latino with a tough personal history that he felt he could relate to. In that moment, my friend felt that this organization he was volunteering with really could be a lifelong endeavor for him. Now, he works full-time for the same organization and is a key leader in cultivating diversity among their staff members and volunteers, all because he saw just one person in leadership who reflected a bit of his own identity. This one-time experience changed the course of my friend’s life, and offers a powerful lesson to those of us who are members of the majority culture in America.
Tolstoy, Dewey and Korczak: Their Lives, Educational Ideas, and Practices
Lim, Bee [about]
Leo Tolstoy, John Dewey and Janusz Korczak (“TDK”) were influential figures in pushing for progressive, child-centered education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even though their theories are not widely practiced in education today, their ideas remain powerful and relevant to every educator who believes in democratic education and social justice. Their belief that there is no “one size fits all” curriculum and pedagogical theories remain true today. The recent Common Core Standards, with its more general guidelines and explicit goal of preparing students for college and career-readiness, are aligned with the ideas of TDK. All three lived in different times and came from different background, but Korczak studied Tolstoy and Dewey, both of whom were influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Ultimately, there are more similarities than differences among the three because they challenged the status quo of education practices in an attempt to create a better society, which they believed could only result from educating the young.
A Compass that Points Right
Goodhew, Claudia [about]
I am guided not by religious beliefs, but by a moral compass that points right; that is, it points to doing what is “right”, compassionate and equitable. I live my life with the awareness of the injustice all around us, but my actions must endeavor for social justice. My love for children calibrates my moral compass and guides me when I feel tired. My hope that the next generation can be better than the last makes me believe that even the unattainable is attainable. For the last twelve-years I have worked with children who are sexually or physically abused. Some children are mere months old, others I’ve seen multiple times over the years. A person cannot be the same after seeing children fighting for their lives, anguished faces trying to survive trauma, or a child whispering that they don’t want to be raped anymore. I have cried behind closed doors, willing an infant to survive from being shaken too violently. I have wept when a mother failed her most basic role as a protector by allowing men to sexually abuse her young daughter for money. I have yelled and cursed our criminal justice system when it blatantly exposes inequalities, when money will let a defendant walk to freedom. I’m angry. I try to do right for those children.
Sukhomlinsky and Holistic Education in the Public School Classroom
Ginther-Hutt, Kaitlyn L. [about]
Vasily Sukhomlinsky (1918-1970) is renown as the “most influential Soviet educator of the post-war period” (Cockerill, 2011, 198). He was a practicing classroom teacher and, for 23 years, principal of a school in a Ukrainian village. His school became known as “the school of joy” and was oriented towards the joy of childhood, confidence and respect for children, positive intellectual relationships between teachers and students, and moral and values education (Papadopoulou, 2008, p.1). Sukhomlinsky believed in holistic education and the teaching of values. He connected physical, moral, aesthetic, intellectual, and vocational education with practical training in good works (Cockerill, 2011). His teaching philosophy became known as “holistic education”; one in which the whole child was taught to, not just the intellect. He believed that “children should be educated and raised in a spirit respecting human rights, care of the environment, and love for one’s home country and family (Papadopoulou, 2008, p.1). Through his career he wrote over 500 articles, 40 books, and many periodicals which are still being translated, widely read, and esteemed today (Cockerill, 2016).
Examining Finland’s Education Reform and its Implications for the United States
McAbee, Robert [about]
There are similarities and differences between the education systems in the United States and Finland. Throughout their post-World War II histories, reformers in both countries have called for education reform at a national level. In the United States the pushes for education reform often manifest as new federal policies or guidelines. But the ideas and policies that are endorsed at the federal level are then adopted by the states with varying levels of acceptance. In Finland there has been a slow push for an education reform, but nationally education reforms were adopted uniformly. It is important to examine the Finish school system and their reforms as Finnish students consistently score among the top countries on internationally recognized student achievement tests. The Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) reports that Finnish students are among the top countries for reading, math, and science aptitude. Finland achieved these high marks while spending less per student and also having an average income per person.
Unintended Influence: How the Teacher Candidate’s Beliefs about Student Achievement are Impacted by the Mentor’s Language and Context
Heiney-Smith, Jill R. [about]
Regardless of the program, the grade level and content, and even the school itself, the student teaching practicum is inarguably influential in the development of the novice teacher. Teacher Candidates (TCs) project their need for synthesis of theory and practice onto their mentor, dreaming of a match in personality, pedagogical approach and communication style. The mentor signs up for a variety of reasons, including the desire to “pay it forward” and, according to an unpublished ongoing study, for their own professional development (Heiney-Smith & Denton, 2015). The mentor and candidate may inhabit different contexts that shape their identities and influence their beliefs about students, yet during student teaching, the TC must assume the mentor’s. Habitual norms such as the way a mentor speaks and listens to students, the labels used both officially, such as for instructional blocking, and unofficially, such as during the post-instruction casual reflection, can be especially crucial when concerning the candidate’s ability to build a culturally responsive learning environment that is authentic to his or her own lived experience. Teacher candidates learn to privilege the progressive ideals of educators such as John Dewey (1859-1952) or Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), and are even placed in contemporary classrooms that feature child-centered learning environments and democratically derived classroom norms. Their learning would be further emboldened by studying other famous European educators including Pestalozzi (1746-1827), Korczak (1878-1942) and Sukhomlinsky (1918-1970). However, these holistic educators’ deep commitments of student-directed inquiry, creativity, and combined psycho-social learning are curiously absent from mentoring programs in teacher education, which demand that students meet competency and outcomes-based standards devised by the states in which they seek certification. Requirements aside, mentor teachers are arguably the most critical factor in influencing the developing belief systems of the TC.

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