Standard 1: Model moral and ethical behavior

Many, if not all, of our courses in this program addressed acting leading in moral and ethical ways, prioritizing non-negotiable values, and putting diverse student needs at the center of our practice. Some courses that explicitly addressed this standard include:

  •  Leadership in Education
  • Engaging Communities
  • Moral Issues in Education

Moral Education Framework

  • Culturally Responsive Education

integration-and-action

In Moral Issues in Education and Culturally Responsive Education, we directly addressed a variety of moral issues faced by educators including

  • race,  ethnicity and cultural identity
  • religion and spirituality
  • politics and charged discussions
  • access
  • parents and community
  • school materials and curriculum

In The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching, Pace discusses the conflicts and forces that push and pull teachers in their pursuit of educating students prepared for entering a democratic society where they need to be able to think critically, question authority, respect and dialogue with diverse perspectives, practice empathy, dialogue with dissenting opinions, and work for social justice. Pace outlines three key areas of conflicts in classrooms: complex dynamics in classrooms, insufficient preparation and ongoing professional development to support and develop teachers ability to facilitate democratic discussion and dialogic conflict, and the contradictory curricular demands that are driven by social and political agendas.

Pace mentions that “we know a great deal in theory about how to [facilitate dialogue about controversial topics], but are still stumped by its minimal existence, especially in racially diverse and lower track settings.” (64) I however am not surprised by the minimal existence of meaningful dialogue around controversial topics, as I too have wanted to stimulate these conversations but had considerable reservations, especially after speaking to colleagues about this issue. I actually had a school counselor last year advise me to send a parent consent letter home first before talking about race and culture in my Spanish classroom! Many of us have heard of teachers right hear in the Greater Seattle Area who have lost their jobs after teaching curriculums centered around controversial topics. Teachers are intimidated by confrontation and heated controversy.

There is a notable lack of professional development in strategies that facilitate these dialogic situations in classrooms, especially those made of up students from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, teachers need to know with certainty and confidence that administrators support and share a value for democratic discussion and dialogue in the classroom and the inherent conflict that comes with it. Teachers need to know that they will be supported not only through professional development, but also if a conflict with families arises. Teachers need to recognize that there are dialogic skills that need to be explicitly taught to students, norms established, processes practiced in order for a structured and respectful dialogue/discussion to be successful. This takes time and intentionality, and training teachers in these strategies would obviously help. Often times, if a teacher has not been trained in a strategy, tries it , and is unsuccessful due to a lack of structure, there is often a tendency to blame the strategy or say it’s not appropriate for the student group for one reason or another and the teacher is often unlikely to try again.

I believe that the ideals of teaching students to think critically, question for themselves, express unique opinions and ideas, and dialogue respectfully with others, especially in charged situations, are those which we MUST place at the center of our teaching. I agree with Pace’s call for more meaningful and readily available professional development for teachers and administrators. As Pace says, we cannot expect teachers to just figure out how to do something they don’t already know, we must lead them there.

I found Religion in the Classroom engaging on a topic that, as highlighted often in the text, is so rarely discussed in educational settings but so deeply shapes our lives and the way citizens of our society interacts. There are many parallels drawn here with our previous text, The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching, especially in the call to teachers to create spaces where dialogue regarding “controversial” topics, like religion and religious influences on our society, values systems, and politics can take place in the classroom, teaching students that “respect requires understanding but not endorsement, civic humility doesn’t require ethical relativism of core beliefs, and civic deliberation doesn’t require consensus, but rather continued conversation” and thereby helping cultivate mindful and empathetic democratic citizens. (p. 82)

On page 3, James mentions that she was “equally concerned about [Christina] feeling ostracized within the teacher education program and her accusations that those of us claiming to be “democratic educators” were acting in hypocritical ways.” This is a critical reflection, as so many times when a student voices an intolerant opinion or one that does not recognize the reality of a society with pluralistic views and beliefs, we often do not challenge these students due to a lack of confidence in how to do so, an avoidance of conflict, or an avarice to bring religious conversation into the public realm, due the conflict we might encounter amongst students or push back from families. Often, we can help build understanding and demonstrate respect for others with differing belief systems, simply by opening up the conversation. Ask, start the conversation, don’t just ignore religious conversations. On page 57, Simone Schweber discusses the awkwardness that a Jewish student studying the Holocaust as one of the only Jewish students in the class feels, but by simply asking her what it feels like to be in this situation, one can not only learn how to better meet this student’s needs in the classroom, but can also open the door to exploring the role religion plays in our personal identities, value systems and ways we perceive the world and actions around us.

The discussion around unconscious values was particularly intriguing for me. I was surprised by the example of how religious views can shape one’s perceptions of poverty and wealth, for example. I had never thought of this before, and what a unique challenge it presents in the classroom as these values are often not shared vocally. This emphasizes the need for pre-assessments and frequent formative assessment to gain a better understanding of students’ perceptions, values and misconceptions of the content. This is a very important reason why students don’t always learn what we teach!

Over and over again it is suggested here that as teachers it is our duty to create safe spaces to discuss religion in our classrooms. On page 59 Schweber suggests that “we do our utmost as teachers to raise these ideas and discuss them. I want us, as teachers, whether in public or private schools, to consider it part of our work to put religious ideas on the table. I want them to be part of classroom conversations…” It seems that in order for this to really happen, as was suggested in The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching as well, teachers need better professional development and more whole school support in order to outfit them (us) with the strategies to create safe spaces where opinions/ideas can be shared and explored collectively through dialogue in the

Norman Wirzba’s book Way of love: Recovering the heart of Christianity discusses the fundamental characteristic of love in shaping the Christian religious tradition. I found this book inspiring personally, but less relevant for my teaching life in public schools. Obviously there is much love, dedication and consideration of others in our profession, but the need to love our students unconditionally was not a revelation. I appreciated the thoughtful way in which Wirzba connected Christian traditions with modern life examples, as I have often found this lacking.

Another resource with many thought-provoking essays regarding social justice and morality issues we are faced with every day is the This I Believe Essay Collection. There were many essays I listened to that made me think or appreciate the author’s sincerity, but the one I liked the most was “I can make a difference” by Carol Fixman (http://thisibelieve.org/essay/170999/). In her essay, she speaks to the lesson she learned from her mother that she can be a person of action, to be the change-maker in her own life, to create the kind of relationships she wants to see in the world and to push back on injustices she pays witness to around her.

I found this particular essay inspirational, as it can be easy for me to get caught in the “oh I will do it tomorrow,” mode. There is always something else more pressing, more urgent to attend to, and I often don’t get around to all those things I was intending to do. I find upon reflection that often the activities I neglect are those most beneficial to myself and my community, such as saving time for meditation and personal reflection, exercise, engaging in public dialogue about community issues and injustice, but as they are more challenging or time consuming and require more intentionality, they often get pushed to the back burner and remain on the “to-do” list forever. This essay has inspired me by reminding me that I do strongly believe that change is always possible: in our students, our classrooms, our society, our relationships, and in ourselves. But I must be my own change maker.

A public dialogue about belief – one essay at a time. (n.d.). Retrieved June 04, 2017, from http://thisibelieve.org/

Blankstein, A.M, Cole, R.W., & Houston, P.D. (2007). Spirituality in educational leadership.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

James, J.H., Schweber, S., Kunzman, R., Barton, K.C., & Logan, K. (2015). Religion in the classroom: Dilemmas for democratic education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pace, J. (2015). The charged classroom: Predicaments and possibilities for democratic teaching. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wirzba, N. (2016). Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Pre-Assessment: EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration

My current experiences with professional learning practices thus far have been generally positive, but individualized more than collaborative. 

When I started in this district 3 years ago, it was my first experience with PLCs. My current knowledge of PLCs is limited, although I know that the general cycle of group inquiry begins with a collective question or goal, data collection and tracking, reflection as a group on that data, decisions made together to react to what the data tells us (sharing of best practices, trying new strategies to see who has the better results, etc.), collecting data again and continuing this cycle. I have worked in a PLC ever since joining my current school, but I have never felt like we follow this cycle as we set common goals and discuss how we are addressing these goals, but we have never compared data nor reacted to data to adjust our teaching, which I feel are actually the critical steps. There actually seems to be a true aversion to data collection with my colleagues, and I have felt jeered at recently when attempting to suggest we use data collection to improve our practice. 

Due to diverse attitudes towards data collection and collaboration in my PLC, I have chosen a more individualized and personal route of professional learning, pursuing workshops and trainings multiple times a year, organizing trainings to share with colleagues, pursuing my Masters in Teacher Leadership and working to apply this learning directly to my classroom, and pursuing my National Board Certification, which is an inherently reflective process. 

I became a teacher to help level the playing field, close the gap, play my role in making the world a more just place. However, I have not always felt like I am directly achieving this. I am curious to see how professional learning can be pursued through a social justice lens in this class this Quarter, as is mentioned in the article Building Hope, Giving Affirmation by Stephanie Hirsh and Shirley M. Hord. I do feel like social justice issues have been raised by our administration, and this year, we were encouraged to work in our PLCs to design units of work that would be accessible to low income students and our African American and Latino students. Unfortunately, we were given little time and no guidance/resources for how to do this, and so teachers more focused on designing collaborative units of work more than units designed to support specific populations of students within the school. 

 

Research, 5 Star Research and Knowledge Construction

This week we focused on Research procedures and teaching research to students.Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 8.17.17 PMThe LWSD encourages use of the 5 Star Research Model. I appreciate the methodical and straight-forward approach that is this process. It makes sense to present to students in this format. However, I can foresee that to teach to students one would have to teach one step at a time, for example teach just planning, then just gathering, then organizing, etc. This would take up a lot of class time.

In my research this week I looked into the use of Google Cardboard in the classroom. My colleague first mentioned this new idea to me a couple weeks ago, and he is going to try to propose that we get a pilot program running at our school, now that myself and a few other teachers are on board and would be willing and exciting to see it’s potential in the classroom. I’m very excited by the idea that students may be able to take virtual field trips to Latin America and Spanish destinations. The applications for this technology in my classroom are endless.

My favorite source I found through my research this week was

http://www.youvisit.com/travel

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 11.54.17 AM

Even without Google Cardboard, students can take virtual tours around the world. The only technical glitch I’ll need to work out and explore is whether or not students are able to access this website on their District laptops.

However, I must admit that at this moment, I am feeling quite overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching research to my students in an all-Spanish environment. I have heard it said that each year find one or two really meaningful things you are going to change to improve your practice and focus on those things, so as to implement them effectively and to not overstrain yourself and your time. However this year, I have completely changed my teaching model AND I am trying to be more reflective AND I’m video taping lessons for the first time AND I’m implementing OneNote Notebooks AND I’m trying to incorporate other ISTE Standards and implement other new technology. It is a lot and realistically I reaching a point where I am unsure how much “new” I will be able to handle this semester.

On a positive note thought, I do feel energized and excited this year because I am really being pushed and challenged to be better and to improve my practice for student benefit.


On a different note, this last week I spent 3 days introducing OneNote to my students. It took a lot of time and was hectic. I set up activities ahead of time and gave students a brief, all-class introduction to OneNote and then set them to work on a list of tasks which required them to explore OneNote and complete different activities, some individually, some in pairs. It was a bit chaotic. In the future, to improve this activity, I will put students in groups of 3 and organize the room so that they are physically sitting in these groups and work together to answer each others’ questions and work through tasks.

Digital Citizenship

This week we learned about explicitly teaching Digital Citizenship in the classroom. We discussed HOW to explicitly teach skills such as

  • norms for collaborating using technology
  • hot to safely and responsibly use digital resources, including when citing and respecting copyright
  • knowledge of digital footprint

It is a challenge to think about how to explicitly teach some or all of these things, especially when I am teaching in an immersion Spanish class. The reality is, most of this cannot be taught to Spanish 1 while remaining in the Spanish language at this time, and I am not willing to teach in English.

For Spanish 2 however, technology is a theme that I need to teach on this year, and I am going to try to incorporate some of the Digital Citizenship big ideas into the class, especially teaching students norms for collaborating using technology and teaching them about their digital footprint (if I can find a way to do this in Spanish).

It is hard to fully embrace this expectation of explicitly teaching Digital Citizenship, on top of all the other responsibilities we have. There are plenty of resources, in English, or in advanced Spanish language, but I have yet to find something accessible, in the Target Language, for my students. This makes it impractical for me to teach and incorporate into my current lessons.

However, this week I have been implementing my new tech knowledge gained from this course including

  • I have been accessing Twitter much more frequently (nearly every day) to check out what World Language colleagues are sharing and to “lurk” on #langchat. Soon, when I have the time to be fully present in front of my computer on a Thursday or Saturday evening, I will join in and contribute to #langchat.
  • I’ve been preparing a collaborative OneNote Notebook where my classes can update and share a live vocabulary list specifically for each class period.
  • We had a LEAP day on Friday (Oct. 16) and we learned about Office Mix, as well as discussed the ISTE skills continuum. It is nice when class blends with what is actually happening in the larger school culture. However, huge setback- we were told that students weren’t allowed to download or use Mix on their own laptops…I don’t understand that one…