Each year, on the day after Labor Day, the invasion begins. We stand in the hall next to our classrooms at the sound of the warning bell, and feel the adrenaline rush through our veins as we hear the sound of excited chatter of our new students. It continues to pulse through as we go through a checklist in our heads — are the seating charts finished? Is the bulletin board bright and colorful enough? Will our students actually get something out of our classes this year? I know on that first day I think about the successes I have had, and I also reflect back on things I’d like to change. I would like to fix those days when I felt like I would get more response out of a jello mold than my students. In my first sentence I referred to the arrival of the kids as an invasion, and what I meant by that was it was an invasion of student robots. They come in each day to sit at their desks or lab tables, and proceed to meticulously take the notes that I give them, or do the lab activity that I give them, or work on a project that I give them. Yes, it is very teacher-driven, so, what happens when they actually have to…wait for it…READ something? If our students are only doing enough class work to just get by, the likelihood that much of what they are reading from a disciplinary text is being absorbed into their eternal long term memories is, well, not very likely.
Implementing culturally relevant pedagogy in the classroom has become an increasingly important priority for English teachers. In this piece, I will explore the difficulties that come with selecting culturally relevant texts and many of the misconceptions that teachers have about teaching literacy in culturally diverse classrooms. Continue reading →
Preservice English teachers come into teacher education programs with strongly held beliefs about literature and reading. In some cases, they loved Great Expectations and can’t wait to read the book with their own students. In other cases, they hated Great Expectations and vow to never waste their students’ time with boring books. These beliefs most likely grow from their own experiences learning to read and interpret literature as they progressed through elementary, middle and high school. As these preservice English teachers enter teacher education courses, teacher educators often see their role as one of exposing students like these to new methods and ideas. As a teacher educator, I have often assumed that the preservice teachers I teach will naturally adopt newer strategies and methods as they see ways in which these new strategies and methods are effective. This study, however, challenged those assumptions. Continue reading →
Diversity is an important topic that preservice teachers need to explore a great deal before they launch their career. The state of Minnesota recognizes the importance of understanding diverse learners in education and lists it in standard 3 in Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (see: MN Standard of Effective Practice for Teachers. Standard 3. diverse learners: A teacher must understand how students differ in their approaches to learning and create instructional opportunities that are adapted to students with diverse backgrounds and exceptionalities). As expected teacher behaviors, the standard 3 states that, teachers need to “understand the contributions and lifestyles of the various racial, cultural, and economic groups in our society” and pay “attention to a student’s personal, family, and community experiences” (Minnesota Department of Education). My college, where I have taught a diversity class and children’s literature class, emphasizes recognizing and appreciating diversity in many forms. We also try to develop students’ awareness of diversity through classes in our teacher education program. Students also have other opportunities to be exposed to LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) related issues through university-wide events, such as seeing LGBT-themed films, listening to a guest speaker, discussing LGBT issues, and participating a LGBT conference. Continue reading →