Monday, February 28, 2005

What is Learning?

We wrote this in class. Thought I would share it with you. Please forgive the lack of editting since it was only written in about 10 minutes in class.

What is Learning?

A distinction that is not made often enough in our educational system is the difference between recollection and learning. I have observed this misnomer even in the realm of higher education. Frequently, rote memorization replaces actual learning. In my experience, students are often asked to memorize pages of dates and historical persona but this may not be indicative of an understanding of the subject matter. If simply retaining knowledge does not qualify, in my opinion, as learning then what does it mean to learn?

Robert Slavin defines learning in his text Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice (2003) as acquiring non-innate abilities. These abilities can range from learning how to ride a bicycle to learning how to perform algebraic equations. I am fond of this definition because it does not relate memorization to learning. I think excluding memorization from the definition is appropriate because young children are able to memorize complicated items, but they do not have a true understanding of what they mean. An anecdotal example is that I was once babysitting a little girl and we sang the alphabet song together. After we had finished singing as asked her if she knew what the letters in the song were for and she replied that they were for singing this particular song. This little girl and memorized the letters of the alphabet, but she had not learned their purpose. In memorizing the alphabet song, she was not acquiring any new skills and thus not truly learning. Of course, many arguments can be made that she was learning how to memorize a song, etc., but I am only referring to the content of the song for this example.

Another feature that I believe is an important indication of whether something is truly learned is the ability to apply the new ability. For example, if one has truly learned physics, as opposed to simply memorizing the mathematical operations, she should be able to apply this knowledge in her college mechanical engineering class. If one is able to apply their new ability to a new scenario, this is learning. Naturally, students will sometimes need assistance from their teacher (especially in the primary grades) in remembering to apply their knowledge to a new problem. Not that the teacher will work systematically through the new problem with the students, but simply reminding them of what specific skill will help them solve the problem. Perhaps if they are still struggling after this hint, then the teacher can step in and be of more assistance.

Where does this leave educators? I believe that it leaves us at a point where we seriously need to reevaluate the ways in which we are assessing our students. In closing, I think it is important not only that educators are aware of the difference between memorization and learning but that we strive to make our students aware as well. This way, they can be partly responsible for their own learning and give valuable feedback on the effectiveness of their teacher’s instruction.

Friday, February 25, 2005

In School Today

I went into school today. The students were doing a particullarly time consuming and difficult lab. It's the one day a year where the students are required to stay after school to perform this lab. It's a plant transporation lab.

Anyway, I went in to help out and had the following exchange with Ribbon Girl.

RG: Omigosh! Are you ok?
Me: Ummm....yes.....why?
RG: Oh, well it looks live you've been punched in the face...and have two black eyes.....

Clearly, I need to sleep more or wear more makeup.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Is this for prom?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this when I've gone shopping for dresses for one of my schools many, many formal occassions.

What can I say, I look about 16. ::shrugs::

I didn't think this would be a large problem for my future teaching career, until I had the following conversation with my teacher prep advisor:

Advisor: I'm glad you've decided to take 401 and do your student teaching as a 9th semester.
Me: Why's that?
Advisor: To be frank, you look so young that any age we can add to your appearence will be helpful.
Me: Oh...

This isn't the only instance where someone has commented to me about my youthful appearence and how it will effect my teaching. However, I haven't noticed a problem. The students were more or less well behaved and respectful during the lessons I've taught so far and I certainly don't dress like a student.

Kate at Behind the Desk wrote a post about dressing professionally. I believe that I do dress professionaly, yet on more than one occassion staff members at my host school have confused me with a student. What student wear's slacks and a blazer? Not many.

In all fairness, I am 5'1" and weigh about 100 lbs. However, I know I look young, it doesn't need to be constantly brought to my attention. Besides my teaching ability is what should be being discussed not my appearence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

And I huffed and I puffed...

Thank goodness, I'm finally on the mend. Being so wretchedly sick that I was unable to get out of bed was getting old. Not only could I not get out of bed, but my head hurt so much that I couldn't even read! I was forced to entertain myself with daytime televisions. Shudders. I have nothing against the local news or daytime television in modest amounts but when that is the only thing you can entertain yourself with for days at a time it gets old.

How many times do I need to watch people get married on tv? For that matter how many times do I have to listen to women complain about their boyfriend who is sleeping with their half-sisters cousin who also happens to be a transexual? And why must all cartoon characters have such high pitched voices?

I don't mean to complain...WAIT! Yes, I do!

When did television become such a wasteland? When I was in high school there was usually some interesting documentary on the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel. Now these channels are filled with either car/motorcycle/house building shows or marriage/birth/fashion shows. These channels used to have great stuff on them, especially the Discovery Channel. There would always be a show about some strange animal or a mummy or something that was actually educational and had me "discovering" something.

Anyway, thankfully I can get my head back into my books now. I've already finished my readings for class next week (grins). Now I'm about to go read my current pleasure book. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, by Matt Ridley. It doesn't sound like a pleasure book, but it is! It's a laymen's science book, but so far it has been bringing up some interesting questions. For example, is love rational? Maybe...maybe not. Right now I'm leaning towards not.

The reason I don't think love is rational is because my sweetie is driving me crazy - in a good way. He won't let me have my birthday present until my visit during spring break. Furthermore, he won't even tell me what it is other than that it will be a "HUGE" surprise and it's "AWESOME." I know I'm acting like a 3-year-old, but it's really driving me nuts that I don't know what it is. I just can't stop mentally guessing at possibilities. Most of you don't know me personally, so it's difficult to understand why I act this way. Part of it, is that I am an extremelly curious person - which is probably why I'm so interested by the sciences - and NEED to know everything.

Anyway, you all have better things to do then read my ramblings. Go play outside! Or read a book! OR go to bed!


Sunday, February 20, 2005

So sick....

Sorry for the lack of updating, but this chicky has the flu.....I'm trying to figure out a way to make it through all of my classes this week without passing out.......jeez...cursed 12 week semesters.......

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Funny Alert

Not very professional, but nonetheless...Spread the love. Here.

In other news, I am sick. I blame the girl who spent the entire Monday mus103 lecture coughing on me. It was really gross. I should buy stock in whatever company owns that liquid hand sanitizer stuff...or a bubble...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Should teachers be responsible for teaching morality?

In an ideal world where every child has loving parents who lavish attention and wisdom upon their children, I would say that teachers are responsible for reinforcing the moral values that children learn at home.

However, don't live in a perfect world. While it may be difficult to "create" moral individuals when we lack parental support, I still think that we need to at the very least be impeccable role models for our students. This is all obvious I guess.

I also think that what we sometimes interpret as immoral behavior can be attributed to extreme apathy on the student's part. They don't care if we call their parents, give them detention, expel them or tell them they are destroying their future. I think this is the root of the morality problem. How did it come to be that people don't care? They don't care for others or even themselves. There are various psychology texts written about teenage gang participation. The overwhelming finding is that these teens have no respect for human life. To them it doesn't matter if they die tomorrow or if they shoot someone and go to jail for the next 30 years. Of course, I am just summarizing the findings, but this is what struck me the most.

I think the question becomes now, "how can we teach students respect for others and appreciation of human life, both their own and others?"

If we knew the answer, I think we would live in a very different world.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


My cooperating teacher is really wonderful, because whenever I come in we usually end up kind of team teaching. Obviously she is distributing most of the content, but I always end up helping the kids, especially when we are doing a lab. This is way better than simply observing the class.

Anyway, yesterday was an interesting lab class indeed. Since it was Valentine's Day many of the students had small stuffed animals tucked into their backpacks. At first I thought this was kind of cute and since they weren't being distracted by them they didn't seem to matter.

However, while I was helping some student figure out which of the onion root tip cells were in which phase of mitosis I here the loud chatter that usually accompanies student debauchery. I turn around and one student has his back to me and it appears as though he just told a joke or made a witty comment, so I turn back to the students I was working with. The next thing I know I hear my mentor quite loudly asking this young man to "take that out of your pants!" My curiosity gets the better of me and I turn around and see that he has unzipped his fly and has one of the valentine's stuffed animals (ahem, a banana wearing a shirt that says: I love you a bunch) sticking out of his pants in a very phallic manner. Oh my. He took it out, but was being obnoxious and kept asking why he was being yelled at. This earned him a "see me after school."

I had to leave and go back to college, so I don't know exactly what she said to this young man. How does one say, "you are being yelled at because you put the stuffed animal in your pants to intentionally look like a penis," without being offensive? Hmmm...

Crazy kids.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Houston we have a problem...

I am not a teacher yet. Better put, I am not fully in the mindset of a teacher.

Last night, I went to a Jesse Malin concert with my friend Nick, his younger brother and his younger brother's friend. Now, his younger brother is probably about 16 (as is his friend). Even so I didn't really realize how much younger they were than I am. In a year I will (hopefully) be in a classroom with 16 year olds. I need to figure out how to seperate myself from my students. I need get to the point where I am not in the position of their friend, but the position of their teacher.

I guess at a concert with friends I don't need to act like a teacher, but I was still really surprised that I didn't even think about it. I guess part of this may have to do with my small high school. I have always been friends with people many years younger or older than I am.

Anyway, I'm going back to school tomorrow for another observation. It's a student shadowing exercise where we are supposed to identify which psychological stage they have reached. Hopefully, it won't be raining tomorrow for my drive.

Good night all.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Long Day

Oh my...long long day....

And a long, but fun weekend ahead.

Saturday: Charter Initiations

Sunday: Jesse Malin Concert

Somewhere in there I have to do some more work on my portfolio. I really need to write up my annotated bibliography....hmmm....

More posting later.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Feminists are Confused

My little disclaimer before I start writing this is that I am specifically refer to only the females I actually know who consider themselves feminists.

That having been said, I think they are confused. These ladies are constantly talking about ways we should be closer to men. Naturally, being a woman, I am all for having women being equal to men in every aspect. However, I don't understand why feminst don't rejoice over simply being female (maybe there is a word for this, but I've never heard of one). Personally, I love being female. I love my body, I love that it has curves. I love that someday I will be able to (hopefully) experience the joys of pregnancy and motherhood. I absolutely adore crying at movies. I won't bore you to death with a luadry list, but it suffices to say that I love being a woman.

I just wish feminism could incorporate more of a love of ourselves.

In other news I am drinking IBC rootbeer which I haven't had in years and it is delicious!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Group Peeing?!?

Today in Ed. Psych. we watched the video companion to the book Preschool in Three Cultures. We only got through the Japanese and Chinese preschools, but it was interesting how an entire culture can be represented by just a small cross section of the population. Even though I plan to teach high school I learned some valuable tidbits from it.

For example, instead of constantly intervening on a child's behalf the teacher will tell them to try and work it out on their own. In one instance, little boy A hit little boy B in the arm. A little girl ran up to little boy B (who had started crying) and reemed him out for playing with little boy A because he knows that he always gets punched in the arm. I thought this was a very adult thing to say for a four year old girl.

I really liked this approach. Especially for high school students. Obviously, little kids hitting each other is different than high schools students fighting, but on a smaller scale it could work. Actually, maybe not. I feel like you would need to have had method of discipline since you were young for it to work. Hmmm.

The only disturbing part of the video was that at the Chinese school they go to the bathroom in a group. No, they don't all go to the restroom and each go into a stall. The students literally squat over a gutter and pee. That was a little strange. However, when I was little I probably wouldn't have cared either....

Little kids are cute.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I apologize for being a delinquent poster lately, but the first week of second semester at my university is the busiest week all year. No, I'm not entirely talking about schoolwork, but about eating club sign-ins. While normally I always put schoolwork before my eating club, I refuse to do it during sign-ins week. During this week the clubs get the new sophomore members and then we run amok from Sunday to Sunday. It is pure craziness at it's best. Since I was busy every single night and had to do the bare minimum of school work during the day you can hopefully see how blogging got tossed to the wayside.

I'm starting to become concerned that, as my mother calls it, "forward thinking attitude" is going to cause problems for me in my teaching. Obviously, I'll try to reign my personal feelings in, but high school students aren't dumb. What if my students, or a group of students really want to know about evolution? Could I hold an after school interest session and get parent permission forms? I don't want to tell my students what to think, but they cannot possibly make an informed decision unless they have the proper background. For example, stem cell research. Most Americans are opposed to stem cell research, but most Americans also do not have a proper understanding of it. I just do not understand how you can decide on something without knowing anything about it. It would be like proclaiming that you detest sushi without ever having tried it.

My thoughts on teaching become more complicated by the day...oy...

Thursday, February 03, 2005


I find it frustrating that the ideals of good teaching demonstrated by my university's teacher prep program are not utilized by all deparments.

I'm not saying that we should do away with lectures, because there is value to being able to learn from a lecture without additional help. However, it is too often that I go to precept and the graduate student in charge says simply, "does anyone have any questions?"

I think a part of me dies every time this happens. No one ever, EVER responds to that question. The class sits there staring blankly into space. This is bad teaching. It doesn't stimulate discussion at all. Furthermore, they ask this same question every week. You think after getting blank looks for a week or two they would change their ways.

Honestly, I think all preceptors should be required (yes, required) to take some sort of basic teaching workshop. Precepts would benefit so much from think/pair/shares and jigsawing, among other things. My best precept was for a history class and the preceptor was an amazing grad. student. She took the intro teach prep class just because she was teaching this precept. We had debates (the class was on the civil war), we jigsawed and it was FUN!!!!

I wish all my precepts for like that.

God this entry was whiny and preachy....I'll do better next time.