Comic Strip 2: What is my Role in Curriculum Making?

One of the biggest takeaways I received from William Ayer’s Chapter 5: What is my Role in Curriculum Making?, was the emphasis Ayer’s put on educational curriculum and how important it is that educators migrate away from strict adherence to curriculum. Instead, he suggests educational facilities create curriculums that are innovative, flexible, and hands-on to ultimately increase student involvement. Ayer’s stated, “If teachers focus solely on the intended curriculum, the classroom becomes anemic, teacher agency and creativity are reduced to nothing more than an added book or two…and everyone’s vision is precipitously narrowed to one aspect of school life at the expense of others” (37). This made me think back and remember what the curriculum was like when I was growing up in school. My thoughts on curriculum have certainly expanded as I continue into a graduate level education. Specifically, I never really thought much about the curriculum that was in place in my school. I was a pretty go-with-the-flow student, and never once questioned what or how I was learning. I was simply there to learn. Now, I view curriculum much differently. It is important that students become educated on specific subject matter, however, too much focus can essentially take away from the “bigger picture” and the main goal of education. It is critical that we, as educators consider interests and passions of each student to ensure a valuable learning experience. At the end of the day, we have to ask educators, what do you want for your students? The answer is pretty clear: you want your students to not only be knowledgeable individuals, but you want them to grow into strong, successful individuals. In order for this to happen, curriculums need to be flexible.

 As I read the chapter, I could not help but ask myself “So—what will my role look like as a School Psychologist in curriculum planning?” My comic portrays just that. My comic represents a conversation that I am having with a hypothetical parent, Mrs. McBride. As School Psychologist, a lot of our work entails creating educational plans that are oriented to outline specific needs of a student. As you can see in my comic, we are assessing a student’s needs by implementing an IEP. Individualized Education Programs are often used when a student shows difficulty from general education curriculum and need additional supports. Here, we are in an IEP meeting revising Tom’s IEP plan, specifically making revisions. It important that we monitor their progress and alter objectives of the IEP as needed.  Through reading this chapter, I have been reminded the importance that students are treated as equal and given opportunity to be involved in their curriculum.

Ayers, William. About Becoming a Teacher. Teachers College Press, 2019.

Learning Experience 1

One of my biggest takeaways from Blakely’s article, “How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity”, is the importance of being informed of educational policies and the potential consequences they may bring. Prior to reading this article, I was not familiar with School Choice and found myself almost stunned as I read through the article. As I am just now getting started in the field of Education, I found this to be a rather eye-opening learning experience for myself. Our LC wanted to project the same type of experience to the rest of the class, which will be discussed further.

Throughout the article, Blakely provides an overview of the evolution of School Choice Program as well as presenting evidence supporting both sides of this controversial debate. Specifically, this program is designed to give parents and families more options in deciding the right education for their child. They have six educational platforms available: traditional public school, private school, charter school, magnet school, online academy, and homeschooling. School Choice strives to give families the power to select education programs that best suit their child’s educational needs.  (National School Choice Week, 2021). On the contrary, Blakely explained School Choice as “allowing students to withdraw from the public system to use their share of state funding for private school, homeschooling, or online education” (2017). Both statements provided are true, however, there are many things left unknown about how School Choice is implemented, and Blakely’s writings explain just that.  

 Blakely first discusses School Choice as a component of the political movement of Neoliberalism. Blakely explained neoliberalism to, “view the creation of markets as necessary for existence of individual liberty… and in the neoliberal view, if your public institutions and spaces don’t resemble markets with a range of consumer options, then you aren’t really free” (2017). This introduces one of the main themes provided in the article. Should education be a public good or commodity? If education becomes a competitive market or a commodity, then not everyone will have an equal opportunity to receive a fair and equal education. Which in turn, may seem contradictory of the purpose behind education.  

Another theme provided in the article was the funding of school choice and the consequences to follow. School Choice is funded through a voucher program in which families are provided funds, similar to a stipend, that are to be used to pay for tuition for their school of choice. However, families must qualify to receive these vouchers. Many times, if a public school is lacking resources, often times it will be defunded in order to support other educational institutions, such as private and charter schools. Blakely provided a specifical example of how defunding public schools has negatively impacted families: “…some zones of Detroit are now educational deserts where parents and children have to travel exorbitant miles and hours for their child to attend school” (2017). Furthermore, this may have a negative impact on low SES families that may not have the means to provide their children an education. If their public-school closes, there may be no public transportation to and from school. For instance, they may not have a car, and are simply left with minimal options. This makes some question how much of a choice these families are actually provided.

I personally believe that School Choice should be a public good.  Blakely stated, “The first point to consider when weighing whether or not to marketize the public school system is that markets always have winners and losers.” I immediately asked myself, how is this upholding the main goal of education? If anything, it would take away from the purpose of education. Every individual deserves an equal opportunity for education and to be bought and sold on the competitive market would do the opposite of that.

Together, our LC thought it was important to emphasize all of the themes I explained previously, such as education as a public good versus a commodity and the consequences that this program may provide. Because this is more controversial, we wanted to create an interactive learning experience to facilitate meaningful conversation that allowed other class members to share their own experiences and opinions on School Choice.  To guide our discussion, we created a presentation that outlined the options given by School Choice, the History of Neoliberalism, Education as a Public Good versus a Commodity, and the funding and defunding of schools. We also included small group interaction in which class members were split into breakout sessions and they were provided scenarios and a worksheet to take notes on. All of the activities we included resulted in great, meaningful conversation of School Choice.  Our main objective was to provide our classmates the opportunity to get a better understanding of School Choice and the arguments that are in support and against this program.

When discussing the lesson planning itself, each member read the article prior to the meeting and brought any main takeaways to discuss. From there, we discussed the article and what we wanted the main goal of our lesson to be. We worked collectively throughout the planning and we each provided many ideas. Throughout the lesson, it was my responsibility to introduce a video that explained what school choice was and facilitated discussion after the video by asking some discussion questions. I asked them what they thought about the video, to share anything that stood out to them, and to explain if they agreed or disagreed with what the video provided. It was also my responsibility to introduce each scenario we elaborated and discussed along with explaining the worksheet. We worked very well together and were able to actively participate in class discussion. As mentioned previously, our main objective was to provide class members both sides of the argument to allow them to collect their own opinion. Overall, I was very proud of the work each group member provided and thought we conveyed our overall message of School Choice very well.

Here you can find a direct Link to our Presentation and Breakout Room Scenario Worksheet

Presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Tx_BhNUCQIq7_oekakEs-EvsWqIH6rW7GTQr5P0wp80/edit#slide=id.p

Worksheet: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19soPO90CvsUmJq5wBG7cCo4fvz6EIhe0kvPU01H7D04/edit

Resources:

Blakely, J. 2017, 17 April. How School Choice Turns Education into a Commodity. The Atlantic

“What Is School Choice?” National School Choice Week, 9 Feb. 2021, schoolchoiceweek.com/what-is-school-choice/. 

Current Connection 1

In John Dewey’s “My Pedagogic Creed”, he discussed education as being a social process that unconsciously shapes an individual’s abilities, habits, and feelings. This process begins at birth and ultimately provides an individual an ability to effectively grow into a sound member of society. Dewey states, “I believe that only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself.” (Dewey, 1987). An individual’s abilities must be challenged in order for them to understand their purpose within social settings, leading to growth.

Dewey expanded on education and identified this process to have two sides: psychological and sociological. Dewey believed the psychological component to be the basis of education in which an individual’s understanding of their instincts and abilities harvest a deeper understanding of materials, resulting in the start of education. The psychological side focuses on the student as an individual or recognition of the student’s abilities and needs, whereas the sociological side focuses on social relationships being a key component of sociological and emotional growth.

He emphasized that these processes must work in unison; psychological terms must be translated into sociological parallels to allow the individual to identify and understand their role in society and vice versa. Too much emphasis on one over can lead to problems.

Another theme discussed in this article was the school itself, as Dewey believed it to be an institution to create a sense of community life and opportunity for social interaction. Dewey felt that education was doing the opposite of just that. Dewey specifically provided, “It conceives the school as a place where certain information is given, where certain lessons are to be learned, and where certain habits are to be created” (Dewey, 1987). The school may be using lessons to prepare students for what is expected of them from society rather than creating meaningful relationships and connections; a key role of working in society. Dewey proposed that in order for community life to be present in a school, it is important students be exposed to a hands-on experience. It could be educationally, learning my doing and practicing, but socially as well, working with peers and creating social relationships.  Furthermore, Dewey provided readers insight of the development and teachers and ask the question, what makes a good teacher? As stated by Dewey himself, “The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to those influences” (Dewey, 1987).  As a future professional in the education system and an advocate for students, it is crucial that teachers act as a guide and support system for their students instead of providing a “dictated” classroom environment. Teachers play a key role in the education process and should consider implementing the instructional scaffolding learning technique.

A Journal Article titled, “Scaffolding Student Understanding in Small Group Work”, this study seeks to shed light on how the use of scaffolding within a group setting affects students learning. To answer this, Janneke measured the accuracy of student answers in relation to guidance provided from their instructor. Within the study, there were multiple groups of students who all received feedback from the instructor as needed. It was found that working in small groups allowed each student to apply the instructor’s support and use that feedback to externalize and project their understanding with their peers. As an increase in accurate answers were reported from all groups, it is supported that in fact, scaffolding has a positive affect when working together in small groups.

As Dewey discussed throughout the article, it is important that educators encourage and provide guidance to facilitate learning instead of being in full control. When applying both the psychological and sociological side of education into this study, it is clear both sides are present. Instructional scaffolding is the psychological side, tending to the individual needs of each student; working in groups is meeting the sociological side, providing opportunity for sociological and emotional growth. Picture a scale, one side being psychological, the other being sociological. In order for the education process, they must be equal, working in conjunction with one another.

Comic Strip 1

About Becoming a Teacher: Chapter 2. What Practical Steps Can I Take Right Now to Prepare for a Life of Teaching?

In the process of becoming a School Psychologist, it is so important to have the ability to self-reflect and evaluate in order to grow and improve as a professional. With that said, I would like to discuss some diversity I noticed in this chapter and how it can be reflected into the practice of School Psychology. In Chapter 2 of About Becoming a Teacher, Ayers outlined practical steps you can make to prepare for a life of teaching. Although I will not be an educator and I will have different experiences, there was one small passage in particular that I was able to apply to my experience of becoming a School Psychologist:

“Seeing your students as whole, three-dimensional human beings, dynamic and in motion, is a challenge you’ll face every day as a teacher. Knowing intellectually that they are more than their bodies or their presenting behaviors, knowing that they have hearts and minds, spirits and souls, aspirations and dreams, is not enough. You have to develop the habit of close observation. And then the construction of written accounts of all you see” (Ayers, 18).

As a School Psychologist, we will observe and work closely with students every day. We will assess not only their academic needs, but personal, social, and behavioral needs as well. More specifically, in situations in which we evaluate our students can be overwhelming for them and may cause stress. Therefore, it is so important to establish rapport in order for them to feel comfortable working with us. Getting to know our students on a personal level familiarizes us with their passions, goals, and dreams. It is so important we recognize their strengths in unison with their weaknesses, as this allows us to help them reach their goals.

My comic strip resembles just that. As an undergrad, I worked in a research lab where I would administer research studies on elementary aged students. As I pulled each student from their classroom, I would make an effort to get to know a bit about them so they would feel comfortable and perform their best.

Introductory Blog Post

Hi there!

My name is Leah and welcome to my first blog post!  I am in my first year of the School Psychology Program at JCU and am eager to explore the field of education with you all. But first, I would like to share a little bit about me:

I am originally from Cincinnati Ohio and am currently in the Cleveland area. I am one of four children; I have a twin brother and 2 older sisters.  After high school, I moved to Northeast Ohio to attend college. Moving away from my family was a great challenge for me, however, doing so allowed me to gain independence that I am so grateful for. I am very family oriented, and although my family is not close, I still manage to communicate and maintain my family relationships every day. My family is my greatest support system; they have always believed in me. It is the simple text messages and short phone calls that keep me going.

In 2019, I earned my Bachelor of Art’s Degree in Psychology from Kent State University, where I also minored in Human Development and Family Studies. For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to children; I love observing their personalities, behavior, and thought processes. I always knew I wanted to be surrounded by young children within my profession. In the next few years, I will become a licensed School Psychologist and will dedicate my heart and soul into creating an equal learning opportunity for all students. I aspire to grow into a strong advocate for students and their families to ensure they reach their personal and educational goals.

When I am not in school, I work a part time job and enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I have a relatively big family, so we were always cooking in my house growing up. Throughout the COVID pandemic, I spent a majority of my quarantine expanding on my cooking and baking skills. Another hobby of mine is doing makeup. I enjoy following makeup artists and think it is such a fun, creative way to express myself! I considered making it a profession, however found it is more of a therapeutic hobby. Aside from doing make, I also have a pretty in depth “self-care” regiment. I personally find self-care to be extremely critical to maintaining my mental health, and always try to encourage others to attend to their well-being as well! Below I have attached a link to a Ted Talk that discusses how to practice self-care, as each individual has different needs to be met. Susan Winter’s suggests choosing three “restorative activities” to include in your everyday life to avoid feeling stressed and anxious. She provided that including these activities into your daily lives can support your mood, increase your energy and overall happiness. As a full-time graduate student, I often find myself becoming stressed and overwhelmed. However, I always make sure I take five minutes out of each day to focus on relaxing myself, whether it be taking a hot shower or play some music. For me, I would consider my 3 restorative actions to be silence, listening to music, and exercising. What are yours?

Learning Style and More

Personally, I am a very visual, hands on learner. Everyone learns differently, but have found myself most successful when physically present in a classroom where we can indulge in discussion and interact with one another. This has been a challenge within the last year, as COVID has truly affected all educational settings. However, being faced these challenged has definitely altered (in a good way) my comfort level within a college classroom. Starting completely remote has definitely opened my eyes to the importance of communication. I feel open communication and confidence must be in place in order to be able to take risks in a college classroom. More specifically, you are there for a reason, as so are your peers. You have to be confident in your abilities as a student to gain the necessary skills for your profession.

Education Past and Present

As mentioned previously, beginning my graduate degree during a pandemic has definitely provided many challenges. Taking a brief step back, I would like to share a brief memory I have of being a student. In the third grade, we were taught cursive by practicing on our desks with shaving cream. When discussing how education is changing, I always find myself looking back on this memory. Technology was not implemented fully into our curriculum until I was in middle school, and always thought it was such a ridiculous way to learn. Now, more than ever, I find technology to be such a critical part of the evolution of education. I would say some significant issues that the field of education is facing right now would be providing all adequate materials and services to students during this pandemic. Many schools are still closed, while others are able to implement a hybrid model; allowing some in person classes. Specifically, some students are not able to access all materials, but have recognized many schools have put immense effort providing all materials for their students. I have a few friends who are teachers, and it is so uplifting to hear the efforts they are making to reach each and every student as they are not able to be physically present with in the classroom.