The paths to "Eureka" moments: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Education

Posts tagged ‘Progressivism’

Reflective Book Report: The Angel Inside Went Sour

Reflections on “The Angel Inside Went Sour”

Dr. Esther Rothman’s book, “The Angel Inside Went Sour” documents her position as the principal of Livingston School for girls in New York, beginning in 1959. Rothman, a well experienced teacher with a doctorate in psychology was highly qualified for any principal position by the time she was assigned to Livingston. This school was special in that it was the final destination for troublesome girls; a place where they were sent when they had been suspended from multiple public schools and even failed in the correctional schools. As a principal, Dr. Rothman drastically changed the daily routine and methods of Livingston. She hired teachers who could not only teach, but who loved teaching. Teachers at Livingston had to love learning from their students and be willing to put up with and love students who: used dirty language as their main vocabulary, acted without a sense of purpose, were frustrated with life, yet, fought to survive and keep above the water of hopelessness (Rothman 1972). She describes many examples and scenarios in which she both failed and succeeded in reaching out and showing girls that they were loved and could make something better of their lives.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Angel Inside Went Sour”.  Through Dr. Rothman’s words, I was able to step inside the inner city school of Livingston and catch a glimpse at what real teaching is all about. At first, I was a bit shocked at the attitudes and vulgar language that the girls used; Rothman thoughtfully included word-for-word language of the girls for authenticity and honesty. But as I continued reading, I was thankful for the exposure to the everyday experiences that the teachers at Livingston had.

As an inner city school, Livingston was filled with girls from extremely rough home lives. Girls faced situations and experiences I could never dream of living through. I loved how Rothman took the school day and flipped it upside down by having the students choose their own schedule and which subjects they wanted to learn. This not only showed me the importance of giving students choices, but even a bit more control when they have none in their personal lives. I realize that this exact example is next to impossible for most schools, but in principal, the idea of breaking the mold, and molding education to fit the needs of students is revolutionary and very applicable to the classroom today.

Livingston was also a very multicultural school with the minority being white students. Rothman treated students of different ethnicities equally. She seemed to see race as a cultural boundary (Banks, 2010). Her staff was comprised of a mixture of races. Through her eyes, whether it be a student or teacher, she saw them as people. Dr. Rothman and her teachers did not simply overlook race and culture when teaching, they embraced it. They allowed the culture to change their curriculum so that it was designed specifically for their students (Banks, 2010).

I was continuously inspired by the way Dr. Rothman handled difficult situations and difficult students. Her methods were grounded in getting students to understand why they were hurt, why they felt the need to lash out at others, and how they might better fix the problem by being in control of themselves. She rarely “punished” girls. Punishment seems to be the easy way out of a problem, without really solving it (Rothman, 1972). Instead, Rothman worked through problems with students and found ways of rewarding those who were able to work through problems on their own.

As I continued to read, I was awestruck and challenged by the lives of the teachers at Livingston as well as by Dr. Rothman herself. They were able to see past the behavior of a student, and look deeper into the lives and hurts of students, in order to heal their broken self-worth. Students, no, people, came first. When a girl was at Livingston, she was not there to improve her reading, writing, or arithmetic; though she often did so. She was there to learn about herself, and hopefully come to the realization that she could be more. Teachers needed to be good at their subject. So good, so as to attract the attention and curiosity of girls who chose what they felt they should learn. But more than experts in their field, teachers needed to be invested in the lives of their students. They had to care more about the girls than they did about being cussed at. They had to care more about making a difference in the lives of their students than their test scores. These were real teachers.

When I am teaching, I hope to be able to model myself after the teachers at Livingston. They saw past race, social economic status, and reached out to hurting lives. Through respecting the students, and treating them like breathing, feeling, human beings, teachers were able to connect with students and make a difference. I want to put my students first. I will put their personal growth before my classroom agendas and be sensitive to the lives which they live. From a multicultural standpoint, I will defy racial and ethnic stereotypes and treat my students with respect. Doing this, I hope to also look through the behaviors of my students and dig deeper into the hurt causing their angel inside to be sour.

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References

Banks, J.A., & Banks, C.A. (2010). Multicultural education: issues and perspectives. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons

Rothman, E. P. (1972). The angel inside went sour. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books.

 

America’s Teachers, Chapter 7

Intro to Ed. AT Chapter 7

1. Compare and contrast essentialism and progressivism.

According to the class textbook, essentialism has had the largest impact on elementary and secondary schools in the US. However, when in the realm of student teachers, one is most likely to hear the term “progressivism” and immediately recognize its meaning. Between both educational theories, there are many points of contrast. The role of the student, place of the teacher, as well as the method and content of curriculum widely differ when compared.

Essentialism casts the teacher as the highest authority of instruction, and gives the role of the student that of a clay object to be molded by the teacher. Students are to listen and learn from their teachers, who, “wear[s] the mantle of authority in the classroom, insisting on order and making no apologies for instilling traditional values in students” (Newman 233). In contrast, progressivism places the student at the center of learning and gives the teacher the role of a learning coach. In this scenario, the teacher may not be as organized as the essentialist, but instead, follows the natural path of student learning.

The essentialist curriculum is built on the “back to basics” philosophy. The 3R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic, are the very core to its ideals. Teachers are to stick to these ideals first and foremost, as well as introducing a sense of morals to their lessons. On the other side of the teaching spectrum, progressivism is about action, where “education is not preparation for life. It is life” (Newman 245). The progressive classroom will be filled with hands on and social reform projects aimed at stirring the students’ educational curiosity. In theory, progressive teachers will prepare lessons that evoke thought and questions that will lead to learning.

 

2.  Imagine you are preparing for a debate or a conference presentation where you must represent both the “for” and “against” positions regarding critical theory and theorists.

Pros of Critical Theory

Critical Theorists strive to aid students and teachers by providing ways of escape from oppression and social injustices. The goal is to empower students and teachers to choose the best and most appropriate curriculum that fits the culture of the student. With the chosen projects and topics, teachers are to design lessons and give power to their students by giving them opportunities to grow in knowledge. Critical theory pushes to close the financial aid gap between suburban and urban schools. Equality is a major theme throughout its philosophy.

Cons of Critical Theory

“Critical theory is progressivism pushed to the limit” (Newman 259). When ideas are pushed to the extreme, they often fall away from the focus and become out of balance.  Critical theorists are often radical in their methods and ideals. Much of their early work and documentation is difficult to understand and read. To have literature that is not readily available for the layman seems rather contradictory given the “equality” and “bridge the social gap” goals of critical theory.

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Citation

Newman, J.W. (2006). America’s teachers: an introduction to

education. White Plains, N.Y.: Allyn & Bacon.

 

Film Review: As American as Public School 1900-1950

This post reflects on the film: As American as Public School 1900-1950. Through these reflections, the following three questions will be answered:

1) What is the focus of the era?

2) What is our view of children and adolescents at that time?

3) Who are the key players in society?

What is the focus of the era?

Initial Goal: Make every working man a scholar, and every scholar a working man. Changes to: Documentation of academic progress.

  • School was the place where the American dream was nurtured
  • Among the general population, there was tremendous pressure to get an education
  • Thousands of students attended school part time for lack of space in school buildings.
  • During the depression, many children worked instead of going to school, approximately 2million.
  • As these numbers became known, progressive Americans suggested that too many children were working as opposed to going to school- they suggested creating and enforcing labor laws.
  • Schools, under progressive ideals, became a place of training rather than memorization.
  • The training in school caused students to “fall in love with America”
  • 1920’s schools grew to become more than just teachers. Secretaries, mentors, counselors, janitors, cooks, and administrators where just a few of the positions necessary to run a school. This turned the “one teacher” classroom school into a multi-level bureaucracy.
  • It was at this time that career tracking was first introduced introduced. People thought of going to school as a way of getting a job.
  • Intelligence tests sorted students into categories for tracking.
  • IQ tests were used to determine the quality of people by ethnicity, race, and class even by the military to decide who got desk jobs and who had active duty.
  • Segregated schools often placed students of diverse ethnicity into industrial schools.
  • 1940’s: Life-Adjustment curriculum sought to teach relevant lessons to daily life.

What is our view of children and adolescents at that time?

  • Older children were seen to be “good students” if they started working at 15 to support the family.
  • Tremendous pressure to get an education
  • Children learning by doing.
  • Students were seen as the future, intelligence tests sorted students into categories for career tracking.
  • Progressive schools heavily invested in the lives of students, yet tracking did not provide all students an equal opportunity of learning. Often women were taught home-making skills, while men were taught a trade. Minority students were taught simple routine tasks which prepared them for factory work.

Who are the key players in society?

Progressivism vs Traditionalist Math and Science

  • “The School and Society” –Dewey- Father of Progressive Education. Dewey believed that if schools were anchored in the lives of the child, things would be different. Schools would be hospitable toward children.
  • Gary, Indiana Schools: These were extreme progressive school. One specific school, Emerson School,  had large athletic fields, playground, zoo, and a lagoon with swans. At Emerson School, students moved from class to class each hour. Under this system, students were not stuck to a desk hour after hour as they had been in more traditional schools.  Other schools had such commodities as a Metal Forge, Auto-mechanics center; as well as places dedicated to art, nature, animal care, and recess. Under the Gary program even reached into health and hygiene. However, many immigrants were convinced through propaganda that the Gary plan prepared children for industrial work- not professional careers. As a result, schools returned to the more traditional teaching methods with an emphasis on American patriotism.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: “America has room but for one language.” With this philosophy, New York began a new radical “English Only” philosophy in its schools.
  • Sputnik spoke volumes about the Russian education. To Americans, it said that Russian education was better than that of America. After Sputnik, math and physics courses became top priorities.

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This film is part of a series of four called:

School- “The Story of American Public Education”

It was produced by PBS and narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. For more information see link: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/