Monday, July 1, 2013

Chapter 6 & 7: Please post your responses to your most favorite STUDY QUESTIONS in the chapter here (one from the two chapters).


  1. Chapter 6

    If our knowledge is embedded in a certain culture, how is it possible for us to be critical about it and go beyond the range defined by the culture, especially if things do not seem to be going well?

    I think that for us to be critical about our knowledge limited within a certain culture and to make it possible to go beyond that range we would need to be absorbed in another culture in our learning. There are a few ways I could think of to make this possible.

    First, because America (and San Diego more specifically) has pockets of strong cultures throughout, we could leave our own pocket and comfort zone and learn, research and teach in another zone. For example, I have spend a semester of student teaching in Encinitas, so moving into a culture that is unlike Encinitas, such as to the Hmong refugee, I can learn a new culture and be taken beyond the range that was defined in the previous culture.

    Another way would be to move and study in a foreign country. I think everyone in this class is doing this as we are expanding from our comfort zone here in San Diego and learning about Japanese culture through spending time observing their schooling and culture. I think that do make our trip successful in expanding beyond the range and limits embedded in us from our cultures we must travel and learn with open minds, and be aware of the biases and embedded ideas we have that influence how we respond to other cultures.

  2. Chapter 7 Study Question

    What was the biggest crisis that you encountered as an educator as a result of the lack of students’ motivation? How did you cope with it?

    I was being observed by my practicum advisor, Dr. Quezada. I was teaching a small group of English Language Learners a lesson about verbs and nouns. All was going well until I handed out worksheets for the students to work on individually. One student, Bryan, flat out refused to do the work. He hunched over in his chair put a big frown on his face and said things like, “This is so boring”, “I hate this”, “why do I need to know the names of words, I already know the words?”. At first I was academic in my replies to him stating he needs to know this in order to do well in English in the future. He retorted with, “I already know English, see?” ensuing that by his ability to say this sentence, he knew all he needed to know about English. We debated back and forth about doing his work. Finally, I gave in. He won. I didn’t do this by announcing it or giving him permission not to do his work, I did it by intentionally ignoring him. I went through the review without speaking to Bryan. I pretended he wasn’t in the room. As I have reflected many times about this experience, I believe I did this to “save face”. I knew I was being observed and I wanted to impress Dr. Quezada and this was turning out not at all how expected. I was embarrassed and discouraged. I went home that night thinking I am not cut out for teaching. I identified totally with the statement in our textbook, “some educators get really discouraged by this issues and start thinking that their calling may not be in education” (Inoue, p. 113).
    I have been on both sides. I was a student who often didn’t understand the purpose of work, it wasn’t exciting, or it was too hard for my liking. Now I am on the other side when I understand the importance but I don’t know how to convey it, as proof from the case of Bryan. I am really concerned when I begin to teach full time because the novelty of my newness to the students will wear off. I have had it easy so far since every time I’ve taught, the students see me being observed and are prompted to be on their best behavior. It’s a special lesson in their eyes and therefore respond accordingly, for the most part. So I am working through it and trying to learn the best ways to motivate my students because I can’t ignore them forever.

  3. What kinds of rewards are you intentionally using as reinforcers to motivate students in your educational practice? What does it take to make the rewards work effectively?

    I use quite a bit of positive reinforcement in my classroom. I believe if you have clearly set your expectations regarding students' behavior and a variety of management systems in place then there will be very little discipline problems. So far it's worked pretty well, but there's always a few hiccups. For the daily behavior management I use the clip system, where students start each day on "Good Behavior" and depending on their behavior choices they move their clip down (i.e. to verbal warning, teacherstudent reflection, walking recess) or up to "You're an Angelfish!" (As a side note, I have an ocean theme in my class, hence the angelfish reference.) At the end of each day students would fill-out their weekly reflection sheet where they would notate where their clip was by the end of the day and one reflection about today's learning. The reflection sheet was mostly to document their daily behavior so parents were aware of their it, but also so I could have a visual to show students if they were "repeat offenders". Interestingly, students began to set personal goals for themselves, like a whole week of "You're an angelfish" or no verbal warnings.
    I also use a whole class marble jar and group table points. Once the marble jar is filled we have a class party to celebrate our efforts. They can earn marbles for pretty much anything from compliments from another teacher or parent about behavior, following directions, showing their best effort, etc. I don't take out marbles because I don't want any negative behaviors to be seen as canceling out/deleting a positive behavior. Students can also earn table points for the same reasons as marbles, but this is for just one group vs. the entire class. I've found earning table points really builds a bond between the group members and demonstrates how everyone is part of the team. Each week there's a new table group "winner" and all of the group's members can sit in the "fun chairs" during independent reading or when we work around the room instead of in the desks.

    For these reward systems to work effectively I must be consistent and communicate how and why students are moving their clips, or receiving marbles and table points. I also need to build up the reward they are working towards, otherwise the students won't care or value the system and it will be pointless.

  4. STUDY QUESTION: What was the biggest crisis that you encountered as an educator as a result of the lack of students' motivation? How did you cope with it?

    I don't know if this was the biggest crisis, but it was certainly the most memorable. This is actually an excerpt from the book I've been working on. In this particular section, I'm transitioning out of a scene from adolescence with my childhood best friend and into a separate scene, in adulthood ...

    Fast-forward to a cold, snowy morning in January 2009. I’m standing before a classroom full of ninth graders I’ve never met, giving an interactive talk titled “Leading a Life of Eternal Significance.” The atmosphere is polite, but not very interactive—and eternally significant only in the sense that time is crawling.

    So I take a deep breath and tell the class, “Raise your hand if you’ve got a best friend.” Forty hands shoot up. “On the count of three, I want you to shout out the name of your best friend. One. Two. Three.”

    Damon! Jackie! Eduardo! Maria! Immediately, the whole room is animated—except for me. I take another breath, wondering how I’m going to get through this.

    “Let me tell you about my childhood best friend,” I begin. “Susie.” I tell the class how smart she was, how many friends she had, how I could never keep up with her. About all the fun we had, starting in preschool.

    About the first time I saw her drunk at the beginning of ninth grade—not at a party but on a quiet Sunday afternoon. About the bewilderingly bad decisions she made that drove our worlds further and further apart, how in our adult years she ended every phone call by telling me how much she loved me—and of course I told her how much I loved her, too. How after hearing her blithely describe her latest troubles, I hung up the phone and thought, “My goodness. I hope the next time I see her, I don’t start crying.”

    “The next time I saw her,” I continued, “I did not start crying. But the next time I saw her, she was in a box about this big. In the back of Saint Basil Catholic Church, four days after Christmas, and about one minute before the start of her memorial Mass. Accidental overdose.”

    By now, the kids are staring at me, bug-eyed. “Look around this room,” I told them, “and stick with the friends who bring out your best, not your worst—and be that kind of friend.”

    Miraculously, we managed to move on to lighter topics. At one point, the teacher smiled and signaled from the back of the room. “Ten more minutes,” she said.

    No sooner had I opened up the floor for questions when a small boy on the inside aisle shot up his hand. I gestured, inviting him to speak.

    “Do you think there’s anything more you could have done to save your friend?”


    I stared down at him in disbelief. Could a kid really be that cruel? His big blue eyes locked onto mine, and suddenly I realized he wasn’t being cruel—he was searching for answers. And I had better give him a real one.

    “I’ve thought about that a lot,” I sighed. Probably every day for the last two years. This was the first time I had ever said it out loud, or even to myself.

    “Susie had all kinds of support,” I told the class. “But she also had addictions. And if the love of a father, a brother, a sister, or a good friend could have saved her, I think she would have been saved, long ago.”

    The kid who asked the question nodded intently.

    “We can do the part that is ours,” I continued—as much for my sake as the students’. “But sometimes the extended hand is not grasped. And when things don’t go as we had planned, we can and should let ourselves grieve. But we need not go looking for grief, or guilt. They’ll find us.”

    “In the meantime, we can live, we can laugh, and we can hope. We must.”

    (It goes on from there. But it's interesting to me that the moment I stopped playing it safe and started getting real, that's when the connection happened.)

  5. Hey all! I’m working on a different computer, and I’ve been having difficulty posting my response to blogger, so I’m sorry this is so late. Hopefully the third time's the charm!

    Chapter 7

    STUDY QUESTION: What has been your strategy to enhance your students’ intrinsic motivations in your classroom? How did it work, and what served as major hurdles?

    I think I’m very lucky because I’ve been working with – and intend to continue to work with – adult ELLs in the United States. The benefits of learning English are very clear to this group of students. In fact, in all of the classrooms in which I have taught, the students are there because they choose to be there. Many of these students want to improve their English proficiency, so that they can advance professionally or academically and play a more active role in society. I think that they “possess an internal locus of control … and feel that they are in the ‘driving seat of their lives, and maintain intrinsic motivation” (Inoue, 2012, p. 126).

    In an effort to help maintain and increase this intrinsic motivation, I’ve tried to incorporate meaningful learning into my lessons. Luckily, this is easy to do in an ESL classroom. For example, if I want to teach my students about the future simple tense, I can explain that this necessary when making future plans and ask my students to practice that skill in class. I hope to further develop my students’ interest in learning by highlighting real-life applications of the concepts covered in my classroom. However, one major hurdle I’ve struggled with is helping my students find the intrinsic motivation to work on their homework. In my teaching and observation experience, many adult students struggle to complete these additional assignments. I understand that many adult students have jobs, coursework for other classes, and families, but I want to help them understand the importance and benefits of practicing the concepts covered the class outside of the classroom.

  6. What kinds of rewards are you intentionally using as reinforcers to motivate students in your educational practice? What does it take to make the rewards work effectively?

    Previously I was a ESL specialist and I typically worked with students one-to one or in small group settings in my class. I have used lots of positive reinforcement. As for rewards I have used stickers, students must earn X amount of stickers on their chart them can pick a prize from the treasure chest. I rewarded for good behavior, setting a good example for other students, following directions, many other things to keep students motivated during the time they spent in my classroom. This strategy seemed to work for most of my students, but I had one group I used a marble jar. I wanted them to work together to earn the marbles. This group of students were
    incredibly competitive and working against each other at first . Besides the marble jar to help this group work together we did activities to build team moral.

    For these rewards to be effective I need to be consistent in explaining why I was giving a sticker/marble for a particular action. In addition the students needed to value the prize to work for it. The group of students in particular that I used a marble jar with, they valued the prize of free time, more than a prize from the treasure box. Most importantly, I think when a teacher is using a reward system they have to really make sure they know what they are going to reward for or not and stick to it.