We Really Do Matter: A Pep Talk for Teachers from Diane Ravitch

BY: Kaitlyn Rogalski, Senior MAT Candidate

On Wednesday, October 8, the Quinnipiac community came together for a conversation on public education, led by Diane Ravitch, educational historian, author, professor, and speaker. The more Dr. Ravitch spoke, the more I was reminded that we chose one of the most influential professions in the world. Here are Dr. Ravitch’s most important reminders for teachers:

1. Children are children, and they need teachers who understand that.
I know this seems obvious, but as Dr. Ravitch explained, new educational reforms and standardized testing often ask students to perform and act in ways that they are just not yet capable of. The stress of testing can take the enjoyment out of learning, but it is our job to restore that joy. We have the power to foster creativity, the arts, and individualized learning that brings out the strengths of each child, which is exactly why we all chose to work in the classroom. As Dr. Ravitch reminded us, we may have to roll with new educational standards and reforms, but they will never be more important than the needs and stories of the children whose lives we affect every day.

2. Schools are an important part of the community.
I had the chance to ask Dr. Ravitch what she meant when she advised teachers to invite the community into their classrooms. Her answer? Open your classroom door to the members of your community. Remind them of the part that public education plays in it, and public support for you and your school will follow. She stressed to us that as teachers, we really do have the community behind us, and if not, the best way to change someone’s mind is to provide a great example of what teachers truly bring to the classroom and do on a daily basis. This idea also works both ways. One of our goals as teachers, after all, is to help children grow into productive members of society, who understand the difference they can make. When the community is invited to take part in our classrooms, our students learn that it is not only their school that is important to the community; they also each play a crucial role. Parents and community members should not be seen as obstacles, but as allies who want our kids to succeed as much as we do, and stand behind us.

3. Testing is Only a Small Part of Assessment.
Dr. Ravitch is not a woman to mince words, so when she told us, “standardized tests mean nothing”, it was clear that is her firm belief. She praised the effectiveness teachers of all kinds, those who teach children with special needs, those who work in low-income districts, and those whose kids are simply not developmentally ready to pass standardized tests. She then went on to say that the scores on the page do not determine whether or not a teacher has done his or her job. Teachers know that we have succeeded when the personal goals that we set for each student have been met or surpassed. Testing companies do not have a personal connection with our students and their learning, but we do, and should be the judges of whether or not we have effectively helped our students to reach a new level in their education.

Dr. Ravitch ended our discussion by answering the question of “what’s next for public education in America”. She truly believes that the state of education is going to improve, and that teachers are the people who will be able to effect this positive change by continuing to be nonstop advocates for our children. Diane Ravitch’s optimism is a source of inspiration for teachers to keep being the best at what we do, as we are ultimately the anchors for our students in the current tumult of educational reform.

Former MAT Student Chosen Middle School Teacher of the Year in Hamden

School of Education Spring 2014 002      By Beth Larkins-Strathy

John Simone, MAT `2009, was named Hamden’s 2014 Middle School Teacher of the Year. He is now in the running for Hamden’s Teacher of the Year. Congratulations and good luck John.

John always knew he wanted to help others. Initially he majored in Sports Medicine at QU, but found that it was not what he was looking for, so he switched to Education and found his niche. A Hamden Middle School Math teacher, John is truly connected to his students and is a very compassionate human being. Part of this stems from John’s passion for teaching children and the rest stems from his experiences as a student himself. John says he struggled with homework and often needed help learning in non-traditional ways. His experiences assist him when he is trying to meet the needs of many students, some who struggle like he did. John’s favorite saying? “Perpetuate the American dream, educating America’s dreamers.”

Although John tends to be on the shy side, he pushes beyond and is involved in both school and community leadership. He coaches baseball, chaperones ski trips, helps with soccer and track and is part of the SAILS program, a program for helping students achieve success. In the community he is involved with the Hamden Heroes Relay for Life Team, coaches a town baseball team and participates in food drives.

John said that his experiences in the MAT program helped him to be the teacher he is today. He said that being in the classroom from the junior year and working with caring and knowledgeable education professors were key. He has some advice for students currently in the MAT program:

1)      Be confident and really know your content.

2)      Make sure your lessons are culturally relevant.

3)      Not every lesson will reach every student on the first try. Just don’t give up trying.

4)      Stay away from negative people; stay positive.

5)      Tell yourself you are not stressed, just busy

 

#itsallworthit by Lucinda Kramer

All jobs have perks. Some perks are minimal, and some perks are financially staggering. Most perks only last the length of a job. Teaching however, offers a lifetime of perks!

I have never a met a teacher who hasn’t wondered how they have been remembered and have affected their former students. We work hard to design valuable lessons and fun activities hoping students will take solid knowledge and experiences with them as they progress to the next level.

Even today, years after retirement, I run into students who so kindly share their memories and fondness for my class. It’s a real perk. However, one of the most memorable perks I ever received is the one I share with you.

On the first day of a school year, about 30 years into my career, a student named Ashley approached me and informed me that I had her father Caleb in 6th grade at an elementary school in town. I was teaching at the Middle School at the time.

I had remembered Caleb vividly because he was in one of my first classes. After a brief chat about her Dad, Mom and grandparents nothing much was said. I figured I would see Mom and Dad at a Parent Conference or an Open House.

About a month later, Ashley brings in a note I had written to her grandparents about her father Caleb’s behavior. It was a note that informed Caleb’s parents that I would be keeping him after school for unacceptable behavior. This was going to take place on a Friday, late in June, in 1976!

What stunned me at first was that he still had the note. The next thing that jumped out at me was the date. Imagine, keeping a student after school, late in June and on a Friday yet!

I started to think that maybe Caleb was still very upset with me after all these years! It sort of frightened me to think he still had this note.

The year progressed uneventfully.  No more notes or reminisces about Caleb. Ashley was a good student and her Mom would show up for conferences and school functions.

However, her father never came to school.

Two days before the end of that school year, a burly, bearded man, about 40 something, shows up at my classroom door. He was holding a school- shaped planter filled with beautiful flowers and a card. I recognized him immediately. It was Caleb!

When he approached me, he instantly turned 12 years old and I became Miss Romano. It was as if time had never passed and we were in the same roles we were 30 years ago.

Caleb proceeded to tell me that Sixth Grade was his favorite year! He remembered many things we did in my class and he shared how much that year meant to him. After a pleasant visit, he handed me the planter and card. Upon his departure, I read the card which was filled with huge amounts of appreciation and gratitude. I was so deeply touched and awed on how I affected his life that year. It left me lost for words, which is very rare for me.

This was a lifetime perk that will be carried with me throughout my life.

Lucinda R. Kramer

Student Teacher Supervisor

Doing Good by Christina Pavlak

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After having been fortunate enough to work at the School of Education as a visiting professor during the 2013-2014 school year, I have compiled a list of my top thirteen (it’s a Pavlak family favorite number) lessons learned during my time at Quinnipiac:

  1. Our student teachers are highly respected in the field. One staff member at a local elementary school even told me that if there were a “teacher draft” like there is in sports, one of our students would be the “first round pick.”
  2. The service work and dedication to the teaching profession of the QFTO are inspiring. One of my proudest moments this year was being asked by the officers to speak at a chapter meeting.
  3. The sense of community and the care shown at the School of Education are rare. Be it an unexpected death in the family or an unexpected (perhaps even embarrassing) trip to the ER after a baking accident, faculty and students embraced me with kindness.
  4. Our graduate students engage in original action research that has the potential to impact the field. I read thesis papers that could be submitted for publication.
  5. Faculty members are not only strong teachers but also exceptional scholars, regularly publishing educational research and poetry.
  6. Marion Sparago, if up to many of us, would win an award every month. She is that wonderful.
  7. The creativity of our students is profound and their ability to reflect on “big” issues is boundless, as evidenced by their thoughtful in-class presentations and their reflective journals.
  8. Social justice is at the forefront of many of our minds: early in the year, I participated in an extraordinarily enlightening activity around othering  with Professor Holmes and three classes of juniors. Wow.
  9. Students and faculty are not afraid to ask and struggle with the answers to difficult and important questions about racism, segregation, sexism, and classism in the schools and the curriculum.
  10. The early classes can be lots of fun, especially when the professor brings a big box of Apple Jacks or bubble gum.
  11. The vision and enthusiasm of students are inspiring: from questions about service learning, teaching ESL to adults, working in special education or internationally, getting a bilingual teaching endorsement, or joining the Peace Corps, they think beyond their immediate experiences.
  12. Using iPads in the classroom opens many opportunities for teaching and learning; thank you Professor Cavender for bringing this resource to our school.
  13. Students, staff, and faculty openly share ideas and resources and encourage one another to think about issues from multiple perspectives.

There is a lot of good at Quinnipiac’s School of Education. Years ago when I was an elementary school teacher my father bought me a canvas tote bag for Christmas. It was an excellent gift for a number of reasons: one, as a teacher I often carried numerous bags to school filled with books and supplies for my lessons. Two, it was decorated with a Minor Meyers Jr. quote that aligns with my personal and professional philosophies: Go out into the world and do well. But more importantly go out into the world and do good. It is my hope that, upon graduation from the School of Education, students are prepared and inspired to do both.

Kaleidoscope of Creativity

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The School of Education hosted it’s third annual “Kaleidoscope of Creativity” last night. Thirty-eight K-12 students from North Haven Public Schools, Hamden Public Schools, Fair Haven School in New Haven and Side by Side Charter School in Norwalk have loaned their artistic creations to the SOE for display. The North Haven High School Ensemble provided musical accompaniment during the reception. Please stop by the SOE to personally view the artwork – you will be amazed!

SOE Faculty and Students Present at Professional Development Schools Conference

6girlswithsignWhat happens in Vegas does not need to stay in Vegas when sharing what Quinnipiac’s School of Education is implementing in their Professional Development Schools! Nine presenters from QU School of Education shared their research at the National Association of Professional Development Schools conference this past weekend.

Six honors interns from the SOE graduate program, provided visual demonstrations and engaged conference participants in conversations about their action research capstone projects implemented at Side By Side charter school in Norwalk, CT. Kara Alberse, Amanda Hegler, Jessica Joline, Emily Kupper, Alexandra Mandel and Annamaria McCarthy were all well received by attendees of the NAPDS conference as they shared their embedded research into practice approach and their deep understanding of the research process. Each teacher candidate expertly communicated the powerful influence strong research has on effective teaching practices in the classroom. Comments by participants recognized the above average level of understanding and unique integration in school culture that is illustrated in the PDS relationship at Side By Side Charter School.

Anne Dichele and Matt Nittoly presented a model of the collaborative classroom research to attendees from across the nation. The presentation provided a framework in which other PDS partnerships can enhance research-based problem-solving and active engagement on reflective practice. Encouraged by the innovative design and unique strategies of integration into school culture, participants shared a renewed motivation to bring back to their own school settings this innovative model of collaborative action research.

Monica Cavender’s presentation on the clinical reading experience at Fair Haven School provided conference attendees insight into the design of the reading clinic experienced by all of elementary teacher candidates. This year’s specific focus was on innovative and reflective practice in instructional planning when working with English Language Learners and early reading strategies. Video illustration supported by the effective strategies outlined by colleague Dr. Christina Pavlak gave the participants tools to use when returning to their schools.

MAT Students Present at Harvard Student Research Conference by Rich Guidone and Eric Conrad

Research students from as far away as Russia were among the more than 150 or so who attended the annual Harvard Student Research Conference held on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Despite the crunch of a looming deadline for submission, six MAT students bravely submitted proposals for review and were accepted.

Four students, Lauren Bernachia, Kathryn Thompson, Daniella Maddaloni, and Kristen Helinski submitted proposals to the poster session which was held throughout the day. Their work was alongside similar themed research for perusal and discussion by interested faculty, moderators, students and invited guests.

Jenna Dezio chose the roundtable format to present her school based action research and you could tell from the line of discussion that followed that the other participants were impressed by the fact that Jenna is doing all this while doing student teaching and tending to all the other demands of the program.

Amanda Donovan was the final presenter late in the afternoon on her topic and once again, I was impressed by the many questions the audience had about her ELL presentation and the ease and confidence her demeanor displayed.

Email comments from Professor Eric Conrad say it all, ‘The time you have dedicated and the interest you possess with regards to your research is evident.

Your presence and ability to captivate your audiences at the HGSE demonstrates your ability to compete with the best of the best.

Well done!

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Art in the Classroom, by Rose-Ann Chrzanowski

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“I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, he would grow up to be an eggplant.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night.

Is there a place for imagination, creativity, and the arts in the classroom? Children are artists. Whether they choose visual art, acting, or music, they should be given the tools and encouragement to express themselves. Consider pre-school classrooms with their art centers, music areas, and dress up boxes. It could be said the arts are children’s first language. Young children draw what they cannot write, act out what they do have verbal skills to say, and move to music before they can walk.

Of course, in deference to good classroom management and overall sanity, perhaps spontaneous self-expression should take a back seat to guided practice. Providing art materials, discussing and interpreting master works of art, and exposing children to the art of different cultures allow them opportunities to explore the diversity in art and expand their own world views. Sharing personal ideas and cultural experiences encourages acceptance, understanding, and tolerance. Once they have explored the possibilities, they can create art in response. That’s where imagination comes into play. Even when a group of students is exposed to the same introduction to an art activity, each will create a work that is a personal expression of his or her creative process.

Imagine a classroom filled with children creating, singing, moving, and acting. They are discussing, exploring, and working collaboratively. No eggplants here! This could be the safety net that keeps students from disengaging, as Stella shows us in Through the Cracks (Carolyn Stollman, Barbara Emmons, Judith Paolini. Davis Publishing, Inc, Artsake Publinshing, Inc). Cchildren who have difficulty learning in the traditional classroom might find a love of learning in an art based environment. Playing music that reflects the time period, subject matter, or cultural tradition of the art work or providing musical instruments allows students to make other valuable connections. Directing students to use role playing to act out scenarios that complement the works stretch imaginations and promote collaboration, especially if they work together to write a script! Teachers who weave the arts into the core curriculum areas reach the diverse learning modalities and styles of their students; and help them develop creative and critical thinking.

Studies have shown that children who participate in arts education fair better on standardized tests. Are they able to see the possibilities to respond more clearly to questions? Can they draw on their interpretation skills and imaginations to write more confidently? Do they see classrooms as places where creative thinking and self-expression are valued and encouraged?

Rose-Ann Chrzanowski
Ed 562 Facilitating the Arts in the Elementary Classroom

“Pass Your Paper Forward” by Professor Richard Guidone

As a teacher for 36 years in the schools of New Haven I must have used that phrase hundreds of times without giving it much thought. But one time as I routinely uttered that command, I was struck by something for which I was totally unprepared. At the time I was teaching in the heart of what was and still is considered the inner city, the Yale-New Haven Hospital region of the city. Teachers had been instructed by our administrator to always check outside doors to make sure they were closed to the world a few steps away that we did not want our kids to be exposed. A package store was our across the street neighbor as was a used appliance store that stored its wares outside for all to see in rain or shine.

One day while doing hall duty, I found a door to be slightly open on a cold and rainy day so I instinctively went over to check to see why the door appeared to be slightly ajar. To my surprise, I saw a man lying face down in the doorway on the cold, wet sidewalk. Calling the security guard to assist me, he took one look and walked off as if nothing had happened. Apparently, the person in the door was a frequent visitor to the public library which shared a space with the school and he often came in just to keep warm but on this day fell down drunk before he could make it inside. Playgrounds were similarly hazardous as broken bottles riddled the asphalt and shots fired by passing cars could often be heard in the middle of the day so that too was off limits to our students. During report card meetings at night, teachers would meet with parents in a common area, usually the cafeteria, so as to limit the chance of a teacher being attacked in a classroom far removed from the watchful eye of the security guards.
It was these conditions under which I taught for several years and in all that time I was struck not by the number of students who did not do well given their circumstances but by the many who managed to maintain some sense of dignity and hope amid the conditions that even the most tested of us would surely find challenging, to say the least. Such was the case with this one particular student to whom I am referring who made passing the paper forward an experience I have carried with me for a lifetime in teaching.

“Pass your papers forward”, I said after the math homework had been checked that morning. The rustle of twenty-five or so sixth grade students passing papers could be heard over the din of sirens and honking horns on the streets around Howard Ave. Retreating back to my desk to dutifully put a little check mark in the homework section of the grade book I noticed one little girl did not turn in her paper though she was present.

‘Maritza’ (not her real name), I said. ‘I don’t have your paper, did you do the homework?”

‘Yes’, she said shyly and barely audibly not looking up from her desk or making eye contact; a sign of respect I later learned common in the Hispanic culture.

‘Did you do your homework” I asked again.

‘Yes’, she repeated as she had said before.

‘So, when I asked you to pass your paper forward why didn’t you pass your paper?” I held my breath waiting to hear what would I knew would be a novel reason for not doing homework.

‘I didn’t hand it in because you said to hand in your ‘paper’,……. I ……I didn’t use paper” she explained.

With that she proceeded to pull out from her desk three pieces of wood no larger than a medium sized index card on which she had written the math problems from the night before. All were done in pencil and were done correctly. She explained that she looked all over her house but could not find a piece of paper on which to do her homework so she used the only medium she could find which were those three pieces of wood. Unable to imagine such a situation in my own secure world and unable to find the right words to say to make it ok, I retreated back to my desk to give her proper credit for her work the night before. However there is no column in a grade book for ingenuity or resilience or persistence but the character shown by this 12 year old girl stayed with me a lifetime and earned her an A for effort.
I kept those three pieces of wood in my desk drawer at school for many years as a constant reminder of the fragile nature of the students in our charge and the real human life dramas that we as teachers must overcome before we attempt to reach and teach. I lost touch with Maritza. . . and I lost those three pieces of wood in the process of moving to another school some years later, but I never forgot the lessons of humility, understanding and compassion she taught me.

So think of Maritz, as I do, the next time you say to your class, ‘Pass your papers forward.’

Professor Richard Guidone

QU Teacher Candidates Present Workshop to Local Preschool Teachers

Blog photoposted by Monica Cavender

Rachel Battino, Adriana Chiappelli, Jessica Payne, and Lindsay Rosenberg engaged preschool teachers from Southington and Cheshire in a morning full of exciting math activities. Framed within a professionally presented Prezi Presentation, the graduate students involved teachers in early childhood math activities that included making paint bags to trace numbers, moving to the rhythm of Pete the Cat lyrics, and sharing children’s literature focused on beginning number sense.

The School of Education teacher candidates planned and presented over 25 ideas grounded in the Connecticut Framework Standards for Preschool Learning. Participants tapped balloons in the air to illustrate number and quantity relationship. To illustrate the ordering of objects, Quinnipiac students had the preschool teachers sort themselves by a variety of attributes and then sequence themselves by shoe size. Participants made manipulatives out of pasta and food coloring to support patterning and counting concepts with their students. Each activity was aligned with standards and reflected the recognition of the natural development of early numeracy.

Rachel, Adriana, Jessica, and Lindsay represented the School of Education with their leadership, learning, and teaching in the community. This is just another example of why our faculty is so proud of our students. Congratulations girls, for the hard work and planning that went into presenting a workshop to teachers in our neighboring towns.