Archive for the 'Education in the news' Category

More Than Dates & Names: Because Social Studies Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!

Originally posted on January 8, 2019 on the “This Is Social Studies” Blog

There is social studies all around us, if we we’d just look up from our lecture notes. Black Cat Alley, Milwaukee. © Gibson 2019

By Melissa Gibson

When we begin a semester learning about how to teach social studies, I ask my students about their own K12 experiences. Of course, the students who aspire to be high school social studies teachers are in love with what they are going to teach, and they usually tell me about a history teacher who told great stories, got them to write a million DBQs, or knew everything there was to know about an obscure general in the Civil War. They glow, but I think: Geez, that was EXACTLY what I avoided in high school (when I took AP everything BUT social studies).

The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning.

The elementary education students in class are usually nervous to tell me what they think—I am their social studies professor, after all, and their experiences were not nearly as memorable. With some prodding, I often get: Boring. Memorizing dates and names. Re-enacting Thanksgiving. Textbooks. One or two students will light up with the memory of a teacher who dressed up like historical figures, or orchestrated role play experiences; every once in a while, someone will gush with the memory of a pet research project on Helen Keller or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I then tell them that my goal for our semester together is to transform the way they think about what social studies is and how they can bring it to life when they teach it. We start with the why: Why not just go about business as usual? On the elementary level, it takes very little convincing; after all, they already told me that social studies was boring. When we layer in the causes and repercussions of that boredom—in light of racial inequalities in schools, in light of making schools welcoming for all students, in light of children as citizens, in light of education as empowerment—we start to shift from talking about fun to talking about “reading the word and reading the world,” as Paulo Freire has urged us to do. Secondary education students take a little more convincing; after all, they sit before me preparing to be social studies teachers precisely because they loved their K12 social studies experiences. So we also delve deeply into the socialpolitical, and cultural ramifications of how, historically, we’ve chosen to teach social studies. What does it mean that we have often perpetuated mythology in history class, as James Loewen has shown? What does it mean that the many traditional approaches to social studies lie about race, power, and inequality, as Gloria Ladson-Billings has argued? What does it mean that many civics lessons emphasize compliance and rote memorization rather than social action and public decision-making, that they tell students to let adults do the work instead of helping students become competent civic actors now, as Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia have posited?

• • •

This first issue of This Is Social Studies is a testament to powerful transformations. The collection of writing from undergraduate teacher education students in my methods classes at Marquette shows the ways that they are coming to understand and enact a different kind of social studies teaching and learning. In the first set of pieces, “Exploring Social Studies,” you’ll read about students applying what we’ve been learning in class to their own lives and experiences out in the world. In the second set of pieces, “Teaching Social Studies,” students share resources that they’ve either curated or created to enact a critical, inquiry-based social studies in the classroom.

I also want to recommend reading about the journeys of three secondary teachers, who spent a semester deepening their knowledge on a specific topic and then designing a critical, inquiry-based unit around it. Head to these pages to access their fantastic resources for middle and high school teachers:

  • “Why is Milwaukee the most segregated city in America?” Civil Rights & Segregation in Milwaukee by Angela Scavone

 

  • “How do we define Milwaukee?” Geography & Gentrification in Milwaukee by Brigid N

 

  • “How does a society decide what to remember about historical events?” The Civil War by Carrie Sikich

 

  • “Is the Vietnam War over?” The Vietnam War & the Hmong-American community by Madison Laning

• • •

We hope these posts inspire you to transform social studies in your classrooms, too.

You Can’t Support LeBron’s New School and Be Against Charter Schools

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By Bill Waychunas

LeBron picked a team this summer that turned a lot of haters into fans and raised questions about what the fans are actually cheering for. I’m not talking about the Lakers or even basketball. I’m talking about schools.

There has been a lot of buzz around LeBron contributing millions to open the I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

And, as the kudos have rightfully rained down for LeBron’s commitment, many people have qualified their support of I Promise with the point that it is a traditional public school and NOT a charter school. It’s good for kids because he’s on our team.

So, as many raise banners to support LeBron’s school, they also raise the question, do they support the education of children, or do they support traditional public schools? What kind of fans are they anyways?

But education isn’t sports. In sports, you can have a favorite team. In sports, there are winners and losers. I would argue that societal tolerance of certain students “losing” in schools is the greatest historical and current injustice in public education. When it comes to education, we can’t have teams or sides. We should cheer for all children, families, and communities, not just if they happen to be on our team.

More frustrating is the irony of those touting I Promise as a traditional public school who don’t realize that it functions more like a charter school. Like that player on other team that you can’t stand, but secretly wish was on your team (think any player from Duke or these guys), LeBron’s school is exposing many of his supporter as hypocrites as they embrace a school which they previously would have criticized if it was a charter school.  

Let’s first acknowledge the hypocrisy around philanthropy. When charter schools accept donations, they are allowing privatizers to influence schools in an attempt to destroy public education. How is LeBron’s money different? If LeBron wasn’t a basketball player, but a Wall-Street type with ties to Akron, would his philanthropy receive the same welcome, even with the same good intentions? Not likely. We shouldn’t need to rely on celebrities to support public institutions like our schools anyways, but when money is given for the benefit of children, it shouldn’t matter what team (or type of school) is cashing the check.

The I Promise model, which is being touted as a long-awaited miracle for students, is based off the successes of urban charter schools, such as KIPP and Rocketship. These include, “longer school days, a non-traditional [longer] school year, and greater access to the school, its facilities, and its teachers” with the aim of “reducing the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.” When charter schools do the same things, they are accused of exploiting teachers, having deficit views of children, and being overly focused on standardized testing.

I Promise fans should also acknowledge that, like charter schools, LeBron’s school is a school of choice. According to Time, “[t]he school selected area students from among those who trail their peers by a year or two in academic performance,” used a random lottery to decide who was admitted, and made phone calls to the families, asking “How would you like to be part of something different, the I Promise School.”

Let’s unpack that a bit.

Giving parents the option of “something different” implies that something isn’t working with their current public-school option, a foundational argument in favor of school choice. This also means that the kids selected would otherwise be going to neighborhood public schools. With funding being allocated on a per-pupil basis, for every student who goes to LeBron’s school, they take away a little more than $10,000 from their originally assigned school. That means less money for teachers, supplies, technology, and other supports.

The best teachers from Akron are also being extracted from the neighborhood schools. They even had to approve a separate union contract for these teachers, further implying that something isn’t working with the status-quo in the school district. If these students and teachers were leaving their traditional public schools for charter schools, it would be draining resources from neighborhood schools. But again, right player, right team. That means instead of extraction or injustice, it’s opportunity.

The selection kids by lottery may most clearly expose elements of hypocrisy for some fans who support the #WeChoose movement, which is associated with Journey for Justice Alliance and the Badass Teachers Association. They claims that charter schools are a scam and don’t offer a real choice to families, in part because the “choice” of quality schools is only available to some lottery winners, while leaving the rest behind. They advocate for well-funded schools with wrap-around services for ALL students, not just the lucky ones that won LeBron’s lottery. Clearly, the I Promise school is a step in the right direction, but it surely doesn’t serve all students or all schools. What about the students that are left behind? Clearly, one can’t claim that advancing the interest of some in LeBron’s school is progress while criticizing progress for some in charter schools is a problem.  

The bottom line is that the services and model at LeBron’s school would be good for kids, families, and communities no matter what type of school he opened. That’s what we should be focusing on, not the type of school.

If we’re going to be fans, let’s be fans for all kids, not just the ones on “our team.”

 

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

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By Patrick R. Johnson

As educators, we oftentimes come to this vocation by a calling—thus why I would call our craft a vocation rather than a profession. While this calling comes in different ways and at different times, the bells it rings in our heads is one of many things that unites us. My bells rang quite literally upon my first campus visit to Marquette, a very delayed one at that. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but what I wanted to teach was massively in conflict: do I become a biology teacher because I loved the scientific method and studying life, or do I do what many told me not to—become a journalism teacher. I heard the bells of Marquette Hall on my way to visit Johnston Hall; despite the rainy day, the bells gave light to where I belonged. I chose the road less traveled and you should too.

Journalism (and media as a greater umbrella) is the Fourth Estate—the checks and balances to the government as a whole. Journalism is the truth, despite what some who are being checked by the Fourth Estate may continue to argue. Journalism is the voice for the voiceless, the sounding board for the unspoken and the gatekeeper for all that is good and evil. Yet, especially now more than when I began my journey against the grain as a journalism teacher, journalism isn’t what it should be allowed to be and I argue that in order to change that we need to put journalism and media education back into our schools.

That all men are created equal

It is in teaching our students that equality can only be granted when we’re willing to critique ourselves and our systems that we truly will learn. In media production classrooms, we promote social justice and awareness by challenging our students to engage with and produce content about those who have been silences—unearthing the truths that have been buried for so long.

When we teach news and media literacy, we ask our students to curiously question who produced a piece, who runs the organization, or who guides the message; what the message says and how the message says it; when the message is created and for whom it was created for; and why.

To promote and ensure the equality that was granted to us in the confines of the Declaration of Independence, we must first ask why we are afforded these rights in the first place and who helps provide us with them. Media classes do just that.

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights

Media classrooms are the “Four Cs of 21st Century Learning” and endow our students with the unalienable rights associated with a strong and sustainable education. Students in media classrooms learn to communicate beyond a screen and reignite a passion to care about one another. Students in media classrooms challenge the system using critical thinking skills that are developed in their analysis of media, their creation of content, and their questioning of ethics. Students in media classrooms engage in collaboration daily as they must work together to produce a product, one that is public and out there for all to see (and critique). Students in media classrooms invoke creativity not just in the work, but also in their leadership and passions. These Cs guarantee student success and push them to reach their maximum potential inside and outside of the classroom.

That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

In an age where journalists are under fire, quite literally as we recently saw with the shooting at the Capital Times, fastening our students with weapons of truth and language and thought are more necessary than ever. Journalism programs around the country are being cut, teachers are being released from their contracts, and kids are going without a proper education of their First Amendment freedoms because there is a fear that journalism endangers the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of fearing what this experience produces, we should deeply consider what this experience can afford our students—the future of America. Instead of fearing that journalism will take away our rights, we should be embracing the unknown and pushing for our rights to be celebrated, honored and respected.

We must renew our trust in journalism, a vocation that is foundational to the American Dream. It starts with an education and it starts with us. Help champion the cause for truth by either investing in journalism or media classes in our schools, or bringing them back if they’ve sadly disappeared. We need declare our independence by reigniting our passion for and discovery of knowledge. Join the cause because journalism is going to be the only thing to make America great again.

#ArmMeWith: A Counselor’s Requests

pexels-photo-460087By Sabrina Bartels

Following the tragic shooting in Parkland, there has been a lot of discussion revolving around gun control laws. And among that discussion is the thought that maybe, just maybe, teachers should be armed. It has caused an uproar around the country, and educators have taken to social media to express their concerns on this topic.

One particular movement that has caught my eye is the hashtag #ArmMeWith. People have held up signs saying “Arm Me With …” and then inserting what it is they feel they need to have in their school buildings. The requests have varied from smaller class sizes, books and pencils, and more school counselors and school psychologists to help students with their social/emotional and mental health concerns.

I was really proud to see school counselors and psychologists on many of these signs. Ever since I joined the profession, I’ve really come to understand just how important it is for students to be aware of their own mental health. A lot of students come to school every morning with a lot of emotional baggage: absent parents, struggling siblings, financial issues, and housing problems to name a few. This means that students are trying to comprehend some very adult problems in the world, even though they are only 12, 13, or 14 years of age. And while they are struggling to understand how and why their lives and families are the way they are, they lose sight of why they come to school in the first place: to get an education. By having school counselors and psychologists in the building, students are able to have someone to process through their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which then gives them the “brain space” to learn.

But I know that school counselors and psychologists are not the only solution to helping students stay safe and enjoying school. There are so many things that I can think of to “arm” myself with, or things that I hope for every educator. For me, personally, here is my list of both physical and abstract things:

#ArmMeWith resources to ensure that students’ essentials are covered. Just recently, I had a conversation with one of my students who told me that every day she comes to school, she is guaranteed two meals. The weekends are harder; she doesn’t always know how many meals, if any, she will get. The term “resources” also applies to school supplies. There are several students at my school who cannot afford school supplies. When bills need to be paid, and a child needs a new winter jacket because he or she has outgrown their current one, it’s hard to find money to pay for pens, pencils, binders, and notebooks. At my school, we added a community closet, which has been incredibly helpful with our students and families. I wish more schools had this option.

#ArmMeWith patience when working with my students, because sometimes I forget what is important when you are in middle school.

#ArmMeWith compassion. I can never have too much of it. Sometimes, it’s the love for my students that keeps me invested in my job, even on the really difficult days.

#ArmMeWith the right words to talk to my students. Some days, it’s really hard to explain why they need to deal with so much in life. A lot of times, I am at a loss for what to say. It’s hard to reassure them that everything will be okay when they feel as though everyone – and everything – is against them.

#ArmMeWith perseverance to ensure that I never give up on one of my students.

And lastly …

#ArmMeWith love. Some of my toughest students – the kids who scream, swear, and act out all the time – are the students who need the most love. There are students who come to school just to have that meaningful connection with an adult. If there is one thing that all of us as educators need, it is an abundance of love to give and share.

 

Changing the Game: How Julia Magnasco Has Redefined What Teaching Looks Like Outside of the Classroom

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Julia Magnasco, Education Director for First Stage

In March 2017, Marquette University’s College of Education launched its new undergraduate major and minor, Educational Studies. To highlight professionals working in the field, the college profiled Community Advisory Board Member Julia Magnasco of First Stage. For 30 years, First Stage has been transforming lives through theater. As one of the nation’s most acclaimed children’s theaters and the second-largest company in Milwaukee, First Stage runs academies for children and schools while also producing plays and musicals for the city’s entertainment.

Julia Magnasco serves as First Stage’s Education Director and is a member of the College of Education’s Educational Studies Community Advisory Board. A program for students interested in education but not the traditional licensure of a classroom teacher, Educational Studies will prepare graduates to work in non-profit organizations or informal learning institutions such as First Stage. We sat down with Julia to learn more about her day-to-day life both on and off the stage along with her insight into what this new program could mean for our students and Milwaukee.

I’m very excited for this new major. There is a great need for educators outside the normal realm, whether it be an artist in schools or in community centers.


College of Education (COED): Thank you, Julia, for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about First Stage, your role in the organization, and what your day looks like?

Julia Magnasco (JM): I feel very lucky because my world is play! I’m the Education Director for First Stage. We are a professional theater for young audiences in Milwaukee. We are the second-largest theater company in the state and one of the largest theaters for young audiences in the nation. We have this incredible commitment to our community, but also to the field of theater for young people and families.

At First Stage we say we have three pillars. We have our productions where we put on shows for young people and families from three years old all the way through high school. Something we do that is really unique is “age-appropriate” casting. We use young performers side by with professional actors. It’s important to us that when young people are watching a show that they see themselves and their stories. They’re able to do some social bridging and social bonding from the experience of seeing productions. Young people have to see themselves on stage. Part of that is the need to see someone their age playing that character.

JM5The second pillar is theater academy. Our motto is teaching life skills through stage skills. The real goal of all of our programming in the academy is to nurture those socio-emotional abilities, EQ skills.

Our third pillar is education. We go into schools and community centers throughout the Milwaukee area with different workshops and opportunities right within that setting. We primarily use a method of teaching called “arts integration.” The idea of arts integration — and in our case, it’s drama — is looking at the process and actually teaching the standards that go along with it. The arts, like every other curricular subject, has its own set of standards and skills that need to be learned, and they need to be taught appropriately with that. We’re teaching the drama process while simultaneously teaching another curricular or social subject.

COED: How many students do you interact with in the course of a year? How do you work with schools and with community organizations?

JM: We end up facilitating over 2500 workshops every school year in over 750 classrooms, so we reach about 20,000 students. We want our students and community to have three touchpoints and come into the First Stage family. You might enter from coming to see a show, you might enter from First Stage coming to your classroom, you might enter by taking an academy class, but the idea is the connection with all these different levels in First Stage.

COED: How do you think our new program can be effective for tomorrow’s educational landscape?

JM: How do you look at education in a nontraditional setting? We’re looking at what the educational mandates are, what the new, exciting initiatives are — how we connect with those and how we can be game-changers both in the local community and on a national level. I think now more than ever our classrooms are so diverse, and it is important as educators to acknowledge that. We need to be responsive in our teaching and use the proper tools, giving opportunities to acknowledge and embrace that diversity — and to take the next generation to that level.

I’m very excited for this new major. There is a great need for educators outside the normal realm, whether it be an artist in schools or in community centers. This opportunity for engaged conversations and art has great power; art has the power to change. K-12 education for me looks different from what I experienced to what my daughter is experiencing now. There’s not a lot of art specialization right now in education, but that does not mean art is not present. We’re looking at it from a different lens. There is an opportunity to partner with school, teachers, and other organizations to bring these experiences to our community.

Want to learn more about the College of Education and its undergraduate educator preparation programs? Visit us online today!

 

Almost a Huge Hypocrite

—By Claudia Felske

Almost a Huge Hypocrite.

That’s me. Well, it was almost me.  

After reading a recent New York Times article on the notion of “smart failure,” I was ready to start next school year by giving each of my students a  “Failure Certificate.” After all, if it’s good enough for Smith College students, it’s good enough for my students. I had learned that these days, students at Smith, receive a  “Certificate of Failure” which reads:

“You are hereby authorized to screw up, bomb or fail at one or more relationships, hookups, friendships, texts, exams, extracurriculars or any other choices associated with college … and still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human.”

How great would that be for my students? What a relief it would be, I reasoned, for these high-strung scholars, many with 4 or 5 AP classes and as many extra curricular activities on their docket—to receive permission to fail. “Brilliant!” I thought…until I gave it some more thought.

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What’s the snag? Doesn’t it make perfect sense? All the en vogue educational experts these days (Carol Dweck’s Mindset research and Angela Duckworth’s work on Grit) seem to be quantifying this wisdom, wisdom which common sense has long purported, namely that we necessarily learn and grow from failure. In order to grow, we must traverse our comfort zones, which often entails failing in order to acquire the kind of experience and first-hand wisdom that ultimately breeds success. We know this.

So then, what’s the problem? Why won’t I be handing out “Certificates of Failure” this fall?

Because the whole thing reeks of hypocrisy. Would Smith, Harvard, and Stanford students have been accepted into these prestigious schools had they lived by this motto? Would they be Ivy Leaguers today had their parents encouraged them to fail? To experiment? To disregard points and grades and test scores in favor of learning?

Is it the very institutions which have perpetuated the need for perfection the ones now hypocritically offering bandaids and ice cream cones to their bleeding victims?

The simple answer: yes. The only reason the solution of embracing failure is needed is because we, as educators, created the problem in the first place. The need to teach the value of failure exists precisely because we have created a high-stakes, grade-obsessed, avoid-failure-at-all-costs educational system to which a student stroll through platitude park is not the panacea.  

It should be no surprise that the institutions leading the charge to embrace failure (Smith, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton) are the most competitive universities around. The perfectionism, elitism, and cajolery required for acceptance into these schools are precisely the catalysts for the anxiety, depression, stress, and suicide rates which have necessitated the “fail up” movement.

Is it any wonder that it was Harvard and Stanford faculty who coined the term “failure deprived” to describe the students dotting their campuses “students (who) seemed unable to cope with simple struggles.” Through observing their students, they recognized the need to encourage productive failure, a need which arose directly from the game their students were forced to play in order to receive their highly-coveted acceptance letters.

More than a bit of hypocrisy here.

I was having tea with a parent the other day, the mother of lovely and extremely high achieving students. The expectations in their family are very high and very clear. She, too, had read the New York Times article and was pondering giving her children a copy of the “Certificate of Failure.”

And again, I couldn’t help but spot the thick coat of hypocrisy in her words. As a parent who expected 4.0’s, could a “Certificate of Failure,” no matter how well-intended, be given in good faith? As an AP English teacher, could I give my students a “Certificate of Failure” knowing that the reason they are in AP English in the first place is because they (and their families) do not subscribe to a “fail to learn” mentality, and that doing so would have likely precluded them from enrollment?

How many of us share our children’s failures as oft as their successes?

How many of us encourage our children to be artists…for a living?

How many of us encourage our children to learn…without grades in mind?

How many of us encourage our students to do what they love even there’s no spot for it on a resume?

The “fail gracefully” sentiment may be bantered about by administrators, teachers, and parents when they happen across an article in the New York Times, but its opposite is clearly expected on a day-to-day basis.

Perpetuating the “fail well” philosophy is sheer hypocrisy. It’s merely handing out band-aids and ice cream cones while ignoring the perpetual bleeding.

Here’s the real message: Maintain your 4.0, do well on ACT and SAT’s (or take them over repeatedly), do what it takes to get into a good college, land a good job, have a responsible life that ensures your economic stability and reflects well upon the rest of us. We can talk all we want about the value of “failing well,” but when our actions speak the opposite, perhaps its time to stop with the band-aids and ice cream cones.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

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Unless we’re willing to change the data-driven, high-stakes testing state of child-rearing and educating of which we’re complicit members, we cannot with clear conscience, talk about handing out “Certificates of Failure.”

 

Ramp Up With a COED Alumna

Osborne High School counselors, administrator, clerk and parent liaison

Congratulations to Courtney (Wesnofske) Courtney (Master of Arts in School Counseling, ’13) and the counseling department in Osborne High School (Marietta, GA) for receiving RAMP classification! Courtney is the first graduate of the program to achieve RAMP status for her department.

RAMP, short for Recognized ASCA Model Program, is a designation from the American School Counselor Association to recognize high performing school counseling departments. The RAMP designation provides departments with the confidence that the program aligns with a nationally accepted and recognized model, evaluations and areas for improvement, and enhances the efforts to contribute to student success. Currently, over 700 schools in 43 states received a RAMP designation.

For Courtney and her department, receiving RAMP status has been a rewarding experience. “This RAMP designation has proven that we as a department work to address the needs of the whole child/student, which is our ultimate goal,” stated Courtney when asked the importance of receiving RAMP status. With limited resources and a high caseload per counselor, the RAMP classification shows the hard work the department does to support all students. Courtney further explained how the department works with data to drive programs to help students, parents, and the community. “Our data has led to implementing interventions through small group, classroom curriculum, and individual counseling, as well as increasing our events offered to our parents and guardians,” explained Courtney.

Along with increasing programs and events, Courtney stated how the school has seen other increasing with college and career preparedness, parent/guardian involvement, and an increase in graduation rates. In the past three years, graduation rate has increased from 48.4% to 68%. Since receiving RAMP classification, Courtney explained how the department is using the feedback provided by the RAMP application to improve their programs for students. Also, Courtney mentioned an increase of passion and excitement for the work the department does. “ I can honestly say that one of the biggest changes is an increased sense of passion and excitement for working to improve the supports provided to all students,” she stated.

Dr. Alan Burkard, Department Chair of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology (CECP) at Marquette University, shared his excitement for Courtney and her department’s success by saying, “As a past RAMP reviewer, I know that not all school counselors can meet the rigorous criteria established to receive this award.” To him, it is the department’s goal to see the graduates of the program become the kind of professionals they hoped to develop. “Knowing that our students are demonstrating this kind of commitment to their schools and profession is simply an honor, and it suggests that the message we hope students will learn is being achieved.”

Want to learn more about Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education at Marquette University? Visit us online!


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