Archive for the 'Stories from the classroom' Category

Getting to Know Dr. Leigh van den Kieboom

VandenkieboomDr. Leigh van den Kieboom is  an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL). She teaches Elementary and Middle School Mathematics as well as Teaching in the Middle School. All throughout this semester, we’ve been getting to know our faculty a little better by sitting down to see what makes them who they are!

 

Tell us about yourself!

I am a mathematics teacher educator with twelve years of K-12 teaching experience who enjoys guiding pre-service teachers as they learn how to teach in our preparation program. I’ve worked in several school districts in the Milwaukee area and have been at Marquette University in the College of Education since 2000.

So where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Milwaukee area and completed an undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before finishing a doctoral degree at Marquette University.

Sounds like you’ve had many educational experiences! What is your favorite one?

As a K-12 student, I did not particularly enjoy mathematics. I found the subject challenging. I often asked my K-12 mathematics teachers to explain WHY the procedures I was using to solve problems worked. Most often, I received a repetition of the procedure rather than an explanation of the concept involved in the procedure. This was frustrating for me. While in college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, my views of teaching and learning mathematics changed as I began to study WHY the procedures for problem solving worked. I was fascinated as I revisited the K-12 mathematics scope and sequence with a view toward teaching and learning that included using multiple and hands-on approaches to solving problems. I learned how to use reasoning to explain the thinking involved in the procedures I used to solve problems. I became passionate about sharing what I had learned with others. As a teacher, while most of my colleagues, espoused teaching reading as the favorite part of their practice, I was drawn to teaching and learning mathematics.

Whoa, that’s an amazing change in thinking about math! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

The focus on social justice drew me to Marquette University and the College of Education. I was particularly drawn to a teacher preparation program that utilized a variety of urban school settings that provide pre-service teachers the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of K-12 students.

We’re glad that the COED was a good fit for you! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

Revisions to the Marquette University’s common core as well as change to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s teacher licensing has created the opportunity for faculty in the College of Education to reimagine the coursework involved in the teacher preparation program.

Who is your inspiration for your work?

My mom and dad were both public school teachers. They loved their practice and spent years serving the students and parents in the school districts in which they worked. I grew up in their classrooms, first learning about teaching from them! Their passion for teaching inspired me to continue the same journey.

We’ve heard a lot about what you are like as a professor, but what do you do when you are outside of the classroom?

I am an avid sailor. I am part of a family crew (husband Jan; two sons, Pieter and Willem) who race a 38’ sailboat named “Nighthawk” on Lake Michigan. We enjoy weekly course races as well as long-distance races, The Queens Cup (South Shore Yacht Club to Muskegon Yacht Club) and The Chicago-Mackinac Race (Chicago to Mackinac Island). You can find me out on the water most of the summer!

Tell us more about what racing means to you!

Racing on Nighthawk is a beautiful experience that combines time on the water with family. We work as a team in different kinds of weather conditions on Lake Michigan. The most exciting part of the summer racing season is the Chicago-Mackinac race. We join over 300 sailboats in Chicago and sail 333 miles north to Mackinac Island. The race, which usually takes three days, includes weather patterns of every kind, from sunny skies to dark thunderstorms. The crew works 24-7, taking shifts through the night to keep the boat sailing.

Any advice for readers who are interested in sailing?

Marquette University has a sailing club. Interested participants can learn how to sail (on Lake Michigan) with friends from Marquette University!

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: What Happens Next

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the third of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

image 1By Michelle Fedran

The name of the village I am in is Tununak (sounds like two-new-nik). If I had the money and control over nature (nature is a HUGE factor out here and I’ll never stop mentioning that haha) I would pay for anyone who held an interest to fly out here to take a look for him or herself. It’s one thing to hear about it and another to experience it upfront. We are an hour flight out from Bethel and are right on the coast of the sea, surrounded by some mountains and cliffs so the views are breathtaking. A fun thing with being on the coast, I can still say Wisconsin still wins as one of the worst places I’ve been in when winter hits! Although besides the slightly warmer temperatures, the winds up here get pretty rough sometimes, but Wisconsin Avenue definitely help put in some good training for walking against the wind. It’s especially fun when the wind picks up to 50 mph, picking up and blowing snow, and I have to climb a hill up to school because the stairs have already been covered with snow. Some people would think I’m getting ready to climb a mountain if they saw the gear I sometimes have to put on before going outside! The closest village to us is about seven miles away through the tundra, and people normally travel back and forth by snowmachine, honda (ATV), or walking. There are other surrounding villages but when I travel to them it’s usually by bush plane. Something I have found out interesting by traveling to different villages is that it almost seems like everyone knows well, everyone!

image 4.jpgBesides physical characteristics, something I really love about it out here is the simplicity of how things seem to be. Especially coming from a bustling city with a booming market of the next generation car and little devices that control things around your house, it is refreshing to experience simple living. I have met some of the nicest people out here and have been able to experience, as well as witness, genuine happiness. I often feel that people get so caught up with work or media that personal relationships sometimes fall on the back burner, but that isn’t what I see. Up here, the people I have met so far exhibit tremendous respect and care for their loved ones, and it is really refreshing to see the happiness that good company can bring. Coming out here made me realize what I need to be truly happy and that doesn’t involve the latest high-brand purse, hottest sunglasses, or super cool kicks that just came out. I have realized it’s the little, simple things that really count and that loving friends and family are all that I—and anyone—really needs to lead a happy life.

If any of you are considering making a move to teach in a remote location such as Alaska, I would suggest that if the thought is lingering in your mind, take a chance and do it. Even if it terrifies you, that’s a greater reason to do it! I remember it was about a week before I was supposed to leave my home and fly out to basically the edge of the country (no really, look up my location on Google Maps), and I began to panic. Thoughts began racing through my head and my anxiety was about to burst through the roof! However, my friends and family told me if my dreams didn’t scare me, they weren’t big enough. So, I took those words, held them close, and now I’m truly experiencing some of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve created memories and friendships I know will last a lifetime and beyond that I will forever cherish.

Nothing is forever, things can always change, and so now is the chance to take control of your life!

sunset 1

Thinking about my future and looking five years down the road from now, I see a blur. Anything is possible! I could still be up here in Alaska, or I could be in a new location whether it be state, country, who knows! I have been asked this question quite a few times and every time I like to remind people that I’m just taking life one day at a time. You never know what can happen within 24 hours. One day you could be just fine and the next your world could be flipped upside down (good or bad). So for now, I try to focus on what I have in the moment. Although right now I am truly enjoying my time up here and am excited to say I’ll be returning next year!

Getting To Know Kirsten Lathrop

April 2018 picThe College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Mrs. Kirsten Lathrop is the Director of Field Placements and Licensure. Read on to learn more about Kirsten!

What can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Kirsten Lathrop, and my husband, Brian, and I are parents to twin boys (Caleb & Sam). I’m also a mom to a geriatric cat named Fred.

Have you lived in Milwaukee for long?

I grew up on the east side of Milwaukee near UWM. By the end of middle school, I was living in Shorewood. Aside from two years of college in Minneapolis, MN, I’ve always lived in Milwaukee!

What is your favorite educational experience?

I was teaching third grade when the first Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) was released in the US, and I read it to my students every day after recess. We all fell in love with it, and we decided to create and publish a classroom book with all sorts of fun wizard-related writing and illustrations. Some students wrote letters to characters, some concocted wizard recipes (or were they spells?), and some drew amazing artwork for our publication. Third grade was definitely the perfect age to be introduced to this imaginative, detailed book series, and many of my students remembered it years later. I continued to use excerpts from J. K. Rowling’s books in my writing lessons.

That sounds like an amazing teaching experience! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

The short answer? Dr. Cynthia Ellwood! The longer version? I was a special education teacher with a reading specialist license who was asked to supervise Reading 3 practicum students in the Hartman Literacy Center after school, which I happily did for a semester. Susan Stang was preparing to retire from this position, and I was encouraged to apply. I never intended to leave my teaching job in MPS, as I’d basically “grown up” in the district and have always been committed to urban education. However, as much as I loved my job, I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity like the one here. I’m so glad I made the transition, even though I do sometimes miss being out with the kids.

We’re glad you saw Marquette as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I’m always excited to use student feedback and re-imagine the best student teaching seminar experience we can create each semester!

We know we can find you in your office, but what do you do when you are outside of the office?

I love reading, working crossword puzzles, playing board games (and D & D) with my family and friends, and spending time with my extended family.  In addition, I love reality TV shows like Project Runway, Top Chef, and (most) Real Housewives.  I’ve also watched every season of Survivor (which started airing in 2000)—Our son, Sam, has now gotten hooked.  Our family also watches Planet Earth, This Is Us, and Rise together.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate program that Kirsten helps out with by visiting us online!

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: Preparation vs. Reality

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the second of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

flyingBy Michelle Fedran

I feel that my time at Marquette did a good job on preparing me for what I’m going through now in terms of teaching. I honestly see myself using pieces I have learned from all the different classes I took. So current students who might be reading this, you may be frustrated over taking a class that “means nothing to you or your major” and I totally understand that; I was a student too. Listen and trust me when I say this, you need every tool, idea, ounce of imagination possible ready and equipped when you walk into that classroom. So hold your chin up, turn your phone off (even on your Mac), that class you may be silently meal-prepping in will give you a skill you will one day use that will save your classroom from turning inside out.

Of course, with this being my first year (and I’m sure many can relate no matter what field they are in) adjusting to a new job is going to be tough. You’re going to be asking yourself if you’ve made the right decision, and I definitely do from time to time. However, something Marquette also prepared me for is how to handle that first-year mentality many people seem to adopt. It’s easy to throw your hands up and quit, but something I felt that I learned from Marquette is to never give up and to keep pushing forward when things get tough. From day one of my freshman year, Marquette told us to “Be the Difference” and that’s what I aim to be and live up to. Blending into the background and falling victim to society norms will only pull you backwards rather than pushing you forward into succeeding in a new position.

image 3I would say my biggest challenge was getting the year started, setting a rhythm for my classroom, and deciding how I want it to play out for the year. Speaking as a first-year teacher—and some may disagree—this can be pretty challenging. I feel something that may have contributed to this minor struggle would be that I, along with many classmates, completed the student teaching rotation in the springtime. I remember talking with others about how we didn’t really get to experience and observe the initiation of the classroom atmosphere that happens at the beginning of the school year.  In spite of that, one of the beauties of being a first-year teacher is the amount of support you get. This year I’ve been to several professional development trainings and have been offered help from instructional coaches, state mentors, and coworkers who understood things I may be facing my first year. I am forever grateful to them for helping this year go smoother than I would have imagined. Something I have mentioned before and tell my students is that mistakes happen but are good because they help us learn.

In light of that, I would say my biggest success would be finally finding that groove I was looking for in my classroom. After the first full week when things seem to go right and students start adopting routines and strategies you have been trying so hard to implement through countless practices… that feeling is GREAT!  Another success I see as I write this (we are beginning our final quarter of the school year) is realizing I survived and I’m really beginning to see the growth my students have made. During the year, things can get crazy, and I mean CRAZY. It’s so easy to lose yourself, visions, and the goals you had at the beginning of the year. Overall, things get tough but when that final lap of the school year rolls around and you are able to take a breath and reflect on the year, realizing the gains your students have made thus far in their learning is a winning feeling.

Read the rest of Michelle’s three-part series on her first year teaching!

 

Combating the Scantron Test: Engaging Students in Authentic Learning

This post originally appeared on Elias Vareldzis’ blog for Education 4337: Teaching Elementary Social Studies in Fall 2017

17314687602_76dfaea22b_bBy Elias Vareldzis

Many students often seem to receive content in social studies classes — and history in particular — as dead on arrival. A lot of people hold the misguided belief that the events of the past are just that: old facts and dates to be memorized that have little to no relevance to modern life or to their own lives. This kind of narrow view of history is dangerous, for it trivializes the story of mankind, of human inter-relations, and it shuts a door to a better understanding of the complex world we live in along with the actions and events that take place each and every day both in one’s local community and across the whole world.

In many instances, students hold this view because their teachers aren’t engaging them in lessons that are based around authentic assessments. Oftentimes, teachers stick to teaching content and then assessing their classes using homework packets and standard tests that require factual recall, comprehension of key events and concepts, and written prompts that assess students’ understanding of the concepts. While these kinds of basic assessments have benefits, allowing the teacher to assess whether or not students are engaging with material and understanding historical events and periods of time, it is not often enough that teachers design assessments that connect and apply knowledge learned about the past to the modern world where students live. In order for students to truly engage, they must be given opportunities through authentic assessments to apply their learning to real-world applications such as genuine and interesting performance tasks or projects that require community and civic action.

Real authentic assessment can appear in the classroom as any number of activities that double as activities and jobs that students could be asked to complete in the real world. An authentic assessment must combine activities and skills that students can use in the real world to classroom content. This can look like the composing of a letter to a local or state policy leader about a certain issue, conducting a mock trial, living classroom museum, conducting interviews, teaching others, role playing, performing, giving speeches, simulating the legislative process, debating, researching and presenting information, creating media, attending civic events, creating art or models, diagrams, or maps, going to museums, writing a report or newspaper article, creating a documentary or podcast, relaying an oral history, curating an exhibit, telling a graphic story, creating political cartoons, writing book and film reviews, writing fictional material or songs, or writing essays or current event analyses. The possibilities are nearly endless.

By engaging students in activities and projects that promote real life skills and have clear meaning, goals, outcomes, and relevance to student’s lives and 21st century life in general, teachers can more effectively teach important academic skills, curriculum content, and state standards. Students are much more willing to engage with and be invested in authentic assessment activities compared to pencil-and-paper tests that require them to simply recall knowledge about a subject. A well-designed authentic assessment will engage students in higher level thinking about class content and will be genuinely more interesting, requiring that they take learning and their knowledge about a subject into their own hands. Through the active engagement in projects and activities with real-world relevance, students are more likely to develop important skills and retain standards and curriculum-based knowledge and objectives.

Just as valuable for their ability to actively engage students in meaningful curriculum-based assignments that develop important skills, the results and feedback from authentic assessments can serve as a teaching tool to greatly help educators most effectively reach their students. Providing feedback on authentic assessments can allow a teacher to identify areas for students to focus on developing their talents, skills, and content knowledge even further, and can help the teacher determine what skills or content they need to reteach based on the class’s overall performance. In the same way that the teacher can direct the continued learning of their students through authentic assessment feedback, so too can students. Because an authentic assessment requires students to utilize real-life skills to complete activities that connect the past to the present, students can utilize the feedback on their projects and assessments to determine how they should prioritize working on the personal development of the life and academic skills that each assessment requires them to build and practice.

 

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: A Bird’s Eye View

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the first of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

view from bush plane

view from the bush plane

By Michelle Fedran

When I first heard about this job opportunity, I knew it would be the experience of a lifetime not only from the location and cultural aspects of the position, but also from the personal adjustment I would have to make for myself. As I slowly learned more details about this opportunity, I went from a state of wonder to a fit of laughter. Sure, Alaska has always been on my list of places to travel to, but I never would have imagined throwing myself into rural Alaska to live and begin my career three months after graduation. Going from being one of the quietest girls in class since kindergarten, never winning that Presidential participation award in gym for completing 10 full push-ups, forcing myself not to cry as my parents dropped me off at my freshman dorm room even though they lived a short 20-minute drive away, I thought there was no way I would be able to survive so far away by myself. Now, I’m a five-plane ride, 24+ hour, six-hour layover (if we land in Seattle) trip away from my family. To make it even more challenging, I now live in a village that I’m sure most people never heard of: Tununak, Alaska.

Thinking back to where this started, I never would have been introduced to this job opportunity had it not been for my fellow Golden Eagle friend Danny Smith who already worked for the Lower Kukokwim school district in Alaska. Once he and I began talking about my potentially seeking a job with the district, he eventually became my go-to person for questions. I picked his brain, and he did a wonderful job of preparing me for what I was about to experience. Honestly speaking, if it weren’t for him, my expectations probably would have been silly and slightly embarrassing. For example, a lot of my friends joked that I would be living in an igloo. My expectations weren’t as silly as that; however, they may have been involved riding with sled dogs across the tundra. For those curious, I’ve only used snow machines or hondas (not the car, what they call ATVs) when there is no snow.

igloo

Coming into this, I expected to change some of my simple living habits. I remember my friend telling me one of the scariest moments is when the bush plane first drops you off in the village and leaves, and you realize you are stuck there until another bush plane comes back out for you — weather permitting. Going from the luxury of hopping into a car and going anywhere I wanted, you can probably imagine this was a bit soul-gripping realization and something hard to swallow. In addition to accepting the fact that my traveling relied heavily on nature and was not up to me, I had to be prepared to live conservatively. I would no longer be able to drive to Target 10 minutes away from where I lived to pick up shampoo or crackers. Where I live in the village, there are two small stores we can go to should we need anything. However, it comes at a high price – $18 for a case of soda, $8 for lunch cheese…  Our other option is purchasing from Amazon or waiting until we fly into Bethel, the closest main city, to do our shopping. Still, things are pretty pricey there as well and even flying to Bethel would cost me $400 round-trip. As you can imagine, most of the time I find myself making a lot of purchases on Amazon seeing that is usually the cheapest option. And as funny as it is, even though Amazon prime promises 2-3 day shipping, I’m lucky if I get my package within a month of my order placement date. To sum it up: changed expectations and simple living is key out here. Knowing and being well aware of this while preparing for my move, I understood it was crucial for me to pack necessities I would need right away upon arrival.

In terms of my first-year teaching in general, I expected it to be difficult no matter where I went. I actually felt this job opportunity was quite similar to my experience at Marquette given the vast differences there were. For example, in Milwaukee, I was placed in schools with a number of bilingual students who primarily spoke Spanish and English. Up here, I work with Alaskan Natives immersed in the Yup’ik culture. The two languages spoken here are English and Yugtun. The school where I work is a dual-language school in which my students learn different subjects in either English or Yugtun. My students learn Math and English Language Arts with me in English, then they learn Social Studies, Science, and Yugtun Language Arts in Yugtun with my partner teacher, who is an Alaskan Native. I felt my experiences at Marquette helped prepare me to have the mindset of working with bilingual students and what to be mindful of when working with these students. The biggest thing I can say is time and patience are two important skills I believe every teacher should adopt no matter with whom you work.

rock formationWhen it comes to thinking of what I have learned so far, the list is LONG.  I was able to learn so many things not only with the general work of being a teacher, but I was also able to learn more about the culture here. It truly is a unique experience I’m forever grateful for. Looking at the teaching side of things some advice I would give all new teachers is that some days will be rough, but you need to brush the dirt off and keep pushing forward. With this, I encourage new teachers to take advantage of all resources, whether that would be supplies, coworkers, or anything thrown at you. It is important to have an open mind and use every moment as a learning experience. I constantly find myself making daily adjustments on Mondays to improve the flow of things on Tuesdays and the cycle sometimes repeats itself throughout the week. Overall, a lot of my first year felt more like an exploration, and from this year alone I have learned so much that I plan to do differently next year. It’s so easy to get down on yourself, and this is something I have experienced my first-year; you need to remind yourself that you are also still learning (even though yes, you have graduated college and you have a fancy paper to show it). Mentors I have worked with each shared the same piece of advice that I know will stick with me: “if ever in your teaching career should you feel that you are done learning from others, then it is time to leave the profession.” As a student we were learning, as a teacher we are now teaching AND learning. You never stop learning and should never cut yourself off from learning – especially when it comes to improvements you can make in your own practice. So, use what is around you and never be afraid to ask for help! In your classroom, you may be “king” or “queen” but in the school and district, you’re a team player. Teamwork and support are huge pieces that I see in what makes a school successful, and I’m grateful to be working in a school with a staff that demonstrates those qualities.

 

Who Cares About the Oxford Comma?

2000px-Virgola.svgBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

My high school administration, in the midst of crafting a new vision and mission, asked for teacher input during an in-service day. We sat at cafeteria tables, divided by birthday months. My table represented the music, math, science and English departments.

Before providing feedback, we read the proposed new vision, mission and enduring goals. But grammatical inconsistencies clouded my focus and I couldn’t analyze how the vision “embraced the opportunities of tomorrow” or “created paths for students.” The Oxford comma glared at me.

To our group-assigned recorder, I said, “Write down ‘grammatical inconsistencies.’”

“Which?” the math teacher asked.

“The Oxford comma. Here…” I pointed to the vision. “They’re using it sometimes but not others.”

“The what?”

“It’s the comma—the series comma—that separates the last two items in a list.”

“But is it right or is it wrong?” the math teacher asked.

Who says we should use the Oxford comma? APA, MLA, Chicago Style and AMA. Who says forget it? The New York Times, The Economist, The AP Stylebook and European writers.

Look at what you’re reading in magazines, newspapers, blogs and emails. You’re probably not seeing the Oxford comma. As a journalism major, my writing avoids it. I tell my students the Oxford comma has disappeared—just like two spaces after a period. (What? You didn’t know about that? More to come in a future blog.) I tell my students modern writing demands brevity and consistency.

To answer the math teacher, I said, “If your writing is clear without the Oxford comma, why use it? Why waste the space or time…yours or your reader’s? But if you’re writing for a publication that requires MLA or APA—or if your list would be unclear or have a different meaning without it—use it.”

The math teacher scrunched his forehead. “This is why I teach math. One plus one is always two.”

The science teacher, equally as confused, said, “Why would there be two ways to do one thing?”

“English is an art. There isn’t always one right or wrong way. And English is evolving. Take ginormous. It wasn’t a word a few years, but now it is in the Webster Dictionary. Writing is about clarity and about making purposeful choices.”

“So should I use the Oxford comma or not?”

“I would say it’s up to you. But whatever you decide, be consistent.”

 


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