Posts Tagged 'reflection'

Signs from the Past: A Montessori Education

download (43).jpgBy Noel Hincha – I went to a Montessori school – Milwaukee Montessori – until high school. Some consider it a liberal or “out there” and progressive, educational system. It is a place of no homework, minimal tests, independence, and varied structures; however, to me it was a place of freedom and responsibility, community and memories. My mother insists I would have imploded at any other school and continues to insist that I am the way I am because of my Montessori education – I take it or leave it to my independent streak and liberal attitude. Nonetheless, I must admit that a Montessori education, if nothing else, is unique and quite wonderful.

Tactile: Everything was hands on – literally, everything. How did you learn math? With beads and abacuses. How did you learn to write? With sandpaper letters and wooden shapes. One’s fine motor skills were refined to the nth degree, and then some – remember the pink towers. I learned to crochet and knit by the third grade. I could write in cursive and read in kindergarten.

Community: Until high school – senior year, in fact – I did not know that class grades were divided individually: one class for each grade. Since first grade, I was stuck in a classroom with three other grade levels. Class structure was divided into groups: first to third grade, fourth to sixth grade, and seventh and eighth grade. To what extent did this help? I understand and value community, respect age differences, learn to guide and be guided, and become comfortable with diversity. I would venture to say that these are values others learn at later points in life, not in the first grade.

No homework: Again, it was not until high school that I was harshly awoken to “the real world.” Not to be mistaken, I did have homework every now and then. Maybe a daily writing assignment, a reading assignment, some extra research and refinement; but, my time after school was spent playing outside, watching TV, making snacks, hanging out with friends, doing chores, and having an actual childhood – not one with my ten-year-old-nose dug in between the pages of a math book. Admittedly, I took this for granted.

No tests: It probably would have been nice to know what a scantron was before my high school entrance examination, but have no fear, my hand endurance was exemplary due to cursive writing. Although, my first high school test –English literature for freshman – had so many wrong answers, I thought red meant it was right. Never again did I fail a test to that extent. I still have not figured out if this is a pro or con of a Montessori education.

One room: Yes. I stayed in one room for each “class division” – one room from first to third grade, one room from fourth to sixth grade, one room from seventh to eighth grade. There were three grade levels in one room with maybe two teachers. Interesting architecture, no backpacks, no textbooks. In other words, I think I lost ten pounds when I entered high school from maneuvering around three flights of stairs and gained some serious back muscle from lugging around backpacks half my weight.

Time management: Whether alumnae of Montessori schools wish to admit it or not, we all possess the ability of time management and – maybe – ambition to work hard, play hard. Since a young age, the rules were merely guidelines and it was our own hearts and minds that pushed us forward. I remember having all the free time in the world to discover my ambitions and interests because I had sufficiently allocated my time and learned to work hard independently of an outside source’s commands – and hey, I still have some free time because I maintain this characteristic.

If nothing else, a Montessori education allowed me the freedom of expression and work ethic. I follow my own path at my own time, responsibly. No one pressured me to strive for A’s – because we did not have them – and I experienced holistic learning for the sake of knowledge and being a decent human being. Because of a Montessori education, I am in love with learning, for I fell in love with it at a young age; or maybe it was the pink towers – they were pretty cool.

The Many, Many, Many Microdecisions in a Teacher’s Day

Mr_Pipo_thoughts.svg.pngBy Nick McDaniels – I have heard  before that teachers make thousands, or tens-of-thousands, of decisions every day.  This is probably true of everything we do in our lives – we have to make many small decisions to accomplish any task – but, to some extent, the amount of mental dexterity required to be teacher does seem to be exceed that of many other professions.

I have tried recently to focus on the many small decisions I make every day in my classroom.

When Nyah shows up late to class, do I respond to her differently that I do to D’Andre when he shows up late?

When I want my students to read an article that is 14 pages long, do I decide to find a different article because I know 14 pages x 33 students is more copies than I will be able to make?

When Michael asks to go see the nurse for the third straight day, do I let him go?

When Keohna is using her cell phone in class, do I ask her to put it away, take it from her, go stand near her to see if she puts it away on her own, or ignore it?

When Matthew asks me the answer to number 4, do I tell him where to find it, tell him the answer, or tell him to find it himself?

The list could go on and on.

I am not claiming that any or all of these decisions I make are particularly impactful on the learning experience for students.  Some are.  Some are not.  I do know that I have become much less thoughtful about every small decision I make in the classroom, and that, perhaps counter-intuitively, makes me a better teacher.

You see, it is these microdecisions that overwhelm new teachers.  I was significantly more conscious of the many decisions I had to make earlier in my career.  I would come home mentally exhausted because of it.  Now, much more, I read the situation and react to it based on years of experience.  The amount of decisions I make on a daily basis is probably greater than ever, but the efficiency and confidence with which I make these decisions is also higher.

If you are a teacher, take some time this week while teaching to do a little meta-reflection.  Think about the decisions you are making as you make them.  I think you’ll impress yourself with the complexity of your day-to-day.


After Class Reflections

franklinquoteBy Christie Hyland — “Let’s go around and everyone say one thing you are taking away from class today.”

Every time I hear this, I immediately feel anxious. Of course, I paid attention to the entire lecture, and I undoubtedly learned a lot. But when I am put on the spot, it is more difficult for me to pull out a piece of information from my now scattered brain.

This is a practice I have grown accustomed to since starting my education at Marquette. My professors love to have my classmates and me reflect on what we have learned. This is in no way a bad thing. I appreciate their efforts to have us reflect on the last two hours and forty minutes of class. What did we learn? What is an important take-away? In my classes as an undergrad, this was not a common practice. In fact, I’m not sure I ever remember a professor bringing a lecture full-circle by summarizing what was covered or by prompting their students to voice their thoughts.

When my professors ask me to reflect on what I have learned in lecture or readings, or ask me to say what I think about something, it does create some anxiety. But soon it subsides, because I realize that they are not calling on me and my classmates to stump us. They genuinely care about our learning and our ideas. I have never felt that more than I have at Marquette.

Their simple exercise of asking for our thoughts or having us reflect is something we should be doing outside of class as well. Reflection allows us to remain engaged with the material. When we reflect, we can better understand what we have learned and what curiosities remain. All too often, I leave class, drive home, and disengage from my courses for a while.

But what I should do every night is look back through my notes and through my readings and ask myself: What did I learn today? Through this simple reflection, I will remain involved with the material even after class is over.

Time Flies: My Wishes for the Future

By Jacqueline Boratyn — Two weeks in Rome has flown by SO quickly.  This week we saw the glorious Sistine Chapel, The Jewish Ghetto, and Santa Maria Aracoeli.

When we were sitting on the steps of Santa Maria, we were posed a question by Dr. Fine as to what we think our thoughts would be if we were to return to that very place 10 years from now. As I was journaling I realized that when I was younger ’10 years from now’ seemed like a lifetime, but as I grow older days and even years continue to go by faster and faster.

I feel like just yesterday I was arriving in Rome and I’m only days away from leaving this beautiful city. Over the past two weeks I have not only learned more about my role as a teacher, but about myself as a person and the relationships I engage in.

now before remembering a book I found when I was at home. It was a journal book that asked questions that ranged from ‘who’s your best friend?’ to ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years?’…all of which I filled out when I was 12 years old. I giggled as I flipped through the pages seeing that although my best friend Beth hasn’t changed, I don’t think I plan on getting married, having 2 kids, a dog, and my own house in the next 2 years. The concept of time to me as a child was so different than it is now…in the blink of an eye everything can change.

As I sat on the steps of the church, I remember thinking about how I can only hope to be able to return 10 years from

Ten years from now I hope to be teaching, having those kids, a dog, a house…all of which a mere 8 years ago I would have thought I would have accomplished by now. This book not only showed me the distortion of time, but how things can stay the same but change drastically as well. Although things may look the same if I were to return to this place in Rome in the future, my life definitely will be different. My experiences (such as this one) make me who I am.

I will hope to be able to make the changes in the lives of those I teach and in turn learn from them and change myself. I will hopefully learn to expect the unexpected; prepared for the worst, and hope for the best. Through doing this I will be able to see the changes I hope for in my future. I challenge every person to live every day to their fullest because those ’10 years from now’ aren’t promised to everyone…as a close person use to always say to me, ‘don’t put off for tomorrow what you can get done today’.

Space Camp: Turning Blunders Into Best-Practice

By Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Wisconsin Teacher of the Year — Imagine spinning in a Multi-Axis Trainer, experiencing microgravity and similar experiments that the astronauts went through in training to go into space!

I got a chance to participate in these activities as the 2011 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year at SpaceCamp in Huntsville, Alabama, one of the nation’s education space centers for NASA. Teachers of the year from around the nation and 14 international countries participated.  

In one of the experiments, I put on a space suit (not quite the large bulky one that astronauts use), I was tethered to a chair, put on real space gloves and attempted to piece together a scaffolding of rods and center pieces with 16 holes, somehow managing to hold onto the spacecraft as we experienced microgravity. I tried but was sometimes unsuccessful, floating helplessly, profusely sweating inside the suit, losing seconds on the clock as I blundered my way through this new experiment.

I took this last activity to heart as I prepared for the upcoming year of teaching at a STEM academy in a new, unchartered position. 

Sometimes I blunder my way through my education whether it be the lifelong learning or throughout university experience (perhaps we all blunder…).

I found refuge in a book that I am reading, “Brain Rules” by John Medina, that might also help you in preparation for this upcoming year in your educational endeavor. My endeavor is to be the most effective, highly trained educator I can possibly be and to meet the needs of the learners in my classroom as much as I can.

I see the start of the new school year as a way to create innovative, new activities that would qualify as zany and outside the box. I read books to satiate my desire for learning.  In this book, I read a highly informative yet humorous account that yields current brain research and how best to care for our brains. The author highlights 12 rules that assist us to live more effectively. We desire to become highly trained educators, to satisfy the requirements of courses and achieve the highest goals.  Basically, I want to only study half the time, with double the retention rate. Don’t you? That is an attainable goal using strategies from this book. Here are the “Brain Rules” that John Medina writes about:

  • Rule #1 Exercise boosts brain power. Getting out of your bed and walking to the coffee pot doesn’t count!
  • Rule #2 The human brain has evolved too.
  • Rule #3 Every brain is wired differently. Study the way you learn best.
  • Rule #4 We don’t pay attention to boring things. Is this boring yet?
  • Rule #5 Repeat to remember. What is that girl’s phone number?
  • Rule #6 Remember to repeat. How old am I?
  • Rule #7 Sleep well, think well. Ahhh, sleep is never underrated.
  • Rule #8 Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. Exercise the stress away, then study, remember and repeat.
  • Rule #9 Stimulate more of the senses.
  • Rule #10 Vision trumps all other senses. Make visuals, word webs, write on your friends’ T-shirts…
  • Rule #11 Male and female brains are different. (radically!)
  • Rule #12 We are powerful and natural explorers. Two year old tantrums actually are just a way for toddlers to explore the world.

In conclusion, take a look at your life, be honest about what lifestyle you are living, be self-reflective and give this year your best shot. Get sleep, exercise, eat balanced meals, study while walking, talking and generating words and you will find that studying will take half the time with twice the retention! And yes, I am a mother of 6 kids and out of our family of eight, five are in college. And Yes, we survive very well.


2011 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, WI National Representative and Middle School Teacher of the Year, Maureen Look-Ainsworth, graduated from Marquette with a bachelor’s degree in human development and education. She earned her master’s degree in inquiry and brain research from Carroll University in Waukesha and is now seeking to complete a master’s degree in educational administration at MU.  Maureen taught  8th grade science and engineering at Horning Middle School for many year.  This year she will assume teaching 5th grade at Randall STEM Academy in Waukesha.

Confrontation: Counseling as a Mirror

By Trudi Arnold —

“There’s a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves and it becomes either good or sour inside.”  ~Pearl Bailey

Recently, my beliefs and attitudes about change were tested and I was confronted with the possibility that I may be all talk. Throughout my counseling education, I’ve participated in discussions about theories of change and how that influences work with clients.

To be honest, if I didn’t believe in change I wouldn’t be able to sit across from someone with a 20 year history of addiction to multiple substances, a criminal record, and background of interpersonal train wrecks and tell them they can turn life around. When I’m in that room, I put my idealism out there and pump it full of positivity in the hopes that my clients will tap into whatever strength and power they possess to take a step in a different direction. It takes a tremendous amount of humility and willpower to admit that the journey you were on isn’t the one you thought it was and ask for another map.

But then something happened in my personal life that had me in that room by myself; with myself. I came into that room after my instinctual reaction rejected the idea that people can change. The counselor part of me said, “hmmmm…let’s look at the situation and your reaction and see why you feel so icky about it…”

I found myself looking at my own behavior in much the same way I guide clients to look at theirs. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Recovery mantras echoed in my brain: “Accept people where they’re at.” “Forgiveness is priceless.” “You can’t change the past, but you can change how you react to the future.” “When in doubt, do what’s hardest.”

Why was it so hard for me to accept change in someone I know when I do it effortlessly for strangers?

It dawned on me that there are likely many things about my counseling philosophy that will show up in the mirror either within myself or in my interpersonal relationships. I can’t “just react” to things anymore because now I have this perspective on human behavior that has me scrutinizing myself. I feel like a truth has been revealed. A truth that being in a helping field takes a lot of personal investment and personal integrity. A truth that it’s impossible to hold a set of beliefs for others and another set for myself.

It doesn’t work that way. I don’t know what’s more uncomfortable: this realization or the process of figuring it out. I still don’t know whether this truth will be good or sour, but I have my education as a map. If I follow my counselor’s advice, I need to treat myself with compassion, accept myself where I’m at and use that map to react with more integrity in the future.

How the National Board Process Has Made Me a Better Teacher

By Nick McDaniels — In the Fall I started the process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards offers a program called Take One! that allows candidates to complete one of the portfolio entries required for certification before completing the other entries. The scores for this first entry are then banked.Since I am not eligible to becoming certified yet because of my lacking years on the job, Take One! is a perfect option for me, allowing me to bank my scores until I am eligible next year.

The entry I am completing (I am in the final editing and organization phase) for the English Language Arts – Adolescent/Young Adult certification, requires me to video tape a small group activity in my classroom and then respond to specific questions about the video tape, my planning, and my reflections for my future teaching. While the work to complete the entry has been tedious and time-consuming, the process of taping and then reflecting has made me a better teacher. I have come to understand this process as self-observation.

I strongly encourage any teacher that has not video taped himself or herself teaching to do so immediately. Continue reading ‘How the National Board Process Has Made Me a Better Teacher’

What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter