March 3, 2009

Blog Entry 4: Steve Chambliss & Believing in Students

Last night's speaker, Steve Chambliss, has over 40 years of experience behind him. He has worked in a variety of different positions in a variety of different school districts - everywhere from a suburb of Chicago to Cedar Rapids to Decorah. However, his immense background of experience almost made him too hard to relate to.

He talked a lot about administrative positions in the elementary schools and, at this point in our career and schooling, I don't think a lot of us could see ourselves in that position or even want to eventually be in that position. He encouraged us to get into a Master's program right away. I think this isn't necessarily the right thing to do though. I believe, when getting your Master's, you should have a few years experience as a classroom teacher behind you. Experience is the best teacher and I don't think this area is any exception.

One important piece of advice Mr. Chambliss had was to not get in over your head, but to vary your experience and try out different school districts and/or grade levels. I do think that varying grade levels would be beneficial to many teacher's careers and help them to better understand each set of children and how to teach them. Some teachers however, haven't varied their grade level & are amazing teachers however. My 7th grade teacher has been teaching 7th grade at the same school in the same classroom for over 30 years and is still one of the greatest ladies I know. I consider her one of the best teachers I've had in my life. I've also had the perspective of being a student in a classroom where it was the teacher's first year. My class was the first for my 6th grade teacher, yet I also consider her one of the best teachers I've had. I still keep in touch with these two ladies to this day and they've helped me through many trials in my life beyond the classroom. So as you can see, great teachers can both have years of experience or hardly any at all.

I also watched Dalton Sherman's keynote speech "Believing in Students". For a 5th grader, he sure does know what he's talking about!! This is what I've thought all along and is part of the reason I want to become a teacher in the first place. Students need someone to believe in them and if they aren't getting that at home, it needs to come from somewhere so why not the classroom? The two teachers I mentioned previously were great to me because of this fact. They believed in me when I thought no one else could or when I couldn't believe in myself. They had no doubt in their mind that I could achieve greatness if I tried. The problem with some teachers, I think, is that some of the children they get in their classroom have their past following them around. Their previous teachers tell their new teachers about them and their reputation proceeds them in the classroom. The students almost have no chance of stepping outside the box the teacher has already put them in. Teachers need to stop doing this & not have any expectations beforehand about their students except for the fact that they all have the possibility of achieving greatness.

Lastly, in our group discussion this week, we also discussed the idea of reinforcement and punishment. We felt that reinforcement can be used for good, but only if it isn't used too much and for stupid reasons. Also, with the idea of negative reinforcement, if students are only, for example, completing their homework so their father will stop nagging, is this really the right reason for doing homework? Shouldn't they do it because that's what good, normal students do? Also, on the subject of attention, if some students only get paid attention to when they are acting out - wouldn't giving them more attention only increase the behavior of acting out? At some point, this needs to be thought through more and, sometimes, behavior needs to be ignored or the student should be praised for doing something positive.

All in all, this week taught me a lot more about my own values when it comes to teaching and what kind of a teacher I want to be.

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