Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: Education Consideration Pt. 2

In the very beginning of this month I wrote a blog post that basically summed up the most memorable moments of my education until third grade.  I had planned to continue the post the next week but with all the work I had to do at the end of the college semester, I was finding it hard to find time to blog at all!  I found it hard to do much of anything other than school work to be honest.  But I am back now and going to finish up my post.  Let me recap really is a topic that is extremely important to me.  After reading a book by Diane Ravitch titled The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I have come to realize that I am in fact no expert when it comes to figuring out how to fix schools.  While I can't offer solutions to the failing American public education system, I can offer my good experiences from my education in the hope that it will teach people what good education looks like.  Since I ended at third grade, I will start with my fourth grade year.  A warning, much of this post will be me rambling about my school experiences but my hope is that you, the reader, will forgive me since I'm writing late at night and have to work early tomorrow. 
Fourth grade was a big year for me.  Third grade was obviously a huge stepping stone in my elementary career but now we were officially the big kids and there was more expected of us, especially when it came to math and reading.  My teacher, Miss Methlie, read us so many books during the school years.  No wonder I love to read so much.  I looked up to Miss Methlie as a kid and continued to for a long while after I left her class.  She read us Holes, the Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events), Top Secret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Sarah Plain and Tall, and much more!  After reading Sarah Plain and Tall as a class we watched the movie as a special treat.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching Glenn Close, the woman I had always believed to be Cruella Deville, play a nice character!  The story was beautiful and still continues to fascinate me to this day.  I can see where my love of literature started to grow!  In fourth grade Miss Methlie had a red bean bag chair and each week someone would have a turn during reading time to sit in it.  I remember how excited I was when my turn came around!  I read much of the first Harry Potter book on that bean bag chair!  Another fun thing about fourth grade was the Methlie money store.  Miss Methlie would hand out Methlie money's during the week and on Friday's her store would open where we could spend our dollars and buy books, small stuffed animals, photo albums, key chains, and more!  I also learned a lot about writing in fourth grade and I can remember writing many stories!  Fourth grade was also when our school introduced a knitting club.  My friends and I joined and learned how to knit and I still have many of the things I made to this day.
I was sad to leave fourth grade but fifth grade came along and with it, a whole bunch of new experiences.  Fifth grade was the year I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.  My case wasn't severe but something had to be done.  I was required to wear a back brace every day except during gym class.  The experience scared me at first.  I remember I cried, mostly because the doctor told me I couldn't jump on the trampoline anymore and that was what my friends and I did everyday after school.  Now you are probably wondering, what does this have to do with education.  For a while I didn't think fifth grade had been all that great.  I could hardly remember it.  But then, my dad told me he ran into my fifth grade teacher, Miss Watson, at the post office.  I suddenly remembered coming into homeroom early one morning and helping Miss Watson set up the desks.  She knew my situation and told me that she too had a minor case of scoliosis.  I don't remember exactly what else she said but looking back, I have to appreciate having such a wonderful teacher to reassure me at that time and for that I'm grateful for having Miss Watson as a teacher.  A lot of fun things happened in fifth grade.  Not only did we switch class rooms for math but we also switched for science sometimes.  I remember my science (and math) teacher Mrs. Sweeney and I remember we made ecosystems using two empty two liter bottles of soda.  One bottle was an aquatic ecosystem, the other was a moss (?) ecosystem.  Math was also a lot of fun for me that year.  We always played a game called 24 where you had a card with four numbers on it and you had to come up with combinations to equal the number 24.  In Language Arts we read Bridge to Terabithia, a book I only came to appreciate a few years ago.  We also did a heritage project and I made a video about Russia with my dad which was a lot of fun!  The PSSA's were that year and Miss Watson had us prepare by getting in a group of two and making up a song.  My partner and I used the lyrics from I Like It, I Love It by Tim McGraw..."I like it, I love it, I want some more of it, I try so hard, on my PSSA...".  Yes, it is corny.  I know.  But we had a good laugh.  Fifth grade was also the year of 9/11.  I have to be one of the few kids who hardly remembers that day.  All I can remember is that I was afraid a plane was going to crash into our house or our school.  Because of the attacks, one of the third grade teacher's named Kelly Cook decided to write a song and record it.  The entire school gathered in the gym and sang the song for a digital recording studio.  The song was played over the radio and is called America's Calling You.  I feel very blessed and proud to have been apart of that experience and even more blessed that my school had a huge role in talking about 9/11.  To listen to the song, CLICK HERE.
Now we move on to sixth grade.  This paragraph will be very short, mostly because in 6th grade my family moved and I had to experience my last year of elementary school at a new school that I didn't care for very much.  The only good thing about sixth grade, as I remember, was the gym teacher named Mr. Irvin.  It is hard to explain when you know a teacher believed in you even when you didn't believe in yourself but this guy was it.  He chose me, out of all the kids in my grade that would have been better fit, to carry the torch on Olympic Day.  He chose a student from every grade.  It was such a honor to be able to do that and even though I don't remember it much, I will always be thankful for the experience.
Now we are at the middle school years.  I'm going to bunch all three years of middle school together because there are only a few good things I can remember.  I guess school just became worse and worse as I grew older.  Anyway, I had quite a few teachers who believed in me and my writing in middle school - Miss Fischer, Miss Cripzuck (sp --- sorry!).  Our school colors were blue and gold and at the end of every school year we had blue and gold day which was always a blast!  In 8th grade the most amazing substitute teacher arrived.  His name is Mr. Mike and he came to sub our English class.  At first, we all hated him.  He was a military man and we thought he was strict, uptight, and mean.  Eventually my history teacher had to take a week's leave and Mr. Mike subbed our class.  He ended up being an awesome guy.  He doesn't put up with all of the teenage BS that goes on.  He tells it how it is and is actually really funny and nice.  I don't know how else to say that he was the best sub I ever had.  Another teacher I loved in middle school was Mr. Bovel, my business teacher.  Mr. Bovel was such a kind man who really encouraged us to learn in a modern way.  We watched Back to the Future in his class and visited the Harley Davidson factory and the Phillies Stadium, which was brand new at the time!  In ninth grade, we took a class trip to Dorney Park, an awesome amusement park about an hour away.  Need I say more? 
Now on to high school.  Once again, I am limiting this to one paragraph.  Let's do it!  So high school, like middle school, had a few ups and I enjoyed it but it was no where near as great as elementary school.  One great thing about high school was summer reading.  I know, I know, everyone usually hates summer reading but I enjoyed it.  I hated having to read so many books so fast during the school years.  Having one book to read in three months was actually fun and I genuinely enjoyed every book that was assigned to me (All Quiet on the Western Front, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time).  There were a lot of awesome field trips like the Philadelphia Zoo and...oh, I guess that was it.  But it was a lot of fun.  10th grade was the first and only year I made distinguished honor roll.  I just missed straight A's, receiving a B+ (88%) in geometry.  The math support teacher, Mrs. Marino, is by far the coolest teacher I have ever known.  Math support was held during lunch period and my friends and I often went there to visit Mrs. Marino, for math or for chat, and she was always so down to earth and friendly with us.  She didn't lecture us.  She just talked to us.  Other awesome teachers I had in high school include Mr. Vizza (who always believed in me despite my struggles in his class), Mrs. Rachwall (my creative writing teacher who expanded my horizons about reading, writing, and creativity), Mrs. Schmidt (my 11th grade English teacher who always had a smile on her face and made learning about literature fun), and Mrs. Weinblatt (my journalism teacher who pushed me to think about things in a bigger context than the world expected of me and who, like Mrs. Marino, talked to her students as people).  Other enjoyable books I read during high school include (the Great Gatsby, Ethan Frome, Catcher in the Rye, Macbeth [not a book but oh well], Things They Carried, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, In Cold Blood, A Raisin in the Sun [again, not technically a book])...though I didn't appreciate all of these books when we read them, I sure appreciate them now.  In high school I took on the famous project, Baby Think It Over, where you bring a fake baby home with you and have to feed it, change it's diaper, etc.  It was an extremely fun experience.  My high school principle also gave me the opportunity to write my novel that I am still working on to this day by letting me have extra study halls since I had enough credits to graduate.  When I finally finish writing that novel, I plan to dedicate it to him.  Most adults would have shrugged off my desire to drop Marine Science to write a book yet he read my letter asking to do so, personally called my home, and arranged a schedule that allowed me to write every single morning.  That experience was truly a blessing and one I will treasure forever.
So there you have it.  That is years of my schooling in a few paragraph's.  I hope that reading through my experiences has allowed you to remember the good experiences from your school years and what those experiences mean to education.  After observing my own experiences, it seems as if I came across quite a few teachers who genuinely cared about what they did and who their students were.  Of course, I am apart of a large school district and have that opportunity, but it seems like I got the most out of the teachers who stepped up to the plate and didn't just bunt to get on base but hit home runs to get us students excited about learning!  Teachers, though, are not the only solution to education, nor are they the only problem in a lot of cases.  There are many problems in education which is why I can't claim to be an expert as I stated above.  I hope you enjoyed this fairly personal post of mine and hope it challenges you to think about your own education and where education is going today.

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