Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 5: Patriotism & Foreign Policy  
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Workshop 5

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Teacher Perspectives: Advice to other teachers

Alice Chandler: You have to be able to let go as a teacher. I think that’s the key thing when you’re talking about cooperative groups. You can’t go in and micromanage. You have to let them work. When they get noisy, that’s one thing, but you have to believe that they can do that.

Look at what’s in the textbook and see if there’s one piece there that they can actually apply constructivist-type teaching to. Start out small and then go bigger. Also, use the newspaper. Find something and relate it to the students. Find out how they feel about it.

Use something current--a current event that perhaps the student has heard on the television or radio—that they can readily grasp. And then let it flow out from there with, “Do you realize this connects to this?” Then say, “Does anybody else have that?” Then you sort of let flow questions and answers that would be applicable to them but that maybe I would never think of. There are some answers I've heard doing this lesson that I wouldn't necessarily have thought about, because I'm from a different generation. So I have a lot to learn from it. Probably the biggest thing is opening up and letting students also be a part of this preparation and sharing and learning and teaching process.

Be patient, because it's not easy, and start small. Don't try to jump into it and possibly have an entire lesson on it. Maybe pick some corner of the lesson or take a group of students that are ready for questions and answers. Let them develop questions themselves to throw out, and then you will begin to understand where the students are. Then you can expand it to the larger class. Let the students also be the teachers. I found that when they do mini-lessons, often they will throw out questions--and that helps the teacher. The teacher has to understand this is a two-way process. Once you understand that, it becomes easier for you.

Get the kids ready for this by coaxing them. There have been times when I've turned on the radio to a station that has controversial speakers and let them listen for a minute. Or turn on a controversial video or some audio device. Let them listen and then let them go with questions and answers. You may say, "Okay, now develop questions" and then let them throw out the questions to one another. You can help to guide it by throwing in something if they are going off course, which happens in any class. You sort of have to bring them back.

Classroom management is a must. But start classroom management by doing hall duty. It's the mundane things that often really give you a grasp. I see a student and I speak to them, whether I have them [in my class] or not. So when they come to me, they will be ready. They note that I'm not going to just chew them out, even though sometimes I may chew them out in hall for a hat or something. But for the most part, they understand that I'm going to go in their classroom and I'm going to teach and that goes out to the rest of the teaching community.

It's the administration at any location that makes the difference. If you have difficulty at a location--they don't want you to take risks or be creative--perhaps you should get others of like mind to come together and talk with the administration, because that also makes a difference.


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