Is teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter Beneficial?

As a high school student, I was assigned to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter  at least three times and each time I chose to not read the story but instead just Sparknote and look up all of the information I needed in order to complete the assignments that were being assigned. Being asked to read a novel that took place in the 1800’s about Puritan society did not catch my attention at all. I knew that I didn’t need to actually read it in order to do well in the class so why would I bother.

I decided to read this novel during the break in order to attempt to understand why it is assigned to every student at some point throughout their education, and to decide if I will choose to teach the novel when I have my own classroom in the future. After reading the novel I can confidently say that I am happy I waited until now to read it. Although I really enjoyed the novel and was able to understand deeper meanings behind the text that wouldn’t have been possible if I read it as a high school student; I still do not see the point in teaching the novel in English classrooms today. In order to get a better understanding of what type of assignments teachers use while teaching this novel to their classroom I did research on common lesson plans based off of the novel. Each lesson plan I came across asked the students to identify the major characters and how their role impacts the overall theme of the story. Yes this is important to know when reading the story but it has no way allowing a student to relate what they learned from the novel to the real world making the story pointless to teach.

Personally, I would not ever choose to teach this novel to any of my students but if I was required to I would try to create a lesson that allowed the student to connect the struggles that Hester goes through throughout the story due to being a women during the Puritan times to the current struggles that women face today. Maybe I would use the novel as a part of a unit plan where the students would be required to read a novel that takes place throughout different time periods (1800’s – current times) and compare and contrast how women were treated during these time periods and do research on what led to the changes if there were any. This would allow the students to not only read a range of novels from different time periods but also view the same topic (treatment of women) from different authors points of view. Overall I think if this novel was going to be taught then it needs to be done differently because asking students to just read it and talk about what happened throughout the novel is pointless and a waste of time.

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The Motivated Student

In Bob Sullo’s book The Motivated Student, the writer talks about the different techniques teachers can use in their classrooms to help create a positive learning environment where the students feel safe and enthused. The different techniques that teachers commonly use have been found to not be effective in the classroom and is shown through a few chapters in the book. Many of these techniques I have experienced first hand in the classroom that I am currently observing in. 

Chapter 1 talks about eliminating fear in the classroom. Sullo goes into detail about one teacher Mr. Lewiston, who has created a classroom environment where his students fear him and therefore he believes this helps him gain control of the classroom and helps the students stay on track and learn more effectively. Sullo finds this strategy to be ineffective and actually causes the students to not learn as much. I also agree with Sullo when he states that “fear compromises our ability to learn”. When students do not feel safe and feel as if they are going to be punished by every wrong move they make, their body tenses up and therefore so does their mind keeping them from absorbing the information that is being presented. In the classroom I am currently observing in, my host teacher creates a environment where the students fear her in certain circumstances. Like the classroom being discussed in the chapter, if a student is late to my host teachers classroom, they automatically get written up. Three write ups lead to an after school detention where they help her clean her classroom. There has been an instance where a female student pulled the host teacher to the side after walking in late and explained to her that she was having family issues at home so she was in the bathroom on the phone with her mother. The host teacher replied that she should of went down to the main office, used their phone, and got a pass if she was going to be late to class. This student not only got written up but this caused her to close off communication between herself and the host teacher in fear that she will get in trouble no matter what the circumstances were. Communication is very important in the classroom especially in an inner city school like the one I am placed in since many students do have a lot of issues happening at home and by closing that door of communication it only leads the students to be unengaged in the classroom. 

Another technique that was mentioned in Sullo’s book that I have seen in my classroom is in chapter 5 which talks about teaching routines, rituals, and procedures in the classroom. My host teachers main rule in her classroom is to be professional. Therefore, students must stand up when they are called on and have something to say. Many of the students do not like this rule since they still forget at times to do it and when the teacher reminds them they get frustrated. Also, many students are embarrassed to be talking in front of their peers.I feel that this is an effective technique and rule that should continue to be enforced in the classroom. At first it does take some time away from the class to get the students to follow the rule and cooperate but once they do get into the flow of things the students learn that they must stop talking and focus their attention on whichever student is speaking. This is a critical act that students must learn since they will not always be able to speak when others are speaking. It also helps students become more comfortable public speaking which is an important skill to hold.

Although many of the techniques that teachers use in the classroom are not always found to be effective, some of them are. If teachers were to alter their practices slightly and create an environment where the students feel safe and enjoy being in, they will have more success.  

The Powers of Using Smart Boards

In class I got the opportunity to listen and learn about what using a Smart Board could offer. Even though I consider myself to be very good with technology since I use it very frequently, I did not know all the resources that using a Smart Board could bring especially to the classroom. My high school had Smart Boards in certain rooms but the teachers were just as new to using it as anyone else throughout schools so therefore it wasn’t used as often or to the extent that it could of. 

I learned that there is more then just being able to write on whatever is being shown on the screen. The board allows you to actually show different pages, cover up pieces of the paper that you do not want to be seen, translate text into different languages and fonts, and connect you to other lessons that teachers have posted for any topic that you choose. I found this to be a huge resource that all new and current teachers should be using since the opportunities that it brings is endless. I took it upon myself to look up the site that allows you to view other lesson plans which is a very valuable learning network that all teachers should be aware of. When I was experimenting with this site I came across lesson plans that are made by other teachers (so the lessons are realistic and easy to teach) that gave me ideas on how many different ways there are to teach any topic. It was also great to see that there were so many lessons posted that could fit the learning style of all different students which is key to teaching since it is important to connect with each of your students on a personal level to help improve their way of learning. 

I will continue to play around with the Smart Board when I have access to one and hope to teach my host teacher at the school that I am currently observing at all the opportunities and learning activities that could be created by such a simple yet complex piece of technology. Since I do not have access to a board as often as I would like, I hope to look at videos on Youtube to help develop my understanding and knowledge of what could be possible using these boards. 

This entry was posted on October 23, 2013. 1 Comment

Better Social Skills

Through following Penny Kittle on Twitter, I came across a New York Times article called “For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov” posted on October 3rd 2013. The article talks about a recent study that was performed showing that after reading literary fiction, people perform better on tests that measure empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. These skills are all used when trying to read someones body language or discover what someone might be thinking.

The reason for this is because literary fiction allows one’s mind to be imaginative and not closed minded. It encourages readers to keep an open mind and make inferences about characters. Reading literary fiction has been proved to help people decode emotions and predict a persons expectations or beliefs about a particular subject. It is not surprising that what we read may influence our emotional or social skills but, in order to improve students social skills and help them succeed on certain tests it should be taken into consideration that reading literary fiction before hand might help. 

I think this is effective because it is like the assignment teacher use when they tell their students to just write whatever comes to mind and to not stop writing. By encouraging students to continue to write about where ever their mind is taking them, students discover that they have a better understanding on the topic then they thought they would. Very often students over think what they are writing because they are scared to have the wrong answer, this pressure and stress could actually lead to the student not doing as well. If teachers put more emphasis on reading literary fiction which allows imagination and encourages students to keep an open mind, they will ultimately do better both in school and in the future. 

This entry was posted on October 16, 2013. 1 Comment

My Experience Observing

Last week I observed in a Middle School located in Syracuse as part of my requirements needed for my major. I did not realize how much I have actually learned about teaching and reading the children in the classroom until I was placed in the classroom for real. I thought I would be able to sit in the back of the room and just take notes on whatever was going on at that time. I did not realize that my host teacher would be requiring me to have interaction with the students and eventually she would want me to create lesson plans and teach the class.

I knew that what I was learning in school was relevant, but I did not think that in the short amount of time I have been in these courses I would learn as much as I have about what is wrong with classrooms today. My first day at the school I walked in and found my host teacher, a student teacher, and my host teachers mentor from the state sitting in the classroom discussion how to create strong objectives for the lessons they were teaching the students. Of course this came as a shock since I am also creating lesson plans and working on building strong objectives in my own courses. Once the mentor left, my host teacher informed me that she has never been required to do this type of work before which proves that no matter what as a teacher you are always learning.

As I watched the student teacher teach her lessons throughout the day, I made note of what I was observing. I noticed that although the lesson was good and the students were able to complete the lesson, they were not getting much out of it. The teacher was trying to teach to much information in such a short time that none of the students gained any actual knowledge from the lesson. They were also doing assignments on a book that none of them read, probably because the book is so boring. I know this since I also was required to read the book in middle school and chose not to because it wasn’t interesting. It was amazing to see how important it is to understand the material I am being taught in my classes since the information will be helpful in the actual classroom.

This entry was posted on October 15, 2013. 1 Comment

Journey To My Career

I remember when I was a kid playing “teacher” with my friends and sisters. I used to create fake lesson plans based off of what I was actually learning in school and would try to teach it to my “class”. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I knew what I wanted to do as a career and become a teacher. I knew the classes I was going to be required to take on the journey to becoming a teacher would not be easy, but I did not think they would change my view on education dramatically. 

I was expecting to walk into my classes this semester and learn how to teach the basic concepts of English to students who will soon be sitting in my classroom. I did not know that in these classes I would be learning about everything that is wrong with the ways teachers are teaching English in classrooms today. It opened my mind to how bad my personal learning experience was throughout middle school and high school. I also have been learning about the different languages that happen in the classroom or in a school setting in general and how much information you can get about your students just from observing their language usage. 

At some points I have second thought whether or not this is the career I want to pursue. Even though the classes and course work is getting harder, I am interested in everything I am learning. I wish that I was able to have more time reading the assigned articles in order to understand and learn the information deeper then I have gotten the chance to but still imagining my life in any other setting besides a classroom is not possible. Education needs to be reformed and the only way that could happen is going to start with my generation of future educators. 

This entry was posted on September 24, 2013. 3 Comments

Classroom 2.0

A great way for teachers and educators to get in touch with other educators and learn new techniques to improve their teaching is through the usage of Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s). Although many people are turned off to the idea of using PLN’s to become better teachers, it can be very effective and can ultimately create a better learning experience for both the students and the teachers.

Classroom 2.0 is a PLN that I came across when looking for different PLN’s that are available for teachers. Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site for those interested in the practical application of Web 2.0 applications in learning. This social networking site creates a place for teachers to go and get involved in active discussions and learn interesting things about technology for learning. Once you become a member, you can enter in your topic of interest and from there get connected to discussions, articles, and sites that have information on the topic you chose. 

I think it is a great idea for people to begin using online applications such as Classroom 2.0 to help develop a better way of understanding and teaching technology to a classroom. Sign up for your membership at http://www.classroom20.com/

This entry was posted on September 23, 2013. 1 Comment