Art, Joy and Teaching Art

So this is a little different sensibility than my usual rantings.

I worked as a substitute art teacher yesterday at a local high school. In spite of being an artist, I don’t have an art credential. It was just the luck of the draw that they put me in this classroom.

Being a substitute is generally incredibly boring. But since it was art, and I care deeply about art, I pushed through students’ resistance to paying any attention to a substitute, demanded that they be quiet when I was speaking, and spent a little time (like 2 minutes) with the two drawing classes talking about drawing. What I said was something like, You think the hard part of drawing is getting the lines on the paper. But really the key to drawing is seeing what’s there.

Then I told the class I would be coming around and seeing if they were stuck, and whether I could help them. They seemed slightly taken aback that a substitute would do anything but sit at the desk. I was able to squeeze through the narrow aisles (43 students per class), and engage in conversations. The students’ task was a hard one. A still life of empty wine jugs and either shoes or small shiny home appliances–with cords wrapped around them, I might add.

Many of them were beginners. One boy sat for most of the class with a blank paper. “I can’t draw,” he said. I’ve been here a week and I can’t do it.” I wish I had said something different, but it was, “Anyone can learn to draw. You just have to be patient.” Then I sat down next to him and showed that the tall cowboy boot was a tall thin shape at a slant, and that the bottle next to it was perpendicular. I sketched in the roundness of the heel. He seemed to feel a little relieved that at least there was something on his paper. As an artist, I find the hardest thing do deal with is the blank canvas or page. Just get some marks on it.

A lot of kids were having trouble with representing the bottom of the glass bottles. As I went around I asked them to look at where the circle at the bottom actually appeared to be in relation to the sides. Over and over I said, “Look at what’s there, not what you think is there.”

Walking around looking at the drawings I was filled with joy. I tried to point out things that I liked about each drawing. One of the problems beginning artists have is knowing when something is good and I think negative critiques do a great deal of harm to beginners. I could see that some of them didn’t believe me, but there was a little bit more energy in their pencil marks as they got back to work.

There was one interaction that inspired me to write this post:

I walked by a girl who had a decent drawing, but was having trouble with representing the way the jug handle attached to the neck. I asked her to look at it. I pointed to her drawing and then at the jug. “Look, there’s this nice graceful curve.” Meaning in the jug, and then noticed that the lip of the opening was further toward the viewer than the handle. “I know,” she said, “but I don’t know how to draw it.” “Just look,” I said. “Draw what’s there.”

I came back a few minutes later and the girl and the boy next to her, who were friends, were now struggling with the cord wrapped around the iron that was the other object in their still life. I said that I really liked the way she had drawn the beginning of the cord where it exits the iron. On my next pass, the boy had drawn the plug. There was something about the drawing of the plug that sent a little thrill of joy up my spine.

“Wow, I really like that plug.” I laughed just because it was wonderful. The boy looked downcast. “See, she laughed,” he told the girl. Oh my God, what have I done, I thought. “No, I laughed from joy. I love what you did. A beautiful line on a paper makes me happy.” They likely thought I am a little crazy, which maybe I am. Joy in school?

Maybe we need a little more craziness in school. Philip Jackson, a scholar, wrote that life in schools is emotionally neutral.

I’ve been thinking about what happened ever since, and about the jug with the graceful curve. Maybe I helped some kids actually look at commonplace objects in a new way. I thought about the designer of the jug who intentionally or not put that little graceful curve into the mold that was used to make millions of cheap wine jugs. Last night before sleep I read a poem which I connect to my experience.

A Hundred Objects Close by
by Mira, 16th Century Indian (woman) poet

I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something
that makes your eyes smile.

I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.

Look at
Beauty’s gift to us–
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
soul.
(translation by Daniel Ladinsky)

New wine, old skins #3: The core of schooling

Middle Grades Wind Power Competition. Judges were impressed by the high quality designs of middle schoolers.

I’m hoping to get to the point today. As I said, it’s a complicated argument. All that I’ve written so far is the same thing I’ve been saying for 20 years. But my recent experiences as a long-term substitute at an urban middle school, teaching 7th and 8th grade science, lead me to conclude that not much has changed.

First of all, let me say that I was incredibly impressed with this school. The principal was a great instructional leader and support for teachers was solid. Students were strictly disciplined and at the same time in ways that met their developmental needs. This high-poverty school in a gang-dominated neighborhood was an oasis of relative safety.

At the same time, science instruction was dismal. Not more dismal than most middle school science instruction in the US. But I was disappointed to see that in this pretty darn good school where a reform-minded administration has worked to institute school-wide adherence to a reasonable set of principles (and I’m not going to identify them specifically), that the “core of schooling” was unchanged. The core of schooling, Seymour Sarason’s words, is the relationship between teachers, students and knowledge. The core of schooling is the quality and nature of interactions that occur between students and teachers, students and students, and I would add, between teachers and teachers.

When I started in my long-term substitute position at the urban school I was excited at the prospect of a school-wide focus on specific reform strategies. When I was in Georgia doing teacher education, I developed a collaboration with one of my EdS students, Karen Sinclair, to do STEM projects with her 8th graders. We continued our relationship after she graduated. She is a great teacher who instantly grasped the implications of our study of the cultural practices of schooling.

The school where Karen taught, Morgan County Middle School, was led by a dynamic principal, who committed the school to a five-year implementation of Carol Tomlinson’s differentiated instruction model. Now there are a few parts of the Tomlinson model that I take issue with, but when I visited with a cohort of middle grades teacher candidates, sitting in on a variety of classes, I could see Tomlinson’s focus on students’ experience of the curriculum was leading to engagement and critical thinking, and was in fact making positive changes in the core of schooling.

After two years (or maybe three, can’t recall exactly, but I think it was two) of this school-wide reform, Morgan County Middle School rose from the middle to the top ranks of Georgia middle schools, as measured by test scores. I personally think this was, to some degree at least, a reflection of the general mediocrity of all the other Georgia middle schools. (At least all the ones I’ve been in, which is quite a few. The highly-touted “good” schools are just those with a high SES population.) Nevertheless, just a little effort at systemic reform in Morgan County payed off big.

Who knows what would have happened had the principal remained for the full five years? But, the culture doesn’t really care if education is good. What happened is, the principal leveraged funding earmarked for other specific uses to get the program implemented. He was unceremoniously fired when the Board of Education discovered it. There was no embezzlement, he was just trying to find enough money for the reform program. I met with his replacement in order to secure her support for our grant proposal, but she was cagey. I sensed that she didn’t want to make any political missteps. So, our collaboration ended. Karen eventually left to teach high school.

The point of the MCMS story is that I came to understand that any systematic and consistently-applied reform program is likely to improve teaching and learning.

So this past year, I was excited to find myself at an urban school where such a sustained and determined effort at reform was occurring. And then I observed that the other science teachers, with one possible exception, had found ways to appear compliant with the reforms but were stolidly entrenched in deficit views of students, and engaging them in rote learning, lots of worksheets, and very direct instruction even while making it look good when the principal came by. (The principal may be savvy enough to not be fooled. This person of unnamed gender picks battles carefully, something I admire.) The teachers continued to deluge students with decontextualized vocabulary, memorization, and questions from the end of the chapter. At the principal’s insistence, they did labs, including dissecting frogs, but in a completely “cookbook” manner, following the teacher in lock step. (Dissecting frogs does require a lot of scaffolding.) The students who came to me loved coloring, but then they remembered nothing of the diagrams. Another long-term substitute complained to me that the students were not retaining anything from the lesson plans the teacher had left. But they were busy!

Listening at faculty meetings I heard about the routines for cooperative learning that were being used school-wide. I assumed that the eighth graders would have been using these practices in all their classes for at least two years. However when I announced we would be using X strategy to engage in discussion I was surprised when they didn’t know what I was talking about. The purpose of having these routines is that they facilitate quick engagement with content, since students don’t have to have explanations of what to do, explanations that take away instructional time.

When I first heard about the use of this school-wide program, I had expected a particular strategy to be part of the repertoire. It is my favorite, and very powerful for creating authentic, student-centered, problem-based learning. Alas, it was not one of the strategies on the posters that teachers obediently posted on their classroom walls.

I do regret that I tried to fit in with my colleagues, and did not use content or classroom management strategies that I believe in. I previously had a bad experience with disregarding school culture and doing things my own way. But now I see that trying to fit in with a culture I feel is morally bankrupt, bankrupt because it hurts kids, is even worse. I ended up yelling a lot because I lacked courage to be myself. Although we still did some good stuff and many students grew as self-directed learners. In the spirit of quoting Palmer, who you are is what you teach.

And that, dear reader, is why I am not overly optimistic about the results of implementation of Common Core and NGSS. And I hope I am wrong.

Old Wine in New Skins Part 2

Yesterday I didn’t get to the point of the post. Perhaps today.

NGSS and Common Core are grounded in particular assumptions about learning. These assumptions include:
* All people can learn; learning is a characteristic of humans;
* People learn by integrating new knowledge into existing knowledge;
* Asking and seeking to answer questions results in deep learning;
* Formulating arguments and evaluating evidence is more important than knowing facts;
* People learn best when they use all their senses: sight, hearing, touch, movement;
* The public space of the classroom should be used to make students’ thinking explicit rather than for evaluation of correct answers.

These ground rules are in direct and persistent conflict with longstanding practices of schooling. Cultural practices are invisible and largely unconscious. That is their purpose: We don’t have to think about what we’re doing and can concentrate on solving problems and getting our work done.

The longstanding practices of schooling include:
* Learning is a moral issue, that is, “good” people learn what they are supposed to learn;
* People learn by memorizing, and a good learner gives evidence of learning on tests;
* The goal of learning is to the facts the culture has decided are important.
* Everyone is entitled to their own opinion;
* Learning in school is accomplished through reading, writing, listening, and doing math;
* The teacher uses the public space of the classroom to evaluate how students are doing; the unintended consequence is fostering competition.

The point is, because schools are organized according to the practices of the culture, new ideas based on different assumptions are not understood. In other words, changing procedures in schooling does not change the underlying world-view of those participating in it.

Therefore the introduction of NGSS and Common Core, when viewed as procedures, as described by Brandon (in yesterday’s post) are unlikely to result in any change in students’ learning, and will probably make it more difficult for them to learn.

more next week…

Common Core : New Wine in Old Skins

Middle school teachers Jimmie Gilbert and Cheryl Anderson inquire into the physics of forces at a workshop. This activity was a revelation to me the first time I tried it. OMG, it’s a way to visualize force vectors. Although direction only. The magnitude is actually represented by the thickness or thinness of the paper that is required to hold up the weight. I got this from Learner.org. It wasn’t specifically an “activity” to do with students. The teachers worked together to turn it into something for middle schoolers to learn from. I already posted this to the blog, years ago. Linked here.

Now this has something to do with Common Core implementation, but it’s kind of a complex argument, as are all my arguments, because the issues of schooling are way embedded in the culture and difficult to tease out.

The impetus for writing about Common Core is a conversation I had last Friday with a 17-year-old honors student, Brandon. What do you think about Common Core? he asked me. This is the sort of question I get from a lot of people. I invited him to explain a little more what he meant by CC. Well, in English we get these packets and we have to do the packet and then write an essay. And that’s good because I need to improve my ability to communicate. But in physics, we just get together in groups and try to work out problems. Maybe the teacher will do one or two of them. And our classes are short. We only have 48 minutes. And by the time you get into class and settle down, and then work for half an hour, then it’s time to pack up.

I can’t see that working very well, I responded. CC is supposed to be about doing fewer topics in greater depth. And you’re supposed to be asking questions, collecting evidence, analyzing it and then making claims. That doesn’t sound like what you’re doing. (Actually Brandon was probably talking about NGSS, which has gotten conflated with Common Core. Another unfortunate bit of misinformation.)

And then there is the issue that physics is the science of what underlies the obvious. Physics is definitely NOT obvious. Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken brilliant minds like Aristotle and Galileo and Newton and Einstein and Richard Feynman, to name the most famous, 2000 years to figure out how the common, everyday things like throwing a ball happen. How come the teacher understands this way of teaching as consistent with NGSS? Probably he attended professional development and was given the activity to do with his students. So he grits his teeth and does what he is told. So very many teachers are cynical and just waiting for retirement. And completely confused by reforms, because understanding the reforms means adopting a completely different socially-constructed identity about what it means to be a teacher. This is something I’ve written about, seemingly to deaf ears, for the last 20 years. Click to see an example: Link.

I hope to continue this post tomorrow. G2g

Transformative Teaching

one-strategy
Example of student work on the cookie problem.

Today I had occasion to remember one of the best adult teaching experiences of my career. I was working as an adjunct at Cal State Northridge while I was ABD. I taught a combined math and science methods class for prospective bilingual teachers. My experience teaching elementary mathematics was using the Montessori method, pretty much brilliant, but in graduate school I worked as a research assistant on a couple of elementary school math research projects, doing professional development for K-6 teachers on CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction). I learned CGI by being part of my advisor’s research group.

When faced with the task of teaching math methods, I turned to CGI, and treated the class as though it were professional development. This was appropriate, since all but one of my class of 30 or so were already teaching on an emergency credential. Anyway, the first day the teachers introduced themselves, what grade they taught, where, and almost every one said, “My kids are really low.”

The CGI approach, at least my take on it, is not to “teach” children strategies, but to uncover and utilize the strategies they already have, and then make them public. CGI researchers developed a detailed taxonomy of the ways that children solve elementary math problems: direct modeling, grouping, invented algorithms, are some I remember. In order to disrupt the familiar, rote nature of elementary mathematics, we called adding “joining,” that is, the joining of two groups of objects. I remember “join result unknown,” “join change unknown,” “join start unknown.” Unfortunately I lent my book out, bought a new one, lent that one, etc. As a result it isn’t on my shelf any more. Children’s Mathematics by Carpenter et al., published by Heinemann. It could even be out of print by now. The key, however, is that, while the teacher may individually prompt children who get stuck, s/he doesn’t teach the class how to do it. Instead, s/he selects learners to present varied solutions to the assembled class. Children are treated as mathematical thinkers.

Anyway, so the heart of CGI professional development was showing teachers that their children do already have mathematical knowledge and will utilize their own strategies if they are publicly valued. Teachers asked their students to solve a problem that they had not been taught to solve, and then brought the student work to a group meeting, in this case our weekly class meeting.

That’s a long introduction, sorry.

The first assignment was for the K-6 teachers (we had a couple kindergarten teachers, majority first and second grade, a few third grade and one sixth) to pose the following problem to their students:  Show how you can share three cookies with four friends so that everyone gets the same amount. The class’s immediate response was, “My students won’t be able to do that. They’re too low.” I didn’t say anything except, “Well, try it and let’s see what we get.” I had a pretty good idea that the younger children would solve the problem fairly successfully, but the older ones, who had received instruction in fractions, would have more trouble.

This was exactly what happened. About 5 kindergartners out of 60 or so drew some version of ¾ of a cookie being distributed to four children. Half (and I remember this clearly, it was exactly half) of the first graders showed a mathematically correct solution, and all but one of the 100+ second graders demonstrated a correct solution, either three separate quarters of a cookie or a half plus a quarter  per child. I was interested to see that the drawings usually included the four friends, and many directly modeled three quarters going to each of four stick figures. Some of the cookies had chocolate chips in them. Also interesting to me, several of the first graders independently said, “Cut two cookies in half, and give the big one to the teacher.” I find this interesting because sharing things fairly is a major social concern of children of this age. The children did not necessarily view this as an isolated, decontextualized math problem, but as a social problem with a mathematical solution.

Of the third graders, who had been taught about fractions, about half drew normative solutions, several wrote down an incorrect algorithm (for example 1/3 X ¼) and others said they didn’t know what to do. We had no fourth and fifth graders. The sixth grade teacher brought in student work showing that only one student had been successful in applying the correct algorithm 3 x 1/4 while many had written ¼ X 1/3 = 1/12 thinking they were supposed to invert and multiply. None of the older children made drawings. Most did not attempt the problem.( http://www.opsu.edu/www/education/MATH-ESE%204%20ALL/Cookies%20and%20Fractions%20and%20Sharing%20Equally.pdf for a link to the cookie problem)

We discussed that this was possible evidence that children are able to think mathematically but that school instruction divests them of this knowledge. With this hypothesis, the teachers continued to collect data on their children’s ability to solve math problems that had not been taught, and the children, especially the younger children, continued to demonstrate impressive proficiency.

The culminating project for the semester was an assignment to conduct either a science or mathematical inquiry with their students, and present the students’ work at our final class meeting. The assignment was simple: Ask your children what they want to know about a topic you are going to start. Then as a class choose one question that is investigable, and do the investigation before instruction. (We were using Wynne Harlen’s book Primary Science.) Most everyone did science, and I remember a lot of “floating and sinking” projects. Aurelio decided to do math.

Aurelio asked his kindergartners what they wanted to know about numbers 1 to 30, which was the unit they were starting. I remember one of the questions was, “Can we do it?” The question they settled on was, “Is there a faster way?” (A faster way than counting by 1’s.) So the class timed themselves counting by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s. They decided 10’s was fastest.  Aurelio’s story was very cute, but there was more: He was amazed. This was his third or fourth year teaching kindergarten, and to his astonishment, he said that every child got it. That is, every child was able to demonstrate proficiency in numbers 1 to 30, whereas in previous years, using the textbook and workbooks provided by the district, most had struggled.

This was a great moment to review learning theory, but…

THE POINT IS!!!!!

I listened to the teachers proudly discussing how well their students did on their projects. At the end, I remarked that I had not heard anyone talk about how low their kids are. “How many of you still think your students are low?” Only one person raised her hand.

And that is the point of teacher education for math and science, facilitating teachers to design instruction that reinforces learners’ competence. I have  always maintained that teachers will adopt new methods if they see they will benefit their students.

what is teaching anyway? (complicated argument 2)

Yesterday I ranted about politics, the reason being that education is crucial to our continued existence as a semi-democracy. The specter of a fascist, conspiracy-theory driven regime in Washington is so beyond horrifying to me. I noticed today that a group of teachers of the year have broken their own rules about remaining neutral in elections and written a letter denouncing Trump, appearing in the Washington Post. I’m not the only one.

So, the point is, what are we as educators going to do about the apparent inability of citizens to think critically, weigh evidence and apply the lessons of history to the present? This is a matter of urgency, and we don’t have much time to fix it.

I laid responsibility at the feet of teacher education, which is not completely fair. I was reacting to the NYT article about teacher recruitment, which frankly made me angry. What I didn’t say  was that it’s a whole-society problem, and that teacher education is simply a reflection of the culture.

I recently talked to some middle school science students about learning. They had been doing a sequence of learning activities designed to “teach” them about the electromagnetic spectrum. We first explored what happens to light when it travels through a cup of water (with a pencil in it), and what happens to light when it passes through a convex lens.

We physically (by going outside and actually doing it) modeled the tried-and-true marching soldiers demonstration (click here) to think about what happens when light waves pass through a new medium at an angle. We then did an angle of incidence/angle of reflection lab with mirrors, and the students then read about light in their textbook and answered the “section review” questions. They created posters of the electromagnetic spectrum, and finally took a test. They did pretty well.

I had very good reasons for designing the unit the way I did. There was an extended period of exploration of the phenomena in question, so that students would have a deeper understanding of what the textbook abstractions were talking about. We physically modeled the marching soldiers because movement activates the brain and enhances learning. I regretted that I did not have multimedia available in this classroom so that we could explore other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, nor did I as a substitute have a stockroom full of equipment to tap into. Diffraction gratings would have been useful.

The interesting part was the conversation we had about learning when preparing for the test. I made the statement that the students were supposed to learn from the activities we had been doing. Someone said, “You have to teach us!” I immediately replied, “I can’t get inside your head and put knowledge in. You have to think. Learning is your responsibility.”

I reviewed the sequence of activities, and we discussed what had been the point of each. I tried to be explicit. “I’m not going to tell you what to think. You need to make sure you understand the point of each lesson. The learning happens inside your head.”

I’ve written before about students not understanding that the point of learning activities is to learn– in a blog post, “learning through discussion, what does it mean?”My conclusion is that the cultural model of learning, in which teachers tell students what to think, is the perspective through which learners understand classroom activities. They passively wait for the teacher to tell them what will be on the test.

Such a set of assumptions undermines democracy. Our students do not see themselves as anything but passive consumers of information, and not active agents whose job is to think about and determine the truthfulness of what they see and hear.

a complicated argument

It’s going to take many posts to make the argument about why teacher education is “failing.” See my post from yesterday

The first thing I want to say is that I respect one of the impulses that drives people to support Trump, that is, the feeling that corporations are completely in control of government. This is at least partially true. There are also people who will do anything to stop abortion, and are willing to support an unhinged, mentally ill, sociopathic, narcissistic fascist who probably has been responsible for any number of women getting abortions, and for all I know has paid for them. To those people I say, if you think abortion is wrong, don’t have one. Leave the rest of us alone.

I also say, “Be careful.” Democratically elected, unhinged, mentally ill, sociopathic, narcissistic fascists have, in the not so distant past, brought down on the world the fires of  tyranny, genocide and other unspeakable horrors of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Probably the last obviously mentally ill president was Richard Nixon. His paranoia led to Watergate. Perhaps even worse, he actively prolonged the end of the Vietnam War so that he could have political advantage. Thousands of people died so he could be president. His sociopathic, narcissistic behavior led to  his ‘’enemies list,” damaging the lives of people who opposed him.

There are also the persistent and reliable reports that DJT studied Hitler’s rise to power as a model for his campaign, and has done so for many years.

The point is—It is possible to support Trump if you are ignorant of history; otherwise the red flags and warning whistles are overwhelming and truly frightening. And why are people ignorant of history?

Teacher education.

The New York Times says that the US teacher pool is filled with the not very bright. They compare us unfavorably with Finland, which allows only applicants from the top quarter of university students to apply to become teachers. Something the Times doesn’t talk about: Teachers in Finland are well enough paid, have good working conditions and  have the respect of society. But the Times doesn’t talk about that, because bastion of corporate America that it is, it doesn’t support adequate funding for education.

If Americans want good teachers, they have to pay for them.

First Donald Trump, Now This

My good friend Charles texted me that he had read about how Finland has much better teacher education, and the NY Times had an editorial stating that low quality teacher education in the US is the cause of well, I don’t know, monumentally STUPID people? (That’s not exactly what the Times said. That’s what I say.)

Image result for "teacher education"

You can read it here.

When I read Charles’ text, I laughed bitterly, anger surging through my body. So the New York Times wants to improve teacher education. Well, well, never mind all the years of editorials urging competition and charter schools as the cure for low achievement, and all the years pressing for schools to be run like businesses. Schools are getting steadily worse since the 1990’s because corporate America has discovered the profits to be made from education. See the critique of the Times education positions here.

Americans are just batshit crazy. We have a perfectly good country and are throwing it all away. Okay, so the education debacle predates the DJT debacle and probably is part of the cause. I just don’t know where to begin.

JBMS STUDY GUIDE FOR REFRACTION QUIZ

1. Light travels in a straight line. What is the evidence for this?

You cannot see around a corner! You only see something when the light that bounces off an object reaches your eye. You must be in the direct line of sight in order for them to reach your eye. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nwK78F_4eA for more information.

2. When do light rays bend? What is the evidence for this?

Light rays bend when they change medium and hit at an angle. When we did the demonstration in class, the line of students changed direction when they entered the “slower” medium. Please see http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/refrn/Lesson-1/The-Cause-of-Refraction if you want further clarification.

Other evidence of light rays bending was the appearance of a pencil or ruler placed in a glass beaker of water.

The part of the pencil in the water: When light reflected from the pencil reached your eye it traveled through the water and when it reached the curved surface of the glass, it changed direction when it changed medium – because the glass was curved, the light rays did not bend equally and therefore the image appeared magnified. The light rays reached your eye in a slightly different position.

The part of the pencil in the air: The light did not change medium, but traveled in air the whole time. The light rays stayed in the same relationship to each other and the image your eye perceived was not magnified.

When you looked at the pencil in the water, it appeared to be “broken” at the water line. This was because only part of the image of the pencil was magnified.

We looked through a  triangular glass prism and saw that the laser beam was bent and did not travel in a straight line. We also saw that the prism refracted sunlight into a “rainbow” of colors.

3. A lens makes light rays focus at one point. This is called a focal point. What is the evidence for this?

When you looked through the magnifying glass you were able to focus the sun’s light to a single point. Some people used a flashlight to get the same effect.

When we projected the image of the window onto a piece of paper, there was one particular distance when the image was clear and upside down. This distance was the focal distance of the lens.

We saw that the differently curved lenses had different focal points.

4. A shadow happens when light rays are blocked.

This is evidence that light travels in a straight line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nwK78F_4eA provides more information.

5. You only see light when it is reflected into your eyeball.

Light can be there but we cannot see it unless it strikes something and gets reflected into the eye. A laser beam can only be seen when it strikes a surface such as a floor or the wall. However, when we placed a piece of paper in the air in front of the path of the laser light, the light reflected off the paper and traveled to our eye, so we could see it.

6. Convex lenses curve out. These are the kinds of lenses that magnify.

We saw that the magnifying glasses used convex lenses.

7. Why do objects appear black?

Black objects absorb all the light that reaches them. No light rays are reflected back to your eye.

Spring Valley High School and group-work

Okay, the events at Spring Valley High School are going to hijack the blog a little. I am so saddened by the way that discipline was hablack kidsndled in this case. That is, the case of a teacher managing his or her classroom so poorly that a policeman entered and arrested the student.

The adolescents in the photo are respectfully and interestedly taking part in a science lesson. The lesson was designed to engage students, connect to their lives, and allow them to learn from each other. This happened to have been a high-poverty, rural school, and the students in question were in a low track class.

Getting back to Spring Valley, I’m not really complaining about the violent way the student was thrown to the floor and injured, nor the way in which she defended her personal space by striking out at the person, who happened to be a policeman, who was attempting to drag her out of the seat. I’ve seen this called “punching” on television. That is ludicrous. This event is horrendous. But it begs the question. I’ve been in two schools in the South where policemen came into classrooms and removed African-American youth from the class in full view of all, and without consulting the teacher. This display of authoritarian power is unacceptable.

Don Lemon commented on the air that he doesn’t know the whole story and therefore can’t judge. Fair enough, but why is no one asking, What is going on with our schools that policemen are required to enforce order? This is crazy! And it’s totally unnecessary.

Misbehavior in school increasingly is becoming a criminal offense, resulting in a criminal record for the young person in question. I object to the practice of discipline being enforced by law officers.

As for the connection to group-work, when skillful teachers design engaging and challenging tasks for students, tasks which have some connection to their lives, and which they care about, the need for police intervention is 0. In the case of the girl being arrested for not obeying, there are many unanswered questions. The first is why did the responsible adult, the teacher, not have a relationship with the young person, which would have made calling a policeman unthinkable? It is the teacher’s job to connect with the student. That is the first and most important duty of a teacher.