Saturday, May 03, 2008

What's To Believe?

Originally a 5-minute CBS radio program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow, "This I Believe" evolved into a more lengthy cultural essay broadcast where individuals from all walks of life stressed their individual beliefs and motivation in life and they would read them on the air. The show was recently revived in 2005 by Jay Allison on National Public Radio. Click here to listen to his original 1951 introduction to "This I Believe."

As a teacher, you can imagine how powerful it can be to introduce a concept like this to your students in an effort to enrich their writing skills and to get them thinking about their fundamental beliefs and perhaps where they got those beliefs and values. Getting students to explore their beliefs is a huge task in itself, and we already know how hard it is to encourage students to think creatively about their writing. Unfortunately, some of the unintended consequences of our state's standardized writing tests is that students have learned to write to the formula but have lost the ability to write creatively and from the heart. "This I Believe" essays not only encourage that, they demand it.

For teachers interested in using "This I Believe" in the classroom, they have a great website whose tagline is, A Public Dialogue About Belief - One Essay At a Time. I like that! You'll find some awesome lesson plans and sharing resources available there. I particularly like the link where you can click to learn how others are using This I Believe in the curriculum. You can search the database by state, level, discipline, etc. I do wish they included contact information for the teachers though. I would like to have the ability to contact the teacher to follow up with questions about his or her implementation of the lesson if I needed clarification on something.

This all came to be today because Linda has tagged me to continue on with our expressions of belief. She was tagged by Diane, who was tagged by Lisa, who was tagged by others but I believe it all started with Barry Bachenheimer. So, although I tend not to pay much attention to these tag games or memes, I thought I'd play along on this one and take a break from blogging about blogging. :)

This I Believe; by Lee K.
  • I believe it is ok not to grade everything and it is ok to create a safe environment for students to explore and try and even change their answers and learn! Although assessment has run amok in our system and we do more assessing than we do teaching, I believe teachers *sometimes* do things that make matters worse. I believe teachers can avoid becoming the "Obsessive Assessor." Try to look at practice and homework as just that, practice... try to keep the big picture in mind. Does everything really need to get a grade? Remember when you got your driver's license? When you went for your test, if you passed, you passed, right? What if the evaluator said, "Well, you passed today, but... 2 weeks ago, you hit a cone during practice and 3 weeks ago you didn't show up for practice! So, you'll have to take the test again."
  • I believe it is the communication to students and their parents that makes life less stressful. I believe that ALL emails and phone calls deserve a response. Hostility from parents and coworkers can be reduces enormously if communication is not only established early on but is ongoing.
  • I believe technology is not a content area. There are separate standards for technology and I know it's a step farther than we've been in years and we are thrilled to take any recognition possible. BUT, ultimately, just as there are no standards for using textbooks and writing instruments, there need not be standards for technology. There should be seamless integration in the classroom. I do believe we will get there. Soon.
  • I believe that teachers must keep in mind that when they put aside real learning in lieu of standardized testing prep (1 week, ok!, but 3 months in advance?), they lose credibility with their students and their parents. This stuff makes us all look bad! I believe all learning is prep for standardized testing. (Said to her students by a teacher in a classroom in January, "We will not be doing anything else besides FCAT practice until FCAT is over." ~ testing in March)
  • I believe that the fish rots from the head down. In order to understand what our students need, we need to start with our students. Not with the talking heads at the top and their political agendas.
  • I believe that students must be taught to use, not abuse. If you want someone to lose weight, you don't put a lock on the refrigerator door. However, that is akin to what we do with our Internet policies. 'nuff said there.
  • I believe that teachers should remember that their classrooms come with doors. Although teachers may be forced to listen to a variety of pedagogical speeches from principals and others, ultimately they can close the door and still smile at their students and make their day!
The idea of a meme is that you tag other bloggers to respond on their blogs and link back here.

Officially tagged here:
I will do this, the rule-follower that I am. But, there are a few others I'd like to hear from as well. Some of these people are non-bloggers (Sue!) and some have blogs, but maybe I didn't tag them here. So, if you are reading this, I hope you will comment with your beliefs.

This I Believe, Inc., National Public Radio and Atlantic Public Media


Anonymous said...

I am on my feet giving you a standing ovation. That was amazing.
I love your reference to the door. There is so much trying to push into my room from outside that not only am I shutting it-I will bar it as well-to protect the sanctity of my teaching environment.Kudos to you Lee- you nailed the task!

Anonymous said...

Okay, here goes from your non-blogger,
I believe children are not standardized and one test does not fit them all.
I believe you can prove learning gains without the FCAT or whatever your state chooses to call it.
I believe having a “blackout” period for field trips before the almighty FCAT is absolutely crazy. Did it ever occur to the “big shots” you might learn something from a trip to a museum, nature center or play, possibly what was the author’s purpose for painting this picture. I believe all learning doesn’t come out of books.
I believe unfortunately a child or two may be “left behind” no matter how much you differentiate you instruction. I believe you can’t force a child to learn. I believe the desire to learn needs to come from within the child and nurtured from birth by the parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and guardians way before the first day of school.
I believe in each child that passes through my classroom door. I believe some make me smile, some make me laugh, some make me crazy and some make me cry.
I believe you need to surround yourself with positive energy and run as fast as you can away from the negative.

Shelley said...

OT, reposting, trying to fix my previously broken link (doh!)...

Relax. No, really.

Hope that works... will tweet as well... the more comments, the better! :-)

Sarah Stewart said...

I really want to answer this question but I am totally caught up in the 31 day comment challenge and focusing on that. So remind me again when I am all 'commented' out. cheers Sarah