Author: aedeick

Well-Begun Is Half Done

I believe it was Mary Poppins who said “well begun is half done’, which reinforces what has been emphasized in our CM class about establishing rules and shared expectations from the beginning of the year to prepare for the shared learning community. Structuring the day to allow for smooth transitions, making clear classroom policies, all are important to put into place to make a safe place where the learning can begin. Now it’s important to make the learning relevant, meaningful, and interesting. By a variety of means, I will make a point of learning as much as possible about my students so I can adapt my methods and approach. Students learn by doing, and the more they do, the better they get. My job is to be finding the sparks that make it work for them, being prepared with great lesson plans but also willing to substitute them if they are not working. My students should take away the satisfaction of having worked to their potential by being presented with assignments and activities that are interesting enough to lead them to increasingly more difficult challenges. When they have done that successfully, they will feel confident in applying what they’ve learned to other endeavors throughout their lifetime. My job being done, I can float away under my umbrella.

Classroom Observation

I don’t know how this particular 11th grade teacher does it, but she defies gravity, well, almost. She has no sponge activity, no winding down at the end, but she consistently, year after year, gets AP level work out of students who are not AP and include many ELL’s. What she does have, and I admire greatly, are perfectly crafted and scaffolded combination reading/writing activities. She begins by explaining, then, for something as difficult as Shakespeare, reads aloud, has students read, listens to an audiotape, and/or watches a video. Students are very busy the whole time, annotating, crafting thesis sentences, finding themes, motifs. At the end, they put it all together in written format. And they do this every day! I have not witnessed burnout in this class, but I have in other classes where students are just doing tedious work for too long of a period. I know that it has taken her years to fine tune her assignments to the time periods allotted at our school. If students don’t get done, then they have to finish their work at home. Most work efficiently so they don’t have homework. I have seen many of the same students in other classes, but they clearly are doing their best work here.

Student/Teacher Relationships

This website,’ Improving Students’ Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning’ from the American Psychological Association is seven pages of questions, answers, lists, and videos interspersed with psychology jargon that is readily defined. There is an FAQ section followed by resources for even more information
After getting frustrated with the preponderance of videos detailing sexual encounters between teachers and students, I decided to let the website listed above do double duty as it has a variety of videos on a number of topics, such as teachers discussing the link between their relationships with students and students’ academic performance (on page 5. ) (Tip, the videos on the first 4 pages have to do with 8 year olds, so skip to page 5.)

This blog, a professional teacher network blog, titled “Why Relationships Matter in School’ begins with a comment made in the teacher staff room, “All the nutters love you.’ Turns out that this was a positive comment that meant that the students, knowing their teacher cared and was consistent in her class, felt safe and connected. The recipient of the comment then writes to advocate for schools to support and retain long term staff who can really be there for students.

Straddling Cultures

There is a lot to be learned from Paul Berg’s example of the Sami of Norway and the Maori of New Zealand, both of which reversed their policies of enforced acculturation with promising results. The big question is, can the same be done for Alaska Natives? Can Americans, who seldom import any other educational models, import one for Alaska Natives successfully?

The problem for Anglo/American culture does seem to be one of cultural superiority.   This probably goes along with that missionary mindset of “saving’ indigenous people from themselves.   Having said this, I can’t agree with Berg’s point that the current philosophy of Native education “appears to be a continuation of 19th century Social Darwinism.’ There is evidence it has moved beyond that–of course, with still much room for improvement. I also don’t agree with Berg’s comments that “Alaska Natives have become an industry of the middle class.   There is big money to be made by thousands of non-Native professional providing services in rural Alaska.’   Just evaluating the scant population of Native areas, I can’t comprehend that the numbers lead to big money for the middle classes.   Besides, companies doing business with Native villages agree to employ Alaska Natives wherever possible.   The Native corporations earn a good deal subcontracting with various firms.

I think the most operational word here is “disempowered.’   When a culture feels disempowered, it loses hope, which leads to unfortunate symptoms such as dependency, alcoholism, vandalism, and suicide.

In Judith Kleinfeld’s article, she calls those teachers “supportive gadflies’ who display personal warmth but at the same time are demanding of Alaska Native students.   These teachers were the most successful.   This reminds me of another of Kleinfeld’s articles that I read for another class on the issue of boarding schools.   While that era in educational history is pretty depressing, the conclusion seemed to be that progress is being made, however slowly, in educating Alaska Natives.

In the book Conflicting Landscapes  by  Bates & Oleksa, a very complete picture of Alaska Native education, the consensus seemed to be that Alaska Natives needed to be more involved in education and teachers who wished to locate in the Bush needed more training.

One well-known Alaska Native, Willie Hensley, describes his educational experience as showcasing the dilemma of having to straddle two clashing cultures, not wishing to abandon one in favor of the other.

All of these authors emphasize that there are no easy answers.   Ideally, the educational system would take into account the culture and language of Alaska Natives necessary for survival in Bush Alaska while offering English and other subjects necessary for survival in the world today


Since my internet was out for a week due to the wind storm and I couldn’t respond, I got behind on my class work.   Now that I’m able to catch up, I’m appreciating what everyone else had to post, especially about respect.   Going from your posts, I would be tempted to make a poster of the biggest, fanciest R (for respect) and let students guess what it stands for.   I would let them figure out what to respect and add that information to the poster.

While researching, I found a fun activity at readwritethink for a beginning of the year activity that can serve as a foundation for ongoing community building in the classroom, which happens to be a major goal of my mentor teacher and something that she is very successful at judging by how well students work in randomly assigned groups together. According to the website, “At the beginning of the school year, students are led through a discussion designed to establish goals and needs for the classroom. Students first respond to the prompt: ‘Why are we here?’ After listing and discussing their ideas, they respond to the prompt: ‘What do we need?’ Students refer back to their first list of reasons in order to what they need to meet those goals. This activity encourages students to become contributing, consensus-building members of their classrooms.’ For specifics on this lesson plan, check out this link

Hello from Anchorage

Hello fellow classmates!

My name is Amy, and I live in Anchorage, working full time with English language learners in the school district while earning a teaching certificate.

I love to read, making daily use of my Kindle.  I just finished  Alias Grace  by Margaret Atwood.  I enjoy the subtle ways she has of crafting her plots, barely hinting of what’s to come. I also enjoy another Canadian, Alice Munro, and am currently reading  The View from Castle Rock. I have a large number of favorite authors, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Louis de Bernieres, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, George Orwell, Sena Jeter Naslund, some, but not all Ken Follet, and the list goes on.  Ask me next week and I’ll have a different list. My pets, a cat and a dog, don’t understand when I’m at the computer working on a class, so they become very demanding, the cat prancing back & forth in front of the screen, leaping onto my neck, nestling on the keyboard, or velcroing herself to my shirt with her claws, and the dog whining at my feet.

I enjoy gardening, hiking, bicycling, and fishing, anything that has to do with the outdoors.

I’m enjoying meeting you through your posts!