My Education in Education

As a result of my decision to stay in school for an additional quarter at UC Davis, I’ve explored the profession of teaching. Though it may only be a minor, the experience that came with it thus far is eye opening and fulfilling. Never did I understand why teachers do what they do, or how a school functions at an administration level. It’s difficult to see teachers as “people” because of the facade (hopefully) that they wear while instructing. Though many try their best to hide their bias and attempt to present a neutral lecture, I found out it’s a lot harder than it looks. Along with that humble experience, I got a glimpse of what teaching is all about and the problems that arise.

A requirement for the education minor program is to intern as a teacher assistant for a minimum of 30 hours. This is also a prerequisite if one wishes to earn a credential as a “highly qualified teacher” under the No Child Left Behind Act 2002. In the unlikelihood of going to graduate school for a Masters in Education with a credential, I will be set.

I originally thought to myself that this internship was going to be another hassle I must muddle through on top of everything else. Through the process, it’s been an experience that has taught me much more than any of the education classes combined. I might add however that a lot of it may have to do with the teacher I choose to intern with. I was a formal student in their high school class, so I suppose the familiarity with my former work ethic made her more honest and thoughtful of my experience.

It was unique learning about how NCLB and other laws affected the school – I graduated a year after congress passed it. Granted I’m only visiting an elective course, it was rather disappointing to see how some students faired when I looked at course work. Many of them freshman, their work consisted of little thought and critical errors that would make English teachers cringe. Just as “there” and “their” would often get mixed up, “here” and “hear” were among the common errors. Furthermore, a class prompt with three parts would only yield, on average, two or three sentences. Generally, I would expect no less than a half-page on college rule notebook paper.

Nonetheless, the participation in the class was rewarding. Despite their lack of mechanical writing structure, many students were able to voice valid questions and discuss issues that were brought up. I wouldn’t classify the discussion as high-level thinking; however, the intra-characteristic of these students is worth noting. I recall that my high school student body was quiet – rarely asked questions or had in-depth discussions regarding contemporary events. The only exception to that is my AP Government class. It’s possible that my observations were isolated to this population and likely to be different in other classrooms within the same school.

After only one week, I was astonished how much the school changed. Faculty, curriculum, attitude, policy and procedures – all different. The overall attitude about the school seemed grim with a slight sign of hope. This is to not claim that the school is run down – there were plenty of things to be happy about. I suppose it had a lot to do with the new prospective I was experiencing – the dirty end of the stick dealing with a three-pronged threat on a daily basis: administration/faculty, students and parents.

Among all things, I was surprised about the new nutritional standards. Where the hell have I been? This was passed in 2004 as CA SB 12, a reauthorization on nutrition in schools that went into effect on June 2007. As a result, the student store that profited and supported many school functions have been crushed. The new law restricts food with high fat and sugar content as well as portion sizes to address the increasing weight of American children. Not only does this restrict the profitability of the student store, but it also places strain on the cafeteria and student clubs. All foods must have a Nutritional Facts sheet; thus, any home made food that was formally allowed are now banned – increasing costs and depreciating profits. Six to seven hours at school hardly seems adequate to justify a regulating law to keep students from being overweight. Though the law has “good intentions,” it seems that the law doesn’t address the time spent at home versus school. If kids are going to get fat, they’re going to do it at home – end of story. It’s unfortunate to see the consequences of inane laws.

Fieldtrips and elective courses seemed to bite the dust too. As a result of a ruling from our “good friend” at http://www.calguns.net, Bill Lockyer addressed the opinion that all students are entitled to free public education. This includes school-sponsored fieldtrips, physical education clothing, and elective course “lab fees.” I would argue that the PE clothing shouldn’t be an issue. As long as they’re suitable for physical activity, why not wear it? However, my agreement with Lockyer’s opinion ends there. Once upon a time, a field trip may cost only $50 (cost of admission and/or bus fare) since the school covered a portion of it. As a result of this opinion, the school is required to cover ALL costs yielding in less fieldtrips. The reality is that costs become more expensive, thus schools become less inclined to cover the entire cost and it becomes more difficult for other parents to afford – everyone loses. “Lab fees” no longer exist. Instead, the curriculum is split into two groups – those who paid for the clay, photo paper, film, etc. and those who chose to opt out and with the minimum curriculum. The school is now required to itemize and tabulate the cost of materials and keeps an inventory instead of charging a flat fee ($15-$20 for the entire year). The cost for a variety of “extra” projects now cost $3 to $10 each (total of three optional projects).

I think that most of us can all agree that parent involvement lacks. It’s unfortunate to see how many students lack to fundamentals. It’s not common nor uncommon, but my sponsor might feel compelled to offer students breakfast because there’s literally nothing at home. Some parents have no idea or interest in their child’s performance and the attitude of the student often reflects that. Certain expectations can be difficult to fulfill – though teachers can be a huge influence in a child’s life, they shouldn’t be the only source. Some parents just don’t care.

To make this a firearm related entry, I also want to share my experience when I discussed firearm safety with the class. I was going to discuss the ramifications of the Heller vs. D.C., but found out very quickly it would have been a bumpy lecture. The topic of firearms has never been discussed – not even in an 8th grade civics lecture. A little weary of a dinner discussions at home and staying true to the philosophy of education, I depended on a neutral topic we all may discuss; firearm safety. Who can argue against that? The premise I offered to the class was that half of Americans owns a firearm. No longer are they children, but young adults. Eddie Eagle, as great as he is for younger kids, hardly serves as a role model for high school students. Many of them are unsupervised and exposed to delinquent elements that don’t know any better. I think by 6th grade, children should be exposed to Cooper’s four rules of handgun safety (Yes, the picture says six; it was utilized for a different class).

Out of 28 students, only 5 have held a firearm and none of those 5 remembered any of the four rules. I came unprepared, so we explored through the rules rather quickly. Luckily, my sponsor kept me on track and gave me prompts to discuss (questions students may wonder about). We discussed examples they heard from the news or popular media (the DEA agent shooting himself in the foot was VERY popular) and discussed the anatomy and mechanical functions of a firearm and cartridge by drawing pictures. No firearm or imitation firearm was present – I was, however, a tad nervous about an administrator walking in seeing huge pictures of guns drawn on the white board. Despite my botched presentation, they received the information well – better than I thought. They asked simple questions such as how to legally own a firearm or why firearms misfire. I hope I did the students justice regarding the basics of firearm safety. The class was almost over, so I offered to answer any questions about my college experience. That perked up a few more questions, but I think many of them were just curious about the stranger sitting in the corner for the past several weeks. I know; it’s rather ego-centric =P

I never considered a career in education. After this experience, I might be inclined to explore this option later in life. At one point, I only considered to only teach at a community college after I finish my “professional” career. But the reward of teaching young adults, despite the inane NCLB laws, seems attractive. The world needs good teachers – I think I have the potential to become one in the distant future.

Simple Observation: Searching “teachers” in Google images yields more pornographic material than teachers actually teaching.

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Categories: Firearms, Guns

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