Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lost in Translation

First of all, I apologize for being a bad blogger. I thought it was really sweet that people were responding to my post until I realized today while reading the class announcements and subsequently the blog rubric that that’s a part of the grade (If my brain was on sometimes, I’d be dangerous). So I’ll be responding to everyone this week (and make my best effort to respond to your responses).

Anyway, I was thinking a lot about how I could integrate a blog into my own class as a part of parent outreach/keeping families informed. My initial plan for this post was going to be a cutesy post about my kids helping me come up with ways we could use a blog in our classroom (maybe another time). Then, I was thinking about my students and how fun it would be to show their families what we’re doing in our class, and then it hit me—half of my parents wouldn’t be able to read what I’m writing right now.

In the past decade theHispanic/Latino population in Montgomery County has doubled. I do a lot of reflecting about how being in first grade has evolved, as this has been my 20th year since being in first grade. I honestly cannot remember having a Hispanic classmate (I also went to an MCPS elementary school). Of my current first grade students, more than half of the students are of Hispanic or Latino descent. It’s not to say that none of their parents can speak English, but for all of my students of Hispanic or Latino descent, their parents want to receive any information from school translated into Spanish.

Once upon a time in Spanish class in high school, Ms. Martin was doing a lot of this…

 and not a lot of paying attention.
Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16 year old self that Spanish is something you actually WILL use one day (Chemistry and Calculus… well, you were right about those). So outside of kicking myself constantly about blowing off Spanish, I have the following options;

1)      Publish an all English blog, which will be great for parents who can read English (I have also failed to mention our students whose parents speak Vietnamese, Chinese, French, etc.) and thereby alienating or making those families feel like they’re not important.

2)      Ask one of the two Spanish speaking staff members at my school to translate my blog. While yes, if I published this on a monthly basis, that might be enough time, but I believe the purpose of blogging is that it’s supposed to be a current and up to date posting of the ongoings in the class. The other issue is that the staff members who do speak Spanish translate every other school issued document (out of the goodness of their hearts).

3)      Use Babblefish or another translation site to post translated versions of entries. While I’m sure this would be the most viable option, there was an incident where a staff member at my school used the site to translate a note home about school policy on bringing toys and somehow something got translated to say something about our principal’s posterior (true story).

 So how do you overcome wanting to reach out to parents while not ostracizing them? What do teachers do for blogs, websites, or any other social media when they’re trying to reach ALL parents, no matter their language?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Devil's in the Details

When I first began teaching almost 5 years ago, I felt like the smartest teacher ever because I was going to have my students use the internet to find facts and then compose a biography about a famous Virginian. I was all ready to pronounce myself teacher of the year and parade my student’s work around the hallways because I was having my students use technology and therefore that made my student’s work 100 times better.


When we first arrived to the computer lab, I assumed my students would be able to at least use the internet to search for facts.

“Ms. Martin, where’s the internet?”.

Oh, the things I didn’t anticipate such as typing skills or the ethics of citing sources or how to teach kids to do a search on the internet or what Microsoft Word was or how to save a document… and the list goes on.

Eventually after many weeks (yes, weeks) of heartache, hair pulling, and headaches (all on my end), the students proudly completed their projects and their teacher survived the several missteps she had made in preparing (hah) for the lesson. I had an opportunity to write about this experience for an earlier course and it was definitely a great experience in how to plan for lessons in general and (especially) technology.

All of the shortcomings of the project were my fault, and I take full blame. In hindsight, I did not assess my student’s needs nor did I teach the several lessons beforehand about things I would assume a fourth grader would know.

But wait a minute, don’t we have standards  to make sure students learn how to use technology situations like the one I encountered (Again, the planning was my fault, but the fact that a fourth grader lacks basic computer  skills such as how to turn one on and off?)?

According to the Maryland state technology standards, my first graders should be able to collect data using a computer and  identify a computer's parts and how they function. While I try my best to instruct my students, I can say grade and even school wide, teachers use their technology block time as “hey, go on PBS kids while I surf the web” time.

We would throw our hands up if our students came in lacking knowledge in the “main” content areas—in first grade, we would have a conniption if our students couldn’t count or identify letters and their sounds. Why don’t teachers have the same concern for technology? There are standards that we are supposed to teach—so why don’t administrations enforce them the same way they do for all other subjects?

 f there was a state test assigned to technology, would we then start to pay more attention to it? Or is it that technology can be “too confusing” and “moves too fast”, so we allow teachers who don’t feel comfortable teaching about or using technology to slide? School systems wouldn’t allow an elementary teacher to not teach math because they “don’t like it”, so what makes technology so special (or not) to receive that treatment?

Monday, February 6, 2012

And so it begins!

Alright, welcome to members of EDTC 625! Back in the day when I was 15 (and extremely angst ridden), I had a blog which I used to rage against anything from how unfair it was to have homework on a Friday night to how mean my parents were for not letting me go out with my friends(man, life is HARD when you you're 15...).

I'm looking forward to using blogging in a more positive manner for this class. I can't wait to see what everyone has to share.

Happy Monday!