September 2017 Reflection
A. Scott Flynn, M. Ed.
Otte-Blair Middle School
Scott Flynn, Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to A. Scott Flynn, Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School, Blair, NE 68008.
A reflection for September class for Wayne State College community learning course. This is a reflection covers thoughts about the classic view vs. official theory of how students learn along with the process of forgetting in the 7th grade science classroom at Otte-Blair Middle school.
Keywords: Learning, forgetting, PLC
September 2017 Reflection
What happened in my classroom that connected to something I read?
This last couple of weeks we have completed two labs: one testing the absorbance of paper towels and the other on observation of multiple items to determine if the items were living, non-living or dead. During the first lab, testing the absorbance of paper towels, I was in the middle of reading “The Book of Learning and Forgetting” (Smith, 1998). Throughout this lab, I was constantly thinking about the official theory of learning.
I asked myself as the students did the lab in which they had to design the test for each paper towel, determine the variables and write a procedure, does this lab meet the official theory of learning or is it the classic theory? I had the book on my desk and occasionally would look at the following parts: Am I “forcing learners and teachers to waste time on repetitive exercises and drill that teach only that learning is frustrating and difficult” (Smith, 1998) While the designing the test for the paper towels was difficult and required my students to collaborate during the design process, I didn’t sense they were frustrated, in fact, I heard more “oh, yeah we need to do…” than I heard “I don’t get this…” The process would have been much quicker if I had simple given them the steps and said “Do this”, but I don’t think the parts of the scientific method would have stuck as well as it did. Chalk one up for Classic view.
Next I asked myself are the “learners segregated so they can’t help each other, in the process making life as difficult as possible for teachers” (Smith, 1998) No, the students were not. In fact, we had high ability students help low, middle help low and to my surprise students who usually struggle with content were in fact helping high ability students because they could see things from a different point of view better than the upper students. Here is a quick example, I had a student who struggles with content, but did a great job on the lab. He saw right away that one of the brands was two ply while the others were not. He also recognized that the paper towel sheets were of different sizes and that variable needed to be a control. He saw and shared something the others missed. He would not have done that in the official theory point of view. He was confident in what he was doing and only in the classic theory of “social activity” (Smith, 1998) would this student have shared this.
One of my favorite quotes from the early part of the book is “Something is being learned, whether we want it or not, all the time.” (Smith, 1998)
PLC’s in Blair Community Schools
A question that has been nagging me is why did Blair Community School implement PLC professional learning community? I understand the idea behind PLC’s, but then again, as a teacher at the middle school level we have been doing this for years during grade level team plans. We have been sharing ideas, comparing scores and developing plans for student success, but now, a four-week rotation between different groups which are as follows: first week 6-8 Science, second week 6-12 science, third week administration team and the fourth week grade level team. As a result, we have lost grade level team planning time.
Teaming is a powerful tool which leads me to wonder, why is our seventh-grade team so special at Otte-Blair Middle School?
In 2004, according to Christopher Day, “Learning from and alongside other is still
relatively rare. Thus, because conditions dictate that the principal means of learning is through one’s own experience, and because this will ultimately limit learning, it is not surprising that some teachers’ passion becomes dimmed by routine and workload as they lose sight of why they came into teaching in the first place.” (p. 108)
We, in our science department, are constantly sharing ideas from how to present a topic to techniques used to stress a science concept. I think the main factor that makes our science department and, for that matter, our team successful is the we care about each other on professional as well as a personal level. We challenge each other to be better because we trust each other. This trust is a result of sharing personal stories not only about teaching, but about our lives. Our staff knows each other spouses, children, grandchildren and in some case even parents.
At first, the reason I wanted to get my second masters was for movement on the pay scale, but as I have started this journey in the learning community at Wayne State it has changed my goal from an increase in salary to a more focused approach on self-improvement so I do not lose the “passion” (Day, 2004) and “become dimmed by routine.” (Day, 2004) The readings have me think about how I teach, how I deliver content and finally how I interact with my students.
Day, C. (2004). A Passion For Teaching. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
Smith, F. (1998). The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York, NE: Teachers College Press.