Class, Just Call Me Ephraim: A Word On Authority

I have made the decision that once I become a teacher I will introduce myself to my students by my full name, Ephraim Hussain.  Consequently, they will have the option of either calling me Ephraim or Mr. Hussain.  My feeling is that they will opt for the former, and that is indeed my intent by opting not to impose the conventional “Mr.” title.  Now this may seem like a relatively minor aspect of my future teaching practice, and indeed one might view my concern with the matter of how students are to address the teacher as completely inconsequential and silly.  Here is why I would strongly disagree with that sentiment. Continue reading

Sick and Tired of Your College Professor Lecturing at you everyday? Postformal Psychology May Just Be the Answer To Your Woes

Today I gave a presentation on postformal psychology and critical thinking for my educational psychology course.  It was a long presentation, nearly 30 minutes, but even though the recommended time was 10-15 min, I didn’t make it so long for the grade.  As you can expect , most of the people in the class are prospective teachers and I felt that it was critically important to get the message of postformal psychology out there to get us teacher ed. students to really think about how our own educational experiences will influence our future practice.  Postformal psychology is obviously much more extensive that what I present here, and I encourage all to go out and do further research on this amazing and awe-inspiring topic. Continue reading

Stop Curving! Stop Lecturing! Stop Grading! Start Teaching So We Can Start Learning!

Two weeks ago my genetics class received the results of our second test.  The class average was a 48, and to my amazement, our professor, whom I will refer to as Dr. James decided to curve the test by 29 points, consequently raising the class average to a low C.  In response to what I consider to be “the easy way out” and a great dereliction of duty by a professional educator, I sent him the following e-mail, Continue reading

My Analysis of Dead Poet’s Society

Better late than never.  I blame myself for never watching it before an educational psych class senior year of college.  This was a truly inspiring movie!

There was a clear clash between the traditional and conservative values espoused by Welton Academy as an institution, and the progressive teaching methods of John Keating.  Welton Academy’s ethos of “tradition, honor, discipline, and excellence not only discourages but makes it a crime for a student to exercise a critical political consciousness. Continue reading

John Dewey: What Psychology Can Do, Part I

Given that I recently made the big decision to alter my career path from aspiring doctor to aspiring teacher and educational reformer, I thought it wise and prudent to end my feigning textbook interest with the inner workings of the human body and start reading up on the great educational philosophers of the twentieth century.

I first encountered the writing of twentieth century American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer  John Dewey in a Philosophy of Education class I took two semesters ago.  Of the half dozen or so educational movers and shakers (or maybe not cause I’ve tragically begun to realize just how often our society fails to listen and learn from the most intelligent within it)  I studied in that class, he struck a chord within me.  Indeed, if I remember correctly my first post on this blog was a series of John Dewey quotes, that I found most fascinating and revelatory, and wanted to share with the rest of the world.

For the past two weeks or so, I have been reading a compilation of some of his writings and now I would like to share some of his ideas with you.  Since a philosopher’s writing can get quite tedious and complex,  I will try to do this to the best of my ability.

I will begin with his essay entitled “What Psychology Can Do” which attempts to explain the role of psychology in educational practice.

He begins by making the fairly obvious statement that the value of any theory is based on its real world application.  If it works well, it is valuable.  If it fails to live up to par in practice, it is effectively useless, no matter how much it was cheered and championed beforehand.  This relation of theory to practice sums up the relationship between psychology and education.  A knowledge of psychology or specific aspects of psychology is as useful to education as is revealed in practice.  Education is a rational process and needs to be grounded in both psychology and experience.  In order to be efficient and productive it is necessary for educational practice to be a rational experience.  This is the role of the educational psychologist: to recognize what type of psychology, if any, is most likely to enrich educational practice, thereby making a given educational experience an exercise in rationality and reason.

He goes to on to answer why psychology should have any role in educational practice.  Firstly, Dewey contends that the study of psychology holds high value for the educator in that, due to its logical and reflective nature, it makes him less likely to make student’s amassment of mere facts and figures the highest priority in his teaching style.  “Facts and things” are worth nothing lest they are subject to the inherently reflective and critical nature of human intelligence.  Put most simply, it is the quality not the quantity of knowledge that is most important to Dewey, and this quality is akin to the reflective power of the human mind and its ability to connect bits of knowledge and discern their greater meaning.  By this definition, psychology, as a discipline, is all about the quality.  It is an abstract science that engages in distillation and reflection to determine the complicated nature of human consciousness.  This high order of thinking is of necessity in a quality teacher.

Dewey’s second reason for asserting that psychology should have a role in educational practice is its value for teacher training.  Why should it have paramount value in the training of our educators?  It is for the simple reason that the educational dilemma is one with distinctly ethical and psychological roots.  It is a dilemma that must be solved by men and women who possess a clear knowledge of what is best for the human mind and what methods and devices will bring out the best of what human nature has to offer this world.  Psychology and ethics represent to education what anatomy and pathophysiology represent to medicine.  The two former are fields of study which seek to rationally explain human nature just as the two latter are fields of study which explain the workings of the human body.  How are you going to be a great educator of human beings unless you understand human nature itself and apply methods by which you can assure a positive and natural growth of mind and character?  It seems to be common sense, right?  And yet we all encounter those teachers who just completely turn us off and we wonder why.  Well, this is part of the reason.

Next Post: Opinion on Dewey’s Thoughts so far And……Dewey’s Three Resources Available in the Work of Education Other than Psychology: Native Tact and Skill, Experience, Authoritative Instruction in Methods and Devices

I Dream of Reality: Poem III

A basketball court

With gargantuan dimensions

Enough to accommodate many children

A young woman, dark skinned, arms crossed in front of her chest

Even from afar, I feel intimidated, belittled, unimportant

She’s picking children to go play in the game

On the other side of the court

With a casual wave of the hand and pointing of a finger

She decides who enters the game and who remains

On this side of the court

I am next in line

Staring into her intense gaze

My eyes focused upon her mouth

Chewing that gum with purpose and force

I feel her judgment reigning down upon me

For now I remain on this side of the court

Terrified at the prospect of crossing over

Yet I know I will not be chosen

I sit-cross-legged on the red concrete

And gaze into the sky

Sunlight consuming me from all angles

Squinting my eyes, I try to watch the game

On the other side of the court

I see the basket, the net, the rim, the backboard

Suddenly the ball comes into focus

Like my eyes have natural zoom in ability

It bounces once rim to backboard

Then twice more on the rim before

My vision returns to normal and

Whether it swished  I can not ascertain

How far is it?

It is the horizon

From my vantage point

An attractive yet unattainable goal

From a basketball court to a school auditorium

Hundreds upon hundreds of students

Some from college, most from high school

Chaos reigns supreme

Projectiles flying through the air

Expletives flying from mouths

A wholly unruly and disorganized atmosphere

Teachers and administrators

Scrambling up and down the aisles

Trying to elicit some sense of order

But failing in their humanity

Just as much as the students are failing in theres

There is someone at the front

But  he is shrouded in darkness

Crouched in my seat

Aghast at the spectacle before me

I sense he is the leader of the teachers

But there is something wrong about him

He wields authority but has none

He reaps benefits but deserves none

He is a leader but does not lead

Suddenly I know what I must do

I must be authoritative, I must lead

But not how he has

Through control, fear, intimidation, manipulation

But by inspiration, compassion, concern, empathy, mutual respect

Now I stand and address one of the teachers

He stands before a huge window

Sunlight streams into the room

I say “We want respect, I say we want democracy

I say “We want a Voice”

Then it ends

His response remains out there

Yet to be decided

You call this a quality education??

Where’s the accountability was the question that entered my mind as I eagerly awaited for cell biology to end and summer vacation to begin.  Despite our final test grades having been given back and our fates being sealed, he still feels the need to drone on and on about something or other in his usual patronizing tone…..I don’t know…..DNA, RNA, the wonders of cell biology.  I think its three times already he said, “Oh one last thing before you go.”  Now he’s talking about how we should all appreciate his class more, and how we are smarter for having taken it.  It take every ounce of self-control not to burst out in a rage and leave him with a nice verbal parting gift.  I regret not having done so.  He’s a little man with a big ego.  He needs to feel like the savior, our saving grace, the man of the hour..minute…second…millisecond…nanosecond.  He belittles you when you try to answer a question.  Even if you answer it correctly, he still won’t acknowledge it but instead will try to reword your answer.  He constantly needs to reassure himself of his rightness, his superiority.  He’s twenty minutes late to class everyday and gets ticked off when you’re two minutes late.  He disappears during class and comes back with a multitude of excuses.  He wants your cell phone number at the beginning of the semester, so he can call you when you don’t come to class.

“I’m really gonna get in their faces,” he says for the people who came to class….another of his ego-boosting tactics.  “A bio degree is a dime in a dozen.  You guys are paying thousands of dollars in tuition and I would think you guys would wanna get the most out of it.  I made an s-load of money as a consultant, so I know what it means to be successful.”  I’m sorry.  Is this supposed to be a factory?  Is this merely a marketplace and I am your mindless product?  I thought college was supposed to a unique learning environment.  He tells us he used to do some major scientific research.  I’m confused.  Did Felician College hire an egotistical scientist to be not only the A&P, cell biology, and bio seminar professor but also the chair of the department of natural sciences?  Exactly what qualifications did he have to be an educator when you hired him….cause I am at a loss to pinpoint even one?  And there is yet another problem with America’s educational system….hiring people who have not been educated to be educators…… to educate!!…..A+ for the college hiring process.  And just to clarify that I am not a chronic complainer, this is the opinion of most students who have ever taken a class with this man.  Let’s be honest.  Most college students are chronic complainers when it comes to their professors.  Some don’t deserve it but most certainly do.

What’s especially outrageous about all this, is that my college requires teachers to give out a standardized class evaluation to its students at the end of every semester.  But we never hear how the college uses these evaluations to assess teachers or make changes in certain classes.  Also, the evaluation is scantron multiples choice with yes or no answers, and its the same for every class whether it English, or Criminal Justice or cell biology.  How does that make any sense?  How in the world can the higher ups can any sense of how a classroom is functioning and whether the students are learning, from a scantron?  I have an idea.  Come down from your lofty perch unannounced and observe the classroom, listen to our complaints, and most of all….RESPECT US!!!  We are not stupid.  We know that evaluation is a mere sham and an exercise in futility.  If all you care about is the grades your professors submit at the end of each semester than you have no right to call yourself an educational institution.  Grades don’t give the whole picture…they don’t even give half the picture.  I sincerely regret not speaking up this semester about these injustices, but next fall I certainly will.  Get real!!!!