Friday, April 8, 2011

Special Assignment: Mr. McClung's World

Susan G. Komen Clean Air CabImage via WikipediaMr. Joe McClung teaches middle school in Fayetteville, AK. He appears to be passionate, energetic and busy social studies, computer applications, and Arkansas history teacher as well as a cross country coach. Honestly, I do not know how he can teach so many things! I taught two and a half subjects (I collaborated with the half subject) and rarely spent less than 60 hours a week preparing for and teaching class. Of course, I was a fresh out of college, no methods or class management education, newbie. It seems clear that technology is not something he shies away from with his students. He uses his blog to keep the parents updated and show the progress his students are making. I like that he encourages his students to be involved in charity work, especially such a great foundation as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Mr. McClung takes the time to break down what he expects from his students verses rules and procedures. This shows a lot of thought for not only how he wants his classroom to be run, but for what his students need to be successful. I really like his first expectation: STAY POSITIVE! As a student or a teacher it is easy to become discouraged with new material, deadlines, standardized testing and general differences in personalities and daily external pressures of life. I also found rule number four to be out of the ordinary and great advice for more than his class. Learning to make smart choices, by which I assume he means choices that are efficient, effective and best for whatever goals are to be achieved, at an early age will prepare one better for the rest of their lives. People who are most successful in life are the ones who did this early on. They planned ahead, learned to delay instant gratification for long term gratification and did not give up even when the steps for their goals required hard work on their part. I understand the need for structure in a classroom, and perhaps I will change my mind after working in a classroom for a longer time, but I really hate requiring students to raise their hands before participating in class discussions. Of course, I worked with 17-21 year olds initially so that might be the biggest difference. I did ask they let me know they needed to go to the restroom quietly instead of just getting up and leaving, but again, my students both past and hopefully present are at a near adult level and I hope I will be able to mostly treat them as such.

The first requirement that everyone needs is a day planner. With multiple classes and assignments, it is important to stay organized so that assignments are not turned in late or important dates missed. Mr. McClung's late homework penalties are no different than most teachers’ I have had (excluding such wonderful professors like Dr. Strange, who does not believe in grades, although he does prefer us to be on time with assignments). I even used the same penalties with my students. However, I am starting to question this policy with some recent reading I have done. I have not yet decided if this is a policy I will keep, primarily because I found it ineffective. Often struggling students for whom the homework should have been most beneficial turned in sloppy or incomplete work on time or took the penalty and received a better grade before the penalty. Which is better for the student? Of course, how do I encourage students who do not have an intrinsic interest in learning the material? I have so many things yet to work out for my own pedagogy.
I find his hopes for his blog feasible and quite apropos. A class blog should showcase the students’ work and keep parents informed of their students’ requirements. I hope to incorporate a blog into my classes as a teacher. After studying various schools’ blogs through our comments for kids and seeing how much I have learned from required blog posts, I can see the benefit of having students maintain a blog. Not to mention the benefit of students being up able to say they lost a document or forgot a deadline if the class blog is well maintained with such information. Parents as well will be able to stay on top of what their children are learning and will be able to refute lies of “I have no homework.” I can see posting rubrics so that parents can see exactly what is needed to achieve the highest grades. Issues I foresee are as follows: students without internet access and school policies which prohibit such activities.

While exploring the Useful Links I came across the link for Vocaroo. It is such a simple voice recording program. I did not see a way to edit or do anything fancy, but there is nothing to download and embedding into a blog is extremely easy. Here is my test recording:

Two other sites I found interesting included Biology Corner and Guys Read. As a hopeful biology teacher I found many useful lab worksheets on Biology Corner. Guys Read is a great site because it encourages boys to read by compiling lists of books by topic that boys are more likely to be interested in reading. Considering most of the young men I have encountered so far struggled more than their female counterparts in reading, this is a great resource for teachers and parents to encourage their students to read. Mr. McClung's list is vast and covers more than the topics he teaches. This is a sign a great teacher. It is easy to get wrapped up in your own discipline with the vast curriculum, 180 day-ish restrictions, and seemingly ever increasing number of state and federal standardized tests. It is refreshing to see a teacher who provides resources for other disciplines, which will only lead to better students and, as he lists in his rules, a happy teacher.
I found the internet safety guidelines adequate and honestly can not think of anything he missed. It is important that students learn how to protect themselves on the internet. If students know how to protect themselves properly then teachers, principals and ultimately parents will be more likely to feel comfortable letting their students use the internet for learning.

I was assigned the Susan G. Komen for the Cure post. The post described Mr. McClung's challenge for his classes to raise money for the charity. Susan G. Komen foundation hosts "Race for the Cure" races all over the country to raise money to fund the world's largest cancer research program. He lists the goal, $2000, ways that others can participate, and, the part I am sure the students are most excited about, the prize for accomplishing the goal, head shaves and hair dyes! Mr. McClung and the boys will have their heads shaved and the girls will get to dye their hair pink. It sounds like lots of fun.
I would love to say I found something wonderful about Edublog, but honestly I did not explore it. I should have. There was so much to this assignment however that I did not read this requirement until just now, and with my skill for procrastination, it is Sunday and I have run out of time. I guess there are a few features I found useful, but I am not sure if they are or are not available on blogger. The archives and the category selection drop downs were very useful.

Mr. McClung has included many links that students and parents will find useful. He has organized it well so that the important information such as the syllabus and rules are easily found, but the blogs true focus, students' work and special assignments (such as the Susan G. Komen event)is the main feature. Again, the archives and category selection menus are another great way to allow for maximum organization and easy of navigation for the parents, students and other visitors.

All of the student blogs I visited were for younger grades. Even when the blog had a central location, each student had their own page. Mr. McClung's blog does not link individual students' blogs. I assume this means they do not have individual class blogs. I wonder if it is his choice or school policy. I think allowing the students to individual class blogs is a great idea. It allows each student a way to reflect, to share and to teach.
I think Mr. McClung's passion for teaching shows through his blog. If Arkansas schools allow it, the only suggestion I have is for him to set up individual student blogs. I hope I did not miss the link if he does have them already. I call myself having looked. Otherwise, I say keep up the good work!
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