Monday, August 13, 2018

Back to School

Cornelia scrutinized the row of averaged scores one last time. With a wry smile and a shake of her head, she erased the word “Failed” and replaced it with “Pelle Dentium” (Latin for “skin of the teeth”) She had enjoyed Henry’s wit in her Latin classes and decided to pass him in spite of his absences during spring planting season.
            With a sigh, her thoughts returned to her future. Young women are supposed to look forward to marriage and be thankful for being spared a life of spinsterhood. However, once she married Joseph, she would have to give up her position as English and Latin teacher at Oneida High School and assume the responsibilities as head of the household at the Mosher Farm.
            “I should be ashamed of myself,” she thought. “Joseph is a fine man with a strong sense of responsibility and a warm sense of humor. He has worked for my father for several years and will soon be ready to capably manage the farm operation. He is respected in the church and community and has been a godsend to my mother during the years that I have been away. God forgive me for any reservations about marrying him.”
            Grades and attendance records competed, she left the school and walked the two blocks to the neat, white house where she had boarded for the last four school years. She had less than half an hour to finish packing before her father came to pick her up. Most of her belongings were already packed in the familiar wooden trunk. The first time she had packed the trunk was when she had boarded in Galesburg to finish her high school education. At that time, Oneida offered only two years of high school, and her father had been determined that she would receive the best possible education. How proud she had been; many of her grade school companions had not even completed eight full years in the country school near her home. She had excelled in her high school studies, and in 1900 had packed her trunk again, this time to move to Whiting Hall at Knox College.
            She was nearly finished with her packing; the last item to place in the trunk was a long, narrow pressed wood box, a gift from her sister when she had left home. Containing important mementos, this box had held a place of honor on the bureau of her bedroom in Galesburg, Whiting Hall, and Onelda. Most of the mementos were from those stimulating days at Knox--where she was known as Kit, not Cornelia. She picked up the white kid gloves, remembering the many special occasions when she had worn them. She looked at her graduation photo, recalling how stylish she had felt in her new shirtwaist with the smart, high collar. Unfolding the the Commencement bulletin dated June 10, 1905 she again felt the pride she had felt when the Dean had called, “Cornelia Mosher, Summa Cum Laude.” Her family had all been there, equally proud. Her eyes lingered on several letters from close college friends, now married and caring for young children. She knew that she must accept a new period in her life.
            She would marry Joseph, and they would take over the family farm and home as her parents had done thirty-three years earlier. She would care for her aging parents in gratitude for the sacrifices they had made for her education. Even though she would likely never teach again, she would use her talents in the Congregational Church her grandfather had helped to organize. She and Joseph  would provide a loving, Christian home for the family that they would have.
            This would be her life, a rich fulfilling domestic lie...but she would never forget those few stimulating years of her academic life. Cornelia could not help wondering if there would ever be a time and place when a woman could combine the best of both those worlds.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

It is pretty obvious that continuing to teach and keeping a blog did not work out well together! Now that I am re-really-retiring, maybe I will actually keep up with a blog and enjoy the creative outlet. I have about three weeks left in my teaching career and have been tackling the arduous task of clearing out over 45 years of accumulation of "stuff" from my years at AlWood.

Many of my own books have made it to my classroom collections, so I have been sorting to decide
what to take home and what to leave for my colleagues. I told my seniors they could have any of my spare books, and one dedicated reader picked out a pretty impressive collection for her summer reading.

Today, in the back of my Technology "Office" which is really a glorified store room, I tackled a metal rack filled with hanging file folders. I have not used in quite a few years since I am much better at organization using Google Drive than I am with paper files and folders. I moved through it pretty quickly, throwing away paper copies of students projects, records of Professional Development, and documentation of various initiatives from the State of Illinois to prove our kids are learning.

I slowed down when I came across a blue folder containing a pile of documents printed on a dot matrix printer. The folder also contained notes and other artifacts from the mid-1980's when I was working on my Master's Degree in English. It is fascinating to read my own words, some of which I had forgotten all about.

I will share one of them in this post, and perhaps some others later. The short essay below was a descriptive writing assignment from English 598-Teaching Composition and Grammar. Here it is:

Whatever Happened to Baby Jill?

My down-to-earth, tomboy daughter has turned generic junior high. Her short, straight blond hair has been moussed and sprayed into modern-Madonna curls. Her eyes are adorned with blue eye shadow that clashes with her dazzling purple and turquoise outfit. Her high-on-the-cheekbone blushes matches that of her two best friend.

When she breezes in the door quipping, "How's it going, Dad?", my husband shudders. When she monopolizes the telephone, bathtub, and radio simultaneously, her younger sisters complain. When I watch her admiring he slim, budding figure in the mirror, I feel pride and fear at the same time.

Occasionally, she forgets her new image--like when she scrambles after a wild pitch as catcher for softball team or races her bicycle down the lane to the pasture. I also see glimpses of an older Jill when she capably dispenses her grandfather's medication or carries her sobbing little sister to the bus.

But for now, I must endure this loud and temperamental creature who is only masquerading as my daughter.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Technology Changed Teaching and Learning: A Personal Observation

My observations are not based on scientific research or the writings of experts in the field. Rather, I am speaking from my experience in fifty-nine years as a student or teacher in public education. It goes without saying that I have witnessed amazing changes in the use of technology in the classroom. I am not so sure that students and teachers have changed so drastically.

When I was a child, we did not have a television until I was in the fourth grade; I was the last kid in my
 class to get a television. Before and after we got a television, I was an avid reader. It is interesting to me that kids of today are criticized for spending too much time on a computer and not getting enough exercise. No one ever criticized me for reading books instead of playing outside! I still do a lot of reading, some websites, some books, books on my iPad.

In grade school, we sometimes watched movies or filmstrips, but most of our information came from our textbooks or the teacher. If we did research reports, we usually depended upon the World Book Encyclopedia which were often out of date. Sometimes students would plagiarize by copying the encylopedia article word for word. I guess it at least took more effort than copying and pasting from wikipedia. When we got bored in class, we would often pass notes (rather than text), but our teachers did not take away our paper and pencils!

I took typing in high school using a manual typewriter. I was terrible at it and made many errors that could not be easily corrected. We were often not allowed to use erasable bond typing paper (a great innovation in the 1960’s)! Papers would be entirely written by hand and only typed as the final draft. The same was true for typing papers for my college classes. I would often have to start over several times in order to type a paper with no errors.

I have always been interested in the power of multimedia. When I taught junior high social studies in the 1970’s, we created slideshows with 35 mm slides. I purchased a little gizmo that would take close up pictures from a book. We would then have to wait until the slides were developed to assemble the slide show. Background music was added later by playing a record during the presentation. Perhaps that experience makes me more appreciate PowerPoint, SlideRocket, Voki, and numerous other tools.

During the 1980’s, I taught research papers to high school juniors. Students were limited to the resources we had in the library. Books that we had on current topics were often outdated. Even though students learned to use the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to locate magazine articles, our library did not subscribe to all of the magazines. Sometimes back issues of the magazines were lost or damaged. A few students would go to public or college libraries to try to find more information. I encouraged students to type their papers, but most of them ended up having their mothers type them for them. I often think of that when people today say that computers make people lazy!

Does technology make it easier to learn? I am not sure. Technology makes many resources available. Technology gives us tools that make it possible for students and teacher to incorporate information and multimedia relatively easily. But technology does not make it possible to magically transfer knowledge into the brains of students. Whether students are listening to a lecture, reading a book, reading information from a website, or watching a multimedia presentation, they still must think and relate to the information in order to learn. Technology is a tool that must be used effectively by humans in order to be effective. However, it does not make sense to me why students and teachers would not be eager to take advantage of all the resources that are available. In my opinion, the goal of education is to produce life-long learners. Technology provides unlimited opportunity for people to make use of new skills to learn about whatever is interesting or important to them.

My Decision to Start a Blog

As I was finishing my end-of-school work for the forty-fifth time, I made a decision. No, I am not ready to completely retire, but it is time for me start blogging!  I have seen many things change in education since I entered first grade in 1952.  I have also seen many ideas and "innovations" come full circle resulting in little real change. I have listened to several generations of teachers and parents complain about the younger generation's bad attitudes and disregard for education. I have watched several generations of "typical" teenagers grow up to become productive members of society and effective parents. This blog will be my chance to state my observations about the state of education, discuss those who influenced me, and share some memories of my years in the classroom...both as a student and as a teacher.
Yearbook Pictures from 1968 and 2013