We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are." ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley~

Loehrmann Family Favorite Recipes

Monday, August 28, 2006

Reflections on my BYU Education - from 2006 Email with Birrell

To: james_birrell@byu.edu
Cc: jessicamere@msn.com

Hello again! Thanks for the reply! I'd love to "toot my horn" to BYU (not 
in a bad way, but just to help improve things of course). I really am glad 
that I went to BYU, and am grateful for the experiences there. What I'm 
finding as I am starting in a brand new school with many new teachers, is 
that many of them who went to other schools simply have different 
experiences and walk away saying how fantastic they all were. I felt like 
my experiences in the schools were helpful in that I was able to see what 
being a teacher was really all about... not to romanticize the profession 
though. What I mean by that statement is that I saw what different teachers 
felt about and did with the profession. I saw teachers who "got by," and 
yes, that was a "mentor teacher" of mine. I didn't think he had any 
expectations for the kids, let alone ones that would let a bunch of mexican 
kids in a low class neighborhood reach any real life goals that would let 
them change their situation for the better. Another teacher I was with was 
a dear, older teacher who knew what it meant to "teach an old dog new 
tricks"... because she DID learn the "new" stuff, and just let the kids 
soar. She was phenominal! She was exciting, always moving (it was 1st grade 
after all) and always teaching with her heart. I think a key thing that's 
hard to understand is on the one hand, it is "just" a job. We get paid to do 
a job. But that job isn't "just" a job in our eyes because we see the 
difficulty and individualized nature of the task for each and every student 
in our class. So, it's not "just" a job, rather a lifestyle that you live 
for 9 months out of the year as an activist for student learning and 
bettering the education system.

What was hard for me was to get a wake up call that many of the things we 
"theorized" about meant little as I stepped into the classroom. Why why 
why, for example, were we not required to read something like The First Days 
of School by Harry Wong, or The Essential 55 by Ron Clark, to give us the 
"hands on" "rubber-hits-the-road TEACHING (notice I don't say doing, 
because we did get that: in the classroom experiences with other teachers), 
all the best practices in action... why didn't we actually practice an 
actual school day? A parent conference? Printed copies of poster and 
bulletin board examples for a wide range of concepts? This would have been 
helpful. The reason for teacher burn out is stress. Think about how it 
would be if we would be making teaching materials (REAL MATERIALS!!!) for 
our future classrooms as part of our training!!!! We need hands on, and 
things IN OUR HANDS!

I remember in an education class where "The Monster Portfolio" is required, 
many of us would leave wondering what on earth we'd just talked about. The 
reason why: We'd just been talked to for over an hour about theories, 
practices, but DOING them,... US DOING THEM, and reading/discussing HOW to 
BEST do them ... that wasn't part of that class. And the sad thing about 
the portfolio... nobody will ever look at again, because getting the job has 
nothing to do with a portfolio. It has more to do with who you know and how 
you get along with the team... bottom line. That's the real world. There 
are so many applications, the principals don't look at portfolios.

And although the reading/literature classes, for example, were great windows 
to seeing many great pieces of literature, but why didn't we practice 
running a reading group? Why wasn't that modeled for us?

You know what was fantastic?? The "extra" classes. They hit the nail on 
the head. In my art, music, drama class, and PE 375 classes, we saw, we 
wrote, we talked about, then we taught. AND... we collected lesson plans 
from the entire class, which I still have for each of those subjects, which 
I can use this year since our school has no specialty teachers.

BYU did a great job of teacher Rubrics, with which we were also rated when 
we student taught. This carries over well into all grading situations where 
we can use rubrics, but we could look more at practical things such as a 
real grade book. We need modeling!
We end up teaching this way, and it seems that we should also be TAUGHT this 

Foundations of Education should hit things like the debate with charter 
schools, and give a real picture of the situation now, and give us more 
outlets to help change the education to better serve our true clients... the 

And classroom management. Oh how it was drilled into our heads that it was 
one of the most important (if not THE most imp't the 1st year!) thing, why 
wasn't that modeled in our "normal subject" teaching classes. I feel like 
the social studies class was phenominal, but the day to day teaching of a 
whole day was somehow lost. How was integration showed? We got a separate 
class for the "specials" (art, pe, music, dance, etc.) with teachers who 
used plans, and structure, but yet our teachers that were supposed to teach 
us about teaching itself merely lectured.

In my student teaching, I felt that I was successful, and achieved one of 
the highest grades on the very first round of Teacher Work Samples that were 
completed in 2004. However, I felt that the way in which I was "shown the 
ropes" was a bit unprofessional. Having never had a model, lessons were 
ripped to pieces in the teachers lounge in front of other teachers. Later, 
in a more appropriate place, I simply asked what that student teacher mentor 
would have done with that lesson. Based on her answer and EXAMPLE, I was 
able to use that model/ that form to create my next lessons which she then 
found fantastic. Why the pitfall first? Lack of modeling. If BYU has such 
phenominal teachers, which I know it has, who now teach the normal 
"teaching" classes, where is the engagement of the students? Where is the 
hands on, so that we LEARN, and don't fall on our faces when we are actually 
taking precious teaching time from a professional teacher to "practice" on 
our little experiments. Don't we owe it to them? They deserve quality... 
not a science experiment! Don't send us out to fail. Show us, then let us 
FLY. With your impressive backgrounds and amazing teaching abilities, we 
can only do better!! We won't waste as much time. We will "get it" faster.

NOTE: The "master" teachers we work are not always "the best" in the 
school. I have seen aMAZING teachers in the school where I taught PE for 
one year get passed up in favor of having a student teacher work with an 
"older"/ more "experienced" teacher. Experience does not always equal 
better. If you do the same thing wrong a hundred times, ...yes you've done 
it longer, but not better than the teacher that "got it" her first year of 
teaching. Ron Clark won "teacher of the year" in 2000, and other candidates 
thought he was grate, etc, but said he'd never win because he hadn't been in 
the profession long enough. Oh boy. That attitude has to get flushed, 
because education is always evolving. You wouldn't go to a doctor who 
practices medicine the same way he did 25 years ago, so why do people still 
do math the same way as 25 yrs ago? Or science, or spelling, english, 

I'm just saying, ... all school districts might use different programs, but 
some concepts can be used across the board! And if they're statistically 
proven, like Shurley English, or Saxon Math (the traditional public school 
teachers that care all seem to secretly teach saxon math, even though the 
district adopts this book or that... wonder why??)

Let's learn about these! Let's figure out why they work, or why they don't! 
Let's learn about the system of education and what we can do to influence 
legislation as teachers... not just be sheep in a union where mob mentality 
takes over. Do we know what it even means to be part of a teacher's 
union??? If we did would we still want to join?

Those are my thoughts as a graduate from BYU, and a currently employed 6th 
grade teacher.
If we change the program with the teachers and their future students in 
mind, they will all succeed.

Thanks Dr. Birrell,
you were always my favorite!
Jessica Loehrmann