Archive for September, 2009

Zone of Proximal Development and its Challenges

A learner’s first priority is self-worth; this can be promoted by ensuring students are working within their zone of proximal development (Vygotsky).

Self worth is measured by one’s sense of competency and achieved though the successful completion of exigent tasks. As a history teacher, I need to ensure that my students are working within their proper zone of proximal development.  If I fail to provide the proper balance of intelligible and challenging material, I will be unable to open students mind’s to new ideas, cultures and beliefs. Individuals tend to avoid failure in order to protect their self worth. This leaves them reluctant to experience conceptual changes regarding their thoughts and beliefs.

We are studying the ongoing healthcare debate in class and recently watched a series of videos aimed at giving the students a general understanding of the material.  The second video in the series

contained advanced concepts, which many of the students did not seem to understand; however, a handful of students were able to conceptualize the material. The video was only three minutes; those who may not have understood it were most likely not too discouraged, and if they were, the following video was more simplistic in nature. Teaching to various levels has its challenges and the level of course material must be delicately balanced.


Setting the Tone

While my instructor is monitoring study hall, I stay in his class in order to watch another teacher instruct.  The teaching styles are enormously different; this teacher is much younger, teaches an entirely different group of students and different subject. Exposure to as many different teaching styles and subjects is essential to my own personal growth as a teacher. In developing my own teaching style and methods which suit my pesronality, I must absorb and evaluate as much as possible.

The younger teacher uses a few techniques I found to have a significant affect on the tone of the class which I would have otherwise not thought of on my own. For example, because we only have 50 minute blocks, when assessments are given, they usually take up the entire class period. In order to put the students at ease before a test, he

opened the class with a “Brain Buster…What gets wet as it dries?” The students had a blast attempting to solve the riddle, and laughter was abundant.  The teacher effectively acquired the students’ attention, engaged them in metacognitive thought, and made them laugh. He didn’t just walk into class and say, “alright, sit down, quiz time.” Rather, he set a cheerful atmosphere filled with encouragement. I also really appreciated how he didn’t rush the kids through the quiz stating, “Any quizzes still out? Okay, no problems, take your time.”

Political Awareness

The teacher I am observing has this bumper sticker posted on the wall. I found it fitting to the class being taught. Before the school year started, the teacher emphasized to me that the main goal of instruction was to eliminate apathy towards politics and develop a political awareness.  The American Federal, State and Local governments have an enormous impact on nearly every aspect of one’s life.  Often our government and democratic values are taken for granted; it is important that students come to understand the affect government has on the individual in addition to society as a whole.

Image of Disability in Society

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This image represents an example of the social and political injustices faced by individuals with physical disabilities. The stipulations and definitions of the recently passed ADA law were vague, allowing them to be skirted or ignored by businesses. The angle at which the bus was photographed emphasizes the not only the large size of the bus, but the enormity of the situation and ridicules the public and political ignorance to the discrimination taking place. It stresses the public’s backward perception that the problem lies within the individual with the disability rather than societal barriers, Advocates for increased accessibility reflect the belief that a disability is the product of the relationship between a person and society. According to Berube, a prominent journalist, every image has the potential to shape the way a “disability” is understood in our general culture.  This image was designed to be a powerful political message.

The significance of ‘wait time’

When I came across this concept in the book, it seemed perfectly reasonable. However, I stopped to think about it and realized that while it is extremely logical, it is not something I would have become aware of on my own. Looking back, I often found myself daydreaming and unfocused in class because I felt as though the teacher was moving to quickly.  Sometimes I even felt dumb because I was not able to rattle off answers as quickly as the other students.  Truth be told, had the teacher paused for a few seconds after posing a question or statement for analysis, I would have been much more likely to be able to develop an opinion or thought.  Other students’ responses would not immediately overwhelm me.

This is an especially important concept for history teachers aiming to engage students in discussion. More students participate in class discussion because they are less likely to become discouraged as I often was. With additional student participation, a greater variety of ideas and outlooks are presented. Students therefore are able to make connections, associating previously acquired knowledge with new information (transfer) to explain societal relations; in consequence, they make connections, which can be applied to the present as well as the future.

Salem Demographics

  • Black race population percentage significantly below state average.
  • Hispanic race population percentage significantly below state average.
  • Median age above state average.
  • Foreign-born population percentage significantly below state average.
  • Percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher below state average.

Teachers in the city claim that it is very community oriented.  With a population of just under 37,000, local businesses and organizations are highly involved in the education process. Based on socioeconomic factors, Salem HS has been titled an, “outperforming school district.”

“Salem received this honor for reporting, over a two year period, higher percentages of students who are proficient or above on state reading and math tests when compared with other VA school districts with similar levels of economically disadvantaged students. There are 12 such districts in Virginia. This is the second year in a row that Salem has received this distinction” (

After exploring the city’s profile and real estate market, I found a diverse range of available housing and incomes; however, not much diversity in relation to race.   I noticed this in the classroom prior to researching the city’s demographics.

Overall, Salem High School continues to meet AYP standards and perform exceptionally. The student drop out rate less than 1.5%; 60% of students graduate with an advanced diploma and ~32% with a standard diploma. I look forward to learning more about the communities which make up the support network for Salem High School.

Obama Address to Students

Is it the job of the President to motivate students and make speeches on occasion as he did on September 8th?