Interview with Alaska Public School teacher - Elizabeth Morey

In this TYC podcast original interview Nicole talks to Alaska public school teacher Elizabeth Morey. Homeschool parents often can’t help but compare themselves to their public school counterparts and it is refreshing to hear some progressive teaching ideas and practices coming from the public school sector. Elizabeth is a good family friend and passionate about teaching. We are grateful to bring her insight to the TYC podcast.

Podcast Show Notes:

To get things started Elizabeth explains that she started teaching because she needed a job but she quickly fell in love with teaching and is concerned that sometimes she likes it a little too much. Her biggest passion in teaching is seeing kids develop a love for reading and really taking off with their reading.

The beginning of the interview describes in broad detail a regular school day and quickly moves into to the planning of teaching.

One of the most important things to do early on in the school year is to develop overarching theme for the year. This absolutely gets easier as you develop experience. The year is also broken down into quarters for easier review and to allow Elizabeth to hit major subjects.

Elizabeth teaches 2nd grade and has recognized this as the year that students really take off. As an example it is not uncommon for 2nd graders triple their reading rate.

The beginning of the year is always an interesting time and there is a certain feeling out and familiarization time between teachers and students. Respect does not come automatically and this is the time when it is build.

  • This beginning of the year time is also the perfect time to lay down some expectations, rules, and how to behave.

RTI – Response to Intervention – This is a program used to identify and focus on teaching goals for individual students.

  • Apply a goal based program and continue to monitor progress for kids that may need additional help.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Skills

We were glad to hear Bloom’s Taxonomy referenced. We have talked a lot about the taxonomy of learning and are happy to see that it is heavily utilized in public school.

  • Evaluation
  • Synthesis
  • Analysis
  • Application
  • Comprehension
  • Knowledge

When talking about kids of different levels in the same classroom it important to note that kids that are ahead don’t necessarily want to be set apart from the class. As I am sure you can imagine this can lead to a variety of frustrating dynamics in a large classroom. Elizabeth solves some of these issues by assigning work that is similar in subject but on a different level of Bloom’s taxonomy to kids of different levels. This allows kids to continue to work in the same groups and doesn’t exclude and segregate kids.

  • Aims web (words per minute fluency test) – MAP assessment – Measurements of academic progress
  • Elizabeth uses the modeling approach to develop understanding calling it the Triple teaching approach. I do, we do, you do.
  • Keep in mind that the triple teaching approach needs to be adapted to different age levels and levels of development. For example older grades need more “you do” and more collaborative work.
  • “Kids can’t learn everything on their own.” ~Elizabeth Morey~ This is where the I do and we do comes into play.
    • Even much of the modern research from Sugatra Mitra and others shows that kids involved in self directed learning need some type of direction. This direction can be as subtle as Sugatras’s granny cloud which simply asks kids to show more, or explain it a little more, etc.

Reading Magic – Mem Fox – One of the most impactful books on reading that Elizabeth has ever read.

Elizabeth states that everything in life will require reading and TYC could not agree more. Developing a love of reading is important but more importantly the future of kids depends on their ability to read well weather they enjoy long form reading or not.

Goals of a Teacher

Elizabeth believes that a Teachers goal is to make their student’s life easier. We have not ever really looked at it in this way but I can understand the point she is making.

Reading aloud remains a very important lesson for older kids.

Elizabeth uses a variety of brain based learning techniques.

  • Hear it, say it, see it, write it. Or change the order to stimulate different portions of the brain.

Most difficult things about teaching

  • Social skills are difficult because kids are often more isolated than in the past. Kids are not getting what they need from their families, communities, and friends.
  • Socialization is often taught by older family members aside from parents.
    • We found this bit about socialization a bit ironic coming from a public school teacher. The truth is that socialization is always an issue and that many people will struggle with social issues for most of their lives. There is no one way to teach socialization and public school has its own set of socialization issues.
  • Difficulty with incorrigible kids. Analyze what the real problem is. Pre-teaching behavior skills in a non-confrontational way is an important way to model skills and get in front of the problem.
    • Rewards are the next step in motivating incorrigible kids.

The Crux of education

Testing, testing, testing. . . Testing is a double edged sword.

  • All testing is done once per week plus there are other full days of testing for state tests.

As we would whole heartedly agree Elizabeth states that no curriculum is 100%. Curriculum must be adapted and supplemented as necessary.

When starting out as a teacher the first year teacher’s goal should be to teach to the curriculum. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

One thing we found interesting and a change from when TYC was more closely involved with the school system is that tenured teachers may not be rehired based on performance.

Generally kids that do well in class also test well but there are always outliers.

What a public school teacher would change about school

If Elizabeth could change anything she would test less and consolidate tests.

  • But she does feel that some kids need the deadline of testing.

Last words:

“Teachers need to develop a love of learning. If you lose them you will lose them forever and they will not be successful in life. We are building a community here.” ~Elizabeth Morey

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