Taking Roll

Schools are, once again, overwhelmed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this current stage, some districts have shut down for days at time, others are asking parents to serve as substitute teachers. All that was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: August 31, 2020

Election day now almost 2 months away, and new battles forming over who in Texas gets to vote where and how. The Texas Secretary of State’s office threatens legal action over Harris county’s plan to send absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the county, we’ll have the latest. Also a mass shooting in Odessa one year on, and the effort to hold the seller of the firearm legally accountable. And Daron Roberts on athlete activism and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 13, 2020

Defunding the police: It’s gone from a phrase on a protest sign to a real discussion as cities finalize their budgets, we’ll have the latest. Also, Hispanic communities have been especially hit hard by the Coronavirus. But why? We’ll dig in. Plus a contact tracing technology experiment of sorts in a perhaps unlikely venue: the GOP convention. What it might mean for the general population. And one of the darlings of Sundance this year was a documentary about a bunch of Texas boys. We’ll have the story. That plus more on schools and COVID-19, today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: April 24, 2020

Are you ready to get back to normal? Attitudes in Texans on a planned return to business as usual or something closer to it. A new UT Texas Tribune poll on how Texans are feeling about efforts to curb the impact of the Coronavirus. Also, how the school lockdown is playing out on the other side of students’ laptops. And the week in Texas politics with the Texas Tribune and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Higher Ed: Agree To Disagree (Respectfully) In The Classroom

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about creating and maintaining healthy and respectful environments – especially in the workplace. But what about in the classroom? In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the keys to keeping the classroom an open and respectful place.

Ed believes everyone in the classroom should have a role in keeping the discussion civil and the tone respectful even if there are passionate disagreements about what is being taught or discussed. But he believes the conduct of the teacher goes a long way in laying the foundation for a respectful culture. For example, Ed says he used to be more vocal and open with his instant comments and assessments about students’ answers. But he started to understand that could unintentionally stifle students’ input if they fear differing opinions might be met with lower grades.

“Allowing everyone to share their reflection or their thinking or their feelings or their interpretation, their analysis, and then let the other members of the class pick it up, to me is a more powerful way that opens the conversation. I’m trying to get people to put themselves out there in my class.”

What about when things get disrespectful, heated, or downright ugly in the classroom?

Ed says getting students to agree at the beginning of the semester to some “rules of the road” for handling classroom discussions can help ensure a healthy, respectful environment.

“At the very beginning of the course, to basically have the entire class, with ownership of the students themselves, create in some sense rules of engagement and ways that we’re going to proceed…. And some instructors actually write these things down.  They become ‘here are our guiding principles'” about how people in the classroom will treat each other  – and specifically when they disagree.

What is the one practice Ed believes everyone should embrace to help keep the classroom civil? Listen to the episode to hear more (that is a big hint right there!) and to get a new round of riddles. The more serious puzzler is still taking a break for the holidays but will be back in January.

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Higher Ed: Speaking Up And Speaking Out In The Classroom (And Elsewhere)

Remember the character on the 1970’s tv sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” – Arnold Horshack – who enthusiastically waved his hand in the air and bounced up and down in his seat because he always wanted to answer questions in class? For many students, speaking up in school is actually something they try to avoid. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the dynamics of classroom dialogue.

Believe it or not, Ed says that he did not enjoy answering questions in class, especially when he got to graduate school. He says he felt self-conscious, intimidated and insecure in a classroom full of math scholars. Ed says one strategy that can work for some instructors to bring students out of their shells is “cold calling” on students to answer, whether they have raised their hands or not.

“I know how I want [students] to feel” in the classroom, Ed says. “Some instructors might want people to feel very comfortable and very safe and so forth.  I want them to be on their toes and never to know what is going to come next so they have to be ready.”

What about the opposite situation: students who answer constantly in class at the expense of others?

Ed says that can be a disruption so he developed a strategy for handling it. Ed says he would praise those students for their participation but tell them they no longer needed to raise their hands, since Ed knew that the students knew the answer. He promised those students that he would still call on them from time to time, but was letting them in on the “inside” of how the classroom works. Ed says the students felt appreciated and included, and the strategy allowed other students in the class to find their voices.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about what can be a delicate balance of classroom dialogue, and to hear a new puzzler. This one is really more of a riddle, and you will need to take your time on it.

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.