A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mr. Kurland's Virtual Classroom

I've been up all night and was at my desk all day updating my virtual classroom and cleaning up my PortaPortal links. The main sections that I worked on today were the Reading and Mathematics sections. The reason why I invested so much time in this project was to prepare for upcoming field work and presentations. I wanted to make these resources available to my fellow cohorts and for the student that I will be working with on a Curriculum Based Assessment Project.

If you get a chance to look at some of these resources and go onto my Virtual Site, which is obviously under construction, please drop me a comment. The link is located on the sidebar just below the LibraryThing Gadget.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the run

Today, I've been arranging field work opportunities that must be completed before the end of the current school year. Yikes! One of those field work experiences will involve a Curriculum Based Assessment project, where I'll be required to teach a single objective and assess over a period of 6-8 lessons, taught every other day, and assess at the end of every week -- it looks like I've lined up an opportunity to teach a learning objective to a 7th grade math student. Another will involve an interview with a Para-educator (Instructional Assistant) to observe and discuss co-teaching, collaboration, and other issues. I'm close to a Para-educator -- check!Another set of observations will concern different areas of reading development (phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), and various modes such as receptive (listening and reading), expressive (speaking and writing), and viewing (graphing and visualizing). My literacy observations will even include a pre-school student! Hopefully my old friends with whom I collaborated as a long-term sub will allow me to come in to do literacy observations. I've also been in contact with a former student's mom who happens to be a speech pathologist, about observing some assistive technology, her methods, how she plans, and other questions that I can come up with. One thing I already knew, but is being reinforced by the process, is the importance of establishing and maintaining strong personal relationships!

The program is extremely product-oriented, so we're writing lessons, solving collaboration issues, designing ways to make learning universally accessible, etc. One thing I never expected to have to do was to have to reach out to so many people that I know to gain the field experience that I need. Reaching out is turning out to be a good thing.

After a week, the toughest thing has been coming to the realization that the reading is, unfortunately, secondary to the product. A deep processor by nature, I'm having to set aside the highly detail-oriented style of learning I learned at Georgetown, to adopt a speed reading style. Adaptability and mental velocity are critical!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Piaget's Pre-operational Thought and Compatibility with Social Learning Theory

Piaget’s Preoperational Thought, and Compatibility with Social Learning Theory: Learning to Read at 3


            My mom taught me how to read when I was 3 years old. According to Piaget, logical thinking would have been very difficult, if not virtually impossible for me, at that time. Since I had been read to daily from birth, I had an ear for the language. My mom challenged me to learn how to sound out words. I still remember learning to read as being painful. As the youngest child, I was an eager learner, and always wanted to be able to do everything my older siblings could do. Plus, my love of stories motivated me. Thus, I quickly became a fluent reader, who read mostly on an emotional level of rhythm and tone.

            Reading was magical as a child, as I loved folk tales, mythology, and hearing the rhythms and tone of children’s stories such as Wait Til The Moon is Full, by Garth Williams, or Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Language Mediation

Because my mom valued reading so highly, her book choices were always beautifully written and illustrated. When my mom taught me how to sound out words, and used Dr. Seuss to model word patterns, she was using language to mediate the process of teaching me how to read. At 3 my egocentrism precluded what reading specialists today would consider genuine comprehension, but I was able to respond on a level of feeling, and a level of appearance, i.e., how it sounded.


            As an apprentice reader, my mom frequently took me to the library, which was another thing that fostered a lifelong love of reading. I would not have known what books were suitable for me. She helped me traverse my Zone of Proximal Development, and the feelings of accomplishment have lasted a lifetime. While my understanding was surface level as a 3 year old, I sounded great!

Vygotsky Concepts

Vygotsky’s Concepts: why I chose ***’s PDS MEd. Program

May 10, 2010
By Daniel Kurland
Psychology 231
For ***


My experiences as a Career Switcher in education fit Vygotsky’s Social Learning Theory. In 2007, I earned a PreK-6 License in Elementary Education. While master teachers offered useful theories and anecdotes, despite feedback provided by my program-sponsored mentor, my program did not include student teaching. While launching a Kindergarten class as a long-term sub this past fall, a friendly colleague confided that nobody would hire me without student teaching experience on my resume.


In my first year, I taught a 3rd grade class full of English Language Learners in a Title I School. The Title I Math Specialist agreed to be my in-school mentor, pushed in and helped me plan. The Title I Reading Specialist also pushed in and helped me plan. I had no experience in setting up class routines, lacked skill in classroom management, had never lesson planned, and lacked experience planning for small group instruction. Despite ungodly hours, I struggled.

Language Mediation

Having started just before the first day, I was handed Guided Reading, by Fountas and Pinnell, and instructed to follow their twenty day model. I was also instructed to set up Responsive Classroom routines. While I was given written resources and some of the procedures were modeled for me, the learning curve was overwhelming.


At ***’s Professional Development School MEd. Program, I will get a thoroughly guided experience. This summer, I’ll do 15 credit hours, doing coursework that will fall within my Zone of Proximal Development. I will help set up a classroom in a Title I School next August, guided by a mentor, participate in a book club, where we will read Harry Wong’s The First Days of School, and attend content area classes. Next spring, I will continue taking classes, conduct research, shut down a classroom, and assemble my portfolio. While I expect my program to be highly rigorous, I know exactly what kind of support I can expect from the program.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Grad School

My first day in Grad School is in a few short weeks and yesterday I attended an orientation. Next spring, I learned, I will be doing my internships in two elementary schools, a Title I school, and a non-Title I School, plus at a high school. I expect to exit the program next May and work in my sponsoring county.

Here's another thing I learned during my orientation: a Title I school achieves its status of eligibility for federal funds based on the number of students who receive free or reduced lunches. The two elementary schools I toured yesterday had totally different feels, mostly because of different differentiation requirements of their student demographics, and partly because of the personality and life experiences of the principals.

One thing I did not get in the career switcher program I attended, aside from student teaching, was the opportunity to collaborate with a mentor in setting up a room and establishing classroom routines before the school year. I could have used a little more guidance. Earlier this year, when I subbed in Ms. P's kindergarten class, she had already set up the room and had provided a launch plan for me to follow. While my kindergarten launch wasn't perfect, it worked. Plus, I was working with a team that was supporting me and understood my needs, being new to Kindergarten.

My lead teacher had 17 years experience, we had two other fabulous teachers on staff, and my Instructional Assistant had worked with Ms. P for several years. Mrs. B, my lead teacher, introduced me to the Reading Specialist and the Math Specialists. In setting up classroom routines, I did so with a team. My Reading Specialist strongly recommended that I enter my current program if I wanted to continue teaching.

My current program has a reading club. We will be reading is Harry Wong's classic, The First Days of School. This isn't the first time I've read the book, but this is the first time I will be reading it with first hand knowledge of everything that can go wrong.

Yesterday, one of the Principals offered a formula for success that involves building relationships and establishing class routines that are consistent, purposeful, and developmentally appropriate.

Upon hearing the news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, it occurred to me that it has been nearly 10 years since I began my journey in education. On 9-11, I was working in a call center in Springfield when we heard the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Many of us were glued to a small television -- we didn't have You Tube back then. One of our young salesmen was crying. Then, we heard a boom from the plane crashing into the Pentagon. The ground shook like a small earthquake. My son was enrolled in St. John's Preschool about a mile away, and after the plane went down, I immediately left to get him. Backlick Road was already backed up. When I arrived, the preschoolers were just waking up from their naps. A few weeks later, I was asked to take over as operations manager at Allied Plywood's Farrington Avenue location, a job that I was totally prepared me for, which seemed like just the opportunity that I needed, but life is never that simple. Our company's two top people were preparing to retire, and changes were about to occur that were unacceptable to me. One Monday morning in February, 2002, I walked into the corporate office, handed in my keys, my pager, and cell phone, hugged an old friend, and walked away from a 15 year career without a plan, but with a line of credit, a pile of cash, and family responsibilities.

That summer, at Ocean City, my sister-in-law Donna, an Instructional Assistant, and her friend Sue Goncalves, an Art Teacher, plus another teacher friend noticed how I was playing with my son Joseph, and recommended that I look into teaching. The light bulb flashed, and I decided to become a substitute teacher during the 2003 school year. When I first stepped into a classroom, I immediately knew that teaching was a career that I needed to pursue. That is when I first began researching licensure requirements for an elementary education teacher. I began taking math and science classes at NVCC -- as an English major and History minor, I had taken the minimum classes in math and science and my grades had not been very good, but as an adult, I made the decision to earn an A in every class. My test scores were great. What I needed was the right opportunity. Meanwhile, cash was draining and my credit line was going up.

An old colleague called me out of the blue to help him with a massive inventory problem related to a difficult conversion to a new computer system, an area in which I had special expertise, and I was hired as a consultant. After my contract expired, I went back to substitute teaching and taking night classes.

With my endorsement requirements completed, I began getting serious about locating a licensure program. I applied at the logical place (which I will leave unnamed) and attended an interview. When I was herded into a room with four other candidates to sit across from five stern looking ladies, I quipped, "which one of you is The Donald?" Needless to say, they didn't like my attitude.

My parents were worried about my state of mind, and called an old friend, Caroline Mano, who was a practicing Psycholgist in DC. Steve Mano was my best friend growing up, and I had grown to love Caroline as an artist and all around cool person. While I didn't feel I needed anyone to talk to, I did call Caroline at my parent's request. Caroline and I had a couple of conversations in which she was clearly seeding my mind with affirmations and probably using hypnosis, but these were the conversations of friends, not as doctor/patient.

A few weeks later, my wife learned of a career switcher program that would quickly me the opportunity to earn a license while continuing to work full time. The open house for the program happened to be that night, on my birthday. I gathered all my credentials and drove out to Sterling, where I met the program director. A few months later, I had what was essentially a provisional license. That summer, I drove around to schools dropping off resumes. At one school, the principal called out the window for me to come in. Her dog was in her office, a bichon friese, and seeing the dog turned on a switch -- dogs have a way of doing that to me. Oddly, my guiding image was a dog. I had always wanted a dog, and my reward for getting a teaching job was going to be a dog. The next day, I was setting up my first classroom, a third grade classroom in a Title I School, with all the issues of poverty, a "5 year" delay in background knowledge, language issues, and zero lead teaching experience. When I attempted my first read aloud and the class stared at me blankly, I knew I was in trouble, but soon, I would have my Mabel.

After this trip down memory lane, time to prepare for the next phase as a Special Education Teacher. As I look up, I can see an inspirational card my parents sent me, which has the following quotation: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars ..."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Philosophy is Everybody's Business: Is Socrates correct?

Philosophy is Everybody's Business: Is Socrates correct?
Max Weismann, one of the most distinguished philosophers of our time, has created a blog where he raises important philosophical questions.