Mr. Morris uses his creative and communication skills to interact with students and faculty in a way that engages the imagination and makes learning fun!

Mr. Morris is tech savvy! A Google Certified Educator, he gets it done! Below, read two essays by Pancho on education in America today.

CONSTRUCTIVIST TEACHING WITH ENGLISH LEARNERS

by Pancho Morris 

Teaching South American students English and guitar as well as tutoring English Learners (ELs) with the program Unidos, has offered me a glimpse into the inner lives and educational aspirations of EL students. They are ambitious. They are intelligent, curious, hardworking and so are their families. Why else would they have come to America? One advantage that we had as tutors was that we were allowed to teach in Spanish and English. But for many teachers, they face the dilemma of having to give English instruction only. A teacher wants to obtain a modification on her student's behalf but the administration policy of English-only education gets in the way. It is frustrating to see this situation unfold. Systemically, students aren’t set up to succeed. This isn’t only a story about people having to make hard choices—this is the story of structural inequality in America’s schools. ELs have the right to an equal education like everyone else. Their intellectual curiosity has value. A constructivist approach could help differentiate education so that student doesn’t lose interest or get trapped in the inevitable frustration that comes with learning in a second language. I believe strongly that a dual language constructivist approach could be the most effective way to reach students who are motivated and have strong intellectual capabilities in a subject area but feel trapped by the language barrier.

One thing I want to take into the classroom is a resolve to constructively subvert administrative incentives to teach to the test. If I can improve the educational quality of life for a child pursuing their education, I will do that job. You have to understand the rules well enough to subvert them constructively, but I disagree with the thoughtless following of rules that hamper teachers and students both. Know when to strike. Pick your battles. But ultimately, meet students where they are. Model well the acceptance of any consequences. Show students why rules exist and for what you are willing to sacrifice to break them. This teaches students to have perspective and values. You don’t have to be mysterious. Be transparent about your tactics. Expose yourself conscientiously as an educational experiment. Question: When a student asks for your help but you have to bypass a school policy, how do you determine the opportunity cost of subverting the rule? Let’s take the example of Moises. I believe his teacher did the right thing at least attempting to secure a Spanish language test on his behalf. Even if she couldn’t put it toward his grade, she could use it as a teaching tool. She could demonstrate to Moises that he has value. Her choice was moral and the objective was noble. It is a rule worth breaking. Modifications should be allowed for ELL students and teachers should have carte blanche to use them. It is funny that I’d always previously thought of modifications as something you had to do—not as something you have the power to do on behalf of your students. When I think of it that way, it feels less like anxiety-inducing work and more like a privilege or special power of mine as an educator. Additonally, I believe EL strategies are effective strategies for all students.

            I am a constructivist. Contextual, curious, intrepid, progressive, experimental, and ultimately socially extroverted. I believe when we name our feelings, beliefs, values and practices, we come to know ourselves in infinite languages.

Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligence Test

By Pancho Morris

 

I should begin by acknowledging the cheekiness of this assignment. If the prompt were honest it’d have been more transparent in its diction—a tier three vocab word that I take (according to question one of the Birmingham Grid Multiple Intelligence Test) little pride in employing. Asking us to consider the learning “styles” of our learners is a red herring, and to satisfy the prompt in earnest would defeat the purpose. That is, if you believe Woolfolk Chapter 4. Allow me to get to my point:

Accommodating for student’s learning preferences does not improve learning, so what other value might accommodation in the classroom have? According to Woolfolk, making students aware of their learning preferences can provide them the wherewithal to self-monitor their progress. Judging one’s comprehension of subject matter is tricky. On the one hand, we all have a general idea of our capabilities and interests; however, studies show that if given the option to learn only where comfortable, students can become complacent and adverse to alternative ways of learning. Ultimately, this can lead students to overestimate their comprehension of class content, which hinders progress. Awareness of learning preferences does not only benefit students’ ability to regulate their studying, but can help teachers to account for student differences in learning. By diversifying our instruction, we can “go wide, drawing on all of [our] aptitudes and resourcefulness…” (pg. 141).

While we don’t have a clear answer as to what kinds of environmental diversification have a positive effect on students (do students perform better in comfy chairs, or straight chairs?), we intuit that different types of spaces can offer students more choices—this is a nice quiet place to read, but over by the couches I can study with a friend. Torrance recommends less structure for exceptionally bright students who, as solitary learners, tend to motivate themselves and rely less on teacher intervention for instruction. Going beyond either/or however, it is beneficial for these students to receive diverse instruction as well.

After taking the Multiple Intelligence Test I was pleased to find I had 6 of 8 intelligences with a score of 3 or higher and no intelligence with a score less than 2.71. This tells me that I am comfortable utilizing most, if not all, of my faculties and very likely capable of teaching in every style. Adaptation and versatility come very naturally to me, so I hope to make use of this quality in the classroom. In the two categories (Logic/Math, Spacial) I scored 2.71, I could improve my aptitude by becoming more acquainted with puzzles and mind games that sharpen cognitive abilities. I am not much one for crosswords, but if given the choice between a crossword activity and failing my TPA, I think I can manage a crossword. To become a better spacial instructor I can become more proficient in the creation or curation of data visualizations that will bring an element of visual learning into my classroom.

 

As someone who is very comfortable lecturing, story telling, and leading discussions I expect my inclination would be to fall back on what I’m good at; however, to balance my act, the inclusion of visual aids and formulas or equations where applicable could only improve the quality of the lesson. It is no surprise to me that I scored well over 4 in the Musical, Language, and Social intelligence categories. Everything on those lists—from using poetry and lyrics to using oral storytelling and acting technique—I already regularly employ in my teaching and performances. My outstanding categories (Body, Self, and Nature) scored high threes and after reading about the ways I can incorporate those intelligences into my curriculum, I was not intimidated. Rather, I felt complimented and reassured that, where diversification of technique is concerned, I do have what it takes to be an effective teacher.