Feds look out for fledgling teachers with new online survival guide

“If you are new to the teaching field–or if you work alongside someone who is–then this book was written for you,” begins the introduction to the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) new online tome for beginning educators. Available free of charge on ED’s web site, “Become a Teacher: Survival Guide for New Teachers” features a number of resources for rookie educators, including reflections from fellow first-year teachers recruited to “talk candidly” about their experiences, “with a particular emphasis on the relationships they formed with their colleagues, university professors, and their students’ parents.” Readers will confront a whole host of issues currently affecting the modern classroom–from cultivating effective professional relationships to reaching difficult students. While the resource won’t teach young educators how to run their classrooms, it should help as they try to make the difficult transition from teacher to student. Says ED: “This book is one attempt to make the exchange of knowledge and support for new teachers an institutional practice–for the benefit of students and the communities they represent.”

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PBS’s “Evolution” explores the human nature of scientific change

Divine intervention takes on the Big Bang Theory in this PBS-sponsored web site intended to help students navigate the thorny evolution dispute being waged in school board meetings and science classrooms nationwide. A companion to the seven-part PBS television series “Evolution: A Journey into Where We’re From and Where We’re Going,” which first aired in 2001, the site explores everything from the philosophies of Charles Darwin “to the vast changes that spawned the tree of life & to the power of sex to drive evolutionary change.” The series also explores the emergence of consciousness, the success of humans, and the perceived conflict between science and religion in understanding human life, according to a synopsis on the project’s web site. Several interactive features help bring the debate alive for students and teachers. For instance, a special section called “Learning Evolution” contains seven online lesson plans. With topics such as “What is the Evidence for Evolution?” and “Why is Evolution Controversial?” the content matter is sure to fuel intelligent, lively classroom discussions, and should provide students with a basic understanding of the issue from both sides of the debate. Other features include a library of instructional videos and a specially designed Teacher’s Guide created to help educators navigate the sensitive subject matter.

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NEA jazzes things up with new multimedia music curriculum

“Jazz in the Schools” is a new web-based, multimedia curriculum from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that explores jazz as an indigenous American art form and as a means to understand American history. The five-unit, web-based curriculum and DVD toolkit are available free of charge to high school teachers of social studies, U.S. history, and music. Lesson titles include The Advent of Jazz: The Dawn of the Twentieth Century; The Jazz Age & The Swing Era; Bebop & Modernism; From the New Frontier to the New Millennium; and Jazz: An American Story. Each unit includes a teachers’ guide with teacher tips, cross-curricular activities, and assessment methods, as well as student activities, period photographs, video footage, related musical excerpts, and links to additional resources. The curriculum was produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to jazz, and supported by a $100,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation.

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