Thursday, July 29, 2021

Final Post: What Message Do We Send?

Academic Pressure and Mental Health | MindPath Care Centers    

    Full Disclosure: I got a little carried away and listened to episodes 163-169 this week. Between episodes 164, 167, and 169, I was most impressed by the idea that we send messages to kids through our classroom practices. The most obvious and clear example of cognitive dissonance for teachers is thinking our classrooms encourage risk-taking and individual thinking when in reality grades pressure students to conform to set thought processes and make as few mistakes as possible. 
    I didn't have many issues with grades until college, and in many music theory courses (similar to math) I was failing not from a lack of understanding, but the weight of my assignments as I first was figuring out the concepts we learned in class. On the flip side, too much emphasis on a final test can create unnecessary anxiety for other students who don't test well.
    We have known for years that one-size-fits-all approaches aren't effective and disproportionately disparage students who need a teacher's help the most. 
    One thing I know as someone who has been a student for the past sixteen years is that many teachers with a one-size-fits-all approach are well-meaning. Maybe they learned best that way, or have had success with students using this approach in the past, or they are preparing students for a very real challenge (e.g. AP Exams, college work-ethic, GRE). 
    The main issue with this is that generations change, and amongst even a class of students there will be diversity in how students interact with the content. Re-evaluating different pathways to success may mean more work for educators, but it's the most student-focused approach. 
    As a music educator, I look back to my high school experience in orchestra for the messages we learned. While there's much to be interpreted in the overwhelmingly white and male canon, the biggest message I got was that orchestras were elite. Part of this was natural association; I would walk into the Fox Theater and see boomers wearing large jewelry, fur coats, and drinking eighteen-dollar glasses of champagne. A large part though was looking at the students we celebrated in orchestra- chamber kids. 
    The chamber was limited to sixteen students from our sixty-student string program, and every single one had private lessons outside of school. A large majority also had parents who were in the Spokane Symphony or were monetary donors for the symphony. As much as we like to say students can succeed with enough practice, it's clear to me now that the curriculum and competitions we participated in were aimed to show off these students - not to teach everyone else.
    Teachers need to change their mindset about the standards we create for our students. Are they inclusive to different learning abilities, socio-economic status, and cultural backgrounds? Are we teaching a certain way out of interest for our students or out of convenience to ourselves? Only when we think about the purpose behind our teaching (or the mission statement) can we move forward in education.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

What Does It Mean To Prepare for a Future We Can't See?

    Despite belonging to the Gen Z crowd, I have to admit I wasn't into tech as much as my peers until very recently. I didn't have much money growing up and saw people replace one iPhone with another and thought it was a waste. My ex used to jokingly call me "a grandma" because of my lack of understanding and appreciation for smartphones, video games, and tech in general.

    I saw tech as a distraction and new gadgets as investments that only lost value once purchased. Only with the pandemic did I start to appreciate the resources at our disposal. Not only did the internet make distance learning possible, but it helped people connect in a way unimaginable even ten years ago. Profesors who had studied code and kept up with technology had classes that were more streamlined and easy to follow. The profs who never posted grades online or used blackboard before the pandemic had, frankly, some of the worst classes because they had refused to learn any technology until they were forced to learn in 2020. 

    I've since realized, I don't want to be the fifty-year old who doesn't know how to work a (proverbial) projector. I don't want to label myself as "non-techy" and rely on other people to figure things out for me. As an educator, I should set the example as someone who continues to learn new skills throughout life. With that in mind, I recently started to learn some basic coding. I'm not sure how relevent this skill will be as technology becomes more user friendly, but I do know that the people in my life who have studied code are more confident in their abilities to figure out different programs and platforms on a computer.

    As we learned in class, creators are going to rule the world. The more we can shift our own understanding of tech from something to consume to something to utilize, the more we can prepare for the future we can't see. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

THIS is My Resume


    For a good part of the course, we discussed how to responsibly approach our own social media as educators. I've known for most of my life that the way I present myself on social media can hurt my chances of getting a job or being accepted into college, but something about "this is your resume" spoke to me. 

    For mental health reasons, I've avoided following social media as much as possible. While consuming social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy, treating it as a "one-way street" would allow me to participate in digital networking without losing valuable time to the endless scroll of Instagram. 

    I have a unique last name, and can confidently say that I am the ONLY Cassandra Jabbora in the world. Google my name and you will learn that I have a senior recital on YouTube, was an honors student, Rotary scholar, and (disturbingly) any address I've held in the past ten years. All of that, while good, was posted by people who weren't me. It's time that I take control over my narrative.

    I created my first Instagram post, sharing a picture of myself and colleagues in a pit orchestra for a gig in the Valley. Over time, I'd like to share classroom ideas and even TikToks related to music education. I know, because I've googled most of my teachers, that students will look me up. I don't want there to be nothing; I want to let them know who I am.

    To wrap up this blog post, here's a TikTok by miss_stiles. I admire her humor and insight in the teaching profession, and clips like this inspire me to participate in my students' digital culture. 

Wikipedia - Scapegoat of Misinformation

Higher Intelligence And An Analytical Thinking Style Offer No Protection  Against “The Illusory Truth Effect” – Our Tendency To Believe Repeated  Claims Are True – Research Digest

        When Wikipedia was touted as a reliable source in this course, I immediately drew on years of bias and reservation toward the site. Years of teachers telling us not to use Wikipedia because "anyone can write anything" made me untrusting of using the site for anything besides bibliography mining. 

    Something funny about this mistrust though ... that same criticism isn't used for biased news sources or websites that end in ".org." I remember one project in particular where fourth-grade Cassandra researched a nineteenth-century American inventor and told my entire class that he batted another inventor for title of "Superior Wheat Harvester" at high noon. My teacher kindly gave me an A-minus and reminded the class to stay off Wikipedia, even though I had found that information on a blog-style website recommended on the school computers. 

    As I've grown, I notice the same people who told me to stay off Wikipedia sharing Facebook "news" based on the headline. People young and old know not to use Wikipedia, but have no issue trusting almost any other website. In social media and television, there is a growing movement to share "both sides," even if one "side" of the argument is completely false (Dr. Oz, I'm looking at you.) In the name of hearing everyone out, we've allowed fake news to run rampant. It's the Illusory Truth Effect. If we hear something false enough times, we subconsciously believe that it's the truth. 

    As noted by Feldman's Intelligencer article, Wikipedia has no problem deleting false information. Moderators from all viewpoints decide what they can generally agree to be true, and there is no incentive for Wikipedia to benefit from user data or advertisements because of its publicly-funded model.

    Teaching students to navigate Wikipedia goes further than scrolling to the "Resource" section. We can ask that students only use articles GA or above (GA, A, FL, FA). While finding primary sources is important, well-reviewed secondary sources are huge in academia. I looked for information on Joseph Bologne and was disappointed I didn't read through all the information before writing a fifteen-page research paper a few years ago. Why reinvent the wheel piecing together his life when I can look for someone else's research.

    Wikipedia, like all sources on the internet, shouldn't be taken at face value. Despite years of being told not to touch the site,  I'm a convert and feel inspired to help edit a couple articles of my own. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Google Classroom Tips


While creating a new class, you can add details such as name, description, and add a header image (theme template) for personalization. You can select from the bunch of default themes or upload the photo from the PC. You will be mostly fine with the default ones as they are divided neatly into categories such as Maths & Science, Arts, Sports, History, and more.


Tap on the select theme in the header image, choose a theme and apply it to the classroom. Copy the class code and invite students to join the class.


This is a fairly basic option, but very important when you are dealing with dozens of classes and subjects at a time. As you may know, by default, all the created classes get saved in the Google Drive folder. You can change the folder color of the class for easy discovery and personalization.


Go to a class > Classwork > Class Drive Folder, and it will open the relevant folder on Google Drive. You can rename it and add numbers in the title. Then, right-click on the folder to select Change Color from the context menu to assign a new folder color, which by default is set as boring grey.


This is a must-have for all the teachers. Google Classroom has added the ability to schedule assignments in advance. You can create assignments, add relevant details, comments, grades, and either publish it or schedule it for a set time. You will be able to see the scheduled assignment with name and time in a grayed-out section in the Classwork menu.


Do you know that the Google Classroom creates a separate calendar for every class in Google Calendar? You can go to a class > Classwork and select Google Calendar. There you will see the separate calendars for the classes you have created. If you don’t want it to interfere with your personal calendar, then uncheck the box with your name next to it. Users can also change the color of the calendar.

Google calendar


While handing out assignments, you might want to provide resource material for the project. Teachers can go to Create > Material, add title, description, provide resource files from Google Docs, Form, YouTube, or Web. Select category and tap on the publish button at the top.

As you may already know, one can set the total grade marks for assignments. After the submission from students, you can give them grades. But even better, teachers can use the private comment function to give out compliments to students personally.

Private comment

When you are dealing with hundreds of students in the class, it can be head-scratching to keep track of grades. While giving out grades, teachers can use the filter menu to sort out students by surname or the first name. It makes the whole process smooth for the teachers.

Sort by name


Google Classroom allows teachers to send out an email to all the students on the go. You can always send an email to students individually, but isn't that tedious? Of course, you can send an email to all of them right from the Classrooms interface. For that, you can go to Marks, select assignment, select all students from the following menu, and select Email selected students.

Email all


During classes, you might want to invite other teaches to the classroom. Thankfully, Google Classroom allows you to invite others to handle the class. In a class, go to People and tap on the Share button to invite other teachers to the classroom. I have seen teachers sharing a classroom with their assistants to review the submissions.

Invite teachers


Teachers can use this function to start a debate among the students. Go to a Class > Classwork > Create > Question. You can add a question, choose from the short answer or multiple choices, add instructions, pin a file, and most importantly enable the Students can reply to each other option from the sidebar to post the questions and let the students discuss the topic internally. That's as good as a group discussion.


Google provides a handy Google Classroom extension that allows you to share interesting articles and news to students using the Classroom extension. From a webpage, just tap on the Google Classroom extension, choose a classroom, and share the content.