Evaluation Paper for 98-99 Year

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A Personal Reflection of the First Year in the UMD Master's Cohort, Int'l Falls, 1998-1999 - Donna Frederickson > >

It has been a long time, actually 30 years, since I had the opportunity to be a college student. Since I began teaching, I have taken some classes and attended workshops and conferences to enhance my teaching and to discuss education issues with colleagues. However, the idea of working on a Master's Degree was always a tantalizing vision. Everyday life, family and location always seemed to get in the way of that vision and deem it impossible. Finally, my children were in their own jobs or off at college pursuing their dreams and the possibility of me actually working on a Master's Degree became a reality. I sincerely thank UMD for their cohort program and making this program available to our remote community and me, who are all three hours away from Duluth. The cohort idea is wonderful and I feel that it can, and will, work. >

The year began with work on a mission statement for the cohort, discussion on individual and group focuses, the mechanics of how to facilitate classes and accomplish cohort and personal objectives, choices in reading material, necessary requirements and the development of a class syllabus. Since members of the cohort teach in different areas, the cohort idea is supportive and respective of those teaching areas and the cohort objectives could be tailored by the individual to fit their teaching areas. It was very important for each of us in the cohort to be involved in a learning program where we felt that we would be receiving beneficial knowledge to enhance our teaching. We also had an opportunity to do personality profiles to discover individual characteristics in order to build awareness in the complexities of the group. >

I encountered my first problem with the cohort program when it came to my non-existent computer skills. The instructors from Duluth said that we had to have our material posted on a UMD cohort web page. Fear and panic set into this old gal immediately because I had learned to type on an old manual typewriter 35 years ago and presently did limited word processing on a very old Mac computer. So, the cost of the class suddenly went up to include a new computer, Internet access and a computer class. I never dreamt that I would ever spend time "surfing" the net, but it has become a non-threatening activity for me. The class that Dr. David A. McCarthy offered in International Falls this past winter, Educ 5412, helped. However, I was not comfortable enough with my computer skills to enroll in the continuing classes. >

For our reading activities, the cohort learned of a new periodical, the Utne Reader. Terry Anderson was, in his gentle manner, insistent that our class read and reflect articles from the Utne throughout the year. I must admit that I disliked the magazine at first, and that's putting it mildly. However, in retrospect, I am happy that he did pursue the reading assignment with us. It has inspired thought and consciousness. One reason the magazine has become more interesting to me is because I enjoy reading works with a Minnesota connection, and the magazine in published in Minneapolis. Now, after I read one article from the magazine, which I feel that I want to review, I find myself reading the majority of the magazine and having a difficult time selecting "the one". >

The first Utne Reader article I read and reviewed was close to my heart. I am concerned with the overuse of our natural resources. We have a lake cabin and it is so wonderful there. However, the lake could be cleaner and the fishing could be better. The old timers in the area are always saying, "Oh, remember when the water was crystal clear and the fishing stringers were always full after a day of fishing?" That is a frightening scenario. I want to preserve the enjoyment, beauty and wonderment of the lake and fishing for grandchildren. In the article, "Ocean Solitaire: Fish are disappearing by the millions, so why is the salmon in your local market so cheap?" by Bill McKibbon, (Utne Reader, June 98, LENS Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, pp.60+) the ocean is in peril due to over fishing, disrespect and lack of concern for the natural resource. Money and wants are more important than preservation. Technology has made it possible for knowing where the fish are and larger catches, thus depleting supply. However, in spite of all of this present day technology, a method of preservation and redevelopment of natural resources has eluded invention. >

The second Utne Reader article I read was about Ken Wilber ("Interview: Ken Wilber, Up close and transpersonal with the philosopher king of consciousness", Mark Matousek, Utne Reader, August, 98, pp.50+). I have not read much philosophy since I was in a college freshman philosophy class in 1965 and Ken Wilber is the same age as me, so I had to read that interview. I had an idea that his ideas would be "far out," but I found myself able to align with his thinking. The greatest statement from article was, "Why does the development of individuality in people lead to the collapse of responsibility?" Too many people are being individuals today and feel no responsibility to other people, family, jobs, systems, beliefs or natural resources. Wilbur stated that mankind is obsessed with progress, and that is so true. However, all of our cutting edge technology cannot repair problems in human responsibility or "make" natural resources. Wilbur feels that too much progress can defeat a society. Is that going to be true? >

The November-December Utne Reader had an article by Scott Russell Sanders, entitled "The Stuff of Life ( Utne Reader, Nov-Dec 98, pp.47+) that seemed to trigger all of the frustrations that I was having with the busy yuletide season. In the article Sanders was once caught up in materialism and wondered how he had gotten there, why did he have or need so much stuff and why couldn't life be simpler? We create "stuff", accumulate "stuff", have to find more space to handle "stuff" and have to take care of "stuff." The article reflected on the misuse of natural resources and necessity in our lives for so much progress to produce the "stuff" and at what cost. Sometimes the "stuff" can be physical, and other times the "stuff" can be mental, but either way, there is a tendency to accumulate more than what is needed and what is good for us. >

In the fourth Utne Reader that I read, another gray haired man caught my attention, Satish Kumar. This article was entitled, "Satish" by Jay Walljasper (Utne Reader, Jan-Feb, 99, 76+). Satish is a former monk who once walked halfway around the world to promote peace. When he approached world leaders in this walk for peace, he gave them tea packets and told them to sit down with other world leaders and have a cup of tea together before they fired missiles at each other. Satish is from India and when he was young, he read a book by Gandhi, which influenced him greatly. He referred to the principles stated by Gandhi as tenets for living, not just a religion, but a spiritual consciousness that becomes a way of living. That statement and the entire article reminded me of the book by Stephen R. Covey, "Principle-Centered Leadership" (Franklin Covey Co, New York, NY, 1991), which Terry Anderson assigned to us to read as course work. In the Covey book, Chapter 7,pp.87+, the "Seven Deadly Sins" written by Gandhi are stated. The correlation of these tenets in the article on Satish and the book by Covey, reemphasized the need for Ghandi's principles of character, truth, work, honesty, sacrifice and humanity in all aspects of our life. >

Now, in retrospect, I see a common thread evolving for me in the year's readings. In the "The Quality School" by William Glasser ( HarperCollins Publishing, New York, NY, 1998), which we read, Glasser states that principles, character, responsibility, conscience, consistency, logic, patience, care and compassion are vital to living of our life and to the way we interact with others, whether that be the classroom, community, environment or family. The attempt should be made to live our lives as an example to others and how we would prefer to be treated, the old "Golden Rule" philosophy is still evident. I found similar suppositions from all of my readings, and yet with all of these writers vocalizing similar themes, mankind just has not gotten it yet! Maybe it is the uneasiness of the millenium, world tensions, natural and man made tragedies, mistreatments, misuse of resources or age, but many times I feel that the world is moving too fast. Do we need all of this progress, and what is this progress going to cost us? I sometimes yearn for a simpler time with fewer things to take care of and wish that I had more time to smell the roses along life's way. We have so much. And, is it too much? What is all of this progress costing us, our children and the environment? I fear for future generations and I fear for those less fortunate. >

My readings this year, plus the many excellent conferences and classes that I attended, have given me plenty of material to contemplate, practice and incorporate into my life and teaching. That feeling of being a student again is hectic, challenging and confusing, especially when overwhelmed by job and daily life. However, coexisting with those emotions is the stimulating side of the educational process. Fortunately, it is that stimulation that keeps me forging ahead and planning for that which I have to do next. I have always believed that it is good for the teacher to become the student once in a while, because it is so easy to forget what it is like! - And now the entire International Falls Cohort has that chance.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 1999

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