Monday, October 31, 2011

Overdue Check-In

It's been a while since I've written. Too long, as it turns out. A big part of that is a reflection of just how busy a month October has been. Another factor is distraction. One reason is fairly legit; the other not so much.

That said, there's been no shortage of things going on and things on my mind, and a couple of them I'd highlight:

1. This past weekend (Saturday morning, no less) I helped present at our district's Technology Open House. I have to say I thoroughly loved the experience. My conversations with district parents, kids and residents were excellent, had depth, and were quite heady on topics ranging from what I'm doing with technology in my classroom to how students are implementing technology in their own learning to big-picture 21st-century learning skills and the ideal classroom. What a rewarding experience to have intelligent conversations with so many people.

2. Keeping in theme, Nicholas Carr was in town last week for a national librarian conference. A big part of his time that day (or so it was reported) centered on his essay about Google's effect on intelligence.

Here's why those two items go together: it is incredibly important for me as an educator, parents as parents, my boss as an administrator, etc. to guide students as best we can on how to maximize technology tools for the benefit of their learning and growth. Our district's/community's focus on 21st-century learning skills has been a very important discussion - no matter the search engine, tablet/smart phone brand, or computer - students must  have transcendent thinking & learning skills: collaboration, problem-solving, research, analyzing/synthesizing, evaluation, etc. to be successful. I'm glad so much of our focus is there, as opposed to being too worried about hardware all the time!

Finally, I've been thinking a lot about why I do this and the general importance/impact of teaching. I've always thought there's an immediate, local impact with what I do - tons of old students are always stopping by, babysitting my own kids, asking to be TA's, etc. Last week a kid who was up visiting from Alabama after her family moved spent a chunk of Friday in my room because some of her friends were on a field trip. It's nice to know your classroom can be a "home base," even for alumni. I recently found out, however, that my friend's little sister is teaching English to students in Africa (Djibouti), and I can only imagine the impact her efforts are having on so many people. To follow up her great efforts and the reflections from her experience, read her blog here.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I've read a couple interesting posts/articles the last couple days. This isn't really unusual; I seem to do this on a fairly regular basis. You know, read stuff. Anyway, it is the content of these particular pieces that has me thinking. Thinking about HOW we teach what we do, and WHY we do it these ways.

Beyond this new information, there has been a lot of discussion at my school over the last six months centered around standardized grading and standards-based teaching methods.

Sometimes what gets lost in the debate over the merits of the 'flipped' classroom, allowing retakes and other educational issues is the simple fact that thoughtfulness is so extremely important. Worried that students will not study enough for the first testing go-around and take advantage of multiple retakes? Develop a thorough process students must go through to achieve ONE retake; make them prove they have evaluated what standards they are not proficient at yet, how they plan (with your support) to gain the needed knowledge, what sacrifices they are willing to make - before- and after-school help, lunchtime sessions, etc. - to reach this goal before they can have another crack at a retake. Worried that the 'flipped' classroom idea isn't a good one - not for you or other staff at your school? Again, think. Best practices still apply. Students still need to be engaged, the chance to problem-solve, collaborate, and apply content in various forms. Simply replacing a lecture format upheld by outdated teaching principals won't change too much...I liked what the author of the blog entry on the 'flipped' classroom had to say about this. It's exactly what this is all about - thoughtfulness.

Finally, I read an article written by Alfie Kohn last week - complete with snark - regarding some of the popular phrases teachers can say over time. Granted there's plenty of sarcasm, and probably extreme in some cases, but in a fun way it just drives home the point: thoughtfulness in what we do is important!