John Dewey: Open Minds

Probably the chief cause of devotion to rigidity of method is… that it seems to promise speedy, accurately measurable, correct results. The zeal for “answers” is the explanation of the zeal for rigid and mechanical methods.

But there is a kind of passivity, willingness to let experiences accumulate and sink in and ripen, which is an essential of development. Results (external answers and solutions) may be hurried; processes may not be forced. They take their own time to mature. Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked. John Dewey

John Dewey on Open-mindedness…

Pause to think about this: “quality of mental process is the measure of educative growth.”

Play with it to realize that standardized tests can never measure true learning.

A Stone of Hope

Pause on this day in honor of Martin Luther King Junior. Play and pray for peace.

This video was made by Nancy Armstrong-Montes, a retired, veteran teacher, and her friend and colleague Jama Van Brunt, a kindergarten teacher. They created the video from images Nancy had taken this summer of the MLK memorial and took the time to voice over the text so that the students at their school would have an introduction to MLK, and give them a Stone of Hope.

#zerotohero Blog With Social Media

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So. Our challenge, Day 17, for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to connect and publicize with social media, such as Instagram and Google Plus.

Pause…

I have inserted Instagram widget on this blog, but I choose not to connect the two otherwise. Instagram includes many family and fun items that may not pertain to my reflections; they will be connected through the widget only.

I choose also not to connect Facebook: I have so many bad experiences with the Facebook changes. I once returned to my page to find all my photos had been turned open to the public because of recent updates to Facebook’s interface. To change  them, I had to go to each photo to return them to the correct shared settings. That took time. I don’t appreciate that. So, while I check and post to Facebook (usually via Twitter), I don’t connect any app to it except Instagram, and then I choose what to post. The user should be in control, not Facebook.

I also did not connect Twitter: I want to decide when and what to tweet, although anyone can tweet my posts, but that would be the reader’s choice. I really use twitter as a connector for projects, so my tweets are directed to hashtags that reflect those projects and connections.  You see in my title that I included the hashtag — that way I can tweet to this community. I like that about Twitter.

Play…

I did connect my Google Plus; I am connected to many educators in one circle, so it seemed appropriate to share and connect that way. We connect professionally and some personally, developing relationships as well as school projects. It’s truly a “community,” a neighborhood online. Sharing seems a good thing there.

What about you? How did you decide which social media to connect with? How do you choose where to leave your digital footprint, a path always returning to you?

#zerotohero Comment to Post: A Reflective Conversation

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So. Our challenge, Day 16, for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to read many and comment on two others’ post from yesterday’s post on a writing prompt [ find prompt here ].

Pause…

I started with my new favorite food blog, because it was breakfast: Made by Steven I enjoy seeing what interesting Japanese, Indian, or other delights he created this time and decided it was time I let him know I appreciate his blog and work:

I love reading your posts and viewing your images; everything looks divine, and the design is pleasing. I especially love your header image — I could reach in and try one, but which? Ah. too difficult to decide. I will one day discover one of your dishes to make. Glad you decided to blog about your passion.

Be sure to follow his blog for delicate delights for your taste buds.

Next, I learned a new word: spraff: to talk a lot about nothing. That’s the blog I read: Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer

I enjoyed the post and agree with your words. “Everyone has different reputations decided by different groups of people,” is so true. And I appreciate learning more about how your music and art are important to you, and part of how you share yourself. I like this line also: “Maybe people would get on with their lives slightly more efficiently if they weren’t worrying about reputations.” So your spraffing today revealed some gems for us to ponder!  Thanks!

He [corrected from She, sorry ] said what I wanted to say — it’s so good to read other’s ideas because their twist of thought sometimes sparks your own, and their way of saying it helps clarify your own. It’s like a conversation in pauses; we learn from each other perhaps more readily because of that pause — that time to reflect that is perhaps deeper than face to face.

And, finally, I discovered a school reputation post from flash fiction author Rob Ross‘s blog Rob’s Surf Report. I could identify with those feelings through the students I have and the sons I raised, who helped me understand the spirit within each child. I told Rob: his post showed

“the spark that rebelled causing a bit of trouble for you in school. I see you survived very well — your blog is interesting, well-designed, and full of diverse postings. I imagine you’ve created a life that is the also full of spirit and interest.

It’s a difficult task for teachers to honor the spirit and also rein it enough to focus on the learning. And it’s an even more difficult task to encourage that spirit to grow in a way that guides without controlling. In today’s schools, teachers are mandated to improve scores, not to nurture nature and help students develop their talents, which, in turn, would lead to success in any area the young person would choose. Since my own boys were those with a reputation, I understood the soul behind the scenes, and always looked to begin conversations with those kids before their year with me — what were there interests? what was it that captured their imaginations? how could I use that to bring them into the learning community, instead of skirting the edges? How do I build in movement and humor? These are the questions I would ask and consider, so “that kid” would find a place in our class. But again, teachers are watched and paced and managed to teach to those test scores; and time is taken that would otherwise be the conversations and activities to honor the spirit of each kid.

Thanks for the reflection; it inspires me to continue the quest to honor each spirit.”

We have many students in our schools who follow different paths, and the current testing frenzy does not honor their spirit, talents, nor intellect. And in my research today I found this post by @EDUCareNow Learning as Belonging. Teaching and learning are social activities as we learn within a learning community for which all students are honored for who they are. It’s a great read and links to a document entitled, The School as a Community of Engaged Learners. Now that’s a goal to achieve. So thanks, Rob — you sent me searching for more support for a different type of education reform.

Play…

So as we post our own thoughts, we also read others, and in both those paused reflections and the continued followed or researched links, we discover a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. And I am thankful for each connection.

Now, if only we could see this as learning, and build these connections and personalized journeys into our schools so each student becomes what is within.

#zerotohero Prompts — Make them Yours

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The writing prompt for today is

Do you have a reputation?

What is it, and where did it come from?

Is it accurate? What do you think about it?


I’ve been in conversations about this today; there’s “stuff” going on around us, and we’re trying to figure it out. But in those conversations are reputations, how we expect people to behave based on past actions.

The thing is, we only see some of the actions of others, or “hear” about them. And we don’t know the stories behind the actions, or the rest of the story, before or after.  We only have bits of information. As Lord Francis Jeffrey has said, “A good name, like good will, is got by many actions and lost by one.” So in our many conversations, it’s important to remember that we all act with the information we have, and that people are more than what we know.

In that respect, I tried to think of what my reputation might be, depending on one’s perspective.

So. I’m pretty quiet, very shy in fact, except when it comes to education. Then I’m passionate about teaching the whole child — personalized and including art, music, debate, etc. —  and not assigning anyone a reputation based on a number, a test score. So I’m stubborn there, and vocal about its affects, which include less about what a child — or teacher — is, and more about our society’s growing lack of humanity or civility; rather we depend on numbers to prove something, instead of just having a conversation and observing what a child or teacher does, day in and day out in regards to learning and improving. So, some might see me as a devoted, innovative, and caring teacher who inspires her students, while others might see a stubborn tenacity to debate and research of those mandates that make data crunching the goal. Some will see a kind and collaborative teacher working with others to build a positive learning environment, while others will see a questioner, a debater, a reminder that other ways could be chosen. Some will see a diligent and focused learner, while others will see a workaholic. So, it depends. What I do know is this: my heart supports the underdog, my mind meanders down multiple paths to find the best ways, and whenever our school community is transparent and open to all views, that’s when we have found the best solutions for our students.

In reflection, I consider this quote from John Wooden: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” There will always be those who misunderstand our actions, but compassion towards them will diminish their unintended harm, and you will grow to understand them better. We only live once, so we must go boldly, and scatter seeds of kindness.

Live to make the world less difficult for each other. ~ George Eliot


About this post:

So. Our challenge, Day 15, for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to write a post — to post on a writing prompt [ find them here ], which are those questions and statements presented to spur our imaginations on those days our minds fail us. Whenever your ideas stop sizzling, take a prompt and personalize it; twist it until it’s tuned to your needs. This was my twist.

#zerotohero Comment Reflection

So. Our challenge, Day 14,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is a choice, and I choose to read and comment on three blogs.

Pause…

My goal was to read educational blogs with ideas for which I am currently considering.

First I found Matt Renwick”s Reading By Example post about being an effective educational leader, which requires empathy. It’s a wonderful post is this educational atmosphere of “catch ya” whether you are a teacher or a student. Empathy. I tried to add some value to the conversation with my own experience: “I even call this moment [“to mentally place ourselves within a student’s circumstance”], the pause, which is a patience children don’t always receive. I pause to let situations sort themselves out, or to notice the mood of the student, and always to allow them the dignity of self-control in each situation. Empathy is needed to build relationships with students, and thereby increase their motivation in your classroom. Empathy brings humanity back into the classroom and helps model and build the learning community.”

Without a learning community, a classroom is just a room full of people wasting their time.

My second and third comments emerged after I bounced over to a favorite blog, Tommy Found a New Book, by  Louise Robinson-Lay . Her post led me to Four Blogging Tips for students. But it also pointed me to two other blogs, including this post and this post about  shifts in learning [see image above — My favorite: From Standards to Habits. Now that’s a transformation, one that benefits learners and teachers — and futures because the “habits” developed lend themselves to all situations].

Those shifts are what I see in those teachers who are allowed to innovate in their schools, and where personalized learning choices will lead. The gap is wide between what could be and what is, considering the current trends in mandates in education.

Play…

So play with this question: These shifts are guided by learners; the mandates are guided by business and politicians. Which will win? Or, will the poor — the equity and access gap — widen even more because only those who have will be allowed the choices in those shifts?

 


Image Source: Terry Heick  at TeachThought

#zerotohero What Might Have Value?

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Our challenge, Day 12,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to carry forward the conversation from one of the three blogs for which we commented on yesterday.

Pause…

In The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman, Grant asks:

“Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.  In schools, if we believe that what customers will value in the future is the same as in the past, we run a real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant as educators. How do we gauge what might have value?”

The rest of the article explains some truths about schools — inward thinking, bound to historical models, and in need of listening to families and students. He grounds the solutions in the work of  Stephen Wunker, who works in new market creation [See Forbes ], suggests ways to assess future value. Be sure to read the post for Grant Lichtman’s application to education.

As I read these statements:

Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.

How do we gauge what might have value?

I considered the past twenty-seven years of my teaching and the many teachers I have known. Those days are gone. What days? Days of respecting the professional decisions of teachers to help students learn, helping them in many ways through as much feedback and practice projects as needed for them to grow in spurts as each is ready to learn. Students engaged in art and music, often integrated in reading, writing, and social studies projects. School could enhance the talents of each student this way, and the projects helped each student learn or practice the needed skills. We didn’t focus on the skills; we focused on the students and added to the projects in different ways for different kids. Teachers spent hours finding – innovating – just the right lesson or activity that would help a kid build his or her skills as they completed the work. There was a wholeness about the process, a compassionate  community of learners with the teacher as guide. A social studies unit becomes a skit, a poster, a speech that synthesizes the essence of the topic. A science topic led to jars and boxes in back of the room or on the window sill to apply and try the learning from the book. Both of these include reading and writing, and many included math. If a kid didn’t learn through the one way, he might learn from his neighbors, or the next project. There were goals, joy, feedback, and continued support in a learning community that respected the wholeness of us as people. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development [ ASCD ] promotes a Whole Child Initiative – be sure to read about it, and I hope you support it.

Today, schools teach in skills by mandates in often scripted curriculum with specific posted objectives to force students to practice the skills in hopes they will pass standardized tests that supposedly test those skills. But kids are funny and learn in different times and ways, and they want to learn more than just those skills. They want authentic learning— learning like John Dewey espoused a century ago, learning that reflects the world in which they live.

So I think Grant Lichtman is correct — schools today are bound to history – a factory model. And schools today are inward looking — and top down — purchasing more and more skills-based programs without realistic connections to students’ lives, especially in schools deemed “poor performing.” Those schools receive more skills instruction and less art, music, and real reading for their own purposes. In addition, the students are speaking out about their need to create and connect as they do in their real lives. However, schools have no funding for the infrastructure or technology to update to this type of access and learning, nor do teachers have the time to learn or try a curriculum with technology tied more closely to students’ learning ideas. Technology alone doesn’t change the direction of education — it will take the teachers again, focusing on what students need — in a more authentic, whole way.

Play…

So, “How do we gauge what might have value?”

What do you think? Do you think we might need to step back and allow teachers to plan for the students in the classrooms, instead of planning for the objectives for a test? Do you think we might bring back projects with art and music with reading and writing and help students develop their thinking, their talents, and their own ways of demonstrating learning? Even without technology, these creative and authentic projects focus students’ critical thinking and motivation in learning. And that would be the value to which we would gauge innovation and success.

Dan Pink explains that people are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. In the past before the emphasis on standardized tests, teachers had the purpose of guiding students’ learning and the autonomy to make it happen using their mastery of curriculum and instruction. And teachers hooked students on the purpose with projects, providing a level of autonomy through choices so students could master the skills needed with support in various activities.

Somehow, we’ve lost that by expecting the impossible: that all children will learn the same things at the same time — in order to pass a test and receive a score that says they have “met” or “not met” the standards. Hmmm. Autonomy? Purpose? Mastery?

Think about your best experience in school. Do you remember when you inferred the main character knew her enemy was nearby? Or do you remember creating something, debating something, doing something?

Let’s step back and see this big picture of learning and what might have value. But you’ll need to step into each classroom to know it’s truth.

#zerotohero Abouts, Follows, and Widgets

Our challenge, Days 8, 9, 10  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge are:

Day Eight: Make Your About Page Irresistible
Day Nine: Head Deeper Into the Blogosphere

Day Ten: Widgets

So.

Pause…

Spruce up the About page. 

That’s not easy — I added my self-portrait poem with links to my own images. Probably not that exciting, but does provide more of a picture or the “who” behind the “what.”

Follow More Blogs

I wonder why there is no “Education” topic? I guess education is only important to bash and bat around in the media. But one of my finds is a fabulous new blog to follow, Rainshadow Farm Institute, by a community college teacher who “unschools” her own kids. She is an anthropologist interested in sustainable food systems. I think this is important work, and I believe people should take such an interest in the children’s education that they just might choose to “unschool” them. I do believe, however, that it would be far better to participate in public schools than to leave them.

Widgets

Widgets I love. It’s easy to get carried away. I had originally very few, but with this challenge I added:

  • Follow This Blog — I called it “Catch New Posts” but perhaps I should change it to fit the theme — Pause longer by subscribing.
  • Goodreads — always nice to share good books
  • Instagram — I call it Instagramma, because, once again, I joined to keep up with that oldest granddaughter!
  • Flickr: I love photography and creating images in visual poetry. I am in year to of a 365 photo project.

Play…

I had slacked off on this blog, but now I’m loving it again. Personalizing the space, thinking about it’s purpose, has helped clarify what I want to do here. Should I challenge myself to 52 reflections this year? Or — For sure, how about you, are you up to a 26 biweekly post?

Do my readers / followers accept that challenge?

#zerotohero The Header

Our challenge today, Day 7,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to play around with the header.

So.

Pause…

I really had already played around to keep a simple theme, but I do love to create. So I found my original pause2play logo created in 2010. I cropped it to just the p2p part in Preview and inserted that into Keynote [ Mac Apps ]. I was able to create a squiggly line with a shadow that leads to the two pause icons and another play icon. I adjusted the colors, lines, and opacity and added the shadow.

I decided it needed a little more, so I added my signature line, Reflect Curiosity and Wonder. I ponder and reflect about things I’m curious about, and I try to reflect that curiosity and wonder back to my grandkids and students. I copied that text and flipped it vertically, and made it translucent. I exported it as a tiff and imported it into Sketchbook Express, where I cropped it [Keynote exports the size of a slide] and saved it as a jpeg.

Play…

I don’t know if I’ll keep it. But I love Keynote for the way I can create things like this when I need them as well as it’s slide presentation capabilities.  The header looks OK on mobile devices, and that’s important to one’s consideration.

Day 3 #zerotohero First Posts Jump In the Middle

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Pause…

What’s on my mind? What was I thinking about writing when I started this blog, or started this blogging challenge?

That’s our assignment today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge.

I’ve written my reasons here and here, but wondered what my first post presented. Jump in the middle...  fits with this task, as it refers to:

“Beginnings are always messy.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright

and explains a strategy we use in our writing classroom: just jump in the middle — starts writing, and go back to fill in the before and afters. So I’ll jump in the middle of that first post and continue:

I talked about the beginnings of our school year with this:

“…from Teaching Unmasked by John Spencer:

‘Still, in the middle of May, I always feel that I should have done more. I should have given better feedback on work. I see some students and think, “I hardly know you.”’

I so identify with that. It’s a sinking feeling because I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student. I should have slowed down, taken one more day for sharing, one more day for writing/conferences, one more choice project each quarter. Each of those would meet objectives and meet the human requirement of personalized learning.”

What happened? We did take pictures of parent involvement, but they didn’t make it into a portfolio, although they easily could.
Why not? Because no matter how I try to slow down, I’m always faced with “I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student.”  It happens every year, and now — teachers are also tasked with documenting everything to prove what they do.  And all of these mandates are based on “research.” Today I read Ira Socal‘s post about research. It’s a long read, and an important one. He quotes Peter Høeg:

“When you assess something, you are forced to assume that a linear scale of values can be applied to it. Otherwise no assessment is possible. Every person who says of something that it is good or bad or a bit better than yesterday is declaring that a points system exists; that you can, in a reasonably clear and obvious fashion, set some sort of a number against an achievement.

“But never at any time has a code of practice been laid down for the awarding of points. No offense intended to anyone. Never at any time in the history of the world has anyone-for anything ever so slightly more complicated than the straightforward play of a ball or a 400-meter race-been able to come up with a code of practice that could be learned and followed by several different people, in such a way that they would all arrive at the same mark. Never at any time have they been able to agree on a method for determining when one drawing, one meal, one sentence, one insult, the picking of one lock, one blow, one patriotic song, one Danish essay, one playground, one frog, or one interview is good or bad or better or worse than another.” – Peter Høeg Borderliners

We are all points on an imposed scale.

And improving those points, that scale, on those tests demands that we work towards those goals, rather than towards the learning needs reaching out from the eyes of the students in front of me. We’ve lost our true purpose of education — to draw out the strengths, to lead the person learning — from where each is to where each dreams to be.  Sad, isn’t it?

Over break, I wrote a poem and sketched a book entitled, “Know That You Can” [ link when available] for The Sketchbook Project.  A verse encourages:

Whatever they try

They hear that, “We can”

Together, learning they could

And knowing they can.

The expectations and mandates of teachers, principals, and schools today do not encourage a positive, nurturing, engaging, yet challenging environment. The only focus is on those numbers because the consequences for not achieving those scores are devastating: school takeovers, school closures, teacher firings, negative community images, more intensive skill-based focus without art, music, drama, etc. The reality of how we learn is ignored.

There’s tons of research on how we learn, how we are all so different and do not learn at the same time in the same way. Here’s just a bit from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog at EdWeek.org :

“…Research by Rosalie Fink…Different students have different interests. Teachers can be most effective not by forcing students to learn from one standard curriculum, but by helping them to discover what they are passionate about, what they are especially interested in. Then learning becomes a natural activity for every student.”

It just makes sense, but the focus — in politics and by those who don’t work in schools but make the mandates — is not about students and sense, but is about sensationalism and scores.

So, even though I need to work with my student’s passions and curiosity, as soon as I get back to school I’ll be expected to teach the standards that supposedly teach to the test (and that’s another story). Our school is filled with dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals and a principal who want the best for students to lead them to the opportunities we don’t even know they’ll have. But we’re tied to mandates that teach to today, no matter what the student’s vision is.

However, we have one addition to our curriculum: Genius Hour, which is a time for students to follow their own strengths through coding, art, computer science, their interests. [ More Genius Hour ] It’s a small amount of time, but it’s a start.  [ Personalized, Connected Learning: Here and Here ]

Play…

Progress [ Genius Hour ] has occurred. And I’ve written this post, which shows 1) that change occurs slowly and 2) I’ve got other passions [ writing and drawing ]. Clearly, I know how and as a child I knew how to “play school.” But if you read Ira Socal’s post, you’ll see why learning, and school, is not the same for everyone; so each school needs to be different — one size does not fit all [ nor does one curriculum nor one test ].

What do you think? Have you accepted the negative view of schools, or will you dig into your school district and support schools that focus on helping kids find their strengths rather than focus on tests? The change comes from you — the people.

What’s next? I’m going to jump into the middle of a blog that holds things I consider worth looking into, but I never get to [ So Consider ]. That’s the source for ideas, and an idea for you to try, if you get stuck for ideas. Join Twitter, follow hashtags of interest to you, and send those especially noteworthy to a blog for you to peruse later for further writing.

So, although my original intent was to “jump.. in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community,” this new beginning has been a bit messy, but I do want to branch out. This post presents a glimpse into the broader implications of our school system’s current status and brings it back to working around the dilemma through Genius Hour.

What about you? How do you learn? When do you learn? Is it like school is and has been, or do you learn differently? How would school today need to change to accommodate your learning needs? Does your standardized test score from your school years reflect your success today?

Jump anywhere in the middle of this blog, and extend the ideas.  That’s what blogging is all about… extending the conversation. It’s OK if it’s messy; we’re all still learning — because real learning takes time.