Reframing Henry

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Change the way you think about it.

Thanks to Paula for this bit of wisdom.

That’s my goal for reframing the focus on skills / test prep to include  Authentic Projects.

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I’m going to turn around my last post about blaming Henry Ford  and think again about community of learners in the classroom, like when I taught writers and readers workshop.

Communities are messy; they aren’t the perfect working machine; they change and flow from one need to the next. And they get stuck in ruts. They need to “Change the way you think about it.”

I’m going to start by asking my students what “work” they want to do — as readers, researchers, and authors. Perhaps, we’ll change our way of thinking about our skills together, as a community of learners.

It’s actually starting from them now. We just finished a short iSearch project in which students learned questioning, research, collaboration, analysis, interpretation, presentation, speech. Two students asked, based on their chosen article [ Drama VS Bullying ], if they could create a video about their learning. Their work will be my first model for the others… They have changed the way they thought about their research. I love that.

Blaming Henry

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How do we change our thoughts on grading so that we are teaching and assessing for learning with feedback so students can improve? Teaching for learning does require patience, reteaching, kid-watching, and engaging tasks that require thought. I don’t want to catch kids — I want to inspire them to be more.

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I’d like to also to change our thoughts on assignments that focus on one objective. People don’t learn to ride a bike by 1) practicing pedaling, 2) practice steering, and 3) practice braking before 4) putting them together. No, we get on and ride. Shouldn’t we dive into good books? Write about what know and read about? Then get feedback on how to do it better, based on the real work being done?

I blame Henry Ford for breaking things into pieces and organizing assembly lines. Many of our schools with students who need more positive experiences are just like assembly lines — not places where we actually “do” stuff together, and learn to get better. Students enjoyed the work, did better on more skills, learned more, and liked school with authentic projects — something that required integration of skills with mini-lessons and flexible grouping to help. We created posters, brochures, skits, models, memoirs, video-memoirs — filled with our learning and all requiring reading and writing. When I’m told to post my objectives every day, it seems that we are focused on the parts and not the whole; we’re teaching the bits and not understanding the world of authors, scientists, historians, etc. We’re pushing the pedal, but not steering towards anything authentic.

What do you want for your child? Objectives for Test Prep or Authentic Projects ? Tell your school board today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

 

Learning Flow Chart by @dogtrax

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Think about open education. That is what Kevin Hodgson did with this flowchart. He was working on several projects, and reflected on why. He said, “open learning is a way to dip into topics and communities and go as deep as you want or need or desire, with personal goals guiding you forward.”

He discovered that “I keep meeting incredibly interesting people in Open Learning environments who stretch my thinking and push me in new directions. We need that in our lives — folks inside our learning trajectory who show us new paths to pursue and new ideas to consider and new schematics from which to observe the world.” In other words, by following his interests, he meets those who help him grow. Wouldn’t that be something great for learning for our students?

He developed this humorous flow chart to synthesize his reflection, and it may help you see Open Learning in a new way: Be sure to go here to the interactive ThingLink image:

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If you read through the flowchart, you’ll get a sense of different learning platforms, and his perspective with humor.

What I found terrific about this, is that he enjoys his learning and plays with it.  He’s showing his learning with humor, putting a spin on it that reflects his learning in a deeper way, which is something most kids don’t get to do. Why is that?

Twelve Embarrassing Years of NCLB and RTTT: Time for Arne to Blame USDOE

 

 


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I teach full time, so I don’t have the time to research the issues, and this post sums up what we all might be thinking about: it is the DOE who’s been in charge of education — and look where it’s taken us. Schools are in neighborhoods, and it is those neighborhoods who should be deciding what is important for resources, curriculum and instruction, and community involvement in their schools for their students. I was especially concerned knowing that Arne Duncan has not taught in a classroom. How can you possibly understand the nuances of teaching and learning without having a classroom of jittery kindergarteners, of troubled teens, or of multi-national students before you to instruct for a period of time? And he has the audacity to blame everyone else. Of course, he’s apparently driven by those in the business world who want what? Employees for the jobs they are not creating? Or profits in the education businesses they will front? I know that is cynical and simplistic, but when education is attacked, including parents and students, then it’s time to step back and look at who’s talking.

 


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This post by Mercedes Scheider reminds and demands of us that

Unlike many of the “pop-up teachers” nursed on the destructive doctrines of education privatization, traditional teachers are not in education in order to pad a resume on the way “up.” Traditional teachers are an indispensable part of the fabric of our democracy, and it is about time for Arne Duncan to recognize and respect that fact.

 

 

The ideas and links in this post are a good place to continue a conversation on our current focus in classrooms: improving test scores. Ask yourself, are you a score, a number? or are you a complex being with questions, talents, and intellect ready for thinking to understand the world? Will teaching to a test help you? Think about it: and support your schools and their fight against this madness.

 


PS: If you scored 396 and not 400, you did not meet the standards. You are at risk. You need extra help, not art, music, debate, drama, or advanced classes.

 


396: it means…. do you know? Does it really have meaning?

 

You may also like this by EDUCareNow: Learning as Belonging — Learning is a social activity, not a set of standards.

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#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.

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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.

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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

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 ]

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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.

Teaching Strategies for Underachievers

Pause to Reflect…

Sometimes in the classroom we wonder why students are not engaged; we may think the students are unable to do the work; we may simplify the ideas again. But this post shares another possibility: the lesson is too shallow, or the student is a perfectionist, or… other factors.

What can teachers do to engage the underachievers? Read the post by “Global #gtchat” to learn strategies for teaching underachievers.

Play to Learn…

I’ve found two posts today that will consume much time as I learn more strategies on Questioning (http://cybraryman.com/questioning.html) and more strategies and information about underachievers in this reblogged post.

Questioning engages students in the lesson and the content, which could work well with the strategies in this post about underachievers. As you consider either of these, which did you find most helpful? What else could we consider?

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Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT

Special thanks to Dr. Linda Silverman and the Gifted Development Center @GiftedDevCenter for sharing the article, “Strategies for Teaching Underachievers” (pdf) which I drew from for the chat! A full transcript may be found here.

In answer to our first question, “What characterizes an underachiever?”; replies included that “underachievers tend to have underdeveloped sequencing skills & high spatial abilities”, their “obstinance often masks their inability to do the work rather than unwillingness”, those with “high spatial strengths have a sophisticated sense of humor & understand complex relations & systems” and they “can become a problem in mainstream classes. More likely to be referred for behaviour/LD”.

The discussion then turned to “Why do students underachieve?” Krissy Venosdale @venspired said that, ” Work presented to them is often not “deep” enough; shallow work becomes mundane; kids check out.” Susanne @Susannewith5 added, “boredom, perfectionism scaring them from WANTING to perform, a lack of…

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