Tuesday Evening and Music #zerotohero day

Our challenge today, Day 6,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to embed something new into our post. I chose to learn how to embed SoundCloud into a WordPress site. Note: Day 5 was theme — I spend a lot of time choosing this one, so I’d already accomplished that.

Pause…

Stop to smell the roses — that ‘s the expression. And today I pause on Tuesday, busiest day for Scott at the newspaper. In fact, he even wrote a melody about it:

Play…

In a civilized society people have time for art and music. I wonder how civilized we are, today, in schools, where art and music are pushed aside for test prep and posted objectives so we all look just the same, as Pete Seeger would sing [this one is sung by trendless]:

And what if we don’t learn the important songs? Martin Luther King Day is coming soon — how many students will sing “We Shall Overcome.”

And what is the history of “We Shall Overcome?”

And are we doomed to repeat history because we don’t have time learn the beat of the history, the songs that carry forward our feelings and our beliefs, and bring us together through music?

Pete Seeger has some words about that…

Amazing!

So take your time, smell the roses, listen to your favorite music, and share music together. And call your local school boards and let them know you want music in schools. Do it on Tuesday.

Day 4 #zerotohero Use the Reader

Our challenge today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to find new blogs to read and follow using the WordPress.com Reader. [ info here and tutorial here ]

I connected my Twitter account and found the blogs for many of my Professional Learning Network.

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I discovered I could click the LIKE button, and then in  the reader find those posts I like:

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You can see the comments you’ve made:

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Amazing.

Try it. You’ll love it.  NOTE: You can even use the reader to read blogs on other platforms, such as Blogger.  So, really — try it.

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.

Day 2 #zerotohero About – What’s your name?

Day 2 #zerotohero : A WordPress Blogging Challenge

What’s your blogs name? Pause 2 Play

What does it mean? About this blog  and its history

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Pause to Reflect…

Today’s challenge is to choose a title [ Pause 2 Play ] and add a tagline [ Pause and reflect to play and learn… ] that will reflect our blog’s purpose. In addition, an “About” page or widget helps readers know what your blog is about, which helps drive readers to stick around.

This blog began in 2010 with Posterous, which became extinct, so WordPress became the new home in 2013.

And it was time for a change. Today I shortened and clarified my  About this blog  and revised the history page to include the new focus. I made sure the main ideas were at the top and colored for quick review.  I found some extinct links and made corrections; I added new pictures; I revised how readers navigated to these pages. I had already chosen a cleaner design that works as well on mobile devices as it does online, for my purpose at least.

Play to Learn…

Whenever I visit a blog, I like to know who the person is [ About Me ] behind the words, to know their perspective and focus. I think it’s important to know the name and how to contact them. I realized I needed a quick and short page for what the blog is about, although you can usually tell by the first few posts and by the categories. A tag cloud also helps. I really would like to be better at deciding categories. I’m sure we’ll get into that in this challenge.

So, in the image below, you will se the title of the blog, two pages showing [ Home and About ]. At right at the top is the tagline and below that is the link to the About Pause 2 Play, which briefly explains the blog’s purpose.

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What do you think of the changes? What about your blog? Will your readers know who you are and what your focus is?

Day 1 Zero to Hero #zerotohero

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Pause to reflect…

Zero to Hero is a WordPress.com blogger’s challenge for newbies or veterans to jumpstart the new year with a good habit of writing and working with your blog.

Day 1 Questions:

Why are you blogging, rather than keeping a personal journal?

If I wrote in a journal, I couldn’t read it tomorrow — I’d want to get the words written down fast and fast writing is illegible. I wonder if others feel the same way today. Typing on the computer brings clarity to my thoughts. Why do a personal blog instead? I have family and friends afar, colleagues here and there — so what better way to connect ideas than with an online venue?

What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’m an educator and wonderer. Here I can write about the things that make me pause and think, to play around with the ideas and get feedback from others. My original purpose was education, but there’s so much more to the world.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

The  family and friends afar, colleagues here and there.

If you blog successfully throughout 2014, what would you hope to have accomplished?

One thing I’ve written about for my students is how blogs are conversations to add value to others’ ideas. I hope to do better at that, learning from and sharing with others on many topics.

Play to Learn…

And that’s why I re-committed here with a non-education challenge, to engage in conversations on other topics because, quite frankly, I’m tired of the attacks on teachers. Perhaps, I just need a different focus after twenty-eight years in the classroom.  Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to stop, and I’m an engaged, connected, geeky teacher who wants the best for her students for their opportunities for their futures. And I work with an amazing group of educators who should be recognized for their hard work. I also connect with some of the best teachers and educators in the country. But to stretch a little into my own passions beyond education would also benefit my students. As you can see, it’s hard to stop thinking education and teacher because, that is what life is: “Life is for learning.”

Will you join in the learning? Come on!  It’s 30 days! You can do it!