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.

Jump in the middle…

Welcome !

 

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

Pause…

I teach writing; beginnings are always a mess: where does one start?

We Power Write (Peter Elbow) to foster the flow of ideas from ideas in the mind to ink on paper. But when it comes to starting a piece of writing, even with many ideas brainstormed in a web, free-write, or list, the paper in front of me seems too open. How will I fill it?

Students struggle with this, so we practice jumping into action, in the middle.

But what is the middle of a blog?

Fast forward to August 31st, 2010. The first day of school welcomes everyone with an evening barbecue. It’s a great time to introduce new staff, explain a few classroom projects in homerooms, and enjoy conversation with families from last year. Students who have graduated often attend and lament their leaving and entering the high school, a scary step. Students rush to their new homerooms — does it look like last year? “You changed things a little, Ms. Edwards.”

Yet, I have no picture of the barbecue to share. Most programs (from reading programs to federal “title” programs) expect schools to foster family involvement. On these occasions, we need pictures to add power to the words we enter on our reports.

So here’s my beginning, a reflection into the future to plan forward. For a history of how this blog really started, please refer to the page, pause2play history. One reason are these words 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.

Play…

I’ll continue to encourage students to jump into the middle to start their writing. And, on barbecue day, I’ll grab a couple students to document the evening using our class cameras. We’ll start a portfolio of our family involvement. Because that’s more important than the official report.

And, I will check more frequently, “Who don’t I know yet?” What project will build our community so each student is known?

This is what this blog is about: jumping in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community.

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