Browsing articles in "Reflections"
Feb 7, 2011

Today is different…

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Much of the conversation in the edububble talks about where we are today.  What we need to be teaching and structuring our classes like today.  I want to push that.

What is the classroom going to look like, operate like and be in 20 years?

It is not enough that we talk 21st Century Skills, we need to be creating the ethic for 21.5 Century schooling.

If we don’t start today thinking about tomorrow, we’ll find our students here again. Another today different then yesterday, but longing to be taught for tomorrow.

Feb 1, 2011
Comments Off on Reflections on Semester One (The Good, The Bad and The Unanswered)

Reflections on Semester One (The Good, The Bad and The Unanswered)

Besides punching a few numbers into the school mark software, Semester One is done.  For all intents and purposes it was done about a week ago.  I have let myself take sometime before posting my reflections.

It was a great semester, filled with lots of great interactions, great learning, and most importantly great students.  I really felt like I was the lucky one getting to share my day with these groups of kids.

But alas, not everything was great.  Just the overall sense.  Below are a few things that I noticed, got in student feedback, struggled with, enjoyed thoroughly, and ultimately, more questions that I have.

The Good:

No Marks: Now everyone gets all hot and bothered about this title because it seems like I didn’t collect work, I didn’t offer feedback and I never took home a stack of essays to evaluate.  All of that is not true.  My marking load was the same, although at times it felt more onerous.  The students at first struggled, they wanted the number.  The comments and conversations weren’t enough for them.  But eventually, they recognized just what the feedback was all about.  Many of them commented about how they loved the conferences about their performance, “It was less about a calculation and more about the conversation.  It gave me a chance to really understand what I was doing right and what I needed to work on.” Another student, “No marks was tough for me because that’s how I gauge how much effort to put into something, I found myself putting alot of effort into everything this way. It was kinda weird how that happened.”

Paperless: In my second semester now of working paperless, this year it felt much easier.  It was more natural.  Students were given heaps of time on the computer and having them e-mail their work made it easy to send feedback, etc.  Overall, this really worked.  Sure, it takes a little bit of rigamaroling, but it was worth it.

Autonomy: I gave my students this semester quite a bit of say in how we did things, from the questions we asked, the books we read, the movies we watched to the music we listened.  They bought in. One student wrote, “It was so obvious that it was our class, we made the decisions that affected us day to day.” Most days, they entered class knowing what we were getting into because they had decided.  There were, of course, a few times where we had to reinvent, rethink the direction we were headed, but overall it was great.

The Bad

Hands-On, Experiential Learning: I made a great effort early to get students out of their seats, working collaboratively and learning physically.  At the start it was probably three days a week.  Then, the well ran dry.  I stopped having good ideas and I stopped putting the requisite effort into giving them these experiences.  I failed them on this front.  A few of them noticed on their course evaluations remarking, “It was fun when we got to stand up, but that sort of faded after the first month or so.”  This is definitely an area that I will be focusing on.

Exam: I shortchanged my students with the design and implementation of their exam.  Both my grade 10 and grade 11 classes had a “required” exam (you can read my past post about it) and I failed to avoid forcing upon them a standard exam.  We did not run our class in a “standard” way and yet, their final exam was typical.  Yes, the grade elevens wrote on the computer, many of them did really well, but I failed to really move this aspect of the course to where the rest of the course was.  I should have probably had them create it or something along those lines.

Parents: I wanted to make a concerted effort to include parents more, especially in my grade ten class.  I didn’t.  I ended up being the same lazy, non-communicative teacher I always am.  I called when absolutely necessary, but ultimately, didn’t engage them with what was going on inside the class.  Especially with most of it online, this should have been done and it should have been easier.  I blew this one on high dough!  Big part of my plans for semester two.

Failures / Attendance / Lates: A few kids still didn’t get these credits.  Yeah, I know, you can’t reach them all. It still pains me that multiple kids in each class will not be earning my credit.  Much of this is connected with attendance, how do you get a kid to school?  I can’t teach them, engage them if they aren’t in the room / building. For the students who did show up sometime, I couldn’t connect / engage them enough to keep them coming and working.  That said, connected yet not, I couldn’t get certain students to stop being late.  It is a small thing I wrestled with, i.e. should I even care?, but it weighs on my mind as I’m reflecting on the semester.

The Unanswered

What does it mean to be prepared for class when the students direct the learning?

Do lates matter, especially without consequences?

Does a student smiling and laughing equal a student ready to learn, where is the line between having a good time in class and toiling away at the tough stuff of learning?

Learning is loud, but I want to keep my door open to anyone, how do you balance the two?

How do I balance my over-abundance of passion and enthusiasm, with my students feedback that I’m too happy for first thing in the morning?

How do I truly engage parents?

… so many more questions…

Sep 12, 2010
Comments Off on Is it Time for a Revolution?

Is it Time for a Revolution?

As I was reading Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational” this quote jumped out at me:
“We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents, might see the larger point in education and become more engaged and motivated about it. We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself…” (Ch. 4, 36)

This is one of the key pieces that we keep skipping over in many of our ideas and “high yield” strategies. We, as a group of professionals, continuously spin our wheels with new directives that fail to address the major issue. School is barely relevant. By turning the ship around and recognizing the social, ethical, and technological world that our students are living, we can engage them.

It is time that we tell our students the truth, writing an essay is not important. Being informed citizens, understanding how to argue effectively, how to stand up for your beliefs and how to attract an audience to your message (corporate or social), that is what is important. Yes, an essay can do that for you, however, so can YouTube, a well-executed Twitter update, a blog entry, a protest, a face-to-face discussion. Let’s stop pretending that the same assignments we have been doing are good enough. 

I think it is time to truly become a profession.

So, is it time for the revolution? Who’s in?

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