Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Poem, July 21


These words are not mine
They were given to me by
all the authors and singers and speakers.
So if I use one of your words please
remember, you taught it to me

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Poem, July 20


I would love to
and state my opinion but
last time I got castigated
now I am

Monday, July 18, 2016

Poem, July 18


The old don't shrink because of loss of bone density, or muscle mass or even the wearing away of cartilage.

They shrink from the weight pressing on their shoulders from the loved who are no longer there to shore them up.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Poem, July 17


Why am I so surprised by the number, and the power of the memories associated with old clothes?

'This was one of my favorites," she smiled as she held up the dress, not bothering to share those memories. 

I rarely am drawn back simply by the sight of old clothes, clothes are simply too utilitarian. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jaded Old Farts

"There's nothing worse than a bunch of jaded old farts, and that's a fact."
Robert Plant

Recently a social media friend of mine (lots of convos, no face to face yet), David Theriault posted 14 Reasons Why Pokemon Go Is the Future of Learning. A fun little post leveraging the mania of Pokemon Go. The title may imply more than the post delivers, but how quickly did #eduTwitter jump to the conclusion that this was nothing but click bait that so many of the #edurockstars drive their brand with.

I suggest that many of those who condemned the post simply read the title. I know, you are shocked! The truth is, we have been so inundated with crappy posts promising the moon, the stars and even PerfectStudentEngagment™! David has not been known to post this junk, he has written some very interesting stuff, even if some are couched in pop culture references. Don't we have an obligation to do a little more research before we condemn someone based upon one post (which you probably didn't read anyway...)

This is not a post directed outward, as I have in the past and probably will continue to make way too many assumptions based upon one or two tweets in a conversation. I would just like to remind all of us that maybe we should strive to be a little less jaded, a little less old and a whole lot less farty.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Libraries---->Library Media Centers---->Digital Media Centers---->?

When I started school back in 1975, my school had a very small library. Books were scarce. Students went to the library once a week to check books out and back in. Rarely was there time to teach anything other than the basics of card files and Dewey's Decimals. The high school library was larger in the mid 1980's but there was no scheduled time to attend and definitely no teaching in that space by our librarians.

When I came back to my hometown school to teach in the late 1990's the library was still small, books still pretty scarce but the librarians would teach students lots of different things, usually revolving around books and research. The library also had videos for teachers to check out.

At some point, due to the state's requirements and an emphasis on reading in our building, the number of books in the library grew much larger. Books became much less scarce. Computers have been added to the library, allowing students to have access to sites on the internet and for content creation.

At some point in the future, hopefully soon, students will have internet capable devices that allow them to access digital media.  The library as a place for students to access content will be much less necessary than before. This will also mean the need for the computers will be minimized as well. So, what will be the purpose of the library then?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Are You Addicted To Ed Conferences? I Can Help!

Although conferences go on all year long, it seems as though there are a large number of them in the summer. It seems my Twitter feed is loaded with conference information or excitement. Or, it could be that I just have time to notice when I am on summer break.

Do you find yourself addicted to conferences? Do you spend an unusual amount of time driving to EdCamps, Teachmeets and/or named conferences? Do you keep an eye on your social media feeds to see what conferences others are attending and spend way too much time reading their posts? If you think you have a problem, I am here to help! Here are seven ways to help you break out of your addiction:

1) Don't get into meaningful conversations at the conferences. The most addicting part of conference attendance is the rush of adrenaline you get when you have deep, meaningful conversations that stimulate your thinking and drive you to explore and innovate.

2) Only attend sessions that are titled '10 Best _________'. These sessions emphasize tools or methods that are easily found online without help. We all like to walk out of 'professional development' with something we can use immediately in the classroom. After all, it is these tools that keep our students engaged!

3) Eat by yourself, don't make eye contact. Break times, hallway times, and lunch times are very dangerous for the conference addict. If you try really hard you may be able to continue to be alone throughout these times and thereby avoid number 1. This may be hard for those of you who are extroverts, but in the end the effort is worth breaking that addiction!

4) Complain loudly and often about the quantity and quality of the freebies available. If you work at it hard enough, you might even be able to convince yourself that this is the real reason you attend the conferences. I mean, is it really a successful conference if all you get is to take home is a lanyard and some stickers?

5) Make sure you spend your session times reading email, checking Facebook or Twitter and surfing the net (maybe throw in some shopping on Amazon while you are at it!) These are wonderful ways to keep your brain from engaging in the session topic. Paying attention may lead to engagement which will only fuel your addiction!

6) Don't go to keynotes. Keynotes are typically made to get people emotionally ready to learn and share (both of which we identify as fueling the addiction.) You would be much better off sleeping in for that morning keynote or leaving early to go to the outlet malls during the afternoon one. That way you will beat the rush of people leaving the parking lot as well!

7) Don't go to the sessions. Your room has HBO so catch up on Game of Thrones. Head to the pool and work on your tan. Get an even earlier start on those outlet malls. Visit the local points of interest. Do anything that will keep you from the temptation of engaging at the conference.

If you have any other tips or tricks that you use to keep from enjoying and engaging at education conferences please leave them below. Remember, teachers deserve it!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What If? Reading Journals

I have been writing a daily journal since November.

Dean Shareski recently wrote in favor of schools giving students the opportunity to do Hour of Code, which is an introduction to coding. He argued, "The promise of K-12 education has always been to provide children with a broad liberal arts experience that prepares them for life."

If this is really what we believe, perhaps it is time for us to re-examine book journaling. I have read the stories of kids 'hating' reading because they have to record what they are reading and when they are reading it (book logs). I totally understand how when a 'want to' becomes a 'have to' it can suck all the joy out of it. I also understand that sometimes we 'have to' make students do what they would prefer not to do, specifically to become better community members. Is there compromise that can be reached?

Book journaling is a thing that many adults do. You can even buy specialty journals created just for that purpose. Surely it is something we wouldn't mind our students growing up to do. So, what if we have students book journal instead of just log? I realize the same arguments that I put forth before are just as valid here. I do think it could be done in the short term to introduce the concept, like the Hour of Code, but without becoming a year long, onerous task for everyone involved. 

First, start by explaining the concept of journaling, which typically is to write down what we have experienced. Then explain that for a short time, say a month to six weeks, the students will be creating their own journals specifically over what they are reading. You could then set up your guidelines (post daily, twice a week, etc) and ask them to really try to do a good job. After they have written their first entries, read a few aloud. Have the students ask questions from the writer about the book. Identify what worked well and what might have been done better. Then at the end of the time, stop.

Why stop at the end, especially if it is working? Because you said it would stop. That doesn't mean you can't continue to read the journals of those who continue to write, or even share them with the class. That just means stop the 'have to' expectation. Let them know that you both true to your word and that anything they do in class, especially stuff they don't like will have an end point. It is easier to stick it out if you know it will end. 

Finally, encourage them to journal around something they are interested in. Are any interested in writing about the video games they play? the movies they watch? the YouTube channels they love? Allow them to share those entries as well, just don't make it a 'have to', not all kids will be enamored by the idea of writing stuff down (and that is just fine!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Again, More Hard Questions

Ooh, stopWith your feet on the air And your head on the groundTry this trick and spin it, yeahYour head'll collapse And there's nothing in it

Where Is My Mind? The Pixies

Twitter is not what it used to be (whatever that means to you.) If you are not new to Twitter then you probably lament the days past when interesting conversations abounded without the inundation of pic quotes, avalanches of links, and attacks by trolls who can't seem to understand context. So, that leads to the first question:

1. What amazing, classroom changing conversation have you had in the last year on Twitter? Do you remember any?

Over testing has become a problem, not because of the high stakes test we see this time of year but because of all the testing required through the year to gather the data. Of course after those tests are given you are required to go through the scores and glean information that can help you make decisions about what to do next. Typically, the high stakes tests scores don't get back in time for this to happen during the end of the school year and that leads to question number two:

2. Do you secretly enjoy the high stakes testing because you can slack off on your lesson plans, have a few (or many) periods when the kids are unusually quiet, and know that you won't be meeting with other teachers in the next few days to data crunch?

You have hopped from one education fad to another. In the last few years you have flipped your classroom, gotten rid of all your desks, gone wild with clickers and had kids break into boxes. While not all fads are bad, they do seem to come and go pretty regularly. This leads to question number 3:

3. Which, if any, education fad has been so valuable to your students that you will continue to implement it when it is no longer in?

Time is getting shorter, the days are getting longer and the countdown to summer vacation is on. It is hard not to get excited about the opportunity to sleep in, travel and have conversations with others much closer to your age. So:

4. Have you spent more time in the last few weeks planning for your summer vacation and travel than for your students lessons?

There is no expectation for you to share your answers in the comment section of this post, but if you  do that would be alright by me ;) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A (Mostly) True Tale of Homework and Rigor

This was originally posted on #OklaeD Chat Blog

Peeking into my senior daughter's bedroom, "Minden, what are you up to?"

"Working on homework, as usual," she replied with resignation. She didn't even look up from the 28 pound American Government textbook. "I have at least two hours of work to do tonight."

"What the heck?" I exploded. "This is the third night this week you have been camped out in your room with homework. What exactly do you do in class? There is no way you can be working on your work if you have this much left!"

Minden looked up at me with a flash of anger in her eyes. "Seriously? In our block we spend all 100 minutes taking notes and listening to lecture. Then just before it is time to leave we get hammered with this work."

"Does he not get that he isn't the only teacher at school?" I groan. "Does he think you are only taking one class this year?"

"Because this is an advanced placement class, he says that he has to teach it like a college class. He said it has to be more rigorous because it is an upper level class." She explains. "He also says that if he doesn't cram all of this in, we won't be able to pass the advanced placement test."

"That guy has a real problem, doesn't he realize that in that same college class you would only be in his room for three hours a week tops, not four to six like you have at the high school?" I responded. "Of course you need to spend more time working outside of the classroom. When I was taking classes I was only in class fifteen to twenty hours a week. That left plenty of time for the homework. Does he think 'rigor' means hours of homework after an long lecture with PowerPoints?"

Minden grimaced, "Actually I think that is exactly what he thinks the word means."

"This is ridiculous, why don't you get out of this class and take the regular government class? Trust me, you will find the college class will be much easier to pass." I continued. "You are having to spend way too much time on this stuff. You're a senior, you should be enjoying the year and not be a slave to all of this crappy homework."

"I can't Dad, it is too late to switch and if I pass the test I won't have to take it in college," Minden sighed.

"I hate homework," I mutter as I push close her door.

While this is not a verbatim conversation I had with my daughter Minden last year, it is an honest amalgam of conversations that I had over her last two years of high school. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Efficiency Is Not Always the Goal

Technology in the classroom brings about efficiency in teaching, learning and reporting on learning. Although I contend that doing anything online takes longer to do than we expect, eventually the familiarity with the tools can make that moot. It would be impossible to argue that the use of a device connected to the internet is the best way to individualize instruction and there are so many tech tools that allow students to share their learning. But, I want you to think if the goal of your classroom is efficiency.

What is the real purpose of efficiency? I think we are efficient because we want to get the most done with the least amount of effort. I can see the draw of this in our pressure packed classrooms where covering content is the key to scoring well on standardized tests. Surely we don't still need to have conversations centered around the value of teaching to the test anymore. So, if we can put aside the testing, what real value does efficiency hold for the classroom? Do we, when we choose to learn something that we are passionate about strive for efficient learning? I don't think I do. I want to wallow in my passion, follow tangents and share enthusiastically even when those who I am sharing with don't give a damn about it. Efficiency does not feed passion.

I want my students to have at least some time to learn passionately and not to worry about efficiency. I want them to share obnoxiously. I want them to wallow. Hell, I want to wallow with them.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What Is a Connected Classroom? It May Not Be What You Think

I recently attended a session at METC that had the topic of connected schools/classrooms. There was an awful lot of conversation around how teachers/admin could get information out to communities, both local and distant. In fact, I think the conversation was too focused on the sharing of information.

The real value of the internet, in fact of technology in general in the classroom, is not in sharing information or in students having digital tools. The real value is the ability students now have to connect with others outside of their local community. These connections require conversations that are two way (or more.) Posting information does not make your classroom connected. There is nothing wrong with posting information, just don't confuse that with connecting. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

All Learning Doesn't Have Equal Value

Goulet Pens, where I buy and where I learn.
My newest hobby is journaling with fountain pens. I jumped in pretty heavily last fall and have bought several pens and different inks to use. I have watched weeks worth of videos, and that is not hyperbole! I bought a few journals and have been writing about my day for over a month and  half (and even bought a Fuji instant camera to take teeny instant pictures I can put in my journal.)

I don't know if this hobby will last for years, but I am really enjoying it now. That's the thing about stuff we in education label 'passion projects', they are very important while we are passionate but the love may not last a lifetime. I acknowledge that even as I pay both money and mental capital into it. But, what do I get from this learning? It makes me happy.

As an educator my business is understanding learning. While being a teacher implies the transfer of specific content knowledge from us to students, I prefer to think of it on a more basic level. We help kids learn things they otherwise might not choose to learn. Kids can (and do) learn at a high level when they want to learn. (Sometimes I wonder if educators forget this.) There is very little transferable content area learning that is taking place with my new hobby. I suspect that would mean many educators would see this hobby as relatively valueless in my classroom. I won't argue that point, because it isn't relevant.

Simply put, the fact that I am learning is enough. When I choose to share what I am learning with my students, and you know it happens because no one can keep something they are passionate about private (unless it is a taboo subject), my students see me excited about something other than the curriculum I teach. There is no real, intrinsic value to them in watching me share in terms of picking up new content knowledge. They won't become better geographers or historians because I let them borrow my fountain pens to write with. Heck, they probably are more interested in how the pens write than what they are putting on the page so it might even keep them from learning a fact or two. I guess that means that my hobby could in fact be keeping them from gaining as much content knowledge. So, some might say that my hobby is less than valueless, that it inhibits learning.

The real problem here is not that kids are not learning the content schools require of them, it isn't even that they reject learning what we teach passionately (because it is our thing!) The real problem is we make a value judgement that what they want to learn is less valuable than what we want to teach them. The thing is, in our culture that might be a very true statement. There is specific content knowledge, specific skills, and specific levels of competency based upon certifications. When it comes to jobs, all learning does not have equal value.

Of course, one does have to make the assumption that ultimate goal of learning is getting a good job and not living happily. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Will Organizing My Day Fix My Lack of Motivation?

I often use this space to share self realizations.

I have often said I write when I can't not write. I have never written on a schedule. I have not, since my student days, had to write consistently with deadlines. I cringe at the very thought. This is why I have never written anything long outside of a class assignment. I don't want to commit that much time or mental capacity.

I have found myself having these same thoughts when it comes to other things in my life; teaching adjunct classes, moderating Twitter chats, even going to church. I find that the daily/weekly schedule has become more of a grind than something I like to do. This does not mean I don't enjoy doing things that are regularly done, it just means that I often dread the fact that I have to do them at that particular time.

I also have found that I am apt to sit in my chair at home and do very little except whatever flight of fancy crosses my mind. In short, I am not getting anything done, or what I am getting done isn't being done well. So, how do I solve this problem? Well, I discovered Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journal Website

What I need to do to become more productive is to become more organized using a system that I will follow. I found bullet journaling through my learning about the Midori Traveller's Notebook system on Youtube. I enjoyed watching as others explain how they use the system to get organized. I also like the fact (actually I think I need this) that checking boxes gives me a sense of accomplishment. If I list things to do I am much more likely to do them!

So, how do I marry having trouble with being scheduled (and over scheduled) with creating a daily planning schedule? I don't know yet, but I am going to give it a try. What I am doing now doesn't work so any change is worth a chance. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Teaching Has Taught Me About My Faith

There are plenty of posts by teachers that talk about how they share/don't share their faith in the classroom. For this post I want to talk about how being in a classroom has taught me more about my faith.

I am quite honest about my problem with a real lack of empathy. I have always struggled with the idea that I could somehow be emotionally effected because of someone else's emotional condition. I do have sympathy, although I don't think it is particularly well developed. I can identify with someone's grief if I have lived through a similar situation. The reality is that unless I can personalize it, I can't really feel it.

I believe the purpose of Christianity is to love one another. Love is a difficult emotion to explain (not that love is only an emotion.) I am pretty sure that empathy is required for love though. I do love, and have loved but it always comes through an emotional bond. Therefor, if I can't empathize or sympathize with someone, I probably don't/can't(?) love them

In the classroom we try to get to know our students as quickly as possible. This usually means getting to know their name, important people in their circle, pets, interests and stuff like that. For many this creates a temporary emotional bond, from which they can get can develop a fondness for students if not love. This, you can imagine, doesn't work so well for me.

Over the last few years though, as I have had the same students over a prolonged period of time I have come to realize that I am developing some feelings of love for them. I have empathized with them over the loss of a parent. I have sympathized with them over the loss of a pet. The signs of love are pretty evident.

I believe that I have been called to be a teacher. I have a peace about being in the classroom I never felt in another position. I used to think that I was placed in the classroom to be a good model for students, specifically a positive male role model for those who don't have one at home. But now I know I was wrong.

I believe God put me in the classroom to teach me how to love others who I have not, nor ever will develop that close emotional bond to. I believe that I am not here to teach my students, but instead God placed me in the classroom so they could teach me. For that I am both grateful and humbled. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Teaching is Like Riding a Bike: Part 2 of at Least a 2 Part Series on Using Metaphors Because #Education

I went out for a bike ride today. I was inspired by my RunVoxRun group (who runs while I bike because I am almost always that guy) and an article I read in Bicycle Magazine both of whom reminded me of the joy of riding, not just doing it for pre-defined purpose. As I was finishing my ride I realized that several of the things I experienced on the road compared to things I experience as a teacher.

The Scary Highway 

I decided to ride out through a scenic but rather dangerous stretch of highway. As I pedaled along at about 10 miles per hour, don't judge me, I was passed by a steady stream of traffic headed the same direction. We were all headed the same way, just at different speeds. At some point, if we don't have an accident, we would all arrive at the same destination.

Imagine your slower students who are pedaling at the safest speed they can muster being passed by their classmates. There has to be a point when they realize they are not like most of the others, they learn/read/process more slowly than average. That has to be a difficult and potentially scary realization. What are you doing as their teacher to reassure them they will arrive at the same place the others are headed to, just not at the same time?

The Soccer Match Surprise

As I pedaled along I noticed cars at the park and could see people playing soccer so I decided to wander down and check it out. When I arrived I noticed the two teams were made up of Somali and Hispanic players. For the ten minutes I watched they ran up and down the field, kicking the ball and yelling at each other. I am not sure how much they understood from each other, but I didn't catch any of it. The game didn't need a common language to be played successfully.

In your classroom you have several groups of students, and regardless of the language they know, speak a very different language than others. The kids that can't sit still, the ones that have problems at home, those who are way too caught up in their boyfriend/girlfriend than they should be. They aren't really communicating with each other using the same language, but they still create a community where they want to find success, and hopefully help the others in the community find success too. How are you helping those students who 'speak a different language' find commonality they can share so they too care about each other's success?

The Chasing Chihuahuas

Just down the road from my home lives an old friend. He owns a cattle farm and as most cattle farmers do, he has several dogs. (He claims the small, annoying ones are his wife's.) Every time I ride my bike by his house the chihuahuas try to chase me. They have a pretty quick burst of speed but with their overly large heads (with funny eyes sticking out sideways) and little legs they cannot keep up with my super pedal power (averaging 10 miles per hour!) Soon they fall away and all I hear is their yippy barks in the background.

 There are educators who IRL or through SM will lie in wait until you happen to cross the path of their particular pet peeve and as soon as you do they pounce. They yip and snarl and bite at your heels. They will try to make you turn your course or completely give up the journey all together. They don't thrive on the joys of the long ride, they instead revel in the time trial of blame and finger-pointing. Just remember, they can't keep up because of their overly large head, bug eyes and extremely short legs. Who do you have to turn to when waylaid by the chasing chihuahuas? Who will help you pedal past their lairs?

The End of the Ride

Ok, this is kind of a poor title because we know the ride never ends. We just keep pedaling. We have goals for ourselves and our students and we are constantly moving toward them. Sometimes we ride in groups, sometimes alone. Just remember, the end goal is less important than the stops on the way. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Twitter is a Street Corner

Tonight I used a metaphor comparing Twitter to a street corner. At some point the nice, safe and fun place to hang out started to become a more dangerous place. At first it was fun, after all who doesn't like the idea of a little danger?  

At some point the fun, slightly dangerous corner was overtaken by hooligans. The corner is much more dangerous, threats are shouted at passers by. Graffiti started to appear all over. It went from a little fun and slightly dangerous to a place you don't want to be in alone.

Plenty of people still drive by the corner without noticing any difference. Others who tend to be more observant become a little less comfortable at the stoplight. Soon they find other routes to travel. Eventually even the least observant will notice, but by then the road will be as empty as the sidewalks.

So, the question is are you going to allow the street corner to be a place where hooligans feel comfortable? Are you going to help clean the graffiti or just ignore it as you drive by oblivious of the changes happening? Are you going to leave? Can it even be saved at this point?

Twitter is our street corner.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Quotes in Pics

I have a love/hate relationship with quotes in pics. They can be a lot of fun and also send a pretty pointed message. I use which allows me to use my own pics.  

The strange thing is my Twitter feed seems to be inundated with the pics. They draw my attention (which can be good or bad), but they rarely lead to conversations. Basically, they act like billboards which is a one-way communication tool. That hardly meets the social aspect of social media. 

I guess I would argue that we should use them sparingly, and hopefully as part of a conversation we are having. One tweet stands are so empty. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hard Questions 5: A New School Year Edition

This is the fifth set of hard questions. You can search my blog for the others using the search box on the right toolbar.

1) Do you spend more time the week school starts worrying about how your room looks or how you will create a learning climate?

2) Are you using last year's lesson plans? If so, have you changed them to be more effective?

3) Have you already created your first month's lesson plans? How can they be effective when you haven't even met your students?

4) During open house, will you make small talk to the parents or have conversations about the educational experiences you are going to create for your students?

5) Are you intentionally, thoughtfully setting up your rules/policies to maximize student learning or to make you day go by more smoothly?

6) Have you offered to lead a professional book chat or other informal professional learning opportunities for the teachers in your building or will you wait and see if anyone else picks up the slack?

Comments are always appreciated.

I Sing the Principal Electric

I sing the principal electric,
The classes of those he loves engirth him and he engirths them,
They will not let him off till he goes with them, responds to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

In the school, there is no more important person than the principal. He or she is charged
with making sure every child is safe, loved and has the best possible chance for learning. No
one has a bigger influence on the students, teachers and support staff. Please take some time
this year to show your appreciation for your principal.