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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bring on the Learning!

My phone chimed today to tell me that my Time Hop was available to view.  Sometimes I look at it to see from what injury I was recovering in the previous years or to remind myself I really am funny (not sure my students would agree...but I think I'm funny).  Anyway, the post from 2 years ago today was "All I want to be is done."  The song by the Band Perry had become my mantra for the last 4 weeks of school 2 years ago. Although the song is about a relationship, I viewed it as the theme song with my relationship with school at that point.

Funny how two years can literally be the difference between night and day.  In a previous post (http://spartansocialstudies.blogspot.com/2015/04/i-used-to-be-sitting-in-seat-17d.html) I blogged about how my career was saved because I started learning again.  That is still a true statement every day of my life, but seems more poignant when we have 11 days of school left and I have Seniors who have a major case of Senioritis.

Most of my colleagues have been counting down the days since March and are trying to talk themselves into making it through the last 11 days and then just getting themselves to summer break where they can walk out of school and not look back until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

I literally could not be further from that mindset this year (although, like I said, I've been there).

After I read my Time Hop, I was reflecting on why I have such a different attitude this year.

1. Right now, I am beyond excited that I am helping to plan EdCampCNY (register here https://sites.google.com/site/edcampcny2015/home) in Liverpool, NY on 7/18.  I really cannot express how excited I am to be part of this awesome day!

2. I took 20 students to a regional competition where they got to display a business idea that they birthed and nurtured to fruition for business leaders from our area.  Watching them shine today (and everyday) made me feel like a proud parent!

3. My #digcit students are creating parent tip videos that we will be sharing out with our entire community and they are turning out to be a great resource for our parents and community members.

4. My #digcit students are in the middle of creating advocacy campaigns about a topic for which they are passionate.  Some students have taken it a step further and got more involved with those causes because they discovered something they care very deeply about.

5. I will be participating in a 2 day workshop in the middle of August to network with regional colleagues while we talk creating more collaborative opportunities that extend authentic learning in our classrooms.

6. We are in the middle of unveiling our Makerspace at the HS and I am so intrigued by the possibilities that it will afford our students that I can't wait for it to be open full time.

7. I have already planned out the edcamps I will be attending virtually via Twitter over the summer.

8. I have 3 pedagogically based books that I am chomping at the bit to read this summer.

9. I have a couple new colleagues joining us next year and I am eager to learn with them as we start a new school year.

10. I am revamping a couple of my courses for next year and am actually excited about that process!!

11. I've been asked to be a virtual mentor for a grad class for preservice teachers over the summer.

I would not be exaggerating if I said in my dormant learning years, all of the above would have  depressed me more than I could handle.  I would see them as an intrusion in my summer.  Not anymore!

I think now, it would be safe to say that "All I want be is done" would refer to my time as a dormant learner.

Bring on the learning!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Culture of Complaining

Ever find yourself thinking if I hear ________ one more time, I might blow a gasket? I'm there.

The culture of complaining that I feel we have grown accustomed to really needs to end.  It may seem ironic that I am complaining about complaining, but I would like you to consider that in my opinion, if you bring possible solutions to the table, a complaint can be a means to an end or the vehicle through which something is remedied.  That is what I am attempting to do here.

I have challenged one of my classes to go complaint free for the remaining 13 days of classes.  I realized that was going to be quite a paradigm shift, so I amended it to that period for the remaining 13 days.

I gave them a three pronged filter to ask themselves every time they felt the need to complain:

1. Do I have the all of the facts for the subject I am about to complain about?
2. Do I have solutions to bring to the table regarding the topic I am complaining about?
3. What is the purpose of my complaint?

I asked them to be cognizant about what comes out of their mouth and to be conscious in their choices when complaining.

I followed up with a couple phrases that might be old hat to those of us reading this blog, but are probably a different way of thinking about things for my audience today:

1. You may not have control over the situation, but you sure do have control over how you react to it.
2. The only person that can control what comes out of your mouth is you.
3. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
4. Complaining is an easy habit to form, no matter your age.  You are what you make a habit of, choose carefully.


I am intent on changing the culture of complaining.  It does us no good.  It is liberating to free yourself of the habit of complaining.  Once you make that paradigm shift, the world is much sunnier place!   Are you with me?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I'm really struggling with this.

I am a big believer in #stuvoice. I am also a believer that one of my jobs as a high school teacher is to get students to think critically about their thinking.  Also, as a high school teacher, I think it is my job to help the students realize they need to cut the cord.  I shouldn't be the sole source of their learning. They need to engage in the process and be self-starters as well as independently motivated.

This leads me to my current struggle.  I had a conversation with a student yesterday that made sleeping last night a challenge to say the least.

Background of the topic.  In US History, we have finished our study of the 1950's and 1960's and I have asked the students to work in pairs (one assigned the 50's and one assigned the 60's) to debate which decade was more historically significant.  They have to pick a person, event, judicial decision, cultural event and political event that is evidence that their assigned decade was more historically significant.  They can choose the platform and the way that they screencast the debate for the class to eventually evaluate the strength of evidence and argument.

Here is the gist of the conversation.

S: "Adding technology to the curriculum isn't helping us get ready for the test, it just makes things more complicated."

Me: "The technology allows us to access the information at a later date, create both an audio and visual debate and then share with an audience beyond me.  Beyond that, evaluating events from a decade that you feel would make it significant, then putting together a coherent argument that can not only support your assertion, but refute the other partner's evidence is absolutely getting you prepared for the test".

S: "I need packets, I only learn from packets and flashcards."

Me: "Are you learning or memorizing from packets and flashcards?"

S: "I'm learning."

Me: "How do you define learning?"

S: "Knowing what I need to know for the test."

Me: "How about making flash cards that contain your talking points and that is your platform?"

S: "That's still doing what you wanted me to do."

The conversation lasted for about 25 minutes, but that is the above part is the part I am struggling with.

Here is my struggle:

I want to honor her voice in telling me the way that she learns best.  I just can't make the argument that learning is happening solely from a packet.  I still do packets.  I have not replaced packets with projects, although I would like to lessen our reliance on packets, but that is a different conversation. All the information they needed for the test was in the packet.  The project is to extend the learning and help them exercise their critical thinking muscles as well as their ability to formulate and articulate an historical argument.  Not only is this a real world skill, but this will come in handy on the test in the form of the thematic essay and DBQ, but I don't think I should only be teaching them to be successful on the test.  But again, that is a different conversation.

My struggle continues with the question whether she really does learn better from packets or if she just hasn't had any other type of experience that takes her learning beyond simple memorization for the test.  Is she just memorizing the packets?  If so, is that really learning to the level that we want our students to be learning?

My other concern is that the student wants to go into a field that is solely based on collaboration and technology.  How do I get her to see that she needs to branch out, be more flexible about her learning and go beyond what she thinks she will need on the test.

This is my struggle.