Not a new idea at all, but I am always blown away by how productive class is when I assign a writing assignment and spend the class editing and providing feedback to all docs simultaneously. Today I pushed out this template, and groups of students relocated to a myriad of places on campus to complete their formal research article according to the template. I sat at my desk and provided feedback. Super fun. Super simple. Super meaningful. Below is a short video of the process. #embracethemess
After a two-week holiday I, and many of you, go back into the classroom on Monday. During this time I find myself getting up early (like right now) nervous and reflecting on how to, once again, reinvent myself in the classroom. The beauty and the torcher of teaching. #cognitivedissonance.
Below are 5 videos I find myself watching when I need reminders about the teacher I want to be. Some are about research, others remind me to delay direct lecture until students crave more information to fill a gap, while other remind me that simple activities can spark powerful realizations about how the world works.
This video reminds me that cheap tools can have a big impact.
This video reminds me to delay direct instruction until and I spark student curiosity first.
This video reminds me of the action research I hope to conduct in my classroom.
This video reminds me to encourage myself and my students to find new perspectives.
This video reminds me of the type of innovation I want from myself and my students.
I was honored to participate in a Public Radio podcast sponsored by the Mill Valley Public Library called "Eight Books that Made Me". Literature has always been a very important part of my life and having the opportunity to reflect on my favorite books, and their impact on my life and career was a blessing. A link to the episode is below:
Students came back this Monday! Although this year marks 17 years in the classroom, one my favorite aspects of the teaching vocation is the feeling of renewal. Invention. Reinvention. Doing this over. Trying knew things. Failing. Succeeding. Sorta succeeding. All the goodness in between. I love it!
Below are 5, simple, nerdy pedagogical shifts I'm making this school year just because I feel like it. Nothing groundbreaking here. Just the joy of teaching. I hope your hear is off to a fabulous start, and you are finding simple, little ways, to see your job as more of an art, than a science.
#1. Plan in the 80's, and revise in 2017.
This year I am going to write every lesson plan as if the only technology I have is a whiteboard. Analyze areas where my instruction could be more robust, amplified, personalized, etc. Then integrate technology to hep fill those gaps and reach my "21st Century" students. I'm hopeful this will keep pedagogy as the primary focus.
#2. Wait 5 seconds.
This year, every time I am trying to gather my students attention, I'm going to wait five seconds, before trying to gather their attention again. I am HORRIBLE at classroom management, and find myself always depending on my loud "teacher voice" to gather them. No more. Wait for them to naturally calm. 5 seconds. Then request attention. Thank you to so much to Jennifer Gonzales over at Cult of Pedagogy for this ProTip.
#3. Three questions.
This year I'm going to put 3 question marks (? ? ?) at the top of every quiz, test, etc. Im such a pushover, and find myself answering questions such as the dreaded "Am I doing this right?". I'm going to give them three opportunities to ask questions, and each time they do, cross off one "?". I'm hopeful this will force critical thinking and metacognition about what they need help on, and what they can negotiate on their own.
#4. Share my writing with my students.
I love sharing ideas with other teachers, writing blogs, etc. This desire was the catalyst for writing Spark Learning. By asking my students to keep Website Portfolios of their work, and engage in lessons, on a website that lives on my personal blog, I am hopeful that we will grow more connected and mutual reflective practitioners as they naturally engage in new work, while simultaneously being in close proximity to mine.
#5. Mobile prep desk (humanities).
The last chapter in Spark Learning is full of various, random "bonus strategies" for teachers that are not necessarily grounded in the book's thesis. One strategy is called the "Mobile Prep Desk" where I discuss using my prep period to plan in the back of a random colleagues classroom. Getting my prep done. Learning from a colleague. Two birds. One stone. This year, I'm going to make a point of doing this only in classrooms of humanities teachers. I see too much Science and Math! It's taken 17 years for me to branch out and actually observe my History and English colleagues. I am embarrassed its taken this long. Just think what I have could have been learning all this time!
When I reflect back on the last 16 year of teaching, I see three distinct phases:
Phase 1 was crucial. I fell in love with the profession during this phase. My gut told me I was doing the right thing. Students loved my class. I loved being with them. All was good. But were they really learning? I didn’t care. It just felt good. Teaching felt the right choice, and the positive relationships I was forming with students and colleagues felt good. The difference between job and vocation became clear.
Phase 2 was ugly. An overconfident 4 year “veteran”, my popularity as a teacher transformed my initial love for teaching, into a fear of being a “boring” teacher. Although my colleagues perhaps did not notice this side, I saw it. I could hear it. This attitude led to a form disconnect between myself and my students. A blind adoption of the latest trends in educational technology under the guise of “innovation”.
Phase 3 is transformative. I’m in the middle of phase 3.. No longer can I hide under the blanket of being a “rookie teacher”, or an “early adopter”. Deep gaps in student conceptual knowledge, painful anonymous student feedback, personal health crisis, and a myriad of other catalysts are forcing me to face a question I should have faced along time ago: What does authentic, good, REAL teaching look like?
A few years ago I was lucky enough to give a TED Talk about this journey. Anyone of us could have given that talk. I was just in the right place at the right time. As teachers we are all on a journey. A “Hero’s Journey” if you will, full of temptation, mentors, transformation and realizations that change our outlook on the career. Our outlook on ourselves. Our students. Our colleagues. We are always changing.
Spark Learning dives into this journey. My hope is that this book can provide insight into both the emotions, and the instructional mechanics of the process. A process that I find successful. For me. I have faith that in sharing this with others, it might spark a few simple insights for you. Catalyze insight into your authentic teaching self. Spark new realizations
As Parker Palmer says, “We teach from who we are.”. My greatest fear in writing a book about teaching is that I would revert to Phase 2. Appear to be a narcissistic “I gave a TED Talk listen to me…” know it all. A “look at me I wrote a TED Talk book…” snake oil salesman. Lessons I’m learning in Phase 3 remind me to have faith in the teaching community. That the Imposter Complex can be ignored. And that's OK. That I love this vocation and work REALLY HARD AT IT. That 9pm-1am for the last 7 months was on purpose and for a good reason. I have an obligation to share. To share. To share. And so do you. Tag.