Christmas Wish for Education

All I want for Christmas is that education be valued in our society! Sure most people will say they value education when asked, but what does that look like? Scan our media and see where educators our held up in high esteem? Can you find many places?
When news outlets talk to “educational” experts they rarely if ever talk to TEACHERS, the ones in education. News likes to talk to the think tank experts who have spent little time if any in a classroom. Funny isn’t it? When they want medical opinions they talk to doctors, legal opinions they talk to lawyers, cooking advice they even talk to master chefs. BUT when it comes to talking about education, no lets talk to people who have strong opinions but haven’t spent time in a classroom! When it comes to depicting teachers in TV and Film are they held in high regard like: Doctors, Lawyers, Police or Fire personal? NO the educators come off as stereotypical characters who could not “do” so they had to teach. It is hard to find a teacher represented as a positive character anywhere. Schools are a reflection of our society we need to hold them up and show that they are valuable to us.
What is your Christmas wish for Education?

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mother’s birthday. Sadly, she has not been physically in my life since April 1, 1988. She was a teacher, her memories still teach me today. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few teachers who help me through the loss of my mother, lessons learned. Hopefully it will help someone else recover from a loss. Thank you William H. Armstrong and Mr Rand for pushing me to be who I am today. Who knows where I would have ended up without your words of encouragement.

Class Celebrations!

In schools we constantly hear about making every day count and teaching bell to bell. This morning I stumbled upon The Nerdy Cast Week #15 Importance of Partying. I love Nick’s reflection. Schools are a reflection of the society that they exist with in! Does this society celebrate things? Have a need to throw a party? Of course!! Can our students see the proper way to party by doing it in school! Of course they can. Better yet can having a party at school help relationships between teacher and student? Or how about between fellow students? Learn happens every minute students are in school. Lets value the learning that can happen in a party!!

Let’s Take Learning Off The Clock!

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Our current education system focuses on clock time to measure learning. The current buzz around teacher evaluations is that students should have a years worth of growth during a school year. These leaves two critical questions:

  1. Who defines the growth?
  2. Are all students going to grow equally in the same time frame?

Looking at my children, I struggle with this concept. They have all grown but in so many different ways and at very different rates. My three children have all been completely different when it comes to hitting “growth milestones”. My two boys Griffin (10) and Gavin (6) we late walkers and talkers. On the other hand Grace (6) was early. Then again my boys are way ahead on the height and weight milestones where Grace is “just” average. Having watched Griffin grow academically over 6 years of school, I have noticed he excels in Math, Science and Social Studies but struggles as a reader and writer.

Don’t we all have different strengths and weaknesses? Shouldn’t school honor this, allowing us to move faster in areas where we can, while helping us continue moving forward in areas of need?

Making Makers

“Can we play games when we are done?” Those are the most dreaded words a teacher can hear on a day working in the computer lab. Teachers know that with games on their mind learning is very far behind. The learning targets won’t be the focus instead getting done to experience the pleasures of gaming. Other students might be focused on music instead of games. How can we allow students to get their gaming and music fixes while also helping them focus on learning?

My solution is to create makers not have consumers in my classroom. My rule is that students can play games and music they make in class. Many of my colleagues ask how I do this? It started last year when my class completed the Hour of Code. My students enjoyed creating the Flappy Bird games. After going through the tutorial, students explored different tools like Tynker, Scratch, and Sploder. Students don’t realize how much they are learning by creating their own games. They learn how to code, follow directions, sequencing, and trouble shooting.

For music there are other online tools students can use to create cool sounds. My two favorite are Incredibox and VirtualPiano. Incedibox allows students to explore the world of acapella music trying out different beats. The Virtual Piano gives them an opportunity to dabble in the basics of playing a keyboard instrument.  Students learn about harmony and pitch while expressing themselves musically.

Students need to know there is more to games and music than consuming them. Students need to feel empowered to make their own. Make products that their friends will want to consume. Teachers need to inspire students to be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mozart or Bono. Technology gives students so much power to create. Our job is to encourage and guide students to do so!

Sometimes we need a PUSH!

This week I received an e-mail from a colleague asking for help with a technology in her classroom. Being in a small district without funding for any full time instruction technologists to assist teachers requests like this happen frequently. I am seen as a person who either knows how to use a tool or get find out quickly. I am always glad to help a fellow teacher use new tools in their classroom. During my next free prep, I headed down to my colleague’s classroom. She had received some Mobi Views last spring and wanted to know how to use them with he students.

 

I had seen the Mobi’s demonstrated a few years back. We together we turned the units on. It took a few attempts to figure out what we were doing. At first it was awkward, figuring out the new tool. I model how to fail using the tool at the first few attempts. Eventually, I had it figured out so I could explain how to use to the other teacher. She fumbled around for a minute like I did and then was able to complete some simple tasks. As the prep period ended she was feeling confident in the using the Mobi for simple tasks. She sent an e-mail thanking me for the help, also asking how I might integrate the tool into lessons for her special needs students.

I had a few ideas, but by no means am an expert. I took a quick search of YouTube, found a few quality examples of teachers using Mobi’s in their classroom to send back to her. The next day she responded:

“Why didn’t I think of checking YouTube? I guess I just needed a push. Thank you!”

Sometimes all we need is a push in the right direction to get moving. It might lead to greatness.

Roads vs. Education

20141202-202020-73220699.jpgThis was the scene outside my car window on my drive home today, while on the radio voice talk about how about the horrid condition of Michigan roads. Roads in the mitten state are in dire need of repair. It seems they are always under construction but are never fixed. It seems like a similar cycle in education. We are constantly in a mode of repair that never seems to get done. Upon arrival at home I noticed a press release from the Michigan Association of School Boards urging schools to lobby against a bill that would shift gas sales tax from school to roads.

Wait, so when the roads fall apart we throw money at the problem and blame the weather, when the schools fall apart we cut funding and blame the teachers? Lovely Paradox. Schools are in constant change, looking for new and inventive ways to improve instruction. Thinking over my 15 years as a middle school teacher, my instructional techniques have totally changed to improve learning in my classroom. Formative assessment training has taught me to constantly monitor my instruction and know where my students need help. I use many different technology tools to deliver timely instruction.

Do I notice new innovations in road technology? Well the cold patch pictured to fill pot holes has been around since the first pot hole.The holes are filled one day and then back the next. Is the press attacking highway construction crews with desire to end their careers? Are contractors paid based on their performance? (Seems only if the job is done ahead of time not on quality).

Funding needs to go where it is needed most, in our schools for our future. Challenge the highway contractors to cut costs and find innovation in the same ways schools have over the past 10 years.