Advocacy #Oneword2018

advocate

Advocacy – public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.

My focus for 2018 will on advocacy. I need to advocate for creating a better education system for my students and peers. Right now our education system seems to be a target. Schools don’t get the appreciation for all the services that are provided. Teachers are leaving their chosen profession in droves for greener pastures. It is time for advocates to rise up and share the power of education and all that is positive in our schools.

It can be easy just to close the classroom door focusing on just my own class. Teachers need to remember what is best for our students and keep doors open. We need to discuss our practice critically with each other. Advocating for what we know is best while remaining respect of others opinions. I have shied away from advocacy in the past in fear of offending others. It can be a fine line of being and advocate and be arrogant. One must respect others points of view; agreeing to disagree to avoid confrontations.  These conversations have to occur to transform education.

Lorax

For education to turn around it needs advocates.

Advocates for our students remembering that they are more than a score. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds with a plethora of goals the education system needs to honor them.

Advocates for our teachers. The profession has been beaten down by accountability.

Advocate for funding. Our schools need to keep pace with our ever changing educational needs.

Advocates for teaching and learning methods. To improve our system we need to accept the many learning styles and methods that work.

Advocate for many paths. Our society has focused too ling on “college ready”, we need to recognize that many career paths don’t pass through colleges.

I will not apologize for my advocacy. I care to much to not speak out for my students and profession!

 

My previous #oneword posts on Time and Opportunity.

Thanks for giving me your time to take the opportunity to advocate on behalf of my students.

 

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Looking back to move forward

lookingback

As 2017 wraps up, I am reminded to reflect on the past so I can plan for the future. This year has flown by with much excitement and stress. The year started with AMLE asking me to be a featured speak at the 2017 conference. One of my teaching partners struggled as her father slowly passed away. Summer was a nice hiatus to spend time with my 3 young ones as they grow up (too quickly). Fall came in like a hurricane as a school year can do full of activities and learning. In November the AMLE conference was full of passion and excitement. The winter break came just in time to allow me to catch up and reflect.

As I look back I want to focus on 3 things moving forward:

  1. Slow down – Don’t try to do everything, focus on being present where ever you may be. Enjoy the moment and don’t worry about missing something. When you spend time worrying about missing out, you miss out on everything.
  2. Focus on students – Our students matter. It isn’t the curriculum, test scores or grades that matter. Our students live very different lives than I did when I was growing up. I need to remember to give them experiences that they may never get. I need to remember that they have different expectations and desires in life than I have for my children. I just need to listen and help them grow. this growth is not always academic and comes in many forms.
  3. Try new thing – I want to stay fresh and inventive. There are days I have little time to gather all I need to make the “great’ lesson. I need to make sure I don’t resort to just reach for the file cabinet with old lessons. I need the students to be engaged daily. Lesson must be fresh, exciting and full of passion for learning science. I can’t just rely on the textbook or a video to motivate my students to learn science.

past

I hope to continue to grow and learn this year. I see changes ahead. 2018 see me join the AMLE board of directors helping guide its mission and vision. I will be giving up my leadership role for our districts Union to find time to work on the national level.

Hope to connect with many great folks in 2018! See you in the new year!

Silverdome Implosion = Teachable moment

dome
Flicker by Dave Hogg

“Mr Bloch, did you hear they are imploding the Silverdome this weekend?” A student asked at the start of advisory today. “Yes, I heard it on the news.”

“What’s the Silverdome?” another student piped in.

Since Ford Field opened in 2002 the Pontiac Silverdome has become a forgotten relic wasting away in the elements. My students weren’t born the last time a significant event occurred there. I quickly shared how I attended Lions and Pistons games an the occasional concert at the Silverdome while I was in college. Pulling up pictures of the stadium for them all to see.

“Man it would be cool to see it BLOWN AWAY!” I was quickly reminded of how middle school students love explosions. What science could we discuss? I quickly responded,

“You realize the matter is not destroyed, just changed into something else.”

“What?”

“Matter doesn’t disappear it just changes.” A puzzled look over came the 7th grader’s face just as the bell rang for him to move on to his next class.

Middle school students love science, they just don’t quite understand all of it yet. Implosions look like explosions, not many kids care to know the difference. When something implodes or explodes all they cares is what was once there is now gone. But where did it go? Energy transforms matter into something else, dust and debris, that has the exact same mass as the original structure. Students have a difficult time understanding this.

To help my student understand the law of conservation of mass and energy transformations I plan to use a new website, Legends of Learning, where the science is brought to life through games. To help my inquiring students better understand the implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome there is the game Energy Lab that shows students how energy flows in the chemical reactions used to implode the structure. Students are engaged while playing the learning games. Potential Match can be used to explain how the potential energy is changed to kinetic energy and back during the implosion.

Students love seeing science in actions rather than reading about it in a book or seeing it in a video. Video games help science come alive and be interactive, like those teachable moments we find in life.

I plan on getting my 13 year old son up early on Sunday to drive down M-59 and watch the dome go down all in the name of science.

Don’t miss all the teachable moments that occur in your community where science is always in action!

The Improv of teaching

improv

“Mr Bloch, we didn’t do that activity second hour, why did sixth hour do it?” Well to be quite honest no two hours in my classroom are the same! My teaching doesn’t stick to a script. Sure we cover the same topics, but depending on the audience and how they react to the topic the class stirs where the learning will go. I see teaching as working as an improv actor. I know the topic, know many ways to convey the needed knowledge about the topic but wait till the audience in the seats reacts to see which path I travel down.

When I started teaching I felt my classes deserved the same lessons. I felt if I short changed a class if I did not cover all the material the class before. The classes had to start and end at the same spot even if it meant one class had to rush to get there and another had to slow down or stop learning just to keep to the script. Does the lesson drive learning or is it how students interact with the knowledge?

When students participate and engage in their learning, their interests and questions drive what is done in the classroom. If teachers stick to a defined script students will feel disconnected with the learning process and shut down. Similar to the way a comic on the stage has to read the audience, see where jokes bomb or succeed and move towards the success.  A teacher can’t push through a lesson if it is failing, they have to shift to find success. Teachers have to constantly gage the students level of interest, listen to the questions their students are asking and shift lessons towards their needs.

Lesson plans serve as a map that show where the class needs to arrive, eventually! The teacher needs to make sure to keep all roads clear so students can find the one that fits them best. My worst days in the classroom came from forcing my class down a road they didn’t want to travel down. As the learning guide teachers have to remember the destination is important and the path there doesn’t matter. Some classes want the direct route using memorization and worksheets (yes some students like this approach) while others want to climb mountains and enjoy the view during their journey.  Teachers just need to make sure students keep moving forward and arrive unharmed with knowledge.

Educational reformers seem to think that teachers just have a script to read from for the 180 days of the school year. If this was the case TVs and VCRs would have replaced teachers long ago. Students need the constant interaction with a knowledgable sherpa to learn.

To be a great teacher, sharpen your improv skills, gage the interests of your students to guide them on the many paths of learn!

#AMLE2017 Pre-Conference thoughts

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I leave tomorrow for Philadelphia. I am excited to be presenting at the AMLE annual conference in front of incredible educators from all over the world. I wonder if there will be enough time in the two days that I am at the conference to do everything I desire. I want to attend ALL the sessions, connect with everyone and learn new things. I have to contain myself and remember a few guiding principals.

  1. Slow down– Don’t rush from moment to moment but just live in the moment. It will be over way to fast if you rush. Make all connections meaningful. Learn in the moment and don’t worry about the getting to the next moment.
  2. Talk to teachers– The conference will be full of incredible experts, authors and leaders. I enjoy connecting with all of them, but to hear about practical classroom practice, I need to connect with classroom educators. I need to make time in my busy schedule to make sure I sit in a few session with current classroom teachers. They know what works and the ins and outs of practice best, especially if they are presenting at a national conference.
  3. Say Hi– As I go through the conference I need to look for the attendees who seem to be by themselves. (Like me) I need to slow down say high and spark a conversation. During past conferences this is how I have meet some incredible people. Nobody wants to be alone, so I need to find my tribe. I also can’t assume people will recognize me from twitter. I am not a handle but a person.
  4. Follow twitter– This will allow me to not miss incredible stuff going on. I can see the retweets and interactions. If it was worth hearing, it will show up on the #AMLE2017 twitter feed. After I return home Tuesday night I will search the feed to continue learning.
  5. Use the APP– AMLE has invested money in creating a handy app. In the all presenters can upload all their resources. So even if you can’t make a session you can still find resources to use and help you grow. The APP has all the contact information you need to follow up with presenters and gives you a space to take notes.
  6. Have FUN– If learning isn’t fun it won’t be meaningful. I need to not stress about my sessions or who I connect with (I hope all of you!!) but enjoy the moment and the opportunity the conference provides.

See you all in Philly! Please stop me and Say HI if I don’t first!

 

Anchor: Endless possibilities

anchor

Recently I noticed a member of my Twitter community using Anchor FM. At first I was a skeptic, do we really need another tool to reflect or blog with? I already write this blog, I keep a blog for my classroom, I connect on many social media platforms. Would this be worth my time? Knowing my writing limitations and feeling more confidant as a public speaker, there was no harm in checking it out.

Once downloaded I gave the app a try. I found the tool easy to use and straight forward. Just speak in the phone to record you voice, add music to the background, preview and publish. The app connects to other social media accounts to allow for audience. Anchor was what I had been dreaming about. I can blog while driving just by talking into my bluetooth! I can quickly record my thoughts to save for later. I can choose to share or just keep them private. Anchor even allows you to create your own podcasts! The coolest part is listeners can call in to comment on your Anchor posts, giving instant feedback! Could I use this tool in the classroom?

My brain is swirling with ideas of how to have my middle school students use Anchor! We have 4 Ipads and 10 Ipods at school. With Anchor I can have students record their thoughts on learning activities, call-in to reflect on others recordings and have students create podcasts about their learning. Anchor can be used in many ways in the classroom. It can help student articulate their thinking, practice public speaking and ultimately become better writers when listening to their work.

Recently I discovered that Anchor has the ability to take spoken word and turn it into a video. Here is one created from my post today:

I did need to edit some of the transcription. My students will love this feature and it will help them work on proof reading skills. (Which I need too!) This video is such an improvement over my talking head Video Logs (Vlogs).

Check out Anchor, this tool has endless possibilities in classroom Anchoring our students learning!

Anchor can be used to:

  • Reflect
  • Retell/Restate
  • Summarize
  • Expand on ideas
  • Debate
  • Hypothesize
  • Predict
  •  Practice speaking
  • Give students an authentic audience

Please share your ideas of how you might use Anchor.

Finished with School?

finished with school

As I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard a call exclaim how glad they were to be entering their final year of school. Excited to be done, the DJ’s response caught my attention: “Then what? Your excited to be finished with the best years of your life and to go to a job everyday!” As a teacher I feel the excitement of school being out for summer and hear about student’s desires to be “done” with school. We have all heard the Alice Cooper’s anthem School’s Out for Summer.

Is school being out forever something to celebrate? Sure it is great to celebrate the accomplishment of graduation and moving on to new challenges but the end of learning? Most people want school over to get “into the real world”. Isn’t school part of the real world? Now that I am in my mid-forties reflections of school bring back the fondest memories. When will you only work 40 weeks out of the year again? Heck I wish I could JUST be a students again.

Students fail to see how school connects to life. They see it as a right of passage that they all have to get through. School has many similarities to jobs. Show up on time, complete task by deadlines and be respectful to your co-workers and boss. Luckily for students school is different than most jobs in that it is ever changing. Each year different boss and co-workers. During the day different subjects are tackled. Only professional careers look similar, most jobs are more mundane. The school year looks very different than most job years. Schools have more breaks and planned time off. Most jobs only have 2 weeks of vacation the first year and make new comers work holidays and weekends. So why are students in such a hurry to get done?

Society has created schools to be a task that has to be completed. Forgetting that being educated is a life long task. Grade levels have been arbitrarily created to match up with ages not knowledge level. Students see school completion as being an adult not being educated with core knowledge. When a person starts any job they start with a training program and mentors that mimic school. Our society needs to shift how we look at school, we need to focus on life long knowledge growth rather than school being out forever! Are we ever finished with learning? When my students ask this question my answer is “You are finished learning when you are finished living!”   

Now it is time for a school is in session anthem!