Death Valley Isn’t Really Dead

I started watching the talk by David Christian because I was intrigued by the title, The history of our world in 18 minutes.  I did watch the whole thing but found my mind wandering until he got to the part about his grandson.  Next I watched Dan Meyer’s talk, Math class needs a makeover.  This one was definitely more my speed and both entertaining and informative.  How lucky his high school math students are to have him in the classroom.  Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk recommended on the ED 554 blog by Stella8 was also good.

But, by far my favorite was Sir Ken Robinson’s How to escape education’s death valley.  Again, I chose it for the title, and what a wise choice it was.  When I saw it was more than 19 minutes I groaned because I had already been through more than a half hour of sitting and listening.  When he began speaking…another Brit, really?!  Then I found myself  all lol and rotfl.   Sir Ken used humor to tackle a hard problem…the education system in America.  He begins by addressing NCLB and how it rewards conformity whereas our students are naturally different and diverse.  “Differentiation”  is a term tossed around ad nauseum in college curriculum and classrooms, but how do we do that in a system of conformity and compliance?

Sir Ken said some schools, teachers, and students are succeeding IN SPITE of the educational system not BECAUSE OF it.   He compared American schools with Finnish schools.  In Finland, they have no dropout rate.  In America, if we cut our dropout rate in half we would add more than $1 trillion dollars to the economy.  Sir Ken says, in Finland (1) the teaching and learning is individualized, (2) a high status is given to the teaching profession, and (3) responsibility is left to the school level to get the job of learning done.  Sounds pretty good, right?  In America, it’s our ALTERNATIVE high schools that personalize the learning, give strong support for teachers, have close ties with the community, and broaden the curriculum outside of school hours.  So, why do we consider this the alternative and not the norm?

Well, Sir Ken, you have made me a fan for life.  Next one I will listen to, on Logan LaPlante’s recommendation…Schools kill creativity!

Stay tuned… 


TED-Ed Said…

I am now officially a member of the TED online community.  I imagine there will be a lot of interesting things to explore, but for now my assignment is FLIPPED CLASSROOMS.  Flipped instruction is one of the latest buzz words in education. In my 6th grade student teaching placement, my mentor teacher experimented with some flipped instruction in one of the social studies units, although it didn’t involve technology.  Reading the blogs on TED-Ed about flipped instruction,  there are lots of advocates out there.  The one blog I thought very helpful was by Edutopia called Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom by Andrew Miller.  It’s not that Mr. Miller was “anti-flipped instruction” but he was the voice of reason.  He explained that flipped instruction isn’t an end or a solution, rather it is a technique for maximizing class time with students.  Mr. Miller says flipped instruction does free up the teacher’s time, but “just because I ‘free’ someone, doesn’t mean that he/she will know what to do next, nor how to do it effectively.”    Once you make the decision to explore flipped instruction, be sure to read Andrew Miller’s article to learn about the Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom.

Field Trip by Google

I watched the podcast by ToolZeit about the free Google app called Field Trip.  It is a pretty neat app that has implications for the classroom. Renee and Fred are the hosts and they give a short but thorough evaluation of the app.  What I found even more interesting; however, is that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they evaluate tools and apps that may be of use for teachers, students, or even tools for your personal life.  They can be found on the EdReach home page.  I have attended many Webinars in my working life before changing careers.  What my employer liked most is that so many are free!  I also attended one this year as a kindergarten IA.  I would definitely continue to use podcasts for professional development.  They are easy, convenient, and offer many interesting topics.

You, too, can be read to!

Once upon a time there was a little child who loved books..and not just any book but EVERY book.  The child loved to have books read to her at night before bedtime.  How wonderful it was for her to hear the different characters in the book come alive.  Now the child is all grown up and still has a love of books.  The child has become the reader, inventing the voices so that the books can come alive for other children…and the cycle continues.

Can you remember being read to when you were younger?  Those times I read to my children were magical.  Picking the book was a challenge because of so many choices and so little time.  Then we’d snuggle under the covers and get lost in the story.  Sometimes sleep overtook us before we could finish, sometimes I had to say no more books tonight.  These are some of my most favorite memories.

Many think these read-alouds are just for the young pre-readers.  Au contraire!  Students of all ages enjoy being read to.  Whether a short picture book or a book that challenges, the lyrical sound of the voice and the mesmerizing tale … well let’s just say you NEVER outgrow that.  As the reader, I too get joy from reading to students.  I read at least one book, but usually more, to my Kinders every day.  Sometimes they were quiet, sometimes they giggled, oftentimes they joined in.  How I loved it when I heard, “I love this book!”  In my student teaching placement in 6th grade I used picture books to teach a lesson on figurative language.  The students got so lost in the books they almost forgot the assignment!  I also chose a picture book to share with the students during our lesson on the Underground Railroad – Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  You could have heard a pin drop. The students were mesmerized.  I read it four times, to four different classes and they all reacted the same way.  It elicited a great discussion afterwards, too.

Well, if you’ve been missing this now it’s your turn for a read-aloud.  I worked with some peers to create a digital storytelling project and we chose the book Parts by Tedd Arnold.  It is a silly rhyming story with fun and creative illustrations.  We took a few liberties and created some of our own “illustrations”, added a few sound effects, and generally just had fun.  I hope you enjoy it!

If you want to grab a blankie first….I’ll wait for you!

Stay tuned…

Collaborating, Communicating, Connecting – The 21st Century Teacher

Attention in education today is all about the 21st century learner.  But who is thinking about the 21st century teacher?  Shelley Wright is in her blog post The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching.  Ms.Wright came up with a creative way to teach a difficult subject, the Holocaust.  Instead of traditional teaching, she “flipped” the process and had the students discover the learning necessary to design and create their own Holocaust museum.  Albeit a difficult and challenging process, her 10th graders tackled the job with enthusiasm.  Then they hit the proverbial bump in the road.  And she waited. And waited. And waited.  For us as teachers, that is one of the most difficult things to do.  When we see our students struggling, we want to jump in and “save” them. But are we really doing what is best for them at that point? Doing things for the students when they struggle robs them of the ability to discover their own brilliance and creativity.

3d-thinking-mind-mapThe creative process Ms. Wright’s class undertook reminded me of my 6th grade student teaching experience when the students created mind maps in Social Studies.  The students separated into three main topic areas and were given large pieces of butcher paper to design their individual mind map.  They researched their topic and collaborated on how their part would look and then it occurred to members of one group….how are the  pieces going to fit together?  One member of  that group went to each of the other groups, communicated their ideas, and collaborated on how they were going to connect the pieces of the mind map together.   This occurred in my first week in 6th grade and it was such a rush to see the kids reach this epiphany all on their own.  It was a beautiful thing!

Having the students take ownership of their education is a cornerstone of 21st century learners. Collaboration is a cornerstone of the 21st century teacher.  Whether modeling and facilitating collaboration among our students or collaborating with our peers, it is essential to developing critical thinking skills being stressed by educators today.  Innovation – another new buzz word – is required of students and teachers.  Gone are the days of worksheets and rote learning.  Technology, creativity, experimentation, hands-on…this is 21st century learning.  This is 21st century teaching.  I’m on board, are you?

Stay tuned…

The Eyes Have It

The eyes have itRemember your 9th grade biology class and Punnett Squares?  You know the one where , simply put, the four-square box of letters help predict the traits you’ll inherit from your parents.

Well, all 3 of our boys inherited brown eyes from their Dad and me.  Yes, they ARE dreamy…and that’s completely unbiased.  But, our daughter was blessed with green eyes like her mother and her mother before her.  My Green-Eyed Girl  has had quite the weekend – graduation from high school one day and her 18th birthday the next.  But for me it seems like just yesterday she was a little blonde girl toddling around with her baby doll wearing her Dad’s socks.

When she was a little girl we used to sing Van Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl” to her but substituted “green-eyed girl.”  She literally cried when she was old enough to learn the real words to the song.  I can still remember the day she heard it on the car radio and said, “They’re singing it wrong.”  And now, in the blink of an eye she stands before me a beautiful young lady with a sweet spirit, infectious smile, and the whole world before her for the taking.  She’s charming, smart, funny, creative, and has a heart as big as the moon.

I wonder if her college of choice realizes how lucky they are to get her.   I know how incredibly blessed I am to have  enjoyed these last 18 years with her.  If I think too long and hard about it, I get melancholy and weepy anticipating the day we pack her up and send her South.  But I won’t let myself go there yet.  For now,  I will celebrate with my green-eyed girl.  We will laugh, cuddle, and act silly.  Missing her is for tomorrow…today is for singing!

Green eyed girlCongratulations Sweet Bailey!

You make my heart sing!

I love, love, love You!

And for the rest of you, hopefully you’ll never listen to Brown-Eyed Girl the same way again!  Stay tuned…