Thursday, March 20, 2014

What I Learned @teachSDA

I'll be leaving Sunday to take my 8th graders and parents to Washington, DC!  So I'm putting next weeks newsletter together early.  The community of @teachSDA is growing every week, over 1,000 people have visited our website since this fall.  I hope this community and newsletter become more useful every week.

"That's NOT FAIR!"; I can count on hearing that statement a couple times a week can you?  This coming Monday at 8pm we talk about "Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips" join us on twitter, #teachSDA. 

Never done a Twitter chat before?  It's easy with Twitterfall! Check it out! 

My staff is awesome and they keep me honest, as a proud technophile I admit that I love technology.  I also believe that teachers can benefit greatly from technologies use.  "Technology will not replace teachers...but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not."  

Having said that I must admit that not everyone is ready to jump into the technology pools deep end like me.  "So how do you bring everyone along?"  Is a question I hear often.  Here are some of my thoughts:  First, a good teacher like a good survivalist makes do with what they have to create great lessons. The best tool you have is the one in your head.   As a techie I must realize not all teachers see tech as an advantage…so I must work on building trust and relationship before hardware. 
Then, I have to invest the time so teachers trust my suggestions and value my opinions. You build the team you deserve.  Anytime I’ve adopted new technology or techniques it’s been advocated by someone I trust or admire.  Last, I remind myself that I hired people I believe in and if I believe in them I trust them to be professionals and to make decisions on when they are ready to add a new skill.   It's my job to never leave a teacher of mine in survival mode.

The next few articles deal with some of the same things:
1. Persuasion as a Catalyst for Change
Persuasion is a huge component of what we do in education. Roughly 40% of our time is spent moving other people from point A to point B or in another direction. The change process and its success for that matter lie in our ability to persuade people to embrace new ideas, concepts, and strategies.

2. The Real Reason Passion Matters in Education
“Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. ”
― Margaret Mead

3. Technology and Teaching: Finding a Balance
There is no doubt that finding the time to integrate technology is an overwhelming task for anyone. Throughout the course of a day, teachers find themselves pulled in many directions. However, technology is already integrated in nearly everything we do and nearly every job our students will encounter. So how do educators find an ideal balance for learning about and eventually integrating technology? It begins with a focus followed by good instructional design -- but ultimately, a healthy balance.

4. Report: As Teacher Demographics Change, Districts Must Prioritize Retention
It's been recently documented that the K-12 teacher workforce is greener than ever: In 2007-08, the amount of experience that the most teachers reported having was just one year. 

5. If I Had A Sledgehammer - Thoughts on Learning Spaces
During my time in Los Angeles this past week, I had an amazing opportunity to visit a couple of spaces that made me drool. I was given a tour of YouTube Space LA and SoulPancake offices. After seeing how they design their work areas and why they designed them that way, I just want to take a sledgehammer to my 80 year old room and start from scratch.

6. 3 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections with Your Students
Too often, I've heard teachers talk about how helpless they feel when it comes to reaching out to their students. The days of being the person whose job it is to exclusively provide students with an education -- and nothing more -- are long over. Honestly, some will say those days never existed.

7. 6 Steps to Help Students Find Order in Their Thinking
Using the six steps listed below, tessellated thinking might be a way to help students make order out of the mental chaos our young learners often experience:

8. 4 Phases Of Inquiry-Based Learning: A Guide For Teachers
Inquiry-based learning is an approach that can easily accommodate project-based learning, challenge-based learning, place-based education, blended learning, and other trends in education.

9. Kids These Days: Growing Up Too Fast Or Never At All?
In an interview with All Things Considered, Rosin tells host Robert Siegel that she had long wondered why statistics show that today's parents both work more and spend more time with their children than previous generations. She says it has to do with the lack of independence people allow their children these days.

10. The Long Death of Creative Teaching
Common Core standards are part of a bigger movement towards stifling teachers. 

This final article is at the heart of current debate in education.  Personally, I make a distinction between the political "common core" movement and the educational movement of consistent standards and inquiry based learning.  They are not the same; but for many parents and teachers caught in the debate the distinction is lost in the fray.  I recently spent some time online discussing the issue, here are some parts of that discussion. 

"The beauty and effectiveness of the SDA education system is it's ability to cheery pick the best from around education, but not be tied to the bureaucracy that handcuffs other systems. I am the first to say we want nothing to do with the bureaucracy of the political effort of common core."

"What we always must be mindful of is that there is a constant watchful awareness of our surrounding. If I see a useful tool(method) I make sure to use it and not have it use me.  Singapore Math/Saxon/BigIdeas are all tools I use to reach students. It doesn't reach every student and that means it's my job as a teacher to try another tool. As an Administrator my role is to empower my teachers to use the best tools for the students they have in front of them. The problem with the public system bureaucracy is they are using the tools to measure the wrong thing and they assume a one size fits all approach to the tools. That doesn't make the tools 'bad' it makes their use 'bad'. I'm fighting to keep every available 'tool' in my teachers toolbox."

"No system is perfect and no system should be used to the exclusion of anything else. Anyone who tells you their system works 100% of the time for 100% of the people is trying to sell you something."

"I can't help but feel that teachers and their classrooms are being caught in the middle of a debate that has very little to do with actual teaching or education. The "new" math system is working for me, my students and my school. I am blessed to be in a school system that allows me to use and adapt what works for me and my kids. I am fighting very hard to keep parents who don't have any background in education from sweeping in to handcuff my teachers just because they watched a news program or saw a FB post about the evil of this or that. (Free me from both the mob and government bureaucracy- very libertarian don't you think?) We as a staff considered very carefully over the course of two years how we would change from the old books to something new. We wanted to address specific issues in computation, problem solving, student independence, word problems and teacher materials. I cared very little about whether 'common core' was printed on the cover. I wanted to know that the book addressed the issues we had for our students and staff. Does the book ask us to approach things differently than before?  Yes, in many ways it does. But I don't feel it has hurt our students. It has caused some of us teachers to revamp our teaching instead of 'putting things into cruise mode'.  But sometimes we need a kick in the pants to change things up for the better. You're right mandates from either the left or the right damage our classrooms and it's easier to demonize a different viewpoint than to consider its merits."

"The methods used in common core math where in use before the government adopted them. Just because they adopted them doesn't automatically make them a threat. Here's part of what I base my teaching from and I am using a common core math book that I find validates the following quote:

"For ages education has had to do chiefly with the memory. This faculty has been taxed to the utmost, while the other mental powers have not been correspondingly developed. Students have spent their time in laboriously crowding the mind with knowledge, very little of which could be utilized. The mind thus burdened with that which it cannot digest and assimilate is weakened; it becomes incapable of vigorous, self-reliant effort, and is content to depend on the judgment and perception of others. Seeing the evils of this method, some have gone to another extreme. In their view, man needs only to develop that which is within him. Such education leads the student to self-sufficiency, thus cutting him off from the source of true knowledge and power.  The education that consists in the training of the memory, tending to discourage independent thought, has a moral bearing which is too little appreciated. As the student sacrifices the power to reason and judge for himself, he becomes incapable of discriminating between truth and error, and falls an easy prey to deception. He is easily led to follow tradition and custom." Education: p.230

As Adventist Educators I hope you understand the great blessing and privilege you have to work everyday in a system that values you and the freedom to teach!

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