Friday, May 25, 2018

Teaching Tip #170

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #170

The Myth of Teacher (Part 1)

On rainy summer days, my grandmother used to snatch a title from her bookcase, sit down in her recliner, nestle me in her lap, and open new worlds to me.  It only took a few lines before I forget about the dark skies outside while she read Watership Down, Huckleberry Finn, The Hobbit, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.   Of all the stories she read, though, one has stayed with me: the myth of Sisyphus from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.  His eternal punishment was almost too much for my seven-year-old mind the first time Granny recounted his tale. Sisyphus is cursed to lug a boulder up a steep mountain, only to deliver it to the top and have it plummet back to the bottom.  For all of his labor, he is forever toiling in futility.
Even the eternal lake of fire the nuns frightened us with at catechism didn't horrify me the way Sisyphus’ fate did.  I couldn’t imagine a punishment worse than to work so hard, only to suffer failure after failure . . . for all eternity.
As a high school English teacher, I am well acquainted with his plight.  Don’t get me wrong, there are dozens of moments every class period where I experience moments of great success.  There is the satisfied smile on a student’s face when she opens up her research paper and sees the “A” scrawled across the top.  There is the wide-eyed shock on several students’ faces when they reach the conclusion of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and realize what it means for the winner.  There is the debate that erupts in class over a podcast featuring Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation, when the class realizes the author’s title is referring to their generation.  These moments are sublime; they keep me in this profession.  Despite these moments, though, I know that I will ultimately fail in some way with every one of my students.  I am a real life version of Sisyphus.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Teaching Tip #169

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #169

As a 1:1 district, we hear this message daily: don't use technology in a trivial way. If you're going to redesign your curriculum, don't use technology simply for technology sake. Instead, make sure that the technology enhances a vital skill or brings something innovative to the subject or task.

Of course, Marc Prensky agrees.

I especially like these points

• Connect with people around the world (e.g. using Twitter and Skype)
• Do complex analyses (e.g. using Wolfram Alpha)
• Create new software (e.g. making Apps)
• Create new physical products (e.g. using CAD and 3D printing)
• Simulate machines and populations (e.g. using computer-based simulation tools)
• Meet in Virtual Worlds (e.g. using Second Life)
• Build and program robots (e.g. using Lego Mindstorms)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Teaching Tip #168

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #168

Several years ago I was taking a Learner’s Edge graduate class in which we had to read Todd Whitacker’s What Great Teachers Do Differently.

In the book, he was talking to a young teacher who had just spent the day observing a 30 year veteran.

The young teacher was amazed at all the things the vet knew that he didn’t.

When he asked the veteran teacher how she knew so much, she replied that she’d been teaching 30 years.  

And here is the key point, which she added, - While I might have taught for 30 years, I haven’t taught the same year 30 times

That’s brilliant.  She has learned and grown and changed her mind several times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Teaching Tip #167

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #167

The title of this one is very intriguing: Academic Teaching Doesn't Prepare Students for Life.

I have to agree.  Now hear me out.  About 100 years ago - or even 75 - when about 5-10 percent of the American population went to college, it meant you were 'educated.'  That meant you read Shakespeare, spoke another language, and had advanced science and math courses.

But that is the stuff of high school today.  Or so we hope anyway.

I fear, though, in the name of academics today we are teaching simply factual recall.  NCLB nobly tried to close the achievement gap via high stakes testing. 

What did the tests test?  Factual recall.

Okay.  Then guess what gets taught in school?  Facts.

So we are prepping our kids to master trivial pursuit.

How does this tie in to what I wrote about 100 words ago concerning colleges at the turn of the century? Well, it means that most of the students who came out of high school (actually, they dropped out since fewer than half actually earned a diploma), could find basic work in our job market.  They could drive trucks (as my father did), work in a factory, build houses, and so on. 

The folks who earned college degrees became doctors and lawyers and so on.

Fields like software engineers, search engine optimizers, internal logistics, data analysts, and public relations didn't exist.

Now they do.  Now they are essential.  All the basic jobs, are outsourcer or automated.

So simply teaching students to recall facts isn't enough like it used to be.

This, in turn, is leading to another achievement gap.  This one much more worrisome.

The new achievement gap results from schools teaching to the high stakes tests ushered in by NCLB.  What we aren't teaching are the two main things businesses want: how to solve complex problems and how to work in teams (how can you fill in a bubble to test any of those skills).

So focusing more on academics will not help students prepare for the jobs of the future.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Teaching Tip #166

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #166

Dave Burgess talks about LCL’s all the time: Life Changing Lessons.

Here is one I came across awhile ago.

It's not often that you have the chance to read something that will stay with you forever.

But this story, about the first Make a Wish child, will do just that.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Teaching Tip #165

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #165

Ahh, Twitter.

I love it.  In my opinion, it's the best thing to happen to me as an educator since I earned my MA.

But it's misunderstood and frightening.

Just this week I had a colleague ask if I follow current students on Twitter.

I said that I do.  But I do it diligently.  I follow several of my College Comp 1 and 2 students.  And almost exclusively, I follow them after they have begun following me.

I figure if they're willing to do that, it means they are willing accept the "burden" of having me follow them.

Then he asked if that wasn't frowned upon in social media circles (I'm paraphrasing here, for I can't remember his exact words).

I said that students know I'll report anything stupid that they put on there.  In fact, the only issue I ever had was via a retweet from a student I did not follow who said some very inappropriate things.  So I took a screen capture of the offensive material and sent it to administration.

I then said honestly that I have not had a single issue with one of my students via Twitter.

Well, your students must be perfect, he concluded.

I said that yes I do have excellent students.

But they aren't perfect.  And neither is their teacher.  Just look at this typo in a Tweet from yesterday (which my colleague took a screen capture of and sent out).

Oh man!  I meant "shoes" obviously but the typo is not good.

That has to be on a "Why Teachers Shouldn't Tweet" page somewhere.  When I was alerted to this, I deleted it and put my original comment on there: "Those are some big SHOES to fill . . ."

That, though, is a great lesson for me.  Check your tweets for spelling and typos!

But I still stand by Twitter.


First, I get so much professional development ideas from it.  Where do you think all of these links come from?

Plus, I get the best encouragement and feedback and inspiration from it.  Especially from former students. Just a couple days ago I was paid this compliment.

In the end, I'm all for this attitude toward Twitter, especially this: we still have far too many educators who don't fully understand Twitter and don't understand the value of being connected. They aren't seeing the benefits of collaborative learning and are pre-judging those who do by assuming we are just 'playing' around.

Thursday, May 17, 2018