Monday, April 27, 2015

Winding down (or finally getting it?) after 27 posts in 27 days

The biggest fear was the lack of time time so I decided to try keep each post short and simple - one thought - in and out. But that is way more difficult than I had imagined.

Seth Godin's post today addressed this situation for me. Perfect timing.

So after 27 posts in 27 days, I'm trying to actually do it as planned this time. It shows I definitely needed the practice.

What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

There were several reasons I decided to take on the AprilBlogaDay challenge. One of those reasons was my attempt to get over the thought that a blog was basically a written selfie. I kept asking myself - What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

After discussing the practice in a chat over the weekend, it became clear that this process is more than just a method to flesh out and expand on an idea or thought that has been limited to a scribble on a scrap of paper. The "Publish" button is just a way to finalize that thought for that moment.

I guess I'm just used to seeing the reaction in the faces of the students in the classroom. On Facebook there is a "Thumbs up" button that at least gives an indication that someone's been there but I'm glad those aren't part of this process. Based on my own experience in reading and (not) commenting, the number of comments for most blog posts must be a very low percentage. By writing it out, it will stick with me a little longer and publishing it just gives it more possible places to bounce.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

If April showers bring May flowers, what do April bloggers bring?

The response is definitely not "No comment" and also more blogging.

Several of those who have been participating in the April blog a day challenge (#AprilBlogaDay) put together by Chris Crouch (@the_explicator) got together for a Twitter chat this morning. As I stated near the end of the hour, I don't know if I have been a part of a more productive chat. It was part reflection and part brainstorming, but then also led to a planned future activity that is often missing from professional development.

The group decided to continue blogging (in various degrees of frequency) in the month of May.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! (read in your best ginsu knife commercial voice)

Some have chosen to comment on one blog post a day and post a link to the blog. It should be a great way to share what you are reading to a wider audience and give some needed feedback to many education bloggers.

The hashtag in May becomes more universal - #edBlogaDay. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow from this amazing group of people.

To join the Google+ Community and/or sign up on this Google Form.

A formula for a great "working" environment

This post was written in response to two hashtags: #ILoveMySchoolBecause and #AprilBlogaDay

There are several things that come to mind that I truly appreciate about working at DeMatha Catholic High School. While these really just scratch the surface, they are some of the first things that come to mind for this quick reflection.  I had to cut it off somewhere because this prompt was "due" yesterday!

Incredible colleagues
My colleagues and administrators have been intelligent, risk-takers who are willing to share their experience and time. Most importantly, they are great people and its modeled for the students everyday. Our principal often encourages the importance of "play" in education and I see that in the attitudes of teachers and students throughout each day.

Freedom + Support
Since my first days at DeMatha I have been given the freedom to choose much of the content and approach that best works with my teaching style and my students. Along with that freedom has always been support and guidance to encourage me to further develop. 

Expectation of excellence
There has been an expectation of excellence in anything that we attempt to do, both in and outside the buildings, even before I started working at DeMatha. That culture of excellence was never specifically stated to me that I can remember, but it is evident in the achievements of the past and the attitude of the present.

More than remembering
A school slogan, "Remember... you are a gentleman and scholar" was created several years ago and place on posters throughout the school. It is a powerfully simple statement that makes the purpose of any endeavor clear. In many small ways each day we are continually reminded that we're not quite there yet and that's certainly expected. Working in a building with almost 1000 high school boys would make it seem like that model is impossible to live up to. But that doesn't stop everyone from trying. And some days, we come remarkably close.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Transparency is not a four letter word

A few days ago, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price went on a profanity laced tirade with a reporter about the amount of information he released about an injured player. His main point centered around how that information could be a help to his team because he knew it could hurt his team by giving opponents information that may alter their game plan.  How much information should be revealed to the press and what information is really necessary? 

His concern was basically about transparency and social media has made everything transparent.

But just because the information is easily shared does that mean we are entitled to it?

Within the last 5-10 years, social media and the Internet have made a long-time isolated profession of teaching much more open and transparent. In the past, we taught in "our" classrooms and worked with "our" students and were very protective of both. It wasn't practical or possible to get information out very often. So we worked with them over time and released "reports" every so often. Now those reports can go out every week, or every day, or every hour, or even real-time.  But how often do we need to?

There are so many positives to sharing information about what we do in the classroom and how it is done. There are just as many ways to share it and so many incredible people doing so constantly. It's a win-win for teachers and therefore, most likely, their students.

How much that happens with students in the high school classroom should be shared and how frequently? Everything? Do we give students a chance to work things out on their own with teacher help first? Those discussions have been ongoing in my building for quite some time with the various sides all having one thing in common - what's best for the students. That makes the answers as varied as the students themselves.

One more thing we need to stop pretending in education

This only puts me at five so I am allowed to add it! (see yesterday's post).

#5 We need to stop pretending that if students can Google it, they do not need to know it.

If I tell my doctor a symptom and then he/she Googles it, the next symptom I will ask him/her to Google will be "extreme concern."

There are things our students should know about our discipline which will allow them to think about it creatively. Without that foundation, they will not be able to move any further in their thinking or be able to creatively put together ideas from other areas of interest.

It's one of our jobs to know what that foundation may be and help students understand it and how to build upon it. It's in the learning of that material that we get to be as creative and innovative as our ideas will allow.

So yes, there will be many times when I ask my students a question that they could possible Google and get the answer. It's the follow up question, the one that puts that idea or concept together with others, that's the goal for their thinking and can not be done by Google. Yet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

4 things we have to stop pretending in education

There are five listed here for my April Blog a Day post (#22) but the last one is too personal to be part of the main list.

#1 We know the future we are preparing students for
Yes, there are a lot of changes in education and technology recently but we can't today and never really have been able to. But, if we make students the best learners and people that they can be and give them a solid and varied foundation, they will have the tools and attitude to handle and create their own future, whatever it may be. I think that's always been the case.

#2 New teaching method __________ is the only/best way to go
Fill in the blank with any of the latest. This is a tricky one for me because by no means am I saying that it can't work. As a matter of fact, I may have tried it or may be doing that very thing. I definitely don't want to quell any enthusiasm or knock down a good idea without giving it a go. It's the words "only" or "best" that get me because everything else is therefore useless. Add the new idea and let it grow naturally. If it's an oak, it'll get big and strong soon enough.

#3 Old teaching method __________ is the only/best way to go
It may be working but the only way to know for sure is to compare it to something else or something new. If you don't try, you can't ever be sure.

#4 If something is not done well (i.e. PowerPoint), it should not be used at all
Instead of jumping on the anti-train, it'd be more productive to offer helpful hints for improvements to the process. There's always someone doing it well, whatever "it" may be.

#4.5 April Blog a Day posts are a "15 minute reflection" - This one's personal. :)
One of the things I was hoping for during the month was to practice this process so much that I could write a post in close to 15 minutes. The result? Not yet, unless, in this case, I had stopped after #1.
But I still have 8 more practice rounds.