Day #31: Last one

Phew! I can’t believe it has been 31 days already.

The research states that students should write everyday. Participating in this writing challenge has given me a first-hand perspective on what it means to write every day.

  • it’s ok if student struggle with topics to write about
  • it’s ok if students can’t “write”
  • it’s ok if students don’t “finish” their writing
  • it’s ok if students write in different formats

The best way to support students with their writing is to provide options, examples, and encouraging feedback within the framework of a community of learners.

Day #21: Model of the World

“There are no “rotten apples.”
There are only people who disagree with your point of view on things,
people who construct a different model of the world.
I am going to tell you this:
No persons do anything inappropriate, given their model of the world.
— N.D. Walsch

Today I saw a child sitting by himself outside of his classroom on a wooden bench. I sat down next to him and asked him why he was sitting on the bench.

“I got kicked out of class.”

“Humm… why did you get kicked out of class?”

“Because the teacher said I was being disrespectful.”

“Oh. (pause) What did you do that was disrespectful?”

“I threw my project on the floor.”

“I see. Why did you throw your project on the floor?”

“I didn’t want to present in front of the class.”

I kept up the questioning, digging deeper and deeper. He told me that he didn’t like presenting in front of the class. He felt his project wasn’t his best work. And he had to read a lot since he had written quite a bit. I asked him if he talked to his teacher and told her how he felt about his project, and he admitted he hadn’t. He said she was really mad right now, and we both agreed that probably he should wait until she had calmed down. He said he didn’t think she would believe him about the reasons why he didn’t want to present, about how he really felt. I asked him why, and he said it was because this wasn’t the first time he has been bad and made her mad in class. I asked him why he kept acting this way, and he told me that he had been kept back, and he really resented it. He didn’t want to be in 5th grade again, he wanted to be in the 6th grade with his friends. I asked him if his teacher was nice and cared about kids or if she was just teaching for the money. He laughed and looked me in the eye and said she really cared.

“How many more months do you have left of 5th grade?”

“3 months”

“Do you want to do this all over again?”

“No.”

“Do you think she knows how you really feel?”

“No.”

“Teachers are really smart, but we can’t get inside kids heads and hearts. Maybe you should talk to her about how you really feel so that the next 3 months are not terrible for the both of you. Then you can move on to 6th grade from a better place.”

I left him pondering on the bench. If I didn’t want to present a project that was terrible in front of my peers, what would I be willing to do? This makes me remember that no child is ever a “bad” child. They act out defensively, because some part of them is being threatened. How can we take the “threat” out of school and learning so we can see a child as they really are, not when they are in fight, flight, or fake/freeze (as in playing dead) mode?

Day#20: A Student’s Voice

Blah, blah, blah
That is all I hear
When you are talking
In the front of the room
As I am just sitting here…

Listening to others
Disrupting,
Invading,
Manipulating,
The classroom space

You think that you are in control
That we are all learning
But by the time you are done
My mind is blank,
The last 50 minutes forgotten
As if it never happened.

Today, I was a substitute educational technician in a public high school. I was so saddened by what I saw today… the lack of learning, teaching, and respect from both sides. So, I wrote this slice from the students’ perspective. I made a promise to myself today that I will always look at my teaching from the learning lens of my students.

Day 8: Quote for the Day

“There is no such thing as “wrong.” There is only that which does not serve you.”
– The New Revelations by Neale Donald Walsch

This quote makes the think about my choices and the choices of my students. If we truly believe that learning is a process- a journey- then this quote rings true. Nothing we or our students do is wrong… it is just a question of three principles:

  • (1) functionality (instead of morality)– whether something worked or did not work based on what you were trying to be or do. Did your choice produce the result/outcome/experience that you wanted? This is what works or doesn’t work versus right or wrong.
  • (2) adaptability (instead of justice)– if something is not working for you, you make a change or find a new way. Did you make an adjustment to go on in a way that works for you? This is correction instead of punishment.
  • (3) sustainability (instead of ownership)-things are placed in your care; they are not your possessions to do with as you please. Can you maintain long-term balance or growth in your life/classroom/etc.? This is about being stewards versus having certain “rights” over what you think you possess.

When we take the judgement out the equation, we are free to see what is the “best” path to take us to where we want to go or who we want to be. Change is easier to accept and not so personal and stressful.

Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is this working for me?
  • Is there a more direct way to where I want to go?
  • Can I keep this up over time?

Day #7: Professional Book (cont.)

Well, this book took me two days to finish… but it was chock full of ideas and how to focus on learning instead of teaching.

A few (I use this term loosely…) key points from Antonetti & Garver (in day two) that really resonated with me were…

  • Competition is only engaging when you have a pretty good chance of winning.
  • Learning with Others without Personal Response is just a matter of taking turns.
  • The action of posting an objective prior to anticipatory set often reduces students’ flexibility and depth of thinking- along with levels of student volunteerism- as the learners try to guess the teacher’s predetermined answer.
  • Introduce strategies outside of the content area and with ideas familiar to students before attempting to use it with new learning.
  • Content differentiation has three components: (1) concept, (2) skill, and (3) vehicle. Concepts should not be differentiated; however, the vehicle should be differentiated to make the concepts more accessible to all students.
  • Personal Response is about making a connection. Choice is about control. With Personal Response, you get to decide your answer to the question. With Choice, you get to decide the question.
  • Build individual thinkers, not just repeaters.
  • To facilitate the learning of 28 different students, a teacher does not need to become 28 teachers. Rather, the work he or she plans should allow the 28 students to own their own learning.
  • Assessment distinguishes between teaching and learning. Assessment for learning (formative) versus assessment of learning (summative)
  • RTI (Response to Intervention)… should it be RTI (Response to Instruction)?
  • Efficient versus effective dichotomy: What I can do quickly and proficiently may not lead to the deepest and most long-lasting results.
  • Closure is a final moment of Personal Response.

The authors have referenced so many great thinkers/teachers/researchers (i.e. Schlechty- 8 (originally 12 standards) engaging work qualities, Carol Ann Tomlinson, Madeline Hunter, Richard Stiggins, etc.).

You can try and check out the archived webinar from ASCD here. I really enjoyed it!

Day 6: Professional Reading

I love reading professional books- they just really motivate me. I can read most professional books in a night (which drives my teacher friends crazy). I’m currently reading 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong by John V. Antonetti & James R Garver. I am really enjoying this book because it focuses on what our lessons (or teaching) looks like from the other side of the desk. I am learning to shift the focus from my teaching to my students’ learning.

A few key points from Antonetti & Garver that really resonated with me were…

  • Learning tasks should be designed to guarantee a predetermined level of thinking.
  • Learning is not the same for students even if the activity is.
  • Level of difficulty and cognitive demand are not interchangeable.
  • Personalize the objective for students and then they can articulate (1) what they are doing, (2) what they are learning, (3) why they are learning, and (4) what success looks like.
  • Three high quality work predictors  are (1) autonomy, (2) mastery, and (3) purpose
  • The thinking level of the student plays a critical role in the level of engagement.

I am only on page 80 and the authors have referenced so many great thinkers/teachers/researchers (i.e. Dan Meyers, Webb Depth’s of Knowledge, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Brain Rules by John Medina, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Daniel Pink, Ruby Payne, Howard Gardner’s MIs, Phillip Schlechty’s Levels of Engagement, etc.).

If you want to learn about engaging students, promoting active learning, and boosting achievement… this book is for you!