Day #28

Am I training my students to have learned helplessness (or a fixed mindset)?

Yesterday, I started reading a professional book about reading instruction (Who’s Doing the Work? by Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris) that really got me to thinking. Am I denying my students the problem-solving process that leads to learning (and independent, life-long reading), because I am uncomfortable with their struggle?

I know better. I really do. Maybe it is the pressure of meeting the standards/targets. Maybe it the pressure of time. Maybe it is the pressure of fitting in. Maybe it is the pressure of responsibility. Maybe I just forgot who I am as a teacher and the art of teaching.

I need to go back to my heart. To what feels right, and makes students grow as readers. I have to remember that learning is a journey, and we are all in it for the long haul. Together, as a community of readers.

I am so happy that I found this book (shout-out thanks to my sister). It has realigned my teaching compass. I am back on the path. I can’t wait to chart my new course for tomorrow.

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!