Monday morning I was watching the Today show and they had this 31 year old guy who wrote a book or article about things 20 year olds don’t understand. One of the things he said is something that has been on my mind lately, he said “social media is not your job, it’s just part of it.” I guess that’s why most don’t get paid for it, right?
See this summer has been difficult, if you read my blog or tweets you know I will be starting another school year as a classroom teacher not a technology specialist. I’ve had trouble dealing with the rejection & and reality of it and many have given me a lot of advice. Most of it comes back to I need to tell more people what I do and what I can do in the social media and technology world. That’s hard for me. I’m that person who’s helps someone or does a project then moves on, usually letting others take the credit. Doesn’t bother me (except in coaching cheerleading because it was hard lol). Some had said I need to put more of my skills online. If I was jobless (I am lucky to have a job) it would be so much easier for me to do that.
Two summers ago I started a blog where I was going to post apps & tools hoping to do exactly what I said above. But once school started I didn’t keep up with it. Why? Shouldn’t be too hard because I bookmark tools every day. I’ve also had the suggestion my blog needs to focus more on technology than just teaching. But you see, I have this other job, my real job. And for 9 months of the year my number one focus is my classroom of students. Are they becoming scientists? Are they growing as people? Am I the best teacher I can be? That’s my job. When I spend time blogging or researching that has to be the priority.
Few years ago when I discovered twitter and started developing my PLN, I didn’t do that. I spent time focusing on the learning, getting followers by RTing tweets and participating in chats (so darn ashamed of that, wasn’t too successful bc it was fake and stupid). I looked for sites to post NOT sites to learn from that will help my students and then share with my PLN who I already learn from. It becomes addictive but for me it was wrong. My job was to teach math to 90 6th graders. I didn’t do that great of a job doing that that year. Was surprised I even got tenure. Huge wake up call for me. When I reflected on that year I saw how my PLN had helped me but through learning from them I also saw how I let my students down and had to find a middle ground. Adjustment of my outlook took over.
Recently I was having a conversation online with a friend of mine. Started talking about going back to school and she let it slip her administration was not very supportive. Her admins were never around, never helped, didn’t take time to get to know the teachers, etc. Then it hit me, that admin and crew have been pretty big in the twitterverse lately. Starting their own & pushing chats and posting their successes and ideas. (y’all know I’m not a chat fan, but I know y’all benefit from them so no negative) These things I’ve learned they never shared or helped their teachers with. So how does that make sense? (she may kill me for posting this.)
You see, social media is not your job. Your job is what you most likely put in that twitter bio. That comes first, then when you have time, comes the other. This totally does not apply to those starting their own business or don’t have a job and are in process of searching. Jamie Vandergrift is an excellent example how she couldn’t find a teaching job and over last year has used social media to start her own business, many of you have. This is not about you. But if you have a job, that needs to be your focus. Look at what you are missing out on in your classroom as a teacher or building if you are admin or specialist
and blog or tweet second. So yeah, I have trouble pointing out what I do in social media because my district and school as well as over 200 parents have trusted me to teach. They pay me pretty good money to teach. To enhance the life and care for 160 preteens. That’s a pretty tough job, so probably not going to blow it off. Three weeks and back to that being my focus. Be careful going back to school, we have had all this time to focus on and enjoy learning in this space. This space is now moving back to 2nd place.
Motivation. What motivates you? What motivates your students? What motivates teachers to use new tech? These are questions we hear do often. These are questions where if we knew the answer our jobs all of a sudden become a whole lot easier. If humans weren’t so darn complicated we would know the answer.
More I read about motivation I read that money & rewards are not good motivators. It’s hard for me to believe these things are not important (hold on I’m going to be coming back to this) but Pink’s Drive pretty much drilled this into my head. He teaches that self-determination is key. Maslow found that growth needs are based on curiosity and exploration and at the highest level focus on need for self-fulfillment and reaching potential. This goes for all ages. If you study Knowles’ ideas within andragogy, adults are motivated when learning is problem centered with more internal motivators. My dear brilliant friend Angela Maiers (who I may say has better shoe collection than I do) will tell you our passions drive us.
So we have all these factors that can come into play when looking at motivators. I see all of these in my everyday life. To me the internal is huge. Passion, problem solving, & drive to learn is big. The external is not as big for me. I think it can be for some, you see people who count followers or RTs or popularity. I’m kind of along lines of Michelle Baldwin’s post about not liking the whole ‘rock star’ deal. It is not comfortable to me. Unfortunately the lack of external drive can be a negative because I sit back often and watch others take credit for my work or allows others to ‘use’ my knowledge and skills for their gain and usually I’m ok with it. Dumb, I know. It’s just part of who I am. We are all different. We all are motivated so differently and mine are these quiet internal things. (Except laughs. If I can get a laugh I’m pretty satisfied.)
Our students are same way. They are all motivated by something different. Yet there is something that triggers motivation in them. It’s our job to find it and nurture it. Might not be as easy as it sounds but we know that the internal can fuel for longer than the external. We have to dig for it. Some times we just need to ask or observe. But it can happen.
So with all of this said here is my point and my question – what demotivates people? I’m sure bums are not people who have never had a passion or never had dreams of future success. I’m sure that kid that comes to school everyday and his only activity is to put head on desk & cover it with a hoodie was at one time motivated by something, right? So what has taken away their motivation to succeed? To be part of something?
I don’t know answer. I don’t know why I’m still motivated to do what I do. Y’all know educational technology & professional development/working with teachers are my passions. I’m not sure what motivates me, it’s not money or rewards. I probably work harder or just as hard as those who have full time teach coaching positions yet I never get a dime. Blogging & social media has opened up this whole can of worms people helping others & its our source of PD for free. We work extra hard because we do our everyday jobs then add this too it. Then pay our own way to conferences, we must be insane, or something is driving this. This one has been hard for me because my children question me about this. This may be what breaks me.
This summer has been a huge lesson in failure and being turned down but here I am, still reading blogs for research and learning and still writing. I’m kind of asking because deep down I want to not be so driven. It would make failure easier to bare. May make it easier to just quit. We hear from gaming fans that failure doesn’t stop motivation. So what the heck is it? Something has caused these students to stop wanting to learn. Unfortunately I’m afraid I’m starting down that path personally and it’s a scary feeling. Do students feel it coming on, like a nail in your tire, or is it sudden, like getting a blow out while going 70 mph?
I’m starting to become terrified. I see myself losing motivation in my future. I know I’m not as motivated to go back to school as I was last year, because I again won’t be spending the day diving into my passion. I don’t want to become that kid with my head down all day. Even more terrifying is that the hoodie kid will come out of my classroom. That I’m going to screw something up and be the cause to take away motivation. Why isn’t there more research on this? I’m a big believer in learning from failure but at what point does that failure finally break that person? Love that schools give kids chances to have do-overs but at what point does that frustrate the child to no return. We have to find that motivation and we have to nurture it. Holy crap I don’t want a kid to ever leave my classroom feeling as broken as I have this summer. It’s beyond terrifying. We have to make this a goal next year, find what drives and motivate. If we don’t look for that motivation are we doing the opposite & is that causing permanent damage?
Last few weeks I’ve been asked a lot “Why do you teach science?” It’s odd because until recently I had not been asked that question. The reason has a lamer (is that a word) and less deep than the answer to why I enrolled in education school (it was an accident, I was pre-law and they messed up my schedule). So I’m a science teacher because 3 yrs ago I was beyond stressed. I teach 6th grade, which in state of Alabama is technically elementary. So I could teach any subject because I have elem certification. Could, but it’s not wise for anyone to make me an ELA teacher. Reading, I can do, but it’s the rest of it I cannot wrap my math/science/tech brain around, I do well just to send a tweet without a typo. Anyway I was a math teacher. I really love math so I was excited to teach it. But after a couple of years the stress of meeting all requirements, testing, kids who already hated math, and a group of complaining parents during my tenure year when I had just had a baby and was finishing my thesis for Ed.S. was too much. So my principal gave me the option of teaching science the next year. Took me 3 weeks into the next school year to realize I just got the break of a lifetime.
You see, there is only one science standardized test in Alabama and that’s in 7th grade. Doesn’t weigh heavy on AYP either. Now don’t get my wrong, if you’ve read my blog over this past year you know my job is not stress-free. I (un)fortunately I care whether or not they learn but it’s just a little easier without that stupid test hanging over my head. Without the test being my focus I get to have a new focus: Teach my students to be scientist & ask questions, teach importance of space exploration, teach students to preserve our Earth for future generations, and last teach them survival on this Earth.
So this week we are at the beach. Those that know me know that the ocean is my real home. Like Buffett says “the sea’s in my veins.” I’m not a son but I am a daughter of a son of a sailor. Close enough, right? When we walked the kids out on the beach the first thing I looked for was the sand bar & breaks in it. You see, rip currents are caused by breaks in the sand bar. Water is trying to get back into the ocean, it finds a way back out through that break. Think pulling the plug in tub, all water rushes to drain. So anyway first thing I do is point out the break to my kids and explain to stay away because of rip currents, they know this stuff because its common discussion. I see a family swimming in the area of the broken sand bar and out of mouth flies “Didn’t their 6th grade teacher teach them about rip currents?” Of course all adults standing there said probably not and looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
I take a day every ocean unit and discuss with the kids rip currents. Odds of my students going to beach are pretty high so to me it’s important. To me if just one actually listens and remembers how to look for them as well as how to escape one, my job is awesome, right? May not be solving for X or finding the main idea, but X could be death or main idea could be surviving vs drowning.
April 2011, I made my students blog about their safe place during a tornado. They complained it was lame. Mostly because many of them didn’t know. So they had to ask their parents, middle school kids aren’t fans of talking to their parents. On April 27, 2011 at 5:30 a small tornado came within a few miles of school and caused damage to a few of my students’ homes. By the end of the night our state had been hit by 59 tornadoes, the largest outbreak of EF5s, well tornadoes period, in history, and 238 people had lost their lives. A week later when we finally got back to school, students blogged about that day and the majority of them blogged about being in that safe place that day. I remember reading the posts and literally breaking down at their reflections of that day (as well as the volunteerism they participated in in the days afterwards).
You see when we take away the stress and the pressures of the tests out we get to do so much more. We get to focus on life. Yeah it’s easier for me because Earth/Space science does effect their lives more but I could just make it about facts. I could ignore the human part of it. But I choose not too. I hate when teachers focus so much on “preparing students for the future” mostly because when they say that they are referring to tech, and we all know tech we are using today is not even close to the future. But also because why can’t we just prepare students for life? Life today. Life tomorrow. Life later this month. Then eventually life in the distance future. In the hall outside the front office at my school has this quote:
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
Kids live today. They don’t live in the future. We need to focus on both. If we educators spent as much time worrying about our students instead of what’s on the tests they will learn so much more. I also can bet it may not be obvious at that moment but they are listening and they are learning exactly what they need to. I’m glad I don’t teach math anymore because if my focus was on finishing standards on time & preparing for tests, I sucked. And you really shouldn’t do things you suck at unless you have a plan to grow & get better. I know if I taught math next year, my focus would be completely different than it was last time. I’d totally chill out more & take the time to nurture the students’ learning as well as focus on their “today” lives not their “future-you-must-know-this” lives.
I don’t know, maybe I’m off base with this. If I am, I’m sure someone will call me out. I’m ok with that. And hey, who knows, none of my students may even remember my rip current lessons.
On a plane flying home from #iste13. I’m tired, my body hurts (I am reminded why I have a special made bed as well as why you should not do as Taylor Swift says and act 22, especially when you are 32), and my brain is fried. Usually when I leave a conference I have to decompress all I learned. Not this trip. No matter how bad or good a session was or how long I was in the expo all or who I was having a convo with the same thing always kept popping up in my head. The best part, the closing keynote took all of those thoughts and wrapped them in a pretty blue box and put a bow on top.
So inside this beautiful package was this: *in movie preview man voice* THE GREATEST EDUCATIONAL DISCOVERY! A TOOL THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR TEACHING! REMEMBER THIS TOOL BECAUSE IT IS ALL YOU NEED! So are you ready to know what that tool was? It is …wait for it… PEOPLE!
Yeah that is pretty simple, huh? People. The number one most important thing in education today is people. Students, teachers, admins, coaches, and even custodians. I know, it is pretty complicated tool. The learning curve can be great at times, like can be larger than the MS Surface but if you use the LOVE operating system it usually has a good tech support.
You see if our biggest focus ever becomes tools (and the way ISTE approves more tools/apps sessions than sessions that cause higher level thinking, opinion making, and problem solving on our part as attendees looks like that is where we are headed) and what’s the newest gadgets, we are going to have some major issues with our future generations. Why even have kids? Maybe we could just make kid robots that use tools. Ok so that was a little extreme and snarky. But it terrifies me to walk through the Expo hall and see adults pushing each other and screaming because they want to win a handheld fan. Like they have those on the dollar aisle at Target. It terrifies me watching teachers sit through hour long lectures listening to marketing majors tell them how their products will transform their classroom. It terrifies me when I talk to people I respect and hear their amazing presentation proposal were turned down to make room for more web 2.0 tools or apps sessions. Maybe that session on metacognition of a particular age group and how to use tech to support that is more important than being able to put a cartoon hat on a photo of a cat.
I know it is a tech conference and the majority of us geek out on this stuff but we cannot lose focus that the reasons to put technology in the hands of teachers and students is to enhanced learning and connect with (wait for it…here is that tool again) PEOPLE. When the OLPC initiative started years ago there was thing that made these stand out, not the games or apps, it was the mesh system. Those not familiar, it allowed the computers to connect to other computers, think walkie-talkie : telephone ratio comparison to mesh : internet. You are close enough to connect to computer B who is close enough to connect to C who connects to D, all can then form a mesh or a net like connection. Anyway back to point, the goal was to connect PEOPLE, more specifically children, in places without internet. Again, it’s that connecting with others that is important.
Technology is just this small medium that allows us to make those connections. I still think using twitter or whatever your choice social media to sit next to the smart kids is only going to enhance your life as well as your learning. So let’s do that as well as teach our students to do that. Meeting people face to face is still important. It is the formation of relationships, it’s the conversations, the push back and disagreements. It’s the coffee shop culture that I’ve written about that pushed Austria to be an intellectual and artistic leader prewar. Most of the strong connections I mde this week were with people I kind of knew online. Some I didn’t even know had a twitter account. But their conversations pushed me to think more than any other session. I seriously missed 4 sessions I planned to go to because I started talking to people. We spent a lot of time sitting at this high top desk that people kept mistaking for an “info” desk. We figured out how to newer almost every questions. My freakish GPS programmed in my brain came in handy. But it started so many awesome conversations!
So my point of all this, before you get excited about that new gadget, ask yourself this, does it put your students or even you first? Does it focus on humans? Does it enhance lives and/or learning or is it cool? The coolest thing about people, we are all different. We AREN’T all gamers no matter what a keynote says, but we are people who have different passions, different needs, different futures. Our job is not to entertain or get their attention or make them good test takers, our job is to be people with people. Show empathy. Show love. Listen. The key to keeping that tool PEOPLE from crashing is just listening and allowing it to operate using those different passions by meeting the needs and preparing them for their futures.
Ok so I have started and stopped this post. Usually I start and stop a post because I am beating myself up or being snarky, this time it is just because I have a case of the yips. (Yeah I so went there with that link.) All writing is causing me the yips, writing is not my thing, but I can usually get it out there, not this time. So catch up on me (for those who care, if not skip to next paragraph), school have been out for a couple of weeks now. Ended pretty uneventful yet insanely busy and overwhelming. We did not have workdays at the end of year like we usually do, it was like kids there on Thursday and we ended on Friday. So tech inventory, tech plan stuff, finals for my kids, having tons of kids still coming until last day, going through end of year checklist, and cleaning my room for summer, made for my head spinning in a demonic way. Since then I have been regrouping and preparing for a lot of things. Ok now you are caught up
Back in April a conversation between coworkers caused me to really start thinking about curriculum vs instruction. Later in May I heard at a conference someone talking about reading, math, and tech coaches. The conversation went to how these positions may someday become just one position, an instructional coach position. My district will be getting many of these positions in the middle school level next year so it had already been on my mind. The question was then asked “How can that happen because curriculums are so different? How can someone with a math background help a reading teacher?” I had to leave that convo then but when I did I left with my answer right on the tip of my tongue. And here it is:
Curriculum has nothing to do with it. No matter what you teach, it is how your teach, how your students are learning, IF your students are learning, can they relate to what you are teaching, is what is important. Who cares if your students can memorize the dates of WWII if they cannot have empathy for the players involved? Does it matter if a kid knows the definition of El Nino if they do not understand how this will effect our weather as well as the coral and sea life? What is more important, facts or problem solving? That is the difference here. No I cannot walk into an 8th grade social studies class and teach them the facts they need, but I can help the teacher find which practices & technologies would reach his students and help them to become empathetic thinkers.
The Alabama state quality teaching standards only have 7, yes 7, that focus on teacher’s knowledge and delivery of the curriculum. While there are over 100 (I think I counted 123? I lost count after a while, made my head hurt) that focus on instruction and how you deliver that curriculum. When you look at the Alabama teacher development continuum only has one indicator that focuses on curriculum, the rest are instructional strategies. I’m not 100% a fan for the common core (or here in Alabama the college readiness) standards, but they do give you large amounts wiggle room to bring that “curriculum” into EVERY classroom no matter the subject. When that happens, it is your instruction that needs to be the focus.
I have a lot of discussions on this over the last week. Some have asked questions that focused on instruction and how to improve and reflect on it using data, etc. While others focused on taking reading or math curriculum and bringing it into all subjects. Which one seems easier and less scary to you? If our instructional practices bring everyday world into our classroom, it makes adding that math or nonfiction reading skills so much easier. I had a principal years ago who always said “Every teacher is a reading teacher.” That may sound a little scary to a math teacher. Maybe it needs to be rephrased. “Every teacher is a teacher, a teacher who is preparing their students for life.” Once you take that approach it makes it less scary and a little easier to swallow. How about ask each teacher “How can you take what you are good at, your curriculum, and teach our students to ___?” Lets look at the How not the What.
Yes, curriculum is important and you really should know everything you can find out about what you are teaching. BUT students also need skills for their future. I am sure that my kids do not remember 3/4 of the facts or topics I gave them though out the year, but I really hope they can look at information and come up with conclusions about it. I blogged this year that I was missing the bottom level of Blooms in my room. Was crushing me because I had these critical thinkers without basic knowledge of facts. Worked those last few months of school to correct that. Took a lot of blending. Took a lot of pushing them to use literacy skills to take information I was giving them and analyze it. We got it. I went from large number of Fs on test to less than 20 (I had 140 kids in my science classes) and actually less than 10 on my benchmark tests. But I did not focus on the curriculum to get there, I focused on the instruction.
Instruction is key. As we prepare for next year, let us make sure that is the focus. Well looks like I have deleted the Yips. Yeah! Looks like I will be back to blogging now!! Have a good summer and I hope to see some of y’all at #ISTE13 and #AETC13!
A few weeks ago I read a blog post written by a pre-service teacher that said phones & tablets had no place in a classroom. Since then I have heard (and read on twitter) a few more arguments along these same lines. I also read a post saying that teachers should not be giving homework assignments/projects that require students to use the internet. Almost every time these came up, socioeconomics was the main point for the argument. It makes since. If you are reading this blog, you are online, and you know the cost that comes with internet as well as phone service. But is this a valid point? Is there still a digital divide in the United States? If so is the digital divide still “Haves and Have Nots” or is it by age?
Pew Research Center has completed a study on teens and how they use the internet. A colleague sent it to me and I was completely sucked into the data. I took some of what I thought were highlights and threw them into an infographic. As you read over this, ask yourself, is there still an economic digital divide? Are the common arguments against BYOD valid? Lastly, are we seeing a dramatic increase of mobile usage and if so, are we preparing for now or 5 years from now?
(BTW the infographic is interactive so for information, hover over the charts)
So I am in love with this quote. If you are an educator, I hope you do too. A friend of mine tweeted this a week or more ago and it has completely stuck with me ever since. How can it not?
I am pretty sure when someone who has been as successful as Nick Saban gives advice on “success” it may be a good idea to stop and listen.
In the education world results are what’s measured. Unfortunately not progress. Students are measured by results – grades, standardized tests, benchmarks. Teachers are measured by results – pass/fail rate, students’ standardized tests, ability to write and post good lesson plans and objectives. Schools & the administrators are measured by results – AYP, student attendance, students’ standardized test. Results are almost the only thing looked at by people outside the school. Results are measurable.
In college football results are measured too, ask Gene Chizik. Saban has a job that looks at results just as much, if not more, than we do. At least no one is calling the radio shows to complain about that lesson we had that bombed. Yet he keeps focused on the process.
Just because results are what are measured, it does not have to be our focus. Results are the “what” but it is the “why” and “how” that get us to the “what.”
Over and over this year I have become frustrated at the “results” I am seeing in my classroom. The test grades, the apathy, the constant not doing tasks, but I must remember to look at the processes just as much as the results. I need to look at the fact that this time last week only 8 of my 1st period students completed the assignment AND followed the directions, but look at everyday we went through the process again that more and more finished the task – correctly. And look at today, exactly a week later, on a similar assignment only 5 did not do it – 25 did! We focused on the process, though I may have had a small rant about the results, I refused to stop there. And little by little it got better, they began grasping what I was asking of them and not only that, in the process were learning ways to do things differently. They also learned that doing it 1/2 way wasn’t going to cut it. I was learning exact words to use to help them understand. I could’ve given up and told them the answers, instead we spent days (and now I am behind schedules with less than 30 days left! Help!) redoing it. Trying again. Working on the process.
I am sure the quote could’ve just spoke for itself. But y’all know I am worse that Dr. Doofensmurf when it comes to a backstory. Also, I’ve said this many times this is a place for me to reflect and work out things going on in my world, writing helps me do so. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder for me in the future.
Remember focus on the process. Results will come but it is the process that brings us there. It’s the road you travel to get there. It is what brings the success.
In my house Disney Channel and Disney Junior get top billing. Even more than ESPN or E!. One of the reasons I will always choose these channels for my kids over Nickelodeon is the commercials. I HATE the Nickelodeon commercials, it is always some cheaply made or ridiculously inappropriate toy with a loud annoying kids or announcer. (Not to mention the ‘Mom I want that!’ that ensues afterwards.) Disney on the other hand does a great job of either not having commercials in the middle of shows (Jr shows are commercial free) and then having commercial time filled with short films/shows. Thank you!
Last week one of the short films came on featuring the Disney Fairies (you know Tinkerbell’s friends). On the video, Rosetta was supposed to be teaching the other fairies how to plant, then grow, a flower. Rosetta hands them the seed and then goes to a lounge chair and declares “Teaching is easy!” The fairies start using what there gifts are to try to plant this seed. For example, Tinkerbell builds a huge contraption to dig the hole and plant the seed. But all the fairies’ ways turn out to be failures and the seeds don’t get planted. Rosetta wakes up in time to see all the chaos and unplanted seeds and announces “Ugh teaching is hard!”
This cartoon really caught my attention as well as made me think of a few different things.
1. I believe sometimes people view problem based learning or some inquiry based learning as this. The teacher tells the class to do something and just sit backs and relaxes while the class works. Then they look at the finished result. I would HOPE this is not how it is done. During PBL lessons the process is just as important as the rest of it. When you watched the fairies, even though it is comical, they all used different ways to plant their seed. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, yes they all “failed” at growing a flower but it became obvious why the flower did not grow. If it was a real classroom that is when the real questions start, ‘why did your plan not work?’ ‘what would you do differently?’ ‘I bet your way and Tink’s way together may work, why don’t you work as a group?’ I say over and over again it is great to teach our kids it is ok to fail, but if we just leave it at the failure we have problems. We need to take that ‘failure’ and build from it, plan from it, learn from it, and work together. Then the failure turns into a success. That is when the PBL works.
2. Another thing the video made me think about is how often I feel the ‘teaching is hard’ part and want to give up. I refuse to only ‘give’ to my students. I want them to learn things on their own. They need to be able to look for things on their own, read a textual document and then be able to do something with what they read as well as learn from it. The past 2 days I have been trying to get my students to do just that and it has been the biggest flop. To the point my head is splitting right now. I thought many times today, did I do like Rosetta and just hand them the assignment and ‘go away’ or are they not taking initiative to do the work? Did I explain and give very detailed instructions? Were the instructions written? Did I constant go back over them? Why did the kids not ask for help, did they assume I was not going to check it? I know I did all those things, yet here we are with the craziest stuff and not what I asked for. I think a lot of it is because they have been, what we call, ‘spoon fed’ information for so long that they cannot find it alone. I wonder if maybe I gave them too much. So this list can go on and on. Kids they just choose to do or not to do work. And as I have realized last 2 days they will work harder to not do the work. Then they leave the class and never think twice about it. As teachers when it’s not working what do we do? Do we do like Rosetta and just sit back and blame the kids and think ‘this is hard’ or do we do like I have all day and reflected and question ourselves as we’ll as students? To become better teachers and not relive these experiences we must reflect on our teaching. And learn from it.
3. Lastly, Rosetta did do something correct, she allowed her students to ‘do.’ She didn’t tell them what to do, she made them think on their own. That’s huge. I get kids everyday who have never been given that opportunity. Teacher has always just fed them information and they memorized it then turned around and regurgitated it back on a test. Their learning and assessment was controlled by them. Needs to happen more often.
Maybe Rosetta did something’s right, maybe she did things wrong. I know I do both everyday and in every class. This year I’ve lived in a state of frustration and turmoil but I’m learning to find some balance. And I’m learning not to take all the blame myself. At least Rosetta taught me something.
When something peaks my curiosity, especially something I do not know a lot about yet keeps getting my attention, I began researching almost obsessively. Over the last few months “makerspaces” have constantly grabbed my attention. Maker labs, Hackerspaces, FabLabs, or whatever name they are hiding under are becoming more common than they were just a year ago. I have a love for STEM and when researching Project Lead the Way for a totally different reason, information about the labs/spaces kept coming up during the research. This of course kept sucking me in.
I had already read a few articles/blogs about them when I attended EdcampSTL in February. While there the Disruption Department had set up a lab during the edcamp. I bet they thought I was a weirdo because I just kept walking in and observing instead of participating. Not that I didn’t want to (and I later did, those that know me know my love for LEGO MINDSTORMS/NXT so I could not resist playing for too long!) but I really just wanted to take in how the lab worked, if it worked smoothly, if there was a calm in the midst of the chaos, and what exactly were people ‘making.’ I left even more obsessed. I wanted to find out if schools in the Bham area have these opportunities (which sadly I cannot find) and how are schools/communities getting funding.
The day after I got back from St Louis I was flipping through the IEEE Spectrum magazine that comes in the mail here and noticed an article about Makerspaces. The author of the article was none too happy that DARPA was behind the funding of markerspace.com in schools. I could see the concern of the author thinking DARPA will not only steal kids’ ideas (if it is made through the DARPA software it is open source) and recruiting them but if you read through the Makerspace Playbook and look through their kits it really focuses on exactly what it takes to build a community that has strong STEM skills. (On a side note I totally recommend reading the playbook, I read it twice, all 80 pages.) Remember shop class and old school computer class with codes? Yeah this is so those classes on steroids. Makerspace gives you great resources from what you need to have a lab to best places to get grants. Even has a directory of Makerspaces and their websites (wish they listed by locations because I am determined to visit one).
Another part of this research was to figure out how schools were housing them. Were they come and go as you please, a class set up similiar to PLTW’s middle school robotics courses, do all students go? Well I kind of came up with the answers yes and no to all of those questions. I found evidence that they are set up in libraries, that they are one day events, a ‘class’ kids attend once or twice a week, or an everyday class like PTLW courses. Seriously when I think about the spaces my mind always drifts to they are probably very much like Krissy Venosdale’s gifted classrooms, if you follow her amazing work, her kids are always creating. Also, this is a great article in Edutopia from Mary Beth Hertz about the makerspaces.
What I like about my findings on these spaces are that they
- Fit the school’s environments. They are set up in a way they work for the culture of that school and community. So often we throw new ‘projects’ into schools with out seeing first how they will fit. The successful spaces have done that.
- The spaces are exactly what we need in STEM education. They are teaching problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking. Even better, creativity is just as important as well. If you ask people in STEM fields what they need students to master before they work for them, these are the attributes they will give you. In August when I had a 1 on 1 conversation with Charles Bolden, the NASA Administrator he said we need more problem solvers and critical thinkers. These spaces cultivate that.
Some awesome stuff happening in the STEM world. Many of you may know more about makerspaces than I do, but I wanted to share with those who did not know they exist. If your school has one, I would love to hear about them (or even see it if you aren’t too far)! Hey these may just be a fad or they may become something more permanent in our education systems. Either way they have paved a way for kids to become better thinkers and take charge of their learning. I believe that teachers can take these ideas and slowly integrate them into the everyday classroom. Now – go make something!
Sooooo the last few weeks have been rough. Well this entire school year has been rough, but I feel like I’m on a downhill slide and I’m not talking about that fun downhill towards the end of the year.
I feel so torn right now. Like ripped down the middle and I don’t know how to put myself back together.
Being a teacher has so many facets. It’s not ‘show up and teach then go home.’ I often read blog post from people no longer in the classroom that say forget grades, tests, and focus on ___, this is why___. And I take that advice and put it in my knowledge of what’s right for kids and what’s wrong. Then I walk into my classroom and I feel stuck.
First days of school I share with my students my goals for them. To be honest the goal is never for them to learn Earth Science. My goal is for them to learn to solve problems, to become better thinkers, and scientist. I tell them our class focus will never be on passing test. These are really goals and ideas I believe in.
But here is where I’m torn. I am a science teacher. I am the last time between now and high school graduation my students will have a class on space, plate tectonics, weather, rocks, water cycle, etc. It’s it for them. I try so hard to deliver the content as many different ways as possible. I use formative assessments every day, which I use to drive my lessons. Not bragging just pointing out I do everything in my power to deliver this content to using best practices.
But I’m feeling like a failure right now. So yay they are getting better at solving problems, putting things on paper, having discussions BUT am I succeeding if the content knowledge isn’t what it should be. Meeting standards and kids learning these ‘facts’ are my job too, like it or not. Not so much memorize but to know this stuff so they can make informed statements. Everyday for 3 weeks I some how put low & high air pressure into my lesson. From lessons about winds to lessons about thunderstorms, air pressure was there. Not just a blip but tons of time reviewing it. Yet on a test they can’t tell the difference. I know tests aren’t the only method of measurement but I bet if I asked them in the morning, I still would have majority not answer correctly. And this is just one small example.
So I’m torn. Are all these methods I’m using wrong? Is it me? Should I still be doing this job? Because I’m not feeling like I’m worth a crap as a teacher right now. If you follow me on twitter, or even this blog, you may have (or haven’t lol that won’t hurt my feelings) noticed I haven’t been there in a while and if I am it’s rarely an education focused post. I don’t know what I have left to give to others. Who the heck wants to listen to the unsuccessful? I read tweets & blogs and get frustrated because these people are succeeding and I’m doing similar things and failing. Those that have known me for a while know I feel PD and working with teachers and tech are my biggest strengths, so am I doing my students injustice still being in the classroom?
I don’t know the answers but I know I’m tired. Completely tired and feel like I’m torn in two because I can’t figure out what is most important any more. Is it content? Is it teaching them to be thinkers? And how do I balance these? I do I piece it back together?? Maybe I have out stayed my welcome. I just don’t know any more. I know the tears must stop. I have to put on my big girls pants and finish the year. I guess now I just need to find motivation to do that.