Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More on the idea of 20% time....

A colleague of mine found this article in TIME magazine, and it further supports the idea of Autonomy and 20% time as keys to motivating others to be innovative at work (see Daniel Pink: Drive). I also enjoyed this article because of a quote I found at the end of the article.

"I had many great teachers and professors and mentors over the years, but it was a young first-grade teacher who saw a crushed little girl, told by the grizzled senior teacher that I had used the word then too often in the first piece of writing I'd ever attempted, who swooped in with her gold star, stuck it atop the page and told me to keep writing."

This reminds me of a book we read to our staff at the beginning of the year called The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. It is a children's book about allowing kids "make their mark." If you are a teacher, and haven't read this one, it is worth your 10 minutes!,9171,2030886-1,00.html

Happy Reading....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My classroom is like a......

So, this morning I spent an hour in a kindergarten classroom in my neighborhood. I loved being there SO much that I kinda wanted to come back again next week....and the next week....and the next week. My kids are not in kindergarten (yet) and I knew NONE of the kids in the classroom, but was completely engaged and energized by my experience. As I sat there leading a "literacy group" and practicing "ch," "sh," and "th" sounds, I thought of my daughter being where these students are one year from now, and I became a bit overwhelmed. All at once I realized just how much she would learn in the next year, and I also realized how important the learning environment is for the kids sitting in that classroom. More than likely most of these kids have spent the last 5 years of their lives at home with a parent, or in a classroom or day care setting where there were maybe 8 or 9 other kids in their class. Yet sitting there, in this kindergarten class of 25, It seemed like every child felt loved and cared for in their environment. They were attentive, excited to learn, and engaged. They were perfectly content practicing "ch," "sh," and "th" sounds.

As a teacher who has spent the last 13 years in a secondary school, I wondered where it is, in the process of school, that this excitement gets lost?

So, now I am sitting in a coffee shop, where I am supposed to be working on my dissertation, thinking about this whole idea of keeping kids engaged and excited about school. I can across this article/blog on edutopia today. What are your thoughts about how the environment can ignite learning and cultivate caring. I realize the setting is in an elementary school, but as a former high school teacher, I absolutely can see some carry-over into a middle and high school classroom.

I also encourage you to try to finish this statement:

"My classroom is like a....."

Consider the roles that your students play in your classroom, in addition to considering the role you play in creating that certain environment in your classroom.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Staying Caught up with the Curriculum

This time of year seems to find teachers overwhelmed and concerned about whether or not they are going to "get to everything." Today I found this little gem on Twitter from Edutopia.

Some of the key ideas I took from this article:
  • Consider quitting the "covering curriculum contest," take a deep breath and enjoy teaching again
  • Start by creating learning objectives for each unit.
  • If an activity, class or homework assignment is not directly connected to your learning objectives, you probably need to eliminate it. Simply put, cut out all the fluff.
  • When students are struggling to comprehend new ideas and material, and the content is crucial to achieving the learning goals for the unit, think of other ways the students can learn the content and concepts.
  • After you have decided on learning objectives and chosen material, dig in rather than gliding over. Simply covering material is not teaching.
  • Educational research shows that only about 10 to 15 percent of students learn best auditorily, but 80 percent of instructional delivery is auditory. What that means is to serve our learners in an authentic, meaningful way where the learning lasts, all that telling (direct-teaching) has to be toned down and replaced with lots more visual, hands-on, and experiential learning.
Just a couple of things to think about as you enter into this difficult time of year. Stick to it! Sometimes we just need to take a step back, take a breathe, and make a plan! Try something Albert Einstein said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do You Know About Google TRANSLATE?

I was just on Facebook and saw a post from ASCD about using Google Translate as a tool for "flattening" our world. Mike Fisher, one of their bloggers, wrote an entire blog in English, used google translate to translate it into Spanish, and posted it. Being curious about whether or not it would make any sense, I cut and copied it back into google translate, and although there were a few grammatical/usage errors, it was understandable. Think about the power of this for teachers. You can now essentially type ANY communication in English, and at the click of the button, have it translated into virtually ANY language. This can be useful for kids OR their parents. Students will also now be able to use resources from the web which may or may not be in English. Give it a try!

Here is his blog if you want to give it a try!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcome to KaiZen for teachers!

I stumbled upon the term Kai Zen a few years ago while I was studying management and leadership. This idea of Kai Zen (a Japanese term for continuous improvement) has resonated with me ever since. I have started this blog because I think we all, in the field of education, know that being a good teacher requires continuous improvement of not only our practice, but of ourselves. So....Welcome. I hope you find some of the ideas in this blog helpful and useful to you.