Raise Your Hand, Answer the Question, and Keep Your Voice Down

Reflections from a human, father, husband, & educator.

If you care for children, if you have children, we must begin to think about what role we are allowing technology, and more importantly being “connected”, to play in the lives of our children. One question I have started to ask my students is”Do you have the ability to be in private and connected to the internet?” About 90% do. And that scares me. Immensely.

This is the first time in Human history that children are able to have unedited access to the adult world. They have access to things we find funny, to things that scare us, to things that excite us. They have access to all of it.  This is, in large part, the Internet. Do we also want to give them private access? Should we even give ourselves private access?

I have been listening to, reading about, and thinking upon the idea of character and emotions and being human for this past year; and something keeps coming up, we need to be around people. I think a key component of this is that, in general, we are much better in public than in private. That whole definition of character as “What we do when no one is looking” does not do justice to what character truly is. Our character, actions, and decisions are different depending upon the context we find ourselves in. We are fluid– not static–creatures. We are humans.

I used to smoke. I tried to quit on several occasions. One of my main problems in those attempts was that I did so again and again on my own. As a solitary, and single at the time, person. In doing so, I always found a cute little way to start smoking again (oh, just on weekends, you could just smoke on weekends…just when you drink, just have a cigarette when you drink, that´ll work out…etc). I was only able to quit when I lived with someone else (my future wife). In part, while my persuading thoughts sounded reasonable to my inner weakness, I knew they would not sound reasonable to anyone else.

Now, imagine a child receiving a SnapChat, or a WhatsApp message (or whatever app they are using that I have not yet heard of), that is highly inappropriate. Now imagine some different scenarios: that child is alone in their room; that child is out among their family (each of which is staring at their own screen); that child is on the publicly displayed family device. I would have to imagine that the child´s response would be different depending on what situation they found themselves in.

Although, why do we put them in any of those situations? Why do we so freely give them access to our world? Why do some of us give them access and block them from content? Do we play the games they play? Do we talk to them about what they see…do we know? These, and others, are some questions I am going to explore in some future posts.

Until then.

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I started this process by reading my last post. It was about how I was feeling worn out. That was in March of last year. Ha.

My goals for this site are: to chronicle some actions I have taken in the classroom, to sort out some ideas that are floating around in my head, and to share interesting things I am reading/listening as well as a podcast project I am working on with another educator.

More to come.

Something has been gnawing at me all year, and I realized that it’s two things.

  1. If you don’t have your systems (think organization, paper-flow, workflow, electronics, etc) in place at the beginning of the school year, it is incredibly hard to get yourself organized during the school year (at least for me).
  2. How can I focus on getting one thing better, and ignore the things I am not doing well. Another way to say that. Instead of trying to get better at everything, all at once, why am I not being much more focused on improving one area (feedback for instance) and allowing myself to struggle in the mire in other areas…Cause right now, I am focusing and struggling in every area, and it is wearing me out.

I know the human brain needs to get breaks every so often so it functions at a high level for learning, so I make sure to give my 5th graders a “Brain Break” for 10 minutes every hour that we have class. Now, I thought I had explained my reasoning for this at a satisfactory level, and I realized today that was not entirely accurate. A few students in my class asked why we didn´t have Fun Friday (my usual response is something akin to “I think every Friday is fun”). Today I asked him why we didn´t have it, and he asked, “Because of our Brain Breaks?”  This caused a small class discussion in which I asked the class why I gave them Brain Breaks, and no one had an answer…oops. I rectified that gap in knowledge this afternoon, but it doesn´t mean it isn´t still there for some of my students. Something to keep in mind.

My class is celebrating their informational writing pieces tomorrow, and I think I just realized that is my mistake. They should be celebrating what they have learned about informational writing AND the writing they´ve done. I will have to remember that for  next time. I had originally titled this post Planned Risks, because I was going to talk about how I want my students to be risk takers, and also good planners (I was worried that one ruined the other…). I realize now, that how I presented the celebration to them, I just focused on the product and not the process.

I will address this mistake with my class tomorrow. Hopefully it is not too late.

I know it is my responsibility to help my students become responsible. In my efforts to do so, I have come to the conclusion that to find out if a student is responsible, you have to give them responsibility… like all of it. If a student struggles with that responsibility, then you need to differentiate for her. I am going to start to investigate what that might look like-as of now, I usually take responsibiility away from all of my students, when a few show they can´t handle something (BIG mistake).

A kind word of warning (and a fantastic podcast to prove my point): the one thing you can not do is have low expectations for you students (when it comes to responsibility, reading, math..whatever)

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/379237713/381442303

As I was sitting, getting things organized for the end of the day, a student came up to me and asked, “When are going to write fantasy stories?” I thought about it for a second, and was just going to tell her we weren´t…but I finally realized something about workshop…The reason we focus on personal narratives, and informational pieces about things that they already know, is because we are taking away the cognitive load of creating content, so they can focus on learning and using the strategies of great writing.  I let the student know this powerful thought I had. Her reply?

“So, when are we writing fantasy stories?”

My natural instinct is to just think through my day from beginning to end, but  I am going to try and block that!

The first thing that jumps out to me is my math lesson. I used the Peer 2 Peer instruction technique invented by Dr. Eric Mazur. If you haven´t had a chance to try it out, you need to! The basic premise is having given the students some instruction, and gotten some feedback as to their knowledge/misconceptions, you design a series of questions that make that muse that knowledge.  You ask a multiple choice question, they answer, then they get to argue with their partner, or team, trying to convince each other that the other is wrong! The kids enjoy this way of learning (I actually asked on a slide today, and 54% replied they like it, and 46% said they love it…that´s 100%!!). Tomorrow I will give them a 4 question assessment to see how the learning is going, and just how effective today was.

I am having a Dickens of a time trying to get my kids to buy into their classroom jobs (note-takers, Googlers, social media team, and tutorial makers). I tried to give them a little pep talk, and got one good idea from the group, about giving them two 15 minute sessions to work together during the week. We shall see how that goes.

After totally botching Writing Workshop yesterday, today was a much better day. I need to do more prep work, so my small group instruction is more valuable, but I did some good over the shoulder group making today, and will make some plans tomorrow.

I am  trying to get parents more involved with their children´s  reading and writing lives, and one way I am doing that is by inviting them to talk to the students about their own reading and writing life. We had our first speaker today, and I think it went well. At times it drifted into lecture mode, so I will be sure to talk with any other parents that are going to do this before hand to remind them to keep it positive!

Well, my 10 minutes are up. Happy day to all.

 

So I have decided to do 10 minutes of writing per day. I should be able to do that. I am also doing a 10 second reflection on Twitter..I should be able to do that as well.

The things that really stood out today… My math lesson started off extremely shakey.. I have started trying out Math Inquiry lessons, and the first step is having them look at a prompt, and then pose a comment or a question. I have struggled with the sharing aspect in the past, so I wanted to try something a little more streamlined, where everyone could see each partnerships response. My solution was Padlet. I still am a fan of Padlet, but that part of my lesson crashed and burned pretty quickly.. a combination of students not able to type a goo.gl url, the internet being intermittent (the absolute worst kind), and student impatience. I quickly dropped that idea for a mixture of padlet and whiteboard, that was quite clunky, but got some good thinking going. I need a better way to do this part, and I think using post-it notes and a big sheet of butcher paper is going to be the next step. The worst part was that the waste of time at the beginning reduced the amount of time the kiddos could practice, so I hope it wasn´t a wasted lesson.

We are trying to help the school with a it´s lost and found problem. The problem is that kids don´t go get their clothes from the lost and found; they just go home and have their parents get them something new to replace what they have lost. The problem with that (at least the one we are tackling) is that it wastes resources. It takes 25 gallons of water to grow the cotton needed for one t-shirt….ONE! My whole class still isn´t on board with helping out, and I think it is because this is more my idea than theirs… but I wanted to start a sort of “Social Action Hour” to bookend our “Genius Hour” so I thought walking them through a problem and having them control some to most of the process would be a good entry point. We shall see if it was.

I did a summary workshop for my reading lesson today, and it went fairly slowly..I am not sure how I could have picked the pace up. I think it might be that my students are still not yet bought into the idea of working hard.

On that note, my ten minutes are up.