Tuesday, December 18, 2007

dare to dream

Yesterday during writing workshop a student spontaneously wrote my husband a thank you note after receiving a gift from him. The gift was a US Marine cover (hat) that had been part of my husband's daily uniform while on active duty. This student had spoken about being a marine when he gets older but, until I read the note I didn't realize how much he wants to pursue this. Miguel* is learning English and the text of the note which follows reveals this. It is amazing to me what else is revealed in so few words- a deep passion, a kind heart, a goal, and a writer intent on communicating. We should all have something about which we can write so spontaneously and clearly!
Dear Dan,
Thank so much for (the) cover. I'm so happy I will Follow my
Dremes thank you.
To Dan
From Miguel*

*name is changed

Thursday, December 13, 2007

wow... love Peter Sis

Ever since I bought Follow the Dream by Peter Sis for one of my daughters to commemorate Columbus Day and America's quincentennial I have been a big fan. Our family library holdings include many hardcovers by this incredible writer/illustrator. His books are rich works of art and text. I came across this trailer for his book The Wall on Read, Read, Read and can't stop watching and listening. The video is produced by Michael Eisenburg.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the new generation of teachers

Our school, ever the learning lab, hosts Professional Development School interns from George Mason University who spend a school year with us as they complete a graduate year of Ed. School practicums and work toward elementary certification. It is full time work while one is a full time student. Not easy. It is an authentic experience that helps one prepare for the real thing.

These resident interns presented their reflections of their first placements in an end of semester seminar share for our staff last week. Despite the fact we had our first snow and afternoon school events were cancelled in our county, we had a record turnout of teachers and administrators in attendance. Glad I went. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Our interns range in experience from fresh out of undergrad programs to second career (maybe third career) folks. They are a wonderful mix of personalities, preferences, and styles. There were five presentations and this mix was reflected in the presentations. Technology, dancing, singing, speaking, and a general good time were shared. Some thoughts I heard that remind us all about what teaching is on a daily basis follow:
  • teachers create learning environments everyday
  • teachers are learning everyday along with the students
  • effective classroom management is ongoing by the day, by the hour, by the minute, by the lesson
  • lessons often hold unexpected outcomes (see next item)
  • Alan Greenspan has nothin' on 4th graders determined to create an effective economic (i.e. black market) system that applies the essential skills taught in class
  • Teaching responsively means you are adjusting to the learner (see previous bullet) and creating positive teachable moments when there is an unexpected outcome
  • responsive classroom techniques work
  • responsive classroom techniques school wide are awesome
  • responsive classroom techniques make so much sense
  • kids need the same respect adults need
  • teachers have to model that respect with students
  • social interaction is important learning for teachers and students
  • getting to know individual student's needs helps with everything
  • kids taking risks is exciting
  • flexibility is helpful... maybe crucial
  • administrative duties are very time consuming... even with systems in place
  • reflecting and sharing is necessary if we are going to grow as teachers

If you were there... please feel free to add what you heard that afternoon! I can't wait to attend next semester's share after their month long independent teaching experience. I'm hoping for more dancing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Safe Technology

I'm just back from the VASCD Conference in Williamsburg. One of the keynote speakers was Alan November. He made a few humorous yet, serious points about how we effectively integrate technology in our curriculum with which I really agree. Basically he said educators don't effectively integrate it. It made me think of "family life education." Much like family life education, we are in denial about our students having technology. We don't want to believe it is a normal phase of development in children and teens. We think if we avoid saying "technology" we can prevent technology from happening. We think having a "talk" once, where we are nervous and the kids know more about it than we do, is enough to support their needs. Some educators believe older students can have technology but it should be safe technology. What should we do with fourth graders who are already experimenting with technology? There are some who actually want students to wait until they are married to have any technology. You know what happens once kids are having technology. They'll want to have more. They'll want to have it with any device available... cell phones, laptops, external hard drives, i pods. They'll start blogging. We are adults and we know they'll expand their technology use before they are capable of coping with the repercussions. We want kids to know technology is special. We want to protect them from the fallout of devices that aren't dependable. We want them to know how to communicate the way we did in simpler times. Gee, I thought it was our job to present technology as a normal phase of development in a respectful manner with facts to base our judgements. No wonder kids are learning about technology on the streets!