Monday, January 13, 2014

Educational Ins and Outs

So, my friend sent this article to a few of us and I jokingly (not really joking at all) said that we should cut out the traits and have any new hires put them in order of importance, 9 out of 12 equals a new hire, anything less gets the door. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give my 2 cents on the educational "Ins and Outs".

1] Learners vs. Content as the Center of Instruction
This the trickest one I think, as I think some people interpret this as 1] only use what the kids want and 2] only do what the kids want, when that really isn't the case at all. If we treat our learners as people, if build a relationship with them, they are more likely to do what needs to be done. We know this to be true right!? I know I work better for someone who allows me to be human than for someone who is always nick-picking and not allowing me to grow as a learner.  In my aspect of education I hear often, "Well, the kids won't do that." or "The kids won't read that.", of course, they won't they're teenagers who still don't understand the importance of keeping their clothes on before posting selfies, they don't want to read classic literature or do something that makes their brains, it's our job to make them to figure out how to get them to get it, to (as my friend Amanda says) 'drink the kool-aid'. I think it's a Jim Jones reference, but it works! I want my students to buy into the fact that I am educating them and that independent thinking and reading [fill in the blank classic piece of lit] makes them better, well-rounded people. I think it's important to know when content takes the back burner to the learner and when content has to be front and center. We no longer teach The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (I don't really know why, it wasn't in my grade-level), I hate that people graduating from my high school will not have read that book going in to college.

2] Educator as Coach and Lead Learner vs. as Expert and deliverer of content

In a perfect world a student understands that he/she must learn what is being taught, will do what needs to be done at home and in the classroom to make it happen and will then show evidence of learning on a regular basis without testing and quizzing. In the real world testing will always be the most direct way to show evidence of mastery, how we approach that testing shows whether we are a coach or dictator in our classroom. In Rick Wormeli's book Fair Isn't Always Equal he addresses how differentiated instruction is a way to help students master standardized tests, it doesn't talk about getting rid of them entirely, but using the test as a tool, and Marzano understands it when he says in Classroom Assessments and Grading that Works“The score a student receives on a test is more dependent on who scores the test and how they score it than it is on what the student knows and understands.” Many students and parents get frustrated with this concept, however, it is up to us, the teacher, to guide them to understand the difference between a teacher who doesn't teach and a teacher who is facilitating the learning...when the teacher is the guide, the student will struggle, but he/she will not be alone. When a student facilitates the learning, he or she better understands the assessments given. They are masters of their learning.

3] Pluralistic education via the internet vs. single textbook

I've bought this one from day one...when the internet was a new and shiny concept! I love the access that internet affords us. I use my textbook, the internet, old textbooks, and my colleagues as resources for my students. The internet has leveled the playing field of education, students no longer have to go to London, Paris or Cairo to see priceless works of art and artifacts they can assess these finds via the internet. It is our responsible as public educators to make sure that our students have this access and it is our responsibility to help students understand the internet as an educational tool.

4] Failure as part of the process vs. perfection for students and teachers

Um...if you fail in my classroom it is because you refused (yes, not can't...can't is something else entirely and it is my job to figure out how or why they can't and then figure out how to get them to be able to succeed) to do any work to show that you have mastered the concept. If you make a D, it shows even more that you have not done work to master the concept. In my classroom an F or a D can be seen as failure. While I don't want to put a percentage on mastery, I'll tell you right now a student who receives a 60-69 in my classroom is in part lazy, has a large amount of truancy and down right refuses to do what it takes to learn. They are not college or career ready.

5] Differentiated and Personal Curriculum vs. One Size Fits All Curriculum

Curriculum should be used to guide instruction. Instruction should be in the hands of the teacher and the teacher alone as he/she knows what's best in his/her classroom for his/her students. I know what I need to do to get there, I've been given the pacing guides, I've been given the formatives, the summative, now give suggestions and leave me alone to teach. By the way differentiation is quite hard and timely...don't let anyone tell you different. Differentiation is not a quick fix. It is, however, the best and true answer.

6] Ongoing, formative assessments vs. summative assessments for accountability of teachers and school
I don't mind summative assessments, as college and life in some way or another is all about culminating events of learning. I abhor the fact that these tests (especially the end of the year standardized tests) seem to matter more to administration as indicators of success than whether students have 21st century skills. It is this myopic view that got us into the educational mess we are in as a nation in the first place. Let's not throw these out entirely, as I can use the data to help me become better, but let's not base funding and the overall success of a school and my happiness on this one shot test!

7] Multi-sensory learning vs. learning with only the brain in mind may not be relevant

I would love to meet the 'teacher' (in quotes on purpose) who does not teach in myriad ways to address the whole learner. Skill and drill, train and drain teachers have no place in education, ever. Wow, um, I didn't realize that I felt that passionately about it.

8] Producing and consuming content vs. just consuming

The hardest part of teaching is getting students to understand that they are the 'masters of their fates'...they are capable of doing all the things that I ask them to do. In fact, they are capable of doing more. They are so used to just regurgitating information without computing that it's quite a task to get to this next stage.

9] Learners do most of the talking and working vs. the teacher doing more

Of course, this goes back to the teacher is teaching, but some may think that the teacher is not. I'd like to know how to get over this hump with some parents and students. If you have any suggestions that would be awesome.

10] Technology integrated seamlessly vs. as an afterthought

Show me the money and I'll show you a teacher who integrates technology seamlessly. 

11] Misbehavior as an opportunity for growth vs. just discipline

I've also believed this since day one. A student should not be punished so much that he/she cannot come back from that punishment to succeed. I've never understood OSS as a form of discipline and in my classroom I would much prefer a student to be in my classroom than be in ISS or ASC (alternative school suspension center) as a form of punishment. Don't do something right? You get to do it again. I say to students and I mean it, "As long as you are in my classroom you will not fail." Like I've said before students have to go out of their way to do so. Just in case you were wondering students do and can fail, or make a grade they aren't used to making.

12] Social emotional learning as an integral part of education vs. being viewed as minimal or not integral 

We have to build relationships with our students before we can teach them. This is the most important aspect of teaching. Being shown how to communicate with oneself and others in an atmosphere of learning and education is ideal. This cannot be mandated to teachers as is differs by class and by teacher.

Books and articles that may help you think about how you feel about these processes:
A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades-Ken O’Connor
Fair Isn’t Always Equal-Rick Wormeli
Formative Assessments and Standards-Based Grading-Robert Marzano
I Read It, But I Don’t Get It-Cris Tovani
Layered Curriculum-Kathy Nunley
Living Your Colors-Tom Maddron
P21 Skills (can be found at:
Professional Learning Communities at Work-DuFour and Eaker
Readicide-Kelly Gallagher
Teach Like A Champion: Field Guide-Doug Lemov
“What is a PLC?”-DuFour
With Rigor For All-Carol Jago
What Teachers Make-Taylor Mali

And, if you are ready or want to dig in because you like forms and lists...feel free to make a copy of this Google Doc I created to record and solidify your own grading philosophy and core beliefs.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting. I'm not a teacher, but I can see how you put a lot of thought into it, and your arguments make sense.



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