The following is a true story.
As I drove him from school yesterday, my 16 year-old sheepishly announced, "I got a 40% on my test in _______." [Course name deleted to protect the innocent.]
After I corrected my almost-swerve into oncoming traffic, I regained my composure and inquired in a calm voice that masked my inner panic, "How did that happen?"
He responded, "Don't be mad. I got the highest grade in the class!"
I corrected yet another swerve.
He volunteered, "The class average right now is a D."
I gritted my teeth: "There's nothing average about an entire class of students underachieving."
He attempted to assuage me: "Mom, it's okay. No one ever gets an A. Or a B."
I explained, "Maybe it's just me, kiddo, but I don't think that's okay. How is is okay for an entire class of students to be failing? How does the teacher know you're all learning? Because the test would indicate that very few of you can show what you know."
He sighed, "Mom, please don't start with the teacher talk."
So I stopped. And not only because my sons get bored with all my educational reform proselytizing. It's because I think it's totally uncool for me to call out my kids' teachers in front of them. I don't like being all Judge Judy on other educators.
While my son put in his earbuds and tuned me out, I couldn't tune out my brain.
I'm not calling out my son's teacher here; he's not the only one.
I was that teacher. I was renowned for being the toughest grader in the high school English department, and I wore it like a badge of honor. An A was earned in my class--not granted. I believed I was preparing my students for the rigor of college by putting these obstacles in their way.
Doesn't that almost sound like I was setting them up to fail? Wasn't I establishing almost insurmountable odds? How was I doing my job? What were they learning?
We have to meet our learners where they are.
What would happen if a doctor prescribed all of his patients the exact same drug for completely different illnesses? Maybe a minority of the patients will improve--but the majority of them will never, ever recover. Their sickness will continue. And the doctor would be guilty of medical malpractice.
We have to meet our learners where they are. We really have to. And that means making sure we're doing our very, very best to reach the needs of each learner. We can do this when we give daily ungraded formatives (exit tickets in Google Forms, reflections in Flipgrid, or 3-2-1 checks in Edpuzzle). We can do this when we differentiate assignments in Google Classroom based on student needs. We can do this when we offer choice menus. Like good doctors, we should diagnose what each of our patients need--instead of writing them all the same prescription.
Teaching does not equal learning. Let's not be guilty of educational malpractice.
In my coaching, I meet many educators who want to give blended learning a try, but quickly dismiss it because they don't know how to get started. In these instances, I quickly defer to Catlin Tucker, a teacher, author, and coach who literally wrote the book on blended learning. (It's worth checking out.) Recently, Tucker provided some practical strategies for the teacher-led station in her station rotation model. Click on the image below to learn more.
Providing a #TeacherBordered classroom means letting go of controlling the learning. It's difficult, sure, but when we don't allow students opportunities to explore, fall, re-learn, and succeed, then we rob them of the ownership and pride that comes as a result of discovery. Let’s stop feeding information to our students and let’s enjoy them figuring it out for themselves.
My friend posted the following to Facebook a few months back:
I didn't comment, as I have a semi-serious case of notification-itis. (I get itchy and inflamed from seeing my notification count exceed single digits.) But that didn't stop me from being totally amused waiting on the comment thread. As you can imagine, comments ran the gamut from disgust with "these kids today," to the "give him a break" pleas that could only originate from a mom.
Had I commented, I would have asked,
In my work, I get a fair amount of complaints from Boomers and Gen Xers about Millennials and Generation Z--who are unfairly characterized as screen-obsessed zombies with zero discernible life skills. But I love GenZ, and how bravely they navigate the digital universe. And frankly, how much longer is snail mail going to be a thing, anyway?
image courtesy of Picture Quotes
I've been using QR codes in the classroom for years. They make learning visible and three-dimensional. More importantly, when used properly, they provide a voice for students--something we really need more of in digital learning.
Did you know that with Flipgrid, you can add QR codes to student videos?
With digital learning (i.e., the 1:1 classroom) becoming more of the norm, teaching in traditional ways should start to fade into the sunset. Individualized learning, differentiation, and self-paced learning gets easier everyday. Follow these outstanding educators to learn how it's done:
My advice: Pick one strategy and get really good at it before tackling another.
I don't have a clue how I acquired this image.
But it's powerful, isn't it? It's reminiscent of Bloom's Taxonomy--but unlike Bloom's--this visual allows us to focus on learning from a student perspective as opposed to focusing on instruction from a teacher's perspective.
And what also astounds me is how clearly this image delineates how traditional forms of instruction don't do a whole lot in terms of being effective for our students. I wonder, are they even effective for us any longer?
In any case, John Hattie's research on feedback is more convincing than anything I could write here. But if you're looking to up your feedback game, I fully recommend you start here.
What are your thoughts on this graphic?
I'm a visual learner. I need to see information to learn it.
It makes sense, then, given that we live in a digital age, that our students are primarily visual learners as well. With that in mind, you and your students should check out this site--What's Going On In This Graph? --from the Learning Network of the New York Times.
It would be fun as a class to postulate on the story of the displayed data. There's always a good story behind the data. (Critical thinking--yay!) To help students begin their exploration, the NYT provides guided questions to get students interacting with the numbers. They even take it a step further with a "live moderated conversation" complete with experts in the field and making the convo global. (Communication--yay!)
For example, today's data set explores student loan balances over time. It's not a static data set, either. Students are encouraged to interact with the data and to explore what their potential student loans might look like.
Oh, and by the way, interpreting data and defining visual information is also a skill-set expected of students courtesy of the Common Core:
Stories aren't just found in books. Give data a try.
(Thanks to Rod Stewart for the inspiring title to this post. )
About two years ago, I stopped making resolutions in the new year. Instead, I now make intentions.
The word "resolution" is problematic to me; it literally means "the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter." I've decided that if I think in these terms--that my current behaviors are a problem that need to be solved--then I've already established a negative vision/version of myself.
I prefer the word "intention." It's a kinder word, a word that indicates a plan, a goal, an aim to do better.
This year, I have many intentions: personal, spiritual, physical. I hope to turn my weaknesses into strengths.
Professionally, I intend to focus more on the needs of my audiences and less on how I appear in front of them.
I have a tendency to make it about me. That's a weakness. My intention is to build relationships grounded in compassion, empathy, and a genuine desire to help people embrace the desire to learn new things.
Wish me luck. I wish you that and more as you transform your weaknesses over the next twelve months.
And happy new year!
Happy New (School) Year!
Did you make your New Year's resolutions when it comes to how you're going to do things differently in your classroom this year?
Have you given any thought as to how you'll #TeachYoSelf over the course of the next nine months? So that you can keep up with the coming-at-me-like-a-fire-hose barrage of new and changing educational technology?
Maybe you haven't. And it's okay, because taking on one more task in your already overstuffed turkey of a day is daunting.
But we don't have to go it alone. Get yourself a buddy this year!
I explain it more below:
Educational consultant + #pedtech coach in Cleveland, Ohio sharing innovative technology ideas for educators.