Archive for January, 2012

So, I’ve been thinking about EduCon, which was last weekend at Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia. This is the third year that I have attended.

This year I not only attended, I presented. I didn’t do this alone; I’m much too much of a chicken for that. Hadley Ferguson (@Hadleyjf), Philip Cummings (@Philip_Cummings), and I were a team. I have to say that when this whole idea began sometime in the fall on twitter, it seemed like a great idea. I think it went something like this: I saw some part of a conversation Hadley and Philip were having about EduCon. I replied to the both saying I would go to a session on the topic they were discussing. Next thing I know, Hadley has started a google doc, and we are collaborating on a proposal. The details are really a blur.

Well, it turned out we were accepted. (see our listing here) So, that lead to more collaborating, using google docs and skype to work out a real plan for the session. We all teach 5th-8th grade students, so we over plan, because upper elementary and middle school students don’t really do well with slacker plans. Even if you don’t use the plans you made, it’s best to have one or two to spare.

Well, I am happy to report that we had a very respectable number of people at our session, which meant for a reasonably full room. And, none of them left midway through. (Participants are encouraged to change sessions if they are not pleased.) There were even people following the livestream feed. There was lively discussion, people moved around, shared ideas, and left without throwing things. Victory!

Becoming Risk-taking Educators w/ @wendye40 & @hadleyjf 29/366/2012 #366project #educon

Philip's picture of us after our session.

This was the first time I had presented for people other than my colleagues or in-house events (Board of Trustees, alumni, prospective parents, etc). It was great to have a co-presenters. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed working with Hadley and Philip in both the planning and presenting. I think we did a good job combining solid discussions of risk-taking with practical “visible thinking strategies” (based on the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and  Karin Morrison) that people could take back to their classrooms and use with all sorts of discussions. I know I got a lot of ideas from the people in the group and enjoyed talking with those participating.

We were all a little tired once it was over. Luckily, I had some chocolate with me, because I usually travel with snacks as I think it is the responsible thing to do. Anyway, I will write more about what I learned in other sessions and the ideas that got planted in my brain. But, I think I also learned a lot being in the role of presenter. I really did all those things I want my students to do. I truly collaborated with people who are not within my school building, learned a ton in the process, and shared my  new learning with a wider community.




So, I’ve been thinking lately, but as my lack of posting here shows, I have not been writing about it. I could and have come up with all sorts of reasons, which I will not bore you with here.  Anyway, I decided to make a list of topics I would like to write about, if I could get myself going.  I love to make lists, which is a post for another day.

But, here’s what happened. A lot of the things I would really like to write about didn’t seem like a good ideas once I took into account the whole “public” part of blogging. I have to say here that I am probably more cautious in this area than many. I have read many interesting blog posts by educators that I would not have been comfortable writing. These were not posts that were insulting or offensive.

I’m not sure how much the public/private school thing impacts this discussion. I, like the vast majority of teachers in independent schools, have a year-to-year contract; I am no longer a member of union as I was when I taught in the Chicago Public School system.  I teach in a competitive independent school market where there are a number of top-notch schools competing for students. If any school’s enrollment goes down because they cannot attract students then there go the jobs. I know that I am completely foolish to write assuming that no one will see it. First of all, I used my name so that it would be more public on purpose and so that I would not be fooled into thinking that I could actually be anonymous anyway. Plus, I know for certain that at least a few of my current class’ parents have seen my blog.

As I said, I have a low tolerance for airing laundry of any variety, unless it’s real laundry, in which case I hang it all outside and my neighbors are welcome to see what color underwear we wear at our house. When I started writing this blog I wanted to write about more than just my classroom.  I was not looking to chronicle the  days and weeks of 5E. There are plenty of things that go on in my room that I am happy to relay to the masses my one or two readers. There are even plenty of mistakes that I have made that I have and would freely share. Where I am having second thoughts is in just those bigger issues that I was interested in from the start.

Here is a list of some topics that I have seen others write that I would be uncomfortable with:

  • Ideas about administration reorganization
  • Thoughts on how to maintain interest in teaching the same thing
  • Opinions about the requirement or lack there of for teachers to use technology
  • Teacher evaluation
  • Teacher pay
  • Teacher evaluation and its connection to teacher pay
  • Ideas about balancing supporting students and honestly reporting progress
  • Administration’s balance of supporting teachers and parents
  • Teacher frustration with student interest level

I may not be as young as I used to be, but it’s not as if I’m about to retire anytime soon. I like and need my job. I am in no way looking to go down in a blaze of any sort. So, I guess I’m wondering what other people think? How cautious are you, would you be, or recommend me to be?