Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

So, I’ve been thinking about the power of the pile, that stuff that accumulates and starts to matter. I first was thinking about student reflection adding up. Another thing that I think about piling up in this way is the sexual violence in the novels we have students read in English class. I am a regular broken record on the topic.

I’m against any kind of violence in real life. And, I understand that books include violence in many forms and for many reasons. But, as I said in my first power of the pile post‘, one is just one, two makes a line and any more than that and we have a pattern forming. But what pattern do we have? What I worry about is the pattern about relationships that we normalize when so many of the relationships we read about revolve around sexual violence against women. We’re not spreading the violence around. Would that even be better? It’s pretty well concentrated and aimed at women by men. I know we as teachers can say that this is unhealthy, that this is not what we should tolerate in our own lives. And we do that. And then, kids go on and hear or don’t hear that message and go on a read or don’t read the book.

The pile grows.

What other piles need to be ready to provide another point of view? No one book in the curriculum is an issue; it’s the pile. Do we have enough works that have other stories, other relationship patterns? As I spoke with a few colleagues about this the other day, it was this idea that we could all agree on–the idea that we can’t put a single story out there, over and over, so that it piles up and makes the only pile. Having these conversations with my colleagues, when the bell isn’t about to ring, is such a gift. The discussion helped me think a little differently, with more complexity, about the issues, let me practice making my point and refining it, and allowed me to gain perspective. Just another time that reaffirmed for me the awesomeness of the people with whom I work.

Back to the topic.

I also wonder: Does the pile start to say this is what real literature is about or this is what you need to be a grown up book or this is what contemporary works are or that these are the kind of relationships that are exciting to read about? Ultimately, does this become not only normal but to be expected?

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 10.15.09 PMPart of what makes me worry about this is an experience I had last year in my YA literature class with seniors. We read Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. This is an award-winning YA novel that centers around characters and their relationships most of which fall into the gender and sexual diversity category. There is nothing graphic about the situations or relationships that are described. There is kissing. There is a wandering hand or two. There is a lot of hand holding. There are bodies close together. Everyone keeps their clothes on, all the time. And yet, more than one student used the word graphic to describe the book. However, these same students think the rape of a female character in another book was graphic. That was a ‘relationship’ they were familiar with in literature.

I have passed this book around to get some other reactions to it. Maybe I am missing something. Nope. I’m not. It was recommended to me in good faith and was awarded prizes for good reason.

So, this coming year in my YA class, I’m adding this book to the ‘everyone reads it’ book group, rather than a choice book. I will of course help students think about their reactions to the book, its characters, and relationships. Time to add to a different pile.

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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Matt Peoples: http://flickr.com/photos/leftymgp/7828909452

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Matt Peoples: http://flickr.com/photos/leftymgp/7828909452

So, I’ve been thinking about victories–small and large.

My school is in the process of transitioning to a 1:1 learning environment. Our middle school went 1:1 this past fall, upper school (high school) will be 1:1 next fall. One of the things I am responsible for is preparing our faculty and students for this transition. Really, faculty members are responsible for themselves, but I’m responsible for helping them help themselves. As you might imagine this is not all hearts and rainbows. However, I have a success story to share. It is not my success; it’s another teacher’s success. I am so excited for her.

She sent me this email:  . . . that was my first use of the computer that changed the experience for the classes!

So, here’s what happened. She tried something and her classroom was instantly transformed.

HA! No. That’s not how transformation happens, silly. Think again.

She has been testing out some new strategies and tools for a awhile. She has wanted to try things, and sometimes I have had to say, “No you don’t need another tool here. You need to think about your classroom goals first.” We have spent a lot of time talking about classroom teaching about writing, about whether google docs will make students better writers. (Spoiler alert-it won’t.) We talked about my class too, which has been really helpful for me.

It was mid-March when I got this email. This conversation has been going on since last school year. This year she really committed to making some changes from the beginning of the year. She has taken charge of her own professional learning–summer work, meeting with me, trying things. Most importantly, she has kept at it. Initially, we were talking substitution, maybe augmentation on the SAMR model *(See below for more info.) And, that was fine. Totally fine. Using technology is not always wow-y. Wow-y is possible, but it takes time to get there. A lot of time it’s not even possible to imagine wow-y at first.

If you look at the SAMR model, transformation is the wow-y level. Transformation consists of both the modification and redefinition levels. Modification is defined as tech allows for significant task redesign. Redefinition is defined as tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

So, if we go back to my colleague, she didn’t get to start above the line in the transformation zone. No one does. She had to start down there at substitution and augmentation. Looking back, she may even think she had to spend more time that she would have liked wading through those levels. I would say that part of what wading around does is provide time to get used to each step. There isn’t a set amount of time you have to spend at each level before moving on. It’s all personal. So, the more you engage in that thinking, the more you have those conversations and begin to be willing to look at your discipline differently, the sooner it is that you will get to transformation. You can’t get there by hopping on the train and waiting for the stop to be announced. Just like our students, we must work for it.

I think there are a lot of ways in which we aren’t that different from our students. Who doesn’t like a victory?

 

* The SAMR model is a framework developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura that helps teachers evaluate technology use. There are four levels of technology integration. First is substation, then augmentation. These are both in the enhancement group. Next are modification and redefinition. These two constitute the transformation level. Check out Kathy Schrock’s website for more info and a good image.

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Read down a little and then imagine this scene with teachers (so more women) and better snacks and some comfortable chairs

So, I’ve been thinking about EduCon and conferences. EduCon is always in Philadelphia at SLA. I live in the area and can get there easily. So, even if not every session I attend is earth shattering, and really that is a lot to expect, it’s worth it to me for a number of reasons: ideas, interesting people, good conversations with people I don’t see everyday, short travel time.

I’ve been trying to read what others have written about their experiences at EduCon. Shelly Krause (@butwait) keeps an unoffical collection of blogger reflections here. There is a real range. Some people can’t get enough of it. Other attendees found the conference not different or ground breaking enough. Personally, I was looking for great conversations around what to do better and I found that in many (not all) sessions. I don’t think it’s that I had low expectations. I expected to hear some new ideas. I also expected to have to bring something to the discussion myself. The attendees at this conference are generally not people who haven’t done a lot of thinking already. The low hanging fruit is gone. If even half of the several hundred people in attendance could be truly innovative on command, the last weekend in January, in the midst of whichever dramatic weather Philadelphia is featuring this year, then the world would be a very different place.

I think I might feel differently if I were traveling a long way and paying lots of money. Last year I went to ISTE, which was also in Philadelphia. It’s not free, but my school covered registration and a little more for train tickets. So again, a no-brainer for me. However, this spring ISTE is in San Diego. So, let’s see– registration $, flight $$, hotel $$, food $, extra childcare and babysitting while I am gone $$. That’s approximately $$$$$$$$, which I could ask my school to help cover. However, as I was talking with Hadley Ferguson (@hadleyjf) about it she made some good point. First, it’s a lot of money (well, this was not new information, but she got more thoughtful as she went on). Second, she said that she didn’t need more ideas so much as to implement the ones she already had. Isn’t that the truth!

Let me be clear: I am sure I would find new and more ideas at ISTE this June. And yet, I haven’t even made sense or sifted through all the ones I got last year or ideas from the many edcamps I have attended. I have some ideas that I have been meaning to implement for a while. I got to thinking about what kind of PD I really need. Here’s what I decided.

I need the following:

  • Dedicated time, duh, and not an hour here or there, but a whole day or days.
  • To do some pre-sifting of ideas before this dedicated time begins.
  • A group of colleagues who want to meet and collaborate. A lot.
  • A space with good wifi, power sources, and proximity to food, water, and bathrooms.

Here’s my idea:

  • I don’t go to ISTE.
  • I do meet with some amazing, interesting, and interested teachers during that time.
  • We come with ideas that we want to evaluate and/or work up into units/lessons/game changing events.
  • We meet in groups and work on whatever projects grab us.
  • We meet some more and revise what we did.
  • We share this with whoever cares to listen/read.
  • Some of those ideas that we have so many of, turn into action.

Who’s in?

I’m thinking Phila area around the time of ISTE. I can work on a location. I have ideas a plenty and energy to commit. What can you contribute?

 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Johanna Kollmann)

Twitter Tuesday Thumnail with Helvetica font

Photo by FreshAlex online used under creative commons license

So, I wasn’t thinking about having a super interesting evening when I got home from school on Tuesday. Honestly, I had a frustrating day and might have been ready to wallow in it, just a little. I figured I wouldn’t participate in #5thchat on Twitter because I just wasn’t in the mood. (If you are not familiar with Twitter chats, there is a hashtag, #5thchat or #edchat for example that all who are participating add to the end of their tweets. Then by using the search option in Twitter or columns in Tweetdeck one can follow all tweets with that hashtag and “have a conversation” with lots of folks you may or may not know.)

Well, I am so glad I did participate! What a chat it was! Sometimes Twitter chats are on topics that just don’t take off or just don’t grab me, and I can’t always guess which ones will be which. Tuesday’s topic was creative ideas for teaching novels. (Here is the archive.) So many great ideas you really will want to read it.

To be honest, I am a gatherer. I gather ideas as well as stuff. To me the gathering and input of ideas and images is energizing. I love a good conversation or brainstorming session where anything goes. One of my colleagues jokes that she like to “watch me think” because she can see the wheels start to turn. Now, she does not say that great ideas are always the result, just that it amuses her to watch my head spin. So, given that I love to gather, this chat was a particularly good one. I finished the hour not only with a renewed energy in general, but specifically with a more positive feeling about the rest of the week.

And finally, I may collaborate with another teacher on a project in January. I’d say for one hour of my time, that’s pretty good return.

Conversations Update

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So, I’ve been thinking more about having more individual conversations with my students. And so I told them.

speechThis morning I was updating my class on a few things at the beginning of the day, typical stuff. I also explained, like I did in my last post, that I had so enjoyed talking with a 5th grader from another class and it made me think I would love to get a chance to talk with each of my own 5th graders. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much of a response one way or the other.

But, right away a few kids perked up.

  • Can we talk about white boards? I am really interested in them right now. (Ok, something else for me to brush up on.)
  • Does it have to be about school? (No.)
  • This is going to be so fun.

So, I kept going with some logistical options: lunch in the room, before classrooms are open in the morning (Now that it is colder, rather than outdoor play, students have to wait in the lunch room. Not as appealing as the playground.), recess if anyone is interested. I also have a few students who are not able to participate in PE at the moment for various reasons. So, I might grab them during that time.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to chatting with my students and am glad to know that at least some of them are also interested. Now, to think about how not to make it seem like an interview. I am sure with some students it will just become a real conversation. With others it will be harder. I think I’ll start with some of the easy chatters first to warm up.

I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

(Photo by Timothy Morgan used under creative commons license.)

So, I’ve been thinking about conversations I do or don’t have with my students. Two events got me thinking about this.

First, I was at school a few Saturdays ago for an open house event. This year there were a number of 5th graders there too. They were adding a student perspective, which I thought went well. Anyway, I had a 5th grader in my room as we waited for the tour groups to come by. We had quite a bit of time to chat. This student is not in my section and so I don’t teach her directly. Well, we had such a nice conversation. It began with movies, turned to books, then desserts, and finally candy. There was a little horseback riding talk in there too. How great to get a chance to know this students.

Second, my daughter had a friend over last Friday for a sleep over. (It was almost just an over as there was very little sleeping. I personally believe that no one needs to be playing with LEGO at 5 am, but that’s just me.) Anyway, my daughter and her friend are in 3rd grade and are both pretty good readers, meaning that they are reading some of the things that I read with my fifth graders or that I read to keep up with the fifth graders, though I am sure with a different level of sophistication. We had a lovely conversation over spaghetti about the books we have read recently. We each had some to suggest to someone else. We compared Harry Potter to Percy Jackson. (FYI, the girls thought Percy Jackson was a better series, due to Harry Potter’s frustrating perfection! My daughter and I are recommending Project Mulberry. I also suggested Cosmic.) Everyone was excited and enthusiastic.

Last Conversation Piece

cc flickr photo by Cliff1066

These two events got me thinking about the conversations I could have with my students. I would love to be able to have such intimate conversations with them. We began this process of getting to know each other with our 5E Identity day and students are blogging about topics of their choosing, but after the two conversations I just described I am reminded it’s time to pick up the conversation. Of course, there would have to be many more topics of discussion as not everyone wants to talk about books. I’m fine with that. As I think about my students, I suspect I would need to brush up on some sports stats, a bit about Mars, construction practices, swimming, and geology for a start. I’m ready for yoga, skiing, horseback riding, eggs, art, dessert, books, and general sports.

Now, how to make it happen? I am really committed to this. Thinking about how to work the schedule, I’ve always got the option of small lunch gatherings in the room. Hmmm. The wheels are turning, the smoke is coming out of my ears. I’ll keep you posted.

Any ideas on logistics are more than welcome.