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Archive for the ‘30 Goals’ Category

“If we teach today like we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

John Dewey

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

by Socrates

Challenges are good for us, even if we don’t always want to admit it.  For this reason I am thankful for the 30 Goals Challenge. I am thankful for the goals, ideas, and reflections that have all been a part of this. If I am to take this experience seriously, then I can’t ignore this challenge, a global communications challenge, one that I haven’t actively attacked as a World Language teacher. Sounds like a given, huh? It’s not as easy as it seems.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that one of my duties as a World Language teacher is to show my students a glimpse into the world outside their immediate community, outside of their direct sphere of experience. That knowledge will hopefully help them understand other peoples and perhaps themselves a bit more.

Making that actual connection, however, with the global community is a big step. It’s finding the connection, finding a means with which to communicate from both ends, dealing with time differences, school district red tape, etc. There’s a lot to do, lot of hurdles that I haven’t even tried to jump. So, when posed with the challenge of actual global communication my response is: but, umm…

So, once again, I would like to thank Shelly Terrell and the 30 Goals Challenge for posing this to us.  It’s not just that the challenge brings to the forefront something that I have been shoving to the bottom of the pile. It’s that the challenge also provides us with examples and resource ideas to start from.  My first step: start exploring these resources. My end goal: providing my students the opportunity to communicate with someone across the globe.

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“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”

by Dr. Haim Ginott

Reflect on your classroom rules and the punishments outlined for breaking them. Sometimes their behavior is not about them being disruptive or disrespectful, but are a reaction to whatever stresses they are facing. Students, classroom behavior, and their consequences are the topic of this post’s 30 Goals Challenge.

It is true. I am a decisive element in our classroom community.  Whatever condition the student walks into the classroom in, I have an effect on that. I can provide the opportunity for a person ready to be in our community to shine and succeed. I can also take that same person and shut them down. It’s a lot of pressure sometimes.

Perhaps I’m sick, perhaps I just received word of a family emergency, perhaps something personal has just gone wrong.  If I take that into the classroom community, it effects what does or does not happen there. On the contrary, despite my best efforts, I might not be able to bring a student having a challenging moment into the community for the day.  They may be the element darkening what happens in the classroom. It’s my obligation to try and bring some light to the situation. Again, there’s a lot of pressure outside the content area itself.

Stress. We are human. We have stress. Teenagers are stressed from their obligations, family, friends and biology. Adults are stressed from their jobs, families, and responsibilities.  Personally, I believe that if our schools employeed personal masseuses, some of this might be alleviated, but that’s a different matter. It’s important that we all have ways to deal with the stress, and that includes within the classroom community.

Plan. Have your lessons planned; don’t wing it. Included the opportunity to “moments.” Whether these be teachable moments, or moments to just vent. Make allowances for that. Know your students. Your first period students are going to have different needs than those at the end of the day.  Know that there are differences between boys and girls and their needs within the classroom community. Breathe. You need to breathe. You need to allow your students to do so as well, whether that be literally or figuratively.  Allow for movement: 90 minutes with bottoms planted in an uncomfortable seat doesn’t allow for oxygen to get to the brain and for the best learning to occur.  These are just starting points, and only a few at that.  Keep them in mind and add your own.

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“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”

by Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Let them in.  Let other teachers, parents, and administrators in to see the learning that takes place in your classroom.  This is the next goal that I am addressing in the 30 Goals Challenge.  When I was a department chair, I would have encouraged my department to do that. As I have presented at various conferences, I know those words have come out of my mouth. If I am to be honest, however, that is a fear of mine.

It’s a personal, not professional fear, but nonetheless a fear.  What will they think? Will I be good enough? Will they be disappointed? What will they say behind my back?  Will I become the brunt of other’s jokes because they don’t “get” what I’m doing? I’ve heard the answers to these questions about other teachers and don’t myself want to be that teacher.

Did you notice anything in particular in what I just wrote? It was all about me.  Is that what my classroom is about? There are so many other things that go on in my little community of learners. Why should I fear sharing that?

I have the unique privilege as a high school teacher to have students from their freshman year until their senior years. Not everyone at the high school level experiences that. We, my students and I, have developed quite the community together. Our experiences are far from traditional, but there is some wonderful learning going on in our community.  Why wouldn’t I want to share that? The answer? Because it’s different and people fear and judge things that are different. No one wants to be judged, and that includes me. Back to me again.

I have made conscious efforts this year to get my students collaborating, sharing and reflecting together. I haven’t, though, moved those experiences beyond the classes themselves. I’ve shared what I am doing with my department, but no one has visited or asked to visit. While not having discouraged observations, I haven’t encouraged them either.

I could take the easy way out and say that in a way I have invited people in: I regularly invite my “pod” of teachers to our annual Oktoberfest celebration and share food with our administration; I encourage the kids to invite other teachers, administrators, and even the superintendent in for our Valentine’s Day activity (they have to teach someone else how to say “Kiss me, I speak German” in German and then that person receives a Hershey’s Kiss). Those are fun activities, but there are so many other things that go on in our community.

I have classroom blogs, wikis, web pages, and a program twitter account. I do post our unit essential questions online and am available via email. My students are sharing and collaborating using web 2.o tools. I think these are steps, but I know it’s not actually “inviting them in.”

This is a long-term goal for me, but one that I would really like to make (despite my fears). I’m hoping for better parent relationships and peer relationships. We’ll see how it goes.

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Plato

Today’s 30 Goals goal is “Leave it Behind.  Make a list of ways you can leave your stress behind and not carry it with you into the classroom. To take this a step further, try one of these stress relievers today and share the experience with us.”

I read today’s goal and laughed to myself. This is something that those around me have been after me to better work on for so long!  For 15 years I was a single-parent and worked full-time. To be everything that my child needed, my students needed, my building needed, and that life demanded was more a heavy burden that I was struggling to carry than part of a journey.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken a closer look at that journey and made some gradual changes. Let me emphasize that these are gradual changes and that the journey continues…

  • Family. When it comes down to it family lasts longer than our students, our curriculum, our administration, our buildings. They are our foundation. Give them a hug before you leave for work every day and tell them how much you love them. My new husband keeps me in check with this every day. J
  • Prayer or meditation. Open you heart and mind at the beginning of each day to set your focus and remind you of what’s really important.
  • Walk. Walk to relieve the stress, lower the blood pressure, get your blood flowing and stimulate your brain activity.
  • Reflect. Reflect on your day – your day with your students, your class successes and failures, your choices, your direction.
  • Collaborate and Refuel.  Find your PLN! If not at your school or even your District, try online. There are so many out there and I am thankful for all those that all me to lurk, participate, or both.  See this link for information on Personal Learning Networks.

I am not perfect at implementing all of these as regularly as I should or you may even think, but I have seen the positive effects that they all bring: positive for my students, my health, me career, and my family. I’m still on the journey and wish to thank all those that have helped me!

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“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ”

by John Lubbock

Some quick thoughts about learning and online professional development:

  • Everyone can learn
  • Not everyone learns in the same way
  • Learning is a life-long process
  • I hope to inspire my students to want to learn
  • As a teacher, I should help my students learn how to learn
  • I need to model learning for my students
  • I need to show my students purpose
  • I can learn from my students, too
  • I hope to establish an environment of trust and safety in our classroom
  • Learning has changed with innovation. As educators we need to not only acknowledge this, but embrace it. Our students have!
  • Professional Development has also changed with innovation
  • Online professional development has allowed me to stretch beyond my own community and learn from so many other around the world
  • Online PD allows me to see many more perspectives than just those I see around me
  • Online PD has motivated me so much more than I thought possible!

The long-term challenge: In what ways will I ensure that my beliefs about how students learn are reflected in the classroom?

One step towards this goal is reflecting in my blog and another is participating in the online community for this challenge. The blog provides a place for me to reflect on my goals and review them as necessary. The online community provides a place for me to collaborate, share and reflect with others on the same journey.  While the connection to the classroom may not be blatant, it is still there. The connection is me.  The classroom, the blog, the community – I am a part of all of these things and all of these things are tools to be used to keep the focus when the educational demands become overwhelming.

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“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

by Albert Einstein

I think I could end my blog post there.  Einstein says a great deal about grading without ever knowing it would be taken as a discussion point for us.  Our challenge today in  30 Goals 2011 is “to assess one assignment or project … in a way that doesn’t add a numerical value but has the student seek value in the progress made, the learning achieved, or the work put into it.”  I watched the video (click on the link), read the challenge, and walked away from the computer for most of the rest of the day.

My thoughts and emotions are mixed regarding this challenge.  One side of me laughs at the challenge: how am I going to get my students to even try something if there is no grade to put in the grade book.  Therein lies the problem. Our society has placed such a high value on “the grade,”  the GPA, and the class rank, State testing, ACT, SAT, AP and so much more that learning for the sake of learning and the pride that comes from within is lost. The real loser is the student.

Back to my initial moment of laughter: how am I going to get my students to try something that doesn’t have a numerical value attached to it?  First, I’d like to train them in appreciating “the process” of learning. I want them to see that there is learning in each step of what we do.  My first step began today.  One group of students are finishing a project this week.  I’ve spent time with them setting up their foundational skills, presenting examples, modeling the information, making the theme authentic (in theme and product), presenting the project, and giving the project purpose. Their final leg of the assignment has 2 steps: they are to post their Glogs on edmodo with a comment/abstract plus respond to other posts (with guidelines provided), and complete a google docs evaluation.  The edmodo post allows them to boast about their product and provide positive feedback to others.  It’s an affirming experience.  The google docs evaluation is designed to illicit information about their experience all the way through.  It’s a self-evaluation about their successes, failures, needs, and wants from this project and for future ones.  In the end, my goal is to provide the students opportunities to show value in themselves and others; and, to be able to talk about their experience as something that is valued as much as the end product.

I tried to apply the challenge to something immediately, so it wouldn’t be just a topic to blog about, but one to put into action immediately. I want to find the value in the process just as much as I want my students to do.  I may not fully accomplish this goal for some time, but I’ll be working on it as the challenge continues.  The numbers aren’t going to go away for some time, but there’s still room for value in the process of learning.


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“You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model.  Your primary influence is the environment you create.”

by Peter Senge, suggested by John Evans

And so it begins… What? The 30-Day Challenge. It’s a personal challenge with an end goal of better engaging us with our students. The link to the challenge, should you choose to be curious is : Teacher Boot Camp – 30 Goals 2011 .  Those participating will use various media to reflect and support each other with and through various goals. Today’s goal:  Be a Beam.

Shelly Terrell, the foundation for this challenge, describes a beam as a strong, hidden structure that offers support.  She tells us that every day we have the opportunity to approach students as a support or as a wall.  What do we choose? What do I choose?

It’s my hope that I choose every day to be a support to my students. Some days are likely more successful than others.  Do I, however, extend that to my colleagues as well?  It’s easy to do that with the various social media that I participate (twitter, Facebook), because one can choose like-minded professionals to follow/friend.  Colleagues aren’t always those people.  I am hesitant to even say that, because comments have already been misinterpreted and misrepresented from my own Facebook page and spread through areas of my building.  (Really, my FB page is not all that exciting or dramatic – someone, for some reason just found it so.)

With that said, my goal today (and the next 30 days) will be to become that unseen beam for those people with whom I work.  Keep reading, I’ll post at the end of the challenge what I’ve tried.  Will I notice any difference in my colleagues?  It doesn’t matter. I hope I’ll be setting the foundation for better, improved collaboration and collegiality.

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