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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The next school year is about to begin. While sad to say good-bye to the summer vacation, it’s still exciting to see what the new year will bring.  Before our students walk through our classroom doors, there’s a good deal of front-end preparation and planning that we all do. Struggling with technology is not something that anyone looks forward to at this time.  Here are some tips to avoid some of those struggles and help us along the way:

  1. At the beginning of the year don’t try every tech tool that you might have read about or someone told you about. Pick something you feel confident that you’ll use. When you and your students are comfortable using that tool, then try adding something else.
  2. Practice using any tech tool before you plan on using it in the classroom. You never know what problems you might encounter: blocked sites, incompatible software, login issues, tool too complicated for age-level of the user.
  3. Remember that not only are you teaching your respective target language, but you need to teach your students how to use the tool as well.
    1. When working with a new tool that you plan on using for performance assessments, introduce that tool in a smaller assignment to give them experience.
    2. We want the language to be the product, not the technology. We don’t want them to fail because of complications with that technology.
  4. Integrate technology in your lesson planning process, not as an occasional activity.
  5. Some students don’t have the same access to the internet and other tech tools at home. Make sure that there is enough class time available to get these types of assignments done at school.
  6. Technology should always remain a tool and support instruction, not a toy and not the focus of instruction itself. Before using one, ask yourself how this helps your students meet your learning targets.
  7. Always have a backup plan. Technology can sometimes fail. Having a backup plan can save the day and prevent loss of instructional time.
  8. Have a web site. Use what your school provides or try out Google (free). Use this as a place to keep parents informed: Standards, learning targets, unit overviews, important dates, your schedule, links to other sites, policies, class newsletter, etc.
  9. Develop a personal learning network (PLN). Use twitter! There are so many teachers using twitter as professional development and collaboration tool. You’ll be able to learn, ask questions, and share with fellow educators all over the world! Search for the following world language related hashtags: #flteach, #langchat. There are more, but these can get you started. Visit https://twitter.com.
  10. Find educational blogs to follow. These can provide ideas and inspiration. Here are some ideas:
    1. http://mmeduckworth.blogspot.com
    2. http://langwitches.org/blog/
    3. http://zachary-jones.com/zambombazo/
    4. http://community.actfl.org/ACTFL/Blogs/ViewBlogs/
    5. http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/
    6. http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/
    7. http://languagesresources.wordpress.com/
    8. http://deutschlich.wordpress.com/

Why might you put this time and effort into something that’s not the target language or culture itself? Because this is where our students are today. This is the culture in which they are growing up. This is their language and we need to speak it as well. Not only will we identify more with our students, but we can benefit from the world of technology. World language teachers are often isolated (singletons) in their respective buildings. Technology can bring us connections like never before. Through these connections we can become stronger, better informed, and never really alone.

 

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“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”

by Phyllis Diller

 

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Plato

 

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”

Leo F. Buscaglia

Play.  When young children play, they run without aim. They dig in and get dirty. They aren’t afraid. They laugh at their mistakes and scream with delight at their successes. They sometimes cry, but that can be easily turned around with some reassurance. There aren’t boundaries. It’s all about discovery and adventure. It’s delightful to watch.

Not everyone gets to work with young children and see this.  Children, however, are still children – at any age.  My high schoolers love it when they get to follow commands posted around the school to find the prize at the end of the trail.  They love it when we get to read outside. They love it when we turn the tables into a fort/castle to have fairy tale story time. They love it when they get to read outside. They love it when we have verb conjugation races. They love Pictionary with new vocabulary. They love stickers, stamps, reward pencils and so much more. They look forward to class because it is not 90 minutes of sit-in-your-seat and take notes on a lecture time.  They are still children – some of them may be bigger than I am, but they are still children.

Play in our classroom community.  It’s one of my favorite things to do with these students. They can’t help but interact with the material if they are playing with it. It gets their blood flowing, oxygenates their brains, and keeps them really involved. There is play to just play – but there really is playing to learn.  Problem/project-based learning is a wonderful outlet for this.

I have the wonderful opportunity to work with a content area that lends itself well to these types of activities. While I will praise the idea of play in the classroom, I think it’s also important to share that there will be those who doubt or criticize the action.  I have heard a number of times from colleagues: “I wish I could teach a language, all you have to do is sing and play games.”  If you read my previous post, it is the reason both that I have feared inviting others in and the reason that I should.

 

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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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A friend was asking about my blog. As he was reading the title (or at least trying to correctly pronounce the German), it occurred to me that there may be others out there who also had no idea to what I am referring.  Sturm und Drang, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a late 18th century German literary movement characterized by works containing rousing action and high emotionalism that often deal with the individual’s revolt against society.”

Most of the time I like to use this term to describe periods of my own personal life.  I find that personally a little amusing. Naming my blog this, to which I ascribe my reflections on teaching and learning, brings the title into a new light. While a part of me envies those who produce “rousing action” and can bring their “high emotionalism” to a productive result, I don’t find myself there at this point.  I am also not an individual known for “revolt[ing] against society.” There are those who might call me a “wannabe,” but I would dare to differ on that account.

I am a passionate individual. Teaching and Learning are two of my passions. I have spent years living and working within my own little ecosystem of the educational world.  I am only now searching and finding ways to expand out of that system and into/within others.  Revolting against society, the educational society, is not my plan: working from within to help myself and others grow is.

While I doubt anyone will find me marching with picket-signs, I do hope that I am becoming someone who fosters action and passion in the classroom, school, District, State, and among each other.

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Rewards and punishments, carrots and sticks. We’ve all used these before, to varying degrees. Honestly, I hadn’t yet thought of them as being part of a “Motivation 2.0” world. Actually, I hadn’t thought of motivation as being demonstrated by various stages in history. There are many things that motivate us, I’m still pondering if these three stages are an over-simplification or not. What I can concur with, is that schools are generally in a Motivation 2.0 stage.

We want our students to be using higher order thinking skills. We have Bloom’s Taxonomy (I confess to attaching it to my lesson plan book every year). We have inquiry-based teaching/lessons/methodology. We know we want to reach a different level of thinking and achievement with our students. The question remains – how do we motivate them?

We motivate with grades, class rank, AP test scores and college credit, pizza or ice cream parties, candy, free homework passes, and so much more. We do dangle the carrots. Why do we do this? We were taught that way, those are the examples we’ve seen, the students respond to this and other similar responses. It’s easier to fall back on “tradition” (long-term effectiveness not in question) than to try and harness that biological drive towards motivation. We appreciate those students who have it, are very thankful to have them in class. But, have we tried to foster this – consciously? Or, do we pat ourselves on the back when it does happen?

Interview with Dan Pink: http://www.publicschoolinsights.org/carrots-and-sticks-are-so-last-century-conversation-author-dan-pink

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Performance pay. There’s an idea. Some school districts are using it. It’s another carrot to dangle in front of us to “motivate” us to work harder with our students. It’s a reward before the measurement. Something to work towards. Something new. In difficult economic times, many of us will jump at the hope of an increase in pay (especially when we haven’t had a raise and aren’t getting one).

Measurement. That’s where the questions here lie. How is this determined? What tools are being used? If we use state standardized testing, what about those subjects areas or grade levels that are not tested? One hates to hear the term favoritism, but can that happen? It does in the business world. Would this be used as a punishment as well? It can in the business world as well.

As much as many don’t want to publicly admit, there is a business side to education. The difference is that most educators are not business people. Most of us drawn to education are drawn for reasons besides the pay. Dan Pink said that “educators understand the differences between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation better than almost anyone in American society.” I think there’s truth in that statement. Our reward is different. While we would definitely appreciate a better pay scale (as in many other countries around the world), I think we are the students who had that motivation to learn from the start.

I like something else that Dan Pink said, “Pay people enough so that they are not focused on money, but they are focused on doing their job well.”

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It’s taken me some time to process this. Perhaps I just thought too much of my teaching prowess, my ability to connect with my students, my ability to get even the most problematic of students to engage at least somewhat with the material.  Perhaps I spent too much time in the affective mode rather than the content itself. Perhaps…  “Perhaps” leaves big gaps without providing concrete answers.  The end result was a disastrous classroom moment which included an impromptu visit from an administrator. Disastrous.

As an experienced educator I find it hard to reconcile, rationalize, or justify that period of time. On the other hand, after surviving the next class period unscathed, I doubt the students have thought again about it. Perspective.

“Things” happened in class that day: nothing illegal, no real violence, no one was physically hurt.  Detentions could have been written. I could easily have pushed for even more than that with a couple of students. This hasn’t been done. I’d like to say that this hasn’t been done “yet,” but discipline should be immediate. Should.

The actual events or actions don’t seem to matter.  What matters are two things; 1, the professionalism on my end and 2, the student reaction.  Personally, I never yelled. I did question their motivation and thoughts, but never yelled or cursed.  My ability to manage a classroom comes into question, especially if this is the only view this particular administrator will ever have in that classroom (if it is, then that is an entirely separate discussion to have). The student reaction, however, is certainly notable as well.  Before the end of the week, I had numerous, unsolicited letter and Facebook posts of apology. A star football player personally apologized with tears in the corners of his eyes. The one “Problematic” student that most teachers have already given up on said that not only did I not deserve what went on, but more so because I give him chances that no one else does. Reaction.

There are still issues to address on my end: the catalyst to the classroom disaster, my future preparations and plans, my response to the administrator.

What I want to remember most, however, is ‘how’ the students apologized.  Perspective.

“we are selfish, ignorant, don’t realize the power of our actions, feel a need to stand out, don’t understand most things that happen, get frustrated easily and take it out on others, often forget that teachers have feelings, and we take a lot that we are given/have for granted.
And yet you still put up with us which I find amazing and I think that you are a gift from God and that putting up with us makes you a better person than most. Thank you for being an awesome, kick-butt teacher”

 

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