Are you an instructional coach? If so, have you encountered teachers who don’t think they need your services? You know, that old, cranky teacher whom you assume pulls out the same copy of a lesson plan each year because they’ve “always done it this way;” the teacher who doesn’t jump at every new app or piece of hardware, the teacher who eyerolls when new methods are introduced with excitement? Here are some questions, in no particular order, you might want to be ready to answer before you walk into this teacher’s classroom:
Science, Education, and Science Educationclassroom applications
It’s no secret that I have scorned the term “professional development” and the acronym for years. I love learning about science, nature, how the world works, how we learn, my craft, food, people, many things. I love talking with other teachers about our practice. It’s not the learning I resist, it’s the failed attempts to “develop” skills in professionals with no acknowledgement of what or how professionals prefer to learn.
Again this summer, I had the opportunity to take part in some genuine learning with groups of accomplished teachers. Each time, our work together took place over 3-4 days. The leaders were not administrators, or university professors, or edu-experts who are no longer in the classroom, or techno-geeks with apps or gizmos purported to make learning happen. They were all simply incredibly accomplished classroom teachers.
Something truly wonderful happens when accomplished teachers are leaders of professional learning. The very skills that are the foundation of their classroom awesomeness drive their work with other teacher-learners. There is no sit-n-git. No one leaves with the feeling that they are to “do as I say but not as I did.” There is no time for participant web-surfing or Facebooking. No time for phone games. Everyone is engaged and learning because they are doing the learning, not listening to the leaning. Every teacher makes meaning of and owns the leaning. And when teachers return to their classrooms, they will certainly implement their work in their own classrooms.
Here’s a partial list of the engaging strategies we used during our work together. If you are a teacher, you’ll probably recognize some of them.
I was honored to be asked to address the Newberg High School’s Class of 2015 Baccalaureate Service. I’ve posted an unedited transcript, below.
Throughout the past 4 years, I’ve had the honor of working with and getting to know many members of the class of 2015. My assigned job, my main job, was to teach science, to prepare students for their respective futures. I may have been invited here tonight to teach; but the more I thought about what to say, I realized this class taught me at least as much as I tried to give to them. Tonight, I’d like to share some of the life lessons the class of 2015 taught to me.
Today, I read this article from the Washington Post. The author’s opinions of STEM are interesting. The connection to STEM as I know it is pretty broad. Some claims are backed up with evidence, some simply reinforce his stance on a liberal education for all.
The author made some great points. I read with interest. The twelfth paragraph really jumped out at me.
“No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (and the owner of this newspaper), insists that his senior executives write memos, often as long as six printed pages, and begins senior-management meetings with a period of quiet time, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, while everyone reads the “narratives” to themselves and makes notes on them. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, Bezos said: “Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”
I field-tested the National Board v3.0 AYA Science Constructed Response and Selected Response Assessment Center components. I was then invited to the Item Review, to happen here:
Know thine enemy, I’d been told. Besides, if I didn’t go check this out, how would I ever be able to comment with credibility on the process?
You log into Facebook, and there’s THAT friend, the grammar expert. The well-meaning grammar cop who is on a personal mission to correct every grammar or spelling error, ever. The friend who would bring together the programmers who created Autocorrect for a workshop. We accept that person. We love that person, and sometimes we learn from that person. Some of us may or may not recognize ourselves in that person. I am not that person. Oh, no. I have a far more nerdy mission.
I field-tested the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards assessment center exercises that make up Component 1, Content Knowledge, Adolescent and Young Adult Science, Chemistry. While I can’t tell you about the content, other than it was exactly as outlined here (Note: The documentation is not yet complete as the item review is still in process), I can tell you about the testing experience and give you some hints on scheduling and taking the assessments.
The assessment has 2 parts: Constructed Response and Selected Response. The Constructed Response section has 3 “exercises.” You have 30 minutes to complete each one, so allow yourself 2 hours and 15 minutes at the testing center, including arriving 30 minutes early to check in. The Selected Response section has approximately 45 Selected Response Items (SRIs) to be completed in up to 60 minutes. Here’s my experience. DISCLAIMER: This was a field test. There may be changes before the actual roll-out. There may be differences in the test center check-in and process. Read your own cert area directions and test center protocols carefully.
This is the year I organize the lab.
Teaching kids to work efficiently and keep their work area neat is pretty intuitive. Washing glassware, however, is not. I’ve outfitted every station with a small plastic bin that contains a sponge, a towel, and a spray bottle of table cleaner provided by the custodial staff. There’s nothing to clean glassware. So, I added a medium-sized test tube brush to the can in each cupboard, and placed a salt shaker (2/$1 at The Dollar Store) filled with Alconox in each bin:
Alconox is my glassware-cleaning detergent of choice, when a cleaner is needed. Students usually wash their own glassware at their lab benches. They will dump a handful of Alconox in one beaker when only a sprinkle is needed. The shakers are about 12 cm tall, plastic, easy to refill, and yes, they are color-coded to match the table color scheme.
Update, November 24: Working quite well.
Thirteen years ago, I was in Ohio, teaching a class of Chemistry students to set up their lab books for our first lab.
(Some of my current FB friends were in that class…) when our principal, Dan Griffin, announced that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. Then, in disbelief, we listened as he announced that the second tower had been hit. I had only one old, slow computer in my room, but all the news sites were too jammed for us to get any information. As I struggled to find words to calm my frightened, confused students, Mr. Griffin announced that a third plane had hit the Pentagon, and that all three flights had originated in DC. A student, white-faced (you know who you are) stood up and said, “My mom was flying out of DC this morning. I need to go to the counselor’s office.”
Mike was having his hip joint scoped a few blocks away at the local hospital. When I went to see him during lunch/prep, I caught a bit more news. As he awoke and saw the TV in his room, he thought he was watching a horror movie. We kept hearing about terrorist involvement.
Our thoughts then turned to our younger son, Geoff, who was in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood. Although we didn’t get to speak to him for the next few weeks, somehow, we knew there would be a consequence for him. We were right.
A hundred-plus lab books bear the start date of 9/11/01. Thousands of families, and our entire world, were never the same again.
*I stole this photo from a friend’s Facebook page. If it’s yours and I’m using it wrongly, please let me know and I’ll take it down.
We are asked to teach 21st Century Skills – Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Citizenship, to name a few. The last two schools in which I’ve worked have advisory classes. The point is career education and the relationship-building that increases chances for student success. We do prescribed career activities. We do grade checks and students reflect on their progress. I’ve been through many iterations of advisory during my tenure in 2 schools in 2 states over the past 10 years; and we are not yet sure what shape I’ll be getting a brand-new batch of grade 9 lambs this year, and I intend to help them become as successful as possible.
To support these skills, and state/district/building career-related activities and relationship-building activities, I’d like to suggest we consider the following possibilities for valuable use of advisory time:
Digital Literacy, Part 1
I see two components to Digital literacy. The first, easy component is establishing some accounts and learning to use current tools. At our school and in my classroom, as a minimum, these would currently be
- Google apps including Blogger,
- Prezi, and
My building has dabbled in Project-Based Learning. A part of our work, an authentic audience is important. It’s amazing how the quality of students’ work becomes a big deal to them when they know it will be seen by others.
As digital portfolios become important, students could maintain their portfolios easily in Google sites, and later transfer them to a personally owned account. The advantage to Evernote is its portability and flexibility with media. Evernote could be used for quickly storing info from recordings, links, photos and clipped images such as those students take of their lab work and whiteboarding adventures (see Plagiarism, below) and drafts of projects and work. Many teachers ask students to use Prezi, and class/project time is used just setting up an account and learning the app. Prezi could also be a platform for the digital portfolio. Many classes, particularly art, also use Blogger for photoblogs.
Digital Literacy, Part 2
Safety and etiquette. That is all. No student may publish anything in my class to a public account with his/her name on it without parent permission, signed, and in my file.
Plagiarism: It’s not just for English class anymore.
Students must learn to vet every source they use for licensing. Creative Commons wasn’t around when most of us were in college, so we first need to learn the ropes. Wikimedia Commons is a great starting place for images. Google Search now offers the capability to find usage rights (in search, select images > search tools > usage rights and then follow the rights granted for your intended use.)
As 9th graders, perhaps a look at the cost of a cell phone contract, fast food, and driving a car, including a look at the good driver discount they get on auto insurance for keeping a B average. By 10th grade, looking at how to budget money from a part-time job, including savings, and the cost of college. By 11th grade, a look at taxes and more college costs. As seniors, they need to be looking at their actual expenses vs income after graduation. And then, there’s my personal beef that we’re teaching kids there’s actually such a thing as “good debt.” Hello.
There are others, of course. What are yours?