Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not productive at all

Cheerier, more exciting news.  I just found out that one of my current favorite YA authors, E. Lockhart, has a blog.  This gives me a little flutter of fangirliness in my heart, and I am excited to have one more blog to help me be unproductive.

I fully intend to read her third & fourth Ruby Oliver books this summer, and I may investigate what other gems Lockhart has in her repertoire.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cyber-bullying... a teacher?

Here's an interesting issue:

Student Suspended for Facebook Post

A thirteen-year-old posted a Facebook status which indicated that she wished Bin Laden had killed [her teacher] instead of the 3,000 people in the twin towers.  Yikes.  Dr. Drew  -- (why him and what are his credentials exactly?  I must admit, I am a bit skeptical of any doctor who goes by "Doctor FirstName" and has TV shows on MTV.  I digress) -- Dr. Drew interviews the mom & kid and brings in a "former prosecutor" to comment on some of the legal aspects.  The prosecutor makes a point (4:00) that with issues of cyber bullying, the law right now sums up 'net issues as such: "we don't care where the bad behavior happened, we care where the bad effects land."  So, if it is going to influence the school community, then yes, the school has a right to step in.  I thought that was an interesting and seemingly fair rule.  Does the law need to evolve with the internet?  Yes, certainly, it is not perfect -- it would be nice if laws provided schools with more clear-cut and decisive action plans, but that has not yet happened.

But about 4 minutes later (8:00), the girl dissolves into waterworks, and suddenly the tune seems to change.  Now, she is the victim (Dr. Drew actually makes a statement to that effect at 10:18)! The girl tearfully defends herself saying that we can't judge her because we don't know the whole situation, and to some extent, I agree.  But from the change of tune at 8 minutes to the end of the clip, the interview takes a decidedly anti-school/anti-teacher sentiment.  No, a national news network is not the place to rub her nose in her poor choice, but still...she was the bully here!  The prosecutor changes her tune as well, rehashing issues of cyber-bullying where the school did not step in and the dire consequences thereof (10:55).  She says "Schools need to get it together" and to some extent, I agree.   Simultaneously, however, I just shake my head, wondering how much more society wants to heap on schools' plates.  When schools say they can't intervene because of free speech, they get harassed.  When schools do intervene, however, they get harassed for being too heavy-handed.  What do you want them to do?

As the clip ended, I was still just astounded at the unfairness for the teacher.  If that were a statement made by one child against another, it would be included as bullying in any pursued legal case.  So just because the teacher is an adult, it's not a big deal?  Is it really outrageous for a principal to attempt to protect his/her teachers?  Teachers aren't above the law -- we aren't saints by any means -- but at least treat us with the same dignity you would a threatened student!  The phrase may not have been a "threat" per se, but it was hateful and hurtful, which sounds a lot like bullying to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

No duh, Sherlock?

This article recently came across the AP wire: It's Not the Teacher, but Method That Matters

In it, Seth Borenstein reports a study that followed two different  Canadian college classes, one of which was taught by TAs with "interactive methods," the other taught by an experienced lecturer.  Surprise!  The class taught via interactive methods scored better on assessments.  The physicist conducting the study concludes "there's nothing magical about a particular person."

I have some issues with this.  My initial reaction is something along the lines of, "Uh. Duh."

Then the other part of me says, Oh holy mother of biscuits, this is all the evidence a county needs to mandate scripted teaching. I fear The Powers That Be see this study and say, "See?  Any monkey can do it, you just have to know what tools to use."

Except, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't that what being a professional in any field means?  I can't write computer programs because I'm not familiar with the proper tools.  I don't diagnose illnesses because I don't know the proper tools.  I don't extract teeth because (guess what) I don't know the proper tools.  Nothing "magically" makes a person a dentist.  Years of training and research do.  I wouldn't presume to do any of those jobs until I had the proper training to use all those tools & terminologies.

What makes you a good teacher is that you are out there, seeking, exploring, implementing new tools all the time.  This study confirms that a lecturer with 10, 15, 20+ years of experience is not necessarily a good teacher just because s/he has done the same thing for 10+ years.  S/he is a good teacher because s/he chooses to seek out those interactive strategies.  So, no, there's nothing "magical" about a particular person.  Just a lot of training, self-reflection, and hard work.

Monday, May 9, 2011

If I could dream

The last day of class, my comp professor posed an interesting question to us:

Let's say you have an entire year paid sabbatical (via grant, miracle, etc) to do whatever you want to do.  What would you do?

I wasn't sure exactly -- my first thought was read as much as I could about writing workshop so I could be an expert and hammer out a perfect (*cue laughter*) writing workshop procedure in my classroom.

But then I thought bigger.  If I could, I think I would take a year to explore all the different technology writing/composing media -- ones created for the classroom or not, ones schools could actually afford or not.  I would find ways to get my hands on the very newest stuff, to see what's coming.  I would find out all the possible ways to use Smart/Promethean boards, writing pads, movie-making media...and all those other things that I know must be out there but I have no earthly idea what to do.  I would compile my research into a giant Bible of Digital Media that cross-referenced every conceivable use of these technologies.

If there was one thing I came away with from that composition class was that I would really like to explore additional media for "composing."  I'm not sure I'd be experimental enough to give students a choice between a written or digital essay every time, but I'd like to be able to let the kids play a bit more with media than I currently do with them.  And part of the reason that I don't is because I feel so completely overwhelmed at the thought of what's out there and how little I know about it. So, there's my dream grant-funded sabbatical.  What about you?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cover Art FTW

This might be totally superficial, but the first thing that I liked about this blog is the picture used for the profile, Fragonard's Young Girl Reading.  A friend of mine gave me a beautiful print of it as a HS graduation gift, and I've always adored it.  I would wax poetic about the picture, but suffice to say, once I saw that profile, I knew this blogger and I could be kindred spirits: OKP's Line 46.

And I haven't been far off.  I have loved to keep up with OKP for a variety of reasons.  One is that she posts pretty regularly, even if it's little snippets.  She teaches at a high-performing school, and I find it interesting to see the challenges there as compared to not only my own experiences but also those of other bloggin' teacher-fiends.  Some challenges are surprisingly universal, some are not.  She is honest about the challenges she faces, but also honest about the way she challenges her students, and I love that.  It's a nice blend of amusement, introspection, joys, frustrations.  And when times get hard, she isn't afraid to post a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.  I think that says a lot about a person, don't you?

Have you noticed that I tend to be attracted to blogs which have qualities I aspire to?  Guess these are more like 'role model' blogs than just "favorite" blogs!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I like to keep you on your toes

OK, this might seem strange to you, but one of my favorite teacher blogs is actually the "Homeschooling" section on Pioneer Woman's multifaceted blog.

Yes, unconventional for a public school teacher, I know.  But it gives me a glimpse into a wonderful world where parents not only care about their students' educations (because anyone can just say they "care" Michelle Rhee), but they take active roles in it!  I also love that they are constantly exploring new media, texts, manipulatives, etc. to bring to the classroom.  Some of them are things we would be willing to spend money our own money on.  They have a level of autonomy we only dream about.  There are obviously a lot of factors that contribute to our teaching experience being so different from theirs, but this blog consistently reminds me about the magic of education -- those special "ah ha" moments of discovery for both teachers and students.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Trick Pony

Many of you are not in this position (thankfully!) and probably won't have to be for some time, but for those who are suffering the bane of job interviews, you may encounter this question which once tripped me up: Talk about a lesson (project/etc.) that went well or you're proud of.

I don't know about you, but I'm not used to thinking about positive things about myself all the time.  If asked what are ways you would improve or things you could change, etc., I could give you quite a list of those!  I think this is true of most people -- we have a hard time acknowledging good things about ourselves.  Do we think it's bragging?  Regardless, it's not a habit we often practice.

When I had this question, I could think of only two things, and one of those I had already talked about for a previous question.  I talked about those two things, but I worried that they were going to think I was a one-trick pony!

A few weeks later, after my brain had calmed down and I was able to reflect clearly, I made up a list of possible responses to that question.  I wanted to be prepared for next time.  The list included the mock trial, literary analysis breakdown, booktalks, students-teach-the-class projects, writing workshop portfolios, reading cinema unit, and a historical timeline project. 

How would you answer that prompt?  Talk about a lesson/project/unit that went well or you're proud of.