October 9, 2008

I’m sure I’m doing it wrong

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:16 pm

According to many definitions of good teaching, I don’t qualify:

  • I don’t clearly state objectives
  • If I do state them, they are as fuzzy as all get out
  • I have a hard time measuring student progress
  • My course syllabus changes almost daily
  • I never use tests
  • I constantly stray off topic

There are likely a multitude of sins I have not listed.

Here’s what best summarizes my teaching approach:

Me can be swapped for students. Thanks D’arcy for the graphic.

This is what I want for my students.  While I have many shortcomings, I’m good at finding smart people who are willing to spend time with my students and share what they know.  I’m also blessed to have a number of people in my network that willingly comment on my student’s blogs and encourage them to reflect and learn.

As I work with teachers in K-12, I’m bound to work within a structure that values grades, systematic growth, accountability, and to certain degree uniformity.  Without going into all the details of the implications of these values, I don’t discount them all and work to extract the aspects of these ideals that are most beneficial to students. Some days that’s hard.  Many of them are designed to insure that students are getting a quality education.  All well meaning but at times become so convoluted that teachers sense frustration and stress in trying to work in this system:

How is it that we have so many passionate dedicated educators and so many really failing schools?  The problem is, that you put a good person in a bad system, the system wins every time..  We need to change the system.
Chris LehmannIgnite Philly

I don’t feel accountability as much as I feel responsibility. I’ve been blessed to experience the power of networked learning. I want that for my students.

In 6 weeks, they’ve already talked to Jeff, Kristin, Rushton, Wes, Kenneth, Melanie, Sophie, Sandi, Kyle, Nicole, Darin, Mavis, Anne, Maria, and Chris.  This group represents a vast variety of expertise and experiences that I alone could never offer. I’ve got plenty where that came from.

At times my job feels too easy. Sophie, a fantastic 9th grade teacher in our division once told me after implementing some social media in her classroom:

You should see the stuff the kids are doing on the wiki. I get the webcam set up today so we can start using Flixn too. This is so great. I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it. Even the Alt ed kids in period two have it going on. Talk about engaged learning. I could be sitting at the back quilting!! They are helping each other, going above and beyond any expectations I have.

Okay, I’m not likely to start quilting  I will enjoy room service.  The reason it’s easy is because not only do I outsource like crazy but also I am totally passionate about the work I do with these students and want to provide them with the best possible experience and often that means finding others who know more than I do. That’s not very hard. 😉

I do constantly question whether or not I need to be more structured.  Do I need to be able to define my outcomes more succinctly than this?

Students will learn that:

  • Learning is social and connected
  • Learning is personal and self-directed
  • Learning is shared and transparent
  • Learning is rich in content and diversity

I do provide rubrics, build criteria together, emphasis and utilize descriptive feedback.  Providing supports and the odd insight best describes my role.  I’m of total confidence they are learning. Just read their blogs.  I’ve read, listen and thought  more about assessment than most and yet it still baffles me. Mostly because the kind of assessment that makes most sense (immediate and descriptive feedback) isn’t really valued in schools. Then we want to deconstruct outcomes into minuscule bytes that only cloud the real learning that matters. I love Chris’ goals for his school:  Thoughtful, Wise, Passionate and Kind

Simple.  Meaningful.  Necessary.  Education has become very good at making the simple very complex.  That just seems wrong to me.