I’m sure I’m doing it wrong

Oct 09

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.

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  • http://onceuponateacher.blogspot.com Melanie Holtsman

    Beside the fact that I want a gig like yours…. :) I only WISH I had an instructor like you because I think your “magic” creates the opportunity for learning to go beyond what you could have imagined, just like Sophie says. I’ve begun to think that the question shouldn’t be, “What are you doing in your classroom?” but instead, “What learning are you allowing to happen?”

    Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of the magic….

    Melanie Holtsmans last blog post..And the World Gets a Little Smaller…

  • Mathieu Quimper

    Thank you for this post.

    You didn’t make my day, I think you just made MY LIFE! :)

  • http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog Brendan

    Those first 6 bullets encapsulate the difficulties I had in the classroom.
    It is so ingrained in me, from years of being a part of the education system, that learing looks and sounds like quiet children in rows listening to teachers lecture that if I didn’t mentally prepare myself for a loud classroom I would freak myself out.

    I laugh as my 3 year old takes apart the excersise bike. He has removed the gel insert from the seat and put it on his truck seat. In the classroom I would probably be focused on the fact that he refuses to put on his pants.

    Brendans last blog post..Second Case of MRSA at Liberty High School

  • http://makeitinteresting.blogspot.com Chris Harbeck

    You are able to teach the way you do because you give give give. You are the first to leave a comment at a blog post, the first to reflect on current events and you are always available through email, chat or skype. Because you do all of your work and network with the most influential tech educators around we gain your knowledge.

    Student reflection is why social media and teaching should go hand in hand. You incorporate it into your courses…. Man I wish I had a teacher like you. Wait I do every day in twitter, blogs and where ever you go.

    Thanks Dean for being Dean. I learn from you everyday.

    Chris Harbecks last blog post..The Rise of the Rest

  • http://www.gardnercampbell.net Gardner

    Great post, Dean. Have you ever read Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature”? Fantastic stuff about teaching and learning in there–I think you’d find him a kindred spirit, just as I have. Rock on, brother!

    Gardners last blog post..Opening Up Education

  • http://eldon-germann.blogspot.com/ Eldon Germann

    As a part of the mentoring program, I am looking forward to working with the young-energetic-full-of-Shareski-taught-magic students. I hope to build my own network along the way, as I believe in life-long learning.

  • sophie

    That was wonderful. Long day….easy to cry. We must fight the good fight Dean Shareski I hope these student teachers end up in my school one day. They will so feel at home in the room next door.

  • http://thumannresources.com Lisa Thumann

    I think that to define good teaching, you need to add several personal and professional traits that you, Dean, happen to possess:

    * The willingness to go back and rewrite what didn’t work the first, second or even third time around
    * Working with students to define objectives helps them take ownership of their work
    * The ability to let students self reflect
    * The realization that good curriculum is a living document – meant to be changed as needed
    * Tests are overrated
    * Knowing that straying from the topic means that you may have connected with your students about something else and that’s a good thing.

    I think the key here is FLEXIBILITY.

    Thank you for continuing to reflect on how you work as it helps me do the same for myself.

    Lisa Thumanns last blog post..Project 10 to the 100th

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    @Matthew Totally by accident but glad to help.

    @Brendan Read Lisa’s Comment

    @Gardner I’ll try and find that book thanks.

    @Lisa. Wow. You turn my flaws into positives. Insightful, lucid and helpful.

    @Chris,Eldon and Sophie your examples of why my job is so easy.

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  • http://teach42.com Steve Dembo

    Fantastic post, Dean. Would make a great spoken word video as well. You should think about recording it as a video podcast.

    Steve Dembos last blog post..Should blogging be moderated?

  • http://theconnectedclassroom.org Kristin Hokanson

    I think Lisa really hit the nail on the head in how she described what you do…I want to add that you model learning. It is not enough for teachers JUST to teach anymore…they have to model for their learners what learning ACTUALLY looks like, which often means having unclear objectives, asking lots of questions, revising your original thinking…actually Dean, I think you are doing it all right!

  • http://blog.cathyjonelson.com Cathy Nelson

    I second the vote for a matching podcast. You have such a GREAT way with words.

    Cathy Nelsons last blog post..Coming Soon– “A Techstravaganza”

  • Joel Kosch

    The importance of networking is apparent as I get closer and closer to becoming an educator. By having contacts that can help you through situations, you can really help make your own life easier. I recently heard a man speak about teaching passions and how important it is to be passionate about what you do. The quote in this blog about needing to change the system so that our dedicated teachers can build up students is such a neat one. I never thought about how if you have a flawed system there is no way for a good teacher to be successful. They go hand in hand. It’s time to get rid of the flaws!

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  • http://wedderburn-college.blogspot.com/ Anne Baird

    Dean’s definitely doing it right. I love the fact that we all come from all corners of the world but clearly we recognise the importance of and the need for the same things for our students and for ourselves as educators. (or better still co-learners) Dean you are an inspiration to teachers who wonder whether they are “doing it right”. Your post and Lisa’s comments touched me. I think that there is one more that you could add to the mix and that is that we want to value encourage and expect kids to ask great questions. And then work together (along with us teachers) to answer them. Isn’t education an exciting time? I love it.

    Anne Bairds last blog post..Educating them to be safe is better than blocking .

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  • http://petermeg.wordpress.com/ Megan Peterson

    Hey Dean. It was interesting for me to read this post because being one of your students I have not really stepped back and taken a look at your process and ways of connecting all of us to new learning. I feel stressed out sometimes when I think about all of the subject areas that I need to smarten up on before I get into a classroom. I don’t consider myself to be a really smart person, but I know that I am good at explaining things to different kinds of learners. It makes me settle inside to remember that I can have help when I am teaching and that I will never be alone. When I went to school in the ninties there did not seem to be nearly as much sharing between teachers as there is now, and I think that is the way that I thought my experience might be like. But I am beginning to realise that I am in more control of the kinds of learning that my students recieve than I know. Thank you for reminding me that teachers are beginning to embrace change and help one another out. Because of technology we can help eachother all over the globe – this is very inspiring.

    Megan Petersons last blog post..The Begining of the End

  • http://cce4thgrade.blogspot.com/ Meli Launey

    I love that your students are collaborating with each other and exploring what teachers are doing with technology in their classrooms. Collaboration and Technology are the cutting edge of education now. What they are learning now is so much more applicable to the classroom than tests that are crammed for and then forgotten. KUDOS!

  • http://hurricanemaine.blogspot.com Louise Maine

    Dean,

    I am sure you are doing it right. Much of what I do is still too scripted but I am getting there. I am looking to create some chaos when observed by our Curriculum Specialist this year. He will hate my lesson plans as they are horrible and not well constructed. But the focus of a unit built on big ideas and general direction of where we want to go would be impressive if he has vision. To him, this would be a failure, but when looking at our students, it is not.

    Louise Maines last blog post..NEBSA Source for Learning challenge

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  • http://www.janseiter.com Jan Seiter

    I often hear from parents of my students, “…I wish I had a teacher like you when I was in school…”, and I get,”…this is TOO HARD…” from my students, and , “…you forgot to post your OBJ/lesson plan…” from my administrators…
    Am I doing it right…?

    Jan Seiters last blog post..You can’t always get what U want…

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