Sometimes I get bogged down with what's going wrong in the larger ed reform world.
During those times it's helpful to focus on what we have the power to change immediately as we continue to advocate for those changes others need to help us create.
Math teacher Justin Aion started this hashtag on Twitter and I ran with it enthusiastically (there's no other way I run)
Many of the ideas I shared in the #ThingsTeachersCanChange list are directly inspired by YOU-things you've told me, things I've seen you do, things we've discussed together that matter in ed.
If you or your students are feeling demoralized and need a bit of a pick me up, click the image to read the hashtag ideas, and also please add your own ideas! (If you need to make a Twitter account, contact me and I will walk you through it.) These are things you can change right now and you may like them. I'll be out of town on Saturday, but this is my way of helping the cause, using somethign I know how to do
Yesterday CMS delivered 3 carts full of shiny new Chromebooks. They are ready to go now (interested in how we got a 24 hour turnaround? see below) so head over to signup genius to reserve them for your end of the year digital needs!
Note: Ms. Newburger has streamlined a system to make the sharing of our school tech as smooth as possible. Please respect her work by adhering to procedures while the Chromebooks are in your care. Especially note that they are not as rugged as our iPads.
The rest of this post is for those interested in how we keep up the Chromebooks. It's not the prettiest - but it keeps things organized when lots of people share!
Our district configures and manages them for us. Ms. Newburger figured out how to share them efficiently when we check them out to classes. She tapes down the cords so they don't get jumbled indaily checkout. She labels each cord to cut down on confusion and she puts an arrow label to help teachers see when a chromebook is missing .
See photo above
I imagine today will not be the last time I use the tag "wild speculation" in a post, but here's the first:
This cake story on Mr. Losik's site inspired this post.
I appreciate Mr. Losik and his website certainly attests to the fact that he is not a "good old days" kind of teacher. However, the example of this cake is one that is being misused by others, educators and critics alike. Indeed the image is probably being laughed about right at this moment somewhere in America by the kind of disrespectful teacher that derides young people all planning period in the staff room.
There are exactly NONE of those teachers at my school and I am grateful for that every day. But they exist. To blame this incident on the education system not being stringent enough in its grammar and spelling instruction is wrong. This incident is NOT a failure of the cake decorator's spelling and grammar teachers, but of our entire school system's critical thinking instruction and multiple intelligence training, not only for cake decorator but also his or her manager. Disagreements are welcome but here is how I see it:
During a summer training a few years ago, when I was talking about educating all students, a fellow teacher said to me "but society needs someone to work the crap jobs" and to that stunning feat of pessimism I now reply, "No, in the 21st century we need someone to invent jobs and processes that free people from having no other option but a poor career match."
A bad career to one person is not so to another, but there are job mismatches and this cake story is one of those. (It is also a cautionary tale to retail establishments who don't have proper quality control procedures in place. I am sure there are words that someone may like on a cake that even an impeccably-educated student may not know how to spell. Also sometimes customers may purposely misspell for inside jokes and colloquial expressions.)
Yes, the cake story has larger implications for education reform, but not what many think at first glance.
Please try to get a mental picture of the person behind the icing bag. Allow me to use my completely unscientific and entirely anecdotal imagination to help you imagine a scenario beyond laughing at what a poor speller the employee is and tsk tsk- ing about his or her poor grammar and work ethic. Let's call this person "Cake Decorator " (We can't tax our imaginations too much right here at the beginning):
Cake Decorator is a person with a life, bills to pay, people who love him or her, dreams, aspirations, and skills -- yes, SKILLS (obviously cake decorating is not one of them, and neither is grammar or spelling, but there is SOMETHING this decorator does extremely well, has an affinity for, does better than you or I could do even if we took a class on it!) -- Don't forget that as you look at that bad cake.
Cake Decorator does not have mastery of verb tenses or spelling, or even the icing bag. Is the cake then evidence that today's classrooms are too lax on spelling and grammar instruction? I don't think so. Cake Decorator is in a career mismatch. That Cake Decorator seems not to know or act on that is the true failing of our education system.
K12 education does not free employers from having to have good staffing, training, and quality control practices. There is a problem at this WalMart. (I shop at Walmart, I'm not hating, that is just obvious. If I applied for a job in a field in which I have no skill, even with my good education and resume and work ethic, I would hope someone would have the sense to turn me down!)
Cake Decorator is getting paid low wages without benefits for a job he or she is ill-suited to work. Cake Decorator may be feeling trapped. Cake Decorator should probably look for a new job but Walmart may be the only show in town. Or MAYBE Cake Decorator's 11-13 years of schooling in a system that rewarded grammar and spelling but none of his or her skills has left Cake Decorator feeling worthless. "No point looking for a job because I can't do anything well," Cake Decorator may say to him or herself. (Cake Decorator probably did not use the word "well" as I just imagined in that last sentence. That's almost a definite.) Sometimes what a person learns from years of school is not to ask for help- to lay low and get by. That's the part of education we need to change.
Some readers may think "Ha! Cake Decorator will finally get what he or she deserves now! They should have worked harder in school! They probably cut classes, they probably mouthed off to their teachers or sat in the back with their head down. Now they will reap what they sowed - they deserve years and years of misery as punishment for not playing the game of school by the rules!" This thinking is blind to how academic curriculum and assessment daily fails to honor the full range of human gifts in the structure of schooling as it stands.
We graduate far too many students who are steeped in years of being labeled losers at a game that is very clearly rigged toward only a certain kind of smart.
Is the solution to the problem that we should make future students like our unfortunate friend Cake Decorator study more grammar, take more spelling tests? Or could a solution be that we teach those things, but also give Cake Decorator, and those like him or her a chance to hone equally important skills in a k12 setting?
Good grammar is one ticket into the middle class and as such should be valued in education; somewhat less so is good spelling. But these thing are NOT, NOT, I repeat, indicators of intelligence, capability, talent, or skill.
I wish I had taught Cake Decorator. If I had, I can't promise that he or she would be any better of a speller or would be any more likely to speak or write standard Midwestern-accented English, but he or she would, I hope, have learned from me that they were gifted at something, just the same. That, in the inspiring words of Angela Maiers, they are a genius and world needs their contribution.
I would hope that the assignments I gave Cake Decorator would have led him or her on a better path of training, would have kept him or her from dropping out literally or metaphorically, would have led them to create an amazing senior exit project on some topic about which most of us reading this blog know almost nothing. I'd like to imagine that that their project presentation would have blown away the judges because I as the teacher advisor would have shown young Cake Decorator how to minimize their weaknesses by maximizing their strengths.
if I had taught Cake Decorator, I'd like to think they would have learned to speak up and to self-educate when they are tasked with a job they are not qualified for; that they would be more discerning about their own qualifications and how to improve them. College- and career-ready doesn't mean "ready for any possible career" and employers can just slap people into place like cogs.
A good education should helps people, employers as well as employees, discern mismatches and fix them. More grammar worksheets and spelling tests won't fix the problems of a student like Cake Decorator. However, education advances such as PBL, maker movement, STEAM integration, genius hour will.
Maybe if more schools head the 21st-century direction that today's reflective teachers are moving, we will metaphorically have more career matches like that of the Wynn's cake decorator and fewer metaphorical -or literal -Walmart Cake Decorator career mismatches. The market won't bear everyone who wants to be a basketball player becoming one. The market won't bear every talented artist becoming a studio artist. But a good education with a background in critical thinking will help students choose the right match and learn how to adjust themselves in the real world.
What a great time to be a teacher!
Open Letter from A PD Facilitator 8 months into the job's creation
Figuring out the job of PD Facilitator in a school full of vastly differnent but equally skilled teachers, I realized that the idea of personalized PD was the way I wanted to go. Rather than showcase only one style, I wanted to share the best things about all the different styles of teaching that happen in our building so we can take what we want from each other.
Not only do we have to recognize that ways of teaching we ourselves would not choose are valid and productive, we must realize that for a school to work, to run smoothly and to serve all the various needs we are tasked with we MUST all be different, and continue to be so. PD should help us use and develop our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses. Therefore it MUST be personalized.
I am facilitating PD by showing you each other and then you choose what you want to take from that, where you want to go. I am always here for your requests for any specific thing you'd like support on, but while you are in your classes being amazing, I am showcasing what the other amazing around the school and putting that in the weekly newsletter so we can inspire each other.
This is kind of backwards to what I thought PD was going to be because the PD is coming from each other and I am just the conduit but it seems right when I am surrounded by so much intelligence, talent and craft. We are getting ideas from each other and are also you deserve to have someone recognize and brag on your skills and ideas!
Update: The article mentioned in the last link of this article is an example of being connected via an online PLN. https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-04-09-charting-the-pd-waters-with-badges came about via a PLN connection. I admired Laura Fleming's work, and because I followed her on Twitter, was able to connect her with Edsurge.
I was asked to share why I like being part of district PLNs so when I went away last weekend, I used my time at the airport to film myself talking about why I love having an online PLN - a global learning network of educators that I can learn from via social media like Twitter and Yammer, and how it is good to have district connections within that PLN.
Upshot: You willl get new views, great ideas, and a lot of inspiration and practical tips from connecting to others on social media.
I love the idea of a PLN as personalized professional development. Along with badging I hope it is the wave of the PD future. I can help you discover the ones that suit you or help you navigate the ones that are not intuitive.
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Lisa Gurthie is the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary holistic education, and unschooling school to reconnect academia to real life. One day she will modernize her "about" page. She curates this blog for the professional development convenience of the teachers at Piedmont, but the editorial comments are her own.