Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Analogy to Help Teachers Understand Homework

I have been thinking and thinking about homework over the past few months--why teachers give it (many reasons), whether it truly advances learning (debatable), what the scholarly research says about it (it's complicated), and what parents can do to partner with schools on this issue (reply hazy, try again). (If you are interested in reading my past posts on this topic, feel free to read through this list of posts tagged "homework.")

I was recently struck with what I think might be a helpful analogy for teachers who are themselves perhaps wrestling with what to do about assigning homework. Here it is...

Imagine, teacher, that your administrator hands down an expectation that you are going to write detailed lesson plans for every single thing you teach. You are expected to do this every single day, and must submit them by 7:30 a.m. every day. If you are late, or if your work is incomplete, you will have to give up your lunch hour as a consequence. Every once in awhile, you get a stack of your lesson plans back from your administrator with "10/10" or "B+" or "78%" written on the top of them, but with no other comments, written or verbally submitted.

How would you feel about this situation?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Homework: Comparing to Finland

Today I had two different friends share this same video on Facebook. It is a video comparing homework assigned in Finland and homework in the U.S. I hope you'll take a minute (literally) to watch it...

If you've been following my blogging over the past year, you'll know that I have a lot of concerns about the way teachers (often) assign homework in the U.S. The short version: I think that an awful lot of the work that is assigned is "crappy homework" that doesn't actually do what teachers think it does. We can do better, and I've been reading and thinking about this as I have time. Here are a few ideas for how we could improve homework.

I really appreciate that people are becoming more broadly aware of what Finland is doing in terms of education, and I truly appreciate the calls for looking to Finland for suggestions of education reforms in the U.S. as well. Finland does many things almost opposite of what we are doing in terms of education here in the U.S.--reducing homework, increasing recess time,  revising curriculum to include more topics that connect to students interests, increasing teacher pay and requiring all teachers to earn a Masters degree.

However...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Technology Self-Efficacy

Imagine this scene, teachers:

You have a colleague down the hall who has been telling you all about this great new educational technology that she has been using in her classroom to amazing results. The kids are so motivated and engaged, and they are so enthusiastic about their learning. "You should try it too," your colleague encourages you.

So, you start to plan a lesson. How hard can it be? Your colleague makes is sound like the kids can just sort of dive right in and go with it. And, hey, your students are "digital natives," right? Shouldn't be a problem for them.

As your lesson rolls out, things aren't going quite so smoothly. A hand goes up, calling you over to help out. Then another hand, and another. While you are looking over one kid's shoulder at his screen, you realize that half the class is currently "stuck," and waiting for help. They start whispering to each other...

"I'm so confused!"

"Why are we doing this?"

"I'm frustrated..."

"This is dumb."

...And about that time you decide you are never doing this again. What a waste of your time--and theirs! Why did you put yourself through this anyway?

---

People who know me well--and my proclivities to experiment in my teaching practice, and my love of all things techie--might be surprised to hear that I am describing myself in this story.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Planning for Next Fall

Saw this one just a bit ago via Twitter...


Can I get an "amen" from my fellow educators?

I wonder sometimes why some of my lessons really "work" while others feel more lifeless. And, yeah...sometimes they totally flop. What makes a lesson really engaging? What makes a lesson...less engaging?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Writer's Block

It has been a while since I've blogged. I miss this.

It's not that I haven't been writing at all; I've been working other things. I've been working on a couple of pieces for In All Things, and revising a chapter I've been writing with one of my professors. I have an article about half-way done too--still need to wrap up some data analysis before I can finish writing it. But the big one lately has been my dissertation proposal.

I had an afternoon blocked off to write the other day, so I started with a check of where things are. I have a draft of chapter 1 written, and got it back from my advisor with feedback. I'm pretty pleased with where things stand for that, actually, so I decided to go on and draft chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 (lit review) was overwhelming me--I have the outline written, and a ton of research already done, but I wasn't feeling it--so I went on to work on chapter 3 for a while (methodology.) I generated about 2 pages...

...and I hit a wall.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Teaching Who We Are

Photo via Dordt College. All rights reserved.
Facebook told me that it was eight years ago yesterday that I graduated with my Master of Education degree. That was an important personal and professional accomplishment! I learned so much about myself as a teacher through the coursework and research that was behind that degree; the professors I worked with helped me to review, rethink, ...and perhaps even redeem my teaching practice. I am the teacher I am today thanks to their work with me.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Doing What Is Best, and Not What Is Easy

Saw this gem on Twitter today...


I am thinking about the teachers that just graduated from our program last week. I am grateful for the chance to work with them, to have deep conversations about what good teaching is all about, to mentor them. But I am also worried for them.