Friday, January 31, 2014

The Biggest Lie We Tell Students...

I think the funniest jokes are funny because they have a grain of truth within them.

In class the other day, I made a joke. I don't know if it was very funny, honestly, but one of my students thought it was funny enough to tweet it:

Okay...not the best joke ever, right? (Clearly, Dave...)

But is there a grain of truth in there?

How many times have you heard, "You can do anything you put your mind to!" or "You can be anything you want to be if you just work hard enough!"

While they sound nice and positive and encouraging, I think these are dangerous sentiments. It's not that I don't want to be nice and positive and encouraging--I think I am all of these things, for the most part--but rather that this is a lie.

Frankly, while students have many opportunities to learn and grow and develop, I'm just not sure this is true. Can they really "be anything" or "do anything" they want to? I will reserve the right to change my mind, but right now I'm thinking this might just be the biggest lie we tell students.

What do you think? Are we setting kids up for failure by telling them this? Or is this a good way challenge them to rise above the tide of mediocrity? I hope you'll weigh in and help shape my thinking about this!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Good Teacher...or a Great Teacher?

This morning in Intro to Education, I asked my students to think about a "good teacher." Perhaps try to visualize a particular teacher you've had. What word would you use to describe her/him?

I turned to the board and asked them to just shout out their descriptors in a lightning round, and I scribbled like mad to keep up. In less than two minutes, this is what we had developed:

A pretty powerful list! I'm trying to imagine a teacher that might have all of these characteristics all at the same time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Diffusion of Innovations Theory and Teacher Leadership

I'm teaching a Masters-level course this semester in our Teacher Leadership program: Teaching and Learning with Technology. We are exploring together the way technology is influencing how teaching and learning happens in schools today, and while we haven't come to the point yet where we are trying to say "this is a good thing!" or "this is a bad thing!"...I think it's fair to say that everyone in the course agrees that technology in education is a thing and that we need to be thoughtfully aware of how we use technology in our own teaching practices.

Because this course is in our Teacher Leadership program, I'm trying to help these experienced teachers think about how they can (and should) play a leadership role in their school setting. This gets a little tricky when it comes to the topic of technology; some of these teachers are already eagerly incorporating technology into many aspects of their teaching practices, while others taking the course are much more cautious about the allure of the glowing screens.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where the Magic Happens

"The cautious seldom err." 

I recently came across this quote, attributed to Confucius. And it seems true enough, doesn't it? It's a lot more likely that people who go launching off half-cocked are going to be the ones to make the biggest blunders. A lack of caution can result in disaster. Without weighing the pros and cons of a particular situation perhaps a decision might be made too hastily, with an unpleasant, uncomfortable outcome.

But I wonder if there is such a thing as being too cautious? And maybe especially in the realm of teaching and learning?

I'm not suggesting that we need to throw caution to the wind; certainly that is foolishness! Teachers need to write lesson plans; administrators need to be thoughtful about their leadership. But I sometimes wonder if teachers, administrators, schools, and even whole school systems might be a little too cautious sometimes. How often does it happen that decisions are delayed and delayed and delayed? That great ideas die in committee? That innovative approaches might be left on the shelf?

I wonder if our caution sometimes comes from fear?  I think we like to stay in our comfort zones. That's where we are most comfortable, after all! (Okay...maybe that's just me...but I'm guessing not...)

But what if there are times when cautiously staying in your comfort zone is actually preventing you from doing something amazing?

Be bold! Take a risk! Maybe you'll land where the magic happens.

Image by oklanica [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Embrace your Inner Ukulele Player

The title might be misleading: you may or may not actually play the ukulele.

I happen to...

I love this picture, taken by one of my kids to be "artistic."

But here's the thing, teacher: even if you don't actually play the ukulele, I'm pretty sure you have some innate, personal, geeky thing about you.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Teacher is the Decisive Factor

I am teaching a new course this semester: Educational Psychology. I'm really excited about this one! But there is always a little fear and trembling with preparing a new course...or at least, there is for me. In this way, I am thankful for my friend, Pat, from whom I inherited an excellent syllabus and much good advice for structuring this course. From those starting points, I'm putting my own fingerprints on the course, which is--I believe--what good teachers do.

We are right at the beginning of this new semester, and I'm still setting the stage in this course. Earlier this week we dealt with introductions and our syllabus; today was our first "real lesson." I wanted to get students thinking about the practical value of educational psychology, the way understanding child development and developmentally-responsive practice and learning theory impact and influence learning.

 So, of course, we watched movies!