Posted in Conferences, culture, Learning, talking, Teaching

The importance of talking

The Texas Council for Social Studies annual conference was a few weeks ago in the Houston area. It’s one I’ve attended off and on over my years as an educator in Texas. This was the first time I went with a group of other teachers as well. The conference (although in a poor location with tiny rooms) was full of a variety of sessions tied to technology, specific topics, writing, reading, and talking. Unfortunately, I only saw a few sessions on the importance of talking as educators and as students.

Talking to learn new content, talking to review old content, talking for sharing opinions, talking to agree or talking to disagree, talking to share ideas and create new lessons are all crucial to education.

The more time I spend in education, the more I realize that we (educators) do a lot of talking that we think is teaching, but really we are just telling it to the kids. We are just ‘covering’ material that we think they need to know. And the students might learn it temporarily…for their next unit test and then they will review it before their semester test, but what is the point really? And as educators, do we talk to each other enough? I feel like I really solidified my learning from the conference by talking to other teachers about the sessions and sharing ideas. Given how much talking happens in the news, in politics, in jobs outside of high school, why are we missing the right kind of it in education?

How can we focus our teaching to be more about talking and learning and less about telling? Can we move our focus to asking questions? To providing resources that students can consume (news articles, primary sources, videos, definitions, etc) and then sparking curiosity in our students to find themes, patterns, solve problems, make connections?

When I reflect on my own teaching, I know in my classroom, I definitely did too much telling of the Social Studies material and did not provide enough opportunities for students to talk and explore. I know I tried things out and tried to focus on the students being at the center of the learning, but I definitely could have been a lot better at it. I see that now as an Instructional Coach because I am blessed with the opportunity to read more, research more and spend more time in classrooms with a variety of other teachers. These opportunities allow me a bigger picture focus on learning.

The nature of high stakes testing, of documentation, rules, regulations, new state initiatives, new district initiatives, new campus initiatives…all of these things have interfered with students actually doing things in class and actually learning material beyond the surface level of memorizing for an assessment.

So what can we do differently? Can we get away from the worksheets? From the copying down notes from a slide? Give students time to write to learn, to read to learn, to argue to learn? Be the curator of resources for an essential question? Give students the time to come up with the questions themselves? Go back to the KWL charts (or anticipation guides) to spark that curiosity?

Check out some resources that will help you if you want to get students back into the world of doing the learning in your classroom and less in the world of you ‘telling’ them the content.

 

https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/speaking-listening-techniques/

https://www.smore.com/q91ju-reading-to-learn?ref=my

https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/do-something/

https://www.smore.com/vxemy-alternatives-to-lecturing?ref=my

https://www.smore.com/nadcw-tcss-2018-2019

 

Posted in culture, Learning, Teaching

It’s been awhile…

So my blogging goals for last school year definitely slipped away from me! So back at it now, as better late than never, right?

Today was the first day of the Cy-Fair Digital Learning Conference. DLC is a great conference that CFISD organizes each year at the end of July. I think today they said about 1700 educators were in attendance–fantastic for summertime professional learning!  I went to a great session on PLCs. It is fascinating to hear about how other districts (and campuses for that matter) view PLCs. Some view it as something to be done and for others, it’s not even on their radar.

I also presented a session today on Blended Learning and how to use academic texts to facilitate discussion in any classroom. It’s my 3rd year presenting at this conference and I’ve enjoyed sharing my learnings each year on different topics. This year, Lindsey, the Science IC at my campus presented with me. It was fun to collaborate on the session and really great to see how no matter what content you teach, having students reading and TALKING about their learning is crucial to engagement, complexity, and deeper thinking and deeper meaning for students. I also was excited to share articles that can be used in Math classes as well as that is often something that is shied away from. But hey, I believe that we are all literacy teachers! Everyone has the responsibility to teach students literacy, and in today’s climate, it is also crucial that we look closely at sourcing and teach students corroboration!

Day 2 of the conference is tomorrow. I’m looking forward to presenting again with Lindsey and then checking out some Google tools.

Keep on learning this summer! What have you learned so far?? The school year is coming soon and it’s going to be a GREAT one!

 

Posted in #Immooc, culture, Learning

#IMMOOC–The Innovative Educator

Innovation is more than just inventing something new.

Innovation is creative and messy. It is about creating a space for experimentation, failures, change for the better. Critical questions to ask when looking for innovation: Is it new? Is it better? How can you use innovation in teaching? How can students use it to learn?  We have to create an environment of uncertainty and unpredictability.  If you know every day when you show up to class EXACTLY what is going to happen (think about it from the lens of a student–I’m going to come in, sit down, do my warm up, listen to my teacher and take notes, then leave)….what does your mindset become? Is there room for real learning? For experimenting? For failing? For questioning?  Are you looking for new things? Are you learning new things?

If you are stuck in a rut, in a predictable cycle of teaching, how do you get out of it?

Start with some critical questions (from Ch. 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset):

critical questions picture

Have you asked yourself these questions lately? Couros says, on page 41 of The Innovator’s Mindset:  “The innovator’s mindset starts with empathy for our students (which is why the questions above are so crucial). Equally important is the desire to create something BETTER.”

So, what have you looked at with fresh eyes today? Have you asked yourself, “Is it new? Is it better? Is there a better way?”

If you need more inspiration, check out the #IMMOOC hashtag on twitter. Find some new blogs to read! Learn, grow, then reflect and post your own blogs!  Or you can just read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Or for shorter reading, check out the 10 Commandments of Innovative Teaching from AJ Juliani.

Posted in culture, Politics

Reflecting on the elections…

My last two blogs posts were about Eva Kor and meeting her in Corpus Christi. Stick with me on this post to see how they are connected.

 

In light of the political climate, I have been reflecting a lot on how people interact with each other. I’ve watched a lot of news stories, read a variety of news articles, talked to family members, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. I’ve read facebook posts and facebook comments.  I followed twitter conversations and news article comments. All of those have taken me down a path of reflection–that reflection relates to Eva Kor and also relates to the book the leadership team on my campus is reading (How to Create a Culture of Achievement in your school and classroom).

Relationships and words are crucial to us as people. In casual conversations, heated debates, confrontational arguments, working with students and with teachers, the art of teaching, giving presentations, writing news articles, commenting on facebook posts, retweeting and quoting tweets–IN ALL OF THESE, the words you choose can take a person from feeling like they can achieve their dreams at the top of the highest mountain to the bottom of a deep, dark pit within seconds.  We set the tone. We must be mindful and have good intentions when interacting with each other.  Language is very powerful in building growth mindsets, impacting teaching, growing as individuals, and changing student achievement. We need to teach students how to talk to one another not just at one another.  We need to work on finding means to contribute to solutions and not just contributing to the problem.  The power of your words can shape learning!  

So back to Eva Kor, here’s a bit of her story:

Eva Mozes Kor was only ten years old when she was taken to Auschwitz. She lost sight of her parents and two older sisters within minutes of stepping off the train onto the platform at Auschwitz. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chamber. Eva and her twin, Miriam, were sent to the man known as the Angel of Death: Doctor Joseph Mengele.  She and Miriam survived his medical testing.

Her survival is amazing. Her life lessons are beyond moving, and her forgiveness is extraordinary. The life lessons she shared with us in Corpus summed up:

Lesson #1:

Never ever give up on your dreams.

Lesson #2:

Rid the world of prejudice.

Lesson #3:

Forgive the Nazis.

How do you feel about these lessons?  Do they apply to your teaching? Your learning? Your mindset? Your political views?  Can we achieve Lesson #2 in the United States?  I know we can try.