This blog is a place to ruminate on the problems of teaching. If I am thinking thoughtfully, my posts will hopefully raise more questions than answers. By problematizing teaching we reflect on those questions that are constantly behind, in front, and at center of everything we do in the classroom. Feel free to comment. I'd love to hear what other teachers are thinking about on these and other issues.
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A Sampling of Student's Slice of Life Stories
Yesterday I blogged about how students were resisting the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month. Today, after a full day at the #innovategraded conference in Sao Paulo, I opened up their Google docs and discovered a treasure trove of amazing slices. Please respond in the comments. I know my students would really appreciate that!
Slice #1 - Go eat dinner
“Wendy, dinner is
ready!” Mom yelled out.
“OK. I’m coming, just one
little piece to work.”
I don’t want to miss the thing.
“Well, be faster.” Then, she turned to do her “job”.
I finished, but I don’t want to move my poor body anymore. I’m like a snail
moving so slowly. My legs are like full of the iron so I couldn't move it, but
still I get into the dining room and get ready to have my dinner.
Slice # 2 - Selling and Buying
dad and I were eating dinner when suddenly he proposes that our family sells
our house in Houston and buy a different one. I said, “OK...How about we get
the new house in California?” Then, my mom replied, “Yes! But, not L.A. How
about San Diego?“ “Ooh, or maybe San Francisco!” I replied. But in the end my
dad said, “I think we’ll just keep it in Texas.”
Today we went to a school called
Einstein for an orchestra practice. The orchestra rode on a loud bus until
finally we got there and tried to play the song we have been practicing for
weeks. It’s a crazy mash up of different songs like Bullfight.
I got ready to play. I took a deep breath and looked over at S, the only other cello player. One, two, three. One two, three. I tapped my foot along with my mental counting. After all I was just practicing. "NOW!" I thought. My bow made a soft movement on the string. SNAP! Went my string. Well, it wasn'tthe first time.
Life is like basketball you pass by people and
also people hurt you. I like basketball because it helps me take out stress. I
get in the zone and forget the world around me like I’m somewhere else. Like
also the feeling of the ball brushing my fingertips and I dribble. I like the
wind blowing in my hair.
“For the first 20
minutes you’ll do independent reading,” the substitute for our absent teacher
said. “And then we’ll go down to the computer lab to do you reading MAP
testing.” The whole class gasped. We weren't notified of this test. Several
MAP testing is a test all middle school students do at
the beginning and middle of the year. There were two tests - math and reading. I
liked the math one better because it was just easier for me.
When it was time for the test, I focused really hard and
blocked out the sounds of chairs squeaking. I started to get a rhythm in my
mind: to read the passage, look at the answers, and click on an answer. Read,
look, click….Read, look, click….
Finally I was done, and I have to say
that I was pretty impressed and pleased about my score. It was above average. I
clicked done and enjoyed the last few minutes of class reading The Maze Runner. Slice #6
I bounced on the seat as
the car drove. My music was bursting in my ears, but that’s how I liked it. As
I was looking through my phone to pick a new song, because I didn't want to
listen to another Fall Out Boy song, I noticed I had three unread text
messages. Then I saw the people who sent them. All people from New Jersey. "Wow," I thought. "I haven’t texted these people in a long time. Might as well
text them." I responded to all three people and then decided to also text
three more. I turned off my phone and sat listening to my music, Sarcasm by Get
Scared. After a while someone responded. It was Mary Louise, one of the people
who didn't text me first.
“Hey,” she replied.
“How life in NJ?” I
conversation started boring it became more interesting. Then someone else
responded, Sasha. Sasha was one of my closest friends in New Jersey. She was
the first friend I made when I moved to New Jersey.
“HIIIII” she replied.
“Dude it’s March 3rd.
I’m coming March 27th,” I answered excitedly.
kept talking we came to new topics and discussed many different things. I was
so happy to be able to talk with my old friends. Slice #7
Today I was going outside of Ms.
Milla`s class and I found Pardo playing el burrito. I said, “Pardo, let's play." “Yes,” he screamed happily. Then, we were passing the ball until they threw it right into my nose. Plack!!!!!! It sounded. I heard people laughing.
Hahahaha, it doesn't hurt a lot. Then, Mr. Muenker said, “David, I think you
should`t stop it like that," and I hear more laughter.
Slice #8 - The Accident
I was running. My eye was on the ball. I could see how it went up in the sky. I jumped to get it, but I didn't feel the ball hitting my head. I felt as if a rock had collapsed in
the right side of my forehead. “I feel bad coach,” I said. He looked impressed.
“We need to go to the nurse,” he exclaimed. Then, when I looked in the mirror I
saw two big balls on my forehead. Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life, March Classroom Challenge, Day #4
The I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal.
I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don't like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I'm looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. Teacher
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was as…
Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time.
Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)
Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.
My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …
I want to write a book. A professional book. I think I have a lot to say. I think others could benefit from my experience. After all, I have been an educator for over 30 years.
But, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before? What new knowledge could I add to the table? Who would even bother to read what I have to say?
These are questions borne of fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being able to complete such a daunting project. (At least, that's what it feels like to me right now.) Fear that I won't make time. Fear that I'll run out of time.
But, over the last couple of days, I've gotten some encouraging words of support from the Innovative Teaching Academy - #ITA17 Facebook group.
You can do it!Write for yourself. But the message that is propelling me forward is this one: It doesn't matter how many times something has been said...each time someone else says it, new people hear it...and that's where you make the d…