#991 The Fun is in the Process!

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in the classroom as a teacher. After starting my career as an English teacher back in 2000, my career took me in many fun and exciting directions. After just 5 years in the classroom, I made the move into school administration. I spent 7 total years in school administration and I must say, I really enjoyed every minute of my experience! However, after my school principal and district administrator experiences, my calling came calling again. Missing the classroom and the daily interactions with amazing young people, I decided to venture back into the realm of the sacred place. The classroom has always been my sanctuary; even when I served as a school administrator, I always modeled best instructional practices while serving as the instructional leader. Thus, my transition back into the classroom has not been quite the rewarding experience. 

What I have discovered or rediscovered for that matter is the energy and attention to detail it takes to serve as an effective classroom teacher. Every minute of my day is spent working to enhance the learning experiences of young people, while also working to help each of them realize the genius that rests within. 

For the last two weeks I have engaged students in writing conferences. During this time, I meet with each student individually to discuss their writing pieces and their chosen crafting process. These meetings last about 15-20 minutes each. It is a fantastic experience to hear their thinking process and crafting practices; I share advice with them to help along with the process, but I learn so much more from them as a collective group. In addition, they really enjoy the personal attention I give to each of them during these conferences. One student said, “I will never throw this paper away because it actually means something to me now.” She was able to identify the value of the process; the back in forth with words, the edits, the rethinking, the metacognition, the stretching, the reaching, and the joy it brings when the piece is finally published. 

I am very proud to be a teacher. 

#995 Building Positive Relationships with Students

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One of the greatest challenges faced by educators, especially those working with at-risk students, is developing quality relationships. I try not to use the term “at-risk” to describe youth but we must realize that some of our youth are subjected to greater risk due to their inherit social economic status, negative peer-group pressures, poor living conditions, and sometimes race/culture.

With this said, it is imperative that educators realize the true value in developing positive relationships with those students who may encounter some of the challenges mentioned above. In order to truly establish meaningful relationships, there are several things educators must be willing to do in order to gain the trust of the student. In the culturally responsive teaching literature, methods are shared to enable educators the opportunity to develop healthy youth-adult relations. One method I would like to bring to light in this piece is minimizing relational distance (Gee, 1996). Irregardless of age, an adult has the ability to engage in dialogue with youth that proves to be responsive and aligned with the social experiences of the child. This involves the adult sharing personal narratives with the youth, demonstrating familiarity with the youths’ culture, and engaging in dialogue involving mutual interests. 

As a teacher, principal, and district level administrator, I utilized this approach with children, parents, and community. My honest connections proved to be beneficial to my ability to create partnerships with parents and strong age-appropriate bonds with students. I urge teachers and other adults working with youth to utilize the above approach to relationship building. 

#998 Resume Not Needed!

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I remember writing my first ever resume. I was just entering my junior year of college and I was seeking an internship. A friend of mine helped me with the style and format. After writing it, I felt so accomplished. Even though I didn’t earn  the internship, the construction of my resume was a memorable experience for me. You see, once I read it back to myself, I finally was able to qualify all of my experiences (at least the monumental ones) on one document. I was called to reflect on my diverse experiences as a student, learner, employee, and community member. I didn’t end up getting the internship that I truly wanted, but the basis of that resume did eventually land me my first full-time teaching job. 

Fast forward to now. Now that we all live in this global world, connected by 140 characters on Twitter, updates on Facebook, and Skype-style interviews, is there still a place for that sacred piece of paper we call the resume? Or, when seeking top talent and branding our talents, should we rely on the digital resume to land our next career opportunity? I recently met someone who, through online branding, landed her first breakthrough in the entertainment world. Based on the content of her digital uploads and her following, she was recruited by a major entertainment company. And guess what? They didn’t ask her for a resume. 

At home, I often challenge my children with presenting their interests and knowledge through the creative lens of technology. At age 3 my son, Little El, completed his first Movenote report on his Star Wars reading collection, and we posted it on Twitter and Facebook. Now, let us think of classrooms in our k-12 schools in the United States. My son, who has yet to begin school has already embarked on his own digital profile; and I often wonder if his kindergarten teacher or pre-school teacher for that matter would have been prepared or willing to venture into his native land of technology and innovation (or allowed based on stringent curriculum implementation). If Little El is not greeted with a teacher who is ready to embark on such a journey of innovative teaching, I am sure Little El will become disengaged and perhaps even a discipline concern in the school. 

So, it’s more than just a resume. It’s about building a profile that will follow you everywhere you ever were to go! This profile should be current, relevant, targeted, and it should brand you as a professional.  Let us move away from “hiding” the technology from children and move to teaching our young people how to effectively use technology as a tool that will one day be their ticket into college and career readiness! Such would be a genuinely engaging activity! 

#999 Teaching to the “Life”

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On my summer reading list is John W. Moravec’s progressive text, Knowmad Society. I started it earlier this month with the intentions of learning more about the innovative void in our current public school educational paradigm but after several hours of reading, I have learned so much more about the societal stagnation we all have at some point identified as the space between mediocrity and greatness.

In the introduction alone, Moravec gives the reader essential reading instructions “Write Your Own Title Here!” Right out of the gate, he demands that each reader customize her/his own reading experience by taking ownership of the text in a literal sense. Having a hard copy, I was able to do just that, and I titled my text ” Leaving Normal”. You see, Knowmad Society charges us with recreating the future of learning (living), work, and how we relate with each other. He defines the Knowmadic knowledge worker as a “creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere.” In many ways, these words mirror what it is to be a 21st Century Learner. I do not intend to minimize Moravec’s text, but the above words provide us with such a concise explanation of what is needed to move our collective intelligence forward.

Let us take some time to vet out the key words in the above charge for Knowmadic workers:

  • Creative
  • Imaginative 
  • Innovative 
  • Anybody
  • Anytime
  • Anywhere

CreativeIn our schools today, are we truly fostering creativity? With the robust reforms in public education, it is quite difficult to move past compliance and into the world of creativity. This is not only a tall task for students but it is equally as daunting a challenge for educators. As each day passes, it takes more and more effort for teachers and students to move into the domain of creating new knowledge.

Imaginative Perhaps, the sister of creativity, imagination is often what happens in the unstructured time and space that is often absent in the life of public school teachers and students. Knowmad Society points to giving educators and students an opportunity to engage in edcamp style human capital experiences designed to allow 20% (Daniel Pink’s Drive) of work/school time to be spent on self-exploration projects based on individual or small group interest.

Innovative- The innovation speaks to the possessed willingness to unlearn and learn new knowledge. We are challenged to abandon old knowledge or outdated functions of production. This concept is often difficult to grasp for those educators who are unwilling to embrace new technologies and social learning communities. Thus, lead learners (educators) must be vigilant in their approach to introducing staff/students to new learning modalities replete with advanced learning mediums.

Anybody/Anytime/Anywhere- The Three A’s are critical components to the advancement of a Knowmadic Society. Knowledge and learning must transcend beyond the scope of the school day ( 6 hours). Learning opportunities must be identified and validated as holistic and non-standardized. We must open up the learning venue to coffee shops, libraries, corner stores, street corners, and other public settings conducive to social gathering. In addition, we must accept the expertise of those who have knowledge on a given subject that they are willing to share with the community. These types of learning experiences are truly transcendent and inclusive.

Please share your thoughts!