Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Matters

Last year, I had my freshmen all focus on the question of what matters. I was really glad to have one question on which they could focus all semester. Every project, assignment, class discussion all came back to this question. I liked this idea so much I am trying it again but with some more tweaking and focus. I realized that my freshmen need more examples and not quite as much freedom as I give to my other classes. It seems like they need me to provide a little more structure than what I would like, but I am hoping that by providing more illustrations of a possible end result, that their understanding and connections with literature will increase so much more.

The first part of the What Matters project is a creative, visual illustration of what matters to them. They always seem to struggle with this question at first, asking me, "Well what do you mean what matters?" I simply respond with, " I don't know, what matters?" They, of course, are confused and perplexed. This year after going through the same conversation with them as my last year's 9th graders , I decided to create my own example of what matters. I think this gave them some better direction, but I still have my reservations. Many of their posts seemed similar to mine (I am not trying to be egocentric here). I am just having a difficult time trying to find the line between feeling like I am leading them to the answer I am looking for (i.e. my what matters example) and having them struggle to find their own understanding- what I feel like they should be looking for. I know that this is the beginning of a new year. I just need to keep myself focused on the idea of showing them the possibilities and providing the structure for them to come to their own understanding. I guess it is just one of those ho-hum moments.

I am feeling frustrated today; frustrated by the fact that after giving them many days to complete the What Matters visual project, many were not done. They just chose not to do it. Was it because it wasn't a meaningful project to them? Did the technology get in the way? What was the hold up? Well, I asked them...and their answers varied. They all liked the project, thought it was better than other assignments, but just chose not to finish it on time. What is happening to these kids? To totally digress for a moment, this is why I don't believe in giving kids extra time on assignments. What did they learn from turning it in late. NOTHING! In fact today, I had another assignment due where they were to look up and develop their own understanding of literary terms. About 1/3 of the class didn't even bother to do it. I couldn't believe it. Two days in a row, and even after we talked about getting things done on time, and they still couldn't finish the homework. Just rants from the trenches today.

But, to end on a positive note, please take a look at their visual what matters. Please, leave them comments and help them see the possibilities. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watching Zolli and reading about Death

Since I had seen Zolli first hand, I don't have much to say other than I remember walking away from the presentation thinking one, does this mean I am going to have to take care of my parents when they are older? and two, what does this mean for education. The fact of the matter is that if we are living longer, are we really preparing kids to be life long learners? I mean if they are living longer that means they are spending a greater portion of their lives outside the education setting, outside of being influenced by hopefully positive individuals. Are we giving kids in our classrooms today the skills they need to live a long and happy life? I feel like these are the changes we are trying to make at AHS. We are trying to show the kids how to be critical thinkers, how to collaborate, and how to be an effective communicator. This skills will help them no matter what the text they are studying or in what the job they are employed. As far as taking care of my parents (because as Zolli quotes this task usually lands on the female), it worries me. I know the cost of adult care facilities is increasing as much as college tuition. Will I be able to handle that responsibility? I know in my heart I would want to be there for them as they had taken care of me, but I wonder if I could really do it and survive. Stuff to think about for another time.

As for the article on death, it reminds me so much of Brave New World and 1984 two novels I teach. I think I will have to keep this article and have my seniors or 9th graders read it to get their reaction. I think about most teachers retiring around 60 years of age if not earlier. What are they going to do to survive financially until death rates of 80+? What is that going to do to the education profession if teachers are staying at schools until their 70's? Will we end up with a bunch of old teachers who are sorry to say "out of touch" with kids and what kids need to know? I am thankful to say, and privileged to know, that I don't see many teachers towards the end of their careers here at AHS who aren't still continuing to learn. That set such a positive example for the rest of us to follow. But back to the article.

I find it interesting how the author speaks of wealth flowing from older generations to younger generations, but now we will not see that happen as much. I have been thinking about this in terms of watching my grandparents (2 grandfathers who have already passed away, but two grandmothers still living- one 92 and one 87). I know the financial status of my grandparents as well as parents is much more than I could ever achieve especially considering I am a teacher. How can I give my own children more than what I had growing up? My mom and dad gave me more than they had, and I know their parents did the same but I am certain I will not be able to do the same for my kids. Am I sad about it? Not really, because I think I give Emma, Jack son and Will different things, but I do wonder about the change this will create in our society. Are we going to create a society of volunteers of caring and concern because people just can't give money to a problem?

Thoughts for today...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beginning of Year 2

Reflecting on the jaw-dropping progress made with laptops in my English classes to enhance student learning, I can easily say I was impressed with what my kids accomplished and produced. I walked away from last year thinking, where do I go now? There was so much they not only did, but showed me about learning, about life and that possibilites are endless in what they take away and want to give back. They rose to every occassion presented to them and exceeded all expectations. So I am beginning this year with some trepidation.

Where do I go from here? Not only do I feel the pressure (totally self-imposed) to do more with these kids, but also to do more with showing others the possibilites and doors that open to students when technology becomes "flawlessly" integrated into their learning. In no way am I saying that I flawlessly integrate it, but I am working towards that goal. Also, I am really feeling the urge to expand my own learning. I have begun the journey into looking at graduate programs. I found two over the summer when I was in Atlanta with Brad, Brian, Karl and my roomie, Barb! One is located through Pepperdine Univeristy in Malibu (it would be a rough time staying in Malibu). The other is located in Pennsylvania called Wilkes University. Both have online Masters degrees (which at first sounded like the degrees you could get through advertisements on TV) but both programs seem incredibly well rounded looking at theory as well as technology. Much like what we are already doing at 21c, but I don't think I can get a Masters degree through Karl Fisch University yet. Umm, Karl?

So I guess what I am saying is that there is a lot going on in my mind. Go figure. I want to be better about blogging as a reflective tool this year rather than just posting student work, although I will still do that. I want to push myself as well as my colleagues into trying new things... personal learning networks, video podcasting, Skype conferencing with other classes. I want to learn from what my fellow teachers are doing. I want to get a better sense of my students. Last year, I felt so rushed to do things. I want to go more in depth with the kids, explore personal learning networks with my 9th graders, show my students what continual learning looks like, run a 7 1/2 minute mile 1/2 marathon.

I guess I better get started!