Clouds of Trust and Awareness of Possibility

After discussing the “Thought Cloud Activity” in class I have become more and more aware of the interconnectedness of Trust, the Awareness Wheel (communicating a clear message), the power of Possibility, and the effect they all have on the culture of a group of people.  I see the connection of these four things through the lens of someone who yearns for constant change.  Change is, in my opinion, one of the most important ingredients for reaching greatness.  Not simply wanting to change, or being able to change, but to recognize the need for change.  

If a group of people is capable in having trust, or even confidence, in one another’s ability to do what is correct for themselves and those around them there would be much less pain and fear in our organizations.  Trust is, as cliché as it may sound, the most important part of a successful organization.  It is tightly bound with the ability to communicate an entire message clearly to those you work with.  Working in education I am aware of the varied opinions and theories we have at our disposal in this industry.  Many theories and practices have come, gone, been re-worked and come back again in new shiny packaging and re-implemented with a newfound vigor, only to fall flat again.  This constant swinging of the educational pendulum is exhausting, especially for those who have been in the business for a few decades.  The message given to staffs about new procedures, or ways of practice is key to the success of those ideas and integral in the creation of trust between workers.  

Successfully sharing an idea to your co-workers in a way that respects their concerns and your supports your wants for yourself, for them and their professional practice and for your students is not only a challenge but a must if you hope to encourage change and uncover the possibility that awaits all interest holders when the work comes to fruition.

I imagine that once all those involved in the work see that change has worked out in the favor of the needs of their practice, and their students a culture of trust will become prevalent within the organization.  This culture will be able to identify the need for change and how to work through the change.  It may even go looking for change.


Being off task is not always so bad – just a thought

We are working on a Genocide unit in my World Geography course while at the same time, in their English course, the students are reading Night by Elie Wiesel.

Night by Elie Wiesel

After a lot of background work and discussing the 8 stages of genocide we began the film Hotel Rwanda. I found my self having to ask one of our students to stop reading his copy of Night and pay attention to the film.

It was a situation I had never had to confront and I very much enjoyed it. How weird to ask a student to stop reading and watch a film. Good? Bad? Who cares? It is, I believe, a testament to the wonderful things that can happen when curriculum criss crosses from one class to another

The time is finally come – Introducing blogs to our students

So, the time has finally come. I thought I would have been able to do this last semester but was not able to get around to. Being part of a school start up has put many other things ahead of this project. I have written and re-written this lesson a few times and think I have finally come to one I am comfortable with. My hope is that the students will, by the end of class, create an Acceptable use Blogging Policy for our classes. If you have any suggestions I am very open to them. Here is the lesson:

Objective(s) : (SWBAT)
– Explain what a blog is and how it may be used in our classroom (What is a blog-Blogs in plain English)
– Identify the importance of responsible blogging
– Write a class Blog behavior policy

Evidence: (Summative or Formative)
Class discussion
Students will turn in 4 proposed guidelines for classroom blog use.

A1) Check in/Days agenda (5 min)
A2) Watch Blogging In Plain English video and discuss the reason for classroom blogging. (10 min)
A3) Pass out reading/read and complete guided reading questions (20 min)
A4) Classroom discussion and clarification questions (5 min)
A5) In groups of 4 students will create a list of 4 rules that must be in our blogging policy plus appropriate consequences, that maintain as much student involvement, for breaking of those rules. Students are to place their rules on the Smart board (10 min)
A6) Are we missing anything? Fill in the blanks. Formalize the list for students to sign the next time class congregates. (10 min)


– Video: Blogs in Plain English
-Reading Worksheets/Articles
– Example classroom blog policies
“Bud’s Blogging Experiment” – Rules

MSN article Kids, Blogs and to much information: Children reveal more online than parents know

Have the blogging policy agreement printed for the next class.
Again, if you have any suggestions please let me know.

People love their schools!!! The #’s say so…

The 32nd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll Of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools by Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup is very interesting. In fact, it made me smile most of the way through. The folks at Gallup do a great job asking good questions and presenting the info in a way that even I can understand.

I will say though, when I read in the 3rd paragraph,

“Public satisfaction is also evident in the fact that 59% of Americans believe that reforming the existing system of public schools, rather than seeking an alternative system, is the best way to bring about school improvement.”

I tensed up a bit and found myself asking:

Reform rather than a new alternative?
Have we not been reforming already?
What areas are in the need of the most in radical reformation?
Is it whole sale reformation? A “one size fits all” situation, where everyone changes the same things regardless of the school and communities needs?
Are will yet willing to answer the question we often ask ourselves “How can we truly educate and develop the WHOLE child?

I love it…I get so excited to know that the American public still has faith in its educational institutions! I become even more excited when the thought crosses my mind that there is a true opportunity to make changes that will harness the institutional mission of public education and couple it with the countless personal hopes and dreams of our nations children.

Pirate Supply Stores in all our schools!!!

If this doesn’t make sense to you then take a few deep breaths, vigorously shake your head, go for a walk then watch the video again. Repeat if needed.

I have been a fan of Dave Eggers since his first book came out. He has written two of my favorite books and edits/publishes a magazine I read quarterly. He also runs a Pirate Supply Store – seriously, if you have a Pirate Supply store you have a ton of street cred.

What struck me about his presentation at TED was, aside from how nervous he seemed, much like Clay Burell (If you have not begun you need to start reading this guys blog), how excited he about this project he is.

The writing workshop/tutoring is a wonderful example of how students can and do get excited about doing their work and learning when the environment is comfortable and welcoming.

The equation is simple (I am not a math guy and this is a rough draft):
Focused attention + Unconditional love/understanding from adults/mentors + Rigorous class work + fun + time to complete work = Student centered learning environment

To break it down:
Focused attention: We need to look at the content of a course and focus all of our attention on deconstructing, and then playing with each of its parts, then reconstruction it to be used by the students in real life scenario.
Unconditional love/understanding: Student will do anything if they feel that they are able to make mistakes and not be judged. This is based trust. The students at my school are predisposed to not trusting adults but once trust has been developed and tested (which took a long time) they are willing to try almost anything – public dance offs – acting – singing – screaming etc.
Rigorous class work: Students know what they are capable of and if you short change they know it and they will never perform to their true abilities. They know themselves much better than we do.
Fun: Students (by students I mean all human beings) are genetically encoded with a need to fool around and have fun. Why fight it – embrace it. Fun does not mean that learning cannot happen.
Time to complete work: This one is the easiest to understand but the hardest to fulfill. Teachers are expected to cover too much information with to little time. The time needed to cover material is not as important as the time needed to for students to become curious and then quench their curiousity Some students simply need the time to become curious about the material. We cannot expect students to learn if they are not ready. Time is limited but the opportunity to witness the magic of learning should not be passed up because “We need to finish this unit!”

Eggers example of the students publishing books is a testament to this learning equation. I know we all have had these moments here and there but we need to turn the moments into the “always.” It is, and will continue to be, a challenge.

Good luck and keep fighting the good fight.

Fast Schools

While traveling to Colorado for a workshop I picked up the latest copy of Fast Company. I was, and still am, filled with awe and curiosity from the Fast Company Fast 50.  I am sure that Fast Company only scraped the surface for innovative and growing companies and that it may have been virtually impossible to have a list larger than 50 without going absolutely overboard.

The businesses on this list demonstrate their commitment to looking towards the future, recognizing a need, and doing what it takes to address that need.

There is a lot to be said about the constant reassessment of what you do, a belief that what you do can be done better, and the tenacity to do it. Since reading this article, I have found myself looking for answers to a few questions:

What will it take for a school to make the Fast Company “Fast 50” list?
Is this even the  list a school would want to be on?
What would a list of “Innovative Schools” look like?
What would the criteria for this list even be?

We have, what seems like, countless awards for “successful” schools.  What about innovative schools?  Schools who, to paraphrase Fast Company, are reinventing the rules of the change game that is today’s schooling?

The balloon is school. The smile is mine.

It has been a long time since I have updated my blog. I thought it was going to be something I would keep up on, posting the daily failures and successes. I have not done so.
It just kills me to think that I have not taken the time to share the great depth of my experience as a teacher during the first year of our schools existence. I have written and re-written this post about four times since Christmas break. I just couldn’t find the appropriate voice to share with you how this time has been.
The best way for me to share with you all how I feel about the last 6 months is through this video by the artist Don Hertzfeldt. We have all been beat down a bit by the things we love and are so proud of. First, I enjoyed the how smooth things were going at work (represented by the red balloon). The balloon took on a life of its own and beat the hell out of me. I quickly realized that I was not the only one fighting to stay above the fray. I got caught up with the business of the work. Which, for about a month, left me a few steps away from where I should have been – right next to the students. About 2 weeks ago I found my own peace with it all again. The balloon safely in my hand.
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I have never been as satisfied or challenged by my work as I have this year. Each day has been better than the last. I have witnessed such amazing growth, both social and academic.
This success was not without tears. There have been more smiles than tears, which leaves me knee deep in a pool of tears with sore cheek muscles. I love it.
So much of our time working here has been on managing and teaching healthy behaviors and choices that will support the students in being successful in their pursuits.

New beginnings for a new end

After a very large breakfast, an early morning conversation, and a belief that knowledge and change is created by bringing together different beliefs and philosophies, a group of us though we should unite as many forward thinking, innovative educators to share their thoughts and opinions on education today and how we can improve it for tomorrow. What better time than now… the beginning of a new school year.

This blog Teaching Tomorrow will be”under construction” for a few days as it is loaded up with as many goodies as possible. As educators we are all part of a system, antiquated in many ways but, rooted in professional classroom practice. Lets us begin a conversation about how to create student centered classrooms with the end effect of created a truly student centered educational system.

The guys who created South Park created this animation based on a talk given by the Buddhist teacher Alan Watts.

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How do we or should we move beyond this? I believe we absolutely need to move beyond where we are now. We need to create smaller schools, with very specific missions, to meet the needs and interests of the students who attend. These smaller schools, democratically run by their staffs and students will loose their strict hierarchies and gain nimble, reactive environments rooted in their communites specific needs.

For even more ideas take a look at Mr. George Siemens Connectivism Blog – he just happens to have posted a similar question there.

They are finnally here!

Well, our students started this last week! It is extremely exciting to see this all come together. Aside for the exhausted staff and the wonderful preparation they have all done for the orientation workshops for the students my mind is now running at full speed to the course design. I have been thinking and thinking about how exciting and important it is to take advantage of the clean slate we have at our school.

I would like my students to have a hand in creating an environment where they can become positive additions to the body of knowledge we will be studying. I would like them to be invested in the process of discovery and not just looking to get the work done. I drool over the prospect that while engaged in the process of researching, reflecting, discussing, and analysis they become contributors to the field. I hope they take a stand and become an active member of a larger body of knowledge. (After writing this post I jumped over to Mr. Konrad Glogowski’s blog of proximal development and it seem as if he is reading my mind and says it all and more much more eloquently – he even used the same video I was planning on using.)

This last week has made it apparent that we are working with a very savvy and talented student body, most of which have some sort of resentment built up in them about their past educational experiences (rightly so – I still am a bit resentful of my own experiences). If we feed them from the same table and with the same spoon they have always eaten from I fear they turn around and gobble us up.

This week I hope to create, with the help of our TECH folks, a login page for our students to access their future blogs. The more this starts to come together the more it seems needs to be done.