Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Refreshing Model of Excellence, Pedagogy, Sharing, and Learning!

Back in the days of cut and paste and copy machine, I always found myself in the library of my school full of planning for the coming year as others wound down their final days in June. I was gathering resources, planning, and cutting and pasting in hopes of applying what I had learned from the year just finished. I could see my practice change and grow, nothing that compares with Darren's energies and sophistication, and would have loved an opportunity to share and get feedback from other teachers. But those were the days of what some called "I've got a secret" and open collaboration was not viewed in a favorable light, at least in my situation. Had I had such an opportunity, my students' lives would have been the richer and their learning and mine deeper from what I could learn from colleagues.

Now the possibilities do abound when educators blog! The isolation felt by a classroom teacher (I do remember that vividly) can be an artifact of the past! The sharing, that I so yearned for, overflows the blogs of educators. The models of excellence, and life long learning on a path to providing what is best for young people are no longer hidden in one classroom in a school, or reserved for those summer weeklong or daylong institutes.

Darren at A Difference has, IMHO, modeled throughout his blog, his quest for the best pedagogy to help his students learn. That pedagogy is one that truly resonates with me! His youngsters are active learners, in control of their learning with an exemplary expert learner as a guide. For me who feels a true appreciation for his pedagogy, for others who may be open to consider this kind of classroom, and for those who now live in the world of drill and rote for NCLB, his unselfish willingness to share all he has learned and is learning opens endless possibilities. His sharing enriches the lives of all who read his blog. His open reflections upon his practice are a model, if adopted by more educators, could transform teaching and learning for youngsters across the United States, Canada, and beyond.

In his recent post, The Next Movement, he details his journey with his students with remarkable detail. What a treasure! He has offered all the opportunity to replicate or adapt his successes and to reflect and plan "the next movement". My name appears in that posting. I was surprised and honored to read it there. Thanks goes to you, Darren, for the opportunity.

How the times have changed! Sitting at my computer in Ohio, learning from a master math educator in Manitoba! What could be more exciting than that!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Incredible student comments on scribing and learning

There's something pretty special going on over on the Pre-Cal 40S (Winter '06 blog. The student responses to Darren's questions are insightful, articulate, and so exciting. I didn't want to interrupt the student voices in the comments so emailed Darren with a message for them. Then it occurred to me that perhaps my celebration of their learning should be public too so I'm pasting what I put in the email.

Hi there Pre Cal,
I've read your comments with great excitement! Your insights into what is important to your learning, your ability to describe the criteria for posts eligible for the Hall of Fame, and your enthusiasm for learning are exemplary!!
Abr31, your comment on asking questions and your reasoning " I still ask just to make sure what I'm thinking is right now just good enough." shows how much you know about learning and the critical importance of questioning.
Manny, your comment "That is my first priority because I want everyone in the class to do well, "we're all in it together" (at least that's how I feel anyway). " You are so right, everyone is in it all together when learning. I only wish everyone had your great attitude of wanting success for all!
Jefferson, are you considering teaching because you've got some excellent ideas with: " Create an opening sentence that draws a lot of attention to the reader. Make it really interesting. And then, end it with an but kicking ending, so when the reader finishes, he/she not only be satisfied but looking more forward to learning." And your posts do just that!
T3DDie, you are teaching and I think you have really nailed a key element for a true hall of fame scribe when you say: " Well described but short enough explanations so that it is like you're teaching the whole lesson over again so that people that don't get it would have a chance to understand when you read the scribe. "
And Emile, you understand how you have taken learning to a new level when you say: " But when you are scribe you should understand and know how to explain the lesson in a way everybody will understand."
This Winston Churchill quote really speaks to all this class has done this year:
"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
Your climb has been glorious and I hope that you have found it such!
I look forward to reading the comments that I know will follow with anticipation!

Congratulations on such excellence!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Celebrating excellence and the opportunity to collaborate!

Something's happening at Kennesaw State University in their Blog2Learn project! Some 20 teachers have entered the blogosphere until the excellent guidance of Will Richardson and Anne Davis.

Today was Anne's day. You can view her wiki which she used as a guide for participants here. Her session was exemplary with a real sense of passion for good learning for youngsters. A real teacher's day IMHO!!

I was so very honored when she asked if I might skype in to share my thoughts on commenting. It was indeed a pleasure to do so and I can't thank her enough. She seems to feel that I do ok with commenting. I enjoy making connections with students and work to create meaningful ones in the comments I compose. I'm glad they are seen as valuable! It's great fun and hard work too.

Our collaboration and sharing send me into those "real life highs" that touch our inner beings. Thanks, Anne!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hope, Beyond Hope, Work

I've always been the one in the family who talks of hope and has hope--- hope that a student will succeed, hope that our American system of public education can transform and change, hope that our ever increasingly violent world can find a way to peace, hope that we can return to a kinder, gentler America.

Today Barbara Ganley's post truly resonated with me; especially the following:

"I have felt myself losing hope these past months that we can effect essential change in education. I have wanted to burrow down into my own practice with blogs and shut out the cacophony. I have faltered even in my own blogging practice during the past month for fear of having nothing positive to say.

And then, a couple of days ago, the latest issue of the provocative American environmental magazine, Orion, helped me see a way out of this mess. Writing about the state of the environment and environmentalism, Derrick Jensen writes in the lead article, "“Beyond Hope" :
"Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that a’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth. To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother…All these false hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities… When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to hope at all. We simply do the work."

He'’s right, of course. I have to stop hoping that anything can change; instead I must go about getting the work done. Inside. Where it counts."
And I realized that although I have never stopped hoping, that's what I have always tried to do--get the work done. I am thinking that she has articulated something that lives deep inside me, that I never could have put in words. And now that I have read and reread her words, I think that recognizing "beyond hope" will cause me to work even more passionately----