Tag: school

What Do We Expect?

Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/MvHLqa4fqM3fBBZn9

As is true in many parts of the state, country, and planet, we in central Texas are facing immense uncertainty as the new year approaches in the midst of a global pandemic. We know that we won’t be starting face-to-face school until after September 7, and that our students will have at least 3 weeks of exclusively online learning. We know that schools got a crash course in online learning in the spring as this all hit with jarring suddenness. We know that a large percentage of the online learning that occurred was intended to prevent regression, rather than to achieve significant growth. We know that our leaders in Austin and Washington won’t accept that as sufficient this year, and we will need to teach new concepts, engage kids in higher levels of learning, and face the accountability monster once again. So, we know we have to raise our level of online teaching and learning.

In the spirit of helping our schools accomplish this, I have been working to put together standards for our online teachers. Think of these as virtual “walk-throughs” for administrators and as a self-check rubric for teachers. I’m sharing it not as some complete answer from an expert, but in hopes it might help other educators as they grapple with their own standards for this new, online reality. Note that red text is only significant to us, as it reflects applications our teachers have learned or are learning this summer. I welcome any comments, questions, or feedback!

Here is the link to the document, if you wish  to not have to scroll quite so much!

No Place in School?

Braeden

Braeden and Fancy the Flamingo

I spent the day today in White Oak, Texas, speaking and learning at the TCEA Region 7 conference. I’ve come to this one for years now, and it is one of my favorites. The people and events are always fantastic, and they feed me very, very well. This year was extra special, though, because I got to meet and learn from an amazing 9-year old, Braeden. Braeden is the nephew of a talented educator friend of mine, Rafranz Davis. Through Rafranz’s Facebook page, I’ve become familiar with this amazing boy over the past several months. Braeden’s unique gifts lie in designing, creating, and using puppets. We’re not talking the paper sack puppets that were the limit of my abilities as a child, either. No, Braeden is a true artist and master craftsman. His puppets resemble something from Sesame Street or the Muppet Show. In fact, he even now corresponds about his creations with Jim Henson Studios.

The striking thing to me is that Braeden has been tested for gifted and talented programs at his school 3 times. 3 times, he has been deemed not qualified. Let that soak in for a minute. I can’t explain it. I know it is an archaic system at work in most schools, one based upon IQ tests most of all–IQ tests that measure a tiny fraction of human ability and are of extremely dubious validity. But I cannot comprehend it’s inadequacy (complete worthlessness) or justify it in the face of such an amazing talent.

Braeden

Braeden’s talents have attracted the attention of Jim Henson Studios.

The thing that hit me squarely in the gut, though, was the thought that Braeden is not alone. In fact, I’d guess he’s in the majority in our classrooms. We force sterilized, standardized, irrelevant, outdated curriculum on our students and ignore their passions and gifts. We spend our time and energy to prep them for annual tests or the misguided goal that all students should be bound for MBAs. Meanwhile, students like Braeden get to have their gifts nurtured only if they have families who gives them  their support and encouragement. Obviously, many of our kids aren’t this fortunate in their homes. We can’t always influence that, but we can change our schools, and it will require that we get past the archaic idea that education and its goals are one-size-fits-all. No discussion of educational “reforms” will ever lead to meaningful change if we don’t question the big ideas and institutions that we cling to with such fervor: rigid curriculum, grade levels, accountability systems based primarily upon tests, college-or-bust mentalities, etc. There are isolated examples where this is happening, but, frankly, we are mostly stagnant and too silent, allowing policy to be dictated in spite of its inadequacy. The power of learning is in the empowerment of the individual to achieve his/her potential, and that potential is unique to every child. When we get to a point where every Braeden is nurtured as the amazingly unique person he is, we’ll change lives, and that will in turn change the world.

Teaching My Children: My Expectations

I shared this on Facebook first, but I thought I’d go a little off-topic and post it here, too. I have very few requirements for my kids’ teachers, but here are the biggies.
1. Smile. You should act like you want to be there and are happy to see your kids. Your attitude makes their attitudes. Whoever first said, “Don’t smile until after Christmas” was an idiot.
2. Expect the world from my kids. They are fully capable of hitting the targets you set, whether high or low.
3. Connect. Your relationship with my kids is MUCH more important to their learning than how well you know the TEKS or the latest pedagogy.
4. Be fair. If my kids do the crime, they should do the time, and I will support you 100% of those times. Communal punishments (e.g. No one gets recess because 2 kids were talking out of turn.), however, are a pathetic excuse for discipline, and they’re lazy. How would you like it if the police wrote you a ticket because the guy passing you is speeding? I was guilty of this a time or two myself, but we learn from our mistakes.
5. (You had to know this was coming!) Mix in opportunities for them to use high-level, relevant skills often. Creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, technology. These will have a much greater impact than knowing who the 17th president was (Andrew Johnson, by the way–isn’t that some valuable knowledge?).

That’s it. Do those things, and my kids will continue to love school and grow as students and people. Don’t do those things, and I’ll be setting up a conference shortly. Actually, if you do these things, I’ll come see you, too–to thank you in person.

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