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Saving Summer: Creativity and Connections

A big focus and philosophy for the CTE coursework.

What a beautiful summer for learning and growing. School in-service days begin August 28, and school officially begins August 31. Most of my curriculum planning is finished for the Computer Essentials classes.  (I designed it for myself and two other teachers, and am very excited and grateful for this opportunity!) I still have some tweaks and content to create for my one, beautiful, precious ELA 8th grade class, because you know, just can’t quit you, ELA/SS. Just. Can’t. 

Trying to focus, organize, clean up and clean out is tough right now. I can’t stop watching the news: my husband is better at compartmentalizing and I am so grateful for our daily walks. This is one habit I hope to continue throughout the school year, rain or shine. My life and sanity depend on it.

This morning, my husband and younger son begin their journey (yes, with eclipse-approved eye wear and snacks) toward the east, not west, in an attempt for the best viewing of this once-in-a-lifetime event. I am sure I am going to regret not going. But this time to myself is also precious. I had better make the most of it: this post is dedicated to the details, the little things, that I will intentionally give my students next year.

I am definitely going to enhance and continue the Reading Road Trip blog based on the 40-book reading challenge.

Mrs. Love’s Summer Reading

http://nortonliterature.com/post/148403603623/if-you-cant-get-enough-villains-in-your-life

Here are some shared resources:

The “conflict” posters are directly inspired by a Book Riot post.

My Reading RoadTrip sheet:

And continue to look to my PLN for some exquisite ideas:

And thank heavens for Jackie Gernstein, John Spencer, and Philip Cummings:

Intentional Creativity

http://www.spencerauthor.com/genius-hour-reasons/

An idea from Philip Cummings!
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Saving Summer: Disconnection Connection

Aziz Ansari recently put himself on an internet diet, and maybe the rest of us should follow suit.

I bought the full-meal deal from Freedom a year ago, and it’s been buggy ever since, and the customer support is confusing, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve tried to limit myself: making jewelry again, just reading (though it is on an i-pad/Kindle), and doing other things…but it’s been tough. All I’ve succeeded in doing is making a mess. This next week I’ll focus on finishing up the computer technology curriculum and nailing down the first few weeks of ELA. My schedule next year will be a bit different, and I’m trying to be flexibly- proactive. (Whatever that means!) It was time I went through my own digital hoarding and pulled out some of the best articles/ideas.

Let’s get our brains back:

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Saving Summer: Go, team!

No, really…go…wait…stay…come back!

Teaching is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, which is why, until we get some other issues solved, I don’t see U.S. schools going to a year-round schedule anytime soon. I am luxuriating that it’s a weekend during summer break: for some reason, this feels especially decadent– a weekend AND a break?! Well, I just got home from InstructureCon and tomorrow through Thursday I’ll be driving over an hour away to a STEM fellowship through WABS. I don’t mind have structure and purpose during my summer days, but they are precious and dwindling fast. And there’s still so much to do.

I wanted to follow up to my question about teams, (teams going, coming back, going, and coming back)–I am allowed to pursue these questions about the effectiveness and desire for teams that are not writ large: not all teams are effective. Just because I am craving to be on good, supportive localized team again (not a PLC: those serve other purposes) doesn’t mean they didn’t come fraught with issues and dysfunction. I’ll define a “team” in this context as the cohort of cross-content teachers who share the same cohort of students. The team is usually made up of a Science, Social Studies, and ELA teacher, and sometimes Math. The elective and physical education teachers are included in the big student concern meetings/discussions, but the ‘grassroots’ level support for students comes from the trio.

Over the years (when we had teams) I was fortunate to work with superstars: friends/colleagues who supported my questions, and we worked together to support students. We appreciated and valued our different styles and personalities, and kept ego out of the equation: it was a godsend when each of us recognized that one student may prefer one teacher over the other, but kept a united front with students; we told students it was perfectly okay to like one of us, but we all had their back. We could meet with individual students, share parent contact duties, (which as a parent is awesome not to receive three or five phone calls about a child, but one), and we felt a comradery that modeled friendship and respect to our students.

When teams are not functional, teammates don’t communicate, they undermine, form opinions without questioning and probing, and passive-aggressively send the message that other teachers on the team are incompetent, etc. Not. Cool. And yes, we’ve all experienced a coworker like that.

But in this day and age of collaboration and teams, many introverted teachers are ducking out. Well, introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, we’re all feeling brain-drain.

Why Introverted Teachers Are Burning Out

“The term “introversion” can mean a variety of different things in different contexts. Carl Jung defined it as an orientation through “subjective psychic contents,” while Scientific American contends that introversion is more aptly described as a lessened “sensitivity to rewards in the environment.” It’s generally accepted, however, that as Stephen A. Diamond gracefully describes it, “[Extraversion and introversion] are two extreme poles on a continuum which we all occupy.””

So how do we navigate the need for collaboration, good teams, and keeping our own psychic energy bright and healthy? One good resource is Elena Aquilar. She writes books and excellent article about teams, coaching, and coaching teams.

10 Truths About Building School Teams

Introverts struggle with extroverts. Extroverts sometimes assume that when an introvert is being quiet, they’re A. Not listening B. Not smart (and then get some patronizing explanation) C. Don’t even notice. But extroverts aren’t bad: sometimes extroverts see the big picture quickly and have the ability to share, the exuberance and passion that comes out physically and verbally. Introverts are awesome because they garner the slow-simmer, deeper thoughts. For me, the best way for both kinds of personalities to work on teams well is the basics rules for any relationship: learn to listen, speak when necessary, and be kind.

And: advocate for yourself.

If the collaboration or process isn’t working, it should always be acceptable to say that a discussion needs to be shelved for a later time.

Last thoughts:

Extroverts: put your bullhorn away. Introverts: pick up the mic. Let’s all support each other so none of us burn out.

 

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Saving Summer: WIHWT: The Promise

I haven’t done a “Wish I Had Written That” in awhile, and this came across my view today:

Currently, I’m framing my Canvas classes for next year, and the overarching concern/message, (the thing that maybe someday will be the cornerstone of my doctoral thesis) is how to help students support their own learning, and not accept negativity or peer negativity/learned helplessness. Or something like that. The subtle and not-so-subtle messages students press on one another may be one of the most damaging and obstructionist practices I’ve witnessed. The illuminating moment flashed when a student asked me last year between the difference between the tech academy students and “regular” students: when I realized that the tech academy kids never made each other feel bad for wanting to learn something. That simple. And how do we build those communities when the community rejects being built? All the ice breakers and relationship building in the world won’t help unless there are cohorts of students/teacher teams, and the feeling of belonging. The ‘academy’ students move through their years at my school as a community, a family, and when the ‘regular’ part of the school had teacher teams, it helped build that, too, when the teams were allowed common planning or encouraged to meet. Things have gotten much more isolating over the past few years, so here is looking forward to those changes. (Is it a change when we used to have something and then get it back? Question for another time.)

And how do we build those communities when the community rejects being built…if the ‘community’ simply sees working together more like gentrification than a Seedfolks moment? All the ice breakers and relationship building in the world won’t help unless there are cohorts of students/teacher teams, and consistency in scheduling. The past two years, we have students changing core teachers mid year now, and it’s really hard on them. If Hattie says relationships impact student learning, then we need to listen to this and take steps to protect the bonds that students and their teachers have: we’re moving back to teams, thank heavens, so hopefully some of the issues that were solved once at our school will be solved again.

Source: Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses On Achievement. Routledge.

Circling back to the spark: before I saw Tom Rademacher’s tweet, on my Canvas page I crafted this draft of the promises we need to make to one another in my class this year:

It is a draft: it gets a little wordy and mixes messages of both attitude and product. I’m still processing the 40 Book Challenge and using Three Teachers Talk as a guide and trying to figure out the most important ingredients for next year’s secret sauce.

For now, I’ll let this percolate for a bit, and enjoy a beautiful Saturday…any ideas are welcome!

PS

You have the right to be an introvert, as long as you feel that your voice is heard.

You have the right to be an extrovert, as long as you allow yourself and other mental oxygen.

…thinking of more….

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Saving Summer: Flat-lining.

The Ongoing Battle Between Science Teachers And Fake News

NPR-Ed posted an article this morning about how science teachers encounter young minds already signed onto misconceptions and falsehoods. This touched a hard nerve with me, as for years I’ve done my best to straddle the dangerous tightrope between critical thinking skills and teachings of celebrities/prophets. Every time I teach a mythology or origin mythology unit I state a disclaimer that this is just what other cultures believe, and if they practice a religion/faith, their leaders at their place of worship have studied these same stories, too, to gain better understanding into their own ideas, beliefs, and faiths. This seemed to work most of the time. I strove for diplomacy and inclusion.

But these are not ordinary times, and I need to think differently.

via GIPHY

And I appreciate the final piece of advice, perhaps the only piece of advice there is available to us:

“For cases like this, Yoon suggests teachers give students the tools to think like a scientist. Teach them to gather evidence, check sources, deduce, hypothesTize and synthesize results. Hopefully, then, they will come to the truth on their own.”

Though I am not a science teacher, last time I checked I am a human on this planet and am bound by the same rules of physics and biology. The ELA teachers’ tasks include those critical thinking skills in any discourse about literature or informational media. The same advice for the science teachers serve all content area teachers, but it may not go far enough. The questioning techniques such as flipping a question around, as well as helping students understand their neurological processes of being stuck in “right-fight” mode. When we think we’re right without evidence or based on wobbly beliefs/bad arguments, we are already on the defensive. How can one come to ‘truth on their own’ if they already think they live there?

Examples:

What if the earth is flat? How did thinkers prove it wasn’t? Why do people want to believe this?

What would result if they’re right? What does it mean if they’re wrong? Is it okay to believe something that isn’t factual? When?

Why is this cartoon funny?

 

How to Prove to Yourself (or Shaq) the Earth Is Round

Top 10 Ways to Know the Earth is Not Flat

How To Tell Someone They’re Wrong (And Make Them Feel Good About It)

A philosopher’s 350-year-old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists

And if you need a list of handy-dandy critical thinking skills, here you go.

In the daily bombardment of hateful rhetoric, dog whistles, and profanity, perhaps cooling down and allowing for mindful space to think is going to keep us all sane. We are all a mix of beliefs, truths, opinions, and facts. Maybe just remind our students that some things they believed when they were little they don’t believe now, and that it’s okay to change minds. What things do they want to see in the world to change, and what is their plan on trying to get others to think about things differently?

 

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