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Heads, shoulders, knees and toes: listening and speaking all the way

From Regular Show.
My.
Favorite.

Always adding and refining: here are some resources to help with class discussions and partner work. Enjoy!

Previous posts on discussions:

http://blog0rama.edublogs.org/tag/turn-and-talk/

http://blog0rama.edublogs.org/2017/07/09/summer-series-of-saves-can-we-talk-about-this/

From a colleague:

 

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Heroic measures: repair

Months ago I ordered a ceramic unicorn — “thing.” It’s a decorative object, and I don’t remember why I liked it. I’m not normally a unicorn person. Perhaps in that moment of questionable online purchasing decisions, it looked cute and majestic. I can’t justify or rationalize why I bought it, and truth be known I completely forgot about it until a big box from some Scandinavian country showed up on my doorstep. This magical unicorn traveled a long way to get to me.

Carefully opening the box, it was obvious the shipping and packaging design meant to ensure the protection of this delicate creature: insulted with custom blown styrofoam edges, taped for miles and bubble-wrapped ad infinitum, and multiple layers. There was a box within a box, and then a cylindrical custom-made cardboard insert where the unicorn nested, protected. Or at least that was the idea.

However, with all that protection, planning and packaging, the unicorn arrived broken.

(Yes, this is a metaphor.)

Summation of events: my classroom management efficacy is in question. I work at a tough school, and overall there are systems in place to support students and teachers. But no matter how I packaged, bubble-wrapped, insulated and insured, some unicorn legs (aka student behavior) broke. And I will defend my practice and be wary of when others label it as defensive. But I will also do what it takes, polish my practice and carry on.

When asked to litigate and document one’s process in classroom community building, routines, procedures, protocols, and processes the one thing that can’t be answered is when those practices don’t do everything to insulate a child from making a rash decision. We work with adolescents, after all, and no matter how many times we tell them ‘Don’t eat the daisies’ some daisies might be eaten.* Students flirt, badly. They touch things that don’t belong to them. (Body parts, computer parts, cell phones, Takis, whatever.) They act in the moment, all id and amygdala**. Staying calm, waiting it out, finding the peaceful moment to reflect, converse and regroup is tantamount for long-term success and relationship building. That is the only trend worth noting: “Does the teacher find time and space for behavior concerns?”

The answer for me and my students has always been a resounding yes.

So cleaning up my classroom environment is one thing I consistently do. Transitioning from being an ELA teacher to the Computer classes can’t happen overnight. My evaluator prefers clean walls and simple, elementary-school level instructions.

Cleaned off this wall. We are out of white butcher paper so I had to use pink, which is hard to read.
Explicit.
All positive.

There are always things to learn about being a better teacher and improving our practices, there is no doubt about that. At my core, I am a learner and thinker: anyone who is creative and imaginative holds these qualities. But what doesn’t help is being demoralized: I haven’t heard one positive thing this year about my curriculum, student engagement or practices. And I may not ever hear that. But I can fix my own unicorn, and make my own magic.

 

Some related information:

This article is about a local district’s challenges with discipline, but it could be most districts around the country:

Is School-Discipline Reform Moving Too Fast?

This is an article by John Hattie and the misinterpretation of growth-mindset. Please read.

  • The triggers for when growth matters: When we face challenge; Receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others; When threatened or defensive (Dweck, 2016, p. 3-4

“When threated or defensive“: time to be growth-minded!

*Yes, I am showing my age wisdom.

**Think I just thought of my new rock band name: Id & Amygdala

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Heroic measures: the loud quiet moment

“39. We must learn that when our art reveals a secret of the human soul, those watching it may try to shame us for making it. (p. 70).
The Artist’s Way: Morning Pages Journal, Julia Cameron.”

Notice the moments.

Notice the tiny moments that may seem insignificant, but are what we look for: make the invisible visible.

Notice:

  • Young sweet student passing who loved the adults in the building loved with his whole heart, and loved belonging to my Minecraft Club*
  • Group of students working yesterday, talking to each other about the assignment, holding each other accountable, without ANY reminders or redirection from me.
  • Young man asking respectfully how he can play sports, get his work done, and walk again with grace. For listening to his grandmother, me, and his coaches.
  • All students in my toughest class working. Engaged. Happy. Relaxed. Many of them even saying they wanted to keep working on the project at home.
  • Surprising someone with insight (sometimes the most terrifying thing is when someone says “yes” — no more obstacles or excuses).
  • Telling a student that her love of K-Pop was nothing to be ashamed of: “Millions of people around the world love K-Pop, and the opinion of one 7th grade boy doesn’t mean spit if you love it, too.” And she smiled.
  • Though some have described my classroom as ‘controlled chaos’ – most of the time it’s actually calm creativity.

Making a point to intentionally name and label when things work, and reflect in a balanced way. Hold steady and true.

 

 

*It changed because of the new after-school program that doesn’t allow students to attend a club unless they have no missing work or Fs. I couldn’t fit it in with my schedule of having it directly after school. 

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Heroic measures: let’s do something (anything)

Happy New Year’s Day!

Last night we went to see the new Star Wars movie. I bought the tickets in November and made it until the show without a single spoiler. I am thinking now — if I can navigate social media for over six weeks without a single spoiler or discussion thread — I can certainly navigate social media better overall. Because at times, it’s been terrifying.

Even from those I respect and admire.

In fact, quite disheartening.

There are many wonderful voices shaking up the world now and have been. Voices whose candor, truth to power and legions of loyal fans pave the way to get them to the forefront. And yet, I still have the nagging feeling that anytime anyone puts forth shakey argumentative devices, credibility and authoritative legitimacy are lost. We know better.

However; I can only be mindful and reflective of the information I seek or is provided: “Be critical of the media you love.” — Anita Sarkessian.

Resolved:

  • Continue to question, research, and revisit/revise
  • Continue to change and adapt
  • Keep track of the narrative; revisit accordingly with new information
  • Understand people are in pain, and pain causes fear.
  • Take care of your own heart: then take care of others:

I don’t have anything financially to give now. It’s been a cause of my own stress and concern. But being who I believe myself to be, I always think there is a way around or through it, it being the problem or task at hand. If not having enough money to pay the bills or worrying about when the next paycheck will come from interferes with my teaching ability, consider how this stress and insecurity affects students every day.We all must be unstuck. They need to see past the fear in the next place.

Follow me here, though: ideas are relatively inexpensive and can provide bountiful returns.

The other day my friend and I were sitting have a sandwich, and the older couple sitting next to us struck up a conversation, found out we were teachers, and long story short, treated us to our entire meal. It was a generous deed that buoys my heart. I needed this good deed more than I realized. And if I can feel this way, perhaps our students need this as much, too.

What we tell students we need to tell and support teachers, too: just as we tell students they are more than a number, I, too, am more than one observation. My aggregate joy as a teacher cannot be summed up in a tweet or post: it is sustaining and messy. Clarity and chaos. Human, and flawed. And perfection. With this support we all can use our collective creativity, generosity of ideas, and metaphorical community barn-raising about how do we educate our children and support the professionals who are in the classroom every day, on the front lines, learning how to navigate this world as it changes?

So–if you want to do something, really do something–continue to speak your truth to power. And in your power, please consider:

  • Buy a teacher a book for his or her classroom. Go around the bureaucratic time wasters. (The couple didn’t realize how much time is spent for teachers to fill our Donors Choose forms, POs, etc.) Find your local schools and buy a class set of diverse novels from diverse authors.
  • Does anyone know Jeff Bezos? Does anyone have his ear? Perhaps a trillionaire can begin giving back, too?
  • Better yet: if you know authors because you’re a well-known activist and have connections, come speak in classrooms via Skype.
  • And really free (except for your time): Don’t have $340? Neither do I. But perhaps you could write a post about your favorite current books and share with students around the country what you liked in a book discussion.

If you want to change the world, create literacy. Create critical thinking skills. Show students who are coming up in the world that you aren’t afraid if they disagree with you. Show them that there are a million other voices besides the narrow, tunnel-visioned silos of past hierarchies.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
― Isaac Asimov

Resolved: help students hear that books, discussions, and real people doing powerful writing may sometimes act in self-serving ways, but the act of service and hope to others far outweighs everything else. We must fight the anti-intellectualism together, fight fears that make us lie, fight with whatever tools we have.

And one of the best tools to fight ignorance is a book.

Please share with me other ideas you have about helping our students be true, thoughtful and confident critical thinkers. Confidence not from hubris or willful ignorance, but the confidence that comes from open-minded that they did their research, they understood the nuance between truth, opinion, and facts, and can adjust their thinking when new information comes around.

Happy New Year: I am hopeful and excited.

 

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Heroic measures: teach critical thinking

My big question this morning: how do we teach, and learn, to think critically?

Not the surface-level fluff–but the hard questions, the wrestling with the trifecta of intellectual stagnation: cognitive dissonance, justification, and rationalization?

Do we need heroes/heroines?

What would happen…if…we…didn’t?

What if…we were good to each other, did no harm, and made our classrooms, lecture halls, and online spaces engaged and safe places to discuss questions and seek ideas and answers?

Consider and read this thread: keep track and curate the narratives you teach: by every figure, do a character study. We need to face and review the decisions of the past and reconcile and come to terms with our future.

Example: what if Ruth Hopkins didn’t follow this path? Discuss the narrative of Lincoln’s heroism and his great, grave flaws?

But we don’t really teach critical thinking because that would cause a potential revolt to order.

What Does ‘Critical Thinking’ Mean?

This feels very big to me right now, and scary, but this is the gift I want to give my students most of all: the courage to question, and draw their own conclusions, and then have the mindfulness and mental flexibility to adjust those conclusions if necessity demands.

Now: that is a big idea. How to go about it?

Okay. Any ideas welcome.

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