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job description

I’m just going to dub myself a poor man’s version of Cult of Pedagogy.

via GIPHY

The question came my way today from the High School ELA site concerning what electives go well with English/Language Arts. Some of the ‘same ol’ felt tired, such as Creative Writing or Speech/Debate.

Well, let’s see.

This year I’m developing the Computer Technology Essentials curriculum for 7th and 8th-grade classes, which is also under the auspices of Career and Technology Education. Whatever it is, it’s under the Business codes in the grade book. It’s something I can do, and do well, but not my first love. /shrug Love is overrated.

Trying to reconstruct my work process is oddly difficult. “Back in the day”, I created a Traffic/Project Manager position for myself at a small marketing company. I had folders and two-hole punches and a beautiful signature/sign-off system as I planned and passed around projects, meeting deadlines. These years, I sit and create plans and mind maps, and then fill in with details.

We’re adjusting as we go, of course, with the help of four integral colleagues: two teach the course and two help me problem solve for students and staff alike. I wish everyone could have the professional collaborators I know. It makes a world of difference.

Here is one calendar sketch I created:

And it is now a hot mess.

There were approximately 9-11 units of study: Basics, Documents, Curating Content, Presentation Power, Creating Content, Critical Thinking Skills, Movies/Multimedia Production, and Global Connections.

My principal’s intent allows me to support all the content area teachers; since my knowledge is first and foremost in ELA/SS, helping those content area teachers use the technology to create powerful lessons with the tools is my first order.

Failure:

I asked the teachers in the building to give me some idea of their scope/sequence at the beginning of the year.

Success:

It was too much at the beginning of the year without further support from administration (they have enough on their plates), so I found my allies and we’ve been meeting weekly and coming up with what I dubbed “TechTip Tuesdays” a few years ago, and providing just-in-time information to the staff.

Failure:

Not being an ELA teacher this year I’m out of the loop for many of the current curriculum. (No one has time to meet, so there is a work-around.)

Success:

Talking with folks one to one helps me support them. For example, one teacher wanted a way to use Actively Learn better, and I made this quick tutorial:

Some teachers offer driven students the chance to post to the Reading Road Trips blog.

All of our CTE students are posting to the Digital Dogs blog.

Next steps:

  • Adjust the curriculum: where did students get genuinely confused? What lessons did they have the most questions about, and which ones engaged them the most?
  • Create a central location for staff to find those ‘just in time’ resources.
  • Have students create more of the instructional how-to media; when we go into the second semester there will be a higher level of tech acuity so perhaps we can make this adjustment.

Some resources:

Computer literacy is heavily explanatory text based thinking: currently, we’re working with our students to closely read instructions.

This ties in with mind or story mapping tools:

I made this for a colleague:

Postscript: What do I really do? Nag district into getting cool software. Canvas trainings. Scream at the poor user interface and UX design of most apps and software. Complain to my husband about my log-in and sign up fatigue. Make new passwords. Help students remember their passwords. Try to find multiple language apps. Get bored. Get excited. Look at the new shiny. Wonder where the time has gone. Worry that I’ll lose my ELA chops while I’m doing this other thing. Feel insecure. Feel confident. Feel overly confident and then slightly insecure again. Help someone. Laugh at Gerry Brooks videos. Save a ton of links and ideas. Answer 3,241 questions a day about something. Rage at my bad cables that make my Smartnotebook pink. Drink a Fresca once in a while. That’s about it.

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today was a good day

My first period: my friend’s first period. Her second period. My other friend’s third period. My fourth, fifth, and sixth periods. Almost 170 students signing up and starting blogging on the Digital Dogs’ blog. 

I KNEW they could do it!

And, I even recognized some writers in the crowd. Those who lingered a little longer, or confessed to having Tumblrs and Wattpads. I have writer-adar.

Yes, I realize their posts are not works of grand literary import. Pfft. Putting in your first HTML embed is addicting. Sharing content, and seeing your words published is this generation’s ‘Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame on television,’ but this screen is more relevant and powerful.

It’s working…

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the perils of control

 

My head hurt all weekend since an odd idea came to me late last week. Did you ever get an off-hand comment that seemed vaguely critical and out of context the only explanation could be it was growing in the background for a long time? Writing is processing, and thinking about how to frame bizarre moments on this rainy Sunday afternoon solved the pain.

The best thing about my PLN is that we all understand that sharing, curating, and responding are part of the culture of being a creative collaborator. There are no egos, no “stay in your lane’s” or titles and job descriptions that prevent us from sharing our ideas and resources freely and kindly. From Notice and Note Facebook page and other groups that share ideas and insights I have made new friends. And–never doubt it that it’s a small educational world after all. A good friend and former colleague who moved back to Florida last year is friends with a teacher who’s become a good professional friend via these channels. You just never know.

But what I do know is good work is good work: the younger teachers I work with, even though I’m not officially in the ELA group/department anymore (insert long trombone sound here) they continue to work with me, and we seek out ideas and resources. Which is why I was perplexed last week. What is expected from a staff in terms of sharing? What if a teacher decides she is not going to share her resources? What if, like I am simply because I’ve been in my building so long, should not be the Keeper of Continuity and Nooks and Crannies Resources? For one thing, that title doesn’t fit on a business card. Quite impractical.

One of the…trends?…I’m hearing and seeing is this idea that more seasoned teachers aren’t supposed to share their expertise. It’s curious and confusing. We, teachers, are constantly asked to wash and rinse a laundry basket full of mixed messages:

  • Share your resources and time!
  • Take on a student teacher!
  • Mentor younger teachers!
  • It’s not your job anymore, so don’t share!
  • Keep your advice to yourself!
  • You’re (fill in the blank: overwhelming, emotional, fractured, walking wounded)
  • Too many emails
  • Not enough emails
  • Too passive
  • Too aggressive
  • If you send it, no one will read it
  • More training
  • Less training
  • Walk on eggshells
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Let her do it
  • Open your classroom door!
  • Keep your door shut!
  • Don’t smile!
  • Welcome them!
  • Open your heart!
  • You’re bleeding on the carpet!
  • You do it.
  • Stop doing that.
  • Can you?
  • Will you?
  • Just….

How do we shut out the static and tune in to what’s essential? How do we enjoy our days at our jobs? Our professional, heavily invested-in, challenging, humanly flawed jobs?

Yes. Shut the door. Temporarily at least. And just listen to students. Whatever the grown-ups are saying or thinking doesn’t matter too much on the periphery. When we work together instead of working outside-in to inside-out, perhaps some authentic professional relationships will grow.

Read Stuff Students Say by Alice T. Rust.

Follow Jackie Gerstein and feel her joy in her teaching.

Follow John Spencer and see how a creative fellow nerd brings passion and respect to new and seasoned teachers alike.

Follow Three Teachers Talk and Sarah Donovan/Ethical ELA.

Thank goodness there are folks in my real and virtual worlds who do appreciate what I offer and encourage and support me. It is through that love, and it is love and not control, that sustains us all.

PS This is the best advice of all:

 

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Adding it up.

via GIPHY

Since I asked the question not many answers appeared. Time to put on my Cape of Hard Research and Thinking, TO THE INTERNET! AWAY!

Just how do we constructively analyze, evaluate, and make meaning out of student data? The fundamental questions of a PLC frame the discussion: what do we want students to learn, what do we do if they don’t, and what do we do next if they do? From the data on display, it would appear that many students stalled: the more capable ones have nowhere to go next, and the struggling ones didn’t make connections to the routines and scaffolding to the independent steps. Since I am not an ELA teacher this year by title, I could say well, my “name” isn’t associated with students’ scores. But that is the opposite of how I feel and act, and I know many of my colleagues do, too. They want access to the data and understand to their core that we are all teachers of literacy in every shape and kind. That would be my first step: all teachers in the building working together in cross-content teams to share student information, data, and insights. (I wonder where I put that student form from a few years ago we used when we had that team?) Teams are coming back, so that’s positive.

Here are some articles about different ways to look at data. The data carousel, paradoxically, one of the most powerful and weakest: it allows for good comments and discussion, and then never discussed again.

3 Ways Student Data Can Inform Instruction

Get Curious About Contradictions and Take Action: How about that ace student who didn’t do so well on the standardized test? Possibly a nervous test-taker? Or it could simply be low motivation, since many students never hear about their standardized test results from previous years? Prior to a test, a brief pep talk or quick review of strategies for lowering test anxiety could be all they need. Also, there is much information to be gained from having individual conversations with students who have these contradictions between their standardized test scores and their classroom grades and performance.

From The Teaching Channel:

How Data Carousels Help Teachers and Students:

As said, data carousels create a burst of powerful discussions, but are not sustained over time.

This one may be the best: from Larry Ferlazzo,

Response: How To Use Data – & How Not To Use It – In Schools

Below are suggestions to assist collaborative inquiry teams in examining student work.

  1. Begin with anonymous student work samplesperhaps from a colleague’s class in another school (this colleague and the students should remain anonymous). Initially examining work that does not ‘belong’ to anyone in the group will help to build confidence and ease the transition to the more risky activity of sharing their students’ work.
  2. Use protocols for examining student work. Protocols provide structures and guidelines for looking at and talking about student work. They are designed to help team members reflect on their practice as it relates to student learning and development.
  3. Select 3-5 students of interest and monitor their progress over time. There is no need to bring student evidence from an entire class. Teachers might select 3-5 students who are performing at different levels of achievement. Collaborative inquiry teams will find it more manageable (and equally informative) to monitor the progress of a few students.

The anonymity piece: making it safe for teachers to share and discuss takes away the judgmental attitude of ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ teachers. And the “progress over time” — showing growth versus proficiency is the miracle of teaching and learning. That is why we are here and do what we do: Larry Ferlazzo’s tips are doable and smart. When creating norms and structures for PLCs, I am hoping my colleagues see the value of adding these protocols.

Onward.

 

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Hot piles of data.

via GIPHY

Addendum: I wrote a follow-up four days later: Adding It Up

Well, today we had a data discussion. And it wasn’t pretty. I got a little excited when I saw that the SBA ‘Brief Writes’ had gone up, but that was mostly for 7th grade. And though I shared so much with the 7th-grade team, I tried to sell the 8th-grade team on having students do them, but with no luck, except for one colleague who worked with me the last three weeks before the test. In essence, and in the most passive way possible, an idea came from a coworker for “no excuses” and wanted to see all the data with teachers’ name tied to it. I don’t mind if people see my numbers. Want my data? My age? My shoe size? Sure. But numbers never tell the whole story. Not 0% in one subject, or 8% in another.

But how do you talk about data in a constructive, honest, and collaborative way without it becoming personal and toxic? I am genuinely curious. It can’t be mean-spirited and snotty, nor can it be sugar-coated when the numbers are there. All I know is I asked everyone who would listen to please consider using the rubrics for the Brief Writes so students would know what exactly would be expected of them, whether they got a narrative, explanatory or argumentative prompt. The students performed better on the longer performance task writes, so that’s comforting. And my Honors kids did well. And some of my Essentials kids met proficient, which is quite a feat.But I want all students to do well. This idea that a teacher is ‘bad’ based on one data point, proficiency, is dangerous, and it seems the loudest teachers perpetuate this. But that’s usually how most things work.

Now what? So why am I feeling so awful after a few comments at a meeting? Why does it bother me so? Because those comments move nothing forward. Nothing.

One thing that I pray will change the conversation from the blame-throwers to constructive is the movement toward showing students’ growth and not just proficiency. How wonderful would it be to have a student who is new to the country and language go from a second-grade level to sixth grade or more, and that would be the number celebrated? I’ll be one who is paddling that river, keeping it flowing, even though I’m not directly responsible for the ELA scores this year. But like an old fire horse, I still hear the siren: once an ELA teacher, always one. And I hope to be one again.

Why?

Because I’m good at figuring out what students need, and amazing at it when I have great collaborators, which I do this year. As Mr. Rogers said, “look for the helpers.”

This idea that a teacher is ‘bad’ based on one data point, proficiency, is dangerous, and it seems the loudest teachers perpetuate this. But that’s usually how most things work.

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