I am a male teacher. I watched a film tonight that will change how I teach this fall. If you have a Netflix account you might want to check it out too. It’s called “The Mask You Live In.”
A synopsis of the film from The Presentation Project:
The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.
Pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men.
Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it.
The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.
There are great interviews with kids, teachers, academics, and coaches. It’s worth your time.
I think the great myth in America is that sports builds character. Sports does not build character unless the coach intentionally teaches it and models it. When I did start coaching I did not want to be a transactional coach using kids for my own identity. So I started with a simple philosophy, if you are going to be a transformational coach you have to know what you are transforming. I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who be responsible to change the world for good. That’s what sport ought to be about. And we have a lot of work to do in our country. — Joe Ehrmann
If you have never played with Augmented Reality please take some time and work your way through this page. If you have kids, friends, family members or a cat, gather them up before you start.
If you need a teaser to convince you to stop and try these, here you go (go full screen)!
While downloading app, print page 1 here (more here). Instead of printing, you can simply just open the page on your laptop or desktop computer and use the image on the screen, but it is much better if you print the page.
Open app and hold your phone above the image you printed.
Follow the same instructions for the links below. Make sure you have your volume up and poke around on the screen. More pages for each app are available on the app’s home page…enjoy 🙂
Print page 10 This app is aimed at Science teachers and it’s worth reading the “How it works” page to get the full effect. You can just print the page and use it without folding it into a block to get an idea of how it works. The rest of the elements are here for you to print, fold, and combine.
Amazing Space Journey was just introduced to me at a conference last week and it’s pretty neat way of looking at the solar system (Apple, Android). I haven’t messed around with it that much but so far, so good. It does take a bit for it to load on my phone, the screen looks blank and you just need to wait 5-10 seconds for it to open. When it opens it is not in AR mode. You can manipulate what you see on the screen with your fingers, and change the screen with the sliders. In the corner you’ll see a tiny AR icon, click on it and scan page 11 to see the AR features.
My daughter Annie did not get up and get ready for school with me today. Yesterday was her last day at Amity Middle School and today she is sleeping in. This year Annie talked about school non-stop. Every time I got into the car with her I would hear about Mr. Goldstein‘s experiments, we now have a Sons of Liberty flag flying at our house after completing research for a social studies project, and the kid no longer believes that mathematics was created to simply destroy souls of children.
A couple days ago I received a letter from a graduating senior thanking me for 8th grade. In the letter he mentioned many things, but not a single time did he mention any content or skills directly.
“…you were so encouraging…”
“…thank you for believing in me when I did not.”
“…thank you for teaching me about the incredibly exciting life and times of Nathaniel Walker and making us sing a song about him!”
Ok, there was one mention of content.
What always strikes me about the letters I receive is they are almost never from a student that I knew I impacted. They are almost always from a student that mentions what made a difference was not the time during instruction, but about our interactions in the space in between. The side conversations, the walks in the hallway, the vibe and spirit of the classroom that honored a belief system that each and every kid could do what they previously thought was impossible because it was a safe place to be yourself.
That is what I head from my daughter this year. More than just content, I heard everyday that her team of teachers had created a place in which Annie flourished because of the that vibe and spirit that they created in the space in between.
I decided to write them a letter (posted here with Annie’s permission). I want them to hear about the impact them made. I also want to post it here because I think it is important for teachers to remember that we make a bigger difference in kids’ lives than we realize, and usually we make the biggest different in the lives of the kid’s that we think we made the least. Teachers leave little pieces of themselves in each kid who use those pieces to build what they will become & what they believe is possible. Don’t forget that.
I have also taught 8th grade for a few years 🙂 My unbiased opinion…and one that is slowly being backed up by some new research…is that 8th grade is the most important year. It is the year that their personality and character is like a sponge, and for many kids what they absorb and who they become during 8th grade defines who they will be and how they will conduct their lives in the future. The teachers they have all leave little pieces of themselves in each kid who use those pieces to build what they will become, and what they believe is possible.
I can say without hesitation that the pieces you have given my daughter this year have established a foundation that will support Annie for the rest of her life.
The most memorable experiences a kid will have in your class will come when kids do things that they previously thought were impossible. Math no longer scares her. She believes she is a writer. The stage is a second home to sing. And geez, how many conversations can a kid have with parents about “what kind of job can I have that let’s me be an activist with the government and lets me do work with science while doing public speaking.”
In schools we tend to give awards to kids who conform, while teaching them about our “heroes” who made a difference by rebelling and doing things that were different. One of the things you all did this year that I believe was without a doubt your greatest accomplishment is that you created a space and place that allowed Annie to organize the GLSEN’S Day of Silence. At home she researched and worked for weeks. Hours of anxiety figuring out how to present the idea. And finally saw a dream come to fruition. That Black Team, was what I think was your shining moment. You and the administration created an environment which allowed a kid to do something she previously did not think she could do, supported her directly or indirectly, and allowed her to do it.
Teacher’s lesson plans should focus less on teaching and more on inspiring. This is one year that I saw Annie be inspired to become what we love to label a “life-time learner.” She was always watching some documentary on a class topic, discussing what she learned on car rides, sharing her writing assignments, and asking probing questions about topics being discussed in science and social studies classes. I can’t tell you how priceless those conversations we have had about the electoral college, science experiments and Andrew Johnson have been 🙂
ANNIE: Dad, do you think Andrew Johnson should have been impeached?
DAD: I am eating dinner, it’s the last week of classes, do you really want to have this conversation?
ANNIE: Yes because the Tenure of Office Act should have never been passed and…….on……and……on…….and…….on.
Yes, some of the conversations were a bit more one sided than I will admit.
One thing that took me 20 or so years of teaching to realize is that kids will not be who we want them to be, they will be who we are. Thank you for being incredible role models for Annie. Let’s face it, and sometimes it’s hard to admit this, all the content we teach our kids will be out of their heads within a few years…most of it within 72 hours. What’s left behind is love and passion for learning and knowledge. When your content fades, know that the love and passion for learning that you instilled in her will not, and the character that you helped to develop will guide her to someday be the press secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection 🙂
In this crazy test driven education world which seemingly asks us to conform more and more each day, please keep up the fight to allow kids have space to be an individual and continue to create lessons and directions not to make kid’s realize the dreams of an adult curriculum writer but to fully realize their own. You can’t have harmony if everyone sings the same note. The beautiful thing about the environment that you created is that harmony is not only heard in the auditorium during concerts, but also felt each day in your classrooms, especially in the space in between.
Thanks so much,
This year I am teaching at an alternative high school. We have a population that despises traditional school work and for the most part, simply will not do it. During the course of the year I noticed that the makerspace movement was gaining steam. Conferences were featuring makerspaces, blogs were featuring them, and conference sessions were highlighting their importance. I could not help but notice the trend of moving the “making” out of the classroom and into a special space. As if “making” was some special academic program that classroom teachers could not handle.
I remembered back to my early years of teaching. We were always “making” things. We built a greenhouse and planted Thomas Jefferson’s garden. We were always building models of things we were learning about. And when we were not “making,” we were tearing things apart. Years later when it was no longer acceptable to spend time making things, fewer and fewer units contained a “making” component. That is when finally I separated the back of my class into a “making” space. There were drawers of things to explore, things to build with, stuff to take apart. and tech to play with.
I stumbled upon that old picture a couple months ago and it made me reflect on the fact that my kids do in fact “make” less nowadays, and we are giving up the “making” in schools to special teachers and special spaces. There was one thing to do, and that was to make something for the next unit.
We were studying World War 1 and after discussing this with the kids, they decided to make a trench warfare scene. Each kid specialized in one part, and all the parts together would add up to one final product. Some things the kids focused on were supplies and uniforms, first aid stations, tanks, and life in the actual trenches. Each kid researched their topic. They found primary source text and images, planned what they were going to make, and then scrounged around for available items.
One student wanted to focus on chemical warfare and make a gas mask. I think my response was #ummmm. How do you make the superstructure? The ventilation tube? The cartridge? He found some cardboard, duct tape, an orange juice bottle, coffee can, spray paint, old shirt, and old vacuum cleaner hose.
Go ahead, take out your phone and scan the above code. The soundtrack behind the narration was made from scratch by the student.
Another student needed to make sandbags. Can you tell what they are made from?
One of the most difficult things was actually how to get World War 1 soldiers. You can buy bags of cheap World War 2 soldiers, but only tiny bags of expensive World War 1 soldiers. The solution? One student simply took World War 2 soldiers and painted them to look like World War 1 soldiers.
In the end they all took their ideas and objects and added them to our trench warfare scene which you will see in the video at the end of the post. What is not in the video are the QR codes that are the board. If you scan a code you will listen to a soldier tell you a little about what it was like to be in the trenches. Some of those voices you will here in the video. They were written by the students.
When you see the final product you have to redefine what success looks like. This might not look as grand as what your class might produce, it might have more mistakes, and it might need more editing, but in the end what was completed was an amazing product for my kids. There is no way I would have thought this was possible when we started in September.
Here is the video we made with our objects. The sound effects in the background were make from scratch, and the German class from the high school helped us out with the shouting soldiers in the background 🙂
The opening shows the kids making, at 2:20ish the content kicks in.
More assessment ideas can be found here!
We recently watched the documentary Virunga in class. When we watch movies we no longer take notes. We simply ask questions. For each movie each student gets a sheet that looks something like this. What I have found is that kids watch the movie and explore it from all different personal perspectives, instead of watching it for each fact that I have asked them to find. The questions they write still are centered around key pieces of content…my worries that the ket facts would be missed or forgotten went unfounded. Most importantly, I have found that they watch the movie at a deeper level than when I just provided a list of questions for them to answer. When we pause the movie they ask the questions, not me. When we come into class the next day, or if we stop the video early they have questions they want answered instead of answering mine. I have also found that the conversations also go wider than the content in the movie. They ask for facts in the movie to be put into a wider context. Some kids write as they watch, some write at the end of class. It is rare that we watch a movie straight through. We probably spend nearly half of each class not watching. Whether it is starting the class with their questions or examining extra sources, or stopping the movie to talk about what we just watched. And if their is research to be done after the movie, they already have a list of questions to start with.
After watching Virunga we researched who was involved in making the film and the students sent them their questions. Some got short responses, some long, some received no responses. It is so easy today to reach out to the people that are making the content your kids are digesting. From authors to videographers, let the kids contact the writers and producers and ask their questions to them directly.
Below is a trailer from the movie we watched, followed by a sample email response from one of the key people doing the investigating the events in the documentary and a twitter response from one of the producers.
I’m a student and in our class we just recently finished watching the movie “Virunga” and I was wondering about something. I was wondering how it felt to see everything happening in the Congo for yourself, to see all the people in fear of the M23 rebels and watching the military abandon them and especially how it seemed that the military only cared about itself, far more than the people a military is sworn to protect; so I was wondering how you felt, how did it feel to see everything happen right in front of you, and yet (this is just speculation, as I was not there) it seemed so difficult to bear and it seemed almost impossible to help any of the people. So I guess my question is, how do you feel having seen all of it first hand, and having to understand you can’t help everyone?
This is the fourth reincarnation of the post 99 videos that make you go hmmm, ah, and ah-ha. The videos are very loosely grouped into categories based on how we have used them or the kids’ reaction.
Not all videos are appropriate for elementary kids, there are a few edgy ones for middle school, and all should be ok for almost all high school kids. I have re-checked some of the links from the last post, but if you find one that is a dead link or leads to the wrong video please let me know by leaving a comment.
If you have a video that should be included on the list, please leave a comment!
Videos that make us think:
Butterfly Circus (if you are going to watch only one…)
Videos that inspire us:
Videos that amaze us:
Videos that make us ask questions:
Videos that get us to laugh together:
Rabbit (ok, maybe not funny but frightening)
Uncle Jack (not for all audiences)
Dumb Ways to Die (not for all audiences)
Cool Videos From My Class
Imagine if we had to label our classes with names other than “content” names. You could not call your class social studies, or Algebra II, or AP Physics…you had to call it what you really want the kids to get out of it, what values you would like kids to explore…Courage 101, Know When to Rebel, Innovation…Kindness. And maybe if we couldn’t settle on what to label our classes, we could agree that they could and should all be called one thing…life.
What do I teach? I teach Life.
Above is a comment I left on this post.
Here is something I posted on December 14, 2009. Minor changes have been made.
+++Read the first part like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the middle like ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and the end like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas+++
Every teacher down in Teacherville, liked always teaching the same way,
but the kids, who lived in Teacherville – well, they wanted them to change.
Some teachers hated change – the whole school season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason.
It could be, perhaps, that their shoes were too tight. Or it could be that their heads weren’t screwed on just right.
But I think that if there was one thing that they would be willing to shout,
is that they are waiting for someone to reach out.
Twas the half-day before winter break and all through the school
The movies were playing, it was the half-day rule.
The gold stars were hung by the doors with care,
The chart was suppose to show, the students who cared.
The children were nestled all stuck in their chairs,
While visions of change brought their teacher much fear.
One teacher walked around, awoke students with a snap,
Trying to prevent them from taking a long winter nap.
When out in the hallway there arose such a clatter,
The teacher sprang to door to see what was the matter.
It was the class next door, that gave her alarm,
And she tore open the door and threw up her arms.
The faces she saw, smiled, giggled and glowed too,
In stark contrast to the classroom that she always knew.
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear,
She saw a miniature laptop, there were eight tiny Acers,
With little tiny students, so lively and quick,
She knew in a moment it must be a trick.
Six groups working hard, none of the topics were the same,
And as she paused returning to her class, she realized her video and worksheets were lame;
“Now, Davis! now Jenny,! now, Trin and Billy!
Stop what you’re doing Kenya, Nicole and Willy!
Tear up those papers! Turn off the TV!
Now! throw it away! throw it away, and destroy the D-V-D!”
Right then the teacher decided, to get off her kids backs,
But she was met with an obstacle, the mighty SBACs.
She then walked up, to the front, of the room that she led,
A room full of 504s, and six kids in special ed.
And then, in a twinkling, she heard a kid say,
So what are we doing, what will we do today.
As she took a deep breath, and wondered what to do with a frown,
When from the class next door came five little kids with a bound.
They were dressed all in costumes from their head to their feet,
And behind them their teacher appeared and looked at her kids in their seats,
A bundle of computers and cameras he had flung on his cart,
And the teacher just stopped and looked at Mr. Bart.
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His cute little students were active and learning,
And his test scores were soaring and he did not look worried;
The movie his kids were making needed a few actors more,
And so he decided to ask for help from the teacher next door;
She thought he had happy kids and a room full of laughter,
But clearly the kids needed more discipline to sit like hers were.
They did strange techy things, not like she did,
And he smiled as he approached her and surprised her with what he said.
“We need extras for our movies that we are going to publish on the web.”
She spoke not a word, she simply shook her head yes,
And then that old Mr. Bart came in and took care of the rest,
Laying a finger up into the air,
He added her kids into his groups with care;
They sprang from their seats like tiny little missiles,
And worked in groups until they heard the teacher’s whistle.
The kids then filmed and acted out their plays written on civil rights
And she sat back and watched and said “Now this is a beautiful site.”
And what happened then…?
Well in Teacherville they say,
That the teacher’s will to change
Grew three sizes that day.
And the minute her heart relaxed and did not feel so tight,
She knew that changing her class was the thing that was right.
After she threw out the worksheets! She could now clearly see…
That her students will be who you are,
Not who you want them to be.
During this holiday season give the gift of collaboration to your colleagues…
Ask them to participate in a big or small way,
They might be ready, ready to say yes today.
Because sometimes when people get stuck and just want to shout,
All they need is a helping hand…
Just one person to reach out.