Is my wife leaving me?

Did you know that Ethiopian imports to the United States have risen by 100% this year to over $8 million?

I just found a charge for $1900 on my credit card for plane tickets on Ethiopian Airlines.  Yes they do exist — a huge 32 plane fleet.  I had to call the credit card company and felt a bit funny because my wife is not home and was unable to ask her about it.  I hope she was not planning on running away to Ethiopia.  The agent did ask me if I was sure…well I am not positive.  Maybe it was my kids.

Do you want to know what your students think?

The most valuable thing I do each year is to have my kids fill out an evaluation on me (actually 1st at the mid-point, and once at the end of the year).  The results have been amazing.  In order for it to be most effective your kids have to trust that you will listen to them.  I feel like repeating that sentence again but I won’t.  I reflected on my evaluation for last year on one of my crazy podcasts last year(the one in which I almost get hit by the dumptruck). It includes the evolution of my evaluation and how it is introduced, collected, etc.  I have included it below, the formatting will be screwed up but you can get the gist of what I ask.  Next to each question is a box for them to check off.  The choices are Excellent, Very Good, Good, Average, Fair, Miserable.  There is a link at the bottom to the actual form.

 

Name(optional – you might want to wait until the end to decide : ))______

Class_________________

In one word describe the teacher______________________________

In one word describe the class________________________________

 

 

1  Teacher created an environment that was positive

2  Teacher created an environment safe for risk taking

3  Teacher created an environment that allowed for personal initiative

4  Teacher created an environment that allowed success for all students

5  Teacher created an environment that led to meaningful discussion

6  Teacher created an environment for independent student growth

7  Teacher created an environment with appropriate structure

8  Teacher created an environment that motivated me

9  Teacher gave students the attention they needed

10 Teacher’s ability to respect individual student needs

11 Teacher’s ability to respond to student’s questions

12 Teacher’s knowledge of the subject

13 Teacher’s enthusiasm

14 Teacher’s preparation for class

15 Teacher’s relationship with class

16 Teacher appeared honestly interested in helping students

17 Teacher’s ability to listen

18 Teacher’s ability to keep class interesting

19 Teacher graded assignments fairly

Below, PLEASE write down any comments you have concerning the above statements.  Especially any comment below average.

Use the space on the back of this paper to freely express your feelings about the course and teacher.  Please be as detailed and specific as you would like but do limit your words to what is truthful, respectful, and most of all useful to future students.  Minimum number of words is thirty-five, maximum is 1000.  You can write freely, or use the above chart as a guide.  This is the most valuable part of the evaluation and I cannot stress enough how carefully your words will be read and listened to! This is your chance to make a change for future students.  All I ask is that you be honest.

evaluation07.doc

I am afraid to ask…have you ever stopped believing in a kid?

For the second time in my career…I think I might have stopped believing in a kid.  Stopped believing that I can make a difference, stopped believing that at any moment he might turn it around, stopped believing that even though I haven’t gotten through to him, someday, someone will.  26 days left.  I almost made it.  When it comes right down to it, I haven’t just stopped believing in him–I have given up…and that sucks.

Do you believe every kid does their best?

I do.  Even when they haven’t contributed in two weeks.  Even when they are a pain in my butt.  Even when they are rude.  Even when they tell you that they don’t care.  Everyone tries their best.  Maybe their best is not what you expect, but it is the best they can do in that moment.  Sorry…I am just getting tired of listening to people complain about their kids not working to their potential, or being bored, or not listening, or not remembering something, or failing, or (fill in blank).  There have been sooooo many days in the last year that I came in and did not do a perfect job as a teacher.  There are days I would have given myself a “B” and days when I would have given me an “F.”  But no one did.  I could come in and cruise through a day without any one questioning me, checking my lesson plans, or grading me when I was down.   Even on the days I would have gotten an “F” I was doing my best under the circumstances.  Instead I am known for my “A” days.  Everyone seems to ignore the “F” days.  But when a kid has a crappy week there goes 10% of their grade for the quarter.  I have a crappy month and there is still the same amount in my paycheck each week.  I don’t know…think I am starting to whine, starting to ramble…what’s going on with these last two posts…someone finish this post for me…

What do you see?

Everything that my students have done this year has been for an audience somewhere in the United States. How cool is that! But the last project we did left me a little intimidated. I had one class that wrote songs about the Oregon Trail and recorded them. It wasn’t our culminating project for the unit but something they did as they were doing some initial research about the trail-the songs were basically serving as their notes. The writing ended up being rushed, the recording ended up being rushed, getting 25 kids who fear talking in class to believe they can sing a song was so tough, but we managed to finish it in the last minutes before vacation. It was a very tough for this particular class. I was supposed to put the Mp3s onto a CD and ship them off to an elementary school. After listening to them I realized that we should have taken more time with the writing, the recording, song selection, I could have done a better job, we had problems I never saw coming, etc…. I wanted to put them on our site but was worried that a person listening to them would…well…think a little less of us since the songs were…well…a bit sloppy. The problem is, if these songs weren’t suppose to go to the other class I would have been extremely proud of this class. This was really difficult for them – and did you ever try to get a group of 8th graders to write and sing songs and then record them live? Yikes…talk about intimidated. So I started to write a post about how sometimes I am worried that people who look around the web and see all these fantastic multi-school collaborative projects that are just incredible, would just throw a passing glance at my kids work because side-by-side without knowing their background it’s not as impressive…and I hate to say it…but I wonder if I am not worried about their reputation, but mine. Then I started thinking about all the other content teachers at just your average little school that are in the same boat–or all the teachers in those schools that are just thinking about starting and looking for schools to partner with. How do you compete with these college prep school tech classes?(I know…don’t take me literally) I decided one of my goals next year would be to invite a class to collaborate with us that has never done anything on line and might be a little intimidated about starting. So I started writing a post and I ended up rhyming the first four lines by accident which turned into a crazy out-of-control poem. So here it is in all its glory. I don’t know if it makes my point, and I know I leave myself open for criticism with a couple of lines. But what the heck-let’s rock on.
**In order for the last line to make sense you have to know that our class’ nickname is Collaboration Nation.**

When you see my student’s work
On our blogs or on our wiki,
Do you see the students home life,
Do you see their IEPs.

Do you see past their mistakes
Or the pressures of their neighborhood,
Do you even realize
That their three sentence paragraphs should be considered very good.

I worry that when people see some of my kids stuff online,
They will compare us to other schools,
All that work from prep private schools
And full time tech classes is pretty cool.

Can you see through their off key singing,
And their stuttering podcasts,
That they have showed the world,
That learning can be a blast.

They have exceeded my expectations
Using podcasts, blogs, and wikis,
They have established a world-wide audience
from Australia to Missouri.

But some days I really do hesitate
to send out what they create
I wonder if people on the receiving end
Will only focus on their shortcomings…and forget what they did is really great.

I am very proud of what they accomplished,
They worked darn hard all through this year.
They sent their work across the country,
And overcame many of their fears.

And so when you see student work online
And you think it really sucks
Often times those are kids coming from places
That don’t get all the breaks and have all the luck.

I guess this lousy poem
Is just a way for me to whine and vent,
A reminder that even though we focus on the biggest and brightest of the 2.0 classrooms,
We shouldn’t forget to write about and invite into our classrooms all the rest.

So if you are reading this and thinking
About starting a path in 2.0 collaboration
Please don’t feel intimidated
Give us a ring, because you are always welcome, in Collaboration Nation.

What have I become?

The one person who is responsible for 50% of who I am as a teacher, someone I consider a dear mentor, a colleague to whom I go to with the tough questions that I can’t answer did something to me yesterday. He had the nerve to ask me for advice. Now I no longer know my role in this relationship, and I was so intimidated to give him an answer. Life was easier when he had all the answers and I had all the questions.

If you are comfortable…I am curious if you consider yourself a mentor, a mentee, or just hanging around in bewtween. Can you be a mentor without a mentee? Is mentee a word? Are most mentors blind to the fact that they are mentors? I think I want to be a mentor when I grow up.

Do you say hello?

Here is your task. Walk by five kids at your school–not when classes are passing, but when you are by yourself in the hall and there is only one or two kids passing you. You may look at them, but you can’t say anything. Do they say hello? Please try to do this five times and let me know the results. If you happen to be a student reading this, do it with the teachers in your building, or even other students. I would like to get responses from at least five people. I have a theory I would like to blog about but need some data first to make sure my school is not the exception to the rule. I’ll even take the results from one pass, past passes, and even guesses. Also mention what grades and how many kids are in your school!

Thank you,

Paul

Are you trying to cure cancer?

Yesterday I overheard this statement from a student about one of their teachers:

“It’s not like he was teaching us how cure cancer.”

When we teach our subject with no connection to others, when we teach our subject with no connection to the world outside our four walls, when we teach our subject with no connection to the students lives, when we teach our subject with no pizazz or vigor, when we teach our subject with facts instead of problems, when we teach our subject with no connection to people across the street, state, country, world, when we teach our subject with no imagination, no place for dreams or passion, when we teach our subject with no interest in modeling love and empathy…our kids will never see the connection between our classes and curing cancer. I don’t teach social studies. I teach life. I do use certain social studies tools, topics and lenses to teach about life. I hope that someday, when a student is asked about me, they will say,”He taught me how to cure cancer.”


Who should blog first?

Just saw a tweet from budtheteacher who had this to say:

I will never cease to be amazed by folks who teach classes about blogs who don’t actually blog. Sheesh.

Maybe we should stop doing PD on how to use 2.0 tools in a classroom. It should all stay focused on teacher’s personal lives. Teach them how they can use these tools to strengthen some aspect of their life, or how to use them to just have fun. Let’s face it, if a teacher has no interest in using them personally, they probably won’t use them in class.

There is another reason, and one that I think is even more important. I tell my student teachers that they should always do any project that they are assigning to the kids for the first time with them. It is the only way to get into the head of the kids as they try to solve the problem posed in the project. With podcasting it is really hard to hear your own voice played back. It is really hard to let loose your deep thoughts with a voice you hate to the entire world. It’s really hard to talk into a mic with no one on the other side giving you all the physical and oral cues that one is accustomed to in a normal conversation.  If you have tried it, you will approach podcasting in a whole different way with your kids.

With blogging you are all of a sudden writing to a potential world wide audience. If you are not a wonderful writing, the pressure in incredible. If you are a good writer you have no idea what I am talking about. You can never put yourself in my shoes, or get into the head of a student with a similar problem. At least I get to sit at home alone and write and I don’t have to sit next to Mr. Valedictorian as he writes another great post that will get 32 comments. It has taken me 8 months to become comfortable enough to just sit and spontaneously write a post — this is the first one.  I will never grade a blog post.  I would stop immediately if someone started to grade mine.  I also know how much it sucks to not get comments and go and find those students who don’t have a following and leave a comment to let them know someone was there.

All lessons should start by connecting the concepts of the unit to a personal experience.  That is how the brain processes and learns new things.  Lets stop telling teachers that 2.0 tools will improve their kids performance, until we have  convinced them that they will improves theirs.