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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Coming Up This Week in Room 755

Friday the 13th of August was our first day of school.  It was a 1/2 day.  And frankly, it was a little messy.  Oh well.  As long as students got my invitation letter to their class's Parent Night, I'll be happy...and if they have their supplies on Monday.

Here's what coming this week.

Monday - I'll be introducing the class and some procedures for class.  They will also set up their Composition Books for the year. 

I always do something to demonstrate how I run my class.  I am gong to introduce the clip below - "It's the hard that makes it great" from Tom Hanks's speech to Geena Davis in A League of Their Own.  Teaching 7th grade (for 15 years now) I am seeing how important it is for students to understand that it does get more difficult to do well (or it should) in school.  But it is the hard work, the struggle, that will separate my students from the crowd (not just in our building, but in our region, state, and country).  I do expect my students to be different and behave differently.  So here's Tom Hanks to help. 

Tuesday - We'll begin looking at our connecting themes for the year.  The first one, and the one I come back to nearly every day, is Conflict leads to Change.  And generally speaking, change is what starts the conflict, so it is a cycle.  I do introduce a bigger hook, that it is their world to make a difference.  My generation messed it up, and their generation will have to clean it up.  Odd thing: I think they will do it.  I think our young generation will see through the stupidity of my generation (consumerism, status, environmental disregard, and testing to determine value) and change it.  If they don't...

Today, I'll let Adam Sandler help me introduce the concept of conflict.

Wednesday - Our second theme is Culture; what it is, what difference it makes in society.  This is always fun for me, because our school has had students who were born in over 50 countries around the world.  Traditions, religion, customs, cuisine, and language is something our students naturally understand.  We have a good time comparing the beauty and weirdness of our cultures and families.

I use Fools Rush In and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to compare and contrast cultures.

http://dms7ss.pbworks.com/Culture+-+Video+of+Mexican+and+Greek+Culture

Thursday - Students have an assignment early in the week to find out as much as they can about where their family is from (heritage), why they live in Dalton, and what brought their families to the region.  Today we look at Human-Environment Interaction, Location, and Movement as themes for the year.  This introduces them to the idea that people live where they live for a reason, at least when they have the freedom of movement.  This becomes a great hook when we look at Darfur, apartheid, Mao's China, and other times of closed societies.  No videos today.  I introduce rules for class discussions and reflections today.

Friday - The concept today is Governance.  We look at the wording of the Declaration of Independence and discuss why governance is important in society.  We learn throughout the year that when there is no governance chaos ensues.  People create chaos because the see opportunities for power.  Eventually, the citizens get tired of the fighting, killing, and unrest and (in the countries we study) generally cave in to tyrants.

I'll draw something like I did in this video.

That should make for a busy and rewarding first week.

Posted via email from Room 755

Coming Up This Week in Room 755

Friday the 13th of August was our first day of school.  It was a 1/2 day.  And frankly, it was a little messy.  Oh well.  As long as students got my invitation letter to their class's Parent Night, I'll be happy...and if they have their supplies on Monday.

Here's what coming this week.

Monday - I'll be introducing the class and some procedures for class.  They will also set up their Composition Books for the year. 

I always do something to demonstrate how I run my class.  I am gong to introduce the clip below - "It's the hard that makes it great" from Tom Hanks's speech to Geena Davis in A League of Their Own.  Teaching 7th grade (for 15 years now) I am seeing how important it is for students to understand that it does get more difficult to do well (or it should) in school.  But it is the hard work, the struggle, that will separate my students from the crowd (not just in our building, but in our region, state, and country).  I do expect my students to be different and behave differently.  So here's Tom Hanks to help. 

Tuesday - We'll begin looking at our connecting themes for the year.  The first one, and the one I come back to nearly every day, is Conflict leads to Change.  And generally speaking, change is what starts the conflict, so it is a cycle.  I do introduce a bigger hook, that it is their world to make a difference.  My generation messed it up, and their generation will have to clean it up.  Odd thing: I think they will do it.  I think our young generation will see through the stupidity of my generation (consumerism, status, environmental disregard, and testing to determine value) and change it.  If they don't...

Today, I'll let Adam Sandler help me introduce the concept of conflict.

Wednesday - Our second theme is Culture; what it is, what difference it makes in society.  This is always fun for me, because our school has had students who were born in over 50 countries around the world.  Traditions, religion, customs, cuisine, and language is something our students naturally understand.  We have a good time comparing the beauty and weirdness of our cultures and families.

I use Fools Rush In and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to compare and contrast cultures.

http://dms7ss.pbworks.com/Culture+-+Video+of+Mexican+and+Greek+Culture

Thursday - Students have an assignment early in the week to find out as much as they can about where their family is from (heritage), why they live in Dalton, and what brought their families to the region.  Today we look at Human-Environment Interaction, Location, and Movement as themes for the year.  This introduces them to the idea that people live where they live for a reason, at least when they have the freedom of movement.  This becomes a great hook when we look at Darfur, apartheid, Mao's China, and other times of closed societies.  No videos today.  I introduce rules for class discussions and reflections today.

Friday - The concept today is Governance.  We look at the wording of the Declaration of Independence and discuss why governance is important in society.  We learn throughout the year that when there is no governance chaos ensues.  People create chaos because the see opportunities for power.  Eventually, the citizens get tired of the fighting, killing, and unrest and (in the countries we study) generally cave in to tyrants.

I'll draw something like I did in this video.

That should make for a busy and rewarding first week.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My New Three Rs

When I put together my lessons, I try to put myself in the students' chair.  So a couple years ago I approached each lesson with the following flow:
  1. What's Up? - What is the issue, situation, circumstance about which we are learning?
  2. Who Cares? - Finding articles, pictures, information resources that will capture, keep, or expand the attention of a 13-year-old.
  3. So What? - What difference does it make that I now have this information as part of who I am?
  4. Now What? - What, in your life will be changed because of what you now know?  If it doesn't change a life, why teach it?
I will continue to use these Guiding Questions, because they work - when I do it right.

I have been working for over two years, though, to create an approach for ELL students to cover their needed Read/Write/Listen/Speak opportunities (which I also think are necessary for most students.  I have categorized reading and listening as Input and writing and speaking as Output

This year, I am concentrating on making a transition from a focus Teaching Practice to a focus Learning Practices. I have developed my personal Three Rs for my students.  Learning, as I see it for an adolescent student, is based on Daniel Willingham's research that says (in effect):

  1. The brain is not designed to think, it is designed to remember
  2. Learning Styles may account for 2% of differing brain preferences, but 98% of all brains learn in the same manner.
  3. The material (not the student) should determine the method the teacher uses to provide Input opportunities (my words) for students.
My Three Rs - with activities to bolster the learning process:
  1. Reception - Reading, Listening, Watching, Observing
  2. Reflection - Thinking, Diagramming, Doodling, Discussing, Questioning
  3. Response - Writing, Speaking, Drawing, Publishing, Creating, Building, Modeling
My personal process of learning includes these activities.  For me, and many of the edubloggers I have read for years, this sums up their process as well.  I spend the majority of my time in the Reflection phase.  For a middle school student (not exclusively) I believe Reception, the building-up of knowledge and experience is needed most

Response is something most people never do.  I would like to think this will change, because it is easy to make happen now with blogs, YouTube, Facebook.  People obviously want a "voice" but too often they have nothing really important to contribute. 

So, in text format, I see the following process for learning:

Input = Reception
Churning = Reflection
Output = Response

Over the past two years, I have learned our new curriculum and standards.  I have tested my teaching practice.  This year, the focus will be on helping students develop their voice about things in life that matter.  Students will Receive much of the same information, in the same or similar ways as in the past two years, only more concentrated.  Students will have more time in class to Reflect.  Homework will be time for Reflection as well; I used to call it ThinkWork (and still might).  Homework and classwork will include much more time for Response than in the previous two years.

Any thoughts?  Please share.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Thursday, August 05, 2010

My Biggest Post Ever - Why Teachers Should Friend Students on Facebook

On January 18, 2010 I posted Why Teachers Should 'Friend' Students on Facebook.

It has had over 10,000 visits, counting my Posterous and two Blogspot blogs.  It started (or continued) a conversation about the relationships between teachers and students.

Yesterday, was the third anniversary of John's untimely death.  His friends, and yes me too, miss him.  When I saw some of his friends (my son was one of them) post remembrances on the Facebook status, I had to take a break, a deep breath, wipe away a tear, and say a prayer for his mom and dad as well as his sister and brother (both of whom I taught).

As I prepare for the new school year, I have asked former students to help me as I am doing something for the first time.  I am having Parent Nights for each of my five classes; kind of a private open house.  I will need translators to communicate with many of the parents.  I went to Facebook, asked for help in my status update, then sent Private Messages to a few former students.  The response is overwhelming.  Remember, I teach middle school, so there are a few years that separate my time with the ones I have asked. So, I wasn't sure anyone would be willing to help a teacher they haven't seen in 5-10 years.

Students who have graduated college are coming to help me.  Students are helping before they go back to college.  Students are willing to drive from over an hour away to help me too.  Then I had two high school seniors who asked what they could do to help.

When we as teachers see that our students are people who will contribute now, and stop with the "they have potential" sentiment, then we will make the differences we hope to see in our schools.  Thanks Facebook, for helping me (daily) recall that education is about relationships, not just curriculum.

Posted via email from Room 755

My Biggest Post Ever - Why Teachers Should Friend Students on Facebook

On January 18, 2010 I posted Why Teachers Should 'Friend' Students on Facebook.

It has had over 10,000 visits, counting my Posterous and two Blogspot blogs.  It started (or continued) a conversation about the relationships between teachers and students.

Yesterday, was the third anniversary of John's untimely death.  His friends, and yes me too, miss him.  When I saw some of his friends (my son was one of them) post remembrances on the Facebook status, I had to take a break, a deep breath, wipe away a tear, and say a prayer for his mom and dad as well as his sister and brother (both of whom I taught).

As I prepare for the new school year, I have asked former students to help me as I am doing something for the first time.  I am having Parent Nights for each of my five classes; kind of a private open house.  I will need translators to communicate with many of the parents.  I went to Facebook, asked for help in my status update, then sent Private Messages to a few former students.  The response is overwhelming.  Remember, I teach middle school, so there are a few years that separate my time with the ones I have asked. So, I wasn't sure anyone would be willing to help a teacher they haven't seen in 5-10 years.

Students who have graduated college are coming to help me.  Students are helping before they go back to college.  Students are willing to drive from over an hour away to help me too.  Then I had two high school seniors who asked what they could do to help.

When we as teachers see that our students are people who will contribute now, and stop with the "they have potential" sentiment, then we will make the differences we hope to see in our schools.  Thanks Facebook, for helping me (daily) recall that education is about relationships, not just curriculum.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

test-to class page

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The $320,000 Teacher Lie

Here's the article.  It sounds wonderful.  Elementary school teachers who teach kids more than preparing for the "TEST" and teach them "patience, discipline, manners, perseverance" have students who grow up to make $320,000 more than kids who don't learn these traits.  Further, the study show that test scores have very little effect on the amount of money the kids make in their future. 

Sounds great in light of the Test 'Em Till They Drop (Out) mentality our government has been proposing.

BEWARE!  This is a smokescreen!  The article is not about paying teachers $320,000, it is about how most teachers won't need to be paid more than minimum wage.  The governments can then save millions of dollars on what currently takes up at least 50% of most state budgets (public school budgets).

DON'T BE FOOLED HERE!

Hidden in the final sentences (where readers likely will not continue to read), you will read this:

They can pay their best teachers more, as Pittsburgh soon will, and give them the support they deserve. Administrators can fire more of their worst teachers, as Michelle Rhee, the Washington schools chancellor, did last week. Schools can also make sure standardized tests are measuring real student skills and teacher quality, as teachers’ unions have urged.

Here's what I see as a stage-setting: 
  • Wholesale firings will become the norm. 
  • Student test results will be used even more to assess teacher performance.
  • National standards will be required by states in order to receive any significant federal funding (extortion).
  • A national standards-based test will become the instrument of assessment.
  • THEN, national scope and sequencing of curriculum will enter the picture.  All schools, grade levels, and disciplines will be on the same calendar regardless of the location in the country.
  • The "effective teachers" will record their lessons. "Teachers" (paid barely minimum wage) will push play in their classrooms and provide tutoring to their students, based on the recorded presentation (probably in a Microsoft program - so Gates can make his money).
  • The "teacher as curator" (as Jeff Jarvis predicted and hoped for at TEDxNYED 2010) will make it so the income of a para-pro is what teachers will make, and the teacher/creators will make a living wage, and likely not have a classroom of kids as the record their lessons for national consumption.
  • Teaching will not be, or even need to be, a profession.  Perhaps an associates degree might be required, because teachers won't need to think.
I hope I'm wrong.  But one of my strengths according to personality inventories and skill inventories is that I can take information from a wide variety of sources and find the connections that make it all make sense. 

I hope I'm wrong.  This is a very pessimistic view of where we are heading.  As George Will said, "The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised."

I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reality Check: To Test Or Not To Test (or what to test or why to test) etc.

http://interacc.typepad.com/.a/6a01053596fb28970c011571241546970b-400wi

Let me start with some things I think we must come to grips with:

  1. Testing isn't going anywhere, and is likely going to increase.
  2. There will always be an unfair advantage for some students when all students are tested with the same measurement instrument.
  3. There will always be those who use test results for purposes the tests were never intended to measure.
  4. The arguments for and against testing in education (like many things in education) sway too far to the extremes.
My Situation:
  • I teach in a school whose city at one time had the distinction of having the most millionaires per capita in the United States.  We also led the nation in divorce rate and Coca Cola consumption at that time.  We (Dalton, GA) are the Carpet Capital of the World.  We no longer hold any of those "honors.
  • When the flooring industry was growing, the need for workers increased (basic economics and human capital). This created a dilemma for the community.  There were young people available to do the jobs (according to one of the wealthiest men in the business), but because the young people came from millionaire families, the jobs were "beneath them."  Therefore, workers from outside the area were needed.
  • The decision was made to recruit people with textile skills.  They came from Mexico.  There was also a rather large poultry industry in our area, which made it more appealing for Mexican families to migrate to our community.
  • When I began teaching in Dalton in 1996, and did my student teaching in the Spring of 1995.  During my student teaching the Hispanic population was listed as "other" meaning it was less than 2% of the total population
  • I received my rosters for the upcoming school year, and at the time of this writing I have 126 total students.  80% are Hispanic, 11% are White, 5% are African American, and 4% are Asian.  I teach on the ELL team, so I realize my numbers are skewed, but not much.  We are a school system of about 68%-70% Hispanic, and we are growing because we are a city district, and in hard economic times people move into the cities (not to the suburbs or surrounding counties).
My Dilemma:
  • I love my students.  I have taught over 5000 students in my 15 years (spent 5 years teaching an Exploratory Computer class and taught nearly every student in the school for those years).  I am teaching little brothers and sisters of earlier students.  I actually will be teaching a child of one of my first students in a year. 
  • I want the best for my students, and I want them to gain those "unfair advantages" when it comes to opportunities.  I want them ready for college (if they choose to attend).  I feel bad for my students who want to become mechanics or home construction workers (contractors), and other high level "service" careers because most of these classes have been removed from our offerings.  So I believe I have the obligation to begin preparing my 7th graders for the likelihood they will need to attend technical college to get the job they want.
  • I also want my students to enjoy their school experiences.  I like school.  I liked school, though not everything about high school was good for me, it was still a good experience.  I want my students to enjoy learning, and to get that opportunity they need to get in classes with the better teachers.  It's a reality anywhere. I suppose that's the argument for firing "bad teachers" that is all the rage among the Michelle Rhee types.
  • It would be naive to think that student test scores do not influence scheduling, and in order to decrease drop-out rates I have to do what I can to get my kids' scores as high as possible.
  • It would be a derelict of duty to neglect the task of preparing my students to take tests (not just the 7th grade CRCT) but their future tests that will determine their opportunity to get into college.
  • So I have to prepare my students for testing.  I have to be sure that they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to score well.  I have to motivate students, not by test scores, but by helping them see that without high test scores they will be systematically and intentionally denied opportunities to pursue their personal happiness in life.
My Approach:
  • In order for me to accomplish my goal of preparing my students for the best they can attain in life, I have to prepare them for tests I don't believe in.  I have to get beyond this fact.
  • I have to get my students to believe and understand that in order to win they have to play the game better than the ones who created the rules. To me, that is the sad state of education in America.
My Hope:
  • I hope that one of my students will one day have the influence on policymakers, or become a policymaker who will have the outlook and sense enough to know we are working with children, and we are stealing their innocence and love of learning because of what adults think education is.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Announcement Tomorrow from Daddy Duncan

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2010/07/race_to_top_finalists_unveiled.html

The Race To The Top (RTTT), or as I like to consider it, the Sell You Soul for the Almighty Dollar Grant finalists for Round 2 of the competition.  I'm sure my state (Georgia) will be a finalist, and likely be awarded because our government leadership (another oxymoron?) has little in the form of good ideas for anything, and since education is so far down their list of true concern, we have all but surrendered to the power of the national leadership (another oxymoron?).

Seems that the prefix "oxy-" should mean "many."

Posted via email from Murry's World

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quote from Martin Buber at the Bodies Exhibit

iPhoned
From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World

Standing in 100 degree heat to see this exhibit. Hoping it will be chilling. [Get it?]

iPhoned
From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World