Tag Archives: blogging

The F-Word

I’m talking about failure. Failure has become quite the educational buzzword these days. Articles, research journals, and blogposts all tout the need for failure as part of the learning process. I’d argue that most people mean “mistake” instead of “failure,” but that is an argument for another day. I’d just like to say that failure–necessary or not–is no fun.

One of my PD goals this year is to implement an improved standards-based assessment system into my Grade 12 English class. While I still believe in the idea, I have failed in a few ways during the process so far.

Communication has been a failure. It took me an embarrassingly long time to communicate the idea to students. My reporting of their progress was weak. I developed a pretty helpful grade book to keep track of student learning, but I was unable to adequately share that grade book with students and parents.

The structure let down a significant chunk of students in the class. About a third of the students in the class embraced the idea of building their own reading/writing portfolio and followed through with managing and completing the task. However, while the middle third eventually caught on, the bottom third floundered and produced very little. Upon reflection I think the top third already had the required academic and life skills necessary to manage and complete a long-term project, and I failed to scaffold instruction for the rest of the class, many of whom need smaller stages that would allow them to recognize the necessary skills and sometimes fail to execute them without jeopardizing the entire big picture.

I failed in execution. The heart and soul of this idea is that the teacher can spend 30 to 45 minutes per class in one-on-one conversation/instruction with students, giving immediate feedback and allowing students to articulate their learning. I accomplished this less than half as much as I would have liked as I tried to wrestle with the two failures mentioned above. It took me so long to communicate the big picture at the beginning of the course, that I didn’t firmly set up the necessary culture of conversation and conferencing.

I share all this because too often teachers feel isolated in their individual classrooms and that they are the only one struggling to improve. Certainly this post focuses on the negative, and in the middle of the semester I felt the weight of my shortcomings, but with the support of some amazing colleagues, I am past the negative. I can recognize some of the successes, and I have started to develop solutions that will prevent the same type of failure from happening again (or least they will happen to a lesser degree). I strongly believe this is professional learning (PD if you will). I’ll blog about my developing solutions as they…well, develop.

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Filed under Learning Log, Reflection

Spreading a Little Sunshine

The Sunshine Award or the Sunshine Elevens or one of several other versions of inspiration and encouragement for bloggers has been rapidly circulating the blogosphere. Thank you, Sheri Edwards, for nominating me. It seems that no matter where I turn on the web these days, @grammasheri is doing something thoughtful and helpful. She practices what she teaches. Inspiring this blog post is further evidence of her thoughtfulness.

(CC BY 2.0) Dhaval Jani

(CC BY 2.0) Dhaval Jani

Here’s how this chain letter of inspiration works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

 Eleven Random Facts About Me

  1. I ride a bike to work year round. -38 Celsius (no wind chill) is my coldest ride.
  2. As a student teacher I auditioned for a movie with a class of drama students. I lost the part in callbacks to Paul Walker.
  3. I once spent 7 days (168 hours) without human contact. I did have some decent conversation with squirrels once I warmed up to them during the final few days.
  4. I’ve lived as far south as Phoenix, AZ and as far north as Winnipeg, MB.
  5. The first time I laid hands on an iOS device was just over a year ago, and it fundamentally changed some of my thoughts about the future (in education and in general).
  6. I live in a house filled with women (wife and four daughters).
  7. The strangest summer job I worked involved shaking tea bags to ensure they were properly sealed.
  8. I have a Masters degree in English: Creative Writing
  9. I’m one of the six people on the planet without a Facebook account.
  10. I brew beer with my dad for the pure enjoyment of the beer and the company.
  11. The first movie I experienced in the theatre was Star Wars.

Answering Sheri’s Questions

When did you know what you wanted to do for a career? How did you discover that?

In grade nine I knew I wanted to teach. It was a deep-down knowing, but there were some more conscious moments of clarity. For example, my literature teacher was discussing a poem with the class and asked us to consider what could inspire someone to leap off a cliff (this was a dramatic love poem). Before thinking I blurted, “A push!” and the teacher laughed. It was a simple moment, but instead of the scolding I was expecting for my rashness, I received a human response. Teachers were suddenly human beings! I was a human being, too, and perhaps that meant I could really become a teacher without morphing into some caricature of a grown-up. Teaching could be about relationship. Ah Ha! I was hooked!

What are your top three favorite books of all time?

This question is too difficult for me. I’m cheating and naming three authors (which is difficult enough).

C.S. Lewis

Garret Keizer

Flannery O’Connor

If you could only read one blogger next year, who would it be?

George Couros

What advice do you have for educators today?

Relationship, relationship, relationship! Craft, credibility, assessment—these are important elements of education, but they all rest on the foundation of relationships: with students, with colleagues, with parents, with administration.

Teach students, not standards.

Say you’re sorry. (It’s a real relationship enhancer.)

Collaborate generously and humbly with colleagues.

Learn without fear of mistakes.

What is on your bucket list?

Design and build a bicycle by hand.

Finish a full-length writing project.

Grow my own ingredients and turn them into beer.

Get a hole-in-one.

Catch a notable Rainbow trout.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

Home.

Travelling is wonderful, both around the planet and in the mind, but nothing is as fine as truly coming home.

What is your favorite quote?

“The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.” –C.S. Lewis

What song lyrics move you?

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace, U2

If you could sit with any 5 people dead or alive around your dinner table, who would you choose and why?

This is an easy one. I am married to a wonderful woman and have four lovely daughters. There are no five people, dead or alive, with whom I would rather dine. Christmas break has been delightful, not because I’m away from school (I love school), but rather because I enjoy three squares a day with my favourite people.

What are your five favorite verbs?

Love, reflect, embrace, wonder, laugh

What six words sum up your philosophy [of life or of education]?

Foster growth mindset soli Deo Gloria

Bloggers (some of these good people have been through this exercise, but they are worth taking a look)

Eleven Questions for Bloggers

  1. What do you do for escape or relaxation?
  2. What is one concern you have about the future of technology?
  3. Share one Ah-Ha! moment you’ve had (in or out of a classroom).
  4. Which books (one fiction, one non-fiction) would you recommend to new teachers?
  5. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
  6. If you had to change careers, what new career would you choose?
  7. When you’re not immersed in the present, do you find yourself more often looking back or looking ahead?
  8. What is your favourite season? Why?
  9. If I handed you $100, what would you do with it?
  10. What metaphor/simile describes your writing process? (eg. My writing is like a tube of toothpaste. It flows quickly at first, but at the end it’s hard to squeeze out the last little bit and finish the tube.)
  11. Which Twitter hashtag would you follow if you could only follow one?

Happy blogging in 2014! Thank you for your inspirational words and efforts.

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January 3, 2014 · 5:08 pm