Thursday, August 28, 2014

May I sharpen my pencil, please?

May I sharpen my pencil, please?

Everything that we do at school seems to be immersed in technology.   I understand the definition of immersion and I feel I am using it correctly.  Here’s the thing I think about… When students are working on a written assignment and they break a pencil lead, they simply sharpen the pencil.  If students are working on an assignment online, and the computer crashes, it is a crisis.  If students can’t log on to their computers or to a specific program, they become frustrated. As with anything we have to model to students ways to balance all things that come with learning technology.

I love all the new technology my school district has invested in. How wonderful to give students and teachers the opportunity to use the best of what's available now. Technology management seems to be taking a lot of my time and that's okay. Transitioning to a technology rich environment definitely involves a paradigm shift in education.  As someone who has taught for 20 years, I sometimes feel unprepared to make this shift.  Even though I have gone to a technology conference, viewed webinars and have tried to learn everything I can about the technology I must use while teaching, I still feel unsure and maybe even a little afraid of all that's out there.  Maybe you do too.

Part of the conference that I attended this summer focused on the role teachers will play in the lives of students who are, as coined by the keynote speaker Marc Prensky, digital natives.  He says that teachers have to be able to let students be the experts and that we don’t have to understand or even know how to use all the technology that they will be using.  This is the paradigm shift I wrote of in the previous paragraph.  I’m the teacher, I’m supposed to be the expert in the classroom.  Oh, I understand that it’s okay to say to students, “I don’t know.”  And, I have said that to students.  But, if I’m the expert on content, I probably should not say that very often. How often will I find myself saying that related to technology? I wish I knew the answer to that question.

I titled this blog post, “May I sharpen my pencil please.”  Do I want to go back to a time when there was no technology to aide in teaching?  I really don’t.  Honestly,  I’m not sure my arthritic fingers could write all that I want to share.  It’s so much easier to type my message.  It seems I must put aside my longing for the days when I could simply say, “Yes, you may go sharpen your pencil.”  

The link below is an interview of Marc Prensky. Enjoy!

Marc Prensky and the role of teachers 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One week in...How do you feel?

Most of the teachers in my area have had students back for one week.  By this point, a teacher can sort of size up the classroom dynamics and see what needs tweeking and the direction that will need to be followed for a successful year.  As a teacher was picking up her class from the library the other day she asked, "how did it go?"  My answer was,  "I learned lots of things today, so it was a good day."  As teachers, or in my case librarians, we must take opportunities to learn; and not just from a professional development standpoint.  We must be willing to let learning happen in the most basic of ways... one on one.   In order to make my classes better, I must use what happens and build on that for the next time.    I can't go back and change what didn't go well.  But, I can do my best to make sure that what I do in the future uses what I learned to move forward in the most positive manner possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Failure as Part of the Process of Learning

Looking back through my twitter feed, I came across a tweet by a dear friend whom I follow.  She is the type of person that I can not see for 6 to 8 months at a time and once we are together again, we pick up where we left off, like we had seen each other just the day before.  Anyway,  she tweeted the TedX talk by Diana Laufenberg titled  How to Learn? From mistakes.  I watched it.  And,  it sort of goes along with the whole grit thing that I wrote of earlier in the month.  Students have to be allowed to fail to learn the process of learning.  That process is very valuable to students.  So, thanks Mindi!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

21 years of vacation ...

Tomorrow begins year 21 in education for me!  Today I visited with new teachers in our district about Professional Development, our mentoring program and resources available to them.  I prepared a Google presentation with all the necessary links.  The last slide was a quote by Confucius that said, "Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."  And I said to them,  "Welcome to the next 30 years of vacation!"  And, we all laughed at the irony of that because teachers are never really on vacation, even during those three months in the summer.

Teachers are always thinking.  We are thinking about the upcoming year, thinking about ways to do things more effectively and well, better.   Even if our bodies are not in motion our brains just don't stop.  We will be on vacation and find the perfect thing to add to our ever-growing classroom decoration tubs.   And, don't even get me started about things we find at our local bookseller.  Contemplation should be our middle name.

So, after 20 years, going on 21, I can say that teaching is not an occupation, it's a lifestyle.  I'm not sure I would agree with Confucius about that whole vacation analogy... But, 20 years have flown by fast.  And isn't that what vacation is, something that goes by way too fast.

Happy School year to all!

        Last hoorah! before the school year begins.  Picture taken at
        Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Next chapter...

This past week my husband and I watched our oldest child walk through the line at Missouri State University's Summer Commencement.  The last four years have moved very quickly.  She always uses the words "new chapter" each time she moves through another phase of her life.  I'm left to ponder, how will she write this one...

Today's Teacher's Write workshop on Kate Messner's blog focused on writing a poem.  The guest author is Nikki Grimes, award winning author of children's poetry.  The instructions were to pick a subject and write a paragraph.  Then, we were to take the paragraph and turn that into lines of poetry.  I have used this formula in class and it is the easiest way that I know to get my students to write poetry. Once the idea is on paper, the writer can begin to play with the words until they have a version that is somewhat close to what they want.  I really don't think a poem is ever finished.  I revisit mine all the time.  I chose the subject:  leaf.  I'm calling my poem:

Leaf's Journey into Forever

The leaf turns brown  
As it sits through fall.  
Finally, it says,
“I’ve had enough,”
And floats away
For a trip
Across the sky.
As it lands
In a golden field,
Far, far away,
It realizes
Rest is needed.
It slowly falls asleep
In an eternal slumber
And dreams of greener days.