Two reflections from last week’s meeting

This has been a slow week both in the realm of teaching and reading.  The 8th grade Leadership Retreat took place 2 1/2 weeks ago, which took me out of class on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Returning back the following week I had to stay home in the middle of the week because of a ruptured water heater.  Then last week we had an altered day so that teachers could write midterm comments for their students (sort of like a 5,000 word paper on your classes, divided up into 11-14 year-old chunks).  So it seems like the last three weeks of classes have somehow involved me preparing to be gone, being gone, or regrouping after being gone.

However, I have managed to do a bit of reading this week; not from the DuFour book, unfortunately, but my colleague’s blogs and a few fantastic articles.  Also, I got a smartphone and I have finally come to revere Twitter.  So, there have been a few distractions.

First, Twitter.  Read this: http://bit.ly/a6YXZS.  Then get on Twitter and find some people.

About half way through our Dobbs meeting last week, a thought occurred to me.  I realized why schools hadn’t made these changes that we’re talking about and trying to implement in our own schools.  Two reasons, really:

  1. It’s hard.
  2. It involves placing trust in teachers and students.

Several teachers at our meeting observed that in order to facilitate student-centered learning, you cannot command the questions that are being asked in the classroom.  That also means that you cannot front-load all teacher knowledge prior to the day’s lesson so as to appear the smartest person in the land.  Which means to maximize effectiveness, teachers must be <GASP> experts in their field!!  I write this fully aware that I am not an expert on Bolivia, but as I’m teaching it using a student-directed model, I’m learning a lot about the country’s history, resources, and politics.  I also learned what saltpeter is!  (they’ve got a truckload of it–hundreds of millions of truckloads, actually).

Second, administrators must trust teachers that they will go the extra mile either before, during, or after a lesson to BECOME a student of their discipline again in order to take the learning walk with their students.  I’ve only done it this one time, and I must say, I’m loving it!  I’m going to kick tail next time I play Trivial Pursuit!

Finally, I’m pondering to what degree do we blend traditional, teacher-driven instruction (after all, there are some things that must be introduced b/c they may not appear on the students’ radar screen) and student-directed curricula.  A helpful answer came to me during a conversation with my Principal.  He replied:

One “answer” that I am pondering (think I like for JH in particular) is on page 135 of 21st C. Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times. “A reasonable goal for most education systems moving from a 20th century model to a 21st century one might be 50 percent time for inquiry, design, and collaborative project learning and 50 percent for more traditional and direct methods of instruction. Once this goal is achieved, more and more of the direct instruction will occur in the context of questions and problems that arise in learning projects and need addressing so that students can move their project work forward. The lessons delivered this way gain greater relevance and are more likely to be remembered” (Trilling and Fadel).

Yes, I’m pretty lucky to have a boss that replies to my sometimes whimsical questions with parenthetically documented research.

Well, my Spring Break begins next week.  I will be out-of-pocket from Friday until Sunday next.  I hope to read some of your blogs on my new beloved smartphone, but I apologize in advance if my replies are a bit terse and/or misspelled.  Blame it on the limitations of a non-thumbtyping digital immigrant.

Cheers to all!

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One Response to Two reflections from last week’s meeting

  1. Lynnae says:

    Thank you for sharing that quotation from the 21st Century book. I thought I was, pragmatically but somehow dishonorably, backing down from this Grand Idea of inquiry-based learning. It’s good to read that pragmatic is okay, and in fact may be the only way to bring change about at all.
    Have a great spring break.

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