Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mastering Standards through... Email

Students email me all the time, and I encourage them to email their other teachers all of the time as well.  There are times when their emails reveal a lack of organization, clear style, or fail to include background information that is necessary to answer their questions.  Sometimes the emails lack an understanding of audience and academic language.  There are times when the emails are not signed, start with "Hey," or are inappropriate in terms of tone.  And, because sometimes the address is something like: "calibunny@ blank.blank", it is difficult to decipher who it is from.  So, whose responsibility is it to make sure that our students know how to email us?  It's our responsibility.  Not only is it a perfect, simple, teachable moment, but it is something that allows me, as an English teacher, to address a few ELA Standards in the process.

Today, while sitting with my students, each one of them worked on composing an email to their teachers, parent(s)/guardians, and myself, their Instructional Supervisor. The purpose of their email was to introduce themselves, share their academic goals for the month, as well as for the school year overall, and make sure that everyone knew when they would be on campus over the next two weeks for the various content workshops being offered. 

We dialogued some ideas, the students wrote down what it was that they needed to include, and then I stepped back while they put together, read aloud, revised, introduced, explained, and concluded their emails to their teachers.  It may seem like such an easy task, but in the past, when I have asked students to email their teachers, I have taken for granted that they actually knew what that meant.  Most needed direction, guidance, and a second pair of eyes.  Although students email all the time, it was nice to sit with them and have the opportunity to discuss structure, grammar, and organization.  There is power in clarity, and today, I watched as my students communicated a little more clearly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Your Dream Team

If you could create your own school, with a dream team of teachers, administrators, and staff, who would you choose, and how would you choose them?  Would you want the most "popular?"  Would your list include people who have learned all they need, who are "experts" in their field?  Would you want to be surrounded by those who did exactly what you asked?  Would you want people who agreed with you, who did "A" work, and expected that grade every time?  Would you want to have people who admit they have a lot to learn, who admit they do not have it all figured out?   Would you seek out those who welcome the grade of "C" the first time through because that means there is room for improvement?  How would you determine who was innovative, creative, curious?  If you could hire your dream team of leaders for your school, would you hire you? 

Monday, August 15, 2011


Grab a friend, co-worker, soul mate, family member, neighbor, or other, who has a similar goal as you.
Discuss this goal and how hard you are both willing to work towards achieving it.
Set aside time to collaborate online, at a house, coffee shop, park, mountaintop, or wherever you can focus and be inspired without too many interruptions.
Start without fear.
Go home.
Think alone.
Reflect however you best reflect.
Email, call, facebook message, text, or IM your collaborating buddy.
Start over if you hate where you are headed.
Share your ideas with others to see if they make sense; get valuable feedback. 
Keep working.
Embrace the new goals that pop up, change the original if it needs to be changed, and continue to collaborate.

Create opportunities for your children and students to do the same.
Teach young people how to collaborate face to face as well as online.
Allow them to interact locally and globally.
Encourage them to lead the way.
Foster respect for the process.
Let them teach you.

"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flipping Without a Classroom

"Flipping the Classroom" is literally flipping what is traditionally done at school with what is traditionally done at home.  Imagine a teacher as a learning coach, a guide, and learner themselves.  Instead of lecturer, and presenter of material, in a flipped classroom, the teacher presents information via video.  The students watch the pre-recorded lessons at home, and when they are in class, with the teachers, and other students, they work on homework, prepare for tests, participate in labs, get help, and assist other students with hands on activities and directed problem solving.  A flipped classroom may be a bit like a three ring circus, but like a circus, everyone has a role, and is a vital participate.
While at the ISTE Conference this summer, I had the opportunity to attend a session hosted by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  They are the creators of the "Flipped Classroom," and are literally flipping education.  While listening intently to what they were saying, I took notes on my ipad, read an article about how they were transforming learning, and joined their vodcasting website; multitasking at its best.  Like many other teachers, I was inspired.
Here are my reactions:
1.  This is awesome.
2.  I want to share this with as many teachers as possible.
3.  I cannot wait to get home to create some videos.
4.  Question:  How do you "flip" without a classroom?
Here is how I plan to address the question in #4:
I teach in an alternative, already online, setting.  Our students come to campus for meetings, appointments, workshops, tests, and labs.  Our students have their course material at their fingertips, as they are online learners.  So, how can I implement this?  Our students meet with Instructional Supervisors once a month to discuss goals, overall progress, and to establish fieldwork opportunities in the community.  Our students also come to campus to meet with their content teachers to receive help with writing, conduct labs, and attend workshops, office hours, and tutorials.  Imagine how much more powerful these meetings will be if the students prepare for them before they attend.  If there is a workshop conducted on college preparation or the application process, the students and their parents can view the "lecture" side of the presentation, and then when they are on campus spend time with their teachers working on the material.  These meetings can be flipped.  Imagine while teaching Islamic poetry as part of the integrated middle school History and English course, the students view a video on the quatrain, themes, history behind the poems, and then when they attend the face to face workshop, they are prepared with questions, and are ready to work on the project assigned.   
I would love to see as many teachers as possible connect and re-connect to to their students and their role as a "flipped" educator and learner.  I would also love to hear how other teachers in alternative settings are flipping their schools. 
Check out the links below, and keep in touch as you "flip" with or without a classroom. 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Lovin'

As a teacher, summer used to be a time to forget about the school year.  I would spend half of June, July, and most of August doing NOTHING school related.  Instead, I traveled, slept in, read, exercised, visited friends and family, and ran a lot of errands that I did not have time for during the school year.  I loved it.  Work was work.  Teaching was my profession and passion, but I longed to be inspired.  Then, I took a leap.  Leaping is not easy, and does not always come naturally for me.  Jumping off the diving board looks fun, climbing the ladder to the top, seemingly bravely, and then looking down is the easy part, but actually jumping takes courage.  Well, I jumped into online teaching and learning.  This is rather funny actually since technology is also something that does not come naturally to me.  Because I am curious and a pretty fast learner, I started to embrace the evolution, the possibilities, the opportunities associated with doing things differently.
This summer has been spent meeting with colleagues, teaching summer school, attending the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference, developing online courses, reading innovative articles, tweets, facebook posts, blogs, exploring things like Ning, Jing, Prezi, and Lulu, and spending my free time researching topics such as Flipping the Classroom and Project Based Learning.  Even on vacation, when the day was done, the kids were asleep, and my mind was still awake, I was reading, creating, and collaborating.  Am I crazy?   No, I am inspired, and lovin' it.