Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Philosophy

Open Letter to Students:
Welcome to Riverside Virtual School.  If you are a returning student expect some changes that will hopefully enhance your educational experience.  If you are new to RVS, we are looking forward to helping you engage in a new educational experience that will certainly be different from your past experiences.
We love helping students to become inquisitive scholars, and develop and hone their academic skills.  A few thoughts on that so you can think about the journey you are about to undertake:  our purpose is to help students develop a deeper awareness of who they are and how they fit into this crazy world.  Our studies in history, the social sciences, and English Language Arts will lead us to ponder questions that have intrigued mankind since the dawn of human existence.
Much of our time as students and then as a teachers has been focused on the question, “How do we create the good person, living the good life, in the good society?”  As you will see this leads not to answers, but to more questions to ponder.  What is a good person? What is a good life? What is a good society?  As you move through your educational experience at RVS expect more questions than answers if we are doing things right.
Our roles are to be partners in an investigation of eternal questions, the answers that have been posed, developing our own understanding of the questions and answers based on rigorous academic work.  We will ask questions, identify and analyze sources, piece together evidence from multiple sources, and draw our own sound conclusions.
To start you thinking about the journey, we would suggest that one way to define the good person, living the good life, in the good society is that it is an educated person, who uses their knowledge to help create a more just and fair society.  So, what would that look like and how does that relate to your experiences and educational studies?
Our job is to help you become a literate person capable of being “the good person, living the good life, in the good society.”

Mrs. Courtney Hanes - English Department Chair
Mr. David Dillon - History Department Chair

“It is only this more expansive and demanding meaning of literacy, or what Dewey calls “popular enlightenment," that can inform and animate a vital democracy. Indeed, Dewey reminds us, a successful democracy is conceivable only when and where individuals are able to “think for themselves,” “judge independently,” and "discriminate between good and bad information.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

John Dewey Quote from The Child and the Curriculum

"Abandon the notion of subject-matter as something fixed and ready-made in itself, outside the child's experience; cease thinking of the child's experience as also something hard and fast; see it as something fluent, embryonic, vital; and we realize that the child and the curriculum are simply two units which define a single process. Just as two points define a straight line, so the present standpoint of the child and the facts and truths of studies define instruction. It is continuous reconstruction, moving from the child's present experience out into that represented by the organized bodies of truth that we call studies."
John Dewey - The Child and the Curriculum

The Road to Online Teaching and Learning - Student Spotlight

Those who make a difference in their school, community, and world are those who do things differently than everyone else, those who do not simply follow the ways of others, or settle for the way it has always been. Those who make a difference question, rebel, create, collaborate, and change. Sometimes this gets them into trouble, and sometimes it makes them heroes, or at least really good at what they do. The most innovative teachers are the most innovative learners... they are the ones who dare to lead, in spite of the challenge, in spite of the fear, and in spite of the possibility of falling flat on their faces.

I have always done things a little bit differently than everyone else. In my family, there are not many teachers. Major in business, I was told... that's where the money is. I wasn't looking for money-I was looking for purpose. The reason to become a teacher is different for everyone. All teachers start somewhere, and everyone has teachers. The road to teaching can arise from one or many bad experiences. Teaching can be a profession or a calling. Some may be drawn to teaching because of an amazing teacher, or several amazing teachers who they wanted to emulate, and "be" when they grew up. Some feel teaching is simply what they were meant to do, and they really had little or no choice in the matter. Others try many other things before teaching tries them.

I am intrigued by the various roads to teaching, and learning. I became a teacher because I wanted to share my love of literature, to explore with my students, encourage them to find their powerful and unique place in this world, and because I wanted to continue to evolve. Teaching is a profession that is constantly changing, but after ten years, I felt like it wasn't changing enough. I was restless. I wanted more for myself and my students. I needed to mix things up.

So, in the fall of 2008, I began teaching and learning online. Teaching online is intense and invigorating. It has rekindled my passion for the profession. Teaching online and in a blended learning environment is the most challenging and rigorous experience thus far, which means that it has taught me the most. The goal of teaching is to guide our students in learning, inspiring them to think, take creative risks, and lead compassionately. One of my students does this on a daily basis, and today I want to share his story.

Zachary Dorson came to the Riverside Virtual School as an 8th grader. He was in private school from Kindergarten through 2nd grade, and then home schooled from 3rd through 7th. When his mom decided she wanted to return to the workforce, they began searching for a place that would meet their needs. They wanted rigor, yet flexibility. Initially, RVS was going to be a transition to face to face public school. That was three years ago, and Zachary, now a junior, has experienced great success as an online student.

Zachary is an introvert who admittedly used the internet very little before entering an online school program. "The irony is that learning online has allowed me to be more social, and enabled me to create an online presence," Zachary says. He has come a long way. As a freshman in my English class, Zachary preferred paper and pencil, and was not at all interested in social media. This year, he has flourished with his blogging, is opening up to new things, and follows several favorites on Twitter. Learning online allows Zachary to reflect and critically think, "When my teachers and fellow students post in discussion boards, I do not have to respond right away, quickly, out loud, and on the spot. I can think about things, create rough drafts of responses, and edit a few times if needed before publishing to the class. I like that." Zachary explains that, in his experience, extroverts look down on introverts, and view socialization in a traditional sense. He says with online learning the interaction is there, it's just different. "It is more thoughtful, and that has given me more confidence." When Zachary and I do meet face to face, our meetings are purposeful. It is here that we are able to continue the conversations started online, and work together on his questions, insights, and goals.

Last summer, Zachary joined a discussion forum for young people interested in politics and science, he continues to blog and use Twitter, and has pen pals from various places around the world. What is the biggest challenge for Zachary and many online students? Time management. "Learning to be self-sufficient and organized are very important lessons to be learned right away."

I am beyond proud of Zachary and many online students who dare to do things differently, and who challenge themselves on a daily basis for the love of learning, technology, and growth.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Five Credit Class Can Be Different for Each Student

Most high school courses are five credits each, and that means all students work through the same curriculum in order to earn them. Even within the structure of a course, online or face to face, a five credit class can be different for each student.

How can we make that happen in a 21st Century (Is there another term we should start using?) school setting?
How can we ensure that there is enough room for our students, individually, within the curriculum?
How can we allow for the fact that some students will need and want longer in certain areas of study while others will be completely uninterested in others?
How can we determine all of this before the school year starts, and be prepared, flexibly, for anything?

Here are six ideas:

1. Take on the role of a teacher guide. Think of a host at a restaurant, or tour guide. They know their menu and terrain, and have the goal of providing an enjoyable experience, but if you compare your meal or excursion to a friend's, they will not be exactly the same.

It is okay if every student does not have the same exact experience. 

2. Wait to create curriculum until you meet your students.

This might sound impossible, but is it?

3. Create projects rather than tests.

No two projects should look exactly the same, unless students choose to collaborate with each other.

4. Have a general focus and direction in mind for each unit of study, with topics and activities you see as beneficial for students, but allow for plenty of choice within those units.

Be ready to go in a direction you could not have predicted. This will take the pressure off of pace, and put the focus on learning for each student.

5. Find out how your students best learn, and share this information about yourself with them as well.

Respect these differences.

6. Create opportunities for them to think, explore, and reflect as much as possible.

Ask questions without correct answers. Inspire them to be curious.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Enjoy the Journey of Learning

Encourage children to enjoy the ongoing and joyful journey of learning. Let go of the fear and pressure that we must teach every child everything they need to know today, in order to prepare for 'the next thing.' Embrace that if they haven't learned it yet, they still can, anytime, on their own, with support, and because they are inspired.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

10 Ways to Get Started with Technology, Today!

Teachers and administrators want to integrate more technology into their classrooms and schools. This is an overwhelming, but exciting challenge. What is the best, most supportive, and least intrusive way to do this (today)? 

Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a welcome video for students and families to view before the first day of school. If you can, start a blog, and add it there.

2. Take one project that you enjoy, and use a Web 2.0 tool for the creation, collaboration, publication, and presentation. Looking for a project? Check out The Buck Institute for Education website for ideas.

3. Create a Personal Success Plan for yourself and students. If one goal is to gain confidence with technology, put yourself in the learner role, and seek out mentors. Model curiosity. 

4. Join Twitter. It is a bit overwhelming at first, but it is a great professional development tool. You can find me @courtneyhanes.  

5. Explore ways to connect and collaborate for yourself and your students. Here are a few places to start: Tween and Teen Tribune-Online newspapers for students, ePals-A global community, and great resource for connecting with classrooms around the world, Edmodo-A secure social network for teachers and students, and of course, Blogging!

6. Take students on a Virtual Fieldtrip

7. Use Skype and Google Hangout to communicate with students, families, colleagues, and guest speakers. 

8. Check out TED and TED-Ed.

9. Let students bring their own devices into the classroom and use them (Quick BYOD video).

10. Learn as much as you can about changing the way we teach and the way our students learn. Start with Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson's Changing Education Paradigms, and Dr. Yong Zhao.

It doesn't matter where you start, just that you do. We do not want our students to use technology because we told them to. Same rings true for teachers, parents, and administrators. We want to share, collaborate, and evolve together, and because we see the benefits. 

Have ideas to add? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning to Blog

The purpose of my blog is to share ideas, collaborate, connect, learn, grow, and inspire. I am a very curious person, and I am also a very passionate person. My biggest passion is education, particularly online and blended learning. My blog is an extension of my other passions too: my family, ideas, poetry, and things I want to learn more about. What I hope to use my blog for most is creating a connected community, working toward compassion. Online learning helps me teach in a way that is beneficial, personal, and creative, and although also extremely exhausting, it is also extremely rewarding.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The 16 Habits of Mind and Online Curriculum

It is impossible to teach our students everything they need to learn before they leave our classroom walls and online spaces. Our goal is to create responsible digital citizens who see learning as an ongoing and continuous life process, and who find joy in that process. So much of what we hope to teach young people has nothing to do with curriculum, but rather with habits, skills, values, and commitment. It is our responsibility, as educators, not to teach everything, but to inspire, and to lay the foundations from which to explore.

Guiding our online students through the "16 Habits of Mind" by incorporating them into the online experience is essential. We are not with our students each day, nor should we be, frankly. Learning is ongoing, and much of what we do as online instructors is clear the path, introduce new ideas, and allow our students to discover on their own. All at the same time, being present and available when they need us. Incorporating these "Habits" into the online curriculum works well because the goal is not to simply complete assignments for class, but rather to learn how to be successful outside of the classroom too.

Online learning requires independence and persistence. The habits are not taught in isolation, as in, today we are going to learn about listening to others and remaining flexible, but rather are weaved throughout the overall experience. I expose my students to the 16 Habits of Mind so that they see where I am coming from. Guiding students through these are important to my overall philosophy. As many teachers say, we teach young people, not subjects. I have seen the power of discussion boards and blogging for students become a source of both frustration and incredible growth. Not everyone agrees with what you write, and there is definitely vulnerability in releasing your words and publishing them, whether to an in class post or to the public, but these creative risks are important to our development and to our confidence in contributing to a connected society.

Online learning is sometimes very chaotic, and I have watched students and parents struggle with that, especially when they are transitioning from a face to face classroom where they are used to familiar routine and expectations. It is the responsibility of an online instructor to try to remove as many barriers as possible, so that the focus is on learning, rather than on trying to figure out how to learn. Although, sometimes even in that process, because this is new, students are able to overcome a great deal by simply taking the leap and navigating through this innovative space.

I try to keep in mind that because I am not teaching the same thing each day to the same group of students sitting in front of me, and that because they are each learning at their own pace, I must lead by example... remaining flexible, finding humor in what I do, and staying curious. We have the world literally at our fingertips, and so do our students. Encouraging them to adopt these habits benefits all of us as we treat the world as our classrooms and flourish in a global economy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America's National Identity

This year, as my colleague Dave Dillon and I integrated the Riverside Virtual School (RVS) middle school English courses with the History courses, creating online, student-centered projects for each unit, I learned a lot.

It is amazing how much I did not know about history. I must admit, sadly, that History was never a subject I liked very much. I am not sure why, but I think the fact that I took it in summer school to "get it out of the way" may have something to do with it. Getting up early to sit in groups, and work through the textbook for 24 days in the summer before volleyball practice just didn't inspire me. Learning history inspires me now. Why? Well, for one, I am interested now. I am a mom. I am a tax paying citizen. I vote. I care about the blood that runs through my veins, and about the people I share this world with. I want to know how we became a country, why we have the rules we have, and who the innovators and reformers were who paved the way for so many of us here today.

 I want to be able to answer the ultimate question: What does it mean to be a good person, living a good life, in a good society? (Thank you, Dave!)

One of my favorite units this year was about America's developing national identity. Our own identity is shaped by so many things, and will not be the same tomorrow as it is today, let alone months and years from now. After we declared our independence and wrote the Constitution, we needed to figure out what it meant to be America. Our students learned about the historical context of this time period... the "Launching the Ship of the State," and then for English read literature, listened to songs, learned about art and architecture, and were able to choose what aspect of the unit interested them the most in order to complete the project.

In all of my years of teaching English, I had no idea that Andrew Jackson chose the song "Hunters of Kentucky" as the anthem for his run for presidency... the language, the connotation, the messages here in this song are fascinating... why in the world would a man want a song about "hardy alligator boys who can protect their ladies" to represent him? This is interesting stuff! I had no idea how innovative Thomas Jefferson was, and that when he picked up a book about architecture when he was young, he was hooked. Our students are so much like Jefferson, in that, they will read and study and explore for hours things they are interested in, sometimes at the expense of getting work done for their classes, because of passion and interest. Thomas Jefferson took existing ideas, designs, and structures, combined them with new, innovative ones, and created something completely new. This is what we want for our students.

Some focused on Poe for their project, recognizing that life was not all happy and joyful... there is room for pessimism in this new identity, just as there is room for it now in ours. Times are tough, and not everyone wants to go out into nature and dream the way the romantic poets like Cullen Bryant, Emerson, and Thoreau did.

Regardless of where you are in your developing identity, like America, this process is ongoing and ever-evolving. This unit was a joy to create and implement. It contributed to my own identity, and I am changed, again, moving forward...thank you America!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Strength in Vulnerability

This school year I have been vulnerable more times than I can count. Not only did I create a blog, but I published and shared my writing... until now, the only people who read what I wrote were my college professors! Poems poured out of me, begging to be written. I listened. Not only did I listen, but I stayed up to the wee hours of morning, and worked sometimes through the night to get my ideas down on the page... most of the time with my patient husband attempting to sleep next to me while my fingers clicked, and clicked, and clicked away on the keys. Then, I self published my book of poetry, Two Sides of Rain. Why? Because I wanted to know what that felt like, I wanted to share a piece of myself with others, and because I wanted to be, well, vulnerable. There is strength is vulnerability.
This year, I changed the way I taught as well. Not because I had to, but because it was time. I was willing to be vulnerable. I have been teaching the same grades for 12 years. I am fairly confident with the stories, pace, and structure that I have used. Why in the world then would I choose to step outside of my comfort zone every single day to learn new curriculum, new theories, and new ways to approach learning? Why? Because I felt called to do it, because it was right for my school, and because I needed to connect and create in a way I never had before. This summer, a colleague and I will be presenting at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference. Am I nervous? You bet! But I am confident... confident in myself, and my team around me.

How can I ever expect my children or my students to take risks, to not be afraid to fail, and to learn from these experiences if I am unwilling to participate in them myself? I wish you all strength in vulnerability...

And, just in case you have not yet watched Brene Brown's TED video about the power of vulnerability-here it is.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Take Responsibility for Each Other

“Be compassionate," Morrie whispered. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place." Mitch Albom from Tuesdays with Morrie

When life gets crazy, we have a tendency to think we are alone. We are taught to be strong, tough, confident, and independent. We teach our children to stand up for what they believe in, and to find their path in life. These are good things, but I think we forget to teach our children that there are others on the path too, trying to find their way, realize their dreams, and discover who they are. Our paths are different, our experiences are unique, and our perspectives are extensions of all that we are, but we are connected.

Some of my favorite quotes about love, and discovering what really matters, come from the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It amazes me that we can learn how to live from a man who is learning how to die.

I learned two things very early on. 1. Life is short. 2. We must try to express our love and appreciation each day. When I was six years old, my dad died of cancer. He was strong, big, invincible, and then, one day, like Morrie, he was sick. I watched him become weak, not in spirit, but in health. After his death, I watched my mom mourn, and knew that although I acted like a tough little girl, I was hurting. I realized that even the strongest of people needed others. I knew that I wasn't the only one who was sad. I learned that we all had a story to tell, and that it was my responsibility to be empathetic, aware, and to listen to the stories of others.

Nine days before he died, my dad created "Will's Wishes," a letter for his three older boys, two younger children, and his beautiful wife, my mom. Typed (not by him, as his fingers were not strong enough to hit the keys), and here for us to read any time, he talks about his family, his health, and of his love of Veterinary Medicine. He explained that he had to leave this world, not because he wanted to, but because his time to move on had come. He knew how difficult this tragedy was for all of us, and how important it was for us to stick together.

"We are here on earth to help and protect each other. Even if you're spread all over the world, take a little time out to call, take a little time out to visit, and take a little time out to be proud of your family. Love them... they deserve it... love each other, you deserve it, and remember most that your father loves you." Willis Vansell, December 18, 1982

These words are gifts... gifts from two men who were out of time... to us, who have a bit more. I reflect on these words... as a daughter, wife, sister, teacher, neighbor, mother of three amazing children, friend, and I realize that it is not always easy to take this advice... it is not always easy to take responsibility for each other while we are alive and healthy, before we reach our inevitable end. Sometimes we get stuck in a funk, in a fog so thick, so blinding, and so cold that we see no end in sight. Sometimes we wonder how in the world we can help each other when we can barely help ourselves. Sometimes we judge each other. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others. Sometimes we focus on competition, and of getting ahead. Sometimes we are afraid of being vulnerable. Sometimes we forget that we are friends. As Morrie and my dad advise: be compassionate, help each other, and take responsibility for each other. We all deserve it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Understaning Connotation and Denotation with Pocahontas and John Smith

Designing a Class Discussion-Did Pocahontas Save John Smith's Life?

Understanding Connotation and Denotation
The best way to understand connotation and denotation is this:
Denotation is the Dictionary definition of a word.  If you look up a word, you will get the literal definition.
Connotation are the emotional and imaginative associations with the word.  These associations cannot be found by looking in a dictionary. 

View the attached Prezi, and ask yourself these three questions:

Why would an author use the word home instead of pad?
Why would an author use the word slender instead of gaunt?
Why would an author use the word inexpensive instead of cheap?

View the Disney clip: Did Pocahontas Save John Smith's Life?

Now, take it to the next level, and think of John Smith's words in Documents A and B and the words and images in the Disney clip we viewed.  Word choice and images are powerful and purposeful.  Images, just like words are chosen to have an affect on you.  Look at dress, tone, dark/light, imagery, and word choice.  There is always a point to what is being shown/spoken/written.  The author/director wants you to feel something.

What is John Smith doing to you with his words in the two different documents?
What is Disney doing to you with words and images in the short clip we watched of Pocahontas saving John Smith's life?

Document A: "True Relation" (Modified)
Arriving in Werowocomoco, the emperor welcomed me with good words and great platters of food. He promised me his friendship and my freedom within four days. . . .He asked me why we came and why we went further with our boat. . . . He promised to give me what I wanted and to feed us if we made him hatchets and copper. I promised to do this. And so, with all this kindness, he sent me home.
A True Relation of such , published in 1608.
Source: Smith’s own words, from
occurrences and accidents of note as hath happened in Virginia

Document B: "General History" (Modified)
They brought me to Meronocomoco, where I saw Powhatan, their Emperor. Two great stones were brought before Powhatan. Then I was dragged by many hands, and they laid my head on the stones, ready to beat out my brains. Pocahontas, the King’s dearest daughter took my head in her arms and laid down her own upon it to save me from death. Then the Emperor said I should live. Two days later, Powhatan met me and said we were friends. He told me to bring him two guns and a grindstone and he would consider me his son.
Source: From Smith’s later version of the story in
Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles, General History of published in 1624.

For a full Pocahontas lesson plan, and for other fantastic resources, check out the Stanford History Education Group Reading Like a Historian.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Teaching Writing-Starting with Freedom

Teaching students how to write is not something I claim to have "figured out." As a student, I had great English teachers who taught me how to do research, journals, respond to quotes, and self and peer edit. Some teachers focused more on structure, others on creativity. As a teacher, I was given various tools and resources, and have tried bubble clusters, diagrams, mapping, Jane Schaffer format, and more. There are different types of writing, and students should know the how, when, and why of the various elements... audience, purpose, style, etc.

Writing is a process, and as an English teacher for 13 years, I know, does not come naturally, and is not enjoyable for all. I realized, quickly, that because each student approaches writing differently, and that each teacher approaches writing differently, there really is no correct way to do it, for me, or for my students.

What does this mean? It means that I must learn what each student needs. How? By jumping in, and by starting with freedom rather than structure. This year, I tried something different. I gave students the choice of four authors, and they were asked to choose the one that sounded the most interesting, the one that they connected with the most, and that they'd d like to learn more about. Students read the novel, and were asked to blog about their ideas. I did not assign a study guide, I did not give multiple choice quizzes, and I did not require students to present any information that had right and wrong answers. We had beeing working on characterization, perspective, and point of view, so they were given three focus questions, and six blog ideas, and were invited and encouraged to come up with their own. I did not want to dictate what they wrote, but I did want to lay the foundations with enough guidance for those who wanted it. They set up their own blogs, and were asked to blog 8 times, submit two rough drafts at a time, and to publish when we both felt confident with the final product.

Some students embraced this freedom. Others, asked for more structure; they wanted me to give them a prompt, tell them what to write, and how to organize things. Some students wrote five posts, and were trying to force the last three. For some, five was enough. All within the same online course, I had students who set up their posts in completely different ways. Some automatically used a format that was familiar, one they felt confident with. Some students used proper MLA format, citing both author, page number, and placing the period and parenthesis properly in their place. A few students posted quotes first, and then wrote with thoughtfulness to explain them, and to make sense of them. Some students are now blogging on their own, without having to, because they are passionate, and want to share.

If I had started with structure, I would have taught certain aspects of the writing process to students who were ready for more, and I would not have known the creativity and struggles of others. There is so much to cover, yes, but when I ask, "Where do I go from here?" The answer is... I go where each of my students needs me to go...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tryin' to Make Sense of Passion

I recently read a blog post titled "Rant," by Lisa Cooley (@coollit), that got me thinking. Lisa Cooley states, "If you allow children to learn what is closest to their hearts, they will much more willingly learn what you prescribe for them. I don't reject the need for kids to learn what we know is important. I'm talking about creating a system based on trust."

I have three children. My two oldest are boys, ages 9 and 7. My daughter is 4. Both of my boys love math. One also loves to read and play sports, while the other loves to build and create art. When asked what they are passionate about, they will tell you all of this and more... science, frogs, animals, planets, music, etc. They are interested in subjects that they have been exposed to through school, conversations, boy scouts, traveling, the Internet, books, family and friends, and us, their parents. The fact that kids should be allowed to explore subjects that they are passionate about is very important to me as a mom and teacher, but I think that we are afraid that if we let this happen we will "lower the standards" somehow, or will have young people who do not know "enough."


How would I have known my sons were passionate about math and soccer if they were not exposed to both?
If my son does not like to read, and is not passionate about it, do I make him?
If my son does not want to learn how to play an instrument, do I encourage him?
Do I wait?
Do we have foundations that all students are exposed to, regardless of passions, as a starting point?
Should our children learn things they are not passionate about?

Today while at the park, my two youngest children took turns playing with my husband and I while my oldest son received goalie training from his soccer coach. He did not have to be there today. This was not a team practice. His coach invited him, and he, excitedly, said yes. While we were finishing up, a high school girl arrived for her upcoming session with the same coach.


What drives young people to give up their free time on a Sunday to work on their soccer skills voluntarily?
Would they do that for school?

A student of mine wrote a blog post about how the game Civilization would be great for teaching and mastering middle school history standards (on his own without being "assigned").


What inspired him to research and write about this topic without being offered points?
Did he learn?
How do we know?
Should this "count" as education, even though it is not written into the curriculum, and his classmates did not do the same assignment?

Deven Black (@devenkblack) tweeted from #Educon, "What should every citizen be able to do?" This is a great question, and something I have thought a lot about.


If this is an essential question, what does education look like? What does learning look like? What does curriculum look like?
Do my children need to learn the same things as other children?
Did I learn the same things as my classmates?
Do I need to know the same things in my daily life as my friends, colleagues, family members, and fellow citizens?
Should I?
What questions should we be asking about education, democracy, problem solving, and leadership?

I teach English grades 7-10 in a blended learning environment. I create curriculum for my students, and although I firmly believe not all curriculum should be complete before we meet our students, and that their passions and interests should guide my work, I am working hard on creating curriculum for future students, those I have not yet met. I am completely aware that my own interests, passions, and biases influence what I teach. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a science teacher because my science teachers inspired me, I liked them, and they made learning fun. Science is in my blood (my dad was a veterinarian, and my grandfather an entomologist), but it is not something I am passionate about. 


If I were encouraged to study science, rather than allowed to choose humanities, would I have gotten stronger?
Would I have learned to love it?

Tonight, Sunday night, after my kids have fallen asleep, I stay up to write this post. I was not asked to do this. I am passionate about learning and education, and wanted to make sense of some of the things I was reading. Did I do this as a middle or high school student? Looking back, I do not remember being so inspired by school that I researched and wrote about it without being asked. I read. I wrote in my journal. I explored my neighborhood. I hung out with friends. I also went to museums, sporting events, and day trips because I wanted to learn. I gave up my free time for sports. Perhaps, at the time, I did not see the connection between learning, passion, and school.


If we require our students to learn, regardless of passion, will they acquire a love learning?
How can we help our young people discover their passions?
Are we afraid to let students learn based on passion alone?
Should we be?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quotes for Living Life Connected and Inspired

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there." Rumi

“Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks on new behavior, trying new ways of 'being myself,' so that I can see who it is I want to be.” Hugh Prather

“The most significant gifts are the ones most easily overlooked. Small, everyday blessings: woods, health, music, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints scattered throughout our days.” Sue Monk Kidd

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” Barbara Kingsolver

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." Anais Nin

"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun." Jon Krakauer

"I will not take "but" for an answer." Langston Hughes

“There are ways in, journeys to the center of life, through time; through air, matter, dream and thought. The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” Linda Hogan

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." Buddha

“There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night, and if you go, no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone." Jerry Garcia

"In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful." Alice Walker

"Be true to your work, your word, and your friend." Henry David Thoreau

“If you can't change your fate, change your attitude.” Amy Tan

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” Terry Tempest Williams

"If I could tell the world just one thing it would be we're all okay, and not to worry cause worry is wasteful and useless in times like these. I won't be made useless, wont be idle with despair, I will gather myself around my faith, lights the darkness most fear.” Jewel Kilcher

"You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck!" Rumi

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Four Essential Questions About Eduation

1. What is education?

2. Why is an education important?

3. Who deserves an education?

4. When are you educated?

Monday, January 2, 2012

10 Ways to Use Prezi in the Humanities Classroom

Prezi is a great tool for creating, editing, and sharing presentations. Here are ten ways to get started:

1. Introduce yourself with photos, videos, and quotes.
2. Present an autobiographical essay or any other story, visually.
3. Compare two pieces of literature, focusing on plot, setting, characterization, theme, etc.
4. Create a travel brochure for a destination of interest (from history, literature, art, or other).
5. Explain the connection between English Language Arts and History.
6. Present a persuasive speech.
7. Create a public document.
8. Create a resume for a character, historical figure, or self.
9. Create a timeline.
10. Write and present a poem.