As I sit in a classroom with a variety of colleagues from across my district and beyond, I feel the sun on my face and find myself listening and agreeing to what is said. Prior to coming here today, we read a brief article by Bob Marzano, one of my favorite education gurus of our time, on interactive white boards. In this article, Marzano shares a study that using interactive technology can have a profound impact on student learning. Of course, the study shows that it's not the technology itself but how the teachers using the technology are structuring the learning. I do believe technology serves as a wonderful tool, but I believe it is just that--a tool. As teachers we need to embrace this tool because it can help us differentiate our learning activities, but we need to continue to do our own work before we get to class so we know how to use it to help our students.
What skills do my high school students "need" to succeed in college and the world beyond? In my college prep class, I teach them a variety of skills like how to search databases, how to determine if resources are valid, how to post information, how to participate in online and face-to-face discussions, and how to write. I guess it all boils down to teaching them to think and share and work together. Technologies available certainly make that more efficient but not necessarily easier. Thinking is difficult and gaining confidence in one's own thinking abilities still seems a daunting task to a high school senior serious about wanting to learn and grow.
This year I have been fortuante to be involved in a technology grant project. I've received training on Web 2.0 technologies galore. I've improved my wiki, created a Ning and Twitter account, embraced Facebook for more than my own fun, and learned to use a variety of applications I never knew existed.
One evening during the summer, a student called me at home. This student, a girl with Attitude (notice the capital A), reported that she had done really well in a CNA class at the local technical college. Wanting to get a job, she asked if I knew how to create a resume. We agreed to meet, and we created a resume for her. I don't know if she got a job, but she made my day by calling. What really made my day? I'll tell you. There were two things. The first was the fact that this smart young woman who in the past has seen school as an uncaring institution and teachers as enemies called me, and she called me at home. The second was that this young woman realized for the first time what I had told her last year--she is really smart. Her college instructor encouraged her to pursue a career in nursing, something that requires a four-year degree.
Although it's not the beginning of the calendar year, it IS the beginning of my year. Another school year starts NOW. I'm going to focus on the moments during this year that make me smile. Maybe that way I'll post more regularly!
For the past day and a half I have been sitting with colleagues from around the region AND Jamaica. My head hurts from thinking and my face hurts from laughing. As we discuss Parker Palmer and Art Costa and Bob Marzano and our own experiences with learners and transformation, I realize I am profoundly impacted by my relationship with these intelligent and visionary people. Each month most of us meet for four hours face-to-face; we also communicate via email and ichat and... Enthusiasm permeates our work and a synergy exists that I haven't experienced since I worked in good ole' St. Charles, Minnesota under the leadership of Hank Welle, the focus of my last blog. I am lucky that I have these people in my life to challenge my thinking, encourage me in my choices, validate my work, and make me laugh and enjoy the world we create. I'll think more of this but now I have to go process with them...
The first day of new staff training I was told I was a million dollar investment and that I wouldn't have been hired if they didn't believe in me and my ability to make a difference. "They" told me it was their job to make me the best I could be, so they told me to come to them whenever I needed anything. What a way to start. From that day on as a new teacher, I felt comfortable going into the office to ask for assistance. When the little, freckle-filled, mischevious Dan continued to be silly rather than productive, my boss helped me brainstorm ideas. He helped me solve my own problem and empowered me to come up with ideas. Throughout the years I taught in that little utopian corner of the universe, I generated countless ideas and was rewarded with great things.
As I grew in my job and learned that I found my niche, I found not only support but challenge to grow. One day Hank called me into his office and asked if I'd be interested in going to a training in Denver, Colorado with some guy named Bob Marzano. Not thinking about Dimensions of Learning or the training at all, I enthusiastically told him I'd love to go. Once at the training, I realized why I had been chosen--it was me! My dear boss knew me enough to know that this framework fit what I already believed. His sneakiness, however, showed on the way home. In the airport he asked if I'd be interested in sharing my new training with the entire staff. An extreme introvert (who has never been shy over ideas), I was a bit overwhelmed, but how could I say no? A couple decades later, not only have I trained the district staff in the DOL program, I have become a facilitator of adult learners. This work adds great things to my life and would never have happened without Hank knowing me better than I knew myself.
I could literally write an entire book on all that Hank did for me, but I'll stop here for now. I will say he has been one of my greatest mentors and I will forever be touched by him and his wisdome.
When I started this blog, I envisioned a place where I could post ongoing thoughts about specific topics. I started writing about people who influenced me to be me. This year I plan to write about people and situations who keep me being me, specifically the people and situations that make me smile each and every day.
THIS IS THE FOCUS FOR MY CURRENT BLOGS!
In this blog, you will find my simple thoughts from my little corner of the universe. That is all...