Archive for the 'professional development' Category

Social Justice - Who Walks With You?

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Who walks with you? What a powerful question. As much as a person makes decisions that are socially responsible, as much as a person is outspoken in regards to social responsibility and as much as a person makes personal strides towards social equity, when we ask each other ‘who walks with you’, we as how powerful our impact, our footprint on society, is. Jonathan Jansen from the University of Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, described his story, the growth and maturation of his life, in the context of this question.

I thoroughly enjoyed this session as Jonathan discussed two schools that went through the process of integration after apartheid in South Africa. He focused his presentation around the concept of leadership within the context of social responsibility and noted several concepts that he has learned through his experiences.

  • Leadership must be corporate. When it is spread out, not only is the workload distributed, but the ownership and relevancy of the leadership is much greater.
  • Leadership in the context of social responsibility is exhausting.
  • Leadership in the context of social responsibility requires a personal commitment to modeling what is expected of who one is leading.

Here are some lines that I jotted down during the presentation.

Language struggles are not simply about language, but about emotion, authority and history.

If the leadership of the school does not reflect respect and integration, then the students will reflect the same.

You cannot expect your students to cross these difficult borders if your life as a leader does not play testimony to an integrated society.

If you are going to lead for social justice, you must ask, ‘what is worth teaching, after all?’.

In this madness about measurement, we have forgotten the broader meaning of educating. What we need to know, is will the pass life?

‘Our history is with us every single day’

My mind raced in thinking about the integration issues we have locally, both with language and with culture. How can a community be moved to embrace diversity. While integration and diversity are a common theme in society today, we will always have challenges in working to understand other people and other cultures - that is just human nature. There is hope, and it requires work and commitment. How far are we willing to push? And more importantly, who is walking with us?

…just my notes - I’d like to think that I’m out there where the left lane ends, but sometimes I’m just not too sure.

Neural Pluralism

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Saturday Morning: Opening Session

Neural Pluralism. For the most part, we encourage, if not insist upon, religious pluralism, ethnic pluralism and linguistic pluralism. BUT, when it comes to recognizing the different learning needs, the different way that we are neurally constructed, we deny the diversity and start to label. Mel Levine spoke to this issue and described his work in brain research and how we, as educators, must take it upon ourselves to accept the diversity in student learning needs and use the current research about learning and how the brain develops to customize our teaching in a way that is ideal for each individual student. This requires a shift for teachers in order to learn more about the development of the brain (based on current research) and apply that knowledge in the classroom.

You can review the ASCD notes about the presentation, OR (and I recommend this one!) listen to a story about Dr. Levine on NPR’s Website. This is outstanding material and well worth the time in reading/learning about it.

This has huge implications when you look at developing a solid one-to-one program. It all comes back to developing a faculty that is sensitive to the needs of different students in an effort to create an environment that engages. It all comes back to taking responsibility for engagement, and working individually with all kids.


Saturday, April 1st, 2006

I am in Chicago at the ASCD conference, and having a great time! The sessions are great (quality) and I am bathing in the extra time I have for self reflection (and some good Chicago jazz!).

I started Friday in a pre-conference session all about boredom. Richard Strong started with a quote that went something like: “If boredom is different for everybody, then (are we being taped?) … we’re screwed.” We often look at the students in our classroom through the standard lens of labels that are fed to us, not by our own will. A student is labeled by TAKS, LD or ADD, and these labels blind us to the individuality of each student. When we stop to notice our own personality style and how we teach, and then compare that to the personality styles of the different students in our classroom, it becomes apparent that we frequently teach to one type of student, and label the rest.

Richard ended the full day pre-conference session by discussing the meaning of the word responsible, or as he put it - response-able. The claim was that, through diversifying our teaching and learning to match a variety of personality/learning styles, we can develop faculty and students that are ABLE to RESPOND to different needs of others, to different situations and to their life. This should be our goal.

As noted by Richard, boredom is simply a form of depression. We know through research that working with the different personality types as noted by Richard and Harvey Silver, we can trigger engagement in each student. Strong and Silver are in the process of working on a specific framework so that teachers can pinpoint how to bring out the different personality traits, not just through a general lesson, but through specific pieces of one lesson - mix and match your teaching day - RESPOND to the students’ variety of personality types.

Some quotes or thoughts from the session:

I believe that we are in danger of scientificizing education. We should not take a one-eyed view. Culture is the other perspective and we must approach our classrooms with stereo vision.

How many people have planned a great lesson, and it failed? How many people have walked into a class without a clue and had a great day? Half of teaching is design and half of teaching is response.

Boredom is a form of depression - it manifests itself in the inability to find meaning. It comes in three shapes: 1) deprivation shape (I am bored because something is not there); 2) The stimulus lacks meaning; 3) when it takes us to the edge of despair.

People have different ideas. In science, ideas become powerful with evidence. In culture, ideas become powerful within conversation.

A teacher is only as effective as, not what they know, but what the students really walk away with.

Assess, align, adjust, achieve

Concept: turn students into coaches that praise, prompt and probe. Increase feedback, increase response time

Personality types:

You can download the PowerPoint and visit their website for further exploration. Not realizing how the morning general session would tie into this concept, I started thinking about how these ideas flow into a 1:1 environment. It is my firm belief that a solid one-to-one laptop program is centered around an institution that has solid instructional practice. That being said, the over-arcing message is that we, as educators must take responsibility for the education of our students. We CAN NOT say, ‘these students just don’t want to learn’, or ‘these kids are different today’. They are OUR students, our kids. We must take responsibility to engage our students and take the time to learn about each one. This is a tough challenge, and the solution is hard work. When we make that commitment, we establish the foundation for a successful 1:1 laptop program - a program where the computer flows through instruction as a tool that is a part of individualized instruction which engages all students.

The importance of dialogue and a reflective practice within teaching

Friday, January 27th, 2006

In our LoTI session this morning, Sebastian Bozas (Middle School Principal of a One-to-One laptop school) noted more than once that we are falling short if we do not provide opportunities for techers to dialogue in a meaningful way about the content of their instruction. We briefly discussed how LoTI can provide a framework for this dialogue, develop a common language (so we do not argue in place of dialoguing) and move toward a more reflective practice of teaching on campus.

Mr. Bozas has truly pushed for this environment at de Zavala Middle School by creating half day periods for his teams of teachers to reflect on what they are doing in their rooms. Interestingly enough, the technology (despite its invaluable place in his school) is not the primary focus - instruction is.

I’ll be interviewing Mr. Bozas next Tuesday about what he sees happening with one-to-one instruction as he has developed this practice with his teachers. Stay tuned for the first podcast…

We’re just searching for where the left lane ends…