Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 80- Trick or Treat

The last #WeirdEd of October and again I repeat myself. The last #WeirdEd of October and again I repeat myself. Tonight we're going to play a little game, something to make the chat even more more interactive than it normally is.

To celebrate Halloween we're going Trick or Treating. Here's how it's going to work- I've written two versions of every question, a Trick version and a Treat version. Trick is a little more education-centric, Treat is a little more silly-er...than normal #WeirdEd.

Before each question I'll call on someone in the chat and tweet, "Trick or treat?" If you get your doorbell rung you need to answer me with one or the other. I'll then ask the group the question that goes along with your response.

Happy haunting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 79- Ghosts

Yes, I know today is the day Marty McFly travels to in BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II. I also know that I'm already exhausted hearing about it on social media and as of the writing of this it's not even the 21st yet. I promise to do a Back to the Future chat soon. But today is not that day. Besides, October is all about Halloween.
Tonight's #WeirdEd is about ghosts. There's two reasons for this. First, it's October and #WeirdEd in October means Halloween-centric chats. Second, I'm an irresponsible adult and I'm going to the Ghost concert tonight at the Roseland Theater in Portland. See how nicely all of that ties together? It's almost like I planned it that way.

Ghosts are reminders of our past. Why are they still around? Unfinished business? Haunting the chapel? Lost on the way to the exit? Ghosts are nearly transparent, and yet somehow still affect things around them. Ghosts get busted by wise cracking New Yorkers.

Everyone has ghosts. There are things watching over education's shoulder, hard to shake and harder still to see. Not always evil, though rarely benevolent, the non-corporeal have a unique sense of being totally undefined. They can be anything and often are. Ghost stories are scary, but not all ghosts have to be. How terrifying can something be if you can dress up as it by cutting two eye holes in a sheet? How terrifying is something that you can barely see, can't touch, and yet still feel?

Education is haunted. Let's gather around the campfire and talk about it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Druthers For Sale

Frazz, 12/5/09

Choice and student freedom are swiftly becoming as buzzwordy as any buzzword in education today, but this is one bandwagon I'm happy to jump on. I've always felt like giving kids their druthers was something more teachers should do. I remember when I was first given my druthers. They weren't really mine, we couldn't afford original druthers so mine came from Goodwill. But those druthers were the start of a brand new world for me. So on my teacher supply list, and this is something I recommend for all teachers, I requested a class set of druthers. Some kids will come in with their own but you want to be sure you have enough so each child can be given her or his druthers.

Freshly druthered students will be more motivated. They will try harder and take more risks. In theory, at least. Some of them might continue to laze about, after all you did give them the freedom to do what they want. "But with guidance!" you say. And I agree. This always circles back to one of my Tenets of  Education- Never Be Hardline About Anything, Except Not Being Hardline About Anything. Flexibility is the key to all things. Why put your foot down hard when a little creativity will allow you to reach an even more interesting answer?

My favorite part about student freedom is being surprised. I'm constantly surprised by why my kids can do. Not that I don't think they can accomplish a lot, but the jump between what I think they can accomplish and what they actually do is sometimes very big, much to my satisfaction. As a teacher the only credit I can take for this is the giving of space and opportunity. Everything else comes from the kid.

To illustrate my point and brag on a few of my students, we do small group reading at my school. Some kids are pulled for Resource, some for Small Group in other rooms, and I'm left with about eleven. I set out a selection of six books for those eleven to choose from. I tell them the title, give a summary, and that's it. They choose one at a time and not in groups, not planned partnerships. Groups form naturally by title interest. As of now their instructions are as follows- "Read and discuss your book. You will need to make a Thing which tells us a summary of your book and anything you found interesting. Go." If they need I'll clarify as to specifics, but as you can see there are no specific specifics to speak of.

Some of my groups presented Things that were less than inspired. Good, but not great. A nice first effort. But two in particular really blew me away with their creativity and depth of effort.

First, a play inspired by the book which summarizes every main point in the book succinctly and clearly. I watched them rehearse this and was impressed with the scripting and blocking work that was done. I should also point out that only the tall boy and the boy with the broken arm are actually in this group. The other two jumped in to help and so did more work than I required.

The second blew me away. His book was about The Water Around Us. He asked to take it home and work on his Thing there. Sure, why not? The Next Day he brought this in. "Dude! How long did you work on this? You know I didn't assign...well, I didn't expect this." "Eh, it only took like four hours. It was fun."

I'm going to keep giving these children more and more druthers because I have to know how much learning they can do on their own. There are others that will get a more guided leash because they aren't here yet, but look at what students will do on their own if given the freedom.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 78- Fear

I rarely repeat topics on #WeirdEd because frankly enough edchats do that for me and one of the things I pride this chat on is being original. But every once in a while there's a topic and a time that needs to be hit more than once. And as long as we can keep it fresh it's got value. Add to that the family of #WeirdEd has grown and deepened, and we're due for another chat about Fear.

Fear is something that humans live with every day but in teaching it's a unique and special thing. We have all kinds of fears. Smaller fears about lessons crashing, personal fears about being the best teacher we can possibly be, student fears about what a kid goes home to, and bigger real world fears like will it be my class when America finally decides to do something about guns (that last answer is no, because America cares more about guns than children).

We don't like talking about fear. It's, well, scary. And personal. And twitter isn't the place for scary, personal stuff. Twitter is the place for bad jokes and memes and light conversations defining a term for the sixty-seventh time that month. But we don't like in regular twitter here, do we? And we've never been a chat to shy away from tough topics. Tough topics mean better conversation. So, much like last year at this time, I want to to have an open conversation about our fears. By shining a light on them, by forcing them into the open, we can steal some of their power. Together we are stronger than any one fear.

I have this idea, and I'm sure it's not an original idea though I honestly don't know where the seed came from- Most of our fears are the same fear. And piggy-backing on every fear is the fear that we're alone in it. That not only do you fear this thing, but you're the only one who feels like that. These fears coupled together make a monster. Fear of the thing, plus fear of being alone, that's a perfect storm. Then you're silly at best and insane at worst. Fear of being the only one stops so many good things and allows so many more bad things to continue.

You are not alone at #WeirdEd. We're in this together, and though we might not all share the same fear, we do share empathy and understanding, and fear can't stand those.

This #WeirdEd might be a little harder than normal. But things might look a little brighter afterward.

Don't forget that along with #WeirdEd at 7pst we've added #WeirdEdC at 7cst for our differently time-zoned friends. #WeirdEdC is moderated by Shawna Briseno, Lauren Taylor, and Ashey Gravelle.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 77- Scary Movies

My favorite season is Halloween season, which means all October #WeirdEd will be centered around all things creepy, ghouly, freaky, and ghostly. Good thing there isn't anything else going on in the education space this month to be compared again.

I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of scary movies. I don't think fear is all that great of an emotion, and I get stressed out watching stressful films. I appreciate that movies can do that, but I'm not rushing out to watch the newest scarefest. I also admit that my favorite movie (JAWS) could easily be called a horror movie. To that I say- It's brilliant, and rules are meant to be eaten by a giant shark.

But just because I don't go out of my way to watch scary movies doesn't mean I don't know anything about them. Everyone knows Freddy and Jason and Mike Meyers and the Scream mask and evil clowns* and Chucky* and The Thing and Pinhead and the xenomorph**. Somehow the basics of those stories have seeped into our collective consciousness. You know the rules ('don't have sex' being right at the top of most lists) and you know some of the kills.

We're going to dive into these various mythologies and drag them kicking and screaming back into our classrooms Freddy is the emobiment of nightmares and Jason can't be killed, you think I can't make them about school? (No, I'm not going to be lazy and make them all about Pearson. That would be too easy.)

Never seen these movies? That's great, because I haven't seen most of them either! Love some of these movies? Be prepared to be a little annoyed when I screw up a basic fact about your favorite psycho killer.

I hearby swear that not once during the chat will you be asked to define anything. That would be if I were writing my own twitter-based horror film.

* KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE and CHILD'S PLAY screwed me up as a kid. I vividly rememeber watching KCFOS with a babysitter and being utterly freaked out. Terrifying clowns wrapping people up in cotton candy. You can have Pennywise, those clowns are my nightmare. And Chucky, I had a My Buddy doll and that freaking think looked exactly like Chucky. When's the last time a movie ruined a toy for you?

**ALIEN is 100% a haunted house horror movie