Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Institute

Oddly, I've been in the Writing Project Summer Institute and haven't had time to write....on the blog at least. We HAVE been writing, and writing, and writing. But mostly its been reflective, fictional, or deeply personal, but not on the blog.
The Writing Project philosophy is that the best teachers of teachers are teachers. And that's what we're doing: teaching each other what we've learned from our work with students.
The Writing Project espouses that the best teachers of writing are those who write. So we are doing that too. And it ain't easy. And the philosophy goes on from there - the best history teachers are historians, the best chemistry teachers are chemists, the best reading teachers are readers. Walk the talk.
Though I am ostensibly leading the group, I am learning alongside them, something I try to do in the 'regular' classroom as well - continually learn.
Here's some big aha's from this group of teachers:
One teacher asked us to list what we would buy for our classrooms if we had an unlimited budget. No one struggled to come up with anything: books for reading, comfortable chairs, more computers, money for field trips, money to hire someone to coordinate the field trips, and on and on until the sharing sheet was too short to hold all the ideas. If teachers are so positive about what it is they need to enhance learning, why aren't they ever asked?
Another big idea: learning happens from the inside out. You can't pour learning onto someone (child or adult) like pouring ketchup on a hamburger. The hard part is getting the student into the position where they are asking and searching for the answers to their own questions. Real learning looks very different than what we claim as learning when we are giving students tests.
More to come. We are in week three of our five week journey together.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Governors say: We Need New Standards!

What are the most frequently used words in marketing? New and improved.
And that's what were about to get from the The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). A new set of National Standards in English and Math, all by December.
(These must really be the brightest kids in the room!)
More standards.
And they'll be new.... and improved.
I'll bet there will be some more tests too.
You know, if I were a test maker, say Pearson, The College Board, Holt and Reinhart, I'd be sure my people were having lunch with their people.
Check out the list of participants. Looks like The College Board and ACT got the memo.
And, finally, with a new set of standards those silly teachers will be able to see that line in the sand and make sure they get their kids up to it - or else.
And just to make sure those teachers don't get any crazy ideas about suggesting other options, there's not a classroom teacher in sight when it comes to these new and improved discussions.
Here's a news flash: when I work with students I can find out pretty quickly who's on target, who's way ahead and who's waaaaay behind. It's that last group that challenges me as a teacher and keeps me awake at night. Sometimes, frankly, I don't know how to make the needed gains in the time I have.
I could use some help.
Not to worry.
There will likely be a new round of tests so we can see just how far we have to go....
Now won't that be an improvement?