Summer Renewal: The Exit Interview

The school year is winding down. Many of us are saying good-bye to our students, to our colleagues, and to another year in the classroom. For some, the year was long and difficult, for others it may have gone by in a blur. No matter what kind of experience we had during the year this is a perfect time for a reflective practice. Why not take a few minutes before you leave for the summer and do a personal exit interview

Here are some sample questions you might like to ask yourself:
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest how would you rate your own performance for the year?

Purpose and Calling
Do you feel successful and proud, or just happy to have the year over?
Describe 3-5 of your most happy moments during the year.
What was it that made them stand out for you?
Did what you accomplished this year match your expectations?

Stress and Overwhelm
Describe 3-5 of the biggest challenges that you faced this year.
Describe how you responded to each of these challenges.
What kind of stress, if any, did these challenges create?
How did this stress manifest itself- professionally and/or personally?
Is the stress still with you?
Is there a more effective way to handle the stress and anxiety of these kinds of challenges?

Strengths and Gifts
Looking back on the school year, what would you say were your greatest personal characteristics and strengths?
If you were going to build on one these strengths for the next school year which would it be?
What practices can you create to help strengthen this area?

Areas for Growth
What were some of the personal characteristics/behaviors you think were holding you back from even greater levels of classroom effectiveness?
What practices can you create to help you address these characteristics?

Student Feedback
Think about your students for a moment.
Did they have anything to teach you this year?
If you think of them as a mirror, what did they reflect back to you about yourself and your teaching?
Was there a student that you particularly liked? What was it that drew you to them?
Was there a student that you particularly disliked? What was it about them that you disliked?
Is there anything about yourself that your feelings about these students reveal?
How would your students rate your performance on a scale of 1-10?
What would they list as your greatest personal strengths?
What would they say was the area in which you need to improve?

There’s no better time for professional (and personal) reflection then the waning days of a school year and no better place to do it than an empty classroom. The purpose of this reflection is not to beat yourself up. It’s not meant to be “I should have done this.” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” guilt trip. It’s simply meant to allow us to step back and look at the year and our performance with some perspective (a perspective that’s hard to maintain during the year). I suggest you write you answers in a journal. Come back to them over the summer and before the start of the new school year.

A few suggestions:
Look out for burnout. At some point we can let our purpose and calling drift into a job. It takes work to keep reminding ourselves of the special work we do with children.
Be on the look out for the effects of stress on our thinking, our health, and our family life.
Be specific about our strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. We can build on our strengths, we can learn to address our weaknesses.
Students offer us a wealth of information on our classroom effectiveness if we’re courageous enough to look at the cues and clues they provide.

The questions I’ve presented are just suggestions. Your heart knows what questions are right for you. If you’re quiet and allow your inner teacher to come forward, it’ll guide you in the right direction.

Good luck and have a great summer!

Pete

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One to One Computing: A Daydream

I closed the cover of my Chromebook, tucked it into my backpack and headed off to English class. I skipped lunch today so I had time to see the MIT lecture on Mitosis and Miosis because we were going to be covering Mitosis and Miosis in Science class this afternoon. Never hurts to get a head start.

Lucky for me, Mrs. Woodruff’s class was just around the corner from the cafeteria where lunch was just finishing up. Anyway, I wanted to get there early to ‘text’ Jamie Milledge, who was helping me build out my “Fahrenheit 451” wiki.

farneheit_451.jpgJamie would be up by now. I live on the East coast and she goes to school in Torrence, California. She is a major Ray Bradbury fan. We met up about a month ago when I found some of her science fiction writing on the Fan Fiction web page. Turns out she is the same age and studying “451” in her English class the same as me. We FaceBook each other all the time now.

I get to class and whip out my computer.

Jamie wassup?
Getting dressed.
Did you find the movie?
Yeah. Not easy to get.
Great.
What part do we want to use?
I love the RR tracks scene.
Where they all become their favorite books?
Yeah. So cool!
OK. I’ll upload it at lunch today.
You’re the best.

We chat until the class is ready to start.

Mrs. Woodruff is already leaning over a student helping them with whatever project they’re working on.

Last night I searched out some blogs that deal with “451″ and have added them to the RSS feeds in my aggregator. They may come in handy as we go through the book.

“Okay class, you can get into your teams now.”

Mrs. Woodruff speaks over the discussions that have already begun. I don’t know why she feels she has to say this every day because we never wait for her. We’re already in our groups.

Our group project is to build out a vocabulary blog for “451” . We each take a few chapters, find the more difficult words, and look them up online. Usually, when we do this we create a team blog where we post the sentence from the book that contains the word, as well as the definitions of the words. We organize it all by chapter. Here’s the vocabulary blog we did on our last book, “The Outsiders”.

This time, in addition to what we usually do, we decide to add some online photos from Flickr, drag them in Comic Life, and write the words used in funny contexts. Michael, our team leader, is really good at coming up with the funny stuff.

(This example courtesy of Jim Coe and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching)

After a bit, Mrs. Woodruff asks us to close our computers and report out on how we are doing. One group has done research on all the books that have been banned over the years. Marcy plugs into the projector and shows the Censorship website they’ve created. They’ve worked with the school library media specialist, and a number of outside organizations who are very anti-censorship. I’m surprised at some of the titles on the list. I copy the URL. I want to check it out when I get to study hall later today.

Another group shows the product they are creating in response to the “451″ WebQuest they were working on. (Courtesy of Mr. Dan Thompson)

The other groups plug in to show their particular projects; but Terry’s group gets into trouble because they havn’t done much since the last time they presented. Terry says that they have been doing a lot of the work after school; but they havn’t had an online work session this week because a few of them had late sports practices. Terry’s team always has an excuse. The truth is they put in no effort. They do what they can during free time in school, but they almost never hold group work sessions at night. They’ve got to get themselves a better leader or they’re gonna get creamed at the end of the marking period.

I can’t wait to show the vocabulary site we created. Everyone laughs at Michael’s funny comments that are in the Comic Life bubbles. I also take a moment to show the “451” wiki site that Jamie from California and I have been working on. Believe it or not, Jamie has already uploaded a scene from the movie. I click on it and play a minute or so.

Mrs. Woodruff claps her hands, “Great job! guys. Now, let’s get to our writing projects.”

We all pull our desks back a few feet from the groups we were in so we can work on our own for awhile. I pull up the draft of the paper I have been writing from my virtual locker storage space. I’m working on an essay topic from an old Regents exam. I figure it’s good practice. We write in silence, saving frequently, as we have been taught to do. Mrs. Woodruff walks around giving some individual advice to different folks. I run my paper through the online Writing Evaluator. I like this because it picks up most of the simple mistakes I tend to make when I write. It saves Mrs. Woodruff some time, too.

“Class!” She says. We all look up. She walks to the SmartBoard in the front of the room and taps on it a few times. Up come the notes from last week. She enlarges the words THEME and PLOT.

“I see a number of you are getting theme and plot confused. What is the difference between the theme and plot?”

A few brave souls raise their hands.

“You know what? Rather than doing this verbally, I want you to e-mail me your explanations for homework tonight. Include the basic theme of “451” . I don’t need you to rehash the plot.”

Man, more homework.

Mrs. Woodruff continued, “We’re getting close to the bell, so just a reminder that I will be online for extra help on Thursday from 8:00pm till 9:00pm. Terry, I expect that at least one member of your team should be there. Your team needs lot’s of help.”

The bell rings. I sling my Asus into my backpack and dash out of the room. My science class is at the other end of the building; I’ve gotta hustle.

pete

This is a Re-Post from 2008.

It is a daydream. I’m sure there are many more creative ideas out there. The Asus and other products used in this post are for illustrative purposes only and not an endorsement.

The technology is transparent. The Asus is one of a number of sub-$500, mobile, wireless computers. WIreless access from everywhere in the school. VIrtualized desktops with access to all school applications and files from anywhere, including the home. Appropriate software. Engaged and empowered students AND teachers, learning both in school and outside of school, formally and informally, collaboratively and individually. Learning partners that extend outside the classroom.

Special thanks to Tom Woodward and Jim Coe, two groundbreaking educators from the Henrico schools who are making the daydream reality.

Students as Teachers

Laura is a great example of a student who has much to teach us. Her work is also a great example of the power of the Read/Write web. Laura is able to reach out to the world to put her heart into action and positively affect thousands of people. As educators it should be our common mission to see that more and more students AND adults, follow the path that Laura has so beautifully lit for us. – pete

“Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference” is authored by an 11-year-old girl named Laura (with the help of her mother). She is a fifth grade student who blogs in memory of her grandfather, who lost his battle with brain cancer. Laura began her blog on December 1st of 2007, doing simple good deeds and writing about them, hoping that she would inspire a handful of others to do the same during the 25 days before Christmas. She wound up with 18,000 visitors in one month, with dozens of people participating, and generated over 800 dollars in charitable donations in just three weeks. One classroom of winners won a web-conference with two NASA scientists, who donated their time when they saw Laura’s site. All of this has been incredibly shocking and rewarding beyond belief. Laura did not expect any of this to happen–she is very new to blogging, but loving every minute of it now.” – IZEA Blog

Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference

is a Service Project Dedicated to:

My Grandpa, Al Stockman

Albert Stockman was my grandpa. He loved helping other people, and he believed that everybody could make the world a better place, not just by doing big things, but by doing small things too! My grandpa once told me that I was a leader. Even though he called me “Lit-tle Laura”, he made me feel big and strong inside.

In 2005, my grandpa got very sick. He was only in his sixties, and he was very happy and healthy before then. I was sad and scared when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died only five months later. I was very, very sad when he died, and I felt lonely. My grandpa would not have wanted this though.

In December of 2007, I decided that the best way to remember my grandpa during the holiday season would be by living my life like he did, by making a difference and being a leader. I decided to honor my grandfather’s memory by trying to make a difference every day for twenty five days. I wanted to be able to do little things, like kids my age typically do, instead of HUGE things that are sometimes hard for kids like me. I decided to write about my adventures here, and I also created a challenge.

I challenged everyone who read my blog to TRY to do something every single day during the holiday season to make a SMALL difference in his or her world. I explained that whoever made the “most difference” in December would win a $25.00 donation to the charity of his or her choice on Christmas night. I SAVED ALL OF MY ALLOWANCE ($25) FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER, AND I WAS REALLY SURPRISED AND EXCITED WHEN SEVERAL PEOPLE GENEROUSLY OFFERED TO MATCH MY DONATION (OR MORE)!

Roger Carr

Mr. and Mrs. Fisher from Starpoint

Kristen and Carmen and Maddie Marchiole

Mrs. Genovese-Scullion and Billy

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Mrs. Nabozny

Dr. Sheila Cason

Laura Mayes

The Aroune Family

Dr. Alterio

Joanne from Western New York

Mark, Maggie, and Christopher Stockman

Kim Arthur

Christene Allen

and

Susan from Toddler Planet

RIGHT AFTER THIS FIRST CHALLENGE WAS OVER, I DECIDED TO TRY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE ALL YEAR ROUND!!

I decided that I wanted to spend 2008 supporting smaller causes in my area that may not get as much attention or support as bigger ones do. I also wanted to pick causes that all of my readers could support as well, even if they lived very far away.

Each new challenge begins on the 1st of each month and ends on the 25th. My family and I use the last week of every month to get ready for the month ahead. I am raising funds for my chosen causes by recycling bottles that people donate to me. I am also doing a lot of service work as well all month long. I work closely with people from these organizations, and I get good ideas from them about how to help them best!

More than anything else, I want to YOU to participate.

The individual who makes the most difference for my chosen cause each month will win a $20 donation to ANY CHARITY of his or her own choice!

The classroom, school, group, or organization who makes the most difference for my chosen cause each month will also win a $20 donation to ANY CHARITY of their choosing!

Make sure that you leave a comment or email me so that I know you are participating! If you have a family-friendly blog or website, I will also link back to you so that you get some more visitors!

I hope that this will encourage everyone to make a small difference with me throughout the year!

Love,
Laura

WLUW Chicago – Business Matters Interview

wluw

BUSINESS MATTERS – Friday, Sep. 5th, 11am EST

America’s Schools–A Crisis

The current education system is not preparing our youth for the real world thanks to programs such as No Child Left Behind. We will discuss the source of the problem and look for both public and private solutions, such as charter schools and homeschooling. With the Peter Reilly, President of NYSCATE, Robert Cane of FOCUS, and Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschooling.


Thomas White – Host of Business Matters

Click on the controls below to listen to the interview.

Pete

Laird

It was the late 70’s or early 80’s. (My memory doesn’t serve me well when it comes to dates.) I was a young English teacher and was carpooling with a teacher from the elementary school. Her day ended an hour after the HS, so I had an hour a day to kill before being picked up to go home.

Laird  and one of his friends poked his head in my door late one afternoon.

“Mr. Reilly, can we come in?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“We were down in Mr. McCarthy’s office (the principal) a few days ago and we saw two boxes stacked there. They were computers.”

Now, for you younger folks reading this, you have to understand that there was not a single computer in the school district at this time. No labs, no classroom computers, no office computers. There might have been a terminal in the central office that connected to a mainframe for payroll; but maybe not.

“We asked Mr. McCarthy who ordered them and he didn’t know. He said he needed a few days to find out what was going on. We went back today and he said he still doesn’t know who ordered them or who they were for. We asked him if we could open the boxes and set them up somewhere. He said he’d be okay with that, if we had a teacher to supervise us.”

I knew what was coming next.

“Mr. Reilly, would you supervise us? We’d bring them up here after school and set them up and stuff, and leave them in your room. We’ll come after every day and figure out how to use them.”

To be honest, this sounded interesting. I’d never seen a computer other than in magazines.

“Sure, Laird. But you’ll have to leave when my ride comes.”

“No problem, Mr. Reilly. Thanks! Thanks a lot!”

With that Laird and his quiet friend disappeared. Laird was one of the most interesting kids I knew. He was a free thinker, quirky, and really smart. He had shaggy brown hair with bangs cut a little longer than the Beatles. I knew this would be a bit of an adventure. And it was.

The next day, the two of them showed up and unpacked the two Apple IIe computers. This was the black Bell and Howell model, retrospectively called the “Darth Vader” model. I hovered behind them as they slipped the large computer disks into the disk drives and turned the computer on. The drives made loud grinding noises and I thought they might be breaking the machine; but I kept my mouth shut. Suddenly, on the monitor green words appeared.

[HELLO}  Magic!

Each day they showed up and began to play with the machine. I sat at my desk correcting papers but I was really more interested in what they were doing. They had the Basic programming manual open and were figuring out ways to make the machine “beep” and play music. More Magic!

One day, out of nowhere, they appeared with a game, Asteroids, or something like it, that they had copied. Now, neither of them had a home computer, so I have no idea how they did this. This still baffles me to this day. They called me over to play and I did.

I began to integrate into their world just a bit. They taught me a little about programming in Basic. They showed me what a Word Processor was…another copied version from ‘who knows where’. They took time to make copies of programs for me to keep.

The three of us explored and played…and learned, for the remainder of the year.

Sometime during the next year or two I ordered a couple of more Apples and volunteered to teach programming during one of my prep periods. Whenever I didn’t know how to do something, I’d call on Laird to explain it to me.

It doesn’t seem possible; but I owe my whole career in educational technology to two curious students staying after school… to learn on their own.

Laird, eighth grader…inquisitive explorer…

…teacher of teachers.

in gratitude,

pete

The Three “E’s”

In a recent post I laid out a host of strategies that have been put forth by educators in an attempt to ‘fix’ whatever is ailing our schools. I asked, “What would you do?“. I understand that we need to do more than one thing at a time; but one key area I’d change is our orientation to the three “E’s” of public education

The first E is “Entertainment”.

In this scenario the teacher is entertaining and fun and therefore the kids enjoy the class. The teacher is labeled ‘cool”. Everyone’s happy. We’ve all had “cool” teachers like this.

The second E is “Engagement”.

The teacher is still entertaining; but now he/she has stepped to the side a bit more and lets the kids get more involved and more active. There are more projects, more discoveries, more creativity, and more construction on the part of students. The teacher is still “cool” and entertaining; but the kids are doing more of the work. Many educators feel this is where we need to be…ed tech folks see that technology can play a big role in creating this environment…and it is a huge step from the traditional classroom.

…however…..

The problem that I see with both of these strategies…is that the teacher “Owns” the learning. The kids attend, and they may be entertained and engaged; but it’s still the teacher’s gig. When I look at videos of classrooms in turmoil (see Dangerously Irrelevant), I clearly see students who do not “Own” their own learning. They could care less. They have decided not to “play school” with us anymore, and that is frustrating for everyone…especially the teacher.

They might not be aware of it on a conscious level but their unconscious dialogue go something like this,

“You educators set up this stupid school, decided what you were going to teach without asking me, chose to put me in this class, and then told me to shut up and take notes. I may not have much power; but I can shut you and your dumb system out. You can’t force me to learn. The stuff you’re teaching me doesn’t have any relevance to my life. As a matter of fact, acting out in school is the one place in my life where I can exert some power, even if I’m the one who loses out in the end.”

A sad comment; but understandable for a disenfranchised and dis-empowered student.

That brings me to the third E, “Empowerment”.

In this approach students are part of the system itself. They participate in decisions about what is taught, what they would like to learn, and what strategies and tools they would like to use in the learning process. Some may decide to work more independently, some in groups; but they are part of the process of deciding what goes on in their own learning.

This is a radical step forward from “Engagement” which seems to be the ed tech mantra right now…”Engage me or Enrage me.” But the students need more than engagement. They need to be empowered. They need to feel like they are not the just “bricks in the wall”. They need to feel they are the architects, masons, (and yes) the laborers that are building the wall.

Educators don’t need to feel threatened by this because we still maintain our own ownership and accountability; but to educate the disaffected, angry, and powerless students in many of our traditional classrooms, we must open the circle of power to include the learners themselves.

John Taylor Gatto says,

We have turned our students into parasites. It’s an ugly word but absolutely true. By reserving them in school rooms and having them think that they have nothing to give back to the world for 18 years….We need to give them real responsibility. Doing your homework is a fake responsibility.”

Empowering students is not a magic bullet. We will still need qualified teachers who know how to build trusting relationships with students and handle the many challenges that kids will present. We will need parents that are part of the empowerment circle and are involved with their children’s education. We will need the best technology tools; and school facilities that show society’s commitment to our children’s futures. We need all these things….

But without taking steps to empower learners to “own” their own learning, we will continue to see classroom dynamics that doom us to failure and to continued classroom turmoil…

…and that serves no one.

pete

Students Bill of Rights

I came across this brochure in a public library during my trip to London last week.

I really like the empowering message it communicates to children:

1. You have the right to be heard.
2. You have the right to express yourself.
3. You are important and adults need to remember this.

It got me to thinking, what would a K-12 public school student’s Bill of Rights look like?

I did a bit of research and found very little in this area. What is there generally centers around students’ Constitutional rights to free speech:

Stand Up! ACLU Web Site

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution

I found a different perspective brought forward from the Education Research Group

Here is another interesting perspective from Engines for Education:

The Student Bill of Rights


1. Testing : No student should have to take a multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank test.

2. Real-Life Skills: No student should be have to learn something that fails to relate to a skill that is likely to be required in life after school.

3. Memorization: No student should be required to memorize any information that is likely to be forgotten in six months.

4. Clarity of Goals: No student should be required to take a course, the results of which are not directly related to a goal held by the student, nor to engage in an activity without knowing what he can expect to gain from that activity.

5. Passivity: No student should be required to spend time passively watching or listening to anything unless there is a longer period of time devoted to allowing the student to participate in a corresponding active activity.

6. Arbitrary Standards: No student should be required to prepare his work in ways that are arbitrary or to jump through arbitrary hoops defined only by a particular teacher and not by the society at large.

7. Mastery: No student should be required to continue to study something he has already mastered.

8. Discovery: No student should be asked to learn anything unless there is the possibility of his being able to experiment in school with what he has learned.

9. Defined Curriculum: No student should be barred from engaging in activities that interest him within the framework of school because of breadth requirements imposed by the curriculum.

10. Freedom Of Thought: No student should be placed in a position of having to air his views on a subject if the opposing point of view is not presented and equally represented.

 

10042012.jpg

I wonder:

Does every student have the right to a teacher that is certified in his/her subject area?

Does every student have the right to a basic learning environment such as a desk and chair?

Does this extend to a computer and access to the Internet?

What about student safety in school, as well as traveling to and from school?

 

We have a Patients’ Bill of Rights, a Consumers’ Bill of Rights, and an Airline Travelers’ Bill of Rights; but who speaks for our students? For those of us that advocate K-12 public school transformation, isn’t a Bill of Rights an important step?

So, what would you include in a Student’s Bill of Rights?

pete

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