“I can grade you or I can teach you, but I can’t do both.” One sets us up as opponents, the other as collaborators. As educators, which relationship are we seeking? As a society, which […]
A Day in the Life of an 8th Grader
I had just finished my morning coffee. Looking out of my office window, I saw AC entering the building with his sister. I popped up from my desk, met him at the door and asked, “Are you ready?”
“Yep,” he eagerly replied.
From there, we proceeded to breakfast in the cafeteria. I could tell he didn’t know quite what to think about the fact that his principal had dressed in ‘regular’ clothes and was planning to follow him around school the entire day. I wondered how students and teachers would react when they saw me in class.
Digital vs. Analog
Many of my colleagues in the field believe Every Student Stem. By upbringing and by trade, I am not a programmer. A gamer-at-heart perhaps, but not a programmer. Yet I believe in that mantra as well.
It is silly for us to view today’s student as anything but a ‘STEM’ student. As a parent I often times find myself comparing my 4-year-old’s vocabulary to mine at his age. His frequent use of the terms profile and wi-fi astound me. When he fires up our XBOX 360, I must ask him to make sure he signed out of his brother’s profile and signed in with his own in order to avoid deleting anything.
My parents never said those kinds of things to me. We didn’t connect around Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo or King’s Quest on our Tandy 1000. I spent my childhood on a bridge between analog world and digital world – a bridge that my parents saw no use in crossing. A bridge that many saw no use in crossing.
1st Year Teacher
I have been educating young people for more than 25 years, so I am not a first-year teacher. But this is my first year in a public school classroom… or at least an academic core subject classroom. I was prepared for the gifts and the antics of adolescents, although there have been a number of surprises.
I was not prepared for the high-pressure demands on teachers both from within the educational system and with-out. Every new career calls all previous learning and experience into play, so I knew what was coming. The stress in teaching has just come from so many unexpected angles and places that I leave school each day exhausted. I have yet to feel that exhilarating moment when a student gets it like so many teachers describe. Sometimes I wonder… what’s wrong with me?
For Your Consideration
I was asked to submit a letter to the Colorado House Education Committee in support of two upcoming bills regarding technology education in public schools and career development courses for high school students. These two bills HB-1289 and HB-1291 would provide additional funding for students and teachers to gain tech expertise and opportunity while in school. I am a 2015 Colorado Educator Voice Fellow and have been actively involved in the legislative actions in education during the past year. Here is my letter: House Ed Committee Letter.
This One Student
I have this one boy in my 7th grade math class just like that one you have in your class. He’s a ringleader. He’s an instigator. He always wants the spotlight. Bottom line: he’s just difficult.
Altogether, he is pretty bright in math. Intellectually, this young man is head and shoulders above many of his classmates. Academically, he is a successful student. Emotionally, he is quite immature. [Par for the course as far as adolescent boys go.] We can easily go the distance on this one and surmise that he is bored in my class, so his behavior is too often less than stellar.
Let me give you descriptions of two typical students and see if you can relate.
The first is an 8th grade boy in my math class. Veteran teachers know that classroom behavior is critically dependent on seating placement — where and next-to-whom a student sits is often an accurate predictor of how much learning will sink in. But with this kid, it doesn’t matter in the least. Front / back / side / middle / friends / no friends, he will not learn. Even if he brings paper and pencil, he won’t use them. [He showed up empty-handed to the last test.]
You Want Us to Do What?!?!
Among students at my school, I am famous for making them build bridges out of popsicle sticks. [Or infamous… however you want to look at it.] Then we break the bridges by hanging free weights to see how strong they are.
So when I recently told my students that we would be building more bridges, I got eye rolls so big that eyeballs nearly rolled right out of their sockets. I heard Do we hafta? way more than once or twice.
When I pulled out the supplies, a magical glow quickly filled the room and immediately, seventh graders become eerily quiet. But let’s get real… that only lasted for about one breath. Then… raucous joy.
Yes. We are going to build bridges out of marshmallows and toothpicks.
The Answer in the Question
The question should be on every educator’s mind. #ThinkBig
I want to change the world. I want the staff (and students) in my school–and schools EVERYWHERE–to approach education from the same perspective.
A unified change in belief will lead to a unified change in approach.