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Teams vs. Non-Teams

Fascinating Dynamics

Last week was my turn for morning duty outside the building. I was watching these two groups of 7/8 boys play football when my brain exploded!  I noticed the deeper dynamics of the games at hand.

I usually stand in front of the doors to have a good vantage point at all the potential antics. On the left is a patch of grass dominated by 7th grade boys in a fierce duel — two teams going at each other in a competitive game of touch football — full-on with positions, play-calling and raucous cheering when either side claims a small victory. They all start the day hot and sweaty after a fast and furious gridiron battle.

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The Parallel Tale of a Student and Teacher

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.

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A Tale of Two Students

Let me give you descriptions of two typical students and see if you can relate.

First Case

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.]

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Marshmallow Physics

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.

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Yes. We are going to build bridges out of marshmallows and toothpicks.

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Green Hands Brigade

#DesignThinking in Action

ICYMI.. this is how it all started: HMW start a recycling program at our school?

Green Hands 2A fiery group of 7th grade math students want to make a difference at their school, so they have decided it’s time to put the words into action. All it took was a bunch of empty copy paper boxes and some green paint.

We worked through the design-thinking process:

Empathy — Define — Ideate — Prototype — Test.

MindMaps led the way as each student took a turn writing ideas and questions on the whiteboard. After a lot of excited discussion and strategizing, they are ready to test the plan.

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The New Scarlet Letter

Something’s Gotta Give

Educators abound spend 90% of their time prepping students for state exams, and the other half of their time is spent complaining about them (my apologies to Yogi Berra).

The main complaint from teachers (and parents, and some legislators, and…) is that state exams zap too much valuable instructional time. The time spent in testing sessions is draining to students and ultimately results in a loss of class time.

The bigger argument against the way we mass assess our students (and the one that goes largely unvoiced) is that it does relatively little to prepare students for life and their future ahead.

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Towers of Power

One of the hardest things to figure out from social media is whether or not something is real. And even more important, if what you find is accurate.

Most definitely, there are trusted sources of news and other information that we can turn to for facts and a variety of data. But in the world of internet, everyone has a voice and sometimes that collective voice is loud and overwhelming.

20150917_150811For this blog post, my point is this:

As a teacher, I have no idea how anything I do in my classroom compares with what happens in other teachers’ classrooms.

Why? Because in the social-media-cybersphere, everyone else has brilliant students doing amazing work with unlimited physical resources and enthusiastic support from everyone involved in the educational process.