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29 August 2015 @ 10:07 am
The latest issue of Education Week's Spotlight screams this headline: Creating a Culture of Data. Readers are encouraged to do the following: "Explore how states are developing governance structures to guide data use, consider the difficult balancing act between data collection and privacy concerns, and learn how some educators are making data work in their schools."

Do I need to read this? I was shuddering from the title and description alone. I think to the "data" I collected over the years: book journals, reading autobiographies, and results from conferences. And how did I use this "data"? I used it to direct my actions. What books did I need to read myself? Which books might be added to my collection to meet the needs of my students? How might products be constructed to serve their needs to talk about books in a more natural way? What could I do to help my students become "wild readers."

I worry about data. I worry about privacy. I worry about seeing kids as data points and not as humans. So, instead of a culture of data, I recommend a culture of humanity.
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Current Location: home
Current Mood: reflective
28 August 2015 @ 07:02 pm
I have spent some time lately feeling as though I was being treated dismissively. I think all of you have felt the same way from time to time. And, as always, it makes me think of my own teaching, my own approach to students from my former middle schoolers to my current graduate students. I hope that I am not dismissive, but I know I can come across that way. Part of the challenge with online courses is that I have to take even more care in my communication.

But taking care of not being dismissive is not the strong suit of some. I hope it will be mine.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: pondering
27 August 2015 @ 09:04 am
My colleague Karin Perry and I always survey our PD participants. We want to know when they read, how often, how many books (on the average), their presence on social media. We now have data from several hundred educators (teachers, librarians, administrators) from across Texas and even some data from other states. Eventually, all this will find its way into an article. However, I did want to share one piece of our findings here in light of a Facebook post which tagged me.

It was a link to a "news" article about a teacher who spent several hundred dollars of her own money to create a Harry Potter themed classroom. There were several pictures of her door and the interior space. Yes, a lot of care had gone into its creation. What was missing? BOOKS. The monies expended to make her door like like the train platform would have been better spent on actual materials for the kids to read.

I am not opposed to making the classroom an inviting place to be. I had nice bulletin boards and some posters. But the biggest part of the classroom decor for me was (and still is) books. Pop-up books on the ledges of the whiteboards. Bookcases. Book displays. Books on my desk. Books. Books. Books. At Halloween? Scary books. At Christmas. Gifts of books. Romance in February. You get the drift.

Now back to the survey and how it relates. One question we ask is whether educators are on social media. Of the ones who are, the vast majority have Pinterest accounts. Not Twitter, not Facebook, not Goodreads, Tumblr, or even Instagram. Pinterest.

I have a Pinterest account, but I avoid it largely. For me, it is a huge time suck. I can fall down that rabbit hole and not emerge with what I was chasing in the first place. Maybe others are more focused. It does not matter. Pinterest is not the place where I find book recommendations. Those are on Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer.

There is another issue here: kids are not on Pinterest in large numbers (maybe that is the attraction?). I am looking for ways to connect to my students. That means I need to be where they are, right? I am not bashing Pinterest or even a teacher who goes decorating crazy. I know some very creative folks who love to do all of the decorating. I wish I had that talent and drive. But I do want to insert a note here about priorities. What message do we want to send kids as they enter the classroom? That we love Harry Potter? Okay, fine. How about also sending a message that says we love the books, too? Displays like "If you liked HP, then you might like..." or displays of HP books themselves calling kids to revisit the magic (or witness it for the first time though that seems far-fetched)?

What must be front and center if our aim is to motivate kids to read, read more, and read widely? BOOKS.


And maybe some bookmarks?
Current Location: home
Current Mood: curiouscurious
26 August 2015 @ 03:35 pm
Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of let them eat cake, I am suggesting that we let them eat paste. I am talking, of course (and facetiously) about kindergarten. Several things have accumulated lately to start me thinking of those early years.

One item had to do with career readiness and kindergarten students. Really? I did not attend kindergarten (it did not exist when I was a kid, yes I AM that old) but I can recall thinking at that age that I might like to be a star, an artist, a ballerina or tap dancer. Becoming a teacher was not even in the ballpark for me. Having taught 4 year olds for a couple of years while I was finishing up my coursework to become a teacher, I heard all manner of "career" speculations from the kids in my charge. For the most part, careers had to do either with what their parents did or with someone they saw in the media often.

Another item that made me reflect on kindergarten had to do with a relative who talked about testing for kindergarten and then placing kids into "sections" depending on the skills they brought with them. In that school, kindergartners were expected to be able to form their letters, write their names, read a simple book. WTW? Benchmarking kids that soon? Gloriosky (do folks even say that anymore?).

I remembered the kindergarten experience of the former resident of the back bedroom who attended a preschool near the university. It was more Montessori based; it offered all kinds of centers; it talked to the kids about their interests. One day, my kindergartner came home knowing how to count to 10 in Japanese. The next day? It might have been a visit to the local county fair and the animals she saw that she now wanted as pets. Much of what she shared had to do with the books read to her.

There was "art" (and not the black master variety where all kids did worksheets that somehow incorporated cutting and pasting and coloring). There was music. There was movement. There was snack and nap time. There were hugs. This was a place where kids were the focus, the center.

What I have read of late troubles me. When did kindergarten become a place for testing and placing and remediation. Who decided career readiness was a topic? And what is getting displaced because of this idiocy? I suspect read alouds, book time, choice are all victims of the "new" kindergarten. How sad. How awful. How wrong.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: puzzled
25 August 2015 @ 03:29 pm
Spent several hours today in a department meeting. We meet weekly, and I love it. First, there is usually food involved. We order in lunch and eat together before the meeting begins. We have an agenda, but we often veer from it into side discussions and burning questions. Our chair permits this though sometimes she will guide us back when we stray too far afield.

The things that make this work so well for us all:

1. we are a small department of 5 full time faculty, one half time person, and a handful of adjuncts (who generally do not attend during the school season as they are employed in schools and have to be present there)
2. we know one another beyond the office
3. we truly care about one another
4. our ides are sought after and valued
5. folks volunteer to take on tasks
6. there is often laughter, boisterous laughter
7. we can add items to the agenda
8. we can ask for help
9. we take breaks
10. did I mention food is involved?

I contrast this with some meetings where I feel as though my job is to sit and be quiet while someone talks, reads slides from a power point. Often, there is nothing new in these "lectures." And there is nothing that could not have been transmitted in emails or a voice over power point.

So meeting weekly with my colleagues is actually something I enjoy, look forward to. How lucky am I?
Current Location: office
Current Mood: happyhappy
24 August 2015 @ 05:30 pm
A sermon that begins with a quote from THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST? There is no dozing through something like this. The priest began with a litany of some of my favorite authors from the 50s and 60s including Salinger, Wolfe, and Ginsberg. We climbed aboard the bus with Hunter Thompson and began a journey through the readings. The question at the heart was, "Are you on the bus or off the bus?"

For the sake of this blog let's try a quick rephrasing: are you on board or not?

Are you on board when it comes to choice?
Are you on board when it comes to differentiation?
Are you on board when it comes to response, real (authentic) response?
Are you on board when it comes to read (authentic) engagement?
Are you on board when it comes to access?

If you can answer YES to each of these questions, climb on the bus and let's journey into a year filled with books and reading, of choice and response, of access and engagement. The challenge here is that you are either all aboard or you are not. There is no standing in the doorway of a bus if it is to move. And make no mistake, we want this bus to take off, to begin the journey.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: challenging
23 August 2015 @ 05:27 pm
My BH directed me to this blog about the new state of public relations in a tech heavy environment: http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com. In some ways, this piece applies to much of the media coverage about education for some time now. Rather than reporters tracking down facts, rather than PR folks putting together a complete story, rather than talking to all the stakeholders (students, parents, teachers are most notably absent), stories about education tend to contain so many errors and glib glossing over of factual content that it almost makes my head spin.

Recently, Chris Hayes described CCSS as curriculum written at the state level with lots if input from the stakeholders. This was in context, of course, of the GOP who had held a "summit." Forget that the "summit" was held by Campbell Brown's organization that wants more charter schools, VAM, testing, etc. because of course she knows what is best. Never mind that the candidates spewed their usual ignorance. The "story" took about 90 seconds before moving on to some other topic.

Unless you followed the summit, you have no idea of the paucity of ideas about education expressed (and I am picking now on the GOP because this was their meeting; I am certain I will be able to do the same with the Dems given Duncan's track record). Katich joked that he would do away with teacher lounges because that is the place the trouble begins, with all the whining. Some candidates want to do away with unions (and some, notably, have done so in their own states). Few talked about addressing poverty. Few talked about funding. Instead, it was a bash fest.

Despite the efforts of Diane Ravitch, Paul Thomas, and others, the things that pass as news are still mostly devoid of facts or use stats that are questionable at best (I'm looking at you NCTQ). We need to be rewriting the stories. The best way to do that is to share our research, our knowledge. And get parents involved. I wonder how parents would react to the data mining? I wonder what they would think of the new licensing plan in Illinois courtesy of the money-gobbling Pearson? Katherine Sokolowski posted a link on her FB feed this morning to the new process for teacher certification: https://preaprez.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/pearson-to-become-the-gate-keeper-for-student-teachers-in-illinois/.

Would it not be wonderful if all parents would reject permission for their kids to be videotaped and said videos turned over to Pearson? Would it not be terrific if parents were to challenge the data collected and shared as a violation of privacy for their children? I know this is my dream. But, in the meantime, it would be terrific and wonderful for all of us to point out how children are being harmed when teachers and teaching is bashed by those outside the classroom walls.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: angryangry
22 August 2015 @ 09:03 am
Please, if you have not already done so, head over to the Nerdy Book Club blog and read this important post by Cynthia Lord on choice:


If you have read it already, perhaps you can pass it along to a colleague.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
21 August 2015 @ 08:45 am
I loved this note placed in a book returned to the public library.

What can we assume from this note? I think Jackson is a reader, don't you? He cares about the book. He is sorry he ripped a page even accidentally. He fell asleep reading the book. All three point to a reader. And yet I bet his teacher saw none of these, right? They happened when Jackson was "reading in the wild." Donalyn Miller's READING IN THE WILD is a constant reminder to me to look beyond actions within the classroom and school to what it is that wild readers do when reading is not required.

I can also infer that Jackson has a parent or sibling or guardian who takes him to the library, who keeps him connected to books and reading. He can read at night in bed, so someone has taken care to set up the essentials needed (light?) for that.

I appreciate that Jackson is a reader and a guardian of books. And I applaud whoever it is in Jackson's family who helps him continue to develop his identity as a reader.
Current Location: home, damp home
Current Mood: musing
20 August 2015 @ 06:43 pm
NPR ran a story about the Beloit Mindset List for this year (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/19/432878853/for-incoming-freshmen-which-cultural-touchstones-are-out-of-touch?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=education). I read this list with interest each year as it discusses the ever-changing world of students entering college each year. It documents the changes that all of us need to keep in mind, I think, as we enter another year of teaching. I am nearing my 40th year overall and my 26th year at SHSU. I have witnessed those changes, and I take many of them to heart.

Here is one of the items on the Beloit list that I loved seeing:

They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

Whether this was intended or to, it makes TWO points. Yes, college freshmen did indeed read the 7 volumes (not all of them, but a huge majority). It is the other portion of this item, though, that strikes a chord for me and for anyone who has pushed for more contemporary titles be infused into the stagnant reading lists and anthologies for years. They "built their reading skills" by reading HP. I would argue that they built skills even sooner reading tons of picture books, chapter books, GNs, novels, nonfiction, and other books and materials. Huzzah!

I wonder, though, what the mindset of the upcoming generation might be, the ones being raised with CCSS and ll the other commodifications in the reformist agenda in education. What might THAT list look like?
Current Location: home
Current Mood: happyhappy