Thursday, August 30, 2007

The beginning... once again

Thus far, the new school year has proved to be the best one yet. I have great freshmen, who supposedly are to be the best fresh class ever and juniors who are willing to LEARNand take action by DOING-not once have I heard about grades...yet. I must say I feel good about the year and where I am taking my classes. I attribute a lot of that thought to our group and our fearless leader, Fisch. I love where this has taken my teaching. The panel of "real-world" professionals, at the end of last year, got me thinking over the summer about these students and their place in the future. They talked a lot about skills one should acquire and even more so those interpersonal relationships and professional networks that must be established. I began to think of my class in these terms, although Cris Tovani (sorry to quote Tovani again...but this just sticks out in my head) would say, "if you're solely teaching content, you aren't teaching them skills to help them succeed." In literature, we tend to hammer away at it, evn though it stands as the foundation of most English classes. But, I began to wonder if I could let go of one novel that we may read per semester, so I could focus on skills that they actually need. I'm not saying that it isn't important to read, analyze, thinking critically about literature and connecting our lives to it. But, we, as a group, have talked about the question: What can I let go?

Karl talked about students acquiring personal learning networks, networks that can expand. He said they need to be able to find information and know how to evaluate it. How many of us are really teaching them this skill? He said that they needed to form relationships, talk to people, make connections, but also contribut to them and be a bigger part of the community. The question was asked-what is our role in this? Further, it was said that if we want our students to be able to learn on their own, we have to commit to using tools of the 21rst century. Also, we have to model those skills and how we have learned about it. We have to share.
It seems that in my former years, trying to work outside the education realm, networking wasn't about what you know , but more about WHO you know. But, I really see these kids stepping up to the plate and taking charge and more importantly wanting to learn these skills. I have to be the guiding force behind that. What they do know still does make a difference. I had a student blog that basically said schools doesn't teach students what they need to know for the real world. This struck me big time. So I asked him, what do you need to learn for the real world? What can I do to make that relevant for you? I haven't heard back yet. But, I do constantly think about what I am doing in class to get my students ready and to allow them to enjoy it as well. What's going to make them better for the future?
Also,I really do wish that Karl Fisch would win the powerball jackpot, so that he could donate laptops to us all. Maybe Oprah or Bill Gates will donate. Maybe I'll ask Santa. Maybe they will magically appear one day in my classroom. Until then, I will keep plugging away at the lab signups, where time slots are full and availability is short. If only...


Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!

So, ahem, have you guys decided if you can let go of one novel in order to do that? That's a tough call, of course, as I imagine all of the novels you read are worthwhile and valuable. But, again, for me it comes back to really going in-depth on fewer topics instead of skimming over many more things.

I, too, am wondering what that student will reply. Tell him that enquiring minds want to know . . .

I don't think Powerball is in my future, since as a former math teacher I refuse to purchase a ticket, but perhaps our additional laptops this year will accomplish two things. One, free up more lab time for everone else. And two, hopefully show more and more folks what our students can do when given both the opportunity and the 21st century tools to take charge of their own learning.

8:57 PM  

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