When Its (Not Quite) the End of the Year

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Yeah! The end of the school year is soon upon us! Which also means you feel frazzled, your kids are spent, it’s just in time for state testing, and you and or a close friend is leaving school a couple times a week wondering how you’ll get through tomorrow.

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I take a lot of comfort on days like that by centering on a few things I know about God and I know about myself. Whether I have a great day or a wretched wreck, God has me right where he wants me. You may have seen Jeremiah 29:11 quoted on Instagram or someone’s living room decor –

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)”

and you may have thought, “Yeah! I’m gonna start winning!” Welfare, future, hope…these are all good things that we want, right? So true, but I also don’t believe this is always a promise that tomorrow might be rosy. I read this, think about my own children, and sit on, “…I know the plans I have for you…” When I take toys from my boys at bedtime because they won’t go to sleep, my 5-year-old sometimes tells me, “YOU JUST WANT TO BE THE TAKER!” Its funny, because its true, but only in the sense that I know its good to all the sleep you need, and I’ll do what I need to in order to help my boys get there…to understand that I value it and that it is for their “welfare” (to quote Jer. 29:11 again).

Besides remembering that whatever hardship I’m going through is God ordained, I also like to dwell in the Psalms that teach us how to ache to God without losing hope. Psalm 42 came up in my reading plan today, and I found myself wanting to highlight the whole thing… Check it out (emphasis my own):

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,`
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

 

“I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” I think the longer you’re in education, the more realize that your “favorite” students, or the ones whose memory you hold dearest, or the ones you take most pride in were relationships that felt really difficult a lot of days. They’re the relationships that take a constant renewal of forgiveness on your part. Countless counseling sessions with any of your friends who will listen.  I’ve found that I’m most consistently able to draw on hope for those relationsihps, or for a season of a difficult class because I know that (a) teaching is a marathon, not a sprint, and that (b) whatever the outcome with that student or class, I know God’s at work in me, and that eventually “I shall again praise him.”

“ALL THAT BEING SAID….HOW AM I GOING TO GET THROUGH TOMORROW, CHUCK?”

You know what, that’s a good question. Here are some things that I try to keep myself interested in class as that gas gauge nears E and it’s not quite time to review for finals.

  • Throw in a new project. Maybe you’ve gotten into a routine of lecture/practice/lecture/practice and your kids are showing diminishing returns. Throw in a wrench and change things up
  • Change your seating arrangement. Seating totally shifts perspective, right! This might solve some other classroom environment problems that were cropping up, too.
  • Change YOUR routine. Do you usually get to school early? Stay with the late crowd after-school and prepare for the next day then, instead. (or come in extra early if you’re usually walking in with the kids). Go for a walk around the building during your plan time.
  • Try a new website or teaching strategy for that lesson that you’ve done a billion times.
  • Spend a day talking with your students. Maybe you just need a class-wide relationship building reset.
  • Have 2 more units/chapters left for your curriculum but really only time for one of them? Have your students do a little previewing and then let them choose how they finish out the year.
  • Go ahead, start reviewing for your final now! (And still introduce the new content you’ve yet to do). We all know that a spiral style review is going to be more effective than a week-long cram at the end, anyway!

You can do it – finish strong, educators!!

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5 Reasons Why Common Core Will PROMOTE Creativity

There are a lot of reasons to #stopcommoncore, 5 of which I shared here about its effect on creativity, but let me give you 5 ways CCSS could be good for our right-brained students, and actually promote creativity in our schools.

1. Modeling with mathematics. 

Modeling “real-world” situations with arithmetic, formulas, and statistical displays and inferences is one of the the Standards for Mathematical Practice, which while not much different than the current Missouri process standards (the “placemat”), go a necessary step further for no other reason than acknowledging that technology beyond scientific calculators exist.

Modeling can often leads to multiple solutions and different approaches to the solution of a problem, and require much more holistic thought to a task than simply “Solve the quadratic function by factoring.”

Another aspect of CCSS math standards in particular that encourages creative thinking is the new prevalence of statistical literacy in nearly every level. Something I love (and some hate) about the study of statistics is that there are seldom black and white answers in inference. Interpretations of results given a particular situation makes statistical study inherently more of a right-brained activity.

2. Evaluating Authors’ Differing Points of View

Is role-play not an element of creativity? When we evaluate viewpoints, replacing the author’s attitude for our own, we experience fresh perspectives and we can express individuality in new ways. How do we innovate without empathizing with what is different from our own?

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

3. Using and consuming diverse formats and media.

If you’re assessing in your classroom in student centered methodologies, I trust that you’re doing more than giving students homogenous paper tests and you’re pushing them to use more than 5 paragraph essays to provide evidence of and for learning.

I don’t think drawing upon multiple info sources is too much of a problem for teachers, gathering info for lesson plans, but how often do we actually model that and expect it of students?

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
4. Using Design and Digital Media Strategically
Using color for emphasis = good
Using color because its cute = bad
It’s a creative work to thoughtfully include media and design in a presentation or project. It’s lipstick to have an item on your rubric that says something like, “Student used color.”
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
5. Writing Narratives for Real or Imagined Events
From my social studies background, this might be my favorite creativity-promoting standard of them all. I had my Algebra 2 students do this for linear inequalities last fall and a lot of students really got into it. (Kids made up or recounted a scenario in which they could have used a linear inequality to make a decision and gave details of how the inequality was set up and how they used it in the story)
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
As far as history class, you’re challenging your students to know just tell you what happened at the Battle of Hastings – they should be trying to make you experience it. Like World War Z.
Conclusion
English class, is, admittedly probably less “fun,” now, but how many kids were getting overly expressive about Huck Finn and The Scarlet Letter, anyway? The good news is, “creativity” in every other discipline is promoted and has been emphasized. Creativity hasn’t left our schools, its been given a purpose and legitimized.

(Effective) Teacher Technology Use Is Growing (INFOGRAPHIC)

A buddy of mine, +David Hallmon, forwarded this infographic from onlineuniversities.com to me today and it had some points that really grabbed my interest.

1. 68% of students reported in 2012 that their teachers used technology effectively.

It doesn’t go into what technology proficiencies made for “effective,” or at what level, but that seems like an encouraging number.

2. Of teachers surveyed, 90% have a laptop or PC in the classroom.

This astounds me that is NOT at least 99%, but good for perspective, I guess. Even on days you’re upset that your favorite tech tool isn’t behaving, it could be WORSE.

3. 3 in 4 teachers say that tech allows them to reinforce and expand on content, motivate students, and accommodate multiple learning styles.

Is it statistically appropriate, then to link my first point, and this one and assume that of the ~75% of teachers that report these benefits, only 7% aren’t doing it well? (Probably not, but it would be an interesting test of significance to run)

4. In a study of AP Calc students, the half in a #flipclass model scored an average of more than half a point higher on the 5 point AP exam scale

I feel like my most effective days teaching in AP Stats are the days we clarify misconceptions and reinforce what is understood. Giving lectures, which is something my kids DID ask for more of, seems like a bit of a time waste for kids that I know can and will mostly read/watch when I tell them to.

I have a hunch that at least a segment of these higher AP scores are because the brighter kids benefited more from the self-paced learning afforded by the video model, but it’s significant enough for me to give it a shot next week when we return from Spring Break.