I’m an extroverted introvert.

From http://yinrenaissance.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/the-inverted-introvert/

From http://yinrenaissance.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/the-inverted-introvert/

First John and then Trevor wrote about introverts. So I thought I would weigh in also. We were joking at lunch the other day about the fact that we have a large number of introverts on our staff. My principal asked everyone who thinks that they are an introvert to raise their hand. A bunch of us did, including myself. I felt like some people were looking at me funny, like you are not an introvert.

I feel like extrovert and introvert is a false dichotomy. The truth is that sometimes I like to be with others and am loud and opinionated. Other times I crave solitude and my own thoughts. How I act is much more dependent on mood and situation than my personality.

I am a morning person, but I like it to be quiet. In college my roommate and I would get up at the same time, get ready, go to the cafeteria and eat breakfast together. The first words spoken were “See ya” when one of us left for class and that was perfect. Generally I get up and am out the door before my family gets up. On days when they are up I feel stressed by the noise.

At parties or in unfamiliar situations I am silent and in a corner. I like to be around people, but don’t like small talk unless it is about sports. I would prefer to talk about deeper issues like justice, ethics, or philosophy, not exactly dinner party topics.

But in my classroom or with friends and family I am very talkative and sometimes even dominating. I should probably step back and listen more.

I feel like most people are like this. Rather than extroverted or introverted I think most people swing between the two depending on their mood and the situation. I agree with Trevor though that we need to make spaces in our classes and schools for both situations and realize that some students may need a different environment dependent on the day and what is going on in their lives more than their personality.

Why you shouldn’t attend conference sessions

If you don’t live in Michigan this post may not be for you. On the other hand yeah it is.

Unsession that I "attended"

Unsession that I “attended”

So our big edtech conference MACUL was this past few days. I can’t really tell you much about the sessions I attended. There were some good ones, but I won’t remember them next year or even in a few weeks. What I will remember is all of the people I met.

Conferences for me have become all about meeting great educators and learning from them in conversations in the hallways. Even one session that I did attend on setting up gaming in your classroom while interesting did not leave me feeling ready to try it in my classroom. But I “knew” the presenter virtually and met her this weekend. So I tweeted and set up a meeting to get some help from her. Admittedly during her session I zoned out a bit (it was the last one of the day so I was beat) because I knew that I would just talk to her later in person.

I could go on and on about what I learned from conversations with people. I will keep it short by saying my main takeaway is that Michigan is full of great educators and many of them “live” under the hashtag #Miched. I have participated in the chat a few times and knew some of them but after this conference I am committed to being an active part of the #Miched community rather than a “driveby tweeter.”

If you are looking for community online I can not recommend a better group of people than #Miched! I love learning from people online, but it is so much more powerful when it is with people that you also get to know in face to face conversations.

My Manifesto

From Josip Kelava

From Josip Kelava

David Jakes at NovaNow challenged us to move beyond mission and vision statements which are just useless propaganda (my comment, not his) but instead have a manifesto about what matters to us in education. So here is my manifesto for learning:

  •  When you stop learning, you’re dead.
  • Whoever is doing is learning.
  • Knowledge gained under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Plato
  • Hold your opinions with an open hand.
  • If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
  • Caring about justice is more important than content.

When you stop learning, you’re dead. Learning should be a lifetime experience. People who are no longer learning anything are figuratively dead, even if they are technically still breathing. Actually I think it is just about impossible to not be learning something if you are conscious. Learning of course encompasses so much more than what is taught in schools.

Whoever is doing is learning. I believe in active learning. If students are just sitting in rows listening or taking notes that is not “doing.” Learners need to be researching, questioning, experimenting, communicating, and tinkering. Learning is not always scripted but often looks more like young children playing.

Knowledge gained under compulsion has no hold on the mind. -Plato We can not force anyone to learn anything. Students cram information that they don’t care about for a test and quickly forget it. Students who explore their passions remember what they learn. We need to make room for students to control their own learning. And yes it is their learning.

Hold your opinion with an open hand. This is a hard one for students, but a mature person can see both sides of an issue and is willing to re-adjust their views based on new information. It also means being able to have a respectful discourse about a topic without getting hostile.

If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Every source no matter what the form: text, audio, visual, etc. is biased. Every piece of information should be checked out by multiple sources. The bias of everything should be considered when evaluating information. Bias is in everything, but does not necessarily mean that a source is not credible. Be slow to trust and quick to check out information.

Caring about justice is more important than content. There are two things that I really want my students to learn in my class. The first is part of the earlier points. I want my students to be critically thinking citizens. I want them to call BS and not just believe everything they hear but contemplate their own opinions deeply. The second thing I want them to learn is to care about people in this world and to make a difference in the world on an issue that matters to them. We have plenty of problems in this world to deal with and I hope that my students make a difference today and for the rest of their lives.

This is my manifesto. If you have never written one I challenge you to try it. It will help you think about what really matters to you. And don’t use the education jargon generator either. 

“Sometimes I’ve Got Nothing.”

From http://guyism.com/sports/gregg-popovich-reaction-gifs.html

From http://guyism.com/sports/gregg-popovich-reaction-gifs.html

“Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out,’ ”

Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, shared these words of wisdom today on what he says to his team during a timeout. Another quote:

“I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do,” Popovich said, “It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people.”

I think teachers need to take this mindset. Sometimes we need to empower by getting out of the way and letting students figure things out.

It is important to note that he does not always do this. He still runs practices, calls plays, and teaches the game. He has relationships with his players including their respect. He also doesn’t do this the first day of training camp, but after hours and weeks of working with the team and preparing them for what they need to do.

But then when they are ready he has to get out of the way and let players play. He is not being negligent but empowering instead of manipulating. Once students have the skills, and sometimes even before we need to get out of the way and let students figure out how they want to learn and demonstrate their learning. They will rise to the occasion if you let them. Having an authentic purpose and an audience to share their learning with helps out too. It raises the ante just like a game does over practice.

Thanks for making NovaNow SWEET!

12387232275_1b8d76e324_cJust a short post to say thanks to some of the core people of NovaNow. But not the people that you may be thinking. Of course we are thankful for the parents, students, staff, and especially our principal, Kym Kimber (she deserves a separate post at another time) for making this happen.

But we set the table; others cooked the food. We created a time and space, but everyone else brought the stories that made up the conversations. So we are very thankful for all of you that led a conversation this weekend. Some were large; some were small; some were dialogues; some had us creating; all were inspiring.

Finally a special thanks to #Miched. I definitely feel like the people of the #Miched community were the heart of this conference both as conversation leaders and participants. I want to give special props to Ben Rimes and our school’s own Jeff Bush. I remember when they dreamed up the concept at edcampGR a few years ago.

But I have heard many good ideas without follow through. These guys made it happen with the hashtag, weekly chat, blogposts, and later Brad Wilson’s podcasts. I can’t verify this but I feel like #Miched was one of the first, if not the first state hashtag/weekly chat. Other states have jumped in, but I feel like #Miched is the most active and really become a community. I am proud to be a “member” of the #Miched community.

NovaNow will always be a separate entity but I feel like ultimately it was a celebration of the people of #Miched to get together face to face and grow. I look forward to watching the future of education in our state because of this community!

NovaNow is like that.

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Ever have a deep conversation with a group of colleagues about learning and pedagogy?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever use social media to connect with educational experts?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish a conference was small, intimate, vendor free, conversational, and actually located in a school?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish students themselves were part of professional development?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish that you could chat with the “expert presenter” at a coffee shop instead of watching her powerpoint in a large auditorium?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever participate in a Twitter chat and learn great teaching ideas?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever talked to someone in the hallway at a conference and realized that it impacted your teaching more than the presentation in the “big room”?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish that you could see student centered PBL in action?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish that professional development involved critical thinking instead of following the latest fads?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish PD was less “sage on the stage” and more “guide by the side”?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever connect with educators and develop friendships that last for years?

NovaNow is like that.

Ever wish a conference was the beginning of professional development relationships instead of the climax?

NovaNow is like that.

Join us February 7-8 for NovaNow at Kent Innovation High, a New Tech Network school located in Grand Rapids, MI.

Speaker for the Dead

Before break we finished the last of our wars/foreign policy projects. We looked at the time period of post-Cold War to present with the defining event being 9/11. The driving question was “Why did 9/11 happen and how should we respond to terrorism?” We also read Ender’s Game. 

For our entry event we read an article to students about China capturing and torturing Tibetan citizens including some shockingly crude details. Students were disturbed by this, but then we revealed that we had doctored the article. Actually it was about what the United States did at Abu Ghraib to Iraqis, not about China at all. This set up part of what we wanted students to do for this project, look at events from the viewpoint of outside of America.

We then jigsawed looking at American interventions post Cold War. We did go back into the 1970′s for American actions in the Middle East to give students the perspective of how involved we have been in that part of the world. We also used the graphic novel version of the 9/11 Commission report to review the causes, events, and immediate after effects of 9/11.


Flags of countries with the years that America “intervened” in leading up to 9/11.

For the final phase of the project we applied Ender’s Game to the events (warning the next paragraphs contains spoilers for the book and the movie).  In the book Ender unknowingly destroys the Bugger’s home world in a genocide. But unknown to anyone else, Ender finds an egg containing a queen Bugger for a future colony. More importantly, the Buggers communicate telepathically to Ender and he learns their whole history. Ender feels terrible that he destroyed them and part of his healing is that he anonymously writes their complete history as “Speaker for the Dead.” This book becomes popular through out the universe leading to a sort of religion. People become Speakers for the Dead and travel around and give eulogies at funerals where they explain people’s lives in totality, the good, bad and the ugly. People find the truth very liberating.

The final product was for students to create a monument design for 9/11 as “Speaker for the Dead.” We wanted students to create a design that was complex representing the totality of the events, including causes and U.S. actions afterward in Iraq and Afghanistan. We spent a few days looking at existing monuments and the symbolism behind them. Many students struggled with interpreting symbolism at first, but by the time they designed their own monument it was making sense to them. Students created some great designs, some of them drawings or physical models and other in Mine craft or Sketchup (some examples on our Face Book page).  Not all of them “look” great as far as the models go, but their explanations of the symbolism behind them demonstrated that they understand both the social studies and ELA content and applied it deeply. Most important to me is that we had some good conversations about how America can look to solve future problems with out being a bully, over bearing mother, or supercop of the world.

My Great Depression Dilemma



I have been tweeting out some of my thoughts about the Great Depression as that will be our next project. I think it is a very interesting and important time period to analyze. The causes, attempted “fixes”, and how it ended are debated among historians and economists. The viewpoints usually reflect the political bias of the historian/economist of conservative, liberal, or libertarian. The other fact that has increased its importance was the bursting of the stock market from the internet bubble and housing bubble in recent years. How to keep the economy running and the role of government in both the economy and regulation of business are very current topics that the Great Depression should shed light on.

The controversial nature of these topics make them perfect for PBL. I imagine essential questions such as:

  • What was the primary cause of the Great Depression? Defend it against other other lesser causes.
  • Why was the Great Depression global?
  • Were Hoover’s or Roosevelt’s policies effective? Did their policies shorten or extend the length of the Great Depression? Defend with specific examples and compare and contrast the presidents.
  • Was Hoover really laissez faire?
  • Is deficit government spending an effective policy during depressions and recessions?
  • How should we define Depression vs. Recession? How should we define when GD ended? by GNP? unemployment rates? financial levels of families? income gaps and disparities?
  • Is war “good” for an economy?
  • When did the Great Depression end and why? New Deal vs. start of WWII vs. end of WWII vs. other?

But now let me share my struggles. First of all in order to give fair answers to most of these questions or even consider them one needs a background in economics. My students have not taken that class yet making many of these concepts very challenging for most of them. Also due to the challenge of the economics, many students also find them boring. On a personal note, although I have a solid math background and understand basic economics, I think I need a much deeper level of economics to give these topics justice. I mean these topics are so debated by experts that I feel it is difficult to answer these questions for myself.

That leads to my biggest problem with students. I am not afraid to teach or admit to students that I do not have it all figured out yet, but what I really need are high school level resources from the various viewpoints. A mixture of primary and secondary sources that explain the major economic theories, their biases, strengths, and weaknesses would be great. Of course textbooks (which we don’t have anyway) are not much help in this. I envision comparison charts that summarize the major viewpoints along with primary sources including data, political cartoons, quotes, etc. Then I could give the essential questions and resources to students and turn them loose to come up with their own opinions.

So anyone have suggestions on student friendly resources particularly defining the major economic views?

Race to Your Seat!

I hate the paperwork part of my job, but I try to do it right. One task that we all have to do is attendance. My second class is energetic and is slow to find their seats. I take attendance visually and with 45 of them it is difficult when they are wandering. So I end up calling out names over the microphone for them to find their seats. I tend to get annoyed and irritated at how long this seemingly simple task can take.

I found a simple solution last week. Instead of just calling out the same few kids names to find their seats I started announcing:

Who is going to be last to find their seat today? There goes Bill to find his seat. It won’t be him. Sue is going fast to her seat. Looks like it will be between Mary and Martha. Mary takes the lead, but Martha finishes strong and beats her!

It is extremely silly, but it works. Kids that ignored me before run to their seats and everyone cheers people on and claps for the winners/losers. It is fun and actually faster than before. The most important thing is that it makes me laugh instead of making me ornery to start class.

How do you use fun ways to “manage” (I really don’t like that word) your class?