Tag Archives: #miched

Poverty Project Builds Social Awareness

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“At our Project Based Learning (PBL) high school we are constantly developing the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills of our students through collaboration in authentic work. We decided to end the school year with a service learning project to focus on the competency of social awareness. We combined American Studies, an integrated American history and ELA class, with chemistry in the Poverty Project. In American Studies, students explored the questions: “Why are people poor? Whose fault is it? and How can we fix poverty?” while learning about the Great Depression and reading The Great Gatsby. In chemistry class, students learned about how soap works on a molecular level and the intermolecular forces involved.

To launch the project, we had representatives from Heartside, a local mission that works with their “neighbors” (homeless people), come in and talk to students about how Heartside shows their neighbors respect and gives them dignity through education and art programs. Our students were challenged to brainstorm what they could do to support Heartside…..”

Continue reading Poverty Project Builds Social Awareness at the Buck Institute for Education blog where it was originally posted.

Cramming in Last Minute Caring

studying hard

By Dean+Barb


We have about a month of school left. I am worn out from a long and stressful year. The weather is getting warmer and sunny (rare during Michigan winters). Kids are getting more restless and active. Everyone knows that we are pretty much down to the end and the pressure is on to make sure that we “cover all of the content” required by the syllabus, district, or curriculum office. Every Friday I am exhausted and ready for the weekend.

I too am feeling the pressure of the end of the year, but in a different way. I feel like I am still learning to know my students and I only have limited time to engage them on a deep level. The seniors (which I no longer teach) are thinking about grad parties and college choices. This is my last month of having my students in class daily and getting to know their hopes and dreams. I have limited time to hear their jokes, listen to stories about their plays, music performances, and games. Time is slipping away from me being there to hear about students’ struggles with family issues, friendship problems, or personal dilemmas.

I think about the students that I don’t know as well as I would like to because they are quiet or closed off. I think about the girl who has a hard shell around her keeping out anyone from seeing her deep pain. I think about the boy who thinks that no one really understands what his home life is like. So many students with so many dreams, yet also so much personal pain and struggles.

I want to finish the year strong. To me that means lots of listening, caring,  and connecting. To me that means pushing my students to love themselves and each other.  Our last project focuses on poverty through the lens of the Great Depression. I want my students to care about the less fortunate and be empathetic.

I will end the year by concentrating on connecting with students personally.

I will end the year by speaking encouraging words daily.

I will end the year by challenging students to consider the less fortunate.

I am tired. I am ready for a break, but my students still need my best.

I will end the year with love. I will show students how to love each other. I will leave my students with a message of hope and love for all.

We are going to cram in as much caring this month as we can…

Student Voice and Choice

I had the opportunity to record a short Google Hangout with other National Faculty members from Buck Institute for Education on the Gold Standard for “Student Voice and Choice.”

John Larmer wrote a nice post summarizing it here.

Check out the entire GHO below:

Going Public: The Power of Local, Community Partners in PBL

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Ever have a project that students don’t get very excited about? Chances are that it was lacking a quality audience and purpose.

Deciding on the right public product that is authentic to students can be one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of designing a gold standard project-based learning (PBL) project. Sometimes teachers try to force a project on a set of standards in an artificial way. A way to avoid this is to start with an excellent, local partner.

How We “Went Public”

In our community, Grand Rapids, a couple of local citizens started an organization called Grand Rapids Whitewater, dedicated to removing dams from the Grand River in order to restore the original rapids for economic and ecological reasons. They raised money and political capital until it became obvious that their dream was going to become a reality. My colleagues and I immediately recognized that this was going to be the biggest change to our city in decades. We had to get our students involved!

Finish reading my guest post at Getting Smart blog or on the BIE.org blog where it was originally published.

 

Why “off task” is OK

By McQuinn https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476/in/gallery-38392447@N05-72157623450240233/

By McQuinn https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476/in/gallery-38392447@N05-72157623450240233/

My friend Russ tweeted this quote (questioning it):

“Every spare moment in our classrooms should be packed full of engaging, learning opportunities.” from The Edvocate.

I replied that I’m ok with students being off task sometimes. You see no one is always “on.” We all get distracted sometimes and we also need brain breaks. This may not have been the point of the post, but I often hear people talk about students like they need to make sure that they are working hard on what they are “supposed to be doing” every second of the day.

I think that there are a couple of dangers with this attitude. For one the teacher can become a taskmaster that is always policing the room. The teacher then is seen as an adversary by students, rather than someone to learn with. I think this kind of teacher rarely reflects on the types of activities in their class and whether boredom is the cause of the off task behavior.

Secondly we miss the opportunities to teach students self management. Rather than worrying about whether students are on task we should focus on teaching students to set deadlines and meet them in regards to their projects and work. Successful students already do this and are viewed as “good” students by many. I wonder how many of our “struggling” students are really just students lacking organizational and time management skills?

In the past I have not done enough to seek out the reasons why students are not meeting deadlines. This year I will conference more with students who fall behind and facilitate a conversation to help them figure out how to keep up in class. I will support them in organizational skills as needed.

Finally, sometimes it is ok to just have fun in class for no specific reason. As Dean Shareski always says we need more joy in schools. Sometimes that does not look like a learning experience, and that is ok. Humor, joy, and relationships are the building blocks of trust that will allow deeper learning later. Humans were not designed to always be working. We need to remember our students’ humanity.

Pitch Perfect

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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Armando_Galarraga_pitching_2010_cropped.jpg

I had the privilege of joining Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship and attending their convening last week. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting into, but I really enjoyed the two days. As it turns out the purpose of this organization is to support teacher leaders and to amplify their voices. Pretty cool! The best part was meeting and connecting with other leaders from across the state of Michigan.

My favorite part of the convening was a session on creating pitches to use when talking to state legislators. Creating a short, powerful pitch is not something that they teach you in pre-service education or anywhere in education that I have seen. I loved the emphasis on stories that connect people to your message. I struggled a bit with the initial hook part, but after seeing an example from Melody Arabo it quickly came to me. We practiced our pitches taking them from two minutes down to fifteen seconds.

As I reflect on the importance of a good pitch, I see it as a vital skill that teachers should use all of the time. We should be “pitching” the new projects to students with great entry events tied to a story. We should use pitches to parents to help them understand how our classes are different from the school they went to and why. Having a pitch to share a new idea with colleagues, administrators, and school boards could be very effective to gain consensus. We should be able to pitch our class projects to local business and community partners to motivate their involvement and support.

Sometimes educators feel they need to be humble and servant like and pitching feels dirty to them. The truth is that teachers need to stand up and speak out for what is best in the classroom and for their kids. Pitching shouldn’t be about promoting yourself but about promoting your students’ work and about the best kind of schools that we can create. When considered in that light, one can be humble and pitch important ideas at the same time. I would go for far as to say that we have an obligation to start pitching positive stories about education to change the negative stereotypes in this country.

Break Protocols with a Purpose!

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blog pics.001

Teachers love to establish protocols at the beginning of the year and in general it is a good practice. We need structure in schools but I feel like there is often an overemphasis on rules that is based on administrators trying to control teachers or teachers trying to control students (same exact phenomenon really).

I have spoken out against standardization and structure at times, but it has a time and place. For example when I drive my car I am very happy that we have rules about driving: which side of the road, how to signal and make turns, and slow drivers in the left lane!!!!! Without these protocols I would probably be dead. Protocols around safety make sense and are imperative. In the classroom we need protocols to establish safety for our students and this is especially important for their emotional safety.

The counter example is a chef. There are protocols for proper cooking techniques. There is a science to how to prepare food properly so that it is safe and delicious. My wife and I often watch Chopped. The format of the show is that it is a competition where contestants are given 4-5 mystery ingredients that they need to turn into appetizers, main courses, and desserts. The chefs on the show never make the same dishes because cooking is also an art. If they do the science wrong, then the dish can be a disaster. But if they do the science right, but don’t personalize it into a unique dish then the food can be bland and boring.

Teaching is like being a chef. It is an art and a science. There is a science and a structure behind good teaching (PBL is my favorite structure :). I do not believe that teachers should just show up and “wing it” everyday. On the other hand, if we truly believe in student voice and choice then we need to have some flexibility in our classrooms. Protocols and rules need to be able to change and adapt to the students’ needs in our rooms. If you haven’t started school yet, then you have no relationships to build protocols on. Too much structure and protocols can stifle creativity and learning.

I love comparing the African proverb with the Picasso quote at the top. Breaking protocols for no purpose makes no sense. But when you really understand what you are trying to accomplish then you will start to recognize when protocols are getting in the way. My thermometer is to ask myself if the protocol limits student learning through voice and choice. If yes, then I need to consider other ways to structure learning.

Final thought: build protocols with your staff or students. Don’t force structure on them!

How Do You Plan to Trust Students This Year?

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From http://www.efestivals.co.uk/forums/topic/164728-t-minus-and-counting/page-74

I have been thinking a ton lately about the start of the school year including what I want to do on the first day, but especially about building culture.

I really think many teachers underestimate the importance of culture in schools and classrooms. In my opinion everything about the experience is culture: what we say, how we say it, what we never say, architecture, furniture, lighting, tone of voice, body language, what we do and don’t do, what students do or aren’t allowed to do. Every interaction and activity is a part of our culture and creates the “norms.”

Many teachers have shifted from a syllabus and the “rules” the first day of class to community building and things like designing social contracts together. I applaud this, but it is not enough! If we all agree to be responsible, but you never trust students then you are undermining the culture. If we agree to respect one another but then you micromanage every part of the class then you don’t really respect your students.

What students need from us is trust. Too often we start off the year with an assumption of negative behaviors from students that we need to cut off before they happen. Students will be off-task, misbehave, and waste time. The truth is that they probably will sometimes. But the danger of starting the year with this assumption is that it starts with a negative expectation. The other truth is that students will do amazing things that you never expected and teach you things, if you let them. Let’s try focusing on this instead the first day.

An example from my room is that I always tell students (10th grade) that they are not allowed to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink in my class. I always say it in my most serious tone with a dramatic pause. Then I say, “Just get up and go if you have to go. I am not here to babysit you for basic human needs.” My starting point is assuming trust and responsibility.

I understand that this example might not work for your specific situation, but what can you do to communicate a starting position of trust, respect, and responsibility rather than expectations of poor behavior?

The Best Project That We Will Do This Year!

My pastor was talking about exploring your passion today and played this viral video-a tribute by passionate fans asking Foo Fighters to come to their little town in Italy. I have been wondering how I want to start off this year and this made it all click for me.

The first day in class I am going to share some videos of young people doing amazing things that they are passionate about. I haven’t figured out which ones yet, but definitely want young people doing things for the good of others. If you have a great suggestion I would love to hear it in the comments.

Then I will share with the students about the best project that we are going to do this year:

I want to tell you guys about the best project that you are going to do this year. It is going to be so incredible and life changing for the audience. It will change your lives too as you make sacrifices and make a differences for others. I can’t tell you very many details about it today though. It is kinda a secret. Not so much a secret from you, but from me. 

You see, the thing is, I can’t tell you more about it because I don’t know anything else about it yet. Last year you did some incredible projects like design tools to help refugees and made documentaries to honor WWII veterans. You were in your first year of PBL and those projects were designed by your teachers. You are no longer freshmen.

This year the best project will be when you take over this class and decide to do something amazing. The teachers are not going to come up with the purpose, product, and audience. You are. This is your year to take charge of your learning and to do something to change the world. The “real world” is not some future place but is our classroom and you will change it starting now.

We will spend a lot of time the rest of the first week building culture in our class and establishing the need to be a critical analyzer of bias. I know the culture that I want to build with students, but this first day is all about setting up proper expectations.

My expectation of my students is that they will be passionate and want to be active citizens who make a difference in the world.

Once students understand this then I can’t wait to be amazed by what they decide to do!

 

When Students Take Over

My students made a video to document how they took over the Water Project last year.