Friday, August 12, 2016

"Go Easy" with Back-to-School

Transitions are tough for us all, especially kids - and especially kids from more "transitional" backgrounds. The last things kids need from teachers, staff, parents, etc. during the first few weeks of school is added stress and judgement.

First, a disclaimer - back-to-school is a huge time to set expectations and build systems to last for the next 9 months. I'm not, in any way, saying we should abandon those practices.

However, it's a time when we should perhaps focus a bit more on whether we're picking our battles, and whether we're actually being supportive of students. During the summer, for those of us who work with kids during that time, we build our own programs in the same way as teachers do during the school year - we start off a bit more rough, and end up with things running according to rhythm. Then, again for those of us who keep working with kids even when summer ends, the first days of school hit and things...just...change. It can be frustrating - all of the rhythm we've established seems to just vanish. Kids are angry, resentful, apprehensive, excited about other things that our programs, etc.

On top of the natural changes that occur with changes in settings & programs, the beginning of a new school year also offers a lot of kids the opportunity to put into practice new ways of being that may have been developing, but lying latent, over the previous year. We're always growing, our environments often encourage us to stay the same because we're part of an interdependent social ecosystem that continues to expect the same things from us. When we start up school again, we get the chance for fresh starts, new beginnings, new first impressions, etc.

In short, this is one of the most socially tumultuous times of the year. As adults, we can get frustrated when kids start to behave different than they did last week, or we can step back, provide support, and roll with it. A lot of things will return back to normal in a few days. Some things may not, and we may be happy about that. Then again, we may inherit new problems that we have to be involved with, and that's just part of the job.

Face it, folks - the relaxed days of summer are over and it's time to start earning out (small) salary again!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

True engagement in educational innovation

Great guest blog courtesy of Peter DeWitt, written by Michael McDowell, at EdWeek this week on true engagement in educational innovation, with a great title as well:

Why Is Educational Innovation Like Hand-Washing?

In short, the idea is that some educational innovations catch on quickly and spread like wildfire because they're either easy, fun, exciting, etc. such as infusing iPads in the classroom. On the other hand, some innovations aren't as naturally engaging, which leads to, well, less engagement. We're cautioned by the author to not avoid the challenging innovations we may be called to pay more attention to, such as true formative assessment and self-evaluation.

Other than just rehashing the author's perspective and engaging in high school book review style here, I wanted to post as this article reminded me of a concept I had loosely termed "intentionality" or "process-awareness" quite early on in my career. Mindfulness may be another term more currently relevant, but the idea is that - whether in teaching, or life in general, being aware of and focused on the current experience leads to better results. It's far too easy to go on auto-pilot and otherwise "check out" when we do things that we do routinely. Sometimes that's okay, with some things, but we need to make sure we're monitoring our own progress toward monitoring students' progress.

So, that's it - a short one today, but I think a powerful one.