being a teacher, blogging, connections, journey, reflecting

Not All Teachers Have to Blog or Even Be On Twitter

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I see a lot of posts and discussion about how we wish all teachers would get on Twitter or how all teacher should start a blog, and at first, I was a believer.  I know how much I have benefitted, in fact, how much my life has changed, because of blogging and Twitter.  And yet, now I falter on the belief of blogging and tweeting for all.

Blogging for me opens up a conversation that I don’t have the time for to have face to face some times.  It opens up debates, new ideas, and inspiration that I often cannot find in my every day doings.  However, it also removes me from seeking out those opportunities to have those same discussions “live.”  That doesn’t mean everyone responds that way, but I think many of us do.  Blogging is a tool for deep reflection, even though it is a public one, it is a time for me to put myself out there and to sort through what it is I really mean.  And that doesn’t work for everyone, and why would it?  We all have different comfort levels in how we share ourselves.

So instead of syaing that all teachers should blog we should hope that all teachers reflect.  Whether it is through a blog, throguh a conversation, through a journal; the reflection is what matters.  The reaching out to others and having those courageous conversations, putting yourself and your ideals out therefor debate, that is what matters.  Not whether you blog or not.

The same goes for Twitter.  I love Twitter because I can connect with others, easily, on my time.  Yet you can connect in other ways.  Twitter is not the only way you can learn something and again here I think it is the act of connecting that makes us herald Twitter as the best PD for teachers.  It is not Twitter that does the professional development for us; it is the way we use it.

So no, I don’t think all teachers should have a blog.  I don’t think all teachers should be on Twitter.  But they should all be reflecting and connecting somehow, somewhere, with someone.

being a teacher, goodbye, journey, Student-centered

They Are Ready to Leave

I started this year with a vision and ended it with a new belief. I started this year by throwing it almost all out, scrappng what I thought were “have to’s” in the classroom, discarding rhetoric survived from college, raising my own expectation for eagerness, excitement, genuine learning rather than memorization. I started this year with many ideas. Not my students. They started this year being excited about being 4th graders, bummed about losing their third recess, but pumped that the chairs and desks were bigger. Some were even interested in what we would learn in 4th grade, but none of them knew what to expect. Neither did I to tell you the truth.

So these kids that have been my partners in learning, these kids that have believed in our journey together are now ready to leave me. They are ready for new challenges, new jokes, new routines and expectations. They are ready to decompress, breathe a little bit, and just be kids in the summer heat. I pretend to be ready to let them go, I know it is their time, but it is still hard to lose the label of “my kids.” The journey we have been on has been so incredible, so beyond expectations, that I wonder if this is it? Is this the year I will always try to emulate? Or did I really stumble upon something within myself? Did I create a new teacher where then old me once stood? Will my vision survive the next year?

I started this year with a vision and I was lucky enough to have kids that believed in it too. Now they get to leave with our vision of what learning should feel like, and I am left behind, alone, but so, so proud. These kids – they will change the world some day.

alfie kohn, being a teacher, journey, No grades, students

So What Does a B+ Mean to You – Quitting Grades Does Not Mean You are Lazy

Quitting grades to some means to quit expectations. I used to think that if I didn’t meticulously grade everything, I was inefficient, ineffective, and certainly lazy. And yet I have come to happily realize that quitting grades as much as I am allowed to do has become one of the great liberations of my young teaching experience. By quitting grades, I simply become able to better evaluate work, to in the end better “grade” my students.

When I quit putting letter grades on my papers, I did not lower my expectations for an excellent product, in fact quite the opposite happened. By removing letter grades from the final product it ceased being exactly that; final. When my students hand in an assignment now, they know it is is not done. No longer just an end product, but instead another stepping stone in our learning journey. If a test is mediocre, then they get a chance to fix it. As simple as that seems, I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed a student say “oh” only to then erase the incorrect answer and provide the right one.

So quitting letter grades did not make me weak, simpler or even more “granola.” I didn’t quit letter grades because I wanted to shelter all of my students from the “real” world. I quit letter grades on assignment because they did not work. A letter grade only ever sparked a discussion when it was below what a student or parent thought was deserved. If an A- was given, a student did not take the opportunity to ask what could be better or ask what was great about it in the first place. Instead the grade was received, glanced at and the product filed away, perhaps to be shared with a parent, at some point to be shared with a recycling bin. So I didn’t start to wear patchouli or run chants in my classroom, I didn’t let my students academics slide to fit in with my new philosophy. Instead I challenged myself to provide better feedback, a better pathway for my students to follow to academic success.

Giving letter grades would be less time consuming then the feedback I provide now. Sometimes on busy days I even yearn for those days of easy calculations, slap on of a grade, and done with it all. Now instead I ponder, I chart, I reflect back upon previous work and then I try to write meaningful, relatable feedback that is relevant to that student. No more “Nice try” comments, but instead “You are secure in paragraph setup but still developing in sentence fluency.” And that’s only after all of my students actually know what a paragraph and sentence fluency is. So call me weak, call me a rebel, but don’t call me a softie. Letter grades for my students has meant more work, more thought, and more academic challenge than ever before. And boy do I love my new, hippidippy ways.