Friday, October 31, 2008

Unbelievable Discussion

Wow, did we have an unbelievable discussion at school today!?  As a way of saying "Thank You" to all of my Politics and Elections students for the hard work they did on the mock election, I let the students choose today's class activity.  Their choice, to debate the teachers on issues relating to respect and student involvement in school.  My first thought was, naturally, "uh oh." However, after having the students talk-out what they really wanted from this "debate," we came to the conclusion that it would be more of an open-ended discussion with the teachers. We wrote a letter inviting all the teachers to class and gave them a heads-up on the topics of discussion.  Roughly three staff members showed up for the whole discussion and about three to four came and went as they had time.  
During this "conversation," as it came to be called, students and teachers gave their own definitions of what respect was and gave a vision of what that looked like to them.  This opened up to a conversation about language and finally into student involvement in collaboratively designing courses with the teachers.  We had five questions prepared to lead our discussion but with such active involvement we only got to 2.5 of them in an hour.  It was awesome to watch. Teachers and students flowed in and out of the circle when they wished to share and they asked questions of each other in hopes of clarifying statements and finding deeper understanding. When 2:00 (end of the day) hit, on a Friday, four students stayed after and most teachers found themselves in the classroom continuing the conversation for another half-hour.  It was great to see such a healthy and respectful conversation and, from the feedback I received, it was a conversation that both students and teachers would like to see happen again.
The most surprising revelation or bit of information that came out of the conversation for me and my coworkers, was that the students want us to sit down and talk to them, even on break.  I think we all felt this was sacred student time but, armed with this new information, we will now start taking greater steps to bridge the communication gap.  

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Is Understanding/How Is It Measured?

We have been talking in E2T2 class for about 15 minutes (at this moment) on "What is understanding?" and "How is understanding measured?"  Whether you are in the E2T2 cohort or not, please leave your comments on what you believe regarding these two questions. Please answer openly.  I don't need an answer that reflects what the state or federal standards say about what understanding is or how to measure it.
Mastering Low-Level Content raises some good questions...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Our assignment for the October E2T2 class is to pre-plan some lessons in our subject area that we plan to teach this year and examine how we can integrate technology into those lessons. 

Through examination, I have found that...
  • there are many equipment-type technology resources (such as a SMARTBoard, computers, video cameras, etc) but many of the computers we have are being occupied by students using them for online learning.  This is an obstacle in that it is difficult to find enough computers to complete the assigned task.  
  • even if I had enough computers for each student to work independently (or as a group), I am realizing that many of the resources I would like to use in my lessons require internet access. However, with the current district filter this has become quite troublesome and frustrating--requiring a form to be filled out and reviewed before access may be approved. 
  • many of my students do not have access to computers and/or the internet at home. Though many of the students have cell phones and iPods, there is still a great number of students who are not privileged to computers outside of school.
I am attempting to think positively about technology integration but I keep hitting walls.  If you have some ideas on how to overcome the above obstacles or have any other information to share concerning technology integration, I would love to hear from you.

21 Days In...

I am now 21 days into Politics and Elections and I have learned many things but there are a few that I would like to share:
1.) Young people, no matter where they come from or what lives they lead, have a lot to say on politics if asked.  They have lots of opinions and knowledge on the issues that affect their own personal lives and realistic visions of what they would like America to be.  In most cases, when issues come up in class like healthcare, social security, abortion, education, etc., these kids take a very mature and compassionate view toward others, even towards those that they believe have not been so compassionate towards them.  
2.) Young minds are like sponges.  We hear this all the time but I have never seen students so hungry for information in class before.  I thought I was pretty up on politics and government but they stump me often. When I say I will search for the answer, they volunteer to look for it or will be anxious to hear the answer when I am able to find it.
3.) Don't be afraid to share your thoughts and opinions with students--even political ones.  I tried to keep my Obamafication a secret but they picked up on it and it has made for some lively, open-minded discussions on the issues that we all face.  I believe it was my E2T2 instructor that commented that modeling passion for a subject is important.  Great statement and very true.  I feel as though modeling my passion for this subject has not only helped the students get into the topic but also helped me learn and grow with them, instead of standing on the outside waiting for them to find their identities.

We have taken time the last few weeks to learn the fundamentals of politics and elections in the US and applied them to the current general election.  The next two weeks we will be putting them into a simulated election and, I am hoping, the students will realize just how much of a privilege it is to live in a country where they are free to express their opinions, not just vocally, but through the ballot.

For those of you wondering how the students are coming along on forming those political identities, I have learned: 
4.) Political identities are a process.  I am not sure, after this class, if I have found mine.  
5.) Young people can be stubborn.  Some of the students are going to vote Democrat and some will vote Republican, no matter what!  The goal, I have realized, is to help them understand that each political party's views are real and are just as worthy as listening to and thinking about as the others' (not sure if that needs an apostrophe). If we don't listen to each other, we won't accomplish or solve much of anything!

Click on the following link to view the representation of student responses to the journal: "Who do you see as a good leader and why?"
How fitting that this came out in the shape of a footprint!?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Influence We All Have...

The other day, as I was looking through a birthday party supply catalog, my three-year-old pointed to Mickey Mouse and said that he would like to have "a Mickey Mouse party...or a Barack Obama party!"  First thought in my head was "Wow, my son has been Obamafied just like me." Then I looked at the television where CNN was turned on and was re-running the first presidential debates.  Holy Cow!  Was our son really in tune with what is going on around him? OR Were we (my husband and I) maybe talking too much about election issues around this young, developing mind? (As a side note: my three-year-old's grandma thinks "Mickey or Obama...pretty much the same thing")

The truth is that while I would like to influence what my kids, husband, co-workers, students, and others think, there is a point when I need to step back and respect the learning process--letting decisions be created by the individual and not made for them. 

I have had the opportunity, in the school where I work, to take this teachable moment in history (the 2008 election), combine it with my passion and design a course, Politics and Elections.  The first day of this class was today and I came out of the class with this goal: guide students into discovering what they believe in and encourage them to create political identities for themselves.  It's going to be tough, since I am a political person by nature, stubborn by birth (Taurus), and talkative by genes, but I am up for the challenge.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome to "Life is Learning"

I am currently enrolled in a class focusing on integrating technology into the classroom. My most recent assignment was to create a blog where I can share my thoughts with other educators and, in turn, receive feedback from them....a Personal Learning Network. While I have found it easy to share my thoughts and activities with others on my personal blogsite, I have found reflecting on my professional life in writing, more difficult (I am more of a talker). I am excited, however, about writing professionally in this familiar format.

In creating this blog, I considered many different titles--from very boring to extremely corny. After some reflection into my own beliefs (and while watching my three-year-old son learn to play
Candyland), I came up with Life is Learning. Not too original since the phrase has been used over and over (and over), but appropriate for the focus and direction I would like my blog to take.

So there (or here) you have it! Please check back often and share your thoughts.  
Happy reading (and commenting)!