Long time no see?

September16

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from eggman’s photostream on flickr

Well, this is a very overdue post. I took an unplanned hiatus from blogging in August. A bunch of posts got started but haven’t gone anywhere. It’s not like there is a dearth of subject matter for me to write about, both in terms of my own professional life, and education in general. I guess I just needed a break. But, as is often the case, someone has given me an accolade (Larry Ferlazzo listing my blog as a must-read), so I now feel obliged to write. I really need to just get back in the habit for a number of reasons. Writing helps with my reflecting and thinking about my craft. It’s the start of the year, and much too easy just to race through lesson plans without reflecting on how well they worked. This is my third year, and the urge to succumb to auto-pilot is strong with all I potentially have on my plate. Reflection helps mitigate that.

First, my anti-resolution. I did in fact make this resolution before school started. It started with me reminiscing about a practice I had at the start of my subbing/teaching career, where is would exhort students in my best teacher voice to “line up nicely”. What exactly is a nice line? It sounds great, I’m being positive, but I never told the kids okay, this is what makes a nice line up. With so MANY things in teaching from the mundane routines like line-up to having kids write multi-page reports how often do we resort to vague commands to do things “nicely” that either leave students in the dark, or let them get away with deliberately not following your directions because they can simply point out the vacuity of your directions. Some tasks (like line ups) are better suited to explicit instruction, but I also wonder if other tasks should have some room for kids to make mistakes (not fail) and fix them or try again? That means giving feedback, not just commands.

Next, my plans for the school year? This is year three, what am I doing differently? What’s changed? I’ve avoided explicitly teaching computer/technology skills to the kids. While I still want to teach these in context, I wanted to have a more comprehensive approach. To that end, I made up a list of the small productivity skills like, using the right mouse button, how to log into the network, My Documents and files on PCs, etc. I have the whole list here. I’m already “behind” but I don’t have to hit everything at once, and probably want to do it more than once. I still plan to teach it all in “context” with situations that come up in the lab, and tools we are using for other purposes.

Finally, how have the first two weeks been? It’s had it’s ups and downs. First, my schedule was off in the first week, and then I had to time of for a potential “flu” (turned out to be a mild cold/upper respiratory thingy). Although the kids are generally squirrelly after a summer away from the school routine, I’m finding the fourth graders are really picking up navigating the blog fast. I think starting them on one last year towards the end, and remembering to explicitly teach them how to do stuff helped alot even though we were moving from Weebly to WordPress/Edublogs as a platform. I used my new edublog campus sites for the first time today and I’m very happy. Even though it has the issue of all WordPress blogs about not wanting to receive multiple comments from the same IP simultaneously (like my lab does), the comments were still there when the kids hit the “back” button, instead of disappearing. I did teach them to copy before submitting. I’m looking through their comments and I’m pretty happy. This is just mid-week, and I’m sure more will follow, but I felt the urge, so I’m getting this out now.

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