Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Observation on Teaching and Remakes

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Broadway entertainer Sutton Foster at the Kennedy Center. As did the other many people in the theater, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. She is a talented singer and entertainer. Perhaps what impressed me the most was her rendition of John Denver's Sunshine On My Shoulders. As a person with a music background, I have always been choosy about what label, what orchestra, what performers, what venue when it comes to music. However, my biggest hang up has been when people choose to remake a song. I believe that beating the original is very hard - the standard so to speak. Unless the artist really takes the song and makes it their own, without changing its original intent, a remake can be a disaster. So how does this apply to teaching? The standard. If we as educators, can take the standards and make them our own, without changing their purpose or intent, we won't lose the art of teaching. I hear people say that the standards have ruined teaching. I disagree. I feel that we lose creativity and the art of teaching when we focus purely on skill and drill. We all need to take a lesson from the arts - you can achieve a standard in multiple ways. You can do it by putting your own spin on it and making it your own. AND you can please your audience when you do it. Sutton Foster didn't sing the song like John Denver, but everyone knew exactly what the song was, got the same message, but was able to hear it from her perspective and interpretation. She made it her own with her own style. Creativity can't get lost in our society of accountability. Rather, it should be the glasses through which we see education. I know kids appreciate it too!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seems silly, but it works

Middle School students, and teachers, love to use individual white boards for formative assessment and/or games in the classroom. Often times though, I see students scrambling for a tissue or paper towel. Check out this great idea! One of the teachers had students bring in their own sock, which can be personalized, for students to use to wipe off their white boards. They store very neatly in the sweet bin, probably from the Dollar Store or Target, and come at minimal cost. Stop looking for the tissues and paper towels and try out this great idea.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Check out this sound!

Members of the MEHMS Jazz Band (6th and 7th grade students) performed in tonight's concert. This is a clip from their performance of Chattanooga Choo Choo. I was impressed with their performance and skills required to play this difficult jazz classic!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What is growth?

I had a conversation with Mr. Sparrgrove today about growth and metrics used to determine growth. But what happens when we narrow that focus too much? There is so much more to a child than a standardized test score. So then I ask, what do we use to measure this highly influential word of growth? I do not object to accountability for learning, but what else would we consider to measure growth throughout the school year. In Yardsticks, Chip Wood talks about Physical, Social Emotional, and Curriculum as it pertains to students. Maybe we should look her to begin a wider look at growth. As you know, my passion lies with understanding the ever evolving young adolescent. Perhaps their greatest growth could be social emotional. We have just 3 short years with our students in middle school; however, I believe these are some of the most powerful years of development. How can we as educators shape their growth to become thinkers, doers, and actors? Then of course the tough question, how do we measure that? To me, growth is a very person thing - one number or metric does not make growth. It is complicated and messy - but what isn't? I think as we progress in "growth models" we need to think about the whole child - this is who presents to us every day in the classroom. Adolescents are not defined by one moment in time, rather a successions of trials, learning opportunities, mistakes, and triumphs. So think about how you would measure growth!