Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pivoting on This Week's #caedchat Topic

I really can’t say, I guess I laugh to keep from cryin
So much goin on, people killin people dyin
But I won’t dwell on that, I think I’ll elevate my mental
Q-Tip on Steve Biko from Midnight Marauders, released November 1993

For me, there’s A Tribe Called Quest, then everyone else. There isn’t a conversation about my favorite rap group. It’s them. There isn’t a close second.

As a white male who was fourteen and living in Wisconsin when Midnight Marauders came out, there is a lot I can’t understand about what it was like to be a young black man in New York City in the early 1990s. I can only listen. And appreciate.

I certainly don’t begrudge Q-Tip his choice to elevate his mental and focus on his music and positive things going on around him.


I am hosting #caedchat this week. A long time ago - January? Late 2015? - I came across a really interesting article on the importance of open networks for success in life and work. It’s good. Thought provoking. The questions are ready to go - I wrote them already. It’d be a good conversation. We’ll have it. At some point. Not this week.


Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.


Earlier this week, we lost a great humanitarian in Elie Wiesel. As I was going through my timeline late last night, I came across a quote of his that someone (sorry, I don’t remember who) tweeted in the aftermath of the second videotaped shooting of a black man by police officers in as many days: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

And as I read that quote, I knew that we can’t talk about open networks on #caedchat this week. As my mind churned, my thoughts turned to Q-Tip’s verse. It was written in a completely different context - a young black man in New York City in the 1990s can be completely right to choose focus on the positive. This week though I can’t ‘not dwell on that and elevate my mental.’

Educators - disproportionately white - often choose not to dwell on the negative, including (and importantly) the systematic oppression that impacts so many of our students. We choose to elevate our mind by focusing on the happy things. And while there is a time and a place for that, at some point that neutrality has to end. For all our students’ sake.

I don’t know what we’re talking about on #caedchat this week. But it won’t be open networks.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Student Designed Units

Brief digression: I haven’t blogged in months. Since July actually. As one who talks about the importance of blogging as a reflective tool, that smacks a bit of hypocrisy.

There are several reasons why. One, I’m in kind of a weird transition year, firmly planted in the now but looking forward as well. Two, I just haven’t felt like what I’m doing with my kids is that amazing, and it isn’t something I haven’t written about before. It just seems like it isn’t anything amazing.

Tuesday night, the moderators of #caedchat had a hangout to talk about year 4 of #caedchat. We talked about blogging briefly, and I mentioned my blogging hiatus. My buddy David said that he enjoyed when I blogged about what we did in the classroom. Thanks for the nudge, David.


History teachers live in a blessed time right now - THERE ARE NO CONTENT STANDARDS. We can literally teach whatever we want! (Untrue if you teach an AP class, but you most likely signed up for that deal with the devil…)

As I was planning my second semester, I realized that there was some content that was going to be new, and some I should cover a bit of - yeah, the Cold War probably merits mentioning in a two year world history class...

Anyways, I saw this hole at the end of the year - about a four to five week chunk of time that could be filled with literally anything that I could justify teaching in a history class. Why not get my students - who are now in their second year with me - to figure out what THEY wanted to do in our last unit of our two years together?

And thus was born this and this. Kids got about 75 minutes to work through this process. After that, they will look through the other unit proposals from their period and choose the two they are most interested in. I’ll combine these choices across classes and students will then get to vote on the peer-created unit they are most excited about and that’s what we’ll cover in April and May.

Want a student-centered classroom? Why not use ‘I’ve got no content standards’ to your advantage and let students choose what to study?

I’m excited to see how this goes!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#youredustory, Week 29: Summer Reading Recommendations

Prompt: What are the best educational books for summer reading?

Ooh. I'll emerge from my not-blogging summer vacation for this one!

One of the best books I've read this far this summer is How We Learn. Benedict Carey, a New York Times science writer, looks at studies of how people learn and retain information. This book has broad implications across education: whether you want your students to memorize their times tables or get a creative insight into a problem, Carey has looked at the relevant research and pulled it together in an easy to read format. What really stuck with me from this book was the idea of percolation: once we seed a problem in our brains, it will continue to subconsciously work on the problem after we have moved on to other tasks. I need to rethink how and when I give my students time to work through more complex work that might benefit from this percolation. Kudos to Greg Garner for this sterling recommendation!

Another book I read recently that came highly recommended - this time by Matt Vaudrey and John Stevens - that I really enjoyed was How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. The glimpse into Google - and the emphasis the authors put on managing smart creatives - was insightful. Though they didn't acknowledge his work, I was reminded often of the ideas Dan Pink lays out in Drive. This book is probably most directly relevant to administrators and district level employees, but as a teacher I really enjoyed it. There were definite crossovers to the classroom for me.


More information on #youredustory can be found here. Consider joining in the fun!