Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Questions for a Counselor?

Hey guys--
As we go through this induction program, it seems that much of the material is geared more for teachers than counselors. I know we took a brief tour through the counseling office earlier in the year so that you are familiar with us. I was wondering what questions you have about my (our) role in the counseling office and how we can better help you guys out as teachers. I know you hear from us when we are going through schedule changes, but is there any other questions or concerns you have as new teachers?

What's your I.Q.?

Now that I've got your attention. What does an I.Q. score represent and mean for you? A textbook response would be "one's learning potential." But do you buy that? We all have our own belief and bias in defining this abstract attribute. I know I do.

One professor I had in graduate school once told our class that after taking all the I.Q. tests available at the time, she scored from as low as the 70's to as high as the 130's. In other words, anywhere between the two standard deviations above and below the mean. Well, she does have a Ph.D., you know. So...what does an I.Q. score really measure, or measure?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Do they have a vested interest?

We've been hearing quite a bit about essential learnings and essential questions in the education world for the past several years. What are the critical elements of a lesson that students should take away? What is it that we want them to really know and understand? This is an excellent focus for our planning, teaching, and reflective time. In addition to determining the key learning points for students, teachers need to grapple with essential questions related to their teaching methods and delivery.

One essential question with which I am faced every day and upon which my teaching, for the most part, is centered is: Do my students have a vested interest in what I'm dishing out? Whether I like it or not, the culture in which we live and teach is constantly changing, for better or worse, and I have a responsibility to conduct lessons that meet the changing needs of my students. That's one reason, for example, that I love blogs as a tool for learning. Most of the kids are already using blogs, so why not meet them where they are? Blogging has become another widely used method for communicating news (check out any major news agency's website) and is used by a growing number of employers in different industries. It makes practical sense, then, that teachers incorporate this technology as one of the tools in their toolboxes. My experience with three years of blogging in the classroom has shown me that more reticent students can share amazing learning using technology.

At the risk of sounding trite, I offer the observation that teachers have been inspiring kids and changing lives for years. We're good at it because we care. But today we're finding that the old ways of teaching, maybe even last semester's lesson plan, is ineffective. We are competing with an increasing number of varying interests ... and the competition is fierce! Sometimes, maybe more often than we're willing to admit, students would rather be doing something else than sitting in class. That's why reflective teaching -- essential questioning -- is so important. How do we get the learning to stick?

I've got to show kids they have a vested interest in what they're supposed to be learning. They need to be able to practically relate their learning to something beyond school. Why is it important to know this? How will it benefit me in the long run, past my school experience? For example, telling a senior in College Prep Reading something like "Today we're talking about active reading" is far different than helping the student understand why we're talking about active reading. If you don't learn strategies for active reading, then when you get to college next year you'll find that you're spending far too much time trying to read nearly impossible stuff you won't understand. On the other hand, active reading strategies will not only help you understand that impossible stuff, it will save you time. What I have discovered is that students take that practical piece of justification and make connections that are highly personal. In other words, active reading helps me understand, saves me time, and that means I have more time to do the stuff I actually want to do. That's the kind of connection that leads to comprehension, interpretation, and retention.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I love beginning new classes. I feel so much more prepared and organized.
I bought a larger daytimer that is very useful. I keep all of my lesson plans and appoints in one place. After class is done I leave notations in the margin to remind me to tweak the lesson this way or that. Writing it down right away is really helping me create better lessons.
What are some of your strategies of organization?

A Nation of Wimps??

It seems like there is always some sort of discussion about how the decisions we are making today are either benefiting or harming the generations of the future. As teachers we must realize that our daily actions ARE influencing future generations. It seems like there are endless examples of conflicts and points of discussion:

Do we teach facts/numbers/terms or responsibility/respect/skills or can we teach both...
Do teachers or parents teach morals and ethics...
If the old way of doing things was good enough for us as students why are we always changing things...
Should we treat all students the same (honors/basic skills/AP/cosmetolegy school)...

I think it is important as a teacher and as a role model to our students that we always have an open mind when it comes to issues like these. It is imperative that we always investigate all sides of an issue. On that note, I found the following article about how parents go to extremes to protect and give shortcuts to their children. The article discusses how this influences later social, academic and general life skills. It's a fairly short read and there is a link at the bottom to a printer-friendly version if you enjoy killing trees.
Any thoughts???

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thoughts on Blogging?

Today, Karl introduced Blogging to you. Maybe some of you know how to blog and others don't. How do you feel about using blogging as a means of journaling? Compare it to last semester and journaling every week. Are you comfortable? Any questions?