31 December 2012

I'm tired

I'm tired of the term "Flipped Classroom."  Besides the fact that it is a mouthful to say, no one seems to like it.  Apparently no one likes the idea of having the students more engaged in class with less HW to do outside of school.  No one likes the idea that the teacher, by no longer taking up time to lecture, no longer the focus of the classroom, is now free to converse with students for longer periods of time.  No one also seems to like the idea of experimenting with new teaching methods, but rather would prefer to judge them based on articles and blog posts on the Internet.

So I am tired of using the term Flipped Classroom to describe what I am doing.  When I cut my students' workload in half by using this method, I got attacked.  When my students began to do more inquiry labs, which require more time on everyone's part to develop, people questioned my methods.  When my students' grades in class began to rise and the lowest anyone earns is the grade that they want to earn, I am told I inflate grades (despite the fact that my students complete 3 times more work to get that grade).

So I am going to just use the term #LEARNING.  Maybe it will involve #flipclass, maybe PBL, maybe lecture, maybe discovery, maybe Mastery.  It might even have a little bit of a lot of things.  But no matter what method we choose to use, it will be about my STUDENTS  and their LEARNING.

Now that's something I can't get tired about.

27 December 2012

New Year's Resolution

A few years ago I decided never to make a New Year's Resolution again.  Usually I failed to complete them and felt like a failure at the end of the year instead of looking toward all of the good things that could happen in the following.  A week ago a student came to interview me for a piece he was doing on New Year's Resolutions for Video Production class and I sent him away disappointed because I refused to make one.

But today I had the realization that I need to make one, but it is going to be the same every year from now on.

Do one audacious thing this year?

I am still reading In the Plex (see previous post), and they were talking about these quarterly objectives/benchmarks that every employee must keep.  The first thing that amazed me was that every employee had to publish them on the company website with their bio and picture (can you imagine publishing your Professional Growth Plan to your class website?).  The second, was that you were not expected to fully achieve your goal each quarter.  In fact, you were actually in danger of being fired if you exceeded your goal because it shows that you played it safe and were "audacity challenged."

We can't keep playing it safe.  We have to be better next year than we were this year.

So, any suggestions?

23 December 2012

In The Plex

I picked up a copy of In The Plex:  How google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.  We hear so much about how Google is changing the world, I figured there has to be something to learn from their experiences.  I am only about halfway through it (and to be honest I haven't read everything as it tends to get too technical for what I am looking for), but there are number of quotes that I wanted to share, along with a couple of ideas of my own.

We are focused on users.  If we make them happy, we will have revenues.  We focus so much on test prep, but if we provide more meaningful coursework for the students, they will work harder to learn the material.  The standardized test scores will take care of themselves.

A healthy disregard for the impossible.

The only true failure was not attempting the audacious.

If we are not a lot better next year, we will already be forgotten.

Their hires would show traits of hardcore wizardry, user focus and starry eyed idealism.  I think this is a great philosophy to use when hiring new teachers.

Discipline must come through liberty.

Nothing a teacher does should destroy a child's creative innocence.

Our core values should be manifested in our work environment.

Anyone hired...should be capable of engaging him in a fascinating discussion should he be stuck at an airport with employee.

Can you imagine sitting in an interview and the principal turns to you and asks "Do you have a healthy disregard for the impossible?  We are only looking for educators who view teaching as a form of wizardry."  I guarantee if asked this you would look at the principal like he/she was nuts, thank him/her for the interview and quickly run to your car.

But is it too much to ask that teachers have starry-eyed idealism?  Or be interesting enough to hold up their end of a conversation about almost any topic?

One of the problems that so many of us run into is making our "crazy" ideas (or our Googliness) work within the traditional system.  Google was able to set up their ideals so easily because they were a start-up.  In fact, many of their employees left larger companies like Microsoft and Apple for the, at the time, smaller Google because of it radical philosophy (others did the reverse move for the opposite reason).  Would the Google founders have been successful if they had instituted these radical ideas in an already established environment?

When you take educational administration classes, they tell you not to make major changes for 6 months to a year.  First you must sit back, evaluate the system, and gain the trust of the staff.  But a year is a REALLY long period of time.  What steps should a new administrator have to take in order to bring some of these ideas to fruition?  Is it too much for a school/staff/student body to handle these changes right from the start of school?


18 December 2012


Something happened today which kind of shook me.  A student is having some internal conflict problems and it is spilling into school.  I don't want to go into it all here.  Needless to say, I originally wrote this long post about going back in time and yelling at teenage me because I see a lot of what this kid is going through in what I went through 20 years ago (damn I am getting old).  It was very cathartic.  I was emotional writing it, shaking and almost to tears.  But when I got to the end I was fired up.  I remembered the speech I gave at my high school graduation, something that has stuck with me ever since.  It is a poem written by Charles Osgood in 1986 and I think what he says is truer than ever.  I hope it means as much to you as it has to me.  The following is the only part of my original post that I felt was worth keeping.

We have a real problem with mediocrity in this country.  Too many people are perfectly fine living simple lives where they have no problem never meeting their full potential.  Pretty Good Isn't Good Enough.