Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chasing Shadows

They we were marching our way through the crisp crunchy snow in the yard, singing silly songs and exploring the great outdoors, when all of sudden... huh? What's that? A shadow? The next several minutes were spent trying to catch those crazy things.

My kids are so curious about the world around them. Their entire day seems to revolve around this same theme of investigating the unknown. My goal is to nurture their sense of curiosity and cultivate their natural sense of wonder and hopefully maintain this well beyond their "school days." I can't imagine this being an easy task but all in all, I would simply love for my kids to find something they are passionate about.

My 4 year old son runs up to me and says with an incredibly excited voice, "Daddy, daddy, guess what."

"What," I say with the same curious intensity.

"I want to be a teacher when I grow up! Yeah... and I will have my very own laptop, iPod, and a cup of coffee."

Too funny! This is simply a gentle reminder to me that our children are watching and listening very closely. Gavin is only 4 but his mind is already working toward his future... I hope that whatever he chooses to spend his time on that he is passionate about it. I am very curious myself to see where his future will lead him, and what the world will be like when he is a young man. I do hope that I am able to model and instill a sense of life long learning that will equip him for uncertain times, and that he has the courage to follow his heart.

I have just finished watching a video from Seth Godin, who spoke about this idea. His message was clear - kids curiosity seems to get smothered along the way and we as educators and parents are charged with just the opposite. It's no easy task as a parent or a teacher. The pressures of today's world are enormous and I can't see them getting any easier. Despite the challenges ahead, both as an educator and parent, I am hopeful, ready, willing and able.

So, if Gavin wants to be a teacher when he grows up, great! If he wants to be an accountant or rap singer, great! Even if he wants to chase shadows, that's fine with me as long as he is able to tap into something he is passionate about and curious about. I think my job as a parent is to listen, I mean really listen, encourage, cultivate, and of course guide along the way. But, I do not want to be a voice that stifles his curiosity.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Conversations Had Begun

How amazing is it when students not only have the opportunity to read great books, but then have the chance to have conversations with the authors of those books? This evening, I was reading through our class blog and approving comments when I found myself literally jumping out of the chair after realizing Freddie Remza, author of Journey to Mei, had commented on one of my students blog posts. This is incredibly exciting news!

Literacy instruction is the major focus of what we do at the elementary level. Tomorrow morning, after my students discover that a "real live author" has left a comment on one of our student's blog...well let's just say that the excitement level will go higher than I will be able to manage. This is really good news at so many levels.

More to come soon...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Virtual Schooling vs. My Four Walls

Online Schooling Grows, Setting off a Debate. If you haven't read this article by Sam Dillon of the New York Times, it's definitely worth your time.

After reading through this article I am reminded that "Shift Happens," and not that my elementary teaching job is going anywhere tomorrow, it certainly will look much different 10 years from now.

Some of the points that jumped out at me that Mr. Dillon reported is that there is a "rapid growth of online schools..." and not just for higher education. He also mentions the "proliferation of online schooling," which tells me that times-are-a-changin'.

He goes on to point out two existing models of how this type of online schooling looks. One model is simply a supplement to the traditional compulsory education. The second model, full time online charter schools from the elementary level to secondary education.

Listen, teaching for me is a way of life, not a job. However, the reality is that we as educators are in a business, the business of educating the youth of America and that business model is changing... rapidly. Don't get me wrong, I am passionate about what I do as a fifth grade teacher and come to work each day knowing the awesome responsibility that awaits me and am humbled by the experience. But we are looking at a huge fundamental change in the way millions of our youth will become educated...virtually.

So what it comes down to is this; what do I offer my students that they cannot get somewhere else? What advantages can I offer within my class that another teacher cannot offer from a 1000 miles away from a web cam?

This is really home schooling with a twist. Unfortunately, there are quite a few folks upset with our educational system (NCLB) and the idea of online schooling appears to be extremely attractive to parents, myself included. Don't we all want the very best for our children?

My life's passion as of late is to figure out how to handle massive amounts of data, create social networks, push my own learning, all through the free tools offered online. All of this so I can help my own children learn these very same skills. The idea that I can supplement my children's education with things they are passionate about so they don't become dissident toward an educational system is very attractive to me.

I don't know, it's late and I feel like I am rambling on. Final point, how are public schools going to remain competitive with this kind of virtual model? Will other models emerge? There is a great deal to consider and I think it is truly an exciting time to be in education and I look forward to the many years to come.

Friday, February 01, 2008

What Does Courage Mean to You?

Here is an iMovie project my fifth grade students designed for a school presentation.

What Does Courage Mean to You?

The idea that courage means different things to different people came about through our brainstorming session when we were deciding what to include in the storyboard for this project. The students wanted to add the historical portion as well as interviewing teachers in our building in order to add balance to their definition of courage. In the end, the students were very excited to participate in this project and most students wanted to do more.

If you are interested in leaving a comment to the students please click here. Thanks for your time.