Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A hard habit to form

We always think about how hard habits are to break . . . but after several e-mails from students who have forgotten their Blog URL, or their user name, or [heaven forbid because on this one I can't help] their password -- I realize that although I write regularly [in a personal journal, as well as in this Blog - OK, irregularly, but I do write in it!] many of my students don't. Blogging or writing reflectively about one's practice is really a habit you have to develop. Here's why I think it is important -- I'm a perfect example right now of what can happen if you don't think of your teaching objectively and on a regular basis.

Our last class was on 12 January - a week and a half ago. If even I have difficulty remembering what we did in class and the assignments I gave students, I can't imagine the difficulty of the students, immersed in their most immediate tasks of surviving student teaching every day. In the meantime, I've also had things to occupy my mind - we held our fourth workshop for the Center of Excellence for Adolescent Literacy and Learning [CEALL] this past weekend so I worked feverishly for the week before to get ready, then worked Friday evening and all day Saturday - I was exhausted by Sunday and didn't do any school work - just couldn't face it. The workshop went really well, but one of the questions that kept occurring for the Apprentices [and that I kept thinking about, too] was the question of differentiated instruction for students who are at vastly different places in their learning and coupled with that, the question of how to assess these students' learning. Of course, the answer I have probably seems like the proverbial "pat" answer from a so-called Ivory tower: give students a variety of assessments and always build in choice for them so that they can decide how best to show what they've learned. Easy to say, but hard to conceptualize and some teachers can't seem to get their minds around how that would work. I thought about that as I considered the teachers we have participating in CEALL this go 'round. Some are trying strategies and thinking about them - others seem to be caught like deer in the headlights, frozen or paralyzed by fear of trying something new and failing or not "doing it right" -- in reality, there is no one right way to accomplish any of the strategies, and the only thing I've found to be almost fool-proof is using the Learning Cycle for planning purposes. So, I'm wondering how to handle participants in the program with vastly different degrees of implementation - the different pace with which the teachers implement the ideas depends on a number of factors, and I'm not even sure I know what those factors are. Certainly, risk taking and feelings of efficacy are factors -- but so are administrative support and administrative willingness to tolerate teachers' risk taking. All in all, having a much bigger group [we've got double the number] makes things quite different this year.

So back to my train of thought about Blogging. Here I am, trying to remember what in Thunder we did on Friday the 12th of January, and I had to go back to my PowerPoint for that class to see what I did and did not get to -- I've also got notes scribbled on the printout of the slides but can't seem to find them at the moment. I always have so much planned, and never get to it all -- but I have planned in sort of a module kind of way, so that there are parts of the lessons I can eliminate or defer to later - and so I was actually pleased with our classes during Bookend, not because I did such a great job but because it all seemed to work. The one thing I really wanted to get to during those six days was creating criteria - but in reality that can be done on our next class period. In fact, it may be better to do it then, when students have their own Think Writes from their students and can physically go through the assessment process. I had planned to teach a lesson each week but now realize that the next class meeting, which is coming up fast, I need to focus on assessment again and create the criteria for not only the Young Adult Literature project [YALIT], but show how criteria in general are created both with and without student input. So, rather than teach a lesson, we will discuss the Web site assessment activity, go through the think write assessment activity [I am excited about that one - it can be the precursor to the creation of criteria for YALIT] and do the criteria for YALIT - still leaving time to "sit around the table" and talk about the beginning weeks of student teaching. So, over the weekend I will need to cobble together the PowerPoint for class -- that's how I keep myself straight, having an interactive PowerPoint that guides me through class. Helps hold my thinking and planning so that I don't forget anything. Good think I do this - or I'd be sunk right now!!

So, I need to get in the habit of Blogging at the end of every class we have. I couldn't possibly do this in a K-12 setting, but could set aside 30 minutes or so each week to write and reflect about the way things went during the week. I'm hoping this will become a habit with at least some of my students. We'll see . . .


Wanda Cody said...

Wow! My first thought at reading your latest blog was regarding how long it was. I think maybe it would take me awhile to be able to put my thoughts out to the public like that. Maybe I would do better in a private journal. I also wonder if when you first began blogging if your entries were shorter. Does the comfort with blogging come from within? Is it a certain personality type that enjoys it more than another? While I think reflection of our teaching is critical, I am not sure that an on-line blog for others to read would be my first choice. However, I do indeed see the benefit of written reflection. Now, on to my own blog for the week!!!

java junkie said...

My latest Blog entry is a bit long, but I've been rehersing it in my head for three weeks!! Normally, I don't write nearly that much, but I type pretty fast, and when I get started, sometimes thoughts come out of my fingertips that I was unaware of!

Actually, my blog is a public one, and other folks can read it and comment on it - but you can go into your Blog settings and make yours private so that the only way anyone can read it is if they have the URL. If you are uncomfortable with someone other than our class reading it, I can show you
how to do that in class next week if you'd like.

Incidently, before Blogging, I did have a hand-kept professional journal and have one that is personal, too. I've got about 16 volumes of a personal journal so far [but that's over about 30 years worth of living]and 15 years worth of professional journals. I have found myself censoring my thoughts on the Blog, and in that case, I usually write about what ever is bothering me in my hand-kept journal. My personal and professional life seem to bleed into one another like that-

jresua said...

I just saw the comment you left on my second post after i posted the last entry (Freedom Writers)! You'll have to read my latest blog and hear about what we're doing in class :)

bev said...

for the fifth time, I have had so many issues trying to blog and respond to your blogs, guess what it was my own fauld, i had no idea what i was doing. Hard to imagine you as unorganized. I looked at your comments on assessment and now i see why so many teachers use rubrics. After Dr. Weigert's class on test and mesurement, I thought that I was ready to assess anything, but just lookin ga t the think writes last sessions proved that assessment can get complicated, i'm glad that on that assignment we were using a participation grade of a check or minus instead of points or grades. i also saw how I could get into problems with even fill in the blank. Will i only accept the answar that i had in mind or will I give credit for partial close or partial answers? good question, I will have to decide on appropriate answers before grading any set opf parers.

Suebee said...

I agree that journals or blogs are necessary to reflect on events. Without reflection we may get into ruts or bad habits without realizing it. Reflection or journal writing are beneficial and I understand the need for the posting of these while in class. However, I do think in order for me to reflect for personal as well as professional growth I would not want my personal journal to be accessible to others.
Susan A.