Monday, December 9, 2013

Viva la #nerdlution

As usual, I'm late to the party. I should probably make my #nerdlution to try and be ahead of a trend, but, as I understand it, the point is to set a goal to be accomplished over 50 days that is actually realistic. While I believe in failure as a necessary step towards learning, my experience tells me that setting myself up to fail will not result in any new learning, only frustration, self-doubt and the inevitable internal "I told you so" conversation that really doesn't need to be repeated. I'm too old for that.

I was fortunate to be mentored by an administrator who firmly believed in a whole child approach to everything. She always talked about incorporating a social, emotional and physical component to nearly everything you do in life. To honor her, I'm going to make three nerdlutions, one for each category.

Being a trendsetter in technology, fashion, pedagogy, thought, etc. is out of the realm of possibility. As much as I admire the great young minds on twitter, I'm not going to be one of them. Whoever said "youth is wasted on the young" has never read a blog post or tweet by Justin Stortz @newfirewithin, Oliver Schinkten @schink10, John Spencer @edrethink, Dave Burgess @burgessdave, Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp, or Joy Kirr @JoyKirr. These creative, passionate and thoughtful young educators are just a few of the connections I've been fortunate to make on twitter who have helped shape my thinking. One of my nerdlutions is to send a tweet of thanks out over the next 50 days to people (young and old) who have impacted the how and why of what I do each day to let them know they are appreciated.

I'm halfway through a master's program. For much of the past 9 months, I've felt slightly guilty when I'm actually doing something unrelated to the program during my free time. One thing I haven't been doing is reading just for fun. I remember what it's like to read a book without (references, 2009), but I haven't made the time to actually do it. Therefore, my emotional nerdlution is to read a book unrelated to education for 15 minutes each night. I'm going to enjoy that.

Finally, my physical nerdlution is to ride my bike during the nightly news each night. I have everything I need to make this happen - I'm just lazy. So, enough with the excuses, already. Via la nerdlution!

(I've  just decided  to stay away from toxic people and detox myself; I realize that I should commit to that for more than 50 days, however. I was reading Tamra Dollar's latest post while writing this. Her #tweetpreciation will be one of the first.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

What I Learned Shoveling Snow

During the last 1 1/2 hours shoveling show, I did what I tend to do when faced with menial tasks - think about education. I was thinking about how my old middle school math teacher Wayne Spurbeck would grade my snow shoveling assignment. 

December 6, 2013
I'm certain he would have given me an incomplete, with the reminder that when I did finish the task points would be deducted for being late. I'd probably end up with a C in the end, but in this case, it might be a D. I didn't completely clean the driveway, nor did I clear off the car. And my lines and angles aren't very precise. 

I'm sure our conversation would have ended as they usually did, with Coach Spurbeck saying that he was surprised I could find my way home given my absolutely horrible memory for math facts and formulas. (I somehow always found 323 SW 2nd Street, probably because it was 3 blocks south of the library on the opposite side of the street.)

The grade would have accurately reflected what I did, but in no way would it have reflected what I knew about the subject. And Coach Spurbeck wouldn't have thought to ask what I knew, teachers just didn't do that 40 years ago. 

Now, if I were being assessed on my performance, and asked why I made the choices I did, I would have replied that I watched the weather and heard it was going to get bitterly cold. I knew that before it had started to snow, some freezing rain and sleet had fallen. The snow cover had kept this precipitation unfrozen; but the frigid temperatures would change that, so it was important to clear the driveway while it was warm enough to get this slushy layer off along with the 8" of snow, or it would freeze solid and the best I could hope for would be to scrape the snow off the top of the ice creating an inclined skating rink. 

I didn't clear the car because I knew the snow will still be light and fluffy tomorrow when I push it off onto the section I hadn't shoveled, and I can use the heater in the car to loosen the ice and clear it off. I had a plan going into the task. But I wasn't being graded on the plan, outcome, or what I had learned while working on the task - only the correct way to complete the task.

It's important to ask students the why and how questions they encounter while completing and assignment. Waiting until the end of the task and assigning a grade only reflects the "doing" and not the learning that took place before, during, and after the assignment. I failed to get the driveway or the car clear, but that doesn't mean I didn't show what I have learned. 

I'll finish getting the car out, but since the snowplow hasn't shown up yet, I'm not in any hurry.