The purpose of this blog is to keep past and current students updated on different resources I present in my courses. I hope you find the entries thought provoking. I intentionally keep my comments brief and often have a visual / graphic / poem to supplement those words.
I just completed reviewing student feedback from a course I teach here at CCSU. The positive responses influenced me to compose a brief poem to send back to the students as a token of my appreciation.
The One Best Thing
As you look back over the semester that has gone by
I want to ask you about the One Best Thing and why
It stands out as something you will remember
And as the summer stretches out to September
And someone asks you about what you did learn
This is something you will tell them about Professor Ern-
ie and what he did share for one of his resources
As you venture forth into more of your courses
This is what will stick in your mind
The One Best Thing was one of a kind!
While walking on the treadmill today, I listened to a podcast - On Being - on which Kevin Kelly was being interviewed by Krista Tippet. I am fascinated by his 2016 book, The Inevitable. Here are the 12 Technological Forces that will unfold over the next 30 years. I'm sure I will have more to share with my students after I read this book over the next few months.
Fidelity of Instruction
One of the assignments I request students to complete involves the creation of a infographic type of summary of key elements from an article they are reviewing. I mention that if I put a copy of a journal article in a colleague's mailbox, I am likely to get a response of "Thanks." but I doubt the colleague will read the article. However, if I place a one-page visual summary of an article like the image below, I am apt to receive a comment like, "Thanks for the summary. Can I have a copy of the article? I would like to read it."
I'll Need to See Some I.D.
I was thumbing through a recent New Yorker magazine and happened upon a cartoon in which a person had several guns on a counter ready to make a purchase and the caption read: "I'll need to see some I.D. for the Claritin." Being a long time allergy sufferer, I often feel quite suspicious as I hand over my driver's license as I.D. for purchasing some generic Sudafed at the pharmacy counter. What am I doing wrong? Who is this person who thinks he can just come into this store and buy Sudafed without going through the proper channels? What might he be doing with it other than needing it for his allergies? Does he really have any allergies? Then, the juxtaposition of the guns on the counter representing the ease with which such purchases can be made points out the irony of the age we live in. Surface reaction to the misuse of the ingredient in Sudafed to make methamphetamine has a ripple effect to those of us who rely on, what used to be an over-the-counter product, into a ritual that becomes stigmatizing, at best.
Newspaper Announcement of the Death of Stephen Hawking
The following notice of the death of Stephen Hawking caught my attention today as I was reading from the Hartford Courant. I was particularly drawn to an opening description of Hawking: "...whose body was chained to a wheelchair by the ravages of a degenerative neuromuscular disease, ..." . I asked my students what they thought of this image of an eminent scientist upon his death. Couldn't the opening paragraph have been framed differently like - "Noted scholar of cosmology and author of A Brief History in Time, Stephen Hawking, died yesterday." I wonder why the writer thought it necessary to focus on a physical limitation of Hawking when there were 10+ other attributes / accolades that could have been highlighted, instead. It could be mentioned later in the article that Hawking lived life with the challenges brought on by ALS.
What You Bring is What We Work With
In a book I was reading recently, I happened on this sentence: What you bring is what we work with. This struck me as a very apt statement for personalized, individualized education. Each student’s past experiences bring that student to the current learning activity at a different point in the process. We need to get away from a one-size-fits-all assessment for all students when a common activity is the focus of instruction. Students should have their own baselines from which progress is measured and the progress is used as data to inform the teacher about the difference between an expected goal line of achievement and current trends in that data. Formative assessment is not used to “grade” a student’s path to success. Rather, the data are used to gage the effectiveness of current instructional supports. Inherent in this approach is the belief that all students do not need to be at the same level of competence in all content areas. Students will tend to excel and prefer different content and spend more time with resources / information that feed their curiosity/interest. Some schools are taking this approach with anecdotal success. I believe this philosophy of learning should be the cornerstone of our education system.
The PERFECTING TEACHER
In one of the assignments / reflections from a student, recently, he asked if there was such a person as a “Perfect Teacher”. My immediate response would be a resounding “No!” However, as I thought about this question, I realized that there could be a “perfecting teacher” and these are the qualities I would give that person.
Promoting Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom
For the interested reader, here is a link to a book I was a co-editor of and author of two chapters
I read the obituary of John Bushey today. He passed away on February 8th. I had just listened to a podcast [originally broadcast in 2016] with John as the special guest and really enjoyed what and how he said about his passion for delving into the work of Bob Dylan. However rich his knowledge of Dylan, I was especially impressed by the following few sentences from his obituary. I want to share this profile of Mr. Bushey to my current students.
One of John's greatest discoveries was his love of teaching. He spent 15 years as an elementary school teacher in the Duluth school district. He loved teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade students and seeing them learn. By sharing his own passions with his students, he inspired them to share their interests with the rest of the class. He taught his students the importance of rigor, practice and planning. This recipe of a safe environment to share ideas, work hard on specific techniques, and improve performance over time, often had amazing results in his students.
I Get To Do It All Over Again
I get to do it all over again.
The faces change in each class when
I start each semester anew
And wonder if any wisdom grew
From last semester from what I did say
And I hope you'll like the way
In which I share my resources and notes.
Take off your hats - shed your coats.
Bring in your questions and ask
About just how difficult a task
It will take to be a teacher
In a future classroom that may feature
A challenging student or two -
I just wish I knew
All the answers to give to you,
But it's not that easy to
Know what to do each time,
Trying to make chaos turn into rhyme.
You can do it! I know you can.
You'll just need your own master plan
For each student who you meet
In each and every seat.
You can do it - of course you will!
You can develop whatever the skill
It takes to be a success
And when it's time to assess
What learning has occurred
You'll remember what you heard
In this class you are about to enter
At the beginning of a brand new semester.
No More Grades
One of the resources I read today was titled - "No More Grades." I agree with the basic premise of the author of this article. Personalized learning is not about grades or competition among peers. Rather, personalized learning is about pursuing one's interests and passions under the guidance of a teacher / mentor who is skilled at directing where to go next in pursuit of those interests and passions. Education does not stop upon graduation from high school or college. Life-long learning never stops. I took great pleasure in recently reading the works of Charles Dickens, which I could not experience while in my twenties. What grade would I give upon my sense of satisfaction while reading my most recent book about the work of Bob Dylan - Why Bob Dylan Matters by Richard F. Thomas. It certainly won't be in the form of a true or false test from the book. Someone else may come away with completely different insights when reading the same content. I can gage my sense of satisfaction with learning something new from the author's unique perspective. No one will have my perspective as I read the content, as well. I will share this article with students in my courses and look forward to their comments.
You need an account to Education Week to access this article. I cannot share the PDF version due to copyright issues.
Let Me Show You
I may be bored in class today
There’s nothing interesting that comes my way.
I often act out – it’s hard to refrain
But I also have energy to focus my brain
On things that matter to me and my friends
So give me an activity that sends
Me out to my streets, in my neighborhood.
Let them see how I can bring some good.
To solve a problem – to support a need
Let me show you that I can succeed.
I have not read much written by Elliot Eisner, but the brief segments of articles and quotes I have viewed remind me of how wise this teacher educator/reformer was. I need to investigate his work in more detail as he urges a combination of the arts in the learning process. As I looked through some old journals, I notices an article from Educational Leadership from 2006 titled The Satisfactions of Teaching and I immediately provided a highlighted copy for the students in my courses. The headings in his article contain the framework for six satisfactions that exist, from his perspective:
1. Great Ideas
3. The Performance
5. A Passion for Learning
6. Making a Difference
I'm sure I will have more to write about as I read this articles/books in the near future.
Marketing Brochure from the 1990s
One of the advantages of having multiple piles of stuff, is that I eventually look through a pile to see if I have shared any bits of information in this blog. Recently, I uncovered a brochure for when I marketed my services as an independent consultant back in the 1990s. I found it interesting to look back and remember what aspects of my resumé I emphasized at the time.
Empathy for Our Students
Recently, as I was giving feedback to a student whose assignment focused on a teacher's empathy for students in one's classroom, I was reminded of an incident I witnessed when observing a student teacher at an urban high school. There was a student in the front row with his head on his desk and not paying much attention to what the student teacher was doing. I noticed her bend down and say something to the student who got up and went to the back of the room and, once again, rested his head on the desk. I made a note to ask the student teacher what she said to the student. At the conclusion of the lesson, we were debriefing her teaching and I inquired about what she said to the student in the front row. She mentioned to me that the student holds down three jobs to support his family of which he is the primary wage earner. He did not get in from his night job on the previous evening until quite late and was extremely tired. She told the student that her university supervisor was here to observe her and she would feel more comfortable if he rested in the back of the room instead of in the front seat. He complied. I wrote in my notes that she was being a caring adult who took a student's out-of-school experiences into account as she taught her lesson. I was proud of her for doing so.
If I Taught a Course on Bob Dylan
I was viewing a sample lesson plan titled "The Poetry of Bob Dylan" in which the author requested students to analyze the meaning and rhythm of two Dylan songs: Mr. Tambourine Man and It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). I don't think this would be my approach to such an undertaking, although I don't fault the author for suggesting such an approach. I don't believe that Dylan's work can be reduced to the microscopic level for the viewer/listener to derive the most benefit from his work. I don't necessarily have the answer to this focus. I do know that by listening/reading his work, I have come to make different connections at different times in my life. I remember being in my 20's when Dylan's songs would help relieve a headache just by listening to his songs. More recently, I have transposed several of his lyrics to suit an issue I was trying to understand from a "different point of view." One approach I might take would be to have students listen to a Dylan tune and then to five covers of that same tune by five different artists. How did each artist bring his/her unique talents to play when interpreting the tune under investigation? Are there any events going on in one's life to which the lyrics of the song have a resonance? Are there other Dylan tunes that have a similar theme or content as the current tune under review? Listen to five live performances of the same tune and note how Dylan emphasizes different parts of the song via instruments / lyric changes / rhythm-beat. I would not opt to try to derive meaning from the lyrics but concentrate on how the listener is connecting to the song/lyrics at this point in each person's life.
Enhancing a Collaborative Spirit in a School
For a few entries, I am going to include some brief comments I wrote to student questions during their engagement of documentation comments.
How do we create a culture where teachers collaborate on their own?
I think the answer to this questions rests in the atmosphere influenced by the leadership within a school. Providing a "team" approach to decision making requires that incentives are built into the decision-making process with contributions from all. That leader develops a consensus form of decision making and invites parents and community members to be part of the culture of "how things are done" at the school. Also, in the culture of the school, ALL students are the responsibility of ALL teachers and personnel.
Books in my Personal Library On/By/About Bob Dylan
In this section I have identified those books that I have read and own to gain insights into the life and work of Bob Dylan.
Barker, D. (Ed.). (2005). Bob Dylan anthology volume 2: 20 years of Isis. Surrey, England: Chrome Dreams
Blake, M. (Ed.). (2005). Dylan: Visions, portraits, and back pages. NY: Dorling Kindersly.
Charlesworth, C. (Compiler). (2009). Dylan: 100 songs & pictures. NY: MUF Books.
Cott, J. (Ed.) (2006). Bob Dylan: The essential interviews. NY: Wenner Books.
Dylan, B. (1985). Lyrics: 1962-1985. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Dylan, B. (2004). Chronicles: Volume one. NY: Simon & Shuster.
Dylan, B. (2008). Forever young (P. Rodgers, Illustrator). NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Dylan, B. (2010). Man gave names to all the animals (J. Arnosky, Illustrator). NY: Sterling Publishing Company
Dylan B. & Ellison, J. (Ed). (2004). Younger than that now: The collected interviews with Bob Dylan. NY: Thunder Mountain Press.
Epstein, D. M. (2011). The ballad of Bob Dylan: A portrait. NY: HarperCollins.
Friedman, J. (2012). Forget about today: Bob Dylan’s genius for (re)invention, shunning the naysayers, and creating a personal revolution. NY: Perigree.
Gaines, D. (2015). In Dylan town: A fan’s life. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.
Gray, M. (2006). The Bob Dylan encyclopedia. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.
Gray, M., & Bauldie, J. (Eds.). (1988). All across the telegraph: A Bob Dylan handbook. London: Futura.
Griffin, S. (2007). Million dollar bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the basement tapes. London: Jawbone Press
Heylin, C. (1991). Bob Dylan – behind the shades: A biography. NY: Summit Books.
Heylin, C. (1996). A life in stolen moments: Bob Dylan day by day 1941 – 1995. NY: Schirmer Books
Kinney, D. (2014). The Dylanologists: Adventures in the land of Bob. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Marcus, G. (1997). Invisible republic: Bob Dylan’s basement tapes. NY: Henry Holt and Company.
Marcus, G. (2010). Bob Dylan: Writings 1968-2010. NY: Public Affairs.
Marqusee, M. (2003). Chimes of freedom: The politics of Boy Dylan’s art. NY: The New Press.
Muir, A. (2013). One more night: Bob Dylan’s never ending tour. San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Ricks, C. (2003). Dylan’s vision of sin. NY: HarperCollins.
Roberts, J. (2005). Bob Dylan: Voice of a generation. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company.
Shelton, R. (1986). No direction home: The life & music of Bob Dylan. NY: Beech Tree Books.
Shepard, S. (2005). The rolling thunder logbook. London: Sanctuary Publishing.
Sloman, L. (1978). On the road with Bob Dylan. NY: Three Rivers Press.
Sounes, H. (2001). Down the highway: The life of Bob Dylan. NY: Grove Press.
Spitz, B. (1989). Dylan: A biography. NY: McGraw Hill.
Thomas, R. R. (2017). Why Bob Dylan matters. New York: HarperCollins
Vernezze, P. & Porter, C. J. (Eds.). (2006). Bob Dylan and philosophy: It’s alright ma (I’m only thinking). Chicago: Open Court.
Wilentz, S. (2010). Bob Dylan in america. NY: Doubleday.
Williams, P. (2004). Bob Dylan: Performing Artist: 1960 – 1973 – The Early Years. NY: Omnibus Press.
Williams, P. (2004). Bob Dylan: Performing Artist: 1974 – 1986 – The Middle Years. NY: Omnibus Press.
Williams, P. (2005). Bob Dylan: Performing Artist: 1986 – 1990 & beyond – Mind Out of Time. NY: Omnibus Press.
Thoughts While Shoveling Snow in My Driveway
As I shoveled snow from our driveway today, I thought of the main character in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, played by Paul Newman. In one scene, the prison guard had Luke move a pile of rocks from one location of the yard to another. Then, when Luke was finished, the guard had him bring the large rocks back to the original spot. I felt like Luke today as the wind blew my shoveling efforts back over here I had recently paved a path for one of our cars. I wonder how our students feel who are required to complete a task over and over again, only to have to do it again a week later. When a connection cannot be made to authentic learning tasks, the drudgery of the task is like moving large rocks from one spot to another. What has been accomplished?
There's Never Enough Time
There's never enough time to go to all those places.
There's always time to wonder in our spaces.
There's never enough time for all to get done.
There's always time to have some more fun.
There's never enough time to read all those books.
There's always time to stop and look.
There's never enough time to reach all our dreams.
There's always time to be mindful, it seems.
There's never enough time to view all that I see.
There's always time to sit and just be.
There's never enough time to sing every song.
There's always time to wander along.
There's never enough time ...
Enough of this rhyme!
The following poem / visual was written several years ago, but is still pertinent to begin this new year, as well.
A Dictionary in Limerick Format
I thought this was a terrific example of a creative endeavor that sprung from an idea one person had and that has caught on among hundreds of others across the country. Specifically, Chris Strolin decided, on a whim, to start a Dictionary of English Words with limerick definitions. I think this was fabulous! Of what practical use, I'm not sure. But, it reminds me of the summer of 2015 when I summarized all of the Red Sox baseball games using an Acrostic Organizer to highlight what I thought were significant events of each ballgrame. Why did I do this? The same reason Crhis Strolin decided to write / edit the English Dictionary in limerick format. Just, because.
Why Dylan Matters
One of the books I have been reading is Why Dylan Matters by Richard F. Thomas. I am intrigued by the title and I thought I would use this set of words for Why Dylan Matters To Me:
- Many of his songs have a nice, easy beat to walk to during my daily exercise on the treadmill;
- I like using his tunes to write alternative lyrics to convey thoughts and events that are on my mind;
- The cover songs by other artists allow me to appreciate his lyrics in new ways;
- I can share my interest with Dylan's work with friends;
- Individual segments of prose, to me, are worth more than the composite whole of the entire set of lyrics;
- He brings out my creativity in expressing myself using some of his songs / lyrics;
- He has influenced many other musicians whose work is of greater excellence because of that influence;
- I don't want to know what any of his songs are about or mean ... they are what they are and not more or less;
- I appreciate knowing where he's going next;
- He has enriched my life by his presence.
Another Year Has Come and Gone
How did this year go by so fast?
What will I remember and what will last
When I read these words I wrote
And think about the events of note
That form the minutes and hours and days
Of the life I have lived and the different ways
I have captured some of life's delights
Hoping to provide some wise insights
To reflect back upon as I advance ahead
On my current path, which has lead
Me to think about the things I have done
And realize that I have been one
Of the lucky few to have known
The special people who have shown
Me how to live a life to be kind
And build my strenghth in both body and mind?
A Series of Unfortunate Events
This entry is taken from a Module on the topic of Transitions in a publication I am working on tentatively titled "The Creative Facilitator: Enhancing the Social and Emotional Learning of Students."
A Series of Unfortunate Events
(with apologies to Lemony Snicket for the title and John Prine for the melody
from the song “Everybody” that was playing in my head)
While out riding in my Saturn, while out riding in good cheer.
I looked upon the calendar and it was the start of a brand new year.
I got home and took a call – it was from a Hartford doctor
And the news she gave me on the phone was really quite a shocker.
She said, “Ernie, I have some news for you and I hope you’re sitting down,
‘Cause the news I’ll give is sure enough and bound to make you frown.
The tests we took from you just about ten days ago
Show that deep within your body some cancer cells do grow.
Sometimes life is funny – And sometimes life is not
Sometimes life’s too cold – And sometimes it’s too hot.
But life is full of wonder – each and every day
And life turns out to be just fine as I journey on my way.
2007 will surely be a most memorable year!
An important event will happen in a day that is quite near.
Let me begin at the beginning, as the saying goes.
And explain myself as thoroughly as I can, I suppose.
On January 2nd, I received the terrible news
From my biopsy results - and I got those PC blues.
Maybe my results were, in fact, another person’s fate
I’ve got too much to do in life on my king-size plate.
I’m 55 years old and have many more to go.
This wasn’t part of the bargain I signed up for Ernie’s show.
It must be someone else whose name might sound like mine
Call me back with better news if you would be so kind.
PC used to stand for political correctness as an answer.
But now unfortunately it now means prostate cancer.
What to do, where to go, when to take some action?
There’s much to learn, a lot to read – I only know a fraction.
Why me? Why not? Why now? I thought. It’s tough news to swallow.
And for about two days or more in my misery I did wallow.
I’m better now – see better times ahead in store for me
Lot’s to do, plan and hope and much more things to see.
In dreams we have when we are either asleep or wide awake
The order of things don’t often sense to me do make.
So - - - the words that I use to capture my complicated emotion
Are jumbled all together like a big Picasso commotion.
I’m up for this huge challenge and for what’s to be in store
Some people say it’s kinda like going off to war
But I like to think about it in a much more peaceful way.
I’m off on a surprise journey I didn’t plan yesterday!
I now hear words that didn’t make much sense not long ago
Like Gleason Score, blood banking, Cat Scan and urine flow.
It’s hard to keep one’s dignity and self-respect in tact
When discussions center mainly on some pretty private acts.
This saga that I tell to you and that I start today
Will take you on my journey some place down the way
Where it ends I do not know, right now it’s just a guess
I’ll get back to you in three weeks or two or one or more or less.
Postscript: Eleven years later, I can look back on this set of events from the perspective I did not have at the time. Life throws some unpredictable stuff our way and I found that writing my thoughts and feelings down had its own therapeutic effects.
Celebrating the Birth of a Grandson - May 11, 2007
When my grandson was born, I wanted to commemorate the event in a special way. I had been composing acrostic organizers in my courses as a way to summarize key information from specific areas of content. I decided to construct an acrostic using the titles of Dylan songs at the beginning of each line. To form the acrostic, I started each line with the successive letters in my grandson’s name: LEO DYLAN SCHMIDT. And, I concluded each line with the letters that formed the names of his parents: - NADYA AND RANDY -. I was quite pleased with the results and titled the work – Precious Memories – another title of a Dylan song.
The Word is Murder - quick comments acrostic style
Another excellent read, I
Never knew exactly what would lead
The reader to the conclusion of
How the murder suspects unwind
One by one as the
Necessary clues become evident to lead to
Your own conclusions for the ending.
Honoring his past successes, this has been
One of my favorite
Reads in recent months.
One of the best murder mysteries on my shelf.
Wonderfully contrived plot with
Intrigue as the reader
Tries to untangle the thoughts of the
Zealous writer following ex police detective Hawthorne.
Miscellaneous Verses - Bob Dylan Manuscript
I have a never-ending manuscript developed on how Bob Dylan Influences My Work and Life. I use the term "never-ending" both to refer to the unofficial name of his yearly series of shows and my own acknowledgement that Dylan will continue to influence my life until my final breath. Here are some verses from this manuscript to alert the reader about content that is on that same page. I will not currently link to this manuscript as I don't have permission to use quotes from many of Dylan's lyrics at this time.
You are about to see
What Dylan means to me;
How his words have inspired
As my writing has transpired
And creativity emerges
As my life surges
Forward to its current state
Of satisfaction with my fate
In connecting with Dylan’s past
And present works that will last
Forever in my heart and mind.
Bob Dylan, to me, is one of a kind! [page 1]
One wonders who the influences are
As we reflect on life from where
We find ourselves each and every day
And we can search for a special way
In which Dylan can inspire us anew.
These pages contain just a few
Of the results of such times
When I turn my thoughts to rhymes. [page 2]
As one ages, the memories of our past
Change places as the vast
Number of scenes that go on in our mind
Float in and out as we find
Ourselves trying to make sense
Of these thousands of events
That influence who we are today
Amid what Dylan has to say. [page 3]
Amid the talk of progress,
Laws are passed by Congress
That aim for a better education
For students in their preparation
To be a citizen as an adult.
But, instead, we have a cult
Of assessment to determine
What our children are learnin’
And teaching to that test
Means that all of the rest
Of their time is spent getting ready
For these steady
Barrage of money-making entities
From the test making companies
That cause undo harm on all –
It’s time to cease and call
An end to this monstrosity
And take some responsibility. [page 4]
We organize our life in segments
That represent important moments
And we remember many a Dylan show
And songs and lyrics and know
That they bring meaning to the elements
Composing our diligence
To capture all that is important and true
Of what his work means to me and you. [page 6]
Profile Across the Years
It's Christmas 2017
It's Christmas 2017.
This time of year generally means
Giving and receiving presents today.
I wonder if there could be a different way
To share our gifts with a loved one
That wouldn't cost a dime when it was done.
Commit ourselves to peace and justice
Is a start and maybe this
Might lead to other changes, as well.
We could practice mindfulness and tell
Ourselves to slow down - lessen our pace.
It's a walk we are on - not a race
To get to some place else real fast.
But rather be content with what lasts
While on our journey - it will never end.
The road is the essence and we must contend
With challenges we meet - obstacles to overcome.
I'm sure life is worth it when some
Of our walks bring an unexpected pleasure
That helps us to see our goals we can measure:
Satisfaction, happiness, contentedness and more.
Commit to some changes at your very core!
Education is a Jig-Saw Puzzle
No two jig-saw puzzles are assembled in exactly the same way. What insights can I draw to education? No two students approach a subject from the same perspective. Each person's attempt to fit his/her pieces into the puzzle depends on interest, motivation, timing, commitment, perseverance and several other qualities. Assessing one's progress in completing the jig-saw puzzle is dependent on the reason for choosing to engage in this activity. For example, timing how fast one can put the puzzle together does not interest me. I generally put in one piece at a time, walk away, do another activity and come hack in about 10 minutes to put another piece in the puzzle. As the puzzle nears completion, I may choose to put 5 pieces in place in one sitting. I marvel at the specific pattern that is evolving and my ability to plot exactly where a piece fits or in the general location where I initially place the piece, only to discover later that adjustments in that placement need to occur. If, at first, I don't seem to find where a piece goes, I take the cover of the box and find better lighting to assist in my search. I see many parallels between my recreational activity at assembling a 1000 piece jig-saw puzzle and my approach to education. Do you?
You Are a Winner
During one of my classes, I bought one Lotto ticket for each of the 16 students in the class. No one won the grand prize. However, I wanted to award two bonus points for unique ways in which each student's set of numbers qualified them for that award and other students did not have the same pattern to their numbers. Here are the results:
Final Notes to Students at the End of a Fall Semester
Not that long ago, we had Session One
Now the course is over, the last class is done.
Where did it go? How long did it last?
The future will soon be just part of the past!
I’ll do it all over in about one month’s time
When I’ll add some more verses to my summary of rhyme.
Thank you for joining me for this part of my journey
To discover more truths – you helped Dr. Ernie
Advance in his thinking, values and more
Preparing for his sessions was never a chore
It never ends – this search for meaning -
But that’s all for now – Please have a good evening!
D-Day – The beginning of the spring semester [1984, that is]
Deadlines to meet
Classes to complete
Get me to the class on time
So I can make words that rhyme.
They listen to me, every one
From when I start until when I’m done.
Do they believe me in what I say
Or do they dare go on their way?
I want them to think about what is right
For them to do when they’re out of my sight.
Don’t agree with me at once
Challenge me and try and trounce
Me down a time or two
I can take much more from you.
I enjoy teaching my class
I clarify my thoughts at last.
It’s a forum to debate
the state of the art in every state.
No one holds the magic key
There are many ways to plant a seed.
So, leave this class a better person
In the real world of life’s immersion.
Two Worthy Blogs
Here are two blogs that I follow on a consistent basis. The first is from a high school teacher and philosopher from Georgia and the second is from a weekly blog by Parker Palmer. I find wisdom in both places.
What's It Take to Be NINETY - EIGHT?
I used the following acrostic organizer in a chapter I recently wrote for book: Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom: Creativity, Connections, and Engagement, on the occasion of my dad's 98th birthday [2 years ago].
The First Snow
The first snow has its own appeal.
The ground is white - almost surreal;
Especially on a Saturday - no place special to go.
Take your time to move that snow.
Don't disturb its resting places.
Enjoy its presence as it glazes
The ground - all in white.
Leave it awhile - you might
Be tempted to disturb its rest.
Go back to bed - it's just a dream to test
What you will really do.
After this first storm is through,
The sound of plows soon fill the air.
It's time to awake - It's time to wear
Those boots and gloves if you can find out where
You put them last winter knowing there
Would be a time in six months or so
When you would need them again to shovel the snow.
The first snow soon loses its appeal
After your back aches and you feel
Quite fatigued and downright tired
As the snow mocks you as your car gets mired
Within its grip
And off you trip
And fall on the ice
Once or twice.
Who needs this snow
I would like to know!
Tevye shouts from the rooftops, “Tradition!”
Today the challenge becomes one of “Transitions!”
We all all in the midst of one transition or another
Whatever our beliefs and whatever our druther.
Some have retired – I wonder what that will be like.
Others are moving on – Just one more step on their hike.
We age one second, one minute, one year at a time
Some days we’re creative and other days don’t rhyme
With where we are heading – both ourselves and our country
HOPE is the word I cling to for company
To see me through one transition at a time.
This seems to be the time we chime
In on holiday festivities, family and many a friend.
Thank you to ALL who have helped me contend
With what is most meaningful in life
To be mindful of one’s presence amid both joy and strife
And help each other celebrate our traditions
As we each make our own unique transitions.
What Do These Resources Have to Do With My Professional Development?
In a course I am teaching over the winter session, I posed this question [What do these resources have to do with my professional development?] of the students when I requested that they access the following links that were among my resources that I considered valuable in shaping my own teaching philosophy and values. I am eager to discover what their connections will be to these resources.
Ana Grace Project
Five years ago today tragedy struck nearby
In Newtown, Connecticut, and we continue to ask why
Such a loss occurred in the lives of so many
Young children and adults and any
Attempt to make sense of these disasters
Provides no clear answers
But "Love Wins" are the words of choice
By the Ana Grace Project and is the voice
Of dedicated people who tell us to stop the violence
And dedicate ourselves to an alliance
Of mindfulness, empathy, respect and love
And together we can rise above
And accomplish much, much more.
We must raise our voices in a roar
So all can hear the words once again
Love Wins from beginning to end.
Big Ideas for Education
In no specific order of priority here are my Big Ideas for the future of education at all levels:
- Few, if any timed tests: Too often, the amount of time designated to complete a quiz or test is chosen in a quite arbitrary manner by the test giver. Many students struggle over determining the “one right” answer to a multiple-choice series of items when two of the items may have a very minimal distinction that may have more to do with how well the student memorizes a definition than knowing about the content under investigation. Also, some students – even those without official diagnoses of a learning disability – need time to go back over their work to change any answers when, upon a second analysis, another answer now appears to be a better choice.
- Paying for the bells and whistles: Manufacturers of curricular materials are in the business to make money - - - lots of money. The way in which a product is packaged may have more to do with buyer incentives and surface quality than it has to do with the evidence-based strategies contained within the package, which mirrors the same strategies in hundreds of other curricular packages, perhaps marketed with not quite so much glitz. A biography of Anne Sullivan provided me with an extremely interesting account of a creative teacher who worked with perseverance and girt with Helen Keller. Teachers have lost one of their most treasured responsibilities in their craft: knowing what to do next when what is currently in place is not working.
- Choices: The foundation for engagement is offering choices for how students can demonstrate their competence in each of the curricular content areas. There is a sense of empowerment when students are in charge of how they use their strengths to express their progress toward the content standard presented by the teacher.
- Formative Assessment Over Summative Assessment: In my opinion, there is a misunderstanding about what summative assessment means. To me, a unit test or weekly quiz often reveals how well a student can memorize, cram for a one-time revelation of knowledge and does an injustice to students whose learning does not adhere to limited time frames for knowing enough about the subject at hand to do well on high-stakes assessments that often are meaningless 3-4 months later. Instead, formative assessment should be the norm when teachers and students both discover how successful current strategies are in comprehending information at hand. Daily decisions are then made for how to access the content in a more effective manner as the student builds on skills in an individualized manner.
- More Maker Spaces: I think that project-based learning is a great way to practice one’s recent knowledge in a practical way. Working as a member of a team in a problem-solving activity results in a refinement in the type of skills that will be in much demand in this current century. There needs to be a greater connection between the creative energies of students and the needs of their greater community. Tax payers need to see the benefits of their hard earned dollars meeting community challenges, especially when those tax payers do not currently have sons/daughters attending school in that community.
- Individualized Student Plans: In special education, each student has an Individualized Education Program. I would like to see this expanded to ALL students whose direction of study can be guided by a team of individuals (a circle of support) that could include family members, neighbors, interested citizens of the community, school personnel and students themselves.
- Mindfulness: Social and emotional learning is receiving its due consideration as schools recognize that the assets that each student brings to the learning environment contribute to overall success. A school that includes mindfulness practices provides opportunities for students to de stress and find ways to relax and regroup often coming from stressful environments. Spaced throughout the day, such practices can be just the brain boost that students need to focus their energies on the activities at hand.
- Learning About Life Through Course Content: I once viewed a video clip about a high school physics teacher and read comments from his students. “He teaches us about life through our interactions with physics activities.” The particular teacher happened to also have a daughter with quite severe physical and intellectual disabilities. The students all knew about her and the family’s efforts to include her in as meaningful a way as possible in all of life’s activities. How many students in that physics’ course will remember the different formulas or content 3-5 years from now? However, they will remember their teacher and the values and attitude he brought to each lesson about how to be better individuals through the content of learning physics.
- Inclusion of the Arts in all of Curricular Activities: I think STEM got it right when schools started calling it STEAM by including the arts as an integral component of the curriculum. I remember reading and viewing information about the Henderson School in Dorchester, MA and how the teachers use a multitude of art materials in the academic content areas as students paint, sing, act and dance their way into the content of the day/week. I believe this emphasis can breathe fresh air into the curriculum and engagement will flourish.
- Mistakes Are Encouraged: We need environments in which students feel comfortable making mistakes on their way to learning new skills / activities. The foundation for great discoveries in any of the disciplines is perseverance through failure and setbacks. Teachers should encourage students to take risks when the students know they will not be penalized in the learning process but encouraged to rebound from a mistake and find ways to prevent that same mistake from occurring in the future. Also, students need to realize that their teachers have setbacks, as well, when they are learning new activities, especially with engaging in new technology that is second nature to many of their students.
Nonverbal communication allows for less interruptions and distractions and, I think, maintains a better learning environment for all. One time, in a book I was reading [Instruction: A Models Approach by Gunter, Estes & Schwab - 1999], the authors reported the following story. To paraphrase - A principal walked into a classroom with a guest and whenever the teacher asked a question, every hand in the classroom went up. The guest was quite impressed and when the principal relayed this back to the teacher, she said, I have a system in my classroom. Whenever a guest is in the classroom, if I ask a question and you know the answer, raise your right hand. If you don't know the answer, raise your left hand. I will only call on someone whose right hand is raised.
Card Game Analogy to Inclusive Practices
To me the following card game analogy represents the interactions between a student with a disability and his/her peer who does not have an identified disability. Think of a card game in which one student (without a disability) has all the face cards and his peer (with a disability) has the cards from 2 - 10. If they played a game in which each student placed a card in the middle and the high card wins, the student without the disability would win every time. This doesn't seem fair! However, without changing the cards each student was dealt, I could change the rules the following way. Each student puts down his/her card [let's say the student without a disability puts down a Jack and the student with a disability puts down a 2]. This becomes the student without a disability's card count - 12. Next, the two players put down a second card right next to their first card. This becomes the count for the student without a disability. So, in the second set of cards the student without a disability could put down a King while the student with a disability puts down a 7 for a total count of 17. The student with a disability would win that hand. Neither player's cards change. They are what they were dealt. However, with a change in the rules, the playing field becomes neutral with regard to who can win each specific hand. I think there is an association to inclusive practices here. We can't always change the cards we were dealt, but creative indivduals can figure out how inclusive practices can create a level playing field.
John Prine and Bill Murray
While reviewing a student's work today and a link to YouTube, I was drawn to another video clip on the sidebar of Bill Murray, who explained how the lyrics to a John Prine song helped bring him out of a deep depression: Linda Goes to Mars.
A. R. Ammons
In a current New Yorker magazine article, a compendium of poetry by A. R. Ammons is featured. I am unfamiliar with this poet's work but found the article quite fascinating. It appears that Ammons obtained a roll of tape from an adding machine (2 inch width) and put it in his typewriter to begin a series of poems about life events called "Tape for the Turn of the Year." I might include this article in a course I am teaching over the winter session on the theme of creativity in the classroom.
Questions As I Near the End ...
What will my contributions be
When I conclude my work at the university?
What will be the measure of my success?
Right now the answer is just a guess.
Many students have passed through the door
Of my classrooms each year and more
Of them left with a change of heart
As they go out to start
A new career path in schools
Bounded by such archaic rules
That stifle their own creativity
To practice their versatility
In meeting the needs of the students they see.
There's got to be more and maybe
They will be the ones to make the change
In schools so that the range
Of student growth can be individualized
And success, at last, can be realized.
One Year Anniversary
I started this daily blog 1 year ago today
Because I wanted to share what I had to say
To my students who would enter into my courses
Eager to learn from many of my resources
That I would provide for their further education
To enlighten their learning as they prepare their vocation
For working with challenging students of all ages
Who need their dedication and as everyone engages
In building relationships of caring and meaning
Because future students must start believing
That they are worthy of the love and dedication
And hopefully everyone has the revelation
That school is a place for enjoyment and fun
And real learning and teaching are never, ever done!
Work With What You've Got
Work With What you've got.
Don't Dig Deeper in a rut.
Try To Take your best shot.
Strike Some Sparks while the iron's hot.
Nobody Notices New attempts.
Yet, Yearn Youthful exuberance.
Clearly Count Carefully again.
Fight For Future women and men.
Be Brave Between each defeat.
Sacrifice Softly Somewhere down the street.
Persistently Plodding Patiently to each goal.
Gently Going Gracefully to your inner soul.
Magpie Murders - Quotes (continued)
Back in an October blog entry, I identified several quotes from a book I was reading for the second time. Below is a continuation of these quotes:
That’s one of the only good things about being a smoker these days. You’re part of a persecuted minority. You bond easily.
His closest neighbors [other graves] had died almost a century before him and the newly dug earth appeared as a fresh scar; as if it had no right to be there.
When you’ve been pursuing an ambition all your life, it’s actually quite frightening to achieve it because where will you go next?
You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.
For him, writing was something mysterious. It was like he was kneeling at the altar and the words were being sent down to him – or something like that.
The entire room seemed to come to a halt, as if it were a piece of tilm caught in a projector.
Learning From Our Mistakes
Parker Palmer continues to influence my values and outlook along both personal and career dimensions. I was quite impressed with the wisdom of a poem to which he referred his readers and I found this poem extremely valuable to share with the readers of this blog: “Autobiography In Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson
Another semester has come to an end
And once more to you this message I send.
Did you get what you expected - or perhaps more?
I hope you learned and accepted what could become the core
Set of values you hold as you venture off to your next career.
I hope you remember what I shared with you this year.
It's not the specifics that I am most concerned about.
It's the overall set of values and do not doubt
That you can make a difference in each student you meet.
Don't let negativity take you down to defeat
By those individuals who have given up the fight -
Those who are lost and can't see the light.
Rise up and give it your best
For there are no answers to many of life's tests.
Be true to your values - let your conscious be your guide.
Honor your students and look forward to the ride
You have begun in the course that now is done.
Remember, it's not a sprint but a long-distance run.
Labyrinth Path of Becoming the Teacher I Aspire to Be
As part of a wrap-up session to one course this semester, I suggested to teacher candidates that they embark on a labyrinth path of becoming the teacher they aspire to be as part of their own professional growth and development. I shared what such a path might look like from a summer course I had taught in 2013. I also discussed other ways in which such a path might be used to commemorate other events of significance in a person's life; i.e., events leading up to a certain age, books read over a certain period of time, places visited while on vacations, etc. I urged any students to send me their labyrinth at any time along their path. I would be interested in what events had contributed to their ever-evolving quality as they acquire a teaching license ... and beyond.
Throughout any given day, I will read assignments and provide feedback relative to the specific work of each individual student. I find, though, that my feedback and comments could have application for all my students to read. Here is a sampling of feedback I provided for specific students today that I will make available to everyone.
- Finding what helps us be calm is an important part of de-stressing during our out-of-school life. When we arrive at work in a calmer state of mind, we are more apt to react to challenges in a more thoughtful, less stressed out manner.
- Prevention is the key when developing a classroom with a positive climate. Misbehaviors are less likely to be triggered when we create a welcoming, nurturing setting in which to learn.
- I have also seen when co-teachers present a lesson, the special educator may be at the white board highlighting what the teacher is saying in a more visual manner. This helps everyone in the class.
- "Time with non-disabled peers" should consist of quality interactions and go much beyond mere physical proximity, as you state among your comments for this chapter.
- You bring up some excellent issues around the concept of "grit" and whether someone inherently has this trait or whether it can be taught. I think it has a lot to do with how we are measuring what we mean by grit. If a synonym is perseverance and stick-to-it-ness, yes grit can be taught and nurtured by how a teacher structures his/her lessons. Resiliency is another way to look at grit as an inherent trait.
- Chunking and breaking a task down to smaller components is a long established evidence-based strategy that I would like to see more of in our public school classrooms.
- Social and emotional learning is one of the points of emphasis in the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) and I will be curious how different schools embrace the spirit of this initiative.
- ADHD is a very misunderstood condition that some teachers may not treat as a "real" disability. There are punitive measures employed that are unethical, in my opinion, when a student is forced to abide by restrictive controls when they would perform much better in an environment that respects and honors their learning differences.
- You are wise to note that many of the suggestive strategies in our text for students with various types of disabilities are actually excellent strategies for ALL students in the classroom.
- You bring up a keen observation about how certain traits cross over different disabilities and some characteristics are common to more than one label.
- Upon reading your comments I am reminded of a TED talk about the dangers of a single story. I think I will include this link as a resource in two of my courses: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story#t-3728
- To me, the Family Message Journal, is a no-stakes opportunity for a student to express him/herself in a way that forms a dialog between home and school. The teacher can still obtain information about the success of writing strategies throughout the year without grading the journal for grammar and spelling.