Being connected

Thank you

There are many who may disagree, but one of the things that I have really liked this year has been then ease with which my students have been e-mailing me. There are some I believe that would say that they appreciate their privacy and while I understand that, I also know that the 10 seconds to two minutes that it may take me to answer an e-mail can be the difference between a student who is very concerned about something, and a student who feels that they can now tackle a problem. This weekend has been especially busy as a large number of my students have a very large assignment due Monday, and so I have answered over 20 questions already today from them. Was this an interruption to my day? Not really, I answered at all times, when I had a few minutes or a few seconds to give them, but never when I was spending time with the people that matter in my life or doing the things I like. So while I know there are more to come today and tomorrow, I was happy to receive this message from one of my students on her e-mails, it also reminded me that while I may be e-mailing them, they are all on Facebook behind the scenes talking about everything that’s going on.

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Returning to the task

amaranth seeds and chaff

Sowing the seeds of life-long learning. Flikr.com Amaranth seeds and chaff, by blurdom

It has clearly been far too long since I took up writing on this blog. The reasons are common, and the reasons are not worth belabouring to any great extent. Suffice it to say: new year, new school, new responsibilities and a lack of commitment on my part. So the next question to ask might be: well why are you writing again? A good question and one that I hope to answer over the next year or so as my colleagues in the social studies department and I embark on a new plan: creating an environment that supports and fosters inquiry-based learning for our students.

I began this adventure a few weeks ago when I had the chance to hear from a colleague who was working on implementing this process in his classes. He gave me the inspiration to undertake the project. I listened to what he talked about and I thought that he was giving his students the skills and talents necessary for the future. As many people have pointed out what we need is students to have the ability to access knowledge and learn how to make use of that knowledge as opposed to merely being the accumulators of knowledge (and it should be pointed out often knowledge that is only retained for a brief period).

So after being suitably inspired I asked my principal if I could invite him to come out and speak to us and if we could set up a day for our department to discuss these ideas. With her encouragement I invited my colleague and the discussion that he led inspired us in the morning and gave us more things to think about in the afternoon when we had time to consider it for ourselves. As a group we agreed that this is most definitely the way that we would like to teach and frankly we want to do something better than what we are currently doing. Having made this step we all had to consider what are some of the challenges that we may face. The challenges vary from the availability of technology, challenges to students who need extra help and the reaction of the school community to these ideas. There is much research to be done and much thinking to occur, but I am thrilled to be working with such a dynamic group of individuals. We believe that this might revolutionize not just our classes at the grade ten level (which is where we’re starting) but all of our social studies classes.

To begin with we decided that we needed to come up with something that outlines the skills that we want all students to learn. Whether that’s being able to ask good questions, looking for issues, proper referencing, different applications for working on projects or presentation these are some of the things that we think all students would benefit from exposure level. We will be developing those over the next few months.

So in the future this blog will be the home for our departmental work in developing this new approach. We know it will be a trip well worth it.

Grad!

Cap Tossphoto © 2007 Dave Herholz | more info (via: Wylio)
Today was our graduation. Of course this is a really interesting day for teachers and for the students, an exciting day. It is a day to celebrate achievements and success. A day for the students to come dressed in their finest and show it off to their parents and teachers. For some of us it is a little hard to recognize these students that we have seen in the hallways so regularly wearing something significantly less formal. For the vast majority of students it is a well earned achievement.

However, it is also a day when you might hear: “That student shouldn’t be graduating because (fill in blank with comment about marks, attendance or other perceived shortcoming). This is something that we as teachers can mutter under our breath, maybe we mean it, maybe it’s kind of a dark humour about our students. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it myself. Like so much there’s some truth to our darker thoughts.

Does allowing as many students as we do ‘cross’ the stage cheapen the whole graduation ceremony?

It can certainly be hot topic of discussion at staff meetings and in conversation around the building.

There is probably no right answer on this, but I think I would fall in the let them graduate, it’s not worth worrying about camp. Today was another reminder why. I came across a student who I had taught in my grade 12 social studies class last year. I have to say I have no idea whether or not he crossed the stage last year, but I know that he would have had many strikes against him. He missed a lot of class, he didn’t do really well on many of his tests (despite how intelligent he appeared to be on essays and in conversation), he could even be a little bit hard headed, he passed the class with not a whole lot to spare. Today I met a young man who’s going places. He’s completed the few courses that he was deficient in, he looks confident and self-assured. He’s off to college in the fall, he’s happy and looking forward to it. Some might have wanted to see him held off for lack of attendance, for lack of success, I think they would have been wrong. His presence wouldn’t have cheapened the ceremony, in fact considering some of his challenges, it would have added to it.