Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whole Education

“Education is a holistic endeavor that involves the whole person, including our bodies, in a process of formation that aims our desires, primes our imagination, and orients us to the world — all before we ever start thinking about it.” James K.A. Smith

Sometimes I'm really struck by quotes. They resonate. I read them again, and the quote grows deeper and more meaningful until there is a sense that the words are elemental to my soul, my drive, and my sense of mission. This quote came from the On Being blog, one of favorite places for lateral capacity building (I encourage everyone to find non-education blogs and resources to supplement your learning. For me, it keeps my echo chamber from resonating too loudly). The quote brings me sadness because so many of our students are not receiving education in this life-filling way, but it gives me hope because I know that there are so many educators out there that really want this to be the reality of our work. Let each day be an opportunity to provide whole education to each of the children that we serve. 

Food, Water, Energy

 I spent the weekend learning at the Green Schools National Conference, and I had some time to think about infusing Education for Sustainability into our schools and how the ideas play with the Next Generation Science Standards. The new standards are a great set of ideas to spark conversations surrounding what is important in science education, but it seems like it is impossible to construct simple standards. Is there ever a time when science could be as simple as studying three things? More and more, it seems like science education could be about the deep study of food, water, and energy.

It sounds too simple, but it comes from the idea that if we are hoping to grow students that have the drive, passion, and ability to solve the complex problems of our planet, then there doesn't seem to be any more pressing issues than how to feed 9-10 billion people, how best to share the precious and scarce resource that is fresh water, and the national security concerns surrounding energy. In a time when providing excellent instruction is more and more complex, it makes some sense to really synthesize the breath of the content that we are bringing into our students. Would we be OK with science being food, water, and energy? What am I missing?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Is Dreaming Enough?

How do we turn the drive for dreaming into action for others? My middle school students can dream. I love those conversations. They have passion and dreams and a vision for a world without the pain that too many people experience. They can talk about the problems. They see them clearly, but then they begin to fall into the adult trap of believing that the nature of the future is that it is already written, and their actions can't or won't make a difference. The students' passion for action fades, and the cycle goes quiet into the next injustice rears its head. How do we break this cycle? How do we teach the skills of action taking? How can we make the risk of taking action more comfortable for students? How do we walk with students on this journey from dreaming to action? Schools need to be considering these questions so that we have an opportunity to build the action takers that we know are necessary to tackle the complex challenges of our democracy in the future.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

College Going Tradition

Think about the places that you have never thought about going. It is a really odd concept to truly think through. Could I actually make a list of all of the places that I hadn't thought about going? Growing up I was one of the oldest cousins in my family. Of the twelve or so of us (lost track of the late cousins added from second marriages, etc.), only three of us successfully completed college (my younger sister was one of the others). During our family gatherings, we didn't have cousins or relatives coming back from college with new billboard t-shirts or fresh stories about campus life. It just wasn't part of the conversation. None of my mother's or father's siblings were college graduates and none of my grandparents ever experienced college. We talked about a lot of things (family, tradition, work), but never was there one story about the value of college. College was truly one of those places that could have easily ended up on that of places that I had never thought about going. This August will be the 20th anniversary of me stepping onto the campus at Drury College to begin my first semester of learning thus breaking the cycle in my family, and beginning a college going tradition. The road to college was littered with ignorance, and I have never properly thanked high school teachers, counselors, mentors, and family friends for helping to nudge me in the right direction. Many times, I have recognized my parents' sacrifice that allowed me to repel the weight of poverty that could have enveloped me on this road, but it is worth saying thank you to them again. I am still a first generation college kid in a lot of ways, not as polished, professional, and proper as some of my colleagues that I collaborate and learn with everyday, but this journey has given me something else, a deep sense of mission. In everything I do in education, my eye is on finding new avenues to create fresh college going traditions in families, knowing that supporting that first student in a family across the finish line sets off a wave of potential positive outcomes that ripples deep into our societal fabric.

So God Made A Farmer

I actually missed this commercial during the Super Bowl, but it worked it has way back into my queue a few days ago. I was struck by its powerful message, strong use of photos, and the voice of Paul Harvey. It brought something out of my Midwestern soul. It was a reminder about the essential nature of hard work. It was a reminder about the wisdom of our elders. It was a reminder that our success is always built on the hard work of others that have come before us. These are the types of stories that we need to be telling about our schools and our communities. We need to provide students the tools to tell these types of stories about their families, their successes, and their contributions to their community. Part of the success definition for our students must be their ability to see, craft, and execute story at its highest levels. Stories like the one in the commercial persuade, frame, embolden, and they are the path to growing consensus around the complex problems that face education and our society. My grandfather was a farmer, not be trait, but my hobby, and my experiences with him shaped my heart. I actually believe that God made us all farmers, cultivating the soil of our families, our friends, our community, and our world. Are you ready to see yourself as a farmer of those that you serve?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

It's important to be passionate your work, but this may be a little much. 

Do you focus more on students working or students learning?

Seth Godin reminds us of the power of being open, generous, and connected to maximize our team.

Technology can't ask the second question. Teachers have the only ones that have the subtly to really foster learning. 

A final wrap to our week of learning at #edcampSTL and #metc13 about the essential nature of digital learning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Pep Talk

February always seems to be the month when schools struggle to keep their momentum. It is the time when energy of the place is spent, and we need a booster shot. For me that booster shot comes from learning at #edcampSTL and #METC13 each February, but I know that many of you don't have that luxury. I'm hoping that this video can give you a little booster shot and a pep talk to power you through the spring.

Waves of Learners

I am just starting to allow the Midwest Educational Technology Conference (#METC13) to soak into the system, but my first reaction that I have had about the experience is that the message about the importance of integrating technology at a very high level is soaking into the system. There were some incredible presentations over the last three days. My favorites talked about the teaching of writing, visual storytelling, and connecting our kids with authentic audiences. In addition, I was quite impressed by the risk-taking of many teachers to just get in front of folks and share. Is it possible that we are growing education into a safer space to share, collaborate and grow? I was also struck by the idea of waves of learners. Each year, I am reminded about ideas, resources, and more that I have completely soaked into my learning DNA that are brand new experiences for others. This statement doesn't come with judgment, but it comes with the reality that we need to keep talking about the most important stuff over and over. We need to have each wave of teacher learners hearing the best stuff. This means excellent adult learning opportunities that are differentiated for multiple years. There were a lot of eager, but basic learners, at the 30th annual METC conference, and there were experts in the field. This span of learners did share two things. Everyone wanted to learn, and everyone wanted to better provide for kids. As you continue to serve as learners and facilitators of learning for others, don't forget that fresh waves of educators are essential for the momentum of technology integration to continue.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

World Education Games seems like a great opportunity to connect many of our computer addicted students to some great educational games in a competitive environment. 

Strong set of resources for Black History Month. Don't forget to be mindful of providing both doors and windows to all of our students with the specific content and resources choices that we make. 

Nothing beats a phone call with a voice on the other end, but I like the power of this app to increase communication. 

Great TED talk from a science teacher about making it fun. Also a great piece from an author of Save Our Science

Is there more that we can do another creativity in our classroom. Great TED talk on its importance.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Different Type of School

When I think about the term schools, there is a moment when I think that the term may become a relic, stored away in history, like other words that no longer truly describe what happens in those spaces. We don't have many butcher shops anymore, and there are certainly no more five and dime stores. Schools are so much more today for kids, families, and communities. There are places of health and rest. They are places of connection and comfort. They continue to be places of learning, but in the context of all of those other things. Schools, the best schools, are community places of learning that have a symbiotic relationship with their environment that they inhabit. They are community places and spaces that allow for a new generation to have hope and help make their world a better place today.