Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Professional Development without leaving the house

This summer, I have learned more than any staff development week could ever offer me.  A few things that I have done have really given me new insight into teaching and leadership.

1.  I beefed up my Twitter considerably.  I sought out people with hashtags like #edtech and #engchat and followed them.  I made use of my favorites tool to flag posts with great ideas.

2.  I did a few webinars online.  I did these through ASCD and other sites that I found on, you guessed it, Twitter.

3.  I found the site called livebinders that I intend to use for my classes next year.  It is a virtual three-ring binder.

4.  I joined groups on edmodo.  One group in particular, the English Flipped Class group, has amazing people who are excited about the flipped classroom concept.  And for English teachers, it means a little bit more than just "I assign reading at home."

5.  I will be part of a cohort of 25 going to the Folger Shakespeare Library for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute.  This is a part of several NEH workshops that take applications every year. 

6.  I made connections on Twitter and Edmodo to work on various projects that involve what I love (teaching, British Lit, etc).  These things not only satiate my appetite for my special loves in teaching, but they also are a great way to network and get your name out there.

7.  I read some great books.  Todd Whitaker has great books on leadership and teaching.  He has made me look at leadership in a different way.

Thanks for reading,

Bragging about Failure: a Contradiction in Teaching?

I am a subscriber to an AP listserv, and this week there was a post from a teacher that hit a nerve with me.  The teacher was asking for assistance because she now had several sections of AP English and each section was full.  Her problem was that the kids were in the class for the "wrong reasons" and she wanted ideas on how to weed them out.  The next day, another teacher posted something to the effect that she should "fail them early, and fail them often."   I began to think about why it is acceptable in our profession to brag about failure?

I don't know if these are the same complaints that have plagued our profession for years, or if I am just beginning to be irritated by them.  Here are some other boasts from teaching: 
  1. No one can pass my class.
  2. I am a hard grader.
  3. Can't wait to get them with this test.
  4. These are the worst kids I've ever had.
  5. I have a high failure rate.
  6. I give them a really hard test at the beginning to get rid of them.
  7. I love that no administrator has been in my room for years.
  8. (add your own)
I am going to use these little brags and transfer them into another profession--let's go with medicine.  Would a Doctor say the following? (and still have a job):
  1. No one survives my treatments.
  2. Why are all these sick people in my waiting room.
  3. I have a high failure rate.
  4. I only know how to treat smallpox (or equally archaic illness), and I am not going to learn how to treat these new illnesses.
  5. I love that no other doctor has evaluated my performance in years.
Yes, a bit dramatic, but do you see the point?  We are the only profession that can brag that people unsuccessfully come through our treatments--and it is accepted!  In any other profession, the lack of success would be seen as a failure--not a reason to brag.

How about walk-throughs and evaluations?  Most teachers are happy to be left alone and are proud of the fact that teacher assessment systems allow them to skip evaluations for years.  In Texas, I am allowed to forego evaluations for three years.  So, up until last year, I only had an administrator in my room for 40 minutes in 3 years. What other profession does this happen in?  None.

I have, of course, been guilty this type of bragging in my 20 years of teaching.  Now, however, I am trying to be cognizant of it and realize I need to be thankful for being employed in a profession I love.  I also need to realize that it is not appropriate to brag about failure.  Teaching is a job where you must constantly evaluate yourself and your methods.  Accepting failure stagnates you and your teaching and does nothing for your students.  So let's start bragging about success and keep it at that.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Week to Go!

Today I have been preparing for my trip to Washington, D.C.  I will be leaving in one week to attend the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library.  I was one of 25 educators chosen from around the U.S.

I am currently re-reading Othello, probably my favorite of the four plays we will be studying at the Institute (Comedy of Errors, Pericles, Merchant of Venice are the other three).

I am also working on formatting this blog which is a new tech thing for me to tackle.

Things to do:  upload pics to Shutterfly, meet with my new curriculum coach, and pack!