Sunday, August 3, 2008
I hope the buzzwords for the year include wikis, blogs and backward design. Teachers and students should be excited about these 21st century tools. Technology plays an integral role in most student's lives, they shouldn't have to check that at the door when they enter school. We are the digital immigrants they are the digital natives. We are preparing them for careers that may not even exist at this time. Teaching them to be problem solvers is the key.
I've also inherited a new position in addition to the Academic Coordinator and that is Lower School Principal. I'm looking forward to the challenge but at present I reside in the first stage of awareness, I don't know that I don't know. Everything is uncharted territory but hopefully with the help of an energetic faculty I can progress to the second level soon.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Be a solutionist
“Persist and you shall succeed” was a saying I heard early and often in my educational career and this habit of the mind was of paramount importance to me. Whether it was my parents or teachers early in life or my colleagues later in life, modeling the behavior, I became a disciple of persistence. This quality provided me with the ability to search for alternative solutions and not become flustered when the initial strategy was unsuccessful. I learned early on in education you not only may need plan B but C, D and sometimes E.
As I began focusing on this blog entry I realized examples of persistence and the lack of it are everywhere. A good portion of my time during the summer involves creating the schedule for the middle and high school. Persistence is required to deal with the multitude of elective choices, teacher preferences and graduation requirements, all which play key roles in the endless puzzle. However, persistence guides me to the completion of this task each and every summer. On the other end of the spectrum, teachers who dismiss technology as something that isn’t necessary and couldn’t possibly enhance their instruction could be an example of a lack of persistence. They have tried it, encountered obstacles and seem to have surrendered to mediocrity. Yet they expect their students to continue the effort and” give it your best.” Does the teacher work through daily problems or do they become disconcerted when obstacles to learning enter the classroom? Teachers, and parents, must continually model persistence for it to carry over to our students.
Persistence is a higher level skill that must first be observed, then taught and reinforced through problem solving activities. Teaching students to persist requires teaching them to understand. Students need to be active participants in the learning process and this requires our instruction to include relevant, engaging performance tasks which sometimes necessitate thinking outside the realm of the textbook. Simplicity resides in most texts, for true understanding we must teach outside the text and that requires the persistence on the part of teachers to find solutions for whatever obstacles they encounter. We want our students to be able to do this also, find alternative solutions to problems, and become solutionists
It is frustrating when this stick-to-it-tiveness seems to be lacking in the current generation of students. To overcome this we too must become solutionists and find ways to challenge and motivate our students towards acquiring this habit of the mind.