Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One time, at EdCamp...

Who wakes up at 6 am on a Saturday to go learn about new stuff in education?  This girl.

Last Saturday, Russ and I hit the road at 6:45 to head west to Omaha for EdCamp!  We arrived a little before 9:00.  Right away, I walked in and saw many unfamiliar, and a few familiar, faces.  It was actually really happy to see many unfamiliar faces, because that meant I was going to make some new connections.

Most current education conferences focus on technology because that's the "new" thing most people are trying to implement in their classrooms.  I purposefully (no offense to anyone) made it a goal to avoid sessions focused on technology.  My technology plate feels kind of full right now.  I view lots of links of new ideas on Twitter about what new website or app to try.  When I come to a conference, I come for the conversations that stretch me.

All three sessions I attended were in the same "genre" of discussion: 21st Century Classrooms, Creativity, and Authentic Learning.  I felt like the conversation built naturally on itself from one session to the next.  Some of my take-aways from the day were:

  • We need to revive the learning spaces we have.  They need to feel more natural, welcoming, home-like.
  • I'm not sure I'm a fan of grade-levels.  My son walked at 13 months.  Some kids walk at 9 months.  Some don't walk until 15 months.  Trying to cram all these kids in the same room and teach them the same thing just because they're of the same age isn't quite working.
  • To encourage people to do the arts, we need to make them a priority in our schools.  Right now, we basically label some subjects as useful and some as useless.
  • Life is based on diversity.  We don't want canned results, yet we treat all students as if they're on the college route.  
    • Many times, students leave school not knowing what they're good at.  
    • Talents aren't discovered because we get too focused on standards/benchmarks.
    • We need to give students time to explore things outside the "curriculum."
  • "Covering curriculum” is focusing on teaching, not on learning.
    • We're focusing on learning stuff instead of how to learn.
  • We need to be more of a "guide on the side" and not the "sage on the stage."
The big thing I'm struggling with after this is all the talk (which is what I came for). Where's the action? Where do I go from here?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More of the little things...

I posted previously about the little things making a big difference in my classroom.

A few weeks ago, I learned about The Interlude Dance.  It's another small "YouTube sensation."  Students had just finished preparing their conference folders for student-led conference.  Some were a little bummed about their grades, and I was not totally excited about being at school until 8pm.  We just needed a little jam session to break free/let loose.  I put the video up on the screen, we learned the dance, turned the lights out, and jammed through the song a few times.  Everyone in the classroom, and I mean everyone (including me) just let go for a matter of 10 minutes.  It was freeing.

We all need these freeing moments.  We see the times on Gray's Anatomy where Christina and Meredith just dance their hearts out when life gets them down.  How many times do we just let loose, turn the car stereo up, and sing at the top of our lungs to let it all out?  We need to give students these freeing/let lose moments sometimes in school.

After the jam session, it took a little bit to wind down, but there was just a little different ambience in the classroom.  The stress of conferences, report cards, and other stresses seemed to float away for a bit.

What sort of brain breaks/freeing opportunities to you provide for your students?  What benefits do you see?