An Ongoing Discussion: Your Input Needed

@Tykerman1 shared this interesting discussion starter and I thought we’d give it a try here.

Below is a question. The first person who is brave enough will read the question, answer it in the comments and pose a new question for the next person to answer. You can participate more than once.

Question #1
What are you most hopeful about with regards to education and the future?

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Clif Mims is a Christian, husband, father, teacher, cancer warrior, and fan of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Memphis Grizzlies.

10 thoughts on “An Ongoing Discussion: Your Input Needed”

  1. Since question #2 was glossed over, I want to answer that one. What makes a GREAT teacher? PASSION. You have to LOVE what you are doing, LIVE for sharing it with others, and BELIEVE wholeheartedly that your audience (i.e. students) would miss out if you didn’t share your lesson with them. If you have this PASSION, it won’t matter if you teach with a bag of old goofy clothes, or with the latest and greatest technology – your students will catch the passion bug, too.
    Tony Vincent defines Viral Learning as, “Infecting a few students and watching it spread”. Passionate teaching spreads that way, too.

    Since I took my question out of order, I’ll go back to Question #6…

  2. In response to Question #5

    This is completely “untechie”, but my example of the most creative/engaging way that I’ve taught something was back from my days of teaching high school French.

    Every time I taught a clothing unit, I also taught my students how to give commands and how to use the verb “to put on”. In my opinion, there was nothing my students loved more than to A)Tell me what to do and B)Watch me make a complete fool out of myself, the latter I was more than willing to do if it kept them engaged.

    So, I had collected the tackiest bag of mismatched clothing I could find (most of it from my Dad’s closet circa early 70’s – think obnoxious plaid pants for a start), and then my students got to tell me which items to “put on” and I would do it. Typically, I would end up wearing whatever work clothes I had on for the day, plus about 15 other items of clothing layered over them, including a horrible pair of plaid swim trunks – again belonging to my Dad.

    After taking it all off, they got to take turns coming up and “wearing” my clothes and giving each other commands. They loved it and fought over taking turns to wear the clothes. During the entire unit, they were more than willing to volunteer to come up in front of the class if it meant using the bag of clothes.

    Question #6
    If you could be in charge for one day at your school and/or district and make any ONE permanent change, what would it be and why? Oh, and you have to make this change given your current budget structure, too.

  3. Todd,
    Your frustration comes through loud and clear in your post. I am very lucky in that I teach at a Catholic school and I have plenty of freedom to create the curriculum. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I was told to perform rigidly defined robotic lessons. It must be frustrating.
    To answer your question specifically, I would offer a word of caution. People on Twitter and in the “world of educational blogging” represent a certain tribe in the teaching world. I think the jury is still out on whether that tribe has anything tangible to contribute to our children’s future.
    We may look back on this time period in 50 years and regret our experiments with technology in the classroom. I think technology is very powerful and we do not do a very good job right now of scrutinizing the effects. Nick Carr wrote a book called the Big Switch- in chapter 8 of that book he wrote eloquently about the dangers of giving in to this technology tsunami. I think it is a must read if for no other reason than that twitter and educational blogs promote a lemming culture where everyone pats themselves on the back for using wikis and no one bothers to examine the negative side.
    No matter what the topic is there is always a positive and a negative side. Right now we are suffering from a severe drought of critical thinking about these tools.
    To tie this rant into the answer to your question, I think that overly restrictive classrooms are awful, but so are untested, unmeasurable methods. For all the flaws of standardized testing, at least it measures something. I fear that many teachers dislike testing because it is also a test of what we have done. When our students fail it reflects on us as teachers. We are used to being the judge, we don’t like to be judged ourselves.

    That brings me to my question. In the last 10 years we have become a culture that can customize anything to be the way we want it to be. We can personalize virtually everything. We can get what we want, how we want, when we want it. When parents give in to every demand of their children we describe those kids as “spoiled” but when society gives in to all of our demands we call it “progress.” If these situations are identical, we need to decide if being spoiled is indeed bad for us and why.

    Question #7
    Is it bad for kids to get everything they want? Why?

  4. I suppose that I am most afraid that the role that government plays in the education of our children will continue to grow. We have nearly reached a point already where the classroom teacher’s hands are tied when it comes to making decisions about what good teaching looks like and how it should be accomplished. I see a feeling of hopelessness not only in the students, but also in the teachers.

    I am not sure what we can do about this problem. It seems to me that the whole world of education agrees with me. I read blogs and posts on social networking sites that all seem to shout for government to get out and leave us alone. Almost everyone I read comments from says that high stakes standardized testing is not the answer but it persists and even increases.

    Question 6
    If everyone on Twitter and in the world of educational blogging feels this way, then why don’t politicians listen?

    Todd Sanderson’s last blog post..Twitter for Teachers

  5. In response to:
    Question #3
    What are you most fearful about when you think of the future of education? What is one recommendation you can give to keep your fear from coming to pass?

    The thing I’m most fearful of is apathy. Apathy is a learned trait and when it’s learned from a teacher, I think it’s almost criminal. If the model for students learning how to learn is seated at a traditional desk, droning on and on in traditional formats, then students are thinking about content, they are thinking about getting the most out of doing the least.

    And a recommendation? I would start with Clif’s “One Thing” series. If every teacher did just one thing to make their classroom better, it could start a chain reaction of positive changes which would ultimately benefit students in a major way.

    Question #5
    What’s the most creative/engaging way you’ve taught something?

    Mike Fisher’s last blog post..New Web Stuff 04/13/2009

  6. My greatest fear is that we will get too caught up in teaching the stuff on the tests and lose the big picture.
    I can help avoid it by engaging my staff in meaningful learning and discussion on good teaching and meaningful assessment. I can work to avoid the idea of teaching for a test, and focus ondeveloping meaningful skill development that will make children sucessful on the tests, as well as in life.

    Question 4
    What is the biggest hurdle to jump as we try to reform teaching and learning?

  7. I hope that the reform everyone is talking about finds a way to be meaningful, effective reform. I pray that teachers will be part of the conversation and help develop and shape meaningful reform.

    Question #3
    What are you most fearful about when you think of the future of education? What is one recommendation you can give to keep your fear from coming to pass?

  8. I am most hopeful for the future of education that we can find the best ways to educate rather than the best ways to keep educators in tenure and securing their jobs. I just wish the teachers would hold the same value on educating kids as they did to keeping things the same if they aren’t working. I am speaking in generalizations and I know their are exceptions in several cases. It must be frustrating if you are part of the system and know it needs changes but can’t do much about it.

    Question 2
    What makes a GREAT Teacher?

    Tucker’s last blog post..Join the community

  9. John Dewey said, “Learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate.” That said, my hope is that educators will recognize when they are teaching as they teach merely because that is their comfort zone and note when it is not enough to do as we always have in the past. Additionally, I would hope that educators (not excluding myself) would seek ways in which they can enhance critical thinking and improve academic outcomes of our students – many times this requires NOT being fully in control of the learning. The learning should be owned by the student – so I hope more and more educators will learn to relinquish the classroom to the students (more student-led and less spoon-fed).

  10. My biggest hope is that we can re-engage most students in school and in the process make them a more active part of their own educational process.

    And since it is early in the process, I’ll keep the question the same: What are you most hopeful about with regards to education and the future?

    Scott’s last blog post..Backchanneling Basics #8 – Chatmaker

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