The Teachers I Know

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In my daughter’s classroom on Monday, her teacher sat beside her during her time to journal and listened to Delaney’s reasoning for selecting her outfit for the day, her excitement about Christmas and Santa and seeing her cousins and receiving new dollies.

My son’s teacher brought out puzzles and challenged her students to work together to overcome the most difficult ones, and as she did, she checked in with each student, asking about his weekend, commenting on her new birthday book.

A teacher at KHS became teary-eyed as she described the joy she had in spending a semester with her students and seeing them grow and mature.  Another consoled a student in the hallway, hand on his shoulder, listening and offering advice for the everyday challenges our students face.

The teachers I know keep teaching.  They teach love.  Of numbers, experiments, history, literature, business, carpentry, art, performance, health, language, food, engineering, and more, but most of all, they teach a love of learning and a love for others.

During this holiday season I choose to think about love.




Creating and Controlling Your Digital Footprint

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Have you Googled yourself yet?  While it might seem a vain act, Googling yourself gives you a decent snapshot of your current digital footprint.  Your students, their parents, your employers, and anyone who wants to know more about you might take this first step.  Some of us already have pages of information on Google and others might just appear as a listing in the White Pages.

My Google Search

Either way, we should take control of our future digital footprints and model for our students the creation and maintenance of an online presence since in “a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep, 27% of college admissions officers say that they Google applicants and 26% check their Facebook profiles during the admissions process. A whopping 35% of admissions reps said they reviewed something on these sites that negatively affected a student’s chances of being accepted. Since last year, this figure has nearly tripled” (College Admissions: How Social Media Can Ruin Your Application).  If you don’t like what you see when you map your digital footprint, consider tidying up with tips in this article.  And, before you post another picture, join an additional site, or vent in a discussion forum, think like a writer.

Purpose and Audience:  Maybe this stems from being an English teacher for a number of years, but the advice I often give people who are entering the digital world is to think like a writer and focus on purpose and audience before opening their iPads or laptops.

What is your purpose for going digital?

Why Post to a Blog?

  • sharing ideas
  • teaching
  • networking
  • inspiring action
  • learning from others

Who is your audience?

  • self
  • peers/colleagues
  • employers
  • students
  • parents
  • friends/family

Is Facebook a place for me to catch up with friends and family across the country, or is it a place where my students might learn from me and their peers?  The answers to these questions might shape not only the voice and content of your digital creations but the location as well.

Publishing:   If I want my students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, might they post to my blog, FB, or Instagram?  Which of the following tools might be most powerful for my purpose and audience?  

  • personal website
  • course website (via Edline/Google sites/iWeb)
  • social networks (FB, Twitter, blog, Google+)
  • professional networks (LinkedIn,
  • media sharing (youtube, Flickr, Instagram)
  • interest sharing (Pinterest, Good Reads)
  • webtools (Quia, Diigo, ShowMe, Linoit)

Reflection/Revision:  Writers request feedback from editors and peers, make adjustments, and try again to more successfully achieve their goals.  How do we know our digital presence is working if we don’t ask our audience for their comments and suggestions?  What might we rethink based on the feedback we receive?

An instructional coach can support you in this process of planning, publishing, and reflecting.

Your turn:  What are your goals for creating a digital presence?  Which tools have helped you reach them?  What have you learned about these tools and how they work together?  Post your thoughts and questions here or on Twitter, using the hashtag #khspd.






Digging Deep in Socratic Seminars

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Sally enters her class with two annotated articles that connect to the Socratic question, a thoughtfully completed graphic organizer, and absolutely no idea how to engage in a meaningful group discussion which might deepen her own understanding and her classmates’.

In the past, she has spent these “Socratic Seminar” class periods spewing facts and quotes, worrying about the number of times she speaks, and cutting off her classmates’ thinking so she could reiterate her own.  This time promises to be different, though.  Her teacher has been working with her friends in other departments to learn the best strategies  for making discussions more powerful.

Setting the Purpose:  While Sally organizes her papers, her teacher displays a picture of an iceberg.  She asks her students to connect the image they see with conversations they have had in the past. Sally and her classmates agree that most of their student-led conversations about texts have remained at the tip of the iceberg, and they point to their fears about grading as the root cause of this issue.  Sally’s teacher asks her students to pair and share while they consider the other levels of the iceberg and the power that lies beneath the surface.  Sally and her partner discuss the patterns they see throughout the texts they brought to the discussion and how they might ask others to help them think about the meaning of those patterns.

Setting Goals:  Sally’s teacher then asks students to consider a good goal for their discussion that might help them reach those deeper levels of thought.  The class agrees that focusing on their QEUs will shift the focus from expressing their own thoughts to learning the minds of others.  These Questions that Expand Understanding become the goal of the class instead of worrying about the number of comments they make in a discussion.

Overcoming Discussion Challenges:  While the 30-minute discussion is not quite perfect, Sally feels it is much better than ones she has participated in previously.  More students ask questions and invite others into the conversation.  When a few students dominate the conversation, Sally’s teacher asks them all to pause, reflect with a partner on the big idea of the moment, and then she asks a team that had not yet been heard to begin the conversation again with a point or question that arose during their partner discussion.

Debriefing:  During the debriefing session, each of Sally’s classmates offers one piece of feedback for the group’s discussion techniques and one specific compliment for a person in the discussion.  From this feedback, students set a class goal for their next discussion and then write a personal goal as well.  They jot this personal goal on the back of the table tent with their name on it, so they can easily reference it just before the next discussion begins when they place their name tents on their desks.

How do you help students dig deep in Socratic seminars?