Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Extrovert Just Got Slapped

By Trevor Muir

A blogger just slapped me in the face.

Ow John Spencer.... ow.

One of his most recent blog posts, "Teaching Introverts," discusses the idea that introverts have needs that might look different than the needs of extroverts, yet many of the strongly pushed education reforms and practices are aimed towards benefiting the extrovert.

"Collaboration is key."
"Project Based Learning means students don't have to work alone anymore."
"Space needs to be opened up. Look at the offices of the newest, best tech companies. Nobody has an individual space assigned to them." 

He then challenges the reader to consider the needs of introverts as well.

"Solitude matters. Some kids need a little extra alone time in order to have thinking space."
"Kids need to have a place of their own, both physically and mentally."
"Allow some (if not all) kids to process things alone before they go to peer-to-peer or whole group discourse."

I believe John's main point is that there must be balance; space and solidarity must be given to the introverts to think and process. Not every student is wired to collaborate and communicate 100% of the time. Not everyone is an extrovert.

And that is what slapped me in the face (unintentionally I believe).

Hello, my name is Trevor, and I am an extrovert. 

There, I said it.

I do well in large groups. I am comfortable sharing my ideas and emotions with others. Presenting in front of people is one of my favorite things to do, and my only fears beforehand are if I will have a perfect presentation or not. I can be a little loud sometimes.

And this is the mindset that I teach with. I think of the ways I learn best and am most receptive, and then want my students to do the same. I slap grades onto presentations, and deduct points from 9th graders who are not comfortable (or ready) to speak in front of 50 of their classmates. I make most of the groups my students work in groups of 4, so that they have more ideas being contributed, even though some of my introverts do not contribute at all in groups that big.

There is an incredible commons space outside of my classroom beautifully designed for students to work in groups. TV screens with 4 VGA cables hooked up to them so students can project what's on their laptops up on the screen. Restaurant booths where small groups of students can sit and face each other while they work together. Long and comfortable couches where groups can huddle around and bounce ideas off of each other.

The perfect place for extroverted group magic to take place.

But also an incredible location for an introverted student who needs solitary processing time to escape the busy classroom and think alone.

However, I don't always treat it that way. Students have said to me, "Can I go into the commons and work on my paper?"
And my reply is often, "No, we're going to work on our papers in the classroom. You can go into the commons later during group work time."

I am perfectly fine working on a paper in a packed, busy classroom. Some students are not. And I am slowly becoming aware of that fact. I am not allowing many of my students to learn and grow at their full capacity.

And although I cringe when I think of the numerous instances where I have created a classroom environment catering only to extroverts like me, I'm looking forward to going to school tomorrow where I can practice changing that.

If you haven't already, read John's blog @ http://www.educationrethink.com/2014/03/teaching-introverts.html

Thanks for the slap.

Image Credit: Michaela Chung, introvertspring.com

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Snapshot

By Trevor Muir

Sometimes I make my students work very, very hard. Other times, I let them celebrate their hard work with popcorn and kickball.
Sometimes I make their brains hurt by forcing them to find the best possible synonym for the word "good" in their poem, because good is clearly not a good enough word for their work.
Sometimes I dress up as a war captain and we have mock trench warfare battles. Other times we interview real war captains and then tell their stories to the world.
Sometimes I make students very mad at me because I cannot tolerate packing up when there’s still five minutes left in class.
Sometimes I feel like an ass for calling out a student in the middle of class, knowing very well I’m using embarrassment as a tool to get him to behave.
Sometimes I have my students use expensive video editing software to create documentaries and videos I could not have dreamed of making when I was in high school. But I always make them outline their films on white poster board with Crayola markers before they’re allowed to get near their laptops.
Sometimes I get an email from a student who is announcing he can no longer stand the bullying happening in school, and he just wanted to let me know he had plans to stop it the next day.
Sometimes I cry when I read those types of emails.
Sometimes I rip the hair from my scalp as I try to get a room full of high school students to say one meaningful word in discussion. Other times I sit back in wonder as 50 fourteen year-olds lean forward in their chairs and debate modern-day American imperialism, and I don’t have to say a word.
Sometimes a student will succeed for the very first time in my class, not because I have magic powers or possess a special gift. I think it’s because I let each one of my students know that they do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Manifesto-Kaechele Version

From Josip Kelava
This post by Mike Kaechele

David Jakes at NovaNow challenged us to move beyond mission and vision statements which are just useless propaganda (my comment, not his) but instead have a manifesto about what matters to us in education. So here is my manifesto for learning:

  • When you stop learning, you're dead.
  • Whoever is doing is learning.
  • Knowledge gained under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Plato
  • Hold your opinions with an open hand.
  • If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
  • Caring about justice is more important than content.
When you stop learning, you're dead. Learning should be a lifetime experience. People who are no longer learning anything are figuratively dead, even if they are technically still breathing. Actually I think it is just about impossible to not be learning something if you are conscious. Learning of course encompasses so much more than what is taught in schools.

Whoever is doing is learning. I believe in active learning. If students are just sitting in rows listening or taking notes that is not "doing." Learners need to be researching, questioning, experimenting, communicating, and tinkering. Learning is not always scripted but often looks more like young children playing.

Knowledge gained under compulsion has no hold on the mind. -Plato We can not force anyone to learn anything. Students cram information that they don't care about for a test and quickly forget it. Students who explore their passions remember what they learn. We need to make room for students to control their own learning. And yes it is their learning.

Hold your opinion with an open hand. This is a hard one for students, but a mature person can see both sides of an issue and is willing to re-adjust their views based on new information. It also means being able to have a respectful discourse about a topic without getting hostile.

If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Every source no matter what the form: text, audio, visual, etc. is biased. Every piece of information should be checked out by multiple sources. The bias of everything should be considered when evaluating information. Bias is in everything, but does not necessarily mean that a source is not credible. Be slow to trust and quick to check out information.

Caring about justice is more important than content. There are two things that I really want my students to learn in my class. The first is part of the earlier points. I want my students to be critically thinking citizens. I want them to call BS and not just believe everything they hear but contemplate their own opinions deeply. The second thing I want them to learn is to care about people in this world and to make a difference in the world on an issue that matters to them. We have plenty of problems in this world to deal with and I hope that my students make a difference today and for the rest of their lives.

This is my manifesto. If you have never written one I challenge you to try it. It will help you think about what really matters to you. And don't use the education jargon generator either.