23 January 2011

Why I Love Teaching

This is a long post, so before you start reading, grab some coffee and settle in, you are in for a treat.

Every now and then a student puts something on their blog and it reminds me of a reason I love to teach. This happened today when I read one of my students' posts. Its a good read, just for the sheer joy of reading. This girl is a great writer. Even though I doubt she'd mind, I did delete her name and substitute [student name] instead. I thought this needed to be read by a larger audience:
Hi, and welcome back to another episode ooooof...... What [student name] Learned This Week! (Confetti falls as the studio audience applauds and cheers) Nooooow here's your host! [student name]! (The audience gives out a deafening roar as they commence in a standing ovation; a warm welcome back for their beloved host!) Yes yes, welcome back! It's been FOREVER since I've written one of my critically acclaimed blog posts! And, frankly, I've really missed them. Not just because they are an easy grade (cough... cough), but because I like writing and these assignments... I don't know. They're just fun to me! Re-capping what I've learned in Physics class in a mile-long essay every week? SIGN ME UP! (Not kidding!) So, suffice all the theatrics to say, I'm glad to be back at the keyboard for another installment in my blog. BUT! That's not why you're here! You probably couldn't give much of a rip about the theatrics, so let's dive right into the real reason you're here: to read what I feel like I've accomplished this week in Physics. (An ever ENTHRALLING topic, if I do say so myself!)

The thing that really stood out as being really significant to me this week was how variable everything really is in any equation you use, especially a Physics equation. For example, Ft=m(symbol for delta here)v. (Or, rather F=m(delta)v/t) I find it utterly fascinating that just one variable can change the ENTIRE outcome of an equation! Like, if you give an object more mass, it has more force, or give it more velocity it has more mass, etcetera. And I'm not meaning this in a mathematical sense, but in the conceptual one, a single constant in an event can change whether that event has a positive and happy outcome, or one that's not all sunshine and rainbows, if you know what I mean. And that Physics can control such a HUGE factor in a teeny tiny variable is mind-boggling to me.

The things I did this week that helped me learn best included writing down things that weren't exactly outright specified to be written down. And what I mean by this very vague statement is taking notes on things that Mr. Bowie said, rather than just writing down what's put on the board or on the Power Point. Now I did not do the best job of this that I could've. I was a little spacey and sometimes when Mr. Bowie asks us if we have any questions (as per what USUALLY happens when he asks us this), I completely blank, even though I KNOW there are questions there somewhere, they just want to hide from me and make me feel completely idiotic when they come up a mere ten minutes later, but it's not question time anymore because class is over, but hey. Cut me some slack, I have ADHD. (Though that's not an excuse, I'm sticking with it, because it does cause me problems on occasion!) But this whole writing what you say instead of only what you write thing is a method I'm still perfecting the practice of, but I believe it's a method that will get me far in the future. (I hope, at least, it will or I'm going to kill my brother for telling me to do it.)

The things that hindered my learning this week included the confusion about the project weighing heavily on my poor little heart. Now, to be perfectly honest, whenever I hear the word "project" in any class, no matter what class it may be, my heart leaps with curious excitement, remembering the old projects I did in 4th grade in which we had to create a to-scale doll house with actual carpet, windows and a fully functioning electrical system (not kidding, I actually went to an elementary school where this was considered a normal every-day group project), but then it remembers, oh. This is high school. I won't be doing anything like that again, probably ever! Woo. So, then I always, ALWAYS, from the moment the word is spoken by the teacher (be it "project" or "paper" which, in high school are basically the same exact words) until the actual due date, I am constantly freaking out, somewhere in the back, middle or front of my mind, depending on the proximity of the project's due-ness and the difficulty of said project. And this one was particularly daunting to me, especially at first, since I am very much technologically illiterate on the most part. And when my teacher says that I'm going to have to create a wiki page, the whole of my being from my fore-head down is scared stiff. So of course this hindered my learning a tad in this class, since my mind was fully occupied by the thought of what I was going to do, how I was going to write it, and how the hecksicles I was going to build an entire web-page from scratch. But I think I may have the capability to do it..... at least I hope. I know one thing's for sure: it's pretty darn hard to focus on momentum when you're thinking about a project like that one.

I felt frustrated sometimes when math was involved. I. HATE. MATHMATICS. And NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING can change that. EVER. "Oh, but [student name]! It's the fundamental building blocks to figuring everything, especially science." No. Can't stand math. Can't. I'm sorry Mr. Bowie or whoever is reading this that may get offended or something, but I just hate math. Reading? Heck yes. Analyzing? Sure, I'm game. Complex Concepts? Cake. But math? Medieval torture. I always always always ALWAYS have and always will hate math forever and a day. Now, is that saying I can't do it? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Is that saying I won't do it? You think I'd risk my grade with such a personal loathing and opposing vendetta? Anyone who thinks that does not know me AT ALL. And I know it's a vital part for a lot of subjects, science in particular. So I do put up with it and even tolerate it on occasion. And I can do it, too. In case people don't know this and haven't told me this my whole life, I'm pretty darn smart. So I can do it. And I can knock it out of the park if I tried hard enough (which I usually do). I just prefer not to be bothered with it. But being in an applied math class, I kind of have to.

I was still curious about the whole, "sound is energy" thing. I know we only really talked about this for maybe three, four minutes? And it had NOTHING to do with, well maybe not NOTHING to do with, but very little to do with the subject matter we DID talk about this week, it really caught my attention. It almost kind of blew my mind. I mean, I knew sound was waves, but ENERGY? You hear that sound? That's the energy being transmitted through the air in a wave-like concentration and vibrating in your eardrums of my mind being sufficiently blown. So I'm pretty pumped for the chapter that we do over that, even though I still think it's a few sections away.

Well, I think this has been a fine welcome-back essay, wouldn't you say? This being the first in, I think, more than or almost a month and a half, I tried to make it a doosie and just let the creative writing juices flow! And I think at least it paid off. I certainly hope it did, otherwise I just wasted a good 45 minutes. I certainly hope that I didn't let the juices go overboard. You know how crazy they can be when you give them a keyboard, a cup or two of ice-cold milk and a page full of ideas and possibilities! So, I may have taken the length of this post  a little bit much, (compared to the length others' in my class....) but if I were judging it, I'd say it's a fairly decent welcome back. I just hope you think so too! That's all for this week, folks! Come back next week for another episode ooooof...... What [student name] Learned This Week! Until then, my friends, God bless. (Charming wink at the camera as the chipper lead-off music strums in the background and the host is once again met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.) No, no, please! I don't deserve this! You're all too kind, thank you!

on a more personal note

I don't share a ton of personal life stuff here, so if you aren't interested, stop reading now.

I spent time last night at the wedding of a great couple, Matt and Kenzie. Honestly, since I married @mishelleyb, I haven't been to many weddings. So, while Kenzie's grandfather was performing the ceremony, I really listened to what he had to say. I found the vows spoken last night taking on a new meaning for me. It was as if I was hearing them for the first time.

I'm a bit more "mature" now than I was 20 years ago (Dec. 21, 1990) when I stood up in front of my friends and family and said "I do" with the coolest girl, best teacher, most amazing person there is on this Earth. Back then, all I could do was stare at how beautiful she was (and still is!) and think about how "great" life with her was gonna be. I had no idea.

I wasn't really listening to what the preacher was saying. (Isn't that always the way when you enter into some kind of contract? We never read the fine print!) However, life has been much more amazing than I could have realized. Sure, there have been hard times. But the good far outweigh the difficult.

the power of the pln

Last week we had a snow day. I got to stay home and catch up on some class related things. It seems I do a lot of catching up, lately. But more importantly, I didn't have to drive to Tulsa to teach Earth's Natural Disasters. I got to stay warm and cozy at home while they got about 3 or 4 inches of snow. The program director gave me permission to give an online assignment. That task was easily accomplished through Moodle and Turnitin.com.

As a result, I tweeted about the amazingness of online education and the ability to have the freedom to adapt to changing conditions (weather) and still get students engaged in the learning process. I casually mentioned "I could teach all of my classes online". I firmly believe that I could, using only a GoogleSite, GoogleDocs, Facebook, and a good internet connection. Since Twitter is a conversation, some of my tweeps responded to my comment and we started talking about the idea of starting an online school (of sorts).

I realize Oklahoma has an online school, so our idea is nothing new. In fact, I'm not even sure this idea will be anything other than an idea (nothing like setting your sights high, Jody!). None of us has any idea about what I am now calling an "online consortium" is even going to look like. It may be remediation, tutoring, or even a study guide. Then again, it may become a powerhouse of online education curriculum that gets venture capital funding and gives the Oklahoma Virtual High School a run for its money!

The coolest part of this whole thing is that I am able to share/discuss/think ideas instantly with other educators. Only a couple of those involved in this conversation are even in Oklahoma City. There are technology directors, classroom teachers, State Dept. of Ed. directors, and a superintendent. We even had someone from St. Louis who is interested in seeing what develops!

I was simply struck by the ease with which the idea developed. All of these people started talking about an unknown idea/project simply because I shared how much I enjoy online learning and a Twitter friend commented back. And to think, most people I talk to about Twitter think it is simply a place to put "status updates". I remember thinking as a Twitter noob, "What is Twitter good for? We've got Facebook for status updates! This is dumb." However, I can report to you that my PLN is far larger than I could have ever imagined if I had not begun to use Twitter.

Through Twitter, I have made connections with people in other countries, teachers in other districts, teachers within my own district, technology directors throughout my state, State Department of Education personnel, and community members who care about education, just to name a few. I have had tweeps purchase books for my classroom to augment my curriculum. I have been invited to present at an international conference because someone saw a tweet I made about using their product in my classroom.

So, if you are a non-Twitter user (or a limited user trying to find your way), give it a shot at broadening the scope of your Peer Learning Network (or Peer Learning Community). My district holds required PLC meetings every week and they are great for working within my building. But, when I want to get some ideas that go beyond the walls of Putnam City High School (or even beyond the boundaries of my state), when I want to innovate, when I want to find some new ideas, when I want to do something other than talk about how to handle that student, I use Twitter for my conversation. I bounce ideas off of other Twitter users. I read what other people are reading. I read what other people are writing and I look for something I think might work in my own classroom.

There are some people in my district (and maybe elsewhere) who think I'm some kind of awesome teacher. This is not the case. I owe all of my perceived awesome-ness to the ideas of my peers. So for those of  you in my PLN who want to know whether or not you are making a difference in education, whether or not you are an agent of change in education, rest assured you are! I can testify that my students' education is enriched because of the ideas and innovation of my Peer Learning Network. You guys are all magnificent and each of you makes me better at what I do.

19 January 2011

Proposition 5

Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.

I have to say this particular proposition is the easiest for me to relate to my teaching, at least in general terms. I feel like I've gone overboard on getting involved with my own learning through professional development; although, in reality, I probably am simply doing what every other teacher ought to be doing. It just seems like school and learning is all I do these days. Additionally, as a part of my contract at Putnam City Schools, we have built in PLC time every Friday. I really doubt that was the intent when this proposition was written; but, I think I am following the spirit of the proposition.

As I read the bullet points below, there are several in which I fall short. I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

  • NBCTs collaborate with others to improve student learning.

I read this as "collaborate with other teachers." I recognize that as a teacher I do not have all of the answers on what to do for every student in every lesson. I have learned to get over my pride and be willing to ask others for help. Contrary to what human nature would tell us, asking for help does not show a sign of weakness. It shows you I am willing to do whatever it takes to help each of my students to learn. I gladly ask others for help and engage in some informal dialogue with my department at lunch for help with students who are disengaged or during those times I need help on pedagogical practice.

By nature I am a problem solver. There are few things I enjoy more than helping someone integrate a piece of technology to engage students in a new way. Last week, the Junior English teachers stopped me in the hall to discuss some ideas on how they could integrate some remediation practices and record the students' scores. They wanted this all to be done online and make it asynchronous for the students. I immediately thought of GoogleForms as a way for them to embed a "test-type artifact" on their classroom websites. Students would be able to go to the site, read a short passage, and answer some multiple choice interpretative questions. I only bring this up because it is a recent example of collaboration that allows teachers to move toward improved student learning.

  • They are leaders and actively know how to seek and build partnerships with community groups and businesses.

This area is one in which I am sorely deficient. I have some great ideas on doing this, but it always seems to stay an idea. I have trouble bringing my ideas to fruition.

Since I teach physics, I thought it would be a good idea to get students interested in some practical application of the topic, especially the more abstract parts, like particle physics. The LHC has been a big part of the news over the last couple of years and I really enjoy talking with students about the topic. However, it is very abstract and the results of the experiments are not directly observable. What I mean is you cannot "see" a proton when it is accelerated. It's presence is inferred based on conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. One of the practical applications of this technology is proton therapy and someone recently built a new hospital near our school. This hospital specializes in radiation therapy for cancer patients, specifically proton therapy. I have considered trying to contact someone there to build some kind of partnership with them. I thought maybe we could work something on a grant to buy equipment to do momentum and energy experiments in our classroom. We could also plan some field trips for students to see the technical side of what they "do" with protons. I would like to have one of the doctors come in and talk about how important particle physics is to his profession. I have had these ideas for two years. Maybe this year I will put it into practice.

  • They work with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development.

Collaboration between teachers is crucial to student success. I spent some time last year helping change our curriculum to fit into a 7 period-day instead of a 4-period block. This was an informative time for me; plus, I was able to help make students more successful in our district. Collaboration between other teachers has a more broad effect than just inside "my" classroom. When teachers collaborate, it affects students throughout the district. I see it as dropping a rock into a pond. You affect all of the water in the pond, not just the part the rock touches.

  • They can evaluate school progress and the allocation of resources in order to meet state and local education objectives.

I use a pre-test and a post-test to see my students' progress and evaluate whether remediation is needed at the end of a unit. It is easy to see whether students have learned by comparing numbers between the pre-test and post-test. As an added benefit, if students show mastery on the pre-test, we can move on to another topic and not even cover the material. I have never seen this happen before, but in theory it seems it would work.

  • They know how to work collaboratively with parents to engage them productively in the work of the school.

This part is another of this proposition in which I am lacking skill. I do not do a good job of actively engaging parents to help their students be successful. If parents contact me, I can work with them. However, being proactive on this section is a struggle.

13 January 2011

having my own kids in class

Have you ever had the privilege of having your own kids in your class? This is my first year to have the chance and I have both of my children in my class! It has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I gave students the opportunity to reflect on the past semester and my son, JC, took advantage. I liked what he wrote and I thought I would let you guys read it.

You get out of a class what you put into it. That is something that my dad has always told me, and something that he has written on the white board. Coming into this class, I was rather nervous about the class as a whole, but several things in particular having my dad as a teacher, and physics in general.

In the beginning of school when everyone is sharing schedules with each other and asking what classes different people have, I kept hearing two things a lot. The first one was “I have your dad as a teacher”, and the second “you have your dad as a teacher?” I would tell them yes, and as I would tell them this, I would think to myself and wonder what it would be like. Not that it is some groundbreaking activity never done before, but it was a new experience to me. I have had friends that were seniors for the past two years, and they have all told me that he is an excellent teacher but it he will make you work for your grade. This was not a new thing to me, working for my grade, but I just kept thinking that this whole thing would end up being terrible. I thought he would always on to me about everything, he would give me extra work, and make me work harder than everyone else. This is actually the complete opposite that how thing actually are. He has been nothing but helpful, he is like a tutor that lives at my house. It has been a very good experience, and I am glad he is my physics teacher.

Another thing that previous physics students would tell me is that Mr. Bowie does a good job of teaching physics, but some of the concepts can be hard. This definitely did not encourage me. I knew that I was going to take the class so my thoughts about the class were rather irrelevant. I will admit I was nervous that I would not understand anything though. For the most part, I feel confident with my knowledge of physics that I have accumulated over the past semester. There were frustrating times like when I would do a problem and keep getting different answers, but that was a rare occurrence. The projects we have done have been a lot of fun and really helped me visualize the things we were learning. I would have to say shoot for your grade was a stressful project near the end because you really want to get all of the points and make it in the cup, but you have to be confident in your equations. Another thing that was frustrating is when my part was gone for most of the time so I had to do most of the work. The trig lab helped me also. Because trig is my least favorite thing and I tell myself often that I will never use any of this. However, it was cool to find the height of the stadium lights using trig. In addition, we watch some cool videos in there like the elegant universe. Physics definitely is not as scary as it was made out to be by other people.

So overall, having my dad as my teacher and taking a class I thought was going to be has been very enjoyable. My expectations have been (met) if not surpassed. I hope next semester will be just as much fun. I am really looking forward to getting out the Van De Graff generator and messing around with that, and maybe learning about sound too. I have high expectations for this next semester and I hope that they will be met.

11 January 2011

proposition 4 - learning from experience

Here we are at post 200! 100 posts in the last 16 months? I suppose that isn't too bad. That's one about every 5 days or so.

In the continuing series over the 5 Core Propositions for NBPTS, it's time to consider Proposition 4, Practice and Experience.

Proposition 4 - Teachers think systematically about their Practice and learn from experience.

The Master's program has really made me start to think about my practice and reflection has become reflexive! Thinking about what I am doing and the things I am trying to get students to do is almost automatic. I find myself thinking about class all the time. I see shows on television and it makes me think about something I could do, have done, or wish I could do in the classroom. It gets to be a little scary sometimes. Occasionally, I get annoyed with students because I think since I constantly reflect on what they are doing, it should be natural for them to do so, as well.

  • NBCTs model what it means to be an educated person – they read, they question, they create and they are willing to try new things.

I remember being an undergraduate student and hearing the words "life-long learner" repeated over and over. I never really knew what that meant until I began thinking in terms of National Board. I mean, somewhere, inside I think I probably understood it, but to experience being a life-long learner firsthand did not happen for me until some time in the last 15 months. I can honestly say it has been the beginning of a journey for me. I certainly can say I am a better person and hopefully a better teacher as a result of the reflective practice.

  • They are familiar with learning theories and instructional strategies and stay abreast of current issues in American education.

I still have a lot to learn about Learning Theories. I could talk about people like Vygotsky and Dewey and Maslow, but there are only a few theories with which I am intimately familiar. However, instructional strategies are an area I fell much more comfortable talking about. I think this is where the experience component of this proposition comes into play. I have been a part of around 300 students education over the past 4 years. I recognize that is a small number compared to anyone who has taught longer than I have, but its not really a small number when you think about it. Those are 300 people who's parents trusted me to shape the way their students think about the Universe. To mold their perception of the World around them. To affect their scientific worldview. That means I have had 300 opportunities to learn a slightly different way that students learn and interact with information. If I may put this into the context of something a little more common: if I baked 300 cakes over the course of 4 years, I would have built a considerable experience. I would know how to change the recipe based on local conditions: temperature, altitude, pressure, humidity, etc. In the same way, I have learned that every student learns in a slightly different way and it is my job to differentiate the instruction to meet the student at their point of need. (That phrase always reminds me of The Gospel for some reason.)

  • They critically examine their practice on a regular basis to deepen knowledge, expand their repertoire of skills, and incorporate new findings into their practice.

While I do not think the Carnegie Foundation meant that we should be critical of ourselves, I do think they meant we should consider our practice with critical eye to always look for ways to improve. Every lesson I do can be improved. That does not mean it was not good when it was done, it just means I need to constantly look for ways to improve, lest I become stagnant and stale. That is the time when student begin to see your class as meaningless and irrelevant.

Proposition 4, like the 3 before it, is an important aspect of good, reflective, teaching practice. Meditating on this proposition can color the lens by which we see ourselves and our practice. It is important to recognize that to be effective we must be willing to admit that we have room to improve, no matter what we do. Thanks NBCT for another course in what is turning out to be a fantastic meal!


07 January 2011

reflection from one of my students

I gave students an opportunity to reflect on the past semester. If you have never done this, it can be very insightful for you as an educator. I wanted to share one of my student's reflection with you because I thought it was exceptionally meaningful.
This semester has flown by. There's only one more semester before my fellow seniors and I begin the rest of our lives. In our last year of high school, all of us will admit at one point that we get a little lazy than in our previous years. I'm included in that. This last year is very important as my father constantly reminds me and it is very significant. I have more absences this year than I've ever had but some how I've learned more this year about myself and the world around me.

Math has never been my strong point, and to be honest I took Physics because my pirate time teacher recommended it and several of my friends were going to take it. The class was much different than what I expected. I've never had a teacher tell us things that Mr. Bowie does. Such as, saying as long as we learn something and think outside the box that's all that matters and if not he has failed us as a teacher. Basically, we need to take something away from the class and apply it to our every day lives.

I've learned that physics applies to everything. To the most simplest of things and complex things. I've always thought that to figure something out, you needed to experiment it. But in the experiment of Shoot For Your Grade it was an experiment without experimentation. It was an experiment of us students figuring out how to use calculations to accurately predict where the ball was going to fall. In that lab, I found that it was a lot more difficult for me. When you think about it though, if you're a person who understands math and equations it's easier to do that than experiment. In my mind I always think about experimenting rather than calculating which shifted my thought process in something I've never thought of before. It's kinda cool to think you can accurately calcuate an experiment. In formulas, I've never heard of "delta x" it was new for me and confused me at first but once it was used several times it got easier to comprehend.

Something I used to always confuse was velocity and acceleration. Then I realized velocity was how fast and what direction and acceleration is the rate of change in the speed and/or direction.

Something I really enjoyed was the Grand Conversation. I love discussing topics with different people and hearing different views. What was disappointing was that the class didn't seem too interested or serious about it as I was. If I could of, I would have taken several turns instead of one to get people talking. What has frustrated me the most is calculations. Other people are faster at solving them and I spend more time to do them.

Last, I like how much Mr. Bowie really cares about us. He reminds us so much of assignments and talks about how important things are that we forget. As students we should invest the same sort of effort Mr. Bowie gives us. It's a class that has to do with so many real world situations and we should take advantage.

This next semester, being the last before being "kicked out of the nest", I plan to absorb and take advantage of everything before it's all over.

If you don't think students are impacted by your class, let them reflect or blog about it. You may find that the opposite is true. Just because their expressions lead you to believe they are not listening, that's not necessarily the case.

02 January 2011

proposition 3- being responsible for managing and monitoring

In my series of reflections on the 5 core propositions of Nationally Board Certified Teachers, I bring you the third! This proposition is one of my favorite since it deals specifically with assessment. I love the benefits of assessment, I am just not a huge fan of actually doing it. I could talk for pages and pages about how to assess and about one of my favorite tools used for this purpose, GoogleDocs, but that will have to wait for another post.

Proposition 3 - Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring Student Learning.

Duh. Of course we are. That pretty much sums up our entire job. Honestly, I'm not sure why colleges of education nationwide are not teaching the 5 propositions as a part of all teacher education. Whether teachers try for National Board certification, extensive thought on the propositions would impact practice no matter the experience level, subject, or motivation for teaching.

This propsition takes everything I learned in teacher ed. and synthesizes it into a few sentences. The folks who wrote this proposition really knew their Bloom's Taxonomy (synthesis!). As in previous posts, I'll take this one bullet point at a time.

NBCTs deliver effective instruction. They move fluently through a range of instructional techniques, keeping students motivated, engaged and focused.

Effective instruction. That's super difficult to measure. I mean, how do we define "effective"? I do have some indicators that help define it for me, but it feels a bit ambiguous. Of course this is opinion, but I do wish that one could be refined a bit to be more concrete.

Using a wide range of instructional techniques is probably the area in which I have grown the most over the last 4 years. My personality does not lend itself well to doing more than one thing at a time and this certainly includes using more than one instructional technique! However, when I find something that works, I recognize it and am willing to allow myself to be bent towards strategies that will benefit students. After all, that is what my ultimate goal is!

Student motivation and engagement (and focus) are areas that are near and dear to my heart. I have a few soapboxes and this is one of the tallest! (or would it be widest? biggest?) I would have to say that relevancy is the key here. How can we make what we teach in the classroom relevant to student's lives outside of the classroom? Part of this has to do with the way in which we teach. If teachers refuse to adopt the technology that students use outside the classroom, how can we expect them to make the connection? One thing I try to do in class is to think carefully about what is MY motivation to learn the subject, apart from the fact that I teach it? Why was I interested in the topic in the first place and how can I use my motivation to the advantage of my students? I am thinking about secondary teachers here; I am not sure how elementary teachers ever convince students their subjects are relevant. (Bless those elementary teacher's souls!)

They know how to engage students to ensure a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instruction to meet instructional goals.

This point reminds me of basic teacher education classes in which we learned about scope and sequence. I would have to say the National Board is saying that teachers know how to teach. What exactly are you going to teach and what do you need to know before you learn it?

NBCTs know how to assess the progress of individual students as well as the class as a whole.

Hmmm. Formative assessment? Summative assessment? The purpose of each one? Yes. If I know the answers to those questions I have this part of the proposition covered. I would have to say that Dr. John Scroggins taught us well on the methods and purpose of assessment.

They use multiple methods for measuring student growth and understanding, and they can clearly explain student performance to parents.

Again, if I have an in-depth understanding of assessment methods and the data I can glean from those assessments, I can be successful. I think the most important part of this point is the part about parents. I blogged about it some of the concerns of parents of my students already. My biggest fear is that parents feel intimidated by me when they come to my classroom. I hope that when I talk to parents I do not give off an air of condescension. I hope that I can talk to them in such a way that they understand what I am saying about the performance of their student. It seems like this is like a basic writing class: "consider your audience when deciding what to say"

I would have to say that these propositions are similar to a 5 course meal. You start with the appetizer and by the middle you are getting into the middle the real meat of the meal. The more times I think about these things the better my digestion gets!

2010 in review, part 2

As we were driving home yesterday, I realized that all of the things I talked about in my previous post didn't include one of my favorites (and possibly the one that is impacting my career decisions the most): teaching at the University level. I've had the opportunity to teach adults and will start my first actual traditional college class in about 2 weeks.

I have been teaching Earth's Natural Disasters in SNU's degree completion program, one session in Tulsa and one session in Bethany. The Tulsa class was a good primer with 6 people. I really got going though with the Bethany class which had 28 students. I've learned that higher ed is quite interesting because it's so easy to have a classroom discussion.

I'm a bit nervous about the commitment to a semester long adventure (the Bridge classes were 5 weeks long), but I'm sure we'll all survive. I am excited about the freedom I will have in the class, but the thought of a 4 hour per week class for a whole semester is a bit daunting.

2 weeks until class, I can't wait!