Finishing Lines

I hated track and field competition when I was a child in school. It was not an activity in which I was particularly successful, if by success you mean winning, or even being average. I did not run proficiently in the time specified. This morning, my mind turned to a number of my fourth and fifth grade students. They were struggling with representing a number with base ten blocks. My inner voice was warning me to be prepared for poor results on the post assessment. They were adequate at the moment (getting it with coaching), and experience warned me that might be where they remained. I hate that whisper in my head.

They really liked working with me. They were moving forward without stress. It was so wrong to judge them against the curriculum outcome. I know they will cross the finishing line set by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. I need to respect they are motivated to learn. Stupid clocks and calendars.

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Multiple Choice, Flashbacks

Damn! This app looks awesome. It is too bad I don’t administer multiple choice more than once a year. This app looks so sweet, it makes me want to embrace my inner 1980′s teacher.

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Shouldn’t Education and Learning Be the Same Thing?

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Anne Sullivan

Schooling and institutionalized education have become removed from true, instinctual, and human/humane learning. Humans have been learning since the beginning of time with major discoveries and innovations historically and currently emerging in spite of school. This is the biggest problem I have with schools – most are contrived and coercive and do not honor the innate human need and desire to learn, discover, and evolve. Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. User Generated Education

Gear stein goes on to summarize the historical trends of western public education with a few effective quotes.

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What I did this summer

Well, one of my students from last year went to Paris, France. I know that because he shared it on Edmodo. If my followers picked my tweets out from amongst the flowing streams as they bobbed by, they would know much of what I did this summer.

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No trade for the logical

That was an additional bit of data in the problem of the morrow which was not yet fully revealed to him. War was I was unlike spherical trigonometry as anything could be, thought Hornblower, grinning at the inconsequence of his thoughts. Often one approach the problem in war without knowing what it was one wanted to achieve, to prove or construct, and without even knowing fully what means were available for doing it. War was generally a matter of slipshod, makeshift, hit or miss extemporisation. Even if it were not murderous and wasteful it would still be no trade for a man who enjoyed logic. (C.S. Forester, Lord Hornblower 1946)

This afternoon I’ve been sitting quietly in my backyard enjoying my final week of vacation. Rather then work my way through a television series on Netflix, I chose to really experience CS Forrester’s Hornblower series, something I enjoyed as a adolescent and one of my first serious purchases as an adult.

The quote above resonates with my feelings about teaching. I’ve spoken elsewhere about the connoisseurship involved in being a teacher. I’ve loved my involvement with social media and conversations with colleagues in the staff room. But I am often oppressed by the need to explain myself as a teacher. There are skills to acquire and knowledge to master in order to become a successful teacher. But it might also be said that there is so much that is situational in teaching, so many variables to attend to, that planning creates an understandable tension between anticipated results and the inevitability of disappointment.

I reject the metaphor that teaching in a public school is like going to war. It is poisonous to view the dynamic of learning as a conflict between individuals. But the real illogic is imagining that you can create a stable system for learning. Like Hornblower’s description of war, education is an extreme problem. Both the goals and the means are not as clearly realized as we would like. We endlessly remind ourselves, and anyone who will listen, that schools are not factories; and yet we cherish some dream that, in fact, we can create a successful, human factory for children. In something more than a week, I will be plunged back into discourse on reliable data about teaching strategies. I’m afraid it’s probably just a dream.

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Teaching is not Paint by Numbers

I cannot document it, but I recall hearing in grad school, or perhaps as long ago as an accreditation seminar, that a study concluded that grading language arts essays extemporaneously, achieved the same results as using an exhaustive rubric. It was referred to as connoisseurship. Teaching, and the process of learning, doesn’t really lend itself to systems analysis. It is not manufacturing. It is an art.

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Why I Use Twitter Professionally

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ADHD Common Sense

Nature is something to be overcome apparently. I’ve read and reflected on Tao, and it is obvious that our approach to learning and behaviour is antiquated.


Going InMotion for twenty minutes daily, using Makers Spaces, and introducing Genius Hours makes sense to me.

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BYOD in My Classroom

I’ve introduced BYOD into my elementary classroom. This September I will be starting my third serious integration. Sure there have been some issues, but I think the advantages out way the snags. I don’t have a “program”, simply some common sense guidelines for the students who bring their own devices. Some considerations:

1. BYOD is optional (with informal parental permission for my 10-year olds. Therefore, learning cannot depend on it.

2. Generally, only a third to a half of my students brought devices regularly. Many could not bring a personal device. It is essential the classroom provide resources for them. I had one Android Tablet, and seven PCs (boosted to eleven this year… Now 2:1)

3. My school division supports BYOD with a robust “guest network” students can log into using their regular network passwords and usernames. Clearly, this is essential for situations where young people don’t have phones. BYOD in a fourth grade classroom means iPods with an occasional iPad/tablet visit.

Here’s what I’ve said elsewhere in this blog.

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Schooling vs Making

Constructing Modern Knowledge


The term making has just burst into my awareness in the last year. It doesn’t seem to be a remarkably new concept, but it is one I think that is been largely overlooked in my classroom over the years. I have placed far too much emphasis on traditional modes of consumption and publication and far too little time on allowing students to guide both. I have always valued art and inquiry learning in my classroom. Like many I became preoccupied with delivering curriculum to students and less aware of the need to take time for students to create.

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