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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Blooms Taxonomy in Verbs

The source is AN ETHICAL ISLAND How to Teach Without a Lecture and other fun

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A Maker

The rise of the Maker has been one of the most exciting educational trends of the past few years. A Maker is an individual who communicates, collaborates, tinkers, fixes, breaks, rebuilds, and constructs projects for the world around him or her. A Maker, re-cast into a classroom, has a name that we all love: a learner.

Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens

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Teaching is Like No Other

Our classrooms are almost entirely dismantled during the summer break.

Our classrooms are almost entirely dismantled during the summer break.

I just stopped in to the school to pick up a few items I needed for planning. I tried to anticipate the documents and resources I would need, but inexplicably forgot my tentative class list for September. History shows the names will not change much, so it is fairly reliable. One of my tasks is to create usernames and accounts on various sites we use in our learning. The list missed getting stuffed into the black bag I lugged home June 27th. As I wandered the disrupted hallways I reflected a bit on being a teacher. We are often compared to other professions (and jobs), particularly when we negotiate contracts. Sometimes the comparisons seem to fit, often our protests to the contrary are met with incomprehension or derision. It is hard to quantify our working conditions, all the more because we are an idiosyncratic bunch.

Comparisons between teachers are tricky. This makes glib suggestions like merit pay problematic. We all work in different ways. Throughout the year, I notice colleagues arriving and departing earlier and later than myself. As I come in to the school or leave, someone is usually coaching a practice in the gym. Occasionally it is me in the gym or library. Habitually, three of my grade team members are settling into long preparation and marking sessions as I leave for the day. Some teachers carry crippling loads of exercise books home to mark in the evenings, while I walk out with my iPad. We all have our own work flow.

It would have surprised me to bump into a colleague this morning. At this point, like-minded colleagues are slipping in and out to grab something at odd moments. I have colleagues, perhaps the ones carting marking home on the weekends, who think me insane to putter at my desk organizing the next year six weeks before school begins. I will be back for a few days to reconstruct my classroom – likely as soon as I discover they have finished cleaning it. Others will show up the morning they are required to return. I have no way of quantifying our preparation for the new year. Each, in our own way, will have done the job. This must drive bean counters up the wall.

I have no idea how long I am going to work on preparing fifth grade curriculum this summer. I could keep a record, but what would be the point? I probably plan, organize, network, research, and create just for  my own peace of mind. The time preparing sets my mind at ease so that when my family is free, or my mind turns to other activities, I am ready. Alles ist in Ordnung, my German heritage whispers. I’ve got to tell you, the state of my classroom right now is driving me crazy. I wonder if they need help waxing?



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