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Keep on Fighting

posted Sep 23, 2010, 3:45 PM by Michael Reilly
The week comes to a close tomorrow, and we've learned a lot.  All of us.

I have had the pleasure of seeing some students come up with great ideas: incorporating sound clips from surrounding states' radio broadcasts regarding Georgia's water war, asking to present to political representatives, creating 3D animation using free software that they've taught themselves, and more.  It's just so cool to see what happens when they "let loose".

We've also had students that have asked just today, "So what are we supposed to do?"  And that body-clenching feeling comes over me, but I need to always reflect What could I have done better? I discover some of that too.

First, I wish I had assigned a minimum number of outside articles that they should have identified, read and briefly summarized to substantiate their points (the main Language Arts curriculum is focused on persuasive writing).  Kids need to read more.

Second, I created a full site that described the tasks, but I should have had a student proof it first.  The way I called the work "Home, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3" was odd for them, and I should have called it "Big Picture, Draft 1, Draft 2, Final Product".

Third, more clarity and simplicity on the grading.  While I could be way off here (I'm the tech teacher), I like to grade with the student there, telling them as we go what's wrong versus writing long notes on papers or websites I look at on my couch while the TV shows ramble in the background.  We need short writing assignments ( up to 5 sentences? ), and maybe even reading time each day.

Fourth, this isn't for all kids.  Since I'm always setting myself up for either sainthood or martyrdom, I know that I can make anything work for any kid.  But some need different help than what I have to offer.  We have some kids who don't have the capability to focus when given independence, and we're not sure if we can teach that so well.

Goosebumps and speedbumps.  In looking at the big picture, the year-long success, I'm still very optimistic.  We're learning that giving kids goals and requirements can still leave room for independence and creativity, we don't have to let them entirely loose (although some could thrive).  We have some kids working by themselves, and when they can demonstrate responsible delivery they can join a pair or group. 

I saw a kid wrote on one of my many whiteboards "I love CDAT".  That's pretty cool, eh?  Should I expect that from all of them?  Well too bad, because I do.  It's good to have goals, "big hairy audacious goals". (Sorry, but the original article costs money, here's a summary of that phrase on Wikipedia.)

PS - Monday we have F. Wayne Hill (the person who inspired massive water reclamation in our district) coming in to talk to us about water, and our potential loss of it in 2012.  We hope to follow that up with stronger reports, and addressing our State legislators with our concerns.  Yeah baby, keeping it real.
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