Thursday, June 16, 2011

Motivating Thoughts

As I have been reading my way to a makeover in my teaching methods, I have been struck by how three concepts keep turning up in most of my reading, whether books, tweets, or blogs.  They are as follows:
  • Autonomy
Human beings, students included, desire the ability to make decisions about how we live our lives.  I've come to the harsh realization that my teaching style has revolved around my decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn.  While there are certain standards I am held to by my administration, I resolve to endow the students with the right to decide how we will learn, how the students will demonstrate the learning, and whether in some cases the content has already been learned and no further instruction is needed.

  • Relatedness
We, as humans, have the desire to connect with each other.  So many times I have been too busy "covering" the content that I lose sight of the human element.  No more!  I am already planning ways to encourage community not only among classmates and with me, but children with their parents especially in relation to what and how the students are learning.

  • Competence
Finally, people desire the opportunity to show their ability to complete a task or demonstrate a skill.  When I remove the opportunities to show competence by high-pressure situations involving grades and evaluations, I have done my students a disservice.  The foundation of my new system of assessment, highlighting mastery as opposed to one and done evaluations, is already well on its way to completion.

These ideas are most certainly not my own.  These concepts have been distilled through research done by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan.  Their research is mentioned briefly in Alfie Kohn's book Beyond Discipline. If you are interested in a greater examination of Deci and Ryan's research and motivation in general, check out Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pink's book along with several by Kohn are guiding me on my path to reexamining my method of learning with my students.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Tweet?

I'm not going to try and reinvent the wheel on this one.   I'll include two links at the end of this post that I believe give coherent and eloquent reasons for using Twitter as a professional development tool for educators.  For now let me offer a few changes that have come about in my own professional life as an educator since I joined Twitter in March:
  • Significantly altering my teaching style to be more student focused - giving students the power to make a multitude of decisions regarding how they will demonstrate their learning
  • Moving away from grades based on averages and towards standards based assessment and evaluation
  • Interacting with educators from all over the world through various education themed chats
  • Gaining a deep awareness of the challenges for guiding children through a learning environment that is often not structured to encourage the greatest amount or highest quality of learning
Two posts that I think nail the reason to use Twitter for professional development and ways to begin using Twitter:
A Not So Delusional Guide to Twitter - Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTch) - loads of insight on many areas
Twitter Tutorial (video) - Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher)

Give Twitter a try!  I know that my thinking won't ever be the same.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I have spent the past month reconsidering who I am as a teacher and what I have been doing as teacher during the past dozen years.  These musings have come about as a result of my participation in Twitter.  More on the use of Twitter as a professional development tool will come in the future.  The realization that the way I was taught as a child and have been teaching doesn't have to be the only way education can occur has left me with many sleepless nights.  Using hindsight, I have come to the difficult conclusion that many of the frustrations I have had with classroom teaching are a result of my own actions.  The requirement that students do what I, the teacher, want when I want it seems absurd to me upon reflection.  Many teachers chafe under similar demands imposed from afar by administrators, district officials, state and national governments.  I lay down a challenge to myself and anyone else who stumbles upon this entry.  Is what I am doing or have done with my students truly to their ultimate benefit?  If you believe so, does your approach and methodology have any research that backs up your claim?  My own reflections have left me wanting, and I will be striving to include my students in the decision making of what happens in OUR classroom.