Modeling Reflection

April 22, 2014

This is the time of year during which me and my colleagues work double shifts as we plan, teach, and grade as we simultaneously write narratives for our students. (Or is it a triple shift? Quadruple?!?)

Narratives change throughout a students’ time at SLA. Many of the 12th grade teachers have students write their own narratives in order for the seniors to take more ownership over their own learning, successes, and struggles.

As I thought more about this process I began to think of the value of modeling my own thinking and processes of reflection and evaluation for my students. With these thoughts in mind I had the idea of writing narratives for myself in order to share my own thoughts about my performance with my 10th and 12th grade students. I also realized that there is a benefit to having all of my students write a narrative for themselves that can be consulted as I write.

Below are my personal narratives that I shared with my students.

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We Are All Artists

April 16, 2014

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[Cross-posted on Edutopia]

I remember the first time we put a brush in my then two-year-old daughter’s hand. Perched on the edge of tiny a red chair at her wooden table, she quickly realized she could use the blueberry juice we had placed in a cup to create unique marks on the page. It was inspiring and moving to see my high-energy child sit, entirely absorbed and focused, as she discovered and explored this new ability.

Little ones are fascinated by the act of creating something that exists separate from them. The joys of creative expression have no age limit — yet, sadly, as many young people grow, they begin to believe that they lack creative skills. Some begin to say things like “I’m not creative” or “I can’t draw.”

Classrooms are places where different forms of creativity should be nurtured and limiting narratives should be challenged. Learning can be structured so that all are able to discover avenues for creatively expressing themselves. Creation and creativity are integral to joy, investigation, analysis, expression and identity.

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Our Teacher Summer Institute is a wonderful way for innovative teachers to immerse themselves in a week of practical learning and curriculum design. The week focuses on Inquiry, Project-Based Learning, and Technology-Enriched Learning.The Summer Institute will be experiential and participatory. Teachers will be exposed to a wide range of model projects and methods and will use this information to design their own lessons and units. The Institute will be a combination of larger discussions of teaching and learning combined with practical applications and experiences that will directly transfer to classroom settings.

According to a past participants:

“This has been the singular most important piece of development I have ever had the privilege of attending.”

“The instructors were kind, caring, insightful and guided us through the process of taking our ideas and transforming them into something new. This is a course for any educator, new, seasoned, supervisor or administrator!”

Please consider attending and/or help publicize the Institute to other educators!

Click here for more information and registration instructions.

This week my students performed parts of several student-written plays for a larger school audience. The project was the product of my long-standing collaboration with Kate McGrath and Philly Young Playwrights. I fully embrace PYP’s model of using the arts to help young people discover their voices and be heard. PYP is a great organization and they have helped me and my students enormously throughout the years.

This document describes this year’s playwrighting project. The focus was human rights, struggle, hope, and change. It is awesome to see students immerse themselves in projects when there is a chance to do meaningful work and the opportunity to perform for a larger audience.

The students did a great job taking charge of the preparation and rehearsals in order to present high quality performances. Most impressive were the ways that students rallied to support each other. It is not easy to perform for a larger audience and many of the students do not identify as actors, yet they encouraged each other and committed themselves to the process.

Below are pictures of the performances and talk-back.  Read the rest of this entry »

[Cross-posted on Edutopia]

Anyone who has worked with young people knows the student I am thinking of right now. When greeted, he (or she) keeps his eyes on the floor while mumbling a response. He may doodle constantly, or maybe he takes every free moment to mindlessly scroll through messages on his phone. He is the connection that feels impossible to make. Nothing seems to excite him, and when he turns in work, it is usually something partially completed with little thought.

I imagine that, for as long as I teach, I will find myself preoccupied with the students on the fringes. My thoughts continually return to these quiet students who separate themselves from their peers — the boy who arrives angry, looking for a confrontation, or the highly engaged girl who loves to speak up in discussions but regularly fails to complete any other work.

I try to maintain perspective and remind myself of all the phases and difficult moments that I went through as an adolescent. I know that many of my students deal with circumstances much more trying than anything I faced. Yet, even with this knowledge, I am disturbed by the disconnect and feel I should be able to change it.

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