Sunday, December 16, 2012

All I can say...

Sandy Hook ES Memorial Page on Facebook. Remember the victims.

Scramble for Africa

For everybody that has commented about wanting copies of the Scramble for Africa game, I'm working on lesson plans for the imperialism unit this week (we jump in when we get back from break) and I plan to update the game and post it sometime soon.

Also, I recommend Rock-Paper-Scissors for solving silly classroom arguments in all situations, always. Best 2/3 with the teacher watching usually works.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walking the Tightrope

Friday morning I had some of my most difficult students with me for our remediation period. Students who, I'll be honest, I breathe a little sigh of relief when they're absent. Don't get me wrong-- I have NOT given up on them -- but some days it's nice not to have to participate in the struggle for a little while. I'm human. I only have so much energy.

Anyway, all of that aside, today was not what I expected. The three students I'm thinking of made up a quiz they were absent for. None of them did very well on it. We talked about doing quiz corrections. I used to do remediation sessions with retakes for quizzes weekly after school that were very successful. Now that we have no late activity buses and a half-hour remediation period, that really isn't practical. I haven't figured a good way to replicate it, so they get to correct quizzes for half points back.

After that, there was some time left so they were socializing. As it always seems to, conversation turned to teachers. Ms A was mean because she told them to be quiet. Mr B was great but if he didn't like you he'd just kick you out for anything. Ms C was always so rude. I asked them: "Why do you all like me and tell me I'm cool? I'm hard on you, I give you a hard time when you interrupt me, I write you up." (Every single one of them has had multiple detentions or referrals from me for behavior.) "Yeah, but you're not mean about it. You let us do groupwork sometimes. Ms A just wants you to listen to what she's saying bell to bell. And she's rude." "You have to push your buttons to get written up. It has to be serious."

I have been trying so hard this year to stay polite no matter what. To connect with some of these students who seem off-putting at first. To remember to love more than the easy-to-love. I wasn't sure if it made a difference at all. I guess it has?

I have also in the last month or so been working on remembering that along with the politeness, the patience, and the belief in every kid, comes the hard core. The alpha. The expectation that they will do what you say, that unquestioning confidence in authority. Teenagers don't respect authority that questions itself when it matters. Not that they don't want you to be human, and sometimes vulnerable, and apologize, but there's a time for taking no prisoners and they know if you have it in you.

 I recently found Singing Pigs. I love her blog - you should read it! Reading some of her posts helped me a lot with this. In particular, she reminded me that it's okay to let my snarky, sarcastic self out with them at times. I talked about this with a couple of building colleagues whose classroom management I respect. They are well-liked by students, the sort of teachers who the kids say are strict, but funny and interesting. They both are not hesitant to let the snarky side out because it works. They are also both people who the kids know they can go to for help when they need it and not get turned away. This is a hard balance to walk and I feel like I'm finally starting to find my way on the tightrope.

Singing Pigs recently posted about being Alpha with teenagers. It reminded me I need to remember when to do that. This was one of the hardest things for me to learn - I am naturally a mediator, a conciliator. Not only that, but as a fresh-out-of-college 23 year-old, I was incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of being an Authority Figure. Me? How could I be one? How could I enforce rules that I wasn't even sure I agreed with?

I've learned that it's another tightrope. Sometimes you can use it to your advantage--teenagers love to think they're in on something with you. Give them a little leeway but tell them they better be good when the admins come in. Ask them not to get you in trouble.

I'm still not a natural alpha, but I have my days. Days where I've got It. You know what happens on those days? The ones where you come in full of determination and plans on what to do if you have problems in class? They're good. They ask you if you're having a bad day and you say "No, I just need you to stop talking to him and pay attention for the rest of the notes. We'll be done in 15 minutes." And they do it. They can feel it in you, the readiness to Bring It when the problems show and most of them respect it.

Then there's the days when you're exhausted, you don't have the energy for confrontations, you just want it to be over so you can go home and get in your pjs and be in bed by 7pm. They know. They walk all over you.

This is why I came to the conclusion a few years ago that the BEST thing I could do to improve my teaching was to get enough rest. No more than 2 weeknights with less than 7 hours of sleep a week allowed. Sleeping in on Saturday until I'm fine. If I'm tired, I can't bring it. Now, sometimes the tired is emotional -- which is why I try to respect my own need for the periodic off-night. I don't have to grade papers for two hours every night. If I want to always get things back the next day, sure, but you know what? I think my students benefit more from a teacher who's awake enough to bring their A game than papers handed back right away. Yes, quick feedback is good, but does it matter if we get nothing of value done that day?

Wow, now I sound like I'm a genius of classroom management AND work-life balance. Nah. I just feel like I've made a few strides forward over the last month.

One of the pieces I've just started to put together is about bluntness. I'm not sure that's the right word -- basically, sometimes the best way to deal with teenagers being crazy is to name their sh**. Say things like "Did you really pour all the holes from hole-punch in her hair and think that would be okay?" Also "Since you're a terrible shot and can't actually make the basket with all those paper balls, you better pick them up and put them in there by the end of class." "Next time you go sharpen your pencil, which apparently needs sharpening after every sentence you write, go around BEHIND the projector."

It's not about starting a confrontation in which they feel they have to save face. Those never go well. It's about calling them out on ridiculous behavior that they KNOW is ridiculous. Showing that you know exactly what sort of nonsense they're getting up to. Calling them out on the whispers they think you didn't hear. Using those eyes in the back of your head. ;)

On the one hand, I feel like I should've figured this one out in the previous 7 years of teaching. On the other, I'm just glad that I've finally started to be able to know what I'm doing and use this intentionally, as a strategy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flexibility is KEY

This is a follow-up to "So what if it's a project?"

I never did come up with a better project idea. I had the edges of something but I couldn't make it resolve. So I picked two of the more school-y but somewhat authentic projects (newspaper, conversation photostory) and let them pick. Before starting, though, we spent half an hour on a review warm-up (bellringer) that I planned as a quick thing. I saw with my first block class how much time they were taking to do it, but not in a "those kids are slacking" way - they were thinking hard about it and trying to do it without looking at their notes, and I decided that my planned 10 minutes of review at the beginning of class could be half an hour of letting them struggle with this. They struggled and then we discussed it. I asked them who was the easiest and then it just went from there.

What's the point? The point is flexibility. The point is the lesson plan is only the introduction to the story. I'm not always good at remembering that, but when I do, I am in that moment seeing what is happening for the students and willing to change around based on what I see on their faces and hear in their voices, those are some of my best moments as a teacher. This simple warm up was not something I expected to be a powerful learning experience - but something about it challenged them and they rose to that challenge and were willing to push through and work on it. I had kids who are not my 'hand-always-up' types coming up to me as I circulated and just let them work, and struggle, and say "Martin Luther was from Germany, right?" and the excitement in their voice at knowing this, at remembering without looking at their notes, got me excited.

After that it was time to introduce the projects. I went over the two options, they got in their groups and picked one, I handed out directions and spent the rest of class just circulating and helping out. I both love and hate those classes. I love it because I feel the most engaged with the students but I hate it because there's 26 kids in the room who all want a conversation with me to resolve their concerns so I'm worn out by the end of the period.

What happened with the projects? Out of 3 classes, only 4 groups are doing a photostory because a newspaper is easier. One group, however, took the two ideas and ran, asking if they could basically do a newscast. Some groups got into their newspapers, making it sound authentic. Some are basically rewriting the notes into their own words and calling it an article while others asked for textbooks and resources to look up additional information. Two kids called me out on details I remembered wrong. Although very few students did not get engaged and work hard, there were those few I didn't reach.

I don't know how to judge this in terms of success. Success at helping them grapple with the content? Some already got it and are just flying, others did have to go back and review and ask questions and seem to have learned from it, others seem not to be learning much from it, just completing the requirements. Success as a (somewhat) authentic project? Assuming the role of a newscaster or newspaper writer seems to have had an appeal to some students, but I'm not going to make big assertions about authenticity.

Overall I'm glad I went forward with the projects even if I couldn't make a grander idea resolve. Last week there was a lot of lecture in my regular World History classes, and to be honest, I got bored. If I'm bored, you KNOW the students are. Even if this wasn't the perfect implementation of project-based learning, it was a step in the right direction with a unit that I have previously struggled very hard with teaching. There's other topics where this is easy for me - the Industrial Revolution, for example, is incredibly easy to create simulations and stimulating activities for - but the Reformation has always been a struggle to teach well. For the first time in years I feel like I made progress on that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So what if it's a project?

So today's dilemma is about World History II. I'm home planning with a little leisure time for once because we all got sent home after work and after school meetings were cancelled due to severe weather warnings. The plan was to slightly modify a skit project that one of my colleagues has his kids do on the Protestant Reformation. So I sat here and read through it again, thought about other project ideas, and then started to think some more.

The problem with this is that now I'm doubting my whole plan. If I weren't doubting it I could just make a few tweaks and be done and get up early to make the copies I would've made this afternoon. Given time to reflect, I start to doubt the entire premise.

See, history teachers like to do projects that are "somewhat authentic" - we're taught in college that this a better way to assess history knowledge and get kids interested in a subject than just lecture/notes and tests. The idea has been popularized by the History Alive! folks. Don't get me wrong - I like a lot of what they do. I'm just so skeptical anymore about standard history teacher projects.

As a new teacher I jumped into these ideas, following what I was taught.  I've had some success but over the years I've come to be skeptical of projects like have the students write a newspaper on the Reformation or make skits or interview historical figures. Do the kids really learn more from doing this or do they focus on the product and not retain the information? Plus, how engaging are they, really? The kids who already come to my class with some motivation will find a hook, but those are the same kids that gave me gorgeously detailed artwork for an assignment on finding pictures related to each religion we studied in Unit 1. What about everybody else? Why should they care more about writing a fake newspaper about the Reformation than notes?

I know a lot of people's answer to this is audience. Despite some initial ideas I never really jumped into the idea of having kids blog or otherwise post schoolwork online. Honestly it doesn't seem that much better - it's just another form of the same old phony project. Like how webquests were going to be so awesome (I had to make one in college for my class on social studies specific pedagogies) but turned out to be just another form of making kids do research projects, except now there's a computer. I do not believe that adding a computer/the internet suddenly makes it better. Sorry.

Unfortunately all of this has left me with lots of questions and no answers. I have time in my schedule (for once) to do more than go over the basics of the Reformation and I already told the kids we're doing a group project starting tomorrow and I want to throw my existing plan out the window and it's 7pm.

So yeah, that's my dilemma right nw.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Speaking of enough time...

We've had students for two days now, but since we're on an A/B block schedule we really have two "first days" of school. The very first thing I have students do is fill out a short survey while I take the initial roll. The questions get at their attitudes to school, how they learn, what they think about history, and things like that. It finishes up by asking for three things that I can do as a teacher to help them learn and then three things they can do as a student. This year I'm using that to help lead into the discussion of classroom commitments.

I notice that many of my students (especially my sophomores) talk about time and pacing. Asking for me to not go too fast, give them enough time to understand or to complete work, things like that. This makes me sad. Sad because if I am overwhelmed by all the material in the 10th grade world history curriculum and how to "cover" it before May, I know it has to be worse for them. Sad because it makes me feel like I'm doomed from the start. I know it's a reasonable thing for them to say, just like I know that a reasonable pace with my material would involving cutting 1/3 of it out.

There has got to be a better way.  I'm pretty seriously thinking about using some examples, like the World History for us all curriculum and the Reading Like a Historian stuff, and completely reorganizing my first quarter. I didn't want to attempt that kind of structural change while prepping a new course this year, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's necessary. Once I get to the Industrial Revolution I feel more ok, since our pacing guide gives us more time on that material and students come to it with more prior knowledge. It's the beginning of the year where I feel so rushed and that needs to change.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What do you mean, I actually have time for that?

I have a million and one things I want to write about that I'm doing or thinking about this upcoming school year, but planning a new course (and my first AP one at that) has consumed my entire life. However, I wanted to say one thing: planning a course where I feel like I have plenty of time (maybe even too much?) is a very strange feeling. I took the AP units for US Gov't and laid them out on my calendar, adding the two VA required units (State&Local Gov, Financial Literacy) in the 4th quarter and I ended up with 11 extra blocks in the 3rd quarter based on my original ideas of how long I would have for each subject.

11 extra blocks! At 80 minutes per block, that's almost 15 hours of wiggle room in my planning. Last night as I was doing some reading in one of the AP study guides and starting to lay out my first unit, I looked at what I wanted to do in terms of introducing not only the content but some of the skills and strategies we'll be using throughout the year and felt like I needed more time to do all of that well, so I made the first unit an extra week long to allow time to properly set up the year. I was able to do this and not have to worry about running out of time. It was a strange and wonderful feeling.

Now, I understand that this course is often taught as a semester course (that's how I took it back in the day - 1st semester was US, 2nd comparative) and that's part of why I feel strangely free to stretch my wings here, but I don't care why. I'm loving the thought of actually having enough time to devote to building classroom community, teaching learning strategies and skills and reviewing without constantly hearing the tick-tock in my head from the curriculum.

I've long thought that most of our curricula try to squeeze too much into the school year, and now I'm convinced. This is what planning should be like.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Let Me Forget This

"No technique will ever work equally well for all students, for all classes, and on all days, regardless of how brilliantly it is executed."
- Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching, p.191

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Having an "Invisible" Disability while Teaching

I do have some things to say about the AP Institute I attended last week and the last few chapters of Awakening the Sleeping Giant, but those posts are still incubating and this is really on my mind right now.

Let me start by telling you a story:

Once upon a time, last weekend, there was a couple who bought a bed. They'd been sleeping on mattresses on the floor since forever and finally decided to put them on a bedframe. Since they bought the bed at Ikea it took most of a day of frustration to assemble, only to turn out not to fit the mattresses. The mattresses claimed to be queen sized and so did the bed, yet the bed was too big for the mattresses. After some frustration  the couple gave up on having a bed and started to disassemble that one to return to Ikea. It was late and they were tired and frustrated and at one point the wife dropped a large chunk of the bed on her right foot, breaking her big toe. It hurt a lot. A few days later she went to get groceries while wearing the ugly shoe the doctor gave her for her right foot and was relieved at how easy it was to ask for a riding cart when she had such an obvious reason for it.

Enough third person. I've used the riding cart before, and probably should have more often, but normally I feel incredibly awkward asking for it. See, I'm dealing with the acute and temporary mobility issue of a broken toe right now but I also have a chronic issue: rheumatoid arthritis. If you're not familiar with the term invisible disability, I think it can be easily summed up by the image of apparently-healthy-looking me feeling awkward asking for a riding cart at the grocery store because I don't obviously need it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

AtSG Ch. 4

 The book we are reading for the summer for the Teacher Leadership Academy is Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller. I'm blogging chapter by chapter my thoughts and impressions. 

Chapter 4: Understanding Myself and Others as Teachers and Leaders
The title nicely sums up the point of the chapter. Going to do this one a different way, with some quotes from the chapter and then my thoughts about them.

p. 69: "It is difficult for them [teachers] to think differently about schools when traditional education served them so well."

I find this to be very true, even as someone whose education to be a teacher focused on non-traditional methods and ideas from the start (Gettysburg was all about constructivism, George Mason focused on progressive and social justice education, with a nice dose of action-research and collaboration). I know that many things work better than the traditional education I got in much (not all!) of my schooling, I know that how I learn is unusual, but I still find myself seeing it as the default. It's what I do when I'm out of interesting ideas - and anything else still counts in my head as an interesting idea.

p.70: "Inviting teachers to compare what they say they believe with their actions can also test their assumptions." "The focus of the school may be proclaimed through a lofty mission statement, but the actual practice in the school may violate the expressed mission and supporting values."

Yes and yes! I had a huge crisis of faith in myself as a teacher when I realized how far my teaching style had strayed from what I truly believe is important due to the pressure to conform to the state standards and have students succeed on the state test. Grad school helped me start to find ways to do both, but it is still hard. I doubt it will ever be easy since the educational philosophy that the whole idea of standardized testing is based on is opposed to much of what I believe about education. As for schools, it often feels like the mission statement of most should actually be "our mission is to make AYP." As a teacher I've learned that what you assess is what students focus on and put more effort into. The same holds true for schools. Nobody assesses us on "preparing digital citizens" or "creating lifelong learners" or whatever other buzzwords we've stuffed into our mission statements, so most of our effort actually goes to the things we do get judged on.

p. 71 "The balance between the needs of different generations is a major factor in today's schools."

I often tend to discount a lot of generational politics and generalization. I feel like a lot of it is silliness drummed up to make news. Also, people have been complaining about people younger than them being lazy, selfish good-for-nothings since there have been people older than other people. ("I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint." - Hesiod, 8th century BC).

However, I do give some credit to their discussion of generational differences in context of their later discussion of the fact that teachers will be at different stages of adult development and have different life responsibilities that may be affecting their willingness to step forward as a leader or get involved in change. Certainly someone who has young children is going to have a different perspective on work than someone who is old enough to be my parent and already done raising their kids. I like the reminders that they give to realize that your colleagues who you might want to diss for not participating may have other priorities or issues you don't know about.

p. 77 Disillusioned: "Teachers may have begun their careers with an idealistic view, but after years of disappointment in frequently shifting innovations, they may protect themselves by refusing to accept change."

This is incredibly common. I know it is one of the major factors discouraging change among many teachers that I know - why put effort into something that you will be told to stop doing in a year or two? It's also completely understandable - how are they to know that this change will actually be supported and given a chance to mature? Also, teachers are so often taught some new strategy that we have to use without being shown any justification behind it. Often there is no valid scientific basis for all sorts of educational fads.

p. 79 "A first step may be to facilitate activities that focus teachers' attention on the diversity of educational philosophies in a specific school."

This would be really interesting to do in my building - I'm very curious to see the results and discuss it! I went ahead and did the educational philosophy assessment in the back of the book that they refer to, but I'm still organizing my thoughts about it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Awakening... Ch. 3

 The book we are reading for the summer for the Teacher Leadership Academy is Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller. I'm blogging chapter by chapter my thoughts and impressions. 

Chapter 3: Developing Teacher Leaders 
Coming back to the idea that teachers can learn to lead, this chapter discusses professional development and the supports needed for teacher leaders. The criticisms of existing professional development are sound. Their ideas for what constitutes good professional development seem to include collaboration, problem-solving, follow-up support and applicability to the workplace. They all sound good to me! Generally I didn't underline or make many notes for this chapter - I agreed with a lot of it but nothing stood out to me as a new thought on the issues.

The chapter includes a self-assessment for how ready you are to be a teacher leader in different areas. My strongest area was self-awareness. My two weakest were communication and diversity - because although I can communicate, I don't do so enough. That has a lot to do with being an introvert. Diversity was basically seeing and accepting other perspectives - which surprised me to be so weak - but then I thought about the fact that I don't do that as well at work as outside of it.

After discussing self awareness the chapter also brings up the differences among colleagues that can make change hard: "whenever schools attempt to make change, conflict is a natural result." (p. 59) I have a very conflict-avoidant personality, and I'm realizing that my hesitance to get involved in anything I see as potentially creating conflict is a large part of why I'm so shy to stand out as a leader. The idea that conflict is almost inevitable and that's okay is actually pretty freeing in my mind. It shifts my perspective from feeling responsible for creating a conflict when I should have somehow avoided it to accepting that conflict will arise and learning how to do deal with it.

Looking back at the last year as my building has tried to put into place a remediation period designed by the teachers, I can see this, and I can see that we have all developed a better understanding of the consensus process. Last summer, as we were developing the program, small disagreements led to long arguments and people were often unwilling to give in a point even after the vote went to another one. This summer as we worked on changes to the program, it felt much calmer. People brought up their ideas, disagreements were stated, we came to a decision and moved on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Awakening... ch.2

The book we are reading for the summer for the Teacher Leadership Academy is Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller. I'm blogging chapter by chapter my thoughts and impressions. 

Chapter 2: Promoting Teacher Leadership
This chapter is about why we should promote teacher leadership. Again, I felt like many things I thought were expressed more clearly. I wrote "yes!" in margins a lot. In particular, I like the discussion of creating and modeling democratic communities. I have been ranting about the ways that schools need to model democracy if we want people to participate more in democracy since I was in high school, so of course I agreed with that. They also discuss common obstacles to building this, such as culture or administration unwilling to share power.

I found their explanation of how describing a school as a family can actually be detrimental to the culture *fascinating.* We tend to talk about the C--- Family in my building, which had occasionally made me uneasy but I'd never really given it much thought. It does have positive aspects, such as the support we give each other when people are facing outside problems. However, they point out that the idea of a school as a family "preserves the hierarchical structure in which the administrators are the parents and the other faculty and staff members are dependent children." (p.27) This is in direct opposition to the idea of a democratic community where everyone is equal, and can cause conflict when trying to change a school.

The finding that "unless teachers were involved in the decision-making around the innovation, there was little chance that the reform efforts would succeed" did not surprise me. (p.28) The reality is that any change that teachers don't buy into, they will follow along with enough to fill out all the necessary paperwork (grumbling all the while) and no more. The best way to get people to buy into something is to give them a chance to be part of the decision - then they have a stake in it, and may even feel responsible for making it succeed since it was, in part, their idea.

They also point the ways that mandates can make teachers feel that they are not treated as professionals - and I know from experience how much it hurts to be highly qualified in something and then basically treated like a robot who doesn't have the brains to make their own decisions about what to do or how to do it. I firmly believe that in any endeavor, when you have experts, you tell the experts your goal and then leave them alone to achieve it. Unfortunately, this does not happen in public education.

Another chunk of the chapter concerns itself with the benefits of teacher leadership. It's a long list, but two items really stood out for me. One was retaining excellent teachers - they mention that the "teacher shortage" exists because we are not retaining teachers, not because people don't want to be teachers. This is very very true. Related was the idea of career enhancement - based on the problem of "how to provide an environment in which good teachers are motivated throughout their careers." (p. 33) I posted along time ago about this issue - what was keeping me motivated at that time was how much I cared about teaching well and not repeating my mistakes, but caring on its own is a finite resource. This is a big source of teacher burnout.

Finally they debunk some assumptions they've encountered about teacher leadership. The most interesting one to me was the discussion of the idea that leaders are born. They disagree, obviously, and feel that leadership skills can be learned. More importantly, they talk about the need for effective professional development around leadership, so that teachers are supported and have chances to practice leadership skills. I guess I found this reassuring because I have been just getting my feet wet as a teacher leader and thinking that my inability to jump right in meant I wasn't really suited for it. The idea that this is something I can learn to do and get help practicing sounds great!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Ch. 1

The book we are reading for the summer for the Teacher Leadership Academy is Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller. I'm blogging chapter by chapter my thoughts and impressions.

Chapter 1: Understanding Teacher Leadership
Reading this chapter felt like someone had taken a lot of my vague criticisms and unease with my situation over the last few years and laid it out, nice and clearly, with suggestions on how to make things better.

It starts out with the idea that the best way to improve schools is to invest in teacher learning, and create a leadership structure that includes teachers. Yes please? They talk about the challenge of school reforms that are top down - when the principal or whoever initiated the reform leaves, it can be very hard to sustain if the teachers have not bought into it or do not continue to get the support needed to pursue it. I think this is one of the biggest issues that schools face - building structures to allow for continuous improvement that doesn't rely on a few key people doing all the work. I know that many reform schools have done great work and then failed when new management was brought in or the key idea people left. I can see this in my own quite ordinary school - ideas without a champion die.

They also spend some time criticizing existing models of professional development, because it "does not result in changed teacher behavior in the classroom unless follow-up coaching and support are offered." (p. 4) I paused here and thought about the prof. dev. I 'd attended through the district compared to my grad program, which had teams and thus the support was strongly embedded in the structure. That had much more affect on what I did in the classroom than anything else I'd experienced. It seems obvious, after all, we don't expect our students to change habits without follow-up support. Yet I still periodically sit through professional development activities which will never be mentioned again.

A lot of the chapter discusses just what a teacher leader is and barriers that many teachers face to becoming leaders. I did like that they discussed both formal and informal leadership roles for teachers. One thing that I think was very absent from the discussion was the role of the internet in teacher leadership. According to them, one of the aspects of a teacher leader is that they "lead within and beyond the classroom." (p.6) Looking around at the influence of people whose blogs I've read or who I've communicated with on twitter about education, I can see that online communication allows us many new opportunities to be leaders. This is very valuable, and missing in a discussion that focuses on in-building leadership.

They also talk about how hard it can be to build a professional learning community. I know that this is becoming the next big educational buzzword (and acronym, PLC and PLN are showing up everywhere now) and I really worry that the concept is not given the thought it deserves before being attempted. Just like other fads that had some value before people tried to simplify and spread them, I guess. I am hopeful that this will not be true in my building/district, because I have been seeing acknowledgment on many levels of the time and effort creating this community will take.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Rebirth

Hello? If anyone still has this on their reader, I'm back!

This blog faded away while I was in grad school. I have a few unfinished drafts based on readings we were doing but the reality is that all of my writer-brain was absorbed in writing papers and journals for grad school. Then I graduated in the summer of 2010 (yay!) and promptly all my free time was absorbed by packing and moving. That fall I went back to work thinking that I would go back to blogging, but instead I started a year-long stretch of physical therapy three afternoons a week. If you've ever done pt, you know how it can eat up your free time.

For a while I was going to give up on this blog entirely and start a new one because I've been wanting to write again but I have grown and learned and generally am not the person who wrote here regularly four years ago. However, I reread one of my old posts about how I have a bad habit of giving up on things when they get hard and starting over, so I figured I shouldn't do that this time.

This year I will be teaching a new class for the first time in years - AP government. I'm really excited, as I'd hit a point with World II where it felt like I'd tried everything, including ideas that I previously gave up on as too out there, and had run dry. At the same time, I know how much *work* learning a new curriculum is going to be, especially since I will probably still be teaching World II and USH (or at least one of those) too.

I am also participating in this thing our county is running called the "Teacher Leadership Academy" that should be very interesting. Over the couple of years since graduating I've started taking hesitant steps towards more leadership in my building, which is something my grad program encouraged but that I have always been hesitant to do. The next few posts I have planned will mostly be reading journals related to that and the summer reading I assigned myself. I am also going to a week of AP training soon, which I am excited about. If I have time/internet while at that, I hope to blog about it a little.

I'm currently working on a sort of master plan for the 2012-13 school year for myself, goals for myself and my classes. I hope to incorporate more blogging in there somehwere.