So this happened! … in the Back-to-School issue (August-September) of CTA’s Educator magazine.
Last spring a CTA Educator magazine editor approached me for an interview and visit to my classroom to learn about 20% Time Projects aka Genius Hour in my classroom. The article speaks for itself, but I also commend interested readers to review posts from May 2016, and September and October 2014.
Like Google’s own 20% Time initiative, my own has morphed into something more focused and (sadly) more directed. When a student is genuinely passionate about a subject, the research piece comes naturally. However, I’ve found that students are increasingly skeptical that they have total free choice about their learning and have approached my invitation more cautiously. I’ve had better success at piquing their interests with smaller bites of research before they eventually choose what they will focus on.
Thanks for the recognition, CTA!
As 2018 begins, I’m inspired to join a host of educators on Twitter and Facebook in committing to focus on #oneword2018 this year and to provide that reflective opportunity to my students. My word is PERSPECTIVE.
Personally, in the past year I have raged and despaired over the deterioration of civil public discourse in contemporary society. It’s easy and tempting to blame “those other guys” for this disrespectful and contemptuous atmosphere, especially the ones who hold political views diametrically opposed to mine. But rage and despair have gotten me nowhere; sadly, they have overcome my normal optimism. I am changing this for 2018.
I commit (hand over my heart) to striving respectfully to comprehend the perspective of others, and to model that for my students and my community. As my English students learn, a world of literature told exclusively from a single, first-person point of view would be limiting and boring. Jon Scieszka in The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and Gregory Maguire in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, engagingly re-tell familiar tales from alternative points of view. And our own imaginations and sense of possibilities are the better for it.
My hope is that, by being open to listening to each other’s stories, we can create empathy sufficient to destroy the suspicion, negativity and downright bigotry displayed at the highest level of government in the last year.
I often begin the school year with a bucket of old reading glasses, 3-D glasses, and swim goggles that I ask my students to try on. They also swap prescription glasses with classmates with much giggling. It’s a terrific, visceral demonstration of how hard it can be to see another’s point of view without wearing their “eyes” or walking in their shoes.
So here’s to a new year of sharing perspectives!
Today I drove out to Bassett High School to attend San Gabriel Valley CUE’s annual conference called Innovation Celebration. In the past it’s been a “TechFest”, but I love how this year it included sessions on pedagogy that weren’t focused exclusively on edtech. As the numbers of teachers comfortable with edtech grow, so have the offerings for varied levels of tech experience. Pictured are my pals and mentors Alice Chen and Nancy Minicozzi, whom I met at my first CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp and who continue to inspire me with their expertise and curiosity.
While I have learned a ton online through edchats on Twitter and expanding my PLN (professional learning network), I love interacting face-to-face with my “tribe”, those willing and able to spend their weekends gathering ideas to enhance their students’ learning. Here’s a new friend who made me laugh with this tweet:
Isn’t that adorable? And isn’t SHE? She’s wearing an Amelia and Joy by LuLaRoe! I always ask to take a picture with the name badge so I can recall the awesome folks I meet at conferences.
I had planned to debrief my new learning tonight, but I’m really tired. Guess I’ll allow myself a little more grace and get to bed early….
Having been too crazy busy yesterday to even considering posting, I sought an appropriate quote about self-forgiveness. Fittingly, this quote also applied to my students’ fledgling 20% Time Projects. One girl was debating between learning to cook and fashion drawing. When I asked her which one was more interesting, she replied quickly, “Drawing! But it’s so hard. What if I don’t finish?” I was thrilled to assure her that it’s the process, not the product that matters most with 20% Time. She revealed that she had tried to learn fashion drawing and quit several times. However, failure is an essential step in learning and improving. She was happy to have “permission” to fail.
Today my students started their websites for collecting their research. I’m looking forward to seeing how they customize them and fill them with their learning. I had a major glitch in trying to share a Google Sites template, and ended up just creating a website in front of them. *shrug* I rolled with it. My classroom was noisy, but the students were engaged. I’m always re-learning to embrace the messiness, to allow myself grace.
Yes, that’s *me* with the Moment and the War Doctor aka Sir John Hurt in February 2016 at Gallifrey One in LA.
Straightening up my classroom last Friday afternoon, I shared this photo in a lovely “moment” with a student and his friend that began with the statement, “Ms. Ozoa, I hear you’re a big geek. What’s your fandom?” I instantly shed my end-of-the-week weariness and happily geeked out over Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, the MCU and, of course, Doctor Who. What a delightful way to connect with teenagers, to share non-academic interests and passions! The two boys then waxed poetic about Blizzard’s game Overwatch, which I do not play, but which I’ve learned about via the “secondhand smoke” of my gamer friends. The boys were also inordinately impressed by my knowing personally Scott Johnson, co-host of The Instance, the longest-running podcast about Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Thanks for that, Scott, et al.!
The point of my anecdote is to remind educators / coaches / parents / anyone who interacts with teens to stay open to those “moments” when we can step outside our official roles and simply connect authentically. It’s worth it.
I love this variation on a widely-circulated image illustrating the difference between equality and equity. It explicitly acknowledges the presence and value and needs of people (i.e. students) with
disabilities different abilities.
In several of my classes today I had to decide how to deal both equally and equitably with the content I had to cover and the behavior problems involving only a few students. I decided to treat all classes equally by setting out a standard for behavior and consequences. But I also equitably differentiated the treatment of Act I of Macbeth in my classes to support and to challenge my students. Let me tell you, it’s hard!
Teaching is truly more an art than a science. That’s the problem with a scripted curriculum that forces teachers to be lockstep with one another. Different classes are just different, and that applies to individuals as well.
On the other hand, (I’m a Libra, remember?) all students deserve equal access to the content and equal energy from their teachers to support equal opportunities to learn. No student should be deprived, for example, exposure to Macbeth if that’s the agreed-upon curriculum. Still, not every student needs to parse EVERY line to acquire the skill of paraphrasing Shakespeare’s language; nor does every student need to explore EVERY contemporary connection to the themes.
Achieving that balance (and I believe I accomplished it for at least today) takes understanding of one’s students, the content, and one’s own limitations. My head hurts and I’m REALLY grateful it’s Friday….
I suppose the image above could relate to my not feeling like a stereotyped 60 year-old as of today, but I actually selected it because of yet another news item revealing stunning hypocrisy. The supposedly pro-life GOP congressman who urged his mistress to get an abortion is retiring. My friend Scott Johnson, podcaster and morning show host, posits the theory that a politician who “doth protest too much” often practices the behavior he supposedly abhors. Politicians aren’t the only ones; they’re just the most visible of folks who clearly view their own behavior through a different lens than the rest of society.
But before I (or anyone) throws stones, we should all look in the mirror. Are we indeed seeing ourselves and others as we really are OR are we being unnecessarily “judgey”?
As an educator, I strive to teach my students to observe first, conclude later, supporting their conclusions with evidence. We practice describing photos factually before imagining different viewers’ varied interpretations.
When I catch myself being overly judgey, I try to step back and look in the mirror. Wouldn’t it be nice if “certain politicians” did the same?
(Note: I just realized I wrote about this topic almost exactly one year ago, during the last presidential election. *sigh* There is indeed nothing new under the sun….)