Wednesday, November 14, 2018

NCTE 2018: Countdown to Launch Session K.19


NCTE is on the horizon. We are about to enter the time-warp that is international travel to get there. Traveling to NCTE from Singapore makes the conference even more special, this year especially.

This year, I'll be talking about two power practices (independent reading and conferring). Specifically, we'll explore conferring, feedback and how we give students agency within workshop structures. I'm curious about the types of conversations we have with middle and high school readers. How do we assess readers based on those conversations? How do we gather conferring data over time, so that we can use it to plan next-steps or to empower students to set goals?

This year, I'll be presenting with two of my favorite educators: Nancy Johnson, children's literature guru, literature circle maven and one of my education sheroes and my son, Collin Larke, currently a senior at Singapore American School and formerly one of the youngest members of NCTE.  Nancy will address pillars of independent reading: knowing readers, knowing books and making the match.  Collin will share his senior project and engage us in conversations about teen readers--their preferences, their attitudes and their challenges when it comes to reading for pleasure.

I am delighted that Collin is going to share his voice and the voice of several students in his reading community.  Collin has been coming to ALAN, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE, since first grade. Our ALAN family of educators and authors has shaped him as a reader and learner. I am hoping he will talk a bit about that too, but we'll see.

We leave for the airport this evening and take off just after midnight Singapore time. We have just under 30 hours of travel time. We'll watch movies. We'll read books. We'll rehearse and anticipate. I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Into the Woods

from Weschler, Lawrence. (5 Nov 2018). "His Three Loves." The New York Times.


I am doing something that is really hard for me to do. I am pushing myself into my discomfort zone and I am not experiencing much success, yet.

Being a novice is not easy. It is especially hard when you compare yourself to experts in the room.

A friend asked how the project was going and  "I don't like it" was my quick reply.

Hearing myself, I reframed my quick reply into a more forward-thinking frame. Saying things like, "I love to learn", and "I enjoy the group I am learning with..." Both true statements.

At the third practice, I felt anxiety creep up my spine and settle in my neck.

Did I say "I don't like it" in order to cover up for something I should have done or prepared or practiced in order to be ready to do the thing? Is it a lack of skill prompting this attitude or is it performance anxiety?

I am curious. I enjoy learning. I take risks. Singing and performing in the faculty musical is meant to be fun team building for faculty. I mean, I know I'm playing Cinderella's Stepmother in Sondheim's Into the Woods, but really. What's up with my initial feelings?

Bill Ferriter recently blogged about negative people in organizations. His writing about negative people spoke to my own negative feelings about my recent performance.  Ferriter writes that seeing negativity in people in organizations really points back to the work you yourself need to do. He writes,  "You have knowledge building or skill building or relationship building to do."

I know I get irritated with myself when I am underprepared for something. Nothing good comes out of a vacuum. Polished performances take practice, skill, and knowledge

Ferriter cites Anthony Muhammad who argues that reasonable, rational people resist change for four reasons:

  1. They don’t understand the work that you are asking them to do. 
  2. They don’t understand why the work that you are asking them to do matters. 
  3. They don’t know how to do the work that you are asking them to do. 
  4. They don’t trust you.
Am I resisting the changes this new learning demands? I wondered. 


I realized that I have forgotten how to read music. There are gaps in what makes sense to me on the page. My violin and piano playing days ended when I was in high school. I lost some of those skills. I don't always know how to do the singing work my part demands because I don't always know how to read the music--especially when three people are to begin singing at once. That is something solid I can land on and work to learn how to do. I bet with practice, I'll develop more confidence. I bet by March, I will love the singing and the practicing. I also bet that the love will grow over time with the work I put in.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Shifts in School

Thought partner, Tom Vander Ark at Singapore American School.

I had the privilege of listening to Tom Vander Ark (@tvanderark) address members of the Leadership Cohort at Singapore American School yesterday and of listening to him talk to a smaller group of leaders this morning. Futuristic and energized, Vander Ark spoke about our rapidly changing world. He posited shifts we need to make in education and framed everything with awe. Indeed,  as he said, "It is an incredible time to be an educator."

Vander Ark referred to several shifts that will be as world-changing as the shift from print to digital has been. He framed this part of his talk with us using these big questions: What does it take to be a capable human being? What are the most important capabilities? The shifts we will see in education are look to answer those questions. Vander Ark's three shifts include:

1. Moving toward measuring, marking and communicating the broader aims of education. These aims at Singapore American School are called Desired Student Learning Outcomes (DSLOs). Other schools on the planet call them dispositions or character traits. Our DSLOs include creativty, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, cultural competence, and content knowledge.

As a system, we will need to expand our reporting dashboards so that a learner's profile captures more than just content knowledge or criterion-referenced data.

2.  A move toward more active learning where learners co-construct experiences and have agency over what, how and when skills and content are learned. Imagine project-based learning schools. Good work, as he said, is being done right now on this front around the world.

3. A move from awarding credit based on time (seat time) to credit based on competency.

Really, sit silently with these shifts for a moment. They are huge. They are complex.  What will it take? How will we get there? We've not yet created the systems or tools that would make such a leap forward entirely possible yet.


What is most important? What is most important at work? What is most important at home? What is most important in relationships? What is most important in civic life?  These are the types of questions that will guide learners and leaders of learning in the future.

It's likely that the ability to tell the difference between a simile and a metaphor is not most important --but it is a content knowledge I've taught in English language arts classes. It has been important to me at some level as I make meaning in the world.

Content, from all of the academic disciplines, is important, but I am continually reminded that content is the context in which we learn. We learn to empathize through literature in English language arts. We learn to collaborate by conducting investigations with others in science class. We learn to think critically when we study history (and math, and science and English and everything, really). Content is the context for the learning we must do to become capable human beings.

I am sure I will be thinking about all that Tom Vander Ark shared with us for quite some time. Don't miss his work on current trends we educators need to pay attention to now on Getting Smart.