Friday, January 30, 2009

Climbing the Learning Ladder

How do you learn? How do you hone your craft? I just finished a reading endorsement course from which I just received, via email, a print-your-own certificate. This got me thinking this morning about my learning as a teacher. What kinds of professional development do I do? How do I learn? What makes the difference in my actual classroom?

I learn by:
  • reading professional books
  • reading journals
  • reading educational blogs (see the blogroll for titles)
  • reading listservs or email newsletters
  • writing blog posts
  • writing about my teaching in my journal
  • writing a column for Stenhouse Newslinks
  • taking courses online to add-on to my certificate
  • going to conferences (breakout sessions and keynotes)
  • listening to and reading comments from my personal learning network (PLN)
  • Following educators and edu-technologists on Twitter
  • Talking with teachers
  • Trying things out in- in class and online
  • Connecting with others online
  • Collaborating with teachers
  • Watching other people teach and connecting it to my own practice
  • Presenting workshops
  • Reflecting
How do you learn about teaching?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

Yesterday was the first day of Write-a-Palooza, a 14-day writing symposium for the 10th graders at our school. The entire 10th grade is participating which means that instead of English class, they will go to a writing class staffed by two teachers for the next 14-days. A team of 7 lead teachers have been crafting lesson plans for weeks and we kicked it off yesterday with the inauguration of President Barak Obama. Here's our kick-off lesson for Write-a-Palooza and below are links to the resources. If you're stymied by filters, try downloading the video files to your computer. I used DownloadHelper, a Firefox plug-in to do just that.

Inaugural Address

"Yes We Can"

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Want Books!

The thing I love most about my classroom is the library. I believe that providing easy access to books makes me a better teacher. I struggle to find the right balance in almost every aspect of my job, but reading and providing quality, high-interest books actually is the easy part. But even that is becoming more difficult. As the economy gets worse, there is less money for everything, including classroom libraries. Neither the school budget nor my personal budget are going to allow me to make the book purchases that my students and I enjoy. That means this is the time when getting grants is more important than ever.

I just finished reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher online (a sneak peek generously provided by Stenhouse) and it reaffirmed for me how important my library is. That made me think about the books that I want to buy, which made me think about money, which reminded me of grants. In my opinion, there is nothing that makes grant writing easier than a little professional reading. Everything you need is right there in one shot: the ideas, the rationale for things you'd like to do, the research to show why the things you want are vital to your students' success. I subscribe to Stenhouse's newsletter and it is always a quick source of ideas and resources. It is how I found out about Gallagher's newest book and the link to read it online. It is also where I read ideas to help me be a better mentor to one of the new teachers at my school.

I don't work for Stenhouse and you certainly don't have to use their newsletter to find inspiration, but I as I was reminded of the free resources we have at our disposal, I wanted to share that with others.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Love My Question

It's midterm exam time in my school and I'm excited about exams! Half of my students' exam is an individualized essay question that I wrote for them based on the reading (mostly books/novels) they have completed this semester. The practice is based on my mentor's , Janet Allen started creating questions for her language arts students in Maine many years ago and I have been doing it for the past decade. This year, I'm teaching an AVID elective class. I gave students their questions last Friday. Each student gets their question and the rubric I will use to grade it on the same page. I love the day I hand out questions because students, for the most part, love their questions and they tell me about it. In the past I've gotten great writing from my students in response to their individual essay questions. Tomorrow I will dive into them and I can hardly wait. What about you? What do you include on your final exam?