Monday, March 25, 2013

Partnering with Parents

As the end of the school year quickly approaches, I have found myself facilitating an usually large amount of parent emails.  "How can my student get his/her grade up?" "My son/daughter said he/she turned in this assignment, can you verify?" "Can we meet asap to talk about my student?" 

When these emails come flooding in, we feel frustrated, perhaps disrespected, and maybe even a little defensive.  The question remains, "How do we partner with parents in the education of their children?"  Teachers may make reference to parents expecting teachers to parent their children.  Although this is said in passing, or under our breaths, the fact of the matter is, we must!  As teachers, we are not only responsible for the education of young minds, but at times that education involves developing decision making skills, discernment, social interactions, etc. 

As teachers, we must implor of our parents to partner with us, rather than combat us when it comes to the education and development of their children.  I do not claim to have this figured out, but only see partnership as the answer to teacher/parent battles.  Teachers want to be seen as authority figures who care for their students; therefore, uphold their expectations in order to see students succeed and take owndership of their education.  Parents want the same things, but I believe get caught between upholding these expectations, and wanting to step in and take care of their children at all costs--even when a learning experience could come from the situation. 

The following link provides a great article about what teachers ultimately desire from their parents--support, accountability, communication, respect, etc.

Today's blog is meant to initiate thinking on our part as to how to engage parents in this partnership.  Please feel free to share any positive, or perhaps disheartening, experiences we can all learn from.  My challenge, for all of us, is to have this coversation with a parent in the coming weeks, and see what we can learn!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Can the Teacher in Room 224 Learn from the Choir Director?

I am a music educator.  More specifically, I am a choir director.

Music is an art and music is a science.  It uses the right half of the brain and the left half of the brain.  It is something that captivates, inspires, convicts, motivates, moves; it can cause rejoicing and can bring to tears.  Music is a language all of its own.

I admire those that spend countless hours advocating for the arts in the schools.  Their dedication is critical for progress to continue in our country today.  I, however, am not going to dwell on music advocacy at this point.  I am blessed to work in a school with administrators that are fully behind the arts and so to be honest, I am not as well spoken in this area as other educators.  This is what I want you to explore: what can the teacher in classroom 224 learn from the choir director down the hall?

1.  Don’t let structure stifle creative energy - Choir poses classroom management issues that are unheard of in the traditional classroom setting.  Imagine a classroom of 50 high school students that you are trying to energize and get excited about singing while simultaneously keeping them under control so that the group can have an efficient rehearsal.  To make good music, the singers have to have focused energy otherwise the music falls flat making it dull and boring.  This fine line that I am still learning to walk is critical in every classroom.  Good choirs recognize that they have a single focus and that is to create exceptional music no matter how much energy it takes.  Structure and rules are essential to a classroom but don’t ever let those get in the way of creating energy, creating excitement, and creating a singular focus in your classroom.  Imagine the “music” your class could make if that was their goal!  It takes energy on their part and certainly on your part, but its worth it.

2.  Nothing motivates like accomplishing a goal as a group - Have you ever had the student that is suddenly motivated after bombing a test?  Or how about the student that is driven to even greater success after acing a test?  One of the most effective teaching strategies that I’ve used in choir is recording them.  I can hear the groans now as I announce that we are going to record and listen to ourselves.  While it can be a painful experience, the focus of the group multiplies following the listening.  Each person is motivated to improve the choir as a whole.  Similarly, I have seen this motivation following a successful concert.  The group realizes their potential and seeks to reach new heights as a choir.  How can you set goals for a class?  How can you motivate them to reach those?  If there are tangible, achievable goals, you will be amazed at the immediate improvement.  

3.  Music is a gift from God, and so is every other subject - Music is beyond words.  There is nothing that can adequately describe the shear beauty or the overwhelming power beyond simple notes played together forming a stunning melody.  If I teach my students nothing else, I pray that they can realize the immense power of music and what a gift it truly is.  Every single subject that we teach has this same power.  While it may not be as easily accessible as music, every subject has the power to stop someone dead in their tracks and create wonder, awe, and amazement.  Do we approach every day of teaching with a goal of letting our subject amaze, illuminate, and inspire our students?  I want to go to a school where each teacher has that as their goal.

Create focused energy, set goals, let your subject inspire - give it a try and see what you can learn!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Flip Made Easy: TED ED provides ready-made platforms

Trying the flip but stuck between pre-made, one-size-fits-all lessons and hours of work for a tailored, amateur piece?  

From the organization that brings “ideas worth sharing” comes an easily adaptable flipping platform.  The new TED ED provides today’s educators with a collection of dynamic video lessons already built into flipped lessons.  However, the more beautiful feature of this website is that it allows you to flip any YouTube video. 

TED’s Flip Trajectory:
  • FLIP a ready made lesson or any video from YouTube
  • Students WATCH the lesson
  • Then they THINK through a quiz of either objective or free response questions that you create
  • The DIGGING DEEPER section can introduce a project, writing response, or other assignment  
  • A newly added DISCUSSION option allows students to post ideas

Advantages to this style of Flip:
  • Engages students at home
  • A slick, ready made platform
  • Find other teachers’ flips
  • Quantifies all quiz data and student responses


One of my recent flips:

Flip it, and see what you can learn.

Got a video you’d like to flip or see flipped?  Found an archive of ed-friendly videos?  Did you try the flip yourself?  Paste your links in a comment below and help your fellow man (or woman).