5 Reflections From My Day Off of School

I had Presidents’ Day off from school recently. It’s one of the perks of being a teacher. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of perks when you are a teacher.  Our day ends at 3pm. No weekend work. Long winter breaks, spring break, and of course, one of the main reasons all educators decide to become a teacher; summer vacation. Are you picking up on my sarcasm? I hope so, because I’m laying it on pretty thick. Actually, my President’s Day off turned out to be a day ON to reflect. A number of ideas came to mind, but a few thoughts seemed to resonate in the Eduverse on Twitter that day.
Reflection #1: How can we ask students to be lifelong learners if we aren’t learning ourselves? Educators must become digitally literate.
I consider myself pretty tech savvy. But it wasn’t until April of 2011 that I decided to actually use my Twitter account.  650+ followers later, Twitter is now the best professional development and learning tool I have ever encountered. Did I mention ever?! Teaching is my third and last career, and thank goodness I took the Twitter plunge. Even though I consider myself a “content expert,” if Google can answer my students’ questions, I better have more to offer. That’s where Twitter comes in. I have read more, learned more, and connected more with innovative thinkers from all over the world, more in the past 10 months than possibly the other 39 years of my life on earth. Education reform, technology in the classroom, digital media, iPads, apps, apps, and more apps. Educational pedagogy, inspiration, motivation, support…..you bet. I encounter it all. I am more committed than ever to continue my life long learning.
Reflection #2: I never ask a student to complete an activity I wouldn’t do myself. I don’t do worksheets. Neither do they.

I came into the year wanting my students to blog. So I began to blog last summer. I now submit educational blogs to 6 national publications. I have certain expectations and techniques for video production. I personally produce 3-4 videos a month, and work directly with my students on these real projects to exemplify those techniques. I was a terrible test taker and poor note writer as a student, so we don’t take tests in my class. I prefer to videotape and record lessons as tutorials, rather than having students spend time taking copious notes. My students collaborate, work independently and create videos to tell stories, promote positive news, and to show content comprehension for a variety of subject matter.

Reflection #3: I never did well on tests. I performed best on project based learning & assessment. Guess which one we do in my class?

I have come to realize that I have successfully been implementing project based learning for the past seven years. Now, my critics will tell you that’s because of my content; broadcast technology and film. My content must be presented as projects. In part, they are correct. But I firmly believe that by basing my classes and instruction on projects for comprehension and assessment, students have fallen in love with the process and therefore like completing our coursework. What’s preventing you from creating at least 1 project based lesson in your class?

Reflection #4: We ask our students to collaborate, share, communicate, & create. Shouldn’t teachers do the same in their work?

Through my blogs, video publishing, tweets, podcasts, educational conferences and various other forms of social media, I relish the opportunity to reach out to educators all over the world to hear their stories. I want to learn from them. Share a common experience. I believe that not only should all educators find their niche in a similar fashion, but that it should be a requirement. Not a state mandate or school mandate, “you must do this…..” causing teachers everywhere to cringe. But rather, each of us should check our internal ticker, look in the mirror, and realize, there is a greater world out there for all of us if we allow for it to happen. Educators everywhere, please, take the leap. Take the initiative to guide your own professional learning. You won’t regret it.

Reflection #5: Quote from student – “We learn more than technical skills in Mr. Goble’s class. We learn life skills.” Bingo!

We all truly want to prepare our students for a successful life. That is the essence of why we became educators. I don’t believe we chose this profession to stand in front of a row of desks, talk for 50 minutes, and expect students to glean wisdom from us that would guide their successes. I believe we all want to engage our students in the creation and recreation of their thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams, that are relevant to the world they will live in, not the world we were told was in store for us. Beyond the curriculum, we are in fact teaching our students life skills that will hopefully empower them to make smart choices for the rest of their lives.

Presidents’ Day was a great day off from school. I feel very accomplished, rested and ready to get back to my class. Can’t wait for spring break to see what creeps into my mind next.

What do you think?

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