Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday's Five - I'm Not a Trained Monkey! (and other thoughts)

Some Fridays it's hard to come up with a topic about which to write.  Others it's hard to choose one topic because there are so many ideas I have floating around in my head.  Today is the latter.  I guess that means I should have blogged more during the week.  In any case, I'm going to share five thoughts that I've had the past couple of days.
    Photo Credit: C. Frank Starmer
  1. I'm not a trained monkey.  It's state assessment week(s) here in Pennsylvania.  The majority of my time in school has been spent watching students fill in bubbles with a #2 pencil.  Any trained monkey could do this.  I want to teach.  I want my students to learn.  The purpose of assessment is to guide teaching so that students learn more.  I won't get the results of this assessment until these students have moved on from my classroom.  It's a political shell game that doesn't benefit my students, and all the free snacks in the world won't convince them differently.  I'm a teacher, not a trained monkey.  Let me teach.  Let my students learn.
  2. About those free snacks during state testing time - If research shows that kids' brains work better when they are well fed, have snacks, etc., shouldn't we be giving them the snacks during the learning and not during the assessment?  Funny how something as simple as a snack can illustrate so perfectly how out-of-whack our priorities have become.
  3. Yesterday in the faculty room, someone was complaining that our elementary school pedagogy is too driven by the demands of colleges.  When talking about being more innovative with how we assess, teach, and organize schools, the counter-argument is often, "But what will happen when they get to college?  They'll be expected to listen to lectures and learn on their own."  Here's the thing: sticking 50-200 people in a room, lecturing at them (whether you use a PowerPoint presentation or not), and telling them to read textbooks in order to find additional information is not good teaching.  It's not the best way for people to learn.  I don't care how much people pay to subject themselves and their kids to that nonsense, it's still lousy pedagogy.  If colleges really cared about student learning and not their profit statements, they'd tailor their pedagogy to be more like kindergarten.  More play.  More investigation.  More collaboration.  More learning.
  4. The difference in the restlessness of elementary students after changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time in the spring is stark.  It's like they know they should be outside now.  After hearing John Medina explain during his ISTE keynote last summer how the human brain performs optimally outside, while the body is in motion, and in changing meteorological conditions, this restlessness makes a whole lot more sense.  
  5. I've been lucky enough to be nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST) this year, and a whole lot of my energy has been spent the past few weeks preparing my application.  The application is extensive and overwhelming, but I'm benefitting a great deal from the reflection and introspection into my practices that is required.  Part of that reflection has made me re-realize how much I benefit from all of you out there in my PLN - on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, and those who I connect with in the blogosphere.  I am sincerely grateful to all of you for helping me better myself and my teaching.