The Week in Tweets for 2011-02-28

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On Leaving #ITSC11

After every Works in Progress event we do in my school district, I am reminded of the importance of time.

Time for teachers to learn and be thoughtful. Time for teachers to talk with each other about their learning. Time for teachers to write and make things. Time to reflect. Time to discover. Time to remember. Time to dream. Then do.

Time that we just don’t have often enough.

As I sit here in the Portland airport1, fresh from ITSC, I’m reminded of the value and power of time and thoughtfulness.

The folks who run this event do things right. Long sessions. Time to break bread together. Time to make things. Time to play. Time to be purposeful.

That’s good.

I spent the last couple of days writing and making and thinking with some really smart folks. I learned a great deal. Thought you might like to see what we were up to.

We did some . A group of us than the writing that could be written before2 .

I made people do touchy-feely activities with yarn at the end of a long day to help them think about connections and networks. And we took a deep look at what it means to be purposefully transparent3 . I learned a great deal. I think the folks who were there with me did, too. I was grateful to be in community with them. I’m tired, but in a good way.

Thanks to all the folks at ITSC who made time for teachers. Thanks to all the teachers and other folks who spent time being thoughtful. I hope you’re doing similar things with your students.

So long to new friends and old. See you down the road.

Rock on, Portland.

  1. My flight delayed three hours – truly the gift of time. []
  2. I didn’t mean to, but I found myself countering every example about writing being different. It was a little bit devil’s advocate – but a little bit me on fire. I think in a good way. If you were there, let me know how it felt to you. I’m curious. []
  3. The case studies or executive summaries that we wrote together here were so interesting that I suspect they warrant a post of their own []

The Week in Tweets for 2011-02-21

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Tinkering with Words @ #ITSC11

I’m sitting in my workshop at ITSC right now.  We’re taking a few minutes to write – I find that a few minutes of writing time help to solidify learning, to give folks time to process or explore their thinking.  Or, perhaps, to just check out the thing that’s been a distraction for a while.  It’s cool.

Today, I encouraged folks to explore their , with the idea that we’ve all got a lot to share with each other1, and that we also can stand to spend some time thinking together about our own practices and habits.

We’ve written together, shared some ideas, and, hopefully, will leave thinking about what we want to tinker with next when it comes to our writing and our students’ writing.

Some of my favorite happened to stop by, too.  Nothing wrong with that.

Those documents that I linked to above, by the way, are completely open.  Feel free to add your ideas to them.  I hope they’re useful to you, if nothing else as a lens into your own writing practices.

  1. Often, we know more than we think we do. But we have to stop and make time in order to see that.  Doesn’t take much time.  Just a little.  You can write a lot in ten minutes. []

You CAN Do More with Less. But Only for So Long.

Yesterday, Colorado’s new governor made some announcements regarding his budget proposal to the state. Specifically, he announced about half a billion in proposed budget cuts for next year, which wasn’t a huge surprise. What was a surprise, at least to me, although I should’ve seen it coming, was that he directed most of those cuts at K12 education.

That’s disappointing, but almost understandable1. What kills me, though, is that the budget scenario will probably be good political cover for an unfortunate move being made in the school district where I live, my children go (or will go) to school, and my wife is a teacher.

Basically, they’re going to ask2 high school teachers at three of the city’s schools to teach another class per semester. It’s a kind of peer pressure move. 3

I’ve been following this story for a while – it first surfaced last fall, and I traded email with a district assistant superintendant on the plan before Christmas. But I didn’t think I’d need to say anything. I had thought, perhaps naively, that the plan wouldn’t come to pass. The move is based on faulty logic and poor math4. Surely, I thought, the human filters would be thoughtful and wise. I mean, come on. This was a school district that understood the importance of teachers having meaningful time in their school day for professional development. For collaboration. For individual and small group student contact time outside of class.

Or so I thought.

As this plan has emerged, and opposition from the high school teachers who, rightly, believe this will harm the quality of their instruction as well as their ability to meaningfully build relationships with students, I’ve heard, quietly, from elementary and middle school teachers in the school district. They’ve not had the same time without classes to interact with students and each other. These middle and elementary school teachers, or at least the vocal ones5, aren’t willing to advocate for something that they don’t have themselves.

The whole thing’s a mess. All teachers should have time to be meaningfully thoughtful and human to their students. Every day. 6

Perhaps my biggest concern with the entire deal is that it’s easy to hide behind big words like “efficiency.” While I’m a fan of efficiency when it makes sense7, I’m thinking that some of the most important work that teachers do, and do quite well, isn’t about being efficient. It’s about being available. It’s about being human. Patient. Kind. Thoughtful. Reflective.

Those are hard things to be when every minute of your work day is full of teaching and you’ve now got an additional class to look after during your grading time at home.8 We should be looking to have our teachers, all of them, “teaching” less and learning more9.

My friend Zac wrote a while back about a scary kind of school: The kind that are breaking teachers. Those are the kinds of schools that look good on a balance sheet or a collection of test scores. They’re probably, at least on paper, very, very efficient.

They’re the ones where on the outside, everything looks great. But then you open the place up, and you see that stuff’s pretty rotten. And will only last so long.

In this time of tightening budgets and scary realizations, I hope that central administrators, classroom teachers, parents, students, politicians and everyone else realize this:

We can do more with less. And good folks, if asked to, will do so. But, if the “more” isn’t very good, then maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe our leaders should say “let’s do fewer things better rather than so many things poorly.”

As next year starts to take shape for educators and legislators, let’s hope at least a few folks are considering that position.

You probably know of stories about folks being asked to do more with less. This is one of ours. One I can’t quite wrap my head around. These stories are complex and difficult.

I’d look forward to hearing yours, and how you think we can work to make things better in a difficult time.

  1. The Governor did acknowledge that K12 is a huge line item – and one that has flexibility, compared to say, giving prison guards a month of furloughs. Of course, this is Colorado, where we amended our state constitution to provide additional monies for education, and the legislature used some creative math to circumvent that constitutional requirement as the economy worsened. So funding’s never been pretty. []
  2. No. They pretty much told. []
  3. Hey. C’mon. The other high school in town is doing it. I’m sure it’s good. []
  4. It seems that, according to one district source, asking a teacher to teach one additional course would only mean twenty minutes more of teaching per day. I don’t get that. Do you? []
  5. And there aren’t many. This is a divisive issue. Unfortunately. []
  6. I wish that the teachers in the district where I work had more time to be thoughtful. I spend a great deal of my time seeking ways to carve out that time. It’s hard to do. But worth doing. []
  7. And it does make sense. But at what greater cost? []
  8. The fact that teachers are spending so much of their time grading at home is of larger concern. But no one seems to want to talk about that much. []
  9. I know. The Finland comparisons are tired. But, at least in the area of professional development and how teachers spend their time, I think they’re worth making. Finland does teaching and learning differently. And it’s worth exploring. []

The Week in Tweets for 2011-02-14

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The Week in Tweets for 2011-02-07

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