All posts filed under: Uncategorized

Anti-Racism Starts with I

A lot of people are now sharing memes, videos, and posts about how appalled they are. They are expressing sadness and outrage at the horrendous murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. I see a lot of fingers being pointed. Pointed at the police and the officer himself calling them racist. And to be completely honest, that is counter-productive. In fact, that actually helps perpetuate the myth that racism is something that “bad people” do. The reality is that racism is in all of us. Racism is a system. The good intent these people have when sharing these posts is far outweighed by the impact made by perpetuating the myth that continues to plague the world.  A lot of people are wondering what they can do, they feel helpless, and it’s understandable. So I have made a short list of things that do and don’t work.  What doesn’t help: 1) It’s fairly safe to say that posting a message saying “do something” is about as helpful as a used diaper. But beyond being not helpful, the …

Best Practices For Teaching During COVID-19

One of my favorite pictures of teaching in action. “Hey Google” “What are the best practices for teaching during Covid-19?” Spoiler alert: There are none. When my school district produced a mandatory professional development session that taught teachers how to transition to online learning, I became immediately skeptical. I was also frustrated at the utter hubris it takes to claim to know anything about online learning when your background is everything but, and then present it as a mandatory training module. While I did learn some things about Canvas that I was completely unaware of (which I am deeply grateful for), there was a lot of unnecessary stress added by the way the PD was rolled out. I want to make it very clear, I’m not frustrated with our district coaches. I’m frustrated with the administration that made the decisions and how it was rolled out in typical half-ass fashion, i.e., not having their poop in a group. Every year teachers are bombarded with crap. And I do mean crap. Between education corporations looking to sell you the latest …

The Needs of the Many

I spend far too much time on Facebook these days. Being quarantined at home has it’s own toll on your mental health, but scrolling Facebook for hours on end also has it’s own toll. One of the tolls Facebook creates is actually a dichotomy. On one hand it’s a false sense of empowerment. The feeling that you have a voice and can tell the world exactly your stance. On the other hand, it’s an inescapable feeling of powerlessness and depression when you notice that no one is listening. We spend so much time shouting into the echo chamber that the chamber becomes a void. Like a vacuum, it eats our words regardless of the ideologies we support.  One of the subjects that has caught my eye more than once has been the idea that education needs to change. Yet, I can’t help but to notice that whenever the idea is brought up, no one has an answer for how education needs to change. This is where my vacuum comes in. This is where I am …

Teaching During Covid-19

Recently, I saw a post (I can’t remember who even reposted it for citation purposes) that discussed the language we are using during our online teaching. The post brought up an interesting point that I want to dig deeper into. What do we call what teachers are doing right now? Is it online learning? Is it distance learning? Why am I so hung up on what it’s called? What we name it matters. Just as with all language, the vocabulary we choose to use when discussing a subject can affect the process just as much as the physical change itself. The term online teaching or online learning carries a connotation of presence. Presence implies that teachers are live and lessons are synchronous. Distance learning, on the other hand, carries the connotation of sameness. It implies that the only difference between the classroom lessons and those online is the distance between the teacher and the students. Neither of these terms accurately defines what is actually happening in the virtual classroom.So what are we doing? What should we …

Small Successes

I was going to come on here tonight and blast away at my problems and issues. This online learning thing is overwhelmingly anxiety inducing. But as I was avoiding writing by doing some grading, I noticed a trend that changed my attitude. My students are flourishing with the current work I have given them. Last week I decided to try an experiment. I saw a post from someone about how to use the 5 Es (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate) to create lessons online. I took those five components and made one module out of each of them. On top of that, I did some serious brainstorming before creating modules. I did this because creating modules is time intensive. If one doesn’t work, you have just wasted quite a bit of time. The first thing I did was I created a bland google slides presentation. In each slide, I put one of the 5 Es as base slides. In each slide I took notes for ideas. For example, in the engagement slide, I wrote down ideas to engage. …

Working on it.

I am feeling relieved. I have discovered some great tools; things that are possible leads on some potential classroom tech that I think will be very creative and helpful to my students. I have also come up with some backup lesson plans just in case I discover that the plans will not work. However, I think this idea will work at the very least in a rudimentary way. My first idea came after playing around with recording the narration of the text we are currently reading. As I was recording I noticed I was making mistakes and getting interrupted. Not only am I not a trained audiobook narrator, I’m also not a great audio editor. I’m sure with some practice I could figure it out and make it work, but the mistakes I was making were hindering me and wasting time, and right now time is precious. As teachers we are being asked to do so much work and my anxiety has not made that easy. As I’ve said before in previous posts, I’ve wasted …

Interesting Etymologies – Let’s Spruce It up!

Question: What do spruce trees and clean rooms have to do with each other?          Answer: Etymology     The other day I was reading the story of David Copperfield by Dickens. I have been reading quite a bit of his work recently due to my self confined state of illness and my holiday tradition of reading A Christmas Carol every year. For those of you who know me, this should come as no surprise. I probably highlight at least 2-3 words per page when I am reading. Sometimes I’ll highlight an entire phrase or idiom and will immediately (never later like a normal person) look up the phrase or word in question. This time Dickens is narrating the story from Davy’s perspective and used the word spruce as to to sprucen up. I immediately thought, “where does that come from? “I really struggled to even make an inference as to how they were connected. After looking it up, I’m glad I didn’t try.    So, how do trees have anything to …

Distance Learning: Day 5 (Still Planning)

After having spent a disproportionate amount of time stress eating and fucking off, as the Brits would say, I am finally feeling productive. It’s difficult not to think about the challenges that I still face as well as the incredibly labor intensive task that online teaching presents, but I am incrementally getting comfortable and checking off items on the to-do list. I think the one thing that has helped the most has been to see and hear from other teachers (in online meetings) that they too are struggling. Instantaneously, I felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. It also helped that we were tossing ideas at each other, you know, like a team, and discussed options for resources.  One challenge I now face is trying to find an app or another digital means for students to annotate text or take notes on and simultaneously read the text, from one computer. However, this will have to be something I tackle tomorrow as the dishes are piling up, and I’m hungry and need to cook …

Distance Learning: Day 1 – Planning

Technically, this is day 2. However, yesterday I had just enough anxiety to make me productive . . . at reading and phone games. I did get a few things done near the end of the day, but the entire idea of online learning and all the things that my district is placing on us for training in the meantime has me a bit overwhelmed. In communication with other teachers, they are feeling the same. In some ways I am learning. I am gathering ideas for what to do. In other ways, I wish I could just get to work on my own classes without being hindered by district trainings, meetings, and check-ins. From a critical discourse analysis perspective, the message the district is sending is that they don’t trust us. They think we are going to waste these 8 days the governor has granted and not do any planning, as if we would let our students down like that. At the very least, I am finding the district training to be at least moderately helpful and …

Comfortable Un-certainty

We are all stressed. Every teacher in the nation, no matter how adapted to using technology in the classroom, is now being ordered by their respective governments to provide all content through various forms of distance learning. Every teacher is now being tasked with not only handling their own families and anxieties but also with the added pressure of moving all curriculum online. Curriculum which was never designed nor intended for such a move. In Minnesota, we have been granted 8 days from the governor to adjust to this system. From the ESL perspective, this is a monumental task only overshadowed by that of the SpED teachers. How can we effectively provide services to students, especially those who are new to country? The answers remain to be uncovered in the weeks and months following this national experiment.  At this point in time, teachers are being asked to decide what items need to be cut. Mind you, these types of decisions are typically made at a district or state level by teams of people. Now, individual teachers …