Saturday, 23 February 2013

We have a dream

We have a dream for you, which is also something we wish for ourselves. Something we too are working toward as learners.  But still, we want it for you.  And we are here to help. Model. Push. Listen. Reassure. Learn. Inspire. Wait. And wait patiently.  

It's a dream that involves the long view. One that looks at fear in the face today.  Not to fight it or deny it. Not to be ruled or be defined by it.  Instead, acknowledge its existence and use it to make smart and creative decisions from the parts that make fear healthy. In fact, the dream involves a decision and work toward unlearning the default position of fearing the unknown. To expect it (the fear), deal with it, use it to our advantage. Not be paralyzed by it.  In the long view, you/we still take risks and go out on a limb even if you/we are afraid.  Because past the fear are epiphanies, redemption, growth, expression, thinking, new learning and perhaps, deeper understanding.  Beyond the fear is a chance to get to know the unknown in an intimate,  non-threatening, healthy way.  

Just like the world wide web.  

Yup. The internet can appear like an intimidating, public black hole of judgement.  And it can be mind numbing and scary.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  I mean, we do need to be careful while we traverse its virtual halls.  We need to think about what we say, do and write when we represent ourselves online.  We need to have a civilized way of being.  We need to know how to create, build, share, love, collaborate and connect and be ourselves as best we can, in the best way we know how.  Which is not so different from  how we need to work on that in our physical spaces and material lives.  Think UWCSEA profile, right?  To be the best people we can be on and  off line.  It's all part of digital citizenship.  

All of it is real.  

But to NOT engage with the conversations, ideas, connect with others' and see how their thoughts help yours and vice versa, not to be part of this sharing culture because it's scary...well, now, that's scary.  

Like I said, we have a dream and visually, through this  info-graphic, the dream (long view) looks like this...

the dream

Which brings me to a point...the blogging.  :)  I know I have been quiet about it for awhile.  And I did that on purpose.  I wanted you to know how serious I was about letting you take it where you will.  That even if I love assigning things for class on it, that it was YOUR space. A  space you could define, design and furnish as your possible online home that goes beyond English class.  That the stuff we assign there from time to time was just a small part of it.  

I know, it's been a complicated process. The creation of the spaces, the encouraging, the building, the things we posted as teachers, to the silence, to the intensity, to the lulls, to the waiting, to the figuring it out.  After much reflection, Mr. R and I re-realized that it's really about this dream and not really about the blogging. To us, as your teachers,  it is the creation of opportunities for you guys to be part of an education that's active, relevant, real world, effective, hands-on, networked, innovative, personal and transformative.  That's it.  That's what the blogs are for, in a nutshell, in the big picture, in the final analysis.  

Anyway, I noticed (with my classes) and you can also read this post by Mr. R to see what his kids think about writing/sharing for and to a wider audience, that many of you have embraced the space; invested in it like precious real estate, claiming it as a permanent address.  I've seen it as your primary go-to url on your Gmail, Instagram and Twitter accounts. I see that you use it because it's a space you are comfortable in.   Others are using it as a summer home, occasionally spending time to express this or that when inspiration hits.  Then taking weeks off at a time to do other things like log your reading (just kidding; but not really) or focusing on schoolwork that needs your undivided attention because those tasks are marked and assessed, unlike the blogs.  Then there's the bunch of you who want to write or share but don't know where to start or maybe need more structure or prompting from us (nothing wrong with that), some who want to write but don't have time, some who have a gazillion drafts of interesting posts but are too scared to 'put it out there' because of the dark voices in your head that tell you they are not good enough (um, please cast those thoughts away).  And then some who will use it and only use it when things are assigned, some who use it to improve writing, refine thinking, share thoughts you weren't able to at the table, some who thought it was supposed to be a certain way (like a space purely for bearing your heart and soul and things that make you vulnerable - um, where did that come from?), some who just want to read others' stuff but are not ready to write, some who hate it, and finally, some who are still figuring it out what it's for.  

And really, all of that is fine.  

Wherever you are in this blogging business/connected learning spectrum, we honor it. Respect it. See it. 

We hear you.  

We understand that these spaces of trust take time. That the dream, needs to have a long view.  That it has to have a lot of people who support it.  An authentic community that believes in and won't give up on it.  An acceptance that it's a complicated process of pushing and pulling and leaving things alone sometimes.  That we are all at different spots and stages in the journey toward connected learning.  And whatever spot is an okay spot to be in.  

I hope you hear us and believe us too.    

So, after all that 'research' and reflecting and reassessing and thinking and talking about it all with Mr. R, we thought it was important to keep on keeping on.  To softly encourage some, to leave some people alone, to build trust, to create some structure for others, to read and comment consistently on those blogs that are already permanent homes and well, to continue to provide opportunities for the dream to come true for everyone and in different ways.  That's what we can do.  

So, for now, here is a first step for us to differentiate and respect how you have chosen to respond to this online space.  

Are you a regular blogger who enjoys reading and writing posts, but feel that you are limited because there are only three or four people in your class who actively blog? Do you wish you knew who the other bloggers are? The ones in other classes? Well, we have an idea...

We discovered that there is an existing community of bloggers amidst you and  by subscribing to Blogging Beyond Class  from Mr. R's class and this bundle, Blogging Begets Blogging  you can can see who these students are across our classes.  Simply click on subscribe and your RSS feed will be full of posts from students who have taken blogging in and beyond English class. You might find your name on that list, you might not.  The only criteria we had was to see who blogged beyond English class at one point or another...and look like they are comfortable with sharing more.  Correct us if we are wrong, okay.  

Oh and you do not have to be a blogger yourself to subscribe. Maybe you just want to see what people are sharing for now.

And, the second step -- wondering how you can be added to the list?  Simple:

Start blogging! Read, write, comment, share, connect! 

We'll be here either way.  

So, thoughts?  Would love to hear from you. Comments welcome below, as always.  
Have a great Sunday.  

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Helping Hand

We have an idea. 
It's true and I tell you this over and over again.  That we, teachers, constantly reflect on 
our practice and our lives as learners too. 
 So, Mr. Raisdana and I have some questions -- how else can we help you?  How
else can we be there to support your learning in the spaces we have created together? 
Also, do you feel like you are a bit confused in English class? Did you have issue with 
your thesis or writing a paragraph? Does the text that everyone seems to understand 
feel a bit dense to you? Wish you could talk to someone a bit more about 
how to write a lead or a poem or a blog post?

Well, we have taken a page from the Math Department 
and would like to
 offer extra time to help everyone get the most from our English Classes. 

Every Monday at lunch 1:00pm to 1:40pm, in B509 or B508 we will open our doors 
to anyone who wants any extra help in all things English. 

We can discuss a text more deeply, help you do research, or fine tune your writing.
Maybe you just need a quiet place to read and can use some help annotating your text? 
You tell us what you need, and we will design a program for whoever comes 
through our doors.  What it is not however, is a time to catch up on homework or complete late 
class tasks.  It's time to clarify things, practice some skills with guidance or perhaps, hash out
ideas for the table, your current project, a blog post, other written work you want to revisit and

We will begin on Monday February 25th in my room. See you there.  :) 

A little help from your teachers

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Busy January : An Update et. al.

E.B. White 

E.B. White was right.

If I wait for the perfect time, place and circumstances to write this post, it may never happen.  UWCSEA - East is an intensely busy place.  And the first month of the new year was not spared from it all.  We could consider managing a schedule comprised of back to back blocks, assessments, service responsibilities, e-portfolio homeshares, sports and  activities, an extreme sport at the X Games.  :) Kidding aside, so much has happened in just three weeks, students and teachers alike are treading water to make sure we all survive this crazy current until Chinese New Year.  

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was give a quick update of the many amazing things happening in our English classrooms.   From the stellar class conversations to your bodies of work, I couldn't be a prouder teacher.   

First thing, seems like everyone is on board with the independent reading program.  If you are not carrying a book that you are invested in by this time, logging your reading routine and thinking, writing, talking about what you are reading with your teachers or friends, then you must have been living under a rock the past six months.  Whether you are reading a class novel, part of literature circle, doing reading conferences with your teacher tackling a book of your choice on a weekly basis, going over GoodReads for recommendations, everyone has reading on their minds to a certain degree.  If you are having trouble choosing a book you can sink your teeth in, have a chat with your English teacher today.  And I mean today. 

Next, the Table and the conversations taking place during whole class discussions, whether on our new unit in Grade 8 about Truth or the Grade 7 unit on News, have impressed  Mr. Raisdana and I to high heavens.  If you could just eavesdrop on our debriefing sessions between classes, you would know that we are both very proud of the level of thinking, analyzing, sharing and questioning that we have witnessed in our learning spaces.  The learning that's been happening during these class conversations have been priceless and we both hope you are paying close attention.  Because we are.  We hear you and we are watching you grow as you articulate your opinions and insights with more clarity and conviction, clarify your ideas with humility and negotiate meaning with zeal.  It's not always pretty, right?  The Table can be a noisy market place.  But we have come a long way from the first day of school when sometimes all you could hear were cricket sounds or well, our voices.  Thank you for making every single discussion interesting, thought provoking and a learning experience.  If you are finding that you need some help asserting yourself or tempering your energy to help discussions flow more smoothly, see me or Mr. Raisdana today.  We'd be happy to go over some strategies to get you over that hump or at least help you understand it.  

The discussion 

Tool for Reflection 

Finally, here are some more happy snaps that make the crazy current worth it for this sleep deprived, workaholic teacher.   Seriously.  

In class written piece

Reading Time 

Small Group Discussions

Getting familiar with Dave Egger's What is the What

Ken Teh during Writers' Fortnight 

The 7s discuss the News 
Here's more...
Having friends who are also your teaching partners 

Hanging out with Holly Thompson on a Friday afternoon 

Eating my favorite breakfast: Greek Yoghurt with muesli and whatever fruit; in this case, strawberries 

Well, tomorrow is another day. And the current continues.  Tell me, what's making the crazy waves easier for you to ride?  Are you stressed out like the rest of us? How are you handling it?  What do you need to handle it better?  Would love to know...