Thursday, June 14, 2012

Personal Learning Plan

“The principal goal of education is to create men (& women) who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done.”
Jean Piaget

“…to preparing each student to become a life-long learner…”
                                                                                                            AAK Mission Statement

One of the basic tenants of education, which is present in almost every school mission statement, is for our students to become life-long learners.  It’s our responsibility to provide the tools, purpose, skills, and environment which fosters learning.  Our aim to engage the students will provide the mechanism for learning beyond the classroom.  It’s exciting to hear from a child what they discovered in their own backyard, read in a book, or what interesting person they recently met.  A self-discovered “light” can do more than perpetuate the intrinsic motivation of a child; their enthusiasm can be infectious.

As we begin to move closer to our summer vacation I have traditionally reinforced my belief in reflection.  This year I’m changing gears a bit and would like you to consider one question, “Were your teachers successful?”  The development of life-long learners didn’t begin with our current era of education, but rather, has been around for many.  It was probably spoken by your teachers as a goal, mission, or vision from your school.  So, were your teachers successful?  Are you a life-long learner? 

We could probably agree that all of us spend hours learning each day.  Many of us have special hobbies which we dive into.  We continue to work on our interests to increase the level of proficiency that we have in them and summer appears to be the best time for such endeavors.  To look beyond the casual, I also spend time during summer vacation learning something new about my craft of education.  Former AAK Principal Ed Hanlon instilled this by placing a simple goal before me as a young teacher.  Change your plans.  He furthered my task by encouraging me, and his entire faculty, to rework about 20% of their classroom plans each year.  During my career as a teacher at AAK I did this.  It wasn’t easy, but in doing so I grew immensely as an educator.  My planning, instruction, and assessment improved each year. 

As the circle of pedagogical influence is completed, I encourage you to do the same.  Take a look at one area of your craft, learn more about it, and do as Mr. Hanlon suggested.  Summer is the perfect opportunity to enjoy learning about teaching.  In the first meeting of the year, I showed to you the video, "We've Got to Be That Light" by Dr. Jeff Goldstein.  Both mentors require the same mindset.  That good enough is not great.  A conviction that student learning and development is dependent on the opportunities they have. 

This brings me to my selected title for today’s thoughts.  What is your Personal Learning Plan (PLP)?  What would you like to know more about so that you can enact positive change in your classroom?  Take time in the next eight weeks to relax and recharge, but also place some thought in developing a PLP.  If you accept this request then you’ll look back on this summer as one of the most rewarding of your career.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feel the Fire!

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

-W.B. Yeats

I’m a quote guy.  I love them.  When I coached basketball we began each practice with the analysis of a quote.  In the soccer locker room, I posted them all over the walls of the “dungeon.”  Many of you rely on quotes, too.  I see them posted in your rooms and spoken to children; all in the quest of imparting sagely advice.  We use them with versatility to motivate, inspire, and possibly in the modification of an action.  There’s a quote for every occasion.  I think my son, Daniel, would agree.  He’s constantly beleaguered by quotes from his every-caring father.

The quote from William Yeats speaks to the heart of what we need to do.  This herculean task is placed before each of us as we grapple with low student motivation, generational and situational poverty, and the stressors from the SED.  Are these late 19th century words a solution to our 21st century problems?  I’m asking that you spend time contemplating these words and the meaning for you.  It really doesn’t matter your approach to this exercise, it’s simply a good practice. 

If you’re the type who enjoys a mental exercise, try changing your perspective while completing this task.  The perspective of a teacher is most comfortable for us.  What about the perspective of a parent or possibly a student.  These words may have a different significance.  For those of you who are cognitive giants try to alter your method while delving into the depths of Mr. Yeats’ mind.  Look at it from a philosophical point to understand why he wrote this.  What about the behaviorist in us all who try to place situations with each statement.  The constructivist approach would certainly create meaning. 

I hope you found relevance within this activity. 

Enjoy the weekend.