Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Keystone

Do you know what a keystone is?  It’s a term that’s important enough to be the slogan for a state just off our southern border.   To be literal, a keystone is a wedge-shaped stone piece at the top of a masonry vault or arch.   However, the figurative use of the term, according to Wikipedia, refers to the central supporting element of a larger structure, such as a theory or an organization, without which the whole structure would collapse.  To be historic, Pennsylvania was the keystone of the colonies, being centrally located as well as being the center of an early colonial movement towards federalism.  Recently I was reading a historical article which based some of its ideology on this early federal movement, which was supported by the “Keystone” state.  My mind wandered off the article and into the classroom, thus beginning my simple examination to find the “Keystone” to a successful classroom.

There are many important elements which must be present in a successful classroom.  This blog would be prolonged if I endeavored to list them all.  However, clear communication must be present with each component of the classroom.  At every level in each component of the classroom, there must exist communication which is two-way and open.  Obviously, the learning process is centered on finding an effective method of communication; however, my wandering mind takes me to an important partner in the process:  the parent.  How do we communicate with parents?  In each successful classroom there are usually multiple methods which allow for two-way communication.  Phone, email, and even texts can be utilized.  However, I have often seen a lack of development in a very simple, yet effective, mode of communication:  the website.

A website can contain a lot of the “static” information which parents are often searching for.  It can contain resources and create a climate of partnering.  I’ve even seen websites which list the homework assignments for the day – and I would gladly debate anyone who feels that this lessens the role for developing a responsible student.  To the contrary, it’s the responsible student who knows how and where to find information – what better source of information than a website designed by the teacher.

For teachers who want a medium which is easily changed each day/week/month, then consider the blog.  A blog can contain the same elements as a website, but is usually a bit easier to update on a regular basis.  As I scan the classroom websites of teachers I am seeing more and more classroom blogs.

This brings me to your homework assignment for today.  I would like to challenge you to visit five classroom websites – and only one can be from NNCS.  The other four have to be from other schools in the North Country, state, or beyond.  See how their site is organized and what types of information are placed on it.  Here’s the catch – you have to send an email to that teacher and let them know what you liked about their site.  Imagine the affirmation they’ll feel to receive that email from you.  

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