Thursday, November 08, 2007

What Will They Carry?

The last two days of teaching have been unforgettable experiences for me. On Wednesday Mayo and I had invited guest speakers from Veterans for Peace into speak about choices after high school and the importance of critical thinking. Jim Murphy and Dayl Wise entranced the students with their stories they carried with them home from Vietnam.

Mayo's seniors have been reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried". The speakers engaged the class in "self to text" discussions making many references directly to the book during the talk. Both Dayl and Jim were impressed with the level of discussion and questioning our seniors had attained. They visit many schools and were taken aback by our students. The dialog about the book between the students and the speakers was natural and genuine and speaks to the culture of reading we are establishing in the building.

The second unforgettable moment was the culminating event my students worked on from their unit on Hinduism in Early India. Students, teachers, and paras created a piece of Rangoli art. The students were able to experience a communal art project and through this have a greater appreciation for the Hindu culture.

Why are you writing about this Brown?

Believe it or not I'm always afraid of doing things that are hard to measure through traditional means. ( I know this is hard to believe) I take my job quite seriously and I do not want to do a disservice to anyone. I was stressing over the time that was going into the event. Gathering all the freshmen during one period is no simple feat. The thing that stuck with me the most was a side comment Mayo made to me during the event. Mayo in her passionate "non-smoking manner" explained to me that these expereinces (guest speakers and communal celebrations) are the ones that students remember."

She was half right. I think they are the things that teachers remember too.


Anonymous said...

Wally & Lori - Wish I'd been there, sounds tres cool. Glad the relationship with VFP is continuing.

Happy Dawali!


Superfly said...

This sounds amazing! Wish I could have been there, too!

Anonymous said...

That really sounds like it was an incredible experience for the students involved, the staff, and the school at large.... I believe that inorder for "our" students to become productive members of our global society they need experiences such as this!!! Not just regents practice.....

Mr Tesler said...

Totally cool, WB. These last few days, I've "caught the spirit" myself about going outside the box.

Silly as it was, I took my froshes on a walk around the school. Our purpose was to find examples of Federalism in action. It was invigorating to see a bunch of 15 year olds discussing the merits of mundane objects like a garbage cans, mailboxes, and street signs as examples of our government at work. Many of the kids said despite freezing, it was something they enjoyed. Certainly not on the level of the experiences in your post, but when we create and attach meaning to the experiences, the kids truly do learn.

Anonymous said...

I happened by this blog and I wanted to comment. It has been my experience that fakers knock objective testing and cry out for authentic assessment as a means of blurring the lack of rigor and substance in their work. The ideal curriculum looks at a set of skills (including but not limited to the ones that some call "traditional") and establishes how they will be transmitted in a unit. Then it preassesses those skills, establish metacognitive tools that get kids thinking about their learning process and proves it's worth with a post assessment. It means more work for the teacher because real skills are a pain in the butt to assess

Airy fairy kumbaya curriculum proves nothing, and requires some sort of blurry authentic assessment to justify it's lack of substance. Let's take the poster who illustrated federalism in action by walking kids around showing them that the government picks up their garbage and keeps street signs... by itself... that's K-3 curriculum. What do we do in our community stuff. On the other hand, that same idea can be pumped to some real content. Let's say the teacher used that walk to preview a unit on public works... say a debate on the what works should be part of our tax dollars and which should be pay as you go. (and by a debate, I mean a researched debate with lessons on rhetorical devices and demand for focused, substantiated positions, not a rap session with 15 year olds who have no background knowledge or informed opinion on the matter) Or perhaps a research assignment into apportionment of tax dollars to public works, etc. Then that's a whole different ball game. It's all about the substance. In the end of the first scenario, those kids can't pass gas, nevermind a test that determines their future opportunities. In the second, it teaches any number of skills.. such as research, persuasive and informational writing, editing, working with public records, math skills etc, political science content. And then you really are worth your salary... because it hits the assessments in the eye: kids make assertions, back them up, write coherently, using facts and details, sythesizing data. Etc. etc.

W Brown said...

Am I being called a "faker" ?