Learning Loss

Tony my long-time teaching partner, 24 years…our silver anniversary is next year so I am expecting a block of silver, and I were talking about next year and both identified that we are faced with three challenges right from jump street.  First, these kids are going to lack some of the skills that they normally arrive with as a result of virtual environment.  Instead of identifying and trying to recover 50 skills we have decided that it is prudent for us to concentrate on a few critical skills and make those points of emphasis for the school year.  Second, our kids have not experienced Fishers Junior High’s culture…the traditions, the competitions, the interplay between teams, school “dances”, all the normal things that get kids to buy into our culture…they missed it all; we need to rebuild the culture of our building. Third, we need to re-energize our staff away from the virtual mindset back to an in-person mindset. This means we, as a staff, need to get back into being close to kids, organizing activities, and generally integrating students and teachers back into the relationship part of school again.

Learning Loss – A Way Forward

These are the skills that I think I will be addressing first…disclaimer this list could change 142 times before the start of the school year.

  1. The ability to talk to and listen to there peers. Think, Pair, Share activities normally dominate the teaching of this skill, but I think we need to be even more intentional with Chavruta or Havruta-style of working in pairs.  Havruta (which translates to friendship) is a traditional approach to the study of the Talmud in which a small group of students analyze, discuss and debate a piece of text. I like to add an element of listening to the study. The Chavruta style of learning is meant to be argumentative; the graduation piece of this is for the pairs to read controversial pieces with one person always playing the other side.  Our country DEFINATELY needs practice on seeing the other side of the issues.  I use this PowerPoint as a guide to using the Havruta in the classroom: Havuta Steps.
  2. The skill to read non-fiction text and identify key points and supporting information. This has been an emphasis for a decade in our school; last year’s environment hurt teaching this skill. Normally I “race-track” around and make adjustments by dropping a Pink Pearl eraser, Amazon sells them 72 for $22, and tell the kids what to fix. Lots of visits, lots of feedback, lots of erasing, lots of steps. This skill translate to all classes and nearly every profession.
  3. Concise writing. I want to discipline my students to be concise when they write for me. I read a great article (https://www.writerswrite.co.za/10-ways-to-be-more-concise-when-you-write/) that inspired me to be more intentional in my writing expectations. My Weoples, aka We the People kids, are the catalyst for this skill as they get big writing prompts and very few words to answer the questions; however, this skill is invaluable overall and transferable.
  4. Revisiting the Amish Way of Life. First off don’t think me a Luddite…I’m not at all. However, every teacher will spin a tale of woe when it comes to technology and thinking questions. Teacher: “What do you think the impact of this event would have on the people?” Student: “Siri?” Siri could tell them that the vaccine magnetizes your body and they would believe because the uneducated are always gullible. Sometimes there is no substitute for just having to ponder and theorize and be wrong and having to re-ponder, re-theorize (sorry Kletch…I am sure this is not a word) and re-think. The process matters as much or more than the question’s correct answer.
  5. Adhering to time. During the Covid year and a quarter most teachers were beyond lenient on due dates; especially when it came to in-class work. There was a cost to this leniency…the sense of responsibility to deliver ON-TIME. All of us that have been in the “real world” know that on-time is the expectation. Boss’s demand it; customers demand it; employees demand it; the wife demands it…me I just suggest and hope. You know, if you are familiar with my class, that homework is not my thing. I am too much of a control freak and do not want parents trying to figure out my class at night. I want to answer, or not answer questions directly, all the questions in my class. As such class work tends to build on the essential questions in my units; as a result, class work needs to be complete before the next step in the lesson.

Fear of Over-Reaction

Okay, so I am one of those people that does not blindly trust people to make decisions for my class. I have been doing this long enough and work too hard on improvement to value the professional opinions of strangers; there are those that make me listen and ponder…ponder is a great description…listen, think, connect, think, decide. My fear is that the district will hamstring teachers with lists of things to cover (e.g., this civilization, this date, this river) instead of finding consensus from teachers at each grade level what SKILLS need to be taught (e.g., reading like an historian, analyzing primary and secondary sources, writing argumentative essays, understanding connections and cause-and-effect chains in history, why unicorns are only found in Australia, etc.) When curriculum maps appear with spend x number of days on Ancient Egypt with this test during this time frame all is lost. This leads to shallow short-term learning of the least common denominator at the expense of skills and passion. This leads to my other fear that shallow short-term learning objectives will kill the love of subject in kids.

The Camaro Saga

Sooo…when I started my journey of losing weight and getting in shape I wanted to reward myself when I hit my goal of losing 70 pounds…I have lost 73 pounds and run a 5k…which I will do on June 23rd at the Spark5k. I decided that I wanted to give myself on a Camaro or Mustang. I designed a Camaro on-line and sent it to four local dealers. My hopes were quickly dashed when two different dealers told me the same thing…the Camaro line has not run in months because of a computer chip shortage. The latest word is that maybe late July the factory line opens again. So no Camaro and the Mustang is just $10,000 more…so no muscle car for me at the moment.

Moments of randomness

Amanda Biles is the greatest athlete of all-time.  Yep, I mean it.  Watch this super slo-mo video of her “Biles” move and disagree with me.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmRHT4LdyMk

Eric Clapton was once asked how does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world; he said, “I don’t know, you should ask Prince.” Skip to 3:30 if you just want to see Prince; of course, the late, great Tom Petty is an added bonus and a reminder to his greatness.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdfMh8QgJjA