How Hard Should School Be?

As a challenge to myself in 2016, I decided to blog three times a week about some news article or post or research article I have read.  Further I am challenging myself to come up with solutions to problems presented or reflect on how my day-to-day teaching will change in response to what I have gleaned from my copious reading.

One morning shortly before sitting down to write this blog, I downloaded the Feedly app on my Kindle, hoping that my Education Week  and favorite blogs, such as Diane Ravitch’s, will appear.  I have to be honest, however, that I had no clue how to get this to work well.  It appeared to be blocked at school, probably because I rely on my social media to log me in and out.  In any case, there I sat at 5:45 p.m., well after people have gone home, committed to writing my first 2016 blog, inspired by one such blog posted by Diane Ravith (How Hard Should School Be?).  I thought this blog would be a response to the implication of districts lowering their standards to boost their graduation rates.  It seemed appropriate because I was prepping 7th graders to take the SAT in the coming weeks.

Fast forward.  It is now approximately 2 weeks later, and I have yet to do more than continue voraciously reading and reflecting on educational news (via blogs).  My disappointment that Education Week accepted money from Gates, as well as lack of time to write, were not at detrimental to my reflection; merely I have little time for writing.  I had ah-ha and oh-well moments in and out of my classroom these past few weeks, even with the current Common Core and positive mindset pedagogy everywhere.  Not only that, but I can’t throw a stick for all the Pearson and Curriculum Associates ads on my teacher Twitter account.   I wonder at the proflicacy of these educational bloggers.  For me, it is like going to the mall (which is why I don’t), and I want more of everything.

Today (a Sunday), I sit luxuriously abed, nursing the remains of a cold, having completed my lesson plans, hunted down a formative assessment for our grade level which is due to be given, graded, and recorded this week, procrastination my studies (for 2 FCTE’s to credential me further).  I’ve read several poems, signed a petition for Detroit schools, drank three cups of coffee, watched videos on bats, read a news story on zebras, and caught up on all the blogs.  I learn a lot and it seems easy this way–comfortable, unharried and unharrassed, taking a moment or two to pet the cats, get more coffee, email myself a reminder to change something in my lesson plans, etc.

One of the blogs I caught up on was from Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box on Identity Day.  Considering how much I absorb when I am relaxed enough, have time enough, have no real boundaries or limitations to what I read or investigate further, I have decided to include Identity Day as my next inquiry project during Focus time at school (a nongraded enrichment time).

I do this in answer to the testing problem at our school, in our district, and in our country.  First, it is hard to do a “research” or an inquiry project, which may require research, in my classroom.  In my regular classroom, which meets class size, I have 3 computers.  In my Focus classroom, I have up to 27.  I have students working in big groups at times.    Many of my students can do research at home, but the computer lab and library have been unavailable for weeks due to testing, and not all students have access to wifi.  Identity Day will be a meaningful and authentic learning task and doesn’t need, necessarily, a computer.  Students will take risks in our Focus group because there are no grades.  Although we do have time constraints (3 days of about 45 minutes), the project is do-able, and best yet, we all get to share a little bit about ourselves.


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