brian crosby's class talking to students across the world

Brian Crosby's students talk across the world

Like too many teachers in this country, what happens in my classroom is being affected and decided more and more by people and policies outside.

As a consequence, all the test preparation, test practice and other required programs can cut my students off from pieces of what I think of as the “new pedagogy”– blogging, project and problem based learning – not to mention the “non-tested” curriculum like social studies, science and more. (My school doesn’t allow a scheduled art or PE time, and my mandated schedule calls for 30 minutes per week of science AND/OR social studies.)

So when we were recently able to get back into blogging (beyond just writing an occasional post); re-energize our “Energizing Energy” science project; and refresh the wiki page and Google Docs collaboration we are involved in with a class 2500 miles away (yes, it takes more than 30 minutes per week, shhh), it reminded me why I have become committed to these new ways of teaching and learning.

My students jumped back in like they were re-connecting with an old friend. Even during a recent week, when we devoted half of each day to taking our state mandated tests (tests that my students, myself, our school and district will be evaluated by), we spent the rest of the day posting blogs and honing our commenting skills.

We commented on others’ posts and also responded to the comments left on our own blogs. We were starting, promoting and inciting conversations – the kind you would have in a friendly letter, but also to ask questions, clarify thinking, and argue what you believe to be true. It’s all higher order thinking – all difficult if done well – and appreciated by almost all my students.

It’s also real work, the kind that tends to make my room a purposeful and quiet place where students ask questions about what they don’t understand or can’t do (when too often, during lessons, they won’t). It’s full of teachable moments.

These are times when “assessment on the fly” happens and is sometimes immediately addressed by a lesson.

– Over here, I notice students that don’t get how to use quotation marks — so let’s have a quick lesson on what I’m seeing as I observe groups working. They get what they need right now, when it’s right in front of them, even if it’s not the language arts standard we’re supposed to be covering this week.

– Over there, a few students just don’t get the transforming energy thing, so let’s stop for a minute and review that in light of what they are doing right this minute. This is when it will be meaningful to them, help them, be a timely resource for them.

When things are humming along like that, it is a beautiful thing to watch and a great place to be. It is energizing for all of us. I wish in this current education environment we could be in that place more often.

We need to learn how to get our students there, and fight to keep them there.

It was a great reminder of why I’ve been a teacher for 30 years and plan to be for at least 10 more.

The best learning is messy!

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