Thursday, August 11, 2011

#collaboreyes Project

Yes, you heard correctly, the shades project lives on. Thanks to the generosity and collaboration of some great folks at Collaborize Classroom we will be introducing the #collaboreyes project formerly known as #googleshades. The goal of the project will remain the same in that we want to see the world through the eyes of the kids living in it. The shades or sunglasses will be our “prop” as well and we are working on finalizing what they will look like. As this appears to be a reality now, I have attempted to formalize the goal and outcomes of this project a bit more.

Goal: Connect kids around the world through the power of storytelling and images.

Task: Send one pair of #collaboreyes shades to a willing classroom. Teacher sends home shades with a student to take a picture in a significant or unique place. The picture should include not only the place but also the student wearing their #collaboreyes shades. Student returns with picture and writes a short paragraph about their location and why they chose it. Pictures and write-ups will then be uploaded to a website (site to be determined) that will house pictures and stories from around the world. For some examples please check out the original blog started for the #googleshades project. 

Outcome: A collection of stories and pictures from around the world with insight and perspective far beyond the reaches of a textbook. It will essentially be a network of connected classrooms and kids collaborating to learn more about themselves and each other.

If you would like to get on our already growing list of classrooms interested in participating in this global collaboration project please fill out the PARTICIPATION FORM. If you had already filled in the form for the Google Shades project that data was transferred over so you need not fill it out again. We will tweet, email, and blog about our progress as we…well progress. If you have any questions drop us an email at collaboreyes@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'm Ready


The walls of my classroom are bare and my lesson plans are empty…yup, I am ready for school to start.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am just a few days away from student’s first day and the walls in my classroom are completely bare. The only thing you will see is a draped green screen and a few posters indicating which way to sprint and scream in case of fires or inclement weather. I watch my colleagues frantically putting up posters and bulletin boards while I spend time sucking the final drops out of the fruit of summer. Why do I choose to leave me classroom bare? Am I really that lazy? While that might be a perfectly reasonable explanation, that is not the whole story. The room in which I teach is not my room. Sure, my name is on the door and nobody else teaches in it during the day. However, I don’t think of it as my room. It belongs to my students. It is their room and their space. As a result of this, I believe it is their right to decorate and create the learning space that suits them. I don’t have a seating chart. How can I when I don’t know the kids yet? I don’t put posters up on the walls. How can I when I haven’t met the kids and determined their interests and needs? I have not filled in the bulletin board. How can I when I haven’t asked the kids what they want to look at every day? Yes, my room will fill in and be a place of comfort and learning but it will not happen until the owners of the room create it. You will see student work, pictures, posters, and all sorts of evidence of the true owners of the room.

In addition to my walls, the pages in my lesson planner also lay bare. Sure, I have a few ice breaker activities for the first few days penciled in, but nothing beyond that. Again, how can I put plans together before I have met the kids they will impact? Is it possible some lessons from last year will work again with my new group? Yes, but I will not assume what worked last year will work again. I work with plenty of people that just roll over their plans from year to year. To this day, I cannot fathom how a teacher can do this. If your students change, shouldn’t your approach to teaching them? As a result, my lesson plan book will lay bare until I get to know the kids in my class and see how we will achieve our learning goals. The learning journey in my class will again be driven by the kids on the journey. As a teacher I know the targets we need to hit and the standards we need to master, but the decisions of how to accomplish these will not be in my hands.

I urge you to clean out your lesson plan book and clean your walls. Let the kids in your classrooms create their own learning space as well as direct their own learning journey. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

No Office Day


Recently, I came across this tweet in the land of tweets:


Apparently, there are a handful of administrators that are trying to organize a massive “No Office Day” in September. Now, I first read about this issue of no office days in a great post by Lyn Hilt. While she did not use the term no office day, it is certainly what she was doing. In her post she describes a day in which she spent her day in classrooms with a particular grade level. Having talked with Lyn since this post in December, I know this is something she has done more than once. A few others like David Truss and Dwight Carter have also written about their no office day experiences. However, Lyn's experiences strike me the most in the way she didn't just observe but actually took an active role in the learning and teaching in her building. 

Back to this idea of an organized no office day where administrators can “sign up”. Many folks may see this as a great initiative and we need to get a ton of administrators to sign up. However, I don’t really think this is something I would necessarily support. Now before, I go any further, I will admit that I am not an administrator and my viewpoint will surely be biased as a result. With that being said, here is why I have a tough time supporting this organized no office day.

First, isn’t this something administrators should be doing anyways? Shouldn’t they be in classes every chance they get and not sitting in their offices? If an administrator has to sign up for one day to step out of the office, there are more than likely bigger issues at play. Should we organize a “Good Teaching Day” for teachers who want to commit a day to being a good teacher? The thought is rather ridiculous and yet asking an administrator to sign up to be in classrooms with kids and teachers is just as bad. By signing up for the no office day, does that give administrators the green light to stay in their offices the other 179 days in the school year? I hope not.

The other problem I have with this organized no office day is the fact that on some level it is needed. While this might seem hypocritical in light of my first reason, it is true. Administrators are often over burdened with meetings, trainings, and meetings. They are pulled out of their building for a whole host of obligations that are aimed at making them better principals. However, it has been my experience with the administrators that I have worked with that these meetings do quite the opposite. They are often a waste of time with no direct connection to student learning and just pull them away from the students and staff they are supposed to be supporting. I blame central offices and district administrative centers for pulling administrators out of buildings and away from the real work they need to be doing.

Administrators are often the gate keepers to policies, budgets, scheduling, and many of the decision making that ultimately impacts students. It only makes sense that they spend as much time with the people their decisions affect as possible. Please do not feel the need for a formal no office day as an excuse to leave the office and spend time with the very kids and teachers they are meant to support. Spend time out of your office and in classrooms because it is the right thing to do.

Yes, the notion of a no office day is a fantastic one that I would encourage all administrators to do. However, don’t sign up and commit yourself to a day. Commit yourself every day. Ask your secretary to put an hour a day on your schedule to be in classrooms. Don’t just walk through either. Teach a lesson. Work with students on a project. Get your hands dirty. Do whatever you can do to be in classrooms supporting the work your students and teachers are doing every day.