On unlearning or the summer slide.

I am listening to CBC while waiting for Jack to finish his smoothie and get out of his bath (multitasking). Listening specifically to an interview about the dangers of unlearning over the summer.

(I can’t find a CBC reference but here is a CTV article that mentions the same person being interviewed: Is the Summer Slide Real? Why children fall behind and how to stop it.)

Unlearning doesn’t exist. You don’t unlearn. You forget. And this phenomenon is a symptom of memorization and rote learning.

When learning masquerades as spelling bees, weekly math drills, and memorizing how to differentiate verbs from nouns then yes, it will be forgotten.

And yet, this interviewee is saying that, because children – especially in low socioeconomic brackets – don’t read with their parents over the summer, they are ‘unlearning’ and ruining the gains they had made in the previous school year.

I am amazed at how people are trying to shift the issue from instructional practice to children and families.

Yes. Reading is the key to learning. But it is only a key. And it is a huge gift.

Using that gift to memorize for spelling bees and math and science facts is not inspiring. It is not, dare I say, learning.

Our job is to inspire learning through empathy, reading, written expression, conversation, creativity, problem solving, and a sincere respect of children and their stories.

How dare you blame children and their families for schooling that doesn’t inspire learning and call it unlearning as if that is a thing.

Motivation, feedback, tech, and me.

The ‘and me’ is key. This is in reference to me as a teacher and therefore a creator of learning situations.

How do I use myself as a motivating instigator with those I teach?


Made lovingly with the GIMP and SweetClipArt

How do I provide effective feedback to those I teach?

How do I recognize the feedback I receive from those I teach, from my colleagues, from other professionals?

How do I mobilize technology when I teach, motivate, and provide or receive feedback?

These are all big questions but this is not a blog post about providing pat answers to those questions. They are ongoing questions and the answers may should change as I work with different (groups of) learners.

Essentially, I need to create situations where these questions are present, in the foreground. Situations where these questions create a framework for learning.

This week, I am examining the creation of Personalized Systems of Instruction (PSI) and specifically how Wix, Weebly, CamStudio, MERLOT, and Hot Potatoes could facilitate learning situations based on PSI (see here how PSI is used by Rocco Iafigliola in a Quebec CollegePhysics classroom).

Those questions will remain at the front line while I test out each of those resources. In the meantime, I have sent out a tweet for user experience…


source: Tweeted on Jan. 13.
Click here to view tweet + responses.

…to be continued :)

On Motivation. On Learning. In Ourselves.

Last night, at 10:39, I found out about the midnight deadline for applying to the Google Teacher Academy taking place in New York this October. How was it that I only clued into the application process in the, practically literally, 11th hour? That may have a little something to do with this kind of thing:



I decided to apply.

A few years ago I wrote a post inspired by a line from Michael Wesch: it’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them.

Last year I wrote about how I motivate my students and manage my classroom without reward systems.

And I’m realizing that me in 2012 is not much different from the me when I started teaching 16 years ago. Nah, actually I am a lot different. I’m more focused, I have more knowledge when it comes to working with a diverse student group, more knowledge about pedagogy and curriculum and integrating technology but that focus and knowledge are steeped in the same locus of care that brought me into teaching in the first place.

So my application video is nothing fancy. Really. Nothing. Fancy. It’s 50 some odd seconds of me sitting on my bed looking like I am talking to someone off screen because I still haven’t mastered the iPad video feature (I tend to want to look at my eyes when I’m talking to a camera…) but it is honest and it reflects what I believe needs to be the starting point for anything to really happen in education: the recognition that motivation and learning come first from ourselves. The educators. Discover what motivates us as educators and stay true to that.

Turning motivation inside out

Thought it was about time to jot down some notes on a few things popping throughout my brain on the subject of education.

Motivation. Biggy. How is it that I can walk into one classroom, sit down, and say ‘write about the weather’ and the response is ‘Really? We love the weather! Oh wow, can we go outside to really see what it’s like out so we can add some realistic detail?’ and in another classroom I am racking (or is it wracking? In either case, lately my brain is raquée) my brain to get them to lift their chins off the desks to get writing? Reading, talking? I feel like a different teacher in each of those classes. Now that I reflect, I am more motivated to teach the first class because I know that the response will be positive. So maybe it isn’t so much about motivating them as it is about motivating myself. Because in that 2nd class I feel like THE. MOST. BORING. TEACHER. EVER. And so I probably am.

I’m thinking this is why I facebooked this quote from Michael. Here it is again for those of you who read it a few minutes ago in my status update:

“Here’s my plea to anyone of us arrogant enough to presume we have something to offer to the young. Try something new.

Try to master something you suck at but like to do anyway.

Now imagine trying to master something you suck at and don’t really care for.

Welcome to high school.”

There are some fundamental differences between the two classes:

So now that I have written all of this I’m going to try to stop worrying about how to motivate them and focus on motivating myself in that classroom. As we were talking about speech writing we looked at the different steps to writing a ‘good’ (don’t like that word, but this tired brain (after all of that wracking/racking) isn’t feeling too thesaurical) speech. And as I was droning on about how important it was to talk about something that interests you, that you know, that you are motivated about because otherwise the audience will sense that you don’t care about what you are telling them and will tune out I thought, Holy moly, I am NOT walking my talk right now. This needs to change.

By the way, I’m getting really annoyed with these spammy comments that pretend they are ME posting all over this site. I have changed my password a gajillion times and they STILL show up. So if you see a bunch of nonsense in the comments no, I did not write them, just haven’t gotten around to sending them to the depths of my trash yet.

Now that I got that out of my system…
Good night.

Making sense of teaching by starting with why

I haven’t read the book so this isn’t a review or commentary on the book but rather a reflection on the idea of starting with why, which just so happens to be the title of a book as well.

When people ask what do you do, you teach.
When people ask what do you teach, you teach elementary or high school, English or French, or Math, or History.

But it’s not often that I’m asked why I teach. Maybe if we went with the why more often we’d make more sense out of teaching.

Why do you teach?

To create mathematicians? Why?
To help kids raise their test scores? Why?
To get kids to write? Read? Why?
To get kids to sit in a row, quietly taking notes? Why?
To get kids to question? Why?
To learn about human relationship? Why?

Why do you teach? And when did you figure that out?