Reality check re: time

We have 52 teaching days left this year before the evaluation period. And that includes the 2 weeks my grade 11s will spend away from school on stage.

Holy crapola.

52 days to accomplish the world!

Luckily spring seems to have come early this year. I just witnessed a MOSQUITO flying up the wall in my living room! In March. In Eastern Ontario. Maybe the warm weather will make the balance of the year seem to go on forever. I feel I have so much work to do with my kids, as if we are just beginning. Some of them have achieved so much this year.

They amaze me every day,

Why do the very best teachers ignore/subvert curriculum?

Yesterday I posted a tweet. Today I’m going to comment on it. Sometimes it takes me a while to process my thoughts.

The very best teachers spend every day of their lives ignoring or subverting the curriculum

Now, why is this? Why would people, including myself, think that the best teachers are the ones who ignore what many consider to be the main ‘stuff’ of teaching? My memories of my BEd program are filled with courses on curriculum. Maybe one on Quebec education law. One on learning disabilities. But the rest were courses on curriculum. How to create lesson plans based on curriculum, how to manage your time to make sure the curriculum gets covered – that sort of thing.

Curriculum can not be the main stuff of teaching. It can’t. Do you hear me? It. Can’t.

The main stuff of my job. Wait. I’m getting sick of using the word stuff. Let me be more specific. The main point, the essence, the reason for my teaching is the students I teach. I wouldn’t say I ignore curriculum. I know it’s there. And I use it as a starting point, at the beginning of the year when I don’t really know my students yet. And throughout the year as a background for our work together. But really, I do my best to fit what my students get excited about, what they ask to learn, into the curricular competencies. When it doesn’t work, well, students trump curriculum each time. Luckily I work in Quebec, which has a very student-centered education program with a multitude of competencies in many different areas. It makes it easier to subvert. Really. It also makes it easier to ignore at times. There is just too much to cover that we can focus on what is essential to student learning. As decided by us (our last PED day was around determining the essential features of the courses we teach).

You know what? I think that by staying 100% true to curriculum we are actually ignoring our students.So subvert, ignore that which is on paper. But never those who are in front of you.

What motivates us to do good?

This was what I posted on the blog for my Contemporary World Issues class today. I decided to share it here, too. Have you been thinking of essential questions to do with our reaction to the devastation in Haiti? Have you been talking about this with your students?

I have been addicted to the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. I spent much of the weekend reading news updates, blog updates, facebook group statuses, and listening to radio shows about how the world is reacting to what is happening in Haiti.

Countries, organizations, and individuals around the world are reaching out, to help in any way. A question that comes to mind for me is…

What motivates us to do good in the face of tragedy?

Some of the documents that triggered this question for me were the following:

A family’s wait for news from Haiti – I heard about this story in an interview on CBC this morning. I asked myself what motivated the journalist to help? Does it matter?

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Donate $1 Million to Doctors Without Borders – Angelina Jolie said, “It is incredibly horrible to see a catastrophe of this size hit a people who have been suffering from extreme poverty, violence and unrest for so many decades,” If that is the case, why did it have to take an earthquake to inspire the donation?

B.C. students in Haiti arrive in Canada – Are Canadians helping Canadians in Haiti first? Is that why the Canadian government is sending help?

Wyclef Jean and Yele Haiti – The website of Wyclef Jean’s Haiti Relief organization.

Here is a video of Wyclef Jean defending himself and his organization in the face of accusations of misconduct. I found it via this page at npr.

Here are some other resources:

Disaster in Haiti – CBC full coverage

Haiti Earthquake 2010 – New York Times coverage

Satellite images help focus Haiti earthquake relief

Haiti Earthquake – Day 5: Reporting with a camera

What do you think?

For those who are interested, this is what I’ve asked my students to do. It was a last minute, put together kind of assignment. I’ve put our current work in Contemporary World Issues on hold so as to focus on the events unfolding around the world in response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Start alone – Write a quick comment to our class blog with your gut reaction to the question, What motivates us to do good in the face of tragedy?

Branch out – Explore the question in your research groups. Start with these documents and then find your own. Your group will need to:

Document your resources – this means include links to any and all articles/images/video/audio etc… that you use in your research.

Your group needs to come up with a new question that springs from the research you do about this question. Sound complicated? Don’t worry you’ll figure it out :)

Present your research and your new question in an innovative way. Some ideas are:

webpageshortText is easy to use though less flexible than something like a wiki, which is easier for all group members to access. PBWorks is free for educational use and super easy to get started.

Video – you can decide how to present your ideas via video. If you choose this option you must include your resource list separately.

If you have another idea, clear it with me but please note that I will not allow PowerPoint for these research projects. Time to think outside the PowerPoint box!

Do you add students as facebook friends?

I do.
I know teachers who absolutely refuse to as well. Where do you stand?

At the beginning of the year I tried different online techniques to give out information (homework, resources, etc…) and found more and more that students weren’t using the software or the applications. My facebook status updates usually looked like, “don’t forget to check the class site for homework”. Eventually I just put the homework reminder directly in the status update instead of sending them elsewhere.

I am happy that my students are comfortable enough with me to let me into their facebook worlds. I see their updates, photos, and videos and am able to celebrate or give a hug when needed.

I am the staff rep for our school’s lacrosse team and created a group for them where we talk about our practices and games and share pictures.

In the huddle, right before the winning goal was scored.

In the huddle, right before the winning goal was scored.

I absolutely love when I see status updates like

my house 8:00 to work on project or who is down for math group tomorrow?

I also love when students post links or videos to my wall as suggestions for classroom resources. Even especially when they ask questions about homework they are having trouble with.

At times, it is a convenient way for students to contact me about issues they are having, either with school work or socially.

At the beginning of the year I had my students on a limited profile list of some sort but I soon changed that as I realized that there was nothing that I posted on facebook that I needed to hide from them or anyone else.

So, where do you stand on maintaining a relationship with students outside of the classroom via facebook (or twitter or plurk or anything else)?

Lessons from fake blogs

I want to reassure those of you who read this blog that it is all real. Moreover, I am a real person – Tracy, a dog owning, just bought a house, reflective, love my job as a teacher, can’t wait to get to the country, goofy grin and all, real person.


Just thought I’d reassure you about that since we can never be too sure about who or what we are reading. Heck, you can friend me on facebook if you need more proof. Oh. Wait. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything either…

Montreal launched a new self-serve bicycle service (for a fee) on May the 12th – BIXI. It’s said (by the mayor) to be unique in the world and everyone is very excited about BIXI. Including three authors of a grassroots biking blog called A Vélo Citoyens (To your bikes, citizens) who loved the idea so much they wrote about it everyday, they spread the word to all their friends on facebook. They filmed video of the soon to be released BIXI bikes. These were citizens with a cause!

However they weren’t citizens at all. They were characters in a marketing scheme. They don’t exist. Bet all those new facebook friends feel kinda used.

I searched for the blog this morning but it seems to have been replaced with one that is obviously a marketing tool. What I did find was at least one blog (Cycle Fun Montreal) with an author who felt angered enough to complain about the legalities of using the blogging community as a marketing tool in such a fallacious manner – ok, what’s with the fancy words so early in the morning? – who felt we were lied to and from within a normally trusting community to boot!

(The original newspaper article that exposed the marketing campaign was BIXI, Blog, et Bullshit by Patrick Lagacé of La Presse, but you can read an English translation in the comments if you click on the Cycle Fun Montreal link above)

So. Why am I writing about this? The point here is that everyone (I’m assuming) who read that blog thought it was the real deal. They thought the authors were real people. Enough so to befriend them on facebook (one of the authors had over 800 of them, according to an interview on CBC). Luckily they ended up only being duped by an advertising firm and the City of Montreal (I’ll leave that can of worms closed …). People say that they only friend people (facebook verb) they know, so what constitutes knowing people?

I teach my students about their online presence. My students are about to leave high school (or so we hope ;) ) . They are entering CEGEP or the job market and need to rethink things like that cutiehotty hotmail address and those partying pics they have on facebook. They also need to take care of who they talk to and who has access to their info online. We all do, but they in particular – teenagers are targets, they don’t have as much life experience and the world knows it.

Yesterday MissTeacha asked me what my classroom looks like, in particular economics. Here is an idea of how I am going to teach about advertising when they return from their 2-week stages (woohoo – they get 2 weeks of work study, which they love, and we get 2 weeks to gain strength before the last few weeks of school, which we need) next Wednesday. It’d be great if that blog were still up, but since it’s not I may recreate one like it to present to them, or I may just share the story of BIXI, show some videos (BIXI marketing videos and those that are but maybe don’t look like marketing videos). We’d have a conversation, either full-class or in smaller groups, about advertising – it’s purpose, deceptive qualities, how it plays with our emotions – I’d then have them explore this post at Fagstein’s blog “Why do Marketing Companies Hate Themselves?” along with it’s accompanying links with various reactions to the BIXI marketing campaign. Then we might debate – good, solid campaign vs. dirty, rotten scheme or is it better to market by any means necessary or to be truthful at all times, something like that. Eventually down the road (though our school year is almost over so we don’t have much time…) I’d love for them to create their own sneaky marketing campaigns.

The idea is, they search for their own meaning. I don’t need to ‘teach’ them anything much beyond how to locate information and different strategies for organizing and thinking about the information they find. They are engaged – talking, researching, talking some more, acting (debating is like acting), creating… you get my drift. If they are engaged in doing they are learning.

So it’d look something like that.