Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Moving past "the why" in search of "the how"...

Much of what that was in the introduction and chapter 1 I have been sold on for a while, however, I have yet to see how to leverage the tenets proposed in a traditional public school system, i.e. not a charter, private, specialized, magnet, etc. etc., a regular, run of the mill public school.  That is what I am hoping to get closer to after reading this book.  I get the why...I am looking for the how.

After reading these the intro and chapter 1, my take away was that educators are strategists (probably the best on the planet).  Think about the charge...every year:  Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to-

  • Educate 10-150+ students
  • All have different needs and abilities
  • All have different interests
  • In 188 days
  • And, perform other duties as assigned…
  • Go!

Whoa!  Just typing that made me feel like putting on a cape and shooting my fist in the air!  Well, returning to reality now, it seems that Ritchhart is positing is that we should be strategizing for learning not managing time (which appears to be a default). Personally, I have no problem with starring time in the the face and saying, “you will never rule here in this classroom”.  I suspect this is a by-product of my experience from working for the postal service before becoming a teacher...the clock rules there in theory (it is kind of like the boogie man).  However, after 11 years in education (plus the 21 years as a student), I completely understand why this is not common, and I empathize beyond measure with my colleagues.

This first section also made me think of the accountability vs. responsibility paradigm hinted at in the book the Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley.  Will elaborate on this in a different blog post.

And, well, I am still looking for "the how".  How do we leverage a culture of thinking and sharing for adults?  At the moment, I think that is the key...creating culture of thinking for students would be a consequence of the aforementioned in the same way the “learning is a consequence of thinking” p.101. Or not...there are still several chapters read and think about.


  1. The how... There do seem to be lots of road blocks and time is a biggie. I was having a conversation yesterday with a colleague and realized how technology has complicated the life of a teacher in our system and sucked away so much valuable time. Looking at all of the administrative tasks teachers are required to do these days in a plethora of different softwares with different logins-from finding curriculum, planning, differentiating, interventioning, assessing, and so on. And all of this is in addition to the real work in the classroom with kids (where delivery has changed little). How is all of the digital documentation teachers do helping kids?

    Which got me thinking to my sons and their jobs. I am thinking that technology has made their jobs easier. Nicholas must use Excel to generate models and create reports that would have taken a lot longer or not even been possible. Christopher must use softwares to track projects, communicate with others in various locations - all which improve efficiency and provide opportunities like never before.

    Would a learning management system really help? That is my hope.

    OK, back to the how... How might we "blow up" the segmented school day into more meaningful chunks? It seems to me that would make a great impact. Thinking we need to let go of what we all know...

  2. LEADERSHIP! You have to have leaders who believe in creating and cultivating a culture of thinking. There is no way to reach the masses unless you have an army. The leaders within the system must value and understand the importance of what learning looks like now. They have to support teachers in growing. The "collective thinking" can't just exist among the teachers. The district, community and administration must take part. These need to be actions, and not just words listed on a school web page.

  3. I agree completely Amanda. Since I'm just coming down off of the Model Schools Conference high, I'll be referencing it a bunch, but that was one of my biggest take aways--that all of the model schools there were launched into being by an administrator with a plan. Teachers can push and pull and cajole all day long, but if change doesn't come from the top it doesn't come at all.

    Shelby, how can you do this in your classroom? You already are. I know that it is frustrating to be one of many (mostly) disconnected islands in a school, but you are fighting the good fight. So many of the teachers on my campus that are making thinking visible go through a funk about a month before the STAAR test because they start to feel that pressure for their students to make the grade. I always tell them that their kids will be fine (and they always are) and that they will actually be better than fine, because unlike their peers in traditionalist classrooms, they have actually had a chance to use their brains all year. Regurgitating memorized information for a test isn't proof of thinking or learning, but being able to think and thereby learn, in a novel situation, that is the priceless gift those teachers are giving their students.