Remember the excitement of fifth grade? We had enough tools in our backpack to read and write, problem solve, ask big questions, and attack the world with vibrant eyes and independence. Every Friday, I rushed off the bus to search encyclopedias (remember those?), call my grandparents, and contact library reference desks to find the answer to Ms. Setzer’s weekly trivia question. She piqued my curiosity and inspired my thinking with an optional weekend challenge.
By Monday morning, I proudly placed an answer on Ms. Setzer’s desk. Nothing beat the feeling of conquering another quest, and the look of satisfaction in my teacher’s warm smile. During the week in Ms. Setzer’s class, I eagerly completed daily content lessons so I could sit in the oversized chair—the one by the fish tanks—on the stage in the back of the room. In that sacred space, I had time to read for pleasure, solve brain teasers, learn how to play chess, or work on a project.
The most memorable project extended well beyond the fifth grade curriculum. Our school was running a silent auction to fundraise for a charity. Each student was asked to reach out to family and friends for auction items. My buddy and I brainstormed ideas from the oversized chairs in the back of the classroom. What could two fifth grade boys possibly contribute to the cause? Continue reading
Every hour of the school day, a number of students hustle into my classroom, focused, and eager to get to work. Before the bell rings to indicate the start of my class, students are already invested in their studies. Backpacks are open, paperwork out, and pencils urgently filling in blanks. I don’t even have to provide motivation or verbal cues. My students are great kids. They seek approval from parents and teachers. They have positive intentions toward success and a sincere desire to please.
What’s my secret? Continue reading
Four years ago, the graduating class of 2012 selected me to deliver the commencement address as the faculty representative of Grafton High School. As we see another class of learners through their four years of high school, I pay tribute to students and educators, the survivors of Wisconsin’s proud, public schools, by sharing my speech with the world.
“Allegory of the Thumb”
Written and Presented by Brian Durst
Twenty-four hundred years ago, classical Greek philosopher Plato composed The Republic, an essay of Socratic dialogue examining education, justice, and the human condition. In one famous excerpt—“The Allegory of the Cave”—Plato challenges perception by showing how reality of the visible world is not always as it seems. He shares a story of deception, truth, intellect, and the potential of the human mind, particularly, if released from the shadows of our current existence. In similar fashion, but with far less sophistication, I have crafted an allegorical tale intended to educate as well as entertain. My purpose today is simple: to send you on your path to enlightenment by sharing some rules of thumb with an original piece entitled, “Allegory of the Thumb.”
I invite you to use your hand as a visual aid while you listen to the story… Continue reading
In 2015, I became a runner. Not a great runner, but a dedicated one. In the past, I have run to stay in shape or condition for other sports, but I never trained for competitive running. I learned about preparation, pace, nutrition, and training. I discovered how hard I can push my body and challenge my mind. The result was a healthier athlete (a term I use casually), completion of my first 15K run, and an expectation to increase my performance in the upcoming year.
That expectation not only refers to running, it drives all aspects of my personal and professional life. Now that I have motivation and direction for 2016, I will continue to “walk or run with long, decisive steps” at a “good or regular rate of progress” toward my aspirations.
I will STRIDE…
Thanksgiving receives plenty of attention for traditional feasts, shopping, and family time; but for teachers, Thanksgiving week means more than a couple days off of work. It represents the opportunity to reflect and reconnect with former students.
Yesterday, as if posted on the school calendar, a former student stopped by at the end of my prep period. He told me about his current studies and adventures as a college sophomore. We exchanged stories and shared laughs. These reunions are my reward–my holiday bonus.
But conversations with this graduate always go deeper than catching up on life and reminiscing about old times. He wants to know how systems work and asks questions about education that challenge my thinking. He has always been a genuine learner, urged by intellectual curiosity. And he possesses one of the most observant, insightful, brilliant minds I have ever had the pleasure to teach (even when he was a freshman). The limitations of a traditional high school structure were the only obstacles in his education at the time. He exhausted our school’s offerings of Advanced Placement courses and conquered all standardized tests with ease. As anticipated, he needed the independence of college to thrive and be challenged intellectually.
So why do we continue to lack vision of the possibilities and impede the potential of our learners?
When I first opened a Twitter account, I figured I would explore the links and resources–follow some educational experts and gather information digitally. Like many others, I gained the confidence to network in small doses. Then it became habit to check the feed and lurk on various hashtags and edchats. Before I knew it, I was a connected educator and a regular on several chats. Now, I follow more than 2500 educators; I am part of a professional learning network.
When I created a Twitter account, I needed a handle that represents my identity and integrity. Those who follow me on Twitter probably recognize my handle @RESP3CTtheGAME more than my name. Ironically, what began as my integrity has become the identity of my digital footprint. Tweeps know they have to accommodate a 15 character handle (I apologize; I had no idea anyone would interact with me. Seriously!). However, they may not know is what it means. Continue reading
After months of building community through activities and analysis of our individual learning styles, one thing is clear: I am a random thinker. I see the big picture, need to express creativity through original thought, resent limitations, do not appreciate hard deadlines, and rely on my wife to make many household decisions–but appreciate some structure in my day. I prefer real, open-ended problem solving to quench my curiosity, I always have multiple projects started, and I take risks in leading change (or starting Twitter chats like #slowchatGSD). My concrete randomness is painfully evident when I compete with myself, miss certain steps (helps to read all directions), or have to deal with perceived ignorance. I understand my learning style so I may be cognizant of the diverse learners in the classroom and improve my instruction of sequential learners. I often struggle to relate (or appeal) to the concrete sequentials, although they are possibly the easiest to teach.
And if I were concrete sequential, I would craft a simple numbered list of what I love most about school. But that’s not how my brain works… Continue reading