While exploring the pattern of the hero’s journey in literature, my juniors partake in their own learning journey through literacy and life. To experience the structure of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, I organize my World Literature and Composition course according to four major stages of the hero’s journey.
- Separation from the Ordinary World
- Initiation: The Trials and Challenges of Heroism
- Transformation: An Inward Journey
- The Return
After they accept the call to adventure, juniors cross the threshold into an unknown world of trials and challenges during quarter two. As we study the adventures of heroes through selected epics, I am responsible for guiding student progress and training for greater tests of skill.
My young heroes have to build strength, endurance, and stamina to perform admirably. They need to become critical thinkers, careful readers, and confident writers. But without the assistance of divine intervention or supernatural aid, I simply want to give my students the advantage of understanding their human flaws and feeling secure in their abilities. A seemingly daunting ACT/SAT exam is nothing more than a one-day opportunity to allow for easier passage to the next stage of their journey (and can be retaken). It is not a predictor of future success or self-worth.
This year, learners are attacking their training and preparation for battle. So what’s making the difference? My courageous juniors are not only exercising their minds; they are expressing their voices. Continue reading
For two decades, I have enjoyed the honor of coaching varsity baseball and teaching high school communication arts courses. As I continue to grow in both roles, I recognize the influence coaching and teaching have had on each other in shaping my craft. Although I provide instruction in both positions, I prefer that students consider me their coach—a lead learner who wears the same uniform and is committed to a common purpose—dedicated to create opportunities, plan practice, support, adjust, guide, and root for every learner’s success. I want my learners to play with the content. Challenge their abilities. Learn to persist. Create meaningful outcomes. Celebrate victories. Enjoy a rewarding experience.
Great teachers possess characteristics of the most effective coaches. They are selfless, compassionate, and dedicated to help learners grow. Unlike most jobs, coaching and teaching become a lifestyle with a special responsibility and commitment to serve others. The distinguishing quality of a coach is through the actions taken to educate—the impact and connotation of its verb form: “to coach.”
Effective coaches combine their passion for the game with a keen sense of knowing their personnel: they learn the strengths and struggles of individuals; they understand how to motivate each player; they make sure everyone understands their role in the team’s success; they design a plan to give individuals paths for improvement and provide the team with its greatest opportunity for success. Coaches offer advice or make suggestions for improvement, then provide (even prioritize) the time for practice—a period of adjustment, reinforcement, support, and celebration. Players need time to learn, to increase mental confidence and work through mechanical flaws. They must experience failure, be challenged beyond personal expectations, and feel success in their growth process. How would a similar approach impact our students in the classroom? Continue reading
Professional development topics: Integrating Technology in the Classroom, 1 to 1, Apps for iPads, GAFE, Blended Learning, 21st Century Education…
We are familiar with the endless list, which seems to change every time we get comfortable with a product. These sessions produce mixed reactions and establish varying levels of expertise. Some cringe at the very sound of professional development, particularly when the the topic of edtech will force them beyond their comfort zone.
Of course, there are the tech wizards and ninjas in our midst. They have the innate ability to channel the force of wi-fi and induce magic with their fingertips. They possess a new level of cool.
There are the tech-curious, willing to experiment with anything new if it looks as if it will engage learners or enhance their teaching. From there, they might rely on several favorites. I fall into this category. Of this group, some have a solid understanding of the basics and find practical means of tech integration. Others jump at anything shiny but end up with a limited understanding. Regardless of attitude and expertise, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the limitless options.
We know it’s not the tools; it’s how we use them to make our teaching more effective. With that understanding, I like to see what’s available, but invest my energy into a select few to maximize what I do and keep life simple.
My most important professional development resource is Twitter. Twitter allows me to network with other like-minded educators, willing to share resources, experiences, and questions. The learning is constant. I have the freedom to invest as much as I choose; it is a wonderland of information and everyone’s invited to the party. To maximize learning, I rely on TweetDeck–actually, I can’t survive without it. The simple Chrome app allows me to organize my quest for knowledge in columns by hashtags and focused lists. TweetDeck is a must for participants of Twitter chats.
From there, I share my learning with colleagues and students. Within the classroom, I focus on the Google Apps for Education. I appreciate the numerous alternatives, but I have committed to really invest in the Google Apps (which I write about frequently). I have been to a Google Summit and led staff development sessions. Our school’s shift to GAFE technology is making a great impact on education in our district. It is crazy to consider the power and possibilities of the Cloud.
Other tech favorites include: WordPress, home of this blog; NoRedInk, for simple, student-friendly grammar practice; and FreeRice.com, to aid learning (of numerous subjects/categories) while providing aid to support the World Food Programme–a genius concept. Try it if you have not. Adding ten grains of rice for every correct answer is addictive.
The rest of what I do with technology depends on my students. I invite them to introduce their favorite apps and resources whenever possible. Students should be leading us further into their digital world, to maximize the potential of a global classroom.