Saturday Morning Musings 2/2/2013


Groundhog’s Day.  Officially, according to the famous Pennsylvania rodent, spring will be early this year!  Maybe we can get through another school year with no snow days?




I have decided to revive using a hashtag on Twitter to cultivate information and articles that I think deserve consideration by staff and the school community.  For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter and hashtags, no worry, I plan to publish a link to the cultivated content on this blog as well as our school Facebook page.  I spend up to three to four hours a week reading education based articles and blogs shared on Twitter by colleagues across the nation (actually the world).  Reading the thoughts and ideas of others about education and related issues keeps me informed about trends and key developments in our quest to make our school the best it can be for our students.

A couple of articles from the #phsread stream that have me thinking:  (link to blogpost) “On Task” is not a waypoint on the route to engagement. By Gerald W. Aungst.   My thoughts after reading:

Engagement, as a condition that exists in the classroom, is not always easily defined.  To steal a quote from Justice Potter Stewart: “I know it when I see it.” There is a certain energy in a classroom of engaged students.  There is movement, chatter, discussion, disagreement, and no one person is the center of attention.  We can say all we want about student centered learning, but until we realize that students want to be in charge of their own learning, we are going to have a hard time engaging them.  Do not get me wrong, we have to guide, persuade, sell, and curate their direction, but learners want to be actively involved in the lesson.  So many times I walk down the halls at PHS and notice the varied degrees of active student learning.  When students are not passively listening or completing deskwork, they are much more involved….engaged.  I can watch the same student in various classes and see the difference an active classroom has.  The engaged class is not waiting for the bell to ring, they are disappointed that it does.  The challenge for teachers is to make the content available in an active exercise.  In an engaging classroom students interact with information, resources, each other, and perhaps the world at large instead of being dependent on a text or the teacher for their learning.


After reading a little bit more on the subject of engagement, I came across this post on NPR’s Mind/Shift Blog:  7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning  By Katrina Schwartz.  My thoughts after reading:

This is an account of a study that endeavors to identify those classroom qualities that create student engagement. It is easy to talk about engagement and quality learning environments without really saying much of anything.  Schwart’s post was helpful because it used some research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a book they published about innovative learning environments,  The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. Their top indicators of innovative and engaging learning environments:

1.Learners have to be at the center of what happens in the classroom with activities focused on their cognition and growth.

2. Learning is a social practice and can’t happen alone.

3. Emotions are an integral part of learning.

4. Learners are different and innovative learning environments reflect the various experiences and prior knowledge that each student brings to class.

5. Students need to be stretched, but not too much.

6. Assessment should be for learning, not of learning.

7. Learning needs to be connected across disciplines and reach out into the real world.

I really want to encourage staff to get out and watch other classrooms during your preparation time.  It does not have to be often.  We have some teachers who are really doing a great job of finding ways of doing these exact things in their classrooms and it is very  obvious that students are engaged therein!

17082816997Book Study Teaching With Poverty In Mind by Eric Jensen


I missed both discussions this week (Tuesday at noon and Thursday after school)but I was very encouraged by this email from the book study leader Nathan Ogle:

We had a great conversation yesterday. We spent a lot of time talking about the concept of students losing ground over summer vacation. We spent some time discussing the challenges of moving to a balanced schedule. Then, having decided that at least for now that isn’t a realistic solution, we came up with the idea of a summer enrichment program. The study being cited said that the problem with summer break is when that time is not “academically oriented”. So many of our at risk students aren’t spending their summer breaks going to the library, museums, the zoo, or anything else that would help their minds stay focused on learning. We all got pretty excited about the idea of having a summer program designed to give that experience. We envisioned a program that contained a book club and a few field trips. It wouldn’t be prescribed like summer school, but would be open to any student who is interested. For those on free and reduced lunch, we could maybe get community support to not only help fund the program, but also to waive any fees for those students. For those who are able to pay their own way, we could come up with a fee similar to that of summer school. We could even make it more appealing by awarding some elective credit for satisfactory participation.

Our challenge will be how to fund it, but we have to try find a way!

If you have read this far….thank you! (Mom) Until next week, let’s continue to make a difference in every student’s life.


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