Friday, August 08, 2008

End of the week

Today marks the end of our week long MNHS class devoted to "American 1870-1912: The Gilded and the Gritty." Sadly, it will be the last session, after four years (I think) with our scholars, Loeil and Eric. Both have been excellent scholars and very entertaining.

As I believe I wrote in another entry, this type of professional development should be mandatory for all teachers. I think too often we, as teachers, forget what it is like to be students and to grapple with readings and ideas. And that is just what we have done every summer as part of this class.

This morning I was listening to a podcast with Deborah Meier who lamented how little schools really do with their teachers over the summer. She said quite matter of faculty that we don't organize summer camps so stupidly as we do our summer teacher training. The camp counselors don't show up a week before the campers do. They arrive a month early. What benefits would that have on education, if teachers arrived a month early and were allowed time to talk shop with one another and attend professional development seminars and read scholar journals and do research and encounter renewal activities.

Yet, that never happens.

Of course, just because schools are not organized that way, it doesn't mean teachers can't do those things on their own time. It is one reason I spend way too much money on professional texts and listen to the education podcasts and keep this blog and soak up every minute I can with valued teachers. It is also what makes this class so rewarding.

As we were about to break for lunch, Loeil gave me a compliment.

He leaned over and said, "Reynolds. You know I've quite enjoyed your curious mind. It's all too rare to find that today, but it's absolutely necessary in education. It's that intellectual curiosity that is so important. I've enjoyed that and am glad you model that in your classes."

I about fell out of my chair. I have had some excellent teachers and colleagues -- Christianson, Drake, Christensen, Michael, Semanko, Weaver, Schnabel, and Hauser who have greatly impacted my career and Loeil is right up there. I only got to really teach with Loeil for one year, although I got to know him during student-teaching. But I have always been impressed with his curious nature and tried to model myself after him.

Then I mentioned to him how last year during an inservice day, we sat down with administration to discuss some professional articles. Jan, one of my colleagues, was placed in a group with one of our administrators while I was placed with one of our counselors. We had a good discussion of the article. When I asked Jan how their discussion went she replied that they discussed the article for a few minutes and then began talking about Sioux athletics.

Loeil just shook his head. So much for intellectual curiosity.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to two gentlemen who will be observing and monitoring us as we move on to the next phase of the class.

I am really looking forward to this.

One of the men is working on software that allows teachers to see - in the form of charts and graphs - not only what their students are learning in terms of the standards but also see if teachers are spending too much time on memorizing facts or deep thinking skills.

It is quite remarkable. I usually grimace at the mention of testing, but to see the information up on the wall in with the skills color coded and the depth on knowledge charted, it was quite fascinating.

Plus, the other man is a retired teacher who works with student teachers and other social studies department helping them develop and align their curriculum. He offered some very good suggestions. Though they were not earth-shattering, they were good reminders of what we should keep in mind when starting over each year.

I am already fired up for our next session this fall. Though whoever fills in for our scholars next will have some incredibly large shoes to fill.

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