Friday, January 27, 2012

Hitting Publish (Once a Week)

For someone who spends massive amounts of energy working on and advocating for student blogging, I rarely blog myself these days. There are, of course, many reasons for that, but it is something that must be remedied. As part of our faculty's "accountability initiative" I have set for myself the goal to write and publish at least one blog post each week.

Normally, it takes me quite a while to organize my thoughts enough to hit publish. Many posts sit in draft, many more stay in my mind. So I am going to do what I ask the students to do, and that is just write. I'm starting out with low expectations- once a week, sit down at the computer, write, publish. Get it out there, let it go and move on. I'm using the Seth Godin/Karl Fisch model "Just write poorly. In public. Every Day" (except my writing is hopefully not that poor...and once a week is the best I can do right now.)

Godin's premise:

No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down. 
Why then, is writer's block endemic? 
The reason we don't get talker's block is that we're in the habit of talking without a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied. 
We talk poorly and then, eventually (or sometimes), we talk smart. We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn't, and if we're insightful, do more of what works. How can one get talker's block after all this practice?
I've been sharing this post with everyone- teachers, parents, anyone who will listen. It speaks to my core beliefs about learning. And writing. And teaching. 
We learn through practice. In musing about the practice of yoga (and relating it to other learning situations) I wrote this:
In school classrooms, we break the learning into parts. Instead of practicing reading and practicing writing, we try to break reading and writing into pieces and parts, skills and standards. I wonder why we don’t just practice what we want to learn in its entirety by showing up and doing it- just reading and writing every day.
I believe that in order to teach something well, one must actively practice that thing. I have been testing the waters of that idea and have had some interesting discussions on Twitter and elsewhere about the truth or falseness of that assertion. 
Is it possible to coach a sport you used to play and of which you have intimate firsthand knowledge but no longer do yourself? Is it possible to teach something you learned way back in school but no longer engage in as a learner? 
Tough questions with lots of nuance. I believe that the best teachers will be in some way engaged with the process of what they teach as a learner themselves. In other words, maybe the coach no longer plays football himself but is still actively involved in learning about the game. In yoga it is said that the teacher teaches for herself and practices for her students. Teaching is part of the path of the learner. 
When we practice something, we can't be overly concerned with mistakes. We can't worry about criticism or who is watching (or not). We just do it, secure in the knowledge that practice will lead to growth. 
We need to give the students blogs and let them write and publish without fear. Let them write for genuine communication and a real audience. As adults, we need to let go of our fear of mistakes, of students' writing being imperfect. How many times have I heard that if we let students publish writing that has errors in spelling or grammar it will make the school or teacher look bad? Does my yoga teacher look bad when I lose my balance in an asana? 
And, as teachers of writing, we, too, must write.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coaching the 21st Century Teacher -Notes

These are notes from the NAJDS session I attended yesterday- "Coaching the 21st Century Teacher" with Rabbi Joe Hirsch. I am trying to build fluency with my iPad, so I used the Corkulous app to take notes. Not only do I feel that the practice was good for my iPad fluency, I am happy with the notes that I am able to share, not only here on my blog, but I was able to email the notes to the person sitting next to me, as well as others who were not at the session.
(Click on it for full size view)
Corkulous App