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MN, United States
Tutor, Business Owner, Technology innovator

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reflection of a teachable moment

Picture of Blue Earth Middle School Media Center
Sheldahl, C. 2011. Media Center.
Perhaps not every moment a teacher experiences a teachable moment is inside the classroom (or a media center.)

In this case, I experienced very personally, right on the floor of the family room in my house.

My kids, when decided that they are not going outside to play, develop this ravenous cabin fever (or at least the older siblings love to stir up the younger ones like a top; sound familiar?).  But when they got some Legos(TM) out (that at least was their initiative, not mine, unless my wife prompted them to), I plopped down on the floor and started to make something with the "pretty" colored Legos(TM) y daughter was using. (My next older child had brought his own "boy" Legos(TM) to the play scene).

I was wasn't sure what I was going to make, since I didn't have directions or a map of what I was going to make...but remembering a ride cart from Walt Disney world, I fashioned something of the same design with Patrick sitting in the seat looking ready to start the "roller coaster" ride.  My daughter gave me that funny "what?" look, but my boy literally could have had a pull chain light bulb over his head, because I heard the idea pop out of him.

"We could make a Legos(TM) roller coaster?" he asked.  I said he could probably come up with something if he had enough pieces.  That's all that was needed to start "The Project."  He started to assemble pieces that would form the frame work and curve of a "big hill." My daughter saw how intent he was on completing the task, so wanted to join in.  My eldest boy saw the work in progress and got distracted from his own studies.

picture of Legos Roller coaster my son nathan built.
Legos(TM) Roller Coaster
So for about 2 hours, mild mayhem turned into frantic focus as the idea caught on to finish a model to the roller coaster.  Moral of the story: it takes some guided work to make a meaningful playtime on a Saturday.

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy thanksgiving! hope you get this as my phone is not really working

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Enjoying the Summer and Running, running, running

Another late posting (meant for summer) I am starting to hate browser based publishing!--Cory

I admit, I've taken a respite from posting.  Not because of lack of material (but thank you Richard Byrne, I'm gone for a week and I find my RSS bin up to 200), but because I needed a mental vacation.  Obviously when I went on vacation my mind was at work much to my wife's chagrin.

Well, I took a physical vacation, and by the picture on the right you can see I visited Devil's Tower as one of my stops.  To list, I've been to Rapid City and Rushmore (again), over to Gillette, WY and down to Riverton.  From there I went through the forests and parks (Grand Tetons), with many stops there. After that we kept going north through Yellowstone and saw Ol' Faithful, and many hot springs (and one unstable geyser, which I DIDN'T know until I read the sign right in the middle of it!)

Of all the sites I saw, (and animals--tons in the Northeast corner of the Yellowstone area, maybe moved there because of the Colorado fires), this one of Devil's Tower struck me as one of the most incredible sites. (Besides being on TOP of the mountains, by taking Highway 212 and finding ourselves driving through a Winter Wonderland).

Why?? The mountain views were breath taking (both out and D O W N). This one stood as a challenge. One or two dots on the left side of the face are climbers, which really puts things in perspective of this whole thing.  The narrow trail around it is about 1.5 miles (maybe a little more). Connection to Education?  Student views of our current system.

The "effective" methods you can learn in professional development, are more of a clash when it comes to what students can really do with ways they obtain, manipulate, disseminate, and synthesize information.  This is why the old Rock of Education must either come down, or chiseled into a shape that's usable ("Pretty" for lack of a more tactful term).

How to make meaning of math doesn't have to be as intricate as Dan Meyer's approach (of 3 Acts), but sure keeps us from beating the textbook to death when schools like those in Byron, Minnesota develop an ongoing open-source mathematics text for their classes.

What's with the foreign language? Or Failure to Blog

"Chasm of Communication"
--Cory Sheldahl
LATE ENTRY==oops I meant this for 8/22...

Sometimes there comes a time (especially when one hasn't blogged in a while), that there are moments of inspiration that caused me to try to blog a few light bulb ideas from my not-so-smart phone.  I cannot remember the sparks that prompted me to blog, but obviously they fell in a chasm of protocol (or programming) where the translation back to earth yielded gibberish.

I cannot remember the few inspirational thoughts that I wanted to share, but I do remember how good I felt at sending these epithets...It's ALWAYS good to double check before sending.

How does this relate to communicating math?  We (teachers/adults) have a frame through which we transmit our thoughts and ideas, and generally assume everyone else has the decoder which to decipher our transmission (technically speaking).  While the students MAY have the ability to translate it, they may not care or want to, which still makes the outcome just gibberish.

Mr. Shel

Short Term work, Long term searching

This is my modus operendi as of late. (my pattern of doing things in other words).  I just got finished with a long term sub position (again!), though this time it was in 8th grade science.  The students really rely on a textbook based work ethic (at least as 7th graders).  So I had the privilege of not only opening up the year to the students, but also rendering lessons without the use of a textbook.

This is something I would encourage ALL teachers (minus subs) to try (if you have the stomach for it, that is).  The reason I say that is because it was extremely hard for the students to accept this, especially from a sub starting the year out (even though the students know me).  By the way, do NOT try any social media toys, until you know crystal clear what the district's policy is on Social Media and Personal Learning Devices.  (I wasn't totally sure, so I made specific restrictions tailored to the district I was in).

I started with Procedures and Expectations (at least for me) of what the start will be and to know what to expected daily and weekly.  I had to scramble given the limited room to plan anything other than routine, and a few days of plans from the resident teacher.  Love & Logic works wonders!  Starting to think in terms of what I want them to know before they dig into a book (and what standards can be knocked on in the process), I began to search the classroom resources and found a "pre-content" unit to use.

Since the students did not have access (or a text) to this topic, I had to organize in a way that enabled them to get a skimming or an overview, with personal anecdotes and experiences tied in.  I found this to be more interesting (and successful) than their textbook counterparts, but worried at the same time that the students weren't getting their "reading" requirements met.  This was a good challenge, for them to pull information from the resources I provided, and to also actively listen more than they had before (to a tradtional lecture format).  The result-- a lot of learning at the knowledge level, but many students wanted to take it so much higher, were I to remain, could have found niches of learning that dug deeper into meaning and satisfy the state (MN) in science at the same time.

whew--I must be done here, else I'd have a novel on the subject.

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Sunday, May 6, 2012

From Spanish Sub to LMC learner assistant

Disclaimer: BEA Middle School Library
I realize teachers (especially those with a master's degree) shy away from subbing positions that aren't designated teacher positions, but the lure of being in a Library Media Center had me hooked.

After all, you essentially do more for less, (as is the current structure of learner assistant schedules--as my sister-in-law would agree).  But from my graduate work, the LMC is the heart (or should be) from which the blood of education flows.  (Okay students, I know this isn't English, but I couldn't resist that metaphor).  The picture I used is actual from Blue Earth's middle school, not Lake Mills where I currently am on assignment.

As I worked there, I had alot of fun communicating the learning, even though it wasn't math related (okay, some, if a student asked me a math question during study hall).  I envisioned Dr. Loerschter's Model of a 21st Century Commons, and how (one day) technology integrationists, Media Specialists, and teachers all develop teams to facilitate learning.

Back to reality, I enjoy sharing stories to K-5th graders ("would you talk in that funny voice again?") and seeing the expressions on the high schoolers faces when I animate stories I read. (More like the Deer-In-Headlights-Look).  I also enjoyed becoming familiar with Dewey again (though I could live without having to organize by Topic/Author, since I prefer strictly a numerical system).  I work with great people in the library, who are patient as this "master educator" takes baby steps to become familiar with the role of the person I am substituting for.  I think every teacher should have to go through at least 1 experience to develop an under-the-skin skill set, and to appreciate their current LMS's and RTI specialists.

This dream ends in 15 school days...

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where has the time gone? I've been hiding...

Spanish Homework

Matthileo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Invariably, when you try to take on too many jobs at once, such as working a business (which I've had to put aside temporarily--though it surprised me how many students were interested that I sold protein?!?), tutoring, working as a full time long term substitute (say that 3 times), and also working as lead math teacher for SOCRATES, AND taking my kids where ever they need to go...you lose track of some of your old routines...like blogging.

I've been having a blast working in an Iowa school district (remember I got my licensure for Iowa this year, as well as Tennessee and Florida), but not in math...in Spanish!  Espanol!

When I talked about COMMUNICATING last time, I didn't think I'd have to be doing that in another language, but it's been pretty fun!  Right now I'm working on a project drastically different than what they may be used to in that class, but it seems they're doing great--  The only downside is that now I have to count down my time there as the resident teacher will be returning in April.  I really appreciate the students cooperation (mostly) that I AM NOT a spanish teacher, but still a Spanish LEARNER. 

Ironically, if you've been following Scott McCloud, (or Will Richardson for that matter), than isn't the best way to teach is by being the best learner (that is, modeling and outline what to learn)?  I'm not saying I'm that but sooo grateful to be able to take what I learned from my master's program (and through tutoring) and applying it in the classroom.

Til I chalk again, (and wind down from Spanish subbing),

Mr. Shel

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Communicate better....

Since this is one of the points of the blog, seems that it's worth writing about (given the amount of void I've put between posts).  It seems that Math and World Languages have a common trait; they seem foreign to most people.  Therefore it's good to talk about communication.

This goes on more than just telling your own children, "So how did it go today?"  I'll guarantee that if that's a filler for conversation, DON't expect honesty from your children (or last least expect 1-2 syllable answers).  Realizing this can be a slippery slope topic, let me break it down (chk-chk-a).

If you really want to communicate, you may need some "translation" skills.  This isn't trying to change math words and symbols into equations; I'm talking about real dialogue, especially with teens whose world has been kidnapped by the technology bandits (cell phones, iPads, anything that can detract attention from those around them).  They're facing more and more "feelings" and what others think of them, rather than depending on teachers and parents to help build that sense of confidence and security.  In the class, facts seem less relevant, and "good vibes" seem to prevail.

I found this to be true when I let my daughter have a cell phone with texting for the first time.  It was like 2nd grade all over again, except on a cyber scale, and the playlot is not the park but the phone pad.  There was definitely some steering required, and I had to let her make some mistakes in those tough situations where she wanted to depend on her own intuition than my guidance.  If she represents a good chunk of teens out there, they're not thinking about the old school "backdoor" office operations that go on in the background of that technology, especially when it involves a smartphone (her new toy).  I've put reminders in place about data privacy, and how you keep your information in your wallet, not on the table, so is true of the cell phone or any electronic device.

See what I mean about this being a very slippery subject?   I have my doubts about smartphones, but then again, my kind of technology involves the ability to repeat the moment.  In other words, can this blog be typed without the aid of a word processor?  Probably, but the real question is, when the power goes out, and no computers (or cell phones) are available, do the students have the intrinsic skills to do a manual keytyping of their assignments?

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel