Saturday, March 28, 2015

Just a thought.

Yesterday I got accepted by Drexel, and reached 20,000 blog visits.  It was a momentous day, in terms of professional achievements, I suppose.  Today I reflected on the journey from September 1st, the first day of blogging, until today, and considered how different my perception of teaching is, and how much I've refined my actual teaching philosophy, as a result of the reflective process involved in writing 209 straight blogs related to education. Bruce and I traveled to West Chester University today to see Kristin's installation into Lambda Pi Eta, the honor society for Communications majors. We both graduated from West Chester when it was still a "State College" instead of a University, and there was a certain amount of reflection and memory-grasping as we climbed the stairs to the Philips Autograph Library, where the ceremony was held.  We whispered in the whisper-architecture arch on the outside of the building, and I wondered how many people have done that, and how many walked by never knowing the magic/physics behind the architecture of the grand building.  How is it possible to be an adult with such vivid memories, down to the smell of the room?  

In its own way, today's journey was also a journey of reflection.

Te@ch  Thought.

I've touted the influence of Te@chthought.com on me this year before.  I truly owe a debt of gratitude to Justine and Beth for all they've done to challenge teachers to be introspective.  As a teacher of the gifted (TOG), I've been challenged to develop classes for high-ability students for years.   I've used centralized themes, and let the students guide the journey in the past.  Two years ago, while working in a curriculum design course at UCONN, Jan Leppien suggested the concept of perspective to slow gifted students down, and allow them to experience content in ways they might not have considered.  Terry Heick took it a step further in stressing the importance of teacher reflection in her blog "What it Means to be a Reflective Teacher" last week.

Last year, I applied the idea of perspective to the entire year, using it as the lens through which we explored the topics.  The learning was still student-driven, and the discussions were deeper and more meaningful.  This year, the focus is Habits of Mind.  The Perspective bulletin board is still up in my room, to remind students of another way to "play" with content, during discussions and reflections. Oh, and next year?  Qualitative Observation and Creative Thought.  Closing out the four year rotation, Positive Psychology strategies.

All of these skills, I am hoping, allow students with strong acquisition and retention skills, usually grasping new material in 1-3 repetitions, a way to explore course content (not just in my class, but everywhere), in a way that allows them a 3-D approach to examination.  Pick it up, experience it, twist it, view it, smell it, whatever needs to be done to truly own the content.

Basically, to take time to learn to think, and apply the skill.

It may have taken me 3/4 of a year to realize exactly how important explicitly teaching THOUGHT actually is, and the more I read and reflect, the more I can appreciate the skills that truly seem to be lacking in public education today.   

Meanwhile, I reflect on the education classrooms of West Chester State College, and the influences on my teaching learned there, and continue to seek inspiration and motivation for refining and making sense of the ever-changing role of education -- heck, my current focus is on the internet, both as a learning tool and a reflective blog, and that was unheard of in 1983...