July 2011


With no child left behind are we not letting any children get ahead?  One of my wonderings lately, this talk of getting kids to “meet” standards, response to intervention to get every kid caught up, teachers spending the most time with the struggling student so that everyone can get on the same level.  I have read blogs recently about standardized tests, but I am wondering if we are missing something by having our students “proficient” at everything but exceptional at nothing?

At a seminar today with Joyce Van Tassel-Baska giving a curriculum design and development for gifted learners she stated to make gifted education and curriculum strong it should have: advancement and acceleration, complexity, depth, challenges, and creativity.  Then she said this, to paraphrase “Creativity is where when we give kids choice and they chose something they are strong in it leads to more creativity because its what we know best and it also allows for “play” and exploration.”  It reminded me of some examples in the world of the people we often tag with “brilliant” or “talented” in my mind what we should be striving to foster when we teach young people.  The best athletes often have the most creative moves and skills, artists, musicians, and performers often are doing something beyond the average when we look at them as star examples.  In the business world it is the people who look at things from a new view point or are creative in the model they use to deliver their product.

I want well-rounded students, we all do, but there is something to be said about letting someone do something they are good at, that they like to do that they are willing to push themselves to be more creative in using it.  We are always trying to shore up weaknesses and get in extra practice at skills we think our kids need more practice with, but what about letting them do what they love? I think of my own example as an athlete, the parts of the sport I loved I would practice for hours and enjoy every moment, the parts that were not so appealing to me often got shelved.  My point is to not let kids always chose only what they want to do and forget the things they like less, but maybe we need to honor the passion of students and see how high they can soar with those talents too.  I don’t think it is an either/or question I think its a yes/and answer.

So as I move forward in my teaching journey I am not only going to honor talents and gifts but interests and passions.   When we limit our students to the standards in the core curriculum we are missing the things that may ignite their learning even more.  Allowing creativity is something that strengthens curriculum not weakens it.

A great TED talk to explain it a bit further.

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Being new is not easy.  We see it in our classrooms, we see it at our jobs, we see it out at social events.  I was never the new kid at school, I did K-12 in the same district, only ever was new at University with thousands of kids in the same boat which to me doesn’t qualify as “new.”  As I logged on to twitter today I noticed a post by someone I follow, @s_bearden, noted about tech snobbery, written by Angela Watson.  And I thought, that is so true!  This post was more about implementation levels and tech but it reminded me of the other snobbery I had been thinking about.  People are here and everywhere to learn and we should’t be putting up our nose to those who are further behind.  Especially as teachers, what would you do if your students acted this way toward a new student, how would you handle it? We should also be remembering what it feels like to be new at something.

I remember back to when I joined twitter and I literally thought I am not going to post anything I am just going to leech off people’s work and ideas.  Look at me now, involved in chats, commenting on people’s posts, blogging for goodness sakes!  But the first time was scary.  I was lucky to have my first comments with a group of people who were/are inviting, warm, friendly, understanding and really true to the “learning” aspect of the network.  They are learning, but they also realize so is everyone else.  They mentor and I have to assume “remember” what being new is like.

Now I could list all the great people who reciprocate, help, guide, work with others regardless of level of implementation because they are by far the majority.  I don’t have enough space to list them all here.  These are the people who follow you back,  thank you for your input on their tweets, who answer yours when you put them out to hashtag or group.  But there are a few who are turning their backs to the circle and just working within “their” PLN and not the greater PLN.  To them I ask you why?  Why are you above it?  Why are you being a snob?   Now hey, those people probably (definitely) are not going to read my post because I am not friends with their friends and they don’t tweet out my blog because of it.  But maybe as a tweet by Chris Lehmann tonight applies to the PLN as well, “Our waitress joined in our design discussion tonight. Lesson – be open to ideas and expertise wherever you find it.”

So you may not think someone’s tweets are valuable until they are at a certain number of tweets, followers, lists, etc.  Maybe you think grade levels, subjects, geographic location matters to the relevance.  So maybe your circle is complete, you and “your” PLN are satisfied and happy with what you are working with, but maybe you are missing out on some of the ideas and expertise that are being offered by some of the “New Kids” in the PLN, and maybe in turn you could offer them some of the ideas and expertise you have to share.