Am I A Teaching ‘Novelty’?

e3911b6d00c81bd61c24def921f827c3I was curious to read this recent piece in EducationNC from the perspective of a male teacher.  I fully expected to align with the arguments of the author (Douglas Price, a NC charter school educator), but I was surprised to find that I didn’t.

Price makes a couple of main points in his article, including that male teachers are critical to the success of students and that we need more male teachers.  As a member of this relatively small group, I would love to see more male teachers.  But, I don’t necessarily agree that our role is as critical as Price suggests.

Sure, there are data to back up the critical role that male role models play.  We know that male students especially need to see men in important careers in order to feel a sense of possibility.  We also know that men can be an important voice when it comes to demonstrating appropriate behavior.  But that’s not enough.

As a middle-aged white dude, my impact on kids has much more to do with getting them excited about science than about promoting “male-ness”.  The privilege that I enjoy gives me the ability to speak from a position that few of my male students enjoy.  As such, I feel that it is much more important that we focus on improving minority representation at the front of the classroom, rather than wasting resources trying to put more white men in positions of power for students to observe.

Novelty alone will not solve the problems that plague our country and its educational system.  We need low-income students to see a way out of their situation and that comes from seeing the diversity of our world on display in their classrooms.  Male teachers are not enough, and I think our efforts can be better spent elsewhere.


Blocking Teens is Not the Answer

“Researchers looked at 74 Android mobile apps and found that 89 percent of the security features on the apps focus on parental control by blocking and monitoring teens’ online activities. Only 11 percent support teens’ ability to regulate their own behavior. In other words, most of the apps don’t encourage parents and teens to talk about their shared social media values. And that may be a missed opportunity.”

From a recent NPR piece about how apps allow parents to manage content by blocking it rather than teaching teens how to make smarter decisions.


This year’s theme: CURIOSITY

Thanks to the beautiful minds in my Professional Learning Network, I recently discovered Jon Gordon’s appropriately short book One Word.  The book explores the idea that focusing on a single word is a very powerful way to make change in one’s life.  As someone who constantly looks for ways to improve and seeks out feedback from the other people in my life, I try to find a theme for each year.  In the past, I have made attempts to focus on specific changes like writing more or student-centered learning.

This year, through all of my various forms of personal development, I will be focusing on the idea of curiosity.  I want to spend more time thinking about my own curiosity as well as the curiosity of my students.  I want to find opportunities to encourage my own questioning, modeling for my students how to be a scientist in life.  But, I also want to make time in my lessons to recognize, reward, and reinforce a sense of wonder among my students.  As Sir Ken Robinson has often remarked, the public school system has a knack for squeezing the divergent thinking right out of students (and teachers alike).

I like this goal because it’s more holistic than focusing on specific classroom techniques, but it’s also more sustainable.  For my students and myself, curiosity is a behavior that has long-lasting implications for all aspects of our lives.  Curiosity is the trait that makes people want to learn more about science and the world around them.  A world with more curiosity and wonder is a world ripe for science education to help students find answers to those questions in their imagination.

To follow my year-long journey of curiosity, check back here at the blog and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@mrscienceteach on both) where I will be posting the questions that occur to my throughout my day.  And keep the curiosity flowing by commenting here and everywhere online that you find ideas that make you think.


A Holiday Gift for iPhone Users

As someone who gets paid to help people use iPhones, I thought I would take a moment to share a feature of iOS that many people don’t know about.  It’s a feature designed for people with focus issues, autism, or physical disabilities.  But it’s also very handy when you want to let a young child use your iPhone, but you don’t want them rummaging around in your apps and personal information.  Watch the short (3-minute) video below to learn how easy it is.  And take some time with your loved ones this winter to relax and enjoy the company.



creatingacultureoffeedback-265This will just be a short note to accompany the release of my first book, Creating a Culture of Feedback, which is available in print form on Tuesday, November 23 and in ebook format right now.   I’d love to be able to say that writing this book (or any book) has been a dream of mine for years.  The truth, however, is more complicated.

I have spent much of the past ten years learning everything that I can about grading and assessment.  As a classroom teacher, I’ve been able to put into practice many of the ideas that I’ve concocted and see the results.  I get to talk to my colleagues and learn from them and then meld the best of what I’ve learned into powerful experiences for my students.  Everything that I am as a teacher is a product of the conversations and experiences that have included many of the important educators that I know.

It’s one of these educators to whom I owe a tremendous debt.  Bill Ferriter came into my life when I was just a few years into my career.  It was just serendipity that we teach in the same district.  But, it was more than luck that has made us friends.  We have spent many hours—over beer, the occasional salad, or Moons Over My Hammy—talking about important issues like technology integration and reality television.  Over that time, my respect for Bill has only grown.

So, a year ago, when he asked me to write a book with him, I jumped at the opportunity.  Over the intervening months, he taught me so much about the process.  He helped me craft my ideas into meaningful pages.  He found ways to merge our voices into one coherent piece of work.  He showed incredible patience with me and my incessant procrastination.  In short, Bill was the perfect mentor and partner for a first-time author.  I am enormously grateful.

And now the fruit of our efforts is available to the public, in the form of an 80-page book that lays out practical and effective strategies for putting actionable feedback front and center in your classroom.  You should read it.  And when you do, I hope that you recognize the value of what we do and can find ways to use these strategies in your own classroom.