- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
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Is it just me or is prominent American media focused on the faults of our country's education weeks before the new school year begins? While I am revved up to meet my new students, organize my classroom, put some of my summer ideas and practices to good use, the news has been reporting on countries with higher scores or schools without budgets or the lowest student scores. Where is the prime time story on the changes in campus design or summer school students who succeeded? I can't find them but I did find a gem of a story about culinary schools and a system for success called mise-en-place. For professionals, it helps helps kitchens coordinate labor, materials and productivity to its fullest potential. It is going to have to become my metaphor for starting my school year on a positive note.
I heard the story on NPR just last week as I was rushing through the last chores of summer. It literally translates from the French: "put in place" by gathering and arranging the ingredients and tools needed for cooking before one begins to cook. The embedded interviews at the Culinary Institute of America gave me pause because it was the first happy account of students I had heard in recent media. Students were explaining how mise-en-place is a way to focus and rid themselves of distractions. The routines for planning ahead had transcended from the kitchen into their daily lives and given them the pleasure of self discipline. Mise-en-place became an incentive to get up and go to school. Students were already planning and reviewing the steps needed for success in the kitchen on their walk to the institute. I mused that having routines is nothing new to classroom educators but what was new for me was the idea that students were engaged and trained in the planning of their lesson. They were choosing their tools and their ingredients prior to their sudden performance. If done right, they could not fail.
I continued to think about this for the rest of the day. I liked the idea of students being invested in the planning. That would be new. I liked that routines in a classroom lead to immediate positive outcomes. If students follow the routine, they end class on a positive note, so there is a reason to return. In my 1:1 iPad classroom I currently have routines but they do not always lead to immediate outcomes. I always have a work flow, I allow students to choose the tools and the materials based on choices I provide, but I want that work flow to be more transparent. I want it to be a check list of images and icons that they see at a glance. And I want to end classes often with a debriefing of that flow. If only I can use that end of class dialogue for student pronouncements of what they will do to prepare for the upcoming day, I think it would change the current state of homework and its lack of completion.
Of course there are apps for mise-en-place. I found one created in 2011 by Derrick Schneider. It organizes a menu, tasks, calendar for shopping and prep. It made me wonder if that could be something I could create for my world history classroom. I could create an app to help students organize and check their prep and their productivity. Maybe I do have this in the form of my online gradebook and websites but maybe students need a metaphor for success that resonates with them different from what I currently provide.
Educators need to hear positive news if they are going to storm into the field of education and provide successful learning opportunities. From this one story I had identified my strengths as an educator, I had mentally developed improvements for the upcoming year and I had been inspired to try something new. This morning, I'm cheering because today I begin my teaching in service and the Washington Post published this article, Seven Things Teachers are Sick of Hearing From School Reformers (by Valerie Straus). I'm trying to find a safe place in my mind and tools to play with while I listen to paid professionals drone on and on about what we should do, not what we do already. Straus does not hide her opinion when she states "most often when research is mentioned in a school context, it is used to end legitimate conversation rather than to begin it, as a cudgel to silence us rather than an opening to engage us constructively." Thank you Valerie Straus!
I'm imagining news media that reported on what is right in education as an incentive to bring us all back from summer excited to engage. I'm keeping this in mind as I work with my colleagues and their varying opinions. I work with some incredible people. Maybe next year journalists following each of the 50 state "teachers of the year" reporting on their ventures, their conversations and their creativity will be a new norm. Maybe.