It’s moving day. I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted site at http://www.philipcummings.com/, and it’s time to say goodbye to this blog. I’ll leave it up for now, but if you’d like to continue following my learning journey, you might want to check out the new site and update your subscription.
Thanks for reading and pushing my thinking. -Philip
I lost it today. Well, not completely, but almost. We had a half day today. Winter Storm Helen threatened to dump freezing rain all over the mid-south, and with safety in mind, our school announced an early dismissal. Imagine my sixth grade boys’ excitement. They couldn’t wait to go home.
Unfortunately, the weather messed up my plans. There were several things I wanted my classes to accomplish, but I narrowed the to-do list and tried motivating the boys with a promise that completing the tasks would mean no homework. Most complied, and today, compliance was what I most wanted. (Ugh, I hate admitting that.) Then, two boys just wouldn’t focus. Perhaps, they couldn’t. They refused to get things done. They started messing with each other. When I corrected one, he argued back at me. When I moved the other, he snuck back and began picking at his partner in crime. Eventually, they riled each other enough to cause a small commotion in our room.
That’s when it happened. I lost it. My temper flared. I didn’t get physical or swear or say things I regret (such things may or may not have come to mind), but I snapped. I yelled. I threatened–manipulating with talk of calls home and referrals to the office. It was ugly. No, I was.
I’ve worked hard this year to build good relationships with my students, to make our learning meaningful, and to give them a voice. Yet, today, I managed to lose it all.
I’m praying that we’ll be back in school tomorrow, that the boys accept my apology, and that tomorrow I can begin to find it all again.
This morning I ran 3.69 miles in 36:14. It was third attempt to restart my running after completing the St. Jude Half Marathon on December 1, 2012. My middle son Sam ran with me this morning and it was 27 degrees with light snow flurries when we headed out the door at 5:15.
Saturday morning I participated in John Spencer’s #rechat on Twitter. The topic for discussion was the use of data in schools. The discussion was interesting and thoughtful, but what reverberated in me was the question about the students’ role in knowing, analyzing, and reflecting on their own data. Paula White and Tom King, two educators that I highly respect really pushed my thinking in this regard.
It began with my response to a comment made by John:
— Philip Cummings (@Philip_Cummings) January 12, 2013
As the conversation progressed Tom chimed in retweeting and responding to one of my tweets:
— Tom King (@ProfTK) January 12, 2013
Then, after Tom had pushed me further, Paula asked:
— Paula White (@paulawhite) January 12, 2013
So, I have been thinking about this all weekend. As learners do we know what we don’t know? Can we? If so, how? As a professional educator committed to growing and changing as a teacher, I am well aware that there are many thing I don’t know. I’m still fumbling my way through (or toward) a more constructivist classroom. I’m trying to shift toward a more authentic, Project-Based (capitals intentional) approach to learning. I know I’m not there yet, I’m still reading, researching, conversing, trying, and failing at it. Sometimes I know what I need to learn, and sometimes I’m just lost with no idea what to do next. So, I lean on the great teachers around me. I head next door to talk things over with Alice. I read, re-read, and read again the stories and posts of people like Shelley Wright and John Spencer (among others) trying to glean from their experiences. So, do we know what we don’t know? Can we? I guess…it depends. (How’s that for an answer?) But the question has left me believing even more strongly in the value of a good teacher–someone who knows how to ask the right questions.
To bring this idea about learning back to the metaphor of running, I want to talk about one of my newer goals. I want to run faster. I know I’m not fast enough for a person of my size and age. The trouble is I really don’t know how to run faster. I’m still a novice runner. Sure, I know I need to improve my form. I need to work on my stride and engage in more plyometrics. I need to strengthen my core, and I should lose some weight. In this way I know some things I needs to learn (do), but as for how to go about these things, well, I’m really not sure. What should I do first? What’s the best way to do them? I need a coach, an expert, to help me. Do I know what I don’t know? Well, yes and no. But in the end, I think I’ll benefit most having a good teacher or coach.
So what do you think? Do you know what you don’t know?