Month: April 2014

Week 14: Change in Education

I HAD to get my reflection on the week of Change in Education before @FarleyJeffrey posted his reflection for week 15 on ambition.  It’s good to have a deadline.  A few things popped into my head as I thought about how to wrap up the discussion about change.  They are, in no particular order…

One of the things I like most about the whole #slowchatED process is that the discussion goes beyond the main thread.  I love when discussions, whether involving me directly or not, take off on their own tangent.  Often, Tweeters will stop using the #slowchatED hashtag as they develop their own thread of conversation.  So it’s a nice surprise when I click on a tweet to favorite it or reply and see a string of conversation that wasn’t in the original timeline (I use TweetDeck).  @sjbates and @TheWeirdTeacher are pros at this.

In dealing with change, I found no lack of educators wanting to see change (sea change) in education, the political system, and themselves.  Not surprising, the teachers that joined the conversation (those using Twitter professionally) are the ones willing to take on some risk to be change agents at their sites.  Is this a coincidence or the kind of educator drawn to Twitter?

In looking at what we wanted to see changed in education, the responses ran the gamut.  Check-out the hashtag to review the conversation from our week.

Then came the cheese question.  It served its purpose.  We got to see how people “took” the question.  I purposely used the verbiage of the question: What do you suck at?  This allowed for the variety of interpretations we saw.  Some were honest.  Some were funny.  Some were honestly funny.  And one was quite literal (and you know I loved that).

I realized, with my student question, I should have given the prompt earlier in the week to allow teachers to talk with their students.  Next time, with a question like that, I will let people know it is coming up so they can prepare.  It didn’t really take-off the way I wanted and that’s OK.  I’ll know for the next time.  We’re developing s-l-o-w-l-y here at #slowchated.

I am really glad I moderated this week.  It was excellent experience for something I take for granted week in and week out as I engaged in Twitter chats.  Behind every chat are moderators planning, preparing questions, and summarizing the conversations.  Kudos to all those chat leaders at there.  And (shameless plug here), it was great practice for our upcoming #SLOcuechat.


Day 6 Question: How can we bring parents on-board with the change process?

Day 5 Question: Let’s hear from students.  What do they want to see changed in education?  What are their ideas for going about that change?

Day 4 Question: As we’ve seen and heard this week, change can be difficult.  Today we’re looking at the roadblocks to change.  And how to navigate them!

Day 3 Question: The school I taught at in Elk Grove before moving to the central coast was brand new.  I was on the team that planned the school from the ground up, including the hiring committee.  We wanted our school to be different, so we came up with a question to throw the interviewees off-track a bit and get a glimpse at their personality.  The question, essentially, was this: We plan on having staff BBQs at least once a month.  If you were asked to bring the cheese, what kind of cheese would you bring and why?  It, quite honestly, is the best question.  You immediately see how they handle something out-of-the-norm and get to see what’s hiding underneath the interview exterior.  So every time since then, I have always asked a cheese question.  Tomorrow in #slowchatEd, we get a cheese question.

Day 2 Question: It’s time for change. Pick one thing you want to see changed in education. Why does it need change?

Day 1 Question: Define “change agent” as it pertains to you in your current position. Examples?

I was having a #brewcue with Marc Townsend (@teachertownsend) and Rich Hovey (@teacherhovey) a few weeks ago and the germ of a question came up that has been looming in the back of my mind:

Why do some educators embrace change while others seem to fight against it – or at the very least let is pass them by without so much as a reflective glance?

The answers, as much of anything dealing with education, are multi-faceted and complex.  This doesn’t stop me from wondering, though, why is change so difficult – in education, in life, wherever?  The cheese keeps moving, but the same resistance is met over and over again.  Marc’s thoughts on a similar idea can be read here. So this week in #slowchatEd, we will be looking at change in education from many different viewpoints.  There will be several opportunities to share views from a variety of educational arms.  I encourage you to seek and share these views throughout the week, especially from those educators not yet using Twitter.  We want to hear from many voices. Some initial resources to get you thinking about change: This article  from the Johns Hopkins School of Education examines the process of change in schools. You may have already seen this video from Sir Ken Robinson, but I think it is worth another viewing. This article from ASCD looks at teachers as change agents. If you have other resources to share, please tweet them out this week using the #slowchatEd hashtag.  This post can also be seen on my website here.

Week 13: Poetry is for everyone … including you.

This is crossposted here: Small Teacher. Big World.


You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

April is National Poetry month, which means that April is a month that ONLY English teachers should be interested in … right?


Poetry is for EVERYONE … even you, and you, and especially you … and your grandma, and your best friend and your grandma’s best friend. So let’s get this party started with some personal definitions of poetry. Nothing says PAR-TAY like defining words. #W00t! <smashes generic cola can into forehead>

Remember: It’s a party, so be raw; be honest. If you hate poetry, tell us why. If you love it, wreck a guitar and tell us about it. Wear a jaunty hat, and flirt with the idea of wearing false eyelashes–just for this week–just for our party. Also: Glitter. There can never be too much glitter. Consider all of this as you think up your definition of poetry.

I’m going to to ease you into this with a question, but FAIR WARNING, much of what I’ll be asking of you this week will not be so much questions as they will be TASKS or better yet … PARTY GAMES. Consider DAY 1 the ice-breaker-mingly-honeymoon-fancy cheese-and-crackers phase of the party.

Day 1 (Q1): What is Poetry? #slowchated


Lawrence Ferlinghetti said, “Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Bob Dylan said, “I think a poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.” Emily Dickinson said, “If I feel physically, as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Rita Dove said, “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Marianna Moore said, “Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.” Leonard Cohen said, “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

How do YOU define poetry? Feel free to be straightforward or … poetic. I want to hear from some English teachers, of course, but I for sure want to hear from EVERYONE else too.



Q2.1: What is your fave poem or if you hate poetry (WHY?) what is your most palatable poem? (Provide a link, if possible.) #slowchated

Q2.2: Tell us WHY said poem is your fave or more palatable than others … For a bonus points, do an interpretive dance. #slowchated

(Yes, it’s THAT kind of party.)

DAY 3/Question 3:

PARTY TRICK TIME–>Q3: How is education like a poem? Education is like a poem because …

Q3expansion: You can insert any edu-term in there, if you so desire … Learning/Teaching/Education is like a poem because … #slowchated

DAY 4/QUESTIONS 4, 5, and 6

I’m going to add QUESTIONS 4, 5, AND 6 on DAY 4 because I’m AGAIN breaking the rules … which sort of makes me a poet, eh? Eh? EHHH? I’m viewing questions 4, 5, and 6 as a “CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE” because I know that we are all busy people and there’s probably a good chance that none of us will have time to do ALL THREE (four really –hehehe) of these things because, as I stated before, they are more so TASKS than they are QUESTIONS, so if you would choose just one of these things, it would make me infinitely happy. I’m also hoping that by giving you a head’s up about Question 6.1 and 6.2 that it will increase the likelihood that more of you will do it (since you have three whole days to do it! Of course, if you were able to get to all three, you would get the PARTY HARDY award from this here poetry party.

Q4:Let’s brainstorm a million or less ideas for ways to use poetry (especially in the non-ELA classroom).

Q5: Write a less than 140 character poem about the topic of your choice and tweet it at us.

Q6.1: Capture a video of yourself doing an oral interpretation of your favorite poem by someone else.


Q6.2: Capture a video of yourself doing an oral interpretation of a poem YOU wrote.

Can you imagine what a fan-freakin-tastic archive this will be, if we all made a video?










Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.

~ Jack Kerouac

Week 12: Ed Jargon April Madness

Week 12 Reflection:

(See the Week 12 “worksheet” below this reflection.)

This week’s discussion of educational jargon as a term itself highlighted the nature our many views and interpretations of various jargon. As I shared below, when Sunday came I was not sure what to do for the entire week, had a bit of a personal agenda but tried to reserve that in response to the community’s responses. What I did feel is that our words we use in education adopt various meanings, usages, and examples of what they “look like.” I wondered if we are critical enough in our choice of words to truly community our educational ideas, or if I get too caught up in semantics? I wondered who shapes these words, for what motives, to what ends, and what responsibility or duty we have in forming these shapes. I also selfishly wondered how many people felt the same or different than me regarding some words such as grit and rigor. And finally, as moderator of this unique Twitter chat, one I’ve realized in recent weeks I should have been more involved in (I’ve been on an intermittent Twitter break for a while), I wondered to what degree I should act as facilitator toward my own desired outcomes versus a facilitator responding purely to where the learners “want” to go, however I may interpret that “want.” Therefore I started with Question 1:

“What purpose does/should educational jargon serve, and how/when is it (in)appropriately used?”



Week 12 “Worksheet”:

(Does that term spark any feelings in anyone?)

Full Searchable Archive of 591 #slowchated Week 12 Tweets

Here’s the recipe I use if you’d like to set up the same for yourself. I then copied all notes into a new, shared notebook for posterity. The notebook may be searched

IFTTT Recipe: Twitter favorites to a new note in Evernote notebook with tag 'favorite'. connects twitter to evernote


I am an unapologetic word lover. Semantics, subtleties, origins, context, subtext, rhetoric, intent, and so much more regarding the usage of words mean something to me. I sometimes think too deeply about them. I sometimes misstep by not thinking enough about them.

I’ve been thinking lately about educational jargon: its necessity, usage, misuse, overuse, abuse, effects, etc.

A week or so ago I stumbled upon the Educational Jargon Generator. Go ahead, take a moment, click on that hypertext and have some fun. But then come back…

While there is more to come, and while that ‘more’ will be in some part informed and shaped by the learners of the #slowchated community and in some form shaped by my continued working of the ideas racing through my head, I wanted to give you all something to get started with in thinking about this week’s topic: EDUCATIONAL JARGON!!!

Some Pre-Reading:

Things to be thinking about:

  • Jargon you love, most agree with, feel there’s a place in education for.
  • Jargon you can’t stand, that makes you cringe when you read or hear it, that you’d like to replace or rid education of altogether.
  • Ways to address the misuse/abuse or educational jargon OR other ways to express it/alternative methods to the same route.


 Day 1 VERY BRIEF initial summary of points that appear to have consensus:

  • Jargon is necessary, discipline-specific vocabulary to efficiently express more complex ideas/concepts, and is used appropriately among like professionals who have a shared meaning/understanding of the jargon.
  • Jargon is misused when with those not “in the know,” or those without the shared meaning, e.g., parents, public, non-educators, lay people.
  • One using jargon should know it well, be able to teach/explain it simply and clearly, and know his audience when using it.
  • The term “jargon” tends to spark negative connotations among people; though, as noted above, there is consensus that jargon has a necessary place among each domain.
  • Jargon that is misused, co-opted for ulterior motives, or otherwise overused/abused may be called “buzzwords” and may be what contributes to the negative connotation.

Resources Added:

All that being said, we we move into Day 2, why don’t we consider the following?

Day 2/Question 2:

OR, rephrased:

A rephrased Q2: What are a few of your favorite things in ed (likely ed jargon), such as initiatives, programs, ideas, theories? #slowchated

Day 2 Summary & List:

Day3/Question 3:

Day 3 Summary/List:

Brief Summary:

  • Jargon (or the ideas they represent) are opposed by some while supported by others above
  • Overuse appears to move a valid term into the buzzword category
  • Some appear to approach with a negative connotation toward any jargon, while others firmly support jargon as an economical means of communication among professionals in a given domain
  • There is questioning of how jargon comes to be, how it is agreed upon, whom to trust in defining it, and who is to say/define it.

> Oppose, buzzword, or clarifying/needs clarification:

Other Resources Added:

Day 4/Question 4:

UPDATE 5:27 EST/EXPLANATION: I feel I made this week’s chat convoluted or like it is somehow spinning around the same stuff. I also feel like there’s some question/wondering of where this is going, what I am up to here, etc. Allow me to share some background: When I saw last week #slowchated was in need of some moderators, I volunteered. At that time I was thinking the topic would be resilience, and I hoped to explore this term and how we might foster it, recognize it, and honor it in kids, in opposition to seeking to teach “grit.” So my topic would be “Resilience.”

Then I was thinking more on vigor, and my preference to seek and foster vigorous learning experience for children, as opposed to rigorous ones. Then I thought, what if other people have their words or jargon they’d like to clarify, challenge, remove from our lexicon. At about the time of these thoughts I stumbled on the Educational Jargon Generator, which, while it is satirical, got me thinking on the terms we use to convey ideas in ed, who shapes and drives them, are we critical enough of their usage, and what impacts do their connotations, origins, and other elements have.

I hadn’t planned anything from there, and was waiting to hear what weeks needed a moderator. Then I got word on Saturday I would start on Sunday. Thus without any plans in place, and then with all kinds of ideas flowing, I just started in on it. All this led to imagining an Ed Jargon Cage Match, or Ed Jargon April Madness, and the Buzzword Bingo game, thinking it would might be fun to play these while also messing around with the jargon generator. But I also want to be respectful of people’s various views of these terms. What is for one a buzzword, is for another a key concept that drives their work. And I did not want to define the terms for everyone myself. I wanted the #slowchated community to do so. And while we have generated a list of words people love and oppose in ed, something about it all doesn’t seem to fit what I had thought it might turn into.

Perhaps I failed to shape the questions the right way. Perhaps my original ideas and progression to this point were off to begin with. But each day I have not been sure what would be next, have had a variety of ideas on where it might go based on responses, but have tried to respond to the prior day’s discussion, the group thus informing the topic’s evolution.

Either way, we are here, having considered what place jargon has in our lexicon, when it should be used, and when it is abused/misused. We have two lists of jargon we love in ed and those we challenge, with a bunch of links and viewpoints along the way. And I still wonder how these words shape our practice, how our practice shapes these words, what control have we to influence these, and what is imposed upon us, and so many other thoughts related to this.

And the habits of mind I shared below for today’s question I authentically wanted to share to benefit all us, as their pointed focus has already changed how I critique and analyze trends, policies, and practices in ed. But when I tried to respond to them myself this afternoon, it was convoluted to do so, especially within tweets. Thus I share below a revised, simplified question.

But I also ask you, the #slowchated community: Where would you like to go with this in the next two days? I would like to leave resilience for another week, if I could return to focus on an in-depth chat on just resilience.

Original Day 4:

I am currently enrolled in a Legal Issues in Policy Making course. We utilize four habits of mind to explore legal and  policy issues, and what are often jargon terms. These four habits of mind are:

  1. The scales (think scales of justice): How are they currently (im)balanced? “Why” leads to 2, 3, & 4
  2. Stakeholders for & against: Who benefits? What are the motives?
  3. Context (the onion, with many layers): all facts: laws, policies, stats, research
  4. Environment (the cloud, like weather, not control over it, but it influences the first three): typically economy, emerging technology, broad issues far beyond scope of the focus but influencing the focus

Using these habits of mind to guide us, let us drill down deeper into some of the jargon we’ve identified, or others that might arise. To whatever degree the 140 enables, and perhaps we can push that degree, choose a word/idea you love to love or love to hate or somewhere in between, and let’s discuss them further through these habits of mind. Ready, set, go!

(Look to Day 2 and Day 3 summaries/lists for ideas, patterns, emerging questions.)

Therefore, Q4 is:

Q4: Using the 4 noted habits of mind, explore an idea, policy, practice, etc (the ‘what’ behind the jargon). Let’s push back on each other and drill down into what/why it means.

Resources/Links shared:



Day 5/Question 5:

For those tired of talking “jargon,” my apologies. I fear this week’s topic (and the convoluted nature of yesterday’s questions) has tired some. But I also tend toward being a bit over-sensitive to others. That being said, let’s have a fun “break” today as we head into Day 6, the final day. A couple folks have shared some of their results from the Ed Jargon Generator. How about if we do this?

It has been clearly noted during this week there is a need to put jargon into lay terms for those not “in the know”: students, parents, general public, etc. Let’s each put these skills to the test…

  1. Visit the Ed Jargon Generator and discover a priceless gem of a jargon-laden sentence. Quote it and translate it in one tweet.
  2. Then tweet a lay translation, your interpretation of it, as A5.2.
  3. Repeat as desired. Perhaps different sentences/translations could be organized as 5.1 #1/5.2 #1,… 5.1 #2/5.2 #2


Day 6/Question 6:

B’dee, b’dee, b’dee, that’s all, folks.

Week 11 – April 7-12, 2014: Opening Statement – Reaching Marginalized Students in the Age of Standardized Testing

The last person who asked me why I teach got an earful for the better part of an hour. The person before that published my response here. That response will probably offer more insight into this week’s #slowchatED topic than anything else I can hash together here at this moment in my life.

Our topic for the week of April 7, 2014, will be Reaching Marginalized Students in the Age of Standardized Testing. You see, I have a theory about this business of ours. I think I’ve seen a nasty underbelly, and what I’d like to learn this week is one of the following:

Am I correct, and this thing needs to be fixed sometime more immediately than now?


Am I wrong (please God let me be wrong), and is this windmill just NOT the giant that I see every day when I look upon it?

So, help me figure this out, please. We’ll start by figuring out what kinds of kids constitute my alleged marginalized populations. I don’t want to give too much away here, but it boils down to this thought: In our public school system’s quest for the Holy Grail of academic excellence represented by standardized test scores, it is only logical (to many educators, anyway) to focus mainly on the largest single population of students in a school. You see some of the margins in this graphic.

Screen w_Margins

See that Sea of Green? That’s where the money is.

When parents and teachers and students, themselves, begin advocating for some educational program or another that meets the needs of just a small segment of the student body, I see administrators and legislators who look the other way. Not enough bang for our very literal buck. This idea, and our necessary response to it as professional educators, is summed up nicely in @JennGRoach’s tweet from March 4 of this year:

My contention, in short, is that No Child Left Behind has fostered a culture within our nation’s public education system that is indeed leaving many, many children behind. While this was not the intention behind this or any other legislation or policy invoking standardized testing as the barometer used to judge success, incentive pay, ratings, promotion…abandoning small groups of children – marginalization – in the pursuit of these golden things has been and will continue to largely be the result by virtue of this major flaw in the design. Unless we fix it.

Stuff to read:

Why Dyslexia is a Learning Difference

Why geniuses don’t need gifted education        I personally think this is completely erroneous, but I’ve included it here for the sake of argument

Dewhurst releases interim charges for Senate education committees   Note the end of the fourth bullet

The School-to-Prison Pipeline Starts in Preschool   THIS gentleman is extremely hardcore about this topic, but isn’t that why we’re here? To get hardcore?

And like I said before, if you think I’m just wrong, please let me know – ALL WEEK LONG – because I need to believe that somewhere out there lies an Eden where every single child is learning.

Grading – Week 9 Reflection

The week of March 24, 2014, topic: grading practices that encourage curiosity, risk taking, and help reduce the stigma of failure. Now I know that grading is a hot topic and selfishly I wanted to moderate because I needed to get my thoughts straight about grades. The conversation completely met my expectation.

I first started off by getting participants to think about their own experience with grades from all perspectives: student, teacher, parent. I wasn’t too surprised that most reacted the same way I felt, that grades don’t really communicate the kind of learning that is really happening for our students. Several of us had negative feelings about grades on all three levels and thought that traditional grading practices just don’t jive with what we are trying to get students to do.

Next, I wanted to know what participants’ grades truly reflected. I asked them to be honest. I know that no change can take place unless you “own” what it is you want changed. So, if we want to change the way our grading systems operate, we were going to have to own up to anything in our grades that caused them not to accurately reflect the learning we want to document from our students. Many teachers use rubrics and standard based grading, but several found that translating the rubric score into a percentage/letter grade just wasn’t working and questioned the validity of the grade. I find myself in this boat. I strive to get my students away from the number, the letter, but ultimately it is the system we have. Peter Strawn said it best…

This is truly the conundrum and why our traditional system is flawed. Peter goes on to question…

I believe that students are so conditioned to go after the “A”, but what does that mean? Most parents are also conditioned to think that if their child turns in all of their work that the child will receive an A. What has an “A” become? Documentation of compliance? This is where we, as professionals, will need to make sound, professional decisions. We know that we want our students to love learning, have several opportunities to reach proficiency, and not let failure deter them from success. We need to remember…

What I liked best about the conversation is that everyone was honest, helpful, and truly reflecting on their grading practices. One of my favorite questions asked participants to design their dream grading system. These responses are what grades should be all about:

This, too, is my dream and I plan to move more towards a system next year that fosters the love of learning and allows students to see their growth. I also want to involve the global community in that process, give my students a stage if you will. Feedback from more than the teacher is powerful. How am I going to do this? With baby steps. Goal #1:

It starts with creating the culture for learning. It will be hard to reprogram students and parents, but I am up to the challenge. The whole educational system is changing. The system used to grade the learning in that system needs to change too.

Bonus Material: One of my favorite tweets of the week:

This is a sign of good thought provoking conversation. #slowchatED is the perfect twitter chat that allows for deep thinking and the time to process all ideas. Kudos to David Theriault, the mastermind behind the chat, and may you find yourself involved in the conversation soon.