Sunday Summary

Sunday Summary: Authentic Audiences

You can relive the entire week’s chat with the Storify archive!

From hanging work in the hallway to having my students publish their own book blog, giving kids an authentic audience has been a powerful force in my classroom this year. I was happy to jump in and moderate #slowchated this week to find some other perspectives on authentic audiences.

I started the week with this question:

I was surprised by the wide range of answers. This one matched my initial thoughts on the topic:

But these ones made me realize that there might be more to choosing a truly authentic audience:

I’ve been successful at giving my students an audience they have no connection with. I often share our book blog on Twitter tagged with #comments4kids As a result, my kids have received feedback from teachers I know in other parts of the country along with others who have absolutely no connection to me or our school. When we’ve discussed it as a class, everyone agrees that they take more care with their writing when they are truly publishing it for the world. We don’t know who will read it.

I really like the idea of using people with expertise as an authentic audience. When I invited judges for my school’s Invent Idaho competition, I asked a friend who is an accomplished tinkerer to view the projects. With his experience in electronics projects and scale modeling, he was able to give students feedback on their projects that I wouldn’t have considered. Our district technology coach also judged. He has judged at many of these competitions, so he was able to offer yet another perspective. Going forward, I want to find more opportunities for my students to present to “logical consumers.”

There are so many appropriate audiences for students, the key is getting their work in front of someone. The background photo above is a poster some of my math students made after learning about scale drawings. It’s been hanging in the hall facing our playground for months, giving my students an authentic audience for their work each time students go in and out the playground doors.

I hadn’t directly thought about the benefits of audience awareness before. But, I have seen my students go from assuming everyone knew all about the characters in Harry Potter and other popular series to understanding that they needed to provide that information in their book reviews. I think building audience awareness leads to developing greater empathy. It’s definitely an idea worth exploring further.

A few of our slow chatters shared some great things they’ve done with their students. These were two of my favorites. Please follow the links to see some great student work!

Although most of our discussion was about reaching out, this was a great reminder that our classrooms have a built-in audience. When work is shared with classmates rather than created for teacher eyes only, our students get many of the benefits of having an authentic audience. Doing it successfully, though, often requires teaching what it means to be a good audience, as described in the tweets below.

I’ve been able to incorporate an authentic audience in my English/Language Arts classes with our book blog, but I really want to give my math students more opportunities to put their work in front of others. Here were a couple other places suggested for authentic audiences.

During Day 4, Mark Crotty suggested that it was worth examining how the structure of school affects authentic audiences. I decided to use his question for our 5th day of discussion:

I love this idea – a school so engaging that the community wants to be a part of it. By opening our doors and sharing the great work of our students, it can become a reality.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this week’s #slowchated discussion of authentic audience. I’m excited to use what I’ve learned from this week’s chat in my classroom.
Cross posted at Teacher With Tuba Blog.

Week 8 #slowchatED Reflection: Teacher Leadership

Jumping off of Eric Demore‘s week 7 topic, curiosity, week 8 was borne out of my inquisitive spirit. I am oddly fascinated with teacher leadership.  Two of my favorite teachers in elementary school were principals by the time I graduated high school, and two of my favorite high school teachers become principals by the time I graduated college. Meanwhile, in the district where I’ve taught, the opposite was apparently happening: as a new teacher, I was regaled with what I can only call horror stories from past students of some of the leaders in my county. I’ve worked long enough to have my own horror stories even. I have worked with amazing teachers who are legally qualified to be administrators but shudder at the thought of leaving the classroom.

Let’s just say I have a bunch of questions about teacher leadership, okay?

I promise question one wasn’t intended to be a modified typical edchat beginning – you know, the kind explicitly listed in David Theriault’s Things That Suck about Twitter Chats:

No, it had a purpose. I wanted to know a few things: how do we describe our leadership roles? Are we a list of titles? Do men and women describe their roles differently? Do teachers recognize teaching as a leadership role itself? How many synonyms do we have for the same job? Obviously if I asked any of those questions first, I would’ve gotten conscious answers. I wanted to just get your answers and make some observations for myself.

As far as leadership roles go, some described their jobs, some gave titles. An equal number of men and women responded, and the responses were mostly titles, but many leaders shared their role, what actually gets accomplished. There were a few teachers whose only title was “Teacher,” and I surprised myself by being one of them (sort of). As far as synonyms go, we have a lot of words for the same jobs. I even learned that California’s mentors have their own acronym:


Suffice to say, #slowchated is a pretty impressive group of people with a lot of jobs. So with our myriad of experiences, surely we can solve all of education’s ills, right?

Teacher leadership is sort of a beast. Everyone has different expectations for leaders, and that’s including the leader himself/herself, which leads to this problem:

While each leadership role comes with its own expectations and goals, many answers pointed to some universal truths about leadership:

 Randa Hendricks shared this image that pretty much sums up all leadership ideologies: boss v leader

And then there’s this one from B. Buck:

true leaders (Comma splice aside, it’s a good point.)

Eric Saibel‘s answers reflect these ideals:

A3: Admin must be willing to empower TLs as true leaders & decision-makers IF we believe in flattening our organizations. #slowchatED — Eric Saibel (@ecsaibel) March 19, 2014

Also, my  love for Jodie Morgenson was affirmed when she shared this video, essentially about buy-in:

The right attitude is a requirement too:

Jeffrey Farley notes that we are wasting time looking for others to empower us; we just need to act like professionals. (That entire conversation is here and worth your time.)

We also need to quit fearing possibilities:

And, most importantly, leaders must recognize fallibility:

Good, strong leaders have specific internal qualities. How do we nurture them? We discussed what it would take to make certain leadership roles more doable or appealing, such as increased time or pay, but beyond making leadership opportunities less stressful and more attractive, how do we attract and support the types of leaders who delegate well, lead without ego, and sustain personal growth? These are the questions I am left with. (Thanks, Eric!)

Week 3 #slowchatED Reflection: All Hands in the #EDUhuddle

Cross-posted at Principals in Training

This video is the product of two students (Ben Enbom and John Hassen) at my school, Sir Francis Drake High School.  The ONLY thing I did was give them the driving question.  We collaborated on this project – well, it’s more like I mooched off of their artistry and passion for film.  I didn’t follow them around, I didn’t pick the people they interviewed, I didn’t review the final edit.  We talked ahead of time about my general ideas for this week’s chat and I trusted them to do the right thing.  And guess what?  They did the right thing.  Why am I so un-surprised?  I see kids doing the right thing all the time – they just want more opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the mini-verses of our schools…and beyond.

I’ve thought this question over for years – long before I stepped into my “authority/boss” role as assistant principal: while education certainly is a service we provide, the best classes I’ve been a part of (as a teacher, as an observer) feel like startups – everyone working shoulder-to-shoulder to create something unique.  It got me thinking: do we really want to continue a model where we TELL kids what to do and how to do it, or do we partner up as co-workers?  If we want them to be college/life/universe ready when they depart our (high school) shores, shouldn’t we give them the chance to ACTUALLY have a say in how those four years go?

I threw down a CHALLENGE in advance of the chat:  (more…)

Week 2 Reflection: Professional Learning

Where to even start?!?!

It was a great experience moderating a week-long chat.  And I have to thank Ramsey Musallam for the inspiration via his TED talk: 3 Rules to Spark Learning.

I tweaked his rules to question our own professional learning around curiosity, mess and reflection (roughly).

Speaking of learning, I used Storify for the 1st time (crossed fingers).  Here’s this week’s:


Sunday Summary: 1/27-2/1 #slowchatED Topic: EduCelebs/All-Stars and how to share and care

Educelebs was a fringe topic for our first #slowchatED, to say the least. I was worried that people who have no “take” on the subject wouldn’t want to join AND I was worried that those so-called EDUcelebs wouldn’t want to touch this topic with a ten foot pole. (Or perhaps they are too busy being #eduAwesome to notice) But I did it anyways for two reasons:

  • Not a bad idea for our first chat to be a smaller one, especially since I had committed myself to writing a summary of the week.
  • I really wanted to learn more about this topic and the best way to learn is to get out of my own head and see what OTHERS think about the subject.

Why did I want to learn more?