Teaching Blog

My Time on A Word In Progress

After I asked him to be on my show (Episode 19), Derek Rhodenizer asked me to be on his show, A Word In Progress. This show is all about talking in absurd detail about specific words that educators throw around, but often we don't have a solid definition of what those words really mean. Ultimately, Derek's goal is to write a book about education, in which he takes a philosophical approach to the field.

The week before I was on his show, Derek talked about the word "connection." He asked on twitter what our definitions of connection were, and after reading some of the conversation, I asked if people thought that connection had to be a two way street. For example, can I be connected to someone who doesn't even know I exist?

In the episode before I was on (with guest Peter Cameron), they decided that connection by nature required reciprocation, ultimately arguing that without a recognition by both people, it is simply an impact. My belief is quite the opposite. I feel that I can, and am, connected to people who do not know me. My immediate example is podcasters.

I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of them is the show This Week in Tech (also known as TWiT). I've been listening to TWiT regularly since 2005. The host of that show, Leo Laporte has built a connection with me for two hours a week for over 10 years. He doesn't know that, doesn't know who I am (though I did actually get to meet him in 2016 and it was awesome!). However, I am certainly connected to him, as I have bought products because he endorses them, listen to his show each week because I trust him, and drove over an hour out of my way while I was on vacation just to meet him.

What I ultimately stated in the episode is that I believe connection falls on a continuum. On one end of the spectrum is interaction. For this, I think about the bagger at my grocery store. While I appreciate them taking time to bag my groceries, especially when they do it in the right order and my eggs aren't broken, I wouldn't say I have a connection with them, since they have very little impact.

As soon as one party in that interaction is impacted in a meaningful way by the other, that has raised itself to a connection. Once both parties are impacted, you have a relationship.

I also liked the phone charger analogy someone made. When a phone is connected to a charger, the charger gets nothing from the phone, but the phone is re-energized and ready to start doing its job again. This is not a two-way connection, but a connection nonetheless in my book.

If you'd like to hear more about this topic, or are just looking for a great show to listen to, checkout this, or any, episode of A Word In Progress with Derek Rhodenizer.


Pursuing Survival... Guest Post by Kristen Iannuzzi

“For decades, terrorists and mass shooters trod their separate paths. Then Columbine. Eric and Dylan fused them. School murders had been done; Eric envisioned a school catastrophe.

A new template was born. The spectacle murder. Performance without a cause. Just demonstration of personal power.”

-David Cullen, Columbine

I was a freshman in high school when Eric and Dylan made Columbine an international headline. Their intention was to kill hundreds. They managed 13. In total, 188 shots were fired that day. In addition to the four firearms they carried, the killers came prepared with five different variety of bombs…they had 95 altogether. In the course of 49 minutes, two students transformed Columbine from an ordinary high school into an American catastrophe.

Over a decade of misconstrued information would be passed along by the media and other sources, and soon the story of Columbine would be about bullying, trench coats, and white baseball caps. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was exactly what Dave Cullen described above: spectacular murder. Nevertheless, amidst a flurry of scrutiny and misconceptions, one truth emerged more clearly than others: the way in which police were trained to respond to an active assailant situation ultimately costs lives that fateful April day…. and so did the frantic teacher in the library who did the best she could when screaming at students to get under the tables.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Now it’s been nineteen years since a terrorist attack on a high school changed the way law enforcement responded to school shootings. For some reason, though, school districts haven’t had the same urgency to change their active shooter protocols. 19 years later. 216 school shootings later. And students are still hiding under desks. Untrained. Uninformed. Unempowered.

But it won’t happen here are the sentiments echoed most clearly as we stare at a television screen, desensitized and watching yet another tragedy unfold and yet another unlikely target become a household name. Ordinary schools one day. Abdominal catastrophes the next. Names like Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas now seem more synonymous with the media’s perpetuation of a casualty count than of scholarly institutions: 32. 26. 17. We seemingly forget the victims... their names always seem at the tips of our tongues, but as for the shooters... Well, the news coverage ensures we know their names: Harris, Klebold, Cho, Lanza, Cruz.  The competition silently stirred by the media who throw around words like “worst” and “most” as if arbitrarily declaring victims as a number to beat.

What follows is typically the same: thoughts, prayers, condolences, arguments. And while the students of Stoneman refused to be silenced, a clear certainty remains as a stark reminder that change is slow… nineteen years slow. Because our schools are still targets and our teachers are still uninformed. Because our students are still under desks and huddled in groups and cowering in corners and paralyzed by fear.

Of course, there are no easy answers— and certainly not ones that can be articulated in a solitary blog post… but there is one resounding point that needs to be shared: passively waiting to be rescued is fatal. We have to empower our students, faculty, administrators, and staff to actively pursue survival. To fight back. To survive.

…………………….

12 students and one teacher were slaughtered 19 years ago today in a small town called Littleton, Colorado.  24 others were injured. 61 of the 188 rounds were discharged in the library. 10 of the 13 victims died there…hiding under tables.

Today… let us remember them.

Today… let us do more than offer thoughts and prayers.

Today…. let the deaths of those students not be in vain because while laws and procedures may be slow to change, the empowerment to stand up, to run, and to fight back is now.

This post is dedicated to Dave Sanders, a beloved teacher and coach. Mr. Sanders saved countless lives on April 20, 1999. He was shot and should have survived… but help came too slow.

 

DISCLAIMER: Kristen Iannuzzi is a guest writer for this blog.  The statements and opinions expressed are entirely her own. They are not a reflection of the beliefs, thoughts or opinions of her employer or district.

References

Cullen, D. (2016). Columbine. New York, NY: Twelve.

Columbine Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/columbine.cd/Pages/TOC.htm


Google Add-On: Class Folder Creator

As a teacher at a one-to-one school who uses G Suite and Canvas as an Learning Management System (LMS), few things are more annoying than the "You must request permission" screen.

This happens a lot for my teachers and I. You give an assignment description on Canvas, the student creates their work in a Google Doc or Slides presentation, they turn it in on Canvas, but they only share the local version from their computer, which is really just a fancy link.

Or, the student just gives you a share link, so you can see it, but only by loading the link in a new tab and not in the Spred Grader window. Annoying!

Google Classroom gets around this issue by creating a new folder for the assignment and putting all the created Docs there. It's great because you can see the work in progress, letter-by-letter as the student works. This isn't perfect either though, because Google Classroom is very limited in functionality compared to a full-featured LMS.

Often over the last few years I have said that eventually Google will spin-off that shared folder ability from Classroom so that you can use it elsewhere. Then, a few weeks ago, I got impatient and decided to stop waiting for Google and just make it myself.

And, Class Folder Creator was created as a Google Sheets Add-On. Now, simply by creating a by period list of student names and email addresses, you can create a folder for each of your students that they will create all their work in, and you will have access to all of it.

Here's how it works

  1. Click here to install Class Folder Creator (free).
  2. Click Setup Sheet from the Class Folder Creator Menu.
  3. Put your class name and largest class size.
  4. Input the list of student names and email addresses into the associated columns.
  5. Click "Create Folders" in the Class Folder Creator Menu .
  6. Magic!

Now, each of your students had a folder shared with them on Google Drive with Their Name - Class Name - Period #. You will have a folder for each period, and within that, each of that period's student folders.

When Johnny raises his hand in class and says they need help, you can go straight to his folder and pull up the document he is working on to start providing feedback and support.

When Johnny finishes his work, you will have access to it no matter which way he turns it in.

This was a labor of love, and like all Google Add-Ons is completely free. It is my first Google Add-On, so if you have any thoughts for improvement or comments, let me know!

You can find more details about the add-on at the add-on site.


On a Field Trip with My Son

My son's kindergarten class went on a field trip to a farm recently, and I had the chance to chaperone the trip.

First of all, it was really interesting being a chaperone for another school, another group of kids. With kindergarten field trips, the ratios are something around 5 kids to each chaperone. With that kind of split, we didn't have a specific group of kids to monitor. Instead, we kept the entire class together and all the chaperones stayed close by.

Overall, it was really nice getting to spend the day with my son as he experienced something really unique. We sang songs on the hay ride, fed some goats, milked a cow, and even chased down and held chickens (more on that below).

The trip definitely confirmed that I could never teach kindergarten. The kids are so tiny! I love my son completely, but the other little ones his age? Meh. I mean, they were sweet and all, but so needy!

His teacher was wonderful though. She was attentive the whole trip, sweet in the way that would get her eaten alive in a high school class, and aware of where all her kids were the whole time. I got the chance to discuss my surprise at the parent who was shocked that she spent her own money on student supplies (see this post), and she agreed with me that parents should know that at this point.

Not surprisingly though, the best part of the trip was watching my son. Field trips like this are truly experiential learning and it was amazing to sit back and see him do it. From figuring out the best way to feed a goat, to telling me that milking the cow "felt like touching pee pee", there were some cool moments.

Chief among them was watching him catch a chicken. The tour guide explained to them before we went in the coup that you needed to grab them from above. Z wasted no time chasing one down and doing that. He did not, however, get an appropriate grip on the chicken. I was able to catch an amazing video of him during this true learning process. The video starts right as the chicken flies out of his precarious grip. Z looks to the tour guide, frustrated, and the tour guide explains that Z needs to grab the chicken from above and make sure he wraps around its wings so it can't wiggle free, and pantomimes the hand gesture. In the video, you can see Z watching the instructor and matching his hands as demonstrated. After listening, and clearly learning what he's been shown, he looks down at the chicken, plucks it off the perch, and then looks to me with the biggest smile ever.

I am so glad I joined in on this trip. These are the kind of memories I will hold onto forever. And how many parents can say they have an actual recording of their child learning something?


I'm Done Holding My Tongue In Class

It only seems fair to start this post with an admission. I am a gun owner. In the past, I was even a member of the NRA. I was born in Georgia, have family that still lives on hunt-able land there, have gone hunting myself. I've made the arguments myself that people having guns makes us safer. I've quoted the 2nd Amendment, I've said that taking guns away doesn't help.

Today, I've decided enough is enough and I'm done keeping these thoughts to myself. I just had a lengthy argument with one of my students who argued against taking guns away to prevent further deaths, and point by point I dismantled his opinion. And, in the interest of sharing this discussion with you, here is a summary of that discussion.

Student: My dad is a gun owner, he goes shooting with police officers regularly, takes care of his guns. Taking his guns away won't fix anything.

He's not wrong here. Here's the real issue. Taking my guns away won't save anyone's lives, won't prevent a school shooting. That isn't the same as saying that taking guns away won't prevent school shootings.

There is a simple economics principal to consider, so I'm going to try to put it simply. Think about supply and demand. Currently, if a crazy person wants to shoot up a school, they have a demand for a gun. Currently, there is a massive supply of guns. Therefore, the cost (both monetarily and in difficulty) is easy low. Even if you require more stringent background checks, you won't fix it because private sales are still a thing, and guns can be stolen, lost, transferred, taken, etc.

Reduce the supply, you increase demand. Costs of illegal guns will go up, and just the act of owning it becomes illegal, making the chances of preventing the shootings go up. It isn't a fix that will happen overnight, but over time.

Student: Second Amendment! We have a right to bear arms!

First of all, the Second Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Given that roughly none of the current citizens owning firearms are also members of a Militia, it feels less valid. We don't ever hear that part though, do we? "Right to bear arms!" "right to bear arms!" they scream. They don't really want to actually drill with their neighbors, march across the roads and practice maneuvers though, do they?

Beyond that though, lets look at the spirit of the amendment. It was intended to make sure that the people would be able to stand up against a tyrannical government, to reinforce the idea that the government is for the people. Should the government get out of control, the people can stand up, armed, and defend themselves.

Except, even ignoring the fact that assault weapons are banned in many states, the citizens do not own weaponry that would give them any chance against our military. We don't have missiles, drones, fully-automatic weapons, or any other of the myriad of machines of death our military does. Hell, even in the Revolutionary War, we probably couldn't have won against Great Britain if they didn't have to transport their army to us. A militia doesn't overthrow a government in power on the home front.

Student: Shooting is fun, I like target shooting.

I agree, it is fun. It isn't 16-people-not-going-home-to-their-families fun. If the cost of me going to shoot at some targets at a range is the deaths of children in schools, it isn't worth it. That equation doesn't balance in my head.

Student: You want to take all guns away based on the hope that something is going to get better. This is all opinions and guesses. 

You want to do nothing based on the hope that things will get better. I don't need your thoughts and prayers, I need change.

Still, if we take this further, lets look at some of the facts.

Look at that chart again. Please. Because it is that important.

"But people will kill each other regardless!"

Teachers, this is what I ask of you. Stop holding your tongue. Even on twitter, I saw teachers drying up, stop talking. I heard teachers say "thoughts and prayers", but few of them said "Oh hell no, this has to stop." We cannot stay quiet, cannot do nothing, while the NRA and other groups pour money into the pockets of politicians who don't care to represent us, who continue to allow these atrocities to occur. It has to stop.

Stop staying quiet. Stop believing we have to play the middle ground. Stop thinking that it's our job to make kids think on their own. There are 16 people from a city not 3 hours away from me, who will never think again, on their own or otherwise.

Enough is enough.


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