Showing posts from 2016

Late start time for middle and high school students

just wanted to share another article showing research of the benefits of late start for middle and high school students:

What SCARES you?

I have a sign that sits in my classroom beside my computer. It has become my teaching mantra for many years. It says, “Do one thing everyday that SCARES you.” On my particular sign, Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with this quote; however, no one really knows the true origin. These sentiments have been shared numerous times over the years, and I always considered it a driving force for my teaching. I like to think outside the box. I like to try new things in my classroom. I like making my kids think in new ways. Trying something new has never been an issue for me. I’m open to new ideas and suggestions, and I’m willing to give anything a try before I write it off. Do I feel like I live by my mantra? Not really.
I have often tried new ideas that made me nervous, but I seldom try anything that really SCARES me. I began to think about what really makes me afraid. What holds me back from becoming the teacher I want to be? Doubt? Self-criticism? Fear of failure? The thing that really scares…

At Home in the Classroom

“This classroom feels like a prison!”  The first time I heard I student say that, I agreed with him.  We were trapped inside grayish white walls made of solid brick forced to sit in uncomfortable desks placed in rows for over 90 minutes.  The air was filled with a tangy blend of armpit and chicken biscuits. My students heard the same thing repeated daily and altered slightly for the situation: “don’t, stop, and that's not allowed.”  I went home daily exhausted and ready to give up. I was doing what I was supposed to do. I made rules, stuck to them, and attempted to teach the material, but no one was buying it.  As the last day of finals came and went, I was relieved that the struggle was over, but I was fearful of the year to come.  My first step was to realize that I am not, at my core, a disciplinarian.  I tried to force my students to accept my rule over the classroom and failed miserably.  My heart is to love my students and gain their trust and respect through holding high expe…

FAST FORWARD - Building Readers Beyond the Building

Four of our elementary schools combine third-grade classes using Google Hangouts to inspire a passion for reading. And the media specialists say this is only the beginning. 

How do you like your coffee?

Ideas are brewing folks.

Melissa is percolating about how to get her kindergarten students to film paper slides to not only create but also connect, partner, and share their ideas and thinking.  Megan is steeping in an idea that her 1st graders can research and showcase how people around the world are more alike than different, especially during times they celebrate family and love. Empathy is the basis for learning. Karen is looking for ways to connect her kids to students outside of the city, state, or even country. Sharon and Laura are showcasing how beautifully diverse our school system is by using Google My Maps and video to give our EL students a voice, let others experience a little bit of their culture, and a chance to connect with each other.

So, I guess...this is me, acting like a French Press and "pressuring" you to let us know what you are brewing. All the caffeine we are producing will energize the entire community! This is how we will accomplish Forward Movement…

FAST FORWARD - Subway Therapy

Amy Patel, theatre teacher at James Clemens High School, steals an idea from artist Matthew "Levee" Chavez who has promoted positivity and feelings of togetherness in the subways of New York City.

FAST FORWARD - Chicken Feet!

Lisa Grice at Columbia Elementary teaches with a contagious enthusiasm, bringing the kids along with her into a realm of deep and experiential exploration. Today...she does it with chicken feet! We hope you're inspired by this week's Fast Forward.

We Are The Bridge

There are few things on the internet that inspire me and fire me up more to keep fighting the “what matters most fight” in the world of public education than Seth Godin’s blog.  Yesterday I was attempting to prepare myself to say goodbye to a group of teacher leaders and inspirational human beings that have been on the front lines of innovation in education with me and when I came across Seth’s blog post for the day I realized it might have been written specifically for me, or rather for us, to get through this difficult farewell and bring it all back to why we are doing this in the first place. For the past year and a half I’ve been working with 9 small school teams comprising into 1 large district team of roughly 100 teacher leaders, instructional partners, and media specialists known as the Technology Innovation Experience, or TIE. Last August I came bursting into Enterprise, AL with a dream, a passion, a very loud voice, and the leadership support to create (and hopefully sustain)…

FAST FORWARD - Invention Convention

In our first installment of Fast Forward (a series a short highlight videos about awesome things), we bring you Melanie Coleman's 6th grade students at Mill Creek Elementary. Enjoy! We hope this sparks an idea or a hundred. -Daniel

Failure Training and PDF

I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation on Challenge Success, a program created out of Stanford University's Graduate School of Education.  The program began in the hopes of fulfilling an educational need of informing parents and helping them work together with their children and their school to deal with the challenges of 21st Century education and life.

For some time now, it's been obvious to most educators, at least those that I've known, that our students and their school experience are not the same as what ours was.  I graduated high school in 2005, and things are already so different.  Some school rules at the time that I remember were no eating or drinking in the classroom, no chewing gum period, and no phones out ever.  We might have snicked in a bottle of Coke or chewed gum discretely if we were feeling like taking a risk, but we never let our teachers even catch a glimpse of our phones, if our parents even let us have one.  (I considered phrasing t…

Innovation in artistic creation

On my way home on the afternoon that secondary teachers met at DMS, I heard an inspiring interview with artist Christoph Niemann on NPR's All Things Considered.  Niemann described how he felt confined by his job and the artistic restrictions it imposed on his creativity, and explained that on Sundays he has decided to take seemingly non-inspiring mundane objects from around his house to use as inspiration for creative artistic innovation.  I thought that this spoke directly to the ideas that we kept mentioning throughout the day with the FORWARD team.  I hope to take his ideas to feel liberated to create and innovate within my content and to help my students to feel and do the same.  
     Please take a few minutes to listen to or read the interview, and you can also see Niemann's sunday creations on Instagram at abstractsunday. How Does Christoph Niemann Make Art Look Effortless? With A Lot Of Work.
Mary Crouch

How can we help them hear the beautiful music?

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”~ Friedrich Nietzsche
This quote has always held so much meaning for me. It can be so frightening to try something new, creative, and even a little risky, when you can clearly see the judgement on the faces of others who just do not understand.
I was brought back to this idea this week during discussions with coworkers. I feel so lucky that the position I work in is the perfect setting to try strategies that are a little different. That I can welcome my students in through the rabbit hole, and let them know that "we are all a little crazy here." However, the conversations I've had recently make it very apparent that not all teachers feel this is an option for them. In a recent instructional meeting, I had some wonderful discussions with amazing teachers about taking concepts deeper and the power of project-based learning experiences to make this happen. The encouraging result…

Helpful Quote (s)

"Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other's fund of collective intelligence."
- Mike Schmoker

Action Cures Fear

Do you ever find yourself spending emotional energy worrying about a risk, a change, or an idea that is following you?  What is that thing? That thing that you want to do so desperately but just can't seem to make the leap? What is your golden egg?

I'm here to tell you--it is unlikely there will be an opportune time where the fear clears and the path is paved.  The best way to get rid of the fear is to take the first step toward that goal...and then another...and another until you are in the midst of your idea manifested. Feed it. Love it. Share it. Then the fear is gone. Can you imagine the feeling that replaces it?

I encourage everyone to take a first step and to use this blog to reflect and share about it. Set it as one of your tabs in Chrome...make it an icon on your phone...


Welcome to the FORWARD BLOG.

Innovators in education, unite! Madison City Schools has formed a large team of educators from elementary and secondary...and we are collectively called the Forward Team. Here on this blog you will find the thoughts and experiences we hold dear. If it inspires you, perfect. If it makes you a little uncomfortable from time to time, even better! We believe that to move education forward, we're going to have to challenge some long-held, foundational beliefs about the nature of education. Enjoy your time here. I'll start the train with a simple but powerful cycle that we believe is the only way to encourage the #JUMP on a mass scale:
Daniel Whitt
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Madison City Schools