Tuesday, July 22, 2008

dy/dan. What matters in the classroom.


I'm sure that Dan Meyer, blogger at dy/dan (blogroll) and former student at my school, won't mind that I snag his blog picture, especially since the post is about the man himself.

I just got back from a professional development function that wasn't going to be worthwhile unless I took things into my own hands. I can't go into detail about it since I actually really like the program, just understand that some lessons don't work. When I saw this lesson not working, I sought to learn on my own. See, being more established as an educator, I really have a good understanding of what I am looking for in terms of the development of my practice. My vision is built around the idea of what I think is best for kid's learning and my ability to teach them relevant information with maximum retention. I've been preparing for this vision since high school. I noted what not to do in the classroom and have been gathering materials since 1991. Yes, I knew I was going to be a teacher back then and I have the newspapers I saved to prove it. In my head, it just seemed right that my students in the future had an actual piece of history from my past, and it would be interesting (the L.A. Riots was my first real save). Understand that this vision is not complete, but it is closer and more tuned that at any time in my life. I'm confident, hungry, and constantly on the lookout for the enhancement of my vision.

Student teachers don't quite have this luxury yet. I remember being in their position where the amount of "pay attention; this is important" information seemed like a waterfall that never stopped dropping on your head. To figure out what was of real importance wasn't going to happen until the student teacher went through the trials of the classroom. As teachers know, the credential program can't prepare you for what is really coming from the classroom.

This is where Mr. Meyer comes in. I've been reading his blog for years with extreme interest. His is a story of a young teacher near Santa Cruz that has managed to develop his vision of teaching and has decided to share on his blog. What's interesting is watching his reactions online that mirrored mine when I started teaching, and the pleasant realization that their are others out there that not only struggle with classical issues (classroom management, time, student interaction), but also next-gen issues. Very few bloggers are able to discuss Classroom 2.0 without sounding like academic technocrats. Fewer still can actually apply it to relevant pedagogy (the art of teaching), and it is the rare diamond that can relate all of that to stuff that actually matters in young teacher's lives. Dan has taken it further by creating vodcasts, user created video shorts that are relevant to teaching. They are extremely well put together and give off messages to young teachers that many of us would love to shout from the highest mountaintop, but haven't the extra spark to put together in a pretty package.

It is these vodcasts that I would recommend to all those that have left the credential program and are looking to make sense of the avalanche of information that the professors crammed into you. Dan's fifth installment was about the ability to manage time, and he included some methods that are successful for new teachers to incorporate. His intro to the piece, "I work here........", can be understood by every young teacher, and the "walks at night" are especially relevant to myself, a teacher who took his task so seriously during student teaching and his first year that he ended up in the doctor's office for than once regarding stress. I watched it and remembered those times, and then I furrow my brow in irritation that while I learned endless ELL strategies in college, nobody explained to me the necessity for a simple written "to do" list.

Realize that I'm not advocating everything that Dan recommends. But here's the cool part, neither does he. Instead, Dan talks to you like he's across a table at a conference and you are having a mind opening discussion on best practices. "Hey, it works for me....." is the attitude that is taken, not "If you don't use this, you'll probably fail at teaching" or "I'm teacher of the year for blah-blah and you're not, so use this" . He's not condescending at all, and that's refreshing.

My one note to young teachers view his vodcasts is to keep it simple and make it adjust to your style. Not into Jott? Keep a yellow notepad handy everywhere. Don't have a projector? You can make simple presentations with a computer and transparencies, trust me. Or simply show a picture to enhance discussion. Every day I show a cartoon, picture, video clip, play a song.....something to engage learning and to get kids to ask questions. You don't need technology to do that. You need drive and preparation. And if you really want a project, hit up the adopt-a-classroom websites around the Web and put your resource capital into your own hands.

In the meantime, head on over to dy/dan (blogroll right) and see a good teacher at work.

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