First, I have to note a blog that everyone should be reading. Paul Bolush writes on heck of a reflective blog. I check google reader daily to see what he has posted and click away to see what insight he has to offer. He is an 8th grade American History teacher in Connecticut. Go back and read this post...A Heart So Empty. It will keep you up tonight.
Second, I read an article from AOL called What makes a great teacher? I keep thinking about my own classroom. I feel I build quality relationships (one art project at a time--classroom blog), and the eamil I got from a parent about making mistakes. Copied below, students name changed to him/he.
Dear Mr. Holman -
All too often when teachers hear from parents, it's only when they are upset about something going on in the classroom or some issue they may have with the teacher him / herself.
This note is an exception to that rule. We simply wanted to tell you how pleased we are with the approach you are taking towards teaching our son and the results that are evident as a result of your efforts. He thoroughly enjoys your class; telling us you make him think more than any other teacher he has ever had. We were particularly impressed when he told us that you had apologized (and taken responsibility) to the class for not preparing them better for a recent test that was given.... and giving them a chance to recover some of the points they had missed on the test as a result of your mistake. Most teachers (people in general) would not have taken the responsibility; instead they would have blamed it on the students themselves. It took a big person, with a great deal of character, to do what you did. We were extremely impressed when he told us the story; as was he.
Thank you for challenging him the way you do and know that you have our full support and enthusiasm when it comes to your methods and philosophy about how best to prepare young minds for the future challenges (both academically and socially) they will all most certainly face.
I was proud to get this email. It was a life lesson for students...much more then world history content.
Thirdly, was also very proud to allow my students to explore content this year in new ways. One student, working on an independent project produce the following youtube...Outstanding--if you cant watch it all--check out the last minute or so..awesome. The list of what kids have produced it long, but a few would include: google docs, personal reflection blogs, documentaries of their parents life in 7th grade, and more. They are learning, having fun and looking forward to class. I have seen the staff I work with at the middle school try new things: reading class is skyping to a Kindergarten class in another district once a week to read to them, google docs all over, and software we are posting on this blog being used by teachers and students alike. Mike will have more to say about this.
Fourth, Mike and I have had a good year on Teachersfortomorrow.net. The highlights of the year, 1. going on stage during Alan November's keynote and speaking for a few minutes and then being interviewed by him for his website (http://www.novemberlearning.com/category/podcasts/). The interview focused on the student created textbook at dgh.wikispaces.com We are planning to present at BLC11 in Boston this summer about this textbook and our cross district collaboration. We have even been asked to be Keynotes in a conference coming up in March--more details later.
In the end, I think it has been a great year. I have made new relationships with outstanding teachers on twitter, through this blog and others, and found that we are not alone in trying to change the way schools work. I have been blessed with great students both at my home district and the University of Akron. I have been blessed with a wife who lets me spend so much time on this computer. I have been blessed with working with Mike. It has been a great year. I look forward to 2011.