#MTBoS30

I totally stumbled upon this during the last couple of days, but I’ve decided to adopt a customized version of #MTBoS30. Right now, my writing isn’t efficient enough to squeeze in one blog post each day and still maintain a sense of normalcy with life. So instead, I’m committing to one deeply reflective Twitter post each day. This is something I don’t do enough of so, to a lesser degree, I hope the end result – writing, reflecting, growing, and sharing more – is similar to those that are blogging traditionally.

This will be a practical, yet challenging journey for me. Being succinct is an arduous task in itself, which I will embrace. Less is more.

Each of my #MTBoS30 Tweets will be embedded here, the most recent first.

 


Trashketball

 

I always hear about Trashketball. I thought I’d briefly share the version I play with my students.

I set up the room with 1, 2, and 3 point distances, one of each. I use duct tape and white out for this. 

I post a question. Each group works on it and I randomly select one student to answer. Before answering, the chosen student can confer with their group members, but he must able to explain or justify his answer. Here are the guidelines for the game:

  • If a student gets the question correct, he earns three shots to make a basket. All shots must be taken from the same location.
  • Each group is allowed to passed earned shots to another group member once during the game.
  • Groups can use any resource but a non-calculator, electronic device to aid them in answering the questions.
  • If a student gets the question incorrect, I earn one shot to make one basket. I can earn a maximum of three shots per question. Each shot is separate from any others and can be taken from any distance.
  • Groups cannot communicate with other groups. If they do, I earn a bonus shot.
  • The game is the entire class versus me. Whoever has the most points at the end of the class period wins.

Here is what we use to shoot.

The trash basket is the typical, run-of-mill classroom trash receptacle.

My record as of today is 83-0-1. No kidding. Despite what my record may reveal about my utter dominance, my students LOVE playing. This is due in part because each class desperately wants to hand me my first loss. Hey, students need motivation, right?

Oh, and how have I amassed such an impeccable record? You’ll have to ask my students.

 
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HOT v. the most appropriate

Every now and then I’m confronted with the idea of asking higher order thinking (HOT) questions. A lot of teachers are. In fact, there seems to be an unhealthy infatuation with HOT questions in education.

Don’t get me wrong, HOT questions certainly have their place. They serve to connect ideas, broaden perspectives, and deepen understanding of the content being learned. I strive for HOT questions. Even if it’s indirect, the heart of any good lesson, I believe, revolves around them. They’re a must.

That said, there’s much, much more to questioning than HOT questioning. In fact, by placing so much focus on HOT questions, we can lose sight of how questions build off one another and their dependency on current levels of student understanding. What is the goal of the question? How will it lead to the next? HOT questions can be too demanding and, consequently, create a gulf between what is currently understood and what’s expected. Any question is entirely dependent on our students – nothing else. They must meet them where they are.

What I strive for is not necessarily asking more HOT questions, but finding the most appropriate questions given the context. “What” and “when” questions should not be frowned upon if they are frequently used during a lesson. Instead, we should be critical of the sequence of any and all questions we ask and how this sequence impacts students’ abilities to answer HOT questions.

 
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Teacher = engineer

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Up until recently, I never thought of what I do everyday as engineering. I always felt that engineers were those highly intelligent, creative people who mastermind the things we encounter every day. Those solution-oriented folks that use mathematics, science, and their own insight to solve problems that impact a vast array of human needs. They were the engineers.

But what greater, more important engineer is there than a teacher? Don’t we create solutions that enable other humans to make meaning? Don’t we create moments of debate and wonder? Don’t we design learning? Don’t we make every other profession possible?

I think it’s fair to say that the average teacher doesn’t use differential equations or Ohms law or advanced mechanics to reach their kids. I get it. But the classroom is a complex system in which three powerful forces – content, management, and pedagogy – all interact in dynamic ways. We teachers attempt to make sense of these three forces and their relation to one another. We are critical of every moment – every thought – since each one has a momentous impact on the next. We use constraints and limitations, from learning styles to broken copy machines, to construct magical moments that alter lives.

And just like engineers, we fail. A lot. No matter how seasoned the teacher, expected learning doesn’t always happen. In fact, everything we do is trial and error. Good teachers know that the complexity of our work causes us to fail early and often.

Do I hope to imitate an actual engineer? No. Am I going to add “Learning Engineer” to my resume? Of course not. Besides, I hate titles. They clutter the real work that needs to be done.

But I know that there’s a gold standard when the term “engineer” is used. It symbolizes serious can-do thinking. What I aim for is to view teaching through the sophisticated lens of an engineer. To advocate for teachers as problem solvers whose success is contingent upon high levels of critical thinking, analysis, and creativity. To remind us that our work is inspired by discovering high leverage solutions for our classrooms – solutions that directly address a multitude of human needs.

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but, yes, teachers are engineers.

 

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